Monday, February 4, 2008

Baby Doll Lounge

VANISHED: 200?


still from In the Cut

The Baby Doll Lounge was situated, ironically I always thought, on the corner of Church and White in Tribeca. There used to be a lot of topless and lap-dancing places down there, tucked into back rooms and basements. The Baby Doll was probably the last of them. I can't remember the date it finally closed. Today, it's Petrarca wine bar, beloved by the moneyed and conservative crowd.


photo from NY Mag

Personal journal entry from February 22, 1997
I spent about an hour and a half sitting in the Baby Doll Lounge this afternoon, talking with the dancers about my job search and work troubles. It's quiet in there on a Saturday. Only maybe three or four guys in there. The girls--Jasmine, Vicki, and Viva--like to just sit and talk.

Vicki has been dancing for 22 years. She also used to work as a part-time contortionist. She's tired, she says, and depressed. I asked her what she'd really like to be doing. She said, "Taking care of a family." She just got an eviction notice and she likes T.S. Eliot. Viva hates it when guys look but don't tip. "If you're gonna look at it, you better pay for it." She plays bass guitar in a band and once had a job where she "beat up on a guy for money." Jasmine was the bartender. She makes $1,000 a week pouring drinks. She used to work as a stock girl in the shoe department of Caldor. I told her I was a poet. She started us playing a game she called "rhyming couplets" where you get a piece of paper and each person takes turns writing a couplet until there is a whole poem. She titled our poem, "Ode to the Baby Doll." She taped the finished poem up near the cash register, next to a sign that said, "NO TOUCHING."

In the photo below, the bar was on the right side. Where the banquette is, the stage used to be. I still see the dancing ghosts of Vicki, Viva, Jasmine, and Jill when I look at this picture:

photo from NY Mag

Personal journal entry from March 1, 1997
Listening to Chet Baker and feeling good because I got a new job, with a raise. I went back to the Baby Doll to celebrate. When I walked in, Viva said hello to me from her position on the stage. I ordered a double Southern Comfort and Jasmine congratulated me on getting the job. Then Jill was up, my favorite. Viva ran her hand across my back and said, "There's your girl," and sat down beside me at the bar. The music came on, Screamin Jay Hawkins doing "I Love Paris." Jill tap-danced and did a demure little burlesque in a tiny leopard-print g-string. She was wonderful. When she was done, she bowed, and everyone clapped wildly, very much in love with her.


still from In the Cut

More vanished XXX:

48 comments:

L'Emmerdeur said...

The real underground spot was across the street from Billy's, the Harmony Burlesque Theater (there was a second outpost on 22nd Street).

The place was filthy, dark, and the stuff that went on in there was raunchy on a slow day. They got shut down, not by Giuliani's Morality Squad, but by the DoH (and most of us who mourn its passing have to grudgingly agree that the DoH was right).

The closing of the Harmony ten years ago was the first real "Holy Crap" signal to me that something was really changing in New York, and not in a good way. ow these places have all become shitty clone restaurants where young men take their dates to exchange Caesar salads for hand jobs.

I'd say th Harmony girls had the better deal, as did their customers.

Erik from the Eighties said...

I knew Viva! And her friend Margie, I think they lived on Chrystie St. I met them at the old after hours club Laight Again.

Erik from the Eighties said...

Wait minute - I re-read your journal entry: it's from 1997. The Viva I knew was from 1981. As was that old after hours club.

Jeremiah Moss said...

viva has got to be a popular name for strippers.

Grieve said...

I loved the Baby Doll. My girlfriend was with me a few times. The staff could not have been more friendly.

Excellent post.

Anonymous said...

God, I spent so much time at the Baby Doll. I dated a dancer there for years.

But alas, Giuliani took away the harmless go go bar of the working man. What has always angered me is that they didn't close the gentlemens clubs of the wealthy guys too.

Anonymous said...

Hate to disagree with you about the Harmony. Nothing THAT crazy went on in there. Pretty much like the Baby Doll except you could touch the girls. The girls ranged from stunning to pathetic. What a great place, I heard the Mafia ean it.

Anonymous said...

I lived a few doors down from the Baby Doll from 1985-1990. We had no buzzer, so when friends/family visited, they had to use the Baby Doll's payphone in the entryway and we'd throw the key out the window. Once, my friend came by with her blonde toddler. She called, and he ran in alone to see the strippers, who leaped down to see him, absolutely delighted. His mom went in to claim him and had a good laugh with the girls. He was their youngest customer ever.

