The ritual described above repeats itself every Sunday evening at the front gates of the Trut. The squatter’s disco will celebrate her 30th birthday on December the 8th. More than enough reason for me to instigate an interview with Jacques Wijnen (58), co-founder and a “trutter” from the very beginning. We decided to meet at the Trut on a Wednesday evening. We sipped, not vodka-apple juice, but plain apple juice, there were no lines in front of the washrooms, and instead of a disco-ball, it was just the lights that shone. Only the rule “ no photography” made this place recognizable from its Sunday-night counterpart.
Thirty years ago, the world was very different. Many of our recent accomplishments had not even crossed our minds then. It really was a different time.
The Trut was founded in December 1985, and came from the world of the squatters. “The Flux was here first: a popular squatters disco. Man, they had some long queues!” Jacques was well-known in the squatter-scene and often found himself in the Flux. “Together with some friends, I decided it would be fun to create a Flux-esque mood for fags and dykes. At the time, this was a very new idea.”
We were al squatters. unemployed, or students. I don’t think anyone had a regular job.
And that’s how it happened. The Flux agreed to open its doors to the “Potten en Flikker-disco” (The fag-and-dyke disco), and Jacques got a thumbs up for Sunday evenings. “the disco has been scheduled every Sunday since the beginning. This was possible because we were all squatters, unemployed, or students. I don’t think any of us had a regular job.” The name for the disco was decided during one of our “meetings”. “These were best compared to parties, where we were just together to have a good time. The name was pretty much born out of alcohol. “The Closet” was high on the list, but then someone said “shut up, Bitch!” and bingo! The Bitch (Trut) was born.”
The ‘PR-campaign’ consisted of small advertisements in the Volkskrand and the Parool for the first ever evening of the Trut, where beer flowed from the taps at the unimaginable price of 65 cents; Gulden, not Euros. It turned out to be a success. “The Trut quickly became a club-life phenomenon, and long lines of people gathered to come in”. The Trut attracted a diverse, alternative and left-wing crowd, much like the founders of the Trut themselves. “The Trut was especially socialist during the first five years of its life. Almost anarchical. It was only until much later that a Trut-associate admitted to voting VVD. This was a big shock: A VVDer, in the Trut?!”
A lot of well-known Dutch people came to the Trut during the first ten or fifteen years because they then had the assurance they would not be the face of a gossip magazine the next day.
VVDer or not: in the end, everyone is welcome in the Trut, given that you respect those around you, and aren’t playing with your phone. “Since the beginning, we chose to be vigilant when it comes to photography. The Trut should be a place where everyone feels safe and where no one has to worry that a picture of them French kissing someone will end up anywhere it shouldn’t. A lot of well-known Dutch people came to the Trut during the first ten or fifteen years because they then had the assurance they would not be the face of a gossip magazine the next day.
Jacques has seen Amsterdam change substantially in the past thirty years. Nevertheless, the Trut has been able to keep a few things constant. “We have always been home to a slightly more alternative crowd than, say, on the Zeedijk or the Reguliers.” The philosophy of the Trut also remains unchanged: “We create a safe environment where everyone contributes to the party together, and where the funds raised all go to charitable causes. We work with a group volunteers who come week after week, and aren’t compensated financially, but through a good time. This has been the way we function for thirty years. It works”.
Especially at the beginning of the schoolyear, you see the bar flood with 18-year-olds and their friends/boyfriends.
But not everything has remained the same. The crowd especially has seen a number changes. “Not all guests are fully aware that all of the work is done by volunteers and that we do this for fun. Their attitude has sometimes had an impact on our ability to have a good time. People used to be far more conscious of the way that their attitude affects those around them.” And the flood of students, drawn in by cheap beer? “Yeah, I’m familiar with them too. That’s one of the biggest changes: the past few years, more and more non-gay or lesbian people hang out at the Trut. Especially at the beginning of the schoolyear, you see the bar flood with 18-year-olds and their girlfriends/boyfriends. When I see them, I sometimes ask myself if there’s even a dyke or fag among them.”
A more rigid guide for who’s allowed in is, according to Jacques, not the solution. “There’s always been a lot of discussion on this topic: are we a 100% fag-and-dyke disco? Or is it more about the attitude of those who come? For me it’s more about if you feel like fag or a dyke, not so much if you actually are one.” In order to satisfy the core of the crew that comes to the Trut, Jacques has proposed another strategy. “The party that you organize decides who comes to it. In the past, when there was an annoying hetero couple, we’d grind against them from both sides. They’d be gone in a second!”
“But this doesn’t mean that we’re campaigning against heterosexuals.” He continues. “We want to create a safe environment for everyone. Especially for women; that’s very important to us. There was someone who stood on a chair once and yelled ‘all heteros, out!’. The next day we were accused of being neo-fascists but that doesn’t matter. It’s about safety which even now, after thirty years, is still a necessity.”
It was so unimaginably exciting. The big question was if people would even come at all, let alone like it. Mixed parties for dykes and fags had, at the time, not yet proved a success story.
The Trut has gifted her guests one or many memorable evenings. Who hasn’t experienced the Trut completely plastered, while french kissing a stranger and ending the night with the realization that your jacket has been taken? For Jacques it was the first night which was the most memorable. “It was so unimaginably exciting. The big question was if people would even come at all, let alone like it. Mixed parties for dykes and fags had, at the time, not yet proved a success story.”
And now? When the light goes on at 3:00AM? “Then we have a small after party with alcohol and food! People bake eggs, and we eat them with cheese and mayo. We used to have a deep fryer but given the extent to which most ‘trutters’ have indulged in alcohol throughout the course of the evening, it ended up not being such a great idea.” And the best kept secret? “That is probably who’s dick and pussy is shown on the Trut card thirty years running. Most volunteers don’t even know!” A hint? “It sure as hell isn’t me…”