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Underneath the Glitter Ball

Room For Squares

We’re lucky to live in San Francisco, where everywhere we turn there’s some new gay dance party. In a city with such disparate tastes, there can be no other way. But quantity doesn’t always translate into quality.

Ever since I turned 18, I’ve been on a quest to find the best place for a gay guy to go dancing. This journey has taken me to the outer limits of queer society, from queer friendly joints in SOMA and the Mission to the strictly no-fag lands of North Beach and the Marina. My destination, if it exists, is a spot that blends the dizzying heights of disco with the melancholic despair of post punk new wave, where you can find that special someone bouncing along to the same bopper beat.

The first place I visited almost 10 years ago was Popscene. It was the only 18+ nightclub that would feed you indie cuts in the form The Smiths and The Cure along with smatterings of 90s shadow-dancing favorites like Suede and Pulp. As a newly out teen, I thought I’d find the culmination of my hipster fantasies there and to a certain extent I did. But even though Popscene is home to a bevy of fresh faced fairies, (perhaps because of its 18+ policy) most of those queens are more interested in getting down with their hags than chatting you up.

Without a fake id (and I’m not advocating them here), there really weren’t that many places for underage gay boys to go. I wouldn’t go so far as to wonder what it’s like now, but back then, Shitty Nights, sorry, City Nights, really did live up to its reputation, even on its one queer night of the week. I didn’t know that it was possible to feel ghetto dancing to Britney Spears and Madonna, but apparently I was wrong.

While there may be more ghetto options nowadays, more often than not, you risk subjecting yourself to nights like Club Loaded, where music is somewhat of a non-issue and kids are more interested in themselves than anything else. Every time I’m there I feel like grabbing one by his upturned, super-starched collar and saying: “Hey you with the asymmetrical haircut. Can you tear yourself away from your reflection long enough to quit stepping on me?”

If you’re lucky enough to be 21+, then by now you will have of course been to 1984 and Bootie, hopefully before the invasion of the yuppie bridge & tunnels. If not, then there isn’t much point in going now. And then you’ve also got all the lovely lesbian dance parties. As much as I love my dykes, and as fun as they are to get drunk with, there just isn’t much appeal to braving the super crowded bars at Rebel Girl or Hot Pants. Sure, the music is danceable enough, but once you’ve made your way up onstage, you’ll soon realize that those hot guys you were purposefully rubbing yourself up against earlier were, well…not guys in the first place.

Sadly, the Castro isn’t much better. A night at Badlands is like spending a night in an open air flea market. Jet feels like it’s trying too hard to be the LA nightclub it is so painfully not. The Bar, well there’s barely enough room to stand let alone dance. At the Café, people are less interested in dancing vertically than they are in dancing horizontally. And even though it’s not in the Castro, we’ll always have the Endup. But the last thing you want after a night of fruitless ass shaking is to end up with leftover crystal queens.

Who am I kidding, there is no perfect dancefloor underneath the glitter ball. But in searching for it, I can admit that I’ve had my share of fun. There are many more venues to visit, places like the Eagle Tavern, the Stud, El Rio, the Deco Lounge. And while I may not have reached my goal yet, I prefer to follow that old adage that says it’s not important where you end up; what matters is how you get there.