Boystown is the rainbow-tinted neighborhood of Chicago that’s roughly situated between Belmont to the south, Irving Park to the north, Lakeshore Drive to the east, and Clark to the west in the Lakeview area of Chicago. From the 1950s through the late 1970s, gay bars would sprout in various hot spots around Chicago like mercurial little mushrooms and flourish for about five years…but would then be stomped out by the City and police harassment when they became too vibrant and established. Gays would then typically move north, further away from downtown, to take over derelict and almost abandoned neighborhoods to gentrify them alongside the clubs that replaced ones the police shut down. The institutional harassment of gays by the Democrats running Chicago stopped when someone in the party realized that gay men had a lot of disposable income and could fund political campaigns…so Chicago Mayors started allowing gay bars to take root along Halsted in Lakeview…and the gayborhood was born.
There’s another gay hub further north called Andersonville that began establishing itself as a successor to Boystown that ended up not being needed, since Boystown itself was never shut down by the city as other gay ghettos had been trampled in the past. While there’s some gay nightlife activity in Andersonville, the area surrounding it is sketchier than Lakeview and is not as nice as popular as Boystown proper.
Boystown is a great place for a young gay guy to live when he first moves to Chicago…particularly if he wants to meet a lot of people and be able to stumble home from the bars on foot late at night. Once guys age out of the bar scene or meet someone to live with permanently, they tend to leave Boystown for more stable and quiet areas of the city…but no one ever forgets his Boystown years.
Or — in the age of Facebook, YouTube, etc. — is ever allowed to forget them.
The Gay High Drinking Holidays:
1. Black-out Wednesday (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving): in gay culture, any night before one of the major mainstream holidays is an occasion to get incredibly drunk because there is no work the next morning. Additionally, Thanksgiving and Christmas are emotional minefields for a lot of gay guys…so there’s an excuse to drink excessively while complaining to friends about how terrible their families are. It’s actually kind of a competition in that regard, with gay guys trying to one-up each other with stories about the most traumatic childhoods or the least understanding or accepting parents. Older gays gravitate to the bars on Black-Out Wednesday (also called just Black Wednesday, because it’s a riff on the Black Friday that comes immediately after Thanksgiving in the shopping world) because their families don’t want them at Thanksgiving dinner because they are gay. Because society’s changing, it’s unusual to find guys under 30 in the year 2012 who aren’t welcome home for holiday meals…but guys in their 50s and above were ostracized and exiled by their parents for not being straight.
2. Christmas Eve
3. New Year’s Eve (and the New Year’s Day’s Naked Party at the Lucky Horseshoe)
4. Mardi Gras
5. Chicago Takes Off
6. St. Patrick’s Day (but much less so than in straight circles)
7. Easter Brunch
8. IML (Memorial Day Weekend)
9. Pridefest Weekend (last weekend in June)
10. The Third of July
11. Market Days (first weekend in August)
12. Night Before Labor Day
13. Nights of 100 (Wednesday and Thursday of the week before Halloween)
14. Weekend Before Halloween and Halloween Night Itself
15. Wild Card: Your Patron Diva’s Birthday and/or Deathday (different for each gay guy, depending on who is his patron diva)