By Noah Parks, featuring Michael Diamond
I had the supreme honor of interviewing an HMG+ Alumni, Michael Diamond. He’s a member of the LGBTQ family that makes up a vital part of our community. During this Pride Month I took the time to talk about what it means to him, his connection to it, how his work at the Cubbyhole in Greenwich Village affected him, and what he’s doing now after the pandemic. When we started talking it was clear that hospitality extends into many parts of our lives beyond serving drinks. Michael is a baker, a dog father, loving brother, happy son, and master gardener. He’s left New York City to pursue greener pastures in North Carolina where he lives with his rescue dogs. While we celebrate Gay Pride, and all the parties represented by the Pride Flag, we also must remember the sacrifices that many on the frontlines have made so we can celebrate.
This is a celebration but it’s also historic. In 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, police raided the bar. They did this regularly harassing patrons and the NYPD had a specialized unit: the Public Morals Squad. This squad went into gay bars to identify “immoral” behavior then plain clothes officers would come in and arrest offenders. The crimes of being a member of the LGBTQ family drove many members to these types of places which were affiliated with the Mafia. The perceived danger of being gay was less of a threat to the public than the real violence that has been perpetrated by police and society on the LGBTQ population. For this reason Michael believes that “Pride should be a march, not a parade. Of course there’s a lot to celebrate. But the history and the historic nature of what we still continue to fight for isn’t just an excuse to party.”This kind of self-reflection is important for our society as we move out of a pandemic and lockdown that changed our industry and our lives.
Michael further discussed how he’d personally gotten connected to Pride, especially when he was in the city. He worked for a long time at a LGBTQ institution called Cubbyhole. A small (obviously) bar in Greenwich village. It was a venture that Michael said the owner wanted to be a rainbow bar. It is a bar for everyone to enjoy themselves free of judgment and scrutiny. Michael was living in the neighborhood but not connected to hospitality except on the other side of the bar. He’d actually confused the brightly collared bar for a Day Care! It wasn’t until some time later that he ducked in for drinks and began a friendly discussion with the owner Lisa Menichino. Lisa recently underlined the inclusive and welcoming ambiance, “It’s the kind of bar where you can not know anyone and feel comfortable talking to the person next to you. That’s a rarity in New York,”.
“I was rescuing dogs and was not a bartender. The owner hired me to first check IDs. She sent me to bartending school. But I started working at the Cubby Hole full time.” It was working there during his favorite holidays, Halloween and Pride month that he became part of the fabric that makes up the Cubbyhole. His natural dry wit and unflinching frankness became a staple of his work as a bartender. I was blessed to work a busy holiday party with Michael. As the rest of the staff ran around like chickens with their heads cut off, I asked Michael if he needed anything. He said, “For the music to be louder!”. It’s like the business of the bar washed over him and fueled his drive to keep going. This kind of work ethic is consistent with every aspect of his life, especially his relationships.