The war for the Eagle is on. And it's more than just a fight over a name; it's also a fight over what a gay bar is—or, well, was.
Things came to a head a few weeks back when I reported Pat Lanagan, a 48-year-old NoPo bar owner, had registered four variations of "Eagle" with the state so he could change the name of his bar Urge to Eagle Portland, which he did on Wednesday, Jan. 10, before hading to an adult-video expo in Vegas. That's despite the fact another bar owner, Karl Wilgus, is already using that name for his downtown leather-friendly men's bar (QW, "Flipping the Bird," Dec. 13, 2006).
On Tuesday, Dec. 9, things heated up. That's when Wilgus sent out two emails to local media. The first one was an all-out attack on "bottom dweller" Lanagan, including the info that Wilgus had reregistered the Eagle as his business name even though he's planning to close the Eagle as early as the middle of next month. The second email, which landed in my inbox a half-hour later, announced Casey's, a new "all-inclusive" gay bar Wilgus plans to open in an intriguing Old Town venue next month that'll be nothing like his Eagle.
I talked to Wilgus, 43, who has owned the club for the past two and a half years, on Tuesday about what he felt prompted this current state of gay bar affairs.
"The Eagle has served its purpose, but I think leather bars are dying," said Wilgus about his fetid fetish space. He believes the Eagle is for a dwindling older audience and scares more young gay people than it attracts. Which Wilgus thinks one of the real reasons Lanagan is "stealing" his business's name isn't so much about the actual word—a word he admits he may never use again—but because Pat had been ousted from the Eagle. He was kicked out twice—first during the summer of 2006 and again on Saturday, Jan. 6, Lanagan's own birthday, due to what Wilgus calls "inappropriate behavior" that is no longer tolerated in his club (read: sex). That alleged sexual behavior, by the way, used to be one of this club's main draws.
"I never liked the Eagle. I came in here and saw things that made me feel squirmy. That's why I bought it," says Wilgus. "There's a reason this bar is cleaned up. It's a business, and I'm a businessman. It's not a sex club. And when I took it over, I got rid of the crap that had been going on for years [he took down the sex sling], but it's still an Eagle."
Lanagan, who also spoke to me on Tuesday, doesn't deny he was kicked out of the bar, but he has a different take on Wilgus' story. Lanagan said he was 86'd only after an Eagle bartender followed him to another Stark Street bar and confronted him while he was urinating at the trough. "He accused me of inappropriate behavior, which I denied. My relationship with the gay community has always been based on logic and business," said Lanagan. "I never wanted this to get personal."
Wilgus, who will now focus on Casey's, hopes that Lanagan will be a little more responsible regarding his own club, and "just stay the hell out of my establishments."