Men’s Travel Guide
by Gina M. Gattta
Reviewed by Elana Cogliano
The expression may be “blondes have more fun,” but a glance through a Damron travel guide will leave you wondering if it’s time to ditch your blond friends and follow someone with a Damron title peeking out of his or her pocket. Since 1964, Damron has been “the first name and the last word” in gay travel. The self-proclaimed experts have published yearly world guides, including the 2006 editions of Men’s Travel Guide and Women’s Traveler. Both of these guides cover the USA and popular cities in Europe, South America and Central America with recommended accommodations, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs for the gay traveler.
The guides tackle the US thoroughly by providing at least 20 cities to visit in every state and extra coverage of popular gay-friendly sites like New York and San Francisco. Rest assured that even if you find yourself stranded in Parkersburg West Virginia, the Damron guides will help you find Pioneer Adult Books and Videos down the street. In Men’s Travel Guide, each city’s suggestions are helpfully coded using a key at the beginning of the guide. “MO” or ‘WO” specifies Men Only or Women Only, “GF” stands for Gay-Friendly, but Mostly Straight, “L” means Leather and Fetish, “DS” stands for Drag Shows and “AYOR” specifies particular places to enter At Your Own Risk. Using these disclaimers, the guide offers frank, explicit advice on where to pick up men. Enough gay men must agree on these “Cruisy Areas” since most police departments in the US carry a copy of Men’s Travel Guide.
Reading suggestions from the guide is like talking to a friend who doesn’t blush easily. Damron is a friend that has been everywhere and seen everything and mentions, with a wink, that if you’re staying in Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, “walk left way past beach homes to nude beaches and dunes.” If you follow the italic memos on how to behave, you just might wind up in the hunky Emerald City in Pensacola dancing up against one of those promised studs. If that is the case, Damron will be your wingman. The guide is set up so clearly that you’ll be able to thumb through in the dark of the club and find the motel Casa de Playa located right down the road.
Women’s Traveller has a similar organization with a few extras for the girls. In addition to the other categories offered in the men’s guide, spiritual groups are listed for each city. For major cities, a tip box points out Best View, Weather Tips and Where the Girls Are. Women’s Traveller doesn’t have a “Cruisy” section and only keeps the G-rated codes, so either women aren’t cruising around picking each other up or they’ve got a keener sense of intuition than most gay men and don’t need a guide for that sort of thing.
The friendly tone of Men’s Travel Guide comes through in the form of a mock email every few pages which gives an inside scoop on the best hours to visit museums, who to look for, and whether the girls are traveling in couples or not. Explaining what you should know, like “what exactly is the East Bay of California” in the same chatty tone as the Men’s Travel Guide, The Woman’s Traveller gives gossipy details about what type of lesbians you’ll find in each area, whether “coiffed and lipsticked” as is the norm in LA or “motorcycle butch” as you may see in Provincetown.
Though small enough to fit in a pocket or purse, both guides are weighted down by ads. At least they occur in the right places (California bars are advertised in the California section) and feature some great lines for cities: “D.C. Where not only the cherry blossoms come out” or Philadelphia “Get your history straight and your nightlife gay!” While all the information on popular gay hotspots could get overwhelming, both guides offer sample trip plans for select cities that feature plenty of options including places to shop (for sex toys or erotica), dance, walk, and eat. The back of the guides lists cruises, tours, and events including a yearlong calendar of unofficial gay days, Gay Film Festivals and AIDS walks. The backs of the guides are worth it even if you don’t plan on traveling at all, just to know what’s happening in your own area. Damron also runs an extensive online guide with plenty of databases to search through.
Reading a guidebook is usually just a baby step up from reading a telephone book. They often function as time fillers while flying somewhere or waiting in line. Somehow the Damron guides manage to get a flirty, fun voice through the straight (har har), facts. The advice felt so personal that it was like reading someone’s diary. At least now I’m in the inner circle. I may just head to unofficial gay day at Six Flags and see what all the fuss is about. Bet you don’t know when that would be.
Wouldn’t you like to know…
Gina M. Gattta, ed.
Men’s Travel Guide (San Francisco, CA, 2006).
ISBN: 0-929435-55-9 $19.95 722 pp
Gina M. Gattta, ed.
Women’s Traveller (San Francisco, CA, 2006).
ISBN: 0-929435-56-7 $17.95 635 pp