With the recession nipping at our Manhunt accounts and mustaches once again dominating gay lips, we thought we’d take a look at five famous gay cruising grounds that are still going strong across this great nation of ours.
WHERE: Central Park between 72nd and 79th, NYC
HOW: South of the old Tupelo Tree, you’ll find a secluded maze kept hidden by a ceiling of thick tree branches and walls of large bushes.
THEN: These human trails have been carved out by cruisy homos since the action began here in the 1920s. Back then The Ramble was known as “the fruited plain.” Despite post-WWII hysteria and arrests, a replace-the-gays-with-grays Senior Center proposal, and stings by bored cops in the 70s (cf William Friedkin’s Cruising), The Ramble has remained subversive, dangerous and iconic. In “Angels in America,” Tony Kushner sends his mid-80s protagonist to The Ramble for some good ole’ self-destruction.
NOW: The Ramble is still alive with activity despite the mainstreaming of gay culture, the openings of various gay bars in nearby uptown neighborhoods, and of course the rise of Manhunt. Maybe there’s just no replacement for a good ole’ anonymous fuck in the woods. Just ask CNN reporter Richard Quest, who was arrested leaving here six months ago at 3:40 in the morning with meth in his pocket and a rope tied to his balls.
WHERE: Fire Island, New York
THEN: During the summer months, Fire Island–or “Chelsea with sand”–offers New York gays a chance to trade in cruisy sidewalks for cruisier beaches. The Meat Rack gained notoriety in the 60s, when dozens of arrests were made each year. The presence of park rangers (police rarely patrol the area) did little to deter the action. By the 70s, The Meat Rack had already entered gaystream culture. In their song, “Fire Island,” the Village People sang, “Don’t go in the bushes, someone might grab ya.” Gay icon Peter Berlin would make frequent appearances in the vast brush; but, as in his movies, Berlin was the ultimate stand-and-model, never accepting any overtures despite his seductive posing.
NOW: The Meat Rack continues to thrive 24/7 during the summer months. Its crowd ranges from creepy loner trolls leaning against trees to fun-loving gaggles of hotties taking breaks from the beach. It’s also used as the hook-up option of last resort when the club closes and you still haven’t scored. The crowd is divided between those who are trying not to get lost, and those for whom getting lost is the whole point.
3. Buena Vista Park
WHERE: San Francisco
HOW: Haight Street at Buena Vista Ave; check Craigslist for specifics at all hours
THEN: Buena Vista Park, with its sweeping views of San Francisco, literally means “good view.” But for many men who visit this steep stomping ground, the only view they get is of an undone zipper and the underside of a scrotum. While the craggy trails and dense underbrush of Buena Vista Park has long made it a cruising haven, a rise in crime including a fatal stabbing and the discovery of the dead body of an overdose victim in the 90s tarnished its reputation.
NOW: As the surrounding areas become gentrified in the last decade, the riffraff has largely dispersed. But the dirty gay boys remain. During daylight hours, the park is largely the domain of dog owners, who complain that their dogs are forced to eat used condoms. Even the internet hasn’t lessened it (“Quick Jack-Off in Buena Vista?” reads a recent headline on Craigslist.) One woman who visits the park regularly once told the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s probably the safest park in the City now. If you scream, you know 15 guys will pop out of the bushes to help you and a lot of them carry whistles.”
WHERE: San Diego / La Jolla, CA
5. The Dick Dock
WHERE: Provincetown, MA
HOW: After the bars on commercial street close, follow the torrent of flesh to the beach where dozens (sometimes hundreds) of men gather under the deck of the Boatslip Hotel.
THEN: Gay icons like Tennesse Williams, John Waters and Michael Cunningham have called Provincetown, a small resort town at the tip of Cape Cod, home for nearly a hundred years.
NOW: Despite numerous attempts to close it down, it’s an institution in one of the gayest cities in America. During the summer season, volunteers hand out packets of condoms and lube at the entrance. Even avatars get v-laid: there’s a virtual Dick Dock in Provincetown, Second Life.
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