A Few Good Men: The St. Pete’s-Tampa Gay Scene Revisited

I recently visited family and friends – and attempted to fuck – in the St Pete’s-Tampa area, about 250 miles from my home base of Fort Lauderdale. Without my partner who was back in Lauderdale watching the dogs, the dongs in Swinging Richard’s gay strip club, and doin’ whatever else he damn well pleased.

First, let’s get my friends and family out of the way. On my trip up, I stopped at one of the beach towns in Sarasota to visit with someone who had worked for me back in New York, and her husband, an ex NYC cop, now both retired. You would think they’d be enjoying their beautiful, three thou a week beachfront villa: they’re healthy and financially comfortable with sixteen thousand dollars in rentals coming in every month from two properties Gil inherited from his family.

But, all that glitters isn’t gold. It seems the properties have become an albatross and Gil, too cheap to hire a property manager, is wedded to the properties and all their problems even when they’re away, unwilling to sell them for sentimental reasons. Janette would like to escape the NYC winter for two months and they can certainly afford it, but instead they were down for two weeks, during which several issues (like a boiler problem) arose with their golden geese. And when Gil asked his 43 year old cop son, now going through a divorce and shacking up rent free in his parents’ luxury basement apartment, to check out the problem for him, the son’s response was: “You mean you want me to go over there?” P.S., Janette and Gil also pay for the Catholic school tuition for both his son and daughter’s kids.

I think the spoiling began when Janette paid for nose jobs for both of them in their teens.

Yes, what we have here is one rich, very unhappy couple.

Then a few days later, now based in St Pete’s, I went to visit my sister and brother-in-law vacationing at Hudson Beach outside of Tampa. It was damn cold, 50 degrees, cloudy and windy, but they seemed to be in good health and good spirits, considering they left a NYC that had over fifty inches of snow so far this winter. Yea, everything seemed OK except when it came to talking about the pending divorce of one of their sons, my nephew, who’s being shafted by his wife of five years and who blames himself for the break-up to the point he’s going to a shrink while she leads the bachelorette life. Huh? And I thought us queer boys were stupid when it came to love.

Wonder why I needed a few fucks in between?

Ah, but as we all know, the web and phone apps have fucked the bars as places to cruise (more on St. Pete’s bar scene in a minute), but this trip only confirmed what I already knew: while, sure, you can still hook-up (hey, I did have six guys so I shouldn’t complain), the web and phone apps have become havens for the crazies, the voyeurs, and the stalkers.

I got dozens of “shit, you’re hot!” hits – but 90% were from guys not for me, and the ones I wanted were plain out-and-out nut jobs. In a town of bottoms, it was still hard for this top to find a butt. A few examples:

The “hot” guys who looked twenty years older than their pics. With the first one who showed up at my door, I feigned fatigue. With the second, I decided to fuck him, and just as he was ready to pop, I pulled out and asked abruptly, “ How old are your pictures?” “Only a year or two,” OK, the lead photo was a guy in his late 30’s; the guy who greeted me at my guesthouse door was granddad. I especially loved the over-the-hill 58 year old leather guy with the screen name, “pigboi.” Grow up!

Then there were the stalkers, again, I suspect now fake personas created again from pics taken when cellphones had antennas, or else, if real, they were real high on meth. Guys who sounded super interested but when you tried to pin them down, talked sideways, like I was on FM and they were on AM.

Typical conversation:

Them: “I want you to fuck me.”

Me: “OK when?”

Them: “I want that dick inside me.”

Me: “I’m free now.”

Them: “I’ve been looking at your pics for years.”

Me: “Text me when you know when you’re coming.”

Them: “I want you to fuck me.”

I thought meth was a problem down in Lauderdale; every 10th guy, young or not, eventually got to the inevitable question: ”You party?” A few guys who hit the Tampa baths told me meth was the favorite drug of choice there after poppers.

Then there was the guy who was a top who knew I was a top and yet when we were in the heat of it wanted me to sit on his semi-hard rod (you see, he had been doing Tina before he came over). It fucked up my whole night since I had passed up a few guys who were now somewhere in cyberspace.

