Yesterday we heard there was a huge costume party going on at Central Station, a gay club downtown. Without launching into a full sociological discussion on homosexuality in Russia, suffice it to say that opinions here are not as liberal as in America, and unfortunately many people are forced by social convention to remain closeted, and must essentially lead a double life. I have been to gay clubs in the U.S., and was interested to see what the ones here were like—especially on a night intended to be “all-out.” And I am not above dressing up my straight male friend to get in.
But as much as I gelled and bedazzled him, we were deemed insufficiently costumed for admission. I should have known when I saw another entrance reject, tripping balls and wearing nothing but a glow stick, glitter, and leather leggings. But as Central Station is on Dumskaya Street, essentially the nightlife district, there was no shortage of alternatives and we ended up at Bar Fidel (as in, Castro). It had a good atmosphere (not literally; I think my coat may permanently smell like smoke because there was no coatroom), and reminded me of my mom’s descriptions of clubs in the 80s.
I’m going to be honest…Russians are terrible dancers. Russian women pride themselves on their icy, sophisticated appearances, all fox fur and disdain and leather stilettos, but get them on the dance floor and suddenly…it’s middle school homecoming. By which I mean, awkward wiggling with too much elbow, with a default to pogo-dancing on the loud songs and singing along to the few lyrics they understand. But at the same time, they still look like they’re having a great time. In some ways, it was actually preferable to some American clubs, full of palpable sexual frustration and self-consciousness. It was actually refreshing.
The playlist was hilarious—a truly bizarre mix of Soviet-era rock and American songs from the late 70s through the 90s (think Madonna, Van Halen, Beck, Journey, Blink-182, Bon Jovi, and Chumbawumba). In addition to this, there were strange but delightful forays into other generations and genres, from the comparatively recent “Golddigger” all the way to “Ticket to Ride” and even “Twist and Shout.” We never quite hit Cole Porter, but after they started adding Russian folk songs, I would not have been surprised.