A Straight Gay Boy Goes to His First Gay Bar
Heads turned whenever Will Higgins strode into the room; tall, well dressed and utterly lacking in humility. He’d transferred from LSU, and as our Teke fraternity brother, he was automatically welcomed into our chapter. He immediately made his presence felt. Shortly after his arrival, he joined a few of us for lunch. I had no trouble introducing myself since I’d gone to high school with his beautiful sister Elizabeth, who conjured Sophia Loren.
The first time I met Will was at their fashionable home in 1964, four years earlier, at a school year party Elizabeth hosted. I was in the kitchen when he sauntered in wearing only white briefs, apparently eager to show off his physique and impressive endowment, and probably his contempt for his little sister’s friends.
He literally and figuratively talked down to us for a minute while he got a snack, all while red-faced Elizabeth urged him out. He finally left, slowly, leaving no doubt he was in charge and far too mature and cool to be interested in us.
I introduced myself at that frat lunch, reminding him how we’d met, without mentioning the underwear. He didn’t remember, just acted like we were already friends. He told us he transferred to UNO because LSU in small-town Ruston, LA was a bore compared to New Orleans.
After we finished our burgers, Will flashed a grin and said, “I have a little test for y’all.” He slid the first and second fingers of each of his hands together then moved them to the center of the table. “Now, take your right hand and grab tight. What does it reminds you of?”
We each grabbed on, one after the other, but had no idea what we were supposed to think. I was the last to try. Will looked right into my eye and said “Come on, don’t ya know what that feels like?”
“Other than just four fingers?”
“You guys have no imagination! Larry, put your fingers together the same way and let me see what you’ve got.”
I did, and he gripped and squeezed. He stared me down, smiling. “What I have in my hand tells me the size of your dick. Pretty impressive!”
I reddened and yanked my hands back as everyone laughed.
“Here, try mine again and see,” he said as I gripped and pretended this was fun.
“I see what you mean.” And indeed I did as he leered at me. I thought he was flattering me since his fingers were much thicker than mine. I was embarrassed as always by discussion of my penis size.
When I let go, he said, “Now, look at your palm. See the distance from the tip of your long finger to the bottom of your palm? That’s how long you are.”
We all laughed, some insisting this was bullshit, but Will was adamant. “Check for yourself. It works!”
And thus we began to know Will; charming, cavalier, and knowing. His bland face was remarkable for the directness of his gaze and his thin Mona Lisa smile, which could double as a smirk.
Like me, he played no sports, calling them “kids’ stuff, ” but he picked me up in his mom’s new Bonneville coupe to go watch Teke’s Friday afternoon intramural football game, during which we slipped away to nearby Brothers Bar to drink beer.
After leaving the bar, lighting a joint, and heading back to the game, Will jumped a curb and sped toward the playing field where he swerved from one end zone to the other, running players off the field. They were pissed at the disrespectful interruption. We just laughed and left. We were too cool to be jocks.
That semester I was dating Cindy Fulton from Biology. She became good friends with our woman professor who lived near her in the French Quarter. We loved the professor’s bohemian apartment, entered through a door curtained with strands of Mardi Gras beads. We smoked and talked in the high-ceilinged living room, tall French doors opening onto a balcony and brick courtyard where dead leaves and weeds filled an empty fountain.
Cats strolled in and out late into the night as we talked. Then Cindy and I would go to her apartment and make love. After I came, she would hold me in place with her astonishing vaginal muscles, waiting for me to be ready again.
Life was exciting, open, full of promise, and so much better than in the past. Dates and sex were easy to come by, and I was growing more confident of my masculinity.
All this made it difficult to focus on the grades I needed for law school. German, which I was taking for my Psychology major, was especially challenging given my lack of language aptitude. My advisor insisted I needed to read the greats like Freud in the original, but I was near failing. I complained to Will in passing, and he asked if I had Professor Hubert, which I did.
He smiled slyly saying “No problem… I can help.”
“You gonna teach me German?”
“Better; I’m going to get him to pass you.”
“ I met Hubert once at one of my mom’s interior-decorator parties. She works with lots of gays. We’ll drop by his place for drinks. He likes attractive young men. He’ll pass you, you’ll see.”
I was puzzled. How did he know Hubert was gay? Had they met more than once? Why would my visit be worth passing me even if he were? I doubted the professor even knew my name. Would he expect some sort of sexual favor that would never happen? Would it matter that I was not gay?
“I don’t see how this will help.”
“What have you got to lose? Trust me. All it will cost you is a little time and a free drink.”
We drove to the French Quarter that Friday night, and walked down dilapidated flagstones to an imposing white-columned brownstone. Will pushed a buzzer, and we climbed a creaking staircase. Before we could knock, a middle-aged man opened the door. “Hey baby, where’ve YOU been?”
We walked through a chandelier light foyer to an antique-furnished, heavily draped living room. Professor Hubert sat on a sofa amid a small group of chattering men. Will introduced me.
“Welcome, Larry. So nice to see you outside that dreary classroom. Do let me introduce you to my friends, and then you can tell me what kind of cocktail you want.”
We sat and found ourselves the center of attention. Will handled most of the the conversation, which alluded neither directly nor indirectly to the fact that anyone present might be gay. At one point, Hubert smiled, staring at me over his cut crystal cocktail glass as he murmured, “Such beauty! Such youth!”
I smiled and blushed not knowing how to react to the compliment or to a word always associated with women. After another round of drinks, Will announced we had to meet friends elsewhere. We thanked them everyone as the Professor assured us we were welcome any time.
“Well that was easy, but I can’t believe it’ll help.”
“Of course it will. He thinks you’re beautiful. He loves good-looking young men and it can’t hurt your grade. Now that’s out of the way, let’s find a bar.”
