Edward Murphy of The Stonewall Inn

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jun 10, 2006 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

One of the people who lent a hand to CCL in its early days was a man named Edward Murphy. He was also known as Ed, Eddie and “Mother” Murphy. Every Gay Pride march, he rode in the convertible with the other Stonewall Inn vets. Ed was one of the people who were actually at the Stonewall the night of the famous riot, June 27, 1969. He was stationed by the door as the club’s bouncer. When I met him in the mid-’80s he was working in some bar in the Village, either Stonewall or One Potato, Two Potato. Ed was built like a brick house; solid, with a body that must have been all muscle in his youth.

When I knew him, Ed Murphy, or “Mr. Murphy” as I used to call him, was involved with Heritage of Pride, the organization that ran the parade, festival and dance in New York City. As such, he was the person to talk to about getting space on Christopher Street the day of the Pride march. Our Christopher Street table was the place to hang around with other CCL members, hand out literature, and talk to prospective members. Ed had a soft spot for CCL, and made sure we always got one of the best spaces on Christopher Street, right in front of St. Veronica’s Church. “My sister is a nun,” he told me. I’m sure the fact my last name is “Doherty” didn’t hurt, either. “Make sure you take good care of these girls,” he told the person responsible for assigning spaces. Our prime location paved the way for many women to find CCL. Ed Murphy always came by our table to make sure we were taken good care of, and everything was ok.

From gossip, I knew Ed wasn’t an altar boy. He was known as a chicken hawk, and had also served time in prison. Ed didn’t hide his stint in prison. He talked to me about it once. He was proud he didn’t rat people out, he didn’t identity people to “the bulls.” He knifed someone in self-defense. Four months after his death in 1989 he was named Honorary Grand Marshall of the Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade. There was some grumbling, but he was honored for his contributions as a gay activist.

Imagine my shock when, reading the Wall Street Journal a few years later, I came upon an article by William McGowan, “Before Stonewall – Scandal, blackmail, a police crackdown. Shedding light on a forgotton case.” One of the prominent figures in this 1966 extortion case, Edward “Mother” Murphy, a “ruthless West Side tough,” had been in league with a ring of several dozen men in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC and elsewhere. “The Chickens and the Bulls,” as the case was known, centered on “fairy shaking” or exposing men for the “homosexual proclivities” unless they paid for their silence. Among the victims were the head of the American Medical Association, two Army generals, an admiral, several Hollywood entertainers, college professors and businessmen. The ring operated for over ten years, shaking down more than 1,000 men and netting over a million dollars. For his role, Ed Murphy served part of a five year prison term.

Years later, I am still trying to sort out my feelings about Edward Murphy. They are ambiguous, like the man. I am fond of Ed, and I appreciate how he looked out for CCL. But I am also appalled by the image of him as a leader in a gay extortion ring, bullying sex and money from the most vulnerable.

The story of Edward Murphy is fascinating, the way scandal, secrets, and evil–fascinate. It is also the story of pre-Stonewall, when homosexuals could be easily victimized because of fear of exposure. Edward Murphy combined postitution, blackmail, and strong arm tactics into a lucrative enterprise that ran ten years, until he was brought low by Andrew Maloney, a federal prosecutor of the case; and a battery of Irish Catholic NYC detectives. That he ended up grand marshal of a gay rights parade 23 years after his conviction, is a tale worthy of a great shanachie..
It is a story with all the best ingredients–greed, lust, betrayal, pride, honor and most of all–irony.

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3 Responses to “Edward Murphy of The Stonewall Inn”

  1. JC Says:

    Ed Murphy’s story is pretty amazing – you sum it up perfectly in your closing sentence. He was also a professional wrestler for a time. It’s a shame that someone hasn’t done a write up of his life by now.

  2. Casey Regan Says:

    I met Ed Murphy back the mid 80s when I was 16. He was working the door at
    “O’Neil’s backyard” in 48th street off 8th ave. I knew it was a hustler bar but I was nervous they wouldn’t let me so I hung out outside. Ed saw me and told me not to worry and that I should go in. I know he was into young boys but he never came on to me, and believe me I was looking great! I had drinks coming from everywhere. Anyway, I know there’s a lot of rumors about Ed but my personal experience with him was good, he was always nice to me and over the years he helped me out more then once.

  3. Karen Says:

    Hi Casey, thank you so much for your story! I would like to write an article on Ed Murphy in the next year or two. I have started to compile material, but any suggestions you can give me for places to visit, or people to see would be much appreciated. Thanks so much! Karen

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