Why is there no men only gay club in Iceland? Where do gay men go to meet each other? Lately there has been a nostalgic discussion on Facebook about the legendary MSC men only club that, which for some, used to be the highlight of gay clubbing in Reykjavík before it was closed. We asked one of its former regulars, singer, actor and radio host Felix Bergsson, to tell us about the club’s glory days and what he thinks about todays “scene” in Iceland.
“It was a great place,” says Felix and it’s obvious that he has fond memories of the club. “I started going there when it was in a tiny room opposite the Icelandic Opera and later moved to a basement in Laugavegur that was much bigger and wonderfully decorated. It was strictly men only and guys who tried to show up with their female friends were not let in.
The emphasis was on rough masculinity and it was a kind of theatre really. You dressed up to go there, in jeans and leather, and put on a show. It was great to sit at the bar and observe the little pieces of theatre that were going on all around the place.”
The MSC Club had quite a reputation in it’s time and the rumour was that it was a “dangerous” place. Felix laughs when asked about that and says that was a big part of the concept.
“MSC was meant to be a hush-hush place that people are afraid of going to, it was part of the thrill. Men could not show up there in business suits or disco outfits, it was all about the glorification of masculinity. Maybe that was part of it’s demise, the younger guys simply did not dare to go there having heard the rumours.”
The club closed some years ago and Felix says that he thinks the main reason was that the place had been run by volunteers that no longer had the energy to put up all this work. He is adamant that there really is a need for a men only club in Reykjavík as well as everywhere else.
“It’s kind of like being a member of Rotary or Lions,” he says. “Gay men need a place where they can meet their peers and form a community. I’m aware that with the Internet things have changed, men go to dating websites and decide to meet up but that’s not forming a community. Young gays seem to prefer to go out with their straight friends, the infamous integration, and I’ve sometimes said that Icelandic gays are in fact still half in the closet.
“Icelandic gays seem to be stuck in the straight culture of finding a steady boyfriend and starting living together as soon as they hit puberty. There is really no actual gay culture here…”
It’s like people strive to blend in, be normal and not rock any boats. At the annual Pride Days you see a lot of gay people who you never see for the rest of the year, and most of them are standing on the pavement watching, not taking active part. I think it’s really sad.”
Felix is not impressed with the gay social scene in Reykjavík. “There is no gay café or bar, really. Kiki BAR turns into a gay bar on Thursday nights and at two in the morning at weekends, but apart from that there is no place foreign gays can go and be sure to meet Icelandic gay men. They probably sit alone at Kiki bar all night and wonder why the hell it is advertised as a gay bar. It’s really strange that in a city of 200.000 people where there is a National theatre and a symphonic orchestra and all the things you expect to find in big cities there is no room for a gay club.
Icelandic gays seem to be stuck in the straight culture of finding a steady boyfriend and starting living together as soon as they hit puberty. There is really no actual gay culture here, at least not when it comes to bars and clubs.”
Felix and his husband are just back from taking part in Gay Pride in Tel Aviv, and he is impressed with the gay scene in the city.
“Tel Aviv is kind of island in these matters in Israel, things are quite different in Jerusalem for example, but they have a great gay scene and 300.000 people marched in the gay pride parade. It was an unbelievable experience. The current government of Israel is conservative and not very gay friendly but still there is a very lively gay scene in Tel Aviv. But in Reykjavik we have nothing! What does that tell you?”
On that note Felix adds that the Reykjavík Pride parade is arguably the only Pride parade in the world were there are more straight participants than gay. “It’s a love parade, a sign of support for the gay community and for all the colors of the rainbow. It is a great event. Still I think that there is a lack of social conciousness within the LGBTI community here in Iceland. It’s a really worrying state of affairs and I really believe that if we had a gay bar, club or café where we could meet, it would be a great boost for our solidarity.”
Facts: The club’s name MSC is an abbreviation for Motor Sports Club. It was founded in May 1985, by a small group of men who not only “had gotten to know ‘the leather life’ while living abroad and wanted to bring it back home, but who also wanted to create a social scene and gain admittance to the ECMC (a European coalition of MSC-style clubs).” In its heyday members organised events such as Leather Pride and an annual Icelandic Independence celebration of December 1, which was a tradition from the start. The club welcomed visitors from the Nordic alliance of leather fetish clubs to the Top of Europe summit, with representatives coming in from Estonia and the Nordic countries. Source: Grapevine, June 15, 2007.