Buddies Pub’s carved-wood pineapple sign dangles hospitably over a rather seedy stretch of South Broad Street. It’s the only gay bar in New Jersey’s capital. “The only one in the whole county,” corrects Tim, a reedy regular sitting at his usual corner stool, drawing on a Newport. On the Thursday after their governor came out of the closet, it wasn’t terribly crowded, either—never more than six or seven men and women chatting quietly with each other, feeding dollars into the Maxx touch-screen game, or fending off a determinedly affable, Bud-drinking New York Post reporter named Doug Montero, who was following up a lead he’d read in a supermarket tabloid that Jim McGreevey would frequent the place in dark glasses, his baseball cap pulled low.
The Globe’s scoop was credited to “a worker at Buddies.” Joe the bartender, who looks like a drill sergeant, scoffs at this: “No, he’s never been in here. And he’s not hiding out in the back.”
Not that the governor’s coming-out was exactly a surprise. “Trenton is a very small town,” Tim says between sips of his rum and Coke (cut with 7-Up; he can’t take all that caffeine). “If you were in the life, it wasn’t, like, common knowledge, but it was rumored.” And now their cozy little pub, with its glowing tin ceiling, has become dirt-digging central for reporters. Just that afternoon, a photographer from the New York Times had been “stalking the parking lot,” says Tim. “Everybody wants a piece of McGreevey.”
Montero talks about his trip up to visit the doctor who claimed to have also dated Golan Cipel. He clearly doesn’t believe these guys don’t know more. He tries to loosen up a sturdy but visibly nervous Mike, who’s in the Army, but doesn’t get very far. Mike denies that he’s even in a gay bar.
“There’s a rainbow flag when you walk in,” notes Tim.
“But that’s inside. Outside, you could just think, This is a happenin’ place,” Mike says. Tim takes this in and says, “That’s right, McGreevey’s just a DL [down-low] white brother.”
As Philadelphia’s Eyewitness News comes on, unspooling the latest in the scandal, Talia, a 23-year-old in a tight pink shirt who also works at the bar, looks up at the screen. “When he came out, people were joking about it,” she says. “We were saying he’s going to come in here now.”
“When was that?” asks Montero.
“When it was on TV.”
“So he never comes in here?”
“Nope. Never seen him before. Except on TV.”