Try as I might to deny that I’m getting a little too old for Good Old Fashioned Big Gay Weekends, every nerve and synapse is currently telling me otherwise. Pack it in, Grandad, they screech, woundingly.
But I still have my drives and my juices, I protest, unconvincingly. And anyway, look at Alan. He’s got a couple more miles on the clock than me, and he can still do it.
Yes, but even Alan knows when to call it a night. Remind us, what time did you leave the club on Sunday morning? 5am, wasn’t it? So what was that all about?
Oh, but I’m incorrigible. It’s that blasted Second Wind, coupled with the feeling that since I don’t get out much any more, I should try and squeeze every last drop of experience from the situation. And now, as Michael “Mouse” Tolliver once memorably said in Tales Of The City, I am all Gayed Out. Don’t want to get within sniffing distance of those awful places – at least not until the next time that our newly depleted gang congregates in the Lord Roberts for one of our midweek sessions.
Here’s where we went.
Friday night. We commenced our tour of inspection on Reguliersdwarsstraat: the spiritual home of Amsterdam’s twink brigade. Think Kouros, think CK1, think… well, what is the fragrance of choice for the C21st twink, anyway? I am out of touch with such matters.
The Soho bar was all faux-antiquity and “repro” stylings, with all the charm and individuality of a Wetherspoons or an All Bar One. Their attempt at cosiness was fatally sabotaged by the deafening soundtrack: a numbing parade of late 1980s and early 1990s commercial dance music, which set the musical tone for most of the weekend. Those Dutch queens sure do be loving their Crystal Waters, their Rozalla, their early-period Whitney ‘n Mariah.
The April bar has expanded since my last visit, and is now dominated by three vast circular bars, with seating around each circumference. This doesn’t work too well, as the arrangement puts too much distance between each punter, and the in-between areas feel like wasted space. Consequently, the ambience felt a little too stark, remote, impersonal.
Over the road, the newish Arc bar was packing them in. It is clearly one of the major Destination Venues, attracting an arrestingly high number of stylishly turned out beauties. We stood, we gawped, we paid all due deference.
A couple of doors down, Exit is one of the city’s only two gay dance clubs. It hasn’t changed at all in the 17 years since my first visit – but on a Friday night in the middle of January, numbers were somewhat thin on the ground. We hung out in the bar at the top of the main stairs, waiting for the late surge – but when none materialised, we moved on, leaving the antiseptic comforts of Twinksville behind for the sleazy raunch of Warmoestraat.
Most of the Warmoestraat bars are destined forever to be closed doors to me, catering as they do for the Dead Cow brigade. I don’t have the outfits, and would hate for my Paul Smith stripes to cause an outbreak of mass detumescence. However, the city’s second gay dance club is situated halfway up the street, and despite its somewhat alarming name (which modesty precludes me from spelling out), its relaxed door policy welcomes all comers (ahum) to the party. Dance floor in the basement (pretty decent dubby funky house), bar in the middle, and yup-you’ve-guessed-it on the top floor. Despite the undeniable sexual crackle in the air, we found this to be the most relaxed and unpretentious venue of the night.
Saturday daytime. Alan and I hooked up with Caroline for coffee in the Nieuwmarkt district, followed by a long, lazily paced and delicious lunch at a nearby Chinese/Japanese restaurant. (Bubble tea, that’s a new one on me. I particularly liked the tight little
jelly tapioca balls at the bottom of the glass, which you suck up through your straw.) Special mention should also be made of the the steamed (?) oysters with ginger, finely chopped shallots and soy sauce, as recommended by Caroline. They were sensational.
To be concluded on the morrow. In the meantime, take a look at Alan’s account of the weekend.