Nightlife experts debate the best gay nightclub in the world

New York-based and nightclub notable  DJ Joey with the Mustache
New York-based DJ Joey with the Mustache

What’s the best nightclub in the world? Many attribute the moniker to Berghain, Berlin‘s uber-exclusive techno institution notorious for its draconian door policy. Yet, while writing a recent article exploring effective strategies to gain entrance past the club’s iron-clad velvet rope, every interviewee acknowledged the stature of Berghain but disputed the claim that it was the best club in the world. So which nightclub, if any, holds this distinction?

Obviously, the metric for “best” is highly subjective, factoring in variables such as aesthetics, ambiance, music, sexuality, and even cultural relevance. In order to explore these nuances, we’ve kiki-ed with a diverse cross-section of nightlife professionals to discuss their favorite clubs, and what elements contribute to their opinions.

Basement, Brooklyn

Matt Denton’s music career has taken him to turn tables across the globe, from Dreamland in Miami and Utopia in Mexico to the recent Spring Fever party at House of Yes in Brooklyn. But the New York-based DJ’s favorite nightclub is a different Brooklyn destination, Basement. This stark warehouse space harkens back to the gritty, industrial aesthetic pioneered during the advent of Berlin’s techno scene. Its spartan interior stands in contrast to Manhattan’s many pretentious queer clubs.

“One of the things I really like about Basement is that it’s just really about the sounds and the vibe,” said Denton. “There are no decorations, there’s no VIP, there are no tables and booths. It’s just a warehouse, and some good music, and some good people fun people.”

That being said, this club reflects an air of exclusivity inherent in gay Gotham’s status-conscious identity. Like Berghain, Basement enforces a strict door policy.

“Even though Basement does draw a very diverse crowd, they still have a pretty tight door,” cautioned Denton. ” I’ve actually heard of people being turned away for wearing too colorful of clothes.”

So, if you are looking to descend on Basement, be sure to keep it New York chic with a monochromatic ensemble. 

The Cock, New York

This East Village institution sprung from the mind of Mario Diaz like a modern-day Zaddy Zeus birthing Athena from his kinky cranium. Originating in the late 90’s at the corner of 12th Street and Avenue A, this fetish-fueled dive bar has traversed a number of locations. (Most notably The Cock filled the space that was The Hole, like something from a homoerotic anatomy lesson.) Dirty Daddy Diaz founded this kink club as a response to the AIDS-phobia that plagued Guilliani-era New York.

“When I created The Cock, it just really struck something that was very necessary,” Diaz explained, “a sex positivity that we really needed, particularly in the East Village at that time. People responded kindly to what I was creating, which was an extremely sex-positive, tongue-in-cheek, dive bar where we were taking on the city and Giuliani and the quality of life campaign and the cabaret laws, and just saying fuck you to all of it. We’re gonna express our sexuality freely and openly. It was really punk rock and celebratory. It was also pre-cell phones, so people weren’t concerned about having their photo taken or anything being posted online.” 

This anonymity continues to this day in The Cock’s dimly lit basement space, where jockstrap-clad men melt into the shadows to satisfy their oral fixations, participate in mutual manual pleasure, and in the recent case of a particularly kinky daddy-dom, diaper a twink on a platform.

And, although Diaz sold his share of The Cock when he relocated to Los Angeles in the early 2000s, its debaucherous legacy lives on in his scandalous west coast parties, such as the late, great Big Fat Dick in West Hollywood and his newest event HotDog in the eastside gayborhood of Silver Lake.

“I serve sex on a platter with a sense of humor and a wink.”

The Eagle, Fort Lauderdale

For New York-based DJ ‘Joey with the Mustache’, creating unique experiences is crucial for a gay club. That’s why of the myriad Eagle leather bars that inhabit nearly every major city across the US, Joey prefers the one located in Fort Lauderdale. This iteration of the Eagle features a leather shop, dance floors, a winding bar, a 50’s style diner chill-out space, and a locker room play space. The diversity of its interior aids patrons in choosing their own ideal party experience.

