Friday, August 31, 2007

Heal, Conor, Heal

I relish my anonymity, such as it is. Of course I have a radio show, which has an audience. But the audience is far away from where I live. So it’s easy to forget if the phone doesn’t ring during the show or after work at a bar, that I have even the smallest measure of fame. Even this blog, with entry after commentless entry, I feel virtually unknown. It’s nice.


The only times I have ever been recognized in the city were in bars and the first time was at Barracuda some months ago. I returned to the scene of the crime last night with my roommate to meet up with Ben Harvey. We have a lovely friendship that is more about the fame of other people than our own. However, Ben gets concerned sometimes that if an evening isn’t interesting enough, I will fail to blog about it, committing our banal existences to the obscurity they truly deserve. However, as I assured him with my last posting, there is no sow’s ear so paper thin that I couldn’t stitch a silk purse out of it. He isn’t the only one. I estimate about ten people read my blog and virtually all of them visit to see if they are back in it again when it updates semi-annually. Sorry Charlie! No mentions today.


It wasn’t my intention to go out, just like last night. But I was reading Ben’s email early yesterday morning(or hours too late depending). I read my mail obsessively but I do have a secret email address now and I forget to read it all the time. Derek@derekhartley.com and my office email are checked obsessively all day. Even MySpace is never left for more than a few minutes at a time during waking hours. But my secret email address known by even fewer than this posting is occasionally forgotten for days. No one writes me there. So it is just too depressing to visit it day after day to see that nothing has changed. Really only Ben and Jennifer actively email me there, and Jennifer is on vacation this week so I have been especially lax.


But Ben had emailed me after midnight last night saying that he was going out to Barracuda TOMORROW (his emphasis) and I remembered him commenting on my funny insistence on carefully using the word tomorrow in my emails because I usually write them at 3am, making the word ambiguous to most earnest observers or those who also are awake and checking email in the middle of the night (like Ben). So I sent him a text message during the show just to make sure that he meant Friday and not Thursday and of course TOMORROW was tonight, and always anxious to see him again, I agreed to dash off for a quick drink before heading home to pack, make breakfast for my visiting Dad and fly off to New Orleans for a long weekend of booze, beignets and boys at Southern Decadence.


At Barracuda, Ben arrived again with Harvard Ryan in tow, along with assorted actorly characters. His friend Dave, the “Al Roker of Australia” who is in fact, hot and thin. Eric Michael, an actual actor who is loathe to say he is an actor for fear of people thinking he is primarily a waiter. “Working actor” I told him, “That’s what you need to say.” Especially if you don’t want to be confused with the homeless. As usual, I could only get two new names so the guy from The Lair and the guy who looks like Josh but with even more intense eyebrows will have to go nameless for this entry. There might have even been another guy floating around there too, but there was just too much gay in our circle to keep an easy focus. I wasn’t the only one having trouble. It was too many people for Ben to juggle at once, and it felt a little like he was trying to manage a party in his own apartment. It is easier to host the Malaria virus than to try to host a gathering inside a gay bar. Too many working parts. And Peter Stickles swirling around in the air like Tinkerbell the whole time, flashing and flinging pixie dust, and my roommate camouflaged in the corner to blend in with the wall did not help Ben in his herding efforts at all.


Finally Conor arrived, his intense, yet oddly reassuring gaze as soothing as a border collie’s. Conor makes me laugh which doesn’t happen very often for me, making it all the harder to cut the evening short to catch the 12:10am train to suburbia. I like funny people because, despite all outward appearances, I don’t like being the center of attention. I am always drawn to people who are more famous, more loud, better grammarians or prettier than I am so that I can enjoy being in the audience. It is more fun for me to not have to work all the time, and being with the crowd, instead of in front of it, is my natural state of being.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Starry, Starry Night

I didn’t want to go to Bowery Bar tonight, but when the stars align, there is little you can do to stem the gravitational pull. Perhaps it was the weird lunar eclipse. Maybe I shouldn’t look up to the sky for simple answers here on earth.


