“We can’t dance here,” Johnny said, “without making people feel uncomfortable.”
He and Craig looked at me like I was insane, but all I’d done was ask if they’d wanted to dance. My wife and I had brought our friends—a gay couple visiting from Southern California—to Hapa’s on Monday to see Willie K. I thought they were being paranoid until Craig asked, “How many times have you ever seen men dance together?” And I thought about it.
“I gotta get out more,” I told myself. That was a few months ago.
“South Maui Divas” night is one of only two regular weekly “gay nights” on Maui, the other being Friday night at Horhito’s. Hapa’s has hosted some form of gay night for the last five years. After living on Maui for nearly that long, I decided it was time to experience it. I had no idea what to expect.
Walking in, the first thing I noticed was the spread of hors d’oeuvres lining the bar. An attractive plate of fruits, vegetables and candy had been set out in a very welcoming display. The music, which I was afraid would feature more Cher and Madonna than I wanted to hear, actually featured more Lil’ Jon than Elton John.
The crowd was a typical mix of young and old, male and female. The only presumable difference was that the majority was either gay or bisexual. This presumption was supported by the unusual amount of friendliness directed my way; nearly every guy I passed greeted me with smiles and nods.
Some of the more outgoing men introduced themselves. “You’re a good-looking guy,” said one gentleman at the bar. “Everyone thinks you’re “fresh meat.”
I asked him if anyone might feel insulted by a straight guy showing up. “No,” he laughed, “because they figure if you’re here, you’re gay.”
We moved to a table to take in our surroundings. Before long a representative of the Maui Aids Foundation approached. Beaming a wonderful smile, he handed us a package of condoms and continued on his way, spreading his joy like a sex-crazed Santa Claus. We agreed this was a great idea in any club.
Looking around, I noticed that people’s clothes seemed to have been carefully selected from their closets, not hastily collected and thrown on from dirty clothes piles. Used to seeing board shorts, tee-shirts and slippers, I was thrown by the designer jeans, button-down shirts and stylish shoes. This gave the atmosphere a certain sophistication, which was reflected in the behavior of the patrons.
Jorge, bartender extraordinaire at Horhito’s, told me earlier that night that he preferred working gay nights. “People tip better, smell better and there’s no fights,” he said. He wasn’t kidding–I don’t recall seeing the bouncer leave his seat all night.
The usual surly, posturing frat kings had been supplanted by considerate queens with perfect posture–the club was packed with divas, not dickheads. Everyone I asked agreed that this complete absence of any threat of tension or violence was the biggest advantage of gay night.
The only major difference was the most obvious. All around me for the first time, people of the same gender flirted, danced and kissed. Everyone seemed to have a great time, enjoying for just a few hours the freedom to be themselves.
Stepping out of the club, I thought of Craig and Johnny. I wished they were allowed more than a few hours a week to let their guard down.
Now I’m sure there are some people who won’t read this–I lost them at the words “gay couple” or “men dance together.” And that’s too bad, because they’re just the people who could benefit from the knowledge that gay clubs are not the nightmares they might expect. On second thought, perhaps it’s good they’re not interested. Because who wants them showing up and ruining all the fun? MTW