LIKE MOST SPIDER WEBS, the bar called The Web, which existed on East 58th Street for decades until it closed the other month, would snare you unprepared. It was as discreet on its glamorous block of Midtown (between Madison and Park) as a cobweb strung in the corner of a room, whose strands glistened only in certain light.
From the street, The Web appeared to be just a single wooden door that led down a flight of steep stairs. In all likelihood few of the patrons milling on the sidewalk in front of the bar’s neighbors—the Tao restaurant and the Four Seasons Hotel—even noticed the entryway; it was that understated. I used to like walking down that block and suddenly, on a whim, entering the bar, disappearing down that narrow stairway, sensing some of those people on the sidewalk above looking down on me as I descended, wondering what was there. The minor intrigue that characterized the act of going to a gay bar was part of the appeal—even if most trips to gay bars proved frustrating and ego-deflating.
A friend and I went to The Web a few months before it closed, which wound up being my last time there. The bar was known for its lithe and beautiful go-go boys, most of whom were Asian, who entertained a clientele that was a mix of middle-aged men of all races and younger Asian men, each group eager to meet the other. The atmosphere was at once bawdy and tame—a tarantula drained of its poison.