D-A-N sent me a text message tonight during the show. “Hey. Going to Beige tonight?” No in fact, I planned a rather boring night of heading home and going to bed at a reasonable hour and waking up insanely early (read: 9:00am) to have breakfast with my Dad, who is visiting from Utah. I am already living my life a day late after my car unexpectedly broke down in Virginia on Sunday and I didn’t get home until a full 24 hours after I had expected to be there. Now I feel like I am stuck in an alternate universe where Monday is really Tuesday and nothing I had wanted to get done is actually done. So I decided to leave my bar going decision up to fate and asked guest host Wade Williams “Are we going to Bowery Bar tonight?”


“Yes! How did you know?”


So after the show ended, Wade and I decamped to his hotel to drop off his bag and gaze at the lobby swimming pool with the swim up bar. All straight people frolicking in the water but at least the one guy was reasonably attractive in his bathing suit. You really can’t ask for more in life. From the hotel, we journeyed down to B-Bar with the chattiest cab driver this side of Taxi Cab Confessions. He lives up near Columbia (111th and Broadway) while his girlfriend lives next to B-Bar (Bowery and 4th). Apparently, he was fresh out of the Army where he spent the last 20 years creating tactical scenarios for the NSA. Good thing our nation doesn’t depend on his discretion any longer since he leaks like a colander.


Turns out D-A-N was at Pieces for karaoke with his friends, so Wade and I settled at a table with drinks in hand. So much for that rendezvous. In the meantime, Ari Gold was at the next table, ready to gently chide me about our “diva” dust-up on the air two weeks ago. “See. I am not so diva-like that I wouldn’t come over to say hello,” he purred, although it was I who walked over to him. Charlie wandered in, still carrying that same old book. Charlie is a recent law school grad who is enjoying reading for pleasure again, although he is making extremely slow work of his current tome. I tried to impress him with my dim theory about the connection between gay marriage and kosher food but he was more interested in my church-state discussion about Christmas trees at City Halls. And here I thought I could just be boring at home.


Ben Harvey finally arrived just in time for Charlie to beat a hasty exit. “I am just not feeling it tonight” he had told me as he collapsed into the wrought iron patio chair less than thirty minutes earlier. True to his word, Travels With Charlie closed another chapter, even before Ben could wend his way through the tightly packed crowd.


Ben was as cute as ever, with his Harvard friend Ryan in tow. Ever since David Bianco tortured me during my one year syndication deal, I am wary of gays with Ivy League educations. Then again, David is straight now, last I heard, although I suspect no less annoying to those of us who use the English language like a fly swatter. Ryan seemed nice, but as usual, I was more interested in Ben than in his friends. Ben caught the eye of a cutie in a red polo shirt, and I even forcefully prodded him to make the first move. Although I don’t think anything came of it. I’ll have to ask him next time I see him what happened. Maybe it will make it into his personal blog or his work blog.


Just as I was ready to leave, everything kicked into high gear. After no word from D-A-N in two hours, I sent him a “heading home” text message that revealed a quick response that he was, in fact, now at the bar. Much searching found gay nightlife fixture Corey Johnson casually orbiting one sexy hunk after another, although D-A-N was more difficult to spot. To be fair, I had only seen him that one time before and despite perfect vision, gay bars are too filled with music, lights and pretty for me to effectively search for anything or anyone amidst the sensory overload. Finally found him on the dance floor with a cluster of friends. Still cute, with a winning smile, Clark Kent hair and solid arms. Polite chat about karaoke (he sang a song from Les Miserables) and houseguests staying too long (four day weekend fine, anything longer too long), but nothing worth sacrificing sleep or writing a blog entry over. Moments later, he was gone.


The real excitement came after he left when Wade introduced me to not-out actor on hit TV show recently signed to star in hit movie franchise sequel. I wonder if Michael Musto, who was there, saw him too? I tried to play it cool by not mentioning his TV show and then later realized that I should have mentioned that we had the creator of his show on our radio show. Wade insisted he would want to be a guest on our show, but I wouldn’t hold my openly gay breath on that one.


