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 gaytoz / MEDIA COMMENT 1998
Book a double room? Not if you're gay, Sir.
Trago Mills boss censured
The boys who make you feel like a million dollars
Virgin will face investigation over 'Southern Poofs' bilIboard
Equal in the Army, so long as you're not gay.
Cruising for a Caribbean rejection
London aims at pink traveller
Police turn to gay medla for recruits
The pink pound is at home in the city
If you've got £2m to spare, we know the perfect loft.
Gay Pride festival heads for financial fall
First gay TV stations will be on cable
Schubert on song to woo the gay dollar

More Media Comment from 1996 and 1997

Book a double room? Not if you're gay, Sir.

Many hotels are disciminating against homosexual couples, despite attempts by Tourist Boards to promote Britain as a major gay holiday venue.

In a survey conducted by The Independent on Sunday three out of 10 hotels either refused bookings by a gay couple or required them to sleep in separate beds, reinforcing the findings of a forthcoming report on discrimination by the group Stonewall, which campaigns for lesbian and gay rights.

In a study of 4,000 gay people Stonewall found that 17 per cent said they had been made to feel unwelcome because of their sexuality when staying in a hotel, 7 per cent had been refused a double bed, and 3 per cent had been told that gays and lesbians were unwelcome.

An Independent on Sunday reporter called 10 hotels, selected at random from the Which? Hotel Guide, asking for a booking for a double room with double bed for two gay men. Seven had no problem at all with the idea, but one said he would only be allowed to visit if he and his partner slept in separate beds. Another said she would have to ask her husband's approval.

Another refused the booking outright.

Andrew Tuck, Independent on Sunday, 8 February 1998

PS: The GAY to Z Directory lists over 680 gay and gay friendly hotels around the UK.

Trago Mills boss censured

The proprietor od Trago Mills, a Cornwall discount store, was censured by the Advertising Standards Authority for inciting homophobic violence through 'Advertorials' in local newspepers. Bruce Robertson, Trago Mills chairman replied to the ASA that "the ASA have colluded with those factions within our society intent upon promoting the homosexual cause and suppressing the opinions of others." The ASA rejected his critism saying "we are not colluding with anyone. We responded properly to an advert that caused widespread offence and could well have incited homophobic violence."

Meanwhile the Broadcasting Standards Commission has ruled that callers to phone-in programmes are entitled to make homophobic comments because of the right to free speech..

Pink Paper, 6 February 1998

The boys who make you feel like a million dollars

More taste, better manners. designer stores are vying for the top gay shop assistants, says James Sherwood.

THE SLOANE Street shop-girl is a much-maligned figure in modern London folklore. These stick-shaped young harpies terrorise designer clothes shoppers with feline disdain and thinly veiled insults. Grown women have been reduced to tears with questions like: Would Madame like to try a larger size?" When asked if a mini skirt and knee-high boots would go, one assistant on the designer floor of a Knightsbridge store was overheard muttering, "Not with those thighs."

Now, London has acquired a secret weapon in the battle against bad manners: the gay male shop assistant. "The boys are best-sellers," says Lisa Stronsnes, owner/manager of Brompton Road boutique Le Coin. "Most women don't feel confident when they walk into a shop and a fabulous-looking young girl is not going to put her at her ease. My guys are not intimidating - they bring an energy and excitement into the shop because they love clothes as much as my customers do."

Like professional footballers, top gay shop assistants are courted by managemen~ and transferred from designer store to designer store. David Drew is Stronsnes's star in Sloane Street boutique Alberta Ferr~tti, where she and business partner Agatha Washington also interview employees. After a 12 year career as a male model, Drew worked for major-league designers Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Giorgio Armani. "I've lost count of the number of cuff-links I've been given by my ladies," says Drew. "Over the years, they have come to trust me. You reach a level of intimacy when you can say,That looks dreadful. Take it off', without offending. I don't want a lady making an entrance at a party in a hideous dress and her telling friends it was from David at Alberta's."

