La Demence, Brussels - New Year 2002

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It's one of Europe's largest and longest running gay clubs, the original of what we all take for granted today. La Demence is a monthly party event held in the centre of Belgium's capital Brussels. It not only attracts boys from all over Belgium but also the Dutch, the German's and French attend in large quantities.

I suppose it’s a little bit like Love Muscle if I had to compare it to a club in London. Gogo boys lark around on the podiums in tight little speedos, strippers perform on the bar tops swinging around there meaty pendulums and drag queens give a little attitude as they parade around in their stilettos. Plus there are 3 large darkrooms to play about in, helping you make full use of those hormones!

Brussels is much nearer than you might think. The Eurostar from London direct to Brussels city centre runs up to 10 times a day and isn't that much more expensive, or time consuming, than a Virgin Train to Manchester - the main difference's are that you'll need your passport and of course your mobile doesn't work under the sea! From the train station the club is just a short 5 minute walk away, as it doesn't shut till about 11am you could if you wanted to simply party till the early hours, then catch a train back home straight after, avoiding the hassle of hotels and luggage. Click Here for a report on the gay scene for Brussels, including hotels and a map.

Thierry CoppensI met up with Thierry Coppens, the man behind La Demence and asked him why people travel so far and wide to come to La Demence and what has made it such an infamous club. He replied by saying "It's more than 12 years now since I organized the first La Demence party; at that period they were something revolutionary for Belgium, as it was the first time a gay party was organized in a huge straight club; at that time, the only place gays could go to, were small gay bars and clubs, that were open almost every day of the week, always proposing the same thing."

He continued: "The La Demence parties on the other hand, were only once in a while, making it a big happening with a theme night, a special decoration, drag queens, gogo dancers, guest DJ's... Nowadays, this has become so common, but at that time we were the only ones in the region doing it, and so people from France, Germany and the Netherlands started to come, and their number has always increased since. Belgium is a very small country so we are very close to all those countries. During all those years we have changed venue several times, always trying to give a better quality. Fuse club were we are located now is an ideal venue for us."

Thierry went on to tell me that La Demence actually was the first club to have gogo's, drag queens and strippers, so I asked him how it came about. He told me "The drag queens, which had never be seen before at that time, simply started to appear at our crazy parties without being contacted at all. The gogo's and strippers were the ingredient needed to add the "sexual" touch to the parties, let's say the essential ingredient."

La Demence Gogo BoyThe first La Demence party ever held was on the 26th of November back in 1989 in Deerlijk, but because of the enormous popularity they needed to move to a bigger venue. Several years later and after changing venues numerous times Thierry found it difficult to find a venue that was large enough and would host the type of party that is La Demence. It was on New Year's Day of '92 that the first La Demence party took place again and this time in central Brussels

Ten years on since then they are still located in the same club but there have been many changes. One of the biggest was when Thierry actually bought the venue. With a club that is only open once a month I asked why he did it and what else he does with it? He had this to say "First I started to rent the venue for each single night I was organising a La Demence party. After some years, I bought the lease together with a business partner and we started "Fuse", a straight techno club on Saturdays, which is also very infamous in the music scene in England. On the other days we work with other promoters or rent the venue out."

He continued: "The venue has changed a million times since the first time we set foot in it. We started out with one level, one dance floor and one sound system. Now we have three levels, with two dance floors with separate sound systems, a chill out room, 4 bars, 3 darkrooms, a video-room and a shop, which all makes it the perfect playground for all the big boys."

The dark rooms really add something extra to the club; I asked if it was common for clubs to have these in Belgium? He told me: "The advantage of owning the place is that we could adapt the venue to La Demence, even if this party is only held once a month. So we build some dark rooms, which I couldn't imagine a straight club, having a gay night once in a while, would build.

It's clear that the dark rooms add a big "sexual" element to the parties, which is more important to some of the boys than to others: some visitors stay all night long in the dark rooms, others don't quit the dance floor. In Belgium, it's very common for a gay club to have dedicated dark rooms, unlike England."

Each of the three floors has a different style of music: techno and trance, house and garage, and kitsch. Doors open at 11 pm until about 11am or noon the next day, plus there's an alcohol license all night and morning. The entrance fee is low in comparison to UK: 10 € (£6) before midnight, 15 € (£9) afterwards.

For more information, visit their website

Brussels Gay Scene, Belgium 

With the creation of the direct Eurostar link between London and Brussels it makes it much easier and convenient to take a trip there. After all it's not much further away that a train trip from London to Manchester and the cost isn't much more either.

