Apr 10, 2007
Editorial: The Hidden Power of Guerilla Cocktails
There's an old newsroom adage that says just as soon as reporters find out about a trend, it's already over. But reports in the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and most recently, ABC News haven't manage to kill of an American phenomenon called Guerrilla Queer Bar... a phenom that one group of organizers call "a combination of flashmob and the French Revolution. Only gayer. [And with] fewer decapitations."
The concept is pretty simple: gay and lesbian folks who are tired of going to the same old gay and lesbian bars choose a putatively str8 bar in their town and descend on it en masse. The once-a-month invasion is co-ordinated by websites, MySpace pages and email lists.
The effort started, as so many gay things do, in San Francisco in or about 2002, which goes to show that even dozens of gay bars does not make a city immune to cocktail restlessness. It spread. Boy, did it spread.
Now there are regular GQB nights in big places like NYC, Washington DC, Detroit, Denver, and Philadelphia, but also smaller burgs like Austin (TX), Charlotte (NC), even Allentown (PA). It's spread to Canada, Australia and some spots in Europe, as well.
With such popularity, its seems obvious that GQB outings are fun, but are they good for the gay community? The first question that pops up is... okay, technically it would be the second question, wouldn't it? Fine, now it's the third question: Don't the str8 bar owners get a bit miffed? The answer appears to be 'sometimes,' But gay money is green, after all.
How about the str8 patrons? Isn't GQB sort of dangerous? Well, to start, the GQB organizers aren't idiots; they don't exactly choose hillbilly bars or places where steelworkers gather. So far, there have been no big problems reported. No fights, no car-keying, just a few nasty comments about str8 people's shoes, I imagine. It's all right, they can take it.
How about the gay bar owners? Don't they resent the loss of trade? Most of them, probably. The increased visibility seems to me worth the loss, but then I don't own a struggling gay bar in Allentown, PA. The argument could be made that there are closeted gay people in every str8 bar, and the arrival of the GQB crew just might induce one of them to want to check out the regular gay scene... okay, I admit, that's kind of weak.
But something stronger is this tale from long ago. Once upon a time (in the 1980s) there was a town called Lancaster, PA. Yes, the one in Amish land, where Kelly McGillis and Harrison Ford got all steamy listening to Sam Cooke. It was a town, was Lancaster, a town so repressed, so Republican that the residents' buttocks made squeaking noises when they walked. And, of course, there was no gay bar in this town.
One day, in downtown Lancaster, there re-opened an old theatre, and people came to work there putting on plays. It came to pass that after a long day of putting on plays, those people would gather at a nearby str8 bar called the Tally Ho. It became the hang-out for the theatre crowd. Shockingly enough, a great many of those theatre people were gay. Well, it turned out that the guy who ran the Tally Ho, coincidentally, was also gay. And lo, buoyed by the newfound company of so many of his People, that guy decided then and there that the Tally Ho was now and forever to be a gay bar.
As far I cant tell, the phenom that is Guerrilla Queer Bar hasn't done that yet-- turned a str8 bar gay-- but it does have the power to do that, I'd wager. If it does it, just once, it's worth all the hub-bub.