We learned yesterday that Lenny Waller has recently passed away. Lenny was a prominent member of New York's leather BDSM community, a grandaddy of the Daddies, an institution in his own right.
Lenny began working in the city's S/M clubs in 1968 and was perhaps best known for his longtime management of the Hellfire Club in the old Meatpacking District. In addition, he also operated The Vault, The Manhole, Cell Block 28, and others (he gave a tour of Cell Block 28 to New York magazine in 1990).
During the 1985 anti-sex club crackdown in the midst of the AIDS crisis, Lenny fought to keep places like the St. Marks Baths open. Wrote Jay Blotcher in the book Policing Public Sex, Lenny fought the sex club laws and was victorious when he convinced the city "to exempt anal penetration with a dildo from their laws because, aesthetic objections aside, the act does not transmit HIV."
An advocate for the LGBT and HIV communities, for 25 years, he ran the AIDS Candlelight Vigil in Greenwich Village.
A frequent commenter, here and on many other blogs, he regularly spoke out against the Bloomberg administration and its role in hyper-gentrification, as well as against the city's crackdown on public smoking and the installation of bike lanes.
He loved cigars and also collected teddy bears.
Whenever I had a question about New York's leather history, Lenny came through for me. I was honored to be able to interview him here once in 2008 and again this past December. An oral historian on fetishism, he was a font of knowledge about BDSM in New York City. In one of his emails, he told me he was at work on a book, tentatively titled Hellfire: The Club, The Culture, The People, and The Time.
Lenny, I hope you got to finish that book, and thank you for always taking the time to answer my many questions. You will be missed.
*To those who knew him well, any factual corrections or additions to this obit you may have, please send them in.