Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gay Bars Undergoing a Sex Change . . . .

"drf" and I are WAY past the stage of patronizing gay bars - or any bars, for that matter - although in our day we sure spent a few $$ and hours in them. There was that one time at "The Cove" . . . . but I digress.

Reading the following story - in The Anchorage Daily News of all places - did bring back some fond memories:

Gay bars change acts to appeal to straight customers

By JULIA O'MALLEY | Anchorage Daily News
| 03/21/09

In Mad Myrna's drag dressing room, where a J-Lo song wound out among the wigs and gowns on a recent Friday evening, Isanoel Pinson leaned into the mirror, pursed his lips a little and smeared foundation on his forehead.

Pinson, who is in his 40s, started performing drag just after he emigrated to Anchorage from the Philippines in the early '80s. His first haunt was an old bar called the Jade Room. These days the crowds that come to his shows couldn't be more different than they were back then.

"Oh. My. God," he said, applying a ribbon of glue to a false eyelash. "Before is all like gay, gay, gay. Now would you believe? Our audience is all straight people. Couples!"


From San Francisco to Pittsburgh, Boston to Nashville, gay bars are closing their doors and shuttering drag shows, citing lack of patrons.

There are plenty of theories why clientele is changing at Myrna's. People are making connections on the Internet. Growing social acceptance means there are few establishments were gays don't feel comfortable. Simply put, the need for gay bars is fading.


Soon an old-time burlesque dancer in a bustier and ruffled panties weaves through the audience starting her act. Then comes the lithe, shirtless male go-go dancer. Then the Karaoke crooner in a brown v-neck sweater. The room is full of whistles and belly laughs. There's a soldier in dress uniform and his wife in the front row.

Today's audience is usually couples or single women, Wood said.

"The girls want to go see the drag queens," he said. "Women are more tolerant than guys are."

"You can always tell the straight people," says Koeller, "because they're the ones who come on time."


Backstage not everyone is happy. But then they wouldn't be drag queens without a little drama. Pinson, affixing a 3-foot-wide Afro wig, clicks his tongue, looking at the clock. The new acts take forever. He complains in Tagalog to Joebie Fernandez, a diminutive, smooth-skinned queen, who's sorting through a tackle box of earrings. There are eye rolls all around.

The class of drag queens once at the center of the show are aging -- most are at least 40 -- and like a fading order of nuns whose convents are closing, fewer among the younger generation are stepping into their size 13 pumps.


Out on the main floor, bass from the speakers vibrates the drinks on the bar. Pinson waits off stage for her Gloria Gaynor number. Fernandez, in a leather bikini and dangling earrings, steps out to face the audience, opening a huge set of gold lamé wings into a whirl of lights.

And at least for now, the show goes on.

Let's hope it goes on for a long time . . . .


Vancouver Isle Doug said...

Fabulous story! And I loved the part about the tackle box of earrings!

Gee, it's been ages since I've seen a drag show. Oh how I miss that. Maybe if we come over for Vancouver Pride we can check one out.

michelle said...

What a great story! Never been to a drag show or heard of one for that matter, sounds really awesome!

Anonymous said...

Vancouver (Canada) should've been included in that listing, too -- gay bars wanting to attract straight folks and re-labelling themselves as merely gay-friendly.

And look what happens: a straight guy freaks out in a formerly pure-gay bar and smacks a guy, because he touched him.

That (older) guy falls down, hits his head really bad and now everybody is crying out "gay bashing!"

I'm sorry, self-made problems. Although, I have to admit that straight guy must've been an idiot if he didn't realize where he was.

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