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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
Electric Six, "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 GLBT 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 GLBT 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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Comic Books  

  • 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.

     Fan Fic  

     Film  

  • 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 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.

     Literature  

  • 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  

  • Averted in at least one episode of Burn Notice. A gay bar Sam and Fiona visit for information looks no different than any of the other drinking locations that the show visits besides the fact that Fiona's the only woman in it. Admittedly, though, nearly every bar in the show's version of Miami is pretty flashy.
  • This place or something like it is extremely popular in the Law & Order series.
  • Babylon in Queer as Folk is one of the more well known examples, which follows every bit of this to a "T". Note: Babylon is this to a T for a reason - this was an accurate portrayal of gay life in Manchester at the time. Although this was most certainly not the case for the Americanized show set in Pittsburgh. The city's and the state of Pennsylvania's fairly strict regulations for bars and clubs would not allow anything like the fictional bar to stay open. This led to some very confused and depressed visitors. Not to mention that Pittsburgh's gay community would not be large enough to support a club the size of Babylon. To clarify, there's a very big difference between the two versions of Babylon; one simply being a huge (if flashy) club while the other had even set up at back room for the more intimate dancing and, from time to time, featured elaborate show and strippers. Male strippers of course.
  • Ashes to Ashes has very stereotypical one of these, though it's more of a nightclub, in one episode. Alex takes Gene, Ray and Chris to it when she's undercover and they follow her, she doesn't tell them what type of club they are going to and freak out. Ray then has to pretend to be interested in a suspect and plays along till the suspect whispers something in his ear that makes him flip out so he starts a Bar Brawl. We never find out what he said.
  • Gay Bar Reveal on the UK sketch show Goodness Gracious Me. Two underage boys want to be served drinks in a pub, so to look older, they wear glasses (and can't see a thing.) When they remove the glasses, they realize it's actually a gay bar full of Village People lookalikes, and run away screaming.
  • The cast of How I Met Your Mother once went to one of these to accompany Barney as he tries to get a date for his gay brother. Robin and Lily like it because they don't have to worry about being hit on. Marshall likes it because he can order fruity drinks with paper umbrellas and not be judged.
    • Eventually Robin and Lily begin to hate it because they're not being hit on.
      • And Ted and Marshall hate getting hit on by every guy in the place.
  • Played straight in Noah's Arc, where just about every gay bar seen is of the exceptionally wild variety, while the straight bars seen are far more tame.
  • The first episode of Wire in the Blood had a classic example, right down to the hapless straight cop getting hit on by two Manly Gay types in quick succession.
    • Justified in that they deliberatly went looking for that type of bar as Tony said (correctly) it would be the type of place the killer would hang out in
  • An episode of Frasier sees Frasier and Niles enter a Gay Bar in search of one of Roz's boyfriends, who they believe has entered the establishment. Tuesday night, apparently, is Leather Night, but the bar patrons we see are mostly men sitting at tables chatting and drinking beer.
    • Rumor has it that part of this was out of respect to the cast: one actor was openly gay and the other was in a Transparent Closet.
  • An episode of Dalziel and Pascoe features closeted Straight Gay Sergeant Wield looking for witnesses in a very stereotypical gay bar.
    • Semi-parodied by Reginald Hill in the Dalziel and Pascoe novel Death's Jest Book, in which one nighttime hotspot has become a gay bar by default.
  • At one point in Tipping the Velvet, the protagonist Nan visits a historically implausible but still somehow believable lesbian bar in Victorian London.
  • 30 Rock: When Frank questions his sexuality, he winds up at a full-blown gay stereotype bar dancing with two Leathermen. The music is (of course) Jenna's "Muffintop." Amusingly, when one of the men gives Frank a Camp Gay goodbye, his partner chastises him for being a stereotype.
  • The Sopranos: Vito is spotted in a gay nightclub in full leather gear by two wiseguys there to collect protection money. This ultimately gets him killed.
  • Surprisingly subverted in a first-season episode of Cheers. Rumors of a growing number of gay patrons lead the regulars at Cheers to worry about it becoming a gay bar, with the obviously underlying but unspoken fear that it will turn into this trope. The episode ends with the revelation that several of the long-term background patrons/extras are the feared gays, and that they've been there all along.
