This king of bear events may have begun in nightlife as a queen, but he’s now made GLAM history in 2017… and there’s still much more in store with Shane Tate!
Shane Tate: It’s such an honor to be nominated alongside such legends as Susanne Bartsch and Daniel Nardicio. I never thought a bear promoter or a bear party would ever be nominated for a GLAM Award. It just goes to show how our community is changing, and bears are coming more in to the mainstream. A lot of people might not like that, but I feel it’s very important for us as a community to share our philosophy of acceptance and non-judgement with the rest of the gay community. Whether you’re hairy, smooth, big or small, everyone can benefit from that way of thinking.
What you just said reminds me that the definition of a “bear” is kind of in flux these days. I think it always used to mean a thick, hairy guy. But now it can be a hairy muscly guy, a hairless thick guy–
Do you think there is a universal trait for a “bear?”
I think nowadays the term “bear” refers less to a physical description and more to a body positive philosophy. The bear community is, in a sense, an anti-culture created to rebel against a certain standard of beauty. All people, no matter their size or their age, can and should feel sexy and confident in who they are.
So Shane, where are you from, and at what point did you discover nightlife and the bear scene?
Well, that is a bit of a sordid tale! I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and got my start in nightlife there as a drag queen at the age of 16. You see, I discovered that if I went out in drag, no one would card me. I started hosting shows, and at the age of 17 I ran away to NYC.
Whoah, wait a sec! You, a drag queen!? What was your name?
Miss Lady D. I actually did my very first NYC drag show with the amazing Sherry Vine at a little East Village party called Easy Bake Oven. I think it was in 1990. God I’m old. Lol!
Nah, you’re just a cub! But you’ve been in the biz here for awhile then.
I’ve been working in nightlife off-and-on for the last 30 years. In 2015, I hosted my first bear party. It was called Beards and Bears Takeover. We would pick a different bar each month and raise money for charity. The parties where hugely successful.
This lead to me starting other bear parties, such as NYC’s original Beer Blast, Fur Trade, Furry Fridays, and now the very successful Beers & Bears. I’m also the creator and organizer of Fire Island Bear Weekend, Key West Bear Weekend, and the soon to be announced Las Vegas Bear Weekend.
I have to confess I was stunned by the success of Thursday night’s weekly Beers & Bears upstairs from the Ritz. I didn’t think bears would congregate in Hell’s Kitchen; that neighborhood caters to a more “traditional” mold of Modern Young Gay.
When I first started Beers & Bears, I purposely renamed the the upstairs of the Ritz The Bear Den. You see, the Ritz had a reputation of being a Twink bar. Reinventing the venue was essential to it’s success.
I believe with the correct marketing and promotion, any neighborhood or venue can be a place for bears to congregate. Also, the fact is we welcome not only bears but also their admirers. We have lots of people every week that tell me they don’t really fit the description of a “bear” but come and truly enjoy themselves in a fun-loving, non-judgmental environment. That’s really what it’s all about.
Aside from your own very successful events, there’s also Furball, The Urban Bear and a whole lot of other bear party producers across the country. Is there room for everybody, or is it a competition for bear hearts and minds (and other organs)?
Well I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t really think of it as competition. I feel that each promoter creates a truly unique experience. I’ve partnered and worked with Robert Valin (Urban Bear) and Joe Fiore (Furball) on several events. We work well together, and have created some incredible parties. I’m not in this business for the money. I do it for my community.
For me they are a huge part of my marketing. SCRUFF has sponsored many of my events, and has provided a huge amount of support and advertisements for those events. SCRUFF gives a lot back to our community.
I don’t really feel these apps hinder nightlife. Although they have made hooking up a lot easier, nothing truly can replace the social face-to-face interactions that parties provide.
Who are some of your favorite DJs to work with?
The MegaWooF takeover of the entire Ritz Bar will be this Friday, November 24th!
The Ritz is going through a transformation, the owner is investing in a new sound system, and we are transforming the space into an incredible dance venue. Although smaller than most clubs, both floors have dance floors which creates a truly intimate party experience. Over the next few months, we will bring in some truly amazing talent. This Friday Is going to be incredible.
And what’s on the HAIR-izon for Shane Tate?
Also, I have Fire Island Bear Weekend coming up June 7th – 10th, and then we have Key West Bear Weekend Nov 8th – 11th . I’m also working on Las Vegas Bear Weekend, and will hopefully be announcing dates soon.
All exciting! Oh, and Happy Recent Birthday!
Thanks! It was a great night with a small group of friends at Pieces. The amazing Vita Summers serenaded me with her rendition of “She Used to be Mine.” She’s an amazing singer and a wonderful performer.
She sure is! So, last question: What was/is your birthday wish?
Well if I had to wish for something, it would be that our country come to its senses and elect a government that would empower and unite us instead of divide us.
We can all get behind that! Thanks Shane, and congatulations again on your nomination and all your success!
Shane Tate produces the “Beers & Bears” happy hour party at The Bear Den above the Ritz (Thursdays, 6pm), and will soon present “Bear Social” at Atlas Social Club (third Fridays beginning December 15th). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for all scheduled Shane Tate New York events, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as the Beers & Bears website.