We turned up Bourbon St. and walked past the residential area to reach the bright lights of the bars. Will said, “This is Lafitte’s In Exile. We can hustle as many free drinks as we want.”
Through sets of French doors open to the street, I saw men crowded in smoky, gas-lit darkness. The scene was almost tribal, but felt oddly safe. Everyone was well behaved and without the rowdiness I associated with the French Quarter.
“ Why are the drinks free?” I asked.
“Remember my mother’s a decorator who knows lots of gays? This is a gay bar. These guys will give us whatever we want. I’ve done this before, and I know a few of them.”
“But I’m not gay. I didn’t even know there were such places!”
“ Of course we’re not gay, but that doesn’t matter. They’ll like us even more. Trust me. It’ll be fine, just like at the professor’s.”
Will led me into the bar where he greeted two older men he knew quite well. It dawned on me that these were the friends he told the professor we were going to meet. He’d known all along.
Will introduced me. Sure enough, somebody asked what we’d like to drink. I lit a cigarette and thanked them. While Will talked, I stared around the room. I supposed these men were mostly decorators, florists, and hairdressers, but what did I know? Maybe some were counselors like Mr. Langford at Beauregard who’d regularly invited jocks to his house to look at Playboys and drink beer. Maybe others were like Charles from Kennedy’s parking lot. No one struck me as remarkably different. It just seemed peculiar to see no women.
Soon, Will whispered in my ear, “They want to give us blow jobs. Their apartment is a few blocks over. There’ll be more drinks and we can get our rocks off.”
I’m sure both my eyes and mouth popped open as I tried to make sense of being asked to do what had never occurred to me. I knew what a blow job was, but had never had one, not even from the girls I’d had sex with. How would it be pleasurable for them instead of demeaning and disgusting? I didn’t want to go, but could see no way to refuse without looking uncool and foolish. “Okay,” I relented.
Both men smiled in a way that felt creepy. One turned and settled the bill, then off into the night down noisy Bourbon St. we went.
I grew anxious and thought of ways to back out. I didn’t want a blow job from any man, let alone a stranger. The whole thing was depraved. I could not believe I’d agreed. Saying no had never been easy for me.
As we approached their building and entered through iron laced gates, I tried to think of an exit plan. We went down a gas lit slate pavement to a courtyard with a swimming pool and sparkling underwater floodlights.
One of the men unlocked a polished door near the pool. We stepped up a level to a thickly carpeted living room. While the stylish place allayed my fears of back alley seediness, my anxiety rose. I felt my dick shrink away. How could I drop my pants in front of three guys? I felt nothing sexual at all, only panic.
One of them said, “Let’s step into the bedroom, shall we?”
I pictured Will and me on the foot of a bed, our pants around our ankles, or god forbid off altogether with these two guys squatting in front of us. I nearly ran screaming out of the door. Then I noticed a red telephone in the living room and said “Just a minute, I have to make a call first if I may use your phone.”
“What, can’t it wait?” said Will.
“Our fraternity formal is next week, and I just remembered I haven’t ordered flowers for Cindy yet. I need to call to get the color of her dress before I forget again.”
“Alright, but hurry. This is gonna be fun,” said Will as he went down the hall. I dialed Cindy’s number, relieved that she answered so I wouldn’t have to fake a conversation.
I whispered, “It’s Larry. I’m in a jam near you in the Quarter. I’m with Will in an apartment where these guys want to blow us. I need a reason to get outta here! Can I run over to your place?”
“Oh my god! Just leave!”
“I can’t without some decent excuse. I told ’em I was calling to get your dress color for the formal next week.”
“Well, … tell ’em I insisted you come over and look at it because I can’t describe the color.”
“Perfect! I’ll be over in a few minutes.”
I shouted down the hall that I had to “run over to Cindy’s to look at the dress to see the color for myself or she’ll have a fit.”
I dashed out of the door, down the corridor, and out into the night. I ran in the opposite direction of the way we’d come in case I was followed, then hurried the dozen or so blocks to Cindy’s apartment. All the way there, I wondered how I had let things go so far and why I had not dared say no.
Cindy let me in and bolted the door. I told her everything and started to calm down. Then came a knock at the door. Will! I had foolishly pointed out Cindy’s apartment to Will when we walked by it earlier.
He demanded we open up so he could talk to me, the very last thing I wanted. Cindy sent me into her bedroom before she cracked open her front door leaving the chain lock engaged.
She said only that I came to see her dress. She told him I was lying down in the back and not feeling well. Eventually, after she insisted, he left, leaving me further shamed by my failure to handle the situation myself. What was I so afraid of? Looking like a fool? Maybe I was a coward.
I still had to figure out how to get home. I was not allowed to stay out overnight and would have to leave. It was after midnight and busses would be few and far between. I had no money for a taxi, nor did Cindy, so I had no choice but to hit the pavement.
I had already walked from one end of the Quarter to the other twice that night. Now I had to do it again. I angled away from the Quarter to avoid running into Will, but when I got to Canal St., there was no bus in sight.
I figured I might as well walk north toward home. I did not feel safe at that hour but decided walking purposefully would have to do. Some forty to fifty blocks later, I saw there were no busses to Lakeview either, so I wound up walking the long way home.
With the immediate crises passed, I wondered what to do. It was clear Will was gay and was perhaps trying to seduce me. I had not thought about sex with him, or any guy , and remained appalled at the prospect. I believed our chapter’s image was in danger and decided to warn my fraternity brothers by telling them the whole story. That doing so would absolve me of guilt by association did not consciously occur to me. I was doing to do what had to be done.
Will was right about one thing though; when grades were posted that December, I passed German.