Of course, gay men in retail are nothing new. Who could forget John Inman's cringingly camp Mr Humphries - inspired by a gent's outfitter from Austin Reed - in Are You Being Served?. But the new generation of gay shop assistants arc an asset rather than an embarrassment. "The guys have a strong awareness of high fashion," says Stronsnes. "They are young and good looking. The ladies don't mind taking their clothes off in front of them and when a gay guy says,'Darling. it's fabulous, you know the opinion is objective. The boys can accessorise faster than I can."

None of Stronsnes and Washington's stores - including Strenesse on Sloane Street - hire exclusively gay staff. As Stronsnes says, "Some Arab customers will not be served by a man, so the boys will back off and lel one of the girls take over. This is an exception - many of the customers make a beeline for the guys. But, when hiring staff of either sex, professionalism and friendliness are paramount, I don't want attitude."

Lucille Lewin, owner of Whistles. says, "Gay guys may be wonderful with women - and we do hire gay and straight boys and girls - but shopping is not like dinner with friends. I think there is something quite sad about women who don't have self-confidence and treat those boys like best friends or psychiatrists, Kind, friendly and educated are my three criteria when hiring staff. And sweetness."

Serial Sloane Street shopper Tessa Salmo says, "Cay men do have a better way with women. I tried on a dress in one boutique and the girl said they didn't have my size and I was advised to try something less fitted. I tried on the same dress in Harvey Nichols and the sweet boy on the contemporary designer Boor just said it wasn't my colour. They both meant the same thing, but I walked out of the former and Spent ?500 in the latter."

But a retail manager from one of the major high-street stores, who wished to remain anonymous, offers a word of caution. "You won't find many gay men in high-street stores outside London. The customers aren't sophisticated enough to deal with it. It's a very British attitude to think retail is demeaning and gay men are a great antidote to that. But a gaggle of gay staff can be as bitchy as girls. I've seen gay men dishing the dirt about customers and driving them out of the store. But one or two good gay staff are invaluable."

"He's such a glamour-puss," says Stronsnes of David Drew. "David knows all the ladies who lunch, and shop, in Knightsbridge. They have followed him because they know any shop where he works is quality. Like many gay men, David has impeccable laste and that wins them over. Alberta's wouldn't be the same without him."

James Sherwood
Independent on Sunday 29 October 1998

Virgin will face investigation over'Southern Poofs' bilIboard

A billboard poster from the computer arm of gay-friendly company Virgin jokingly inviting onlookers to shout "Southern poofs" as an invitation to get beaten up is to be investigated by the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA),after the watchdog received several complaints.

The Virgin Interactive advertisements, for their new 3-D Streetfighter game, were removed from poster sites across southern England on Monday after a week-long campaign costing E500,000. At the top of the poster, a tiny strapline read: New 3D Street Fighter EX. For the next closest thing, stand here and shout',beneath which 'Southern Poofs' was printed in blue capital letters.

Louie Beatty, vice president of marketing at Virgin Interactive, said: "The advert's saying, obviously as a joke, that if you want to get an essence of this technoiogy, stand here, shout 'southern poofs' and you'll get the shit kicked out of you.'!

Beatty added: "North of Birmingham, we substitute 'Southern Poofs' with Northern Gits'. It's a play on regional meanings. 'Poof',to me, isn't a term of abuse against gays. If it was, I wouldn't have run it. I can see some people being offended by it, but I'd say they were being a bit over-sensitive."

Streetfighter, created by top Japanese company Capcom, is a popular computer game which originated in amusement arcades. The 'Southern Poofs' ad was created by leading agency, Banks Hoggins O'Shea.

The ASA said they were investigating the Virgin ad for possibly causing "serious or widespread offence" The watchdog's code states: "Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation or disability."

An ASA spokesman said: "In this investigation, we will bear in mind that 'poof' has several meanings to different people, and even within the gay community itself." The ASA upheld a complaint about a previous Sony PlayStation ad earlier this year, agreeing with complainants that an image of a boy pinned to a wall with 'blood' graffiti scrawled beside him was too violent for a magazine aimed at children.

Tim Teeman, Pink Paper, 26 December 1998

Equal in the Army, so long as you're not gay.

