Billy's Topless

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Billy's Topless after removal of apostrophe, making it "Billy Stopless".

Billy's Topless was a topless bar in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. Operating from 1970 to 2001, it was considered for many years an informal city landmark.[citation needed]

The bar[edit]

Billy's Topless, located at 727 Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) and 24th Street in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood in New York City,[1] was a small topless bar, more closely resembling a neighborhood bar than a strip club in both size and atmosphere; one writer described it as "no more illicit than if we had decided to go get hamburgers".[2] Considered an informal landmark of the area,[3] Billy's contained only a small bar and a stage surrounded by about 24 chairs. The bar offered a modest free buffet, perhaps a single dish such as lasagna over a can of Sterno.[1] Also, unusual for such an establishment, Billy's had no cover charge.[4]

The original owner of Billy's Topless was Bill Pell. After Pell died in the 1970s, Billy's was acquired by Milton Anthony, the owner of the AP Variety Talent Agency, an agency that had provided "topless go-go dancers" to numerous strip clubs in New York City since 1966.[1]

An older anachronism in the New York adult entertainment scene, Anthony (born c. 1920) claimed he held to certain principles with his agency and in his club: no breast implants, no lap dancing, and no touching the dancers.[1][5] As such, Billy's stood in contrast to expensive adult clubs such as Scores that tended toward dancers with a more stereotypically "Barbie doll" look and allowed direct contact with the patrons.[6] Detractors of Billy's occasionally lower-end charm called it "seedy".[7] Supporters tended to think of it as "old fashioned",[8] and the kind of establishment that catered to "real people".[9] The Village Voice writer Robert Sietsema called it an "old fashioned topless bar ... where the old grit still remains."[10]

Closing[edit]

Billy's Topless suffered, along with much of the city's adult entertainment industry, under the quality of life directives of then-mayor Rudy Giuliani, who called New York's adult establishments a threat to public "health, safety and welfare" and a "corrosive institution".[6] In his second term he aggressively targeted New York's sex industry for "reconstruction".[1] Laws were enacted forbidding adult establishments from operating within 500 feet of a residence, school or place of worship, and the NYPD conducted raids on businesses that did not comply with the new ordinance.[11]

The laws were initially drafted to target the sex businesses in the Times Square area, but small, local establishments like Billy's were affected as well. The Chelsea community board (Manhattan Community Board 4) confirmed that there had never been a citizen complaint against either Billy's Topless or its customers.[12]

In 1998, to avoid being closed down by the first wave of new zoning laws, Billy's took "topless" out of the bar's name, and the place was rechristened "Billy Stopless" by removing the apostrophe from the sign (see image at right), although it was referred to in print as "Billy's Stopless"[13][14] and dancers had to wear bikini tops.[6] In the mid-1990s, dancers at Billy's made $50 plus tips, which typically amounted to about $500 per night. After the change in policy to avoid the zoning laws, the bikini-clad dancers could expect to take home about $200. Patrons were quoted as saying, "You can see this on the beach for free. This is no fun."[6] Billy's Topless closed for good in 2001, and the space was converted into a bagel shop.[14]

The building in 2013

In 2006, an establishment bearing the name "Billy's Topless" appeared at 10th Avenue and 15th Street.[citation needed] It is unknown if there is any connection to the original "Billy's" beyond the name.

People[edit]

Photographer Hampton van Meter hamptonvmphoto

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e Barry, Dan (April 29, 1998). "Topless, and Dancing on the Edge; City's 'Quality of Life' Campaign Takes On a Strip-Club Tradition". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2007. 
  2. ^ Beller, Thomas. "What I Learned at the Strip Club" Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.. Men's Health. Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  3. ^ "Real Estate 2002: Chelsea". New York. n.d. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  4. ^ Gardner, Ralph (August 1997). "Inside Billy's Topless". Penthouse. 28 (12). 
  5. ^ debbieguide.com - the global guide to the inside scene Archived October 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b c d Jacobs, Andrew (October 11, 1998). "Shuttered Clubs, Scrambled Lives". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2007. 
  7. ^ Bushnell, Candace. (2007.) "Swingin’ Sex? I Don’t Think So..." Archived October 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.. The New York Observer. Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  8. ^ Lopez, Steve. (1998). "Hizzoner The Hall Monitor" Time Magazine. Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  9. ^ Garcia, Michelle. (2005.) "From Peep Shows to the Look of Luxury". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  10. ^ Sietsema, Robert (1999). Secret New York. Toronto, Ontario: ECW Press. p. 172. ISBN 1-55022-374-7. 
  11. ^ "Mayor Giuliani Announces Amendments to Strengthen Adult Use Zoning Law". Press release from New York Mayor's Press Office, March 26, 2001.
  12. ^ Liepe-Levinson, Katherine. (2001.) Strip Show: Performances of Gender and Desire. Routledge Press. Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  13. ^ S.D., Trav, a.k.a. Donald Travis Stewart (June 2001). "Fun City Confidential: Why New York's sex industry still flourishes". Reason. Retrieved May 21, 2007. 
  14. ^ a b LDuff, Charlie (May 27, 2001). "Neighborhood Report: Bending Elbows; Latin Lovers With Free Advice". The New York Times. Retrieved July 23, 2013.  (Scroll down to second item; note no second subhead.)
  15. ^ Bennet, J. (1992.) "Police Move to Extradite Suspect in 1989 Slaying of Dancer". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  16. ^ Sullivan, Ronald. (1991.) "Man Acquitted of Killing and Boiling Roommate". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  17. ^ Lee, Tien-Shun. (2004.) "Psychiatrist: Rakowitz 'Excited' Recalling Grisly Stew". The Villager. Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  18. ^ Peyser, Andrea and Laura Italiano. (2004.) "Cannibal Case Has Jury Woes". The New York Post, May 26, 2004.
  19. ^ Kaufman, Alan. (2004.) "Jew Boy" in The Outlaw Bible of American Literature, pp. 72–73. Thunder's Mouth Press.