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Ten years Club ChUrch: Three Men and a Sex Club

by Gerrit Jan Wielinga in Scene , 23 augustus 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
Length: 7 minutes

This year, Club Church celebrates its tenth anniversary. Wim Peeks, Elard Diekman, and Richard Keldoulis are the three men behind the success of this popular cruise club. Gay News met with them.

Elard, Wim & Richard with Hennie (2nd left)
Wim: “I’m from a small village in Drenthe, and as a young boy I was curious about the willies of other men. When I heard, at the age of twelve, that this meant that I was a ‘sausage jockey,’ I was upset. Why was I any different from the ‘normals’? On whose authority?”

Elard: “My family was free-thinking, and when I came out of my closet around the age of sixteen it was no problem at all. As soon as I moved to Amsterdam, cruising was part of my new life style. If I did not encounter anyone nice during my night out, I often ended up in the greens on the Weteringcircuit. On my way home, that is. One time my bicycle was stolen while I was having fun in the bushes. There I was with my pants on my knees and the thief cycling away.”

Wim & ElardWim: “At seventeen I left the house and worked with people with an intellectual disability. First in Drenthe and after a few years in Groningen. I was not openly gay. This only came after I visited the 1982 Pink Saturday in Amersfoort. I remember exiting the train and thinking: ‘So many of them...!’ Later that day, things took a turn for the worse, and there were fights. Looking back, that particular day was a turning point in the gay movement, and I then realized that I belonged.”

Elard: “While reading English literature, I became interested in theatre. I founded an amateur company with some other university students. We performed Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare. Around that time, I met Richard in the darkroom of the Exit.”


Jennifer Hopelezz (left)Richard: “After some wanderings in Australia, South Africa and Japan, I ended up in Amsterdam. I felt home immediately. I myself am from Sydney, which was not yet as progressive. Homosexuality was in the Penal Code until 1984, so Amsterdam felt like a breath of fresh air.

After studying medicine, I ran a bar in Adelaide for a while, ‘Lenin’s.’ In no time, Lenin’s was the coolest bar in town. Anyone who was an artist or performer could show or perform with us. I also met my first serious boyfriend there, and from that moment on I focussed on men. Before that I always had girlfriends and secretly went cruising in the sauna or in the dunes of the nudist beach.”

Wim: “For me the action mostly took place on parking lots. In Grolloo I always went to the beach near the sand excavation in the summer, as it was often busy there. I was about thirty when I moved to Amsterdam. I had some friends here and thought it was high time for change. Coincidentally, I came to live in a commune above the Trut disco. One thing led to another, and from the bar I became a member of the executive committee. It was precisely at that time that the Gala Foundation was also looking for new board members. I had time to spare because I was recovering from a collision with a taxi in which my left leg was shattered.”

Elard: “Richard and I became a couple immediately after our initial meeting, and we had a lot of fun together. We both worked at a language institute, but that was pretty boring. So, we started doing fun things in our spare time. One day we made plaster frames for mirrors with a group of people, and they were actually quite beautiful. So we had an exhibition on a Sunday. Sales went pretty well, so then came the following idea: a stall on Waterlooplein.”

Richard: “There we were on Waterlooplein with our mirrors. We lasted for six months. It was quite an experience to be there among the streetwise market vendors. To me, it was also a crash course in Dutch. It struck me that there was not yet a trendy Sunday market in Amsterdam, so we gave up our stall on Waterlooplein and started a Sunday market with friends in the Akhnaton. That was a lot of organization, but also very nice - with performances and a great atmosphere.”

At the Homomonument

Pinkpoint at 'bakfiets'Wim: “The Gala Foundation had lost a lot of money on the Euro Games of 1994, and we had to try to earn this money back through parties. When organizing the Factory Parties, I came into contact with all kinds of different fetishes for the very first time. A new world opened up to me. There was a considerable demand for this type of party, so we started to organize more of them. The organization that organized the festivals on the Homomonument also stopped, so we took that over as well.”

Elard: “Richard and I were hired for the parties at the Homomonument. Apparently, the Gala Foundation saw something in us. We quickly had to learn a lot of new skills. We had a creative team, but organizing a party with DJs and outdoor shows was pretty new to us. On the other hand, organization was in our blood, and what could be greater than to be responsible for the programming of a festival of several days?”

Richard, Elard and Wim (r)Richard: “Elard and I went to Sydney every year, principally for family visits, but also for Mardi Gras, and we always helped making the floats for the parade. Back then, Mardi Gras was quite professional already, with parties and events, while the Amsterdam Pride was yet to be invented, so we were able to pick up some tricks. Another advantage was that we had been volunteers ourselves and know what motivates them.”

Wim: “Those festivals on the Homomonument were financially risky. If it rained on Queen’s Day, it would put us in debt for thousands of Euros. Although these parties were fantastic, we also knew that we had to look for something more regular. This became SOS, or Sex On Sundays. First at the Argos in the Warmoesstraat, which was quite exciting. Would we manage to get the horny crowds in? After somewhat disappointing first months, things started to pick up, with these Sunday afternoons packed to the brim.”

Pink Point (opening by Anne Lize van der Stoel)Richard: “During the Gay Games of 1998 I started the Pink Point at the Homomonument. The first ten days were done with a delivery bicycle, and after five years in a kiosk. We then founded the Homomonument Foundation, so that we could slowly withdraw from organizing festivals. Organizing these festivals was great, but also took a great deal of time and energy. We also noticed through the SOS party, that this kind of thing was close to our heart, so we continued exploring that direction.”

Starting Club Church

Wim: “At one point the owner of Club La in the Kerkstraat asked us to organize one of our concept parties there, ‘(z)onderbroek.’ It was a great success in a club that was not working that well. We started to organize more at that venue, and the owner then informed us he wanted to sell the club. Richard, Elard and I arranged the funding and came to a good agreement with the previous owner. From that moment on, we were suddenly the owners of our very own cruise club.”

Richard: “Those first years of Club Church were mostly about finding the right formula. Elard needed a break, so Wim and I had to act as owners. That was not always easy, as we both had invested a lot and we both wanted to be involved in every aspect of the club. Eventually we found our individual strengths. Wim excels in financial and staff matters, while I am good in concepts and PR. When Elard started to get involved with the club again, it became clear how well we complemented each other. By then, we dared to venture into expanding with the NZ sauna.”

Elard: “The secret of Club Church is that there is a certain kind of regulated chaos in which anything can happen. A lot can go wrong, but when everything comes together, it is brilliant. Fortunately that is most of the time. In principle you can do anything you like. Creativity and a great sense of sexual freedom, make Club Church a unique place.”

Wim: “I am so proud of what we have achieved. The club and sauna provide the city with two special places where male sexuality and creativity are celebrated. We sponsor and provide space for initiatives from the community. Elard, Richard and I have become the employers of a whole new generation of fun, exciting and creative gay men. I could never have imagined this as a boy from the countryside. It is the best possible scenario!”



published Jul 2018       

published Dec 2016       


In the New Issue of Gay News, 336, August/ Pride 2019

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