Two Fags, a Hag, and One Exiting Lesbian:
Discovering Gay Williamsburg
Last month, a reader posed the small but pertinent question,
Where's a good place to meet indie gay boys that are
relatively masculine in Williamsburg? Do they exist? Am I
alone? Thanks for any pity you can spare...
Michael gets frisky at the Stinger Club.
Excellent question. So in the name of lonely young chaps
like yourself staring forlornly at their laptops and wondering
the self same thingI grab three of my gayest friends
(because I rank them, yes I do), and hit the scene running.
Williamsburg doesnt have any self-titled gay bars,
but a lot of places play host to heavy gay traffic on at
least one night. We decide to skip the wildly successful
Berliniamsburg (Saturday nights at Luxx), in pursuit of
the less-traveled Sunday night scene, which we hear is on
the rise. On an unseasonably warm evening in February, I
step out with Michael, Carter and Amy, and vow not to return
home until I have some answers. Besides, it sounds like
a damn good excuse for a little journalistic boozing and
Always gay-friendly, but
Sunday night brings the boys out in droves. Grab a cheap
draft beer and hunker down in a beaten-down booth with
your buddies, or stick close to the bar for the pick-up
scene. Cozy, friendly, and positively packed with hotties
Colorful, stylish lounge that hosts Williamsburg Homosexual
Learning Center on Sunday nights. Art-cuties and theyre
admirers frolic to crowd-thumping DJ mixes and campy
films. Make goo-goo eyes at David, the finest bartender
Loud, seedy and humming with s-e-x on Sunday nights.
Hit the dance floor or get naked for a free shot at
the bareither way, youll have a killer
hangover in the morning. But then again, so will that
hot indie rock boy you took home with you.
Stay tuned for more bars next month.
We meet at The Abbey (536 Driggs), the tried-and-true neighborhood
favorite. Its deliciously cozy, breeds all types,
and wont kick you out for playing shitty pool. The
jukebox is stocked too, and tonight its cued up for
heavy eighties. Thats because the warm, affable bartender
Troy is in charge, and hes playing everything from
The Smiths to Journey. While The Abbey is always home to
a mixed crowd, Sunday night brings out the boys in droves.
Its not about being scene makers, Troy
tells me, its about hanging out and having a
good time and talking to some cute boys in the local area.
Carter and I soak in the heavy oak decor, the red-lit chandeliers,
and beaten down booths. This is where gay men come
to be straight, I surmise. Carter gives me a big,
shit-eating grin and nods, Precisely.
But we show up at 10, a wee bit early, and catch the tail
end of the early evening couple crowd. No matterTroys
sexy little sidekick behind the bar, Photi, is already spicing
the place up. Im liking this place, its
definitely warm and inviting, Amy laughs, I
just wish there were more girls here so I could maybe get
a little action. Carter chats up a wine-sipping local
at the bar and confirms that the real action wont
be starting for another few hours. Perfect timing, we figure.
This is just the kind of place we want to roll into at the
tail end of a nightunpretentious, friendly, and just
a little like home.
We grab our bags and mosey over to Level X (107 North 6th),
a decidedly stylish lounge that plays host to a Sunday night
party called Williamsburg Homosexual Learning Center. Every
week bears a different theme, to which co-hosts Andy and
Tony (possibly the most likable duo on the planet) educate
the pack with campy films and crowd-thumping DJ mixes. Tonight
the theme is rocksbut unlike a tedious geological
lesson, here youre treated to the classic Sly film,
Rocky. We wanted to do something in between the rock-n-roll
feel of the Abbey and the super-sceney Luxx, Andy
tells me, Something chill and laid back for the end
of the weekend, a little more like Barracuda in the neighborhood.
And the night has brought success, especially on three day
weekends, where Andy says, Its like gangbusters
in here, you can hardly move. Things heat up around
midnight, and usually stretch as late as the crowd is willing
to go. If the Abbey is where you drag your pull for last
call, then Level X is where you go to meet them.
Carter gives Michael an ultimatum: "Change your name
to Troy, or you'll never work in this town again"
The key to the nights popularity is in the sublime,
understated entertainment. The film and the music dont
overwhelm you, and conversation flows easily. The music
is especially inviting, the DJ, Troy (Troys everywhere!),
has an old school approachhaving the audacity to actually
mix, rather than churn out songs. He avoids any saccharine-sweet
pop, replacing it with a harder edge electro and new wave
mix. The crowd tonight is laid back, chatting loosely in
bright, high-backed booths. No ones throwing attitude,
either. Its nice to relax without fearing youll
be verbally sliced and diced by a scene-stealing drag queen.
Its a mixed, handsome young group, with the artfully-disheveled-working-artist
type pulling the most weight. Leading the pack is an adorable
young bartender by the name of David. Back at the table,
hes all I hear about from Carter and Amy.
What is it with bartenders? That guy is so hot,
Carter says. Yea. Amy agrees, eyeballing David
from the corner of her eye, If you dont find
me some girls soon, youre gonna lose me to the bartender.
He is ridiculously fine. Damn.
Amy asks, "Where's the girls!?!"
Andy and Tony, our gracious hosts, point us in the direction
of three girls chilling at a table near the film screen.