Anonymous said...

I knew a girl who danced at the Harmony back in the mid-nineties. She was a sweetheart and a cliché—a suicidal, fucked-up kid who landed in the city and ended up dancing because it was the best way she could earn a buck. And given the loose rules around the Harmony, she made good money.

I'll agree that the city has lost a lot of its edge with each corner turning posh. I'm also old enough now to say that I don't miss some of my adventures in those years.

amgphoto said...

I remember the Baby Doll quite well. There was also another place called Diamond Lil's on Canal (where McDonald's is now).

I think my days at the BD were in the late 70s to early 80s. What I remember best are the bartenders (alcohol was more important than women to me back then). I remember Cher, Darlene, Vicky (who played bass in the Toasters), Amy. There was Billy (not quite sure what he did). I had many conversations with Amy about the important band so of the time...like the Minutemen. I think I saw Amy hosting a show on VH1 years later.

As far as music goes...I think the two songs that got played more than any others (by the dancers) were Der Commissar (Falco) and Trouble (by Lindsey Buckingham). I still can't hear either of those songs without thinking of the Baby Doll.

They also used to have an afternoon "happy hour" which at first was free hamburgers (I don't think I ever ate one) and then there was some kind of half off your second drink or something.

There were also some memorable patrons...Tony from Williamsburg who seemed to be there every time I went. He had a sidekick whose name I cannot recall right now (Franky???). There was a guy named Lenny who drove a limo. I also remember the stopping by Dave's Luncheonette on Broadway and Canal at 3 am for a hot dog and an egg cream before jumping on the train back to Brooklyn (and probably puking between cars while going over the Manhattan Bridge).

Even through my drunken haze, I remember some dancers...Vivian from Brazil, Misty who used to work at what seemed to be every club I went to. Well, that's all I remember right now of the dancers

Diamond Lil's was another story...owned by two lesbians (or so I heard) it was fully nude (don't know if that was actually legal). The place was pretty sleazy...the girls used to let guys insert fingers for a dollar or two.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Harmony Burlesque!! What ever happened to Lisa B?

ny2nv said...

Some random memories:
- - Ice in the urinals (another NY vanishing act).
- - The ugly light fixtures that showed up over the bar right after Woody Allen filmed a scene for "Mighty Aphrodite".
- - I was there on the night that OJ had his slo-mo white Bronco chase on the LA Freeway. The whole bar stopped and stared at the TV in disbelief.
- - Seeing the actor Robert Lansing sitting on a barstool, facing the stage, wearing a trenchcoat and looking like something out of a Bogart movie.
The coat looked sharp. He looked worn out. He was dead about a year later.

Anonymous said...

Before the Harmony went down to Tribeca and before the w. 22nd street location it was the Melody Burlesque on 48th and Broadway. In a theater upstairs with a tiny marquis to mark the spot.

There was always about 10 girls on a slow day and 30 on weekends which was standing room only. Basically you paid a buck, got a lap dance and a grind. Some girls let you touch and it was a whole lot of fun. It got busted once in 1981 or 1982 and when it reopend it became the harmony. Sometime around 1986 one of the dancers bought it from some shady guys that ran it (they did look Italian) and eventually she moved it to 22nd street. Another girl Tina opened a competing place on 45th and B'way (and just about anything went on there).

Bottom line it was a lot of fun and I got to meet lots of great girls. sooner or later had may way with a few of them. some great slender Italian girl, One from Jamaica that was hot, Jaguar from the old place and I cannot remember who else.

I moved to LA in 1990 and to date nothing compared to the Melody and the Harmony in all its incarnations. Someone once said on an exit interview when the Harmony was shut down, "this marks the end of an era"

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous raven haired Antonia danced at The Baby Doll Lounge!!! She was so feminine & I wanted to make passionate love to her!!!

Anonymous said...

Emily was a dancer at "Baby Doll Lounge". She was so beautiful & feminine!!!

Anonymous said...

I remember the harmony from the late 90s until it closed. My favorite was Claudia. I really miss that place.

Wadjet Eye said...

