Friday, August 9, 2019

Adieu Bijou

Cinema and underground cruising spot has closed.

Bijou, 82 East 4th Street, New York

"Shows old movies to gay patrons who aren't watching them"
--New York Songlines

From the very beginning this subterranean space has served as an entertainment venue.

Certificate of Occupancy, October 22, 1927:
Cellar-- Persons Accommodated 150-- Restaurant, cabaret, and storage    

Originally the Rainbow Inn, it became Club 82 in 1954 (some accounts list 1958), famous for spectacular drag reviews.
Business partner Vito Genovese. like many mobsters, "financed Village gay bars, which were prevented from obtaining legitimate funding due to homophobic laws and social stigmas."

Various sources credit the New York Dolls, in 1973 or 74,  as the first rock group to play there.

"I was manager of the Dolls and I was approached by the club because they were switching over to glam rock bands. The drag crowd had moved on and the Club 82 never returned to the original format." 

A comment on the blog "It's All Streets You Crossed" differs:
"So many [sic] of the information regarding Club 82, in the glam period, are [sic] incorrect. Club 82 started having bands in '72, not '74. The Dolls were not the first band to play there. Another Pretty Face was the already house band there in '73." 

 An indie-film theatre took over the space in 1978, followed by an all-male strip club. Ron Wood opened the music venue Woody's in 1990, a dismal failure closing after only a few months.

Since  about 1992, the basement has been an on-again-off-again unmarked gay porn theater called the Bijou, featuring second-run Hollywood films in the main theatre with a separate row of private booths.

The Bijou closed for the final time in April 2019, the space has been gutted. According to the New York City Department of Buildings a "stop work order exists on this building."

Since 1997 theatre historian,  Cezar Del Valle, has conducted a popular series of  theatre talks and walks, available for  historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.
Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres.
The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society. Final volume published in September 2014.
Currently seeking funding for “Editing & Formatting” the first three volumes of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, 3rd Edition

No comments: