Last night I experienced one of the most spectacular shows in all the drag I have seen. All the Queen’s Men made their eastside debut last night at ALL AXS and they knew how to bring the show. This amazing group rolled into town, took over the bar, and left the crowd begging for more. And, like I said, the best Drag King show I have ever had a chance to see. Their energy definitely took over the crowd and they knew how to work it. And they were part of the amazing shows that Billy Welker is bringing to his customers to make ALL AXS the most inclusive and friendly place to be in Willoughby.
Angelica Arkett, Terri Mann, Mr. Ohio King All-Star Matt Cockrin, and Santana Romero make up All the King’s Men. If you have never been to a King show, then it is definitely something you need to experience. Sure, Queens can turn a look and duck walk across your wallet for tips, but Kings show the sexy side of male performers that both men and women fall for. My own experience with King shows were back home in Virginia and while they were fun, they were nothing like the show I experienced last night. Angelica was a captivating host, kept the audience engaged with her quick with on fleek lip syncs. Terri Mann is the MAN behind the show and just left you wanting to open your wallet for him. Your current reigning Mr. Ohio King All-Star Matt Cockrin gave you smoky intense and soulful lip syncs that just made your heart skip a beat. Santana Romero brought you flavor and rhythm that made you want to move your hips to his beat.
This group was crowd interactive and boy did the patrons eat it up. Many times, they were dragging the women to their feet to sweep them up in their intensity, while Angelica entranced the men and left the swooning. For some it this was their first ever show and for others it was their first ever King show. No matter which they were All the King’s Men treated them like familiar lovers, giving them more and leaving them wanting. High energy and captivating was the theme for each half of the show. The crowning performance, for me, was Terri Mann who performed a song mashup of 30+ songs, talk about turning it out.
I would like to say thank you for All the Queen’s Men for coming out and making an awesome Tuesday night at All AXS. You guys were incredible, and I loved the show. If you missed the show, never fear they will return, and don’t quote me, on March 25th. If I am wrong, I will update this post with the correct date. When they return, make sure you are there with your dollars out and ready to have an awesome time.
Friday February 15, 2019 was the first LGBTQ night after All AX’S had their grand opening as an LGBTQ inclusive bar two weeks before. I wanted to check it out to see the differences from that visit. The idea of having a LGBTQ bar destination on the east-side of town is still an amazing idea. While many people feel the decline of LGBTQ bars is no big deal, I feel that it is important is providing structure to a community especially in a part of town that doesn’t have a lot of LGBTQ options.
Billy Welker is the owner behind All AX’S and is committed to making this spot all inclusive. A few of us had reached out to give a few suggestions on how to get the word out to the local community. One easy one that I suggested was to get equality stickers or rainbow stickers so that anyone would be able to identify it as a safe place. Upon walking up to the bar, we noticed the stickers in the main windows. Not overly stated, but if you know what you are looking for, they are a nice reminder that this bar is welcoming. Just peeking into the bar, it was easy to notice that there were more people this time.
You could hear the music from the outside and was a nice beat. I knew that it was going to be DJ Toni Freeze and her set is always good. Always a great combination of modern and classic dance beats. There was about 20 people in the bar and was a good turnout of only the second publicized night of it being a LGBTQ club. The vibe of the bar was warm and fun, all seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere. If you read the first review of the bar, I mentioned that it had a kitschy atmosphere that is truly inviting. The walls are covered with vinyl record album covers, strings of multicolored lights stretch between the columns of the bar, bright mirrors behind the liquor selection gives it a larger appearance.
The have a good selection of beers and liquor and the prices are really good. A few beers and couple mixed drinks definitely do not set you back as much as many of the places downtown. The drinks are mixed well and skew a bit more to the liquor side, rather than the mixer. Their beer selection offers a lot of local flavors, as well as plenty larger labels. Food menu is more to just bar foods. You can find shrimp baskets, burgers, wings and fries, plenty enough to help soak up the night of drinking. There is a patio out back and will be awesome once the weather warms up for enjoying it.
