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Club 82/Bijou Cinema gay adult theater and sex club-ish, East 4th Street

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Club 82/Bijou Cinema gay adult theater and sex club-ish, East 4th Street
photo by Andrew Collins
This basement space set very discreetly behind a simple, unmarked door has quite a history with New York's gay community. From 1958 until 1978, Club 82 (82 E. 4th St.) was a beloved drag cabaret and glam-rock venue made famous by the likes of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Harvey Fierstein, Blondie, and the New York Dolls - in this sense, it's one of the more important sites of gay history in the East Village, and it even has its own fan site, which celebrates its colorful past. It then became an indie-film theater, and in the early 1990s, the dark, underground (figuratively and literally - it's in a basement) space became a quite popular gay adult theater and sex club called the Bijou Cinema (although still known by many as Club 82). More recently, it's been closed at different times, but it was spruced up at one point and now continues to be a gay sex club. (If you're having trouble finding it, it's just off 2nd Avenue, its doorway behind the incongruously dapper and lovely French bistro, Belcourt).

This is a quirky and happily sleazy little spot that's especially popular after the bars closed - it used to be open 24/7, but more recent reports suggest it now closes by 5 or 6 in the morning (I last stopped by around 1 am in May 2011, and it was open and still charging a $10 admission). You enter through the ominous unmarked door, descend the brightly lit stairs. Inside there's a 48-seat cinema that used to show gay porn and more recently has played conventional movies, some with an arty bent. Forming an L-shape behind the cinema area is a corridor lined with private booths that contain monitors showing gay porn. These are basically walk-in-closet-size booths - no beds or facilities to speak of. Guys hang out in these rooms, cruise the corridors, etc., etc. Off the main corridor and theater, there's also a TV lounge, some rental lockers, and a bar no longer serving drinks. There's something strangely and endearingly retro about the entire set-up. That being said, it's sometimes hard to confirm this place is open, so if anyone gets word it's shuttered again, please let me know.

By all accounts, there's often more of a crowd at the East Village's more above-board gay porn cinema, Blue Door Video, which is nearby at 87 1st Avenue. Note that some controversy has arisen concerning prostitution-solicitation arrests, which many in the GLBT community are calling false and baseless - an article in Gay City News explores charges of entrapment related to these arrests.

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