“Star light, star bright… where the hell do I go tonight?”

Well, dear reader, it’s over. The lights are out, the doors are locked and the curtain has finally fallen on Bill’s Gay Nineties. Yes our legendary bar that’s been pouring drinks since the glorious days of Prohibition, is now a part of the past where it all began. And unless we find a new location (which I’m confident we will), we’ll being joining the ranks of bar legends past which are kept alive only by lore and gin-soaked memory. Legends like Elaine’s and Toots Shor’s, to name just two of the all time greats, which have carved their permanent initials in the New York psyche.

Though I went there Saturday night to have a drink and pay my respects from your side of the bar, and to try and wrap my mind around what was actually happening, the distractions were far too great for it all to sink in. Friends new and old were there to shake hands and to offer best wishes for the future, so the mood was too uproarious for any contemplation. And too bittersweet. I’m sure it will all sink in however with a thud in the weeks to come, when I actually walk by that empty shell and see what was ours for so long, but it won’t come even close, I dare say, to the thoughts going on in the mind of our wonderful owner. Whose name is Barbara Bart. For this bar wasn’t just a business to her since her father suddenly passed away some thirty five years ago, but her home for thirty five years and literally her life. She lived on the top floor of the building with her partner whose name is Jack Sheehy, she ran the four floors below her which housed the business, and was there almost every hour of her waking day. Of which her father must be proud. I know I’m proud and that’s why I’m writing this post.

See, unlike people like Elaine and Toots Shor whose names were on their awnings, and on the lips of everyone who entered to pay their respects (or in some cases fealty!), Barbara has always been a low-key, background kind of gal. She never held court or worked the room like many who hold such positions, for she knew the bar was the star and that was okay with her. She didn’t have an ego that demanded attention, just happy to see the smiles which resulted from her work. Because it meant a job well done. In fact even this past Friday night on my very last night of work, her elegant lack of ego was sweetly on display.

Here’s what happened…

When an emissary sent from Mayor Bloomberg’s office grabbed the mike and read from a large wooden plaque… a Proclamation that sang the praises of the legend that is Bill’s Gay Nineties and its impact on the city, and of course Barbara’s hand in it (actually declaring March 24th Bill’s Gay Nineties Day)… and the crowd shouted, “Speech! Speech! Speech!” when the man had finished, with a tear in her eye she just blushed and shook her head “No”. Because that’s not Barbara. Humility and grace are her stock in trade and always have been her way, so if ever she did bend over to bow her back would wonder and mumble,“What’s up with this???” She’s just too humble.

I’ve worked for Barbara for almost twenty years and been a friend for longer than that (I was a customer back in the 80’s), and I bet you in all that time, dear reader, I never heard her raise her voice more than fifteen times. And that’s no bull. Which doesn’t mean she was a pushover mind you (hell no and far from it), I just say that to show once again the way she comported herself. With a quiet, low-key dignity we all came to respect. She was never one of those nit-picking owners of which there are far too many, who prowl the room just looking for things to break chops over, we knew what Barbara wanted and that’s what we did. Or we damn sure heard about it. I know I heard “about it” many, many times looking back on my very long run (probably as recently as just last week), but always in a quiet tone not meant to put you down. It was merely to raise you up to the standards she had set. And it worked. For you cared too much about the woman to intentionally do wrong by her.

So with that in mind {and a raised glass} as I think now of what has been for these last twenty years, and the fifteen years preceding before I arrived there, I’ve decided it’s time to give Barbara Bart the top billing. Meaning, the public can still call it Bill’s Gay Nineties as we slowly move into history, but to me the name of the place will be “Barb’s Gay Nineties”. It’s long overdue!

(See you next time, dear reader, when I finally reveal the true identity of (this guy).

24 Responses to ““Star light, star bright… where the hell do I go tonight?””

  1. 1 brenda cullerton March 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

    one door closes and another one opens….Isn’t that the expression, dear Scrib? SO hoping that it’s true. Cuz I miss you, already.

  2. 2 scribbler50 March 27, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Brenda: Thanks, and yes that’s the expression, or something much like it. (I think it’s, “a door closes and a window opens”.) Meanwhile, wonderful friend, don’t worry about missing me, no matter what happens I’ll still be doing this blog. Cuz I’d miss you guys too!

