Seattle needs at least one gay bar that's perfectly safe but makes you feel unclean; the feeling of being dirty and different is good for the soul. Sure, I'll stop by any place that's going to treat me to a salutary "Xanadu" and a speaker topped with a hard-nippled Adonis every now and then, but you can't feel like a whole person unless you also spend time getting drunk somewhere featuring butt rock and the kind of thick, horny, hairy guys that would horrify Olivia Newton-John. The ability to choose between big gym bodies and bodies named Big Jim—that's the glory of living in America, as far as I'm concerned.
I went to the Eagle—Capitol Hill's last bastion for the tempest-tossed, for the huddled asses, yearning to breed free—and found its unwashed liberties slipping away. Once a strictly beers-in-bottles-and-mason-jars dive, the Eagle has made the shift into hard alcohol in the past year, and that shift has brought ominous change: The place is cleaning up (its fancy new bar even blocks cruising view from upstairs), and if it isn't careful, its regulars will be clearing out.
I mention this because the Eagle means everything when you're bald, thirtysomething, and homosexual; it's bad enough that Eminem won't sleep with you because you look like Moby. But the bar is treading into dangerous waters now—or, rather, out of dangerous waters onto familiar ground. The lighting is better now, and they've tried to give the vitally nasty back patio a makeover by cracking down on the carnal and herbal no-nos and adding an outside bar: This happened some years ago at the Cuff, which used to play host to all rutting walks of life and now looks like the official headquarters of the WB.
If the music changes, I'm through. I'm not the first to mention that the DJs at the Eagle deserve a reward for making it the one queer hangout capable of veering off into unexpected sonic celebrations. They can ply you with blasts of funk, punk classics, and sojourns into heavy metal and then turn around and throw Linda Ronstadt's "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" at you out of nowhere and make your whole night. This is something that doesn't happen in other gay bars because other gay bars don't play funk, punk, or heavy metal and aren't familiar with Linda Ronstadt because she doesn't own a G-string or have a 14-minute Thunderpuss remix to her name. The thought of Christina Aguilera creeping into the corners of this joint makes me shudder.
We are not all meant to act above reproach in public, or to appeal to bright-eyed, 23-year-old Gap fanatics, much as it occasionally breaks my heart (or some other, less particular part of my anatomy), and we need places that know this. My fellow Americans, in this time of crisis, it's time to stand up and be counted as one of the Great Gay Unwashed. It's not easy being clean.