The night was November 29, 1986. I was still only twenty years old at the time, but I looked a little older and I wasn't carded anyway. The place opened at 8:00 PM. I arrived at 8:02 PM. Only about five other guys were there (it wasn’t until later in life that I realized that you NEVER arrive someplace early. Fashionably late is the only way to go). I looked at my surroundings. I'm not really sure which scared me most -- the men inside or the way the bar was decorated! The place was Deer Park Lodge (or DPL for short) in Hagerstown, MD. The outside of the building was structured to resemble a log cabin. The inside looked as though it may actually have been a hunting cabin at one time, complete with a stuffed fox over an archway that led to the dance floor, a deer head with four hooves beautifully accented with a mirror above a fireplace, and a gigantic moose head complete with antlers and all hanging above the dance floor, kind of the purveyor of the place.
Time passed quickly and it seemed that in milliseconds, the place was filled to capacity. By 10:30 PM, one could hardly move without bumping into someone. My first thought was, where in the hell did all of these people come from? My second thought was, all these men can't be gay. I was stymied. I was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of guys who were finally free to be themselves, where no one would condemn them for who they are and what they believe. It was truly a sight to behold. I moved from the bar and stood against a support beam on a platform that raised me just above the crowd so that I could get a better look. I was about bursting at the seams because I had to pee so badly (my teeth were floating). But, I was still a little too scared to move around too much.
I was amazed. It all seemed so normal. My only perception of a gay man had been from television. And at that time, the entertainment industry was not knocking itself out trying to show positive gay role models.
And wouldn't you know it, I got picked up my very first night. As I leaned against the pole with eyes wide, I was approached from the left by a very good-looking fellow. He was dressed in jeans, a black and red checked shirt with a white T-shirt underneath. He had a great smile and blue eyes that seemed to glow in the dark. He leaned in to me and said:
"You look bored." No just mesmerized. It's my first time here.
"First time, huh? Well, what do you think so far?" I'll let you know.
"My name's Rob." Hi.
"You really do need to move away from this spot for a little while."
"You're starting to look like a fixture. Do you dance?" Not very well.
"I promise not to laugh."
And with that I was off to dance on a dance floor with another guy to the tune of "Brand New Lover" by Dead of Alive (my now-named "Coming Out Song.")
Since DPL was located in Hagerstown, MD, it attracted people from all over the four-state area. DPL was a one-hour drive from: Harrisburg, PA, Winchester, VA, Cumberland, MD, Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC among others. All kinds of people came from all kinds of places to go to "the bar without attitude".
Just like every other large dance club in the country, DPL had its usual predictable group of people. I have found that in every bar, there are about 20 or so different types of "club people" who go out for fun or whatever one goes out for. See if you can recognize these individuals:
The Stud - that individual who thinks he is God's gift to fags and knows he can have anyone at whom he snaps his fingers. The disgusting thing is he almost always gets him.
The Stud Wannabe - that individual who thinks he is God's gift to fags and thinks he can have anyone at whom he snaps his fingers. The disgusting thing is you just know he spent hours putting himself together and everything he's wearing went out of style 6 years ago.
The Flirt - that individual who may or may not be intoxicated, but flirts with everyone and who no one really considers serious, even though he may be.
The Lush - that individual who reeks of alcohol no matter if it is 9:00 PM or 2:00 AM, he is drunker than everyone else, hangs alone, and is basically a nuisance.
The Slut - that individual who is all over everyone and turns exhibitionism into an art form.
The Dancer - that individual who never seems to leave the dancefloor and may dance alone or with a companion. His moves are sharp and current.
The Not Dancer - that individual who never seems to leave the dancefloor and may dance alone or with a companion. You would swear he is wearing headphones and dancing to a whole other song because there is no way he is dancing to the same rhythm you are hearing.
The Boy (Boi) - out to have fun and drink and flirt like a fool. He is usually accompanied by a large group of other young boys (bois) who are fresh off the farm and in school away from mommy and daddy. Mostly, they all just dance together. Lots of flirting, lots of phone numbers, never a call.
The Troll - the old man who may or may not have money and scopes out everyone, not just necessarily the young boys, for sexual gratification.
The New Couple - the duo who are still on their honeymoon who just can't keep their hands to themselves and constantly feel the need to kiss each other; they also take up room on the dancefloor dancing every song as if it were a slow number.
The Old Couple - the duo who have been together too long and are out seeking a third party for their little games. Break up already!
The Shirtless Gym Bunny - okay, so he works out every day and he has a wonderful body, but does he have to rub it in our faces (not that we really mind).
The Grande Dame cum Drag Queen - just about every bar has one: she's bigger than life and anyone who's anyone knows her. She may not always remember your name so she resorts to calling you "honey", "baby", "girl" and "sugar".
The Kids - usually in packs, they hang only with themselves and vogue and shade all over the place - K hits, X Trips, G bumps, Meth heads.
The Quiet One - won't talk, won't drink, won't dance. Go home!
The Daddy - that individual who looks as though he just tucked his kids into bed and came out for a drink. Sometimes, the one The Boy (Boi) will go after.
The Bad Fashion Plate - that individual who wears the same Stars and Stripes Perry Ellis shirt week after week after week. Or the guy who just shows up in the same white t-shirt and jeans. You just pray to god he at least changes his underwear.
The Fashion Faux Pas - that individual who wears tank tops in winter, white slacks after Labor Day, and colors that aren't even in the Crayola box.
The Prep - More fashion conscious than anything, he is well-groomed, always looks great, wears T-shirts under everything, has great hair and is usually friendly.
The Clone - that individual who has a shaved head and a close-cropped dark beard or goatee. He is usually dressed in jeans and a T-shirt or plaid sleeveless shirt.
The Inevitable Cliques - they have their own spot in the club and their own place on the dancefloor and God help you if you infiltrate that. They can be either intimidating or a lot of fun depending on how much like them you are.
Know these people?