When Heshie Zinman moved to Center City in 1979, the gay bars had no windows, and it would be decades before they did. Center City then still functioned like a cheap refuge: It was dirty, not entirely safe, a catchment of the city’s red-light activity and its more frenetic culture, and it caught those who found their environments unlivable.
The unlivable environment for Zinman was his marriage. That year, he came out of the closet, and he moved to be with those similarly situated who found few other places to go.
This was long before rainbow-festooned street signs came to demarcate his neighborhood. It was simply the part of town where the gays were. Of the bars that peppered Rittenhouse and 12th Street, few survive today. There was Equus on 12th Street (“It was the place for brunch,” says Zinman); 247 Bar on 17th; the Cell Block upstairs from the DCA (now Voyeur), which was as dank as it sounds.
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