    • In a later episode, Norm pretends to be gay to lure a potential client for his painting/decorating business. He brings them to Cheers and they remark how "it looks just like a regular bar".
  • There's an episode of Will and Grace where the titular duo go into what Grace insists is a gay bar. Will isn't sure, until "I Will Survive" starts playing. The signature drink is the Penis Colossus.
  • In an episode of Taxi Alex finds himself in a gay bar dancing with a man against his will and ends up disco dancing with all the patrons.
  • The Wire: the extremely homophobic Lamar is trying to track down Gayngster Omar Little by scouting out local gay bars. One of the gay bars he looks through features shirtless patrons, guys coming in to Lamar, a thumping bass track playing through the speakers and gay porn playing on the monitors.
    • And if you look closely enough, police commander Bill Rawls.
    • Subverted when Kima Greggs and her girlfriend go drinking with two other gay women. They might be in a lesbian bar or they might not be - you can't tell.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia the gang is concerned that the patronage of Paddy's by African-Americans is less than nil. To solve this problem, they ask Sweet Dee's friend (who is black) to recommend the bar to his "friends." The man turns out to be gay and turns the bar into the hottest gay bar in Phily. Charlie is happy because of the increased business, and Dennis is happy for all the attention and tips he now receives. On the other hand, Dee is unhappy because she no longer gets tips, and Mac is unhappy because there are no girls to hit on.
    • The show being what it is, Dennis ultimately gets his comeuppance, if you know what we mean.
  • Averted in an episode of Roseanne in which the main character and her sister visit a lesbian bar with a gay friend. Most if not all of the patrons are regular people having a fun night out at a bar; Roseanne dances with her friend, and the one person who does hit on an uncomfortable Jackie is simply a conventionally attractive woman who sees Jackie sitting alone at the bar, and backs off without incident when told that Jackie isn't interested.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun had two gay bar appearances. They were relatively tame though, one suffering only from high-camp values, and the other having quite a lot of crossdressers, but otherwise mundane.
  • Nicely subverted in Rescue Me: Because the homophobic character entering the bar doesn't see any stereotypical gay indicators, he doesn't realize it's a gay bar until all the patrons stand up to defend the man he's harassing.
  • Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the Demon bar "Willy's Alibi": "It's a Demon bar! It's like a gay bar... with Demons!"
    • And indeed, it's just your normal, average bar...with demons.
  • Pretty much every single location mentioned by Stefon.
  • Parks and Recreation: Pawnee apparently has quite a large, active gay community, despite being a smaller midwestern town. The local gay bar is full of lights and loud pop music, but otherwise averts most of the Camp Gay stereotypes.
    • Probably justified, since while the gay bar in town fits this trope, most if not all of the bars in Pawnee seem to be more like dance clubs than little midwestern bars.
      • There are hints that many of the bars have the same owner and that they may be fronts.
  • There's an episode of Living Single where the girls go to a gay bar because they're sick of getting hit on at their usual spots. Hilarity Ensues, including an arcade duel with a scary drag queen.
  • Sex and the City has a few of these featured, complete with men in gold Speedoes dancing in cages.
    • And in one such gay nightclub it's stated that there's no ladies' restroom, with the heavy implication that The Girls are the first and only female visitors to this venue.
  • Southland averts this to the extent that many people didn't realise that Cooper was gay, despite him being shown in a gay bar at the end of the first episode.
  • Averted in The Office (US), which features a gay bar in the episode Trivia. It takes Andy a moment to realize it's a gay bar, and it's a very normal looking (if exceptionally nice looking) bar with average-looking gay clientele. The bar even holds a trivia night.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Earl finds a rather nerdy man named Kenny that he had gone to school with and picked on mercilessly. Earl notes that Kenny is lonely, and so tries to get him a girlfriend, until Randy stumbles upon Kenny's gay Porn Stash and tells Earl "I think you're trying to sell a cat to a guy who fancies dogs.". Earl then takes Kenny to a local gay bar to help him become more comfortable with who he is...and maybe find a new boyfriend.
  • Glee has Scandals, where the gay boys of the cast go with fake ID's. However, it's realistic in appearance and size for a gay bar in small town Ohio.
  • In Teen Wolf, Scott and Stiles find themselves at a big and rather lively gay club, despite the show being set in a small town.
  • Faking It gives us a brilliantly conceived 2-in-1 in The Twain.
    Shane: Lesbian coffee shop by day, gay bar by night, and ne'er the twain shall meet.

