“Don’t Flush for Piss:” The Sleaze Factor – Part II
So what separated the real Mc Coy Sleaze Factor bars of yesteryear from today’s S wannabes?
- Dress code: You didn’t see any polo shirt types with $100 designer jeans. Or flip flops or Bermuda shorts. The more ragged the better. At the Lure, it didn’t matter what you looked like; if you were wearing sneakers or, Jesus, after-shave or cologne, Mr. Bouncer would turn you away.
- Wall-to-wall men: There was no place, I mean NO PLACE, to move except against another sweaty body in bars the size of the men’s section at any Macy’s. Show me how many men’s bars that size are that crowded on a weekend night today.
- The smells: Sweaty arm pits and chests, beer-laden piss, even carcasses (The Lure, in the heart of the now chic Meat Market, was once a meat packing warehouse).
- Cruising – Big Time: You walk into a bear bar today shirtless and no one gives you a glance. Then, that was the ONLY reason you were there. Now it’s all social. Thank Grindr and Adam4Adam and Scruff for that.
- A sense of history: Even if it was more illusion than reality, these holes had the dingy, dreggy look as if they had been there from the early days of NYC’s pre-gay liberation when being queer meant belonging to some truly secret society of men, not a sub-cultural demographic dissected by Congress and wooed by Corporate America.
And on Summer Sunday late afternoons from 4 until about 8, the Sleaze torch was handed over to the Dugout at West and Christopher. There, sweaty men, half naked men flooded the corner, searching for the one last fling or two of the weekend before Monday morning reality came crashing down on all our respective little shitty worlds.
Even if they hadn’t become victims of the real estate boom of the early 2000’s that transformed this abandoned sector of New York into a new Soho, (though I understand it’s still called the Meat Packing District), I doubt NYC’s gay sleaze alley might still be with us.
The reason? Simple. The web which has made hooking up a 24/7 amusement park – more virtual for some I think than real – from the convenience of your smartphone. Gay bars, all gay bars have become social clubs. And leather bars trying to enforce a dress code just ain’t gonna happen much anymore in this age of anti-discrimination.
I’m just hoping some gay historian had the smarts to save the “Don’t Flush for Piss” sign in the Spike’s john before the wrecking ball moved in.