Charlie Holland from Ku

Name: Charlie Holland Age: 21

From: Reading

TGUK: How did you come out at school?
CHARLIE: I told one person and they told another and they told another. I was only 15.

TGUK: And how did you find coming out?
CHARLIE: No one said anything. I was quite well liked at school and had lots of friends so if anyone said anything bad they never said it to me.

TGUK: Did you have a boyfriend in school?
CHARLIE: I did but not at school. I had various boyfriends at that time. (Laughs)

TGUK: Was it a nerve wrecking experience coming out to that first person?
CHARLIE: It was, but I kinda knew how they were going to react so I don’t think people were that shocked when I came out. I think I built it up too much in my head beforehand.

TGUK: So the night before were you nervous?
CHARLIE: It wasn’t a case of me planning to tell her it just happened on the day I was with her and I thought ‘You know what I’m going to tell her’ and she was like ‘I kinda knew anyway’. Which was how my mum reacted as well. My dad passed away when I was 15 which spiralled me to come out.

TGUK: Is that what drove you to come out?
CHARLIE: At the age I am now I know that he knew anyway but because of him going it made me think, ‘Why do people not know who I am. Why did I not tell him?’ So I started telling everyone else. I grew up from it and matured a lot and it made me the person I am today.

TGUK: When did you move to London?
CHARLIE: Two years ago.

TGUK: Did you start working at Ku straight away?
CHARLIE: Yes, this was my first job. Literally the week I moved to London I started working here.

TGUK: And how do the regulars treat you?
CHARLIE: They’re interesting. There are some that are a bit difficult but it’s part of the job. You’re putting yourself behind the bar to be looked at, to be attractive towards other people so you kinda have to take what they say sometimes.

TGUK: Do you ever feel like a piece of meat?
CHARLIE: Yeah quite a lot but I’ve got used to it and part of the job is to flirt with people. You don’t live on your wage you have to make tips and to make tips you have to flirt, so you get use to it. I’ve been working in gay bars for four years now so it’s nothing new to me.

TGUK: On a good weekend how much can you make in tips?
CHARLIE: You could make £100 to a £120 a night but you could also make £40 it depends what people are in. You either have a good night or a crap night. Normally it’s around £50-60.

TGUK: So if a guy’s standing at the bar and he’s waving a £10 note at you would he get served?
CHARLIE: You’re more likely to serve someone who’s holding cash than not because they’re probably going to pay by card.

TGUK: Does this slow down the process?
CHARLIE: No it’s not that, you don’t want to serve people by card as they normally wont leave a tip! In a job like this where your income is quite heavily based around tips you’ve got to learn which people are going to tip you. You know when people are going to tip you. Though if someone was going to wave money in front of me I’d actually serve them last because I don’t like people who are trying to call my attention. I can see who came to the bar first and I can see who’s next so if someone tries to interrupt me I don’t like that.

TGUK: Do you like bar work?
CHARLIE: Yeah I love it. I do it full time. When you go behind a bar it’s like stepping onto a stage, you can be a little more out there.

TGUK: Do you become a different character?
CHARLIE: Not really. I probably ‘gay’ it up a little bit more. What’s the word… Sassy!

TGUK: So a little bit more RuPaul’s Drag Race behind the bar?
CHARLIE: Erm a little bit. I’m not like that day-to-day it’s only when I go behind the bar. It’s about banter because there’s a lot of older gay men in here who are very witty and they try and catch you, so you have to be quick witted to get them back.

TGUK: Do they ever try bad chat up lines to get you?
CHARLIE: Not so much chat up lines. A few people are a little more direct and tell you ‘I want to do this…’

TGUK: Have you got a partner?

TGUK: Does he work here?

TGUK: So what do you do in your spare time?
CHARLIE: I do gym quite a lot. Spend a lot of time with my boyfriend.

TGUK: Where did you meet your boyfriend?
CHARLIE: On a night out in Soho. We got introduced through one of his flatmates who worked at Ku bar.

TGUK: Do you live together?

CHARLIE: Yes, in a flat with two other gays and a girl. It’s good fun though.

TGUK: Would you ever date a Ku boy?
CHARLIE: N… erm…

TGUK: Are there Ku boys who date other Ku boys?
CHARLIE: Yeah. When I first started here everyone was a little bit more… can I say… incestuous? I’ve done the whole dating someone at work thing and it doesn’t work.

TGUK: Have you done a lot of modelling for Ku?
CHARLIE: For Ku? I’ve done quite a few photo shoots.

TGUK: How do you feel about that because you’re kinda like a brand extension?
CHARLIE: When you get the job you kinda sign up for it but you can say no. Just say you don’t want to do it. I don’t mind my face being around the bar. In some ways it’s confidence boosting.

TGUK: Is it a rule that every Ku boy has to look good?
CHARLIE: I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t but I don’t know how the interview process works here…

TGUK:(Laughs) So you didn’t walk in and take your top off?
CHARLIE: No, I didn’t have to do that at all. You do have to submit a photo with your CV.

TGUK: A topless photo?
CHARLIE: No. But I believe some people have send topless pics with their CVs.

TGUK: A lot of people are saying apps are destroying bar culture do you agree?
CHARLIE: Not really. I think people are coming to bars more with groups of friends whereas they’re using the apps to meet someone. But I see people on apps all the time in here, sat at the bar on Grindr. So they still come to the bar but people don’t come to meet people anymore. I think apps have taken people’s confidence away to go up to someone and talk to them or buy them a drink. People would rather just sit on Grindr find someone from another bar and just meet up that way.

TGUK: Why do you think that is?
CHARLIE: I think there’s a lot of pressure put on gay people to look a certain way or to be a certain way. If you’re talking to someone not face to face you can be a bit more confident.

TGUK: What do you think the future of Soho gay scene is?
CHARLIE: As it stands now, with certain bars closing down, it looks like they’re trying to disperse Soho and move the gay scene all around as opposed to focusing on the one spot but I don’t think it should be. Soho has always been different and it has that edge about it and it works. It’s a colourful place it’s vibrant and that’s what you want here. You don’t want to go to one bar for a couple of drinks then have to get the tube to go to another bar. I think also certain bars won’t move at all. Ku bar won’t be moving. I don’t know. We’ll see how it all unfolds.

TGUK: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in Ku?
CHARLIE: I’ve seen someone get on their knees at the end of the bar a couple of months ago. We obviously kicked them out. I mean fair
enough if you’re going into the toilets but it was a busy Friday night and I didn’t know what was going on.

TGUK: Were they drunk?
CHARLIE: Yeah of course. They were drunk but come on! How drunk do you have to be to forget you’re in Ku bar and think you’re in Chariots?

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TGUK:(Laughs) Well chariots is kinda far away…
CHARLIE: F*** it, let’s just get it on here! (Laughs)

TGUK: Compared to other bars is there a cache for being a Ku boy?
CHARLIE: Absolutely. Because we always win Boyz Awards for sexiest bar staff, and we’re known for having good looking bar staff. I think when you’re working in gay bars in this area you know of Ku and you wanna work there. You wanna say I work at Ku. There is that opinion that Ku boys are… I don’t want to say better that other
bar boys but… You have to live up to it.

TGUK: So are you in the gym quite a lot?
CHARLIE: I used to be a stick thin twink then. When I started working in this Ku bar I started going to the gym and getting a little bit musclier.

TGUK: So a Ku bar boy or a Jeremy Joseph Flyer Boy?
CHARLIE:(Laughs) I know what I would choose Ku every single time.

CREDIT: Monty McKinnen
CREDIT: Monty McKinnen



Name: Ondrej Zemamec
Age: 24
From: Czech Republic, now Battersea
Pets: American Cocker Spaniel – Simba

TGUK: What made you come to London?
ONDREJ: I came to London in 2008 to do my pre-uni education. At the moment I’m studying Law which I’m in my final year of. So I’m working here and studying now.

TGUK: What’s the dream then?
ONDREJ: I don’t know to be honest. I just want to finish university and possibly get myself into something a bit more creative. Probably journalism even. I think being a lawyer isn’t the right path for me.

TGUK: How long is your law course?
ONDREJ: It takes three years.

TGUK: Do you work here part-time then?
ONDREJ: I work here four days a week.

TGUK: Is it tough to get your study and work time in?
ONDREJ: It is difficult but I was doing other jobs in the past like retail and selling stuff and it wasn’t really working well with my uni schedule and in London you have to work alongside your studies in order to survive. So I decided to come back to Ku bar, because I used to work here about three years ago. We have fun, we work at nights, but we get good tips and have fun customers.

TGUK: Charlie was saying you could earn up to £140 a night in tips?
ONDREJ: You can, it depends on the customer. If someone’s really interested in you, possibly. Usually I get roughly about £50 a night but some nights you get £10 and others more.

TGUK: What are the best days to work?
ONDREJ: For me personally it’s better to work weekdays for tips purely because there’s more barmen at the weekend. There’s about 8-9 of us behind the bar then. It’s crazy but it’s about the quantity of showing the boys to the public. The weekdays, by yourself, you get more time to give to the customer and talk to them a bit more.

TGUK: Do you think you become some of the customers’ counsellors or therapists?
ONDREJ: Some of the customers come here to escape their world outside, so we try to be warm with as many customers as we can. We’ve got so many regular customers that we have established relationships with many of them. We’re at that stage where not only do we know what they’re going to order when they come in but also know if they’ve had a bad day or not so we can ask them, ‘are you ok?’

