Greenwich Village has been a gay-friendly neighborhood for many decades. During prohibition, Eve Addams opened a lesbian speakeasy on MacDougal Street called Eve’s Hangout. Later, during the 1950′s, famous gay artists and writers, like Allen Ginsberg, performed at bars like the Gaslight Cafe. And Village favorite, Marie’s Crisis Cafe, before it became a famous sing-along piano bar, served for a long time as a gay watering hole. Nonetheless, even though gay culture thrived in Greenwich Village, much of it was forced underground.
In 1969, the Stonewall Inn was a popular, but still secretive, gay bar. Everyone else was getting their civil rights, but anti-gay statutes remained in full force. Almost all the gay bars of Greenwich Village were owned by mobsters, who treated the customers poorly. Even worse, many gay bars had to pay off the police, who referred to the payoffs as gayola. Nonetheless, it was quite common for cops to raid the joint, bust the drag-queens and haul them off to jail.