The other side
Gay and lesbian clubbing

A progressive and politically active tradition, in a city packed with colleges and universities, long ago helped Boston become an urban mecca for gays and lesbians. Boston's vibrant gay community boasts diverse social gatherings, from gay hockey to poetry slams. But nightlife is still a touchstone, especially for the young and newly out, or for the older who are drawn to the energy -- not to mention other attributes -- of the young and newly out.

For the most part, the city's dance clubs have designated gay nights. The latest and most welcome addition to the scene is an unlikely downtown nightclub that attracts girls, boys, and all genders in between. Hollywood KTV at the Ekco Lounge (41 Essex Street, corner of Harrison Avenue in Chinatown; 617-338-8283) is a karaoke lounge and dance club that on Saturday nights becomes a two-level dance hot spot for hip urban girls and all those who love them. Every third Saturday, local alternative-music promoter Aliza Shapiro's Truth Serum Productions presents a drag/karaoke night called Glitter Switch at Hollywood KTV. Hosted by Drag King Heywood Wakefield, with guest stars at each 10 p.m. show, Glitter Switch attracts performers and spectators in high heels, fedoras, and ties, but drag is optional. You'll feel just as at home in street clothes.

The cavernous Avalon (15 Lansdowne Street; 617-262-2424) on Sunday nights has long been the place to be for gay boys (it tends to get packed early on the eve of Monday holidays). Resident DJ Darrin Friedman has cultivated a loyal following, but the club often hosts guest Djs as well.

Friedman also spins on the popular Fridays at Machine (1256 Boylston Street in the Fenway; 617-536-1950), which draws a big gay crowd Thursdays through Sunday in its digs below the erstwhile Ramrod (1254 Boylston Street; 617-266-2986), Boston's long-time leather-and-denim bar. Open seven days a week at noon, the Ramrod has a pool table and dancing each night to various DJs.

Since 1996, young gay men have flocked to Buzz (67 Stuart Street in the Theater District; 617-267-8969) on Saturday nights to gyrate on its two floors. DJ MaryAlice spins dance and house music on the first floor; Michael Sheehan mans the turntable upstairs.

For the girls, the place to go on Thursdays remains Kristen Porter's Dyke Night at the Midway Café (3496 Washington Street in Jamaica Plain; 617-524-3740). The one-night-a-week event that has girls lining up outside the small bar can now lay claim to being Boston's longest-running women's dance party. The Midway is an intimate neighborhood bar that serves beer on tap and boasts a pool table (available from 8 to 11 p.m.). Guest DJs spin from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Truth Serum Productions also hosts a Sunday-night party at the Milky Way Lounge & Lanes (405 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain; 617-524-3740). This new "all-queer, all-gender" event is called "Candyland," and with everything from live shows to book readings, it attracts a hip, gender-bending crowd. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., shows begin at 8, and there's dancing to 10 p.m.

On Fridays, the roving Circuit Girl party has moved from Boston proper to Somerville, where resident DJ Kris Kono spins at the "Night Games" club at the Holiday Inn (30 Washington Street in Somerville; 617-628-1000) from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. The club has two levels, each with bars, pool tables, video games, and a large dance floor; there's also free parking.

One of the longest-running gay nights is Thursdays at Man Ray (21 Brookline Street in Central Square; 617-864-0400). "Campus" at Man Ray draws the young college set, mostly male, but with a smattering of girls, who have to work pretty hard to out-pretty the boys as they gyrate to "alternative boy pop" by DJ Chris Ewen and high-energy house music by Brad Gwynn.

For those who prefer cruisy and casual to loud and trendy, the stalwart neighborhood bar the Eagle (520 Tremont Street in the South End; 617-542-4494) is open seven days a week for old stand-bys like drink, conversation, and cruising. Dark and, some might say, a little seedy, the Eagle is your father's gay bar.

Similarly old-school and irresistible is Jacque's (79 Broadway in Bay Village; 617-426-8902), where Boston's drag queens lip-synch their way through pageants. Open seven nights a week with nightly cabaret and drag shows, Jacque's draws regulars, the curious, and the adventurous, and that makes for a mix on stage and off that's never boring.

© 2003 Phoenix Media Communications Group