Mineshaft (gay club)

The Mineshaft was a members-only BDSM gay bar and sex club located at 835 Washington Street, at Little West 12th Street, in Manhattan, New York City, in the Meatpacking District, West Village, and Greenwich Village sections.[1]

General information
TypeSex club
LocationManhattan, New York City
Address835 Washington Street
CountryUnited States
OpenedOctober 8, 1976 (1976-10-08)
ClosedNovember 7, 1985 (1985-11-07)
Technical details
Floor count2
Other information
Facilitiesroof deck, clothes check, dungeons / private rooms, slings, glory holes, bathtub


Among those who frequented the Mineshaft were Jack Fritscher (who was present at its opening night and attended hundreds of times),[2] Fritscher's lover Robert Mapplethorpe (who took many pictures of the Mineshaft and was at one point its official photographer ... "After dinner I go to the Mineshaft."),[3][4][5] gay erotic artist Rex,[6] and Annie Sprinkle, who said she was one of three women ever allowed in.[7][8] One of the other women was Camille O'Grady.[9] Manager Wally Wallace (born James Wallace) said that he turned away Mick Jagger, and a bouncer turned away Rudolf Nureyev.[10] Vincente Minnelli, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Rock Hudson, and Michel Foucault got in.[11]

There was no sign on the entrance; the exterior has been described as "grimy".[12] The location had previously been used by a gay bar, Zodiac.[13] The entrance to the club was up a flight of stairs, on the second floor. The door was manned by someone who rejected anyone wearing preppie clothes or cologne, and this was a widely known part of what made the bar influential. Originally the Mineshaft was on that one floor (and with a scat room, which was soon abandoned as too extreme).[14] It soon expanded to the first floor beneath, using back stairs to access a recreation of a jail cell, the back of a truck, dungeons, and a room containing spotlighted bathtubs in which men could let other men urinate on them.[15][16]

The upper floor or bar (no alcohol was sold, for legal reasons) had a roof deck, dungeons, slings, and cans of Crisco, at the time popular among gay men as a sexual lubricant preceding modern personal lubricant. Nudity or minimal clothing was encouraged, and a clothes check was provided. Recreational drug use was common inside the club. According to the Mineshaft Newsletter, Fist Fuckers of America held meetings there.[17] There was a wall of glory holes.[18] Promiscuity was celebrated.

The images and posters for the club were created by the gay erotic artist Rex.

The existence of the Mineshaft was widely known among gays who never visited; it has been called a "mythic[al]...space".[19]

The Mineshaft operated from October 8, 1976 until it was closed by the New York City Department of Health on November 7, 1985, although tax problems played a significant role in its closing.[20] After it closed, six men, associated with both the Mineshaft and an affiliated heterosexual club, the Hellfire, were charged with a variety of crimes.[21] Four pleaded guilty, former New York City police officer Richard Bell was convicted, and the sixth fled the country to escape prosecution.[22]

Dress code

A sign said the following:

The Mine Shaft dress code

as adopted by the club on October 1, 1976
is to be followed during the year 1978.

The Board of Directors

Approved dress includes the following:
Cycle leather & Western gear, levis
Jocks, action ready wear, uniforms,
T shirts, plaid shirts, just plain shirts,
Club overlays, patches, & sweat.




NOTE: The code was designed for particular men who compose the basic core of our club[23]

The Al Pacino movie Cruising was intended to depict gay cruising as it existed at the Mineshaft, though the bar is not named in the movie.[24] Since the Mineshaft would not allow filming, scenes from the movie were filmed at the Hellfire Club, which was decorated to resemble the Mineshaft. Regulars from the Mineshaft appeared as extras.[25] Scenes were shot in streets and other locations near the Mineshaft.[26] Pacino attended as part of researching his role. (A bar called the Mineshaft does not appear in the 1970 novel Cruising by Gerald Walker, which, with substantial changes, was the inspiration for the 1980 film of the same name.)

According to Jack Fritscher, Jacques Morali drew his inspiration for the four archetypes of the Village People from the Mineshaft's dress code.[27] Glenn Hughes, the original leather biker of the Village People, frequently attended.[28]

Freddie Mercury wears a Mineshaft T-shirt in the official video for the Queen song Don't Stop Me Now.


