The Limelight of Tallinn

  • 2006-04-26
  • By Paul Morton
TALLINN - Angel, a relaxed gay dance club and cafe in Tallinn's old town, may be the only place of its kind in the Baltics. There's a large gay dance club in Vilnius with a labyrinthine set of backrooms in the basement and there're a few depressingly dark holes in Riga. Angel is different. "We are the first gay bar in the Baltics to have [good] lights," says Reimo Mets, 25, who is one of the club's three owners. "You can see people's faces." "We're glamorous," he says. "We're clean."

Angel opened its doors in Dec. 2004, next door to X-Baar, and since then has gained a decent reputation in Estonia. The cafe, which keeps long hours throughout the day and until one hour after the club is open, is a semi-posh affair. There are red pillows on the seats, and fine effete photographic portraits of various members of the club staff on the walls.
The club itself is relatively small. On the ground floor, there's a dance floor and a tiny stage. On Saturday night, I saw a young wiry boy with a tight blue shirt and a tan baseball cap do a marathon dance with his pudgy friend. One fellow, pointed out to me as Mr. Gay Baltic 2003, kept his blue shirt open down to his chest and tended to his inebriated boyfriend, a handsome fellow with a long face and a wide mouth.
I meet a 50ish man who says, "This place seems happy, but not always." He says this with a smile.
"Why not?"
"I have drama."
"What drama."
"You know, drama. Don't write in your article that you met an old man at Angel who is complaining about his drama."

There's a backroom at Angel, but I didn't get to see it. On the Saturday night I was there, they had some plumbing problems and they had to close it off. Still, I can't imagine it being central to a club like this.
The main attraction for the night was a drag performance by a "Marlene Dietrich." The impersonator crooned in that husky ambiguous voice and stripped from a fur coat down to a sequined dress. Throughout the performance a line of men lined up right next to me and swayed from side to side. Mr. Gay Baltic 2003 kept knocking into me.
I ended up sitting next to Dietrich, a.k.a. Erkki Otsmann, 39, at the cafe upstairs about a half-hour later. Out of dress, he has a shaved bald head that serves to accentuate his bird-like features, a long distinctive nose and slightly pointy ears. He has a wide smile, a perpetually happy man. He has a day job as a high school biology teacher.
It was serendipitous that, of all people, a young American high school biology teacher, a tourist, happened to be there as well.
"Does your principal know you moonlight as a drag queen?" he asked.
His students?
"Yes, some of them were in the audience."
In America, if they found out about you, said the American - he made a gun motion - "bang."
When did he start performing?
"In the early 90s, as a singer."
Was he always a drag queen?
"No, and I don't always perform in drag. But there is something inside that makes me want to put this on sometimes."
I asked if he shaved his head, or whether this was a natural look.
"It's shaved."
Mets says Angel has had a string of interesting shows: drag performances, pop stars, manhunt nights, and ABBA impersonators. Things keep getting better:
"We're in negotiations to bring in Boy George." o

Angel Cafe and Gay Club
Sauna Street 1
Tel: +372 641 6880