True romance tales! They met over drinks!
by Matt Baume
Carl Phyfer had spent a grand total of two hours in San Francisco before he met the man who would become his husband.
“My plane landed at 8pm,” he remembers. “I didn’t know anybody here, I didn’t have a job … I just had a feeling that I should move here.”
He added, “I had read Tales of the City.”
Carl rode a cab to the Castro, and was surprised to find a much smaller, sleepier neighborhood than the French Quarter he’d left behind in New Orleans. Undaunted, he sat down at the bar in Twin Peaks and struck up a conversation with Jeff Drake.
This summer, Carl and Jeff celebrated their tenth anniversary.
“I was just dumbstruck by everything, and then I met this cute, sweet, intelligent, modest man,” Carl said. “It just seemed right.”
Not long after that, Carl happened to bump into Armistead Maupin, and was able to thank him for inspiring the cross-country move.
Carl and Jeff are just one of the countless heart-warming successes to emerge from Castro bars. Despite a reputation for cheesy pickup lines and one-night stands, gay bars also have a rich history of bringing men together in lifelong bonds.
For Carl and Jeff, there’s strength to be found in their complementary personalities.
“He has an outlook on life and an indomitable spirit that I haven’t always had,” said Jeff. “He makes me happy every day.”
“He’s kind of calmed me down and I’ve brought him up,” said Carl. “I’ve learned a lot from him.”
After their initial meeting, they had a first official date at Luna, followed by many years of return dates to Twin Peaks and, lately, to Blackbird. But their favorite date nights are staying in and knitting together.
Of course, none of this domestic life was part of the plan. “I was going to be Mister Independent,” Carl said. “But I never regretted it at all.”
Love came unexpectedly to John Bellemore, too. He was at Honey Soundsystem’s Sunday night dance party last year when Carl Peters caught his eye. John went over and gave him a friendly finger-poke, and the two hit it off.
“It was totally, I would say, a pickup situation,” John recalled. “I don’t think either one of us had any thought that it would go on. We didn’t exchange numbers.”
But fortunately, John mentioned in passing that he owned Q Bar in the Castro. Carl stopped by a few days later, and they soon felt the same spark. After dating for more than a year, Carl and John moved in together last month.
John credits the venues of their initial meetings with establishing a strong rapport.
“I think getting a beer at happy hour is a good way to start a first date,” said John. “All you’re committed to is a drink, as opposed to a movie or restaurant where you have to get all the way to dessert before you’re getting out. Plus alcohol’s always beneficial for reducing nervousness.”
Q Bar is apparently ground zero for bar couples: John’s business partner just held a commitment ceremony with his partner, whom he met at Midnight Sun.
Sometimes, landing that LTR takes some guts. Last January, Matt Donohue was at Badlands when he saw a familiar face: a boy he’d lusted after on Grindr but had never mustered up the nerve to chat with.
“I’m like, ‘this is my chance. I gotta do it,’” Matt recalled. “He was leaving, so I ran and got him at coat check. And now? We live together.”
“It took a few months,” smiled Ian Huang, recalling a few initial bumps in the road — not the least of which was Ian’s then-boyfriend. But as that relationship concluded, a new one was ready to form.
“We just get along so well,” said Matt. “There’s no conflict. I respect him so much, and he respects me.”
“There’s a cultural difference, since I’m his first Asian boyfriend,” said Ian, adding in mock indignation, “He doesn’t like to eat chicken feet!”
“I love the differences,” Matt said. “Those are the things that make it special.”
That openness to the unexpected is a common theme across all happy relationships, and it’s a sentiment echoed by Carl and Jeff.
“It never happens when you’re looking for it,” Carl said. He paused, and added, “You just have to fly three thousand miles and wander around looking for a drink.”