The lost art of cruising

‘Electro-tricks’ may be quicker and easier, but half the fun of the hook-up was working at it

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

I don’t get out much — at least to the bars. First of all I don’t drink anymore, and second, I am not really looking to hook up with anyone since I am in a very nice relationship.

I do, however, occasionally meet friends out for the evening or for a special event.

When I do go out, it is most often to our local leather bar, the Dallas Eagle, and I often indulge in a little people watching. I like to watch the crowd, the way people interact with one another, the ebb and flow of what was once a favorite past time of gay men: cruising.

What surprised me was the lack of that particular gay art going on.

First, let me say this is not a reflection on the Eagle; it’s a fine, first-class leather bar. What I noticed is something I have seen in other cities as well, and it bothers me a bit.

Now for those who might not know, cruising is a delicate dance men used to perform when looking for a partner, playmate or just trick du jour. It usually began with some long, slow looks, occasional subtle signals like a nod, the touch of the brim of a cap, a purposeful second glance or even just a slight change in body language.

If two people read the signals, and actually respond, it might proceed to sending over a drink — or a more direct approach. Often before actually making contact, you would ask a few friends if they knew the man in question, and for the leather scene that would also entail asking if anyone knew more intimate details: Was he a safe player? What was he into?

Of course, we also had the hanky code. It was a more direct and cut to the chase way to let folks know what you were seeking.

I won’t go into the details here, but the basics were: Hanky in the left pocket meant you were a top, and hanky in the right pocket meant you were a bottom.

Still, even with outward signs, there was an art to the whole endeavor. If done correctly, it had an element of seduction in it and all the sexual energy that went with it.

Sadly, I don’t see much of that going on anymore.

What I do see is guys checking their smart phones. Looking a little closer, I see them using Grindr, checking Recon and texting.

That’s when I realized what happened to cruising: It has gone the way of the dodo.

What was once a face-to-face encounter that actually took some time and energy is now a fast, down-and-dirty, “check a few profiles and text enough contacts until you pull a winning number” routine.

The whole cruising experience has become an electronic booty call with no mystery, no romance and no effort.

Oh yes, it is much more efficient. You can select from the variety of “neck-down pictures” and body statistics, like you were choosing a download on Amazon.

Find Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Enough for Now, text a few lines, set a time and bingo! Insta-trick!

All very high tech and painless. No face-to-face rejections, no appallingly awkward moments. Just on-line chat and, essentially, “booking.”

It would seem to me that applications like Grindr and sites like Recon and CraigsList have replaced the whole cruising experience, and though it might be much more efficient, it really changes to atmosphere in the bars.

The heady sexual tension that used to permeate gay bars has given way to guys and gals on their smart phones texting or cruising — the web. One bar in Florida even has a screen where patrons can text directly to the screen, sort of a visual “shout out” for all to see.

Inevitably, the whole electro-trick phenomenon has spawned something totally unexpected. My partner commented on the subject of this column and suggested there should be an Angie’s List for Grindr.

I was surprised this morning when, while researching this piece, I found something very much like that.

Douchebagsofgrindr.com may just be a parody, but if not it offers some insight into the whole process. Personally, I find it kind of crass, but then I find the whole “electro-trick-speed-dating-booty-call” app thing crass.

It makes me long for the days of actually having to spend a little time to pursue and attract and seduce someone you were interested in. Try that now and I suspect you’d just get accused of being a stalker.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.Blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Starvoice • 12.03.10

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Kara DioGuardi turns 40 on Thursday. Although primarily a singer, songwriter and producer, we got to know DioGuardi as the new fourth judge on American Idol in season 8. Then she called it quits before season 10. Now she’s working on a memoir about her experiences with the show. Of course, we’re hoping for some juicy details about Simon and Paula.

…………………

THIS WEEK

Mercury turning retrograde in Capricorn reveals systemic errors great and small. Look for flaws in hierarchies and collect info to solve problems next month. Mercury’s conjunct Pluto and sextile Venus so challenges in relationships seem to be everywhere. Sexual tension is often, but not always the issue. Be careful.

………………..

