San Jose has a great big rat and Winnipeg has a Golden Boy with great big balls

So here’s what I’m thinking about three members of the San Jose Sharks bashing good, ol’ Hometown…

First of all, Tomas Hertl, Justin Braun and Tim Heed could have been a tad more creative in dissing Winnipeg. I mean, describing River City as “cold and dark” is so much meh. Same old, same old.

The Golden Boy: Tall, proud and buck naked.

It’s frigid in Winnipeg, you say? Well, duh. So wrap yourself in a parka and trundle to and fro in those subterranean tunnels and above-ground test tubes that connect the downtown corridors. And it gets dark in Winnipeg? Ya, like, after the freaking sun sets, dudes. A setting Sol is not peculiar to Pegtown. At last report, River City was still part of the Solar System, so, ya, they have to deal with that pesky dark-of-night thing.

Second, if you hang your hat in El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe, you might want to trigger the filter between your brain and tongue before opening your gob.

Technology aside, what’s San Jose really known for?

Well, news outlet FiveThirtyEight named it “the most forgettable major American city.” Economist and migration blogger Lyman Stone ranked it as the “weirdest city in America” in 2016. On WalletHub’s listing of the most fun cities in the U.S., it comes in at a distant 95th, behind notable good-times spots like Akron, Lincoln, Omaha, Grand Rapids and Des Moines.

Little wonder the mayor of all 1,042,094 people, Sam Liccardo, says, We’re not big on bluster.”

Apparently, Mayor Sam and other civic leaders have been trying to come up with a fresh slogan for San Jose. Hmmm. The city has this quirky law which prohibits animals from publically fornicating if within 1,500 feet of a church, school or pub. Might make for a catchy slogan—San Jose: We never screw the dog.

A better question would be: How do those horny critters know if they’re inside the 1,500-foot, no-humping zone? Do they post doggy signs?

Whatever, San Jose is not without its selling points.

Reportedly, more than half the adults in the self-proclaimed Capital of the Silicon Valley have a college education. I assume the other half voted for Donald Trump.

Joey Chestnut

And, hey, San Jose has celebrities. Like Joey Chestnut.

Nobody on this planet eats more hot dogs in less time than Chestnut, the renowned face-stuffer who’s been known to scarf as many as 72 Nathan’s tube steaks in 10 minutes. What city wouldn’t be proud of a world-class glutton?

I’d say Chestnut’s achievement is admirable, except I’d be more impressed if he could gobble down 72 Salisbury House cheese nips in 10 minutes.

San Jose also has notable landmarks. Like the world’s largest rat. That would be a 30-foot Chuck E. Cheese. The thing is, they keep the rodent caged. And indoors. Wimps.

By way of comparison, Winnipeg has the Golden Boy—all 17.2 feet and 3,640 pounds of him—and he stands outside (even when it’s dark), proudly atop the Manitoba Legislative Building with his bare balls hanging out. Try that in minus-40 weather.

Winnipeg can even match San Jose school dropout for school dropout. They have Stevie Nicks, who left San Jose State University and eventually found fame with Fleetwood Mac. But I’ll call their Stevie Nicks and raise them a Neil Young, the Kelvin High dropout who joined Buffalo Springfield, then Crosby, Stills & Nash.

But, listen, I’m not hear to trash San Jose, even though trash talking the other guy’s town is as old as a Bob Hope joke. Happens every day. And Winnipeggers definitely do it, too.

Think about it, when was the last time you heard anyone in River City say something warm and fuzzy about Regina? As if. I recall a former Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach, Professor Mike Kelly, describing the good folks of the Saskatchewan capital as the “toothless, green, watermelon-helmet-wearing people from the crotch of Canada.” And Ol’ Lefty, Bombers place-kicker Troy Westwood, called the flatlanders “a bunch of banjo-picking inbreds.”

Others in Pegtown have used different parts of the human anatomy to describe Regina, and each of those body parts leaks and emits foul odors.

So there’s that.

Chuck E. Cheese

Legendary jock journalist Jim Murray, meanwhile, seldom squandered an opportunity to have sport with his many ports of call as columnist with the Los Angeles Times.

On Cincinnati: “They still haven’t finished the freeway…it’s Kentucky’s turn to use the cement mixer.”

On Baltimore: “The weather is like the team. Gray. Colorless. Drab. The climate would have to improve to be classified as merely lousy. It really doesn’t rain, it just kind of leaks. You get a picture of Baltimore as a guy just standing on a corner with no place to go and rain dropping off his hat. Baltimore’s a great place if you’re a crab.”

On Minneapolis-St. Paul: “They don’t like each other and from what I could see, I didn’t blame either of them.”

On San Francisco: “It is so civilized, it would starve to death if it didn’t get a salad or the right wine. It fancies itself Camelot, but comes off more like Cleveland. Its legacy to the world is quiche.”

Thus, when Hertl, Braun and Heed went off on Winnipeg, describing it as “dark and cold” and, at the same time, suggesting it was a horse-and-buggy burg that had yet to be introduced to the world of hashtags and tweets (“I don’t know if they have WiFi there yet.”), they weren’t exactly breaking fresh (frozen) ground. People have been taking frost-bitten cheap shots at good, ol’ Hometown since the first Red River cart blew a tire (what other reason could there have been for stopping and settling there?).

