Monday, July 04, 2011

What’s a Young Bear to Do? Go to Cub Club!


Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

PHOTO: L to R: Ned Cato, Jr.; Dangilo Brian

What do you do if you’re a 20-something or 30-something Gay man who isn’t a smooth-chested twink with a chest as flat — and an overall body as thin — as a washboard? Where do you go out for dancing and fun at night? Ned Cato, Jr. and Dangilo Brian (his first name is pronounced “D’Angelo” and his business card describes him as “Uberglitterati”) came up with an answer two years ago when they started Cub Club and worked with local bars and other venues to come up with theme events like the June 26 “Fuzz” show at Rich’s, 1051 University Avenue in Hillcrest, and a weekly “Club Relapse” tea dance at the Brass Rail, 3796 Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest, every Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.

In fact, the sheer number of events Cub Club is involved in is so large it’s a wonder Cato and Brian themselves can keep track of them all. They do a party at Pecs, 2046 University Avenue in North Park, the third Thursday of every month, and the next one July 21 will have a “Freaks and Geeks” theme to tie it in with San Diego’s Comic-Con. As part of the tie-in to Comic-Con week they’re also doing a “Superfresh” event Monday, July 18 at the Brass Rail; an fetish event called Belt at Bourbon Street Tuesday, July 19; a “sneak preview” with personality Mr. Bianca Wednesday, July 20 at Rich’s; and a “Heroes vs. Villains” party on Friday. Before that, in connection with Pride weekend, they’re hosting the Bears on the Bay cruise Friday, July 15; a party Sunday, July 17, 2 p.m., at Eden, 1202 University in Hillcrest with go-go dancers and comic-book logos; and an after-fest party that evening at the Brass Rail.

Cato launched Cub Club in 2009. “I noticed there were a lot of Bear events in San Diego,” Cato explained, “but nothing for the young guys who identify with the Bear community. This is a market other communities have taken advantage of, but not in this area.” According to Cato, the older Bears San Diego group didn’t actively try to excluse younger people, but they didn’t go out of their way to make them feel welcome either. So he and Brian launched their group with an event at the Flame on Park Boulevard.

When he lost the Flame as a host in 2010, Rich’s — where Cato works, and which was already doing a weekly L. L. Bear dance (“L. L.” stands for “Levi and Leather”) — took them on. “They were very open to having our boys dance there,” Cato said. “For the first year we had the upstairs VIP area, and now we have integrated ourselves into L. L. Bear. We consider ourselves L. L. Bear’s dirty younger brother. We have a really solid presence there.”

Brian joined Cub Club in March of 2011. “I’ve been in San Diego two years,” he said. “My background is in the Midwest and New York City, where I did parties and special events. I have a nine-to-five job, but when this came around, and I met the group and saw what they were about, I liked it. It’s on a growth path. People are in the right position.” Brian encountered the Cubs at one of the L. L. Bear nights and approached Max, the go-go boy who’s entertained at several of their events, for an introduction “because we’re similar in body types,” he said. “The ball just kept rolling. The interest has swelled and people want to know who we are and how they can get involved.”

In the two years Cub Club has been putting on their parties, Cato and Brian been proudest of the sheer range of people they’ve drawn. “I wanted our events to feel all-inclusive,” said Cato. “We’re not a type, we’re a culture. I’m hoping to attract the 21-year-old who’s a little stocky, who doesn’t feel at home at Rich’s and is not ready for Pecs.”

“It’s surprising to see the girls and drag queens who come because the smooth guy with the six-pack isn’t the main attraction,” added Brian. “You see people mingle with each other.”

“You see Lesbians, straight people, Daddies, chasers, Asians, scenesters and chubby kids,” said Cato. “With us, all are welcome. We don’t want anybody to feel like they don’t belong. Our events are doing really well. We’re seeing a mix of people you really don’t see that much. Right now our main home is at Pecs. We did two events last month [June] and we did really well.”

Cato and Brian present themselves as not only party hosts but facilitators as well. “We’re a party in a box,” Brian explained. “We can do door, technical, promotion. We can land ourselves in any venue, spark it up with our people, and then pull out” — leaving the venue owner with new customers who’ve discovered their place and will keep coming back.

“We make our own flyers and do our own photo shoots,” Cato said. “All you have to tell us is when and where.”

Another thing Cato and Brian pride themselves on is their contacts with well-respected disc jockeys so they don’t play the same songs you hear everywhere else. “Our music is not Britney or Gaga,” Cato boasted. “You’re going to hear progressive house, 1980’s and 1990’s, more than today’s top-40 electronic sounds. Our musical taste is a little more progressive than that.”

One thing Cub Club is increasingly doing is reaching out to the fetish and Leather communities. They promoted the June 26 “Fuzz” event by passing out glossy four-color postcard-sized flyers at that day’s opening of the new Pleasures & Treasures location, 2525 University Avenue in Hillcrest, thereby getting their message to a good chunk of San Diego’s Leather crowd. What they’re trying to do, Brian explained, is reach the young man who may be interested in exploring fetish or kink but is still too scared to plunge directly into the Leather scene. “If you are into a fetish, we want to be your first stop into it,” said Cato.

“Later on we can educate you about the hankie codes and the differences between a bear, a cub and an otter,” Brian added. “We have a bright, fun logo and can take ourselves into different areas. We have go-go boys and muscle guys, cowboys and Leathermen, and drag queen Grace Towers. What’s nice is our event is not the sort of full-out fetish party which would scare away young people.”

“We’re going to be doing an Otter Party,” added Cato, who tried explaining the almost bewildering variety of subgroups within the Bear scene. “You have Bears, Wolves, Cubs and Otters,” he said. “Otters are kind of in-between, a little more muscular, 25- to 35-year-old Daddy types. We want to bring to our events a little something other than the obvious.”

Cato also said his group might be the link the Leather community is looking for to the younger generation. “Working at Rich’s and seeing the Bear and Leather events, I’m struck by the lack of young people,” he explained. “A lot of young people are into Leather but they’re afraid. We’re giving them the bravery to walk into these events with their heads held high. I have a friend in our group who’s into Leather and bondage, and he wants to enter the Leather contests. No one is talking to him.”

Cub Club doesn’t yet have its own Web site, but they’re on Facebook at Cub Club SD and Twitter @ cubclubusa. “On Facebook, we cross-reference other Gay communities, including the Center, Pleasures & Treasures, ManKind and brands like Nasty Pig that carry entry gear into fetish and Leather,” Brian said. “We’re using the Facebook page to tell people what we’re looking at, and on Twitter we’re talking to Bears and Otters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City.”

More than anything else, they’d like the Cub Club logo on an event to be a guarantee of a good time. “You’ll know it will encompass everything,” Brian said. “If you don’t like one party, there’ll be another one you probably will like.”