We landed in Paris just as the dollar hit a historic low against the
euro. Fortunately, breakfast was included at Hotel Bel-Ami (which
was not, alas, named for Lucas Ridgeton's posse) where we were
staying on the Rive Gauche. But then, cost be damned, because it was
an anniversary trip -- and besides, one of us flew across the pond
for $5.05, an Air France special designed to commemorate that
airline's inclusion on the stock market on the 5th of May (5/05).
Though moderne and chic, the Hotel Bel-Ami would not have been our
first choice, given its location on the Rive Gauche, the more
touristy section of Paris, and a too-long walk from le Marais, where
les garcons gather. But we were on the Rive Gauche because Will and
Bill had taken an apartment nearby -- but then of course, Will and
Bill divorced after Black and Blue Montreal 2004 (SVT review to
follow in minutes, no doubt), thanks to a certain dick dancer at
So there we were, just the two of us, at the Bel-Ami on the Rive
Gauche, with all the buyers from Barney's and Bergdorf's. Right
around the corner from Cafe Deux Magots and Cafe Flore and Brasserie
Lipp. Well, Paris is Paris and the leaves crackled underfoot and the
streetlights came up and everyone was shopping and drinking and
cafeing and Chris and Paul were arriving from London.
A quick perusal of the gay rags and we decided that le Depot might
be just the place to meet our London boyz. Friday night, and it was
les beurs night at le Depot. Les beurs being a rough equivalent of
hispanic night or men of color, and in this case, men from former
French colonial countries. Yes, that sounds just fine for us.
Le Depot has two floors. The lower one is a warren of pitch black
rooms and caverns and holes draped with black camouflage netting and
a small dance floor playing Kylie -- oh, and also a sling, should
you be interested. It's a little too early for this. Back upstairs,
there are whirling dervishes, under the spell of North African
music. Uh, oh. We get a text message from the boyz. They've arrived;
what should they wear? We write back "Fuck-me clothes and
on-your-knees jeans and anything you won't mind losing." This might
prepare them. They're not really this sort of people, at least not
at this hour.
And surely, just as Paul enters, he says, "There's a time and a
So we book to Raido. It's a bar not unlike Splash, but smaller. Put
Splash and g and xl together and toss them around, and you'd get
Raido. Very well-designed and stylized with a lovely red-velvet
lounge downstairs and television screens above the urinals that show
you the face of the person at another urinal, so you can cruise each
other while you're pissing. Oh, those Parisians....
Back upstairs, there's a shower stall above the bar. A shower stall
with a gorgeous naked man taking a shower. Sudsing up and shampooing
and pressing his flesh against the plexiglass wall. The bar is
packed. Not everyone is watching the showering man. There are way
cute boys here, and most of them drinking huge steins of beer.
Suddenly, it's three a.m. We're walking back to le Rive Gauche, past
Notre Dame and under a sliver moon, over the Seine. It's Paris in
the a.m. It's heaven to be here, miles from the American election,
miles from our own lives.
On Saturday, we shop with the London boyz. We brunch at le Carre and
shop and drink cafe and shop and drink cocktails and shop. It's just
like a circuit weekend -- and then we find out that tonight,
Saturday night, it's Manny Lehman's debut at Queen. There are
posters in all the gay stores and invites on the bars and an
interview with Manny in one of the local rags.
We do the disco nap, which lasts longer than we imagined, so that
we're later getting to dinner than we thought, and then we linger
like the French over cafe and liqueurs, so that suddenly, it's
nearly two a.m. and there are no cabs in Paris, because this is not
New York, and we're in a panic about missing Manny and not getting
the London boys what they need more of and suddenly Paul's racing
down a street, waving his arms at a cab, which is mercifully empty.
"We're going to--" Paul starts in his broken French.
"I know where you're going," the cabbie says in better English.
"You're with those three over there, right? You're all going to
Queen, am I correct?"
Oh, it's so obvious.
Down the Champs-Elysee on a Saturday night. There's no line in front
of Queen which relieves the London boyz who apparently always have
to wait in line in London. There is, however, for the first time
that I can remember, a security frisk once we get inside Queen.
Bothersome, yes, but let's not dwell on it.
Queen is the biggest, most well-known gay dance club in Paris -- but
it is not as big as clubs we know from New York, Miami, Montreal.
Instead, it's somehow more local. More like a gathering spot for
European gays from all over the continent. They come to Queen the
way that boyz from Philly come to New York on a Saturday night. It's
two floors, with a small mezzanine overlooking the dance floor. And
there's a VIP section, which is primarily filled with the kind of
heterosexuals one associates with certain bottle-service clubs, and
it's canopied and corralled, so it sometimes feels as if they're the
ones behind bars, while all the cool and fun people are dancing --
on the floor, on the tables.
