adventures

Anything Is Possible: Priscilla, Prostitutes, And VIPs In London’s Gay Theater District

Queerty contributor Daniel went to London and continues to write about it for the tax write-off.

I arrived for my scheduled dinner the Palace Theatre in London’s Soho district ten minutes early and killed the time by standing under the large silver stiletto heel on top the theater’s marquee for Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical. Soho forms the heart of London’s gay, theater, and prostitution districts, and it being Pride weekend, loads of hot men had come out to cruise before showtime. I wasn’t on the hunt, just observing the manimals closely, like a under-sexed Jane Goodall.

When my dining party appeared, we descended into the Palace restaurant where — Mark Pacheco of the Really Useful Theater Theater Group told us — Andrew Lloyd Webber had penned most of the music for Phantom of the Opera. Mr. Pacheco added that he could give anyone an unforgettable theater experience complete with their own personal red-coated butler; vintage champagne, hand-crafted chocolates, and savory canapes to enjoy during the show; private dinners prepared by master chefs in the theater’s royal suites; and even a marriage proposal delivered by The Phantom of the Opera himself (“almost anything at all” Mr. Pacheco said). All of course, for a price.

We dined on champagne and a sumptuous meal with Cumberland sausages, caramelized shallots, creamed potato, red wine sauce — served by Kris, a young gay actor who waited evenings at the Palace and attended auditions in Soho during the day. I thought of Mr. Webber. How strange that decades ago he should sit in this same theater basement, penning fantastical showtunes that would one day become the staples of gay bar singalongs recited by heart from bears and aging theater queens worldwide; Cats, Sunset Boulevard, Evita. I wondered how many men cruising above knew the words to his songs.

Then Mr. Pacheco pulled out a slick brochure for the theater’s “VIP Experiences” with the words “Anything is possible” written on it. The cover had a tuxedoed man giving the fuck-eye to a purple-gowned woman smiling deliriously off into space even though her champagne glass was entirely full. The brochure mentioned that all seven of the Useful Theater Group’s theaters can provide as many unforgettable experiences and tasty treats as a few hundred pounds can provide — handcrafted souvenirs, floral bouquets, a theater district tour led by costumed period actors in a horse drawn carriage, and even use of the Palace Theater’s royal suites during the pre-show and intermission.

At one time only British monarchy had access to the royal suites and the royal box, Mr. Pacheco told me. King Charles II of Britain regularly snuck off mid-show into the theatre’s secret tunnels to enjoy royal box of another kind — the sweet loins of orange vendor-turned-theater-whore Nell Gywnn. Nell made her acting career partially by her wit and partially by fucking the king. And while Nell and the King enjoyed each other’s fruits, the King’s double sat in the royal box and watched the remainder of the show. Mr. Pacheco jokingly insinuated that he could arrange that sort of royal treatment too, if we wanted. There was a pregnant pause as we weighed options.