A Big Thank You To The Security At Diamond Jim’s

There are a lot of things that made Diamond Jim’s Saloon such a special place and gave it such importance in my life.

They were the infamous karaoke nights, that finally got me out of my shell, but only after I learned how to sing. They were the vinyl record player nights, where they gave away great vinyl records and which was the impetus for me to start my own vinyl collection. There were the drinks, especially the ones that incorporated tea. Before I started going to the saloon, I never even knew that you could make alcoholic drinks with tea. But perhaps the most important factor in making diamond Jim such a success was the security.

By that I of course mean the security guards, to whom we all owe a big thank you. But I also mean the security system. Diamond Jim’s had a state-of-the-art system complete with surveillance cameras, to ensure that every event and every night there went off without any problems.

Security camera

And of course they needed this kind of security. Not because of the people who went to the club regularly. There were never any issues with them. It was the people who hated what we were in what we stood for.

There was always the threat of them coming in and starting trouble. There were times when it happened. And that is where the surveillance cameras really helped out. Yes, they generally acted as a deterrent to those kind of people away anyways. But when they did come in, the surveillance cameras recorded everything and could be used as evidence for the police.

This was important because many police might not be inclined to press any charges against people committing violent crimes against us or against the saloon. But in the face of video evidence, they had no choice. They had to prosecute the offenders, despite their personal feelings about us.

Police officer with body camera

And that is why the security system at Diamond Jim’s was so important. Even more important, were the actual security guards. They are the ones who actually dealt with these troublemakers firsthand.

Sometimes they got injured and often they got harassed verbally, but they took at all like the professionals they were. They were always there to protect the rest of us and ensure we could have a good time without being harassed or bothered.

For all that they did we owe them a huge thank you. Of course it was a job and they got paid, but there were plenty of other jobs that could have had. They choose to do this one, because it was important to them.

They knew what the saloon was to us and what it meant for so many people. They wanted to be a part of that and they want to make clear where they stand. They wanted to create the kind of society where people like me are free to do as I want. And for that I am very grateful. Not just I. Everyone who was a regular at the saloon is very grateful to them for that.

I know the owners of the saloon must have spent a lot of money on the security systems. Hiring all the guards they had cost a lot, and I imagine installing the cameras and hiring people to watch the cameras and work them must have cost even more.

Just purchasing a system like that would cost a lot of money. I have a few security cameras in my home, and those cost me several hundred dollars. These are very simple cameras too, nothing like the high-tech security surveillance equipment that was install the Diamond Jim’s.

So I guess I should think the owners too, but that is an obvious one. I’m thankful for them every day of my life for creating this space for me when I was younger. It shaped who I am today, and did the same for many other people as well. So again, thank you to you all.

Learning To Sing Finally Gave Me The Confidence To Sing Karaoke

I’ve previously written about my favorite night at Diamond Jim Saloon: their famous karaoke night. I used to love attending these events and listening to some of my wonderful gay friends sing their hearts out. I even loved getting up on stage and singing myself. But that was not always true.

karaoke at diamond jim's saloon

When I first started going to the saloon, I refused to get up on stage and sing. I would happily listen to everyone else while sipping on my favorite tea drink and had a blast every single time, but I just couldn’t get up there and sing myself. My singing was always terrible and I was just too self-conscious.
Of course, like any other karaoke party, there were tons of bad singers. The majority of people couldn’t sing, but it never seems to stop them from getting up there and trying. They just didn’t seem to care.

To be fair, no one in the crowd cared either. No one ever called anyone a bad singer and no one ever made a big fuss about it. And if anyone had, the wonderful security guards would have made them stop.

To be honest, I have no idea why I was so afraid to get up on stage and sing. I guess I felt like I would make a fool of myself and everyone would laugh at me, despite seeing plenty of evidence the contrary. No one was ever laughed at, no matter how bad a singer they were. Yet, I just couldn’t do it.

I remember once I had to get up and sing in front of my whole class in elementary school. My music teacher made everyone do it. No one else seemed to have a problem with it, but when I got up I just couldn’t sing. No sound came out. I was too shy and too afraid. I just stood there petrified and, naturally, everyone laughed at me. It was elementary school, after all.

I think this scarred me for life. I think this is the reason why I can’t sing at karaoke now, even though none of my friends would laugh at me and none of them are great singers themselves.

But, as mentioned, I can do it now. I got over my fear of singing. I should say, not my fear singing, but my fear of singing in public. I feared singing in front of other people. How do you suppose I got over it? Well, I learned to sing.

