ericwat - 66 Chapter 2 12 Sturken Tangled Memories 232 13...

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Unformatted text preview: 66 Chapter 2 12. Sturken, Tangled Memories, 232. 13. Morgan, "Pages of Whiteness," 287. 14. Morgan, ”Pages of Whiteness," 290. 15. See Champagne, The Ethics of Marginaliiy, 77: There then occur three separate shots of images of Black men, presumably from gay ”pornography." The first is a photograph of a naked muscular man shackled around his neck. One white hand reaches intoythe frame to hold his head down. Another, its wrist wrapped in a leather bandssqueezes his left pectoral muscle. Across the top of the photograph appears, in red letters, "Slaves for sale." The second image, a drawing, depicts a naked, muscled white man wearing only black boots, who is whipping a muscular Black man hanging from a tree. The third image is a caroon of a Black man with exaggerated muscles, penis and nipples. The camera slowly pans up this figure. 16. Paul EeNam Park Hagland, " 'Undressing the Oriental Boy'; The Gay Asian in the Social imaginary of the Gay White Male,” in Looking Queer; Body Image and Identity in Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Communities, ed. Dawn Atkins (New York: Haworth Press, 1998), 290. Hagland writes, l'\l\7hat is yet more marginalizing is the general exclusion of APIs from gay publications outside of the specialized confines of the RQ genre, whether pornographic or nonpornographic. The general invisibility of Asians from the social imag- inary of gay culture consigns gay Asian men to the margins of the subculture." i7. Hagland, "Undressing the Oriental Boy," 283. 18. Although there has been much emphasis on emasculation, it is important to note that Asian men were not always portrayed as feminine. The stereotype of Asian men being a sexual threat (to white women) was prevalent in the early part of the century when nativist sentiment was on the rise. When immigrants were scapegoated for a depressing economy, this stereotype justified anti-Asian legislation, such as anti-miscegenation and exclusionary immigration laws. 19. Yen Le Espiritu, Asian American Women and Men.- Laloor, Laws and Love (Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications, 1997), 90—91. 20. Espiritu, Asian American Women and Men, 1 1 1. 21. Espiritu, Asian American Women and Men, 91—92. 22. Sturken, Tangled Memories, 42. 3 , A Fascism of Desire ASIANS NEVER LIKE OTHER ASIANS No one remembers exactly when the River Club became a "gay Asian bar." Located on Riverside Drive just at the mouth of Griffith Park, it had catered to a mostly Latino clientele before the mid—19705, with some black, Asian, and white customers Because it did have a strong presence of people of color, Asians knew that they wouldn't be hassled at the door or feel unwelcome inside, like some of them did in more prevalently white establishments. By the mid~19705, word began to spread that the River Club was where many Asians would go, thereby attracting even more gay Asians and their ”admir- ers." ”There was no discrimination," recalls Roy Kawasaki. ”People who went there knew there was a mixture of different groups. So there was no problem about that." Andre Ting says, ”I would go there on Saturday. Because of the large number of Asians there, I did not see Latinos and whites anymore. They were there, but I did not notice them. I would bypass the Latino area without even knowing they were there. I would go straight to the Asian area. It got all my attention. It was so unusual for me that I would go there right away." Yet, inside the bar, there were borders and barriers. ”You would have the Asians all in different groups," says Roy. “You had the Japanese in one, the Chinese in one, the Filipino in one, and the foreign-born in another. All star- ing at each other [Laughs]. Give each other dirty looks, like competitors. We never came together." Sometimes there was even competition within one's own ethnic group. Stanley Rebultan was reticent in his association with his ”fellow Filipinos" in the River Club, where he used to go every weekend. He recalls, "There were two occasions I had a good—looking guy 1 was going out with. Before I knew it, they were almost snatched or stolen by Filipinos. So I said, I'm not going to associate with them anymore. it's much better for me to be with a different kind. 1 felt more safe. l'm not putting them down, but 67 68 Chapter 3 that's a bad experience 1 had. Even if you're with your own kind, there's always some problem that might occur.” Until the early 1980s when first Mugi's and then Faces came along, the River Club was the only bar in town where one would find a significant concentration of gay Asian men. And unlike these later “rice" bars, which were predominantly Asians and whites, the River Club retained what some narrators describe as its “cosmopolitan" or “international" demographics until it closed in the early [9805. (The number of blacks remained small probably because black gay bars like Catch One had already been part of the black neighborhood and there was less of a need on the part of gay black men for something like the River Club outside of their community.) Despite the ethnic segregation, or because of it, certain racial dynamics and contradictions were highlighted. With both its positives and negatives, many narrators believe that the River Club is the precursor to the formation of the first gay Asian organization in the city, the Asian/Pacific Lesbians and Gays, and eventually a gay Asian community in Los Angeles. Steve Lew I'm trying to remember the River Club now. It was dark [Laughs]. I know it had a U—shape type of bar. There was a fairly large dance area. It was almost always busy in the evenings. The clientele was fairly mixed. I remembered always running into other Asians or Latinos there. At the same time, the Asians really didn't socialize with each other. It was all to connect with non— Asians. The music was generally decent dance music, like the best 'of the disco years: Evelyn Champagne King, the Whispers, all the stuff that they're play— ing at the Box [a gay bar in San Francisco] now. It was music that I liked. I liked to dance. It was hard, but l would still ask people to dance. During that period, there was this real feeling among Asians—and I would share this feel- ing, too—~that it was harder to approach another Asian. At the same time, you kind of viewed them as competition, competition for primarily white men, although I was actually interested in dating other men of color. l knew this one Asian guy there who was about two years ahead of me in high school. He would always come to the bar also. And we consciously avoided each other because of that connection. I've talked to him more recently, in the last few years, and I don't think we ever talked about that period. 1 do remember sometimes l felt like saying "hi" to him, but it seemed so taboo and scary to connect to somebody whom you knew from suburban Asian America. Certainly there was some fear that he might tell other people back home. I'm sure that's why he avoided me. Secondly, you know, I think A Fascism of Desire 69 there were a lot more things that would reinforce low self-esteem and inter— nalized homophobia during that period. Not having any sense that there were groups for gay Asian men, positive types of organizations, it was like . . . how do l say . . . I felt more fear in confronting my own feelings about being Asian and gay, and the fact that you were dealing with a gay man who was also Asian [would force me to confront those feelings]. I separated things so much at the time. On the one hand, I was very politi- cal and very much into Asian American identity and how I looked at race critically. But I couldn't put the two [gay and Asian] together. During that time, i did date some Asian men, but we really never talked that much about our backgrounds. I would think I was even avoiding the topic. That wasn’t our connection. Paul Chen [Paul's partner, Cloris Gaynorjoined us in parts of this interview] l'd drive up to LA. for the River Club Friday, Saturday nights when l was still living in Fullerton. Cod, it was packed in those days. Sometimes you couldn't move. It was another Asian who told me about the River Club. I didn't quite understand what he said, but I was curious. I never knew the con- cept of rice queens. Unless yotflve been to an Asian bar, you really don't . . . of course, you have. By then, I really did find out what it was like to be Asian in America. ln high school, I got a job at a place called Japanese Deer Park, which was actufi ally an amusement park based on Japanese culture, right near Knott's Berry Farm. And that was the first time I've been with a whole bunch of Asians besides my family. l actually found out the difference between being Asian American versus being Chinese and part of my family. The next summer, l got a job in Disneyland and worked at a restaurant called Tahitian Terrace, where they put most of the Asians to give it some sort of flavor and atmo— sphere. That was the start of the Asian American movement. We had our own dances. We had our own music. Have you heard of the band Hiroshima? They were still in college then. I used to drive all the way up to East LA. to go to Asian dances where Hiroshima would play. l think l have most of their albums. Listening to Cruisin' J—Toum, it was fun. I actually was somebody finally. l wasn't different or strange. l was part of the movement. But I knew I was gay then and still felt I didn't have a place. So when l finally went to the River Club, I felt like this is the first time that all of me all different parts of me, fit in some place. l was Asian and gay. I Not everyone in the bar was Asian. 