Sunday, September 25, 2016

#boycottwoodys

On Thursday, PhillyMag.com posted Ernest Owens' justifiably brutal takedown of the Gayborhood's popular Woody's nightclub over an apparent dress code that appears to be targeting men and women of color. It came about when Kenmar Jones was turned away at the door after performing with FringeArts for wearing sweatpants and sneakers. Vaguely worded or un-posted dress codes have been used for decades to target "urban" clientele by prohibiting everything from tracksuits to brand-specific items like Timberland boots, and this is hardly the first time Woody's has come under fire over its admission policies.

Jones' story echoes the tactics that inspired Chic's song, Le Freak which found its origins in a similar incident wherein the disco band was denied entry into Studio 54 despite an invite from Grace Jones. According to guitarist Nile Rogers and bassist Bernard Edwards, Chic promptly returned to their hotel on New Years of 1977 and wrote the song, only with its original lyrics substituting "freak out" with "fuck off." The story has become musical lore and a neat piece of trivia, but it speaks to a darker piece of Americana, one steeped in what's being referred to as covert racism, and Jones' own experience at Woody's is evidence that it is alive and well in Philadelphia.

Covert or overt, racism is racism. But the importance of distinguishing the two is that the former allows the offender to sidestep responsibility by blaming things like dress codes. The black hole of social media in Tweets and comments only enables the offense by further excusing it by crying "who wears sweatpants to a bar?"

Woody's is no exception when it comes to exclusionary and discriminatory entrance or ejection calls. Last year I saw a man booted from the club for being painted silver, on Halloween of all nights. The bouncer said there were concerns of the bar tops being marred in paint, but a few minutes before he was asked to leave he had kissed his girlfriend. It's rather ironic that Woody's, a gay bar that's become synonymous with straight bridal parties and frat house scavenger hunts, would ask a straight couple to leave because of a very brief moment of PDA, but that makes the venue's rules all the more frustrating. It also gives themselves a bit of slack when taking cash from hoards of straight women by allowing them to say, "remember when we threw out that straight guy?"

Nevertheless, there is a very real reason that gay bars typically don't enforce dress codes, and that's because their existence, the need for their existence, is already exclusionary in nature: they aren't for everyone. Gay bars are an alternative entertainment option for a still-marginalized segment of the population, the LGBT community. And to look at a typical Saturday night crowd at Woody's, it's very apparent that its owners, the Weiss brothers, have forgotten that.

Attend Woody's as a gay man and you'll feel a bit like an animal in a zoo. Straight couples point and whisper while gaggles of women, usually white, hunt for their next accessory, a GBFF. These people are not our allies, if they were they'd be marching with us. To them, we're a handbag to tote with them to Green Eggs Cafe the next morning. By Monday and a Facebook friend request we're thrown in the jewelry box next to a dozen earrings they'll never wear again. 



To be fair, these aren't the covert racists enforcing Woody's discriminatory entrance policies, but they are inadvertently responsible for it, and in so covertly racist. To Woody's-the-business, bridal parties and business happy hours are money, money that wouldn't be there if the bar was truly representative of the vastly diverse LGBT community. Black, Hispanic, Asian, trans, butch, femme, fat, thin, muscular, twink, and everything in between, gay bars are important because it happens to literally everyone, and the Orlando Massacre proved that we still need safe spaces, and Woody's has proven time and again that it isn't one of them. 

On one hand, it might be a blessing that Woody's has become the gay bar du jour for straight people who still think going to a gay bar is some kind of urban safari. If it weren't for Woody's, bridal showers might be pushing their way into U-Bar and Tabu. But the mere mentality that gay bars are on the bachelorette to-do-list speaks to the larger point that this demographic is encroaching on and usurping the few places we have to be ourselves. Before same sex marriage was legalized last summer, these events were especially insulting, and since we've had marriage equality adding a gay bar to the bridal crawl has exploded. Why? Because this demographic can't stand it when something isn't about them. 

Beyond the doors of Woody's, this mentality has infected Philadelphia's Gayborhood like a swarm of locusts. Despite countless neighborhood and nightclub venues throughout the city, they've charged into the Gayborhood and rebranded it the callously named Midtown Village. How is that okay? People pitch a fit if you refer to the Italian Market by its historic namesake, the 9th Street Market, and we'd never consider rebranding Chinatown as Market East Village. Yet with dozens of street signs and rainbow crosswalks at 13th and Locust, it's somehow okay for realtors, and even the city, to rename one of the oldest gay enclaves in the country and the first city to utter the word "Gayborhood." 

