Reality Check

Photo by Matt OttoWhen, on a whim, we decidedto drop by the Silver Fox a few Sundays ago, the last thing we expected was a line outside the door. Despite having long been one of the best karaoke nights in Long Beach and Orange County, Sundays at the Silver Fox had always remained comparatively low-key, a night for regulars, friends of regulars and word-of-mouth stragglers. Evidently, though, it'd been a while since our last visit, since, as it turned out, the regulars and their friends were there that night—they'd just multiplied. A lot.

But something else was new that night, too: the doorman. Gone was the old doorman, with his reassuring nod of recognition—even if you still had to show your ID—and customary hug for those who looked like they needed one. The old doorman had been one of the Silver Fox's biggest draws, and—nothing against the new guy—it just wasn't the same without him. His absence was too much for us to handle on this particularly lazy Sunday night, so we took off, hoping the experience had been an anomaly—that the crowds would dwindle a bit in the future; that the doorman had just been out sick for the night.

As we found out later, it wasn't. Since its grand reopening after an extensive exterior remodel nearly a year ago, business at the Silver Fox has boomed. Everybody's favorite neighborhood gay bar now really is everybody's favorite neighborhood gay bar. But on June 8, the boom was punctuated by violence as the Fox's old doorman—his name has been withheld by request—was assaulted in the parking lot across the street by an unidentified assailant.

There were no witnesses to the after-hours attack, which occurred as the doorman was returning from escorting patrons to their cars. In the immediate aftermath, a few passers-by were able to write down half the assailant's license plate and offer a description of the car. But other than that—and some speculation about possible accomplices—little else was known. An arrest was made the following day with the aid of the partial-license-plate identification, but the suspect was let go after the doorman proved unable to make a positive ID.

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Furthermore, as Silver Fox manager and head bartender John Barnes explained during an Aug. 8 chat, even if police had been able to charge the suspect, "it's not easy to prosecute someone for a hate crime just because they punched a guy and called him a 'faggot,'"—especially in this case, where the doorman is, in fact, heterosexual.

Since the attack, Barnes said, the suspect's car has been spotted outside the Fox as well as another area bar, the Reno Room. Barnes speculates the suspect lives in the neighborhood and predicts he will be arrested again—perhaps, judging by his haunts, for drinking and driving. "The detectives have been really great about staying on top of this," Barnes said. "They'll get him."

In the meantime, the Silver Fox has beefed up security on its busy nights, providing an additional guard in the parking lot. As for the patrons, Barnes admitted the attack has made them more aware that gay-bashings, although infrequent in Long Beach, do occur. "It's definitely been a reality check," he noted. "It's something people all need to be aware of."

For the most part, though, the Fox stands to continue its success in the future. Plans for an interior remodel are in the works, and the bar recently added both voter-registration nights and a complimentary Sunday brunch to its already standout weekly calendar. By the time karaoke hour rolled around last Sunday at 10 p.m., the bar was packed wall-to-wall with thirsty—best drink call all night: a Jger and Red Bull; vomitini, anyone?—and, as always, friendly regulars. "He'll be back in two weeks," we overheard Barnes tell a customer who had inquired about the doorman's progress. "See? Everybody misses him," he turned to us, smiling. "They can't wait until he comes back. The new guy cards everyone."

The Silver Fox, 411 Redondo, Long Beach, (562) 439-6343. Join the regulars at a celebration for the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Fri. CAll for time. Free; Karaoke on Wed. & Sun., 10 p.m. Free. Always 21+.

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