Although Rio’s more exhibitionistic and hedonistic gay scene is more legendary, Sampa’s gay offerings are more numerous and much more eclectic. In Centro, the area between Praça da República and Largo do Arouche shows few signs of gayness during the day, aside from a smattering of funky clothing boutiques. After dark, however, the area attracts a fantastically mixed (but definitely not fashionable nor yuppie) gay crowd of all ages as well as trans women and hookers. Most bars are on the once-elegant Avenida Vieira de Carvalho. The scene is kind of seedy but very vibrant.
One of the biggest and trendiest clubs (gay or otherwise) in town is The Week…homegrown and international DJs spin electronic and techno tunes with such verve that dancers end up quite literally baring their chests.A classic club with an after-hours vibe, Cantho (Largo do Arouche 32, Centro, tel. 11/3723-6624, 11 p.m.–5 a.m. Wed. and Fri.–Sat., 9 p.m.–3 a.m. Sun., R$15–20) reels in a 35-and-over bear-ish clientele with ’70s and ’80s tunes, glittery globes, and lots of Cher and Madonna videos as well as strategically placed sofas in dark corners.
Just off Avenida Paulista — in the Consolação district — the bars and clubs on Rua Augusta and Rua Frei Caneca (nicknamed Rua Gay Caneca) attract a younger, more alternative GLS (gay, lesbica, e simpatisante; i.e., gay-friendly) public. Although very eclectic, A Lôca attracts a big GLS crowd, especially on Sunday. Recently opened and extremely fashionable Club Yacht (Rua 13 de Maio 703, Bela Vista, tel. 11/3104-7157, midnight–7 a.m. Wed., Fri.–Sat. cover R$30–50) is nautically glam with an aquarium and La Querelle sailors/waiters. Its festas run the musical gamut from ‘80s (Wed.) and indie rock (Fri.) to techno (Sat.).
Jardins is the playground of upwardly mobile, fashionable crew gays, who frequent sophisticated cafés, bistros, and bars such as the Ritz and Director’s Gourmet (Alameda Franca 1552, Cerqueira César, tel. 11/3064-7958, 10 p.m.–3 a.m. Tues.–Sat.), a small, friendly bar that pays homage to the seventh art with a director’s chair suspended from the ceiling, classic movie posters plastering the walls, and a menu of gourmet sandwiches named after famous directors.
One of Sampa’s rare lesbian clubs, The L Club (Rua Luiz Marat 370, tel. 11/2604-3394, Vila Madalena, 11 p.m.–close Fril, cover R$20–40) is a buzzing spot where girls warm up lounge-side while listening to live MPB before rocking out to techno spun by resident lady DJs.
One of the biggest and trendiest clubs (gay or otherwise) in town is The Week (Rua Guaicurus 324, Lapa, tel. 11/3868-9844, midnight–close Sat., R$45–65). Aside from the two dance floors, three lounges, and six bars, a lot of splashy fun goes on in the swimming pool. Homegrown and international DJs spin electronic and techno tunes with such verve that dancers end up quite literally baring their chests.
LGBT happenings have become major city events. In November, short and long features from all over the world dealing with themes of sexual diversity invade cinemas and cultural centers during the Mix Brasil Festival. And in early May, São Paulo hosts one of the planet’s biggest and most festive gay pride parades. The Parada de Orgulho GLBT offers millions of people an excuse to take to Avenida Paulista, which is flooded with trios elétricos blasting party music. For an in-depth guide to gay Sampa (in Portuguese), check out Guia Gay São Paulo or the LGBT Guide on the São Paulo city website.
Excerpted from the upcoming Fourth Edition of Moon Brazil.