  3. 3 astroland March 27, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Some time back I prodded you to reveal the establishment, and you demurred. I eventually figured it out, but respected your position. Living and working downtown, I don’t get up that way too often. But since the announcement of the imminent closing, I made the pilgrimage to Bill’s twice to drink it in, so to speak. Maybe you served me the gin, maybe not. I thought about asking, but then, life needs a little mystery, and bartenders need a little mystique. So here’s to you. And so glad to see your response to Brenda above! Just because the bar is closed doesn’t mean the blog should close. One will re-open, one should stay open. And I’ll haunt both places, along with this gang of commenters.

  4. 4 astroland March 27, 2012 at 11:18 am

    And I can’t explain the “astroland” that WordPress inserted above my comment. It’s your long-time semi-regular commenter HyeFye.

  5. 5 scribbler50 March 27, 2012 at 11:25 am

    HyeFye: Thank you so much (not astroland) I’m glad you understood my trying to stay anonymous. And I hope if I did serve you I was polite.
    Stay tuned, friend…

  6. 7 scribbler50 March 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    GregN: I hear ya’.

  7. 8 John Kaye March 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm


    I was glad to get a chance to drop in last summer. Sorry it’s over. But I sense cool things up ahead, both for you and Barbara.


  8. 9 scribbler50 March 27, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    John Kaye: Glad you dropped in too, it was great to meet you, John.
    Cheers back at ya’!

  9. 10 Comradde PhysioProffe March 27, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    My impression of Barbara based on having chatted with her on a handful of occasions and seen her comportment around the bar is that Bill’s was a labor of love for her. This is a very nice tribute to her, dude.

  10. 11 scribbler50 March 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Comradde: Your assessment of her is right, though a labor-and-a-half it was a labor of love.
    Thanks, man.

  11. 12 Jirar March 27, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Scribbler50 i miss you !!!!!!!!

  12. 13 scribbler50 March 28, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Jirar: Holy cow, it hasn’t even been a week… take it easy. 🙂 And we will all reunite so keep the faith.

  13. 14 physiobabe March 28, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Sigh. A beautiful tribute. Now, here’s to you, Scrib. A heartfelt buona fortuna!

  14. 15 marty wombacher (@martywombacher) March 28, 2012 at 11:19 am

    This was a great tribute to Barbara, Scribbler! I met her on my last night and she is one classy and great lady! I look forward to seeing you all in the new Bill’s! And I dread to see what they do to the old one. Cheers!

  15. 16 mvpalex March 28, 2012 at 11:23 am

    It will be missed, great Lady, great bar and great staff. Bye for now….

  16. 17 IrishIrritant March 28, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Those of us that never made it know so much about the a great place and have our own great memories. Thanks to your willingness to put yourself out there/here. Oh sure, a picture is worth a thousand words, your thousands of words created a wonderful picture.
    Till then.

  17. 18 scribbler50 March 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    physiobabe: And “buona fortuna” to you, my sweet friend.

    Marty: Thanks for that, pal , and I’ll keep you posted.

    mvpalex: Thanks, Al, we’ll miss being there.

    Irish: Thank you so much for the kind words, I’m gonna keep writing so keep on getting those pictures in your mind, Pal.

  18. 19 Tom Shone March 28, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    After reading Jim’s post of the 27th I headed down to the bar in the hopes of saying goodbye, but the windows were dark and the shutters drawn. A sad moment. I pray for a reunion sometime soon, so we will once again be able to enjoy your company, conversation and twinkling largesse — online as well as off.

  19. 20 scribbler50 March 29, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Tom Shone: Sorry I missed you, Tom, it would’ve been great to see you one last time in the old place… but, hey, to echo your sentiment, “a reunion sometime soon” sounds like just what the doctor ordered to heal what ails us (in this case a dastardly closing) so I look forward to it!

    And thanks for stopping by here, I appreciate it.

  20. 21 Comradde PhysioProffe March 29, 2012 at 9:17 am

    HAHAHAH! So cool that Jirar stopped by! Dude, if you talk to him, tell him PhysioWife and I say hello.

  21. 22 red dress April 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Beautiful words for a beautiful lady. Always a joy to read your blog. Hope to see you again very soon. Smooches 🙂

  22. 23 scribbler50 April 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    red dress: Thanks for the sweet words, sweets, and yes Barbara is a beautiful lady. {smooches back!}

  23. 24 Anonymoustache April 24, 2012 at 6:25 am

    She sounds like a great woman, Scrib50, and that was a wonderful tribute you paid to her…

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