Entertainment

Club King

by Steve Weinstein
Contributor
Wednesday Jul 9, 2014
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  (Source:Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival)

It’s hard to tell whether Jon Bush intended the title of his video profile of bar promoter Mario Diaz to be ironic or not. Everyone knows the real Club King in ’90s New York was Peter Gatian, who owned nearly all the mega-clubs in town.

Diaz’s domain was a lot more circumscribed: The Cock, a dive bar in the East Village best known for its large and active back room. From the nights at the Cock I can remember, in the front guys were mostly checking out the talent heading to the back, but there were the standard-issue super-buff young go-go boys (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and self-consciously outrageous behavior on the part of scenesters like Justin Vivian Bond and Jackie Beat.

Those two gender-fuck queers are probably the best-known talking heads in this competently directed documentary. It’s certainly not Diaz’s fault that the canvas for his sexual performance-art aesthetic was so small.

By the ’90s, the East Village was already in its death throes as a counterculture haven. What gentrification, the city’s skyrocketing population (1980: 7 million; 2012: 8.5 million) and Internet-fueled economy hadn’t killed off, Mayor Rudi Giuliani did with his incessant bar raids.

Diaz relocated to L.A., where his handsome profile and Zorro mustache earned him parts in very lucrative national commercials and a few forgettable films, as documented via a faux-verite style that gives us snippets of Diaz’s present and past: A barely closeted kid, starry-eyed New York City boy; and present posse both straight and gay -- like some of the parties he’s been promoting in L.A.: A sign of the times and the commodification of the gay underworld.

Today, Diaz keeps his hand in promoting parties in West Hollywood and Silverlake bars, which aren’t exactly cutting edge. Then again, these days, what is?

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).

This article is part of our "OutFest 2014" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

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