It’s been almost a year and a half since the July 2010 closing of the Starlite Lounge, the oldest Black-owned LGBT bar in New York City and one of the oldest such bars in the nation. Two filmmakers are producing a documentary about about the now-shuttered historic lounge in Brooklyn, reports the NY Daily News.
The Starlite Project is a feature length documentary and online-offline network strategy currently in production and raised an astounding $26,000 through Kickstarter! The film is produced by Kate Kunath and Sasha Wortzel!
About the Film:
In 1959, a decade prior to Manhattan’s Stonewall riots, across the bridge in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Starlite Lounge was founded as a non-discriminating establishment for gay people of color. A half century later it came as quite a shock to the neighborhood and the gay community when the Starlite Lounge, now the oldest, Black-owned, non-discriminating establishment was given notice to vacate and ultimately forced to close its doors.
The closing of the Starlite Lounge signals not only the loss of a neighborhood meeting place. For residents and patrons city wide it was a family, a legacy, a safe haven, and a living history of the LGBTQ community. I instantly fell in love with the bar,” said “Starlite” co-director Sasha Wortzel who was quickly drawn to the bar when she moved to Crown Heights four years ago. She soon found out the Starlite’s building had been bought by a new owner who was threatening to boot the bar, and started working with co-director Kate Kunath on what they expected to be a short film about the fight.
Instead, they got so wrapped up that they ended up shooting months of footage they’re now working on turning into a feature-length film, expected to be completed some time next year. For more than 40 years, the location at 1086 Bergen Street in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights was home to the Starlite Lounge. The Starlite had been a fixture since the 1960s and became a rite of passage for many black LGBT New Yorkers. More on its fascinating history:
The bar was founded in 1959 by Mackie Harris, one of New York’s first openly gay black entrepreneurs. “It’s pre-Stonewall. It’s the same decade [as\] Brown v. Board of Education,” said Kunath, 35. “Especially in Crown Heights, having a safe place for the gay community is significant. Because there are so few places for this community to go, when Starlite was open, they came from all over. It went from being a neighborhood bar in the 50s and early 60s into being really an institution in the gay black community…There’s a whole culture and community that has been displaced.”
The filmmakers and owners hosted a Starlite reunion earlier this month that drew hundreds of regulars. The owners are raising money on the website Kickstarter and hope to find a space in Crown Heights to reopen. The site of the legendary bar on Nostrand Avenue is now a Metro PCS store.
Watch the trailer here:
The documentary should be fascinating.
A venerable who’s who of entertainment and Black gay culture visited the bar from Martha Wash to Andre Leon Tally. Starting in the mid 1970s, a trio of sisters tended bar at the Starlite. The Lenear Sisters opened their spacious Bed-Stuy brownstone to black LGBT youth who needed a place to crash. Their weekend-long New Year’s Eve parties were legendary and Madonna even popped her head in once or twice. Fabulous times.
Please donate to this film: kck.st/q98lDK
By backing this project, you are supporting queer cinema, history, and the legacy of the Starlite Lounge. For more info, visit: thestarliteproject.com. Anyone have any Starlite stories??
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