Another late comment! My parents moved across the street from this place a few years before they closed. I never went in, but after it closed down I always wish I did. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I REMEMBER A VERY BEAUTIFUL & FEMININE DANCER BY THE NAME OF EMILY WHO DANCED AT THE BABY DOLL LOUNGE AROUND 1989-1990!!!

producingnisa said...

i worked at the Baby Doll Lounge, probably in about 1996 to 1997. It was a trippy scene. Working late, going to Tunnel to party afterwards, Limelight, taking limos to Atlantic City from the club.

That was New York, the real city, before they stole the soul!

GMONEY said...

The Harmony Theater was a weekly haunt for my friends and I. I guess it was early 90's and right near the Baby Doll & a cool dive Mexican place. I guess the best way to describe the stuff that went on there was "Medieval".

Used rubbers on the floor, guys getting jerked right in front of you. It's weird that you go with some "work friends" & 2 drinks later, you look over to see him getting whacked.

The drinks & other stuff was BYOB. We went from a few brown bags to small & even bigger coolers. No one said a thing, except asking for a beer. Smoke, coke, pills or anything else went on openly.

It used to be so hot that the chicks and customers would be sweating heavily. Fluids would be flowing everywhere. It was a breeding ground for disease. One friend caught a really bad flu when he went with us. Then a few others came down with the same thing, the next trip. We called it the "Harmony Flu" or the "Harmony Fever".

You would think that the class of woman would be at the bottom of the barrel but they used to have some really hot chicks working. On Fridays, they would have a "special porn guest". A hot porn queen that would get down with the crowd. For my birthday one year, 2 hot porn queens, had sex on my lap. I guess it was a time when $100 could get you almost anything.

You would always see an old time porn chick, like Vanessa Del Rio, which I became friendly with. She had long past her prime but was an interesting person and would blow you for free, if she liked you.

I used to tell people that were Harmony Virgins, that it was like Prom Night, with the right chick. Meaning...some of the girls would just sit on would lap and look up in the air, obviously not into you and the situation. Others would go down your pants, without even getting paid. Some chicks looked for someone they were into and spent most of the night with them.
Bizarre...I know. You had to experience it to believe it.

After a few years they opened the downstairs, which was a bit scary. They had a small stage and a dark hallway of flesh that you could enter with the girl of your choice. It had a few chairs and you could basically do anything you wanted to. The last time I was ever at the Harmony, I was downstairs and a working girl kept stalking me. If another girl was giving me a dance, she would hit the girl and tell her I'm her boyfriend. She ended up biting me from behind on my neck. (Yes I was tested and thank god it was negative)

That was the end of Harmony for me. A friend said that a second opened uptown but wasn't as friendly. Maybe new ownership. But I will never forget, my close friend that's so longer with us slipping on a used condom and falling on his face. So frigging funny.

Oh memories...misty water colored memories, of the way we were.

Good Bye Harmony....We'll always have some great memories!

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks for that incredible, in-depth description, GMONEY.

Phil said...

That top photo shows "Kevin", the doorman sitting outside on a stool.@Producingnisa, I was there A LOT in '96 and '97, so if you worked there we probably knew each other. You might have even came to my nearby loft that had a "Dungeon" in it.

Anonymous said...

I loved the Baby Doll Lounge. I loved dancing there. (Billy's Topless and Wildfire too!) I got along with all of the girls I worked with, and adored the managers. This was 1987-1989. I'm still in touch with several dancers and a few of the customers, all these years later. A truly positive experience, in a really bizarre way. Changed my life completely for the better. I hate to think what I'd be like today had I not danced at the Baby Doll Lounge!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone recall a club called the Grapevine on w47? It was a tv / ts club that was a lot of fun until aids hit in the early 80's.

liz said...

I used to work at the baby doll. I was a bartender but would go on the trapeze and do 'tricks' all the time. Viva aka Susie was my best friend. Rocky used to be so protective of me I loved him like a brother. Babe was my favorite manager. It was the best place to work till they found out I was under age. I loved that place. I was an innocent run away from Texas and ended up there. It was a crazy cool eye opener.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Liz, thanks for your comment. always good to hear from one of the Baby Doll girls.

Katie said...

