GT400 is out – Gay Times’ 400th Issue !!!
My feature in this issue is “Best British Gay Clubs of All Time”, one of several celebratory lists in this exciting issue. I included a broad array of gay clubs in my feature, from funky dirty stop-outs like the New Penny in Leeds all the way up to the highest echelon of gay partying like TRADE (which used to be at the superclub Turnmills). The list is past as well as present you see, so I spoke to some older guys for ideas and even checked up on a few gay celebrities like Gok Wan, Alan Carr and Brendan from Coach Trip to see where they used to take their glad rags on a Friday.
Above is a photograph of Heaven in the 1980s, published here with kind permission from Gay Times. Look at all the shirts, and all that healthy and conditioned hair! The whole affair looks very village hall, no outrageous Single Ladies routines or boys scratching clumps of brick off the walls giving their Britney impressions. No it all looks very sombre and autumnal, you can just hear Kraftwerk’s keyboard riffs steadily plonking along. Although I’m sure if something off Madonna's Immaculate Collection was playing we’d see a very different image!
I do have one partial regret with my feature, however, which is the inclusion of G-A-Y Late:
I put G-A-Y Late in my list of Best Ever Gay Clubs for its solid presence and affordability, writing “In a constantly pressurised Soho, challenged by the internet and alternative London scenes, G-A-Y Late delivers consistency, reliability and lots of hot boys”.
BUT... recently I’ve heard reports of completely sober people being refused admission at G-A-Y Late on the grounds that they look too drunk, and then told to try Heaven (which weirdly is linked to G-A-Y Late so seems a bit of an inappropriate recommendation if the door staff really do believe the person to be unsuitable for entry?).
Furthermore, I recently heard a bouncer myself stood outside G-A-Y Late saying to a group of boys “You three can come in, but he can’t”. It was astonishing to watch this man playing God, trying to fork a group of young friends apart and inflict an onus of contempt onto one innocent individual - shocking. None of them looked drunk to me, they were all nicely dressed and glowing with composure, whilst some of the boys in the smoking area looked paralytic pissing against a neighbouring builders’ site. Anyway, what would that singled-out boy do – just roam around London on his own? Thankfully they had the sense to take their party elsewhere, but it did leave me wondering – how often do door staff fracture groups of friends for no apparent reason?
Besides, even if boys are drunk, is that not the point of being out in Soho at midnight and turning up at a gay dive like G-A-Y Late? We’re all adults here. I don’t want a gay scene that is overly-surveilled, high security and nouveau-puritan. Don't even get me started on toilet security staff, sorry, I mean "perfume assistants" or whatever the fuck they're fobbed off as. I'd like to see what a Tom of Finland character would do to a security guard in a gay club toilet holding out a can of cheap deodarant...
I don’t want to single G-A-Y Late out. I’m sure they do a fantastic job generally, and we’ve all had fun nights in there. The bar certainly deserves its place in my feature – simply for existing! I don’t know if anyone else has noticed but the Soho gay scene is receding? – Like, where can you go after midnight on a Friday in Soho? Three places? Four maybe? Some say it's a hush-hush knock-knock inside job type thing, but I highly doubt it. If you own a gay bar in Soho then the last thing you want is no other gay bars nearby - the choice attracts people to the area. That's the secret of Vauxhall - you never plan what to do in Vauxhall, you just turn up with your credit card and bounce around.
But yes – I wish gay clubs would just chill out a bit on the door. You’re not the Groucho or Shoreditch House, you’re four walls, cheap vodka and a Rihanna song. The men who run these joints seem to have forgotten their own youths - we're a community of lovers, not a cattleshed of idiots. Well...
So. Got all that off my chest. You can now read my feature "Best British Gay Clubs of All Time" - and marvel at just how many wonderful gay clubs there are in Britain.
And like I said, this month’s Gay Times is “GT400” - the 400th issue. It’s great to think just how long the magazine has been around, starting out at as HIM Magazine decades before I was even born. Before the internet Gay Times was the only place men could find listings of gay bars and clubs. During the outbreak of HIV Gay Times was one of the few publications that wrote accurately and helpfully on the topic amidst an ocean of tabloid scare stories, falsity and sensation. I always like to ask older gay guys when they first bought Gay Times. 9 times out of 10 they'll have a rich and colourful story about pinching it from a newsagents in Wiltshire or stashing it in a cushion cover so Mum wouldn't notice. And here we are today – still chatting, still joking, still loving, still healthy and still strong - you see people reading GT on the tube. Fantastic.
If it wasn’t for the long hard slog of Gay Times, and their decades-long battle against institutionally homophobic advertising agencies, then we would be in the position we are today – with a range of gay magazines in Britain, both the free ones packed with club promotions and the pricier ones with their articles on gay farmers and lovely selection of Topman sweaters. I'm so indebted to a long line of serious gay journalists who stamped out a firm territory so that today, in 2011, people like me have the acceptance and creative space to blabber on about any old tit-for-tat.
GT400 comes in four different covers: Lady Gaga, Sir Ian McKellan, sexy gay diver Matthew Mitcham and openly gay X-Factor contesant Joe McElddery. All of these smashing people feature in the mag too.
My favourite features in this issue are Jamie Tabberer’s interview with Paul O’Grady, and the list of “40 Best Ever Gay Songs” compiled by gay DJ duo Hits & Mrs.
BUY YOUR COPY OF GT400 HERE NOW!