Welcome to the inaugural Live Mic with Mark McNease podcast (previously Aged to Perfection). My guest this week is author Phillip Crawford Jr. whose recent book, The Mafia and the Gays, is a page-turning true life account of the long history and relationship between the Mafia and the many gay bars they owned and operated.
Phillip is a retired attorney from the New York bar. He attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine where he was President of the Gay-Straight Alliance in 1983, and spearheaded a campaign to oust military recruiters from the campus for their discriminatory policies against the LGBT community. In 1988 he clerked for Chief Judge Judith W. Rogers on the D.C. Court of Appeals, and then with Judge George H. Revercomb on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Since 2009 he has been blogging about organized crime at Friends of Ours, and is the leading authority on the historic role of the Mafia in gay bars.
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.