Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Billy's Topless

When photographer Tony Stamolis wrote in to say he read my post on Billy's Topless and recalled renting the place out for a photo shoot just a week before it closed, I asked him to please send the photos. Billy's closed in 2001 and images of the interior are hard to find.

Tony was kind enough to share these shots (the women here are friends of Tony's, not actual dancers).


all photos by Tony Stamolis

He writes, "They were taken as part of a project that was hung in the windows of Fun Box Times Square, an art/performance space on 42nd Street. That building was torn down soon after. Having spent most of my time (living and working) in that area in the early 90s, the focus was, obviously, on the Disney-fication of Times Square. It was titled "Quality of Life?" and had fake money covering the floors of the windows."



Tony's photos show the crummy little stage that the dancers used, with its undulating three-part shape. The greasy mirror, the dropped ceiling. Somewhere to the left, out of sight, is a hot dog and mac-n-cheese buffet served from trays warmed over Sterno.

We also get a good look at the bar, with its ratty stools and weathered wood. Giuliani's "Quality of Life" campaign shut Billy's down. Now it's all gone to bagels and smoothies. But it was a good old place.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I shot a documentary there in the early 90s. Your website makes me feel everything I loved about NYC is gone.

Caleo said...

Anon.9:31- Everything you loved about New York IS gone, or most of it.
Jeremiah is indefatigable in regards to remembering and helping us all reflect on the greatness that was New York, and that only exists now in photographs and memories.

Gojira said...

I remember when they changed the name to Billy's Stopless in an attempt to placate Der Fuehrer Rudy, but they were just too low-brow for his refined (3 wives) Catholic tastes. Such a loss, them and all of the establishments that connected us to an earlier, more real New York.

Anonymous said...

I worked there in the early 90's.. memories! Thank you for the photos!Getting rid of these places did not improve quality of live but made our city boring. I miss the NYC of the 90's.

Marty Wombacher said...

I remember they renamed it "Billy's Stopless" after Giuliani's Quality of Life bullshit campaign. I used to stop in there on my way home from work, it was a great spot and I'm glad I got to experience it. Lots of characters on the stage and off in there!

Anonymous said...

Billys sucked. baby doll was the place.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, Billy's always had a respectful dignity about it, and despite my love of the place, I admit to some relief that, in its demise, it is not exposed to the photo/video-capture-everything that our culture is becoming: I can imagine the hipsters with google glass descending on the place to post it to youtube...

And for some ungodly reason, Miley Cyrus and her nasty, clownish tounge come to mind, flicking like some perverse flesh-powered credit card machine, manifest of a culture stripped of dignity, rolling in its abject boredom and plastic filth, a masquerade in form to the dancing at Billy's, but of a soul-crushing abject depravity in comparison...

So I appreciate the photos; my memories of Billy's, and by extension the old New York - and, really, the entire pre-digital world - are seeming further distant, and its good to know others are sharing that loss (online, of course ;')

Anonymous said...

Many a bar crawl I was on ended up at this place, and it was also a good place to kill a few hours people watching and chatting with half naked ladies. It was a kind of innocent place, without lap dances or champagne rooms or any of that creepy stuff. Just beers and wiggles.

Anonymous said...

The same is happening in London / Soho, and many other cities in the world as they are made into plastic replicas of each other. Variety is dead.

Anonymous said...

I think a scene from the movie Rounders may have been shot there.

Anonymous said...

I worked there in the 90.s I was as clean cut as the came and when I went in I was like what a dive, but I always made $800 a night there. It was one of the best places to work and if you even tried to touch a dance they throw your ass out. hands down was my favorite place. Even the other dancer were nice people. you didn't audition at the club you went to the owners office he was older and would say yes or no.

Anonymous said...

HEADLESS BODY FOUND IN TOPLESS BAR! gotta miss the old new york city

Anonymous said...

I went to Billy's because I was headless, and went there in hopes of getting some head, but never did.

Anonymous said...

Billy's was great. It was obligatory for any bachelor party to conclude there, ironically as the place to calm down.

As someone else said, there was an "innocence" about it. The staff was friendly and the drinks were not out of control expensive. If you behaved yourself, which everybody seemed to do, no problems.

And yes the dancers were quite lovely. I never hit on any of them, but they seemed friendly and easy going, taking their cues from the jovial bouncer and the sweet madam or manager.

RIP Billy's

Anonymous said...

MY NAME WAS GYPSY I WAS ONE OF THE MAIN DANCER AT BILLYS FOR A LONG TIME WAY BEFORE IT CLOSED I WAS TOLD I WAS ONE OF THE 10 BEST DANCERS IN NYC AT THE TIME I DID NOT EVEN KNOW ABOUT IT UNTIL LIKE A YEAR LATER IT WAS FUNNY BECAUSE IN THE PICTURES THE 9 OTHERS WERE ALL IN LACES BETWEEN WHITE AN PINK AND I WAS ALL IN BLACK WITH FISHNET AND THIGH HIGH BOOTS AND WAS THE ONLY ROCK N ROLL GIRL IN TOWN FOR YEARS....BILLYS WAS AN AWESOME PLACE TO DANCE SO WAS THE BABY DOLL BOTH CRUMMY PLACES TO MOST PEOPLE BUT THERE WAS A CERTAIN CHARM THAT WE LOVED ABOUT IT AND THE MONEY WAS WAY BETTER THAN U ALL THINK....HOWEVER I WAS ONE OF 2 GIRLS IN THE ALL CIRCUIT THAT REALLY DANCED BUT WHAT A BLAST...BACK THEN THERE WAS NO TABLE DANCES AND NOONE WAS ALOWED TO TOUCH US...IM FRENCH SO BEEING NAKED WAS NO BIG DEAL I LATER REALIZED HOW BAD WE WERE LOOKED UP UPON....I NEVER REALLY CARED I KNEW WHO I WAS AND WHAT I STOOD FOR...I DANCED 12 YEARS AND HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO REGRETS.ANYWAYS IM WAY OLDER NOW BUT I MISS THOSE DAYS AND I JUST HAD TO WRITE THIS..............CHEERS

GYPSY

Anonymous said...

OH THIS IS GYPSY AGAIN LIKE I SAID IM FRENCH AND I FORGOT TO WRITE IT MIGHT HAVE TONS OF MISTAKES ON THERE............SORRY I SHOULD HAVE READ IT AGAIN.....OH WELL.......