Belgium's profile may have remained lower than in other countries for somewhat longer, but the gay scene in Belgium has been catching up apace. The countries first national lesbian and gay pride event was only held in 1996, more than a quarter of a century after Stonewall in New York, the uprising that led to gay pride events around the world. However, gays and lesbians enjoy more rights here than in countries such as Britain and the US, simply because they've been largely ignored by the legal system. Furthermore, the government, and most other political parties, are in favour of legalising gay marriages.

The heart of Brussels and the place to start getting to know the city is the Grand Place. This historic square has been the focal point of the city's social and civic life for centuries and hosts various different markets. Most of the gay bars and clubs are with-in walking distance of the square. Ask for the street called rue du Marché au Charbon and look out for the rainbow flags in the windows. Most of the venues stock the free gay map/guide, which lists every association, nightclub, clothing store, sauna, or sex shop you could possibly need during your stay.

Tel Quels (81 rue du Marché au Charbon) is a great venue for information, the building also houses the International Lesbian & Gay Association (tel. 502 24 71), go here first to get the low-down on gay Brussels. It's less male-dominated than most other bars and the sexy bartenders will be happy to tell you which places fit your wants: young, hardcore, leather or whatever.

One of the best venues to get started in is Le Belgica (32 rue du Marché au Charbon). Its one of the trendiest and most popular gay bars in Brussels beating out house music to the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd inside, but don't go out in Brussels too early because I found things don't get going till around 11pm.

You'll find a lot of the gay bars in Brussels aren't particularly keen on allowing girls in, liking to keep a predominantly male clientele, (not that lesbians cause trouble or anything!). However two popular lesbian bars are L'Archange (9 rue Borgval) and Sapho (1 rue St Géry).

Sleaze-wise check out Le Duquesnoy (12 rue Duquesnoy) and The Slave (7 Plattesteen). There's hardcore S&M porno on the TV's, leather-clad barmen and some tasty leather daddies lurking around in the dark rooms ready to gobble you up. If your really into this scene then you may want to travel to Antwerp, its just over an hour away and is where you'll find a venue called Boots (Van Aerdstraat 22) which is said to be Belgium's most famous leather bar and one of the best known in Europe.

Chez Maman (7 rue des Grandes Carnes) is a small, classy-looking bar famous for its drag shows on Fridays and Saturdays. The drag queens perform standing on the bar tops, it's amazing to just watch them parade up and down in their high heels with-out falling off.

Het Rijk der Zinnen (14 rue des Pierres) is the type of venue where you end up when everywhere else is closed and you're still trying to get laid. The English translation to its name is "the Empire of the Senses" which is rather over the top for this bar as it's quite rough and tumble inside.

Parc de Bruxelles is the main outdoor venue whatever the day, notably along the central promenade and around the ponds at each end. But as ever, take care in the open air.

Clubs in Brussels aren't huge like in London. The best is probably Strong (17 rue Poinçon) which has a good atmosphere and harder house music. The other cheaper (free entry) club I'd recommend is Why Not (7 rue des Riches-Claires), smaller and certainly less stylish than Strong, with a tiny dance floor and more commercial sounds.

One of the most renowned and largest gay club-nights in Brussels is La Demence, held once a month. It's so popular that boys travel from far and wide to party at it, particularly from Belgium's 3 neighbouring countries Holland, France and Germany. Its been going for some 12 years now and was apparently the first club to book and introduce international DJ's, strippers, gogo boys and drag queens into a gay nightclub. The venue where it's held is called Le Fuse (208 rue Blaestraat), it's further south of the city centre, away from the other gay venues. However it's only a couple of minutes walk away from the Eurostar train station.

The club has three levels; two main dance floors play techno, trance, house and garage plus there's a smaller cheesy dance floor on the middle level which is also where boys dance around bullock naked on the bar tops. The whole club has a very cruzy, sexual element to it; this is encouraged not only by all the strippers and gogo boys but also the three large dark rooms. The club stays open till noon the next day and is licensed to sell alcohol throughout, so prepare to get totally twatted if you out for a long night. Check out the web site for the next party dates.

Brussels is a great place for a short break, heaving with history and beauty along with fresh euro-boy talent. Go check it out for yourself, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Click on this map to see where everything is.

Recommended Hotels:

Ibis - off Grand Place A cheap and cheerful hotel in the hart of the city centre near the gay scene.

Ibis - Centre Gare du Midi - A very cheap hotel near the Eurostar train station and gay club La Demence.