Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The politics of moving

Saturday's Duckie was, I think, our third in the month - August's (very loose) theme having been Duckie Goes Dykey. Me and TSB got there 9.30ish, a little earlier than usual and took up our customary position between the activity island and the stage. Chatted with Robin for a bit, as the place began to fill up.

And boy did it fill up fast! Not sure if it's just me but Duckie seems much busier much earlier these days. It's always been packed but the last couple of times, it's become unpleasantly full, especially during the cabaret spots, when all the outdoor smokers pile in to see the acts. First act was Jessica Delfino, a New York comedian who's apparently been damned to Hell by the US Catholic League for singing about vaginas. I liked her winsome little ditty Don't Rape Me, played on a rape whistle. Here it is, with charmingly homespun video:

Afterwards, she spent a minute or so chucking freebie CDs and t-shirts into the audience as part of a plug for her show - which seemed, I dunno, oddly unDuckie somehow.

Second up was Bearlesque, who are always good value. The crowd seemed a bit unwieldy, though, talking through the acts (especially the trio of shouty lesbians in front of me, one of whom could barely stand) and not really joining in on the audience participationy bits. I felt a bit sorry for Fred Bear, having to hold the fort while (the very sexy) Simon and Neil Bear (I'd not seen him before - an addition to the original five) changed costume. Bear Necessities, a strip to Singing In The Rain (complete with real sprinklywater lamppost) and Mein Bear. I love 'em.

Brief snippet of Simon Bear's Gene Kelly homage in this compilation:

So two above-average acts, all six of the original Duckie team there (which isn't so common these days, what with Amy off trolley dollying) and I still felt oddly lacklustre, like the music was taking a longer-than-usual time to warm me up to singalong level. I think it was La Moz's The More You Ignore Me that finally got me going.

What was truly out of the ordinary about Saturday, though, was TSB and then me getting involved in a spat which seemed to escalate dizzyingly fast into something that looked for a moment like a potential punch-up. That's never happened to me before, in Duckie or, I think, in any other gay bar or club I've been to. I've certainly got pissed off with people in bars and they've got pissed off with me but this felt somehow different.

Basically, we were standing at the central island with our drinks on the table. A group of maybe five or six guys took up residence behind TSB, the one nearest him being quite dancey and expansive. We shuffled our drinks along the table a little bit, as you do, and he expanded to fill the space. TSB started to get that pained look in his eyes: Dancey Expansive Bloke was apparently knocking into him repeatedly and we were running out of tabletop to shift along. This went on, and TSB was eventually growling with irritation. Both of us were essentially standing still at that point, so no wild and exuberant arse-bumping coming from us.

Or so we thought. Dancey Expansive Bloke turned around and started shouting something in TSB's ear. TSB looked hangdog but said nothing and I had to ask him what had been said: apparently DEB reckoned TSB was repeatedly banging into him and wasn't too pleased about it. TSB was obviously a bit taken aback. I offered to swap places.

And, sure enough, DEB (you keeping up with the acronyms?) seemed to be moving backwards into me. I had one arm on the table and he repeatedly brushed against it. I decided not to bump back against him but to stand my ground. As I say, I wasn't dancing myself at this point.

DEB turns around again and I see, with a sudden shock, that he's really furious. Not just look-I'm-a-bit-pissed-off-with-this angry but outside-for-a-fight-NOW angry. Angry enough that I wonder whether he's coked up or something. He screams something about me (or maybe TSB) being very rude and if we knock him again, he'll have us - DO YOU UNDERSTAND?! Like a twat, I start to explain that, look, we've shunted our drinks a good couple of feet along the table so, actually, it's us that's moved to accommodate him. His response is to shout DO YOU UNDERSTAND?! at me again. And again. I should just say yes but instead I start to mutter something stupidly provocative along the lines of "I can understand that that's how you see it". TSB tries to say something but has SHUT UP! screamed repeatedly in his face until he shuts up. I can actually see the flecks of spit flying out of DEB's mouth as he leans closer. I keep my back half-turned, reckoning that's less confrontational. I raise my hand, though, putting it between DEB and TSB in what I hope is a caaalm down gesture (and is shielding my partner's face from spittle). DEB really seems to want a fight. Repeatedly, he asks us if we'd like to go outside and fight him. Er, no.

I see a couple of friends of ours, including lovely Man Mountain Neil, materialise behind TSB's shoulder, having pushed through from the raised gallery bit. They said later they'd moved because they thought there'd be more space down the front (ha bloody ha) but I wondered whether they'd seen the situation escalating and decided to be at hand. Whatever, I was grateful for their presence - particularly as the moment of tension seemed suddenly to pass, DEB turned back to his mates and Bearlesque took to the stage. I was incredibly careful not to budge an inch towards DEB during the act. He and his friends (who hadn't got involved in the fracas) disappeared fairly quickly once the cabaret was over.

It sounds a bit pathetic but the incident really did shake me and TSB both and cast something of a shadow over the rest of the night. The following day I couldn't stop thinking about it, I'm not sure why. Possibly because, since living in London the vast majority of my outside-work socialising has taken place in gay bars and clubs; I've forgotten that sudden mix of adrenaline and nausea when one realises one has said or done the wrong thing and a minor skirmish threatens to spin off into physical violence. For a few seconds, I really did think DEB was going to punch me or my partner. I was half-planning what I'd do if he did. That alcohol plus fight-or-flight combination is a feeling I associate with the straight pubs of yesteryear, a consequence of accidental pint-spilling, looking at someone a bit funny, dressing, walking or talking a bit poofy in a built-up area. I've never really felt it in a gay bar, and certainly not in Duckie.

Now, with the benefit of half a week's hindsight, I think, well why DIDN'T we just move further away? Okay, the club was rammed to the gills but the few inches of tabletop/dancefloor territory wasn't worth risking a broken nose (actually, at the time, I found myself thinking, not the teeth - they're expensive to fix). There was an element of stupid, booze-fuelled machismo on my part too, in standing firm and refusing to keep surrendering space to DEB's exuberant arse. Oh well. Maybe I just need to get out more.

The politics of dancing
The politics of ooo feeling good
The politics of moving
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