ALTERNATIVE GAY LIFESTYLES(Comments/contributions: Tony.Papard@btinternet.com)
O.K. guys, this is how it is, right? You’re a gay man so you have to look like every other brain-dead scene moron which means shave your bonce, but to prove you’re macho grow a mustache and a goatee beard, wear a Schott jacket and other designer clothes and an expensive after-shave. Next, go clubbing at some trendy gay venue where everyone, including you, is stoned out of their tiny minds on Ecstasy and listen to some talentless, brainless, electronic crap called House/Garage/Handbag/Disco where you camp the nite away contorting your half-naked body in a lethargic manner to the robotic beat. If you think all that sounds like fun, stop reading…. this article is not for you. Go to G.A.Y. or wherever and have your fun, but just spare a thought for the rest of us.
I was with a bisexual friend outside a West End gay pub waiting in the line to go in and pay inflated prices to stand in an overcrowded bar – we must have been mad! Anyway the security guys on the door took one look at us, our clothes and hairstyles – and decided we didn’t fit their image of a gay man, who shouldn’t by rights have any hair on their head at all, let alone long hair or a Teddy-boy style quiff. Because of the way we looked they assumed we weren’t gay. I apologized for not looking like old lags from Wandsworth Prison or inmates of Belsen, and for not forking out £150 for a Schott jacket, but we quite like our hair and our clothes, so they reluctantly let us in. We didn’t stay long, the prices and the boring company soon sent us in search of other watering-holes with decent music and more reasonable prices.
The fact is the so-called ‘gay scene’ only caters for a minority of gay men – those who actually like the Comrade Lenin look-a-like image and the inane, repetitive sounds of electronic house and garage, or those who pretend to like it to be ‘cool’ or maybe even ‘koool’. I don’t go for any of that shit – Lenin was a great guy in many ways, but I’m just not into necrophilia, and I never found him sexually attractive in film clips I’ve seen of him when alive (even I am not quite old enough to remember him that way!) As for the music they play in most gay venues, some of it sounds like hammers beating on corrugated iron – how the Hell can anyone dance to that? Or some woman screeching: ‘I gotta house, I gotta house’ over and over again to an electronic beat, as though she’s just won the jackpot on Bingo. Not my idea of fun I can assure you.
Switch scenes. Go down to Pontins, Hemsby in Norfolk for one of their rock’n’roll weekenders in May or October. Thousands of people, mainly young, from all over Europe and the world come regularly to bop the nite away and see bands/artists from USA and the rest of the world playing rockabilly, rock’n’roll, hillbilly, doo-wop, swing/jive and other styles associated with the 1950s and even earlier. Hell, these cats are actually having FUN! They put some energy into their dancing – The Bop for the boys, The Stroll for the gals, Jive for couples who actually want to dance together. And it’s not just Hemsby, at rock’n’roll/rockabilly venues all over the country there are similar scenes.
As to clothes and hairstyles, there is quite a bit of variety. Rockabillies, punkabillies, Teddy-boys, Teddy-girls with ponytails, leather-jacketed rockers. You can also buy all the gear there – rockabilly clobber at Hemsby, Teddy-boy clothes at the Tennessee Club in North London or the Teddy-boy weekender at Great Yarmouth. But what has all this got to do with gays, you may ask?
Well during my 30-odd years on the rock’n’roll and gay scenes I have come to the conclusion there are an awful lot of gay guys and gals out there who are into all sorts of music and all sorts of fashions. There is no such thing as a ‘gay image’ or ‘lifestyle’, it is pure hype and really reflects only the lifestyle of the shallow gay disco-bunny, not millions of gay men and women thruout the country, and indeed the world, who are quite happy to be individuals, free to choose what music and fashions they like, not be dictated to by the gay press and gay scene.
Because this gay scene is so shallow and narrow, it holds very little attraction for discerning gays. Consequently many are isolated and still in the closet. I have found many closet cases on the so-called straight music scenes. Trouble is, gays who like the blues, 1950s rock’n’roll, punk, Heavy Metal, rockabilly, soul, jazz, country or even classical music – where the hell are they supposed to go? Certainly not on the gay scene, there is little for them there. What have we in common with the gay disco-bunny stoned out of his mind on E – nothing at all. We couldn’t even communicate in the same language.
