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Tops and Bottoms
By Lenny Waller of the Fetish Warehouse
I am Lenny Waller, the operator of The Fetish Warehouse (; formerly of the Hellfire and The Man Hole Clubs in NYC. I was the former Manager of Cellblock 28, The Vault, and Kings Pleasure. I also was the former Chapter Liaison for NLA Metro NY, founder of Bears International, current member of TES, GMSMA, Hot Ash, and Jovian Gentlemen. In addition, I am the Outreach Coordinator for "The Mothers March Against AIDS" and Advisory Board Member of "Positive Health Project." I'm often called "Papa Bear". I have been involved in "The Scene" for over thirty-five years. During these years, I've had some wonderful relationships, made some special friends, enjoyed treasured moments, and, sadly, lost two lovers and countless friends to the AIDS epidemic.

It is my belief that to understand the present, we have to study the past. To that end, I offer some glimpses into our past, bringing you up to our current times. My goal today is to educate, inform and, hopefully, entertain a bit as we grow together in understanding our ever-changing Leather Community.

I'm the Top! You are the bottom. Okay, now we know what we are, what our roles are. But wait a minute! How do we know what that means? Where do those terms come from, where did they start? Where did role-play, S/M, D/S, Bondage and Kink begin to enter into our vocabulary? When did they all become part of a lifestyle?


Imagine, if you can, New York City without a Gay bookstore or a Gay bar. Hard to believe, isn't it? In 1930, a newspaper advertisement read, "Should Flogging be Allowed?" Twenty-four years later, Marlon Brando's film, The Wild One, highlighted leather as a fashion focus. At that time, though, there were no specialty shops. Leather jackets were for police officers and outlaw bikers. Whips were not commonly sold. Handcuffs were for police or military issue. Canes were used in Europe to discipline school children, but other than for walking, didn’t exist in this country. But things were changing.

The first Gay bookstore, the Studio Book Store, was located in Greenwich Village. "Christopher End" was the first after-hours public Gay bar. Inevitably, others followed: The Meat Rack, The Duce, The Strip, The Catacombs, Hell, Brick Stompers, The Toilet, The Sewer, The Crisco Disco, The Ramp, The Strap, The Glory Hole, Stone wall, Frankenstein, The Cock Ring, J's, The Rest Stop, The Anvil, The Attic, Cellblock, G.S.A, Kellers, The Spike, The Eagle, The Ram Rod, Badlands, Sneakers, The Annex, The Locker Room, Julies, The Silver Dollar, Peter Rabbit, Hell, The Desert Rat, The Stable, The Mine Shaft.

Quite a list, isn't it?

And let us not forget the mixed and trans-gender clubs like: The 82 Club, The Grape Vine, The Gilded Grape, Hellfire Club, Club O, Chateau 19, Belle De Jour's, Playhouse 51, Kings Pleasure. Or the Lesbian hangouts: The Dutchess, Peaches & Cream, The Cubby Hole and Kelley's.

Let us go back even further though; before New York City was even a thought!


When the early English settlers reached North America, one of the first things they did was establish laws to govern themselves. There were twelve capital offenses, and one of them was lovemaking between men. Interestingly, the other offenses were written in the language of Old English Common law. But for this particular one, they went back to the Old Testament! If any man lyeth with mankind as he lyeth with a woman, both of them have committed abomination they shall both surely be put to death.

After the revolution, in 1786, Pennsylvania abolished the death penalty for this particular crime, and other states followed. In Massachusetts, the punishment became imprisonment for not more than twenty (20) years, and in New York not more than ten (10) years. Leniency at last, wouldn't you say?


The Second World War brought a major upheaval to American life as millions of the country's youth, male and female, mobilized for the war effort. Service in one of the branches of the military provided the opportunity for people to leave small towns and watchful families, and "forced" them to spend twenty-four hours a day with members of the same sex. Certainly those who already recognized their homosexuality found ample opportunities to take advantage of the situation.

In the aftermath of the war, many Americans were uncomfortable with the changes sweeping the country. Senator Joseph McCarthy was a prominent leader in the public outrage against homosexuals and other anti-American groups. In 1950, McCarthy mobilized a full-fledged persecution campaign against homosexuals. By April of that year, ninety-one (91) homosexuals had been fired from the State Department. For the next three years, gays and lesbians were dismissed from government jobs at the rate of forty to sixty per month. McCarthy’s reign of persecution lasted four long years, until 1954, when the Senate censured him and cut back on his powers.

The climate had been set, though, and laws enacted by state legislatures and local governing bodies allowed anti-gay crusaders in many American towns to begin closing down bars catering to sex perverts, both male and female.

Eventually, gays and lesbians began to organize. In 1951, the MATTACHINE SOCIETY was founded to help homosexuals realize their collective histories and experiences. The Mattachine Society is often considered the beginning of the contemporary organized gay rights movement in the U.S. The name Mattachine was derived from medieval French history and referred to jesters who always wore masks in public. Chapters soon opened in other cities. In 1955, a group of eight lesbians formed a group called the Daughters of Bilitis. These groups soon grew from two to a few hundred.

The 60's brought America to a mood of restlessness and militant activism. Franklin Kamney, even with his Harvard Ph.D. in astronomy, was barred from government employment simply because he was homosexual. Outraged, Kamney and a friend organized the Mattachine Society in DC in 1961. Maintaining that, in a democracy, a private citizen is more exalted than any officer, President Kamney led his group in battles with the Federal Government. The group persuaded the American Civil Liberties Union to support its effort in 1964. In August 1964, the ACLU adopted a resolution condemning the exclusion of homosexuals from government services as (discriminatory).

At about this time in New York, a man named Randy Wicker launched a one-man campaign and formed the Homosexual League of New York, and activism began to spread.


Some of the more militant organizations, like the Homophile Action League, thought these activities were far too tame. They advocated face-to-face confrontations, but found very few gays and lesbians willing to accept that kind of approach. Despite constant harassment, persecution and discrimination, the gay and lesbian community continued to grow and thrive. Arrests and the threat of arrest were simply a fact of life for anyone chancing public spaces and community activities.

On Friday night, June 27,1969, the weekend of Judy Garland's death, gays and lesbians, drag queens and patrons gathered in The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Shortly before midnight police officers from Manhattan’s 6th Precinct raided the Stonewall Inn for the second time in a week. This was the third raid of gay bars in the area.

This time, though, in spite of particularly virulent police actions that night, the response was different. This time, instead of allowing themselves to be arrested, the patrons fought back against police harassment and made history by saying "no" to intolerance and "yes" to empowerment. (The Stonewall Inn web page).

The line was drawn in the sand, and the two hundred plus patrons stood and jeered, and as word spread, their numbers doubled and tripled. Before the night was over, four policemen were hurt as the rioters threw coins, paving stones, cans, bottles, and even uprooted parking meters.

The enraged crowd, calling for gay liberation and encouraged by their growing numbers, was not going to let the police off without a struggle. The rebellion continued the following night and would continue throughout the next week when, ultimately, about 400 policemen ended up battling a crowd of more then 2000.
(From The Stonewall Inn web page)
Gay people in the area became more militant in their opposition to the police and would themselves 'patrol' the neighborhood, frequently arm in arm with another, not permitting the 'authorities' to diminish in any way the growing gay visibility of the area.

The Stonewall events received more press than the gay liberation movement had heretofore seen. The spirit of protest in the country, stemming from the civil rights movement to the antiwar sentiment and the rebellion against President Nixon (who was increasingly out of touch with the younger generation), also fueled the fire of our movement, providing gay men and lesbian leaders with the momentum needed to more visibly continue our struggle for change.

In 1988, Mayors in cities as diverse as Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Washington, DC began proclaiming Gay Pride Week, usually celebrated the last Sunday of June. In 1988, a San Francisco Mayor, Art Agnos, rode in a Gay Pride Parade. In 1990, a lavender spotlight lit up the Empire State building for three days in honor of Gay Pride.

On April 25,1993, members of the gay and lesbian and bi community marched on Washington, DC. Estimates exceeded 700,000 marchers, many of whom waited hours to march. The march began at noon and the last marchers reached their destination at about 7PM. The March on Washington has been noted as the largest Civil Rights demonstration in our nation’s history.


As far back as 1953, at least 11% of the population felt an attraction to S&M. (Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, by Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin; 1953)

There was a time, before Stonewall, when there were only a few hundred serious tops and bottoms stretched across the nation. There were also curious followers and wannabe’s making up several hundred more. The "network" grew, but remained close, and everyone knew everyone else. There were probably a dozen leather bars throughout the network. Anyone could go, but, if you weren’t part of the community, you were completely ignored.

This pre-60's community was so small that it's history is still preserved by the Next Generation, a history passed on thru first-hand account from the early pioneers of our community.

In New York, a young man named Brian O'Dell came out as a gay activist. He later recognized his attraction for S&M. He tried the Gambit, but found little support there. In the summer of 1980, Brian sent a letter to the Gay Community News in Boston, the only gay newspaper of substance in the East. Brian asked if there were any other gay men in NYC who wanted to get together to talk about S/M fantasy, roles and related topics. The first meeting was only five men, but it grew to seven, then fifteen. In January 1981, finally ready to expand beyond the planning stages, they publicized a meeting for the first time. This was GMSMA'S beginning.