70 Chapter 3 No, because there were different sections. There was the main body of the bar. And since I didn't drink, I didn't really go there very much. And then there was an area where there were pool tables off in this other room. So we [the Asians] had the area from the main bar through the pool tables. Hispan— ics had the main area of the bar. And the blacks were on the side. So you didn't really go to other people's areas unless you were walking through to get a drink or go to the bathroom. 1 think the largest number was Asians There were probably three "or four hundred of us. So there were probably a couple hundred of Asians. It was a fairly large bar. Really packed every Friday and Saturday night. There wasn't much interaction among the different groups, except for Carlo [Laughs]. I knew him from Cal State Fullerton. He was actually His- panic, but he didn't want to be Hispanic. So he hung out in the Asian section. That was the only person I knew who would cross the room. We each had our own area and our own circle of admirers. Rice queens stuck with us. The guys who really liked Hispanics stuck there. Most of us, whether non—white or our white counterparts, didn't switch areas, as far as l know. Most of the rice queens that l dated were simply not interested in prac» tically anybody else [besides Asians]. Of course, l understood, either unconsciously or consciously (probably was unconscious for the longest time), that, when a man is only attracted to me because I'm Asian and he’s not attracted to other people because they're not Asian, .that gives me some sort of power. And I could, use that power. Going outside of rice bars and finding that I did not match those people's sexual fantasies, more or less, that caused me to think I did have power in those situations with the rice queens. But that limited me to this one group of men. You knoww—positive reinforcement/negative reinforcement—«you go to places where you get picked up. l think the limits were what bothered some of us. Rob was an example. Rob really, really, really wanted to be accepted in non‘Asian bars. I think that was partly why he didn't want to be seen as Asian. [He believed] that Asians are quiet, passive, have less power. And then there was your chiropractor, Chris. [Chris Mike. He wanted to be Latino] He didn't want to be Japanese. So he thought if he penned his hair and wore dark glasses, he could look Hispanic. He just looked like ajapanese guy with a perm and dark glasses on. And the artist that we met at the Garden Show, Stan. Stan was a West Hollywood clone, you knowwrshort crew cut, big muscles, work out in gym. He had this absolutely gorgeous house above Griffith Park Boulevard. He only socialized with West Hollywood clones. They would not go to rice bars or join A/PLG. A Fascism of Desire ‘ 7i “rary Geek I remember an interesting experience meeting this Caucasian guy at Rendez- vous in the early 19705 in San Francisco. Rendezvous was the equivalent of Faces in LA, which was a place where there was quite a number of Asians and mostly Caucasians who were interested in Asians. 1 dated this guv several times, and be introduced me to a friend of his, a Chinese guy, in Rendezvous. The two of us hit it off very well, and he got really upset. He actually left the two of us. The next day, he gave me a line that I would always remember. He said, "Asians never like other Asians." That wasn't my experience. It made me feel like something was wrong with me, although I didn't buy it. It sounded quite ludicrous to me. In fact, we never dated after that. At the same time, it seemed like at that place, the Asians all saw each other more as competitors for the attention of these white guys than as friends. I found that in the River Club as well. There were cliques. Like most bars there was a lot of posturing and positioning and trying to attract. it was competitive to begin with,- we have to acknowledge that. But I think at Rendezvous and at the River Club, there was more of that competition along racial, ethnic lines, too, in those days. So 1 think he was quite accurate in terms of assessing how things were, true to a certain extent. That was his experience. But it doesn't have to be. Dean Goishi l used to go to River Club and see gay Asians there, but I never talked to them as gay Asians, only because l think the thinking that you don't talk to gay Asians was true. You always talk to other people, but don't talk to gay Asians because they're family, [Laughs] Many first generation [immigrants] didn't speak English very well, and they would only stay and congregate within their ethnic groups. On the other hand, I did have a lot of bar friends who were Asians at that time. The American—born tended to mix much better- my group was Chinese, )apanese, Malay, and Asians from Hawaii. The firsf six or seven that 1 met have become a core group of close friends for me today. We stood around and talked and chatted, but not from a sexual stand“ point, from more of a social standpoint. l think Asians had fewer opportuni‘ ties for sexual encounters than whites, African Americans, or Latinos. The environment in the [rice] bars was very, very competitive. Asians were always looking for non-Asians as partners, and