April from the Harmony 94-98
To clarify, the 22nd st Harmony was the same owners as Church St. It was smaller with no downstairs, but it was as friendly and as bizarre. Most girls worked at both. I went on to wrk for 7 more years at clubs in NY and Toronto. Nowhere compared to my Harmony days. It was my first club and I loved it and hated it too. SOme really creepy men went in there. It's true, there were classy and beautiful girls. It was a place we could be ourselves and not have to conform to the Barbie image they expected at the flashy clubs. It was NY through and through.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend danced there...and I ended up working there for a short while...thats how it was then, if you hung out long enough anywhere, you ended up working there lol...this had to be early 90's...I worked at the baby doll and Mtv...it was a second family...like a neighborhood bar that had dancers. It was just another bar, but with an atmosphere of freedom. We, on the fringe, artists, dancers, poets, drifters, dreamers, dirtbags, musicians... we were all there, hung out daily, hung out nightly, sometimes..hung out for days...my blue ss chevelle that I bought from scott, the drummer of cycle sluts, idling gently out front waiting to take us to anywhere.... The "gentlemans clubs" of today are garbage. At the clubs years ago, you could go in, hang out...have conversations, shoot pool, come and go..whatever...it was just us, just hangin' out. The clubs now, if youre not handing out money from the moment you walk in until the second you leave, youre not real welcome. If I wanted to just hand out money to strangers, I could do that on the street. I miss that place...the closest I get to being back there in the day is Dolls, which is still there, only looking different...my gf worked there too..the hair band vibe of my day is gone, and I was a hair band guy...but its good to walk those streets, although it makes me feel like a ghost...my old gf contacted me via myspace not too long ago, I stared for a long while at her picture...the familiar lines of her face...I remember kissing her in the rain at St. Marks, her tiny, delicate face looking up at me, big brown eyes glistening...our motorcycle jackets creaking as we moved about one another...the sweet scent of the poison she used to wear....we'll never have that moment again, we'll never have those times again...if only we we knew better, to leave the drugs alone...to be intoxicants for each other...but we didnt...we ultimately destroyed everything we built...but that was the way back then...appetite for destruction...I dont think any of us expected to live past 25..25 was a distant star...alien, unattainable...so we devoured ourselves and each other...paige made it to alaska with manray, maria went home, one disappeared..and I...walked the streets alone...I wish we could have it back, I never wanted it to end...but everthing does. I just didnt know...it would end like this. Maybe I'll walk by there tonight...stand outside. Smoke a cigarette. Maybe in those moments, I'll half expect a soft hand upon my shoulder and the scent of poison...a gentle voice in my ear saying "c'mon baby...lets go home".

-SilverSea88@Hotmail

Jeremiah Moss said...

lovely memories. thanks SilverSea.

Maggie of Vintage Core Patterns said...

I guess I am few years late on this discussion. I walked by the Harmony the other day, and I think it is the Fig Leaf now?? Does Dominique still own it??? She was cool gal, and quite a woman...LOL, I worked there!!! OMG, What about the PUSSY CAT LOUNGE??? Harmony, the Baby Doll, Angel's, (think that is still there).. I miss the Harmony, that place was definitely different. I worked at all of those places about 14 years ago.

Giuliani Time made NYC into a

Maggie of Vintage Core Patterns said...

I had to leave a second comment, because I was so vague. Yes, there was one woman who owned both clubs, and she also owned a small little club, named Angel's. It was on Real Sex back in the day. And for some reason, I always remembered it and wound up working there. One time TimeOut Magazine did a write up about Harmony, and they actually wrote about my amazing lap dance, and how I washed there hands before with baby wipes or they could not put their hands on me. GMONEY, described to the point where I was able to visualize. The rooms were red. the lights were red, the theater seats and lounge chairs, red....

I have so many memories working there. However, as an employee towards the end. It got a little big brothery at the Harmony. There were cameras installed, and it was the late 90s and the internet was completely mainstream and the owner gave all of the dancers ultimatums, to let her put up internet strip teases or we lost our jobs. I did it, I honestly have no problem with my sexuality and nudity and when I was younger I was huge ham.. But, it bothered a lot of the girls. I would like to see it.. I saw it once or twice, back when I was working there, and she gave me still shots, that were VERY Cute. The still shots were stolen from my apartment. :( I would really love to have them. I am getting old, and regardless what it is, it is what is.... And it is my history, it made me who I am, and I would really love to know if anyone knows what happened to the Harmony Theater Website that was set up around 1996 - 1998. Thank you.

