Or, if the hetero were more contemporary, the archetype called up would be a sweat-dripping, mustachioed disco nymph collapsing into a pile of Studio 54 fairy dust or a bleached and tragic Madonna fan in an oversize cable-knit sweater with a regrettable yen for cheap eyeliner. Many gay club kids today would gladly take those images over what replaced them in the mid-'90s: buffed-out 'roid heads in sailor caps and tighty whiteys frantically tooting whistles while some faceless diva yelped them into an aerobic frenzy.
The colossal circuit scene had its strengths: with its world-conquering voraciousness, it served as an accessible entry point for the vast numbers of gay men who came out at the time. Clattering circuit beats and ecstatic progressive swells and breaks the natural evolution of corporate rave music in a mainstream gay environment pushed many HIV-positive men through despair in the time before effective AIDS meds became available, and served as an all-purpose celebration template afterward. But circuit parties also marginalized queers with no taste for militaristic conformity, gratingly regurgitated tunes, or the alphabet soup of designer drugs then in vogue. The fact that the circuit had once been a credible, if snobbish and expensive, underground movement held no sway when it hatched into a gargantuan space tarantula from Planet GHB that swallowed all semblance of queer individuality. It was the Will and Grace of clubland, and most of us got jacked.
But that was then, this is neu. Dissing the circuit scene for gay club music's discouraging popular image is like nail-gunning a dead, glitter-freckled horse. "The scene has really downsized, along with the whole megaclub thing in general," a popular San Francisco circuit DJ confided to me recently. "The energy we're riding on is nostalgia."
Michael Williams, co-owner of Medium Rare Records in the Castro, the go-to store for dance mix compilations, told me, "We still sell a lot of that music, but people aren't asking for it as they once did. I think the market got oversaturated and quality became a real factor. People began asking, 'Where's the talent?' Our biggest sellers now are more complex artists like Shirley Bassey, Thelma Houston, and Pink Martini, or DJs who really work to have an interesting sound, like Dimitri from Paris." Even the odiously corporate Out magazine declared the circuit party over in its current issue, so you know it must be true.
Still, the sour taste of the circuit era in many alternaqueers' mouths has proved hard to wash out. And the stereotype of awful gay club music still reigns supreme in the straight world. Even though Energy 92.7's been around for less than three years and is in truth, as I found out after tuning in, more prone to playing Billboard Hot 100 pop remixes than actual circuit music, it's had to bear the backlash brunt. As the most visible mainstream gay dance music giant of the moment, it's become guilty by association.
CREEPIN' LIKE BOUGAINVILLEA
Greg: "Oh my god, he is such a freakin' moron."
Fernando: "Thirty-six percent approval ratings is far too high for this president."
Greg: "The only way my gay ass would be impressed by [George W.] Bush is if he put a VJ in the Oval Office. Bitch, please how many more troops have to die?!"
Fernando: "You're listening to Energy, 92.7 FM. Here's Rihanna with 'Don't Stop the Music.'"
---Fernando and Greg in the Morning
This is how gay Energy 92.7 is: when I first visited the station recently, the station's party promoter, Juan Garcia, recognized my hair product from 50 paces.