Remember old friend Ilya Bryzgalov? The former National Hockey League goaltender wasn’t afraid of anything in this entire world. Except “Bear in forest.” And living in Pegtown.

You don’t want to go to Winnipeg, right?” he once advised news snoops. “Not many people live there. Not many Russian people there. Plus it’s cold. There’s no excitement except the hockey. No park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It’s going to be tough life for your family.”

Bryzgalov made me laugh. Hertl, Braun and Heed not so much.

If you’re going to trash talk, boys, come up with some fresh material.

Paparazzi Nightclub continues to buck the gay bar trend

Paparazzi been bucking the trend for 6 1/2 years and owners Attila Bassett and Terry Bex have given no indication that the “Pap” will be following The Ledge, The Castle, The Q, The Copper Club and the Paisley Upstairs to the British Columbia capital’s gay bar graveyard.

By patti dawn swansson

In case you hadn’t noticed, the gay bar is an endangered species. Worldwide.

Go ahead and Google “gay bars closing” and you’ll discover it’s an epidemic. They’re shutting down faster than you can say “Elton John writes songs about dead blondes.”

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Consider these alarming facts:

  • According to June Thomas of the online magazine Slate, her research of the Gayellow Pages in the United States revealed that the number of gay bars in San Francisco declined from 118 in 1973 to just 33 in 2011. Manhattan went from a peak of 86 in 1974 to 44 in 2011.
  • Between 2005 and 2011, the number of gay and lesbian bars and clubs in gay-travel-guide publisher Damron’s database decreased by 12.5 per cent, from 1,605 to 1,405.
  • The number of gay bars in Calgary went from 11 to 4 in less than a decade.
  • Four gay bars in Wolverhapton, England, went belly up this summer.
  • Famed gay bar Splash bolted the doors after 22 years in the Chelsea area of New York City.

Why is this happening? Social media. The economy. The shifting of societal tides, whereby younger gays feel comfortable in mainstream venues.

“I think the days of actual gay bars are dying out,” Sean Mullen, owner of the gay bar Dignity in Waterford, Ireland, told the Sunday Times in the U.K. “Things are not the way they were 10 or 20 years ago, when gay people didn’t feel they could be affectionate with each other in regular bars. Now I think you can do that. The gay community does come in but I couldn’t survive in business with just them.”

That is a repeating theme from other owners/managers of now-defunct gay bars.

“I think things are changing,” said Jenny Gillingham, co-owner of the extinct Pump Nightclub in Saint John, N.B., “but I think there still needs to be some sort of a bar — maybe not to label it as anything — just have a bar and make it that it’s gay friendly and make those people very comfortable in that bar but it doesn’t necessarily have to be called a gay bar.”

“The younger crowd has it a bit easier than the older crowd does, feeling comfortable at a different venue,” agreed her Pump partner, Troy Morehouse. “The younger crowd today has it a little bit easier because people tend to be more accepting.”

When Gio’s shut down in Winnipeg this year, Barry Karlenzig was singing from the same page in the songbook.

“Ten years ago you couldn’t go to a straight bar with your partner without the fear of being hurt or beat up,” said Karlenzig, treasurer of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Society, Inc., a non-profit group that had been propping up Gio’s. “Now, Winnipeg is one of the most socially acceptable (cities). We’re about the fourth or fifth gay bar that closed in Canada within the past six months and it’s all because of the same things.”

All of which brings me to one of my favorite topics—Paparazzi Show/Nightclub in Victoria. It’s been bucking the trend for 6 1/2 years and owners Attila Bassett and Terry Bex have given no indication that the “Pap” will be following The Ledge, The Castle, The Q, The Copper Club and the Paisley Upstairs to the British Columbia capital’s gay bar graveyard.

“That’s certainly not our intention,” Bex told me last week. “We aren’t going anywhere.”

That’s the good news in the wake of The Ledge’s closure two weeks ago.

Paparazzi, it should be pointed out, is not a gay bar in the purest sense of the term. Bassett and Bex welcome people of all stripes, both as patrons and employees. Their hiring practices are beyond reproach. They have had gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, female and male  transgender people and, yes, straights on staff. As for their patrons, ditto. And it’s not merely for legal reasons. Their open-arms welcome is genuine. It’s also very good business sense. You say you want to operate a gay-only venue? Well, you’d be appealing to just four per cent of the population and telling the other 96 per cent that you don’t want their money. Good luck with that.

Bassett and Bex kept the Paparazzi pulse pumping when it was about to stop. Their expertise was in areas other than running a gay bar/nightclub, so they, along with CEO Helina Kinnersley, had to learn on the fly. Heck, they’re still learning. They’ll be the first to tell you that. But they’ve persevered and continue to defy the odds. They remain convinced that Victoria needs a gay safe space, so they keep the doors open. At considerable personal expense, I might add. Both financially and, at times, emotionally.

I mentioned last week that it’s a mystery how those two boys and Helina manage to buck the trend of vanishing gay venues, but, in fact, it’s not a mystery at all—they care deeply and they’re stubborn enough that they refuse to surrender. They try to stay ahead of the curve, if not the competition, with innovative theme shows and lively, creative competitions.

They were there when Victoria’s LGBT collective needed them 6 1/2 years ago and they’re still here when the LGBT collective needs them now.

I’d say they’ve come a long way, baby.

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