The disco ball on the top floor of the former Albury Hotel caught my eye, as I caught a bus along Oxford Street the other day.
Immediately my mind flashed back to the late 1990s when the Albury was (probably) Sydney’s most popular gay bar. Even on weeknights, it seemed like the bar was always full of people. There were people drinking and dancing in the front bar, and in the back bar, there were cabaret performances. In both, there were legendary drag performers.
Across the road, there was the Beauchamp Hotel which was similarly very busy, mostly on the weekends. Because it was across the road from The Albury, the Beauchamp was commonly known as “The Wodonga”.
For Sydney’s gay scene, long before dating apps, and lockdowns, these were very busy times indeed.
But this is not a post about the so-called “glory days”. Every generation has its “golden age”.
No, this is a post about finding your tribe.
Oddly enough, one of my strongest memories of going to the Albury was the night I “discovered” Kylie Minogue. Of course, I “knew” Kylie, but I never quite understood her “gay following”, until I saw EVERYONE singing along to “Better The Devil You Know”. Amusingly, the audience was singing along to the song using the phrase “She’s better than Dani Minogue”.
Though, of course, I have had lots of gay friends throughout my life, that night at The Albury was one of my earliest memories of kinda finding my “gay tribe”.
Over the years I’ve found great friendships in bars like The Oxford and The Midnight Shift. Hey, I even met my former partner at The Midnight Shift on Mardi Gras night in 1998.
More recently, I’ve tried a couple of groups to meet new people, to expand my friendship circle. I tried “Fruits In Suits” for a couple of years, a business/social group. And then in the last couple of years, I’ve also tried “Sydney Bears”. I kept getting into conversations about real estate at Fruits, and conversations about I don’t know what at Bears.
I’m sure it’s just me. I’m probably a bit “on the spectrum”. I don’t think it’s arrogance, I just don’t think I have the skill or interest in small talk. I don’t make friends easily, though when I do, they tend to be lifelong.
Maybe that’s why, aged 57, I still haven’t found my gay tribe.