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
If you must argue over money, keep it in your head. Problems with other people is a reflection of your own internal conflicts over values. Some introspection will save you embarrassment.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Daring outspokenness could be polarizing, but it will win friends. Sitting quietly on problems will only be worse, promoting resentments and continued tension. Have it out in the open at least.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Finding out what people are saying behind your back can help strengthen your reputation. Fighting some lies might make them seem truer. Be careful what rumors you fight – and how.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Explore dark or erotic art to challenge your imagination. Be willing to be shocked or scared. New images open new ideas. It’s time to break from unconsciously held dogmas and prejudices.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Assertions of authority go overboard easily. No matter who’s at fault, back off. Think ahead very carefully. Giving up a battle may be necessary to win your long-range struggle.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Once you accept that your partner is always right, life will be much easier. Reasonably nobody is always right, but being open to ideas and rethinking old ones help you in the long run.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
New sexual directions motivate you to exercise more or attend to health matters. Problems with colleagues  explode. Focus on listening and laying the groundwork for future solutions.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
The bedroom is as good a place as any to resolve partnership trouble. Talk about what’s frustrating you, starting with sex. Getting out and having fun together will get you back in sync.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Awareness of your physical limitations is important for knowing how best to shape up and stay healthy. Dig into the family history to see what strengths and problems you may have inherited.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Welcome criticism to help solve creative blocks. A good argument can open terrific new ideas. You’re coming off a bit sexier and more challenging than usual. Be careful where you aim that.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Challenges will bring out inherited strengths that you have yet to acknowledge. It may be painful, but admitting your parents were right about something could save your ass.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Challenge your brain. It may take something as complex as archaeology or surgery to keep you out of trouble. If you can’t get out of your obsessions, at least take a good hard look at them.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

‘A’ game

Logo tries to beat Bravo at its own reality game with ‘The A-List’ and ‘The Arrangement’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

MEN BEHAVINGLY GAILY  |  Is Reichen Lemkuhl, above left, an ‘A-Lister?’ In those swim trunks, he is; below, a naked challenge kicks off ‘The Arrangement.’
MEN BEHAVINGLY GAILY | Is Reichen Lemkuhl, above left, an ‘A-Lister?’ In those swim trunks, he is; below, a naked challenge kicks off ‘The Arrangement.’

With the success — and appeal among the gay community — of the Real Housewives franchise, it seemed only logical that someone would eventually come up with a gay version … only it’s not on Bravo, but Logo.

So as we watched a screener of The A-List: New York, I asked the man sitting on the couch next to me — my frequent plus-one at events — whether either of us could be considered “A-listers.” “No, honey,” he said without hesitation. “Not even in Dallas. We’re not important enough.”

I’m not sure I agree, assuming the standard for “A-list” status is the klatch of bitchy queens who snipe at each other on this new reality series. They go see Reichen Lemkuhl in a dopey off-off-Broadway play and hang around for the reception after; I do stuff like that three times a week. They gossip over coffee and attend fashion shows and museum openings; I turn down more of those invitations than I accept.

I’m not claiming to be an A-lister, and might even admit I’m lower on the totem than Kathy Griffin; I just don’t see that they are any higher. Except that they are on TV.
That must be it.

But that is not to say the show doesn’t have its appeal. In fact to me, self-delusion is almost juicier than actual achievement. To be fair, some of these men have accomplished something: Mike Ruiz, a daddy who likes to take his shirt off (bless ‘im), is a famous photographer, and Lemkuhl won The Amazing Race. But hairdresser Ryan? Wannabe model Austin? I don’t think so.

Of course, the “real” housewives never struck me as real anyway (there, like here, the “friendships” feel manufactured). While The A-List is just as un-real, it’s also hotter, especially Reichen’s Brazilian boyfriend Rodiney. Looks like there could be some claws coming out with that sexual tension. Thing is, I wanna know what happens. Guess I’m hooked.

Grade: Three stars

Rodiney isn’t the only cute South American debuting on Logo this week; there’s also Argentinian Guillermo, one of the florists competing for title of top flower arranger on The Arrangement, from the Bailey-Barbato team that produces RuPaul’s Drag Race. Just how suspenseful, or interesting, is a competition show about floral design? Well, considering that Tyra Banks has made a TV career out of herding a pack of empty-headed waifs through the rigors of walking while chewing gum, at least these folks have marketable skills.

At least part of the appeal of reality series is the cleverness of the terminology (quickfire challenges, “You’re fired!,” etc.). The jargon here is hokey: “Are you a grower or a shower?” Gigi Levangie Grazer, the smug and uninteresting host, asks the contestants, before setting them on their “seedling challenge” to find out who will be “weeded out” and who gets to wait in the “greens room.” Uggh.

Butch florist Russ says he’s here to “promote masculinity” in floral arrangement, but having to decorate naked people with sushi and rose petals doesn’t really convey that to me. But ehh! These crafty game shows long ago ceased being about the prizes or the skills and all about the personalities. There are some here. Whether they will wilt on the vine before the final challenge is anyone’s guess. But this is the new reality of television — I guess we should be thankful it’s also where gays are just as prominent as their straight counterparts. Even if it is on Logo.

Grade: Two stars

The A-List: New York debuts Monday at 9 p.m. and The Arrangement at 10 p.m. on Logo.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 1, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas