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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pack It Up, Pack It In, Rawhide!

Paint It Black: Rawhide Mourns Itself
Rawhide, the landmark leather-&-levis gay bar that opened in 1979 on Eighth Avenue and 21st Street, will be closing its doors March 31.  Reads part of its profile on Yelp!: "Good for Kids: No/ Accepts Credit Cards: No/ Parking: Street." It was at this bar that, one cold winter's night in the '90s, I asked for a brandy alexander to warm myself up, only to be told by the bartender: "A brandy alexander? Honey, you'll be lucky if you get a clean glass."

"While Raw Hide [sic] is a bit dark and sometimes smells like piss, the bartenders are a lot of fun and always provide generous buy backs.  The music is pretty good, and the clientele is generally decent.  I adore the vintage Mrs PAC MAN machine...," read one Yelp! customer review.

Well, I'm glad that critic liked the music because my dj promo cds have played at the bar. "Music was great -- remixes on a Monday night with a good steady beat," claimed another visitor.

"I lived in Chelsea for more than 9 years," wrote Jeff from L.A. "I walked passed [sic] it nearly every day. I was terrified of it . . . lots of unsavory people stumbling in and out . . . it was only closed from 4-6 am ...." And so the legend continues. Not to mention the hot go-go boys in jock straps or clad in even less than that!

I remember good times at that bar with friends and ex-lovers, frequently till drunk after several free shots from the bar to go with our cocktails or beers.  And now it's part of a disappearing New York, likely to become Chelsea's next fast-food joint.

About.com's Gay & Lesbian Travel section described Rawhide thusly: "One of the very few businesses along Chelsea's 8th Avenue that has been around since long before the neighborhood gentrified, rough-and-tumble Rawhide... still feels a bit like a time-warp - it's a dark, low-frills place that has long catered to the leather-and-Levi's crowd... and the drinks [are] potent and rather cheap. Rawhide will, happily, always be a somewhat seedy cruise bar."

Well, not "always," as it turns out. Their new landlord decided to nearly double their rent to a staggering $27,000 a month. That's a lot of cactus juice. Rawhide had essentially been priced out of its location.

But there may well be a silver lining! Rumors have it that Rawhide will be reborn. Even Michael Musto reported in the Village Voice last week that Rawhide plans to reopen at Third Avenue off 53rd Street. That neighborhood could use a little sleaze with ease. And hopefully they'll be playing my songs.

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