In 1964, the year the Empire City Motorcycle Club came into being, New York City hosted the World’s Fair; the Ford Mustang, the sexiest car ever made, began rolling off the assembly line; and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, making it illegal to discriminate based on race, religion, or sex, but notsexual orientation. New Yorkers were still several years away from transforming the gay liberation movement with the riots at Stonewall. Indeed, there were very few places on earth where a group of gay men could convene and feel free.

“We kept a low profile,” says 81-year-old Emil Solis (not pictured), who joined ECMC with his partner, Bill, in June 1965. “It was a very dangerous time. People had jobs and apartments. There was no protection. You could be fired or evicted if your boss or landlord decided so.”

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