Big Fat Dick (BFD for the meek). Hot Dog. Full Frontal Disco. As these monikers might suggest, there’s nothing subtle about Mario Diaz or the parties he throws. And that’s what makes them so damn fun.
The man behind some of the city’s most playful and provocative gay clubs has a sexy, silly, sassy energy that has served him well both after dark and on the screen as a working actor (one of those character actors you see in countless commercials and instantly recognize, though you don’t necessarily know where from).
Still, the New York City transplant considers the auditioning grind secondary to his starring role as a “club king,” which also happens to be the name of a newish documentary about his life and two-decade-long career in nightlife, currently available for streaming via Vimeo.
“I’ve always considered my nightclub work my day job, and a fun way to make money while I work as an actor,” he explains. “And it’s been a great combination. I’ve been acting since I was a teenager. In New York I did mostly theater, which was great fun. We had a theater company in the village called Theater Couture. [Drag stars] Jackie Beat, Sherry Vine, Candis Cayne were some of my co-stars and we did some hilarious, smart, stylish camp, some of the best times I’ve had onstage. I moved to L.A. to get into TV and make some money acting. After numerous commercials, I’m now booking more co-star and film roles.”
Diaz moved to New York from Seattle just out of his teens, but when he got there things were starting to change, and not for the better in the queer community. “It was gentrifying and homogenizing quickly, mainly due to the fascist regime of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his ‘quality of life campaign,’” he recalls. “The decadence that I'd read about and the sexual freedom that was being celebrated was slipping away, and I felt cheated.
"I've always felt, as a gay person especially, that being able to accept our innate sexuality without the shame so many of us carry was an essential lesson. So I made it sort of my mission to bring back the sexy, wild NYC I moved there to be a part of.”
Clubs and parties such as Squeezebox, Jackie 60 and Dean Johnson's Rock and Roll Fag Bar, not to mention infamous precursors such as Studio 54, served as inspiration; Diaz started promoting his own “down and dirty, dark and loud, retro porn–inspired clubs that were reminiscent of the ’70s gay scene that I dreamt of.”
He made a point of being uncensored and brash, but he also strove to inject a sense of humor and style into his events, which led to his first club hit, the legendary and lascivious boy buffet called the Cock. That gathering offered the kind of defiant debauchery that people in New York were obviously looking for. "New York was a unique breeding ground,” Diaz says, with “rough trade, club kids, glamazons and superchicks” out and about every night. “Now you can find people all over the country expressing themselves in the same amazing and surprising ways."
And that includes Los Angeles. In fact, Diaz feels that L.A. beats everywhere else right now, and not just because of his nights. “The scene has been proving to be quite a force. I see many of my co-promoters and producers putting more energy into their events, and it's great,” he says. “It's an honor to be in the company of so many interesting characters. And so many New Yorkers have relocated here, which might have something to do with it.”
His own move to L.A. was just after 9/11. “I wanted to be in the sun, get some TV roles, get a dog and buy a house. And that's what I did,” he recalls, adding that his “tranma” and bestie Beat had moved here to write for a TV show. Once here, the duo created the electro dance act Dirty Sanchez (currently on hiatus) and scored a local club hit with their single "Fucking on the Dance Floor."
Diaz delved into doing clubs pretty early on and says he was surprised by his quick success. “The gay clubs were bright, clean and pretty,” he tells me. “It looked like all the boys, although handsome, had a bar of soap in their pocket. Not really my cup of ‘pee.’ So I basically turned the lights down, turned the music up, blew some smoke in the room and messed their hair up a little bit.”
Mario's clubs have been among my favorites as I cover nightlife for the Weekly. In addition to their irreverent and naughty vibes, they always have a rebellious, punkish feel (no matter the music on the dance floor). Also, all his haps — even the ones with hunky, half-naked, tattooed go-go boys writhing about — have always been welcoming to us straight (as well as bi and gay) ladies. Well, at least the stylish ones.
When I ask if he has any boundaries where his bawdy bashes are concerned, he replies, “I don’t do flip-flops or glow sticks. Anything else is cool with me.”
Rave-toy and bare-toe biases aside, Diaz’s dance soirees are both chic and inclusive, with an emphasis on erotic yet campy vibes and great sounds. His current roster includes Thursday’s BFD at Fubar, a lusty queer party going strong after 14 years; Full Frontal Disco, which started at the Grand Star Jazz club in Chinatown thanks to its famed light-up dance floor and is now every first Saturday at Akbar; and his newest, Bonkerz!, with his pal Beat at Precinct, which he describes as “puppets, compliments, hugs, all-star drag shows and shenanigans!”
As I said, subtlety isn’t part of this man’s vocabulary, and he never plays it safe. But even amidst the eye candy and raunch, what he does always has heart. “At the end of the day, we are all basically the same. We want to have a laugh, connect, feel beautiful, sexy, unique, funny or whatever it is that makes us feel worthy and special,” Diaz says. “Plus we want to listen to some good music and dance. And as far as nightlife goes … it’s about the people. The people creating it and the people enjoying it.”
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Los Angeles native Lina Lecaro has been covering L.A. nightlife since she started as a teen intern at L.A. Weekly (fake ID in tow) nearly two decades ago. She went on to write her own column, "Nightranger," for the print edition of the Weekly for six years. Read her "Lina in L.A." interviews for the latest nightlife news, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
More from Lina Lecaro:
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