Thursday, February 02, 2023

Gay Bar Fly

I'm excited that Damian bought me Jeremy Atherton Lin's "Gay Bar: Why We Went Out," although I haven't started it yet. (Coincidentally, I see it's also Dr. Eric Cervini's current Book Club selection.)
As gay bars continue to close at an alarming rate, "Gay Bar" looks back to find out what’s being lost in this indispensable, intimate, and stylish celebration of queer history. 

Strobing lights and dark rooms; throbbing house and drag queens on counters; first kisses, last call: the gay bar has long been a place of solidarity and sexual expression—whatever your scene, whoever you’re seeking. But in urban centers around the world, they are closing, a cultural demolition that has Jeremy Atherton Lin wondering: What was the gay bar? How have they shaped him? And could this spell the end of gay identity as we know it?
I rarely go out these days -- I'm 55 and married -- but cannot imagine what my younger days would have been like without bars, where I lived to watch videos, dance and hear new music, and met several of my closest friends. 

Curious to see how many of my old haunts (some open, some long closed) got a mention, including but not limited to:

The Connection (Phoenix)

Wink's Cabaret (Phoenix)

Nu Towne Saloon (Phoenix)

PHOENIX: The Connection, Al E. Gators, Taylor's, Wink's, BS West, Nu Towne Saloon, Preston's, Brazil, Charlie's.

The Spike (West Hollywood)

Arena (Los Angeles)

Boom Boom Room (Laguna Beach)

L.A./LONG BEACH/ORANGE COUNTY: Rage, Revolver, Micky's, The Abbey, Studio One, Arena, Motherlode, Numbers, Fubar, the Spike, Gold Coast, Ripples, the Silver Fox, Mineshaft, Oz, the Boom Boom Room, Lion's Den, Frat House, Newport Station.

JR's (Washington, D.C.) 

WASHINGTON, D.C.: JR's, Trumpets, Badlands, Cobalt, Lost and Found, Tracks.

Uncle Charlie's (West Village) 

XL (Chelsea) 

Champs (Chelsea)

NEW YORK CITY: Splash, G, Roxy, Hell, Uncle Charlie's, the Works, XL, Champs, XES, King, Pyramid Club, the Lure, Eagle, Rawhide, Julius's, Beige, Boiler Room, the Break et al. 

What were your earliest and go-to bars when you were coming out?  


VRCooper said...

I am 65 and I was never a gay bar-type person. I have been to a few. My first experience at a gay bar was in Frankfurt when I was in the military. Now the Germans know how to have a good time. I have been to bars in Dallas, Sacramento, DC, and Denver. A few reasons why I was never a big fan of the bars is because of the smoke. Back in the day folks would smoke up a storm and depending on the ventilation, the clouds of smoke were thick. My eyes would burn. Another reason was things started too late. By 10 or 11 PM, I was getting ready for bed. Lastly, it felt counterproductive to stand around all night waiting for someone to catch your eye. I could think of better things to do. While I was living in Dallas my landlord owned a gay cabaret. I loved that place. The smoke was manageable because folks would smoke further back in the club. Now don't get me wrong. I have been to my fair share of drag shows and other events at gay bars.

I would agree that bars are essential for gay and straight communities. It is a sense of connection. Being with your tribe. And one can take care of business-get laid. A lot of the gay clubs are more and more mixed. I don't know how I feel about that. I like having my own. Besides, it confuses me. I want to ensure I am hitting on the right person. Many years back I took my friend from my military days to JRs in DC. He wanted a beer and I did not know of any straight bars so off we went. Honey, I had to drag his ass out of there he was having way too much fun. I remember in Dallas I was with a mixed group of gay and straight friends and this lady's husband wanted to dance with her because his song came on. She didn't want and he insisted. I said I would dance with him. He looked at his wife and she just said "go." And off we went. He was a little cutie and I was a gentleman. I would say gay bars are needed even more so today because folks are so into their phones utilizing all the apps. I believe we have lost some of our social connections with one another. We have to get out of ourselves. Meet folks face to face. Not lose the art of socializing. Not everything should be done on a phone/app. The cost of leasing space is out of this world today. That long-standing bar that leased for years may get a notice that rents are going up to the point of not being able to afford the space. The owners of the building could sell and make a boatload of money instead of leasing. Sad but true.

sgollis said...

I have a few years on you, but 2 of the same locales. In Phoenix, I worked at the Sportsman's Lounge when it was really the only bar for the younger crowd. Started as a waiter and moved to bartending. As the dance scene went from jukebox to DJs, I was hired on at Hisco, which turned into Maggie's (by the owners of NuTowne Saloon). Moved to LA in '77, bar of choice was the Detour, then expanded to Studio One, Circus and Probe for dancing; Griff's, the Stud, Larry's and Outcast for cruising. When it opened, Motherlode was hot and the Gold Coast was an easy stop. Arena was pretty new, taking over from Circus as the hot spot in Hollywood.
All this was long ago, and now I, too, am married and retired, and living in a rainforest in Hawaii. Good memories, thanks!
Steve G

Anonymous said...

Cathode Ray in Fort Lauderdale first then The Copa or 21 later in the evening.
Steve T

BxlMan said...

The Bar on 2nd Avenue was my go-to for many years. I rarely left the East Village in the late 80s/early 90s. The Pyramid was also a lot of fun.

Edgar_Carpenter said...

I've met several of my best gay friends through hookup apps.

Bars were never great places for me - I lived in SF and NYC for many years, and I just didn't fit the body types that men in bars there were usually looking for. In some bars I'd be actively shunned.

In other countries, I was more popular at the bars I went to - I've still got friends in England, France and Australia I met in gay bars there. So I gradually realized it was the attitudes of the bar crowds at home that were the problem - I had an enthusiastic fan club, but finding them was another matter.

When hookup apps came along, the men who were hunting for men like me could finally find me, even in cities where the bars were full of attitude. It's great (and unexpected) to have such enthusiastic admirers of my erotic charms this late in life, and naturally, some of them have become friends too.

AB said...

Preston's was my first. I've never really had great experiences at the bars here in Phoenix. Not get me to the German bars with the dark rooms and that's another story. 😈

Anonymous said...

Axis in Columbus Ohio

VoenixRising said...

Frist gay bar: Jekyll & Hydes, Tucson AZ, January 1977
Second gay bar: Joshua Tree/Back Pocket, Tucson AZ

Maggie's/Moon's Truck/HisCo Disco: Phoenix 1978
The Forum, Phoenix 1978
Bullwinkle: Phoenix 1979
Connection: Phoenix 1979

Hotbods: Phoenix, 1981

Carl Schwent said...

I came out in 1974 and I remember going to Casa de Roma on my first date with my first lover (and it may have been my first time in a gay bar). They had an elegant black female impersonator, who did Diana Ross's version of Kermit the Frog's "It's Not Easy Being Green", which certainly put whole new levels on that song.