|Old S/M New York
My life in s/m started relatively early. As a 12 year old, I was already doing self suspension and abuse in the basement of my parents' New Jersey home. The things I did then were pretty wild for a 12 year old -- but that's another story perhaps better told in person. What fed my fantasies however, were the front cover illustrations of "straight" sex novels with s/m overtones. They featured incredibly masculine, unshaven and bare-chested men tied up and tortured by the Nazis. More fertilizers for my adolescent mind were TV shows in the sixties like "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "The Wild, Wild West." My right hand developed its strength much faster than my left due to those fantasies. Oh to be the captured spy, hung from my wrists and tortured, only to be rescued by the ever so handsome Robert Conrad.
As I grew older I was unaware that there was a whole underground circuit of men who enjoyed doing the things I fantasized about: masculinity, bondage, torture, enslavement and servitude. However, after some guilt-ridden introspection, a period of self-denial was imposed to quell such desires. Not until my college years in the early seventies did I let the s/m fantasies rear their (beautiful) heads again.
As a 21 year old, I wanted to come out, reach out, make contact. The only thing was, I didn't know how. I wanted the man of my fantasies to bring me out. At this point of my life, though, I was clue-less as how to meet him.
A couple of more years passed, and every so often I would hear about places like Greenwich Village. Unfortunately I never heard about where to go. A breakthrough finally occurred via the Edgar Bronfman, Jr. kidnapping. Remember that? While trying to collect every detail about his kidnapping (hoping to hear specifics as how his wrists might have been bound with rope and tape used to gag his mouth) the newspapers broke the story about his homosexual life. Wow! They reported on his activities and which bars he frequented. Clues were now starting to pour in.
Finally, a leather breakthrough: The Village Voice mentioned a place called the Ramrod where men into s/m collected. It was on West Street between Christopher and West 10th Streets. I decided to go.
There I was on a rainy Saturday night, sitting in my car under the West Side Highway. Across the street was the Ramrod. Seeing the men entering and exiting the bar both terrified and elated me. My car radio played The Eagles' Lyin' Eyes and One of These Nights, and The Doobie Brothers' Black Water and South City Midnight Lady. To me the music was masculine and strong. Even so, it did not give me the guts to break through my head's sex barrier. I couldn't even muster up the courage to leave the safety of my car let alone cross the threshold of the bar. For nearly every Saturday night of 1976 I repeated this vigil of sitting in my car for hours on end under the West Side Highway. Sitting, watching, waiting and praying someone would notice, come over and take me home. Those were my times of sexual expectation and hope.
At last, I met someone (a story of its own) and entered into the world of gay male leathersex. More and more, I found out about places populated by men like me. Little by little I started to frequent them. Looking back, these places formed a collage of fond memories of "nights out" and actualized fantasies.
Take a walk with me to some of them.
Let's start by going over to Second Avenue and the northwest corner of East 6th Street. No, not an s/m bar, but definitely in its heyday, a part of s/m New York: The Saint. At this place, the old Fillmore East, there were Black Parties of renown with rumored circumcisions, piercings, tattooing and s/m sex scenes taking place to the beat of music under the spectacular dome. Any given Saturday night, you would find incredible shirtless men dancing their asses off. And later on, you'd see them at the Mineshaft. There was nothing like it. I love recounting this short story: LA, 1981. After spending a fruitless Friday night in the local LA leather scene, I woke up with my best friend in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. We looked at each other with sleepy and oh-I-am-sooo-tired-of-LA eyes. He said to me, "Tonight's the Black Party at The Saint." I said, "Let's go." We went.
Now head up to St. Marks Place and make a left. Walk past the street vendors, vintage clothing stores and various restaurants. Just before you reach 4th Avenue, on the south side of the block at #6 St. Marks Place, is a building presently undergoing some renovation: The New Saint Marks Baths. Here is where the disco bunnies got their last licks before the close of each weekend. At this bathhouse you'd find bodies and muscles of great form and sex for days. The s/m scenes there would be varied but usually private.
Continue to walk westward on St. Marks Place crossing Cooper Square into East 8th Street and across town to the West Village.
Get to Christopher Street and start to stroll around this ever changing neighborhood. It was here as a college undergraduate that I was in awe of the first man I saw in chaps.
At Tiffany's Restaurant, on West Fourth near Christopher Street, you would find leathermen having a burger and fries at 7 a.m. after a night at The Saint and Mineshaft. Dressed in their leathers, black T-shirts wet and torn, they'd eat and listen to conversations by drag queens bragging and moaning about their lost loves of the night before.
Around the corner on Christopher you'll see Boots & Saddle across the street from Citibank. That establishment was usually my first stop on my s/m trips into the Village. It was always sleazy enough for me to get "warmed up," but never interesting enough to s