Gay Games: More than club-hopping in Windy City

By |2018-01-16T17:50:55-05:00July 13th, 2006|Entertainment|

If the thought of divers clad in teeny weenie Speedos and bikinis during next week’s Gay Games in Chicago puts your hormones into drive, then you’re in luck.
That’s if you’re a literature buff.
“The cruising can be so much so that people have to get kicked out of the store,” said Robert McDonald, co-author of “A Field Guide to Gay & Lesbian Chicago” and employee at one of several gay-friendly area bookstores, Unabridged.
Co-author Kathie Bergquist believes queer-friendly bookstores, like Women and Children First in Andersonville, is a comfortable atmosphere to chill for long periods of time.
“Usually people who are there are united by an interest in literature which is often a nice bridge for conversation,” Bergquist said.
With the Gay Games on our heels, and swarms of out-of-towners rushing downtown, Bergquist and McDonald said there’s more to Chicago than its nightlife along the popular Boystown strip on Halsted Street. Hence, their handbook for those wanting to sift through all gay-friendly sites Chicago has to offer: restaurants, cafes, hotels, bars and theaters. They’ve even included easy-to-follow maps to locate the hot spots.
“We tried to keep people from spending all their time on Halsted Street,” Bergquist said.
McDonald recommends, first and foremost, soaking up the western art – along with galleries from several other countries – of The Art Institute of Chicago even “if you have an ammonal interest in paintings.”
“I saw Kathie being cruised there,” he said, laughing. “And there’s an awful lot of cute boys.”
Bergquist also points out often-overlooked towns like Wicker Park and Andersonville. “They’re all very distinctive neighborhoods with great vibes,” she said.
When Bergquist wants to throw back a few drinks and chat with friends, she visits the lesbian-frequented Star Gaze in Andersonville. “(At) Star Gaze … you can usually find a table and the level is conversational so I’ve really felt comfortable going there,” she said.
McDonald said of Andersonville, “It’s an equally gay-friendly neighborhood and has more of a little town type of feeling to it. There’s a lot of gay night life and very gay-friendly restaurants, and they tend to be a little more mixed with men and women than Halsted Street, which tends to be more divided.”
But, still, he believes there’s a wide array of bars on the Boystown strip. “It’s a fairly long stretch of gay friendliness, and there are sort of the Abercrombie stand-and-pose kind of bars, but there’s a lot of different night life.”
The popular Sidetrack features multiple rooms, a rooftop deck and a hideaway chat room, but is frequented by cliques.
“As the evening goes on and the liquor flows they might bring you into the conversation but they might not unless you’re really outgoing,” McDonald said.
The mixed-gender environment of Spin features a big dance floor, two pool tables, and a younger crowd. “It’s the baby dykes and the cool alternate-fags kind of bar,” McDonald said of the place where he met Bergquist.
If you’re not into the bar scene, don’t fret.
“Chicago has done a lot in the last few years to increase the amount of sidewalk cafes and as a result [there are] more restaurants that open out onto the street and are just really pleasant places to have a light meal or appetizers,” Bergquist said. “You can have a couple of drinks and there’s a whole cross section of ages.”
“A Field Guide to Gay & Lesbian Chicago” is in stores now.

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.