Many people were saying how awesome it was or that they couldn’t believe there was a gay bar in Willoughby. So, the word is out, and people are reacting to it. The entire time I was there I only heard a couple people have anything to say that wasn’t tinged with excitement. There were a few heterosexual people who did ask if the people in the bar were gay. Once they answered, that was about it. Only one seemed to make any kind of joke about it. The bar stayed busy up until about midnight, when I left.
I talked with Ms. DJ Toni Freeze and she asked how we liked the music. I told her that it was a great mix of songs, current Top 40 and back to the 80s. She mentioned that she thought people were reacting well to what was being played and that she tried changing up the music depending on the people that were in the bar. We talked a bit more about her set and style of music and she was happy that Billy offered her a reoccurring gig at the bar. I feel that her style of music will be a good balance for all people that come to the bar and not alienate any particular group. DJ Freeze also has a website for being able to download music she has put together and you can download them here.
This Friday, All AX’S will be hosting a drag show starring Veranda L’NI and will host Kari Nickels, Aurora Thunder, and Natasshja Norielle. The show starts at 10:30 with no cover charge, I mean how can you beat that. This will be a good measure of how the success of the bar will be. If you are in the area you really need to come out and give your support to the bar and check out a good show. I have seen Veranda several times, since I have moved to Cleveland and she always puts on a great show and works the crowd well.
Billy Welker is doing everything he can to make this a destination and it is going to take you guys coming out and supporting it. If you have ideas of things you would like to see at the bar, you can drop a line in the comments section or better yet, visit the bar and let the staff know. Show your support and interest. Let’s make it a fun place to be and make the bar a success.
Okay squirrel friends, I decided to get back to what this blog was to be about and review things from a gay man in Cleveland’s perspective. So today I bring you a review of a new bar in Willoughby, Ohio and their plans to make it more inclusive for our community. Bear with me as I share my feelings over this review.
On January 26th, I received a post on Facebook regarding an invite to an event near me, in Willoughby, Ohio. Bill Hartman posted in the Gay Men in Cleveland group posted that there was going to be a “Grand Opening” for a possible East Side Cleveland location as a LGBTQ friendly bar. Of course, I was excited, being an Eastsider. I go to Willoughby often, on the outward, it appears to be a very welcoming town. It boasts a fantastic pagan shop called Enchanted Grove that is owned by someone I have known for the better part of 18 years. So, the very thought of there being a place that was inclusive of LGBTQ people really excited me. The bar that would host the event only recently opened in October of 2018 and is called All Axs.
Prior to the February 2nd event for LGBTQ, I stalked their Facebook page to learn as much about them as possible. From the page I could tell that it was a rock bar, obviously, because of the name All Axs. The owner of the bar is younger and has high hopes of the success of the bar. The location of the bar was previously a restaurant known for a great burger Willoughby. The owner had retired from the business a few years back and it had changed hands and became a bar that closed before this new iteration. According to the post on Gay Men in Cleveland it was an event to be billed as “A gay bar on the East side of Cleveland? A new adventure in the heart of the downtown Willoughby scene! Hopefully if all goes well, there will now be an East side option!” The time frame of the event was between 7pm and 2am on Friday February 2nd.
A friend of mine decided to head out with me to share in the experience of the prospect of an east side gay bar. We met for dinner at Nickleby’s in Willoughby and then head to the bar. Upon arrival it was a cute little old school rock bar. Walking in I was met with a riff from Lynyrd Skynyrd and quickly brought me back to my southern roots. Three older gentlemen at the corner of the bar welcomed us and said looked like I loved the kind of music playing over the speakers and not that rap crap. It gave me a slight chuckle. It was a small crowd, we were two of about nine people in the bar. This quickly told me that I may have either arrived too late or miscalculated the date. Once inside, we both order a Jack and Coke and I pull out my phone to check Facebook. There I notice that Bill and his crew had arrived about two hours earlier, which would have made it a bout 7pm. I responded that I had just got there and sorry that I missed him. He responded that they were also going to do an event on the next night, Saturday February 3rd, and have DJ Toni Freeze there. I decided to just enjoy the night and see how the bar feels and progresses.
