Pragues Gay Scene
April 18, 2010
The Europe Issue | Heads Up
New York Times
Prague’s Vital Gay Scene
By CHARLY WILDER
IT’S Friday night at Termix, a nightclub in Prague’s affluent Vinohrady district, and the dance floor is
clogged with unseasonably tanned Czech men in well-laundered shirts
(Trebizskeho 4a;420-222-710-462; club-termix.cz).
Mirror-plated wine bottles hang from the ceiling, and the front half of a cartoon-pink sedan juts out
over the bar, where three husky patrons shout over vintage Madonna.
Down the street are a number of other gay-friendly bars, cafes and clubs, including the multilevel disco
Valentino (Vinohradska 40; 420-222-513-491; club-valentino.cz). Two decades after the fall of
Communism, Prague’s gay community seems to be making up for lost time, turning Vinohrady into
the center of what is one of the most vital gay scenes in the former Eastern Bloc.
“Every gay friend I have lives here in Vinohrady,” said Grant Maxfield, a student from Connecticut
who moved to Prague two years ago and now helps run Come2prague.com, a gay-oriented tourist site.
Among this young community’s fixtures are places like Prague Saints (Polska 32; 420-222-250-326;
praguesaints.cz), which has become a hub for gay expatriates and tourists since opening five years ago.
“Ten years ago, there were gay bars here, but there weren’t many,” said Paul Coggles, a former
Londoner who owns Prague Saints. Now the maple-lined streets of Vinohrady, he added, are
peppered with gay-owned businesses.
Another hub is the Piano Bar (Milesovska 10; 420-222-727-496; pianobar.sweb.cz), which looks
like a traditional Czech pub but serves an older, mostly gay clientele.
One of the newest is FenoMan (Blanicka 28; 420-603-740-263; fenomanclub.cz), a small basement
club that opened last November and caters to a young, mostly Czech crowd. The music varies from
schmaltzy Czech pop to European techno, and the club hosts theme parties like Hollywood night and
so-called travesty shows, which are similar to drag shows but more rooted in European burlesque.
A couple of blocks away is Bumbum (Ondrickova 15; 420-724-585-676; club-bumbum.cz), a
gay club that opened last December and also caters to the young, but with a more licentious bent.
It has several backrooms where sexual activity takes place openly.
Some attribute the growing tolerance toward gay life in Prague to a kind of live-and-let-live
indifference. Indeed, gay soldiers can serve openly in the military, and the Czech Republic
legalized registered partnerships for same-sex couples in 2006.
“People don’t care what other people do in private,” said Petr Vostarek, a drag queen who
goes by the stage name Chi Chi Tornado. Mr. Vostarek performs several nights a week at
Tingl Tangl (Karoliny Svetle 12; 420-224-238-278; tingltangl.cz), a restaurant cabaret in
Prague’s Old Town. And while some social stigma remains, especially among the older
generation, that, too, seems to be fading.
“From the eastern part of Europe, Prague is the place where there is the most freedom for
gays,” said Mr. Vostarek, who bills himself as the first drag queen in the post-Communist
Czech Republic. While touring in Poland and the former Yugoslavia, Mr. Vostarek says,
he encountered considerable homophobia. But in Prague, he added, “I don’t have
problems when I go to expensive restaurants. With or without makeup, I do whatever I want.”