LSM had a more difficult time starting up, because bringing lesbian S&M out of the closet was actively opposed by the Women's Movement. LSM was started by Jo Arnone and Dorothy Allison, and was originally defined as a haven for women interested in politically incorrect sex of all types including fetishes, S&M, fantasies, toys, and Butch/fem role-play.

The Eulenspiegel Society was the result of an ad placed by "Pat Bond" in the Village Voice, in the 1970's. Looking for other submissive men into female domination, & related fantasies. Meetings were originally held at his apartment in the East Village, NYC. The Eulenspiegel Society, Inc. was formed on October 14, 1976 and still flourishes today as the TES Association.

"The Society of Janus" located on the West Coast, was founded in August 1974, by the late Cynthia Slater and Larry Olsen.

PEP was started in 1986, and today has chapters across the country.

1986 also saw the beginning stages of "The National Leather Association."

In 1987, PEP Washington DC was started. Later it became "Black Rose," a truly pansexual group.


There is a widespread convention among S&M'ers that certain clothing accessories worn on the left indicate top/dominant/master/mistress, and worn on the right indicate bottom/submissive/slave.

The origin of this convention is uncertain, but a picturesque story goes back to the San Francisco Gold Rush of 1849. Rumor has it that women were so scarce, men had to take a woman's role at social dances. Bandannas were placed in the left or right pocket to indicate whether the man was leading or following that particular night!

The convention was widespread among the "Old Guard" leather community on the East Coast of the USA, but just to keep things interesting, in the 1960's, at one point, the code had a reverse meaning on the West Coast.

Customs that began in the Gay & Lesbian communities soon became part of the heterosexual S&M, BDSM, Fetish lifestyle. The "Hanky Code" originated during the early 70's. This primarily was a means of distinguishing more specific sexual interests. The first published Hanky Code was attributed to Ron Ernst & Alan Selby (The Original MR. S) for their San Francisco leather store "Leather & Things.” This Hanky Code was first published in the Bay Area Reporter in 1972, by Ron Ernst & Alan Selby (The Original Mr. S), for their San Francisco leather store "Leather & Things."

The Hanky worn in the right rear pocket indicated a bottom; in the left rear pocket it indicated a TOP.

Black: Heavy Pain, Whipping, ECT
Dark Blue: Fucking
Light Blue: Oral sex
Brown: Shit, Scat
Grey: Bondage
Olive, or Khaki: Military Scenes
Light Pink: Anal Toys
Dark Pink: Nipple Torture
Red: Fisting
White: Wanking, Jerking Off
Yellow: Piss
Purple: Piercing
Mustard: Big Cock
Green: Rent, Hustling
Lavender: Drag, Cross Dressing
Orange: Anything (Left Any Time), (Right Not Now)
Beige: Rimming, Eating Ass
Charcoal: Rubber
Red & White Stripes: Shaving

Wristbands & Arm Bands were another way of indicating your preferences. Right being bottom, left being top.

We found that many of the customs from the Gay & Lesbian community worked for us also. We enjoyed being the Outlandish, The Cutting Edge, and The Outlaws. We achieved pleasures not that common to the mainstream of society. Being an "Underground Culture" had its unique qualities and advantages. As our community grew, values and social mores shifted. Leather became more acceptable in the mainstream society, and, with the advent of easy access to the Internet, there's been an "invasion" of newcomers, swelling our ranks to epic proportions.

I recall an evening at the old Hell Fire when two young men were sporting brightly colored hankies in their back pockets. I walked up to them, looked pointedly at their hankies and said, "So you want to get to get your ass fucked and drink some piss."

Thank you for sharing your time with me. Hopefully what you've learned of our past will encourage you to take an active part in helping to form our future.

In Loving Leather,
Lenny Waller (Hell Fire & Man Hole Club NYC)

(Courtesy of Gay & Lesbian History in the US, A Snapshot of the 20th Century)

