The history of the The Eagle and Dirty Dicks bars is a little different from the other ones, at least if it comes to name and location. The venue where Dirty Dicks is at present used to be called The Eagle and opened in 1979. It was in 1989 that owner Paul Wierks bought the old printing office next door and rebuilt it until June 1994 when he opened it as the New Eagle whereas the old Eagle was renamed Dirty Dicks and became a weekend-bar.
Coming from a catholic background in Hilversum and being quite the rebel, already at an early age Paul Wierks used to hang out in the Dutch capital. More specifically, at Moors Eldorado and McDonalds. Those wild nights out on the streets of Amsterdam came at a price as he, often enough, fell asleep at work. Or maybe the work itself was too boring for the young man. Working in administration first, Paul soon found out his desired field of work was that of the hotel and catering industry. First he worked at Schiphol and then moved on to jobs at the Amsterdam Novotel and Okura. But what he really wanted was a bar named The Eagle – the connotations of the name being obvious.
About 11 months after the third (and present) Argos bar opened in November 1978, 29 yo Paul opened his first Bar on Warmoesstraat on the 4th of October 1979. With two leather cruise bars right opposite each other the competition for customers couldn’t have been better visualized. Opening hours especially were topics of discussion between Paul and his colleague/competitor Kees Raadschelders.
In those first years, The Eagle was running slow until 1984, but after some improvements were made the bar’s popularity rose in 1984. Five years later, in 1989, Paul bought the house next to his bar and after a long and not untroubled renovation period he opened it as the New Eagle – the bar being the next to last venue on the Warmoesstraat to get the necessary licenses. (Cockring being the last one.) The old venue was renamed Dirty Dicks, after the name of a bar he had seen years before during a trip to Corfou, Greece.
These days customers move freely between both bars and the Argos across the street. Smokers have to go outside because of the smoking ban for bars and restaurants, a measure Paul cannot understand but feels forced to enforce. Yet catching smokers in the darkroom isn’t the weirdest thing Paul has experienced with his customers.
For unknown reasons, some customers seem to have a hard time dealing with money as Paul recounts the time when a customer had the idea to pay with all the spare change he could find thereby hugely delaying service. On another occasion, a customer only wanted to buy a drink when Paul asked him about it directly since the man made no impression of wanting a drink. The next day, when the man again seemed unfamiliar with the concept called ‘bar’ he argued he had already bought a drink the day before…
In an interview with Culture & Camp in September 1999, Paul tells about another hilarious scene at the Eagle:”I will never forget that time when a man who was lying on the billiard table had inserted a ball anally and couldn’t get it out again. Panic of course, until it suddenly popped out and landed on the head of someone who was partly lying under the table. Crazy as they were, they started all over again and again the ball landed on the guy’s head. Then he said in posh English:”This is the second time you are doing this to me” and he left, hugely insulted.
But ‘cashing in’ is not the only thing Paul does, in fact his generosity showed when he sponsored Darryl Lafayette as Mr. Leather Holland, who became 9th at IML and 2nd at the Mr. Europe Leather election that same year and put Paul’s own taste for fashion to the test by walking on stage in a black Roman skirt and a far too tight shirt cut out at the front of his belly.
Being the leather entrepreneur who has been around longest , Paul also tells of those days when Amsterdam learned of this specific disease in the mid 1980s.
Being very talkative and willing to share whatever he knows of the history of Leather Amsterdam throughout the whole interview, this subject causes Paul to pause for a moment when he tries to remember the barkeepers he lost to the disease. He recounts: “At a particular moment there was something called ‘gay cancer’. First we thought it was something weird in America, but it quickly spread. It happened as a twister, a waterfall, we didn’t even have time to stand still to it. Okay, maybe when you were at home because you had seen people with spots on their skin in the bars. You just saw it, but it all went so fast. Of course over the years, but still, one after the other died. It was as if we didn’t really realize what was happening. It’s not that half the population of Gay Amsterdam died, but I lost many friends to it. One time, I went to a funeral of one of the boys working at RoB, and also another time when a colleague had died…it was scary, in the back of my mind I just didn’t believe it. By way of speech, I had seen him the week before. That’s how fast it happened in those days, because it still took a long time before we got effective medical treatment. One just died. Everybody had to deal with it. You saw it when going out, but there was still a taboo on talking about it.”
“In the early days it didn’t all happen in the back room. They just stood here at the bar while being fisted, you know. It was all good fun. But Aids has surely put an end to that, it has made people more reticent. Me too.”
There were days when sex and beer weren’t the only entertainment to be found at the Eagle. As one spotlight on the ceiling proves, the entertainment also came in rather successful shows with performances by 4 to 6 customers. Rehearsals for these performances were held after closing time and consisted mostly of musical acts coming from the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Chicago. Especially Chicago’s ‘La Mamma Morta’-scene turned out to be very popular. It featured an English bear in a nurse’s uniform who had a horse riding whip instead of a stethoscope and she surely wasn’t afraid to use it on the customers…
Nowadays, musicals have left the Eagle, but they still organize some special events. There are golden shower and FF afternoons and also BLUF holds its meetings at Dirty Dicks. Although Paul likes the BLUF-crowd he doesn’t really understand what the club is all about and wonders why its members predominantly meet up for a drink and cruise without the necessity of having sex.
Asked about his personal link with leather, Paul says:“I have a different idea of leather. Leather used to be a code to express that you were into other kinds of sex than just plain vanilla. Nowadays some men tell me they wear leather gear just because they like to wear it. I can’t understand that, but if they’re happy with it they should do as they please and enjoy it. I used to wear more leather, now most of the time, I only wear a leather jacket due to practical reasons while working at the bar. But I wear it as a code, to express that I’m into a rougher kind of sex.”
Being a fervent traveller, Paul also tells of his travels especially to the US and New Orleans. Asked how he experiences the leather community across the ocean, he says the US leather community is different just like the American culture . In the US one has to take care of oneself and eachother whereas over here we see it as a duty of the government to take care of us, so the US leather community is a more active if it comes to defending gay rights.
On the other hand, Leather Amsterdam’s oldest bar owner rejects the idea that the Amsterdam leather community is often plagued by hatred and jealousy. There might be the occasional personal conflict but in all, there is just a friendly and healthy form of commercial competition.
Update: In December 2010 news of Paul Wierks’ unexpected passing struck the Amsterdam leather community. In the months that followed the future of the Eagle and Dirty Dicks bars was unsure until they were taken over by new owners. Dirty Dicks reopened as a leather/cruise bar in 2011 after a thorough renovation, the Eagle is expected to reopen in 2012.
Source: Front door of Dirty Dicks by Jepocity. Front door of the Eagle donated by Cain Berlinger.