Reader Joe Preston writes in with photos of a vanished gem, "I thought you might find some interest in this photo of my Grandmother’s bar, Slugger Ann’s Bar & Grill, circa 1960 on the NW [correction: NE] corner of 12th Street & 2nd Avenue."
Slugger Ann's, photo courtesy of Joe Preston
Joe says, "She owned it from the early 50s until her death in 1980. She is also the grandmother of my first cousin and godfather, Jackie Curtis of the Warhol Factory. (Our Mothers were sisters.) Slugger Ann, as she is most famously known, was not only the super for this building, but the Village East Cinema diagonally across the street as well, where Jackie and Peter Hujar also lived. Jackie also lived in a small studio in this building, which has the address of 301 East 12th St. It was a first floor apartment."
He adds, "The Naked City TV series along with Kojak was filmed here many times."
shot from Naked City
After Slugger Ann's, the bar became Dick's, a gay dive that closed without warning in 2007. Now it's the fratty-looking 12th Street Ale House.
Melba LaRose recalled the bar to Warhol Stars, "It was a typical Lower East Side bar--this was before we called it the East Village. A lot of local characters hanging out, and Slugger was the biggest character of all. Jackie could often be found at the bar, in whichever gender. His doctor said it was amazing how his body survived going back and forth so many times with the hormones. I remember when he called and was on his way to visit me in LA, a friend said, 'Aren't you going to dress up?' I said, 'For Jackie? Are you kidding? I don't even know what sex he'll arrive in.'"
Jackie grew up with Slugger Ann, and often wore her clothes. Which made sense. Slugger was quite the glamorous lady.
Slugger Ann circa 1950, photo courtesy of Joe Preston
She was also tough as nails. Joe explained how his grandmother got the name Slugger:
"She worked as a taxi dancer in dance clubs, along with my mother and my aunt, in both the Times Square area and Union Square, and when the male customers got 'fresh' with putting their hands where they shouldn't have gone, she hauled off and let them have it. She also belted her female co-workers when they got out of hand. She continued this slug fame during the 50s and 60s, and even some of the 70s when she and my grandfather Joe would physically throw patrons out of the bar when they got drunk and disorderly. She was short in height, but made up for it with a tough Sicilian demeanor and fists like cured hams. Believe me, you didn't want to mess with her."
Slugger Ann circa 1955, photo courtesy of Joe Preston
Joe Preston produced and directed Jackie's play Glamour, Glory, and Gold at LaMaMa in 2003, and was the associate producer on the movie Superstar in a Housedress, directed by Craig Highberger, about the life of Jackie Curtis.
He hopes to make a film about his family, with their hundred-year history on the Lower East Side, his cousin and the Warhol scene, and his charismatic grandmother.
Slugger and husband Joe Verra, circa 1960, photo courtesy of Joe Preston
From Superstar, here's Leee Black Childers describing his first meeting with Slugger Ann, a tough "bleach-blonde woman with this marcelled hair" and "red, red lipstick and black, black mascara...with kindness and love in her eyes."
Update: Joe just sent in this article with Slugger Ann in boxing gloves:
Updated update: Here's Slugger Ann with her pet monkey, Rufus, circa 1970, in front of the bar. Writes Joe, "Notice that 2nd Avenue is still cobblestone. Every car you drove in rumbled over those bricks! Rufus was eventually confiscated by the ASPCA for biting someone. She never got over that, kind of heartbroken."