As a self-appointed ambassador for love and understanding, let me share with you two LGBT/Pride events you should not miss if you are rainbow-influenced or just curious and supportive.
The first event takes place on June 28 in our lovely hamlet on St. Nicholas Avenue. The other takes place on June 29 at the South Street Seaport.
In Harlem, myNewYorkeye’s first annual girly-gurl “Rent Party,” a fundraiser for the arts, will be held on June 28 from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at the Honeycomb Playhouse.
“Harlem is pulling together again, don’t you think? It’s such a safe place for the gay community. Lesbian, bisexual and straight people are mixing, smiling, and I am happy about that,” said a Harlem resident with more than 30 years of observation.
Harlem has a rich LGBT legacy. During the Harlem Renaissance, the Hamilton Lodge of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows became famous for its elaborate annual drag ball (aka the Faggots Ball).
The 1930s roared gay with the Mount Morris Turkish Baths, which attracted a clientele of gay Black men (and the white men who loved them).
In the 1940s, Ebony magazine reported that at Luckey’s Rendezvous, owned by Duke Ellington’s piano player, Luckey Roberts, “male couples are so commonplace … that no one looks twice at them”: James Baldwin introduced Luckey’s to Marlon Brando, and it reportedly became his favorite hangout. (“Stella, I’m coming out!” might have been Brando’s inner monologue. Who really knows? The closet is that deep.)
Where are the girls who love girls in Harlem history? Great question! They were there, but on the down low.
Butch women were bold, as witnessed by singer Gladys Bentley, who was notorious for wearing men’s clothing on stage and for her marriage to another woman.
Here’s another twist (but not a surprise to anyone in the rainbow life). Ma Rainey (“Prove it on Me”) was rumored to have had a relationship with bisexual singer Bessie Smith.
Then there’s everyone’s lovable “mom” comic legend Moms Mabley. Yes, her.
The new documentary “I’ve Got Somethin’ to Tell You,” directed and produced by Whoppi Goldberg (HBO), touches upon Mabley’s lesbian lifestyle. The doc is a fascinating look at Harlem of old, and it’s no real shock that once she took off her trademark clothing, she slipped into a man’s suit and was addressed as “Mr. Mom.”
To wit and to my point, rent parties (which were held in private venues) were events where rainbow folks could listen to music, dance and socialize in freedom.
Now, in 2013, Harlem is celebrating girly-gurl LGBT pride at the new speakeasy the Honeycomb Playhouse in the rent party tradition.
The Honeycomb Playhouse, located in a brownstone, is new. They don’t discriminate, embracing the creativity and hustle of all. They have a full bar and offer a changing appetizer menu. There is also a back courtyard.
The girly-gurl event is only $5 and is sponsored by Harlem Brewing Company, Alacran Tequila, Black Opal Cosmetics and the African-American Jazz Caucus Inc.
Keeping the musical legacy alive will be two live performers: violinist Brooke “Viosocalist” Alford (www.BrokeAlfordViolin.com) and singer/songwriter/pianist Michelle DeAngelis (www.mdeangelismusic.com).
Remember, this is a fundraiser, so RSVPs are strongly encouraged. Reply to email@example.com. By subway, take the A, B, C, D or 1 train to 145th Street.
Now, to the beach! On June 29, Henrietta Hudson, with Spice NYC and Sir Sabrina, present SIREN at the Water Taxi Beach at the South Street Seaport.
Lisa Cannistraci and Minnie Rivera are the owners of Henrietta Hudson and two of the brightest businesswomen in the city. SIREN, now in its third year, has quickly become the benchmark for excellence for the ladies during New York City Pride.
In 1991, Cannistraci (then a bartender on Wall Street) took refuge from the rain at 438 Hudson St. A few hours later, she was hired.
I’m fairly confident that Cannistraci knew after just offering a drink to party promoter Rivera, her future was about to change. When these two laid eyes on each other, somewhere in the universe, there was a sonic boom, and Henrietta Hudson was born.
The bar received its injection of fame and a place in pop culture history when Madonna became a regular.
Cannistraci is special. She’s not the warm and fuzzy type; she’s a New Yorker, but her strong personality is refreshing.
Every time we connect, I find myself humming Alicia Key’s love song to the city.
Lisa invited me to SIREN. I am on her personal guest list with a plus-one. (Hello, femmes of the city, I need a date!)
Henrietta Hudson presents SIREN on June 29, from 9 p.m.-4 a.m. For tickets, visit www.boxofficetickets.com/Siren.
Let’s groove in Harlem on June 28 and splash at the seaport on June 29.