I Kissed a Boy (and I Liked It)!

The "Angel" on La Reforma, close to the Zona Rosa

The "Angel" on La Reforma, close to the Zona Rosa

I saw this video tonight on youtube by a Danish group (all those Scandanavian groups make me think of Abba) called Alphabeat. I have to admit I rarely buy anything new these days, and still listen mostly to a lot of the old stuff, mostly Euro-type dance music, add to it, a little of the new reggaton on the car radio. So anyway, this video was a totally 80s pop, remix version of their song “Boyfriend”, which I hadn’t heard before. (You can check it out on my Vid Box on the right. Also check out a couple of different mixes of Chris Salvatore’s “I Kissed a Boy” there too.)

So then I started thinking about my 80s (here comes “memory lane”), going out to the clubs and dancing to a lot of similar type remixes of all the pop (and still disco, especially eurodisco) hits of the 80s. But also in the 1980s was when I started listening to a lot of music–pop music, that is–in Spanish. I was really into my Spanish during that time, taking classes and practicing. I learned a lot from the music I listened to. It was really difficult to find pop music in Spanish here in Houston at that time, despite the city having some music shops in Hispanic neighborhoods. They carried some of that music, but mostly what they had was more traditional, like ranchera and cumbia stuff, and of course, mariachi. But I’d go looking. I did find some, like Mecano from Spain, Flans from Mexico, and Karina from Venezuela, and I’d play those cassettes over and over. (I found them on youtube too and what a rush of memories they bring back. Check them out on the Vid Box.)

At the same time was when the first TV channels in Spanish started appearing here in Houston. Mostly it was the Mexican telenovelas that they showed, but in about 1986 or 87, they started showing a half-hour video program originating from Mexico City, and I always tried to catch it. From that show, I found out what the current Spanish hits were, so I’d go trying to find them. In those days, of course, it was all cassettes, and everything pop in Spanish that I could lay my hands on, I’d buy. But like I said, it was really difficult to find much of it here.

At that time, my best friend was Arthur, one-half of a gay couple, who did quite a bit of traveling, both together and separately. They were my neighbors in the little apartment complex where I lived. I didn’t have much spare money in those days, but Arthur kept telling me that I had to go to Mexico City, and kept talking about it, so I scraped some money together and over Labor Day weekend in 1987, I flew to Mexico City, where I met Oscar, who had gone a couple days earlier, because his time schedule was more flexible than mine.

I got there in the late afternoon, fought my way through all the mass of people at the airport, and found a taxi, which took me to the hotel where we were staying, a few blocks away from the Zona Rosa. We ate and got some rest, and finally headed out to the clubs. Even in those days, Mexico City had quite a few gay clubs, and there were several in the Zona Rosa. Everybody always thought that because Zona Rosa means “Pink Zone”, it was the gay zone. But the Zona Rosa wasn’t just gay, there were all kinds of clubs and restaurants there, plus shops attracting both tourists and locals alike. There was also one of the busiest Metro stops very close by, so the mainly pedestrian-only streets were usually filled with all kinds of people, but, in particular, young people.

The most popular gay club in the Zona Rosa at that time (and I think maybe it’s still there) was called El Taller (which means the “shop”, like “workshop” or “mechanic’s shop”. Like most of the gay clubs and some of the straight clubs, there wasn’t a lot of identification for the place on the outside. You just had to know where it was. Of course, the location was in any international gay guide of the time, and the locals knew it, so you could definitely find it. Sometimes, there’d be a line waiting to get in, but when you got just inside, they would always frisk you, checking for weapons. Then, you’d pay, different prices for different nights, and almost always the entrance included a couple of tickets for drinks.

That night we finally went maybe around 10:30. American tourists always go too early to clubs in most foreign countries, because most places don’t get busy until 1 AM or later and some clubs don’t even open until like 4 AM to catch the “after” crowd. After paying, we headed down the stairs, because the main club part of El Taller was actually in the basement of the building. The club was composed of several areas and a couple of bars, which allowed people to move around from place to place, but when it got packed, sometimes the moving got difficult (but I wouldn’t know much about that until I had been there a few more times). That night Oscar and I hadn’t been in El Taller very long, probably just long enough to cash in one of the drink tickets, and I was still trying to get my bearings. I started looking around the room, and not too long after that, I realized someone was looking at me. And that looking back and forth became one of those moments, those moments which are really hard to describe, but one which has stayed in a little memory pocket somewhere in my brain for all these years.

Of course, we finally spoke, and he was Damian. He became my long-distance boyfriend for two years. Along the way, my Spanish got a lot better (because he didn’t speak English). I got to know some parts of Mexico City pretty well (certainly there’s a lot I never saw–it’s such a big city), and as well, I found a lot of music shops that sold the kind of music I liked. (I know you want to know more about Damian, but this is mostly about music, so I’ll keep the rest for another time.)

(And yeah, check out the video.)

(Another version here.: