We’re Here, We’re Queer, Now Give Us a Beer
By Tony Peregrin in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 11, 2009 9:20PM
Photo courtesy of BGCC Facebook page.
The Big Gay Cocktail Club (or BGCC for those in the know) is a roving monthly cocktail party where masses of gays converge on a bar/club that caters predominately to a straight clientele. And yes—South Park’s Big Gay Al who once created a haven for all those trying to find their way in the world—is the inspiration for the event’s somewhat unusual moniker.
BGCC events are typically held on a Thursday evening, with door donations benefiting a pre-selected, Chicago-based GLBT organization such as Equality Illinois or AIDS Legal Council of Chicago. Cocktails typically begin around 5:30 p.m., so expect to rub shoulders with a lot of men in their best work duds, preening and posing for the on-site photographers. Previous BGCC events have been held at the Peninsula Hotel, Luxbar, The James Hotel bar, and even on a Lake Michigan boat cruise.
The BGCC fell to earth in November 1999 when three Chicago friends—desperate for a cure to the winter blues—decided to gather all of their friends in one location. Powered by word-of-mouth and a campy, password- protected Web site and e-newsletter, the BGCC has quietly evolved into one of the most popular parties (and one of the best kept secrets) in gay Chicago.
The idea of the Guerrilla Gay Bar—which is a kind of social experiment that blends the gay community with its straight allies—has spread throughout most major cities (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles)and has different meanings and goals depending on the location.
Most establishments are thrilled to host these kinds of events, if for no other reason that the promise of increased revenue on an off weeknight. However, an event hosted by the Cincinnati Guerrilla Queer Bar group this month resulted in a slight altercation between a gay patron and a bouncer, which fired-up the gay blogosphere, leading many to call the bar homophobic. Regardless, the BGCC (which does not identify itself as a Guerrilla Gay Bar event), has never had a problem of this kind, and in fact, prides itself on being an all-inclusive group composed of a variety of individuals with different social, cultural and economic backgrounds.
Another roving monthly party, The Guerrilla Gay Bar-South Loop Chicago (GGB-SLC), was hatched earlier this year by two UIC med students via Facebook. Their goal: Bringing the queer scene to their nabe. With over 1,000 Facebook members, The GGB-SLC has hosted standing room-only events at Grace O’Malley’s, English, Cactus and other South Loop venues.
If the BGCC caters to the after-work business crowd, then the GGB-SLC, which typically gets going around 9 p.m., seems to cotton more to the casual, recent-college graduate crowd, but it’s nearly impossible (and pointless) to categorize either crowd, as both welcome everyone and anyone with a positive attitude and an open mind.