[Title] in loving memory of
[Byline] by sean robert
“Finally, it has happened to me/Right in front of my face/My feeling’s can’t describe it” belted out Ce Ce Peniston as I nervously embarked into Club Desire for the very first time. The sound blasting, lights flashing and smoke billowing, I can remember that night as if it was yesterday. A hot Saturday in July, even though the sun was gone the temperature in and outside the club was still searing. Fresh out of the closet and barely legal, I found myself lost in a sweaty crowd that overflowed the main dance floor and spilled out on to the patio. Clichéd as one can possibly be, the thought streamed across my mind, “this night is the first of my entire life:” and in a sense it was.
Fresh out of the closet and barely legal, I found myself lost in a sweaty crowd.
Less than six months later I recall the sound of hundreds of mini-champagne bottles popping as I brought in New Year’s 2004 with a group of my closest friends. Dressed considerably gayer (and most definitely more humiliating) than my first night, I set out to seduce the object of my affection behind the bar. Unbeknownst to me the man on the other side of my spiced rum and coke was straight, I proceeded to spend my entire allowance in his tip jar. Naïve as an optimistic gay youth can be, once my pockets were empty I asked him he if he took VISA after he told me he’d take his shirt off for $50.
I’ve always been the first one to say “a gay bar is a gay bar is a gay bar.” After spending late nights on the streets of Church, Davie and St. Catherine’s I came to the conclusion fairly quickly that it doesn’t matter where you are in this country: the men, music and drinks are all the same. That said I am also the first person to readily admit I take these places for granted. For as large as Canada is, the square footage in which you can dance with, hold hands and kiss your partner pales in comparison. And with all politics aside, in this prairie town that space has now become smaller.
It was that same December 31st that I felt the burn of stubble for the first time, receiving my first male kiss. Rubbing my upper lip afterwards, I whispered under my breath in an enlightened yet devastated tone “so this is what it feels like to be gay.” Half a decade later, I am filled with memories of endless Saturday nights that I can hardly remember but will never forget. For many queer Winnipeggers, Happenings holds the key to their fondest recollections. For me it is Desire.
It makes me smile now when I think back to how much I had to learn that first night I stepped in the old bank’s entrance. Locked in the vault of my mind forever more is the sight of an optimistically terrified redhead: who cowered underneath the sight of his first drag queen and entered the men’s washroom filled with trepidation. Like any bar, the faces have long changed since then but the memories will always remain the same.
Published: Outwords Inc. #159 January 2009