Chérie Bakewell – my drag queen alter ego – had to hang up her hat, well her feathers. She presented herself, hair all done up, armpits and legs waxed and impeccable make-up in a (undisclosed price) gown only to be publicly humiliated before being unceremoniously thrown out from all the drag clubs in Madrid. My fabulous self was left standing in the rain scratching her head. Little did I know that the drag queens I’d slagged off in the January issue read my column. The Bakewell era was not to be and my life as I knew it but a distant memory.
I had become a persona non grata and had nowhere left to go. I turned 30, 12 months ago and I knew then that it was only a question of time before I had to retire from the scene. What a fool I’d been! I should have kept a low profile and enjoy the last few months I had left before the gay police caught up with me and sent me where the gays go to die: La Latina.
Sunday nights, also known as the last chance to pull, used to be among my favourites back in London. Drugged up waiters dancing the night away shirtless, what more could one want? But there’s none of that on the corner of Calle de Calatrava and Calle de la Paloma.
F.H. reluctantly accepted to accompany me into Limbo. No one else would. My younger friends (only by a couple of years) feared that their looks would fade and that wrinkles would magically appear on entering the land of the damned. So there we were, arms in arms dreading the unknown. Our first attempt was a bust. Sixta was bursting at the seams and we ended up back on the street again. We finally found refuge in El Atril. Once in, we grabbed handfuls of pipas and binged down our Mahous. The place was not the dodgy and desperate circle of hell I previously feared. Actually, it was a pretty decent bar slash club where the boys were fine and the atmosphere relaxed and welcoming. The queue to the toilet (always a revealing sign to the true colours of a gay establishment) was friendly and jokey and I found myself laughing my head off with complete strangers while waiting to pee. There was no subtext, no wondering hands and no I’ll-give-you-one looks but just non-judgmental mates having a laugh on a Sunday night. Something struck me as odd: nobody was talking about Lady Gaga (Yay!). As much as I wanted to deny it I knew I was where I belonged.
It was time to make the most out of my exile. I only had 10 years left of gay life to live – granted I took good care of my skin and joined a gym – a brand new decade free of 23 year-old twittering knobs obsessed with their hair and ready for the taking.
In the words of our sorely missed Chérie: “Fuck ‘em! Fuck ‘em all!”