Lisa Cannistraci To Partner with WorldPride | Stonewall 50
Community icon and owner of the well-known Manhattan lesbian bar, Henrietta Hudson, Lisa Cannistraci is officially partnering with WorldPride | Stonewall 50 for her queer parties, Pride Soup (Queer on the Pier) and Siren. Cannistraci, who has grown Henrietta Hudson from the formerly closed, Cubby Hole, into a destination on the list of many international travelers aims to create a space for the LGBTQ community during Pride month.
“Honestly it was a fluke,” said West Village legend, Lisa Cannistraci. “I never wanted to own a bar. It was never in the front of my mind. I was a bartender in the 1980s in the West Village. I worked at the original Cubby Hole, which is the original space of Henrietta Hudson. I started working there when I was 22 years old, putting myself through college. I worked there for five years. The bar was closing, and my customers urged me to reopen it, which I absolutely had no interest in doing. It closed, and the owners opened in another space about a block away.”
Customers encouraged Cannistraci to reopen the bar at the old Cubby Hole location, although she didn’t want to at first. She ended up meeting someone who also had experience in Manhattan’s nightlife scene, and her opinion on the matter began to change.
“This woman approached me,” Cannistraci explained. “Her name was Minnie Rivera, and she was very professional. I liked the way she carried herself, and she and I decided to open it, and so we did. The next thing you know 28 years went by.”
“Henrietta opened in 1991,” Cannistraci continued. “We made a name for ourselves, and we created a really great space. We got really busy, especially on Gay Pride weekend. We were so busy that we had to send people to other people’s parties because we couldn’t fit any more people inside. So, we decided maybe we should throw another party. Twenty-years ago we started doing a Saturday night party, and it grew and grew.”
Siren is now one of the best lesbian parties of the year. The party, which attracts upwards of 2,000 people, is located by the Sea Port allows attendees access to gorgeous views. Both events, Siren and Pride Soup, will be held at the spectacular open-air venue Watermark Bar, a stunning outdoor waterfront venue that boasts majestic views of the glorious city of New York. Cannistraci and her team start with a blank pier and builds a nightclub for the party from the ground up. They have an entire pier that they get to use and customize to their liking.
Cannistraci’s bar has always been open and inclusive, and they were trans-friendly before there was real trans visibility. When people travel and come into town Henrietta Hudson is always on their list. However, the ever-changing venue remains in business after all of these years because of its ability to adapt and change with the times.
“The young queer movement that has been going on for about a good seven years feel very comfortable at Henrietta Hudson,” said Cannistraci. “They know that our bar is for everybody. We’ve developed a big queer following over the years, and so we decided to add an extra night to the party we do downtown called Pride Soup. We wanted to give a space to the queer community. I’ve been in the gay bar business for more than three decades, and I find that the big events, especially Pride events, are cis-male dominated.”
Cannistraci was also inspired to create a space for the entire queer community by her friend and an early leader in the Gay Rights Movement, Storme DeLarverie. DeLarverie was a singer, cross-dressing drag king of the Jewel Box Revue, and bouncer who is rumored to have thrown the first punch at the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.
Eighty-year-old Stonewall Inn bartender, Tree, told Cannistraci that the cops busted in, looked at DeLarverie and told her to step on drugs that they wanted to plant on patrons at the bar. According to Tree, DeLarverie said “no,” and she knocked one of the cops out with one punch after they tried to grab her. It took two cops to carry the cop who got punched out of the bar.
DeLarverie was also a member of the Stonewall Veterans Association and a regular at the pride parade. She wouldn’t really comment on the punch she through at Stonewall because she always believed that the gay rights movement wasn’t about just one person. Her role in the movement lasted long after 1969. For decades she was a self-appointed guardian of lesbians in the Village.
“We actually met at the Cubby Hole, which is Henrietta Hudson, in 1985. I was 22, and she was 65. She was my bouncer, and we became really close really quickly. She worked with me for many years, and when she retired, we gave her a pension.”
In 2011, Cannistraci received a call letting her know that Storme DeLarverie, who had been admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital several years ago, had disappeared after the hospital was closed for good. Cannistraci ended up finding DeLarverie, who had been diagnosed with dementia and won legal custody of DeLarverie.
“The state took custody of her without telling anybody, and she was assigned to a random social service agency. I reached out to my councilman, Jerry Nadler, a friend of mine who is now the head of the House Judiciary. I told him what happened, and he said, ‘no problem, we’re going to help you get her back.’”
Cannistraci took care of Storme DeLarverie for about four years until DeLarverie passed in 2014 at the age of 93. DeLarverie may have passed but her message, particularly at this moment in our American history, as civil rights are being assailed with an administration hostile to LGBTQ rights, continues. These queer spaces come with personal significance to Cannistraci as this year marks the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall. This year also marks the first time World Pride will be hosted in the United States.
"This party is very special to me because we are mixing the perfect potion to represent the true diversity of our community, “says Lisa Cannistraci about Pride Soup. "Reclaiming the word Queer has been so empowering to us. It means that we can embrace ourselves once again and revel in our unique experience as humans. Inclusivity is paramount with LGBTQIA+ folks. Now more than ever, I see true solidarity across the spectrum of our multi-cultural, gender diverse, and fluid community.”
“I see an opportunity for people to meet who wouldn’t otherwise meet,” Cannistraci said of the two parties. “Just like I met Storme haphazardly, our relationship birthed something. I think these events are chances for people to encounter others and, when they leave, do something for the community.”
Pride Soup, "Queer on the Pier" will kick off on June 28th at the Watermark Pier 15 and will be hosted by gender capitalist, model, and actor Rain Dove with a live performance by Nina Sky. Siren will take place at the Pier on June 29. Devin-Norelle, NYC trendsetter, influencer, Teen Vogue and OUT magazine journalist is also expected to host during the weekend’s festivities along with Harlem Globetrotter, Crissa Ace, and Kiyomi Valentine from the Real L Word.
Performances by singer model Laith Ashley, Mindy Jones, lead singer for Moby, DJ Whitney Day LA/NYC, DJ Tatiana-Denver, DJ Amber Valentine - The Woods, DJ MaryMac-Madonna’s Tour DJ, and DJ AVG JO-NYC are also expected to take place at the parties. For more information or to grab your tickets for the events, visit Pridesoup2019.eventbrite.com and Siren2019.eventbrite.com.