The Gilded Grape at 719 Eighth Avenue

The Gilded Grape at 719 Eighth Avenue

The Gilded Grape was a Genovese controlled tranny bar within Matty Ianniello's portfolio, and in NewsWalker former Daily News reporter and editor R. Thomas Collins Jr. writes:

Gerald Cohen founded the Gilded Grape at 719 8th Ave. He later set up a number of Midtown sex joints and still later Jericho Displays, where investigators learned that Ianniello often cashed his checks, in one of his many business roles. “Drag queens, transvestites came to my place,” Cohen told me. “I had a market and I served them. The only people I didn’t let in were whores. I’ve been harassed by the SLA and police.” Cohen was being pressured on his permits and was accused of associating with organized crime. “Once a cop told me they kept the pressure on me because the ‘establishment’ didn’t like drag queens. My lawyer has been fighting all the way. I wanted to stand by my customers. They’ve got a right to be that way.” To me, this seemed totally beside the point. He wasn’t running a charity. He was making money. Cohen said he had lost money on the Grape and was no longer in the bar business. * * * “Of course I know Matty Ianniello,” Cohen said, “and I was being harassed by law enforcement just because he was reputed to be associated with the Mafia. My only connection with Matty is knowing him, and one of my partners at Jericho used to work at the Peppermint Lounge, when Matty owned it.” Cohen, lying flat on his back on the couch with his arm crossed over his forehead, must have taken some painkillers, because he was beginning to repeat himself. “Cops are harassing me,” he said, holding his swollen jaw. “I admit it, I tried to bribe one. But he wouldn’t take money. He said the establishment didn’t want drag queens on 8th Avenue. I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve done nothing wrong and never committed an illegal act in my life. I’ve been open.” He said this as though he’d forgotten I was still in the room. “Open?” I said. “Open to what?” “The IRS was here last week.” As I left, I realized how ordinary the people in these extraordinary enterprises were. But I also realized that the heat had been turned on. If the feds from the IRS were visiting guys like Cohen, the midtown investigations were getting hot.

The Gilded Grape was where Andy Warhol recruited the models who were the subject of his 1971 "Ladies and Gentlemen" series:

Warhol2_2The idea for the the Ladies and Gentlemen series (consisting of images of drag queens) came from a protegeé of art dealer Alexander Iolas named Anselmino, who had previously commissioned Warhol to do an edition of one hundred prints of Warhol's Man Ray portrait. When Warhol went to Torino to sign the prints, Anselmino suggested he do a series of drag queens, suggesting portraits of Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling - not realizing that Candy Darling was dead. Instead, Warhol used models found at the The Gilded Grape on West 45th Street, frequented by black and hispanic transvestites. Bob Colacello: "We would ask them to pose for 'a friend' for $50 an hour. The next day, they'd appear at the Factory and Andy, whom we never introduced by name, would take their Polaroids. And the next time we saw them at the Gilded Grape, they invariably would say, "Tell your friend I do a lot more for fifty bucks."

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