The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, Still There in Chicago!

posted by Madame Bubby

Lucky Horseshoe exterior

Yes, it is still there. I had to ask, especially now that that the area around it is gentrified and homogenized in so many ways since the last time I was there, early 1990s.

Why was I there? The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, known to its regulars as the “Shoe,” is a gay bar yes, but one that features dancers. Not strippers (no nudity), and they usually are already stripped down to something skimpy that barely covers up the cock.
 

Lucky Horseshoe dancer in jockstrap

Jason Heidemann, a while ago, wrote a piece in the Chicago Reader describing his experiences in detail, and he also makes the point that the place actually seems to be evoke a feeling of “shame-based resistance” for many gay guys. Like, oops, why are you there? What's really going on with you? Or even, in an online exchange, a LOL.

It's an exotic dance club, and I am thinking perhaps there could be a couple underlying cultural stigmas. First, the whole go-go girl men's club business that caters to heterosexual men contains some obvious structurally exploitative/misognynistic dynamics. Whether this dynamic strictly applies to what goes on gay male strip clubs is open to question, and I also think it ties closely into the stigmas associated with sex workers in general.

Secondly, in the gay community itself, there's a stereotype that the types of customers the place attracts tend to be “dirty old men” desperate for copping a feel on a young, lithe body. Heidemann makes the point that the place for many couples serves “as a compromise between one partner who wants monogamy and the other who has an insatiable libido.”

That dynamic reminds of me of my experiences there in the early 90s. I was involved with the LGBTQ Catholic group, Dignity, and I sang tenor in its amateur choir. After church, the choir director, the priest, one religious brother who sang in the choir, and whoever else wanted to tag along, hit the Shoe. (In fact, we were at the Shoe when the Bulls won their famous “threepeat” game!)

It turns out, that Sunday night at the Shoe was called “priests' night out.” One could say that in many cases, sticking dollar bills in the lush baskets of the dancers was a way of not literally violating a promise of celibacy or a vow of chastity. The choir director I think just liked the dancers, a lot, and I also think, because he was partnered, he would hang out there to “blow off steam.” (I'm not sure if he ever hooked up with one of the dancers, but I vaguely remember hearing he did invite one over to his house.)

I must admit, most of the dancers were too thin, smooth, and “twinkish” for my taste, but one night, an anomaly. A particularly beefy muscle guy wearing heavy boots appeared, and I was smitten. I not only got to touch his basket, but we even made out a bit. We had one date. He worked in sales at Marshall Fields full time, days. In real life gear he looked much less imposing. Too “nice” for me, alas.

And I did hook up with a real hot number, beard, blue collar, cowboy boots, there one night, an out of town guy on a conference. A weekend romance ensued. I looked him up on the internet. He is still working at the same job he did in the 1990s. He looks older and grayer. It happens to everyone, even the dancers.

Overall, I'm glad the place is still there, and given its longevity, I gather it has probably adapted to the bachelorette party culture, which has created some controversy lately in gay male bars. In fact, given the vicissitudes of social and cultural change, it's perhaps an even more unique space that still keeps the dancers dancing and a diverse array of customers coming/cumming.
 

Lucky Horseshoe dancer
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Some LGBTQ Slang Terms from the Early '60s & Before: Revealing a Hidden Culture

posted by Madame Bubby

Cover of The Guild Dictionary of Homosexual Terms

In our archives, we carry a fascinating title called The Guild Dictionary of Homosexual Terms, which looks to be from the early to middle of the 1960s. Guild Press was a grounbreaking outfit as H. Lynn Womack was not afraid of being open about the audience of his diverse array of publications: gays and lesbians. He did not censor, he did not code, and by publishing this small book by one Dr. Albert Ellis, he claims that LGBTQ persons existed and still exist in history, and their cultural vocabulary developed under systemic oppression matters.

Now, some of the terms to a contemporary audience might seem degrading or even offensive or at least quaint, but that's part of the creative paradox of a vocabulary that is trying to linguistically interpret something as complex and fluid as sexual experience, and in this case, more so, as the persons who participated in non-heteronormative sexual experiences couldn't even speak of them or themselves.

Here are a few that I think give some insight into the hidden culture of that time, understanding that many of these terms were employed heterosexually as well, and used by heterosexuals to denigrate LGBTQ persons.

Abdicate: Forced to leave a public toilet by an attendant, said of male homosexuals who frequent public rests rooms. Thus, queens are forced to abdicate.
 

