By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
Next year, there will be more gay men in one place than at Bed Bath & Beyond on Super Bowl Sunday.
As Republicans in disguise no doubt skulk around the halls trying to recruit them, gays from all over the place will converge on a Travelodge-turned-Red-Cross-homeless-shelter on 42nd Street, which managing partner Ian Reisner and company are turning into "a gay urban resort" with the word "out" spelled by its windows.
You heard me! The façade of the building will have window configurations that say "OUT" with even more clarity than a male cheerleader on energy drinks. This is getting gayer than a Kylie Minogue concert in Fort Lauderdale on the first night of the U.S. Open.
The Out NYC complex—scheduled for next fall—will include the Axel Hotel (part of a world chain), stores, a café, a restaurant, a shiny new club called the xl Dance Bar, and everything else but a bookstore. The creators want to pack gays upon gays together for eating, drinking, shopping, and sleeping (together, if possible), but the place is also admittedly "hetero-friendly," and that's a good thing; otherwise, it might be totally illegal.
During a walking tour of the space, architect Paul Dominguez told me, "It's not just 'out,' as in being out. It's in hanging out, going out, and zoning out at the spa." Oh, yeah, there's a spa, too! And a glass-covered pool area with cabanas and another covered courtyard for meetings, receptions, and gay weddings. (The owners are willing to wait for New York to approve gay marriage. And in the meantime, there are all sorts of civil-union soirees and birthday bashes to be thrown. No one needs much of an excuse to party nowadays.)
"It's an urban resort," Dominguez drove home. "A place to meet up, to bring the whole community together. If you live in the tri-state area, you used to have to come to Manhattan to go out, but now gay is everywhere. This resort gives people a reason to come back into Manhattan and meet up. Remember the Chelsea hangout Big Cup? This is Big Cup on steroids!"
And the mix will include both high-toned elements and purely hedonistic ones, too. There'll be minimalist sculptor Richard Serra's work in the lobby, plus a huge nude photo that you'll see more of as the elevator ascends, which means everyone's going to want to stay at about the crotch level. Transsexual icon Amanda Lepore is in talks to get a free permanent hotel room there, and by the way, the creators swear that none of the 127 rooms will vibrate from the dance club on the ground floor, thanks to the wonders of modern soundproofing.
And it's all thanks to the recession! Dominguez told me this place wouldn't have happened if prices hadn't dropped so low in '09 that it became feasible ("Today, it would have cost too much").
Amazingly, they proceeded to nab all the required licenses, despite initial neighborhood opposition. John Blair—the long-running club entrepreneur who's the managing partner of the dance bar—says it helped that he has inside experience. "I was on community boards for seven years," he explained, "so I know what the objections usually are: noise, security, and crowd control. We built the answers to all that into the design."
The club will fit 1,200 people, and though Blair and longtime partner Beto Sutter are in charge, it's not trying to be the late, gigantic Roxy or the long-running, two-floor Splash. It's going to be sleek and silvery and aims to reflect what's needed by today's gays who may have never even heard of past glories—or maybe did, but weren't listening.
Hot promoters Tony Fornabaio and Brandon Voss are also aboard, and Fornabaio told me they'll move one of their two existing parties (Rockit or Club 57) to xl Dance Bar, the other one, I guess, providing friendly competition. Most intriguingly of all, there will be Roxy-like elevated railings so you can stand around and look down on the dance floor—an activity I've always taken imperious pleasure in.
"Large clubs will never come back to New York," said Blair. "There are no spaces, and the quality-of-life issues impact the neighborhoods." In the meantime, this "urban resort" is hoping to bring some bigness back to gay-ming. As gays earn more and more acceptance, launching an all-purpose enclave for the homosex seems extremely weird to me—but I happen to love weird things, especially when there are cabanas attached.
Bedlam Bath & Beyond
While we're twiddling our lacquered thumbnails and waiting: Bedlam Bar & Lounge is a new space based on a Victorian mental ward/gentlemen's club, located on totally cuckoo Avenue C. At a preview of the natty place—which is Bates Motel on steroids—co-owner Ben Maisani deadpanned to me, "Nothing gives character like a dead animal on the wall," as the gigantic moose head he got on eBay eyed us from its pervy perch. I expected the owls of Ga'hoole to suddenly fly in and peck our eyes out.
Will it be a gay urban resort? "No, a mixed crowd," said Maisani (who also co-owns Eastern Bloc). "Given the location and the size, it would be hard to make it a gay bar. But I'm sure the gays will come." Sure enough, his boyfriend, Anderson Cooper, showed up for the official opening the very next night.