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Fictional Gay Bars!

Fictional Gay Bars!

By Niall Connolly

Gay bars and clubs are, of course, very important for the LGBTQ community, but the depictions of gay bars (ie, spaces where homosexuals can gather and interact as we "really are", without having to conform to the norms of straight society) can be just as powerful as the real life spaces that gays inhabit. Because, let's face it, an awful lot of people out there have absolutely no desire to ever visit a gay bar in the flesh, and the closest they will ever come to a gay bar is seeing one depicted on the big or small screens.

With that in mind (and acknowledging that the bars and clubs depicted on this list are shamefully not that diverse, what with the cultural/media myth that every gay bar is basically a male leather biker bar) here's a short list of our favourite fictional gay bars from film and TV. Please feel free to leave your own suggestions of any we may have missed at the bottom...

The Imperial, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert 

Featured in the opening scenes of one of THE all-time great drag movies, The Imperial looks more than a little rowdy, but also like a lot of goddam fun. As long as you don't lip sync to Abba. Interestingly, the location where these scenes were filmed has become so legendary that it has now been renamed "Priscilla's" and hosts regular drag shows.  

The Tool Box, Wayne's World 2

A great little nod to The Village People and gay culture in general, this scene from Wayne's World 2 is one of those rare comedy moments where gay bars and patrons are in on, rather than the butt of, the joke. In a way it also foreshadows Mike Myers' gig as the ULTIMATE gay landlord, Steve Rubell of Studio 54, and also hints at the top-notch job Myers would do with the role. 

Blue Oyster Bar, Police Academy

The, ahem, Daddy of them all. Say the words "gay bar" to most people and this is what most of them will answer with. Actually not as offensive as it could have been, Blue Oyster Bar is perhaps now most notable for its excellent choice in music.

Trade, Sex And The City

Ok two confessions to make here: I am going through a bit of a SATC obsession right now, rewatching the entire show and realising now, at a bit of distance, just how fantasized the "New York" represented in the show is. And secondly: Trade is actually a real gay bar, not a fictionalised locale. But hey, all of SATC seems so utterly unreal now that it might as well be. 

Un-named gay bar, The Sopranos

Anyone who has watched the final series of the Sopranos can not help but be swept up in the brilliant "Vito is GAY?!" storyline, as it swerves from loving self-acceptance to the bitterest of tragedies. And it all started at this unknown gay bar which, seeing as it is full of overweight mafioso in leather S&M gear, is basically my dream come true. Also probably a good place to pay homage to the late, great James Gandolfini, the ultimate "bear" icon. R.I.P.!

BONUS PICK! The Mineshaft, Cruising

The Mineshaft, from William Friedkin's 1980 murder mystery Cruising, is perhaps the best realisation of the gay bar as a space laden with fear and apprehension for straight society - from the predatory sexuality and exhibitionist sex acts to the gaudy lights and wild drug consumption. Although itself a problematic (if enjoyable) movie, time has been kinder to Cruising than perhaps was expected. Maybe it's a retro fascination with "vintage" sleaze, or maybe it's the longing for sexually liberated, pre-AIDS time, but it is interesting to note how the depiction of life at the Mineshaft has gone from one of curious revulsion to something laden with kitsch giggles. 

Read more by Niall at his blog: c-v-n-t-y.blogspot.co.uk

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Fictional Gay Bars!

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