Freddie Cosmo, a 32-year-old singer and dancer who identifies as queer and lives in the Bronx in New York City, opens up about his special relationship with his ‘second home’, the Stonewall Inn
I wasn’t aware the Stonewall Inn was such a historical place when I first went – I learned about it through going there!
I started performing there after taking part in a singing competition called the Stonewall Sensations, similar to American Idol. There are challenges every week, and an elimination, and one of the challenges has to do with the Riots. They explain the history, and then you pick a song from 1969 as that was the year of the Riots.
The subject of the Riots of course comes up all the time. You’re always reminded. A lot of the queens bring it up in their shows, for instance. The Inn is such an important part of queer history, but it’s also an icon of the West Village and of the city proper.
It’s the staff that give the Inn its longevity, its life. You see the way staff treat patrons. That’s why people keep coming back. They’re also so open and welcoming to me as a performer, to let me grow. From the Stonewall Sensations to guest performing with other people to hosting my own show – that was for about a year – I’d estimate I’ve performed there close to 100 times!
I also got a group of guys together, all my close friends, all dancers, to form Freddie Cosmo and the Cake Boys to perform pop music, dance covers, boy band stuff, songs by girl groups with original choreography.
‘People think it’s smaller than it is’
Staff leave performers to their own devices. They have a few in-house events, like the Stonewall Invasion which is on Sunday nights, and a live drag queen singer every Friday night. But even then, the great thing is, they let you do pretty much what you want, as long as you stay within your time slot.
I feel people think it’s smaller than it is, but when you go in there’s so much going on. There’s the bar downstairs, there are the pool tables, the DJs, the smaller downstairs stage off the side. Upstairs is the cabaret stage, and the runway I call it.
They have gender-neutral toilets. Kurt Kelly, the owner, and Mike Salinari, the manager, they really stay on top of that stuff, and what’s going on.It’s getting more welcoming and inclusive and diverse. There are venues, and Stonewall is one of them, that are making an effort to make sure everyone feels safe, and that nobody feels bothered or threatened. Certain nights cater to certain interests, but you look out into the crowd and see different faces, different shades.
‘I’ve met people from all over the world there’
Any night of the week, it’s such a mix. Older, younger, all sexualities and genders. It’s a truly diverse crowd, all different walks of life. There’s never just one type of person or group of people there. Especially the popular parties, like Lesbo-a-Gogo, which gets packed!
And everyone has an interesting story. And a lot of tourists. I’ve met people from all over the world there. I had some from Denmark drop in at my show! They were so sweet. They took the time to message me later on social media and tell me how much fun they had at my show.
I was pissed when I saw Madonna performed on New Year’s Eve – I stayed home that night! Normally I would more than likely have ended up there as I’m a regular, but I decided to stay in.
Her appearing there was monumental. Everyone was blown away. It’s a set up for a fantastic year here in the city and Stonewall particularly. And I can say I’ve been on the same stage as Madonna! The same dressing room!
Freddie will perform at the Stonewall Inn’s annual Oscars viewing party on 24 February, For more information about Freddie, visit soundcloud.com/freddie-cosmo and also cultureconciergeonline.com. Also check out his Twitter and Instagram.
Stonewall 50 Voices
Gay Star News will be marking this 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots. Our Stonewall 50 Voices series will bring you 50 guest writers from all around the world. They will focus on the diversity of our global LGBTI community. They will be discussing the past, present and future of our struggle for love and liberation.