In the Scene

Bed Bar: The regression of a gay space?

Bed Bar reopened way, way, away from Malate – in Greenfield District in Mandaluyong – even if it still attempts to serve the same yuppie crowd. But is the bar’s new version worth a visit? Outrage Magazine takes a hard look.

For many of the (arguably yuppie) gay (or “bi”, as many “straight-looking/acting” Filipino gay men confuse themselves to be, no matter that their sexual behaviors remain exclusively homo), Bed Bar (prior to its closure) was the party place to be. After all, it was – in so many ways – one of the few exemplifications of the make of party clubs/venues that abound in Western countries.  Where, in the past, heading to “gay clubs” in the Philippines meant visiting go-go bars (where gay guys cough up money to pay hetero-identifying go-go boys), Bed Bar was mainly a dance bar, where gay guys pick each other up (and more often, sans the monetary exchanges that define the “straight-guy-booked-by-gay-guy” relationship).

It was with sadness, therefore, that the partygoing crowd noted the closing of Bed Bar in Malate, the once LGBT capital of Metro Manila (if not the entire Philippines). Because even if it was (to be completely honest) losing clientele because of its elitist practices (for instance, they actually – and interestingly – looked down on patrons who paid their cover charge by segregating these “common people” from the VIPs who often entered for free, yet had their own “special” entrance into the club, aside from access to “exclusive” sections of the club), it was still a fun place to be in.  The old Bed Bar had, after all, multiple pluses going for it – e.g. the sound system was to die for, since you don’t only hear the music, you actually “feel” it; the nice (albeit not-that-cheap) drinks; and the (largely) beautiful crowd (think Muscle Mary’s).

The end of July, however, saw the re-birth of the new Bed Bar – this time located way away from Malate, as the “action” moved into Quezon City and beyond.

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And how does this (new) Bed Bar do?

To start, methinks it’s only a third as big as the Bed Bar in Malate – meaning, IT IS SMALL. It, nonetheless, still attempts to look at it did before – as such, there are two floors, with the upper floor loft-like-looking to allow guests to see what’s happening (usually the shows) on the ground floor. Aside from the staircase, the floor levels are “connected” by two poles, where the performers slide down or climb up. Meanwhile, the stage (for performances) serves as the dance floor.

It is maybe because of this size why the music is no longer pulsating in Bed Bar (particularly if you can still recall the impactful sound system of the old Bed Bar in Malate). And this is such a pity because this remains as one of the few gay venues where dancing can actually still be done.

All the same, perhaps because the old Bed Bar already created a (loyal) niche market, hanging out in the place are cutesy clones – meaning, if you’re into the “straight-acting/looking” gay guys (who are employed and are comparatively more worldly), then this is where you’d find them (for now).

But here’s what I find… insulting: Bed Bar actually makes use of heterosexual identifying performers (usually as back-up dancers of the drag performers), and the largely gay clubbers (some of them with their female friends in tow) shrieking and screaming their heads off  in adulation of these hetero-identifying performers. In fact, during performances, expect some of those in the audience actually attempt to touch/grope/get the attention of these hetero-identifying performers – only to have their hands (thus their readily given affections) literally swatted away by the hetero-identifying performers.

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In my way of seeing, this is akin a go-go bar/strip joint.
Where the gay patrons idolize the hetero-identifying guys… usually for a fee, of course.

And for me, it is sad.

In fact, seeing it repeatedly happen right inside Bed Bar is… disempowering/disenfranchising.

Because right beside the gay clubbers are other gay guys who may return their affections SANS the need for (usually) financial returns; and who they can actually form relationships with.

To add insult to injury, after the performances, the hetero-identifying performers “urge” people to dance on the stage (as mentioned earlier, the only real dancing space of the place), and how they do this is by grabbing/inviting select people to step onstage. To be expected from hetero-identifying men, the people they grab are… the girls in the crowd. The girls, then, invite their gay friends to also step onstage for them to dance.

And so we have the hierarchy we’re trying to dismantle taking shape in front of us – where hetero-identifying men take the lead, supporting their paramours (i.e. hetero-identifying women), who – if gays are so lucky – will then invite some of their gay friends to also join the festivities.
It’s almost like the “who’s the first-sex, second-sex, third-sex?” argument being given flesh.

And all happening right inside a supposed gay space.

And that, for me, is the biggest drawback of Bed Bar.

Sure, it’s small – but the old Bed Bar grew too big for it to finance itself, so this move (at the side of the owners to cut the place’s size) is understandable.
Sure, there’s no parking space – but Bed Bar never bothered allocating space for the same in the past, either.
Sure, the cover charge can still be steep – but if gays are willing to spend, why not make them cough up the cash (!).
Sure, the area where it’s located can be dangerous – but then again, Malate wasn’t exactly the safest place in Metro Manila.
So these are not necessarily why the new Bed Bar won’t get supported.

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But, yet again, for me, it’s the seeming regression of the gay space that is bothersome.

Don’t get me wrong – Bed Bar is still worth a visit. I will, for one, be seen there now and then.

It is, after all, still an “it” club – where you can catch up with friends, dance the night away, meet the supposed elites of the gay party scene, et cetera.

And it is where many of the (arguably) best-looking gay guys (though many tend to self-identify as “bi”) in Metro Manila are.

Now if only we can persuade them to stop idolizing the hetero-identifying men and actually become interested in other gay guys, then maybe this gay space can actually help push (even the notion of) self-empowerment…

Bed Bar is located at Greenfield District at the corner of Shaw Blvd. and EDSA, Mandaluyong City. The door charge is P350 on Saturdays; P250 on Sundays. For more information, head to http://www.bed.com.ph/.

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