As an ‘out’ gay man on the 1950s rock’n’roll/rockabilly scene I am something of a rarity – most of my comrades are firmly in the closet. It is not a healthy place to be. Many of these closet cases are married or have girlfriends – the pressure to conform with their peers was just too great. Others are just lonely, I’m not sure which is worse.
I know of gay men on the rock’n’roll/rockabilly scene who have given up their music because they feel it doesn’t fit in with the gay lifestyle, and they feel a gay man can’t fit in with the rock’n’roll lifestyle. Another gay man acquired a girlfriend in order to ‘fit in’ with the rock’n’roll scene, but I know he was really 100% gay. Other gay men with wives and girlfriends have made furtive advances towards me as an ‘out’ gay man, usually after a few too many beers.
I am happy to say quite a few more on the various straight music scenes appear to be well-adjusted, but are nevetheless firmly in the closet, so they are invisible to gays and straights alike. This is not a good way to be; for one thing it makes finding a gay life-partner almost impossible and condemns them to a life of loneliness interspersed with the odd, usually furtive, gay encounter here and there.
The gay scene needs a good shake-up. It needs to reflect the whole range of music and fashion found on the straight scene, and cater for all ages, not just the under-30s. All gay people need safe space where they can be themselves and enjoy the music and fashions they like free from the dictates of Gay Fascism (gay man = shaved head + goatee beard + Schott jacket stoned on E dancing to garage sounds).
I write mainly about gay men and the rock’n’roll scene because that is what I know best, but there must be many gay men and women out there who are individuals and don’t feel the gay scene has anything to offer them. We just don’t fit in on either the gay or straight scenes, we are ALWAYS in a minority, and therefore many of us are still in the closet.
I don’t know what the answer is. I have tried, with other gay friends, to start up an alternative to house/garage music on the gay scene, but our efforts have been poorly rewarded even though we have advertized in the gay press. This is not surprising when you realize 99.99% of the gays we are trying to reach don’t ever read the gay press – why should they? It doesn’t reflect their lifestyle so has nothing to offer them. We tried putting ads in the rock’n’roll press and they were either refused publication as ‘unsuitable for this magazine’ or they attracted abusive phone calls from people I strongly suspect were closet gays themselves, but who felt 1950s rock’n’roll was ‘all about picking up a bird on a Saturday nite’. Well, that may have been the image projected, but the lifestyles of people like James Dean, Little Richard, Esquerita and people like Joe Meek and Larry Parnes who were responsible for virtually every British pop star of that era say otherwise; gays were heavily involved in rock’n’roll and pop music right from the start.
One thing I do know, unless and until gays can escape from the straitjacket Gay Fascism tries to put us in there will be a lot of lonely, unhappy closet cases out there who feel they have to choose between the music/fashions they love and their sexuality. In the 21st century it shouldn’t be that way. The gay scene needs to open out and cater for all tastes in music and fashion, and for all ages. If we set the pace for tolerance, hopefully the straight scene will follow, and gays will be accepted everywhere as individuals with varied tastes rather than cloned stereotypes.
BREAK OUT OF THE CLOSETS!SMASH GAY ‘SCENE’ FASHION FASCISM!
