The Bijou’s “attractive” entrance | Daniel Maurer | 18308
The Bijou was a sex club and cinema in New York’s gay district, which opened around 1990, with a colourful history. Writing in Bedford and Bowery, Lance Richardson gives us a tour.
It is an incredible space, but then the Bijou Film Forum, like the Adonis, has its own remarkable history. In the 1950s and 60s, when drag was still considered dangerously subversive (and illegal), queens performed a famous revue here in the mafia-run Club 82, “New York’s After-Dark Rendezvous.” Elizabeth Taylor was known to drop by, along with other forward-thinking celebrities, and it’s said that Errol Flynn once played the piano with his penis.
By the 1970s, the subterranean rooms were absorbing glam rock and avant garde punk, including sounds by The Stilettos, featuring an up-and-coming Debbie Harry. Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones even took a turn at the theater in 1990, launching a music club that seems to have lasted a red hot second. Since its halcyon days, in other words, the black door has hidden queers and iconoclasts, letting them do whatever they want, street-level society be damned.
The club appears to have still been trading in 2014 when the writer visited. During his visit, nobody said a word to him, until he left.
As I pushed through the turnstile to exit the theater, the man at the box office banged on his glass window. “Next time,” he said gruffly, “exit through the back door.” How clandestine! It was the first thing anybody had said to me at the Bijou Film Forum, and I loved it.