Historic, but not famous

Charles Ludlam, founder Ridiculous Theatrical Company

Charles Ludlam (1943 – 1987) was an actor, director, and playwright born on Long Island NY. He started his theater career while still in high school, performing with friends and in school plays. He received a degree in dramatic literature from Hofstra University in 1964.

Ludlam joined John Vaccaro’s Play-House of the Ridiculous, and after a falling out, founded his own Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1967. His first plays were rudimentary exercises, but they eventually moved into structure plays by Lorca, Shakespeare and Wagner. Some plays he wrote were based on popular culture and were humorous plays with dark or serious undertones. His goal was to be absurd or ridiculous while making a social point.

He won six Obie Awards over the course of his career, as well as working with New York University, Connecticut College, Yale University and Carnegie Mellon. Ludlam often appeared in his plays, and was noted for his female roles.

Ludlam was diagnosed with AIDS in March 1987. He died one month later of pneumonia. The block in front of Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village is named in his honor.

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Historic, but not famous

Dorothy Day, Catholic Worker founder

Dorothy Day (1897 – 1980) was an American journalist, social activist, and Catholic convert born in Brooklyn. Day initially lived a bohemian lifestyle before gaining fame as a social activist after her conversion. She later became a key figure in the Catholic Worker Movement and earned a national reputation as a political radical.

Day was an active journalist and wrote about her social activism. She was a suffragette, arrested many times for her activism and practiced civil disobedience. She established the Catholic Worker Movement, a pacifist movement that combines direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf in the 1930s. She co-founded the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1933, and served as its editor from 1933 until her death in 1980. In this newspaper, Day advocated the Catholic economic theory of distributism, which she considered a third way between capitalism and socialism. She was mentioned by Pope Benedict XVI as an example of conversion in a secularized time.

Ms. Day started her journalism career on the She settled on the Lower East Side and worked on the staff of several Socialist publications, including The Liberator, The Masses, and The Call.  She spent time in Greenwich Village with playwright Eugene O’Neill and radical writer Mike Gold. She had a variety of lovers and became pregnant. During that time, she became devoutly Catholic and insisted on having her child baptized, causing a rift between her and the child’s father.

The Catholic Worker movement started when the first issue of the Catholic Worker appeared on May 1, 1933, priced at one cent. It was aimed at those suffering the most in the depths of the Great Depression, “those who think there is no hope for the future”, and announced to them that “the Catholic Church has a social program…there are men of God who are working not only for their spiritual but for their material welfare.” It accepted no advertising and did not pay its staff.

She was active in social causes and the Catholic church until her death of a heart attack in 1980 in Manhattan. She had visited India and Russia and workers, priests and popes during her lifetime and remained committed to helping the disadvantaged.

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Historic, but not famous

Barney Gallant, restaurant owner
Barney Gallant (standing) with friend

Barney Gallant was the first person in NYC arrested for serving alcohol during prohibition in 1919. He owned the Greenwich Village Inn and took full responsibility for the serving of alcohol during a raid to prevent his waiters from being arrested. He spent 30 days in The Tombs, the notorious jail in the city.

His arrest made him an immediate celebrity. Gallant went on to open swanky speakeasies and nightclubs, popular among locals and visitors from uptown alike. The names of his venues include Club Gallant, Barney’s, and Speako de Luxe. His clubs were known for the exclusivity.

Drawing of the interior of Speako de Luxe

Originally from Hungary, Gallant was a member of the Liberal Club in the 1910s, worked for a time as the business manager of the Greenwich Village Theater, and was Eugene O’Neill’s first roommate after his arrival in New York.

He died in a Miami retirement home in 1968.

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Historic, but not famous

Craig Rodwell, activist, bookstore owner

Craig L. Rodwell (1940 – 1993) was a gay rights activist known for founding the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in 1967, the first bookstore in the United States devoted to gay and lesbian authors. He was one of the founders of the Pride Celebration in New York City and at the forefront of the movement in the early 1960’s.

Mr. Rockwell grew up in Chicago, moved to Boston after high school to study ballet and ended up in New York City in 1958. It was in New York that he first volunteered for a gay rights organization, The Mattachine Society of New York. When Rodwell opened the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in 1967, Harvey Milk, a former relationship,  dropped by frequently, and after moving to San Francisco Milk expressed his intention of opening a similar store “as a way of getting involved in community work.”  Rodwell’s bookshop had become a community gathering place in Greenwich Village.

Sip In at Julius’

Rodwell led a group at the Stone Wall Riots, produced newsletters and magazines for the homosexual population and was a loud voice in the gay rights movement who refused to use a pseudonym like many other activist in the movement. He led protests against the military for excluding homosexuals, a protest at the United Nations against Cuban detention and placement into workcamps of gays, and a Sip In at Julius’ to protest the (NY) State Liquor Authority rule against the congregation of gays in establishments that served alcohol.

Rodwell was the recipient of the 1992 Lambda Literary Award for Publisher’s Service. In March 1993, he sold his bookshop to Bill Offenbaker.  Mr. Rodwell died on June 18, 1993 of stomach cancer.

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