And there was always the timing issue – I was pretty loose but they were working or else had better things to do like the hottie who wanted me to fuck him but had to go to the gym late first. Guess my hard dick came second to pumping iron.

Or what about the May-December couple staying at my guesthouse. The kid, twenty something, tall and slinky, and no doubt a looker, and his hubby, a 69 year old Santa Claus, kept haunting me on Growl’r: “We’re right next door.” “You sound like you really fucked that last guy good – we can hear everything.” Well, at least they didn’t grope me in the hot tub. Now if the kid came solo, well … but, no, they were a package deal.

What I really didn’t get was the 33 year cute kid I met on Scruff who claimed he didn’t do drugs, dug me, but couldn’t get it up. Me, old enough to be his dad, was up and at it. Maybe it’s true that the Russians are putting something in our water. Or could it be he was indicative of the Millinea generation that I suspect are getting most of their sex virtually and are intimated by real man-to-man sex.

“Gee, this is great,” was his surprising comment as we pressed the flesh, as if this was something he hadn’t tried much before.

As for the bar scene. Tampa’s long standing leather watering hole, 2606, is closed. I’m not surprised since Ybor City, the former cigar-making colony from the last century, now an artsy gay mecca, has taken over the Tampa scene. But I’ve been there and it’s way too young for this seasoned faggot.

In St Pete’s, you got the St. Pete’s Alibi that has more str-8 women than a hetero-bar, courtesy of their twink bf’s who are wrecking the gay bar scene; a small new stand-up gay bar, the Eagle, whose owner originally wanted to make it an exclusive leather bar at a time leather is dying faster than posies in a snowstorm – I give the place a month; and then there’s the fabled Flamingo with its four bars, pool, dance floor, and motel rooms.

Well, with Brian’s gay guesthouse on Fifth Avenue North booked Wednesday night, I decided to stay at the Flamingo that one night before moving over to Brian’s. The room the supposedly str8 twink behind the desk gave me had no electricity, so he moved me to a room three doors down with no water pressure and then no hot water. Not one to put up with shit and content I’d be at Brian’s cozy hideaway for the rest of my trip, I firmly asked and got a credit the following morning before checking out.

Never again. Why? Not just because of the problem, but because I sensed all the help I came in contact with while there had a typical “I really don’t want to be here” fag attitude and didn’t give a fuck. Well, to the owners of the Flamingo and other gay businesses who treat their clientele like shit because they think, being gay, we have to use them – buddy, those days are over.

OK, but what about its bar scene that, outside of the Alibi, it has a lock on, when it comes to St. Pete’s? On Saturday night, you could count the number of men milling around on your fingers and toes.

So how does a place with a high overhead and so-so occupancy survive?

I guess on one event a week, its T-dance, which while still popular as I remembered from past visits, resembled a carnival show. There were over-the-top drags and their RuPaul groupies; aging brittle, chain smoking partners in their Bermuda shorts and loose button-down shirts to hide the flab who looked like they both needed to take a hot shit as they silently stared at young flesh; the coteries of young and not-so-young pretty boys flicking their six packs; a few muscle bears; leather men way past their prime with their keys still dangling from their jeans (that went out with cell antennas too), and a few decent looking guys trying to find a trick and getting drunk on the booze specials instead.

And plenty of fairy dust spread all over the place. Retro-fem is definitely in.

The plight the Flamingo faces is one shared by one bar middle-of-the-road towns: a lack of identity. In New York, or Chicago, or L.A., or San Francisco or Lauderdale, you’ve got plenty of bars catering to niches in the gay community. When you become everybody’s bar by default, you begin to look like a Subway sandwich board with all the fixin’s going to rot.

But for many of these people, particularly the no longer beautiful, or those still wanting to wear their cowhide before they give it away to Good Will, this was their one gay night out: where else was there to go and still feel part of the scene? Still feel alive?

So what did I learn from my little four day excursion? That the days when you could take a whore holiday armed with your bar guide and your smartphone are pretty much dead. In the end, it’s all about luck – hasn’t it always been? – and for the time and energy I spent tracking down dick and ass ( I think all my phone apping this weekend aggravated my Carpel Tunnel Syndrome), it would have been easier to just whip out the bucks and buy somebody off the rentboy library – that is, if St. Pete’s had one.

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