Although I’ve been meaning to visit this iconic nightspot for years, it took time to work up the nerve. It’s an old-school leather bar. I’m a chick. Would they even let me in? It turns out that not only does The Eagle have an inclusive policy but the crowd there is a hell of a lot of fun.
The catalyst for a superb night of clubbing is admittedly one’s friends and my friends AnnaNicolas and Epopt are admittedly down for many things. This includes checking out dens of iniquity. At least we weren’t the only newcomers. When we arrived at 10:30 the bar was crowded-but-not-packed with a wide array of men and a sprinkling of ladies. Most of the latter were tourists. They came in gaggles with an appointed gay friend in hipster glasses and tight jeans. But the rest of the crowd was true-blue. They sported chaps, jeans, tight t-shirts, and everything else you’d expect to see. There was even a super-tall leatherman with his keys on the left and a cover that looked like he’d earned it, not just spent a bunch of money at Mr. S.
I later learned that we’d stumbled upon Gear Night, the once-monthly soiree where everybody dresses to impress. There was a lot of variety. A few guys wore full-on latex bodysuits, one with contrasting letters across his upper back that spelled out the vanity-plate kink: URNL. A- actually went up to talk to this guy. His bodysuit had a significant cutout in the back and she couldn’t believe that his ass was real.
In other areas there were puppies, a paddler named Principal Bob, some uniforms, and even one man in a zentai. Altogether a feast for the eyes. None of them were looking at me either — I love that about gay bars. Some guys are friendly, but not because they’re into you. They definitely don’t assume you’re DTF just because you’re having a night on the town.
Epopt, on the other hand, didn’t have as much freedom. The minute A- stepped away, a local grabbed Epopt’s butt and asked him if he was interested in being a daddy. My Afro-Usonian friend returned with drinks and raised eyebrows, wondering if she was going to have to go “full black” on this guy to take back her man.
That bit of cruising aside, we had a wonderful time. Bootblack Bob was there in his leather apron , just like he’d been for the past thirteen years. A good polish made my San Francisco boots look better than when I’d picked them up at a Haight St. thrift store twenty years ago. Bob had to leave early due to lack of business, (“When it’s slow like this I don’t stick around.”) so if you decide to visit The Eagle, do patronize Bob’s bucket seat atop a stainless steel riser. Your feet will give thanks.
Drinks at the Eagle are as large and strong as the bartenders I was eyeing all night. It’s funny — musclebound straight guys aren’t attractive at all, but if the man is queer it somehow works. It’s like appreciating statues at a museum — they’re unlikely to throw their weight around, so it’s easy to stare away.
I also enjoyed the stroke films they were showing on three big flatscreens around the place. Watching those beefy actors who were cut in more ways than one brought on a startling epiphany: gay porn can be enjoyable even when it’s plotless. I find it easy to imagine that two guys stacking kegs in an empty bar might catch each others eyes and and do a wham-bam, loved it Sam. But for straight films, the hackneyed tale of the lucky pizza delivery guy just doesn’t make sense. Who are these characters? Why are they so easy? Why do random passers-by always join in?
One unusual aspect of The Eagle was the lack of play. I suspect there were back rooms to which we weren’t admitted, but the bar had a framed metal spiderweb complete with a chrome spider that would have seen tons of action had it been set out at Miss Kitty’s or Bar Sinister. Here, no one spread themselves out on it except for the tourists, which included us, I’m afraid. We made some friends and basically did a pose-off for our own amusement. Even one of the bartenders got in on the fun.
That was one last surprise. It was that patrons happy to talk to us. I expected the cliqueishness and general snobbery of LA to be more pronounced at The Eagle. Instead, it seemed as if folks were more willing to say hello, whether in line for the one tiny bathroom, or around the bar. That’s why I give The Eagle an unequivocal thumbs up. The vibe of a bar comes mostly from the regulars and the people who work there. The Eagle feels like a community. It feels kind of like home.
Featured and inline image: The Eagle.