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Summer Fun:
Suddenly, This Summer

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Starting to feel that the closest you'll ever get to the sporting life is when Joe Torre orders you to buckle your seat belt? The Big Apple Softball League sponsors gay and lesbian teams throughout the metropolitan area (call 726-1518). The Metro Gay Wrestling Alliance offers classes for both novices and more seasoned mat warmers (563-7066). Or else dry out and dry off with Team New York Aquatics (691-3440), which sponsors swim meets for athletes of all abilities.

But those interested in water sports may well prefer Basil Twist's Symphonie Fantastique. The queer puppeteer's mind-boggling underwater show will be at HERE Arts Center (145 Sixth Avenue, at Dominick Street; 647-0202) until July 31. Sad about being single? Invest in a dog or take your mother to Hot Air (Samuel Beckett Theater, 410 West 42nd Street; 229-7500), four one-acts by Richard Willett about neurotic urban love that will make you swear off another relationship forever. On a slightly happier note, Chuppah(INTAR Theatre, 420 West 42nd Street; 229-8276) explores the mishegoss that unfolds when a nice Jewish boy wants to move back to the heartland with his gentile boyfriend., while Jayson (45th Street Theater, 354 West 45th Street; 279-4200) is a musical comedy that explores the mishegoss that unfolds when a nice gentile boy moves alone to the Big Apple. Going through changes? Menopausal Gentlemen (Ohio Theater, 66 Wooster Street; 966-4844), a lesbian Passages from the bluesy butch perspective of Peggy Shaw, runs through June 28. And Leprechauns, a heartfelt tale of three young Irish con artists who befriend a 51-year-old gay guy (Wings Theatre, 154 Christopher Street; 627-2961) is that rare phenomenon: an all-gay comedy where everyone keeps his clothes on.

Lounge chic still dominates gay nightlife this season, despite the fact that nobody really knows what "lounge chic" is (something to do with gulping down colored cocktails). During summer nights at Wonder Bar (505 East 6th Street; 777-9105), the amount of smoke in the air shrinks from the usual eight cartons to a refreshing three, making it easier to tune in to the stellar lineup of funk-spinning D.J.'s (and tune out the smitten Aramis "fragrance model" telling you how much he hates your shoes). Your next destination should be the vinyl couches and wood paneling that are g (223 West 19th Street; 929-1085), where Chelsea guppies flock for frozen Cosmos after a hard day's work. Merrill Lynch position in pocket? Sally forth to Splash (50 West 17th Street; 691-0073), the preferred destination for white-collar sorts, camera-toting tourists, and living, breathing Billy dolls. Barracuda (275 West 22nd Street; 645-8613) is a little slice of the East Village in Chelsea. The Works (428 Columbus Avenue, at 81st Street; 799-7365) -- one of the few gay options on the Upper West Side -- draws professional types, Columbia undergrads, and beautiful, slightly befuddled bartenders. On weekends, the diverse, high-spirited lesbians at Crazy Nanny's(21 Seventh Avenue South, at Leroy Street; 366-6312) give the boys at the Roxy a run for their money. Hell (59 Gansevoort Street; 727-1666) is a muscle-packed favorite for those who still prefer form over content.

Remember that bygone age when a night on the town meant sheathing yourself in a snarl of industrial tubing, throwing on a dash of Kabuki makeup, and tramping to a dank nightclub teeming with gender hackers, leashed androgynes, and Deborah Harry? Every night, the masses at Mother (432 West 14th Street; 366-5680) pay tribute to this landmark era. Whether you're off to the Tuesday-night theme-morphing mainstay Jackie 60, Friday night's Clit Club, or Saturday night's full-throttled cyberfetish freakout Click & Drag, it's in your best interest to call beforehand so as to keep on top of the strict dress code. Gatekeeper Kitty Boots doesn't take kindly to Abercrombie or Fitch. Mother impresarios Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell do a bang-up job keeping New York nightlife alive even though a large percentage of their patrons seem to believe themselves dead.

Cats Bar (232 West 48th Street; 245-5245) has known for years what so many of us are just figuring out: Sleaze peppered with irony isn't sleaze at all. This notorious midtown bar, the last standing vestige of pre-Lion King Times square, is decidedly post-ironic in its approach: A jiggling gigolo in a 100 percent-polyester tiger-striped bikini is a jiggling gigolo in a 100 percent-polyester tiger-striped bikini. Furthermore, there's absolutely nothing subversive about that transvestite's snapped heel, nor anything satiric about the corpulent business exec who has sidled up to you to explain exactly why they call him Anaconda. So why are you there? Because inch for inch, Cats Bar has way more going for it than Katz's deli, and it's one of the few New York watering holes in which the grit isn't winking at you. Just don't be chicken.

Rudy may have taken a bite out of Manhattan's gay nightlife, but it's still possible to hit at least seven events any night of the week (especially if you're someone who takes moderation in moderation). Monday night, head over to Milk (Axis, 17 West 19th Street; 675-5556) to dance to old-school house tracks with a mostly black and Latino crowd (while Chelsea boys prowl the sidelines). Stylists, fashion victims, industry bigwigs, and Michael Musto collide at the Tuesday- night party Beige (B Bar, 40 East 4th Street; 475-2220), the type of environment where you can arrive a salon receptionist and leave with an editorial position at W. For a lower-maintenance Tuesday night, curl up with the girls at Meow Mix (269 East Houston Street; 254-0688) for its popular "Xena Night," which joins back-to-back episodes of Xena: The Warrior Princess with a medley of cheering lesbians.

Every Wednesday, neophyte deviants and veteran leather men come together at Pork (The Lure, 409 West 13th Street; 741-3919), long a favorite of the open-minded and the people who whip them. Meanwhile, hip-hopping homeboys and Chelsea men who can't pronounce banjee bounce to R&B mixes at Rob Fernandez's Phab (Rebar, 127 Eighth Avenue, at 16th Street; 627-1680), Manhattan's premier gay hip-hop party. On Thursday evenings, Life's a Bitch (Life, 158 Bleecker Street; 420-1999) is the place where flash girls smear the Rich and Rosie Estée Lauder off lipstick lesbians. Party like 1999 isn't seven months away at Chip Duckett's still-fabulous Friday retrofest 1984 (Pyramid Club, 101 Avenue A; 462-9077), then check out The New Escuelita (301 West 39th Street; 631-0588) for merengue in wigs. For Saturday-night clubbing, stop by Roxy (515 West 18th Street; 645-5156), still one of the happeningest gigs in town, or Crash (34-48 Steinway Street, Queens; 718-937-2400), the trendy club where Latin boys and girls show slumming Manhattanites how to really party. Still alive? Stagger into Juniorverse (Twilo, 530 West 27th Street; 268-1600), where Junior Vasquez spins starting at 11 p.m. and cloudy clubsters stumble around till 4 p.m.

Music journalists scribble into Mead pads while club aficionados tell them how to spell papi at the Sunday tea at Body & Soul (Vinyl, 6 Hubert Street; 330-9169), one of the few house parties where patrons are more interested in showing off their dance steps than their labels. Perfect for those who have jobs, "Body & Soul" starts at 3 p.m. and wraps up around ten. A week in parties . . . but how do you know you've gone too far? When you develop a strange strain of Tourette's Syndrome that forces you to end each sentence with the word honey.


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