Hi there. I just read an article on your website regarding alternative lifestyles for gay people, and god what a relief it was to read an opinion that matched mine (although the taste in music didn’t perhaps, but that’s beside the point). My main problem in life thus far has been that I detest the scene, and the music it plays, and the drug taking (I have never taken E, and never intend to), and as such find it difficult to find people to converse with, let alone go down the “relationship line” with. Doing that is difficult enough without being gay as it is. Anyway, I just wanted to know it was a breath of fresh air to come across. Thank you. *******: Hey. I found your website by just surfing around and found it really refreshing. The article about alternative gay lifestyles really hit a chord. I am from the US South (Oklahoma) and have been a major part of the punk and rockabilly scene. One thing I notice all over the US and when I was in the UK is how hard it is to break from that typical gay mold. In a gay bar, I am treated as a novelty. And now that I am 26, I am something of an old relic, which I find very funny. Well, that’s all. I hope to see more articles and hope to see some great Teddy Boy shows when I return to the UK in June. Thanks. A.D. ****** Hi there, came accross your website when searching for something else – but I do agree with what you have said on it. I used to go on the scene but now dont bother – i want to find that special someone to share life with – but i wont find them in a club trying to be like everyone else. I like rock’n’roll, soul, disco and easy listening – and not this other crap that plays at these clubs Will I ever find anyone to share life with? – I hope so, need someone to be happy with! P.E. * * * * * hia just went to a rockabilly allniter..after looked on search machine rockabilly and gay u came up…is there hope for us rockin guys ..i feel fuckin desperate…come to london every month…hope yer stilll alive.M Tony replied: Just been to our monthly meet-up of guys interested in our kind of music. A number of them are gay/bisexual, but all except me in the closet. Some are slowly coming out…… In my experience drink seems to loosen tongues and inhibitions. Feel free to give me a call next time you’re up in London. Perhaps we can meet up in a bar or somewhere and have a chat. ….. I don’t do the gay scene much at all nowadays. Find it rather boring and not worth the effort. So few of my types go to these places. I know what you mean… you see some gorgeous guys at rockabilly/rock’n’roll gigs but any that are gay/bisexual are in the closet, and though they may well ‘mess around’ are unlikely to do so with other rockabillies in case the word gets round rockin scene that they are ‘queer’. Still there is hope. As I wrote I have managed to get it together with a few rockin’ guys. Wish you all the best, and keep rockin’ Tony ***** Hi I’ve just come across your website. I haven’t met many gay rockabillies on the gay scene at all. I won’t admit to disliking house sounds, but I have recently discovered how fun rockabilly music is. I first saw the Jets, then went to the elephant in Camden followed up by a small gig at the Enterprise in Camden as well. From there I was recommended to go to Hemsby – WOW great atmosphere. I know one gay guy who frequents the gay scene, but he can’t be out in the rockabilly scene – so it’s hard to reconcile the two. As for the wrong gay image, boy oh boy, rockabillies are so sexy!!! Their hair, attitude, the Rockers on their bikes. Clearly there should be more rockabillies on the gay scene. Infact, I would say the majority of masculine/erotic imagery of today is based on the Rocker look: moody, masculine, slick, biker look with leather jacket. Now that is the sort of bf I’d want! I had a great time too at Dingwalls – another great venue! Regards, D. Exactly! There are no rockabillies, Teds, rockers on the gay scene, or at least very few. There are probably thousands on the rockin’ scene, but nearly all in the closet like your friend. This is the irony and sadness of it all. Few gay rockabilies get it off together for fear of word getting back to their straight rockabilly friends that they are gay. Amazingly this is also true of old rockers around my age – late 50s/early 60s. All except me, it seems, are still in the closet. Oh how I wish there was a gay rockabilly/rock’n’roll scene. I’ve tried twice to start one with a bisexual friend, but it is hopeless – homophobia on the rockin’ scene and anti-rock’n’roll sentiments on the gay scene kill it stone dead every time. Last nite I went to a gay club. Felt like a freak as always because of my hairstyle, definitely NOT in fashion on the gay scene. I often feel I am shunned purely because I’ve got any hair on my head at all, let alone a Teddyboy quiff! Tony ***** Hi Tony, I was a Ted from 1978-1984 in Belfast and in 1983 when I came out, I used to leave the rock’n’roll club and go to the local gay disco…they used to call me Tommy the Ted!…….. Shortly after that our rock’n’roll club closed so I lost contact with most of my old rocker friends although a few of them did know that I was gay and were ok about it…. I have been to many gay discos over the years but I have given up as I am now 43…. however I still love rock’n’roll and I am going to my 2nd weekender (the first being Perrin Sands in 1982) to the 10th Eddie Cochran Weekender on the 24th of this month….. Best rockin’ regards T. ***** Hi I just found your website and [ … like many others it seems! ] was really interested and pleased to discover the first person I have ever found raising discussion the whole gay /rocker thing. May be the only other person to do so in passing was Daniel Farsen – and that was more about dodgy fumblings for a Ten Bob note up at the Ace Café. 30 years is a long time but does not take you back the the Golden Years or late 50 and early 60s. I guess you might say I was a bit of an amateur Rocker historian that is very interested in tracking the cross over points between the two sub-cultures and talking to any old boys that were involved in the Rocker scene. I am completely outside of either the straight or any gay scene there might be attached to it, finding both alienating but loving the vibe and being really interested in the social and cultural implications of that time for youth culture as a whole. Incidentally, I can vouch for some young guys that are/were were involved in the Rocker Reunion scene in the late 80s, early 90s that were having the very same complexes as you are expressing. Lost touch but know that they were there. Although there was a kind of arty side to the Neo-Rockers that was pretty tolerant, it has to be said that your average Essex rockabilly type could not be said to be the most warm human being that you ever might meet. Not quite sure what their scene is as even women friends involved in Rock’n’Roll kind of found them the same, but then you never really know do you?! If you know of anyone that was involved back in the 59 Club days, I’d be really interested and appreciate it. Thanks, John Thanks for your email. I was never in the 59 club, which was more orientated to Rockers and the motorbike scene, but I know people who were into this and the Ace Cafe set. A lot of them meet down a local pub every Friday, The Pavilion in Battersea Park Road, opposite the Dog’s Home. They have live rock’n’roll bands and it is free entry. I don’t often go as I get home from work late, and all they seem to talk about is motorbikes. I was always more into the Teddyboy scene. However I find the whole 1950s look incredibly sexy, and that goes for both men and women. I just don’t think you can beat the Marilyn Monroe/James Dean type look. Rockabillies can be incredibly attractive, and methinks all that preening in front of mirros and dressing up in frilly dress shirts, brightly colored drape jackets, etc. has more than a hint of narcissism/homo-eroticism, but of course it is all beneath the surface. Very few on the 1950s rock’n’roll/rockabilly/rocker scene are out as gay or bisexual. But of course many of the idols/mentors of that era were/are gay/bisexual – for example James Dean, Little Richard, Esquerita, …….., Joe Meek, Larry Parnes. Rather ironic James Dean is taken by macho rockers as their idol, yet he was definitely bisexual. ***** Not a truer word said mate. Your observations concerning the straight jacket of visible gay sexuality, against that of the comfortable, unconcerned and ignored, non-scene individuals out there. J.B. (First sentence of a long email from one of the many gays/bisexuals who are individuals and don’t fit the gay scene stereotype image.) *****I was a Ted in Liverpool in the late seventies/early eighties….Merseyside RocknRoll Club days….and I still grease my DA and still think the Ted/Rocker look is the sexiest. What you guys are writing is exactly what I feel. I actually came out then as I realized I was getting more turned on by the quiff than the ponytail! Though the place was supercharged with undercurrent homo posing and the slicking up sessions in the gents were like something outta Tom of Finland… the predominant publicly homophobic side eventually pushed me out into gay clubs for a few years. (There were two Ted mates who were thought to be gay and I got plenty of warnings to stay away from them etc etc….so it seemed like the safest option….sad to say.) These days I’m way out of the gay club scene…..an I’m still waitin to meet up with my first gay Ted in the flesh. Your site makes me think there’s still hope….any chance of setting up a contact site? (!) Rick (Rockero on Gaydar).*****Hey..i came upon reading ur article thingy on the gay rockabilly issue we can say, trying to find a picture of two greased up guys..or guys with a quiff or what ever kissing..for a report..kinda random..but i wanted a pic of that..