Starting this issue the Scene Queen will regularly speak his mind about his experiences in and ideas about the queer scene in Amsterdam, Holland, and abroad. (Eds.)
I was sitting under the arches in Star Bucks in London sipping my grande cappachino, waiting for my friend to arrive and head off to Heaven for some fun on a Saturday night. I hadn’t been out in London in a couple of years, so I was very curious to see what was going on compared to what was definitely NOT going on in Amsterdam.
After a couple of smokes and my cappachino overdose, my friend and I made our way around the corner to find that the line to get into Heaven was bubbling over and we heard the sound of chitter chatter of clubbers waiting to get in, discussing their week at work, or what they had “taken” that evening.
We made our way to the front with a nod and a kiss to the door bitch and a smile to security and quickly we were in. It is true, no matter where you are, it’s all about whom you know and what they can do for you. On this particular occasion, it was to get us in hassle free and FREE!
As we made our way through the club to the “Departure” Room, I couldn’t help but notice two very distinct things. The first was that the club was more than three quarters full and it wasn’t even 1 am yet. The second was that the age range had to be from 16/17 till mid 40s.
As I lit up a cigarette and made casual introductions to the people and friends of my friend around us, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief just to be able to be out on a Saturday night. As our drinks arrived and we cheered one another, a cute boy across from me, not more then 21, asked where I was from. As the collective group turned to hear me say “Amsterdam,” I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pity from them.
The cute one replied, “What happened to Amsterdam?”
The “burning” question, accompanied by the usual follow up statements... “Amsterdam used to be the gay capital of Europe!” and “The security at the parties is too much!” or “We prefer to go to Barcelona now rather than Amsterdam!”
As I found myself hard pressed to combat these statements and tackle the “burning” question, all I could seem to say between a puff of my cigarette and a sip of my beer was, “That’s why I am fuckin’ here, babe!” With a collective laugh we all went on our way to enjoy our evening! And enjoy I did!
On the flight back to Amsterdam I found myself nostalgic for the days when we were planning the RoXy on Wednesday nights, the iT on Saturdays in Manfred’s days and even for the Sundays at The Back Door for Tea Dance! The idea of clubbing as it was seems to disappear. Yes, you can still count on the Cockring or The Exit, but lets face it, these places don’t quite compete with a true clubbing experience.
Why did things change? What happened? Where is Amsterdam now? And, what is next?
There are many theories as to why things changed. Gay clubbing became gay monthly events starting with Salvation. As clubs like The Back Door and the iT as well as the Roxy closed or burned down, places for gay nights became difficult to come across. The economy went to shit and the government made it difficult when dealing with sound levels and drugs as well as fire safety. The war in Iraq as well as terrorism kept the tourists away, especially the Americans.
But there are practical things to consider as well! The fact is that the “Gay Dance House” movement has had a run of more than fifteen years. Longer than disco! Or maybe it’s that the drug of choice has changed and ecstasy has been replace by GHB or GBL by many!
Amsterdam for many years has been considered open, tolerant and the gay place to be. We can get married, adopt children, and have equal rights to benefits, as well as catch a good fist fuck or strip show, and hire or be an escort if one so desires! Not to mention great clubs and parties. The fact is, we can be open and gay and party in many other cities in Europe and elsewhere now. And let’s face it: some other cities have hotter climates and hotter men and a short cheap flight to get there!
The reality is: Amsterdam is a “village” of a city, a village with charm and beautiful architecture along the canals. “A cosy place to settle down,” someone once commented to me.
In all fairness, Gay Amsterdam does come alive three times a year with Queensday, Gay Pride and Leather Pride! But is this enough?
The challenge is, can Gay Amsterdam be innovative enough to reinvent itself? The clubs, the parties and the people that make them, the business owners and the community in general, the challenge is for all of us!
Things will never be as they were, nor should they. It took a fantastic weekend to London to remind me how great going out used to be in Amsterdam and it took four words from a cute 21-year-old in Heaven to get me really thinking and asking the question myself! “What happened?”