Fieldnotes: Voyeur Nightclub

Voyeur Nightclub is located at 1221 St. James Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. St. James Street is a narrow cobblestone road flanked by narrow uneven Old City sidewalks. Both Voyeur’s “front” and “back” entrances face the street. The first is a single door with three steps up that leads into a hall like entrance with a half-wall (from the floor up to about 4 feet). This creates a place for customers to enter in an orderly line which snakes around at the end of the 15 foot hall, where the half-wall ends. A desk runs parallel to that hall and then also snakes around to a six foot long three foot wide ramp. Cover fees are collected at the desk and light sensitive stamps are applied to entrants’ wrists. Carpet, walls, and desk are all painted black. At the bottom of the short narrow ramp is the second entrance which is double doors. There are three short steep steps in from the street to a ten foot by twelve foot foyer type area. Through a doorless entranceway is the main area of the club. The main spaces changes depending on the event for the evening. during the “Cash for Queens” competition the stage is to the left upon entering. It is a “T” shape with the bottom half used much like a runway during performances. To the right is a long bar. A few feet in is a support beam about three feet from the bar. The space looks like a rehabbed industrial throwback. Everything in here is black as well. Straight ahead along the back wall is another bar up two short in height steps that span the length of the bar. The bar extends back about 20 feet. There are no stools at either of the bars. To the left of the second bar, divided by a wall is a small unisex bathroom with a door about 2 feet wide. Inside is a urinal, a stall and a sink. you can touch any of the three form the center of the very small space. Not that I would touch any since my wheelchair does not fit through the door. Along the last wall to the left is a step up to a seating area. The space has a series of booths along the back wall that create one long booth. At the far left when facing this wall there is a six foot long railing. Tonight in front of the “T” shaped stage is one table, made up of two smaller round tables, at the foot of the stage. There are two tables to the left of the stage and three to the right. In an arch shape behind the middle table are fifteen chairs. The curtain made from individual long pieces of fabric is alternating red and black. Above the stage curtain is a balcony like area where the DJ and his equipment are housed. Large speakers hang on the wall facing down over the clientele on either side. The whole space is framed by a balcony area and the drag queens prepare and change upstairs. They enter and exit the stage from a black curtained door stage right between the stage itself and the area with the booths and railing.

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