"Oh, what an awful
assignment! You poor thing!" shrieked this guy, whom I’ll call Kevin,
when I told him about my goal for this piece: to survey the city’s best
gay pickup spots for summertime romance, love or fun.
It was a
lazy, warm evening and I was perched on a stool at the Hell’s Kitchen bar
Chase (255 W. 55th St. betw. B’way &8th Ave.; 333-3400),
listening to pop songs and disco classics while I watched the muscle queen bartenders
concoct apple martinis and vodka tonics for the crowd. I’d met Kevin several
months earlier at Chase, when we’d made out in the more intimate lounge
downstairs. The two-level bar features a rotating cast of DJs, reasonably priced
drinks and a design that Wallpaper would cheer: mirrored walls (always
helpful for cruising), red tiles, dark banquettes and tiny candles. The heat
of summer, and the seminudity that goes with it, attracts a mix of neighborhood
types, theater queens and guys making the pilgrimage uptown from Chelsea. The
neighborhood’s become a haven for gay yuppies and artists who’ve been
priced out of the overgentrified Chelsea.
By the time
I got to Chase Kevin was already on his 15th beer, or so it seemed. When he
began to slur his words and repeat some of the same tired lines he’d said
when I first met him a few months ago, I realized that Chase didn’t provide
the ideal conditions for a great pickup spot–namely, a clientele you’d
wanna wake up next to in the morning. After Kevin left, some bearded, overweight
guy leaned over and said, "I have to ask you this–do you ever
eat?" I replied by telling him my history of burning calories 24/7 and
that my parents were thin at my age. He shared his itinerary for the evening,
which included a trip to Rawhide, the dirty leather and chaps bar (212
8th Ave. at 21st St.; 242-9332). On his way out, he leaned too close to me and
said, "You should go to McDonald’s." I refrained from telling
him to hop on the stairmaster so he could cut the lard from his diet–and
bar that’s unfortunately not worth your time is Urge, at 33 2nd
Ave. (at 2nd St.; 533-5757). This supposedly cruisey bar in the bowels of the
East Village used to be a funeral home. The esthetic is wannabe-L.A., complete
with a palm tree, banquettes with puffy white pillows (I didn’t sit, for
fear of dozing off) and three plasma screens alternately showing spaced-out
color patterns and gay porn. Urge is disappointing because it’s a gay stereotype.
It features the same excruciatingly bland house music (it sounded like the soundtrack
to ’95), all that porn, plus the requisite downstairs dark room where dirty
things supposedly happen (though all I saw were a few Euro types sitting self-consciously
on the couch)–all for an older, not very East Village crowd that’s
seriously lacking in eye candy.
apple martini and two Rolling Rocks, I tagged along with my ex and his friend
to Phoenix (447 E. 13th St. at Ave. A; 477-9979), where I picked up this
Aaron Carteresque guy, mostly out of boredom. He hailed a cab uptown as I made
my way to the L train.
had more luck in Williamsburg. I was picked up on the L train one night last
summer by a cute Jewish guy (we’re now friends) who followed me 10 blocks
into Greenpoint–where I lived at the time–to give me his business
card. Whether I get on at Bedford or Lorimer, there’s always a feeling
of see-and-be-seen hipster-watching on the L.
I’m a regular at the Abbey (536 Driggs Ave., betw. N. 7th &
N. 8th Sts.; 718-599-4400), it can feel a little incestuous–you might walk
into the bar and think, "Gosh, I’ve slept with half the guys here,
vicariously." The Abbey’s a dive bar that caters to local hipsters
and attracts a young, gay crowd on Sunday nights. The drinks are cheap, and
the music is swell: Pet Shop Boys, Pat Benatar and, of course, Madonna. The
cuties are friendly enough, plus there’s a pinball machine and a pool table
in the back. You’re as likely to run into an old flame as you are to meet
a fashionista. Said fashionista might even walk you to the East River, but before
you could enjoy a moonlit kiss and absorb the beauty of Manhattan at night he’d
probably fall into the water, soaking his $300 jeans.
up a girl at the Verb Cafe, at 218 Bedford Ave. (betw. N. 4th & N.
5th Sts.; 718-599-0977). Well, I gave her my number anyway, and we discussed
the plethora of attractive hipsters in the neighborhood, with its ubiquitous
boho girls and skinny guys in Wrangler jeans and small t-shirts. The cafe’s
clientele, which always includes a few people typing away on their iBooks or
blabbing loudly into their cellphones, is pretty approachable–except for
the occasional gaggle of irritating Japanese tourists–plus they make great
soup and a good cup of coffee.
When I first
moved to New York two years ago, I had lots of fun in Chelsea. Strolling down
8th Ave., I was like a kid in a candy store. I used to stay out till 5 a.m.
at Splash (50 W. 17th St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves.; 691-0073)–newly redesigned
and now called SBNY–partying at Roxy or hanging out at Big Cup.
I haven’t been to any of these places over the past year, because they’re
so passe. If I wanna dance all night, I’ll go to Luxx (256 Grand
St. betw. Driggs Ave. &Roebling St., Williamsburg; 718-599-1000) on
a Friday night, when Spencer Product and Sophia Lamar host "Mutants"–a
party where gay guys, dykes, trannies and some straights shake it as DJ Larry
Tee spins electro and new wave.
When I do
hang out in Chelsea, it’s at one of three places. I go to g lounge (225
W. 19th St., betw. 7th & 8th Aves.; 929-1085) for their frozen cosmos, apple
martinis and the cute guy serving them. Plus, they open the front in the summer
to keep everyone cool at night. I like the two-level xl (357 W. 16th
St., betw. 8th & 9th Aves.; 995-1400) for its sound system and crazy, rainbow-colored
changing lights, but I loathe their too-tiny square stools. I also hang out
at Barnes & Noble on 6th Ave. at 21st St., mainly because no one chases
me out of the cafe while I’m reading magazines and eating chocolate chip
cookies. I picked up a guy at the bookstore once, but he ended up being a Chelsea
queen who worked for a silly home improvement magazine, so that ended shortly
recently, a gay relative of mine asked if I was offended when my editor asked
me to write this piece. I said, "No, why should I be?"
basically, he thinks you’re a…" His voice trails off.
I replied, provoking laughter around the table.