(Merrie Cherry performing at Bushwig in 2012)
“Take a moment and stand on the corner of Myrtle-Broadway on any given day for five minutes,” wrote James Ryder on January 7 for BushwickDaily.com in a piece titled “Closeted in Bushwick.” “You will see plenty of ostensibly queer people and their allies, ready to bend the boundaries of gender and express themselves bravely,” he continued, in his rant about/guide to lesser-known queer establishments in Bushwick. He argued that there isn’t enough out and proud gay nightlife in that particular neighborhood—a valid point. We can’t help but notice, though, that gay nightlife in the borough, has changed tremendously in the last few years. The past year alone has seen the opening of another gay bar, This N That, the Bushwig festival of drag and Everybooty Too at Dekalb Market, just to name a few events. And that’s not even mentioning things like Xanadude, Hey Queen and Spank, which have been happening in Kings County for years.
“Brooklyn is really fuckin’ gay,” says drag performer Macy Rodman. “I think the perception is that it’s tough and therefore super masculine, but in reality, I hardly ever get hassled on the street as a seven-foot tall glamazon in little more than stripper heels and clown makeup.”
Unlike James Ryder, fellow Bushwick resident Jason Daniels—better known as drag diva Merrie Cherry—doesn’t think Brooklyn necessarily needs more nightlife, just more recognition of the nightlife that already exists there. So she decided to do something about it, and organized the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards. “The nightlife industry [in Brooklyn] has grown as well—but continues to lack acknowledgement,” reads the Facebook invitation to the event, which takes place January 27 at Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg.
Cherry is even bringing celebrated nightlife impresario and Brooklyn resident Murray Hill to the stage to assist with hosting duties. “Back in the day, the Lower East Side was my nightlife stomping ground. It was the neighborhood to see queer shows, find your identity and hit club nights every week,” Hill recalls. “As we all know, that’s over. The Brooklyn vibe reminds me of [the] East Village and that’s what I love about it. All the queer kids coming together, creating their own space and representing all walks of life is inspiring.”
Representing a different view, Cherry says that, unlike Manhattan, she’s seen nightlife folks in Brooklyn who you’d think would know each other—be good friends even—but just don’t. “The fact that these people don’t know each other I found very interesting,” she says. As much as the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards stand as a testament to the fantastic things happening on that side of the East River, they’re also meant to acknowledge the open and inclusive ethos of nightlife in the hippest borough. “The Brooklyn Nightlife Awards is trying to say, like, ‘No honey, look at us. We’re doing something different.’ It’s just to clarify,” Cherry explains. Burlesque performer Ms. Fitz concurs, saying, “I work in the nightlife community in Manhattan and I think people are really excited at the prospect of the scene that is growing in Brooklyn. Practically everyone I know who parties in Manhattan lives in Brooklyn, so we’re loving the fact that it’s growing over here. In the very least it’s more convenient and makes for cheaper cabs!” Cherry is quick to point out that it’s not a competition between the boroughs. “I love Manhattan,” she says, declaring: “It’s about doing something different.”
And, tonight, they will. Ab Soto, Horrorchata, Di Ba, Leo Gugu, Zebra Baby and Krystal Something-Something are all set to perform. Expect “shows for days,” Cherry says. Even the performers themselves are excited. “I think it’s a really nice sprinkling of the different offshoots these different parties provide,” says Rodman. “And I knowing most of them, I can personally attest to the fact that they are all delightful, sexy geniuses. I can’t wait for the show.”
The Brooklyn Nightlife Awards at Glasslands Gallery, 289 Kent Ave (btwn S First/S Second Sts), Williamsburg, Jan 27 at 8pm; $10. Visit facebook.com/brooklynnightlifeawards for more info.