That’s right, it turns out the best way to get over your fear of singing in front of people is to actually get good at it. After doing some reading, I learned that performance anxiety stems from the fact that you think you’re not good at something. You’re not afraid to perform, you’re afraid to perform badly. You have no confidence in your ability. If you had confidence in your abilities, you would not be afraid to show them off. You would confidently show them off. That is exactly what happened with me.

I got myself a great vocal coach and I also got myself some online lessons. I combined my online singing course with my singing teacher and a few months later, I sounded great. Of course, I was far from a professional singer, but I sounded much better than the average person. I definitely sounded much better than all of my friends.

Knowing that I sounded great like this finally gave me the confidence to overcome my performance anxiety and get up in front of everybody at the Diamond Jim Saloon during their karaoke night and to sing my heart out. I sang all of my favorite songs and I felt wonderful doing it. And people wouldn’t stop talking about what a great singer I was! They were actually angry with me for not getting up on stage and singing earlier and for depriving them of my voice. It was amazing!

Karaoke Nights Are Why I Learned To Sing

Once a week, Diamond Jim’s Saloon held a karaoke night. The first time I was there for this night, I was too shy to get up and sing for myself, but I had a great time listening to everyone else. I did want to sing, but I was is not confident in my voice. For that reason, I spent every day before the next karaoke night improving my singing voice.

There are a lot of ways to do this today, but at the time there weren’t that many options. Luckily I had a friend who could sing and he coached me. Nowadays you have a ton of websites that can teach you to sing better. My favorite is Musicaroo and they have a wonderful article on learning how to sing.

learn to sing karaoke

With resources like that or like this one, it is much easier to get the basic singing techniques down. You can turn yourself into a decent singer pretty easily, without any outside help. Then if you want to get much better you hire an actual vocal coach to get you to the next level. But for me, I just wanted to not be terrible and I accomplished that in just a couple of days with my friend.

One of the biggest keys I learned for sounding good at karaoke is to only choose songs that you are able to sing. For me that was not a lot of songs at the time and even today, it is not that many. Again, there are a lot of resources online and again, Musicaroo is a great one. They have a wonderful list of all the best songs to sing at karaoke. Now most of those songs are right up my alley, but even if you’re not as old as I am, or much older, you’ll still find something on that list that will appeal to you.

If you love karaoke is much as I do, but you’ve always been too shy to actually get involved, I recommend reading up on the basic singing techniques, to get yourself to a decent level. Just doing that will get you above 80% of the population in terms of your singing ability.

Next, find some easy songs to sing that you enjoy and practice them at home on your own. Practice them until you get good. I would videotape myself to really work on some of the nuances. Just doing this will make you much better than most people. And it doesn’t take too long. You only have to do it once, too, to see the improvement for the rest of your life.

In this way, you can get yourself a repertoire of songs. I have six or seven at this point. Two are duets that I can sing with my friends; the rest are songs that I sing on my own, but with this arsenal, I can choose a number of different styles of music, depending on the bar and the mood, and always fit in. Obviously, at Diamond Jim’s Saloon, we sang a lot of the typical music you would expect from a gay bar. Love Shack from the B-52s was hugely popular. And yes, it is on the Musicaroo list I mentioned above.

So here’s my challenge to you. Learn to sing first. Then find some good songs and practice them until you’ve got them down. Then go to a couple of standard karaoke nights and try out your newfound skills. I’m sure you’ll bring the house down. Finally, enter some karaoke singing competitions. These are really fun and, who knows, you might even win some money. Good luck!

Vinyl Record Giveaway Nights

vinyl record like they play at saloonDiamond Jim’s Saloon always had a lot of special events nights. I guess that’s obvious. I mean, it’s a gay bar. Of course there were tons of event nights and usually with garish decorations, ridiculous themes and everything else you associate with gay bars. And it was amazing. Every single time.

One of my favorite nights, though, was the record giveaway night. There were a couple different DJs who played at the saloon and they always played unique music. They each had their own styles, but they played wonderful tunes that you didn’t hear a lot of other places. And they all used turntable record players. There were no fancy CD or laptop setups with controllers. No, it was just two turntables and a mixer. The way it should be.

Most of the DJs who played there also played other bars, but they played different music there. The vinyl records they played at Diamond Jim’s were unique to Diamond Jim’s. For this reason, after spinning them a few times, they didn’t really need them anymore. The saloon owner took advantage of this, by holding giveaways.

