Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gay Club and Gay Bar in One

In Jakarta just last Friday night, my gay Indonesian colleague wanted to bring us out. As the gracious host of the night, he asked our group, composed of two girls and two gay guys (me and him) all at the age of late 20s to early 30s, what type of fun we wanted.

It was a Friday night, and naturally, I'd be in one of Manila's macho dancing gay bars. While I didn't want to broadcast to the whole group that I wanted to see some half-naked "macho dancing" men, I just suggested to take us to somewhere "sleazy."

The two tipsy girls, of course, giggled at the idea, as they were open to experience something new. My colleague thought I was joking. We've always gone out to enjoy the gay clubs during our business trips across various cities -- Bangkok, Singapore, Manila, Madrid. And he thought I'd enjoy these gay clubs like him.

So off we rode the taxi at 11 in the evening. He led us to this place where he knew all four of us would enjoy...

What it is, and how it surprised me, after the jump:

This gay club in Jakarta, "Helios* Bar and Lounge", was located discreetly inside a mall. Named after one of the Greek gods, the name may remind a Pinoy of a typical macho dancing gay bar in Manila, like Adonis or Zeus. Hmmm, wait, I think there's already a supposed KTV-disco-gay bar in Manila already with that name.

Upon entering the bar, I realized it was more of a gay disco club than a gay strip bar. Lots of fashionably dressed-up gay guys our age were partying to pop-dance music. Some were hanging out at the bar or at the sides with a drink on their hands, cruising for other gay men they may fancy. And a campy drag show was on-stage at the far end of the bar, so this should definitely be one of those gay disco clubs, similar to anywhere else around the world.

But in the middle of the entire place, something surprised me. There was a ledge or platform, with the bar table (where you get drinks) plus bar stools surrounding it. On this platform at the center of attraction was a tall, slender metal bar. Yes, a stripper's pole. (see picture above).

What surprised me more was in the middle of the dancing, after five songs from the playlist, two tall, lean but well-built men entered the stage. They were half-naked, bare-chested, with only black skimpy boxer-type briefs and dark military-type boots. Oh yes. A familiar sight. Macho dancers? Not exactly. In this setting of a gay club, they are called go-go boys.

These go-go boys in gay clubs don't dance and gyrate to slow tunes or love songs or power ballads ala macho dancing. They move the same way house music should be danced -- fast, pumping, energetic. The typical gay club, especially in Manila, are not strangers to go-go boys, as each bar would have 3-4 men every given night.

But these gay clubs just feature these go-go boys just like mini-attractions in certain segments, at the far end of the bar, with their own little stages or booths. Bed in Malate showed them showering behind a glass window in one song; O Bar in Ortigas had small stages set up for them.

The go-go boys in Helios seem not just side attractions; they were presented at the center-stage with longer exposure time.

What was also different about these go-go boys in Helios, however, was when they moved from the stage to the platform with the pole, their moves slowly transformed from the typical fast techno dancing to some sort of seductive macho dancing. One was leaning on the pole, acting as if fantasizing about a very erotic scene. The other then went behind the pole, touched the other guy with his hands, then caressed him from head, to shoulder, to chest, to abdomen, to his lower pelvis. The first guy turned around, and did the same to the other guy, but acting as if sucking his nipples, then licking his pelvis. After a few more rounds of this seduction, they'd face the audience again to resume dancing to the house music. They'd leave the stage after a few more songs, to take a break, then return a couple of songs after to do a similar upbeat and sexy routine.

What this bar looked to me was like a gay bar inside a gay club. Male go-go dancers (albeit strippers or macho dancers, whatever you want to call them) at the center of the club with their own ledge and pole, then surrounding the bar would be the bar area and dance floor.

The clientele of this type of bar is also different -- no matronas here, less of the old gay men, a few Caucasians, more younger gays partying. If these customers get bored looking for their next trick, they'd just hang around at the bar area, and stare at the muscular half-naked men dancing seductively in front of them. Win-win for these younger gay guys. Win also for the girls, especially my colleagues, who just stared at the dancing half-naked men, instead of the gays on the dance floor.

Would a concept like this appeal to the younger gay generation, just how it appealed to the gays of Jakarta?

This is the generation of gays who are more exposed to more free or cheaper avenues to have sex -- online chat, social networking (DL or PR), and massage parlors -- and find going to a gay club or disco as a way to get a quick and relatively cheap hook-up.

This is the same generation who sees less purpose in going to a macho dancing bar, as getting aroused can be done for free -- just go online for m2m or gay porn.

As one of my gay friends Rico* said after I invited him first-time to the gay bar "Home Base"*, "the gay bar has a 'bitin' factor to it", compared to a gay club. All one sees are half-naked men, especially straight ones, then nothing happens to release that pent up sexual frustration when leaving the bar. The gay club allows instant gratification once a hook-up with a gay guy they fancy is taken home.

If I bring this concept of a gay-bar-in-a-gay-club to Manila, I'd need to study it carefully to make it work. For sure this concept has a niche -- not against the big gay bars who are for matronas or old gays, nor the hosto bars for the bar girls, nor small seedy gay bars for the cheapo horny gays. How to make the macho dancers appeal to the younger gay crowd who are in the bar for fun, dancing and the hope to get sex? What can make them get or "table" or "request" a macho dancer, instead of that free gay sex on the dance floor? How can I entice macho dancers to work in this club, versus working in a gay bar where they can snatch a wealthy matrona or Koreana, if they're lucky? Do I even need to charge MD drinks, and by how much, for the business to earn? What do I even call this type of bar?

P.S. If anyone gets this idea and sets-up this type of bar in Manila, please inform me. I'd insist to that person: "I thought of the idea first!"

*Names here used are not their actual names, but pseudonyms to protect their real identities.

GB Goer
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila



  1. A lot of the local clubs like Bed and O Bar have their share of Go-go boys. I think the only difference is how they dance versus what you described. It doesn't really seem like an original concept - just more along the lines of how far the dancers are willing to go.

    I used to hear stories of how the bar Red Banana used to go that route, but eventually they were closed after a major raid since they crossed the line somehow.

  2. Hi Rocky, I didnt know of that Red Banana bar. Where was it? Malate? Interesting to find out how exactly they "crossed the line." Do you know?

  3. It's where O Bar Malate is now. Unfortunately I never managed to dig into what the details were. But the place had a certain notoriety around it.

  4. the place was closed down because they have a dark room where the gay guys hook up and go all out. same thing happened with bath club also used to be located along orosa they were the last gay clubs that had dark rooms.

  5. Hello all,

    The most popular gay club in the small but growing Jakarta's gay nightlife scene. It is one of the only places you can go to in Jakarta, with Centro, Apollo and Forbidden Citi. Some clubs in Kota have a large gay crowd. Thanks a lot.....


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