20 April, 2011


Horse-frightening news

The case of the John Snow Two is clearly not going away, with another mass mince-in and display of gratuitous exhibitionism scheduled for tomorrow, 21 April.

There seems to be a lot of faux outrage and indignation in circulation among the excitable, both among the "I demand my rights" gays and the "heh, man I'm so cool" straight liberals. This chap, for example, who blogs about restaurants and gastropubs in London, seems to have visited the John Snow for the express purpose of being offended by it.

- It’s inexplicably busy all the time. The only reason I can think of as to why this may be is because there’s a miniature hatch linking the 2 bars, through which it’s funny to pop out of after a few pints of piss-flavoured ‘Alpine Lager’. The amount of trade looks set to change very shortly however.

- The management and staff are raging homophobes who last night ejected two gay men from the John Snow for kissing. That’s right. Kicked out of a pub in Soho of all places, for kissing. In 2011.

This is pretty typical of the petulant arm-waving going on across the web.

"Kicked out of a pub in Soho of all places, for kissing." This meme is widespread, and the chap quoted here ought to know better, considering his obvious familiarity with the area. Soho is not some kind of 100% gay ghetto, with perimeter gates where the guards assess the sexuality of each prospective entrant into the area. (Answers on a postcard please.) The open gay café and bar culture is focused strongly on Old Compton Street, with some spillover into adjacent streets. The John Snow is in Broadwick Street, an area which is dominated by media and "creative" businesses, and of course the nearby world centre of sad pretentious funky tat, Carnaby Street. Nonetheless the area does not seem particularly "gay" in character. The Blue Posts, 100m down the street, did use to be run by a middle-aged, mildly camp, gay couple, though the clientele was very much focused on Berwick Street fruit and veg market and the place wasn't particularly gay in character.

"The amount of trade looks set to change very shortly however." That remains to be seen. As I noted earlier, the clientele looks pretty mixed to me. Though it would be fair to observe that a fair number of them may be of the young middle-class liberal "right on" type keen to have the opportunity to brandish their political correctness badges. We shall see.

I visit the John Snow no more than 10 times a year, on those occasions when I have business up near Oxford Circus and am walking back towards Charing Cross. If this nonsense goes on, I shall make a point of visiting more often.

Time for a spot of whataboutery, methinks. You will have heard of the Admiral Duncan, a gay pub in Old Compton Street whose wider fame rests entirely on the fact that a nutter with a checklist of groups of people he didn't approve of detonated a nail bomb there. The Duncan wasn't always an explicitly gay pub. I popped in a couple of times for, literally, a swift half in the 1980s when it seemed to be just another run-down tatty West End boozer which might or might not have seen better days, the sort of place you might call in on the way somewhere else but would no way target as a destination. I had not been in the place for some years when I passed by and saw it had been extensively refurbished. Curious, I approached the door. I was met by a doorman who said, "This is a gay bar". I was absorbing this information and did not respond sufficiently promptly, so he added, "And we prefer gay customers."

Heterophobia of the most obnoxious stripe, surely. Should I have waved my arms about? Should I have contacted the police? This was before the days not only of "social networks" but also of the universal Internet. Yes, kiddies, there was life before Faceache and the iPhone. Should I nonetheless have organized groups of like-minded straight men to stand outside, necking cans of Stella, smoking, chanting and taking the piss.

(What ho, who's for organizing a band of footie hooligans to go down the Candy Bar and demand entry, then if refused do the management for gender and sexual orientation discrimination?*)

Well, in fact, I simply reflected briefly on the sad fact that Old Compton Street was indeed ghettoizing itself and moved on somewhere else.

I don't begrudge the "gay community" their special places where they can "be themselves". As an able-bodied middle-aged straight White male, I would like them to return the favour. Why not simply accept that there is behaviour which would go entirely unremarked at Kudos or 79CXR which might be disapproved of in the John Snow or the Dog and Duck — and leave the rest of us the fuck alone?

It seems to me that what the gay people demonstrating outside the John Snow are doing is not fighting homophobia but demanding that the wider society be made over in their image. It is actually a form of bullying.

I will leave you with a comment from a reader of the Pink Paper, who seems to have the measure of the situation.

Here we go again. Another 'outraged gay couple' story which has hit the news and which has left many people both gay and straight wondering now whether this wasn't just done for publicity and/or compensation purposes. As for the 'kiss in' follow up, In my opinion it's done more harm than good as it has now demonstrated for pure publicity purposes the overtly militant attitudes now prevalent in the community, and also how cheaply it is prepared to sell itself at all costs to make a point. And this latest news item really has finally made it the laughing stock of the year (so far).

Precisely so.

* The Candy Bar is next door to Private Eye's offices. Each time I pass I find myself wondering what Hislop and Co think to the place.

I wonder if they'll turn their attention to Facebook next?

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