Sunday, June 26, 2011

Visit to Secrets/Ziegfelds, which survived the building of Nationals Park in Washington

Last night, I visited Secrets/Ziegfelds (site), the one major club remaining in the Anacostia area of Washington DC after the construction of Nationals Park and other major real estate development in the area since 2006.

The club is near the now handsome Anacostia River Bridge with its blue lights, just SW of Nationals Park, and near some warehouses.  Right behind it is Water Street, which I used to park on back in 1971 when I worked for NAVCOSSACT in the Washington Navy Yard (as a civilian computer programmer, after Army service).   And, sorry,  the “Secrets” have nothing to do with “One Republic’s” catchy song on Sirius XM’s Blend. It’s the quiet bar up a short stairway above the small dance floor.

I got there early and found street parking easy, with plenty of metered spaces still free in this part of town at night (that’s not true at U Street).  The staff seemed well tuned in to the Washington Nationals, and had been to the “gay night” at the Park when the Nats beat Seattle 6-5 with a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth inning. They knew about manager Riggleman’s sudden resignation, when the team was finally winning.

That’s even more ironic, because years ago there were many other clubs in the Navy Yard area (double irony, given “don’t ask don’t tell” – but then I found gay discos alive and well in little Pensacola FL, a Navy town, during a 1998 visit).  The gaudiest club in the 1990s had been Tracks, a few blocks to the Northeast, on the other side of South Capitol Street.   There would follow the Velvet Nations, with the Blue Room and Great Hall, which closed in 2007 with the real estate development. (The stadium opened in 2008.)  Town-DC essentially replaces Velvet Nations/Tracks  in another part of town, Shaw (where there is some land and easier permits).  There had also lived the Edge, with the dancers, and at one time there had been a place called the Lost and Found, which Frank Kameny had told me about when I came out.  

In recent years, night clubs (although usually straight ones) and strip clubs have attracted controversy in Washington from nearby residents wherever they have tried to get permits, particularly in NE.  Noise has been a concern of some residents around Dupont Circle.   It’s been an issue recently in Minneapolis, as I blogged recently. But partying and “clubland” are facts of life in central cities, and essential to their economies.
As for the rest of the club visit, first, it was slow – and the club showed a black and white video about modeling by rugby players in France, rather like a little “indie” film.  There was a curious scene where a woman puts a kind of prod repeatedly all over a man’s chest and body.

The drag show started at 11:30, and many of the performers were true “females”.  One did somersaults -- Valkyries style.  And they were pretty aggressive in seeking the tips.   There were no “Secrets”.  They asked -- how many straight people were there, and how many T's and B's-- and people told.  Curiously, no one mentioned the off-the-press gay marriage victory 230 mile NE, in New York.

There's something else about this particular bit of real estate development -- it forced all the poor people out, to PG County. And it's in low-lying areas, the first to flood in a future hurricane. 

Last picture: a game lost to St Louis in 2010. 

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