A drag queen show in Israel! Tel Aviv gay clubs, LGBT nightlife.
Are there drag queens in the Middle East? There certainly are — in Tel Aviv, at least!
I’m endlessly intrigued by how subcultures exist (and even thrive) worldwide, especially in regions where being LGBT is grounds for persecution. In the conservative Middle East, Israel is an anomaly: the ancient land is home to a progressive nightlife. And as you will see, it’s fabulous.
On our itinerary, the Israel Tourism Board set aside time for us to explore gay clubs (yes, they are that awesome). The parties don’t start pumping until after midnight, and run until dawn or whenever the crowd decides to go home. My favorite was Evita (Yavne St 31, Tel Aviv), the city’s oldest gay bar. On Friday nights, entrance is free and there is a drag queen performance.
Everyone was so friendly at Evita; people chatted us up and got us dancing. The drag queens came to greet the regulars and goof around for photos.
The club has a mixed crowd — gay, straight, lesbian, etc — giving the party a wonderfully inclusive feeling. In fact, this was one of best alternative nights I’ve ever been to, living up to Tokyo, Berlin, LA, NYC, London and more.
DJ Shlomi Levi has the best name ever. He only broke his stone-faced expression once, to stick out his tongue.
The music was pure fun. Easy, fabulous dance tracks, with some hits and classics thrown in. The club brings in international DJs, like Hansel and Hansel from Switzerland…
… and who can resist a taste of Italia?
I loved watching Osh-Ree work the stage. He’s been a nightlife figure for years, and you can’t help but smile when he sings.
Between the songs, he and K-Long bantered in Hebrew. But the message is clear: “ohohohoh” and “Funtastico” are universal words in the drag queen lexicon!
Osh-Ree told us the gay scene has come a long way in Israel, ever since it was legalized in 1988. Now, Tel Aviv is one of the world’s top LGBT travel destinations, with dozens of parties and a big annual Pride Parade. With no curfew, Israelis party hard and long. Osh-Ree also said, “In this part of the world, you never know when it might be your last night to dance.”
So you might as well enjoy the male stripper and his tiny red undies while you can.
He brought both men and women onstage, and did racy, “acrobatic maneuvers” with them.
Drag queens in cities like San Francisco might stun you with their elaborate sets and dance routines. But I had just as much fun at Evita, where it’s all about having a raucous good time.
The duo sings and dances — no need for lip synching or gimmicks.
My filmmakers are cutting together the travel video now, but here’s a preview of the drag queen show on VideofyMe. (Photography by me, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)
We checked out several other fabulous places in Tel Aviv. The Brown Hotel is a new, LGBT-friendly boutique hotel with a lobby decorated in retro-kitsch. So much fun, sipping cocktails at the bar and exploring the rooftop .
My team and I also went to a massive club, Ha’oman 17 (Abarbanel 88, Tel Aviv-Yafo), which has hosted international DJS like Paul Van Dyk and Tiësto. It’s also the site of Shirazi’s FFF gay parties…
… and as you can see, they’re extremely popular! I’ve never seen so many men crammed into two floors, moving to the throb of electronic music.
If you’re in the mood for bar-hopping, I suggest wandering around Rothschild Boulevard. This wide, tree-lined street is a center of Tel Aviv nightlife.
I’m a fan of Nanushka (Lilenblum 30, Tel Aviv), a nearby bar and restaurant that serves Georgian food.
I saw lots of groups of friends eating and laughing. On the walls, there were mannequin heads in military caps.
Nanushka has several funky rooms, including an outdoor space strung with Christmas lights.
I didn’t get a chance to try the Georgian food here (we were already eating so well in Israel!), but it’s a good excuse to come back.
Did you know Tel Aviv has such a colorful gay scene? Are you surprised by the nightlife here?
Coming up — I’ll show you what the drag queen acts are like in Cape Town, South Africa!