N.Y. Scene August 2010: Astoria, Queens and Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

Hi there, party people. Big news, y’all. I moved to Manhattan, the land of $8.00 sandwiches and munchkin-sized IKEA furniture. Also, the more conservative of my parental units was in town for two weeks, so, reminiscent of The Birdcage, I had to transform myself into the human equivalent of a slice of Wonder Bread – Lady Gaga’s Miracle Whip not included. Unfortunately, the move and unexpected visit caused this month’s nightlife reporting to be somewhat abbreviated, but I did make it out to both Brooklyn and Queens, where a couple of lady crews are building some dykealicious communities in the outer boroughs of New York City.

This month I present to you: the ladies of Astoria, Queens and Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

Say what? A dyke community in “do or die” Bed-Stuy? And Astori-what? Astori-where? No, I’m not pulling your wallet chains. Astoria is home to a large, untapped community of queer women, and the racially diverse queer scene in Bed-Stuy has been bubbling and thumping under the radar for years.

Kiki and Zuzies @ Mix Café and Lounge in Astoria

Astoria is located right across the East River from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and it is home to a mix of artists, writers, actors, young professionals, and immigrants from Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and Latin America, all coexisting in a relaxed and amicable environment.

And don’t forget the lesbians. Astoria hits all three lesbian requirements. First, it is affordable; apartment shares under $1000 a month are common. Second, it is practical; Astoria is just a ten-minute subway ride to Manhattan. Finally, it is just stylish enough for the public’s stamp of approval – but no more. A diverse neighborhood with some of the best restaurants in New York City, Astoria is hip but doesn’t suffer from the pretentious vibe that permeates neighborhoods that have fallen victim to their own trendiness. (Williamsburg, I’m lookin’ at you.) It’s almost a no-brainer that Astoria would be a lesbian Mecca, and while lesbians have, in fact, flocked to the neighborhood, it seems that hardly anyone got the memo – until now.

Astoria resident KC Finance was taken aback when she first heard the general impression that Astoria lacked queer women. “I was appalled when I heard that people actually thought that there were ‘no lesbians’ in Astoria,” she said recently. “You cannot walk down the streets of Astoria without seeing at least one lesbian couple shopping together, holding hands. If you’re missing them, well then you’re not looking closely enough.”

L to R: Susan Burdian and KC Finance

Recognizing the untapped potential, Finance approached the management at Mix Café and Lounge, a local venue catering mostly to gay men, and proposed a weekly women’s night. Over New York Pride in June, a Tuesday night women’s party, Kiki, was born. “I started Kiki with the intention of awakening the Queens community of lesbians. I knew they were here. I saw them in cafes, movie theaters, bars, and but never at Mix, which I found odd considering its affiliation.”

Currently, Kiki is separated into four events each month. The first Tuesday is karaoke night, the second Tuesday is lesbian oil wrestling, the third Tuesday is beer pong, and the fourth Tuesday is Kiki Queer Dance Party with DJ RiMix. Yes, you read the second leg of the list correctly – lesbian Turkish oil wrestling doesn’t just exist in Ilene Chaiken’s fictional version of Los Angeles. It exists in the real version of Queens, starring the real lesbians of New York and their slippery working hands.

I know. I know. “Pics or it didn’t happen.” So here ya go:

Finance said that she wanted to give the queer women of Queens their own space located conveniently down the street. Prior to the launch of Kiki, lesbian Astorians and other women-loving-women of Queens had no option but to take the long train ride to the southwestern quadrant of Manhattan or – God forbid – the queer-friendly but hopelessly inconvenient borough of Brooklyn.

“I’ve known the promoters/bar owners in the Manhattan scene for years, and I’ve seen the different parties they’ve produced,” she said. “It was clear to me that parties of that same magnitude could never – or almost never – be produced here in Astoria. But I was OK with that. I wanted something different. I wanted something for the women who schlepped constantly into the city for Eden, Anything Goes, Nation, Stiletto and other parties to have something ‘right down the block.'”

At the first Kiki in June, many familiar faces entered the room – women that I had seen around in Manhattan. Everyone had the following conversation at least three times:

“You live in Astoria too?”
“No way!”

High fives were exchanged. Everyone immediately bonded.

A couple approached me and told me that they had seen me in the neighborhood. “We saw you at Time Café. We thought you were IMing with your secret girlfriend,” they said. Many friendships were formed in the ensuing weeks, as Queens lesbians finally found a friendly place in their backyard to connect with each other, sort of like a lesbian Cheers – except the crowd is prettier, and no one roots for the Red Sox.

Finance hopes to expand Kiki in the upcoming months. “For now I want Kiki to continue to grow as the premiere ladies night for Queens lesbians,” she said. “I’d like to eventually incorporate a monthly weekend party so that those of us who live here and cannot afford to stay out late on a ‘school night’ will have a place to crawl home from at 4am. I’d like to host some special events in the future, such as an all-female comedy night/lesbian Latin dancing night/drag king night, to really pull people from every borough into the newly happenin’ neighborhood of Astoria.”