Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Billy’s Topless

VANISHED: 2001



Here's a Christmas memory from 10 years ago as I delve into the archives for a more distant vanishing.

Personal journal entry from December 19, 1997: Last night was our office Christmas party. I had three gin & tonics. Then I went over to Billy's Topless to look at the girls. A crazy girl who called herself Heidi did her thing in a sexy Santa outfit--red with white fur-trim skirt, panties, bra, and camisole--and blue glitter eyelashes. She was very 1950s camp, blowing kisses and shooting us with her fingers, going "Pow! Pow!" and blowing on her finger like it was the smoking end of a gun. She licked her nipples and stuck dollar bills to them, then shimmied until the dollars fell off, fluttering to the stage. I couldn't tell if she meant to be campy or was just out of her mind.



That was the last year Billy's was topless. Thanks to Giuliani’s “Quality of Life” campaign, Billy's Topless, like the majority of New York's great neighborhood strip joints, was forced to require bikini tops and driven out of business. Located on The Corner, at 6th and 24th, it is now a bagel shop.

These changes drastically reduced the quality of life for lots of honest working girls. They moved from areas like Chelsea and Tribeca to dangerous neighborhoods in the Bronx where work could still be found. Or, if they made the cut, they moved to Manhattan's "upscale" strip joints, where they would have to hustle drinks and lap dances, and where plastic surgery is required.

Billy's wasn't like that. For over two decades, Billy's was a neighborhood bar. They served a free sterno-heated buffet (that no one ever touched). The customers and the dancers knew each other, chatted together, and no one got hustled. There was no cover charge. I went in once with a cheap guy who refused to buy a drink--the only requirement for the privilege of sitting in Billy's. The bouncer bought the guy a beer and said, "Just sit with it in front of you."



Girls from the Coney Island Sideshow danced at Billy's, tattoos and all. The stars of the new burlesque paid the rent and tried out new routines at Billy's. Each girl was unique, some beautiful, some boring, while others looked like something straight out of Diane Arbus.

But like everything else in New York, stripping was plowed under by the monoculture, the machine that, in the name of sanitation, dictates: Everything must be the same. Now just about the only girls you can see taking off their tops are robots, breast-enhanced, each one a clone of the other. And for that privilege it's going to cost you more than the price of a beer.



all photos of Billy's are screenshots from the movie Rounders

13 comments:

Alex in NYC said...

Ah, Billy's. Many dollar bills lost there. You forgot to mention that when they valiantly soldiered on after Giuliani's crippling "Quality of Life" dictum, they were forces to change their name to the entirely inane "Billy's Stopless" (as in "we don't stop dancin'). Horrible.

Anonymous said...

I remember they changed the sign from Billy's Topless to "Billy Stopless"

Lisanne McT said...

So retarded!

Bubba said...

Those were F.I.T. girls dancing at Billy's back in the day. What happened to Billy's is reason enough for voting against Mr. 9/11.

Rambler said...

I miss Billys. It's skankiness was its appeal.

Anonymous said...

i knew it was time to stop going to billy's when i heard myself say, "what time will raven be appearing today."

Douggie A said...

I once saw perhaps the most beautiful dancer I have ever seen in Billy's.
Her name (yes, I still remember) was Dylan Brooks.
She had more curves than an MIT trigonometry final, curly dark hair with the most slow and sensual dancing you can ever imagine.
She hypnotized an entire table of guys that night. We were all just silent, watching this incredible dancer.
She kept allowing her bikini bottom to slide off her, revealing tantalizing snatches of paradise, so much so that one of the bouncers had to come over and tell her to tighten it up.
In all the time I went to Billy's, she is the only dancer I ever remember.

Anonymous said...

The italian buffet they served at lunch was a gourmet extravaganza!

Anonymous said...

the autographed photo to Billy's from Kelsey Grammer was the validating moment for me.

Anonymous said...

I remember gorgeous huge titted Tonya in her stilletto heels & adorable "little" girls giggle!!! I still think about her to this day!! I wanted to make love to her!!!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I can't help myself and come over to your blog & peel through the remnants of a NYC now gone.

I implore you to find out about the sex industry, then & now. It was a huge part of NYC's cast of characters. Not only for men, but for the women of this city. Think of all the creative women who didn't fit into office environments. The women who would have struggled. There were loads of strippers & dominatrixes who paid their rent, made their way through school, supported their visions of becoming an actress, or musician. There were SO many! You could pick up the village voice and seek employment via the "Adult" section quite easily. There were lots of seedy strip joints and dungeons. They advertised in NY Magazine and Screw. They watched, or partook in the Robin Bird show. All of that gone, or sanitized. Now we only invite collegiate women who make more than 70k per year. They're not so interesting. Those women were.

Anonymous said...

This is long after this was 1st posted. I was a topless dancer in the 80s and I worked at Billy's and The Baby Doll and all over Queens and The Bronx. I liked The Baby Doll the most. Billy's owner/ manager had some CRAZY puritan rules, LOL. Like you couldn't touch your own breasts! I hated working there.

Sassy said...

Striptease is a dying art and the big brash upscale palaces are definitely dominating the landscape. In London dancers are continually battling puritan councils to keep our older 'strip-pub' industry alive. How about a blog hook-up - I'd love to write a little linked piece on the NYC striptease industry?
Here's my website - feel free to browse and hear our stories. www.sassylapdancer.com