The Anvil was a gay BDSM after-hours sex club located at 500 West 14th Street, New York, NY, USA, that operated from 1974 to 1985.
The club was housed in a building originally constructed in 1908, then known as “The Strand Hotel” with a saloon on the ground floor, that catered to sailors and accepted only men as customers. According to a court document of the time, the establishment was catering “to the class of trade that has business at the river front”. By the 1970s, the building was housing a pay-by-the-hour hotel named Liberty Inn.
In the fall of 1974, The Anvil opened, with the main floor featuring a dance floor and a rectangular bar along with a performance area, all painted black. There was another small bar downstairs with a large screen on which gay male porn of the period was shown. Behind the screen, there was a backroom that was used as a sex area. There were reportedly mock crucifixions, golden showers, and anonymous sex. The club would accept some drag queens but not women.
On the main floor, the shows varied from performances by drag queens to live fisting shows, with men often being suspended on ropes over the bar. Between shows, and to the sounds of loud disco music, there was dancing.
As a historian of that period wrote, “the spectators themselves were the performers.”
Lou Reed was occasionally one of the many famous patrons inside, and Freddie Mercury frequented the club when he lived in New York City from 1980 to 1982. Director William Friedkin shot in The Anvil some scenes for the 1980 film Cruising
Closure and Legacy
The Anvil closed in 1985 following the closure of the Mineshaft by the city authorities amidst the AIDS scare. It is now operating as a love hotel again. There are tours taking visiting tourists to the building that used to house The Anvil and to other places marking New York’s sexual history.