Volume 74, Number 8 | June 23 - 29, 2004

A special Villager supplement,

Compared to early ’80s, it’s so not gay today

By Wilson

Invisible, skeleton-like crustaceans have contaminated New York City’s water supply, Spalding Gray is dead, the Republicans are coming and the East Village is so not gay.

Long gone is Boy Bar, and its patrons’ diagonal 4 a.m. beeline to St. Mark’s Baths across the street (which I used to watch wide-eyed from my very first apartment; the one with the red door…as seen in “Sex and the City.”) Shocking early-morning “pulling-down-of-pants” sightings at the St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie graveyard on Stuyvesant St. have been replaced by thong-wearing, Central Park tree-dwellers (throwing things at cops and attracting helicopters/live media coverage in broad daylight.)

Sometimes, albeit naively, I miss the East Village of the very early ’80s. AIDS was pretty much unheard of, you wore Tenax in your hair and the drinking age was still 18. You could smoke wherever you wanted. And there wasn’t today’s pressure to have “ripped abs.” (Health clubs weren’t such a big deal back then — you went to a nightclub instead, and danced your ass off.) Nowadays, things have gotten so goddamn “Queer as Folk” serious, no way gay, very unfun. The gentrified East Village has turned into a sea of single heterosexuals on cellphones, roaming around like extras in “The Night of the Living Dead,” and tourists/out-of-towners, eating, drinking, taking up space.

It was only last year that “Wigstock” was finally allowed (for just an hour/on a trial basis) back into Tompkins Sq. Park, where it originated. (Chelsea’s “Wigstock” sucks.) And considering the grim statistics on divorce, I simply just can’t imagine some of the people I used to know from the Pyramid Club getting…married. Like, if Carson from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” ever got legally hitched, would he get awarded one half of his spouse’s assets in the event this no-doubt fashionable wedding ultimately became an unceremonious affair. Would affidavits stating “top versus bottom” get wheeled out in court? (With an F.C.C. out of control, where only dumb-blonde and lawyer jokes are safe, please allow my sanitized “King of All Media”-inspired addendum, thank you.)

Practically the only thing left Downtown that’s both gay and fun is in the West Village — the Gay Pride Parade (commemorating 1969’s Queer Bastille Day, according to “Queer Street: The Rise and Fall of an American Culture, 1947-1985,” by James McCourt). Last year I went by accident, and had a blast. I had even warned friends with cars to avoid that part of town, but when I was out doing errands I heard this really great ’80s anthem (Gloria Gaynor? Donna Summer? The Village People!) booming in the distance. I literally started running towards the music — and ended up staying the entire time, dancing down the sidewalk, collecting beads and trinkets. I was happy. Gay!!!

This year though, I’m a bit leery about going. I’m afraid that previously entertaining parade participants dressed in homoerotic/sadomasochistic costume (leather collars, leashes, master/slave getups, etc.) will only remind me of graphic current events in the news about tortured prisoners and soldiers/contractors in Iraq, around the world and throughout history; how Turkey (the country) never fully recovered from the movie “Midnight Express;” and that, most depressingly, Rome is burning, one nation, unconstitutionally, “under God.”

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