Relive Foxy, the legendary New York Queer Party of the late 90s, through these never-before-published photos

The entrance fee for Saturday night at the Cock was $5, and Irene never let it? everybody free entry but she took your money with a smile. Entering a gay bar in the East Village in the late 1990s was a high price, but it was worth it, even if the place—not much bigger than a two-bedroom apartment painted pitch black—was a mess. “Here’s your Foxy Dollars, honey,” she said, handing you Monopoly-style fake bills, decorated with a cartoon fox, in exchange for your hard currency.

The world famous *BOB* performance in 1998. Photo: Mr. mean.

Unlike a traditional cabaret, the draw was the audience itself. “We didn’t lip-sync or drag shows,” recalls multidisciplinary recording artist and singer Justin Vivian Bond. Bond, who has since hit stages at Carnegie Hall and Brooklyn Academy of Music, was just a neighborhood legend, a mesmerizingly biting Foxy presenter and emcee at the time. “We got everyone involved in the performance.”

Volunteers rushed to the stage to take part in a depraved and silly exhibitionist talent show. After all the contestants exposed themselves or peed in a cup or performed whatever absurd skill they had, the public would vote for the winner (who would receive $100) by handing in their Foxy dollars. Whenever Krylon Superstar participated, you knew there would be no competition. Once he donned an apron and set up a kitchen table, complete with a red tablecloth, carefully putting ketchup and mustard on a hot dog bun. He looked around in disappointment before his face registered a eureka moment. He pulled a hot dog out of his ass, put it in the bun and took a bite. The audience cried.

Foxy presents Cookie, Justin Vivian Bond and The World Famous *BOB* on stage in 1999. Photo by Mr.  mean.

Foxy presents Cookie, Justin Vivian Bond and The World Famous *BOB* on stage in 1999. Photo: Mr. mean.

“She would come in every week and put something different up her ass,” Bond recalls. “She put a literal Christmas tree up her ass and flocked around it like a skirt, then bent over and let the audience decorate it. One time I said, ‘Oh, Krylon will put everything in it but the sink.’ She was in the bathroom and heard me She unscrewed the faucet and came out and had the faucet up her ass There were all kinds of crazy things you couldn’t do now because everyone has their phone You could do whatever you wanted and it stayed in that room. Mr. Means was there to document it. He was the only one with a camera.”

A Foxy go-go boy in 1998. Photo by Mr.  mean.

A go-go boy is holding a napkin in 1998. Photo: Mr. mean.

Everyone knew Mr Means, who photographed for OutDetailsInterview, and pretty much any local indie publication. In 1994, he moved into a Williamsburg storefront and turned it into a studio/clubhouse for creatives, including future members of the Foxy team. He was a fixture at de Cock from the start, creating the glittering cardboard Foxy backdrop. He took pictures because that’s exactly what he did. “It wasn’t a project,” he said. “I always had a camera with me. I was just chilling with friends. But this space that my friends were creating seemed very special and unique.”

Despite the rampant nostalgia for New York nightlife in the 1990s, those photos — examples of which illustrate this article — were never published (and many more were too spicy to include here). mr. Means now edits his stock images of the Cock and other locations, such as Lux, Slipper Room and legendary parties like Squeezebox, in no dancing allowed, a proposed book on the club scene of the time (the title derives from the draconian speakeasy-era laws that were strictly enforced by the government of then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani). mr. Means has since moved to New Orleans. “I feel very blessed to have experienced New York before it really changed,” he said.

The audience of Foxy in 1998. Mel Ottenberg is in the foreground.  Photo by Mr. Means.

The audience of Foxy in 1998. Mel Ottenberg is in the foreground. “I would buy vintage clothes and re-sew the outfits to go to the Cock to have a look and also to fuck. I wanted to be a fashion designer, but was too busy partying at De Cock to do anything about it. People liked my style and saw me walking around, and then I started getting styling gigs that I didn’t even know was a career,” he said. Photo: Mr. Means.

The images capture the entire Foxy cast of characters, including the venomous ghost of Jackie Beat, the wacky Cookie, and The World Famous *BOB*, who at the time was often referred to as a female female impersonator. Mr. Means describes her as follows: “That magical pony, The World Famous *BOB*. She called herself the East Village tit clown. It is difficult to describe this beautiful woman. She is a performance artist and was my muse.” Bob preferred agricultural pinup girl tropics. In a crowd-slayer, she did jumping jacks and aerobics in a spandex leotard. She pulled several McDonald’s cheeseburgers from under her breasts and ate them while exercising.