Central Park men's room, 1962
Central Park men's room, 1962 - Source: https://www.richlandsource.com/area_history/the-famous-central-park-underground-restrooms/article_16b1c4d2-c503-11e5-890c-6360a850aa28.html

Angel with a Dirty Face: A male homosexual who would like to indulge in homosexual practice but who is timid or hesitant about it. (Originated in mid-30s with motion picture Angels with Dirty Faces, a 1930s gangster film with James Cagney.)

Auntie: Middle-aged or aging male homosexual, usually (but not always) overly effeminate in character. The term can be applied either in a manner mildly derogatory or even as a term of slight affection.

Bugle Boy: Refers to the person who permits someone to perform fellation upon him. (Supposedly, according to the text, popular with the “sophisticated college set.”)

Checkers, Play: To move from seat to seat in a motion picture house in an effort to find a willing youth. A homosexual sits next to a likely “candidate” and makes some verbal or physical overture or “pass”; if rejected, he moves to another seat, and so on.
 

Chicago theater and other State Street theaters in Chicago, 1950

Fruit Picker: Term used to describe men who both think of themselves as “straight” and who are so considered by those who know them, but who seek out homosexuals for sexual gratification at the moment.

Motel Time: Can be used as a call to closing in a gay bar as part of “Suck up, everybody, it's motel time.” Now is the time to get down to sex and indicates where. Can also be used (alone) as a call to closing in a heterosexual bar.
 

Tampa, Florida gay bar, 1950s
Tampa, Florida gay bar, 1950s

Poundcake, To Eat: To lick the anus.

There's so much more in this little book, including some tidbits on some famous gay historical figures.

One wonders, not so much that some of the types of persons described above and even some of the scenarios are still part of the LGBTQ experience, but that we've developed new language for such persons and experiences in a markedly different social context. After all, what the book calls “green queens” still hang out in parks and forest preserves for public sex, but they often hook up via the ubiquitous smart phone.

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The Magic and Mystery of Falcons and FALCONHEAD

posted by Madame Bubby

Vintage ad for Michael Zen's Falconhead showing in theaters

"Like something out of a Greek tragedy (or Clash of the Titans), a naked man lies spread-eagled on his stomach on the center of a ceremonial plaza. The Falconhead appears out of nowhere, clad in black robes that look oddly medieval, and presents an ornately framed mirror to the prostrate man, pushing his face into it with his shiny black boots. Text flashes, "He gazed into the mirror and was consumed by it."
 

Still from Falconhead of boot stepping on a man with his face pressed into a mirror

So begins Michael Zen's Falconhead (1977), a richly complex film that “features a fearsome bird-headed man with magical powers, a possibly nefarious shaman/landlord, stunningly photographed solo sequences, deliciously ambiguous sexual violence, and lots of gooey, gooey cum eating.”

The man with the head of a falcon character derives from so many cultures. The ancient Egyptian god Horus was usually depicted as a falcon-headed man, wearing the red and white crown which represented his kingship over both Upper and Lower Egypt. Horus was the son of Osiris and Isis, both associated with the cycles of birth, death, and the afterlife.
 

Horus

In ancient Egypt, falcons (also known as raptors) represented the soul in the afterlife. In fact, the falcons themselves were even mummified, and recently, some scholars have found evidence that the birds were sacrificed to the gods, or even used in falconry, where young birds are trained to hunt prey.

In the medieval period, falconry became a widespread cultural practice among the nobility, but some of its practices were extremely cruel, including temporarily blinding the birds (the gruesome details are elucidated in the hyperlink above), which made them easier to train.
 

Medieval falconry: falconers with horse
Falconers with horse from ‘De arte venandi cum avibus’, 1240-1250, from http://www.medievalists.net/2016/03/falconry-birds-and-lovebirds/

The practice, however, lost popularity in Europe because of the widespread usage of guns and gunpowder. In Britain among some of the gentry the practice survived, and these individuals formed a series of clubs that kept the art alive, leading eventually to the modern development of falconry in Europe, North America and Africa.
 

Man with falcon
Image from http://vafalconry.swva.net/Falconry.html

There are so many elements in the above of terrifying power, sacrifice and cruelty, but also beauty and awe. Birds of course can fly, and this action has always inspired humans to think about power and its limits, the Icarus myth being the most well-known one.

And falcons in all their variety, who soar in the sky, are carnivorous creatures, who hunt for earthbound prey, the creeping things in the creation account in Genesis. Yet, at the same time, humans have attempted to tame, even confine, this energy through the art of falconry.
 

Falcon flying
Image from https://mydreamsymbolism.com/falcon-spirit-animal-totem-symbolism-and-meaning/

It's like this type of bird represents for humans a boundary breaker, someone who can brave the wide gaps between heaven and earth, nature and art, life and death.

Perhaps in the mirror the falcon-headed man presents to the prostrate man, we see ourselves consumed by what seems to be our own physical sexual power, but ultimately, it's a power given to us by a natural, or even supernatural force that encompasses, in fact, thrives on, extremes in order to not just survive, but triumph.

The falcon-headed man is the endless orgasm of life and death; we can imitate it, mirror it, but our life is a disconnected series of gooey cumshots in the sublunary earth. The men are consumed; but he burns like that famous bush, not consumed.
 

Still from Falconhead of masked man

The poet Yeats proclaims in his famous poem, The Second Coming, that in a time of crisis “the falcon can no longer hear the falconer;” in these times, perhaps, we have lost the seismic energy that charges body and spirit together in a dynamic relationship. I see this line as implying that falconer cannot bond with the falcon; he has stopped up his conduit to the falcon's awesome energy he was able to tap into.

Thus, all that's left, as in the famous line at the end of the poem, is the “rude beast slouching toward Bethlehem waiting to be born,” a dead life devoid of creativity, passion, and love.

Quotes from the Falconhead review by DM at BijouWorld.
 

Stills from Falconhead
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Tales of the City: I Read It, Finally!

posted by Madame Bubby

Oh wow, this summer has certainly been a summer or reading for me, in addition to the process of assembling many of these blogs into a book format. I guess I am lucky, to enjoy such large amounts of time to sit there and read. For hours.

As usual, I am way behind the trends. I tend to get interested in media after it is popular (for example, I only got interested in Seinfeld in reruns). I've known about Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City for some time, I know there was a miniseries in 1993 based on the books, and now there's one on Netflix (I don't get it, yet). But I just wasn't that interested.

Until a friend loaned me a huge volume that contains the first three novels, Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, and Further Tales of the City. I read all three Sunday night through last night. For someone who reads much dense scholarly material, it was a quick read, and I don't imply it is superficial. It actually read much like a screenplay, and I mean that as a compliment; less is more in the description, and the dialogue shapes the characters and moves along the action.
 

Cover of Maupin's 28 Barbary Lane

The 1978 one, the first one, was most interesting, as it really gave one a slice of the “sex and the city” life in San Francisco during the swinging seventies. The place was certainly comparable in some ways to the “blue bubble” cities (a scary thought in hindsight) of today.
 

Ad for 21st St. Baths, captioned Definitely for the Discriminiating Male
Ad for gay bathhouse in Mission District, definitely for the discriminating male, from: http://www.missionmission.org/2010/09/17/the-21st-street-baths-were-definitely-for-the-discriminating-male/

But it wasn't just LGBTQ persons who flocked to the city like the young ones did in the 1960s to the Summer of Love; they often were persons perhaps a little more daring than Mary Tyler Moore (who ended up in Minneapolis, not exactly the Babylon of Sodom of the 1970s) trying to figure out how to shape an identity that didn't necessarily conform to that of their Greatest and Silent Generation parents, who themselves, especially if they had the money to do so, were swinging themselves in their suburban sprawl.

But by 1978, the Summer of Love had degenerated into drug abuse, Milk had been assassinated, and Anita Bryant was vomiting her orange juice of bigotry on a national level. Liberation had come at a cost, but Maupin explores these times in a range from biting satire to gentle humor to bittersweet melancholy. Ultimately, the tales are about persons caught up in the wildest and even dangerous escapades (Jim Jones did not die at Jonestown? Oh, that's in the the third one I read) but still, somehow, never losing their ability to laugh at themselves.

One incident in the first novel that happens to the oh so hot straight guy who lives in the wonderful building of Mrs. Anna Madrigal at 28 Barbary Lane (Maupin gives us so many titillating descriptions of him sliding in and out of jeans and various forms of undergear) I found most interesting. Apparently, in San Francisco at that time, “the tubs” or the gay baths weren't the only places to enjoy no strings attached sex. Brian goes to some kind of co-ed bathhoue on Valencia Street. And there was The Party on Monday night, and also that night women were admitted free.
 

Valencia Street, San Francisco in the '70s
Valencia and Market Streets, San Francisco, 1970s, from: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/northern-california/san-francisco/1970s-san-francisco/

He does meet a woman in her private room, (she invites him), but she assumes he is at least bi, and she builds on the fact that most of the guys who go to this bath are bi or gay (but of course!). And I find one ends up feeling sorry for Brian. Yes, he is the heterosexual equivalent of a gay “slut" and he knows it, and he want to get laid, not psychoanalyzed at the baths.

But Maupin's description of the main space is telling, perfectly selective detail, with a real zinger at the end:

There were twice as many men, mingling with the women in a space that seemed strangely reminiscent of a rumpus room in Walnut Creek; rosy-shaded lamps, mis-matched furniture, and a miniature electric train that chugged noisily along a shelf around the perimeter of the room.
A television set mounted on the wall offered Phyllis to the partygoers.
On the opposite wall a movie screen flickered with vintage pornography.
The partygoers were naked, though some of them chose the shelter of a bath towel.
And most of them were watching Phyllis.


Yes, Phyllis, a spin off the Mary Tyler Moore show. Mary's middle-aged friend Phyllis Lindstrom played by Cloris Leachman ends up in San Francisco after her husband dies to start over. And it's got one of the campiest beginnings to any sit com, ever. (Think the big number Hello, Dolly reworked by someone on acid.)
 

Phyllis oepning credits
Phyllis opening credits

But that allusion pretty much says it all about Maupin's take on the topsy-turvy, paradoxical yet also wild and wonderfully campy world that was San Francisco in the late seventies. A world where persons of any orientation could still afford to live in an apartment with a view of the wharfs and where they party with the neighbors and go out to diners at all hours and their landlady tapes a joint to the front door as a welcoming gift.

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Cruisin' at the Grocery Store

posted by Madame Bubby


Just came upon this old post from the Bilerico Report:

“Just about any grocery store is perfect for picking up a man. There's a reason why single women in the 70's and 80's swore by the produce section... Is he shopping for one?”

Now, this post was written in 2009, and obviously our shopping habits have changed. I know where I live, I see more Amazon delivery trucks, and I even saw a guy drop off Amazon Pantry frozen food at one particularly swanky apartment building near me.

But everyone except the super rich (including the President aka the vulgar boor) at some point still need to shop outside for food and other essentials.

Thus, can one still pick up someone else at the grocery store for sex, or even a date?

Now, regarding the produce section, I can see during “retro times” a guy asking a girl something about the inventory, because then, it was assumed most guys were pretty much inept at homemaking tasks, even the “confirmed bachelors.”

And then a single career gal who would be boyfriend (not necessarily husband) hunting (hello, Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex and the Single Girl) would succor the lost soul among the zucchini, and lo and behold, exchanging phone numbers, yada yada, dinner at her place. (I think I have been watching too many 1960s romantic comedies.)
 

1970s grocery shopping couple

Yes, that scenario might have worked in an ideal fashion in the heterosexual world, but in the closeted gay world of that time? Perhaps. Maybe just a side glance, and then … Hopefully, a safe place with a minimal threat of arrest.

Now, many years later and after much social change, I guess, depending on where the grocery store is located, I'm sure cruising does occur. But it probably ends up being a Scruff/Grinder type. Hottie Leather is ten feet away. Where is that in the store? Thus, one would end up looking at the phone rather than sizing up the bare chested muscle jock next to you who is ready to start feeling up the cucumbers (the latter image is a fantasy, but I hope one that will become reality).
 

Hot muscle guy shirtless at grocery store

I had to go to the store near me last night, and it's in a heavily LGBTQ neighborhood, so I should be glad that guys can wear shirts like “Boys! Whoooo!” openly, but action was minimal. I've also noticed that especially on the weekends, gay men grocery shopping tends to be a couples activity. The married ones are there during the day stocking up on essentials and the young ones are there in the evening picking up more fun goodies for some event or outing.
 

Senior gay couple produce shopping
Photo Credit: Getty Images

I am starting to think I might enjoy better luck with the delivery guys (Amazon, Peapod, whatever). After all, an electrician ends up experiencing some very interesting food sex in an elevator with the “Brillo-headed” delivery guy in Jack Deveau's classic gay porn movie Rough Trades.
 

Celery up the ass in Rough Trades elevator food sex scene
Elevator food sex scene from Rough Trades (1977)

I wouldn't want a celery stick up my ass like in that movie. I'll take the man and what's in his boxers, not what's in the boxes.

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