STORY: 2012-2013: For better or worse, bars are the center of gravity in the gay community. We make our friends, find our lovers, express ourselves creatively, and even fund-raise for our charitable organizations and sports teams, in bars. For many of us, walking into a gay bar is the first step we take to living our gay lives. One of the best aspects of being a gay man is the ability for many of us to walk into a gay bar anywhere in the country and immediately feel at home.
When I moved to San Francisco for law school in 2012, I knew no one. My classmates were ultra-competitive and were there to score top grades and high-paying careers, not to make friends. My school was known as the “shark tank.” I hated almost everyone in my class. But I quickly made a home for myself in the gay bar scene.
My first week in the city, a handsome guy on an app invited me on a date. It was my birthday, and I hadn’t made any friends yet, so I accepted; it was better to spend my birthday over dinner with a cute random dude, than having to spend it alone. Over dinner he told me about his latest business venture: he was opening San Francisco’s first gay sports bar. Would I like to see it? Absolutely! After dinner, we walked over to the gutted storefront and he gave me a tour of the drywall and exposed beams. He and I had a brief fling that turned into a long-lasting friendship.
He knew that I was looking for side gigs to help me pay my rent while I was in school. When the drywall and beams finally got filled in, and the bar opened, he asked if I would like to be part of the opening team. I modeled for the website and got paid with a nice dinner (way better than the instant noodles and PB&Js I had been living on).
The bar’s main attraction would be a Thursday night party called “Gym Class,” when the TVs would switch from playing sports to playing clips of hot guys changing in locker rooms. His plan was to have young, fit guys walk around with free (yes free!) shots of whiskey…wearing nothing but jockstraps and sports gear. He asked if I wanted to join the team of “shot boys”…and I said yes!
I hadn’t done anything like it before. On the inaugural Thursday, after nervously undressing in the basement and changing into my bar-branded jock, I noticed that the other boys were far buffer than me; they were “hunks” and “studs” and I was absolutely the “twink.” I started doing pushups to pump myself up before walking, basically naked, into the loud and crowded bar. We did a couple of shots to build up our liquid courage. When 10:00 pm hit, we heard the bartenders announce our arrival using whistles, the type your gym coach in middle school would use. That was our cue, and we ran out into the bar. Walking through a crowd of men with my bare ass exposed was…terrifying. But exhilarating! I just kept moving, kept talking, turned on the charm, and hoped that I could get everyone so drunk with the free shots that they wouldn’t remember me in the morning.
After that night, I became a regular. I served shots once a month my entire first year of law school. The money I made was damn good…enough to pay my rent and even go out on the weekends. I made some amazing friends with my fellow shot boys, who ranged from porn stars to college students to “gay for pay” straight guys. I even found my first legal internship while networking in my jockstrap, chatting and doing whiskey shots with a regular customer who was an attorney and knew of a job opening.
Since I graduated, I no longer take my clothes off for money…but I miss the empowerment and freedom of those days. I miss the exhilaration of doing pushups backstage in the basement, waiting for the whistle cue.