Rough Boys

It's after midnight on a Saturday. I'm leaning against the wall of a dark Manhattan bar, feeling sexy in leather pants and a tight T-shirt. The buff, body-waxed boys who dominate the Big Apple's gay clubs are noticeably, mercifully, absent here. These men—most outfitted in black leather or uniforms—boast beer guts, crewcuts, handlebar mustaches, and meaty biceps girded with tribal tattoos. As they stalk by me, effervescent Eurodisco by Ace of Base, La Bouche, and Basia pulses through air thick with stogie smoke.

What's wrong with this picture? Nothing. That's the problem. I've been to leather bars across America and Europe. With very limited exceptions (including one in Seattle, the Eagle), the rule stands: the tougher the clientele, the more girly the music. And it's hard to pretend you're experiencing the last night in Sodom when it sounds like you're spending A Night at the Roxbury.

Admittedly, my attraction to such establishments stems from feelings of inadequacy about my own masculinity. (My friend Gregory, a much tougher customer than I, once collapsed into laughter upon seeing a photo of me in full biker gear, declaring, "You look like Liza Minnelli!") I cruise leather bars seeking to absorb additional testosterone, either via osmosis or transfusion. But no matter how butch the exterior, I can't take a man dressed like a drill sergeant seriously when he's humming along to Kylie Minogue. It only took a disco beat to transform an ordinary cop into one of the Village People, and the Village People are not sexy.

C'mon, men, leave the Bananarama favorites for the preppie set in the fern bars. If dance beats are in order, drop some Chicago-style industrial, ࠬa KMFDM's new greatest-hits disc Retro. Even house music maven Danny Tenaglia acknowledged the homoerotic pull of this genre by covering Front 242's classic "Headhunter" on his recent Tourism. What about some gut-wrenching drum and bass, or a sinister hip-hop jam by Gravediggaz or Redman, for a change?

But the music that really gets my blood rushing south is rock 'n' roll. Play any cut off Judas Priest's Living After Midnight anthology—particularly "You've Got Another Thing Comin'"—and I can be had for a song, literally. Forget that Kiss and Poison wore more makeup than a truck stop waitress does; "Lick It Up" and "Talk Dirty to Me" don't mince or mince words. The entire Joan Jett canon is custom made for this environment: "Bad Reputation," "Black Leather," "Do Ya Wanna Touch Me?"

Classic '80s metal isn't the only option, either. Unchecked hormones saturate the Supersuckers' Sacrilicious and Extra Fancy's Sinnerman, both '95 releases. "Car Song" from Elastica's eponymous debut never fails to get me doing a slow bump and grind. If the first four cuts from Rocket from the Crypt's Scream, Dracula, Scream! don't rev yer engine, check out a photo of these boys sometime, resplendent in their bowling shirts and slicked back hair.

And who's sexier: a '50s grease monkey or Rick Astley? I rest my case.

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