TGUK: Do all the Ku boys get on or is like Dreamgirls with pushing down the stairs?
ONDREJ: [Laughs] No. I think the whole process of hiring here, they want to make sure someone is going to fit in with the team and if there is someone who doesn’t really fit well, or gives off an attitude, they usually leave quite quick. It’s all about a family environment here. Being nice to each other.

TGUK: During promotional shoots do you find it odd or funny being asked to get close and intimate with your fellow colleagues?
ONDREJ: Not really because we all know each other. All the time we’re walking around having fun and we know we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Everyone always makes us feel at ease.

TGUK: Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend?
ONDREJ: I have a boyfriend. It’s going to be 4 years soon.

TGUK: Where did you meet?
ONDREJ: We actually met here.

TGUK: He wasn’t a customer was he?
ONDREJ: Well, because I used to work here back then, I kinda knew him through people around him, well one thing led to another.

TGUK: Do you live together?
ONDREJ: Yes, we’ve been living together now for over two years.

TGUK: Apart from working at Ku you obviously go to the gym a lot?
ONDREJ: Well, I try to be disciplined. I’m not going to say I’m a fitness guru or know what I’m doing but I try to keep my routine.

TGUK: How long do you the gym?
ONDREJ: Usually it’s about an hour to an hour and a half. I don’t watch myself as much as some people do. I’m taking it easy. I do it more for good feeling, I need those endorphins running.

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TGUK: Many think that bar culture is dying, do you see less people coming into town?
ONDREJ: I don’t think it’s about less people coming into town, or that people aren’t interested, it’s more about the local government deciding what they want to do and as a gay community we have to stand up and fight for our space because this has been a gay community for years.

TGUK: What’s the best thing about being a Ku boy?
ONDREJ: I’ve worked in other bars and this one has the family atmosphere going on, so you feel quite welcome and at ease. You feel comfortable and good about yourself. Obviously you have to listen to your managers and people above you but it’s all a friendly approach.

TGUK: Do you feel under pressure to look good as a Ku boy?
ONDREJ: Not under pressure. Obviously I want to look good. We take our tops off now and then and any sort of job where you’re topless you want to make sure you’re looking your best. I think you need to be ok with yourself first. As long as you’re comfortable with who you are then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It sounds cliché but it’s so true.

TGUK: So do they give you tips on how to get a good body?
ONDREJ: No, not at all. They don’t hire people here purely on their physique. We have all types of barmen here from big muscly ones to skinny twinky ones. This

TGUK: Is there much competition between different bar staff such as the Ku boys Vs the G-A-Y boys?
ONDREJ: If there is I haven’t sensed it. Because we’re here all the time we’re not really thinking about other bars, if they have better looking boys. I think the moment you start focusing on others you stop focusing on yourself and so you should just make sure everything is running smoothly in your own venue and not worry about anyone else’s.

TGUK: Where do you go and drink on your days off?
ONDREJ: I don’t drink much because I’m studying and try to keep sober. Most of the time I’m here so when I’m off I try to stay away from the alcohol.

TGUK: So do they give you tips on how to get a good body?
ONDREJ: No, not at all. They don’t hire people here purely on their physique. We have all types of barmen here from big muscly ones to skinny twinky ones. This bar tries to keep it as versatile as possible.

TGUK: Oh, so Ku bar is Versatile is it?
ONDREJ:[Laughs] Yes, I’m not sure if that’s the right terminology I should use.

TGUK: Where do you go and drink on your days off?
ONDREJ: I don’t drink much because I’m studying and try to keep sober. Most of the time I’m here so when I’m off I try to stay away from the alcohol.

TGUK: Does working in a bar make you less interested in drinking?
ONDREJ: Maybe just for the time being. If you’re working four days a week in a bar then you don’t really feel like going to a bar on your day off. But obviously if I was on holiday for two weeks then I’d go to the bar.

TGUK: Do you get to go home much?
ONDREJ: Yes, I go every three months or so because of my family and friends.

TGUK: Are you out to your family?
ONDREJ: Yes, I came out to them about a year and a half ago. They actually took it very well. In a way they pushed me into coming out as they sensed it. They accepted me and my boyfriend very well. Within a month they came to London and stayed with us for a couple of days, so I couldn’t have wished for a better ending. When you hear some stories about people being kicked out of their homes, I’m very lucky.

TGUK: How does the gay scene here compare to your hometown?
ONDREJ: I’m from a small town so there’s not much of a gay scene. People are a bit more quiet. Obviously, it’d be different if I was from Prague, people are a bit more out there. As far as my town goes it’s a bit more don’t ask don’t tell. People are still scared to come out openly which is why a lot of people leave to move to bigger cities.


These interviews were taken from ISSUE 10 of THEGAYUK. Subscribe now for FREE to never miss another issue.

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