Jeremiah Moss said...

hey Maggie, thanks for writing. always love to hear first-hand stories of these vanished places.

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Harmony for about 6 months in 1996-1997. It was a dark and dingy place but the girls were really nice to work with and you could make a ton of money with just lap dances.

My stage name was "Juliet" and I was popular. I did see some odd goings on at times (no actual sex) but my two friends and I were very pretty and could just give $10 lap dances with no touching of any of our other body parts (length of a song/5 minutes) by the droves and walk out with $200-$800 a night (or day shift). I'm Caucasian, my one friend was black from Antigua (gorgeous), and the other was Puerto Rican, Vanessa, (gorgeous too).

The dancers were mostly really pretty and had nice figures but a few weren't. Women from ALL ethnic backgrounds worked there. It was a trippy place to work and I remember you had to go to this other club a block or so away and work there too. Angels? You paid $20 to work there a day/night.

But it was interesting to have lived in a time in NYC when you could be a "dancer" (never called ourselves "strippers"...lol) and make a ton of money and NOT do anymore then table or lap dance. I do have many fond memories of being close to the other women who were also just trying to make a living, go to college, raise their kids, etc. I did work more fancy, expensive, and refined topless clubs too in NYC, Queens, and Long Island, NJ, but the Harmony was less structured and much more relaxing. The nudity never bothered me at Harmony. It was the only nude, lap-dance club I ever worked besides "Go-Go Rama" in NJ. I did get some crazy offers but never took anyone up on them.

It was an end of an era definitely- but I wouldn't trade a day of it because I have had an interesting life. No regrets :)

Anonymous said...

My BFF "Claudia" worked at the baby doll 1996-1997. I hung-out there a handful of times and everyone was very friendly. They would always try to get me to dance but I just didn't have the confidence to do it. She made so much money that it was tempting. Another girl stormer I went to high school with also worked there she was the one that introduced Claudia to the life. Claudia is now a nurse manager, married, with a 7yr old son. Stormer not sure how she turned out, but last I heard she was heavy into drugs. Last time Claudia and I saw her was in 1998 or 1999 working at the pussy cat. Even though I wasn't a dancer I had great times with Claudia and got to experience first hand this other world of clubbing, underground, and men who woul pay for just about anything to have a gorgeous girl on their arm. Good times for sure!

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Harmony and Angels from 1996 - 1997 under the name Tiger with my roommate who worked under the name Delilah . Working there was soooo much fun - grimy but fun. Loved going to the burrito bar and getting hammered with the girls during my shift. Too bad Dominique came up with those ultimatums. However wouldn't mind seeing those videos one day ;)

Anonymous said...

As I just turned 40, I read these posts and transferred back in time to The Harmony..summer 1992/1993. Every single Saturday night my best friend John and I would drive in from Staten Island to Chelsea in his '92 Hundai. Nirvana's Nevermind and Runaway Train playing on his cassette deck. We smelled the restaurants cooking food as we cruised for a parking spot on White Street (always in front of the Jewish synogogue) . We, d turn the corner on Church Street, the World Trade Center beaming in the distance. We 'd pay the $10 at the booth and enter the dark Harmony illuminated by the faint red lights. We 'd recognize the same cast of characters week after week, the fat mail man, a wild old man and the little man with the beard. Of course there were the women. Fifi,Suzie, Faye, Claudia. Fifi was a riot. John was addicted to the place and inevitably he 'd beg me for money by 11 pm. I could still hear the bass pumping the song Murder She Wrote. The door to the filthy bathroom opening and some guy wacking off with his back turned. I myself had so much fun with so many women, who were not only hot, but had really cool personalities. Of course there were funny memories like the time John and I pretended to be retarted to a new girl, or the time John pawned his watch thinking he was going to get laid only for the woman to dissapear. Or the time we paid a chick to call a friend of ours on the pay phone begging him for a fuck and his dad answered the phone. When the place closed at midnight and it was announced it would open again at noom the next day Id yell "what am I going to do for the next 12 hours "? Suzie with the big boobs would dance later at night always to a Doors song or to CCR 's Suzie Q. Wed meet up for drinks at the bar down the street or at the Buritto Bar. We scored a few times but not often. I just remember being a young 20 year old full of dreams, energy. Young, dumb and full of cum lol. Sadly all of that, including my friend are gone. Today its all bistros and uppity overpriced swank where The Harmony was. Id never do that stuff today, but am so greatfull for great memories of a time gone by.

