I remember when I first heard that Splash was opening up in 1991. I had been going to Uncle Charlie’s in the West Village and the word on the street was that the gay scene was moving to Chelsea. In the last 20 years, I’ve seen the gay scene move from the West Village to Chelsea to Hell’s Kitchen as each succeeding generation of gay men prettied up the neighborhood, increased real estate values and watched straight people take over our turf. Of course, it didn’t help that a lot of us were also dying of AIDS.
One of the features that defined Splash (apart from the go-go dancers dancing under shower heads) was their videos. I think their most famous video was a scene from Mommie Dearest where Faye Dunaway, as Joan Crawford, slaps her daughter. They had spliced together a series of these slaps so that it became a veritable windmill of slapping. The boys ate it up. There’s nothing quite like being in a room full of grown men and watching them all scream in unison: “Don’t fuck with me, fellas!”
I can’t say that I was ever really a Splash boy. (In keeping with the gay community’s emphasis on youth, all men are “boys.”) It was a bit too preppy for me, a bit too upscale at first and, later, too bridge-and-tunnel.
But I feel sorry for the generation of gay men that’s coming of age now. (Hell, I feel sorry for the generation of people that’s coming up age now.) It seems like, as a society, we’re becoming more and more isolated the more social media claim they’re bringing us together. It’s one thing to post your “likes” on Facebook and it’s quite another to be in a room full of flesh and blood human beings expressing them. I feel like our lives as gay men are being reduced to a sexual act and there’s no more room for witty conversation, something for which we used to be famous.
I go back, once again, to one of my favorite experiences at Uncle Charlie’s, watching the season finale of Dynasty where the entire cast was gunned down. If that were on TV now, we’d all rush to our computers or cell phones to tweet about it, each of us isolated in our solitary apartments, alone in a city of eight million people. Our shared experiences are now virtual.
I prefer to live in the land of flesh and blood.