Where Everybody Knows Your Flame
Now tell me do ya
Do ya have any money
I wanna spend all your money
At the gay bar, gay bar, gay bar
In real life, the average gay bar is simply a pub where most of the regular patrons are of gay male, lesbian, bisexual
, and/or transgender
persuasion. That's really all there is to it. Mostly they are just places where LGBT+ people socialize, dance, have a few beers, play pool, etc. Sometimes people chat up/pick up a new partner in these places just as straight people do in straight bars and pubs.
In the media, this is simply not the case, especially when the gay community is treated as the Subculture of the Week
. Any bar or club catering to LGBT+ people will be portrayed as far wilder than its straight counterpart. People will order drinks dressed in fetish gear such as studded leather, gimp masks or tight rubber. Drag Queens
will strut about like they run the place (and one probably does), and loud Techno
/synth music will blast from the speakers. The fact that there are different clubs for different gay subcultures in Real Life
isn't always realized.
Lesbian bars will be filled entirely with broad-shouldered, cigar chomping, work-booted, diesel dykes
; or young, nubile Lipstick Lesbians
. And the two shall never meet, even if it's the only lesbian bar in town.note
As is the Rule of Cool
, gay audiences will note that such bars will be larger, sleeker, flashier, wilder, and generally far more interesting than anything they have in their own neck of the woods, unless they live in a big city. In fiction, the gay bars in Youngstown, Ohio are just as huge and lively as anything in West Hollywood.
Depending on the reaction of the characters, this is a Sub-Trope
of either Coolest Club Ever
or Bad-Guy Bar
. Contrast Bikini Bar
, which if anything is tamer
than the Real Life
places it portrays. Often used to set up jokes at the patrons' expense
. Often, this sort of bar will be used for a Gay Bar Reveal
; in this case, it's going to have to be for a parody of the trope because it is near impossible to mistake this sort of club for what it is.
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- Any gay or fetish bar in Vertigo Comics:
- The place where Constantine "died" in Hellblazer (technically a bisexual S&M place, not a strictly gay one)
- The bar where Fanny takes his night off and is captured by Brodie in The Invisibles and the S&M place that King Mob takes the Marquis de Sade to (the Divine Marquis is delighted to see what he has helped unleash on the world).
- American Virgin had one of these while the cast were visiting Australia. People were in fetish gear or cross dressing, though it was only for men, since on seeing the main character's step-sister kissing another girl, one of the patrons asked aloud "Who let the vagina crowd in?"
- Delirium wandered into one of these at the beginning of the "Brief Lives" arc of The Sandman.
- Counter example, the Batman special Batman and the Ultimate Evil features a nice, friendly gay bar called the Lavender Dragon, to contrast the wholesomeness of consenting adult homosexuals with the sleazy business of paedophilia (the Ultimate Evil of the title).
- The Secret Six ongoing series opened with a scene in a gay bar called The Bear Trap, which was apparently owned by the Arc Villain.
- There's one of these in But I'm a Cheerleader.
- Also something of a subversion—though the bar in question is called the Cocksucker, the most that really happens there is relatively tame dancing.
- Until Andre gets down on the floor.
- The infamous 1980 movie Cruising is made of this trope, with an emphasis on the depraved and scary nature of the gay club scene.
- The main problem was the movie presented the gay S&M scene members it specifically searched for and hired as representatives of the entire gay scene.
- The Blue Oyster in the Police Academy series. Parodied in that the patrons love to tango in the classic style and dance with practiced skill, but played straight in that all patrons are stereotypical leathermen who'll grab the first guy that walks in as a dance partner.
- The fact that the guys who walk in are almost always dressed in police uniforms probably helps.
- Or in at least one case, in the nude.
- The bar where Stifler shows off his dancing skills in American Pie 3.
- This being Stifler, he didn't realize which kind of bar it was until the others told him to look around and pay attention. "Oh. My. GOD!".
- The Pink Panther Strikes Again contains a moderately offensive example.
- In the movie Eraser, a mob informant is relocated to working as a bartender at just such an establishment. It looks pretty flashy and bizarre, but not very scary. The informant asks Schwarzenegger to please not let on that he's straight, to avoid breaking any hearts.
- Agent Smecker, a self-hating homosexual, of The Boondock Saints gets drunk at one of these places shortly before heading to the church for a confessional. This trope is partly averted, however, in that it's portrayed as just a somewhat upscale bar with non-stereotypically gay patrons. Most of the other guys at the bar and wearing nice suits.
- In Brazilian film Diva, the protagonist is taken to a gay club by her date (who is straight).
- In The Killing of Sister George, one scene was filmed in a real and extremely famous lesbian bar, Gateways. Perhaps due to the time period (1969), it's not as wild as your stereotypical gay venue. Most of the extras were regulars — and many lost their jobs as a result.
