Charles Scaglione Sr. recently has published a self-styled memoir chronicling his adventures in operating Rounds, a reputed NYC gay hustler bar that opened in 1979, and he's telling some secrets and naming some names. In Camelot Lost (RoseDog Books 2009) Scaglione offers a rarely-revealed insider's perspective into the business side of a gay nightlife establishment -- or "store" as it's referred to in the industry -- and as a straight man provides unique cultural insight into the gay scene as it leaves the wild seventies for the AIDS-ravaged eighties.
Rounds, often euphemistically referred to by Scaglione as a "cruising bar," was located at 303 East 53rd Street in an upscale midtown area known as "the loop" where johns would seek to hook up with hustlers, and its owners apparently intended from the beginning to capitalize on the neighborhood vibe: "The street is a perfect location for a hustler bar. That is what it shall be."
Scaglione, a former executive in the high rise office building industry in Manhattan, had no experience with gay nightlife but his two partners did. One partner was Seymour Seiden, a reputed mob-connected figure who was behind the Sanctuary at 407 West 43rd Street -- perhaps the first modern gay dance club -- which was closed by the city in 1972 as an alleged "supermarket in drugs," and the other was Ken Gersberg a/k/a Ken Gaston, a theater producer who had a successful track record with event promotion. The three men each contributed $50,000 although the apparently penniless Gaston needed to borrow his funds from three friends of Scaglione.
The grand opening of Rounds in 1979 was a star-studded event according to Scaglione in Camelot Lost, and he alleges that record producer David Geffen, Studio 54 owner Steve Rubel, and fashion designer Calvin Klein were among those in attendance. Other celebrities and glitterati who allegedly patronized Rounds over the years included Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Andy Warhol and Vladimir Horowitz. The opening night did not end well for everyone, however. One patron, a friend of Gaston, was shot dead in his apartment later that evening, and apparently he had picked up some rough trade from the Hay Market, a gay hustler bar at 772 Eighth Avenue in the Times Square area. (In 1986 reputed Genovese capo Matty Ianniello was convicted for a skimming racket involving several gay bars including the Hay Market.)
The story does not end well. Ken Gaston died of AIDS in May 1983 -- Shelley Winters delivered his eulogy -- and Seymour Seiden died of AIDS in April 1988. For anyone who doubts whether a straight man can offer a compelling memoir about the gay world, Scaglione offers some of his best writing in recounting the madness as AIDS took his business associates, close friends and Rounds patrons. Indeed, Scaglione writes with remarkable candor about the sexual freedom that generally prevailed during the gay liberation days -- a period which Seiden characterized as Camelot -- until so many were lost to AIDS. Rounds was closed in 1994 following an NYPD raid.(full story at link)