Paul and Chris find just what they need in a matter of minutes. No
joke. Time them: three minutes pass, and a deal is done. Two deals,
in fact. And everyone so pleasant about the entire undertaking. Oh,
those Parisians -- so civilized about such matters. We're golden.
The night is young -- and the boyz are pouring in. And there's
Manny, so Robert goes over to him and says, "We came all the way
from New York to hear you." This is a blatant lie, of course, but no
matter because it's meant well. And Manny says, "I'm so nervous," to
which Robert says, "Don't be. We're here for you."
There are American flags all over the club. This is too much, in my
humble opinion. What's next: freedom fries?
Michael Kaiser is playing. We last heard him in Montreal at the Main
Event. He's good. He's very good. He was playing the first part of
the Main Event, tag-teaming with Gilles Massicotte. He's very young
and he knows his crowd. Queen is his club; he knows how to
make the boyz move, and suddenly, we're dancing on the illuminated
banquettes. Shoving tables aside, making room. I'm getting a blister
already because I'm wearing shoes, not sneakers, because I didn't
pack right and I already lost my ATM card on the Champs-Elysee the
day before but right now, who cares? Nothing matters, but the music.
And then there are Indians with turquoise headdresses cutting
through the crowd -- and it's Manny at the helm. Manny and three
Indian go-go boyz. It's adorable. It's like a little club in some
part of the US where everyone has traveled about a hundred miles to
be there for the night because Saturday nights at this club are
always the best and everyone knows it. And Manny knows it too. He's
playing vocals and he plays George Michael's "Go to the City," and
also that Pointer Sisters remake "Baby, Make Your Move, Step Across
the Line," or something like that, which is not something I would
have known (or ever danced to) save for the fact that Chris is
yelling that into my ear and repeating the words over and over so
that I'm going to hear them for the rest of my week in Paris.
Then Manny moves into some tribal. And Paul and Chris are shaking
their heads. It's not what they like. They prefer "Lola's Theme."
"I'm a different person." I, however, like what I'm hearing. I'm
having a great time. Paul and Chris go to the floor in search of a
third, while Robert and I stay right where we are. There's this very
hot guy who looks like the sort of person who could make a porn by
himself and sell millions and never have to lift a finger again. We
watch him get the attention. His buddy is next to Robert and he and
Robert are laughing at how the boys sidle up to PornoBoy and try to
make it happen.
Then it's the cowboys. Three American cowboys shoving everyone off
the go-go boxes so they can perform again, and there's a blast of
nitrogen and smoke and confetti and there's a lot of cheering and we
are having way too much fun. Let's move to Paris. Let's live here
forever. The boys are so sweet. They want to practice their English
on us. Okay. If you want. It's unnerving how they move right in
without reserve. They're so frisky, such puppies. Yes, we're moving
Hours pass. Poppers. When was the last time? Poppers? The video
screens flash warnings about GHB. But Paul and Chris aren't worried.
They find a boy from Melbourne, Chris's hometown. He makes them
happy. There's another boy from Amsterdam. The four of them are
doing the circuit boy rock. Dirty sheets full speed ahead.
Manny's having fun. So is the crowd. He needn't have worried. He
fits in fine here at Queen. It's not a judgemental place. It's a
place for fun. A let-go, Saturday night place.
And then he's gone, and Michael Kaiser comes back on. It's five
a.m., or maybe it's six. The floor is still crowded and the VIP is
still packed. We watch from the mezzanine. We see what sluts our
London boyz have become. Happy to know it, happy to see it.
We say our goodbyes just before seven a.m., and out we walk onto the
Champs Elysee. A Sunday morning in Paris on that impossibly wide
boulevard. The streetlights are still on, the sun not yet fully up.
We walk along Avenue Montaigne, where Dietrich used to live. Leaves
crackle underfoot. Those huge oak leaves, the size of a bear paw.
The street cleaners in their green uniforms are out. We're about the
only other people walking in Paris. The city is ours. We're walking
through Paris on a Sunday morning, high from the night before, and
oh, it's so glorious. We don't know exactly where we're walking,
just the general direction, and we could keep on walking--
Until we can't. Suddenly, we're starving, and thank God, for that
breakfast at the Hotel Bel-Ami. We're the first ones there, seated
in our sweat-drenched clothes, and that butter, those rolls, that
cafe au lait, the granola, that fruit, the butter, the butter, the
Paris. Our week in Paris was the cost equivalent of a month anywhere
else, and made even worse by the fact that I left our brand-new iPod
in the seat pocket of the plane, and no, no one from the cleaning
crew called to say that they had retrieved it and were
holding it for us, but so what. We still had our week in Paris.
That butter, those boys, and tea at Laduree, and baba au rhum, and
the frites and those streets....
Paris. It's a joy.