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Let’s Call Fox News Host’s Bluff About Gay Bar

by Steve Weinstein
Thursday Aug 19, 2010

Yes, I know: The host of Fox News' program Red Eye, Greg Gutfeld, had his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek when he proposed building a gay bar next to a proposed mosque in Downtown Manhattan.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week (a big -- a really, really big rock), you know all about this mosque. Already enmeshed in controversy, it exploded on the national scene when President Obama, at a dinner celebrating the Muslim festival of Ramadan no less, came out in favor of the mosque.

Like so much else in space-starved Manhattan, the source of all the brouahaha about this mosque is a question purely of real estate. The site of the mosque is within site of Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers once stood. Now a massive construction site, Ground Zero is considered by many a testament to the destructive powers of radical Islam.

For these people, building a $100 million mosque and Islamic cultural center so close to what has become hallowed ground amounts to desecration. Newt Gingrich even compared it to a Nazi shrine next to a Holocaust memorial. Less ridiculous comparisons are to the proposed Carmelite nuns' convent next to the sprawling site of Auswitch, the Nazi concentration camp where millions of Jews, gypsies and gays were murdered.

Into this media-made mess stepped Gutfeld. The right-wing satirist has made a career out of tweaking both sides of the political divide, although most of his fire is aimed at the left. He also has a history as something of a guy's guy when it comes to sex: He helmed the U.K. edition of Maxim for a while.

Gutfeld's proposal for a gay bar next to the mosque comes on the heels of similar proposals on right-wing blog sites for a pig farm, pig abbatoir, or bar-b-que joint. (Muslims, like Jews, consider pigs an unclean animal and abhor them.)

Normally anti-gay right-wing sites have been quick to embrace Gutfeld's proposal as a way to tweak Muslims. I'm not here to do that. Let me state clearly: I believe the whole "controversy" is ridiculous. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is right: If they can build it, let them build it.

I should add that the one aspect of the discussion never brought up is that the site on Park Place, is actually a block away from Ground Zero and not really "in sight of" the space where the towers stood. In fact, the southern tip of Manhattan is so densely packed that a block-and-a-half is like a half-mile anywhere else. But, of course, reason hardly has any place in a silly-season (it's August) argument like this.

But back to that bar: Lower Manhattan hasn't had a gay bar since the Altar (I believe that was the name), a leather bar, was located there back in the '90s. The nearest bars to my knowledge are in the East Village and Greenwich Village, several blocks and at least two neighborhoods to the north.

I myself know several gay men who have moved into Downtown Manhattan in recent years. The Financial District used to be nearly barren of full-time residents. But in recent years, people have been flocking to the area, lured by relatively inexpensive rents and prices for luxury housing.

In their wake has come amenities like gyms, restaurants, grocery stores and schools. But no gay bar.

Gutfeld would actually be joining a long, proud list of straight men who have owned gay bars in New York. Boy Bar, which began the whole flock of East Village bars, was begun and owned by a straight man. (He's the guy who owns the "Teepee House" on Coast Guard Walk in Fire Island Pines and could sometimes be spotted seen at Low Tea playing a recorder.)

The owner of Stonewall, who took the site from a bagel shop, clothes store and other non-bar uses back to its original incarnation as the ür-bar of the gay-rights movement, was a straight guy from Staten Island. And let's not forget those Mafia guys who ran the bar scene for several decades, until the riots at Stonewall.

So I say, let's call Gutfeld's bluff. You proposed it, dude. Now put up or shut up.

Or as one of his heroes (Ronald Reagan) might have said: Mr. Gutfeld: Build up that bar!

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


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