The Return of the Queen
Picture it. Rainbow flags hanging outside venue after venue. Gays parading and partying like high school seniors after graduation. Sequins, heels, makeup and hair with smoke and lights and bubbles and shots…. And all that was just coming from a Friday night at Thunders in Commack (RIP). During the 80’s and 90’s, the gay nightlife scene on Long Island was unstoppable, and the queer world on the island was, well, as gay as could be.
However, somewhere in the 2010’s the scene began to shift. Drag shows seemed to be dwindling in number every month. The crowds weren’t packing in the way that these legendary venues had become known for. Gay bars and queer spaces began to close one by one. Many in the community believe it was a ripple effect of the recently passed Marriage Equality bill that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the U.S., which is a good thing but may have tempered the demand for spots for gay singles to mingle, not to mention some subtle backlash from the Conservative Right that is still prevalent here on the island.
For years, the Long Island gay nightlife scene stood stagnant with very few options for places to go, much less for drag shows, parties and special events. One of the places that helped hold down the fort, so to speak, was NuBar. A fun, local spot in Farmingdale, NuBar survived numerous twists, turns and roller coaster hills, not to mention a full blown pandemic. It’s also one of the only queer spaces where you could still find regular shows despite the drag drought. There’s The Veranda (formerly the Long Island Eagle) in Bay Shore that has kept its queer clientele coming back with a welcoming atmosphere, stiff drinks and events like Latin Night to keep the queer yet cultural party spirit alive.
But the years rolled along and there continued to be no flamboyant gay presence on Long Island. Then something utterly fabulous happened.
With the rise of drag entering into the current pop culture zeitgeist, Long Island drag found a resurgence in venues outside of the overtly queer scene. Restaurants, waterside eateries and bars that usually cater to a heterosexual crowd have opened their doors, and minds, by welcoming drag into their establishments to do what they do best: give a great show. From drag bingo and bottomless brunch to cabaret shows and charity fundraisers, drag-heavy events are once again popping up all over Long Island. And in a moment where the straight crowds are eating up drag in a post-pandemic world that had them locked inside for almost two years, the timing couldn’t be better.
Among the most notable of these would be the ever-evolving themed Drag Bingo put on one Wednesday a month at Croxley’s Ale House in Farmingdale. Led by three crown jewels of the Long Island drag scene, Ivy Stalls, Bella Noche and Syn, each month features a different theme for the crowd to participate in, as well as to tone the drag show for the evening. In addition to game show-level prizes from Croxley’s for winning a round of bingo, the always sold-out night draws one of the biggest crowds for a drag show on the island. Don’t miss their next bingo, a Pajama Party-themed night on Wednesday, February 23rd at 7pm! Definitely make a reservation if you want a chance to get in.
The threesome will also be hosting the drag bingo fundraiser Trauma Queens, benefitting the Copiague Fire Department EMS Squad on Saturday, April 16th at the Copiague FD Headquarters. On top of bingo and shows, there will be a fabulous 50/50 raffle and the incomparable DJ Louie will be spinning his beats for dancing.
Ivy Stalls and Syn also have branched off into multiple venues throughout the island, all of which are not inherently queer spaced. From upcoming drag bingo shows at Laurel Tavern in East Northport all the way to the O.M.C. at the Freeport Yacht Club, these ladies are putting their heel-prints all across Long Island. Joining them is Syn’s partner, DJ Louie, who is becoming synonymous with dancey drag shows. Find them on Facebook and Instagram for all the details!
Bella Noche has been flipping her fins across the island for a few years now, and is bringing a brand new drag variety and trivia show to NuBar every last Saturday of the month, Pool Party, premiering on Saturday, February 26th. Doors open at 7pm, with the show launching its maiden voyage at 9pm. The mermaid of Long Island has also become the Resident Queen of the island’s newest queer space, BTW in Oceanside, and hosts a boozy drag bingo every month for the unique eatery’s diverse clientele. Craft cocktails, delectable bites and a “come as you are” aura, not to mention a regular reportiore of drag and karaoke nights, make this one of the best queer spaces on the island right now.
The showgirl of Long Island LaBelle is also twirling her way through venues that have welcomed the new wave of drag entertainment. Alongside Bella Noche, she has established the longest-running drag brunch on Long Island at The Warehouse in Amityville every month, and brought a brand new monthly bingo brunch that premiered at The Local Tavern in Levittown in February, an all-you-can-eat bingo blowout with sickening shows and fabulous prizes. Catch the next one on Sunday, March 6th at 11am! Reservations are definitely recommended.
Finally, if you’re looking to party President’s Day Weekend, pop over to Popsicle at Lizard Lounge and take full advantage of having that Monday off! Hosted by Joey Tempo with beats by Miami DJ AJ Reddy, pop-up performances by Bella Noche and the sexy go-go Adam Harris, you’ll be bumping and grinding your way into the night. Doors open at 9pm on Sunday, February 20th with only a $10 cover before 10:30 ($15 after). It’s a return to the true feel of nostalgic Long Island nightlife!
With all these events going on and so many more to come as the warmer weather slowly creeps up our way, make sure you stay updated and go out to support your local queer artists and spaces as the resurgence of LGBTQ+ nightlife on Long Island continues to build. It won’t fully come back without the support of the colorful and diverse community that already exists out here, so show up and show out!