We should be more pissed off than we are.

That's not okay. I understand Woody's is a business, and they're in the business of making money. I understand that Philadelphia's Gayborhood sits on vast acreage of developable real estate. But straight people have literally every other neighborhood in the city and hundreds of nightlife venues, and members of the LGBT community still come to cities like Philadelphia to seek community and even safety. With LGBT youths, especially of color, making up a huge chunk of the nation's homeless, Woody's catering to a largely white heterosexual community isn't just an annoyance, it's irresponsible to the community they still claim to represent. 

It's time to hammer the last nail into the coffin. Regardless of the rainbows lining its facade at the gates of the Gayborhood, Woody's is not a gay bar. It is just another venue taking advantage of the neighborhood's address while giving little to nothing back to the community that built its name. If you're a straight woman and want to add a gay bar to your wedding day hangover, by all means, make it Woody's. I won't be there, and neither will my black, brown, or beige friends. And until Woody's acknowledges what it is, just another Green Eggs Cafe chock full of white women, I'll gladly hashtag #BoycottWoodys. Just stay away from U-Bar. We need somewhere to cruise without some Bath & Body Works scented debutante telling us what a waste we are before 9am on Monday.

#boycottwoodys

#boycottwoodys

On Thursday, PhillyMag.com posted Ernest Owens' justifiably brutal takedown of the Gayborhood's popular Woody's nightclub over an apparent dress code that appears to be targeting men and women of color. It came about when Kenmar Jones was turned away at the door after performing with FringeArts for wearing sweatpants and sneakers. Vaguely worded or un-posted dress codes have been used for decades to target "urban" clientele by prohibiting everything from tracksuits to brand-specific items like Timberland boots, and this is hardly the first time Woody's has come under fire over its admission policies.

Jones' story echoes the tactics that inspired Chic's song, Le Freak which found its origins in a similar incident wherein the disco band was denied entry into Studio 54 despite an invite from Grace Jones. According to guitarist Nile Rogers and bassist Bernard Edwards, Chic promptly returned to their hotel on New Years of 1977 and wrote the song, only with its original lyrics substituting "freak out" with "fuck off." The story has become musical lore and a neat piece of trivia, but it speaks to a darker piece of Americana, one steeped in what's being referred to as covert racism, and Jones' own experience at Woody's is evidence that it is alive and well in Philadelphia.

Covert or overt, racism is racism. But the importance of distinguishing the two is that the former allows the offender to sidestep responsibility by blaming things like dress codes. The black hole of social media in Tweets and comments only enables the offense by further excusing it by crying "who wears sweatpants to a bar?"

Woody's is no exception when it comes to exclusionary and discriminatory entrance or ejection calls. Last year I saw a man booted from the club for being painted silver, on Halloween of all nights. The bouncer said there were concerns of the bar tops being marred in paint, but a few minutes before he was asked to leave he had kissed his girlfriend. It's rather ironic that Woody's, a gay bar that's become synonymous with straight bridal parties and frat house scavenger hunts, would ask a straight couple to leave because of a very brief moment of PDA, but that makes the venue's rules all the more frustrating. It also gives themselves a bit of slack when taking cash from hoards of straight women by allowing them to say, "remember when we threw out that straight guy?"

Nevertheless, there is a very real reason that gay bars typically don't enforce dress codes, and that's because their existence, the need for their existence, is already exclusionary in nature: they aren't for everyone. Gay bars are an alternative entertainment option for a still-marginalized segment of the population, the LGBT community. And to look at a typical Saturday night crowd at Woody's, it's very apparent that its owners, the Weiss brothers, have forgotten that.

Attend Woody's as a gay man and you'll feel a bit like an animal in a zoo. Straight couples point and whisper while gaggles of women, usually white, hunt for their next accessory, a GBFF. These people are not our allies, if they were they'd be marching with us. To them, we're a handbag to tote with them to Green Eggs Cafe the next morning. By Monday and a Facebook friend request we're thrown in the jewelry box next to a dozen earrings they'll never wear again. 



