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Gay Williamsburg, Part Two:
Two Fags, A Hag, and One Incoming Lesbian


your favorite "hag" Cindy with Michael

I know, I know—you missed us. You were searching wildly for the next queer scene and your fearless leaders left you stranded. Relax, once again Michael, Carter, Amy and I track some fine gay nightlife and offer up our livers to the greater cause. Lest you get bored with us (snicker), we even find some fresh meat to drag out on our quest. That would be Stephen, and he's got a fine, saucy lip—but you'll read all about that later. We go to great bounds for you, we really do. Why, you ask? Because we care, dammit. That, and we like to drink. So until they form some kind of gay knitting group, we'll take on the job.

We heard that Blu Lounge (197 Driggs) has a Drag Queen-hosted karaoke night on Tuesdays and decide it'll be our first hit. We get there early, at 10, and track down the DJ, Wicks, a gentle Sri Lankan man who runs the song lists. He informs us that Barbie-Q (our hostess) won't be getting there for at least another hour, but directs us to a snug, velvety bench in the back room that'll allow us a good view of the show. Good thing, too—the place is already filling up with big groups drinking saki (saki! good lord!). It's a handsome place, with cozy round-table seating and watery candles. The crowd is unassuming and friendly.

We give it a once over and eye each other suspiciously. "Ahem," Michael breaks the silence, "It doesn't seem very gay." Uh-oh. I look to Carter hopefully, but I get a slow affirmative "Yep." We chat up the guys in front of us, a super-friendly group of Italian fellas from Queens who hit Blu Lounge every Tuesday night. I ask Joe, their entertaining front man, what brings them over to this borough every week? "Everyone's down to have fun at this bar. Not like Queens, where people are looking to start a fight by the end of the night."

The Abbey
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 late-late night.

Blu Lounge
Time to get your geek on. Sunday nights nights boast drag-queen karaoke, and it's freakish fun. Barbie-Q, the Grand Madame, gets lazy hipsters off their brooding stools and keeps the party moving all night long. Not so gay a crowd, but-You can tell everybody this is your song. It may be quite simple but…

BQE Lounge
Thursday night's spanking new Dyke Party pays homage to all the local girls that carted their asses to the city for years. Finally, you can booze and cruise in the hood. Killer music, purty girls, and ample room to kick back.

Level X
Colorful, stylish lounge that hosts Williamsburg Homosexual Learning Center on Sunday nights. Art-cuties and they’re admirers frolic to crowd-thumping DJ mixes and campy films. Make goo-goo eyes at David, the finest bartender in Williamsburg.

Luxx
Luxx suxx. On Saturday nights, anyways. But don't take it from me-pay the cover charge, slap down $4 to the coat-check punk, and get pushed around by the super-sceney club brats. Or just go out in Manhattan, where at least you'll get laid for your efforts.

Stinger Club
Loud, seedy and humming with s-e-x on Sunday nights. Hit the dance floor or get naked for a free shot at the bar—either way, you’ll have a killer hangover in the morning. But then again, so will that hot indie rock boy you took home with you.

Sweet Mama's
You gotta eat sometime. Roll out of bed on Sunday and get some fried chicken & eggs at the bar. Say hi to Matthew, the bartender, and eyeball his cute boyfriend, Jorge. It's unethical as hell, but you can compensate with a fat tip.


Stay tuned for more bars soon.

Sure enough, when Barbie-Q sashays in at 11:20 (fabulously late, but of course), Joe and the boys light up like firecrackers. In fact, the whole laid back crowd goes wild. She's a sight to behold—thigh high fishnets, jet-black bob, commando tank top—and toting a plastic machine gun just for the hell of it. Gay night or no—we're staying, and Michael's already pouring over the song list.

Barbie-Q grabs the microphone and gets the crowd going with a belting rendition of Shania Twain's "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" She dedicates the country pop-tart song to her Tanqueray gin.

