Elaine Romagnoli, Lesbian Bar Owner, Dies at 79
Nightlife traiblazer founded Bonnie & Clyde, the Cubby Hole, and Crazy Nanny’s
BY TAT BELLAMY-WALKER
Elaine Romagnoli, the
founder of the New York
lesbian bars Bonnie &
Clyde’s, the Cubby Hole,
and Crazy Nanny’s, died late last
month in Manhattan. She was 79.
While the cause of Romagnoli’s
death is still unclear, her nephew
confi rmed her passing with the
New York Times on November 8.
Nearly 50 years ago, Romagnoli
catapulted her nightlife career with
the creation of Bonnie & Clyde, a
bustling lesbian bar that was a
known hub for Black women in the
1970s. In 2012, the blog Lost Womyn’s
Space describes Bonnie &
Clyde as “a hangout for politically
active lesbians as well as a place
where women socialized across racial
and class lines.”
“Often women would gather here
after meetings at the Gay Activists
Elaine Romagnoli, a pioneer in New York’s queer bar scene, died in late October. She was 79 years old.
Alliance Firehouse to continue discussions,
arguments, or strategy
sessions begun earlier in the day,”
the post noted.
Years later, Romagnoli launched
the Cubby Hole and Crazy Nannys.
Romagnoli’s businesses were
known to be inclusive of people of
all races and genders while also
cultivating career opportunities for
LGBTQ women in the club scene.
Lisa Cannistraci, the founder
of the lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson
at 438 Hudson Street in Manhattan’s
West Village, was hired
on the spot as a bartender at the
Cubby Hole on a rainy day in the
March of 1985. Then 22 years old,
Cannistraci recalls Romagnoli as
a “savvy businesswoman” who laid
the framework for her 40-plus-year
career in LGBTQ nightlife.
“Within a few weeks, I was
moved to the busiest shifts. Romagnoli
really took a liking to
me, and she really entrusted me
with her space,” Cannistraci told
Gay City News in a phone interview.
“There would be no Henriettas
without the Cubby Hole — it
would have never happened… I
enjoyed working for her, although
a lot of people who worked for her
were a little fearful of her. But I
didn’t have that; we had a pretty
cool relationship. She’s the one
that we followed.”
Romagnoli was born in Englewood,
New Jersey, on April 22,
1942, and was raised in Palisades
Park in Bergen County.
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