Capetonians are notoriously fickle, to the extent that every year there’s debate and more than a few bets placed over whether or not the annual Cape Town Pride festival will happen or not. Nevertheless, the gay sewing circle has convened, and the show, as they say, will go on – even if plans, as per the Cape Town norm, were left ‘till the last possible moment. Still, Cape Town Pride happens when summer is very much still in full swing, so all anyone really needs is some colourful Speedos, a sequined Stetson and a few dabs of sunscreen.
Then it’s clickety-click down the cobbled streets of De Waterkant, Cape Town’s unofficial gay headquarters, to the start of Saturday’s Pride Parade. The procession of floats featuring the usual suspects – dolled-up drag queens, buxom bears, leather lads, lippy lesbians, Muscle Marys and teenyboppery twinks – makes its way on the annual pilgrimage through the streets of downtown Cape Town before returning to the start at Gallows Hill Traffic Department (Green Point) for a fair-style street party in Gay Village.
Pride runs until March 11th, with events including a mostly-lesbian comedy night at Beefcakes, the sauciest burger bar in the Village, and an amateur strip night for the boys at Crew, the city’s hottest gay bar, on March 9th. The Gaydar Red Party is another highlight, when all gay venues in Cape Town link up to throw one great big proud jôl (local slang for a “party”). Check out the full line-up of events and happenings at http://capetownpride.co.za
Keith Bain is a freelance travel writer and co-author of Hg2 Cape Town. His bespoke trip-planning company specialises in personally tailored travel itineraries to Africa and India; www.bestkeptshhh.com
Hg2 Cape Town’s Top Picks for a Fabulous Time in Africa’s Gay Capital:
Boutique Manolo – Owned by Dutch ex-pats Peter and Leen, this intimate, über-modern guesthouse affords a gobsmacking full-blown view of Table Mountain. The penthouse is one of our favourite rooms anywhere in the city and, once parked next to the blood-red swimming pool, you may forget about Pride altogether.
The Glen Boutique Hotel – Located in Sea Point, this offers the city’s best exclusively gay lodgings, and is relatively close to all the action in Green Point’s Gay Village. Besides, it has a Moroccan steam room, Swedish sauna, Jacuzzi, in-room massage treatments and a string of pool parties occasionally attended by porn stars from the Bel Ami studio. Accommodations are elegant and attractive, with plenty of mod-cons. (www.glenhotel.co.za; +27 21 439 0086)
Clifton Third – The gay beach of choice; a wedge of sandy bliss smothered with beefcakes and Adonises sporting the funkiest Speedos. Cooldrink vendors will keep you hydrated, but don’t leave valuables unattended.
Sandy Bay – This takes a bit of effort to get to (there’s a 20 minute walk from Llandudno), but if you prefer au naturelle tanning, this is really the only nudist beach available.
Enmasse – This isn’t a gay massage parlour, but the masculine, no-nonsense space is the best for a serious-minded Thai-style rub-down or sports massage. Arrive, change into white Thai pyjamas and then stretch out on a mat in the blue-hued communal hall as your treatment is administered with good tunes playing in the background – no annoying dolphin cries or pan pipes here. After your hour (or two) is up, you’re welcome to sleep it off before descending on the tea lounge for one of fifty artisan blends and piles of luxury magazines. (www.enmasse.co.za; +27 21 461 5650)
Out in Africa – This is Africa’s premiere gay and lesbian film festival, now in it’s 19th year; there are three editions each year, each season running for at least a week in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The first of this year’s festivals runs from March 23rd through April 1st; www.oia.co.za.
Loading Bay – This isn’t a gay venue, but the people watching is superb. Handsome design and gorgeous staff are complemented by a quality daytime menu and excellent coffee. There’s an emphasis on wholesome fare, handmade burgers, and fresh-squeezed juices (to which you can add shots of pressed ginger). The luxury café adjoins an upmarket jeans and apparel boutique, owned and conceived by stud-muffin Jon-Paul Bolus. Free Wi-Fi and soul-restoring energy could keep you here for hours.
Haas – In Cape Town’s traditional Muslim quarter, Bo-Kaap (literally “Above Cape”), is overflowing with astonishing artworks and keepsakes. It’s a beautiful and surreal backdrop to one of the loveliest little daytime eateries, where every dish is a lowkey masterpiece. Service comes with a flashy smile from strapping men.
Beefcakes – The campest eatery in Gay Village is a Miami-esque diner lined with pink flamingos, psychedelic wallpaper and a mix of waifish and wanton waiters. Burgers with naughty names (Brokeback Burger, Rent Boy, Muscle Mary) are served alongside saucy cocktails and a regular line-up of drag acts, bitchy bingo evenings, and stand-up comedy.
Café Manhattan – A chance to scope the talent drifting through the Gay Quarter’s cobbled streets as you slowly prepare for a night (or day) of mischief.
Amsterdam Action Bar – This mellow, easy-going watering hole offers a relaxed lounge vibe downstairs and the option of heading upstairs for cruising, porn, and a sling room.
Alexander Bar & Café – This isn’t exclusively gay, but will definitely appeal to discerning imbibers. The luxuriously designed antique-filled space includes wonderful tongue-in-cheek elements, such as telephones on the tables allowing you to call for service, or make contact with someone you fancy sitting elsewhere. Possibilities are endless.
Backroom Bar – This newest kid on the pink block – kinkier (and a little sleazier) than most – is decidedly men-only. Erotic dancers, showers, lap dances, and non-stop porn add to the appeal of not having to wait all night for your drinks (which is often the case elsewhere). It’s in an intimate venue on Jarvis Street in the upper part of De Waterkant.
Crew – Your best bet for a full night of drinking and dancing; lithe, topless barmen (all straight, apparently) ensure that it fills up early, and the cheesy tunes on the downstairs dancefloor will get you into the mood. Later in the night, the upstairs section opens and suddenly there’s more room to breathe and dance and pick up, um, friends.
Bronx – Cape Town’s longest-running gay bar just underwent a recent revamp. Handbag house and diva disco rages with dancing all around the island-style bar. Go-go boys occasionally perform too. At weekends, Navigaytion, upstairs, is a little more throbbing, with electronic beats and lazers. If you like playing late into the night, this is probably where you’ll do it.
Beaulah Bar – This also re-launched this summer, after a complete rebuild of the premises. It’s virtually next to Bronx, looks very corporate from the outside, is the city’s foremost lesbian venue, but open to all.