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August 22, 2012

Suburban bliss: Styling on a pink dime in Cape Town

The South African gay flag

It took me a while to realise that there were more gay clubs beyond the confines of De Waterkant’s cobbled streets, frequented by more than 200 000 gay visitors annually – all of whom the locals miss during the slow winter months. 

However, to get another taste of the local flavour and have an even bigger party on a tight budget, a trip to Cape Town’s suburbs will have you smiling ear to ear. Especially if you discover one of the many hidden-away hunks, who don’t often make it into town.

There has been fair comment that the gay party scene is still segmented amongst socio-economic and geographic lines. Realistically, we have to keep in mind that gay bars and clubs are still for profit businesses and not charitable outreach programmes.

The good news, however, is that Capetonians are now spoilt for choice with gay bars and clubs on their doorsteps, providing lower drink prices and fresh faces.

This in itself speaks of the general accepting, or often even welcoming, attitudes in the Mother City towards its more “flamboyant” citizens, as there is no longer a need to cluster in a village for safety.

De Waterkant is the start of the pink entertainment journey in Cape Town. Photo courtesy of coda

Despite publicised homophobic violence in the townships, local gays and lesbians frequent gay-friendly taverns, of which Mzoli’s (in Gugulethu) is the more costly option, since it has become a popular tourist destination, jam-packed most summer weekends.

A 10-year institution in Parow is Stargayzer, which has a full house every weekend with frequent drag pageants and pumping parties that cater to a varied clientele. Its owner “Oom Jan” states that his party-goers come from as far as Stellenbosch, Strand, Simon's Town and beyond.

The new kid on the block is Lion’s Corner Tavern. Life partners Hardus and Casper opened this bar in February, which “is frequented by a lot of gay guys from the Southern Suburbs in their 30s and above, as well as the local Observatory crowd who come and relax”. According to Hardus his clientele finds the “no attitude” atmosphere refreshing, where people just come and enjoy the “braai” for R30, almost like chilling at your best friend's place.

Pink personality Ms Lola Fine and friends at Stargayzer in Parow

However, the most recent edition is Club Fever in Lansdowne, which is a club like those of Cape Town's gay yesteryear. It boasts great sound and lighting, posh lounges, communal spaces and vast dance floors so that Capetonians can at last do “moves like Jagger” without poking someone's eye out. This could be why it draws crowds from Cape Town to Kuilsriver for their "Throw-It-Down" Club Pink Fever Thursdays.

A success story that truly proves the inclusivity and broad support within Cape Town’s queer community is Ms. Gay Western Cape.

This once small drag pageant has in four years gone from a predominantly community based event at Athlone’s Joseph Stone Auditorium, to this year being hosted at Cape Town International Convention Centre, on November 10, 2012, and is certain to sell out around 1 500 seats.

The reason for its success is that the drag queens have taken the art of female impersonation to another level of glam, or as Ru Paul (American drag queen and actor) would say, “These girls work it!”, which has resulted in a vast following for the “queens” which spans suburbs and income levels. The drag queens created such a demand that last year, the pageant took its first move into Cape Town centre, where Jujubee from the hit reality TV show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, flew in to emcee the event.

With Cape Town ranked by the United Nations World Travel Organization as a top 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex travel destination, we are certain that local gay communities will continue to flourish and bring more venues and events to the fore, which will breed a culture of acceptance and support for all us fabulous folk in the fair Cape.

Eugene Brockman is the co-founder of the Gay Flag of South Africa. For more of his adventures in Cape Town, visit www.gayflag.org.za, follow him on Twitter at @GayFlag4SA or join the Facebook fan page www.facebook.com/MCQP.Mystery.

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