Saturday, December 29, 2007

Town DC fills in disco gap left by Velvet Nations

Note: I finally took a picture of the Town DC Club (Jan. 8). The rest of the posting follows as I wrote it in December.

Last night, I visited Town DC, the new gay disco in Cardozo, at 8th and U Sts NW in Washington DC, near Nellie’s and a few blocks from the Lincoln Theater, where Reel Affirmations as had its LGBT film festivals in October each year. It is near Howard University and considered to be located in the rapidly re-gentrifying (and now expensive) Shaw area. (Metropolitan Community Church is about a half mile away.) It is nearest the U-Street/Cardozo Metro stop and the African-American Civil War Memorial. There is some concern that Metro train service after midnight on weekends may be terminated some time in 2008. There is on-site secured parking for a fee, and on-street parking in the area, especially as one goes north above V and W Streets.

Town DC fills a void left by the closing of the Velvet Nations club in July 2005, which hosted a large gay disco party every Saturday night. That club was closed because of real estate, office and condominium development in the half mile or so north of the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium along the Anacostia River. The development is itself controversial since low income residents have been driven out of the area, often to Prince Georges County. The gay press has reported a lot on the displacement of many clubs. The Town seems to be the first major business that has re-emerged, and its ownership derives from the ownership of the Nation, which had promised that it would aggressively seek a new property when it was forced to close.

The Club hopefully represents a new trend, of modern, clean upscale clubs in previously rundown areas that are now being rapidly re-developed with renovated or new or renovated residences and offices, as is true of U-street. (The subprime crisis could slow down this redevelopment in many cities.) There is no reason in principle why the Club could not have been established near the new stadium (depending on the complicated and politicized DC zoning rules). There are two levels. The lower level has a small drag show stage in a “bullpen” with an elevated deck to the left. The upper level has a full-sized dance floor. Both levels have bars, with Disney-like Cinerama landscape videos (of the Oregon coast) unfolding behind them. The club opens Friday and Saturday nights, with Friday admitting 18-20 (no alcohol). Both evening have two 45-minute drag shows around 9:30 and 11, some of them with Miss Lena Lett. At the 9:30 show last night, the performers engaged the audiences with jokes, and invited the dancers (headed upstairs) to preview themselves. She invited one GW student, “Ben” up to the stage and stuck a tip under his shirt, when he said he needed $50000 for tuition. She missed an opportunity for a joke here: “Ben” is the “victim” (??) in the recent gay short horror film “Bugcrush” from Strand that is all the rage on Logo. (Remember Willard?)

The biggest drag show stage that I am familiar with is the Gay 90s in Minneapolis. The nearby Saloon has a wide-angle dance floor with three elevated platforms that would the dance hall to wide-screen filming some day.

Pictures: MCC Atlanta in the Pride Parade 2004; Howard University Hospital, and Lincoln Theater, in Washington, both near the Club.

Update: July 12, 2008

Last night, Town had a raffle for Washington Nationals tickets. Yes, the dancers worked the crowd to sell them, and one guy, still in sports shirt, "got it" on the stage. But nobody seemed to be interested in looking up how the Nats were doing Friday with cell phone Internet. Despite their decimation with injuries, they won their most lopsided victory of the season last night 10-0 against the Astros. The Nats did have a "gay day" on June 23 in an interleague game that the Nats lost to the Los Angeles Angels, 3-2.

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