Night Life

Out of the Loop

When it officially opened in December, Danzoo (6130 Richmond) billed itself as the club that broke all the rules. The place fancied itself as a spot where people, regardless of age, creed, color or sexual orientation, could go all ass-out. Apparently the concept spooked a few folks, because just months into the venture, the cats at Danzoo are looking to make a change.

Sitting on a couch one morning in his hair salon The Perfect Switch, located in the same complex as his club, Danzoo owner Gabriel Iuiez claims business has been slow, which is generally the case for nightclubs at the beginning of the year. But then he adds: "The people in the Galleria area [are] not ready to mix with a gay crowd, of any kind."

In the beginning, even though it had hoped to cast a wide cultural net, Danzoo's main focus was to bring the gay community into the Richmond-Westheimer swing of things. Iuiez and his management promoted evenings like "Lesbian Night" on Thursdays, "Sexy Macho Night" on Wednesdays and a Sunday-night "Jungle Party." The promotions fell on mostly deaf ears; not only did straight clubbers shy away, but the gay community wasn't feeling it either.

Now, aside from opting to change the club's name (a good move), Iuiez and his partners are scaling back operations to three nights a week and changing their emphasis. Thursdays will be geared toward gay black clubhoppers, while Fridays and Saturdays will concentrate on a straight Latin crowd. It will take some work for Iuiez to attract the gay crowd.

"Not too many people are gonna go outside the Loop to go to a gay club," says Nicholas Vastakis, managing partner of Chances (1100 Westheimer), a mostly gay joint. "It would have to be just an absolute mecca of a place." According to Vastakis, Danzoo also should pay more attention to its surrounding environment. When Vastakis drove to the Richmond club with his wife and a gay couple one Friday night, he and his party were turned off by the "rough" clientele lurking outside.

Obviously the gay community prefers to stay close to the territory it has staked for itself: the culturally rich Montrose. It's worth noting that the clubs in the area are not all the same. While the dance-oriented Rich's (2401 San Jacinto) and Pacific Street (710 Pacific) are considered the "it" clubs, there are a lot of other places that cater to niche audiences. Ripcord (715 Fairview) seeks out the leather crowd, while Brazos River Bottom (2400 Brazos) and JR.'s (808 Pacific) have a more country flair. Club Rainbow (1417-B Westheimer) has a heavy lesbian following, and Chances invites gays, lesbians and some curious couples to join in on the act. Spots like Mary's (1022 Westheimer) and Montrose Mining Co. (805 Pacific) bring in all the rest.

It's a close-knit environment that makes some theorists like Mark Goebel, who covers gay nightlife for Eclipse magazine, believe the Montrose scene isn't that far removed from the downtown club scene. "You get every possible taste at a very short distance," says Goebel, who hosts a gay-themed night on Wednesdays at Tonic (310 Main). He also believes that since Montrose is a predominantly gay area, patrons don't have to fear harassment as much. "Places outside the Montrose and, maybe, the downtown area -- I don't think you could make anyone feel welcome enough to go out of their way to frequent," says Goebel.

While gays, lesbians, the bi-curious and whoever the hell else may feel safer in Montrose, there are still dreamers who believe they can stretch the boundaries of that circumscribed community. Some adventurous folk already have transformed the deep-downtown party spot Orbit Room into the gay/drag dive Incognito (2524 McKinney). It helps that these risk-taking few, like Danzoo's Iuiez, stay optimistic. "I do my best, and if it works, it's fine," Iuiez says. "If it does not work, it's fine. It's better you say 'I did' than 'I never did.' "

Last Call

Imagine BAR Houston (534 Texas) without the bland cheesiness and forced rowdiness, and you're likely to conjure up Blink (6367 Richmond), the newest late-night/after-hours haven for nocturnal hobnobbing on the Richmond Strip. Since its opening earlier this year, the plush and spacious club has attracted a diverse adult crowd, which works in its favor. Unlike your more restrictive downtown venues, Blink has a colorful mix of people, young and old, black and white, respectably well-off and broke like a son of a bitch. It doesn't matter who you are, because the minute Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" begins blasting over the speakers, everybody starts grinding, and they don't stop until they smell smoke. And like BAR, Blink also takes a campy, ironic shine to mediocre club music. ("This is one of the worst songs ever made -- next to 'Harlem Shuffle,' " the DJ says one evening, before spinning "Ice Ice Baby.") Everything about Blink is reasonable except for one thing: You have to pay $3 to park your car your own damn self. Valet parking is $4. We know what's going on here.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey