Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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Looking for Mr. Gaybar

Making the rounds at Commercial Center

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Mike Bertino

It had been years since I last poked into a gay bar. So since I was already at Commercial Center to see Confessions of a Mormon Boy at the Onyx Theatre, I thought I’d sample a few of the strip-mall’s queer-friendly watering holes.

I had read in the Weekly that Saturday was underwear night at the Spotlight Bar—drink free if you shuck down to your tighty-whities—so I wore my Wonder-Bread, polka-dotted boxer briefs from Joe Boxer. I hoped I could just yank my jeans down, and maybe I’d get a free beer.

The Spotlight seemed friendly enough, with its doors open to the evening air and the regulars already surrounding the bar like birds at a drinking hole. As I walked through looking for customers in their undies (maybe it was too early for that crowd), the bartender campily called out “There’s a $60 browsing fee!”

Next stop: Las Vegas Lounge, the only tranny bar in Nevada. When I asked the friendly bartender if the Spotlight was competition, she said, “No, that’s a gay bar.” Turns out the Lounge draws a clientele of faux-girls and the men who admire them. It was still pretty slow, so I had a vodka and tonic (which made up in cheapness what it lacked in potency) and the bartender and I watched a marathon of The Hills and discussed Heidi’s overhaul and Audrina’s string of bad boyfriends. I had worn my festive shorts, and dang it, I was gonna show them off. I pulled my pants down, but the bartender wasn’t moved to give me a free drink.

Without leaving Commercial Center, stop three was Badlands Saloon. The bar has an Old West look and an old and Western-looking crowd of local regulars—some of whom have their own personalized beer mugs in name-tagged cubbyholes.

“What’s on tap?” I asked the bald, bespectacled barkeep, who sported a Cher concert shirt from her circa-1993 Living Proof tour. “You get your choice of Bud Light and Bud Light,” he said—I settled for an exotic Heineken in a bottle. Badlands, like the others, was too smoky for me, which means I’m not about to make any of them my hangout. But when I overheard one ginormous dude say to another beefster, “You gonna come roller skating with us tomorrow night?” I promised myself to find my gay bar and spend more time with my people.

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