this photo cracks me up
I'm always suspicious when blackness becomes the vehicle by which someone achieves transcendence or through which someone mines "authentic" emotion. Would anyone like a gospel choir to lend emotive weight to their tepid brand of anodyne de-soul-ed, de-funk-ed/defunct, de-gospel-ed adult contemporary MOR bullshit? Anyone?
So you'll appreciate how hard I rolled my eyes when I got to the line about "being raised by black queens at Sound Factory." Still, that's probably just jealousy because I wasn't raised by black queens at Sound Factory: I was raised by the black queens who raised those other black queens and that's neither here nor there. I'm just glad to hear a straight man talking about the allure of gay clubs -- not for straight women, but for straight men. I love it when dudes surrender to their inner queen.
"Straight to the Dance Floor" -- Frank Broughton
image credit: click here
Straight to the dancefloor
Attitude wanted a straight journalist to visit some gay clubs and write about them like a horrified David Attenborough. I explained that gay clubs hadn't shocked me since the night I saw a live fist-fucking show, but I'd be happy to write about why they are often more fun than straight ones. (originally appeared in Attitude... with a very gay picture of me).
Give me some clarity of purpose. I don’t want to fuck about. If I’m in a club I want to dance until I sweat custard, with my head drowning in smiles and narcotics. Or drink until I need an address label. Or meet hot people for sex with a minimum of lying.
I’m happily hetero. My knob brings me lots of pleasure but I can’t get excited about anyone else’s. I don’t see the attraction of sleeping with a man when there are so many soft pretty girls to go after first. However, when it comes to a night out, I’ve weighed the alternatives, I’m a grown-up and I’m not about to compromise.
A straight dancefloor? Polluted with bystanders hovering like flies, choking vital dancing space, all self-consciously casual, trying to hide the lust that dragged them and their ten mates away from Formula One and frozen pizza. These well-ironed islands of uselessness shark into you smelling of Lynx, hoping no-one will rumble their evil pulling mission. And despite making no visible advances they still dream that a Mixmag vixen – that one with the orange cleavage – might suddenly put tongue to ear and beg them for a rodding.
And no eye contact: Sometimes I could suffocate in a straight club thirsting for some eyeball hockey: a casual glance, a cheeky wink, a bit of fucking human interaction. No, no, no. Just hundreds of clubbers facing the same way so they get a really clear view of the back of each other’s heads and the DJ’s exciting display of… wearing a baseball cap. ‘Wot you staring at?’ says the podium-pretty with the Twix-fronted G-string, as if you’re not supposed to notice her. ‘You looking at me/my bird/my pint?’ says the angry Anthony with the bird and the beer who really would rather be watching motor racing. Garage clubs are the keenest purgatories: dancefloors full of tempting midriffs dressed in leopard-skin shoelaces. The joke is, there’s a squadron of coked-up Moschino boyfs standing guard from the sidelines. A single flirty glance at Augusta and Delphine and before you can say twice as nice you’ve got Chris and Trevor to answer to. At some hetero hoedowns there’s less human contact allowed than your morning tube.
As the Hugh Scully of dance music, I’m acutely aware that the roots of club culture are as gay as pyjamas. Modern clubbing emerged in dark New York lofts full of newly emancipated homos. These were places where togetherness, unity and freedom were hard-won cultural victories, not just Rozalla lyrics. The straight, British version of all this dance communion finally came along with rave, but today (with a few notable exceptions) that big happy vibe only happens to music you could dig roads with. I missed the whole acid house explosion anyway, because I was off investigating journalism and poverty in New York. While the UK was busy wearing dungarees and driving round the M25 to hug mud, my girl and me were being raised by a family of black queens on the floor of the Sound Factory. A glorious introduction to clubbing and one that left me completely underwhelmed when I sampled the alternatives.
All this is why I like to party at les establishments homosexuelle. Of course I draw the line at high energy (nasty music made from cheesy covers of songs that were fairly parmesan to start with), but all things being musically equal, I would much rather frolic with you fags than bear it with the breeders. The lack of direction in straight clubs is depressing: why does everyone pretend they’re not interested in the pleasures on offer? The dancing’s half-hearted, the pulling is strictly amateur and the notion of letting your hair down seems to have died out with miners and Marathon bars.
In gay clubs people check each other out – honestly and openly; in straight clubs they pretend sex is the last thing on their mind. Sure, there’s room for ridicule and embarrassment under both regimes, and gay culture is truly merciless (no pecs, no sex), but at least you homos get on with it. Looking at faces, measuring up bodies, winking at smiles, unashamedly lusting after each other – isn’t that the whole point? I love the flirting, the teasing and the tempting; the way everyone’s clear on why they’re there and what they’re after. Boy-boy rituals seem much more fun and much less time-wasting than the red-faced dilly-dallying that happens when you add m to f. The rules are clear-cut, the vibe is conspiratorial, there’s a communal spark in the air – the basic energy of proper clubbing.
Now by definition I don’t play an active role in all this happy copping off. True, but if I’m out to enjoy the music, I prefer to be excluded from the sexual equation – being left out of the chat-race leaves my night more focused. An occasional pretty girl to decorate the dancefloor and I’m happy. When you’re off your head, when your brain thinks it’s funny to make your mouth speak martian and a pill’s shrunk your dick to age seven, the last thing you’re going to do is mate successfully. With fewer female distractions I can get on with the pressing matter at hand – escaping from the real world and losing myself dancing to the nice music.
I get a vicarious kick from the lad-lust all around me. I appreciate its honesty, it’s straightforwardness. I love the way everything is either ‘yes, gorgeous, where’s the nearest duvet?’ or ‘no fucking way fishface’, with hardly any ‘maybe, let me keep you hanging on for ages’, to confuse matters. Plus, OK, I do join in to an extent. I’m a big old flirt and I love the attention I muster from the boys. There’s a true purity in flirting with people you never intend to shag – like non-contact karate, or speaking Esperanto. It’s fun, it’s playful, it’s good for your cholesterol level.
Ask a straight girl why she goes to gay clubs. To avoid moronic chat-up sessions, to shake out the working week and to have a dance. Same as me. And like me, she’s probably envious of gay shagging etiquette, she yearns for the no-bullshit nature of homo hook-ups. She doesn’t want any pressure to join the meat-market, but she’s secretly wishing getting laid was as simple and clear-cut as it is for the fags she’s hagging.
So if a cute straight boy catches her eye on a bent dancefloor, she’s very happy for a chance to play by the rules of the house. When straight folk meet in a gay club they can take advantage of gay culture’s more civilised ways and be honest and direct with each other. If I tell a girl she’s hot at Fabric, it’s a corny line, but in a boy bar she’s allowed to take it as a compliment.
I love the atmosphere gay clubs conjure; I love the single-mindedness of it all. I love being under no pressure to play the big cool stud (please!), and I love giving vent to the queenier parts of my character. Plenty of my mates are confirmed homosexualists in any case, and I’m very happy to head out for a night out with the lads. I can just do my little Frank dance, smile at anyone who looks friendly and talk to anyone who smiles back. If it’s a boy and he gets too interested I’m well-practised in defusing the flirt. If it’s a girl, I’ll just have to surprise her. And on lusty Saturdays at Crash, when my hormones are raging for a sure thing, it’s simple to make it a BYOB party (bring your own bird).
© 2001 Frank Broughton