Getting Tattooed with Gay History

Author Phillip Crawford Jr gets tattoos of vintage ads for alleged Mafia-controlled gay bars which he wrote about in his groundbreaking book “The Mafia and the Gays”

FORT MYERS, Fla., April 26, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — For decades the Mafia controlled much of LGBT nightlife in many cities across the United States including New York and Chicago, and author Phillip Crawford Jr wrote about this relationship in his groundbreaking book The Mafia and the Gays which first was published in 2015 and then followed up with a second edition in 2022. To mark the historic ties between organized crime and the gay scene Crawford has gotten a sleeve inked on his right lower leg involving vintage ads for several alleged Mafia-controlled gay bars from the 1970s and 1980s, and written an essay to accompany the photographed tattoos.

The leg sleeve shows the same images which gay men decades earlier saw when flipping through the bar rags distributed throughout the ‘gayborhoods.’ The ads are surviving ephemera which bring life to and evoke the identity of those gay bars from that era when the LGBT community lived on the edge of society and in partnership with the Mafia.

The tattoo is an apt medium by which to mark this history because tattooing once was a lifestyle adornment only among marginalized subcultures such as the gay scene and the hoodlum life. During the 1950s and 1960s before the liberation movement the homosexual rubbed elbows with the criminal in a shared underworld which rejected societal mores. The tattoo was their mark as members of a motley assembly of anti-heroes in post-war America. The tattoo scene was an alternative reality from the middle-class suburbs.

Phil Sparrow once was an English professor at DePaul University in Chicago, but in the early 1950s the gay prof fled the straight jacket of academic life to open a tattoo parlor on skid row. In 1953 Sparrow’s shop became known as a congregating place for homosexual activity among new enlistees from the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, and he was advised by a naval intelligence officer that the “Navy was going to declare [his] shop off-limits.”

Among the tattoos on Crawford’s lower leg sleeve is one of Jamie’s which allegedly was owned during the early 1970s by the Outfit on Chicago’s near north side. The young tough smoking a cigarette has a dollar sign on his belt buckle to tip off that Jamie’s was a hustler joint, and his cocky pose against the entrance door promises good trouble inside.

Also included is the infamous Mineshaft which operated in the meatpacking district on the west side in New York City from 1976 until closed by city officials in 1985 as the AIDS crisis was exploding. The ad illustrates an idealized macho man — muscles, tank top and a mustache — with a miner’s hat which puts the “MINESHAFT” name up in lights. The place allegedly was owned by the Gambino family but managed by a gay man who created the club concept. Freddie Mercury and Robert Mapplethorpe were among those who patronized the Mineshaft where primal desires became living dreams, and the scene there provided the inspiration for the 1980 film “Cruising” with Al Pacino.

This collage of tattooed ads expresses the zeitgeist of those bygone days, and is an homage to the gays and the mobsters who made it all happen.

Phillip Crawford Jr


[email protected]

“This release was issued through WebWire®. For more information, visit”

Cision View original content to download multimedia:

SOURCE Book Author: Phillip Crawford Jr


Source link

PIA Logo Private Internet Access gives you unparalleled access to thousands of next-gen servers in over 83 countries and each US state. Your VPN experience will always be fast, smooth, and reliable.