We hooked up with Shannon's friend, John, to start our tour. John lives the gay life in Baltimore and knows all the gay bars. Hell of a nice guy and we all felt very comfortable with him within minutes of meeting. He wanted to start us off right and picked the Hippo as our first stop.
The Hippo looks small on the outside, but is huge on the inside. When you walk in, you enter a typical bar with pool tables and pinball machines. Off to the side are stairs leading down to the dance floor. It's like having two bars in one.
Upstairs are all the cheap, city-style rednecks, mostly middle-aged, who don't want to pay the cover charge to go downstairs. Downstairs is where all the young, hip people dance, party, and do whatever young people do now-a-days.
We started our night upstairs. We took a table and John went to the bar to get us a couple of pitchers of beer - Budweiser, not Coors Light. We poured our first beer hoping one of us would loosen up and get on with our unscientific poll. Walking around a bar showing pictures is one of the top ten things one should never do. Talking to a stranger and then saying, "Oh, by the way, what do you think of these pictures?" is one of the top eleven things one should never do.
Long story short, none of us...well almost none of us...hadn't finished our first beer when a guy came over to talk to us. He came over very friendly, but his sights were set on Brian, the waterman who had never driven over the Bay Bridge.
After a few minutes of chit chat, Brian picked up on the guy's intention. In his laid back way and Eastern Shore accent, he leaned back on his chair and said, "Tim, you're a nice guy, but..." he pointed to his wife, "...she won't let me do anything."
We all laughed, even Tim, and we proceeded to tell him the story of why we were at the bar.
He took a seat and said, "Let me see the pictures."
We showed him the two pictures we had. Unfortunately, we did not have a picture of Sarah so we'll never know her gay sex appeal. We did have a picture of JJ posing in his self-described portrait of Chewbacca. We also had a picture of Crank from his FaceBook page where he is growling with his tiny dog.
Tim's reaction to JJ was a simple, "Eh" and flipped to Crank's picture. His response to Crank's picture was a question. "Is this guy running for Mr. Leather?"
We explained that both guys were straight, and Crank was the married one. We just wanted to know what their appeal to a gay guy was since JJ had made the comment that Crank didn't look gay.
Tim laughed. "This guy," pointing to the picture of JJ, "would win the best costume on Halloween at the full moon party. The little guy with the dog, he could be runner up, if not win, the Mr. Leather contest."
We didn't understand all he was saying, but it would become clearer as the night progressed.
Tim was a great guy. He spread the word throughout the bar what we were doing and everyone dropped by our table to "rate" the pictures we had.
When we finished our pitchers of beer, we paid the cover charge and went downstairs. With a little more confidence of what happened upstairs, we had equal success downstairs. All the guys and women gladly gave their opinion of the pictures we showed them.
We left the Hippo and hit four more bars. Across town, we stopped at the Quest, a bar of mostly older men forty and above. Then we went back across town to Leon's followed by the Gallery, both bars of a mixed crowd of ages. The last bar we hit was the leather bar, The Eagle.
- JJ underwhelmed everyone.
In the under thirty crowd, responses ranged from "Hell no" to "What the Hell is that?"
In the thirty to fifty crowd, responses were an unequivocal "Eh...nah."
In the over fifty crowd, "Well, if there's no one else to go home with, maybe"
- Crank was more of an enigma. The response to him depended on the bar we were in. Patrons at The Eagle and Gallery were much more receptive towards Crank. Eliminating the responses from these two bars, here is how Crank ranked.
In the under thirty crowd, responses were generally "Ok, but not my type."
In the thirty to fifty crowd, responses ranged from "Yeah, he's kind of good looking" to "Oh, what I could do to that bald head."
In the over fifty crowd, responses were an unequivocal, "Hell yeah, I'd take that boy home."
The leather bar is predominately middle-aged men and older who wear leather. They are big, beefy men and usually hairy. Picture a bad-ass motorcycle gang member, and you got a picture of the typical leather bar patron. Complimenting the middle-aged men are the young "cubs", who also wear leather, but are less hairy, if any hair at all.
It was in these two bars Crank was a big hit. Almost everyone wanted to know if Crank were running for the Mr. Leather title. John, our tour guide, filled us in that in the leather community, they not only run a local Mr. Leather contest, but the winner goes on to compete in the Mr. International Leather competition. This is one beauty pageant none of us five knew about.
Almost everyone in these two bars thought we were showing Crank's picture to promote him in the upcoming Mr. Leather competition. And almost everyone wanted to meet him. That's meet, not meat.
JJ, as hairy as his Chewbacca picture was, garnered no comments. But we want to point out that The Eagle has had an ongoing celebration of the full moon for many years. They have a monthly celebration, called a Full Moon Party, where, if you strip down to your undies, you get drinks at half price all night.
We make mention of this because about a month ago, when Crank mentioned August had a blue moon, that being a second full moon in the same month, JJ had a great idea of local bars celebrating the full moon. He thought his idea was original, but, no, it turns out the gay guys have been celebrating it for many years.
So while JJ has no gay sex appeal, at least he thinks like a gay guy. And Crank, he's the darling of the gay community, and a big hit in a segment of it.