Leonard and I spent most of 2005 propping up the bar at Frenchie’s. It’s Edinburgh’s oldest gay bar. I reviewed it under a pseudonym in the first issue of The Skinny, but since said review fell off the Internet at some point, here’s the original:
The first time I went to Frenchie’s there was a fight. The bartender switched off the music and we were all locked in to await the police. My companion twitched nervously. I drank my pint. Two people started slow-dancing and the whole bar sang Dream A Little Dream for them.
Tell a scene queen that you’re off to Frenchie’s and you will either get a blank look or an expression of horror. That’s okay, because where you’re going you don’t need scene queens. Instead, you will spend your evening in a dingy bar just off Rose Street, surrounded by any number of the following elements: sticky carpet, drag queens, an array of hats, a nice game of bingo, witty one-liners, and an undercurrent of scandal. There is a sense of decorum about things: the regulars collect empty glasses and ashtrays, and if you’re new in town or show up by yourself, you’ll most likely be called on to introduce yourself and join someone’s table, if not get up on the stage and do the Time Warp.
There’s no room for onlookers – visit Frenchie’s if you’re ready to be a participant.
Obviously, it was the ideal venue for Leonard’s 21st birthday celebrations.
Although some of the regulars were very friendly, I think it’s safe to say that certain others regarded us with a degree of suspicion, and on the flipside, most of our friends were mortified that we would even consider going to such a place. (Since Leonard’s return to the States, fewer and fewer people have been willing to go there with me. I made a return visit just last week, actually, after an extended absence, but basically my Frenchie’s days are over.)
I’d spent a pleasant afternoon making out with #116, but it took considerable persuasion to get her to come to Frenchie’s, and then she disappeared as soon as #160 demanded that she do the Time Warp. I subsequently got chatted up by a very persistent straight boy, who clearly needed to rethink his choice of venue. “#160’s jealous because he fancies me,” the straight boy claimed. “I don’t fancy you dear, I’d rather have crabs,” #160 returned.
Leonard set himself a challenge of kissing 21 people, which wasn’t a bad way to ingratiate ourselves with the regular clientele. I got to make out with his Canadian friend, a gay boy who looked at first glance like a disco bunny but turned out to be doing a PhD in queer theory. I was the first girl he’d ever kissed.
Leonard shared his birthday with #28, although #28 was six years older. But Leonard, like every other boy in town, had a huge crush on him, and when it transpired that they’d both been given double-ended dildos for their birthday – well, it was like, oh my god, a sign, you know? Except nothing ever happened between them and when we all met up Leonard would send me surreptitious, forlorn texts to tell me “I love him so much it hurts.”