The crowd stayed small while we were there and to my dismay no another LGBTQ person came in. It was predominantly heteronormative couples complaining that the crowd was small. The bartender, Kat, mentioned that the crowd varied dramatically depending on the day. I headed to the restroom and noted that the decor of the restroom was one of the gayest things I had seen anywhere. There were album covers from the 60s to 80s that included Joan Baez to Pat Benatar. There was even a Steve Martin album cover of him in drag. It was kitschy and amazing all at once. I felt this would be a very cool spot for an LGBTQ inclusive bar.
Once I got back, I looked to my friend and mentioned that maybe I should ask about the turn out for the LGBTQ event that was supposed to have taken place earlier. I pulled up the event on my phone and asked Kat how the event went earlier. Her initial response was that it wasn’t tonight, it was another night. I showed her the date and said it was supposed to happen earlier tonight. Once we started talking about how the event went, Kat confided in me that she liked be bartender, but he was young and had weird ideas. Her opinion was that if it was going to continue that it should only be held once a month. She felt the clientele wouldn’t be receptive to it. She continued to say that if it was to happen that she would prefer it to be held in the other side of the bar and have their own DJ or whatever. Kat confided that the staff may not be as accepting as the owner would be, that he was young and had a lot of ideas.
At this point, apparently, she didn’t know that I was gay. So, I decided to let her know the reason I came to the bar was because of the event. Her face changed at that point and she quickly said, “Oh by door swings both ways so I am not against it, but the town may not be as encouraging.” After I outed myself to her, she did to tell me how accepting she is of LGBTQ people, even in her own life. Like I said, Kat is an amazing bartender. Responsive to her guests, always has a quick turn of phrase, and makes you feel at ease. In my years of coming to Willoughby, I have never had a problem feeling, that being a gay man, that I wouldn’t be accepted. Like I mentioned earlier, I am friends with a shop owner in downtown Willoughby and she is very accepting of LGBTQ people and talked of how welcoming Willoughby is, so this was a bit of a shock to me.
I have high hopes for the possibility of having a location on the east side of Cleveland where LGBTQ can go and feel accepted. Whether or not this is the bar for this to happen is a harder thing to discuss. It has only been open for about four months and it’s just starting to develop its character. Over all, the bar and the experience was fun. The people were down to earth and welcoming. Kat was an amazing bartender and that means a lot in a bar. The atmosphere was fun with its nod to classic rock, even over Pandora, and had a small but good selection of beer. The Jack and Coke that I had was well mixed and not watered down like in many bars. I hope there was enough turn out tonight and tomorrow that would warrant the owner to continue having LGBTQ events. I think having more of a dance club atmosphere and maybe even moving to performances could be an asset to the establishment, but it is hard to gauge from the outside. It’s early, but I hope for the best. It would be great to have a place on this side of town to go to and have fun.
So to end out the week, I am opting for a lighter tone. Something that is more fluff and feel good. Without further ado…
I realize that when you talk about RuPaul to the LGBTQ community you get varied responses. She is idolized by some and hated by others, but you cannot deny that she has been a major influence on LGBTQ culture for over 20 years. That is saying something. It is not often that any trend really survives in gay culture or any culture. From here meager beginnings as a go-go dancer to her stellar level of fame in RuPaul’s Drag Race, she is an indominable force. I was first introduced to her by the first love of my life in a movie titled Wigstock and have been an ardent fan ever since. Coincidently, she is also the reason that I have been a huge drag fan, well that and because my first love was a drag queen, as well.
RuPaul Charles has built an empire around the brand of RuPaul. Music, movies, tv shows, podcasts, makeup, and now literature. Her newest work is called GuRu. It is simply a pocket-sized book that acts as a fearless and fabulous compass for your journey. It is filled with pages that offer brief glimpses into what created RuPaul’s fierceness and combines it with quotable outtakes to help you see things from a different perspective. It’s less the how to live manual and more of the “let’s have a kiki and dish some tea” perspective. The often-simple insights really just point us to remember that life isn’t as serious as we often times make it out to be.
