column from gay author Charles-Gene McDaniel


The Rudyized Gaiety

By Order of the NY Dept.
Of Public Health
Sexual Activity
Is Strictly Forbidden

That sign in bright red letters, posted throughout the venerable Gaiety Theatre in New York, ought to put a damper on any raging libido, and if it doesn’t, there’s a sex cop wearing a blue tee shirt with "Security" lettered in white who patrols the premises. The Gaiety, offered in its ads "For the Best in Male Burlesque," for decades has been a mecca for gay men, especially old gay men, but also for many attractive younger ones and the obese the lame, and the halt, but obviously not the blind. Before Mayor Rudolph Giuliani sanitized Times Square it was the venue for some mild sexual activity as well as ogling of dancing naked young men. Now there are still the dancing naked young men but solicitation for sexual activity, to take place elsewhere, is more discreet and the patrons must pick up on clues in conversation with the boys. And Big Brother walks around the theater to ensure that the aroused patrons are not giving each other hand jobs or blow jobs, as they did in the past.

The Gaiety has been around for decades. It is reportedly owned by two Greek sisters, who offer a distinctly unfriendly welcome at the box office. The theater is on the second floor behind Hojo’s on 46th Street just off Broadway. It is no less ugly than a number of legitimate off-Broadway theaters, and even a degree or two better than some of them. The walls need painting and the chairs, while an improvement over the rickety ones of the past, need replacing. But the men, and the occasional woman, who go there, are not particularly interested in the décor. The activities on the stage and runway are too distracting.

Since the mayor has Disneyfied and suburbanized Times Square, there no longer are strip joints with touts on the street crying "Check ‘em out, check ‘em out" to attract men inside the ogle female tits and ass. In fact, there are no more strip joints on 42nd Street and one seedy male strip joint on 8th Avenue has been closed, as have gay porno theaters. The female strippers still perform in "gentlemen’s clubs" but there are fewer of them and they are not concentrated in Times Square. Only the Gaiety survives, albeit in a toned down atmosphere, to exhibit the 20-something male flesh in all of its glory.

After plainclothes cops were importuned by a couple of Gaiety strippers for some mild hanky-panky behind the stage, the theater was forced to restrict the on-site activities of the dancers. Pre-Rudy, between acts the dancers loitered in the side-aisles and in the lounge and offered to take interested men behind stage to feel up their bodies and suck on their cocks while masturbating. The price was $35. If the patron was interested in a more complete menu, the boys had a room in a friendly nearby hotel where they gave a "private performance" for $100. No more. After the coppers cooled down the action rumors spread around the country that the Gaiety had been Rudyized out of existence. Not.

On a recent, post 09/11-visit to New York I checked out the Gaiety to compare it to the Gaiety I knew for a couple of decades. My interest, of course, was purely scholarly. And I did have to visit twice to confirm my first impression.

In pre-Rudy days, the entry to the stairwell leading to the box office featured pictures of some of the dancers and listed show times. Then, as now, six boys danced in five performances Sunday through Thursday and 12 danced three performances on Friday and Saturday evenings. The unrevealing photographs have disappeared along with the listings of show times. During the brief intervals between shows portions of porno films are shown, but that is not why men go there. And for the price of one admission, now a reasonable $15, a patron may sit through as many shows as he wishes.

Typically, each dancer, announced by a chosen name, does a striptease to music with a heavy beat, removing whatever top he is wearing and lowering his shorts or trousers to just below his pubes. He then disappears behind the silver streamers that serve as a backdrop and returns shortly in the oiled buff with an erection. He again dances—well, sort of—up and down the runway while stroking his body teasingly and flirting with the men seated around the perimeter. No touching is allowed. But men who want a closer view place money on the runway and the boys stop and kneel before them, often thrusting their erect cocks within inches of the patron’s face. Nature being what it is, the erections usually disappear before the act is finished. After each boy does his two turns, there is a finale in which each boy is called back to the stage, usually with another erection, and reintroduced by an anonymous announcer over the PA system for the admiration of the patrons, then all of them do a beef parade around the runway to offer a final glimpse of what the patrons paid to see.

When the boys are not dancing, they mingle in the lounge with patrons, who have access to an open refreshment table, which has offered, perhaps from the beginning, orange punch from a bowl, potato chips and pretzels. Conversation between the dancers and patrons now is pretty much confined to "Where are you from?" "How long will you be in New York?" "Is this your first visit to the Gaiety?" And so on. The patron can, if he wishes arrange for a discreet "escort" service later.

In the past the dancers tended to be mostly cute twinky boys with an occasional hunk. Now they are mostly pumped-up hunks who when they are not dancing are in the gym. Many are Latino-Americans or recent émigrés. One in the recent show was a grossly muscled African-American with a short dyed platinum hairdo. Almost all of them are not circumcised, an appealing and appetizing feature. This is not readily apparent when the dancers return to the stage with a hard on, but as they become flaccid the hood envelops their dickhead. A couple or so of the dancers do somehow manage to remain erect, even for several performances a day. Ahhh, youth! During the nudie show, the boys stroke their bodies, massage their crotches, rub their bubble butts, lift their arms and otherwise please the lonely men for whom sex shows are their only option for sensual experience. Now and then one of the boys will lie face down with legs splayed or kneel with spread cheeks to show fleetingly the portal to paradise.

The gym bunnies now dancing are mostly hairless. They shave their chests and bellies and trim or shave their armpits and coif their pubes, just as video porn performers do to make their dicks look bigger. Not that the Gaiety boys need to do that. Not one of them had an erect cock that measured less than 8 inches, usually nearer to 10. One dark-haired dancer had left only a Hitler moustache of pubic hair. One six-foot-something had shaved his body entirely. A blond Italian had shaved and trimmed his pubes into an inverted V about his generously foreskinned dick, which he promotes in his "escort" ad in a gay magazine ("nice foreskin for you to chew on"). Three or four remained gloriously hirsute. Among them was the one dancer who did not have a pumped-up physique. He was pencil thin with a lithe body, clear porcelain skin, and a nice dark brown bush and complementary armpits.

In the lounge I spoke with one of the best of the dancers, a highly articulate South African of Greek extraction, who had a thick pubic bush but who shaved his chest because, he said, he is a gymnast. By chance I encountered him again the next night on the subway as I was returning from the Village to my uptown hotel. He was returning from a Village gym to a nearby motel room he shared with a friend. I resisted his subtle hints at availability. I am not attracted to beefy, pumped-up men. I did not tell him that. As we parted he told me that he would be working soon in my city as an "escort" and gave me the web site where I might find him. If I do, it will because I want to talk to him, not fuck him.