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The State of Gay Fayetteville

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by Wayne Bell
I’ll be completely honest. There is a bit of an underlining agenda in the story you’re about to read. I’m a 26 year old, fairly attractive gay young professional with a master’s degree and a good job. I have heard from girlfriends about their “illusive friends” who have similar backgrounds. The problem is, there’s no forum for me to meet these people.


If they are anything like me, dancing isn’t always appealing. Drug use and binge drinking lost its appeal a number of years ago. We may never meet because we don’t have the forum to do so. I’m not saying that I would meet prince charming, but it would be nice to meet people with similar backgrounds and goals. It is extremely important to feel a sense of family within your own culture, but in order to have the reunion, you must have the venue.
I recently traveled to Dallas on a business assignment. While there, I went out with a friend from the conference to a street similar in style and scope to Dickson Street. The only real difference was this street was filled with gay friendly businesses. Now, before you yell at me, yes, I know that Dickson Street has gay friendly businesses. That’s not what I’m talking about. This street was filled with bars, restaurants and clubs managed by, owned by and catering to the gay population.
The idea of such a street never really appealed to me. The idea of a plethora of businesses catering to one segment of the population always sort of creeped me out. Boy, was I wrong.
From the moment my friend Daniel and I stepped out, we were in a warm and inviting environment. The clubs were as varied as the different bars that shared walls with them. We started at a dance club, made it to a western bar, then to a sports bar and finally to an all-night diner.
The people were friendly and the area was well cared for. Now, I know that’s an odd comment, but the truth is…in Arkansas, most all of the gay bars and clubs have always been top-shelf paper-bag. Most all of them are regulated to the outskirts of town and are typically dark and seedy. That wasn’t the case in Dallas. Thinking back, this wasn’t the case in Orlando or Pensacola either.
One of my favorite places in Pensacola, where I used to live, was Jack and Ron’s. It was a video/piano bar that had different themed nights including bingo and Scrabble. I understand if that doesn’t sound very exciting, but my old friends at Jack and Ron’s mastered the idea of great music, board games and overflowing liquor. It was a really welcoming environment that totally allowed you the opportunity to meet different people that you might not have had the pleasure of meeting in a loud nightclub.
So why do I care about this? After all, I’m a bit of a self-proclaimed homebody. Why should I care if we have gay clubs and bars?  Here’s why: It’s not just about how much of Beyonce’s music you can get in your head, instead, the state of any city’s gay life directly effects the entire gay population—homebodies or not.
Getting Better
We have come a long way in NWA from just a few short years ago. Here’s what it used to be like here.
My buddy Kristina and I used to frequent Wild-On. It was always great to go out with her, but the obstacle course to get to the club was another story. First of all, you had to drive half way to Farmington and back then that area of Fayetteville was having some problems. You had to worry about your belongings in the car. You also had to make sure you went on the right night. If you got your days mixed up, you would find yourself surrounded by bikers and pole dancers. Imagine my shock when we decided to go see a drag show on a Friday night, but actually got an entirely different offering.
Ron’s Place was a pretty busy place before it closed about three years ago. I went to a Halloween bash there in 2003 and the place was packed.  However, like Wild-On, it wasn’t for everyone.
There was also Sycamore Pub, which tended to swing a little older. It lost the Sycamore Pub moniker and became 716, which tended to swing a little bit younger, before it burned down.
When I moved back to NWA from Pensacola, Fayetteville had two new gay clubs. Tangerine (formerly JR’s) was newly renovated with a nice paint job and pretty descent patio area. Those sections are typically empty though as the droves of people are downstairs on the dance floor or on the lower patio. The downstairs is actually the basement and there’s really not proper dance floor, but if you like crowds and the bat cave, you will like this scene.
The other offering is the Dickson Theater. This venue has been up and running for years on Dickson. On Sunday nights it becomes a gay bar. There’s something strange about a place doing a “gay night” it does sort of bother me that it’s not a fulltime gay bar, but I do get a huge thrill from the fact that Sundays at the Dickson Theater are shared by morning church services—only in Fayetteville!
The last gay establishment in Fayetteville is perhaps the most successful of them all. The nameless wonder is a favorite of mine and about everyone else in town, whether they know it’s a gay favorite or not.
The popular eatery is so gay it’s practically become an institution in the downtown area. It’s been a gay hangout for the past 10 years or so, which is surprising, considering the number of carbs on the menu.
The employees are typically hot and cater to the gay clientele. However, the place has yet to have its official “coming out.” It’s sort of like your favorite uncle Nate–you know, the one who claims to have a girlfriend and expresses a desire to settle down and have kids, but everyone knows the truth. He’s the same uncle who makes holidays bearable with sarcastic comments and killer Pottery Barn gifts. Nate is a good analogy to this popular establishment, which really needs to “come on out.”
And, that’s it for Fayetteville. We don’t have a “quiet” gay bar—a place to meet new people, talk about work or unwind after a hectic week. What we have are noisy places to drink and dance.
Time to come out and step it up
If you haven’t realized it by now, people who move to Fayetteville, rarely leave Fayetteville. Dickson Street is great and the Ozarks are a huge draw. But as more and more young earners move to NWA, the gay ones will no doubt be disappointed that we’re lacking in venues, that don’t involve dancing to Rihanna.
Whether we want to admit it or not, “The State of Gay NWA,” even in liberal Fayetteville, is in the brown paper bag. Why?  Because, if diversity is not truly celebrated in a community, you will always feel like you belong in that brown paper bag, hidden from the rest of society.
I have several friends who party at Tangerine on a regular basis and then go back to their straight lives in Benton County, first thing Sunday morning. Until Fayetteville and NWA truly celebrates diversity, we will continue to cultivate this secret society. So, I’d like to propose this dream list for Fayetteville:
1) I want Fayetteville to have an upscale bar (or two) that truly allows gay adults to engage in conversation without music blaring and cigarette smoke hanging heavy. Imagine a Speakeasy or Bordino’s type bar, specifically targeted to gays and those who see themselves as gay-friendly.
2) I want Fayetteville to have a variety of restaurants that come out as gay friendly. The problem with this is obvious—even though we consider Fayetteville a liberal town—it’s really not. Coming out could be business suicide. But, we will never know until one opens or announces.
3) It would be really awesome if Fayetteville had a more active gay activist group. I have never been a real activist. I see the inherent value in it, but I’m just sort of lazy in that regard. However, as the gay population continues to grow in liberal Fayetteville, it is imperative that there is a bigger presence.
4) It would be fantastic if local media outlets would truly focus on gay issues in NWA. Most places I have lived, had successful gay publications and gay oriented public access programming.
5) Finally, Fayetteville needs to step it up. We are a community with a variety of different cultures, religions and beliefs. We need to embrace the differences and quit pushing this culture away. Of course, the flip side—those Benton County friends of mine, need to stop wincing every time they are identified as gay. Essentially, if the town is going to come out, so will its citizens.
In other areas where I’ve lived, the internet has been dead within the gay culture. Going to Myspace, Facebook, or GAY.com and checking the “gay box” would return very few hits. However, in Fayetteville, those three sites are loaded with gay youth. Presumably, because there is nowhere else for these people to meet each other. There’s just something about someone Myspacing me (is that a word?) and saying they like my profile and would like to grab a cup of coffee. It would be much nicer to have actual face-to-face communication.
In grad school we learned the value of actual face-to-face communication (non-verbal included) over multi-media communication. I know people who have met partners and friends on Match.com, but shouldn’t that be an option, not the only channel?
So, Fayetteville, Come to action! Come out! That being said, I want to congratulate Fayetteville on the progress it has made in the past few years.  If you go to Benton County, Pulaski County or really any other part of the state, you will not be embraced with the liberal culture that Fayetteville has.
Part of this can be attributed to the university and part of it to the diverse population. But, for whatever the reason, Fayetteville and some of the local businesses have gotten progressively stronger and have made an effort to fix some of the problems of gay-life that we had here a few years ago. It’s not as seedy as it used to be. The gay-friendly bars are no longer on the outskirts of town, on in a warehouse district, but in downtown.
However, it’s 2007, and it’s time for more of Fayetteville to step up and embrace the differences that make this place, our beloved Fayetteville, truly special. And I don’t mean “special” like ‘Oh, Uncle Nate, he’s not gay. No, he’s just special.’ I mean: Special, diverse, out and fabulous!

7 Comments

MSipes October 16, 2007 at 7:20 pm

To Whom it may concern, I am a straight male American 27 years old, in college with 3 kids, and a wife, we are of the baptist religion. Imagine my surprise as I walked in the Subway on 6th street, as I entered the door to the right, on top of the trash can, was copies of the Freeweekly which incidently is where this issue belongs not on top but in!! As I glance at the cover I was appualed to see the STATE OF GAY FAYETTEVILLE , bold black letters across the front, puzzled and shocked to say the least!! I grabbed a copy and flipped to page 12 and started to read. The comments by Mr. Wayne Bell are absurd, the fact that Mr. Bell gets a huge thrill out of the fact that the Dickson Theater has church services in the morning on a Sunday and is a gay bar Sunday nights is troubling! It is also troubling that the FREEWEEKLY allowed an article like this to be published, and set in a bussiness which is directly across the street from Fayetteville High School, where kids frequent to eat lunch! Loose Morals will only have a castrophic affect on fayetteville, Mr. Bell also made the comment that when people move to Fayetteville they rarely leave, this is because Fayetteville is a great place to live with virtually little gay scene! I dont know if Mr. Bell and his compadres just need to feel special or if they just bask in old fashioned drama, nevertheless this article was offensive and unjustified! Oh and that popular eatery that Mr. Bill points out is “so gay” applaued this bussiness for not “coming out” as Mr. Bell say’s. I’ll end this with God help us!! God help Fayetteville!!, God help America!!!

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Floyd May 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Only a suppressed homosexual would need to loath and passify himself in print in this way. Come on out Msipes so your son can have a secure role model. Love of any kind is the funnel of God and the message of Christ consciousness. namaste

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YepImGay October 17, 2007 at 1:40 pm

I am a Gay American that applauds the story by Wayne Bell. Thank you for this article it is a much needed one in this area. It is sad that the year is 2007 and we still face responses such as the one by MSipes. The attitude shown by him is yet another reason that the youth in our area need to have a positive influence instead of the damnation that is so fluent in our area. The gay youth suicide rate soars due to being ashamed of whom they are and without support our youth will continue to feel they have no place to go. Goes to show you just how tight lip our community is in this area, I do not know the “in the closet” eatery that is spoken of in this article. Also, I would like to point out that there is yet another club in the area that has grown in popularity and that would be Flames. Great owners and a fun place to go, (all walks of life are welcomed).
I believe, I could be wrong, Mr. Bell was simply stating that it is a little ironic that one of the places that gays gather is in a church not that is funny (laughing wise).
I am glad that MSipes picked up the copy and introduced himself to our concern, means that Wayne Bell reached someone that normally would not have read otherwise.
I would rather be judged for loving than to be judged for hating, I believe we all can agree there is enough hatred spread in our country on many bases.
As MSipes enjoy his birth given rights with his wife and 3 kids, we continue to struggle to this day to find employment that accepts our family by providing with the basic rights of health coverage.
It is time that Americas realize that just because we do not fit into what you deem as a family that we should have the right to live freely as one. Straight Americans need to realize that holding the gay community at bay will not keep us from being gay. We have thrived and will continue to thrive and fight every step of the way for equality. Equality that was ours at birth but snatched away from our government simply because we cannot change how we were born. The issue of born gay or not is the most “lame” argument there has to be in our fight for equality. Life would be so much easier if we could just reap the benefits of the “straight” life, never to see the looks of others as you walk down the street, never be mistreated in various forms simply because we are gay…. Love is Love.
I am totally in agreement with Mr. Bell about the need for a stronger gay community. I have too traveled to other areas that provide a “safe haven” to the community being able to describe the freedom is not an easy task.
Its 2007… we have seen men on the moon, we have seen a lady fight for her right to simply sit where she wanted on a bus, we have watched our land be attacked and yet gay Americans are still being told their place in this great land of the free.

