By Claudio E. Cabrera
In case you didn’t notice from the flyers with men in toga outfits and thongs sprawled on our Washington Heights and Inwood sidewalks, there’s a gay club in Dyckman. Yes, there’s a LGBT club not only on Dyckman, but on Dyckman and Nagle and it’s called Le Boy.
It is right where Villa Patron used to be – and if you ask me – I’m glad they replaced Villa Patron because they closed and opened more often than Jubilee Restaurant on Hillside Ave.
But before I continue, this isn’t a coming out of the closet moment. No, no, no. You will totally understand why I went to this club as you read on.
Now, in the history of our neighborhood, there has been one gay club, which I can even remember. It was where Arka was on 193rd street and Broadway. This was maybe a decade or so ago. No one in the neighborhood knew – and even when my friends would talk about it – we would whisper. Some people believed it; some didn’t. Some would be amazed at the idea, while some would cringe at the thought.
When I heard about a gay club opening on 177th and Broadway (No Parking is the name), I didn’t think much of it. When I heard Le Boy opened on Nagle, I didn’t think much of it either. Well, I did sort of. I mean, let’s be real – 177th and Broadway isn’t as close to rough as Nagle is. Never has and never will be. ‘No Homo’ is heard a lot more East of Broadway than it ever will be West of Broadway.
What is ‘No Homo’ you ask?
It’s urban slang created by a group called Dipset in 2002-03. It’s basically this:
‘Man my back hurts’
If you were to say that in front of a guy, you’d have to say ‘No Homo’ before or right after because someone may say you’re implying a guy banged you.
Now, admittedly (to no ones shock), my side of town is much rougher than the side of town where I thought they would put a gay club at initially. Homophobia is much more prevalent here than on the other side. I have no scientific evidence behind all this, but they are as close to fact as you can believe.
So whenever I would pass Le Boy, I always said: ‘I would never catch myself dead in there.’
Because what if I saw someone I knew who I never thought to be gay.
‘Dimelo Claudio dique tu te gusta los hombres? (Translation: What’s Up Claudio? I didn’t know you liked men)’
What if someone saw me standing on line?
‘Man I seen Claudio standing on that gay club’s line. I never knew this dude was on that. I ain’t hanging with that cat anymore.’
Those were risks I wasn’t willing to take.
I ended up taking the risk – and I’m glad I did – because it was a great experience.
It all started a few Friday’s ago when me and a fellow UC writer, Carolina, met up near the venue. I told her to meet me across the street at Dyckman Express.
Because I wanted to make sure that when we got to the line, there weren’t any people waiting. We waited across the street for fifteen minutes until the line was clear and then made a mad dash to the venue.
So security checked us while I had my head down and turned to the left. I was trying to shield my face.
The door opened and…
It was a bunch of guys in tight clothing; some in baggy clothing (no different than a straight club). Men in underwear dancing on top of fixtures – while clubgoers were putting dollars in their undies like it was a strip club (pretty different from a straight club). There was non-stop dancing, and maybe I was paranoid, but there were guys burning a hole in me like Cyclops with their eyes. I felt like a piece of meat a few times during the night.
That’s how the first 5 minutes went.
I held Carolina so tight that night, she may still be recovering from the bruises on her hand. I said at least five times: ‘You are my wife for the night.’
Now before I continue, let me explain why I went to Le Boy. A friend and her husband wanted to check out the place. They heard a lot about it and were shocked that Inwood had a gay club on Nagle out of all places (FYI: They are going to have a Halloween party there too).
They were talking about it for a few weeks and we ended up going. I was extremely reluctant, but said: Whatever, I’ll check it out. Mostly because if I didn’t go, my friend would probably ex-communicate me and bury our friendship. She was the neighborhood gravedigger to many if you didn’t know.
So, after about a few hours of being stiff (doesn’t sound right), I loosened up (doesn’t sound right either) and had a good time. I danced with Carolina a bit and even jokingly danced with my friend’s husband. I even got mobbed by a few of her gay friends – because they said I needed to have fun – and I just started snapping my fingers, moving my head like the Roxbury guys and backing it up (I’m kidding…sort of).
We spent at least 2 hours at Le Boy, and while I drank a lot and needed to go to the bathroom, I refused. I heard the urinals were a bit too close for comfort; like in a circle of some sorts. I held it in.
But overall, I had a really great time. I met some new people in the neighborhood who are doing great things. Some guys named Mickey, Brandon, and a few others. I even met a gay guy from my building who always walks around in booty shorts even if its winter (Don’t ask me). I told them all to join my brunch and supper club. Hopefully, I’ll see them there.
It’s funny, because the other day I saw Mickey while I was on the corner of Dyckman and Nagle with a friend. Mickey is the most blatantly gay White guy you will ever meet on an appearance level. If you have any type of gaydar, the ding ding sound will immediately go off in your head. I tried to turn away as he approached, but I knew it’d be wrong. I shook his hand and said: ‘What up Mickey?’
My friend looked at me mad strange. Mickey made it worse by saying: ‘Have you been back?’ I said: ‘No.’ My friend couldn’t comprehend it as he didn’t say ‘Le Boy’, but didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything either after Mickey left about him.
But the most important part of this whole story isn’t how cool Le Boy is (the drinks and the atmosphere), it’s about these White, Black, and Latino men all coming together on an Uptown street. The gentrifying crowd meets the local crowd and everyone was getting along.
Now, despite the fact that I met great people and had a good time, would ‘I’ be comfortable going there again? Probably not. I mean, I enjoyed it, but it’s in my neighborhood. It’s a bit too close for comfort. If some girlfriends said let’s go to a gay club somewhere else, I’d probably go.
Now before you think I’m some sort of homophobe, remember, I went to the club. I have no issues with anybody. I’m a man of color – discriminating is something I know of and don’t plan to do to anyone else. There’s no Carl Paladino in me.
But, what I will say to all those who think a gay club on Nagle is dangerous, believe me, it isn’t. There may be plenty of homophobic Dominicans up here in the Heights (I have a few in my family), but they won’t waste their time shouting slurs or beating up people. Believe me, they wouldn’t.
The other day I sat back and thought if I was 18, how would I react to this club. I may have a few things to say. I won’t lie. I wasn’t gay friendly at the time. I don’t think any of my friends were. Even to this day I say ‘No Homo’ when people say something that can be interpreted as gay. I should stop.
But when I went to college and our minds grew, things changed. We came to learn that gays are no different than any of us; and considering the discrimination we’ve faced, why would we want someone else to face the same. If anything, we have to help them and judging from the first few months of Le Boy being open – Nagle and the surrounding blocks and avenues don’t have anything against it either – to the point where violence will occur.
Le Boy is a fabulous establishment that can get a little packed sometimes, but it is because it may be the most popular ‘Club’ in the neighborhood. Not gay club, but club, with the way the lines look when you pass it on a Friday or Saturday night.
I’m proud of this neighborhood. It’s one thing to see White and Black families moving up here to raise children; It’s one thing to see a Dominican flag waving from every restaurant, bar, and barber shop. But the colorful LGBT flag waving on Dyckman Street? That’s the true sign of not only this neighborhood’s growth but also its ability to accept all people.
Best of luck Le Boy…