Culture editors explore Buffalo nightlife for first time

Culture editors explore Buffalo nightlife for first time

Buffalo’s nighttime scene came alive for three first-timers this weekend. Angelica Rodriguez, Samantha Wulff and I — Colleen Young — all wore our Saturday night best for an evening filled with dancing, music, food and a whole lot of ‘Buffalove.’

Here’s how the night went down in our heads:


Before our trio set out for a downtown adventure, though, there was plenty of work to be done. We compared outfit ideas, discussed shoe choices and laughed at the realization that we were going to be a part of the clubbing scene for the first time — all in the name of journalism.

Angelica went shopping the day of just to get the finishing touches for her outfit after a major setback. Sam hustled from her sister’s soccer game all the way back to the city limits. I went to my friend’s house in desperation, asking for a complete night-out makeover, including the outfit, makeup and hairdo.

I asked her every question that came to mind about how to “go out.” I knew I was totally going to be out of my element, and I was right. I spent most of the night with my jaw propped open, and ironically, I surely was in a big state of ‘culture shock.’

Our Culture crew got past our nerves of joining the club scene and became excited to report back to our colleagues about our first adventure in Buffalo’s most vibrant area after dark.

I was determined to tell them I made it out alive, I stayed with the group, I only drank water that I kept attached to my hand with imaginary super glue, and I danced the night away.

I roll up in my party mobile — a Toyota Rav 4 — to pick up Sam and Angelica around 10 p.m. We’re all dressed up, anxious, and ready for a night of fun. Together, we embark on our maiden voyage to Chippewa Street, Buffalo’s nightlife hub.

The first obstacle we come across is parking. Downtown isn’t always busy, but when it is, spots are hard to come by. After playing an entertaining round of “Is This a Parking Spot?” we finally snag one a few blocks from our destination.

Upon arrival, we realize that I’m cramping their style in a big way. I’m only 20, and our destination options are limited with an underage groupie in tow. It also looks as though Pure Nightclub — our original option — has become Lux, a 21-and-over establishment. It’s time to go back to the drawing board, so we huddle by Starbucks and Angelica steals some Wi-Fi to figure out our next move.



My heart has sunken to my stomach almost immediately after I realized I let the girls down with my club choice, but I’m determined to make amends. After a quick Google search on my phone, I realize that Club Marcella, which isn’t too far off, is 18-and-over, meaning Colleen will be perfectly welcome.

Drag queens?

Don’t mind if we do.

The heavyset guy at the door straps us each with a wristband on the left arm, and from there, we move to the woman at the cash register, who stamps our hands. Sam and I have invisible hearts; Colleen, black Xs to show she can’t drink.

Marcella is a wide-open space. At least, I can see that in about five minutes once my eyes adjust to the darkness. The handsome bartender nods at me as soon as we walk in, so I feel compelled to order a drink, and, feeling magnanimous, I pay for Sam’s too. He hands me back all singles, and I smile. I may never have been to a gay club before, but I know what these are for.

When we walk into the main dance area, we see mirrored pillars, another bar, and a small stage complete with dance poles on either side. There aren’t a lot of people here yet — a bridal party, or so we’ve heard the bouncer say, and a couple other stragglers. Despite Marcella’s reputation as a LGBT establishment, there seems to be mostly straight people there, at least to start. Some of them are already getting hot and heavy. Sam nudges me a few times, slightly shocked at the bumping and grinding taking place at my two-o’-clock. That’s something I didn’t miss from my high school days. Our dancing is much more tame, though I take note of some of Colleen’s moves. Who knew the girl had that in her?

As the clock chimes closer to midnight, a few more people trudge into the space, including a girl who immediately leaps onto one of the dance poles, where, just above her head, there hangs a sign saying, “Dance poles are to be used by professionals only.”

I guess you only live once.

There’s a drag show at midnight sharp, and I won’t lie — I’m a little excited to see it. I’ve only ever seen one other show in my life. Well, if Lady Gaga’s lyric video for “Applause” counts, then I’ve seen three, but the one I saw live was just two days before this, in the Union’s Social Hall on campus.

I have some idea of what to expect, but as I would find out, Buff State’s show was fairly tame compared to this.

Keke Valasquez-Lord comes onto the well-worn stage, and she is resplendent in a clingy, sparkling deep pink number, her makeup done to the nines. She lip-syncs to old-school Mariah Carey — “Emotions” — and almost immediately, she starts motioning for tips. None of us had any idea drag queens would be so straightforward about asking for money, but like anyone else, they have to make a living, I suppose. So people start slowly ponying up. It’s not enough, though, for either Keke or the next performer, Jayme Coxx; they start making wisecracks about the audience not tipping once they’re done performing.