We live in a world that is so fast paced and “in our head” focused that we have forgotten that part of life is the show person side. This book helps in remembering to take care of yourself with those show person moments. The forward is simply titled “Everybody Say Love” and it is that simply phrase that can be some impactful. Love is the one gift we all need and the one gift that is much better given than kept. Simply allowing ourselves to love who we are can change our view on the world. I know, I know that sounds like some Dr. Phil bullshit right there, but that doesn’t mean it is any less true. We are told daily we aren’t good enough and that there are other people better. Many of us have come from abusive pasts that beat us into submission where we cannot see any good in ourselves. That is the lack of love
Yes, many of the quotes and sections can be kitschy, but there can be nuggets of truth found in each one. Take the quote on the inside cover, “By Fixing Only One Piece of the Jigsaw Puzzle, You’ll Miss Seeing the Whole Picture.” That is a great truth, when we focus on one small issue, we may be missing the larger that is causing the problem. Someone makes a negative comment to you while you are out shopping and you obsess over it, you can believe that person had the audacity to say such a horrendous thing. That in turn causes you to neglect more important issues, you’re being upset takes away from you focusing on driving in traffic and you make a lane change without looking causing an accident. All of this from one simple action, okay fine that is an over simplification, but the point is still valid.
There are some great nuggets of wisdom in the book that I truly like “The Phrase ‘Please Refrain From’ should be replaced with ‘Bitch, Please’.” A simple statement that means do not let anyone or anything hold you back. If someone tells you that you cannot do it, it should become your opportunity to not only go ahead and do it but show them why you were meant to do it. My second favorite is, “Folks gonna talk shit about your anyway, so you might as well just go ahead and do your own thing.” That statement doesn’t need much clarification. We are a judgmental society, each of us, and it should not prevent us from living “our” lives in “our” way. After all, we won’t be answering to the nay-sayers of the world.
If you are looking for some sage new perspective on life and how to fix it, then this book isn’t for you. It is written with the whole concept of trying to show you that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Remember that you aren’t getting out of it alive, anyway. I really enjoyed the book and it is a quick read. Lots of chuckle moments combined with sharing of personal experiences that shaped RuPaul’s journey upward. I will leave you with one of RuPaul’s quotes and it is one that I truly believe in.” Never pass up on an opportunity to wear a fancy outfit, even if you’re the only one who appreciates it.”
Shortly after I officially came out and met the person that was probably my soul mate, I was introduced to a great many things. One of them was LGBTQ cinema and no I am not just talking about porn. I had never known there were movies that dealt with people that felt the same things I did. The small town I grew up in, I wasn’t even truly aware if there were others like me, in retrospect there were probably far more than I will ever know. My first love had what seemed an extensive library of LGBTQ films, though they did skew more towards gay male perspectives.
Today’s LGBTQ kids may have not even heard of many of them. Oh sure, you cant turn on the television without seeing the Birdcage still. VH1 still shows the Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and you cant go a full year without seeing Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. But these are mainstream because just as many heterosexuals find them entertaining. Much like the Kevin Kline travesty “In & Out.” Most of these have one big thing in common, they do not show LGBTQ life in reality but as we are seen by heterosexual people. Sadly, most of the movies from that boundless library he had were filmed with straight men and many were a little campy, none the less they are still in our history. And there are a few that are my favorite, so bear with me as I give you a list some of them.
The first film that we watched together was It’s My Party (1996), a movie that dealt with the very raw subject of living with AIDS. This film hit me hard because it was based on the true-life party of Harry Stein, an accomplished architect and designer. His real-life partner, Randall Klieser, directed the film and the party that was the topic of the movie took place in 1992. It hosted some big names, as well as some up and coming names, like Eric Roberts, Gregory Harrison, Olivia Newton-John, Bronson Pinchot, and Margret Cho. Nick Stark is the main character of the movie and decides to host a two-day party where he invites him friends and family over to celebrate his life and them being apart of it, at the end of the party Nick would take his life. Nick had contracted a disease that would leave him in a vegetative and memory lapsed state hooked to a machine to keep him alive. He had watched many of his friends die from the same disease and did not want to endure. The movie is about the struggle of a couple whose relationship died due to the disease and was reconnected because of it, as well.
