On a recent Saturday evening, Roger, a 30-year-old fashion executive, was sitting in the Urge Lounge, a gay bar in the East Village, when his gin-and-tonic suddenly tipped over. "I looked at my friend and I was like, 'You spilled my drink!' " says Roger. "But then the bartender said, 'Nope, it was probably the ghost,' " and poured him another. A few minutes later, that glass tipped over, too.
Welcome to the Gay Twilight Zone. Urge owners Dennis Glenn and Rudy Guida think their bar, at 33 Second Avenue, is haunted. Not only was the building home to the Buen Pastor funeral parlor for 40 years, but during renovations last summer, things became positively spooky. Toilets would suddenly flush, doorbells rang on their own, and lights that were turned off at night were mysteriously on again come morning. Then one day a piece of plaster came flying up from the basement and cut Guida's arm. "It smacked Rudy, and he started screaming that I was throwing things at him," Glenn recalls.
So, who were they gonna call? A ghostbuster. Shortly before opening day, they flew a Cuban spiritualist up from Florida to investigate. After burning some incense and scattering a few shells on the ground, he proclaimed the place inhabited by three spirits: two bad, one good. To get rid of the bad ones, he recommended installing two palm trees by the door and releasing two white doves, which were supposed to take the poltergeists with them.
Alas, things did not go quite according to plan (at least as far as their neighbors were concerned). The first dove squatted on the roof of a restaurant on the block, and after the owner tried to return the bird to Glenn and Guida, a Times critic promptly panned his place.
"The Cuban guy told us that you should never touch the doves because they were full of evil," says Glenn. The remaining bird perched on the awning of the Hole, a nearby gay bar, until one night, during a thunderstorm, the awning collapsed onto a passerby (who was not hurt). Neither bird has been seen since.
As for the good ghost, he's still there. The spiritualist even identified him as one Mark Galliano, a fiftysomething man with white hair and flip-flops. This wasn't the first time the bar owners had heard about him. A staffer from the funeral home told them she'd get calls in the middle of the night from people saying a man with white hair was sitting in the window.
Maybe Galliano's just a mischievous queer spirit looking for a good time. "When we're busy, I'm sure he's around," Guida says. "He's just one of the guys." In other words: He's here. He's a ghost. Get used to it.