Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tabling the Top

First it was Beatty. Then, Phoenix. Derek was supposed to be in the same list, but left the bar. I then found out Russell was the same, a long time ago. Last week it was Japoy. This particular list of men surprised me.

I used to shy away from the top macho dancers of a gay bar.

When I was new in the gay bar scene of Manila, as I would choose which among the available macho dancers I'd request to sit with me that night, I'd select from only the bar's new models. Not the popular ones. Not with regular guests. Not one in the top 10 of monthly drink sales. Not the Mr. Gay Bar competition reigning title holder.

So my usual lines to the gay floor managers who would push me to "table" a guy were "Wait, which are the new ones?" or "I like that guy. Is he new?" or "I'll just wait for the modeling (or 'all-cast') when all of them are on-stage and get from the fresh-looking boys." If I find out if the guy I fancy is one of the bar's star macho dancers, I'd just scan the bar for someone else to sit with me.

So among the guys in the macho bar, how would I identify these top dancers? Continue after the jump:

How would I identify these top dancers? Ask the floor managers, of course. But since not all of them would be honest (they'd do or say anything for a sale) nor available to attend to you the entire night, I'd just look out which men are frequently requested or tabled everytime. Like, Oh, I remember this tall lanky guy walking past me -- he was tabled last time by a matrona who tucked some bills in his bikini when he was dancing. Or this fair-skinned muscular guy on-stage looks familiar -- yeah, because he always kept moving from one gay customer to another in my previous visits. Or I see this boyish-looking guy always staring, but wait, he is way too handsome for me (maraming kaagaw; lots of customers to compete with).

The gay bar stars were not necessarily the most handsome nor the best dancers nor the most endowed. They had a certain appeal to a demographic which would produce one or two crazed big-time customer who'd be their regular. Someone who would got smitten by their looks or their charms or pambobola (empty flattery). One mature gay man and a matrona for Phoenix. A Koreana matrona for Beatty. Mature gay businessmen for Russell. Japoy's selection of young wild Koreanas.

I took a mental note of these guys: "anyone but them." I avoided them as if I had an unknown allergic reaction to those often-requested dancers. So my strategy -- go for the young new ones.

I thought that that strategy of mine was quite nifty. Not only did these new boys fall within my preferred younger-than-me age range, I felt that "tabling" some fresh meat put me in control. At that time when I was still an ignorant gay bar goer, I didn't want to get someone more experienced than I am. I assumed that those boys, being new in the industry, wouldn't know the tricks of the trade yet, and thus, couldn't take advantage of me emotionally or financially. They wouldn't charm me into buying them more drinks or giving them a higher tip because of a lost cellphone or an ailing relative. Plus, they won't have regular big-time guests yet, so less effort would be required on my part to keep up with competition.

"Him? He looks mayabang (snob, full of pride, conceited)," was what I usually rationalized why I would mentally reject a particular macho dancer who seemed to be one of the stars. All these men looked smug while dancing on-stage or walking around the gay bar, indifferent to the other customers. It was my default first impression as I judged those men, even though a part of me got curious to meet them. What I didn't admit back then was I simply got too intimidated.

A year passed going to the same gay bar. When my regular tabled guys left, week after week, I crossed out each newbie that didn't meet my standard. At the same time, the regular customers of the top men were dropping out. Even though their sales and rankings faltered, they were still considered at the front of the pack.

Particularly Beatty's. His and his customer's break up was a concern for the bar, as the top money-maker MD's client might decide to leave and switch to another bar. But it opened an opportunity -- the opportunity for me to table the guy who for an entire year, I knew only by name and face, and only recently I've started to notice again. If I had to cross the line and get the top macho dancers, I didn't think I'd really get THE number one.

Each night since my only-newbie rule got breached, I happened to table the top guys one after another. I never imagined each encounter would be a delight. As in my previous post, their years of experience meeting and talking with various clients and regular customers have honed their conversation skills. Like Phoenix, they only brought up topics that might interest me, or might make me laugh or blush. They had their unique charm (possibly why they had smitten guests in the first place). Yes, they were stars, but they were never boastful, and were even quite respectful in your presence, especially Japoy. Also, all of them either love talking about the craziness of their guests or were just cordial in answering our questions about their guests.

And what I realized, some of these top men don't necessarily like their psycho guests that put them on top. These men were thankful for the financial help and unsolicited gifts, fine. But I guess they could only just tolerate a certain amount of paranoia or control-freakishness or power-tripping from their guests.

What really surprised me tabling the top was that they never said or texted anything that might make me retort back to them as "bola lang yan! (empty flattery)." In a year's experience in gay bars, I already got tired with statements that were supposed to make a newbie customer's heart flutter, and that would make his or her income fly away too. None of these I get from the top male dancer now. It seemed they didn't need to use those lies or flirty one-liners, as they had some substantial earnings and assets (ie. vehicles) already. May or may not be from their rich regular guest whom they may or may not have taken advantage before.

And I knew they knew I was a customer that couldn't be taken advantage of. Maybe they realized, sheez, they're stuck with this less than rich customer who was as young as they are, and was just there for the fun, entertaining conversations. Well, even if they attempt to charm me into giving in to what they needed or wanted, what's for me to be afraid of now? I am an experienced gay bar goer already.

GB Goer
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila

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