Then Ben Harvey was found standing with Peter Stickles and Michael Carbanaro. Michael is too adorable for words and like all magicians; he knows keenly where his hands are at all times. Unfortunately, I will have to experience his particular brand of magic on another day. As always, the drunk train beckons and I can’t miss my last ride home for the night. Next time it will be one-on-one with Ben. Just the two of us in the quiet corner of a bar with no Charlie to observe or simple names of hunky accountants to spell. I caught Michael’s eye and waved a final good bye as Wade and I headed for a taxi. The driver was quiet this time, which was just what the doctor ordered after such a busy environment. No national security secrets to divulge. Just a seamless ride up third avenue in the middle of the night. Perfect.


See. Sometimes the stars do line up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Madison Vs. Alexis

Unfortunately, it was an old fashioned cat fight on the show last night and it bubbled over onto Whatever with Alexis and Jennifer on Martha 112 today.


For those of you interested in hearing exactly what Madison from Alt Nation (21) and First Wave (22) said, here is the entire bit in three parts:


Madison Part One


Madison Part Two


Madison Part Three


Can't we all just get along?

West Hollywood Is Burning

Perez Hilton was on the show tonight, dishing about celebrities for Tabloid Tuesday. Perez used to be on the show all the time when he was thin and living in New York and running Page Six Six Six. But then, the NY Post, egged on by eternal wet blanket James Edstrom, went after him and he became PerezHilton.com, moved west, gained weight, and became as enormously famous as he was enormous. He hasn't been on our show so much since then (busy with subpoenas and exploring the wonders of the House Of Pies, I suppose), but tonight he returned, and in time for a heartbreaking breaking story: West Hollywood was burning.


Micky's burned (ironic, apparently), and with it a million memories of my life in West Hollywood in the 1990s (also known as the last time anyone dared show their face inside that clap trap bar). When I was first coming out, Micky's was the first gay bar I ever went to. Michael and I were roommates at the time in Pasadena. I worked days in the drug clinic while he worked evenings for the Sheriff department, both unlikely careers for two young guys out drinking and dancing every single night of the week. We'd go to Micky's until close, then head to the Denny's across the street from our tiny apartment on Vinedo. Michael would head to bed while I would catch two hours sleep before getting up, showering and heading to the drug clinic at 7:30am. I am certain the drunks and staff could smell the booze on me and you didn't need to be a trained clinician to know that the wall I would hit each day around 3:00pm couldn't easily be satisfied with a Snickers bar. But I would leave at 4:30pm on the dot and race home to sleep until Michael returned from his shift and we'd start the process again. Lather, rinse, repeat.


It was at the fire sale one night outside Micky's that we met the twink who invited us to the "after party" in someone's apartment in Hollywood and Michael met (and slept with) Eric Mueller. Michael and my friend Geoff basically stalked Ben Patrick Johnson through A Different Light next door until, tired of their shenanigans, I walked over to Ben and started a 15 year friendship. I met director Bryan Singer at 18 and over night at Micky's in 1996 with a teenager on his lap and a song in his heart.


The DJ at Micky's was the first (and certainly not the last) DJ I befriended. He had a "I won't play Vogue, don't ask me" sign firmly affixed to the glass on the booth. I danced many, many times there to Whitney's remake of "I'm Every Woman" in billowing print shorts, slouch socks and a backwards baseball cap, and I can't hear "Justified and Ancient" without thinking of that awful bar and those terrible clothes. Paul and I ended our longest day of drunkenness on the patio once, after starting with a seemingly innocuous brunch at Marix that turned into drinks at Micky's until dark. A day happily wasted.