We move up to the front (that's where all the action is) and end up staying there all night. Okay, so it's not a gay night—hell, even the drag queen is a straight guy from Lincoln, Nebraska. But when we leave at three a.m., the party is still going full force, with a huge group dancing wildly around Barbie-Q and some guy screeching out "Purple Rain." In a neighborhood that is in danger of taking itself too seriously, Karaoke Night is a wake-up call. Drunk, singing hipsters are wonderfully silly and frivolous and dare I say it—gay as hell.

Paging Amy. You have a lesbian wake-up call at midnight on Thursday. Please report to BQE Lounge (300 North Sixth) for ladies galore. I repeat, ladies galore. Finally, we find the girls-apparently, they've all been hiding out at BQE's self-proclaimed Dyke Party on Thursday nights. I rouse Amy and put in the phone call to Michael and Carter (looks like they'll be the hags tonight).

BQE is a swank lounge, with soft banquette seating along the walls and low-lit filmy lighting. It's almost languid inside, and you can see why it's the perfect backdrop for hosts Michelle and Kate's spanking new lesbian party. I could go on at length about how down-to-earth and charming this couple is, but I'll just give you an example. When my tape recorder breaks (oh dear, is that battery acid or vodka all over my Duracell?), Michelle actually drives home to get me her tape recorder. As in—leaves her own damn party to cover for this deadbeat journalist. Classy, I say.

Barbie-Q

I ask Michelle how this two-month old party got started—"Well, I've lived in Williamsburg for eight years, and I love this neighborhood and have seen it grow. But you see all these queer people and no queer parties—so, the boys came in and there are a few boy nights, but still nothing for women. And everyone's trekking from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and there should be something here. I mean-this is the coolest spot."

I agree, and it takes some pluck to take on Thursday night's Gloss party at Meow Mix. But they don't aim to compete—they're more than happy to provide the pre-party for neighborhood girls seeking casual down time before hitting the city. And lately, some locals are choosing to not cross the river at all. They're thinking—why bother?

Kate and Michelle take turns spinning unique girl-rock bands, the crowd is hip and young, and get this—you can actually sit down. They're even hard at work on a new Gamine Zine for the neighborhood, which will feature music reviews, art commentary, fiction—the whole nine yards. What can I say? The lighting's good, the mood is set, and, lest we forget, the requisite beautiful bartender is in the house.

Amy and I exchange glances, and agree, "It's always about the bartender." Her name is Emily, you letches, and she's sweet as pie—even when I snap her photo against her wishes. She insists she's "all PMS'ey and gross", but we'll let you be the judge of that. She tells me that it gets busiest between 11 and 1, but the real gravy is the buy-one-get-one free happy hour from 6 to 9.


Emily

Meanwhile, Carter and Michael have been lurking in the upstairs loft, where they claim there's a secret enclave of men gathering for drinks. "It's like they've all been banished to the kitchen for tea while the girls watch the ballgame," Carter giggles. I reprimand them to come downstairs and be selfless for the cause—to get Amy laid. She sets her sights on a lanky brunette in the corner who is, she claims, giving her the "fuck-me eyes". I'm not so sure about that, given the brunette's seating arrangement—perched on the lap of her androgynous would-be girlfriend. I smile feebly at Amy, not wanting to discourage, "Maybe they're swingers."

The rest of the crowd is mixed. Amy remarks that they're a bit butch, but I disagree. These girls are pure neighborhood—soft and feminine, but with a nice edge. I'll call them the Daphne's (paying homage to a hot little friend of mine): studded belts, peppered piercings, and short, styled hair framing delicately pretty faces.

The atmosphere at BQE Lounge is so good that I even find two straight guys sipping beers in the corner who aren't here to be all creepy and voyeuristic.

"No, It's just nice here, that's all. It's warm and inviting and there's good music" one of them tells me, and then the other laughs, "Yea, fuck the dirty old punk rock bars."

Hey... I like dirty old punk rock bars, but the BQE Lounge will do jut fine too.

The next stop on our quest comes on Saturday night at the supposedly grand gay party, Berliniamsburg at Luxx (256 Grand Street). It's a shame we didn't nail a visit to Luxx before the Village Voice laid out that fat spread on electroclash in early April. It was probably fine before the hype machine kicked in. How to put this oh-so delicately—Luxx suxx. At least the night we went, anyways. I hear the shows are good. Ah, but I digress; let me start at the beginning.

