Friday, August 16, 1996

“Go West”

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #32, August 16, 1996)

“If you ever plan to motor west . . .”

I just returned from two weeks of driving Old Route 66, also known as America’s Main Street and The Mother Road. Yes, much of it is still there, even though it’s not called Route 66 any more. It still, as the song says, “winds from Chicago to L.A.,” so I started in Chicago and drove the whole thing. In this column I can only give you a small hint of the magic and wonder of those two weeks, but I’ll do my best. The story will be told from a gay leather perspective, of course. And although I will have many opportunities to use some variant of the phrase “Get your kicks,” I promise I won’t.

“You go through St. Louis”: When I asked Twin Cities leathermen what was a must-see in St. Louis, they all said “Clementine’s!” Turns out Clementine’s is located in the Soulard, a very old and very charming part of the city (and just a few blocks off Route 66!) And, in my honor, the adorably hunky bartender had the jukebox play “Get Your Kicks On Route 66” by Natalie Cole. But if you plan a weekend in St. Louis, here’s how it works: The evening starts at Clementine’s and then moves on to The Outpost (and The Eagle upstairs, with a really fun backroom). The action then moves down the block to Magnolia’s (“Mag’s” for short), and at closing time it’s off to East St. Louis, where the bars stay open until 4 a.m. There was lots of leather in evidence, all of it friendly. Quite a fun time—I’ll be back.

Tulsa was surprising, and not always in a good sense. I was looking forward to visiting The Tool Box; I have talked with the owners at various leather events and they often invited me to stop in if I was ever in the neighborhood. I got there only to find that The Tool Box is no longer a leather bar. Not only that, the leather scene in Tulsa has evidently fallen into disrepute with the rest of the local gay community. When asked why, one bartender at The Tool Box said, “Because you leather guys are the biggest queens of all.” I didn’t pursue the topic any further.

The pleasant surprise of Tulsa was the architecture. If you’re interested in Art Deco you’ll find some examples of it here that will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Radio City Music Hall and the Chrysler Building in New York City. I spent two hours going through the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church and was overwhelmed both by the sophisticated detailing and use of symbolism, and by the loving care with which the building has been kept up. And that’s only one of many deco gems waiting for you.

One Tulsa architectural feature I didn’t visit was Oral Roberts University, featuring the much-talked-about Prayer Tower. Wherever you are in the city, it’s visible on the skyline. And I was told that the atmosphere there was just beautiful, and that people’s lives had been profoundly changed by visiting the campus. Maybe next time.

“Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty”: It sure does! There’s this old Route 66 motel that for the last 15 years or so has been The Habana Inn, a gay resort in the middle of the heartland. The huge motel features two pools, with two levels of rooms surrounding each, and with other wings of rooms besides. The ballrooms have been converted into restaurants and bars, making for one-stop shopping, so to speak. It was very cruisy. There wasn’t a lot of leather in evidence, but that didn’t matter; there was a storm brewing, and it was getting too dark to drive, and The Habana Inn is on Route 66! I just had to stay there, didn’t I?

That was Week One of the trip. I’ll tell you about the second week next issue.

SUBHEAD: We Oughta Be In Pictures

“Homo Heights,” a movie starring the inimitable Quentin Crisp, is now being filmed locally. They recently held auditions for “extras” in the club scenes, and it was great to see so many leatherfolk show up. One fellow auditioner told me I reminded him of “that guy with the Village People.” I’ve heard that before, but something else happened that I wasn’t expecting. During the audition one of the women (who was either with the film or with the casting agency) looked at my audition form, saw that I was the leather columnist for this magazine, and told me she reads my column. Well, whether I get a part in the film or not, thank you—you made my day!

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