by ADAM RICHARD
Yesterday Mamamia published an article by comedian Nath Valvo, who wrote about his experiences at a gay nightclub in Melbourne, The Peel. Nath went to the club with a heterosexual female friend. The pair were required to line up separately to other clientele in a ‘gays with girls’ line and his friend was made to promise not to engage in ‘heterosexual behaviour’ before the two were allowed into the club. Nath was not impressed and you can read his post here.
Today, comedian Adam Richard responds:
Here are some disclaimers: Nath Valvo is a friend, and a frequent guest on my gay comedy and lifestyle podcast The Poofcast. I have been going to The Peel for more than 20 years, and for a time was employed at The Peel to host karaoke and mud wrestling nights. So: I am far from impartial.
Having said that, I feel compelled to say to Nath and his straight lady friend, who had to agree to strict behaviour during a recent trip to said establishment: “Too bad, so sad.” (This, of course, is said with the eye-rolling disregard of a teenager at a train station, who is far more interested in checking her phone for Facebook updates than being involved in a conversation.)
The community has every right to be outraged by the door policy at The Peel, but by entering the building and encouraging a friend to do so as well – then you’re accepting and condoning the policy. The outrage of sober hindsight is just that, hindsight. We’re human beings. We have choices. We can choose to enter the building or we can refuse and in doing so, refuse to finance the club’s policies with our purchases.
What Nath could have done, is said: “I no longer wish to be a patron of this sexist establishment, and I shall be taking my pink dollar to another homosexual dance venue where my friend of the fairer sex is appreciated and approved of!”
Right about then is when his plans would have become unstuck. There are no more homosexual dance venues. The Peel is it.
Recently, the cast of my tedious podcast went on an ill-advised and wholly inappropriate ‘pubcrawl’ of the gay venues in Melbourne. What we discovered was tragic. Other than gay superclub The Greyhound, in St Kilda, there isn’t really anywhere else to go for a trashy dance and a drink with your gay mates, and all the girls from the call centre where you work.
When I was a wee slip of a thing, fifteen years and fifty kilos ago, I worked behind the bar at a gay establishment, renowned for their elaborate drag shows. It was filled with excitable young girls and their gay besties, many of whom were making their first trepidatious steps outside of the closet. There wasn’t a square inch of space that wasn’t filled with people, all trying to catch a glimpse of an ugly man in an ugly dress mumbling along to a song he clearly didn’t know. As the night wore on, and the secretaries grew weary, the fags and their hags (what hideous terms we have for ourselves and our pals) would part company, and the men would inevitably end up with their tongues down each others’ throats at The Peel.
That was the way of the world, way back when. Many of those clubs are closed now. The gay clientele dried up. Whether it was GPS dating apps like Scruff and Grindr, or the allegedly tolerant society we live in now, who’s to say. Perhaps it was the influx of straight people, who all want a gay best friend these days, and the gay boys stopped thinking of it as their special place. Once a gay man stops frequenting a club, his gaggle of girls will soon follow, and the straight male clients won’t want to stand around there on their own. Someone might think they’re gay! Before long, your favourite gay pub is reduced to three barflies and a bored twink behind the bar polishing glasses, and then it’s gone.
Whatever happened to all of those pubs and clubs, the fact remains that they aren’t there any more. The Peel is. If demand is high, and you control supply, then you get to set the agenda. It’s simple business. Your only option is to stop the demand, or create a new supply. The business practice of The Peel’s proprietor, Tom McFeely, may be reprehensible to many of us, but it is a business that is still thriving, as many other similar businesses are closing up shop. Perhaps he’s doing something that the gay male population of Melbourne are secretly applauding, while they publicly deride it.
When all is said and done, The Peel is a business. It’s not a community centre. It’s not a co-op. It’s not a publicly listed company in which every gay man is given shares upon coming out. It is a business, owned by one man. The main reason a business exists is to make money. Since when was making money meant to be an ethical pursuit for those with a social conscience? As the sign says on the door of any licensed establishment in this country, there are conditions of entry. At some it is a dress code, at others a code of behaviour. If you go in the front door, and you spend your money there, you agree to those conditions.
My message to the gay community is this: This is our pink dollar and where we choose to spend it ensures that conditions of entry to clubs like this one – won’t change.
The Fabulous Adam Richard is a stand-up comedian and radio presenter. He can be heard presenting celebrity gossip on the breakfast shows at Melbourne’s Fox FM, Perth’s 92.9 and Hobart’s Sea FM. He is also a regular guest on Network Ten’s Can of Worms. His “Poofcast” can be found here.