If you can’t bear ’em, join ’em

Caleb Everett
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Most of us know the familiar sight of the Monday after the Pride weekend. Canal Street is a wasteland of ketamine skeletons in a fight for the last bottle of water, the disco-damaged are chucking Christmas-cracker-jokes around and the hardened drinkers of the world are searching for a venue where suicidal bar-staff haven’t erected a gay-proof safe room.

My life being the financial seance it is, I rarely crayon social outings onto my Pin-Ups of the 1800s calendar. However, this Pride – come rain or monsoon – I’ll be falling onto the map.

On Monday (25 August 2014) a few red wine co-conspirators and I will be moseying, strutting and power-mincing down to Alter Ego for the club night PAWS. It’s a unique edition of the club night – usually held at The Bunker, under Napoleons – because Rockies is being partially resurrected.

Rockies was relocated from the Twilight Zone to Manchester in the 1980s. Loitering on Whitworth Street it was a clammy, humid hi-NRG Mecca. A true moment of queer counter-culture that lives on through half-remembered stories and never forgotten queens. Three-floors of hedonism, camaraderie and a smoke machine that contained industrial strength poppers.

The decadence would snare Sylvester, Eartha Kitt, Sharon Redd and Divine for guest PAs, and Rockies even ended up with a record label, releasing the beautiful single ‘You Drive Me Crazy’ by Reflectors (which is available on YouTube). Growing tired of good, healthy sleaze – happening underground and out-of-sight – Chief Homophobe ‘Knacker of the Yard’ James Anderton ordered a raid on Rockies in 1984. Allegedly as someone was being fisted in the downstairs area of the club, the Mineshaft.

After the raid, Anderton famously said gay men in Manchester were ‘swirling in a cess pit of their own making’. A promotional line that could sell-out any club night.

Now… I never went to Rockies. It was before my time. I share this grotesque detail of life with Paul Wheatley – the organiser and DJ for PAWS. He and I met at the slightly more sedate, remodelled and renamed Rockies in 2010 – Legends. Paul was a lounge lizard specialising in old-school-camp with cultural references that pre-dated his first pube. We got on instantly. So, it didn’t surprise one iota of my being when I learnt Paul was incorporating Rockies into PAWS for a one-off, though he’s adamant this is not a full-blown reunion.

‘There’s no suitable venue and I’m not the right person to do it. But it’s within my gift to revive the music for a night; the one piece of the puzzle that’s well documented and that I do understand well enough to deliver respectably.’

Room 1 of Alter Ego will be a T.A.R.D.I.S. trip to the late 1980s. DJ Paul Wheatley will be lashing us with the more commercial 80s gay club tunes, handing the hi-NRG reins over to Mark Jones, still standing from his DJing days at Rockies.

In Room 2 DJ DanLisa will counterbalance with pop and dance music. There’s still one issue Paul must tackle; ‘I must decide whether to make it a truly authentic Rockies dance floor and put poppers in the smoke machine.’

PAWS - Pic 1

Tickets are available from their website.

About Caleb Everett

Manchester-based writer / singer / performer. I welcome all comments and correspondence - even if it's just a death threat.