Next would be the movie Jeffrey (1995), which stars Steven Weber, Michael T. Weiss, Sigourney Weaver, Kathy Najimi, and Patrick Stewart. Steven Weber Plays Jeffrey who is a gay man who loves sex at the height of the AIDS epidemic. He had been used to night after night of men and sex until he noticed the trend of his “tricks” asking for proof of his HIV status. This spirals him into disarray as he decides he is going to swear off sex. He then meets Steve (Michael T. Weiss) who is attracted to Jeffrey, but Steve has a secret. It’s a movie about a guy who is afraid of falling in love with someone who has AIDS and watching them die only to be left alone. It was a movie that challenged my perceptions and allowed me to grow. Sure that is giving this movie a lot of credit, but the cameos in it are hilarious and the story is on point about loving someone for who they are and not what they may have.
Love! Valour! Compassion!(1997) Okay, this started out in 1995 as a play, but its tour on Broadway allowed it to become a movie in 1997. In it you will find Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and John Glover among others. The movie takes place over three summer holidays in a lakeside house in upstate New York. The main character is going through a gay midlife crisis about his creativity and worth and surrounds himself with his friends that are directly tied to his artistic career. The course of the three holidays leads the group run the gamut of topics like infidelity, soul searching, AIDS, life and death. This leads to skinny dipping and flirting with the grand finale being a dress rehearsal of Swan Lake in drag.
Torch Song Trilogy(1988) Another movie that was adapted from a play, written by Harvey Fierstein. This movie included Harvey Fierstein, Anne Bancroft, and a young Matthew Broderick as the star line up. The play spanned four hours, but New Line cinema insisted that it be edited to a two hour running period. The play was written about a female impersonator named Charles Pierce, who was a noted Betty Davie impersonator. Harvey created the lead role, Bertha Venation, aka Arnold Beckoff, for him to portray. The story starts in 1971 where Arnold meets his first love Ed while being dragged to a bar after a night’s show. After meeting Ed, who is still battling accepting being gay, leaves Arnold for a female named Laurel. Two years later in 1973, Arnold meets the love of his life Alan, played by Matthew Broderick. Ed has married Laurel and invited Arnold and Alan to the country for a weekend visit. This proves to be awkward but reinforces the commitment between them. They move in together, plan to adopt a gay child, and get an apartment. On the eve of their first night in their new place, Alan is killed by a group of gay bashers, This leads Arnold into a spiral that climaxes when Arnold’s mother comes for a visit. For me, it is one of the few that shows the struggles of being LGBTQ in a world that still doesn’t fully accept us as we are.
There are others, more modern films that also fall into my favorites list, but these listed are from the library of what I devoured when I met Shawn. These are ones that have had huge impacts on me, in various ways. They will remain a part of my history and are ones I always recommend to people who have never seen them, the same way Shawn did for me. If you haven’t seen them, please check them out. Let me know if you enjoy them.
“Knock three times on the ceiling, if you want me. Twice on the pipe if the answer is no…” The art of cruising has evolved so much over the years. The signals gay men once used to express interest are all but a lost art form. Mention hanky code and most may think you mean some kind of public acceptance of wiping your nose. With the onset of technology, we are able to dial down someone within a few hundred yards as opposed to carefully displaying ourselves and watching to see if there is interest. Taking a look at how we meet and even entertain ourselves seems important now that Tumblr is disappearing.
Our world today is fairly easy. We can whip out our smartphones and pull up the most recent iteration of a cruisy app to find other gay men around us. From there we can plan a hookup or possibly start a relationship. In the recent past it was a bit more convoluted. The 1920s was an era of decadence, one that had many bars and clubs owned by gay and lesbian men. As the economy crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s happened, many things changed. Many felt that the openness and experimentation of the 20s led to the current state of affairs. Laws were put into place that prohibited any gay person from congregation in public places. The once bars, restaurants, and cabarets ran by so many were not put in jeopardy. Establishments that employed them or allowed to them to gather where threatened with losing their liquor licenses. Movies were no longer allowed to show gay characters or themes.
During the 1930s, you also saw in increase of New York City Police using a 1923 statute that made it a criminal act for one gay male to invite another to have sex. This started the sting operations that haunted gay men cruising for sex for so long. These changes forced us to try to find new ways that we could meet each, adopting modes of dress, speech and even style. So how did that happen, you may ask. Well jewelry was a big indicator, wearing a single ear piercing in a certain ear was one of the easiest. Also the adoption of a pinky ring was another means to let others know. Around the 1960s, the Hanky Code was invented. This was an elaborate system of color, patterns, and what pocket to wear it from, all to give the viewer the knowledge if you were a top or a bottom or if like liked a certain fetish.