viva r said...

hello! my pal scott ewalt (who purchased the original Baby Doll sign right under my nose as i was doing floorwork one afternoon) sent me this link- thank you for writing about baby doll! it was an nyc treasure. I am that viva and believe me i know viva is prob a common stripper and definitely a common drag queen name however i was the only Viva at the bd in those years, trust. and jill was/is my best friend. I loved the BD and all the ladies i worked with, and Kevin the bouncer! it was where i learned everything i ever needed to know about performance, and art, and human nature. too bad all the mom and pop strip joints got ran out of town in favor of the homogenized aesthetic of Scores etc. Ah well. BD 4 EVA

Jeremiah Moss said...

hey Viva, thanks for writing! i loved the Baby Doll and everyone there was always so friendly and fun to hang out with, never the hard hustle. i hated when it turned into a bikini joint. glad to know you're still out there, and Jill, too, who i thought looked like Liv Tyler. hope you guys are doing good.

Anonymous said...

The Harmony Theater, in its original carnation, was a walk-up theater/burlesque palace where the Barclay's building is today. There were probably 20 to 30 girls (more on Saturdays), mostly pretty good looking, who did a stage performance before moving into the aisles looking for tips in exchange for "company". "Company" was having the girl sit on yor lap, topless, and do a lap-dance (or just sit there while you fondled her.) It wasn't called lap-dancing then; it was called "Mardi Gras".

Down on the edge of the stage, the more adventurous guys would be doing muff dives on a few of the strippers. (This was all late '70's/early '80's.) The theater had pictures of Frank Sinatra with the owner, so you knew, going in, that the spot was protected -- even if you were not if you were stupid enough to do a muff dive. (Sorry, ladies, it grossed me out..six or seven guys in a line waiting to go down on a lady.)

Eventually, Harmony was raided and shut down (long before Giuliani, as I recall; more likely gobbled up by developers for the old Lehman Bros. building now owned by Barclays.)

But the Harmony had a second iteration as an underground club at various venues around the city. Mostly, it hid out in joints in the Tenderloin (23rd Street to 34th, West of Fift Avenue) at various locations ranging from full-floor lofts, to the theater someone mentioned on 23rd Street to a brief stint near Union Square to what looked like a studio apartment with a stage built in. All kinds of stuff went on in those venues, including at least one instance I saw of full, out-in-the-open standing dog-style intercourse. The women ran the gamut from striking to what were called "high mileage" to downright gruesome.

For a while, Harmony -- which was run by one of the dancers from the former Theater for a while -- or one of its imitators moved down to the Lower East Side where a one-time child actor was one of the owners.

After that was busted -- I'm guessig early to mid 1990's, the place pretty much disappeared. There was a brief iteration of it back in the Tenderloin in the early 2000's -- $20 at the door, pay tips, "private" (sort of) rooms -- in a very comfortable locale, but that joint was busted, too.

Most of those girls were young students. Some, I'm sure, were runaways and I suspect at least one I saw was probably underage. A lot of them were moms trying to make ends meet -- collecting AFDC while making real money doing the lap dance/"Mardi Gras" thing.

I think that world kind of imploded when the Korean Gangs started opening "massage" (yeah, right) parlors around the city. Those places were around way back in the 1980's, but they proliferated almost without restriction into the 2000's and the women there were always young, fit, and affordable at (nowdays) $200 or so for an hour. They were also obviously quite a bit more discreet than the open forum theater where your co-worker or neigbor could walk in and you'd both be embarassed. Finally, the mob was making so much money at "Gentlemen's Clubs" and their Korean counterparts at massage parlors that the word probably went out not to even try to compete (or especially undercut) the primary suppliers of wares to guys with a sex jones. It could have bad consequences.

I'm surpised nobody's ever done a short story or a play about those outlaw days when New York was much more seedy; before it became Disneyland on the Hudson. I could imagine a "Bright Lights, Big City" of New York's underground sex trade -- and you KNOW HBO would option the story rights! LOL

Anonymous said...

