Friday, June 5, 2009

Flashback Friday: Boston's Gay Nightlife

Boston's gay nightlife has certainly had its share of changes and with the advent of sites like Manhunt you will often hear older gay men bemoan the loss of many gay bars in the city. I concur that Boston's nightlife can often leave a lot to be desired, but a new chapter is being written here in Boston and most likely in other cities around the country as being gay becomes less a stigma and accepted by the mainstream.

Every other Friday night, ROCCA (a popular South End restaurant with one of the nicest patios in the neighborhood) hosts gay parties. For those who like to get their dance on - the bar Roxy goes gay every Saturday. Additionally, it is hard to step into most bars in the South End and BackBay without seeing several other gay and lesbian groups enjoying cocktails. It is true that the subterfuge is gone and certainly many bars have closed their doors, but the GLBT nightlife in Boston is not dead - far from it. It has just changed to keep up with the times.

The photograph to the left is an old adverstisement that I believe dates back to the 1950s or 1960s 1980s. I'm not sure if Herbie's Ramrod is somehow related to the present day, Ramrod (in the photo on the right). However, the Tom of Finland-like images seem eerily familiar to Boston's current bar's image.


Anonymous said...

i'll be visting boston soon (i'm from singapore) and stumbled upon your blog accidentally while looking for things to do while in boston. lots of interesting info here. :)

i wonder. how hot can boston get in summer? any worse than singapore or bangkok?


CJ said...

The very earliest that ad can be is from the late-'70s but probably early-'80s. An even older queen than me would have to verify. Not sure when Herbies first moved to Boylston, before it got there it was located in a building that was torn down to make way for what is now the Transportation Building behind the Colonial Theater.

It's the same thing as the present-day Ramrod. When I first moved to Boston in the mid-'80s there were many people who still instinctively referred to the Ramrod as Herbie's.

Chris Wittke

Anonymous said...


I like your blog and your take on Boston's changing gay nightlife and social scene. One thing I get tired of, is hearing people attribute it to Manhunt, et. al. Sorry to amaze anybody, but not all gay men and women always have gone out to a club looking for a hookup every time. If it happens, cool -- but I've always enjoyed also just the fun of people-watching, dancing, dressing it up, and so on.

I think what HAS changed "the scene," is that when I came out in the 80s for instance, the only social outlet we had were the "underground" bars.. Now gay people are rightfully more part of the social fabric, and we have more options to be and do and go more different places and things and experiences.

But there will always be that aura of the gay bar, and the atmosphere of camp and make-believe and fun and nostalgia, which I hope never fully die in Beantown and, like you alluded, live on in places such as Roxy -- a place I like because it's more upscale and where you can mix with and meet all different types of people, enjoyably.

RickWard said...

My boyfriend and I (in our 40s and early 50s) so miss the gay nightclub scene that used to thrive in Boston in the 80s and 90s. Reminiscing about it, we decided to bring back the fun of going out to dance and have a few drinks on Sundays, you know... Tea dance. So we started a monthly tea dance in Roslindale where we live at a place that is straight but very gay frindly, Robyn's. Its a pub kind of place with a big room for the dance floor. DJ Harrison, my partner, plays great disco and retro music (the songs you know and love) on the last Sunday of the month at Robyns in Roslindale Village (4195 washington St). Come on out we have been packing the place. The next tea dances are August 30 and Sept. 27. For more info, email me at