- Probably the earliest depiction of a gay bar in film is in the 1919 German silent film Different from the Others. It looks pretty much like any other German beerhall, except that the men are waltzing with each other rather than with women.
- Averted in Chasing Amy, when Alyssa takes Banky, Holden, and Hooper to a bar in New York. It's a normal New York dive bar, so much so that Holden doesn't realize the significance that Alyssa chose it until after he's fallen for her.
- In the 1989 East German film Coming Out, the closeted protagonist goes to a gay bar full of men in drag and various outrageous costumes, dancing enthusiastically. There's also a lesbian in a man's suit. This was shot in an actual East Berlin gay bar with the real regulars.
- Advise and Consent (1962) was one of the first American movies to show a gay bar.
- Bell, Book and Candle has a scene in a bar that you don't realize is coded as a gay bar until about halfway through.
- "Irreversible"'s opening begins in and around a gay sex club called, classily, "Le Rectum".
- The nightclub that Armand and Albert own in The Birdcage.
- Amusing parody of the trope: In Stephen King's It, the landlord of a failing bar, the Falcon, is relieved when business picks up, in the form of quiet, youngish men who start patronizing his establishment. It takes him weeks to work out that his bar has become the unofficial gay bar of the town, but once he's aware of it, he starts listening to gossip and begins to hear about all the orgies and perversions that straight men who would never dare set foot in the place ("In case all their wrist muscles went instantly limp") just know are going on there on a nightly basis. He also finds that his bar now suffers fewer breakages and less violence between patrons, making it more profitable to run.
- Terry Pratchett, as a side joke in a footnote, gave Discworld gays a scene to go to, in the form of the Blue Cat Club. Managed by Mr. Harris, a man allowed membership of the Seamstresses' Guild on the grounds that un-natural acts are only natural.
"This was a gentlemen's club which did not allow the presence of ladies. This was not to suggest it was that kind of gentlemen's club, which existed in a different part of the city, with generally a lot more going on."
- A very low-key (but no less awesome) example from the Phryne Fisher novels: the Blue Cat Club is an impeccably-run gentleman's/gay club (it's got two circles: the outer circle are men who just like to hang out with other guys in a place that doesn't require impeccable manners, and the inner circle is a group of gay men who like to hang out, be themselves and eat amazing French food) that sounds like a cross between the Windsor Hotel and a museum.
Live Action TV
- "Uneasy Rider '88" by the Charlie Daniels Band, in which two cowboys get a flat and are forced to stop at a joint where one is asked to dance by a Drag Queen, though he doesn't realize it at first. (A stark contrast to their original "Uneasy Rider", which was about a hippie in a redneck bar.)
- The singer in the Electric Six song "Gay Bar" seem to have a fairly outrageous place in mind—-most of the activities there described—-being a superstar, physical penetration, starting a nuclear war—-tend to be frowned upon in more sedate establishments, though these do *not* frown on spending all your money there.
- The original, banned video for "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood is set in a particularly bizarre one filled with giant, scary bartenders, lethermen, midgets, a fat guy dressed like a Roman emperor, and tigers.
- In an episode of Richard Wilson's radiography Believe It!, he describes being taken to a strip club in Greece by Sir Ian McKellen. He comments that this doesn't seem like Sir Ian's kind of place, before eventually realising that the naked women everywhere are just camoflage...
- The Shadowrun sourcebook Runner Havens mentions a gay bar in Seattle that's a popular runner spot. One of the commentators then discusses a gay orc fixer he knows who likes to bring clients there (and gets disappointed if they don't look shocked). Notably, the second floor of the bar is an S&M club that caters to any orientation.
- In Applause, Margo's number "But Alive" winds up in a bar in Greenwich Village, where she is acclaimed by the quite flamboyant and exclusively male clientele.
- The nightclub in La Cage aux folles.
- The Gaydar Station in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Like the other two night clubs you can visit, you can play on the arcade games there or go on the dancefloor for a rhythm-based minigame. Sadly, you still dance with girls there (which isn't a huge stretch, but still).
- The first level of Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl ends in one of these. It's mostly an ordinary bar, if dark and empty, but it features bright disco lights and Expies of Village People attacking you. The bartender is a suave guy with an elaborate hairdo who wears pink and cries if you beat up his precious car.
- The Spartacus in Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude.
- Truth in Television: In many smaller cities where it's not practical to have more than one or two gay nightspots they can certainly end up looking like this.
- Additionally, in more conservative small towns where the only open gay men are those who are Camp Gay or otherwise in the Transparent Closet, most patrons to be found in these few gay nightspots tend to fit this stereotype.
- In the 18th century there were Molly Houses. Taverns that were notorious for housing men who would partake in orgies, cross dressing, and gay marriages. Though how much of this actually happened in the gay bars may be uncertain, as most details of them were in trial cases and undercover informants looking for reasons to hang sodomites.