Mel Ottenberg, today the editor-in-chief of Interview, has a crystal clear memory of the night that changed his life. “It’s August 1998. I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and moved to New York,” he recalls. “I’ve never really clicked with gay people. These girls said: ‘We have to go to De Cock. There is this Saturday night called Foxy. Everyone’s talking about it. They do this contest and the most outrageous person wins $100.’ I didn’t want to go. I didn’t think it sounded cool. I nervously drove up to 12th Street and Avenue A and walked in, and it was like… The Wizard of Oz when it goes from black and white to color. Everyone was so cool and rock music was playing. My reservations evaporated as soon as I got in there.”

Ottenberg became a permanent fixture. “There was a mix of cultures and people,” he said. “There were hot muscle guys, punks, junkies, writers, architects, barfly drunks, madmen and fashion designers like Alexander McQueen and Calvin Klein.”

Krylon holds a sparkler in his special way.  Photo by Mr. Means.

Happy 4th of July! Foxy’s undefeated contestant, Krylon Superstar. Jackie Beat sneezes in the background. Photo: Mr. Means.

The Cock was in a transition period for New York nightlife. The clubboy rule was on the wane; Michael Alig had recently been imprisoned. Mega-locations like Limelight and Tunnel went out of style and the first iteration of New York’s rave scene had stalled. The East Village had a vibrant gay bar culture, but the Pyramid drag, performance, and art-focused scene had ceased. A handsome young promoter named Mario Diaz, whose previous endeavors included the Hustler and Studio Filthy Whore parties, saw a hole that needed to be filled.

Mario Diaz and Justin Vivian Bond at Foxy in 1998. Photo by Mr.  mean.

Mario Diaz and Justin Vivian Bond at Foxy in 1998. “The stream-of-conscious brilliance that would come out of their mouths every week…” Diaz recalled of Bond Photo: Mr. Means.

Diaz threw Foxy into downtown dive bars about three times (and was banned after each outing) before setting up shop on Avenue A in 1998. An instant hit, the owner of the bar partnered up with Diaz, and de Cock was born. The DJ and artist Scott Ewalt designed the beacon-like neon rooster sign outside. “My proudest achievement is creating that space,” said Diaz. “I saw such brilliance there. Foxy was the best party I’ve ever thrown, and I’ve been doing this for over 30 years.”

Jackie Beat sleeps outside The Cock.  Photo by Mr. Means.

Jackie Beat sleeps outside the Cock. Photo: Mr. Means.

Foxy has shaped a generation of artists, artistsand fashion dwellers. “I’d been to Studio 54 and to this great San Francisco club called Club Uranus, which had a kind of similar DIY radical queer aesthetic,” Bond said. “But the thing about Foxy [was that it was] happens right after the [HIV retroviral] cocktail. People could have sex again without feeling like they were going to die. We wanted to make it a happy, whimsical celebration of sexuality, because there was so much guilt and shame around sex.”

They added: “Yes, there were people who used drugs. There were people in the back room having all kinds of sex. It was a time of sexual liberation. And so people behind the stage would have sex and people on stage would just do stupid, crazy, sexual things.”

Tasty Pies and Hydrangea compete at Foxy in 1998. Photo by Mr.  mean.

Tasty Cakes and Hydrangea compete on Foxy in 1998. Photo: mr. mean.

There were regular police raids and the establishment was fined for dancing, public nudity and other charges. “We were in the midst of a revolution,” he said. “We fought against Giuliani and his ‘quality of life’ campaign. Not U.S quality of life: He targeted queer and POC locations. This whole Puritan wave destroying our country was in full swing. At the time, people gave Giuliani a little credit for cleaning up New York, but he really pushed for homogenization and gentrification.”

The Diaz staff was like a family of fantastic misfits. “I joked that we had a pneumatic tube from the Cock to my coffee table,” said Bond, who lived just down the street. “Because the party would always end at my house.” Every employee, from busboys and bartenders to strippers, continued to run Diaz’s business for three years.

But after years of full capacity, Foxy retired around 2000, after Diaz got into an argument with his business partner. The Cock still exists, at its third location in East Village. It’s still a fun, sleazy option, and Irene is still the charming door person who won’t let you in for free. But without the founding circus director, the nocturnal confluence of art, sex, performance and wild abandon has disappeared.

“My essential mission was to be as loud and in your face and as sex positive as I could be,” Diaz said. “Everyone was along with that good time. We were in the moment. We were wild, we were fearless.”

Roberta sees a sign at The Cock.  Photo by Mr. Means.

Roberta sees a sign at De Cock. Photo: Mr. Means.

The bathroom wall of The Cock.  Photo by Mr. Means.

De Cock’s bathroom wall. Photo: Mr. Means.

A go-go boy brings libations.  Photo by Mr. Means.

Cheers! A go-go boy brings libations. Photo: Mr. Means.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Do you want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest news, eye-opening interviews and sharp critical comments that move the conversation forward.

Leave a Comment