The new Flamingo has opened here in Blackpool - and what can I say? For someone who makes money from using words, they almost fail me. As a privileged and grateful VIP guest on the opening night I can tell you that it's like stepping into another world - you can hardly believe you are still in Blackpool and you must be forgiven if suddenly Dorothy springs into your mind: "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"
At the closing of the old Flamingo (on Monday 23rd January) Basil Newby was moved to tears on stage, twice breaking down as he found difficulty in saying his epitaph to the nightclub that meant so much to him and to gay people the world over who had come to visit it throughout its lifetime of more than twenty-five years. This was not just a gay venue that was closing that night; this was the end of something that had become a shrine - a monument to Gay. There can be few places on the planet where a gay person if asked what they knew about Blackpool would not first mention the Flamingo before thinking of the Tower.
On that final night the huge crowd chanted "Basil, Basil, Basil" to support the man, and to honour him, as he worked hard to complete his speech. It was a night that had everything going for it with great sounds, cheap drinks, three strippers, and some fantastic cabaret until, when at 4am, it really was all over. Then Basil was not alone in being overcome with emotion; then there were many there in tears who were reluctant to leave this much-loved venue for the last time, and to thereby confirm that an era had ended.
But, as the opening of the new Flying Handbag last week has already shown us, this was not really the end - it was merely a transitional time. Now born again, the new Flamingo is a truly magnificent beast. For gay people who love Blackpool and who would probably have happily settled for anything that Basil provided for them, this new Flamingo can in no way be called an anything - this is a palace of a nightclub that would be admired and envied were it to be placed in any of the great cities of the world. It is remarkable, and some might question why so much money was spent on it when something far less grand would have been satisfactory - but then such a question could only be posed by someone who didn't know Basil.
New gay market research by Out Now 2005 Diva and Gay Times Readers Surveys has revealed that the Pink Pound is now worth over £70 billion annually in the UK. No, that's not a typo, it really is seventy-billion pounds. This is what the UK lesbian and gay community earned last year, and what we're told they appear to be spending, much of it with gay abandon. Averaged out, gay men and women's earnings outstrip straight salaries by up to £10,000 a year and, as few of them have children to spend their money on, they are a force to be reckoned with in the market place, with London, Brighton, Manchester, and Blackpool all benefiting enormously from their pink pounds. Along with the new Flying Handbag, this new Flamingo with all its excellence will go to ensure that Blackpool continues to benefit, and may even do more so in the future.
Darlings, no gay person can realistically be "on the scene" and not be able to talk about a time when they went to the Flamingo. In gay street-cred it's essential to know the Flamingo. And now there's a whole world out there who have got to do it, at least once, all over again. And few ever do it just the once!
Colourful flashing panelled dance floors, hi-tech sound and lighting systems, banks of video screens, go-go dancer's landings, glass staircases, chrome balconies, multi-levels each with their own ultra-modern bars, and everything state-of-the-art that you can imagine may also be found, to varying degrees, in many a modern nightclub these days - but it is only when you put all of this together with Basil's unbeatable formula and a large and friendly local gay scene, then shake it all up and place it at the heart of the gay village in a northern seaside resort called Blackpool, that you can ever hope to achieve the magic that is the Flamingo!
Unlike for the new Flying Handbag, for the new Flamingo I am deliberately only showing you a few small pictures of the venue. I feel that everyone should be able to come here and to have their very own gob-smacked experience first-hand. For me to deprive you of that would be wrong. The pictures, as before, come courtesy of the Highbank Guest House - a member of Blackpool Accommodation for Gays. The Flamingo website will also give you access to info on all the other ITP venues - just click the ITP button (at its top left) for the menu.
See you next week...
"The Bitch!" 28/01/06.
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