Great story, anon. November 21, 2012 5:56 AM. A "Bright Lights, Big City" of New York's underground sex is a great idea for a book, play, of a movie. And should HBO option it, hope that Sarah Jessica Puker and/or Lena Dungham do not star in them. Then again their respective shows are no different, worse, than what went on at the Harmony theater or Baby Doll Lounge.

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Baby Doll and other NY strip clubs in the 80s . It was my favorite bar.

Billy 's had some crazy rules, like you couldn't touch your own breasts while " dancing" ... really? I asked the manager if it was a church or a strip club?

Anonymous said...

i was a harmony dancer for may years and have a good time with the others girl like lory fifi tabou caroline silvia vivian a good looking girl we make a tons of dollars dominique was quite a bitch sometimes we have a few costumers who will be there every day and we beome friend with them sometimes we have drink with _them outside i work thèRE for almost in the beginning when the club move to downtown

Anonymous said...

I danced on an off from maybe 1979 to 1983. Milton, who owned Billy's, was my agent and like all the girls Billy's and The Baby Doll were fav assignments. There were also fun-ish places in Queens - The Cubby Hole, Dunbarton's and Gallaghers with filler gigs at The Hockey Puck, the Riverside(?) in LIC, geeze, what was the name of that place in the meat-packing district on 14t St - ridiculous. I could go on. I also had a couple of misspent nights at the rougher clubs. How did Diamond Lil's even exist?

Dancing was mixed in with the club scene (The Mudd Club, Danceteria, the Pyramid) the afterhours (Laight Street, The World, Brownies), the all night diners - Dave's, the Silver Dollar, 103 (?) 2nd Avenue. Boyfriends were cab drivers, bartenders, bouncers and bohemes.

It was not perfect - you could fall off any number of cliffs, but there is no denying the fun factor, I made a good living and boy do I hate Rudy Gulliani.

thanks for maintaining the blog, Jeremiah.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Anon, for sharing those great details!

Anonymous said...

I was a stripper at the Melody Burlesque theater back in the day and I must say I still miss it. Those were the days. Lots of money!

TomD said...

I miss the Baby Doll and Billy's so much! What a friendly atmosphere at both these bars. First went to BDL in the mid to late 80's. Meet lots of great people there, lots of great dancers. Partied with some dancers after hours and had quasi relationships with others.Beautiful very dark black girl who was a bartender and a brunette dancer who lived in Queens with her son. When the brunette danced there, early 90's, there was a manager, big guy long hair, beard dagger tattoo on his arm. He wasn't too nice.
But my fondest memory is of a girl I met one of my first times there. She was bartending then but later on danced there.She went by the name Toy (real name Jenny)she was sweet but tough. I loved that about her. Once when she was on stage I went to the bathroom, while I was standing at one of those old fashioned down to the floor urinals the door burst open. It was Toy who said "I really got to piss!" She proceeded to pull down her g-string and squat butt first into the urinal, peed and said "That's better." and wemt back on stage! What a woman!!
We saw each other lots of times, either for dates or if we ran into each other at BDL or the Harmoney up or downtown(where she worked with her friend Susie Nero,who got Toy into some adult films)we would always end the night together. We even went to a swingers club together; Le Trapize, Toy's friend's boyfriend was going to jail and his last wish was to go to a swingers club, so we tagged along.
The last time I saw her was at a peep on 42, I guess the adult biz was in her blood. Then we lost touch. She was a great girl with a fantastic attitude, even took in a homeless teen.
Also the manager at that time was a really nice spanish guy, I would help him put the barstools up on the bar while I waited for Toy.
And later a dancer named Jeelie or Jeezli or something like that.

Anonymous said...

Went to the Harmony/Melody many times and believe me it was great. sleazy yeah but great too.
Many of the girls were whcked out on drugs. It was sad to see some of them dteriorate.
Memorable dancers, Taboo, Lilly and dianna onassis, at 60 yrs old she was still hot. One girl I would never forget was Allison, a tall slim, girl who talked with the most annoyingly made up squeaky voice of all time. But god was she a hottie. abosilutley prefect body.
I miss the Harmony a great place.

Anonymous said...

For all those reading this, the grandson of the owner of baby doll has opened a ny style pizzeria in Portland or called baby doll pizza. Nice place for us ex NYC ers to grab a slice. Never been to the lounge, but there are many references here if you find yourself in Pdx