Glad to be Gay?
The gay cabaret scene is incredibly vibrant and full of good old-fashioned variety. UK Cabaret managing editor Mark Ritchie takes a look at the scene in general.
If you think that Gay entertainment is all about OTT Drag artistes and general cross-dressing fun, think again. The Gay market is of enormous value to UK light entertainment generally and things have come a long way since the pioneers of camp, stand-up comedy began to enter mainstream consciousness.
Certainly when I was growing up, we used to marvel at John Inman’s portrayal of the ultra-camp Mr Humphries in the BBC sit-com Are You Being Served. When the comedian Larry Grayson was making a personal appearance in my native Wakefield back in 1977, my odious boss at the time advised me not to go along to see, ‘such a crappy poof’. Things have changed a lot since then. Homophobia was rife and a close friend of mine back in the late-70’s, was and is gay. We are still friends to this day. Some rather less than insightful associates back then, made the assumption that I was gay too. Perhaps I am one of the very few people who know what homophobia feels like, without having any notable homosexual experience.
Gay nowadays could and perhaps should be used as an acronym. G.A.Y Good as You.
Homosexuality was not made legal until 1964 and in these less enlightened times, the Gay scene was seen as furtive and secretive. It just had to be and that was that.
From the Bloc Bar in Camden Town to Bethnal Green wmc, in London Gay cabaret is big news. Right now it was estimated recently that well over 100 Gay or Gay friendly venues exist in the capitol, all presenting at least some form of cabaret entertainment.
Brighton is a Gay mecca for cabaret and some of the best and most vibrant venues include Proud Cabaret, a sort of cabaret restaurant and The Bulldog pub, which has been a Gay venue since 1979.
Up North in Blackpool, the magnificent Funnygirls venue has done more to bring together Gay and Straight then most. Blackpool does offer a number of other venues where cabaret comes first. Recent visits to the Mardi Gras and The Flying Hangbag provided a riotous evening for myself and the straight and gay people in the party I was sharing my evening with.
Pride events have done much to break down barriers between the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay and Trans-Gender) community and the wider public. Such events are staged nationwide these days.
In many Gay bars, you don’t have to be Gay to go inside, but in some it certainly helps. I remember UK Cabaret designer Adam Press and his wife Lisa were out in central London with my wife Beverley and myself. The doorman at a certain Gay-bar, where we had visited previously and enjoyed a bit of karaoke, had clearly decided he didn’t want two apparently heterosexual couples in the bar that night. Perhaps Adam and I and Bev and Lisa should have posed as couples by strolling in hand in hand? O well, it seems that even ultra- tolerant Gay-land, you can’t win ‘em all!