Kudos to you Mr. Bell, Kudos to you.

“Straight Americans need… an education of the heart and soul. They must understand – to begin with – how it can feel to spend years denying your own deepest truths, to sit silently through classes, meals, and church services while people you love toss off remarks that brutalize your soul. ” ~Bruce Bawer, The Advocate, 28 April 1998

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tomacook October 18, 2007 at 2:36 pm

I am a gay male, 50 years old & not a homebody. I was a little with Mr. Bells article as he forgot to mention once the only gay owned & operated club in town “Flames”. Perhaps Mr. Bell was still living elsewhere in June or like most of the gays in the area failed to make it out at 10 AM on a Saturday to participate in the Pride parade. None of the businesses mentioned or alluded to were involved with the parade. Flames had 4 vehicles with drag queens & kings in the parade. I agree we have a poor sense of community in NWA, but Mr.Bell when you reveiw the gay bar & club scene & fail to even mention the only one that is gay owned(unless you count the one still in the closet as you described it) you do not help build community.Tangerine, Dickson Theatre, &Wild On are all straight owned. So please check out Flames shows on Fri & Sat night or on there quiet nights Tues,Wed,Thur. If nothing else I’m sure you will find the restrooms much better than Tangerines.

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Lil October 21, 2007 at 8:38 am

Hey, Looking from a spiritual perspective, we are all one.

I love Fayetteville because it is so open ,but I agree with you that it could go for it a lot more.

Hey, bud, Mr. Baptist guy, I respect your religion and beliefs but I moved to Fayetteville in 1976 because it is liberal about many things. We are all a part of each other’s reality. What you see is what you have created. Go read Deepak Chopra, The Book Of Secrets. I dare ya! Double dare ya! I was raised in Fundamentalist religions, tried Catholicism etc. It was all part of my path and my growth experience.

And Wayne, You read it also. You will dig it. It will probably speak to you in a unique way. We have all got to quit thinking Us-Them and begin to think US. I have to kick my self in the patoot to remind myself of this everyday even though I am as liberal as they come.

Peace and Love,Lil

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houtxgayguy August 15, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Wayne, you are right on the money. Well, not right on, but you have a goal, which is good. For example, I live in Houston, and we have a large gay community. We have a bar for anyone. weather you are gay, strainght, bi, whatever. And they range from hard-core dancers to people who just want a place to sit down and talk without having to yell over the music. I go to Fayetteville once a year for a Methodist Singles Retreat at Mt. Sequoyah and this year, I was hoping to see if there was anykind of gay community there that I can hang out with. I am Methodist and they don’t like gay people too much. Well, they do, and they don’t, it is a long story that has nothing to do with this. Anyways, all cities of any significant population should have a place for people to go. And, Wayne, you won’t like this part. If it is one night or two a week that is strictly for homosexuals, then that is fine. We have a resturant here is Houston that has a gay night every monday. It is wall to wall gay men and it is only that way that one night. Strive for the little things, and the big ones will come. And I would like to find some of those hiddens gays, so when I come to see you all this fall, I can enjoy fellowship with you all. I would appreciate if you would contact me, Wayne, and “hook me up” so to speak. My e-mail is hotexgayguy at hotmail dot com.

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Commenter September 26, 2013 at 10:13 pm

I will never understand why some people care about the sexual orientation of others. I knew about gay people from as early as I can remember, but I never had the urge to have sex with people of the same gender. Why? Because I’m not homosexual. I wasn’t made that way, and being around tons of homesexuals didn’t and won’t ever change that. You are what you are, and if you dig people of the same sex, then enjoy. I’m all for it. I just don’t understand why some people want to keep others from happiness just because they don’t want the same things. Oh yeah…I forgot about the fucking bible and the retards that follow it. nevermind. Retards will be retards.

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