I ask a petite blonde from the group what she thinks of
Williamsburgs lesbian scene and she gives me a wry
look. Is there one? she laughs. Double damn.
Amy gives me a wink, says her goodbyes, and books it across
the river to Starlight. And just like that, Im down
a lesbian. I decide that unearthing the chick scene in Williamsburg
is going to need a whole night unto itself, and plan on
another piece. Meanwhile, the irreverent Michael, has finally
arrived and things are about to get really, really silly.
We order three more greyhounds, make goo-goo eyes at the
bartender, and plot our next move. We are hot on the trail
of a brand new gay night that just popped up over at Stinger
Club. Its one a.m., were slamming drunk, and
I feel like Jimmy-goddamn-Olsen.
Stinger Club (241 Grand St.) is lo-oud. So loud, in fact,
that I have to scream over the bar to talk to Jay, the bartender,
who is approximately three inches from my nose. But the boys
love it, and quickly define it as the most fun place yet.
But its seedy, dark and loud! I shout. Carter
and Michael give me big, bright happy eyes and scream, Exactly!
Carter joyfully notes the red lighting scheme again, and we
ponder the idea that it might serve as some sort of gay-friendly
calling cardthe rainbow-sticker-on-the-window for Williamsburg,
if you will.
Jay tells me that his Sunday night party is still wet behind
the earshe started it just last week. But the crowd
is thick already; maybe due to a fat little special hes
running. He doles out free drinks from 10-11 for a nominal
three-dollar door charge. Nice. Unfortunately, we missed
the free-for-all, but not the leftover crowd, which is eclectic
and friendly. Guys and girls line the bar or lounge about
in booths, and theres a really curious couple leading
the way on the dance floor. Jay nods in their direction,
See, thats what its all about heredancing,
losing yourself in the music. But the truly extraordinary
thing about Stinger is that it isnt a club. Its
without a doubt, a barand a dive bar, at that. Maybe
thats why the electro funk pouring out from the DJ
and the frenetic dancing have a certain David Lynch feel
to itmisplaced somehow, but in a really fresh, exciting
A boy frolics late night at the Abbey.
The place practically hums with sex, but none of us can
put our finger on why. Michael spots a sign behind the bar
that claims GET NAKED-FREE SHOT and asks Jay
how naked he has to get. Jay laughs and shrugs, You
know, I never thought about it before. Next thing
we know, Michaels shirt is off and Jay is pouring
him up a tallboy shot of Citron. The diverse crowd doesnt
even blink. And why would they? They are young, hip and
sure, and theyve seen it all before.
Its generally a good rule to start wrapping things
up when people get naked. Rules, however, are for the weak
of liver, and we make one last trip to The Abbey to catch
Last call, my assThe Abbey is hopping. We have to
push through a few couples exchanging phone numbers outside
just to get in the door. Inside, its the cirque du
soleil of frolicking gay boys. Apparently, it is the place
to be after 3 a.m. We spot several notables from Level X
and Stinger among the crowd, as if everyone comes here to
roost late night. The front is where most of the mixing
goes on, and theres a lot of weekend storytelling
going on up here. Troy and Photi are swamped and giddy,
over-pouring draft beer and slinging cocktails to the boys.
Shawn, the go-go dancer, spices things up at the Abbey.
The song Nine to Five pours over the speakers as we make
our way to the back where, despite the crowd, an empty table
beckons us. Its loose and casual back here, where
oversized booths make room for groups of friends or pool
aficionados. AndAhoy! Whats this? A go-go dancer,
topless and divine, is shimmying on the back bar and causing
quite a ruckus. I put Michael on the case, and he returns
to inform me that the go-go boy will be over as soon as
the Dolly Parton song (his favorite) ends. Meanwhile, we
cruise the scene over for types and come up bless-fully
short. Gangly, beefy, stylish, grungy, shaggy, tall, smallyou
name ittheyre here, and most delightfully queer.
Shawn, the go-go dancer trots over, pulling on his shirt.
Hes a local from Greenpoint, a trained dancer who
convinced Troy to give him a shot on the bar. At a mere
5 6, his head barely grazing the ceiling,
he shook his way into a Sunday night gig that he has no
plans of letting go. I love it, theres such
a good thing going on out here. Its neighborhoodyou
dont have that feeling in the city.
"Excuse me, sir. Can I quote you on that and get it
wrong in the morning?"
On the way to the bar, we run into a charming, bleached-blonde
tomcat that Michael knows from the city. What are
you doing out here? Michael asks, knowing it takes
a bulldozer to get a Manhattan boy off his ass and across
the bridge. Are you kidding? Its a gay nirvana
out here, its great! he shouts over the music,
and then adds with a giggle, This is where the straight
boys come to be gay!
Brilliant. In five short hours, the Abbey has turned itself
inside out. We suck down our beers and make for the door,
tired but content. Theres one hell of a gay scene
going on in Williamsburg, all right, you just have to drum
up the moxy to go hunting after midnight. And to think,
the week is just getting started.
(email me at [email protected])
Yes, Virginia, there is a gay Williamsburg. Stay tuned
for more bars next month. Pay attention, son, and we
just may get you laid after all.