Over the last decade, through major renovations and shifts in target audience (remember when it was Wild Mustang for a minute?), Jungle has become an integral part of Atlanta’s nightlife community. Most well known for their dance floor and high profile guest DJs, plus their involvement in Atlanta’s drag community, Jungle has solidified itself as a vital part of Atlanta’s LGBT nightlife community.
On the Dance Floor
To celebrate their tenth anniversary, Jungle is throwing an underwear-themed anniversary party this Saturday, April 12, with the Atlanta debut of Brazil’s DJ Romullo Azaro, plus a special appearance by pop singer/songwriter Bonnie McKee. The festivities continue Sunday night with an anniversary-themed, singlet-focused edition of the bar’s popular Harness event, with DJ Pat Scott.
The events highlight Jungle’s long-running status as a popular dance venue. With the club’s warehouse-style surroundings, Jungle’s massive amounts of space has only helped the club serve as one of the biggest dance floors in Atlanta’s gay nightlife scene. Add to that a record of booking some of the biggest DJs in the world, and you have a recipe for some memorable nights of dancing.
“There are so many talented DJs out there, and we have a great relationship with the best in the business,” says Jungle owner Richard Cherskov, who bought the club in July 2011. “We love having big names like Tony Moran, Paulo and Rosabel on a regular basis because they are well known in the community and people love them. We also, however, do enjoy bringing in new talent, having debuted over a dozen DJs in Atlanta over the past year with several more to come.“
Among the list of DJs Jungle will be bringing in over the next several months: Susan Morabito, Tracy Young and Alex Acosta. Jungle will also be hosting Peach Party 2014’s Saturday night party for a third consecutive year on June 21, with popular Atlanta guest DJ Joe Gauthreaux coming in for the night.
A New Generation of Drag
Though Jungle has long been known for their dance floor, the club has also developed a reputation over the past few years as a home for some of Atlanta’s most exciting new drag queens. Jungle has been the home for Stars of the Century for years, and in recent years, they’ve branched out with new drag show mainstays like The Other Show and Ruby’s Redd Light District.
“The Other Show and Ruby’s Redd Light District have become staples at Jungle Atlanta, and we definitely have the casts of both shows to thank for that. They are constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to entertain their audiences and have them coming back for more,” says Cherskov.
Edie Cheezburger, the creator and host of Friday night’s The Other Show, credits Jungle as instrumental in her career.
“I stepped into drag for the first time on Jungle’s main stage in the play Cabaret. Since then, I’ve competed and won the newcomer drag competition Dragnique. Without Jungle, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
Edie’s win in the Dragnique competition saw Evah Destruction come in second. Evah, who performs with Edie in The Other Show, took advantage of her momentum in that competition to propel her in future competitions.
“Jungle was the springboard for my career. Thanks to the multiple drag competitions hosted by Jungle, I was able to finally break into the scene in the city. Jungle gave me a great start for making myself a better entertainer.”
Among the shows Evah went on to win were Jungle’s follow-ups to Dragnique – Dragnificent and Atlanta All-Stars. Both shows were created by Phoenix. For Phoenix, whose career includes a stint on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jungle has provided an opportunity to let her help foster a new generation of drag in Atlanta. It’s all part of a relationship with Jungle that’s lasted since the early years of the venue.
“I have been at Jungle performing now for eight or nine years; at this point, I’ve been there longer than anyone who still remains. I’ve seen the bar change management a few times, and recently change ownership, and with all of this, whoever is there has still continued to believe in me and my artistry.”
“I am so invested in the venue. I want nothing but the best for Jungle, for everyone who makes Jungle tick, and especially for the patrons who keep the Jungle dance floor going.”
In particular, she credits Cherskov, with whom she’s developed a mutual trust over the club’s approach to drag.
“He believes in me, my knowledge of the business, and my artistry. In return I believe in him, his visions for the club, and what he has already done. I was one of the first people there to take him by the hand and give him some words of wisdom about the Atlanta club scene. I believe at that moment, we both gained an immediate bond with each other.”
Looking to the Future
Beyond its focuses on dance and drag, Jungle has developed as a venue with more to offer Atlanta’s LGBT community. Jungle hosts numerous charitable functions throughout the year, including the monthly Big Gay Game Show and P.A.L.S. Bingo events. Jungle has also hosted both seasons of the Barry Brandon-produced singing competition Sing for Your Life.
While the venue has undergone numerous physical changes over the years, including a western-oriented theme during its time doubling as Wild Mustang in the latter part of the 2000s, the 2012-2013 renovations of the club created numerous spaces within the club, allowing for a diverse range of options for programming. Shows like Stars of the Century take place on the Main Stage, while others like The Other Show normally operate out of the venue’s Cabaret room. Events like Harness, meanwhile, take place in bckspce, located in –where else? – the back of Jungle, behind the Main Stage.
And these spaces also include a kitchen, which lets the club serve food during operating hours. The menu has proven popular with guests, according to Cherskov, and will see a revamp in the coming months for some warm-weather favorites.
Thanks to the bar’s ability to keep up with what its guests want, through dancing, drag, and other outlets, Jungle’s managed to thrive over the past decade. With that level of success, we can only imagine where Jungle will go over the next ten years.