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His Name Is Rio
Pack your bags and meet the Boys from Ipanema

by Glenn Greenwald

Along with cities such as Havana and Paris, Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s defined international glamour and luxury, attracting jet-setters and adventurers alike. After suffering a few decades of political turmoil and widespread poverty, Rio is now experiencing a booming resurgence, becoming one of the most popular destinations for the gay traveler.

And it's easy to understand why: With perfect tropical weather year-round, stunning beaches, a friendly and festive population, a wild gay scene, a super-liberalized sexual climate, a vibrant and culturally diverse metropolis, sprawling mountains and rain forests, and men whom many believe to be the most beautiful on Earth, Rio is as close to heaven for the gay traveler as one can imagine. Plus, Brazil's weak currency and still struggling economy make everything in Rio shockingly inexpensive for the Western tourist.

Lay of the Land
The first thing you notice is the city's breathtaking and truly unique physical beauty. Rio is surrounded by mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Its interior is comprised of rolling hillsides and lakes. And filling the gaps between these wonderments of nature is a complex and sophisticated metropolis, comprised of architecturally unique buildings and colorful residential neighborhoods.

The wonderment of Rio lies in its diversity. You can relax at a sprawling, tranquil tropical beach one minute, and the next minute dine at one of the city's countless exotic restaurants - or hike in a rain forest, or shop on Ipanema's fashionable Rua Visconde de Piraja, or admire the city's truly innovative architecture, or hop from nightclubs to theaters to bars and saunas. Best of all, these wildly disparate places are literally within walking distance of each other.

The Cariocas People
Residents of Rio, or 'Cariocas' as the Portuguese-speaking population call themselves, are striking in every way. Because Brazilians descend from multiple races, their physical appearance is exotic and truly distinct. But the aesthetic appeal of the Carioca is only the beginning of their charm. While many people associate Rio with the wild festivities of Carnival, the life of a Carioca year-round is that of pleasure and relaxation, with parties, celebrations and beach get-togethers part of the standard routine. Perfect strangers speak to each other with the warmth and intimacy of life- long friends.

The Gay Scene
'Even as recently as five years ago, Rio's gay scene was similar to those of American cities in the 1960s. It was hidden and suppressed,' says Curtis Jacobs, a New Yorker who moved to Rio last year and is now the owner of Rio Gay Guides, which provides English-speaking, gay Brazilian guides for American travelers in Rio. 'But with the growing acceptance of homosexuality throughout Brazil, the gay scene has really taken off and now rivals any city in the world.'

The center of gay life is Ipanema, a neighborhood in Zona Sul (South Zone), which is Rio's more upscale and touristy area. (Trend- setting designer Philippe Starck is building an 'ber-chic hotel there.) The street Rua Farme de Amoedo is considered the 'gay street' because it extends into Ipanema from the gay part of Ipanema Beach, which is located at Posto 9 (there are 'posts' on the beach with increasing numbers - that's how Brazilians identify the areas of the beaches - and the center of gay life is at Posto 9. You've probably heard of the neighborhood from the classic 1960s bossa nova song 'The Girl From Ipanema.' Today, a popular restaurant on the gay strip bears this name.

The Copacabana neighborhood, right next to Ipanema, is a little older and seedier, although it boasts a lot of the city's nicest and most well- known hotels and buildings because it was the glamour district in Rio's heyday.

Unlike New York, there aren't that many gay bars, per se. The largest and most popular by far is Le Boy, located on the Ipanema-Copacabana border. It offers go-go boys, working boys, loud music and tons of hot guys especially on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Its New York equivalent would be Splash.

The other popular bar is Cine Ideal in Centro (downtown), popular on Friday and Saturday. It's the place to be seen for super-hot, chic, pretty boys.

Whether or not you're into the nightlife scene, Rio offers endless diversions, fascinating possibilities and truly fulfilling encounters. And November through February is the most popular time to visit, so pack your bags and escape Gotham's gloomy winter.

Brazilian Boys

Sex tourism thrives in Rio thanks to popular saunas and legalized escorts

Text by David Miranda
Photography by Sidney Fernandes

Services are now popping up to help gay American travelers maximize their Rio adventures. Curtis Jacobs is a New Yorker who moved to Rio last year. His company, Rio Gay Guides ( RioGayGuides.com), provides English-speaking male Brazilian guides to help Western tourists navigate Rio's sex and sauna scenes as well as to enjoy the city's ample non-sexual charms.

'Most people in Rio only speak Portuguese, so it helps to have a native guide to take you to the sights, find the right beaches and hidden restaurants, and help you find what you want in the saunas and clubs,' Jacobs says. 'Our guides make sure that the client doesn't get ripped off or fall into bad situations. The fact that our guides are hot and very open-minded about helping the tourist find what he wants makes them even more appealing.'

Working Boy Saunas
Escorting in Brazil is legal. And jobs in Rio are scarce. Moreover, sexuality there is much more fluid than in the States, with the lines separating straight, bi and gay being blurry. As a result, guys of all types - from married policemen to college sophomores, gay, straight and bi - frequent the saunas.

Two of the most popular 'working boy' saunas are located in Copacabana - Point 202 and Estaco. The largest gay working sauna, by far, is Club 117, located in Gloria (next to downtown). It is sprawling, with more than 100 working guys during its peak hours. The saunas, usually open from 3pm till 2am, have bars, restaurants, dancing and entertainment. Their popular weekend drag shows attract a young crowd. And the spacious cabins include VCRs and large-screen TVs. It's more like an exciting sex club than, say, a dingy, depressing bathhouse.

Passion for Passion
'Some tourists think that because a lot of the working guys are straight or bi, they will just go through the motions because they are doing it for the money,' Jacobs says. 'But that's not how Brazilians are. They are passionate people who are very open sexually, and they immerse themselves in all activities of pleasure. Everyone who arranges an encounter with a working guy in Rio walks away impressed and fulfilled.'

Jacobs should know. He also runs an escort agency, RioMaleEscorts.com, catering to American and European tourists. 'By being able to provide our clients with the hottest guys in Rio as escorts, and the most charming and knowledgeable boys as guides, we ensure that they get the full Rio treatment safely and in a hassle-free way.'


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