I was never officially part of the BDSM community but the first bar I ever walked into as a wide eyed, horny, scared shitless sixteen year old looking for “the Gays” was the original Eagle/DC located on New York Ave in the heart of the Nation’s capital.
The street where it stood was long ago razed and turned into part of the revitalization of downtown Washington but the Eagle/DC banner still flies above the front door of the bar, relocated just a few blocks north.
I’ve always felt that since I “came out” in a leather bar (believe me, I had no idea what type of bar it was at the time-or that there were different watering holes for the many disparate factions of the community- but I quickly learned) at the time I just knew that it was a bar frequented by men who had sex with men and that was good enough for a horny teenager.
So I have an affinity for my brothers in leather.
I knew that I was ‘different’ by the time I was five years old. I didn’t know exactly what being different meant or that a cute little boy could make me blush if he came near and not a pretty little girl, but I knew enough to keep it to myself.
Almost as soon as I could read “See Dick and Jane” I knew that I wanted to see dick.
I was always a ‘precocious’ kid; very verbal, smarter than other kids my age and more interested in ‘interior’ activities that challenged the mind and promoted creativity than the rough and tumble play of the ‘exterior’ world inhabited by other little boys.
I could be found downstairs in our suburban, wood paneled, requisite “Rec-room” scouring the pages of some pulp novel that were clearly meant for adults (Jacqueline Suzann or Sidney Sheldon were favorites at the time), looking for clues to the occasional character that was “that way” or references to the underground world that ‘they’ inhabited.
I instinctively knew that I was one of ‘them’ and wanted to be where they were. I couldn’t wait to grow old enough to join them.
When I was alittle older I remember reading in one of those paperbacks that one could “spot” a gay bar easily if one knew where to look; they were usually in the seedier parts of downtown urban areas, near bus depots and liquor stores, and they could be identified by the blacked out windows, little or now signage and the constant parade of single men going in/out of the entrance.
I dog-eared that passage, reading it over and over, studying it as if it were a map, not to a pot of gold or some buried treasure but to a ‘real’ place, a place where I just knew that “if” I could find it then I would belong and my ‘real’ life could begin.
So, sometime in the summer of 1977, after weeks of planning on the first Friday night I had off from the movie theater where I worked as an usher, I hopped into my mom’s ’71 Dodge Dart Swinger, bought a six pack of beer (store owners were a lot more lax about carding in those days) besides, I was already 6 foot tall, had a deep voice and looked much older than sixteen.
I drove into Washington, DC from the suburbs where I was raised, drinking the beer for liquid courage and blasting the radio, hopping from disco station to station listening for Donna Summer to supply the soundtrack for my ‘coming out’ road-trip.