While these were great, sometimes it was not conducive for all men who were looking to hookup. So places became popular. The term “cruisy spot” was used to indicate a place where men who were looking for sex could meet other men. These places were prone to police raids and also became targets for violence. Bathhouses became other areas for this type of activity. Here you could carry your key or towel a certain way to show others your interest. Video booths were also popular places for the quick turn of trade. Video booths gave the added ability of purely anonymous sex and created a larger fetish scene of glory holes.
During the 1960s, mainly in Britain, the language of Palori was used as a means of speaking to other gay men without being detected. One would be able to carry on a whole conversation or be able to use is sparsely so that others may be able to pick up on it. Many of the words used during that era have stayed with us through the ages. Butchto mean masculine or masculine lesbian, Chickento mean young person, Cottaging to refer to sex in public restrooms, and Fruitto mean gay man. Our very history has been shaped by the means of the past.
As the modern era approached, we saw the Internet start to become a large presence in the lives people. The LGBTQ people were quick to embrace it. I harken back to the days of the AOL chat rooms as a means of finding guys in a specific area. It was great if you were in a new town, you could log into a regional area or even city room to meet up. This lead way to sites like MySpace, LifeOut, and other early social media sites, becoming popular means of meeting and hooking up. The days of Craigslist were not far behind, gaining popularity and growing across the country. This caused many of the earlier means of identification to pass into memory, leaving things like the Hanky Code to be used in bars or leather clubs.
As technology improved and became smaller, our phones became the way for hooking up. Combining the GPS feature and mobility allows members to find like-minded people anywhere they are in the world. Even today we still see usage of terms like bears, twinks, tops, bottoms, bully dyke, baby dykes, acdc, and bibi. Many apps have come and gone over the years, leaving the tried and true like Grindr, Scruff, and Growlr to serve most gay men on the go. Even these platforms are starting to change and evolve more.
We have also used the web and apps as a repository for our arts, history and porn. Apps like Tumblr allow members to curate content they like and share it with an audience that follows them, whether it be content they have found from other places or their own productions. As with much of our history, it is often times viewed through the outside lens of being obscene and many of these sites have very short life spans. Tumblr was started in 2007 to be a micro blogging platform. Allowing bloggers to post multimedia and short posts in a more bite sized consumable format. Tumblr gave an open format for blog owners to post adult related material, but if it was substantial amount posted that their blog be labeled as adult. The terms of service always stated that sexually explicit videos would not be allowed, but embedding code as a redirect could easily circumvent this.
It is stated by outside sources that 22% of all traffic in and out of Tumblr has pornographic related content and that 16% of the blogs were solely NSFW related. While these numbers seem relatively small, they are the largest focus for the heat the site takes, As of December 17, 2018, Tumblr has issued that all adult content will be removed from their site, with a few exceptions/explanations to this rule. This comes from the long-standing battles about the amount of adult content and recent allegations of child pornography on the site. Adult content aside, this will be a pretty significant loss to the LGBTQ history. Tumblr was useful for many transgender people posting information about the process and life. It was a means for many LGBTQ artists to showcase their art and express their views. Many of these will fall into the guidelines that Tumblr is now enforcing and will cease to exist on a social platform.
We have changed our ways of identifying ourselves throughout the years, we have adapted to society and technology as our needs saw fit. We have left outdated methods behind us or incorporated them in to new ways of usage. The lesson is that we will adapt to the changes, it may be difficult but we always find a way. How will the future change our interactions?
Today is a more chillier day in Cleveland and my canvas kilt is a bit more breezy than I thought it would be this morning. So in retaliation, I am posting to pictures I took last spring with my best friend Tammy McFarland Mellert. You can find her on YouTube, where she does reviews about camera gear and shares her photography adventures here in Ohio. You can also check out her webpage Tammy Mellert Photography. So give her a look over and while you are here, you can look at my pictures.