Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Christopher's End

I was walking down Christopher Street recently when a for rent sign on the Badlands Adult Video emporium stopped me. When I asked the guy inside when they were closing, he only said, "When someone takes it, we will close." Any takers? At $40,000 a month, it's been up for grabs for a while now. Last summer, Eater talked with the broker, who urged prospects to "Do your part in the continuing gentrification of the West-Side Hwy and open a damn restaurant/ nightclub here already.”

Before someone grants his wish, take a walk to the very end of Christopher. It still feels like New York City out there. You'll pass Meier & Oelhaf Marine Repair, with its windows made from ship's portals (also for rent), and The Dugout, where you can enjoy beer in plastic cups and the company of friendly bears.

Badlands is in the Weehawken Street Historic District (click that link for lots of details). The building was built in 1937 and housed Harry's Men's Shop for seamen's supplies until the 1960s-70s, when it was claimed by gay men (insert seamen/semen joke here).

The end of Christopher was once a leatherman's paradise. The wooden shack at 392 West Street dates to 1834 and is the last remaining structure from the Weehawken Market. It also later became the home of gay bars and next door to it was the Ramrod, mecca of hardcore leather and much featured in the Pacino film Cruising. (Soon after the film's release, a man fired an automatic weapon on the Ramrod, killing two and wounding six.)

Like San Francisco, gay enclaves seem to spring up wherever sailors come to port. The Keller Hotel, once a home for sailors, where "ghosts of the past breathe deeply," stands like a fading oceanliner above the Hudson. It hosted a leather bar where disco was born. It went up for landmarking last year and there's rumor it's getting a surreptitious luxury remodeling.

Like the other vanished gay leather land, the Meatpacking District, there's not so much cruising at the end of Christopher anymore--unless you count rollerblading as cruising--but you can still get a taste of the real city, a gritty, desolate, riverside taste of it. Like everything else in town, it's a rare feeling that is fading fast.


Todd HellsKitchen said...

Nicely done post...

I remember it from the Ramrod days...

daria said...

wow that link to the weehawken historical preservation document is amazing. how do i get to be one of those people that put that stuff togther? so fascinating!

Lenny Waller said...

Your Dedication will preserve our past. Which for a large part is an oral history? I operated Hell Fire, Cell Block 26, The Annex, The Vault, & had many friends now past who ran clubs & Business's your doing a great service for generations to come.
Lenny Waller