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Wednesday 08 October 2008

"My first time at Family"

Posted in: Events
By Andy Boreham - 28th July 2008

No stranger to gay clubbing: Andy Boreham & friend
I've been to many gay bars across New Zealand. Probably more than I actually care to remember, to tell you the truth.

In fact, even though I'm only in my mid-twenties, I've just recently celebrated my ten year gay clubbing anniversary!

And it's been an illustrious ten years at that.

How could I forget the conversation I had with one bar owner at the first gay bar I went to regularly. "Come here," he signalled to me with just his eyes and index finger. I was terrified as I made my way over to the tacky wooden bar that looked like something out of a Hutt Valley shed. I turned on the puppy-eyes as any skilled teenager can do instantaneously. "How old are you?" "20." "No you're not." "Umm, 15."

I felt the lump go down my throat as I gulped. "That's cool," he said with a smile. I was instantly relieved. "If you see the cops come in just make sure you run up to the DJ booth and stay there until I tell you to come out again." And it happened often.

Things were slightly different back then, due mostly to the fact that the drinking age hadn't yet been lowered to eighteen and things were a heck of a lot more laxed. How old do I sound relaying this story?!

I remember back then you didn't need photo I.D, and once I used an Asian friend's driver licence to get into one New Zealand gay club — you know, the old ones that didn't have a photo. "Your surname is a bit funny," the burly bouncer said. "Yeah, my mum married a Chinese guy when I was five."

And then there was my first gay club visit to Auckland. Legends on Krud (my new name for K'Rd) was so tiny, and packed to busting point. I had never seen so many sweating, topless and horny gay guys in the same room in my entire life. This was also when I, at sixteen, realised that some guys like teenage boys — my body had been groped and prodded from every angle the entire evening. Until that point I had thought gay men only fantasised about the muscled and bronzed hunks on underwear packets — how naïve, but how refreshing.

The most laxed bar, at times, would have to be MALGRA in Palmerston North. I visited with a group of friends a few years back. We brought our own CDs and the staff happily put them on. It was just like partying at home, with the addition of a door bell and guest book!

Then there was the time down south when a 17-year-old me was kicked out of a Christchurch gay club for Bob knows what. That night is still a blur.

Ruby Ruby's, Bojangles, Pound, Chameleon, Cruz, ClubQ, Club Far Out, Flesh, Next Door Bar, Staircase, Splash, Adam's Cage — I could go on.

So it was taken with a hint of surprise when I told my friends last weekend that I had actually never been clubbing at Family before. I visit Auckland quite a bit for various reasons, but had never ended up there.

And last weekend was to be the time that I would lose my Family virginity.

The day started out early Saturday morning on a flight from Wellington. Some friends were on another carrier that took off at the same time — I couldn't get on that flight. Well, not for the amount I was willing to pay to have my ears chewed off for an hour.

A friend in Auckland was having his birthday party. I don't even recall how old he is now — shows how much of a friend I am (or I consider him to be?) Or, most likely, how much I drank that night.

The birthday party went fine and was just around the corner from Krud. At around one a group of us decided it was high time to head over and see the Family. I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive so downed a quick glass of cheap wine mixed with Lift and got my groove on.

All of the people with me had been to Family many a time and said they promised to "have my back", which only made my nerves worse…

"The place was pumping. The atmosphere was vibrant and energetic"
The place was pumping. The atmosphere was vibrant and energetic. The people were slightly camper than the campest guys you see in Wellington, but that was cool. The drag queens were mega tall, and they all had fake cleavage.

So far so good.

We decided to visit the toilet first — the mirror is a great starter to any gay bar visit! Six minutes later, after trudging through a pack of boys, we were there. But there was a small queue so we passed it up.

Ribena (yes, most gay New Zealanders know who that is, whether you've been to Family or not) was pushing through the crowds back and forth and back and forth — she had a mission on her face. "She's getting ready for the show", one expert told me. Ahh. So we made our way back to the stage. Eight minutes later we were there.

On a mission: Miss Ribena commends the Fsmily stage
The commanding and camp-slash-butch voice of Kev came blearing across the sound system. The people responded like a pack of sheep. We were treated with two shows (I think — sorry, that last wine was really too much). The shows were pretty average but managed to get the crowd into a complete raucous. Then Kevin talked a bit about some competition — all you could really make out was the fact that the winner would go on next year's Pink Flight to Mardi Gras. People cheered anyway, although I think they responded to excited but indecipherable babble as opposed to words.

After that we hung outside for a bit and met a few more locals. That indoor slash outdoor smoking area is really good value!

We took some photos and a drag queen who wasn't in drag bought me a drink. Yeah, not a good idea but I drank it anyway.

The next thing I remember I was around the corner vomiting outside an occupied public toilet. Yes, I am pure class. My phone was going mental with text messages: "Where are you?" "Come dance I'm by the stage!" "Did you go to Lateshift?!"

And next thing it was 3pm Sunday. The sun poured in the room like rays from a sun-bed, not that I've ever been in one although I have seen Final Destination 3!

The verdict? A good night out, that's for sure! Family is an exciting and action-packed venue with an obvious place in Auckland's gay scene. Was it amazing? Not exactly. Was it something new? Definitely not. Would I go back? Of course!

Andy Boreham - 28th July 2008