100 naked boys dancing in a Frankfurt basement? Go on then.
Confessions of a Gay Road Tripper, Vol II, Part II
More from Jack Cullen
Frankfurt’s gay scene is a bit like if downtown Soho set-up shop in Canary Wharf. Rainbow flags spring out of peeling doorframes like wild flowers, set against a dwarfing backdrop of silver skyscrapers and the sublime, suspiciously large headquarters of unheard-of banks. Frankfurt is tranquil though. Doused in that same weekendish silence that surrounds the Gherkin here in London. The shops themselves are mostly shit, but then Germany never has quite mastered that skilful journey from undergraduate pencil sketches to press-packed runways. I mean, has Germany even produced a famous fashion designer?*
I did stumble across a great gay bookshop though called Oscar Wilde that sold everything from original 80s erotic greetings cards to How To Run Your Own Leather Contest. I was lightly horrified to see that they also stocked Koinos, the highly controversial magazine that explores the possibility of functional relationships with boys under the age of 16. There are photos of the Oscar Wilde shop here.
Frankfurt has a gay mag called GAB, which you can pick up for free. It’s like BOYZ but better because it lists all of the gay bars . It also recommends some gay-run restaurants. I ate at one called Exil and tucked into a beautiful pork belly there, really lovely service and a secluded outdoor seating area.
The smallest gay bar is called Bananas, est. 1955, you can nearly touch all of its walls without moving! A beer costs 1€, you can smoke inside and they're open every night until the last person leaves or - for the uninimaginative council's benefit – “until five”. What I loved about Bananas best though was that it was completely empty on a Friday night with the exception of one elderly gentleman in the corner, half-masked by a flat cap, his body silhouetted against a Flintstones fruit machine.
“Where is everyone?” I ask the bar maid.
“Vridays? Ve naht vay beezy” she says, helping herself to another half pint.
I started to fear Germany might be like England in that young gays have shunned traditional venues, ironically condemning them as “sleazy” in favour of vastly more expensive bars where the door staff are intimidating, the bar staff are ostentatiously lazy and the toilets have security guards disguised as perfumeria assistants. (I’d like to take this opportunity to also point out the sad hypocritical damage that a boy asserts when he walks out of a gay bar because “it’s dead” - one potato, two potato brov!)
The barmaid seemed to confirm these concerns: “On a Vridayy, everybahhdy goes to thee Pulse Lounge and thee Piper Ved Lounge”
The word lounge in a venue’s name unsettles me, a mental image pops up of nauseatingly low-lying sofas, Hed Kandi chill out compilations, nu-burlesque décor and painfully slow-off-the-mark cocktail waiters. I began to scan GAB mag wondering if I could muster the enthusiasm.
The barmaid in Bananas could read minds: “It good vair. Lots of horrt boys in da basemahnt, weev vair tahps orff, dahnceeng”, she supresses a smirk whilst filing away glass beer tankards. Cheeky lesbian.
Of course hot boys dancing in a basement doesn’t interest me that much, but in the name of dedicated investigative journalism I decided to take a look…
It turned out Pulse Lounge and Red Piper Lounge were two bars next to each other, connected by internal doors. Entry was refreshingly free so I made a point to splash some cash inside. Outside they had a large leafy smoking deck complex, and downstairs they had a high-ceilinged basement as promised. With its original stone walls, lit exclusively with strobe lighting and lasers it looked incredible, a rave beneath a medieval castle. Sure enough, every gay boy in Frankfurt under the age of 25 was there, dancing to Daft Punk and Black Eyed Peas, and a handful of hopeful fifty-year-olds with misleadingly surfy hair.
Germany’s gay scene is more similar to Britain than any other European nation. You can drink dirt cheap, stay out late and be free-spirited. Yet it’s better than England in that German boys seem to be more merry and they have less pretensions. Instead of stick insect fashionistas gauging out overdrafts to buy pathetically drippy outfits there are well-mannered young men with colour in their cheeks, clutching pullovers for the brisk stroll home.
I met a student called Carl who said he could tell I was English because I danced like a girl. I made a mental note to show him a vivid contrast to this surely rushed assessment of me once I'd got him into my hotel room.
There were plenty of big club nights happening in Frankfurt that evening too (pictured above), including something hosted by GT favourite Francois Sagat. I liked the one that said "And For Straights" on the poster like a reluctant but financially-driven afterthought. However, I’m ashamed to say I was quite into the idea of Carl and so put dedicated investigative journalism to rest and called it a night. I did push for a nightcap in Bananas though...
Outside Bananas - "One for the road?"
"A drink here, before bed?"
"You sleep heeere?" - pointing at Bananas bewilderedly
*Well naturally there are a few gay German fashion designers – Jil Sander, Karl Lagerfeld and Wolfgang Joop. And then there’s the late Hugo Boss of course, whose sexuality Wikipedia is keeping close to its algarhythmic heart.