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Where the
Boys Aren't

Where the
Boys Aren't


Finding old-school gay shame is more difficult than ever. Even at Christmas.

"You have to work on Christmas Eve EVE?" wailed my husband.

"People not having conniptions call it December 23. But yeah, I have to work."

"But that's White Christmas night!"

We had planned to go see White Christmas. I know, dorky. But we like it. It was playing at a revival theater here in Los Angeles. Somehow the husband believed I would take the night off from the every-Friday-night DJ gig at the leather-bear-no-dancing bar I worked at. But I didn't even try to make it happen. I like money. And I loved the idea of working at a gay bar so close to Christmas.

Here's why: Some of My Best Friends Are... Never heard of it? It's this amazing 1971 exploitation movie about pinkie-ring gays in a bar on Christmas Eve, a situation best summed up in the words of one of the movie's homo-hating straights: "Where else does a fag have to go?" It stars people like Rue McClanahan, Fannie Flagg, Gary Sandy, and Gil Gerard. In other words, old people you've never heard of. Except for Rue McClanahan. Somehow even the young gays are into The Golden Girls. Anyway, every guy in this movie has a scarf knotted around his neck and is calling another man "Mary." Oh, and Warhol superstar Candy Darling is in it too. She gets beaten up -- the film's idea of getting off easy. Anyway, think The Boys in the Band, but way less mouthy, more resigned, depressive, and Well, I guess I asked for loneliness when I chose this wayward lifestyle. And to think they call it 'gay.' Like I said, amazing.

So obviously I was really into the idea of being up in my DJ booth for an all-seeing view of what would happen in a gay bar on an actual almost Christmas Eve. There was going to be tragedy all around, dark souls brooding, each solitary invert making The Night his lover. I had to witness that. I took my bag of CDs and headed in the direction of Lonely Street.

They'd decorated the place with multicolored blinking Christmas tree lights. Even the chain-link thing where guys get themselves cuffed and flogged. The bartenders were changing shifts, the going-home ones putting shirts back on, the coming-in ones taking them off. It's that kind of place. I started my set with a cover of Elton John's "Step Into Christmas" by noisy U.K. guitar band the Wedding Present. Then I played another five hours of rock 'n' roll. And people drank. And small groups of gays came in and greeted other small groups of gays. And then they'd leave, their laughter ringing out, mocking my needs. I ordered a medium-size pizza, ate the whole thing between CD changes, and spent some time fantasizing that this bar would be perfect if only it served root beer floats, because they go great with pizza. And then, around midnight, the smaller-than-average crowd cleared out. I spent the next two hours playing music for me, the bartenders, and two guys who were getting to know each other a whole lot better in one of the darker corners of the already dark bar. When last call was called, no one took the bartender up on it. The two make-out guys had taken their show to an off-site romance spot.

The entire night, not one man sat alone drinking himself into a stupor. No one collapsed in a heap, bawling, "Bonjour, tristesse!" No one howled in anguish over the cruel trick nature had played on him. No brave drag queens joked their way through the pain. So, yeah, totally dull. I never get what I want for Christmas.

The next day, the husband and I watched White Christmas on DVD while he made mashed potatoes for a dozen dinner guests and I wrapped our annual turkey in bacon. (Seriously. No basting. It's awesome.) "I'm sorry the gays disappointed you," he said. "Maybe they all stayed home to binge on crystal meth."

It's sweet how he tries to comfort me.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Dave White