Broad connections

WHEN Connections opened 40 years ago people were terrified of being spotted going into the place.

If there was even a hint of a line, many would walk around the block to wait for it to disperse, or just go home.

“Even when I started in ‘91 there was a no-camera policy in the nightclub,” current co-owner Tim Brown says, with patrons too fearful of being outed, worrying how it could affect their job, social life or family.

They were hard days, Brown recalls.

“Connections was not doing well, that was the glory days of DC, Dual Control, it was a legendary club in this town.

“The times were also quite dramatic in that it was at the height of the AIDS crisis and the manager here had passed away, as had a number of staff and several drag queens, and the guts had been ripped out of the business.

• Connections co-owner Tim Brown gearing up for the 40th year anniversary of the club. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

• Connections co-owner Tim Brown gearing up for the 40th year anniversary of the club. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

“There is a whole generation lost there. In a way it feels like how they talk about the world wars, a whole generation removed from the community.

“At that point Connections was really on the ropes, there was no customers, morale was low, and we had to get it back.

“Everyone thinks it’s just always been there and it’s always going well, but there’s been times where it’s been really tough.”

Changing demographics and expectations, and a new acceptance for straight patronage, has resulted in ongoing changes.

“It was very much a closed shop,” he remembers of the early days. Now the club’s strength is its diversity, he says. Connections has youngsters, old timers, gay, straight, trans and men who just like wearing women’s clothing.

“We have not just a huge age range, but a huge socio-economic range… that helps the safe feel of it. You realise when a place is full of a bunch of guys who are the same age [that] older people have a moderating effect on the behaviour of younger people.”

While some gay club goers prefer to keep the space exclusive, Brown says he’d never discourage straight patrons.

“If we’re going to be visible and go everywhere, we have to return that favour,” he says. “The last thing I want to see is reverse discrimination. You don’t have to be gay, but you have to be tolerant.”

And while there’s a temptation to wallow in nostalgia (especially with so many musical faves coming from yesteryear) Connections has made sure to keep the space up to date: When the small bar trend rolled around it rode that wave, installing a more chilled out relaxed space for a quiet cosmo and a chat. And Brown’s a music man first, and not just a behind-the-scenes owner filling out paperwork: “The music needs to be good,” he says. “I’m a DJ as well, I play in both rooms.”

For its 40th anniversary it’s drawing on that history: It’s dug out about 1500 photos from across the club’s history, even some from the early era despite the camera ban. And across the years it’s had theme nights with music from each of its decades, with a musical journey across them planned for the big 40th.

Tickets for the big do are at tickets and it’s on this Friday December 5.

Oh, and the Saturday night line on James Street these days? A conga of colour and openly gay pride.

by DAVID BELL909 Open Arm Fellowship 10x2


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