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Madness in Brussels’ ”La Demence”

by Vincent van der Kraan in Nightlife & Reports , 16 juli 2002


While visiting the Belgian capital, getting ready for Gay Pride, I decided to take the opportunity to interview Thierry Coppens, the owner of the biggest and most successful gay disco “La Demence” in Brussels. It’s April 30, the night of the huge “Man Killers Party” and it also happened to be Thierry’s Birthday.




   When did you start the Demence Parties?
That was in 1989 near the French border in Kortrijk. I was working there behind the bar in a straight club in a beautiful old castle. A marvelous spot for parties, in the middle of the forest far away from civilization. In ‘88 the owner saw an English straight club organize Gay Parties every so often. He wanted to do the same here in Belgium and since I was a well known gay networker he asked me for the organization. Since we were so close to the border we mainly got French visitors. Soon we were having parties of some 300 men. We called these parties “La Délire” (The Madness). Especially during the summer the forests were witness to many party extravagances and in the village rumours soon spread wild things were going on in that joint of ours. It was no surprise when one day the police raided the place since they’d heard a drug gang were having orgies there. Clients were totally undressed and thrown to the floor. The newspapers licked their fingers with the juiciest stories, till a few days later they had to confess the whole thing was no more than an innocent gay party without any drugs whatsoever. Since that time they left us in peace and the parties flourished like never before. After three years things went so well I decided to make a big start of it myself.



Party days

   When did you start in Brussels?
On January 1, 1992 we organized the first La Demence Party here in Brussels. With the coming of the Thalys the distance between Paris and Brussels was now no more than one hour and twenty five minutes. So our French visitors could make the move with us. In Maastricht the European treatise had just been signed and Brussels was now the capital of Europe. Since Brussels is ideally situated between Germany, Luxemburg, England and Holland, with a major European publicity campaign we grew in two years into a Big Integrated European Gay Party. The name La Demence comes from Demenciaque meaning as much as “going out of your mind”.

   How are things going now?
Each year we organise about eleven Demence Parties. Always on a night before a holiday, like tonight before May 1, Labour Day, a free day in our country. On purpose we only schedule parties before a holiday to calm down ourselves a bit. Since things went so well, we were tempted of course to organise parties much more often. But when you do that things might go downhill soon. Now people reserve a special place in their agendas since there is no regularity to it. That’s our power. Our website: www.lademence.com has a lot of foreign visitors who subscribe to our free email service. People date to carpool and the last Thalys from Paris even was full of gay men, gay women and transvestites. The party starts in the train already. People are coming from France, England, Germany, Luxemburg, Holland and our own sweet Belgium. No need to reserve a bed since the party goes on till the next day.



   Has the nature of the parties changed over the years?
There have been very few ups and downs. There is a change in dress though. Earlier it was mainly fetish, carnivalesque often, depending on the themes like beachparty, foamparty, hawaiiparty. It slowly evolved into sex parties. Before people liked dressing up, now they like to seduce and well ... I hand it to you, seducing in a hulaskirt. These days it’s more about muscles, the nude body, to show off one’s physique, the sensual. Yet these aren’t specific SM Parties like your Trash Parties, but here vanilla goes hand in hand with SM, and there are men and women, transvestites and straights. Everyone is welcome. The music used to be very commercial, but is more abstract now, let’s say we grew from Madonna to Techno.

   What’s so special about your parties?
First of all the European integration. Together with different gay tastes going hand in hand. Plus the fact we’re relatively cheap in comparison with other countries around us. When you come before midnight you pay 7 Euro at the door. A beer will cost you 2,50. In Belgium we have no closing hours. Which means you can come in at 11 at night, but also at 7 or 11 in the morning. During the party visitors come in shifts so to say, where at 9.00 am die-hards meet Brussels’ gays who just got out of bed. By that time we make sure we have plenty of free rolls for breakfast, so both shifts can go at it again for hours on end.



Spiritual

   What’s the Party tonight?
A “Man Killers Party”. We have hundreds of water pistols filled with fake blood and everyone is prepared it’s going to be a big mess. But I’d say dive in and see for yourself.”

Which we do. Hordes of gorgeous naked men in a giant space. Wherever I go I meet Dutch people. The fun thing about this disco is that they have enormous rooms next to small ones, plus cruisy darkrooms. But also chill out spaces, smaller dance spaces where a stripper performs every other hour. The lightshow is perfect, laser beams caressing the dancing crowd in all the colours of the rainbow. Thousands of half naked bodies and lots of muscle. When I came in the party’s theme hadn’t sunk in my mind yet, so I thought I’d walked into a safety drill. Everywhere bodies covered in blood, till I was taken under fire myself. People joined in the fun of it all and guys dropped dramatically to the floor playing at being dead. I asked a visitor for his impressions. His name was Wayne, an architect from London, who also has homes in Toronto and Manchester. He’d heard of these parties through a girlfriend working for the Liege television. “I dont know why”, he said, “but I feel such a wave of energy coming from this party and already it is early in the morning, but for my feeling everything goes much too fast. I think it’s a marvelous party with everyone being so friendly to one another. In a short time I met loads of people, I laughed and danced danced danced. This party is certainly as good as our London Salvation Party. Gorgeous men, not only physically but also spiritually. I’m having a great time”.
At ten in the morning I’m blinking in the bright sunshine, when I step out of the door of La Demence. What a wonderful night. More than worth my trip to Brussels.



 







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