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A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
“Don’t blink.” That’s the advice David Cooley has for anyone looking to catch the owner of West Hollywood gay bar The Abbey in a cameo in Roland Emmerich‘s Stonewall, about the historic 1969 riots that started at the Greenwich Village bar.
As the owner of what is arguably the country’s other most famous gay bar, saying yes to Emmerich’s invitation to appear in the film was a no brainer. (He also counts Emmerich as a longtime friend.) “I play a businessman off Wall Street in a suit and tie,” Cooley explains of his two days on set in Montreal, where he also has a home. “I pick up a hustler standing at the bar, so I didn’t need a lot of direction from Roland. I’ve been doing this for 25 years!”
Cooley, who recently bought back full ownership of The Abbey from SBE and is currently filming a reality TV show about the bar, says being associated with Stonewall is an inspiration. “That bar started the revolution — that’s why we have gay pride today. I’m also so impressed by the fact that Roland used his own money to make this film. That, and all that he’s done for the homeless LGBT community — you gotta love him,” says Cooley, who returned some of the love by hosting the film’s L.A. premiere afterparty at The Abbey on Sept. 23.
Unfortunately, audiences blinked at Stonewall: The film grossed a disappointing $112,414 in 127 theaters.
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