With dedicated parties on a weekly basis, bear (urso) culture in Rio is thriving, largely thanks to Everton Bonifacio and his website ursosdorio.com chronicling all the goings on. Its an open, friendly scene that has already been a regular event for 15 years, long before the name was first heard in the city, and as the club nights continue to grow, Time Out caught up with one of the founding fathers to get the inside track.
What made you decide to start parties specifically for Rio's bears?
As a group we started to get together in 1997. Back then, nobody knew about the term 'bears' so we would just start meeting up in bars at the time. When we started to attract a critical mass we began doing parties, and we've never looked back.
So how long have you been running the parties for?
Its been non-stop since 1999, a long time. We've held them in loads of different places, most of which no longer exist today, but seven years ago we started a residency at Espaço Marun in Catete. There are other regular spots too, like the recently opened Chubby Bar and Sauna Carioca, and our website keeps everyone in the loop of what's coming up.
For those who don't know, how do you identify a bear?
God, you know this is the hardest question to answer! Its a question of identifying with the group. But generally when people talk of bears the image is of a big guy, a bit stocky, manly and hairy. They can be short, but they're stocky.
Which city has the best gay scene, Rio or São Paulo?
São Paulo's nightlife is incomparable, much more professional than here in Rio. The service is better, they think about the comfort of their clientele. In Rio it is less so, but on the other hand Rio is a solar city, a daytime one. There's nothing really interesting to do in the day in São Paulo is there? Both have their strong points.
Do you still encounter homophobia here?
It exists, but I don't know if I could say how much. It is all relative, depending on where you are comparing it to. I'd say that it is more veiled now that it is considered socially unacceptable. When it comes out in the open it is usually from ignorant people or groups of people trying to show off. They feel threatened, poor little things!
What is your favourite part of Rio?
I think Zona Sul as a whole has a great standard of living and access to so much natural beauty. I live in Copacabana and don't see myself leaving here for anything. Its a perfect combination of facilities, access and fun.
Which beach do you usually go to?
Truth be told, i'm not much of a beach man. I grew up going to the beach almost every day and I loved it, but these days I only go with friends who are visiting, to show them around. Generally Copa or Ipanema being the closest, and I use the promenade to bike along.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Black Keys, The Kills, Tulipa Ruiz, Otto, Interppol, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Morrissey, nothing related to what we play at the parties. I don't like pop or house - i'm a bit of a fish out of water in that sense.
Besides the bear nights, what's hot at the moment on the nightlife scene?
I love the mish-mash of Lapa. I'll go there without any real plan and decide on the spot what to do and where to go depending on what I want to hear or drink! From rock to samba, cachaça to an appletini.
If you were mayor for the day what would you do?
Anything to make this traffic better - its unbearable!