What, exactly, is an equal opportunities employer? As far as the Army is concerned, it is an employer that offers equal opportunities, to everyone but gays. The question arose yesterday when the Advertising Standards Authority said it was investigating whether the Army can truthfully claim to be such an employer, given that homosexuals are banned from serving in its ranks.

The ASA has received complaints about a recruitment poster in which the Army in effect brags about its enlightened policies. The poster features four soldiers of different ethnic origins, and carries the slogan: "The Army Can't Be An Equal Opportunities Employer Without You". The ASA has decided that there is a case to answer, and if it judges the advertisement to be misleading or untruthful, it can order it to be withdrawn or amended. The armed services have a long-standing ban on serving homosexuals, which is being contested before the European Court of Human Rights.

The poster, which has appeared on buses and hoardings in the regions, is part of a recruitment drive iaunched by the Army last year to attract more people from ethnic minorities. At the time, General Sir Roger Wheeler, chief of the general staff, said that the Army wished to counter lingering perceptions that it was a racist organisation.

But it appears to be less sensitive to charges of sexual prejudice. A spokesman said: "We are not equal opportunity employers as far as hamosexuals are concerned, and that is a legal position. We don't employ homosexuals and the advertisement does not invite applications from homosexuals, nor does it lead anyone to suppose that we are inviting such applications. In that sense it is truthful to our employment policy."

Kathy Marks The Independent, 6 February 1998

Cruising for a Caribbean rejection

Gay rights campaigners are calling for a boycott of the Caribbean holiday island resort of the Cayman Islands after the British dependency voted to refuse a landing certificate to an all-gay cruise ship.

The tour company, Atlantis Events, was planning to charter the vessel for an exclusively gay cruise of the Caribbean for 900 men with plans for a one-day stopover on the Cayman Islands scheduled for 1 February.

But last week the island's minister for tourism, commerce and transport, Thomas Jefferson, issued a statement saying: "Careful research and prior experience has led us to conclude that we cannot count on this group to uphold the standards of appropriate behaviour expected of visitors to the Cayman Islands."

In a change of tone, a government spokeswoman said this week: "The Caymen Islands Government regrets any offence which has been caused in their response to a request by the cruise ship Leeward to visit the Caymen Islands."

She added: "But the capital, George Town, cannot cope with large numbers. The government therefore limits the total daily number of passengers."

This week the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office was not planning to intervene, though a spokesman said:"I must say we were a little surprised that the minister responded in the style that he did."

The Pink Paper, 16 January 1998

London aims at pink traveller

Chris Smith fails to attend conference, as capital instigates marketing drive

Gay MP Chris Smith backed out of a major gay travel conference in the week that London Tourist Board (LTB) tried to attract gay Americans to the capital.

The Cuiture Secretary was due to speak at a conference held by the US-based International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association on Saturday, but pulled out at the last minute.

A ministry spokeswoman said: "He wanted to attend but he had amazing diary pressures that day, as he always does." Sources said he had pulled out of the event because of the massive amount of pre-publicity it had.

British travel agents and tour operators spoke at the event, attended by 150 IGLTA members from the USA, Canada, Brazil and France. Manchester and Brighton were said to be among the highlights for gays and lesbians visiting this country.

Stuart Crouch, of organisers London Handling, said: "It was the first of its kind held in this country, promoting England to the gay traveller. It was a very educational day." Major carriers like Virgin and British Airways supported the day.

Mean while, the London Tourist Board launched a campaign to attract gay urban professionals in the US to the capital, which depicts the capital as an active centre of gay culture.

"If you think South Beach is the only place for tea [US slang for tea dances] think again," its publicity poster declares. "Whatever your interest, London is waiting for you."

LTB's head of business development, Helen Jones, said the gay sector was "a huge market".

She said: "LTB has never actively targeted this market, but cannot afford to ignore it.

"We know that London is probably commercially the largest gay scene in Europe and the value of the gay tourism market to the city is estimated at nearly ?1 million a year. We are aiming to build upon this and increase the market."

LTB will spend ?60,000 on advertising aimed at gays aged 30-50 in New York, Washington and San Francisco.

