Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Supergay Blight Tour: Gay Bars of Detroit (Part 2)

[This continues my Detroit gay bar blight tour from May of 2006, encompassing two neighborhoods that were previously gay strongholds in the city]

Part Two: Palmer Park and Warrendale

Palmer Park (the Woodward/McNichols/7 Mile area), formerly the heart of Detroit's gayborhood, still has a reasonable number of gay bars.

The venerable cha cha palace still gets quite a crowd on Thursdays, or so I'm told. Don't leave anything in your car, though. Twink central.

Club Gold Coast

The new location, not the old one I used to ride past on the school bus back in the 80's that bore the sign "Where Gentlemen Meet." The new place prominently features strippers. Classy.

The Male Box

All I know is they have lots of Lube Wrestling and Wet Jockey Short contests here, so you know it's got to be good.

The Warrendale neighborhood used to be home to a lot of Detroit gay residents, and the number of bars still in the area is a testament to that. A slightly nicer location than most of the other bars in the city, but everyone knows that since the cops got to move out of the city limits this area is going to hell too. Lots of nostalgia for the gay shame of the 80's during the drive through Warrendale, though, back when every gay bar was like a secret club and you had to actually go out in public to meet people.

Entrance in rear, like half the gay bars in the city (and more than half the gay guys, har har). Been around forever, best booger drag in town. Careful on your way out so you don't get shot like that guy from Windsor.

Only been there once, pretty fun but I was the thinnest and the prettiest in the bar. No western theme despite the enticing name and hay-colored brick exterior. Surprisingly busy for a Sunday afternoon! Sorry if that's your dad's car in the photo.

Ahh, the grande dame of gay bars in Detroit - how many faglets had their first gay bar experience here? In its third incarnation, it's still located in the same space in the same strip mall. No signage this time, like back in the old days.

Diamond Jim's Saloon
If you're like me, nothing is more amusing than watching two men two-stepping. Detroit's only country & western gay bar was brokeback before you even knew about it.

Adam's Apple
Routinely touted as a "great neighborhood bar." Since I was getting desperate without a drink and it was the last bar on my tour, I stopped in and found it was, indeed, a friendly place. Not so much for the neighborhood anymore, since the people I talked to were all from outside the area (eastside, Plymouth, Novi, etc). But it's a bit of a flashback to the old Warrendale days nevertheless. Oh, and the entrance is in the rear.

Apologies for the following omissions:

Stinger's - supposedly somewhere near The Male Box, I couldn't find it to save my life

R&R Saloon - I really needed a drink at the Adam's Apple so I gave up on heading out to this isolated place (Michigan & Livernois area). It smells like a dirty dick inside so you can imagine the hovel it is on the outside.

La Dolce Vita - I am not sure this is really gay anymore, although it does get a gay clientele. Plus it's actually more a restaurant with a bar.


jmtaug said...

Wow, when you see these bars in the daylight, it's really apparent that this is the true Detroit, and always has been. If this is all a gay guy gets to experience, he doesn't realize that there are other places where the gay scene is really quite fabulous. Like Austin, Texas or Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where the gay bars are actually nice places and one doesn't have to enter through a back door in the alley. It's a shame that Detroit continues to have it's negative reputation, but this is a prime example of why it does.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. I have lived in Boston, Miami, Ft.Laud and have visited many others. I am ashamed of the bars and the respect that is given to our commmunity and how these bar owners offer such venues. What you dont see in the pictures is the danger of these neighborhood the bars are in. Trust me you wouldn't want to walk to far day or night. It is true that if you dont know what else is out there then how can you rate what you do know?
I am here for a career and travel to go out and enjoy my gayness. it just not worth it here. its like stepping back in time and lossing all respect for yourself.

Anonymous said...

After looking at the photos & comments I just HAVE to comment. What kind of gay man in his right mind would STILL live in Detroit?!?!? I moved from Detroit to West Hollywood years ago, and every time I go back home to visit, I'm reminded of why I left. There really IS a whole beautiful "gay world" outside of Detroit. I can go to the different gay gyms, gay restaurants, gay friendly bookstores and walk in my neighborhood hand in hand with my boyfriend (when I have one!). In other words I can be myself and live openly and safely. I DO like going home yearly to visit, as long as I know I don't have to STAY there. The city is so depressing these days. Also, so dangerous. When I grew up in the late '70's at least people kept up their neighborhoods and could walk down the street without being shot. We drove down to the old neighborhoods on my last visit, which was a few weeks ago, and it was unbelievable. Like a bombed out war zone. SO, so depressing and sad. I always go to to Belle Isle and walk around downtown on my visits home. At least many parts of downtown are being revitalized, and Belle Isle is clean. The Scott Fountain is absolutely spectacular.

