For about two years, Preston Mardenborough has diligently continued to post an ad to Craigslist seeking people who remember a bar called the Sea Colony. Mardenborough, now 68, was one of the few men who worked at the long-closed lesbian hangout in Greenwich Village in the mid to late ’60s, and he wants to find and reconnect with his old pals. But he hasn’t found any.
“I had a lot of good friends there, and everyone just, poof, disappeared — like everything else, I guess,” he told us.
Mardenborough ran away from his New Jersey home in 1957, when he was 15 years old. He was selling chestnuts on 6th Avenue between 8th Street and Waverly Place when he met an actor, who introduced Mardenborough to a lesbian named Kitty. Mardenborough and Kitty hit it off, and Mardenborough moved in with her on Jones Street. She started introducing him to lesbian bars, where he as a straight male would go and hang out with, and, he added, knowing how odd it might sound, even date the women.
In the mid-60s, the owners of the Sea Colony — which resided on 8th Avenue in the spot now home to Art Bar — asked Mardenborough if he wanted to work there on the weekends. It was, according to Mardenborough, a “strictly” lesbian bar, though there were five or six men they “used to allow in for one reason or the other.”
Mardenborough’s tasks at the Sea Colony included selling drink tickets, waiting tables, and, yes, handing out toilet tissue. “People would get drunk and plug up the toilets with toilet paper,” he explained. (Read more about the bathroom policies in this piece from Joan Nestle.)
Mardenborough was at the Sea Colony for about three years on Fridays and Saturdays, and it closed not many years after he finished his stint, he explained. Now Mardenborough is married and an abstract artist, simply looking for people he knew back then — like Maria, the “famous” bartender who shares his birthday, though seven years earlier.
“Before Stonewall it was a very, very repressive New York City,” he said. “If the police were coming into the Sea Colony, lights would go on, and everyone had to immediately stop dancing.”
Times have changed a lot since then, which only strengthens Mardenborough’s desire to reach out and reconnect with folks from the old days. He’s received one response, but he and that person did not remember one another. He’s also heard some “nasty” things — “The response that anyone would get on Craigslist, I guess,” he said.
“I keep running it week after week, hoping that somehow someone will see it and respond,” he said.