Pink Paper, 23 January 1998

Police turn to gay medla for recruits

Police forces are increasingly advertising in the gay and lesbian media to attract a wider variety of recruits, it was revealed yesterday.

Paul Fairweather, from the National Advisory Group Policing Lesbian and Gay Communities, said so far the poiicy was limited to areas where there were well-known gay communities, such as Sussex and Manchester. "In the long term we hope it will become a matter of normal practice."

Mr Fairweather, who was speaking during the group's annual conference in Brighton, said there was a real need for the police to recruit more openly gay and lesbian officers. "That will change the canteen culture of our forces."

The organisation backed a speech by Home Office Minister Alun Michael, the first government minister to attend such a conference, who acknowledged the need to build bridges with the gay community. "I recognise that lack of trust in the police has resulted in serious underreporting of homophobic attacks and a feeling that people's lifestyles - rather than the crimes are under investigation, he said.

However, there were some good examples of police practice around the country where there has been good "dialogue" between the police and gay communities, he said.

"The Government is also playing its part. Legislation is now in place to ensure peopje do not have to suffer a campaign of harassment, and it can be used for the protection of lesbians and gay men.

The Independent 28 November 1997

The pink pound is at home in the city

Home hunters in London have flocked to Elephant & Castle to buy an apartment in Metro Central, a revamped office block on New Kent Road.

Within two weeks of launching its final phase, Metro South, St George, the developer has sold 35 of the 100 studios and flats. Not surprisingly, its position close to Waterloo and the City and its competitive prices have all contributed to its success, but so has the pink pound.

Apparently, word of mouth among the gay community has boosted its popularity. "It has an American lifestyle flavour to it," says a man who lives in nearby Brixton. "They can see themselves as living in an episode of Friends. The gymnasium and swimming pool under one roof would be irresistible. Gay men like to colonise and have definitely taken up south of the river. It has all the space you gett for the money. You havc to have somewhere to put your rowing machine."

Lorna Vesty, a partner at Knight Frank, says the gay buyer is a major buying force in central urban developments. "They mirror the rising importance of emptynesters in rural new developments," she says. "ln thc case of London, the usual rules apply - affordability and locatiull are the two crucial issues for all buyers. Singlc people or those without children often likc to be within easy reach and nightclubs and restaurants." Metro South prices start at ?67,950 and go up to ?218,950 for a three bedroom, three-bathroom duplex. Sales centre: 020 7967 0545.

Penny Jackson, Independent on Sunday, 4 October 1997

If you've got ?2m to spare, we know the perfect loft.

An estate agent who has some of London's most original - and expensive - properties on his books is targeting gay buyers. CityScope has a range of "remarkable and unusual accommodation", including converted schoolhouses in Battersea and 1,000 square foot loft apartments in Bankside.

CityScope's apartments cost anything from ?150,000 to ?2 million. The company claims over half its custom is gay.

"Our properties are unconventional," said Harris explaining their gay attraction. "They're not your bog-standard house on Clapham Common. Unlike straights, gays don't worrv about the bathroom being closed off."

CityScope's move to court gays follows the successful marketing of housing developments like Equity Square.

Pink Paper, 19 December 1997

Gay Pride festival heads for financial fall

The future of the annual London Lesbian and Gay Pride festival, which claims to be the world's largest free music event, attracting more than a quarter of a million people, has been thrown into serious doubt by the voluntary liquidation of the festival's organiser, The Pride Trust. The situation is not new. Pride has always lurched from financial crisis to crisis - the Pride Trust itself was set up five years ago after the previous organisers went bankrupt. Since then, the company, which relies heavily on volunteers, has managed to deal with accumulated losses by encouraglng suppliers and sponsors to pay in advance for the following year. This year's event, which was overbudgeted by ?80,000, inherited a rollover deficit of over ?100,000 from last year.

"Pride needs::a clean slate and the Trust is not Prepared to defer the deficit for yet another year," said Rachel Smith, chairperson, who is likely to make an announcement next week. "In August our figures showcd we had mad enough money this year to clear the deficit. But a number invoices have since come in, including things we were not prepared for, such as ?40,000 in lost equipment, some higher than expected invoices, and some sponsors paying us less because things didn't go to plan."

Teddy Witherington, The Pride Trust's company secretary and festival prpducer, who left the organisation this summer to work in the United States, blames "power struggles within the Pride Trust", with "too few people making too many decisions" and the fact that the Trust has failed to raise new sponsorship deals over the past four months. "Pride has become a monster that's got out of control," said Kim Lucas, the woman behind Summer Rites, set up two years ago as a commcrcially based alternative festival for gay Londoners. She blames this year's losses on a lack of contingency money set aside for "those extra expenses which always crop up"

Whoever is to blame for the current crisis, it is likely to bring to the surface a rift in the communi ty based on different phi:osophical approaches to the event. Trust directors are hoping to find volunteers over the coming weeks to develop a new community-based, not-for-profit organisation which could oversee a scaled-down festival next year. This approach is in line with Pride's history of community politics. It was born in l972 with a march of 800 members of the then London Gay Liberation Front. Over the past few years, Pride has grown substantially year-on-year, becoming a commcrcial event attracting big-name pop groups and mainstream businesses such as United Airlines, Holsten Pils and Evian, who put up a total ?200,000 in sponsorship this year.

"It has been run by well-intentioned amateurs, which perhaps was okay when it was small, but when you re talking about up to 500,000 people you've got to run it differently," says John Holding, who bas acted as the Pride Trust's auditor since 1994. Mr Holding, and others within the community, believe it is time to develop a profit-based consortium of businesses to run the show. He warns: "The danger is that if we don't do it, then pure!y commercial interests will end up taking control."

Caron Lipman, The Independent 5 November 1997

First gay TV stations will be on cable

Sample broadcasts are underway for Britain's first adult station for gay men.

Featuring soft core and art-house porn,the station.GayTV which is on the same frequency as UK Living, will go out at 4 am from 6 January. Though it will be the first station, the Adult Channel already has a weekly slot, Gay Night, on Monday nights. Programming director Chris Ratcliff said: "We'll have popular stuff` like the drama Butt Buddies, a lot of Prowler stuff. " Ratcliff said if the station prove successful that he and business partner Jonathan Richards, Gay TV's managing director, would want to introduce rnore "lifestyle magaziney programming", possibly in a tie-in with Attitude magazine. Subscriptions for Gay TV cost ?6.99 a month and can be I ordered by telephoning 0990 160 160 trom 5 January.

A second gay cable station, Rainbow Television Network, station announced this week it was launching on BSkyB 's digital service in the spring.

Pink Paper, 19 December 1997

Schubert on song to woo the gay dollar

GAY and lesbian stock market investors are getting an on-line financial service just for them as Wall Sreet taps into the multi-billion dollar "alternative" marketplace in America.

Walter Schubert, 41, a homosexual, has launched the Gay Financial Network to serve potentially millions of customers who spend their dollars only on products provided by gay businesses.

America already has gay real estate agents, gay travel agents, gay laundries, shops, bars, restaurants and home shopping catalogues. Schubert says his firm is just one more for gay customers to use.

He plans a one-stop on-line network that will be dedicated to giving gays advice on financial planning, portfolio management, banking, mortgages, real estate, insurance and shareholder initiatives.

A third generation member of the New York Stock Exchange, he says he spotted the void in financial services for homosexuals last year and saw the Internet as the most commercially viable way to plug that gap.

"The gay and lesbian culture is different," he said. "Their financial needs are different. That necessitates a difference in the perspective on their financial planning. He estimates the gay community in America has assets of $800 billion (?496 million) and that currently 3.2 million gays own stocks and shares.

While other high-profile firms have moved towards capturing chunks of the gay market, Schubert is the first to harness the Internet. He went on: "Dean Witter and Merrill Lynch have been on the chase for the gay dollar but our single mission is to focus our efforts on the delivery of financial services in a comfortable environment.

"We are not about 'chasing' anything."

Allan Hall, New York, Evening Standard 9 January 1998

More Media Comment from 1996 and 1997

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