A couple of days ago, the news reached us: Cor the owner of the worldwide known bar ‘Gaiety’ had sold the place. Together we looked back at more then 17 years of Gaiety.
The address Amstel 14 was already well known years before Gaiety opened its doors. Between 1963 until 1983 it was known as ‘Moors Eldorado’ in those days the bar had no windows, outside you would only see the name in neon lights. Inside the bar was decorated with pink imitation leather, loads of electric chandeliers with fake crystal, in Dutch we used to call these bars “bonbon-boxes”
You don’t see places like that anymore.
The owner was a German dyke named Moor Lewkowitz, already famous because of her nightclub at the corner of the Amstel and Anstelstraat. The bar was well known by lesbians, also because Moor’s girlfriend, was the bartender for years.
After 1983 the bar was closed for some years, until the Gaiety opened its doors in 1986. This was the start of a new era. The closed front of the bar was changed into a glass front; ‘Open’ was the slogan. Nothing of the old interior was spared, with the opening of Gaiety; they really opened the doors of a new era.
|During the beginning of the eighties it was more common for gay bars to hide behind closed doors, you had to ring the doorbell and after you were checked out by the doorman (in small bars the bartender was also the doorman) the door would open for you. |
The new Gaiety changed this policy. The doors were open and you were able to look into the bar from outside the street, a lot of (closet) gays had their problems with this new policy.
But times were changing and a lot of bars followed the Trent. In the past we hided everything between closed doors, suddenly we threw it out in the streets.
The new ‘open’ policy was a lucky shot, how would the audience reply? Well it became a hit. Famous became the talk-shows by Sally Bowles on the Tuesday nights. She was able to invite a lot of VIPs as a guest in her shows. The bar became a hangout place for famous Dutch artists. Young and old, straight, bi and gay, they were all to be found in this bar at the Amstel. It was a wild time at Gaiety in those years.
The Gaiety was the brain child of Cor and his partner (for 25 years) named Jaap who’s no longer with us. Before he started Gaiety Cor had already quite a big career in the Amsterdam bar and restaurant business. In an interview with Gay News (in 1997) Cor was telling about the progress of history: “Slowly I achieved an own audience, and developed my own Style. Gaiety is an exceptional bar. Amsterdam counts about fifty bars; every separate bar has its own style. Gaiety was known for its cute bartenders. They also had to be nice, social skills were required. Sometimes you walk in to a bar with beautiful bartenders, but they don’t even pay attention to you. In Gaiety you had to be very talkative as a bartender”
Today in 2003 he adds: “I was a strict but good teacher. When it came to customers; I told the boys to always watch the door. You might have an aggressive customer in front of the door; ones he’s in, you won’t get him out that easily. I’ve never had any problems what so ever; I’m a diplomat During the first thirteen years Jaap, who died unfortunately, was a great support to me. He always had good and great ideas; he was a talent in organizing. I’m not at all.”
“Queens’s day was always high day at the Amstel. A special day; hundred of thousands visited the Amstel, sometimes you couldn’t move your way through the crowd. Wonderful times, big shows we had. The audience was always divers but they were fun.”
“During the first twelve years I recorded a lot of situations on video. I’m planning to select the best parts and release them on a CD-rom”
“People are asking me all the time: ‘What will you do next?’ I still would like to work for three or four days in a bar, straight or gay, I need doing something.”
“I would like to thank everybody who visited Gaiety the last seventeen and a half years; and I really mean everybody.”
At the fifteenth year anniversary of Gaiety ‘Up to the twentieth’ was wished. It was not meant to be that way. The exact cause will always be a guess; though we all know the tourists aren’t visiting Amsterdam that much anymore. The recession causes problems for every bar a bar in Amsterdam. The name Gaiety will no longer exist in Amsterdam. At this well-known place; there will be a bar named ‘Het Wapen van Londen’
However Cor paid his dues for the Amsterdam leisure business. Some of us will have melancholic feelings, passing the ex-Gaiety. They will remember al those wonderful moments they experienced here; thanks to guys like Cor and Jaap; who had the courage to start something new.