Father Tony

My Stint as an Extra in "Bear City"

Filed By Father Tony | September 05, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: bear city, bear culture, gay bear, New York City, The Eagle

I had a great time as an extra in a movie bear city logo.pngcalled Bear City. Filmed at the legendary New York leather bar The Eagle, this movie is described by its makers as a bear version of Sex and the City.

When the casting director asked me to bring a few different outfits, she specified that I should avoid red, white or black because those colors do not read well under the lights. She said that earth tones would be preferable. Earth tones? No black? This girl has obviously never been to The Eagle, I thought, but I managed to throw together an appropriate combination of grey, navy and olive. At one point in the filming, the director yelled for a pause and fetched a dark leather baseball cap to hide my radiantly silver hair that was casting some blinding light of its own.

Video, photos and more after the jump.

During my three day stint, I was interviewed by some documentarians about the definition of "bear". That is actually a tricky question to answer, but basically, a bear is a hairy masculine gay guy who is most often stocky. There are variations labeled cub, otter, panda, polar, etc.

I am still thinking through the matter of obesity as it relates to the bear culture.

The fabulous Michael Musto, and Randy Jones of The Village People, both had cameos. I chatted with Mr. Musto who was not at all pleased at having to wait quite awhile for his brief "nipple clamp" scene/cameo on the dance floor.

The weirdest part of this experience involved dancing with no music. We'd be given a couple of bars, and then it would cut to silence so that the dialogue would record correctly.

The best part of the experience was the camaraderie that develops among the extras during the long hours of waiting for the next scene in which we might be needed. And there was the exceptionally fine catering....

I'm wearing my leather cap in this photo in the Advocate piece about the filming of Bear City.

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If you look at the early issues of Bear Magazine, you will not find pictures of many large men - most are regular guys, usually with facial hair. The origins of the Bear subculture started in San Francisco with Bear Magazine and the Ambush bar and then the Lone Star bar (which played rock music rather than gay dance). The tag line from Bear Magazine aptly describes what it was all about in those first years: Masculinity without the trappings. It was the guys who did not wear fashion leather, but rather biker leathers. It was a reaction against the gym bunny sweater crowd of the Castro. It accepted larger guys but was not about size back then. Only when the larger guys from Girth & Mirth clubs started hanging out in those bars (because they were not shunned there, as they were in the Castro) did larger size start becoming a bear attribute.
As "bear" became a community to be marketed to, it changed. It has continued to change (muscle bears being gym bunnies without the abs)and fragmented as well.

Thank you, djbearsf! That is a good bit of history and a believable chronology.

I've heard a similar but less specific version of that same origin. Generally, I heard that a "bear" was a member of the South of Market crowd who wasn't necessarily into leather. And yes, facial hair (and body hair) was a more primary determinant originally than was waist size.

It recently occurred to me that if I underwent sex re-assignment surgery it would effect an inter-species transition: I'd start out as a bear and end up as a cougar.

As the skinny hairy guy I've never felt like a part of bear culture. Thankfully, since Jerame has a big build (but hardly a hair on his body), if you put us together you get a bear pack(age).