For these giveaways, they would have various contests, like karaoke nights (always a huge favorite among the queer crowd), dance contests, costume contests, drink making contests (I believe this is where the obsession with tea drinks began) and so on. They were all a blast and the winners would get various vinyl records to take home. I actually won a couple of them, but I didn’t have a record player at home to play them on.

cheap turntable record playerObviously, I decided I should get one. I always thought they were really expensive, but it turns out you can get a ton of great record players for under hundred dollars. The reviews on that toprecordplayers.com helped me a lot in deciding on a good turntable for my home. I bought one that has speakers in it and that also plays CDs and radio and other types of music. That way I could use it for anything.

It also allowed me to record from my vinyl records to my MP3 player. That was really cool, because the records were unique and not really available in other formats. You may have noticed that I’m using the past tense. That’s because most of them are now broken or have disappeared. Luckily, because I recorded them to MP3, I still have the music. But I do miss having the actual records and I wish they were still around.

I recently taken up going to record stores and browsing through their vinyl collection. This is really fun to do, but it can become an expensive hobby. I find that every time I do that, I stumble across tons of old music I used to love, but forgot existed.

Naturally, I then have to buy all those vinyl records and rush home and play them on my little record player. The records are not hugely expensive, but when you buy a bunch at once and you go every single week to buy more, the costs do add up. And now we have record store day coming up….

I always wondered why the hipsters were so into vinyl all of a sudden, but after I got my own record player, I started to understand. There’s just something really cool about the sound these records produce. It just sounds so different, so much warmer, so much more the way you think music should sound. Even on the little speakers on my player, they sound great.

I do plan on upgrading my stereo system, so that I can play my records on better speakers in the future. I suppose at that point, I will have an excuse to buy even more and I will spend even more money. Oh well, at least it’s going toward a good cause, right?

What Diamond Jim’s Meant For Us Young LBGTQ Folks

gay men at an LGBTQ barI graduated high school back in the 1990s. At that time, you couldn’t just come out. Not where I lived anyway. I knew I was gay ever since the beginning of middle school, but none of my friends did. I stayed in the closet throughout middle school and high school and also university. It wasn’t until my mid-20s, that I finally had the courage to come out.

When I did, I came out to a few friends first. One of those friends was gay himself and the others were a select few friends we had who were accepting of his lifestyle. That’s why I came out to these friends. After I came out to them, it was still a few years before I came out in general, including to my parents and the rest of my family.

When I first came out to my small group of friends, the gay one introduced me to some of his other queer friends and they in turn introduced me to Diamond Jim’s Saloon. My first night there was a huge eye-opener.

I’d never been around so many gay people. Especially so many LGBTQ people who were open about their lifestyle and their true selves. They did not seem to me to have any of the shame that I felt. They were who they are and they were that unabashedly. This really impressed me.

I also loved that they made us feel safe and secure. They had a state of the art security system and wonderful security guards. The surveillance cameras combines with the guards ensured that we always felt protected.

I returned to that bar so many times afterwards, because it was the only place where I really felt comfortable to be myself. Surrounded by all these gay men, many of them burly bears and leather daddies, who, for the record, I have a huge thing for. It was my sanctuary for several years.

Not only did I love the company there and the atmosphere and the way they accepted me for who I was, but it was just a great bar, too. They served beautiful drinks, like the tea drinks I mentioned in a previous post. They also had wonderful music. They always had great gay DJs spinning on the turntables. These were fairly cheap record players, but that didn’t matter to anyone. The music was great. And I loved their vinyl giveaway nights and all the other great events, especially karaoke nights, although I wasn’t brave enough to get up and sing my first time..

I even went there on a classical night once. It was so cool. I’ll write about this some other time, but they had a little mini orchestra with violins and trumpets and cellos and flutes and any other instrument you could find. And even cooler, it was an all-gay orchestra. It was so different from what you would usually find at that bar, but that is what made it so cool.

As I sit here remembering all the great nights I had, I realize a lot of them blur together, but some of them definitely stand out. Those are the ones I will be writing about in the future.

A lot of this will be rambling, because at that time I smoked a lot of weed and I drank a lot, so my memories have melted together and become blurry. But the overall feeling I had at that time and in that place remains and that is what I hope people will take from my posts on this website. The wonderful feeling that Diamond Jim’s gave to me and to so many other gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and queer people. Thank you, Jim.