Originally beginning as a modest fundraiser, the New York-conceived, world renown bear circuit party (one of the first of its kind) Furball is returning to its hometown this weekend… and the man behind it all is Joe Fiore!
Thotyssey: Hello Joe! Thanks for chatting today! How was your Halloween?
Sounds like good time! What did you wear… if anything, lol?
Lol! I was low key, and it’s an outdoor party… so skimpy attire was not good. But my friends had fun outfits, and there were a lot on display at the party!
Certainly clothing was a lot more optional in the underwear party you hosted at Rockbar back on October 23rd, “Underbear for Daddies.”
That was very fun! You never have to encourage a bear crowd to get in their jock or underwear. I do the party when there’s five weekends in a month… so January may be the next one!
As a promoter of major events in the city and beyond, isn’t it just the best thing in the world to see nightlife back in action now, after the lockdown derailment?
It’s been amazing to see things safely return! So many crazy parties with incredible energy, as everyone has been cooped up for so long!
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Boston, though I have lived longer in NYC now. I went to bars and clubs in Boston, but my involvement in nightlife came in NYC.
How did that begin exactly?
I volunteered at the NYC LGBT Center, at the Center Dances. I had originally wanted to be a DJ and volunteered for tech, but eventually ran the show. After a few years, I became in charge of the committee that ran the dances, which we rebranded Dance 208. It was a 100% fundraiser for the LGBT Center, run by volunteers. It was a lot of fun, and hard work; we did 12 to 20 dances a year. But I met a lot of people, and learned a lot about putting on a party.
You ultimately became known as a Bear Party Guy… how did that begin?
Well, one of the most popular dances we did at The Center was the Furball [starting in 2004]. The Center was resistant at first, because they thought “bears don’t dance…” that it wouldn’t be popular. We filled all three stories of The Center and garden, with over 1000 bears and their admirers, 2 to 3 times a year!
After that, I took the party outside of The Center. And I also started “Rockbear Sundays” at Rockbar NYC, which also was a huge success. It attracted 500 to 750 people on a Sunday. The first Furball out of the Center was at XL [around 2012], and we got over 1000 guys. It was all those events, plus Rockbar, that helped established me as Bear Party Guy.
Furball has become huge over the years, and has travelled to many different cities. What is it about the party that has made it so important to both the bear scene and the circuit scene?
It was one of the first traveling bear dance parties, right at the time when the bear brand began to take off–perhaps helping it along! It’s a New York City-based party, and everybody loves that! It’s an established brand; people know what they will get when they go to Furball, and they want that. I have always attracted scene and non-scene attendees, and it’s known to be an inclusive party. Plus, I never skimp on DJs, venues and dancers!
Have you had a favorite city besides NYC to turn out Furball in?
Chicago–my parties there are massive. Plus, the crowd is so friendly and ready to party and be appreciative. And I love Chicago, and spending time there. New Orleans would be a close second!
And is there a memory of the wildest thing you’ve seen at one of those nights over the years?
Billy Porter showed up at Furball in Provincetown Bear Week. Also, I had an amazing bear dancer–who was a trained dancer, and would do splits on the box! I had two regular dancers–one tied up the other on a box in the middle of the dance floor, and also wound up tying up a customer as well!
Work them ropes!
I notice the bear community in NYC is very tight, and often come out for each other for things like benefits and fundraisers. What do you think it is about bear communities that keeps its members so close together?
I know… they do really come out! Maybe because for a long time, the bears were not a part of the gay mainstream. They feel the importance of helping others who may need it. Also, I find the bear community is inclusive of all types–races, gender orientation– and that also is another reason to give back to those who may need it.
It’s our first time back in NYC for Furball! I have hired four hot furry dancers: Danny J, Pupbandit, Florian Kelly and Zakh Michael. Some of our usual hot dancers, and some new! Nationally known DJ J Warren will be behind the decks, and he’s not stranger to the Furball brand. He spins music guaranteed to keep you moving. Great indoor and outdoor spaces at the venue, and dark corners. And of course, a clothes check if you want to dance in your jock. My NYC Furball family has been dying to see each other, and it’s gonna be amazing energy!
And then, what’s next for you?
Saturday night, I will fly to Fort Lauderdale for my first Furball at the Eagle Wilton Manors. The next weekend, I’m in Boston for Furball Sports Gear party at Legacy. Thanksgiving Eve, I’m at Precinct in Downtown LA. And the next weekend it’s the Furball Tampa debut, and another Boston Furball on December 18. At which point I will plotz! You can see the schedule and all things Furball at my website. And please support my sponsors, Bear Skn and Beefyboys.
The Furball is rolling to a city near you this holiday season! So the final question then must be: what do you want for Christmas?
All I want for Christmas is you, as Mariah says. But besides that, a nice daddy Santa Claus to come down my chimney and stay awhile.