By Joe Franco
Gay bar (n.): 1. a smoke-filled arena of gay self-deprecation and attitude wherein dancing and drinking occur 2. any location with bathrooms for only one gender 3. a room or combination of rooms filled with 47 discernable fragrances and music so loud and obnoxious that a person goes temporarily deaf.
However you define “gay bar,” we can all agree on the basics: drinking, smoking, music and attitude. Any other details are merely fluff.
Every generation of homo believes his generation is the bastion of the latest and greatest. The young always believe that somehow the old “just don’t get it.” After four re-mixes and two decades of “Oh l’Amour” and after twice living through the era of the “popped collar,” I can emphatically tell you “Been there. Done that. Twice. With fairy wings.”
I was recently at a local Detroit dance club with a group of my friends. I was told all about the “new” club. I walked in the same door I always walked in. I walked up to the same bar I always went to and ordered the same drink I have ordered since I was 19. You can paint it. You can put in a Plexiglas light-up dance floor. You can add a half-dozen new go-go boys. No matter what you do, it’s the same as it was 15 years ago.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not being a hyper-sensitive bitch because I didn’t go home with a boy. This is reminiscing, in a way. As I stood there, with my plastic Dixie drink cup in hand, I noticed a young man out on the dance floor. He was awkward and clumsy. He had acne and freshly-coiffed hair that exuded the sentiment, “I’m just out. Do you like my blond hair? It used to be brown.” Suddenly I was caught in an amazing time warp. He was me!
I was that acne-faced, badly-coiffed-and-dyed 20-year old. I once owned a Y.M.L.A. silver, shimmery-satin shirt with poet sleeves. Actually, I think if a woman was wearing that shirt, technically it would be called a blouse – but why split hairs? I once wore black DKNY jeans. I just gave those jeans away to the Salvation Army thrift store. So if you see a guy with a mullet down at Macomb Mall in skinny-leg, jet-black jeans, you can blame me for not burning those years ago.
I used to own giant, clunky shoes with three-inch heels that made me 6-feet-1-inch. Sure, giggle if you want, but I can recall that everybody – well, every queen – at least owned a pair. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe Menjo’s renovated only to accommodate all the fairies on their platforms. I realized in that moment that the old adage, “what’s old is new again,” isn’t even the half of it. “What’s old is forever” is perhaps more appropriate.
No matter what we do as gay men. No matter how many remixes of “Oh l’Amour,” “Sweet Dreams” or “Heart of Glass” we hear. No matter how many farewell tours Cher does. No matter how many times we re-introduce stonewashed jeans or flouncy shirts as new. No matter how many times we bring back the ’60s. We are still the same awkward and frightened gay boys that were on that dance floor 35 years ago slow dancing to Roberta Flack’s “Trade Winds.” Is that a bad thing? No. I don’t believe it is.