Gaiety Theatre, Window Display-980
Window Display

c. 1976

Newspaper and magazine advertisement mock-up

19.375 x 21.25 inches


During the 1980s, burlesque and other adult-themed entertainment were being re-appropriated by downtown artists in their performances and paintings, and then incorporated into art theory inextricably linked to the era. For example, John Sex became an alternative performance artist creating a character partially based on his earlier work as a male stripper. Additionally, the artwork of Jane Dickson drew upon the neon-lit aesthetic of midtown peep shows. And, the pioneering Times Square Show was held in an abandoned massage parlor. Radical spaces such as the Ramrod Theatre and Gaiety Male Burlesk served not only as inspiration for underground artists, but also functioned as hotbeds of radical sexuality, politics, and art. Many of the pieces in “Screaming In The Streets: AIDS, Art, Activism” were created by former sex industry workers such as Richard Berkowitz, Mark Morrisroe, John Sex, and David Wojnarowicz.

The Gaiety Theatre was an establishment that operated in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan for over a quarter of a century. The Gaiety offered all-male strippers along with a live DJ, providing inspiration for dance choreography that crossed over into mainstream entertainment. Madonna featured herself and some of the regular Gaiety dancers in her adult-themed coffee table book, Sex. Terence Foster, one of the club’s original dancers, acted as the house DJ from 1979 until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1986. The Gaiety survived many attempts at its closure (including Mayor Guliani’s intense drive to obliterate adult-related venues in the mid-1990s), but ultimately shuttered its doors by 2005.


Work by Gaiety Theatre