You’re a gay Brit guy going to the Big Apple for the very first time. The bright lights! The sights! The sounds! And, of course, the gays. But where do you start? What do you look out for? Where do you go? Writing from The City that Never Sleeps, model, musician and former GT naked issue star Sam Morris tells you everything you need to know…
The Gay Scene
The gay scene is very spread out in New York. Hell’s Kitchen is most similar to the gay scene in Soho, but it’s pretty loose with a long strip of sporadically placed gay bars. You have the indie gay scene in Williamsburg, which would be more suited to the Shoreditch gays of London. There’s also Chelsea, and then the meatpacking district which has its own nights – I’d describe those as similar to an alternative gay night in Mayfair.
The Ritz – 369 W 46th St: Circa meets Freedom – very Soho. Lots of smoke and dancing. Oh, and pretty boys.
On Top – Le Bain at The Standard Hotel: Sink The Pink meets Whiskey Mist, haute drag in a posh hotel. Drag queens and freaks.
Metropolitan – 559 Lorimer St, Brooklyn: East Block meets Joiners’ Arms. Great music and a bit more chill if you just want a drink and a dance. Bearded hotties.
So, you have to tip for basically everything. And being a Brit, this WILL annoy you. However, there’s a reason why. A lot of the staff in bars, clubs, restaurants etc don’t get paid a wage – I found that pretty shocking too – and so they solely rely on tips for their income. Recommended is a dollar for anything that’s made for you, like a drink or a coffee, or 18-20% for waiter service on a food bill. If you don’t tip, well, you’ll look like an asshole, and they may just refuse to serve you next time.
New Yorkers have a very different attitude to us Brits. We tend to apologise for almost everything. Pour boiling water over us and we’d apologise for wasting all your water before we screamed. In New York, not so much. Our friends across the pond are a lot more ‘straight up’. They get their point across quickly, and tend to be a bit loose with their please and thank yous. It’s not rudeness, but just their way, so try and adapt rather than asking to speak to their manager.
It should be mandatory for every gay guy to make a visit to Fire Island while visiting New York – obviously only in the summer. You can get a train from Pennsylvania Station to Sayville, then you get a shuttle bus to the dock where you can take the ferry to The Pines. The Pines in Fire Island is like gay Disneyland. There’s a ton of parties, thousands of hotties and a lot of alcohol. Be prepared for an intense weekend of drink, sea, sun and sand.
This was the biggest adjustment for me. You can’t drink in public, so the idea of going to the shop, getting some beers and chilling in the park is an alien concept in New York. If you’re going out, you don’t do ‘pre-drinks’, but ‘pre-game’, at someone’s apartment. Then when you do go out, REMEMBER YOUR ID! They’re very strict on ID here, they won’t let you in a bar or club without it. In Times Square they have an ‘under 40’ rule – and I thought Tesco’s under 25 was crazy. I actually witnessed Tony Award-winning Broadway star Alice Ripley not being allowed in to her own Broadway cabaret show because she didn’t have her ID – very funny stuff. Alcohol is also a LOT stronger here – beer is about 6% – and they free-pour their spirits.
Quite a few of the guys here in NYC are on the new HIV prevention drug PrEP. It’s something fairly uncommon for a Brit, so beware that a lot of the people on this drug don’t use condoms. Make sure you remember that you’re not on the drug and always use protection.
You and the Latinos will be the only uncut people in the room at any given time. Enjoy your 15 mins of fame.
They won’t get your humour. You won’t get theirs. They don’t find self deprecation funny, and real New Yorkers are nothing like the characters in Will & Grace. They won’t get Nighty Night, so don’t bother showing them. If you find an exception, let me know so I can hang out with them instead.
Everything is covered, soaked and drenched in sugar or salt. The food tastes great, but that’s all down to the chemicals. Healthy food can be found, but you have to hunt it out.
Taxis and Ubers are a lot cheaper here than in London, and so is the subway. Everything is fairly close in Manhattan, so a taxi won’t break the bank, but a weekly unlimited subway ticket works out to be around £20 – and their subway system is 24 hours, so that’s a win win.
When it comes to style, things are a lot more laid back here. Whatever you’re into, anything goes. Especially on the gay scene, no one seems to care. So if you’re heading over with a suitcase full of crazy, then carry on. Just maybe don’t flit around the Bronx in your harness.
For those hipsters out there, make sure not to shop at the vintage stores – they’re super expensive. Instead, head for the thrift stores. There’s a great one in Brooklyn – Urban Jungle, 120 Knickerbocker Ave.
Prepare to feel rich. Our British pound here is super strong. The price of things in dollars will often be the same price in pounds back home. Enjoy!
Words Sam Morris @justsammorris