     Music  

  • "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.

     Radio 
  • 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...

     Tabletop Games  

  • 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.

     Theatre  

  • 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.

     Video Games  

  • 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.

     Web Original  

     Webcomics  

     Western Animation  

  • Played for laughs by The Simpsons with a Gay Bar Reveal; Homer, having been banned from Moe's and looking for a new watering hole, is the only man in She-She Lounge, a very obviously lesbian bar, muttering "There's something bothering me about this place...I know! This lesbian bar doesn't have a fire exit! Enjoy your deathtrap, ladies!", which is followed by a woman asking "What was her problem?" as he leaves.
    • Also, the Simpsons episode "Homer's Phobia". Homer makes friends with a kitschy antique store owner who looks like (and is voiced by) John Waters, but breaks off the friendship when he finds out that John is gay and Bart may be being influenced by him (the episode ends with Homer learning his lesson, naturally). In an effort to straighten him out, Homer accidentally takes Bart to a steel mill that turns into a gay dance club/bar after the work day is over. We work hard, and we play hard.
    Moe: Wake up, Homer. The entire steel industry is gay.
    • In the more recent episode Flaming Mo's (not to be confused with the season 3 episode "Flaming Moe's"), Smithers gets Moe to redesign his bar to cater to Springfield's resident gay population that doesn't fit in with the very trendy, upscale gay bar that opened literally across the street. Moe's (now redubbed Mo's) looks a lot more like a real gay bar would, a little class and a mixed but average clientele, while the competition is the loud, thumping, laser-and-fog-filled night club stocked (very intentionally) with a bevy of hunks that look like they just stepped off the catwalk.
  • Time Squad had a robotic version of a gay bar on the season two episode, "Day of the Larrys." Yes, you read that right: a kids' show had what was a pretty obvious depiction of a gay bar (though it was more disco than bar [there was a disco ball and disco music playing], the implications were still there).
  • One cutaway in Family Guy shows Stewie in a club full of hunky men all dancing shirtless with lasers and fog overhead.
    "I know the guy that owns this place!"
    • Oddly enough, it's also been subverted. When the fellas go looking for a new pub, they briefly try out "The Cherry Pit". Which turns out to be a lesbian bar. And they're only tipped off by two girls macking at the bar.
  • Subverted on South Park; the Gay Bar Reveal in "D-Yikes!" is more realistic because Les Bos seems like a pretty normal bar, except that its clientele are all women (with a good number, though not all of them, unusually "butch").
  • In The British sketch-show Monkey Dust, Geoff (a recurring character) who is a closet homosexual, travels throughout Britain in search of a good place for outing. He coincidentally halts at a small pub in The West Country that borders Überwald, and tries his best not to openly out himself there, as the patrons look extremely conservative and offensive towards him. The only thing he didn't know was, that most of the patrons in the pub were "cottagers" themselves.
  • Averted on Archer. During an operation that requires him to seduce a gay Cuban operative in Miami, Archer visits a Latino gay bar called The Cockfight. It looks like any other bar, except that it has actual cockfighting. Most of the episode is about Archer gradually realizing that the Cuban operative doesn't really fit any of the stereotypes about gay men.

     Real Life  

  • 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.


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alternative title(s): Gay Bar; Everybody Knows Your Flame
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