With a reputation as the “Marvelous City,” one would expect Rio to have more of a gay scene. While the vibe is gay friendly, there is not really a gay area to speak of, and fewer specifically gay and lesbian venues than there are in São Paulo. Actually, lesbian venues are pretty nonexistent. As in many other cities in Brazil, instead of a gay neighborhood, GLS (a Brazilian slang term for gay, lesbica, e simpatisante; i.e., gay friendly) spaces rule, with gays, lesbians, and heteros mixing socially.
The closest thing Rio has to a gay hood is a high-profile strip of Ipanema beach stretching from Posto 8 to Posto 9. If you’re walking along Avenida Vieira Souto, you’ll see beach barracas flying rainbow flags and the toned outlines of well-oiled muscles. The street perpendicular to the beach, Rua Farme de Amoedo, also attracts a gay crowd. A Bofetada (Rua Farme de Amoedo 87-A, Ipanema, tel. 21/2227-1675, 8 a.m.–close daily, no cover) is a laid-back and friendly bar that draws a mixed GLS crowd and offers great views of the action.
Nearby, the Dama de Ferro (Rua de Vinícius de Morais 288, Ipanema, tel. 21/2247-2330, www.damadeferro.com.br, 11 p.m.–close Wed.–Sat., R$15 cover) is a funky lounge/disco/art gallery operated by artist Adriana Lima. The inspired furnishings in the industrial chic lounge are by Lima and are for sale. Upstairs, local and international DJs make sure that everyone’s taken care of on the musical front. The bathrooms, which open right onto the dance floor, are tiny galleries unto themselves. To say the menu is unusual is an understatement when faced with the likes of chicken sorbet with warm tomato topping.
On the street parallel to Rua Farme de Amoedo, Rua Teixeira de Melo, there are a few other gay spots, including the intimate Galeria Café (Rua Teixeira de Melo 31, Ipanema, tel. 21/2523-8350, www.galeriacafe.com.br, 10:30 p.m.–close Wed.–Sat., noon–8 p.m. Sun., R$15 cover), another hip hybrid space sheltering a café and art gallery. Come night, it holds sizzling festas with soul and drum-bossa music that reels in a trendy crowd. Sundays are reserved for the clothing and design bazaar, where you can check out local designers’ creations while getting your groove on.
Copacabana also has a few gay spots. As in Ipanema, the gay crowd has conquered a prize strip of beach — directly in front of the Copacabana Palace — where the barracas Quiosque 35 (open 24 hours) and Rainbow are located.
Meanwhile, at night the most eclectic group of homegrown and international gays (among them Calvin Klein, a Carioca convert) line up to enter the notorious temple of gaydom, Le Boy (Rua Raul Pompéia 102, tel. 21/2513-4993, www.leboy.com.br, 11 p.m.–close Tues.–Sun., R$10–15 cover, free before midnight). Aside from dancing galore, this enormous club offers debauchery in the form of go-go boys and a quarto escuro (dark room). Upstairs, its sister club, La Girl (Rua Raul Pompeia 102, Copacabana, tel. 21/2513-4993, www.lagirl.com.br, 11 p.m.–close daily, R$10–15 cover, free before midnight) attracts a rather glam following of girls who just wanna have fun.
In Lapa, Fundicão Progresso (Rua dos Arcos 24, tel. 21/2220-5070, 9 p.m.–close daily, R$70 cover for festas) is popular for its frequent GLS festas, whereas Cabaret Casanova (Rua Mem de Sá 25, tel. 21/2221-6555, Fri.–Sun., R$5–10 cover) is Rio’s oldest gay bar, dating back to 1929. It attracts a refreshingly non-trendy (downwardly mobile) crowd who cheer on good old-fashioned drag queens.
Another alternative to the Zona Sul’s upscale muscle boy scene are the wild parties held at Centro’s Cine Ideal (Rua da Carioca 62, Centro, tel. 21/2221-1984, www.idealparty.com.br, 11:30 p.m.–close Fri.–Sat., R$18–28 cover). Housed in an ingeniously renovated belle epoque building that was formerly one of Rio’s most glamorous cinemas, this massive disco — featuring various bars and a fabulous open-air rooftop lounge — is a current hot spot.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition