Rio de Janeiro:A Gringho in Carioca Paradise 1.1:Copacabana

Evan Kaminsky
Authored by
Evan Kaminsky

May 10, 2011
12:43 p.m.

Over 50 years ago, a young lady named Lorraine Kaminsky (my aunt) was working at West Point as a secretary. While there she met a tall, dark and handsome Brazilian man name Massilon Martins, who was stationed at West Point from the Brazilian army. They fell in love and soon after they were married in a small ceremony at Lorraine’s parents home (my grandparents).  Once married, with her belongings in tow, Lorraine and Massy sailed from New York to Rio de Janeiro, leaving behind Lorraine’s family and friends, starting a new life together. Lorraine slowly learned from Massy how to speak, understand and write in Portuguese. Through the Brazilian army, The Martins purchased a large top floor flat where they worked together teaching English to Brazilians and Portuguese to Americans. The also had a son named Victor. Although Lorraine missed her former home, friends and family in the U.S., she had met the love of her life and a beautiful family, never regretting her choice to move. Sadly, in 1988, my uncle Massy passed away while sitting in his favorite chair watching soccer. Lorraine has lived there, on her own ever since.

When Lorraine offered to fly me to Rio to visit her, I was beside myself. I’d been dreaming of visiting her for years, remembering what I could about my trip 25 years earlier (for my 10th birthday, including my first topless showgirl show), but wanted to experience Rio as an adult….especially as a gay adult! Rio de Janeiro is one of the top Gay destinations in the world, although Rio is not as progressive as you would think. I found that “acting gay”, although considered feminine or “passivo”, was not a problem but public displays seem to be frowned upon unless done only in the right neighborhoods (or out of the wrong ones at least).

I stayed with my Aunt in the neighborhood Copacabana where she lives. It was the perfect central location. 6 blocks from Copacabana Beach, 1 block from the Metro station and walking distance to neighboring ‘hoods like Botafogo or Ipanema and they are just a leisurely walk away. The bus and Metro system are pretty easy to follow although I prefer the safety and ease of the underground Metro over the daredevil speedway of the busses (they like to open the doors before they stop to let you out and they speed down the streets, hitting the brakes fast and hard (for most of you it might be right up your alley).

If you don’t have the luxury of having family or friends in Rio, there are other options.  Many locals have flats that they rent out by the week during tourist season. This option is more like living there, having your own kitchen to cook in and your own space while you are there. If you’d rather be catered to, there are many hotels in the area, ranging in size, style and price. Of course the beachfront hotels are more glamorous, but also have a much higher price tag. Whether you stay there or not, you have to check out the Copacabana Palace Hotel. It is one of the oldest and fancy hotels on Copacabana beach, complete with day spa, restaurants and pool. The beach is just across the street from the hotel.  In fact, the beach directly across is the only gay area on Copacabana beach and it tends to be the place that the bears and the trannys and rent-boys hang out (why, together? Who knows…one group is hairy and manly and the other is just a bunch of bears!). There is always a rainbow flag blowing in the breeze atop a canopied booth that rents chairs and umbrellas and also serves drinks. The beach is full of these individual businesses catering to beach goers and they will race each other to get to you first.  Also on the beaches are different vendors selling everything from “Camarao” and “Frango” (shrimp and chicken) that are grilled right in front of you on a portable grill, to T-Shirts, Kanga’s (Brazilian Sarongs), jewelry and henna tattoos.

For those who want the true Carioca (that’s what people from Rio call themselves) experience on the beach, complete with hairless, tan and muscular bodies, wearing tiny Speedo-like-square-cut-bathing suits called Sungas, then your place is Ipanema beach. The part of the beach directly across from the street called “Rua Farme de Amoedo” (Rio’s closest thing to San Francisco’s gay Castro district…more on that later) is the gay part of Ipanema (in my opinion all of Ipanema is the gay part).  There you will find many booths with rainbow flags, each catering to our community. Along all of the beaches there are numbered “Postos” where the lifeguards stay. They are great for coordinating a meeting place and also you can rent lockers, take a shower or use the facilities for a small fee.

Ipanema isn’t just great for sunning and watching the eye-candy, Cariocas like to party and will continue to do so, on the beach well after the sun goes down.  At that point for me it was always time for me to take a nice long nap before heading out for the night. For those who are worked up from staring at sexy half naked bods all afternoon, there is always the option of hitting one of Rio’s many gay Saunas. Some go to the Saunas just to freshen up after the beach if they don’t want to travel to their hotel or home to do so before going out (others go for the sex). The Saunas, although varied in size, style and clientele, have a few things in common. For your entrance fee, you get a locker and a pair of Havainas (flip flops) and a towel (they even have large size towels for the bears and chubs). Once inside, there are showers, a steam room, sauna, sometimes a pool (though if you dare to swim you might get preggers) and even a bar. Many of the Saunas also have barbers and nail technicians available for haircuts, a shave or a mani-pedi. Of course there are also places to play including semi-private rooms with accordion style doors that latch, dark rooms and even a gym. Most of the Saunas are also filled with “Rent-Boys”. Although prostitution is illegal in Rio, it isn’t usually prosecuted. I’ve been told (I never pay for it…I can hardly give it away) that when you enter a Sauna that has “service providers”, they are lined up in the main room waiting to be approached. Just like a kid in a candy store with lots of lolly-pops to taste, you can simply walk up to whom-ever tickles your fancy, ask how much and there you go. Apparently these guys are cheap and easy…only about the equivalent of around $50 per guy will get you what you want. At those prices you might as well buy two! If paying for companionship isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of guys at the Saunas that are not on the clock. Most of the time, you need to approach them first. Also make sure to bring your own condoms and lube because not all Saunas provide them (and if they do, the only lube they have is KY). Due to the culture and the Machismo factor you may come across married men there to get off after work before going home, or you may find that the guys will only do certain things in private as to not look feminine in front of others. In Portuguese, the word for Top is “Activo” and the word for Bottom is “Passivo”. Well no matter what position I end up in, I am always active and in control of what I want to happen, so these labels don’t make sense to me, but it does show their viewpoints on masculinity vs. femininity.

…to be continued in the next chapter: Caipirinhas

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