To be fair, these aren't the covert racists enforcing Woody's discriminatory entrance policies, but they are inadvertently responsible for it, and in so covertly racist. To Woody's-the-business, bridal parties and business happy hours are money, money that wouldn't be there if the bar was truly representative of the vastly diverse LGBT community. Black, Hispanic, Asian, trans, butch, femme, fat, thin, muscular, twink, and everything in between, gay bars are important because it happens to literally everyone, and the Orlando Massacre proved that we still need safe spaces, and Woody's has proven time and again that it isn't one of them. 

On one hand, it might be a blessing that Woody's has become the gay bar du jour for straight people who still think going to a gay bar is some kind of urban safari. If it weren't for Woody's, bridal showers might be pushing their way into U-Bar and Tabu. But the mere mentality that gay bars are on the bachelorette to-do-list speaks to the larger point that this demographic is encroaching on and usurping the few places we have to be ourselves. Before same sex marriage was legalized last summer, these events were especially insulting, and since we've had marriage equality adding a gay bar to the bridal crawl has exploded. Why? Because this demographic can't stand it when something isn't about them. 

Beyond the doors of Woody's, this mentality has infected Philadelphia's Gayborhood like a swarm of locusts. Despite countless neighborhood and nightclub venues throughout the city, they've charged into the Gayborhood and rebranded it the callously named Midtown Village. How is that okay? People pitch a fit if you refer to the Italian Market by its historic namesake, the 9th Street Market, and we'd never consider rebranding Chinatown as Market East Village. Yet with dozens of street signs and rainbow crosswalks at 13th and Locust, it's somehow okay for realtors, and even the city, to rename one of the oldest gay enclaves in the country and the first city to utter the word "Gayborhood." 

We should be more pissed off than we are.

That's not okay. I understand Woody's is a business, and they're in the business of making money. I understand that Philadelphia's Gayborhood sits on vast acreage of developable real estate. But straight people have literally every other neighborhood in the city and hundreds of nightlife venues, and members of the LGBT community still come to cities like Philadelphia to seek community and even safety. With LGBT youths, especially of color, making up a huge chunk of the nation's homeless, Woody's catering to a largely white heterosexual community isn't just an annoyance, it's irresponsible to the community they still claim to represent. 

It's time to hammer the last nail into the coffin. Regardless of the rainbows lining its facade at the gates of the Gayborhood, Woody's is not a gay bar. It is just another venue taking advantage of the neighborhood's address while giving little to nothing back to the community that built its name. If you're a straight woman and want to add a gay bar to your wedding day hangover, by all means, make it Woody's. I won't be there, and neither will my black, brown, or beige friends. And until Woody's acknowledges what it is, just another Green Eggs Cafe chock full of white women, I'll gladly hashtag #BoycottWoodys. Just stay away from U-Bar. We need somewhere to cruise without some Bath & Body Works scented debutante telling us what a waste we are before 9am on Monday.

#boycottwoodys

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Get Away to Rainbow Mountain

If you're like most Philadelphians, you're eager for the dog days of summer to end. I've lived in Center City longer than any address, so I should be use to the heat, the humidity, and "that Philly smell." But I'm not. Like the farm I grew up on, "that Philly smell" is akin to a corporate chicken farm, and a smell you never grow accustomed to. It's just gross. But luckily for Philadelphians, we're a densely packed reeking city an hour or two away from beautiful beaches and untouched mountains. 

For Labor Day weekend I opted against the crowded shore towns and headed north to the Poconos. The Poconos - a word that can't be uttered without a rural Pennsylvania accent - is perhaps as unique as Philadelphia in that it is just as untapped. You might not find the gingham-clad socialites you'll meet in the Adirondacks or their signature chair, but you'll find the same wilderness, vistas, and lakes at a fraction of the price.

I chose Rainbow Mountain, an LGBT report equidistant from Philadelphia and New York, and a throwback to the retreats that inspired the movie Dirty Dancing. Gay, straight, trans, or anything in between, you need to experience Rainbow Mountain near Stroudsburg, PA because it is a unique something that might not exist for much longer. 


Today's mountain resorts are five star. They allow you to get away from it all while keeping up with your spa treatments and cross fit classes. Rainbow Mountain is not that. Rainbow Mountain, with its musty cottages and dorm rooms, is an untouched enclave that harkens back to an era when the middle class roughed it in basic cabins. 

Today, "roughing it" is one of two things: either in the woods under a tent Bear Grylls style, or in a "cabin" worth more than your house. Either way, it's an Instagram-op that has more to do with your bed than the nature around you.

