Performing Gay Identities at Caffe Cino

Performing Gay Identities at Caffe Cino

“Do what you have to do,” said Joe Cino, who gave this small group of outsiders a literal stage to act out new ways of presenting themselves in public. Together, they transformed social life by performing openly gay identities in ways that had been suppressed elsewhere in the country. “All the gay guys bought muscle magazines like Young Physique,” Robert Patrick recalled. “At one point, I dared bring in a photo of one of the most popular models, a blond in just the tiniest white bikini. I tacked it on the wall, which is like saying, ‘Yes! We’re gay.’ But we were actually worried if I could legally put a picture of a young man in a bathing suit on a wall.” Over time, this motley crew grew more confident and confrontational, such as when Patrick and his fellow Cino playwright William Hoffman were attacked in the neighborhood by a group of teenage boys. Patrick and Hoffman turned the tables on the homophobes by breaking off a car antenna and chased them through the streets with it. “I would have killed them,” Hoffman said, vividly recalling this pre-Stonewall memory a half century later. “It was very empowering.” F. Story Talbot, who had an apartment on Cornelia Street, was one of the token straight guys who hung around the Cino in its early days. “All the guys down there who worked there were making semi-passes at me,” he said, “and we would laugh about it.”

From Chapter 1 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Caffe Cino
31 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014