Then comes the real fun: the hot underwear contest.

Keke has a hard time finding people from the audience to participate in this. Dance Pole Girl volunteers straightaway with her friend, and another girl comes up to the stage, but while there are a plethora of good-looking, well-built men in the crowd, no one is willing to bare (almost) everything.

Dance Pole Girl’s friend, a slim, giggly boy, is the only male contestant, and thus he wins automatically. After an entertaining interlude during which dance pole girl begins “twerking” (if you can call it that) in a black thong while the others try to keep up, the winners are declared by audience reaction. The other female contestant, a curvy brunette with a black corset and a pretty smile, wins as well.

The best moment of all of this has to be when Keke chats up the male contestant — we’ll call him Joe to protect the poor soul’s identity — and, curious, pulls at the waistband of Joe’s black briefs to look at what’s underneath.

I look over to Colleen, who has the stricken look of a mother superior watching the worst sin being committed, and I can’t help but burst into laughter. Clearly she wasn’t expecting anything like this, and to be honest, neither was I. But raunch comes with the territory here at Marcella.

The winners each get a bar tab (which is ironic, considering Joe has black Xs on his hands identical to Colleen’s), and from there we get the dancing started again.

My feet are killing me in my three-inch heels, so I sit on the stage for a bit, watching everyone else get down.

There are a couple of precious moments. At one point, the strobe lights are activated, and I look into the far corner by the DJ booth to see an older man, about in his 50s, with a trucker hat and a beer, pumping his fist to the beat. This makes me pray to God that I don’t end up like that when I’m his age.

Also, club life in general seems to breed creepers, because another man, around his 30s or 40s, is making his way around the dance floor, staring at certain groups of girls and trying his best to dance with a few, who rebuff his advances. As he approaches our threesome, coming right behind Sam, I instinctively push her closer to us and fix him with what I think is a pretty legitimate look of death, and he retreats. Thankfully, he doesn’t try again.

Aside from that, though, Marcella seems to be a relatively tame zone for that kind of thing. Or maybe I’m just better at being a mother hen than I think. We dance a little while longer before Sam and I have to sit down. Let’s put it this way — heels were a bad choice.



Our energy dies down after a few hours, meaning, our feet hurt and we’re tired of dancing to the same beats. So we find a cozy spot in a corner to sit down.

After some much needed “girl talk” (which includes checking out the very handsome and probably very gay men behind the bar to our left), I proposition a late-night meal, and the girls enthusiastically accept. Suddenly, our crew is full of energy once again, with visions of Jim’s Steakout in our heads.

We pile back into the car, eager to find Jim’s — so eager that we pass the first one downtown. As we drive back down Chippewa on the way home, we’re in for a final surprise: these places are packed. I look at the clock. Quarter to three.

We’re leaving, and everyone else is filing in. All I could think about was how would I possibly get up in time to finish this story if I were going out now?

Thankfully, there are enough Jim’s Steakouts in the area so that we easily make it to the one on Allen and Elmwood. Taking one look into the storefront, our jaws simultaneously drop.

“This city is only so big, and I’m pretty sure everyone who lives here is in Jim’s Steakout right now,” Angelica remarks.

Who knew that the line would be pouring out of the door the wee hours of a Sunday morning?

Needless to say, we decide to look elsewhere. The big debate of the night ensues between whether Mexican or Greek food would be best suited for the occasion — Cantina Loco right behind us, or Towne across the street? Greek won out.

The restaurant is busy, but not overwhelming. I suppose it’s called nightlife for a reason, but it’s as if this were the middle of the day for some patrons, including yet another wedding party, complete with the bride in her fairy tale dress and the groom and his men in bubblegum pink vests. I guess October’s a popular wedding month.

I order a spinach pita melt, Colleen the open chicken souvlaki, and Angelica a bacon cheeseburger. We are all quite satisfied with our choices, and as somebody who hadn’t really had Greek food before that moment, it’s the icing on the cake of our night. We chat, joke and compare photos of our time at Marcella’s, reliving some of the better moments.

A note to the wise regarding payment at Towne: this place has some unique rules. We could not split checks, and we could only have one form of payment. Two of our three have cash, but that isn’t enough. However, the problem is easily circumvented, as we put it on a card and split the difference among ourselves.

As we walk out of the restaurant, we backtrack through the night once more, taking note of what we want to include in our story and expressing surprise at how many people don’t come out till after midnight. We must already be old ladies at heart. But we’re old ladies together. And for this being our first excursion as an editorial section, it was a clear success.

Aside from getting a first-hand account of nightlife from the inexperienced, the experience had an unexpected, but welcomed latent result. Through the initial disarray, drag queens, impressive dance moves and late-night dining, we were brought together — not only as co-workers, but as friends.

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