Though being under 21 can sometimes limit your options, gay nightlife in New York feels like being a kid in a candy store, and this goes double if you’re, well, a kid. The first thing to know is that real New Yorkers start their weekends Thursday night (Friday classes, if you’re unlucky enough to have them, are, like, so skippable). Luckily, Pop Rocks!, the 18+ party that descends on 219 Flamingo (219 Second Ave, 533-2860) every Thursday, is not only timely, it’s a cultural tsunami. The party’s concept is a winning no-brainer that, naturally, no one has thought of before: Play teenpop for teenagers. Granted, now that ‘N Sync are getting all self-aware, the genre’s remaining shelf life is getting shorter than Toni Braxton’s hemlines. But DJ Gerson is ever faithful to Britney and Madge, and the split-level space is always packed with teens, twentysomethings, and a few stray thirties. That this junior league night draws players from the varsity team is a good sign, though I suspect it owes something to the transitive property: Since it’s now cool for adults to embrace teenpop, could it also be cool for adults to embrace teens? Hard to say, since the boys are too busy re-creating the latest J. Lo video to notice who’s cruising them, or care.
If bubblegum pop isn’t your bag, other 18-and-over alternatives are the aptly titled Gay College Party, Saturdays at Heaven (579 Sixth Ave, 243-6100), and two old standbys, which, because the bankrupt Peter Gatien recently put the clubs on the auction block, have uncertain futures: Kurfew Saturdays, at Tunnel (mid-block entrance, 27th between Eleventh and Twelfth, 695-4682), and Drama!, Sundays at Limelight (660 Sixth Ave, 807-7059). Because Drama! isn’t technically a college-age party, it’s the less touristy and more interesting of the two: The floor is often littered with strung-out Chelsea boys still partying from the night before. But get there while you can. The curtain hasn’t fallen on Drama! (as of press time, at least), but the promoter behind it, Marc Berkley, recently pulled his name from the event and started a rival 18-and-over party Sundays at Webster Hall (125 E 11th, 353-1600) called Oops! (These days, no gay party is complete without an exclamation point.)
You might catch a peek at Drama!, but the real Chelsea deal is at Roxy (515 W 18th, 645-5156), where the sexy beasts who grunt and groan at the gym all week long flaunt the products of their efforts Saturday night. Or Sunday morning, to be precise, but these heavenly bodies know only one commandment: Look but don’t touch, unless you look like what you’re touching. But even to witness the thousand-strong army, shirtless and waist-deep in a bath of sweat, pheromones, and controlled substances, can be exhilarating—or repulsive, depending on what drug you’re not taking.
This should scare you. But if you’re like me, and it brings out your inner anthropologist, focus your gaydar on Roxy’s college nights, when the club relaxes its 21+ door policy to 18+. The nights are scarce, but no one really drinks in clubland anyway, and it’s easier to get in to Roxy on a regular 21+ night than it is to get into the city’s bars. Some tips on making the cut (and this goes for all venues): Don’t come with five friends, because it’s five times as obvious you’re underage. Don’t bring your best girlfriend, either, because any fruit fly over 21 knows Roxy is a place that doesn’t want her—nor she it. And most important, do put together a look. You don’t have to go all wagamama at D&G, but you won’t get respect at the door in a pair of Tevas.
As an under-ager, your choices are somewhat limited when it comes to bars. The East Village tends to attract the youngest and scruffiest lot. Your best bet for passing are dive bars with low visibilities but solid jukeboxes, like Dick’s Bar (192 Second Ave, 475-2071) or Boiler Room (86 E 4th, 254-7536). Wonder Bar (505 E 6th, 777-9105) is harder to get into not just because the doorman is more vigilant, but because the space itself is so tiny. The boys are cute, and the music hot, but on a weekend night, it gets so smoky that some people bring Visine. In Chelsea, try Blu (161 W 23rd, 633-6113), which hosts Phi Beta Blu on Thursdays (a 21-and-over college party—go figure) or Barracuda (275 W 22nd, 645-8613). For Columbia students, Saints (992 Amsterdam, 961-0599), on the upper Upper West Side, is an obvious destination.
Unless you have a fake ID, forget the back-room shenanigans of the Cock (188 Ave A, 946-1871), where this reporter once lost his wallet, not to mention his dignity; it has the tightest door around. Another touch-and-go proposition is the A-list fabulousness of Beige, Tuesdays at Bowery Bar (40 E 4th, 475-2220). The only way to get into this photo-op fete is to come on the arm of Alan Cumming—a not entirely implausible prospect, considering that every week someone claims to have seen him on line to use the bathroom.