Keller’s Bar has been closed for more than a decade. Long before the rise of Hip Hop culture, when it was not so fashionable to be an out-of-the-closet homo-thug, Keller’s was a place where men from the projects and their admirers could hang out on the ‘down-low’. There were two pool tables and several pinball machines inside. The floors were wooden, but had slowly rotted over time. Drunkards had to be careful when they walked around, cruising for pieces of ass and big stiff ones. The place was dark and what went on in the far back room of that place is anyone’s guess. I never made it past the first pool table, near the bar and the exit door to explore what regulars called ‘the dark room’.
Even the neon sign above the entrance to the place which read “Keller’s Hotel” did not light up entirely. The place got its name from the hotel the building once was. Only pieces of the cursive lettering which made up the red neon sign still glowed, welcoming those who were brave enough to enter the musty corridor.
On Friday nights, the place was packed. Keller’s was at the very tip of Christopher Street, around the corner from what is now “Bailey House. It was located along the Westside Highway—away from the heavy traffic of the gay West Village. It was a place where the most closeted of men could sneak off to without being caught.
White men were not permitted inside, unless the bouncers at the door happened to be in a good mood. I worked at Bailey House, and met the owners of Keller’s Bar one day during a rainstorm. A leak formed in the roof in which our buildings shared. We had to negotiate how repairs were going to be done. The owners of Kellers knew me well–
“There is no way this repair can wait to spring. It must be done now. There are sick people living in the building next door– very sick people!” I shouted. The bouncers knew not to fuck with me, so they let me inside to throw myself before the hungry wolves. They even offered my white ass free drinks in there.
That was where I met Dominic Dresdin and Jay Johnson, two dark- skinned thugs from Marcy Projects. They were sitting at the bar when I walked into Keller’s for the first time.
“How da hell did a white boy git in here, Clem?” Dominic asked the bar tender who poured me a gin and tonic without asking for a dime.
“Dis is Chals. He’s good people. He works next door.”
Dominic looked a bit perturbed at me for accidentally stepping on his white sneakers as I reached for my cocktail, but immediately changed his attitude when I removed my bright yellow Hugo Boss raincoat. I had on my favorite pair of Calvin Klein jeans and my ass sprung out from behind my coat like a bouquet of flowers. He got up and offered the round bar stool on which he was sitting to me.
“You like nigga dick?” Dominic’s friend Jay asked. Dominic laughed and told me to pay his friend no mind. Jay walked away to the juke box and left his best friend alone with me.
“So wass a fine ass white-boy like you doin’ in Kellers?” He asked.
“I work right around the corner and I always wanted to come in here.”
“I have a boyfriend.” I said. “So yes, I guess you can say that.”
“Where’s your man?”
“Why ain’t you there too?”
“I didn’t want to go.”
“So you out lookin’ for some strange dick?” Dominic asked.
“No—I’m just out.” I said.
Jay returned to the bar and stood behind me as Dominic continued to talk to me in a drunken stupor.
“So, your man’s away. Where you live, Chals?”
“Howz about me and Jay come on over to Sunset Park and nail dat ass?”
Jay laughed and seemed to blush, although it was hard to tell—his skin was so dark.
“I can’t do that.”
“Bring a strange man home to the house I share with my lover.”
“Me and Jay is lovers,” Dominic joked. “We fuck nice booties like yours together, sometimes. Ain’t dat right Jay?”
I was desperately in need of a promiscuous encounter but the risks far outweighed the benefits. Even though I had three cocktails by then, there was no way I was going to put myself into such a dangerous situation.
“Where do you live?” I boldly asked.
“Marcy Projects. But we ain’t gonna go there. What my momma gonna think when she sees your white ass walkin’ in da house?”
“Oh, well. I guess it was not meant to be. Nice to meet you guys,” I said while fastening the belt around my yellow coat.
“Yo! Hold up. Where you going?”
“I’m going for a walk.”
I left Keller’s Bar knowing they would follow. Quickly I crossed the Westside Highway and slowly walked out the dilapidated pier where in the summer, gay men bathed naked in the sun. It was October and cold. Very few men were around having outdoor sex. I walked all the way to the end, past the dangerous hole in the pier and was careful not to slip into the chilling waters of the Hudson River.
The men followed…