  1. Patrick Moore, Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality, Beacon Press, 2004, ISBN 0807079561, p. 19.
  2. Jack Fritscher, "The Mineshaft", introduction, written 2002, to reprint of article first published in Drummer, 19, December 1977, http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Drummer/Vol%201/33_Mineshaft_Mar2008_PWeb.pdf, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  3. William E. Jones, "True Homosexual Experiences" Boyd McDonald and "Straight to Hell", Los Angeles, We Heard You Like Books, 2016, ISBN 9780996421812, p. 75.
  4. Jack Fritscher, Robert Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera, pp. 189-190.
  5. Mapplethorpe's membership card for the Mineshaft can be seen in the 2016 documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (http://www.mapplethorpefilm.com, retrieved April 22, 2016).
  6. Fritscher pp. 502-505 and 509.
  7. "Keith Hennessy asks Annie Sprinkle Ten Questions about the Old Days", Dance Theatre Journal, 2013, reprinted at http://tessawills.com/when-sex-performance-came-together/, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  8. "Annie Sprinkle's Kinky NYC 1975-1995", http://anniesprinkle.org/2008-events, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  9. Jack Fritscher, introduction to reprint of "The Mineshaft" from Drummer 19, December, 1977, Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer, San Francisco, Palm Drive Publishing, 2008, ISBN 1890834386, pp. 471, 474, and 510, http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Drummer/Vol%201/33_Mineshaft_Mar2008_PWeb.pdf, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  10. Fritscher, p. 479.
  11. Fritscher, pp. 479 and 510.
  12. Patrick Moore, Beyond Shame. Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality, Boston, Beacon Press, 2004, ISBN 0807079561, p. 178.
  13. Paul L. Montgomery, "Raids Close 9 After-Hours Bars Linked to Mafia", New York Times, July 19, 1971, p. 1.
  14. Moore, p. 23.
  15. Will Kohler, "LGBT History Month: Remembering the Mineshaft - 835 Washington St. NYC, NY (1976-1985)", http://www.back2stonewall.com/2012/10/disappearing-gay-history-mineshaft-835.html, October 4, 2012, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  16. Jack Fritscher, "Pissing in the Wind", Drummer, 19, December 1977, reprinted with introduction by Jack Fritscher, http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Drummer/Vol%201/33_Mineshaft_Mar2008_PWeb.pdf, retrieved September 29, 2014, also reprinted as "Wet Dreams, Golden Showers" in Corporal in Charge of Taking care of Captain O'Malley And Other Canonical Stories, San Francisco, Gay Sunshine Press, 1984, ISBN 0917342453, pp. 193-202, reprinted at http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Corporal/Wet%20Dreams.pdf, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  17. Mineshaft Newsletter, February 1978, quoted by Jack Fritscher, http://www.jackfritscher.com/PDF/Drummer/Vol%201/33_Mineshaft_Mar2008_PWeb.pdf, Also p. 508, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  18. Will Kohler, "LGBT History Month: Remembering the Mineshaft - 835 Washington St. NYC, NY (1976-1985)", http://www.back2stonewall.com/2012/10/disappearing-gay-history-mineshaft-835.html, October 4, 2012, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  19. Moore, p. 20.
  20. Jay Bletcher, "Sex Club Owners: The Fuck Suck Buck Stops Here", in Policing Public Sex. Queer Politics and the Future of AIDS Activism, Boston, South End Press, 1996, ISBN 0896085503, pp. 25-44, at p. 33.
  21. Kirk Johnson, "6 Tied to Late-Night Clubs Indicted in Conspiracy Case", New York Times, March 1, 1986.
  22. Associated Press, "Ex-Officer Is Convicted In Sex-Club Operation", New York Times, November 18, 1986.
  23. Posted on maleholeformale9.tumblr.com, https://36.media.tumblr.com/86db660b472aa578684e8abe8ef7c217/tumblr_nrke38O8L51tzk694o4_r1_1280.jpg, retrieved 7/25/2015. Typographically edited
  24. Unsigned, Was The Mineshaft A Mafia Joint?, http://bitterqueen.typepad.com/friends_of_ours/2010/12/was-the-mineshaft-a-mafia-joint.html, December 29, 2010, retrieved September 29, 2014.
  25. Jack Fritscher, p. 509.
  26. Fritscher, p. 506.
  27. Fritscher, p. 509.
  28. Fritscher, p. 466.

Further reading

  • Tattelman, Ira (January 2005). "Staging Sex and Masculinity at the Mineshaft". Men and Masculinities. 7 (3): 300–309.

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