Out there
Just off Piccadilly Circus is Bar Rumba. A hesitant doorway, set at a skewed angle, it seems almost to turn away, as if embarrassed to be part of the sanitised mall experience that is the Trocadero Centre. On an early autumn afternoon this white-tiled atrium teems with Sunday shoppers, Italian tourists and Chinese teenagers, who waddle serenely from the Guinness World of Records to the Sock Shop. But little do they suspect, as they exit the Emaginator ride in the basement, what lurks behind that fire escape set into the opposite wall.

Sandwiched between Bar Rumba's shadowy facade on Shaftesbury Avenue and its inconspicuous rear is a sweatbox called DTPM, which stands for Detox After Noon. While young lovers linger over cappuccino, just a few dozen yards away in a different universe, the muscle boys of DTPM jerk and writhe to the rhythm of the night. DTPM is the post-after hours club, a mixed- gay boy zone that also attracts tough-looking girls, and the last refuge of the non-stop party animal. It started three years ago as a stop-gap for the hardcore gay crowd, something to keep them going between Trade, on a Saturday night at Turnmills, and FF, at the same venue on Sunday. But DTPM took on a life of its own, moving to its present location in May last year, and is now a legend on London's club circuit, regarded as synonymous with debauchery, and a wilful headlong descent into oblivion.

The first thing you notice in this tight, steaming basement is flesh. Yards and yards of supple, glistening, tanned flesh. The boys like to get their shirts off early in DTPM. They work out, they have good physiques, their hair is uniformly close-cropped, apart from a few shaven heads and a spattering of bleach blonds. Eighty per cent of the clientele is male, and most of them are decidedly straight-looking. The dressier types wear Dolce & Gabbana singlets, but the overwhelming look is Funky Sportif: Stussy, Duffer and Adidas - track pants, tight T-shirts and trainers - or white skinny-rib vests. Jewellery is minimal: silver nipple rings or a piece of silver chain round one bicep. The boys are drenched in sweat, their sleek, tumescent limbs reflected in the dark mirrors behind the bar. It's 8.30pm, but already the dancefloor is a boiling sea of shirtless bodies.

If it looks tough and punchy, there is little of the coke-fuelled paranoia found in the "straight" West End clubs around the corner. As I search for the cloakroom, two separate people step up to point it out. The general vibe is one of scandalous intimacy with lots of juicy kisses and scratchy chins meeting stubbled jaws and plenty of wet smiles and hands-on greetings.

In DTPM, conversation is restricted to two locations, the bar and the toilets, and three topics: who you're with, where you went last night, and what you're doing after this. Apart from that, it's all dance, dance, dance. And why not? The music is excellent: no lyrics to remind you of your worldly attachments, just the wail and shriek of demented females riding the techno rollercoaster, the explosive cries of lost souls being crushed by the deep house juggernaut, the sound of yearning, the sound of defiance.

"For a while, this place attracted people with a death wish," says Tony, a regular. "There were lots of guys who'd tested [HIV] positive and couldn't face it. So, every week they were just getting completely off their faces, going out the whole weekend, and ending up here totally wrecked. But it's changed now. It's much healthier than it used to be."

"I took some speed and stayed up on Friday night," says Nina, a psychology student. "But I didn't go out last night. The nice thing about this place it is ends early, so you can still get up for college." Jason, a 20-year- old shop assistant, tells me how the last time he came to DTPM was towards the end of a sleepless six-day speed and E binge: Fruit Machine on Wednesday, G.A.Y. on Thursday, Garage on Friday, Trade on Saturday, DTPM on Sunday, and back to G.A.Y. on Monday. "Then I took two Rohypnols and slept for a week," he chuckles. "But it took a month to recover properly."

"Sure, you get drugs in any club, but this is not a really druggy crowd," says Lawrence Malice, who co-runs both Trade and DTPM. "Most of this lot are drinkers. These are people who've been through that scene and out the other side. They come because we've got real hardcore music, but you can still get to bed and go to work on Monday. It's actually quite civilised."

Outside on the pavement at 11.05pm. A few diehards are heading to Clerkenwell for the FF night, but Nina and Jason confirm Lawrence's assertion. "We're going for a cup of tea on Old Compton Street, then we'll catch the last Tube home."

See you next week, then, I say