1913-Alfred Redl, Austrian Intelligence, commits suicide
1919-Institute of Sexology founded
1933-Hitler bans gay press
1934-Gay people required to wear pink triangles in Nazi Germany
1947-First Us Lesbian Magazine
1948-Kinsey Report
1951-The Mattachine Society was founded to help homosexuals realize their collective histories and experiences
1953-The first of the publication, ONE, appeared
1955-Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian organization, forms
1956-The Daughters of Bilitis publish first issue of The Ladder
1957-Kinsey Report revealed that 10% of population is predominantly homosexual
1961-Illinois becomes first state to decriminalize homosexual acts
1969-Stonewall Riots
1970-Chicago Gay Rally
1978-Briggs Initiative appears on California Ballot
1978-Openly Gay council member Harvey Milk assassinated
1979-California Supreme Court rules against discrimination from public utility companies
1979-100,000 attend National March in Washington DC
1981-First report of what is now called AIDS
1981-Wisconsin passes first gay rights bill
1982-First Gay Games
1982-Center for Disease Control investigates what is being called a "Gay Plague"
1984-Federal officials announce discovery of first probable cause of AIDS
1984-The Wall Street Journal permits use of the word "gay"
1984-23 year old gay man assaulted by three teenagers
1985-First International Conference on AIDS held
1986-Reagan Administration states that treatment of persons with AIDS was not a federal concern
1987-AIDS Memorial Quilt unveiled
1987-National March draws record crowds
1988-10th Annual National Coalition of Blacks and Lesbians takes place
1990-Hate Crimes Statistics Bill passed through Congress
1990-AIDS documentary wins Oscar
1990-Gay men and Lesbians accepted as Rabbis at the 101st Annual Conference of American Rabbis
1990-Gay Games III held in Vancouver
1990-Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement collection displayed at the Smithsonian
1991-Amnesty International adopted jailed gay men and lesbians as prisoners of conscience
1991-An appeals court recognized a homosexual partner's rights as tantamount to those of a spouse
1992-The AIDS Quilt was unfolded in its entirety on the Capitol Mall
1992-University of Iowa extended Health benefits to the domestic partners of its gay and lesbian employees
1992-Canada allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military
1992-Massachusetts Governor Weld created the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth
1992-President Bill Clinton is first president to recognize gay and lesbian rights
1993-Grammy Award featured many openly gay and lesbian performers
1993-Strong genetic component to homosexuality found in study
1993-March in Washington DC saw record-breaking crowds
1994-Gay Games IV took place in New York City
Some additional information from additional sites:
1996-The Fifth Display of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in Washington DC
1998-Days after a brutal (hate crime) beating, 21-year old University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard, dies
1999-President William Jefferson Clinton signs a proclamation declaring June as Gay & Lesbian Pride Month
1999-The Vermont Supreme Court rules that gay couples must be granted the same benefits and protections given married couples of the opposite sex
2000-Governor Dean has signed the Civil Union bill and it is now the law of Vermont. Most of the provisions of the law take effect on July 1st (a weekend day so realistically the first day a civil union certificate probably could be issued would be Monday July 3rd). The health and tax provisions become effective January 1, 2001
2000-The 4th March on Washington for Equality is held in Washington DC
2000-President Bill Clinton announces that the AIDS epidemic is a threat to national security


The TES Association
a/k/a The Eulenspiegel Society
P.O. Box 2783
New York, NY 10163

The Boston Dungeon Society
P.O. Box 35737
Brighton, MA 02135
Rec. Message 617-654-0536

Black Rose
P.O. Box 11161
Arlington, VA 22210

Society of Janus
PO Box 426794
San Francisco, CA 94142

PBM # 155
3439 NE Sandy Blvd.
Portland, OR 97232


P.O. Box 396
Bronx/Riverdale, NY 10471
Tel# 718-796-9888

Courtesy of The Stonewall Inn

Courtesy of Gay & Lesbian History in the US, A Snapshot of the 20th Century

Courtesy of TRIKKX

Gay Wedding Guide

One final thought. This is taken from Mineshaft Nights written by Leo Cardini 1990. Published by FirstHand Books, 310 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, NJ 07666 ISBN 0-943383-01-3

The Mineshaft was located in New York City’s Greenwich Village at 835 Washington Street, right in the center of Manhattan’s meatpacking district. During the daytime, those streets were filled with activity – tons of meat sliding in and out of warehouses, trucks jamming traffic, and men in bloodied white aprons going about their work. But walking through this same district at night…well, now you were walking through a dimly lit ghost town incongruously transplanted to the largest metropolis in America.

But as your eyes adjusted to the darkness, you would realize there were other men in the shadows – men making their way to nocturnal destinations. And many of them ended up at this unremarkable-looking building painted on the front pointing at a black, metal door, and the words “Private Club. Members Only.” When the door was opened, a shaft of dim light and perhaps the faintest sound of music would momentarily emerge.

This was the door to the Mineshaft. This was the door that separated you from the demands and preoccupations that made up your life, for when you entered the Mineshaft, you left the world behind.

Behind this door, a stairway led up to the second floor entrance. At the top of the stairs, directly in front of you, there was a sign:

MINE SHAFT – Dress Code

THE DRESS CODE as adopted by the membership on
the first of December 1976 will apply during 1978 & 1979




A suggested read about the history of Old Gay Guard.

A personal note from someone who was there. Behind the cashier a sign read:


Except the one that God gave you.

Copyright 2000 Lenny Waller
All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced in any manner, including electronically, without express permission of the author.

© Copyright 2002, All rights reserved.