Behind the Bar is series of occasional interviews with owners of gay bars in Los Angeles County, which, in this age of Grindr and Scruff, still remain the best place for gay men to come together as a community (and find someone with a real face to go home with). This interview is with Charlie Matula, co-owner of the Eagle.
In April of this year, the Eagle LA will be 12 years old, making it in some ways the “Daddy bar” of gay L.A.
The Eagle LA was opened in April 2006 by Charlie Matula and business partner Vince Quattrocchi. Its location on 4219 Santa Monica Blvd. in Silver Lake, has quite a history. It was home to a gay bar known as the Shed from 1968 to 1972, then the Outcast from 1972 to 1983, and then the Gauntlet II from 1983 to 2005. There was an earlier Eagle, in West Hollywood at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. It opened in 1980 and closed in 1995.
Today the Eagle is one of the few bars (outside of the Bullet bar in North Hollywood and the newly opened Eagle 562 in Long Beach), where you’re much more likely to find guys with a cigar, a Prince Albert or a harness than those flaunting a waxed six-pack or plucked eyebrows.
On its website, the Eagle describes its mission this way: “The Eagle LA is the premier leather / Levi bar in Los Angeles. We have always been and will always be a meeting place for like-minded leather men to bond, interact and further their life style. Our goal is to uphold the Leather-Uniform-Fetish ethic in the community and to support them through different services and fund raising events. We not only understand what it takes to cater to the wants and needs of our patrons we also embrace leather as a way of life.”
GayLifeLA reached out to Charlie Matula, a muscular bear of a guy whose shirtless hairy chest draws woofs from customers, to learn more. Here are our questions and his answers:
GLLA: A bar. A bar that’s open to 2 in the morning and some nights (like Meatrack) has guys lined up down the sidewalk waiting to get in. That’s a lot of work. What were you thinking Charlie? What inspired you to open a bar?
Charlie: I’ve been in the bar business going on 27 years now, I guess you can say its been my life. I love what I do because of the social aspect, meeting and getting to know people the world over. And its one of the few jobs you get paid to drink with your friends (wink)
GLLA: And a leather / Levi bar. Were you sure there was an audience for that in L.A.?
Charlie: ABSOLUTELY! The LA Leather Community is one of the largest and strongest in the country. I am proud of it and to be a part of it! There are a lot of kinky bastards out there, and we give them a place to call home.
GLLA: What was it like your first year in operation. Were you and Vince ecstatic, or nervous?
Charlie: Well, nervous of course as with any new venture. But we were well received from the start, and it hasn’t slowed down yet.
GLLA: You’ve been running the Eagle LA for 12 years, and by all accounts it’s an incredibly success. What have you learned in those 12 years about operating a bar? Anything you regret from the early years? Anything you’d recommend to someone else thinking about opening a bar for gay men?
Charlie: It’s been a great run so far. Only thing I regret is not documenting the “just when you thought you’d seen it all moments” over the years. We have seen some REALLY crazy stuff over the years, far too much to go into here. I think it would make a great book.. LOL
GLLA: One thing the Eagle is known for is themed nights such as Onyx and BLUF that cater to a variety of fetishes and tribes in the gay community. Have you seen any evolution in that over the past 12 years – new tribes coming to light and wanting to celebrate who they are openly?
Charlie: Yes of Course. As much as we honor the old guard leather ways, the leather community is like anything else, it evolves with each passing generation. For example, the “pup” scene is really in the forefront right now compared to years past, and it’s a blast!
GLLA: One thing that impresses me about the Eagle is your dancers. In so many other gay bars, the go go boys are your standard muscle boys with shaved chests. It’s hard to tell one from another. At the Eagle I see guys of all shapes and sizes. Cubs and bears. Daddies and boys. Hairy and smooth. How do you decide who should grace that main stage (and the one in the back of the main bar room)? Is it left up to the night’s promoter, or do you and Vince have a say?
Charlie: Funny, I swore if I ever owned a bar one day I would never have dancers. But you’re right, our dancers are more blue collar bubbas than pretty boys. Vince and I leave it to the different promoters to hire, and That works for me!
GLLA: Anyone who is regular at the Eagle knows your bartenders and bar backs – Cory, Marcus, Clint, Joey, and on and on. I hear it’s hard as hell to get a job as a bar back at the Eagle, and nearly impossible to land work as a bartender, because your folks make a career of it. Is that true? And if so, why do you think that is?
Charlie: That is totally true, we have very little turnover. Most my guys are five years or more, some over 10 years. Vince and I are good to our staff, and they in turn show respect and are good to us. It’s a happy family for sure.
GLLA: Any plans for the future that you can share with us? Those who have been in L.A. longer than I have (only six and a half years), have seen evolution at the Eagle over time. What can we be looking forward to?
Charlie: I am looking forward to putting on the second story and the drive through…. Ok kidding… If it aint broke, don’t fix it, just more of the same!
GLLA: Oh, and before I forget. Tell us what inspired you to open Farm Boy Kitchen, your restaurant at 1050 Vine St.? It gets great reviews online, although I’m surprised that more people don’t compliment you on the sexiness of the staff.
Charlie: Farm Boy Kitchen is the dream and passion of my husband Hunter Fox. He has worked in kitchens most of his life, so we thought, lets give it a shot. We are thrilled people are enjoying it.