Mineshaft (gay club)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
General information
TypeSex club
LocationManhattan, New York City
Address835 Washington Street
CountryUnited States
OpenedOctober 8, 1976 (1976-10-08)
ClosedNovember 7, 1985 (1985-11-07)
Technical details
Floor count2
Other information
Facilitiesroof deck, clothes check, dungeons / private rooms, slings, glory holes, bathtub

The Mineshaft was a members-only BDSM gay leather bar and sex club located at 835 Washington Street, at Little West 12th Street, in Manhattan, New York City, in the Meatpacking District, West Village, and Greenwich Village sections.[1]


Among those who frequented the Mineshaft were author Jack Fritscher (who was present at its opening night and attended hundreds of times),[2] Fritscher's lover Robert Mapplethorpe (who took many pictures of the Mineshaft and was at one point its official photographer ... "After dinner I go to the Mineshaft."),[3][4][5] gay erotic artist Rex,[6] and Annie Sprinkle, who said she was one of three women ever allowed in.[7][8] One of the other women was Camille O'Grady.[9][10] Manager Wally Wallace (born James Wallace) said that he turned away Mick Jagger, and a bouncer turned away Rudolf Nureyev.[11] Vincente Minnelli, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Rock Hudson, and Michel Foucault got in.[12]

There was no sign on the entrance; the exterior has been described as "grimy".[13] The location had previously been used by a gay bar, Zodiac.[14] The entrance to the club was up a flight of stairs, on the second floor. The door was staffed by someone who rejected anyone wearing preppie clothes or cologne, and this was a widely known part of what made the bar influential. Originally the Mineshaft was on that one floor (and with a scat room, which was soon abandoned as too extreme).[15] It soon expanded to the first floor beneath, using back stairs to access a recreation of a jail cell, the back of a truck, dungeons, and a room containing spotlighted bathtubs in which men could let other men urinate on them.[16][17]

The upper floor or bar (no alcohol was sold, for legal reasons) had a roof deck, dungeons, slings, and cans of Crisco, at the time popular among gay men as a sexual lubricant preceding modern personal lubricant. Nudity or minimal clothing was encouraged, and a clothes check was provided. Recreational drug use was common inside the club. According to the Mineshaft Newsletter, Fist Fuckers of America held meetings there.[18] There was a wall of glory holes.[16] Promiscuity was celebrated.

The images and posters for the club were created by the gay erotic artist Rex.

The existence of the Mineshaft was widely known among gays who never visited; it has been called a "mythic[al]...space".[19]

The Mineshaft operated from October 8, 1976, until it was closed by the New York City Department of Health on November 7, 1985, although tax problems played a significant role in its closing.[20] After it closed, six men, associated with both the Mineshaft and an affiliated heterosexual club, the Hellfire, were charged with a variety of crimes.[21] Four pleaded guilty, former New York City police officer Richard Bell was convicted, and the sixth fled the country to escape prosecution.[22]

The Leather Archives and Museum holds the records of the Mineshaft.[23]

Dress code[edit]

A sign said the following:

The Mine Shaft dress code

as adopted by the club on October 1, 1976
is to be followed during the year 1978.

The Board of Directors

Approved dress includes the following:
Cycle leather & Western gear, levis
Jocks, action ready wear, uniforms,
T shirts, plaid shirts, just plain shirts,
Club overlays, patches, & sweat.




NOTE: The code was designed for particular men who compose the basic core of our club[24]

Popular culture[edit]

The Al Pacino movie Cruising was intended to depict gay cruising as it existed at the Mineshaft, though the bar is not named in the movie.[25] Since the Mineshaft would not allow filming, scenes from the movie were filmed at the Hellfire Club, which was decorated to resemble the Mineshaft. Regulars from the Mineshaft appeared as extras.[26] Scenes were shot in streets and other locations near the Mineshaft.[27] Pacino attended as part of researching his role. (A bar called the Mineshaft does not appear in the 1970 novel Cruising by Gerald Walker, which, with substantial changes, was the inspiration for the 1980 film of the same name.)

According to Jack Fritscher, Jacques Morali drew his inspiration for the four archetypes of the Village People from the Mineshaft's dress code.[26] Glenn Hughes, the original leather biker of the Village People, frequently attended.[28]

Freddie Mercury wears a Mineshaft T-shirt in the official video for the Queen song “Don't Stop Me Now“.