then non—Asians were competing for any Asian friends that you had, unless they were already coupled. Now that I look back on it, I think it was very racist in a sense. Asians were not attractive to me. My models were primarily Caucasian models. Fvery~ if! i 72 Chapter 3 thing up to that time that l read or saw within gay publications and things was all white. Therefore, to me, white became the object of my sexual fanta— sies, you might say. It wasn't until later when I started working in AIDS and these kinds of social issues that 1 even became aware that l was totally wrong, that everything was not white. Besides the bars, we would go to restaurants, primarily Chinese restaurants None of the ones we went to we would announce that we were gay. i think in Chinese restaurants it was acceptable for a group of men to gather and have dinner and not really be looked at real funny. But they were also cheap and you'd get more food. They were also open late at night. So at eleven or I twelve, when we were getting ready to leave the bars and go home, wed decide to get a bowl of noodles or something. it seemed like it was always cheaper to go to a Chinese restaurant than an American restaurant. Doug Chin Roy Kawasaki is my longest friend that l've known here in LA. l met him the summer of 1974 when he came back to Hawaii for a visit. A mutual friend of ours Dr Momyer was hosting a dinner party at this restaurant out in ‘ l ’ I Makaha, and Roy was there. That's where I met ROy. Well, in December of that year, after Jim and I had. moved back to LA, we decided we wanted to go to a bar. He found out the name of a gay Asian bar called the River Club, which was up in the Los Feliz area. And we walked into this bar. I was ordering drinks for both Jim and me. Then this person right next to me turned around, and it was Roy! l recognized him. So we started chatting. We've been fast friends ever since then. T also met a number of people at the River Club, people that l've main- tained long-term friendships with. l made a lot of other friends, and some of them were single. We would also go to some of the West Hollywood bars. Jim particularly wasn't interested in going to those bars because he was more into Asians. He really liked Asian men. For instance, when Bob and Clark were together, Clark andJim would go off to the River Club or to Asian bars, and Bob and l and Erwin would go out to some of the West Hollywood bars to dance. Jim wasn't a dancer. He enjoyed watching people. The West Hollywood bars were different from the River Club? Oh, very much 50. People were not as friendly there [at the West Holly- wood barsJ, You had white men there that were not into Asians, and thats okay. I went there just to have fun with my friends, not to seek attention or anything of that sort. ‘ Jim and I actually went to the River Club practically almost every Saturday night. If not Saturday night, maybe on a Friday night, depending if we were A Fascism of Desire 73 entertaining or not. When Jim and I, being very outgoing, bought our first home, we threw a party almost once a month. I would try to prepare these lavish parties, hors d'oeuvre and mealsfor anywhere from twenty-five to fifty, to a hundred people. We enjoyed meeting people and entertaining them. And during that time, I thought Jim and. l were somewhat in a closed relationship because when l made a commitment, it was a commitment for life. Over the years, I guess from what people were telling me, he'd been flirting with a number of Asians. Being as naive as l was, I didn't realize that. At some point, my studies became very important to me. l was finishing up my accounting degree at Cal State Dominguez Hills, and my position with CBT Financial Services had already started increasing. I needed my study time, which was my weekend. And Jim would go off by himself, with my blessings. I just figured he'd be as faithful as l was to him. But anyway . . . Paul Bautista l was seventeen, the first time I was at the River Club. it was before [high school] graduation. I remember the bouncer looking at me. He must have known I was underage, you know. Because I was very good at art, I came up with this phony Filipino driver's license. I took like little seals from Philippine stamps and all this stuff and made it look really official and laminated it and gave it to him. l came up with my best Filipino accent, pretending l was a tourist. There l was. l had to memorize the number, the address, the age. I was like sweating. He looked at me and said, "You haven't been here before?" I said, "No." On my way to New York, you know. “Okay, come on in. Have a good time, Thanks for coming.” But l'm sure he knew. l'm sure he knew. I walked into the bar. Up to that point, it was all me looking at the world, looking at gay life. It was l who was on expedition, discovering a new world, me looking at things, looking at people: what they were doing, how they reacted. When l wa...
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