Friday, February 10, 2012

The Death of The Gay Bar?

     Maybe it is because of my age, but I remember when gay bars were totally packed and oh so much damn fun. A lot has changed since I was a naive 18 year old in 1985. I look back and realize how green I was in 1985, my first visit to Menjo's, I was shaking, I was scared, but I was in awe. Menjo's was packed on Thursday nights, yes, as it is still busy today. But, Menjo's was even more packed on Friday nights, I remember having to park three blocks away just to get in on Friday nights. You could hardly move in the place. It seems like today gay bars have a hard time just making enough money to stay open at all. This makes me sad, as I am old (Yes, I am old) and I remember the good old days when gay bars were so damn much fun. What happened? Well, the internet for one, people who don't like the "bar scene" can now meet people online for either dating or sexual hookups. Back in the day before the internet, if you where gay, you HAD to go to a gay bar to meet other gay people. There was just not any other place to meet gay people. Gay bars were very mixed, by that I mean, age wise, everyone went to the gay bar, young and old. I miss that feeling of comradery.

     The world has changed a lot since 1985, progress has brought more acceptance. Gay people can now go to straight bars and be accepted. I remember the feeling of going to a gay bar was something like going to speak easy in the days of prohibition, it was daring, dangerous and exciting. It was a secret world, if I saw someone who I knew from my "straight world" in the gay bar, I got very scared that they would "out" me. They of course, felt the same thing, and everyone kept it hush-hush.  I have tried to embrace the whole online dating thing, but I find myself spending hours online wasting my time and I get very frustrated and give up on it. I really think there is nothing like meeting people in person, not some stupid online profile which is mostly made up of lies.

     "The death of the gay bar?" Gay bars in Detroit have been struggling just to make enough money to be viable. This is funny to me because at one time they use to be cash cows that made tons of money. I hear some young people say "Why do I need to go to a gay bar?" They feel more accepted by their straight counterparts and can socialize with them in straight bars.  I have seen a lot of people who thought that they "knew" how to run a successful gay bar only to fail. It used to be that just being a gay bar meant that you got a large crowd. Not so much any more. People have been very critical of Murray and Peter who now run both Menjo's and Backstreet. I have to give them credit, they have "special" events, i.e. D list celebrities, etc which draw larger crowds on those nights. You cannot just expect that being a gay bar alone will draw large crowds, you have to give them a reason to come out.

      "The dance bar" Both Menjo's and Backstreet used to be known as cutting edge dance bars. They both played the best dance music, had the best sound AND light shows. For decades both bars never had a drag show, it was pure heart pounding music and dance with great lights. What ever happened to good lights on the dance floor? Now, they put a few of these crappy computerized lights on the dance floor and that is it? They used to always have a DJ and a guy who just pushed the buttons to control all the lights on the dance floor. The lights, being controlled by a separate person, went along with the song being played and often created a sense of euphoria with the song being played. They had smoke machines and strobe lights, I even remember flashing neon tubes that could change color and pulse to the music. Menjo's had Chad Novak as a DJ, he wrote for Billboard and Menjo's was nationally known as one of the best dance bars. Chad would even post the Billboard top dance hits on the wall in the bar. Now, some young people like this hip-hop crap music, which, I will make no apologies for, I can't stand. I was at Menjo's recently and the DJ was playing this crap music and I saw the people on the dance floor just kind of "bopping" in place a little bit. How can you dance to this crap? I've been to gay bars in other big cities such as Chicago and they don't seem to play this crappy hip-hop crap music. Why just in Detroit? Gay bars have to give people a real reason to come, I think that going back to having seriously good DJs playing great dance music and having a great dance experience is the answer. It actually makes me sad to say that I hear much better music in straight bars. For years, this was not the case, gay bars had the most cutting edge music and light shows.

     Why go? why go to a gay bar? For me, we live in a heterosexual world. The fact that more straight people accept us is wonderful. But I still feel a sense of comfort, a sense of ease, being with my people, my family. Lets face it, you have to feel more at ease, more comfortable in a gay bar right? It is the comradery of being with my gay peeps, that social interaction of gay bar-ness that I love.  A while back before Backstreet re-opened on Saturday night, if you didn't like going to ICE there was nothing on Saturday night to do? Look at Friday nights now, what bar is great on Friday night? Necto? Necto is good but it is a long drive from Detroit. It really blows my mind that there is really no good gay bar on Friday night in Detroit? I can remember in my youth going to gay bars 7 nights a week in Detroit, and every night was fun. So, what can you do about it? GO OUT. Go out and support your gay bars. Stop staying at home on the damn computer. That picture of him is from 10 years ago in his profile, meet a guy in the flesh, dance to the music and have some fun socializing with your friends. Maybe, just maybe we can get the gay bars to go back to their roots and play good dance music again.

     Go the fuck out.

Chris H.


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