(which i never found..lol)..and i did’nt think that anyone thought the things that i thought..cuz most of my friends they’re cool about me being gay..but still when we go out to shows and stuff..i feel left out since they’re all with they’re girl friends and stuff..i did’nt think there was any other gay guys with quiffs but me…but now i now i’m not the alone..the only issue is where to find them..??..lol..well ur articles fucken rocks dude..keep up the good work..xoxoxoxoxoThanks for your email. Finding ’em (rockabillies/Teds/Rockers) is no problem, but getting them to admit they are gay/bisexual is much more difficult. They don’t do the gay scene as a rule, and they present a heterosexual image on the rockin’ scene. In my experience you need a lot of luck, you need to be ‘out’ yourself and therefore known to be ‘available’, and they need to be very very drunk. Good luck! (They certainly wouldn’t want themselves photographed snogging and pasted all over my Website!)TonyP.S. One extreme method of getting even straight rockers I heard of was a guy who apparently went to the Hemsby Weekenders dressed in drag. Apparently he was well-known, though I never knew him, and he used to bed quite a few rockabillies, etc. who were able to claim the next day, if their friends found out, that they thought he was a girl. Hello Tony. I came across your website while doing a web search. I used to go to Hemsby weekenders back in the late 1980s to mid 1990s. A lot of people knew I was gay. For most of them it wasn’t an issue. But there were a significant number of meat heads for whom it was an excuse to have a go. Because I was into the sixties sounds as well as the fifties rock’n’roll I ended up hanging out more at mod clubs and places that played garage-rock, where attitudes were considerably better. Most anywhere in London nowadays things are pretty cool at alternative music venues. I’ve even been in the Elephants in Camden Town and some of the old rockabillys have changed their opinions amazingly. Even the DJ who used to do Dingwalls on Saturday afternoons back in the 80s seems to have really mellowed on this subject now. I remember the guy who used to go out in drag. Everyone knew he wasn’t a girl but it was a handy excuse, eh? And, by the way, I bedded a good number of guys at Hembsy but never anyone English. Hmmm… I’m totally out more or less everywhere I go, and these days I meet other gay guys at indie-rock and garage-rock gigs with no problem. Who needs the gay scene?! Not me. Murray *****Hi Tony,Just discovered ya website, and saw a reply from a gay ted in Belfast.. I’m also in Belfast but have never met another gay tedddy-boy or rocker…….would love to contact this guy..Jack ***** Hey! Check out http://www.myspace.com/theopenmouths It’s an all-gay band that play guitars and sing their own songs that make fun of the mainstream gay scene. Sample lyric, “Dancing in discos, in my underwear, loads of booze and cheap screws, I’m too busy clubbing to care.” Some gays, judging by a review I’ve seen, don’t actually realise that they’re taking the piss. Now that IS funny! Murray AbsichThanks for this. I’ve realized myself, when I tried to make witty jokes on a gay chat-line, that some gays have no sense of humor. ‘Too Busy Clubbing to Care’ just about sums up the shallow gay clubbing scene. Tony ***** Hi Tony , I’ve just found your website after doing a search. Like so many that have written it would be great to make contact with guys into the Ted /Rocker image and scene . JSHi J!I take it you’re referring to the article on Alternative Gay Lifestyles. If you’re into 1950s rock’n’roll/rockabilly there are plenty of Weekenders and clubs/pubs where this kind of music is played, and where Teds/Rockers meet.However, as stated in the article, very few indeed will admit to being gay or bisexual, certainly not to their mates on the rockin’ scene. Your best hope is to be ‘out’ yourself then you may well get propositioned in a situation when you find yourself alone with another Ted/Rocker. At least that’s been my experience. However don’t expect too much, even after propositioning you most of them won’t have the guts to actually do anything. Teds/Rockers are still living in the 1950s in almost every way, so being gay is strictly ‘taboo’.Anyway I wish you the best of luck. The more of us who come out on the rockin’ scene, the better it will be for the rest of us gay rockers.Tony ****** I read ur article and u fucken rock!!! HardrockXBeats ***** Someone posted a link to your website and article on my yahoo group that I started a few year back for gay and bi greasers. I am a gay rockabilly guy and like you have never fit into the ‘gay’ scene, whatever the fuck that is. Here is a link to my yahoo group. http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/gaygreasers/ Gary *****Hi TonyJust a quick note to thank you for your excellent comments about the gay scene. It really has given a bit of hope to the rest of us (whoever/wherever we are), knowing that we aren’t “the only ones”.As a young teenager, I fell in love with Rockabilly music and style thanks to my parents. As I got older, I used to join them going to Rock’n’Roll ‘do’s and Rockabilly