“There’s a really happy vibe every time I go,” said Joey, “and you can select what kind of experience you want extremely easily. If you want a play space you can go have that, you can have a dance floor, you can have a chill time, you can go outside on the patio and have a kiki. It’s just so seamless to go between those experiences. I think it’s really magical how it weaves this nice nightclub feel, as well as giving the vibe of a neighborhood bar.”

G-A-Y, London

“Drag’s Baddest Bitch” Rhea Litre often cites a quote from her longtime collaborator Willam, “If you got the money, I got the talent.” Rhea’s talent has taken her to venues around the globe, from Rocco’s in her hometown of West Hollywood to the covert queer clubs of Dubai, and everything in between. But the drag diva’s favorite destination is nestled in the heart of London’s gayborhood of SoHo. The aptly named G-A-Y is infamous for its outre stage performances.

“G-A-Y is anything goes. It is just a fun, balls-out experience,” Rhea gushed. “They hired the fiercest entertainment, everyone from Little Mix to Willam and Alaska. All of your top drag queens and all of your favorite pop stars perform there.”

For those looking for cheeky fun, Rhea highly suggests G-A-Y’s Thursday party ‘Porn Idol.’

“They have contestants come up and strip naked and perform on stage un-erect. It is so amazing to see this sexual energy turned into fun. It’s a different energy. It’s naked but it’s not sexual in the way The Cock is sexual. It’s sexual in the way that you can see a penis but it’s more PG, more playful.”

KitKatClub, Berlin

While G-A-Y may present PG sexuality, KitKatClub in Berlin is decidedly more, to extend the metaphor, NC-17. It’s this raw, unabashed kinkiness that intrigued iconic party promoter Daniel Nardicio.

“I’m not a fetish person, so I went in like jeans and a t-shirt,” said Nardicio reflecting on his first KitKatClub visit. “A woman answered the door and she told me the only way I could get it is if I were completely naked. I got completely naked and went in. I was so fascinated by it. It was just like, sex everywhere.

Nardicio’s fascination with KitKatClub’s embrace of radical sexuality was again stimulated during his most recent visit, during an event called the “Horse Market.” Participants are designated as either tops or bottoms before entering, resulting in diametrically different experiences.

The bottoms are brought in, an hour and a half before,” Nardcio explained. “A bag is put over their head and they’re branded with this stamp on their ass. And they’re led into the room with a bag over their head so they can’t see. They’re put in different positions, like in a sling, on all fours, or just on display. Then at seven o’clock, the tops will come in. So the bottom never sees the top. And then the tops get naked and they just randomly go and fuck everyone. Some of the most beautiful asses I’ve ever seen, beautiful guys from around the world, get plowed by people that they were never going to see. That all happens in the KitKatClub.”

LIV, Miami

It’s not too surprising that a professional model like Arisce Wanzer is attracted to the opulence on display at LIV. Located in Miami Beach, this nightlife hotspot shamelessly flaunts extravagance.

“It had to be 2009 because I have a bunch of pictures and my boobs are brand new. Those things were sitting up high,” the trans comedienne joked about her first visit to the club. “I remember walking in and it’s this well-lit staircase on both sides. It just looked like you’re walking into the Lady Marmalade video but not so much gold. It was just black and white and blue and purple lights everywhere. And it was absolutely beautiful. And you just look down and see dancing people and there was a disco ball. A DJ is back in the center, and the VIPs were in these corridors to the side of the dance floor.”

“But the grand staircase was just so opulent,” Arisce continued, “and so beautiful, and so fun, and you had to see people come and go that way. See if your friends were leaving, or if that guy you were into was leaving. It’s like, oh, someone’s leaving with so and so. It was kind of a source of gossip, like the stairs were being watched at all times.”

And if there is one thing Arisce Wanzer knows, it’s the thrill of having all eyes on you.

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