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20 Years of Club Marcella
by Anthony Chase
20 Years of Club Marcella
It’s been 20 years since Club Marcella first opened its doors at Theater Place in Buffalo with a gala weekend of festivities and celebrations—and a comically ineffectual prayer vigil held in protest, which the amazing Marcella attended with a go-go boy on each arm.
That was long before arrival of Marriage Equality and the Caitlin Jenner interview. Since that time, acceptance of LGBT people has grown substantially, including acceptance of the right of LGBT Americans to serve in the military. Gay-Straight Alliances have proliferated in high schools. More and more employers have taken steps to ensure fair treatment of their LGBT employees.
And throughout it all, Club Marcella has been rocking the house to an unrelenting dance beat. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the now venerable club will celebrate with a weekend of activities.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13
“It’s time to turn the lights off, crack the glow sticks and celebrate our 20th anniversary! DJ Charles Masters will spin the hottest dance music in Buffalo. The Life’s A Drag Glow Light Party hosted by Jayme Coxx will perform at 12:30am. Everyone who enters will get a glow stick. And drink specials will be offered all night long.”
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14
20th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION SALVATION SATURDAY
“DJ Deb and DJ Lil Joe return to spin the greatest dance music in Buffalo from the 1990s to today. Keke Valasquez-Lord and a special guest will perform at a midnight drag show, immediately followed by the Sexy Underwear Contest. Spot light drag show at 2am. Drink specials all night long.
Cover: VIP’s are free all night long!
Before 1am—$4 (21 and over), $7 (18, 19 & 20 year olds).
After 1am—$5 (21 and over), $10 (18, 19 & 20 year olds).
Then on Sunday, the celebration migrates to Rochester.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15
2016 MISS ROCHESTER PAGEANT-HARRO EAST BALLROOM (Rochester, NY)
Marcella himself (a.k.a. Joe Guadliardo) invites his fans and well-wishers to join the Club Marcella staff as they travel up the Thruway where he will don drag for the first time in years to become the Divine “Marcella” one more time, in celebration of his/her 30th anniversary as Miss Rochester.
Joe is in the mood for a celebration. He arrived back in town from Florida on Monday—he’s run clubs down there for years.
“We just want to celebrate,” he says. “It’s a party. The 13th is my husband Mike’s birthday, and Saturday is our 18th wedding anniversary.”
We’re having the special shows, and there will be surprises. Then, on the 15th I’m performing for Miss Rochester—who knows, may do a [drag] appearance in Buffalo.
Joe was the first bar owner in Buffalo to insist that a gay bar should not just be for gay people.
“From the beginning,” he recalls, “I could see that times were changing and young gay people wanted to go out with all of their friends. It’s not like it used to be. We used to be afraid to walk into a gay bar for the first time. We used to be afraid we would get bashed. Two guys having dinner alone together in a restaurant was taboo. There used to be gay hotels where two guys could check in together without raising eyebrows. That’s gone! When we were young, everybody who came out thought they were the only gay person in the world. Now everybody knows gay couples!
“I expect, someday, that the gay bar scene, as we know it, will disappear. I went down onto Chippewa Street the other night, and I swear, I saw more gay people than straight people!
“We’ve gained a lot, but we lost a lot too,” he opines. “Kids today really don’t know what we had to fight. They don’t know what it was like to bury so many good friends to AIDS. But they are still the same in that they want to be accepted for themselves and to fit in.
“Gay people used to pack the bars so they could hook up,” continues Marcella, “but now with Grinder and social networking, you don’t need to go out at all to meet someone. All the kids are hooking up online. Even in the clubs you can see people walking around with their cell phones, trying to see who is in that club!
“We used to go out to dance and have a good time, socialize with friends,” he says. “That is still available, but now a club has to work harder to offer something that people can’t get online.
“So,” he says, “we have to change constantly. We are always changing the music; changing the DJs; changing up the drag shows. We do the underwear party, because nobody else has that. Gogo boys. Beautiful bartenders. Attentive staff—including security staff. We used to be open five days a week, but now it is Friday and Saturday—because we are full on Fridays and Saturdays—and special events. The day before Thanksgiving is huge!”
Joe bristles at the suggestion that Club Marcella is only for the very young.
“You see everybody here,” he says. “Gay, straight, trans, young and more mature. We get the reputation as a young bar because if your boyfriend isn’t 21, the only place you can go is Club Marcella. So we do feel a responsibility to those people among our clientele who are young. We train our staff to guide them and to teach them to have a good time responsibly. We are asked so many questions. Of course, everybody fucks up once in a while, and we all remember being at that experimental stage of our lives when all we wanted was men! At Club Marcella, we are very strict at enforcing our policies. If you are under 21, you will not be served alcohol. We don’t want our younger clients to lose themselves into the scene. Self respect is everything! You have to be a responsible bar owner—I can’t tell you what I’ve spent on cabs.”
“I tell these young guys,” says Joe reflectively, “we can never rush what must come to us naturally. Don’t rush things. Your turn will come. You can have whatever you want in this life—a husband or wife, children, a house, a dog, your dream job, whatever. You don’t have to have it all tonight!
“And for our clients at the other end, people over 40,” he observes, “we are a fountain of youth! Don’t give up. What you used to do, you can still enjoy. You won’t get any younger parked down on a bar stool. Get up and dance! When you are comfortable with yourself, nothing can touch you.”
After 20 years and with a brand new club in Florida, what is the next chapter for Joe?
“Eventually, I am planning to move back to Buffalo for good,” he insists. “I promised my husband that we would move back. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve the community—gay and straight—for 20 years. I want to thank everybody who helped—the staff, the queens, the managers, the security. We are a family at Club Marcella. Many have tried to copy us, but you can’t duplicate a family.”
At his point, Joe’s husband, Mike interjects: “That’s the God’s honest truth. The wonderful thing about Buffalo is the realness of the people. In Buffalo, Joe has been running more than a business. He has been part of an important social exchange, and something of value to the community.”
With this, Joe gets reflective.
“I guess when all is said and done,” he says, “I just want to leave this world better than I found it!”
Club Marcella is located at 622 Main Street in the heart of the Theatre District.blog comments powered by Disqus
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