Carter, that bastard, goes out of town for the weekend, so we're forced to replace him with the indomitable Stephen, who bravely takes on the challenge. We meet early in the city, at the bar where Michael bartends, and proceed to tie one on—both figuratively and literally. Stephen gets his shoestring caught in the barstool. Why must you know this? Because it's the last fleeting moment of joy in the evening.


Stephen Stuck

After much ado, we head into Brooklyn around 1 a.m. and we're all in good spirits. Until we hit the door guy at Luxx, who's well, basically a prick. I try to tell him that we're doing a piece on them three times, and he cuts me off mid-sentence three times with a crude, banal "Ten dollars." Paying the cover doesn't bother me, in fact, we contacted the club super late asking for guest passes. I just thought he might let me finish my sentence, but we all know uber-cool people don't have to be nice. To hell with it—I'm ready to have a good time and we head downstairs to check our coats.

I check my coat and add a small bag to the same hanger (same damn hanger!), and receive a curt, "That'll be $4 then," from the coat-check guy. And you thought Oznot's Dish was price hiking? By the way, you have to check your coat, because there isn't an open seat in sight.

When we get upstairs, we ask this guy who's standing near a table if we can sit for a minute. "Nope," he drawls, mean as hell. We grab the open one next to him. "Not that one either," he snarls, staring dully over our shoulders.

If you're imagining a really hot big-boy punk right now, open your eyes. This fucker is five-foot five and wearing a woven belt. It's an ugly scene and a really pretentious crowd, but I check with the boys to make sure it's not my imagination. Michael gives me a face; "Everyone here thinks they're working at Moomba, for christsakes."

Michael, $4 poorer for checking his coat

Stephen chimes in, "But the music's good and Mike Albo is cruising me." Perfect—we decide to send the most optimistic one (Stephen, at this point) back to check out the dance floor while we cruise a seat near the bar. Michael heads wearily to the bar for a round of beers, only to come back smiling. "I talked to the female bartender for a minute. She was pretty nice." I send Michael over to snap her photo because she's got killer style, she reminds me of the chick from Mellencamp's "Hurt So Good" video.

Stephen returns within five minutes, looking dour. He plops down next to us and heaves a sigh, "Horrible. Just horrible. I barely made it to the dance floor—there were far too many sweaty, plain girls wearing feather boas in my way."

Michael and I collectively cringe. We try to surmise what's wrong with the place—the sex-driven New Wave music is good, there's plenty of space, and it's dirty in all the right places. Bottom line-it's the crowd. It's that entire Manhattan sceney attitude without the salt or irony. Stephen and Michael lament, "There's no sexual energy whatsoever." If the artifice has to be there, the only compensation is a little heat. And don't even get me started on that asshole guarding the seats. He's still standing next to those two empty tables almost an hour later.

The Luxx bartenders. We like them.

We actually rock, paper, scissors it to see who has to go downstairs and deal with the entrepreneurial coat check guy, who I'm scared will shake my pockets for change. We send the rookie, and then head for the Blu Lounge because we know we'll find a seat and a laid back crowd. There's no gay boys at Blu, but there's no attitude either, and that's a step in the right direction.

Determined to end the weekend right, I call Michael to treat him to brunch the next day at a new restaurant called Sweet Mama's (559 Lorimer). We eat a damn good Southern meal at the bar and chat up the barkeep, Matthew, and his really hot boyfriend Jorge seated next to us. We end up wasting away our Sunday afternoon with their friends dropping in left and right, and I tell them I'm adding them to the crawl.

We drink way too much coffee and talk up the idea of revolutionizing the Williamsburg Gay Brunch scene—with Matthew it's golden muse. "How are you going to squeeze it in?" Jorge laughs, donning his best fey accent, "Luxx sucked, but we met the nicest two homos at a restaurant the next day."

So tasteless, I couldn't have put it better myself.

-Cindy Price
(email me at [email protected])

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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | May 2002 | Issue 26
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