There was The Dane from Kings Cross, the black guy from East London, and another white guy from West London. They agreed to a brief chat on the back patio of the Eagle in London’s Vauxhall neighborhood, as long as I didn’t use their names. All around 30, they wore jeans, shorts and T-shirts, with one revealing a black leather harness underneath his plaid button down. Our interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
MJ: If a visitor from LA wanted to do something “alternative” in LGBTQ London, what would you tell them?
Black Leather Harness: Obviously, we are here at Eagle, which has great theme nights. But also Royal Vauxhall Tavern, on a Saturday they have Duckie. They play David Bowie, Elastica…and they have…sort of cabaret.
East London Guy: There are quite a few places, actually, where you can have a good night. In Shoreditch there’s a place called Queen of Adelaide. It’s a bar-slash-club. Underground. Good music. Very young crowd. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays.
MJ: I’ve heard Shoreditch and Whitechapel are trendy areas.
ELG: Yeah. Yeah.
BLH: Yeah, exactly. There are no glory holes, although there are venues like that. It’s a pub and it’s got a cabaret night every weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I think the drag queen who set up The Glory [is] Jonny Woo. She spent some time over in New York. And she’s very alternative.
MJ: And what about you
The Dane: Well, in Kings Cross it would have to be Central Station.
ELG: Oh, right.
TD: It’s a pub. A bit quiet some evenings but they do stuff like Eurovision and theme nights. It’s a bed and breakfast. And there’s something happening in the basement, as well, which is—
BLH: [interrupting] A sex club.
ELG: Is it? I’ve never been there before.
MJ: Speaking of backrooms or saunas, would you have a thought?
TD: Oh shit.
MJ: This is anonymous.
TD: Yeah, so right. Guys help me now. So XXL is still open. That gets pretty hot. But it’s closing in three months’ time.
MJ: Why is that?
TD: They’re going to build flats there.
BLH: Redevelopment and all that shit.
TD: That’s probably the best…that’s the place I would go.
BLH: I’ve only been there once. I’m such an old maid. But the one time I did go I got to XXL at 10:30 in the evening and I didn’t leave until six. And for a dormouse like me that is quite an undertaking. I was very proud of myself. It hasn’t happened since. And I sucked a lot of c*ck.
MJ: You’re the one wearing the harness.
BLH: [laughs] Yeah, I know. I’m a massive contradiction.
ELG: Vauxhall, where we are right now, it’s got several nightclubs. Gay clubs. Sex clubs. Anything you want. There’s Fire down the road. I think they’ve got an event tonight, actually, because they handed us some flyers. Lots of porn stars are gonna be performing. Not my thing, but you know….
MJ: Why isn’t it your thing?
ELG: I’m not that adventurous. And, yeah, it’s very, very alternative. A lot of younger, sort of youngish, you know, frequent there. And there’s quite a few nightclubs down the road. Union, I think it’s called. And there’s another one called Brute or something like that. They’ve all got darkrooms and glory holes and stuff. From what I hear.
BLH: I’ll tell you a story about my mum. Sorry this is a bit of a…sidetrack.
MJ: It’s a 180.
BLH: What was that?
MJ: It’s a 180. 180 degrees?
BLH: I thought you said, “Is she 80?” No, she’s 62. When I first graduated from uni they got the house valued so they could sell it. And my mom was leading the estate agent around and she said, “Now, at the top of the stairs, on your left, there’s a glory hole. And in my older son’s room there’s another glory hole.” I said, “Mum, you can’t say that!” And she said, “It just means an old room where you put old junk.” “No, Mum. It hasn’t meant that in, like, 50 years.” She was like, “Oh! You young people.” I was like, “Mum!”
MJ: I had no idea it was actually an innocent phrase.
BLH: In my mum’s mind it’s a very innocent phrase. But it’s meant a hole that you suck cock through for at least 50 years, right?
MJ: It is Stonewall 50 right now.
BLH: Her references are very out of date. Oh, you know what’s alternative? On Tuesday you have Bar Wotever…and it’s cabaret. It’s five pound or less if you’re unemployed. And you have people from all over the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
ELG: I think Vauxhall is the most gay area in London now, in terms of bars. It used to be SoHo. But SoHo is not what it used to be. All the gay bars and clubs left that area. There’s one called The Yard…and there’s Ku Bar. But London residents don’t tend to go there. So Vauxhall is the place. Lots of alternative bars [and] clubs. Theatre as well. There’s Above The Stag. I think most of its shows are LGBTQ+ plays, shows and musicals.
TD: London has changed a lot.
BLH: It has changed, yeah.
TD: Nowadays, me and my friends, we go to straight clubs and pubs because…well first of all, [being gay is] more widely accepted. You can go to a straight restaurant and still hold hands and all of that. People don’t even lift their eyebrows.
MJ: [I detected an accent] Are you German?
TD: Denmark. Danish
ELG: He finds your accent a bit hot. [He was right]
TD: I actually try to avoid SoHo…because it’s just a bit too much. Not in a bad way. It’s…very gay sometimes.
MJ: It’s not as interesting?
Sometimes you find more interesting things happening outside [that area]. It’s London. Things are happening all over the place.