Saturday, April 5, 2008

Show People

An occupational hazard of my job: I know a lot of people from reality TV.

This is a complicated situation for me because I already have a lot of trouble distinguishing the difference between reality and fantasy as it is. Just today, a listener sent me the Derek doll, lead vocalist from the short-lived Barbie and the Rockers (circa 1985), and even some people at work had trouble believing it wasn't an elaborate trick. We look so much alike, and even share the same name. It begs the question: Am I, with my unchanging hairstyle and sparkling blue eyes, the living promise fulfilled of a hunk of Mattel plastic or am I in actual fact the basis for it?

In much the same way, Reality TV is the ultimate blurring of life imitating art imitating life, and sometimes I wonder if the people who appear on television even know what to do with the resulting by product. In some ways I assume it is like when someone tells you about a dream they had where you played a prominent role. Obviously they recognized you quite vividly in it, though you may feel the portrayal is entirely subjective and personally unfamiliar.

Tonight on the show, our guest host was Shaun McCarron from the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, a guilty pleasure of late-middle age histrionics blended smoothly with ample supple human flesh. I shamelessly admit that I am a fan, mostly for the flesh parts. Shaun and his equally well-constructed boyfriend Paul are underwear-clad favorites and two of the few openly gay models on the show. I met them both some months ago when they joined the show as guests and since then have struck up a friendly rapport. They have SIRIUS so I often get random text messages from Shaun about the content of the show while he drives to and from the gym. What I like about Shaun is that he is a smart guy (Master’s Degree!) with a relaxed, comfortable Southern demeanor who understands completely the time and place he exists in and uses it as fully to his advantage as possible. Also he looks amazing in his underwear.

Knowing that he would be in town and would want to go out, when another reality TV veteran (Clay from The Apprentice) wondered aloud how to spend his birthday weekend, I happily suggested New York City. Even though I will be busy painting my kitchen and dining room this weekend, I figured I was still hearty enough to juggle both social obligations with visiting hotties and reconstructing suburban domestic bliss at the same time. To help, I enlisted the ultimate Manhattan party figure: Matt. Our previous Friday and Saturday adventures had been successful enough, even though Gary lost his camera and I was sick for four days. Clay and Matt were already friends so I knew he would be on board for another exciting set of adventures.

The evening started earlier for Matt, who joined Charlie at his apartment for pre-cocktails before heading to Chris’ birthday party at Kelley and Peng down in the Bowery, while Shaun and I were still in Rockefeller Center wrapping up the last few minutes of the radio show. Shaun had just found out before we went on the air that fellow Modeling Agency alum J.P. Calderon was in town as well, headlining an Instinct Magazine party at SPLASH. I met J.P. at Gay Days in October and he might have been on the show once, but for the life of me I can’t remember a single word that has ever come out of his mouth. But since that party didn’t start until after 11pm, we endeavored to head to the Bowery first and then see how things went.

Chris’ birthday party had a nice mix of cute, laidback guys and adorable preppy guys, prompting me to send an enthusiastic text message to my roommate to encourage him to join us. Matt was already there with Charlie and Brian. Brian’s friend Warren, a tightly built South African who is an arched eyebrow taller than Matt, was also there, along with Matt’s friend Will who I have met several times before, yet always greets me with the same spreadable cream cheese expression of blissful and totally willful ignorance. We all had a drink and settled into polite cocktail chatter.

Matt was in a particularly sparky mood, greeting me with open arms and legs, and constantly poking me with excited jabs. He also displayed again his enthusiastic applause mixed with excited laughter, a signature move for him which Brian referred to as his persistent clap (then added, “and I don’t mean that recurring case of Chlamydia either”). After Matt playfully punched him a little too hard in the sternum, Brian’s own enjoyment levels plunged woefully and desperately out of kilter with his own. I reconnected a bit with Charlie who I hadn't seen since his last appearance in my blog in November. When I brought up my blog, which previously had so tickled him to be mentioned in, he waved it off with the haute faux maturity of a fourteen year old girl who insists quite calmly and matter-of-factly that she is now a woman, then asked where Ben Harvey (the reigning king of blog mentions) was. For the record, he is out of town.

Already a fairly low key guy, especially when compared to his vibrant peacock boyfriend Paul, Shaun had settled into a glum trance of text messages and cocktails off to the side of my friend hopping. I don’t think he was having a very good time, but it was hard for me to check in on him and chat up roommate and grasp bits of conversation with Brian and Matt just so I would have something to blog about later. I was jumping around from person to person as if they were all plates that needed to be kept spinning in mid-air at all times. Perhaps I was over my head trying to have it all.