My last trip home to Los Angeles in July was drenched in nostalgia. I haven't been inside Micky's in years but I stood outside it waiting for Ben to start his book signing at A Different Light, so many years after our first meeting there. Paul and Michael and I then had a drink at East West (formerly Revolver) and laughed about the good old days so filled with alcohol it's a wonder we have any memory of them at all. But with Micky's gone now, all we have are our memories. You feel old enough talking about a bar that used to be, but at least in the case of Revolver and East West, the bar is still there, just with nicer furniture and pricier drinks (hate it). With Micky's, it will make us sound especially old, like reminiscing about the Hippodrome or the Pan Pacific auditorium, although decidedly less historic and interesting.


When I called Paul tonight, he said, "Now all we can do is point to the sidewalk and say we threw up there." I didn't but Paul's friend Manfred did, on New Year's Eve, and then I made out with him. In retrospect, not a good idea. But I was young and foolish and figuring out my life. Like most everyone, I have ridiculed and derided Micky's for a solid decade, but now it's gone. In a way, it's like the death of an ex-boyfriend. I may have been over him for years, but now that he is gone, all I remember are the good times.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy Birthday Josh!

Josh is a NYC story. Beautiful man. Perfect body. Occasional Broadway dancer. Met him six years ago when he was a bartender at a new bar called Remote and I was trying my hand at club promotion. Luke from the bar brought me in to start a hot Tuesday night, two blocks away from Beige at Bowery Bar. Beige had been the hot Tuesday night for years and it was time for its moment to be over. Then on the launch night of my new Tuesday night, Britney and Justin showed up at Beige and, well let’s just say it is still the hot Tuesday night party in NYC. September 11th helped seal the deal, compelling people to stick with what was old and comfortable in our changing times (Golden Girls reruns, M4M chat rooms, Beige) and my club promotion days ended just as quickly as they began.


Tonight, Josh invited me to his friend David Coleman’s apartment for an intimate birthday party. In the intervening years, Josh and I have kept each other on our respective party lists and if I don’t run into him infrequently running around town (read: in a gay bar), then this is our best chance to see each other. Of course I wanted to see Josh again, but it is worth mentioning that David has one of the most unique and sensational views from his apartment: straight up Park Avenue from Union Square looking up at Grand Central Station. It’s always worth a look. And it reminds me of all things fabulous in Manhattan.


I was last in David’s apartment in April, following a night out at Shag with Matty. That night, even Prince Charming was there (although things didn't turn out as Happily Ever After as one might expect). I fully expected to see Matty back there again and didn’t even bother sending him a TXT. I like to surprise Matt by appearing once each decade in just the right place at just the right time. No such luck. However, I did run into Luke from Remote, now six years later. Josh was the only person I thought I would know at the party, so it was nice to run into someone else with a familiar face. I had invited roommate (“You know how I love a party… so no.”), Ben Harvey (“I am at the MOMA being cultural. But maybe?”), and even D-A-N from Tuesday night(“Cool. David emailed me early. I’ll try to make it!), but alas, I ended up at the party alone.


Everyone was very nice although I managed to put my foot in it again. There was a guy at the party who looked kind of familiar but then again, all gay men seem kind of familiar on a certain level after you live in a city for six or seven years. Luke’s friend was musing out loud that even though the party said that it started at 9:30pm people didn’t really show up until eleven. “Broadway people,” I offered. “They don’t get off until 10:15, 10:30, so they can’t get to a party before 11:00pm.” The guy smiled and asked if I thought the newest arrivals were Broadway people. I pointed to the handsome man in the tight button down shirt over the tight body with the tight 30-something face. “He looks like Broadway people. That’s what they look like.” The guy smiled and later I realized as the conversation progressed that he was an actor (hence his familiarity) and probably a Broadway guy too, although I made no effort to lump him in that category. He got be back later though by offering that I might have a future in modeling: for J.C. Penney, perhaps with a briefcase by a hedge or sweeping small children into a minivan with one hand casually tucked into my khaki pants. “There are, you know, the models who are hot, and then there is a whole other category of models who are… well, attractive but not threatening.” Point taken.


