Straight talk on the gay bar
No matter which way you swing, bar at 610 Center welcomes all.
Inside 610, the ceiling is 20-feet high and capped in stamped tin. There’s a leather sectional, white clothed tables, and an oak bar with a marble counter rimmed by a brass tube rail for your hands and a kick rail for your feet. Except for a sandwich board out on the sidewalk with “610” and some scribbling, there’s no branding anywhere, and the amber light inside might as well signal someone’s private cocktail party.
The point being, this neighborhood watering hole is too enticing to be the exclusive domain of gay men.
“People will always want to hang out in their groups. I mean, people travel in packs, gay or straight. Black or white or cowboy, whatever. But I do think the spectrum is shifting a little bit [toward diversity] already,” says the bartender, Joey Reed, who manages the place with a partner.
The 1970s gay and straight bar divide is fading fast.
Then again, not so fast.
“I’ve lived in a lot of cities, and this is one of the only ones where it’s OK to have a mixture,” says Matthew Bridges.
This one, really?
His date, Tim Corn, goes to Dallas a lot. There, straight men and women don’t walk into what are known as “gay bars.” There, men who love men keep hidden hovels around town. Separated by their mores, those sanctums are preserved in the dark.
A little after 10 p.m. on a Saturday, there are about 20 patrons, all men.
Except for one in a high turtleneck and beret and another who flaps his hands when he speaks, there’s none of the blaring semiotics that warn breeders, This bar is GAY!
In the middle of the floor there’s a pool table, and the television is tuned to Comedy Central. Office Space is on. C’mon.
Just then, three big dudes walk in — frat boy flannel, unshaved faces, incisors made shiny from steak — one guy’s got a Razorback hat turned backward and a leather jacket fit for scorching the freeway on a Kawasaki.
Oh, boy. This could get ugly.
The motorcycle jock catches Joey’s attention and orders a martini. “Up, and dirty, dirty, dirty,” he says, with a little curlicue twist on the last word.
That guy is Gabe Washam.
Another is Craig Cox, who introduces the third as “Ryan Flagstaff.”
“The stereotype is there’s one set look for a gay guy, but it’s not true, as you can see,” says Flagstaff (whose real name is Chris Bauer).
I made a comment about Cox and Flagstaff’s flannels and Cox feigned embarrassment.
“OK, you’ve caught me in last fall’s fashion. I’m so unpretty. Look away. I shouldn’t be seen.”
Over the course of the night, Joey serves me a Tink’s Pink Paradise (Bacardi Limon, Sprite and cranberry), a sloe gin fizz (gin, fresh squeezed lemon and sour mix), and a purplish shooter with grape vodka and blue Curaçao (it has a name that evokes gators and girl parts).
Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” comes pounding over the sound system. I tell Joey I’ve only heard the song a few times and I love it but maybe he feels differently.
“You know, this is one of those songs I do hear so much, but I still like it. If that makes any sense. Have you heard that new song by Taylor Swift that’s like, ‘We are never, ever, ever getting back together?’ That’s one that when I hear it I’m like, Oh — my — God.”
I asked all these guys — Joey, the three dudes, Bridges and Corn and another couple — if they think 610 is evidence of a shifting paradigm. With acceptance of homosexuality trending up, maybe there won’t be “gay bars” in the future. Joints like this will increasingly be frequented by straights, who in turn, will not act enraged if a gay man or woman hits on them at The Rev Room or Electric Cowboy or Sway.
No one bought it.
“That’s a good theory,” said Cox, “but here’s my spin on it. Gay guys are a different animal than straight ones, and you’re always going to want to be in that animal circle, the one you identify.”
“But Discovery, that’s become more of a mainstream kind of place,” said Flagstaff.
“But because of Discovery, gay guys have moved on to other things,” said Washam.
In the ‘60s, events like the Stonewall Riots in New York sent every homosexual the hard message that there were straights out there busting gay bars to Get those queers out! Afterward, the ruling straights acceded to let gays have their own private scene without disturbance — “this is our Kiwanis club, our Sunday services; this is where we’ve gone historically to meet,” says Washam.
Now, it seems, we want back inside.