Did you know the modern LGBT rights movement began in a mafia bar? The Stonewall Inn, world famous now as the epicenter of gay rights, was run by the local New York mob. Many gay bars were, and not a few bathhouses. Bars, baths, and Auntie Gays (gay frontmen to run their mob-owned bars) are all explored and explained in Phillip Crawford Jr’s The Mafia and the Gays. And join me in late April for a conversation with Phillip on our Aged to Perfection podcast to talk about his book, his background, and the close links that once existed between the gay community and the Mob.
The Mafia historically controlled gay bars as part of their vice rackets in many cities across the United States including New York and Chicago due to their once illicit status. A common misunderstanding among the general public is that the wise guys were eliminated from the gay bars following the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. However, organized crime kept a hidden hand — often through violent means resulting in a few murders — in many watering holes for the gay community at least into the mid-1980s if not later. Indeed, the Mafia hijacked gay liberation for political cover and used so-called Auntie Gays — the Uncle Toms of the gay community — as frontmen for their bars to evade suspicion. The Mafia and the Gays provides a comprehensive look at the mob’s involvement with gay bars including the iconic Continental Baths which had Colombo protection and the infamous Haymarket which was under Genovese control. The Mafia and the Gays relies upon an extensive collection of historical sources including FBI files many of which have not been publicly available until recently acquired by the author through the Freedom of Information Act.