Now that my life is more J.C. Penney than ever, I had to leave at the stroke of 11:45pm to make the 12:10am train home. Suburbia calls, and it’s long distance. Saw Corey Johnson on my way out. Luke said I hadn’t changed and of course he meant in the face where it counts, but I think I have changed in the last six years. Of course no one has changed more than Corey, sashaying from high school football star to "Miss Thang" with all of the ease and grace of water overflowing from a stopped toilet. Apparently REMOTE isn’t what it used to be either. “Don’t go there again,” Josh cautioned,” You’ll get shot now.” The Paramus TJ Maxx crowd that followed us was one thing, but I don’t need any holes in my wool/poly blend blazer. Life in Manhattan is fabulous but it isn’t worth dying for. And that minivan isn’t going to drive itself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Love Ben Harvey

It was a typical night at Bowery Bar, and since my entry is really about four very different gay men, I almost feel like I should do four different interlocking entries that you can move back and forth between. Like a choose your own adventure book. I really should use the three-dimensional space of the internet to this advantage, but it's almost 4am, and the plumber is coming at around 10am (why do these people believe in mornings????) and I have something in my eye and it's really starting to bother me. But I need to get this blog done, so I will try to just blink a lot and think of National Velvet and try to cry it out.


It all starts with DJ Ben Harvey. As I mentioned before, he can't just be Ben because there is only one "just Ben" in my life and even though he is the just ben in the lives of about 75,000 other gay men, I have known him longer and better so they can all stick it. My friendship with Ben Harvey was getting a bit tattered around the edges since our nascent acquaintance was really built around Rosie O'Donnell's incendiary point of View. I didn't realize HOW MUCH it depended on Rosie until she left the show and took our frequent email banter with her. So in an effort to kickstart things, we agreed to a night out on the town at Bowery Bar.


I tried to drag some other friends along too. Sent text messages to Mike my roommate (no response) and Matty Kelleher, who asked who was going. I guess I am not as much of a draw as I used to be. Apparently now our friendship needs to come with a solid supporting cast of known players and possibly a gift certificate. Tried to drag Erik Rhodes and his boyfriend out, but the boyfriend was too tired. Given that he is almost half my age, it makes me wonder what is up with these kids today! They all need a little what for!


So I get to Bowery Bar and then I stand in line, like always. No one in NYC listens to my radio show (except Ben Harvey) and so I am not what I would call a local celebrity. News anchors are local celebrities. Britney Spears is genuinely famous. I am just a person who can't dress himself who works in midtown Manhattan. So I wait in line. When I get inside, Ben Harvey is standing there with three people. Charlie is the only one I know. The other two say their names but being deaf from working in radio and also being bad with remembering names, they are lost to the ether before they even open their mouths. It would be exceedingly rude but I almost feel like waving them a "don't bother" gesture when they start to tell me their names because there is just no point to it anyway.


Charlie looks cute as always. Thin. I think he was a wearing a sweater even though its August. He was definitely carrying a book, the title of which was eerily identical to the names of his friends. Apparently, Charlie has a long commute so he needs the book and it is quite the conversation starter if you think "what are you reading" is a conversation starter. I suggested he start carrying "Travels With Charlie" which would both start a conversation and make remembering his name a world easier. Like the ten other people who read my blog, Charlie was disappointed that it wasn't more frequent than a semi-annually white sale. Which reminds me: is celebrating Lincoln's birthday with a white sale considered reparations or something? I find it exceedingly tacky either way. Charlie's favorite thing about my blog (aside from my writing about him) is that I link to random Friendster profiles, including his, to prove my point.


Off we go to the bar for our first drink. Charlie acknowledges the hot bartender in the Boston band tour t-shirt. "Straight but he has gay cheek bones" says Charlie before he is almost immediately besieged by Kyle (attractive in an exclusively gay way), Chris (attractive in any context) and Brand X friend whose name was both unheard and unimportant. Chris tried to pull up a chair and then got flummoxed that no one else seemed to be sitting. He probably did legs at the gym today not realizing that all anyone does in a bar is stand. He should save his leg routine for a night when he isn't going out drinking. You do arms on a drinking night so you have a nice party pump to fill out your t-shirt. Ah but he is young and still learning. He did notice how cute Charlie was but his friend Kyle seemed to be working Charlie pretty hard, like Martha Stewart kneading dough after a rough day at the office, so he kept a respectable, yet longing distance. As quickly as they appeared, they decamped and beat a hasty retreat to the interior of the bar never to be seen again. Maybe Kyle remembered that he has a boyfriend at home, or perhaps Chris' jack-in-the-box routine was getting to him.