We decided to decamp from the party, with Matt leading the march toward the basement of the Chelsea Hotel, the site of my last public humiliation some weeks ago. On our way out, I charged over to a familiar looking blond man with a scruffy face and no visible ass in his baggy slung jeans. “Haven’t we met sixteen times before?” I asked, to which he replied with hand outstretched, “Yes sixteen.”

Turns out his name is Henry and we met through Cyd Zeigler and the gay football league. Suddenly I remembered where I first saw him (though not where I last saw him): doing his best (worst?) chocolate covered Kimmie impression at a karaoke bar in Harlem. Quite possibly the worst singer I have ever seen belt it in public and yet the bar was filled with adoring admirers by the time he had brutalized his last note. He was there tonight with his friend Patrick, who looked like a younger, slighter version of Jeff in Boston, and another guy whose name I don’t recall because I maxed out the number of names I could remember for the evening. Just then, Will swept into the conversation and when Henry started to introduce us, the continued blankness of his stare made me think he had already, in just thirty minutes, forgotten again that we had already met. It was time to leave.

I grabbed my bag and searched for Shaun who had since disappeared while Matt and Brian went downstairs. Moments later, Mike and I went downstairs only to find Shaun was there, but Matt and Brian were nowhere to be found. Shaun told me that they had already left for the Chelsea so the three of us hopped into a cab. I spotted Charlie on our way out, so I assume he decided to stay at the birthday party, which in retrospect turned out to be the right choice. After the world’s slowest cab ride, we arrived at the Chelsea Hotel to find Matt already inside and a hefty line outside. Matt’s cell phone having died at Chris’ birthday party, there was no way to contact him.

Since it was already Midnight, Mike refused to stand in the line at the bar and opted instead to just make an early trip to the 1am train we had planned to take home anyway. Shaun and I braved the line for fifteen minutes as a series of people he knew wandered up to us in line. It turns out he knows more people in New York City than I do. With time running short and the line just getting longer, Shaun left with his friends to go to G, also in retrospect an excellent idea, while I stood alone in line at the Chelsea Hotel.

While waiting, Corey Johnson arrived with Andy Towle and for a moment, I thought I had been rescued from the line. Unfortunately, moments later, they were in line behind me. I don't know what was more surprising to me: that they couldn't get in either or that Corey had somehow coaxed the reclusive Andy out of his apartment. “Aren’t you someone?” I asked the former high school football captain.

“Not anymore.” He assured me.

“What about him?” I asked, gesturing to blogger Andy Towle, who reaches more gay men in America than Out or the Advocate. Corey just shook his head, then offered politely. “You’re someone.” But clearly that was a reality that only exists inside my own fantasy world.

After waiting forty-five minutes, I was finally ushered in. This left me only enough time to tell Matt that I had to leave to go home. I was furious. Of course I found him and Brian, dancing in place in front of my friend Corey Craig, the DJ for the evening. I immediately swatted Matt in the back of the head. I recapped my horrible experience in line and put all the blame on him for blithely leaving us at the other party. More importantly, after his phone died, he put me in charge of keeping tabs on Clay’s arrival (his plane was much delayed from Texas) then made no effort to stay close to me. At that point, Clay was on his way over but I was out of time to wait for him to pass him off to Matt.

“He is on his way now! Go upstairs and get him!” I yelled at Matt and then as payback for Brian’s sore sternum and my own irritation, punched him in the stomach. Matt looked hurt, but not from the sock in the gut. Matt and Brian both entreated me to stay, and then stay over for the night in the city. But that was an impossibility. I was trying to have it all, and in the process, was watching all of it unravel before my eyes in a fit of bad timing. If I left, I was a quitter in the party scene of fun, leaving three handsome men and who knows what else behind. If I stayed, I would just be proving myself and my roommate right that I can't stay focused to and finish anything that I say is really important to me. So I left, Matt and his hurt feelings, Clay who hadn't even arrived yet, sexy Brian and all his promise, and walked up the stairs to the sidewalk.

"That was the best minute and a half I ever spent in a bar." I yelled sarcastically to the appreciative door staff as I crossed the sidewalk to hail a cab. It was a short ride to Grand Central but it didn't take me long to realize I had made the right decision. In the choice between fantasy and reality, as tough as it is for me to face sometimes, I really do need to choose reality more often. It is just that time.


jimyvr said...

Thanks for mentioning on Corey Johnson, since he's been off mt radar for ages in a non-sexual way. Missed him on the channel for ages.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and whatever happened to McMullen who hosted a show with Corey and then suddenly disappeared?