  1. ^ Patrick Moore, Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality, Beacon Press, 2004, ISBN 0807079561, p. 19.
  2. ^ Jack Fritscher, "The Mineshaft", introduction, written 2002, to reprint of article first published in Drummer, 19, December 1977, http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Drummer/Vol%201/33_Mineshaft_Mar2008_PWeb.pdf Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  3. ^ William E. Jones, "True Homosexual Experiences" Boyd McDonald and "Straight to Hell", Los Angeles, We Heard You Like Books, 2016, ISBN 9780996421812, p. 75.
  4. ^ Jack Fritscher, Robert Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera, pp. 189-190.
  5. ^ Mapplethorpe's membership card for the Mineshaft can be seen in the 2016 documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (http://www.mapplethorpefilm.com Archived 2016-11-11 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved April 22, 2016).
  6. ^ Fritscher pp. 502-505 and 509.
  7. ^ "Keith Hennessy asks Annie Sprinkle Ten Questions about the Old Days", Dance Theatre Journal, 2013, reprinted at http://tessawills.com/when-sex-performance-came-together/ Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  8. ^ "Annie Sprinkle's Kinky NYC 1975-1995", http://anniesprinkle.org/2008-events Archived 2014-08-25 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  9. ^ Bernadicou, August. "Camille O'Grady". August Nation. The LGBTQ History Project. Archived from the original on 29 March 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  10. ^ Jack Fritscher, introduction to reprint of "The Mineshaft" from Drummer 19, December, 1977, Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer, San Francisco, Palm Drive Publishing, 2008, ISBN 1890834386, pp. 471, 474, and 510, http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Drummer/Vol%201/33_Mineshaft_Mar2008_PWeb.pdf Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  11. ^ Fritscher, p. 479.
  12. ^ Fritscher, pp. 479 and 510.
  13. ^ Patrick Moore, Beyond Shame. Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality, Boston, Beacon Press, 2004, ISBN 0807079561, p. 178.
  14. ^ Paul L. Montgomery, "Raids Close 9 After-Hours Bars Linked to Mafia Archived 2016-05-08 at the Wayback Machine", New York Times, July 19, 1971, p. 1.
  15. ^ Moore, p. 23.
  16. ^ a b Will Kohler, "LGBT History Month: Remembering the Mineshaft - 835 Washington St. NYC, NY (1976-1985)", http://www.back2stonewall.com/2012/10/disappearing-gay-history-mineshaft-835.html Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine, October 4, 2012, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  17. ^ Jack Fritscher, "Pissing in the Wind", Drummer, 19, December 1977, reprinted with introduction by Jack Fritscher, http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Drummer/Vol%201/33_Mineshaft_Mar2008_PWeb.pdf 1/33_Mineshaft_Mar2008_PWeb.pdf Archived 2021-07-05 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved September 29, 2014, also reprinted as "Wet Dreams, Golden Showers" in Corporal in Charge of Taking care of Captain O'Malley And Other Canonical Stories, San Francisco, Gay Sunshine Press, 1984, ISBN 0917342453, pp. 193-202, reprinted at http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Corporal/Wet%20Dreams.pdf Dreams.pdf Archived 2021-07-05 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  18. ^ Mineshaft Newsletter, February 1978, quoted by Jack Fritscher, http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Drummer/Vol%201/33_Mineshaft_Mar2008_PWeb.pdf Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine, Also p. 508, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  19. ^ Moore, p. 20.
  20. ^ Jay Bletcher, "Sex Club Owners: The Fuck Suck Buck Stops Here", in Policing Public Sex. Queer Politics and the Future of AIDS Activism, Boston, South End Press, 1996, ISBN 0896085503, pp. 25-44, at p. 33.
  21. ^ Kirk Johnson, "6 Tied to Late-Night Clubs Indicted in Conspiracy Case Archived 2017-05-03 at the Wayback Machine", New York Times, March 1, 1986.
  22. ^ Associated Press, "Ex-Officer Is Convicted In Sex-Club Operation Archived 2017-05-03 at the Wayback Machine", New York Times, November 18, 1986.
  23. ^ "KANE, "DRUMMER," AND DEBLASE — Rick Storer, Leather Archives & Museum — San Francisco Leathermen's Discussion Group". Sfldg.org. 2014-10-22. Archived from the original on 2020-06-26. Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  24. ^ Posted on maleholeformale9.tumblr.com, https://36.media.tumblr.com/86db660b472aa578684e8abe8ef7c217/tumblr_nrke38O8L51tzk694o4_r1_1280.jpg Archived 2015-10-24 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 7/25/2015. Typographically edited
  25. ^ Unsigned, Was The Mineshaft A Mafia Joint?, http://bitterqueen.typepad.com/friends_of_ours/2010/12/was-the-mineshaft-a-mafia-joint.html Archived 2016-12-20 at the Wayback Machine, December 29, 2010, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  26. ^ a b Jack Fritscher, p. 509.
  27. ^ Fritscher, p. 506.
  28. ^ Fritscher, p. 466.

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 40°44′26″N 74°00′27″W / 40.740560°N 74.007583°W / 40.740560; -74.007583