Conventional wisdom says that, if you’re feeling unattractive and alone, go to a gay bar for an upbeat atmosphere, good music and the potential to feel wanted again in the advances of a doughy Filipino in a sleeveless fishnet shirt. This is total bullshit. If you’re straight, no matter how many up-and-downs you get from a dude in tight Wranglers, it just ain’t helping your ego. So I wasn’t looking for affirmation when I walked into The Abbey in West Hollywood last week, a gay institution set in a former place of worship. What I found, however, was something even more gratifying: a weird and genuine appreciation for Los Angeles. Because here is a place so demonstratively, outwardly gay that it could only lie at the throbbing heart of this city, and it put to shame the other gay bars I’ve been patronized in my youth. These have sometimes been gaudy places, trying too hard, or terribly underwhelming. I’ve been to gay bars in England, where the most homoerotic gesture you can make is to loan someone your scarf, and been less than impressed.
But my first image on stepping into The Abbey was thus: A heavily-muscled Latin man wearing only a headband, wristbands and underwear that wouldn’t fit my 8-year-old nephew, hanging upside down from a rafter over the bar. And then he did a split. Later, taking a seat, I found my view of a mostly-nude, dancing Asian man in six-inch platform boots obscured by a bodybuilder in a cowboy hat who stood directly in front of me and waved his junk – vacuum packed into a pair of Spiderman Underoos – just inches from my face… right before someone stuck their hand in there, rooted around a few seconds, and deposited a dollar. I don’t often like L.A. It’s big, it’s dirty, it lacks a certain character. But I will say this – it isn’t afraid to put its bulging, sweaty testicles directly in your face and let you know who it is. And that makes me feel better.
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