How Dickslap Saved Seattle
Without Dickslap, nightlife on Capitol Hill might have been censored for good. The party's still going four years later.
All photos courtesy of DJ Nark and Nark Magazine
I don't advocate frequent mixing of partying and politics. However, if the authorities try to stop the party, they have chosen the turf—and you are left with no choice. The time: 2010. The place: Seattle's Capitol Hill nightlife district. When a new set of rules and regulations restricting physical contact between individuals came down hard on the area's queer nightlife culture, a coalition of promoters, DJs, and partiers at the Capitol Hill gay bar The Eagle rallied together to fight for their right to party.
Armed with leather straps, smutty DVDs, cage dancers, and a bevy of underground house and techno jams, a new party emerged to save The Eagle from Washington's Liquor Control Board—which its organizers believe was unfairly targeting queer establishments. Dickslap was the result and it's still going strong four years later. Without it, nightlife in Capitol Hill, the city's only real nightlife neighborhood, might have been censored for good.
A 2010 article in The Stranger, a local alt-weekly,described the parameters of the regulations: "According to the second section, licensees 'may not allow, permit, or encourage any person… on the licensed premises' to touch, caress, or fondle the 'breast, buttocks, anus or genitals of anothe person.'" In addition, rules were put in place that banned the "use of any device or covering that is exposed to view which simulates the breast, genitals, anus, pubic hair, or any portion thereof."
While Seattle is certainly one of the more liberal-leaning cities in the country, it is of course part of Washington State—a vast and politically diverse place with large swaths of timber and farming country. The liquor code is operated by the state, which is charged with enforcing laws born in a more Puritanical past. Washington (like some other notably urban, cosmopolitan states like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts) has liquor codes that are similar to those put in force at the end of prohibition, which are designed to keep close public control over alcohol. As local companies like Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon grew, so did Seattle's cosmopolitan population, leading to tensions between urban nightlife culture and the state's old school policies.
"The citations ranged from warnings to thousand-plus dollar fines and an ominous three-ish strikes clause that could get the bar shut down entirely," says Kauer, AKA DJ Nark, one of Dickslap's organizers and residents. "The bar was written up for a 'lubed, aroused penis' showing on the TV screen. I can tell you, I saw a LOT of Guys Gone Wild videos at The Eagle, but there's not much to report except a bevy of whiskey dick. They must have caught some magical rare directors cut."
In response to these citations, Kevin and his friends got together to challenge the Board with a deluge of sleaze, and a campaign to raise awareness of these unfair targeting practices. "The owner called me up and said we needed to start the biggest, most ridiculous, F-U party and just do everything we're not supposed to do," he explains.
In the last month of 2010, Kauer, along with co-organizer Lisa Dank and The Eagle staff, set about preparing all the necessary erotic flyers, exploitation films, leather harnesses, taxidermied bear mannequins, and gigantic, whipped-cream ejaculating dicks they would need to fight the man at their January, 2011 debut—Dickslap: The Eagle vs. The Washinton Liquor Control Board. DJ guests on the flyer included DJ Double Penetration and Invisible Dick.
The party made a splash across local and national media outlets, gaining support from figures like Dan Savage, and bringing Seattle's queer community together around this dark and dirty institution.
But did it work? Whether it was the media buzz that the party managed to generate, the public shaming of Washington's state administrators, or the consciousness-raising effects of vocal house and dark techno on the undercover police officers assigned to sneak into the party, something worked, and the Board went dormant.
"The liquor board enforcement ceased pretty much entirely on the Hill," says Kauer, "The party was fun as hell and after about five months we dropped the 'Eagle vs.' moniker and continued on as just Dickslap. There were other big fag parties in the past that brought out this crowd of people—gays and queens and weirdos and artists getting loose, and many of them have retired now, and possibly Dickslap has taken their place in the grand scheme, [but] it's different."
As far as sexuality goes, Dickslap is certainly no Berghain sex dungeon, but it's a fairly charged sexual environment—any bar called The Eagle is usually known for a forward, macho, bear-centric clientele. The Eagle's cage-dancing performers leave no question as to the propensity, and there are plenty of dark corners.
But flirting isn't the only reason to come to The Eagle. "Dickslap is a place where you can really do what you want to do musically," says Kauer, "although I do have a strict 'no Top 40' rule. Sometimes we're banging out techno; sometimes we're making boys twirl and death-drop to your housiest house; and one time we had Hard French take over and play only soul 45s. If we're really having fun we'll play all of it at once."
With its go-go cage, relentless laser beams, and an uncompromising underground sound providing the allure, the party is now a regular fixture, not only at The Eagle, but as a traveling shindig that moves up and down the West Coast. "Dickslap is rising to the occasion," Kauer says. "As it keeps growing and growing, more people want to get a taste."
As for his thoughts on the future of Capitol Hill's scene he says "There's a whole new wave of Seattle homos... gentrification aside it's still the place to be for dynamic homo nightlife."