Now the story moves into Wizard of Oz territory with me cast as Dorothy. So I pick up two men along the way and as the journey continues, we collect another. Conor, who I wrote about the last time I was at Beige, is also there again. I think my impression of his last time was all wrong, but I think it's because Matty Kelleher (his boyfriend at the time) was there. Where I saw him in the past as "calm and patient and lovely," this time I experienced him outside the looming shadow of Matty and me likey! Me likey very much! The whole time he reminded me of my friend Paul in LA which made me happy and sad at the same time. Like when a cab takes me past Caroline's old apartment on West End Avenue and I smile because I remember all the great times there and then cry because she's gone and I can't just pick up the phone and hear her grande dame 1930s movie accent blaring "Ooooooooo Hellllllooooooo darling!" with a volume equal to her deafness.


I forgot to mention how thin Conor looked too. That's very important. Because at one point we were plunged into a controversy about being called "thin" instead of "buff" as if being called either one was a bad thing, but Ben Harvey had a definite preference for being "buff" instead of "thin." I am soooooo rarely called either one that I am fairly certain that any similar compliment would either win me over or earn my deepest suspicions.


Conor mentioned that he was going through a man drought, which was somewhat the opposite of Charlie's previous man strike. And just as he said that... a cute guy walked by and looked Conor up and down. "He thinks you are cute." I said pointing at the stranger which prompted him to come over and introduce himself. Dan. D-A-N. And his friend Tony. T-O-N-Y. He had a third friend with him but since the name wasn't spelled out for me, he also didn't get heard or remembered. Or maybe it's just me, and I can only remember as many as two names at a time. And to think I was so good at Simon as a kid.


Dan at first thought he had run into Conor on Fire Island over the weekend. Conor assured him that was both unlikely and impossible. Conor and Dan made an attempt at small talk but the two of them had all the chemistry of asbestos and a set of lungs. But he did seem to have an eye for Ben Harvey, who was also in something of a man drought I guess, so I keep talking to D-A-N in the hopes that perhaps my feverish matchmaking skills might coalesce for him and B-E-N. No such luck.


The rest of the evening flew by rapidly. Conor turned out to be a fantastic banter partner. And I always love talking to Ben Harvey. In the process of trying to make magic happen between the two three letter men, I learned that D-A-N was an accountant with Deloitte, liked diet coke but was willing to drink red wine when his friends bought it for him, enjoys big logo Polo shirts, pedicures and facials, spent six years in japan, is independent and financially secure, had friends visiting from the UK and worked a summer as a waiter out on Fire Island. He learned that my name was Derek (which I had to repeat for him later when he forgot it) and that I worked at Sirius. So basically I am a total stranger to him still, even after two hours of conversation.


Finally, it was time for me to leave. The final drunk train home leaves with or without you on it. I made my good byes and headed off to Grand Central station. On the train I ended up in the queer section with the lone homo (there are NEVER homos on the train) who got off early and the tranny reading "A Passage To India" with her party make-up making it's emotionally exhausted journey down her face with the glitter above her eyes being the most suicidal, leaping like lemmings onto her nose and cheeks.


Is there a moral to my story? Probably not. I think any compliment is a compliment, even if it isn't the one you expect. Also, matchmaking is a waste of time. You can't make everyone happy all the time, and you can't pair people up like so many salt and pepper shakers. It just annoys them eventually. Oh and if you are a famous American Idol singer who likes to pretend you are straight, don't have a secret profile on connexion.org. That's not the moral of this blog, but it's good advice for anyone, Zac Efron.