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Cruising the Bijou, a Hidden Underground Cinema and Sex Den

The Bijou's exit door. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

The Bijou’s exit door. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

It took me three passes before I could bring myself to open the unmarked black door on East 4th Street, the one an older man had entered after trying to cruise me near a rack of Citi Bikes. Inside was a steep staircase, painted deep orange, leading down into a basement lobby. There was a framed poster on the wall: Eyes Wide Shut, the Stanley Kubrick film in which an overcurious New Yorker stumbles into an orgy of anonymous, Bacchanalian sex.
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The Temple of Capitalism: Jarmulowsky’s Bank

Until we return to the usual Jan. 3, enjoy this daily series of longer pieces in which we unravel the mysteries and the histories of storied addresses. 

Looking south on Orchard Street at Jarmulowsky’s Bank. (Photograph by Edmund V. Gillon. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York)

Looking south on Orchard Street at Jarmulowsky’s Bank. (Photograph by Edmund V. Gillon. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York)

The first time Travis Bass stepped into the unusual building on Canal Street – the one with twelve ornate stories surrounded by dingy warehouses and Chinese signs – was during a New Year’s Eve party hosted by Frank Müeller, the man behind infamous New York clubs like Fun and The Limelight.

In 1998, the Lower East Side was “the wild, wild west,” Bass recalls. Müeller was “kind of a crazy guy,” and he had rented an entire seventh floor, divided into two lofts, which he shared with several friends. Drifting through the party, Bass noted polished wooden floors outlined like a basketball court, a couch designed with holes to stick your head through, and CDs glued to the walls and creating the shimmering effect of a hologram. The party was “outrageous,” in typical Müeller style. But most impressive was the vista: “It was amazing. They had a view of the whole city.”

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The Burlesque Festival Is Back But Oh Man, Wait Till You See Boylesque

(Photo: Lance Richardson)

(Photo: Lance Richardson)

“I’m actually fairly shy,” said Eric Gorsuch last Friday night, just hours before he strutted onto a small stage on the Bowery, flicked off some six-inch heels, and stripped down to a thong that resembled a sparkling sea anemone. “I’m not the best conversation starter,” he said. “I’m very self-conscious.” This is a man who, at six-foot-four in height, regularly does the splits upside down over a tiny stool, with abs painted on before each show.

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