CHELSEA — A pair of lesbian bars from the 1960s, a bevy of LGBT-friendly nightclubs from the '80s, and the former headquarters of the country’s early gay-rights organizations are among the planned stops on a walking tour through Chelsea next month.
Local historian Laurence Frommer, a member of the advocacy group Save Chelsea, will lead the “LGBT Chelsea, Then and Now” walking tour on June 11, which invites guests to “revisit, and rethink many of the stereotypes and long-held beliefs about the LGBT community in NYC.”
“Many people think that LGBT life emerged in Chelsea in the early ‘90s, when skyrocketing rents in Greenwich Village pushed the community northward, and the more visibly obvious members of the gay community — the young, hip, tattooed, gym-toned 'Chelsea Boys' — turned Eighth Avenue into America’s ‘Gay Main Street’ for a decade or more,” a description of the tour reads.
“However, this migration had already started as far back as the 1960s and '70s, when cost-conscious folks who wanted to be near the Village chose to live in the less expensive Chelsea area, just a few blocks north,” it continues.
The tour will examine Chelsea’s place in the city as a “major entertainment, theater and Red Light district” dating back to the 19th century, with all of the stops time-permitting.
They include a visit to the famous Chelsea Hotel, which has hosted countless LGBT artists over the decades, including writers William S. Burroughs and Tennessee Williams, and actress Sarah Bernhardt.
The former headquarters of early gay-rights organizations the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis are included, along with the former sites of lesbian bars Kookys and Ariels, once known as Gianni’s.
Former nightlife spots including the Roxy, Limelight, Danceteria, Private Eyes, the Sound Factory and Rawhide are also listed as possible stops.
Guests could also pass by the shuttered gay bar Mother’s on West 23rd Street, which hosted gigs by performers like the Ramones, the Talking Heads and Blondie, in addition to a number of other sites.
"Chelsea is a neighborhood that was strongly associated with gay life in the 1990’s — but was actually quite 'gay' for many, many years before that," the tour description said.
“We can’t bring back the Velvet Underground, but the… walking tour might be just what you need to ‘take a walk on the wild side’ — and to see Chelsea from a whole new perspective."
Registration for the tour, which starts at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, is $20 per person.
A meeting location will be provided upon registration, according to Save Chelsea's website.