There are about 100 gay bars in Manhattan, most of which I've never visited. On Saturday night, Farmboy T, Aaron and I set out to explore some of the "specialty" gay bars in town. This week I'll be posting short reviews of those places, starting with The Townhouse.
Location: Upper East Side, 236 E.58th (Btwn 2nd & 3rd Avenues)
Specialty: Older wealthy men
Door charge: none
Bar prices: average
Clientele Ethnicity: 100% white
Average Age: mid to high 60's
Review: The Townhouse is located in....a townhouse. The lower level houses a video bar where the patrons mostly ignored what was on the screen. The main floor features an elegant front room with low volume dance music, restrooms, and a large piano lounge where the singer/player belts out comfortably familiar showtunes for the sing-a-long customers who gather in a semi-circle around the piano. Customers are occasionally given the microphone to perform on their own. While we were there: Send In The Clowns, Don't Rain On My Parade, Memories, What I Did For Love.
The Townhouse is an odd, odd place. I'm really not sure how to feel about it. The posh decor (thick carpeting, crown molding, elegant seating) feels like the lobby bar of a luxury hotel. Conversations are loud and animated and for a moment that threw me off, until I realized that The Townhouse music volume is low enough that one can actually hear conversations. The customers were all dressed very nicely, most of them had on jackets. Farmboy T described the place as feeling like a "bubbly wake".
Although the Townhouse is well known as a hustler bar, I didn't see very many rentboys working a room that was undoubtably full of millionaires. Even their own website advertises the place as "a gay bar that appreciates older gentlemen of exquisite taste along with those who admire their wallets". (Emphasis mine. Oh, and I changed "them" to "their wallets".)
Most of the customers were in their late 50's, 60's and 70's, and there at least a few seated on the banquette near the piano who seemed to be in their early 100's. Seriously, I don't think they could have walked in under their own power. But more power to 'em. I hope I'm feeling like hanging with a bunch of homos when I'm an old geezer. I just don't want to do it in a place that looks like a funeral parlor.
Chance of returning: Slim to moderate.
Tomorrow: The Web