Rainbow Mountain isn't about the accommodations, it's about the experience. It's a decent mattress and a good night's sleep that comes with a swimming pool and an old fashioned barn dance. To locals, Rainbow Mountain is the answer to a gay bar, and a pretty fabulous one at that.  To visitors, it truly is a comfy place to get away from it all. It's a short drive to the Delaware Water Gap, kayaking, bike trails, and frigid swimming holes. Stroudsburg is a charming town, surprisingly hip, with great shopping and restaurants. 

My only complaint is that it's a bit too close to New York, and New Yorkers. At about ten times the population of Philadelphia, New Yorkers are like locusts that ruin everything within a three hour path of their wake. Some trails are littered with Dunkin' Donuts cups and tagged with graffiti. Other nature trails house relics of the Industrial Revolution, unique in their own right, but not places of natural solace. In the resort itself, you'll be hard pressed to find a Pennsylvanian that isn't local to the county, but rather Manhattanites - or worse, Brooklynites - eager to namedrop their address. 

Still, Rainbow Mountain's cozy cottages, large swimming pool, its lake, and shows are well worth the two hour drive. You'll dance, drink, meet some incredibly friendly local drag queens, and have stories for years. Currently, Rainbow Mountain is for sale, so enjoy it while it lasts. Its location is a goldmine, and with a fresh coat of paint and a few trips to Home Goods, it could be transformed into something that could command twice the price. These '60s era retreats are becoming few and far between, and Rainbow Mountain is a time capsuled treasure. If you really want to get away - from it all - it's the place for you...for now.

Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance

If your a fan of high society, Sunday hats, and finely crafted automobiles, Philadelphia's backyard has been host to the mid-Atlantic's foremost car show for two decades. This weekend was Radnor Hunt's twentieth Concours d'Elegance, and it's one of the best places to see the most amazing automotive works of art this side of Pebble Beach. 

When the bar for events accessible to most is the BYO-everything Diner en Blanc, it's easy to see that Philadelphians are accustomed to settling for the status quo. Our urban renaissance is a clear indication that we are thirsty for more, but there is another world within the region that has never settled, and Malvern's Radnor Hunt and its Concours is emblematic of that world. 

In short, it's money.

The Concours d'Elegance isn't cheap. I snagged two general admission tickets for $40 a piece, but to attend the entire three day event will set you back more than a grand. I couldn't tell you if the black-tie gala, dinner, or road rally are worth a month of my rent, but I'm pretty sure that those who attend don't really care about a cool G. I can tell you though, as an enthusiast, the general admission is well worth it. 

Two gull-wing Mercedes SLs worth more than I'll see in my lifetime.

For those not privy to the everyday Main Line, you'll see dozens of cars you've only ever seen in magazines. This year's featured car was the Lancia, a quirky Italian carmaker many people have never heard of. I've always heard the Lancia referred to as the "poor man's Ferrari," but the classics on display were anything but poor. This year's show also featured three gull-wing Mercedes SLs, each worth about $1.5M. In fact, with more than a hundred classic cars on display, plus FC Kerbeck's stock of new exotics, the collective value of the show was easily worth more than the Comcast Center.

Again: money.

But you don't need to be rich, or an automotive enthusiast, to enjoy the Concours. For such a bougie event at such a restrictive venue, visitors and vendors were incredibly friendly. Owners were often on site and eager to talk about their investments. It's easy to look at a fully restored Packard and assume its owner is both loaded and snotty. But like any hobby, the enthusiasts run the gamut. Some are wealthy collectors, others sunk savings into their dream cars, and even more put time and energy into barn-finds.

Obviously the focus of the event were the cars, but there were also antique horse drawn carriages, motorcycles, and a fabulous musical trio called The American Bombshells that travel to veterans and perform at USO shows. And then there were the hats. Oh, the hats. What Sunday afternoon at a hunt club would be complete without a pageant of colorfully plumed, wide brimmed hats? The Sunday hats could have been a show of their own. 

So next summer, if you're looking for something a cut above the rest and want to catch a glimpse of Philadelphia's high society, take a short drive out to horse country. You'll see some things you will never see anywhere else, hear some great music, and get to sit behind the wheel of a car worth more than your house. Maybe next year I'll see what else the Concours d'Elegance has to offer - the gala, the road race, the dinner - perhaps if I start saving now.