nights along the south coast and occasionally London. I absolutley loved it and wouldn’t have traded being my RAB life for anything. At 19 or so, I realised I was gay and so took my first tentative steps into the “gay community” (ha!). Needless to say, I was soon pretty disappointed with what I’d found and the ridiculous monotony of it. It was apparent that being gay and being RAB were not compatible. Being young and knowing no better, I grew out my quiff for an indie-boy mop-top and hung out on the “alternative” gay scene in London. My RAB tendencies got pushed back untill they were virtually a secret part of my life that no-one else knew of.Seven begrudging years later, at 26, I moved to Brighton with a new partner (incidentally, a Mod, and yeah, we’ve split now…) and found the locally Rockabilly scene to be alive and well. I ventured out to a few different nights and have since been accepted as an out gay dude (well I’m not “in”, so they can and do assume!). who is into his rocking music. Now at 29, the quiff is back and I’m loving it all over again. I recently got to DJ at RAB/’50s/60’s garage night down here (Born Bad – check the Myspace profile) and managed to lure one of my gay friends for support!Thanks to finding your site, I used the link to the Gay GreasersYahoo group and look forward to making contact with other guys with similar interests (which as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, will be a first!)On another note, I too have interests in Spiritualism and the paranormal so your site holds particular personal relevance.If you’re ever down this way, it would be great to hook up for a beer.Thanks again for your excellent site and best regards from Sunny BrightonRP *****Hi there,Its like a breath of fresh air to read this. I am not alone after all ! It is the same familiar story. I was on the Rock and Roll scene in the Midlands in the mid to late 70s. To me at the time, there was no question of coming out to any of the Teds. I had a girlfriend, who turned out to be lesbian anyway, so there was no pressure sexually, but it was a mask to hide behind when out on the R and R scene. I loved to look at the Teds and Rockers and of course, my partner did not mind ! We are still friends 35 years on !Like all the other stories I came out eventually and went onto the “mainstream” gay scene. But, I never gave up the music. It is the only thing that has kept me going over the years. I love all styles of rock and roll from Rockabilly to Teen Ballards, Rock and Roll to crooners, anything from the 50s to about 1962. I feel even more isolated as far as like minded friends are concerned as my first love is Doo-Wop.I love the R and R in all its glory. Why is there not a contact site. I would love some to love who shares my love for the music.G B LincolnshireHi Graham,I presume you read the article on my website. There are a number of us gay rockers who are now ‘out’ and we are trying to organize some sort of social, meet-up or record hop.Will let you know if anything transpires. Meanwhile feel free to email me.Tony *****
HI TONYSAW THIS WEBSITE, IVE ALWAYS LIKED AND BEEN INTO ROCK AND GREASER LIFESTYLE, BE GREAT IF THERE WERE MEETING PLACE IN ESSEX FOR LIKEMINDED, IM SURE YOUR WEBSITE SPEAKS FOR THOUSANDS MORE THAN YOU IMAGINEHOPE TO HEAR CHEERS FOR NOWBRIAN….Hi Brian,I guess you’re referring to the article about ‘Alternative Gay Lifestyles’ on my old Unorthodox Website. This was written many years ago, but much of it still holds true.I’m on two Jerry lee Lewis internet forums, and also a member of a group of mainly aging Roots Music fans called the Woodies (after its founder, Keith Woods).Of all these people, and they run into hundreds, maybe even 1,000, only 3 of us are wholly ‘out’. Many more have come out to me personally or to a group of people, but are still not ‘out’ generally.There have been various attempts by myself and others to kick-start authentic rock’n’roll music or meet-ups in a gay pub, but in the end they haven’t come to much.As the 1950s rock’n’roll/rockabilly scene generally now revolves largely around Weekenders, perhaps this isn’t surprising. Maybe someone should organize a Gay Rock’n’Roll/Rockabilly Weekender!There was a guy in Brighton a couple of years ago was going to try to get something going for gay rockers/rockabillies, but we haven’t heard from him for some time. Maybe he’s gotten into some other kind of music as he said he hadn’t been into rockabilly that long. He was just a young guy in his early 20s.I guess the best place to start would be a gay rock’n’roll/rockabilly website. There was one called Gay Greasers, a yahoo group, but it was dominated by Americans and mainly Yankees at that who seemed to know f**k all about real rockabilly or Southern heritage, claimed never to have seen a Rebel Flag at any rockabilly venues, and just treated it as yet another gay dating site.A UK based one would be good, then if they got enough members maybe they could organize a meet-up/record hop or even a ‘live’ gig.Tony