To all the gay men STILL in Detroit, I beg you to travel to New York City, or Toronto, or Los Angeles to see how life CAN be for you. You owe it to yourself.



Matt said...


Thanks so much for your prententious post. It is a perfect illustration of why I choose NOT to live amongst people like you.

Believe it or not many of us here in metro Detroit actually choose to live here. We have good jobs, family and friends. We even have this thing called an airport where we can ride flying machines to the glamorous distant lands you describe. And still we return to our home that you find so sad. Good for you that you've moved to a place that makes you happy but please spare us your judgement and pity.

Yes, Detroit has many problems and it's not for everyone, but it can be an exciting place unlike any other I've visited. I'm not going to go through the long list of things I love about living here because you obviously value very different things than I do.

Good luck with your fabulous life.

Anonymous said...

Right on Matt. Detroit gay bars are at their best on a night when you get that only in Detroit mix of ages races and ethnicities. Its music, people and atmosphere that make any bar. Having lived in Detroit and elsewhere and travelling regularly I still think Detroit is so much cooler than the tired predictable "scenes" of places like Fort Lauderdale or West Hollywood. But of course you already knew that.

Johnjon said...

Matt...... thanks so much for your comments. I will agree that Detroit is rough around the edges, but as Dorothy says "there's no place like home". My boyfriend and I moved to metro Atlanta 4 years ago. When we were young we used to moan about moving away to a "real city". Now we can't wait to move back home. We absolutely HATE it here. And as far as the bars go, we'd take our familiar places any time over the high priced, nose in the air attitude down south. We stopped going to "The Oscar's" in Atlanta after the third time our credit card had mysterious charges on it. When we walk through the door of SOHO in Ferndale the few times we are able come home, Tony the cutie bartender STILL remembers our drink choice and is making it before we sit down. You can't beat friendliness and making felt like you were missed.

Anonymous said...

I like the backdoor reasoning of Detroit. In Chicago, the gay bars are dominated by straight/fat girls and women who haven't a life of their own. They even welcome and encourage them. The gay bars in Chicago are a little too "open" ---- to ANYTHING. At least in Detroit you pretty much knew what you were getting into walking through that "back door". In Chicago you don't know if you've walked into a gay bar, a freak show, a bachelorette party, a crack den......the doors are all open right out front for ANYTHING to just fall right in. Props to Detroit.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see someone else likes it here. I think the only sin that Detroit is guilty of is the fact that most of these bars are so spread out. There really isn't a gay neighborhood anymore, if there ever was. And again, WHO CARES what they look like in the day time??? Not me. I think the entrances in the back are simply an issue of convenience...THE PARKING IS IN THE BACK!!! Every city has it's flukes. I've been to most of them. It's always fun to travel, but community is here, even if it isn't lined up like it is on Halsted in Chicago. That can be fun, but as was mentioned before, I don't always want to go out with "hip" straight folks and girls that are still in love with their gay friend. That's ok and fun, don't get me wrong, but sometimes it rocks to go out with the guys. And, let's not forget about Pronto in Royal Oak (great neighborhood bar,nice clientel and gay owned) and greater Ferndale...Detroit's version of the fun accepting gay city, that gets queerer by the day. The midwest is the cornerstone for GOOD, FRIENDLY and decent gay men, and Detroit is no exception.

Bill said...

I agree with Matt, I love the D. While not perfect, it is coming back to life.. it is going to take a lot of time and effort, but improvement can be seen in Midtown, New Center and Downtown.

BTW, we do have a very strong gay neighborhood, it is called Ferndale: SOHO, The 9, Just 4 Us, Go Comedy, the Ringwald, Comos... any many of the other very gay friendly establishments. And yes, you can walk to these places at night and enter through the front. I walk or bike from my home in NW Ferndale all the time.. THIS IS THE GAYBORHOOD... and the D is a real City..

One thing I notice, is that too few gays take advantage of all the great things Ferndale (Detroit) has to offer, yet bitch and moan there is nothing here.. Well, it is simple, use what you have and more will come.. Be part of the solution, not just another "WISH I WERE SOME WHERE ELSE QUEEN".....


Anonymous said...

Stop being babys, and be the change you want to see ! Remember if you speak ill of others, then it is understandable that others will speak ill of you ! Is that what you want ? If not stand up, be strong, and be yourself whithout talking bad of other people ! By the way, the gays are not being shot any more or less than the other people in the city, we are all tired of problems, we need others to stand up and fight back with us !

Bradley said...

My partner and I love our neighbors. We are the most visible gay couple on our street, the most trouble we have gotten was our 17 year old neighbor boy calling my partner a fag. We live on the eastern end of Warrendale near Gigi's and don't find the neighborhood to be depressing or dangerous.

P.S. We got our house through HUD... less than 5k!

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