Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lenny & Leather

This Columbus Day weekend, leather and fetish is taking back the Meatpacking District. It’s the all-gender New York Leather Weekend—complete with brunch!

And what perfect timing, after the Post proclaimed we’re in a heyday of “Dungeon Alley” and, after a spate of busts, dominatrixes are talking unionization. S/M is in the air. For the occasion, I chatted with Lenny Waller, big Daddy of the New York leather scene and former manager of the infamous Hellfire Club, now the Vento Trattoria.

He told me, “Hell Fire opened in 1978. Before it was Hell Fire it was the Catacombs. Before that it was the Sewer. The basement of 28 9th Avenue had a dirt floor... We put milk boxes on the floor around the bar so you wouldn't have to stand and drink in the mud.” That basement will soon be Vento's luxury lounge.


photo source: Lenny Waller

Lenny recalled trying a meal at Vento, saying, “It was not as good as it was supposed to be. The other couple with me was a gay male couple. Jerry said to me, ‘I always used to jerk off and cum on that wall.’ An older theater-going couple looked on in horror. I grinned.”

I wonder, if we scanned today’s MePa with one of those forensic blue lights, would we see ghosts of ejaculate past glowing on every wall of every cafe and boutique? Would Pastis reveal a Jackson Pollock of jizz?


photo source: Lenny Waller

As I covered here in before-and-after photos, Meatpacking was once loaded with sex clubs. Lenny ran down an exhaustive list from his memory: “The Mine Shaft, The Ram Rod, The Eagle, The Spike, The Anvil, The Tool Box, The Strap, Glory Hole, Kellers, The Ramp, Boots & Saddles, Cell Block, Cell Block 28, Hellfire, Chateau 19, GG Barnum, The Grape Vine, The Gilded Grape, The 82 Club, Sally's Hide Away.” To which he added, “God, I'm old.”

Back in the day, you had to "earn your leathers" as a rite of passage. Lenny explained, "Usually the novice received brown leather. He would get his boots, vest, chaps, each garment a reward of accomplishment. You knew what it was to be tied, how to be a slave, what it meant to be a Daddy's boy. You were proud to be out on Christopher Street on a Saturday or Sunday with your Daddy. Today, people go out, buy their leathers, and zap: Instant Master or Mistress."


photo source: Lenny Waller

He doesn’t believe dominatrixes need to unionize because what they do is an art. As for the recent busts of dungeons, he refers us to the 1993 Brooklyn case of People v. Georgia A., which states, “the NY City Criminal Court held that prostitution does not encompass sado-masochistic relationships. The court observed that sado-masochistic acts such as domination, foot licking, spanking and submission are not ‘sexual conduct’ prohibited by the prostitution statute."

Thanks to police harassment, the AIDS crisis, gentrification, etc., New York has lost the sextravaganza that once flourished here. As Lenny recalls, "In 1983, NYC had 19 porn theaters, 4 live sex shows, 1 sex theater performance, 8 burlesque theaters, 4 topless bars, 10 Scumatoriams, 15 adult book stores, 8 on-premise swing clubs, 4 S&M clubs, 10 gay movie theaters, 12 gay bath houses, 5 listed massage parlors, 11 listed oriental spas, 1 live S&M performance, 6 S&M and fetish shops, and at least 20 gay bars with active back rooms.”


entrance to Mineshaft, source: Lenny Waller

Even if you're not into watching people spank each other in the cobblestoned streets of MePa, but you are interested in New York history, check out Saturday's "Enter the Mineshaft," and relive a little bit of that vanished city.

Lenny's Links:
On Yahoo, Lenny runs a BDSM event list and the Hellfire Club Group (NSFW). He also runs AIDS Candlelight Vigil and supports the AIDS quilt.

12 comments:

Karate Boogaloo said...

Joseph Mitchell would be proud of you!

lvv said...

Awesome piece. But what is a "scumatorium" please? :)

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks. not sure i'm up to mitchell's caliber, but it's the best compliment.

as for "scumatorium," can anyone weigh in?

anon. said...

Don't know nothin' about no Scumatoriams, but I may know about cumatoriams, i.e. them booths on the sex shops/peep shows.

mrpbody said...

NYC 80's swing and B&D scene was great. It still gives me dirty dreams. I remember parting with my ex wife at the Trapeeze for 8 till 4 am. Sex with at least 10 women that night.

Godd times

Anonymous said...

Rest in Peace Lenny.....

Jeremiah Moss said...

RIP? what happened?

Sr.L said...

the 82 CLUB was on east 4th street, or e.3rd between 1st & 2nd ave. (i lived near by in 1968-9). it was NOT in meatpacking. it had drag shows. maybe they copied the name later for another club? also this post is over the top, but that was NYC!

bitg said...

RIP Lenny. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

Casino Guru said...

my name is Wolff. i was the owner of Paradise Lost Dungeons in NYC from 1975 to 2000. i left NYC i n 2002 and i just read that Lenny Waller passed away. he was my dear friend. i knew him when he left the NYPD and drove a cab; that's how far back we went. he was still straight and he did his first scene ever with a guy on the ST. Andrews cross in my personal dungeon in my apt at 178 east 80. he later told me that when i put him on the cross and whipped him, i changed his life. i also remember when he was married to Sharon. god i miss my friends. what a shame life is so short. i love you Lenny. i hope you are at peace.

John said...

Lenny, you are thought of often. The nights and mornings at your clubs forever stay vivid in my brain. We miss you.

Barbi Satin said...

I am so sorry to hear we lost Lenny. NYC was always where I went when I needed to escape middle America. The greatest sex vacation spot on earth for a pervert like me.

I got to be a part of it all near the end in 97. I went from being a client of pro doms and became a tranny pro dom at a midtown dungeon. That was the best year of my life. I miss the real NYC.

It was all the way back in 1980 when I saw my first shemale videos at Show World. I was 19 at the time and thought it would be amazing to be one. By 97 I was one and working in NYC as Barbie Satin.