Saturday, December 13, 2008

Life With(Out) Matty

Before the evening began, it had all the hallmarks of a night of a thousand gay stars. Every once in a while, the planets line up and all sorts of people who are difficult to wrangle suddenly start to coalesce. Even my roommate Mike, who hates going out in general, but even more hates going out to the kinds of places I end up in, agreed to go. And so it went, and within hours, a magical night took form. Tonight was the night and its ground zero looked like the cabanas at The Maritime.

I went to the cabanas last Friday with Matty and Hanno for Zoe's birthday party and expected the same crowd of narrow ties and wide smiles we experienced last time. But more importantly, I expected Matty and Hanno. After all, we had talked about it the night before at Rob and Erik's pretty boy bacchanal, and they had even dutifully RSVP'd on Facebook to Will Wikle's birthday invite. But as I left the show, I noticed they had changed their Facebook status to include a reference to the movie Doubt. Okay, I thought, so after a few hours of the luminous Meryl chewing scenery, they will make their grand entrance up the stairs.

After the show, I walked out with Romaine, passed The Amazing Race's Nick Spangler leaving The Fantasticks, and then headed on the 1 train down to Chelsea. Roommate was still at his office birthday party so I had some time to kill and joined Cyd and Dan for one of their last remaining nights at their tasteful sublet before they make the big move to Los Angeles later this month. They were cocktailing with a couple, both named Matt, which made it so much easier to remember both of their names, even after the white cranberry juice and vodka cocktail that Cyd made for me. Despite not having a solid penny to my name, I impressed them with my theoretical investment strategies. Must have been the alcohol. For all I really know about making money, I might as well have declared at the end that I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Mike arrived at the cabanas so I gave Cyd and Dan a long quick hug good bye and headed a few blocks down to the Maritime. By now it was almost 11:30 and I expected a line. However, there was no one waiting outside and the coat check was a sea of empty hangers. This was a bad sign. Upstairs the party was small but the music was loud. I found Mike quickly, wearing a cute zip neck pullover and a tie. He looked like all the other cute, preppy gays at the party! I felt so alone in my v-neck Otter Fashion shirt, though I have created an empowering take on my outsider fashion lately where I imagine myself a misunderstood trendsetter who is just too far ahead on the curve for people to even see around it yet.

Suddenly, it seemed like I was surrounded by everyone I knew exclusively through Matty. First, it was Brian Babst who demanded my cell phone number. "I wanted to text you the other day," he started, but I finished his sentence for him with "but you realized you didn't have my number." He plugged every detail of my personal life into his Blackberry, even scheduling a time slot later this week to send me his fabulous new holiday card, which I have to say was a very sweet touch. I was flattered.

Then I ran into Young Bradford (and later Ben appeared to complete the Benford set), who was rocking lederhosen. I thought it was an homage to Hanno, but he yelled "Swiss Miss" over the music and after some coordinated Alpine dance moves, we left it at that. Moments later, an outrageously tall and old drag queen wandered into us, her ill-fitting wig a sneeze away from resting inside her champagne flute. "Elaine Stritch in drag!" I declared but Bradford shook his head. "No. No. That's definitely Melanie Griffith." As she neared even nearer, I said, "Hello Melanie" and she went off on me in a drunken rage, alternately sloshing her drink and tugging on her errant wig. "Have some of my roofie" she smiled as she poured some of her drink into my cocktail before trotting away, one broken heel in front of the other.

Ben Harvey was there, fresh from his trip to London, along with his kissing cousin Christian and Christian's main squeeze Jimmie. Dave Rubin was with them, his square-jawed sexiness firmly in place. I coaxed Mike against his will into being social and hanging out with them and it all went swimmingly. I was still expecting Matty, but when he finally texted me back, it was to say that he and the Austrian were cuddling back at his place. So, to show him what he was missing, I decided to run around the cabanas and take pictures with all the people there that he knew. After all, why should Michael Musto, as always lurking in the shadows of joy, have all the fun?

I dashed around the increasingly packed bar and implored strangers to snap my photo. There was Ryan Newman, so much more fun without his boyfriend. In my attempt to get a photo with birthday boy Will Wikle, I ran smack into that hot slice of man Matt Kugelman. There is something wrong with him because he gets better looking every time I see him. It's a problem. Will was busy twirling up a storm to Get Me Bodied followed IMMEDIATELY by Single Ladies, so I gave his sweaty hunched back a hug as he down pointed his way across the dance floor. As much fun as imagining him in a black leotard is, I can't miss my train and had to make a run for it. Though I did take a second at the top of the stairs to lead the just arrived hot gay comic Shawn Hollenbach in the general direction of Dave Rubin. Always happy to help a boy scout across the street!

It will be sad to think of Manhattan without Cyd and Dan in it, even though I can add them to the growing list of people I don't have time to see on my annual short weekends in Los Angeles. And I have seen so much of Matty this year, more than I have seen him in all the years I have lived here, that I suppose having a single night off won't kill me. True, not having the friends you love around you is hard sometimes. But as the windows steamed up inside the cabanas and the $12 cocktails flowed, the party continues anyway, and we can all still have a good time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

People You May Know

Facebook has a box (recently co-opted by MySpace and others) called People You May Know, which shows the profiles of others connected to you through multiple friends on the service. This would be useful if people only connected to their nearest and dearest but since generally these seem to be the sites of endlessly intensive popularity contests, that is not the case. However, the party I attended down at Le Lupanar tonight was like the living embodiment of People You May Know.

I was invited by adorable Rob Banning, who works with me by way of the Martha Stewart cult. Rob endured a particularly amusing and exhausting trip with me to the Olive Garden some weeks back with a very drunken Michelle Collins and her equally drunk gay who was at that intoxicating level of inebriation where he could no longer tell how incredibly loud he was when he talked. Despite (are perhaps because of) that, we have developed a fast friendship. Rob was also at the Cabanas last Friday though I failed to blog about him. Rob has a gorgeous amount of style, a tasteful retro 80s preppiness without the trashy flash, all quaint bowties and catalog-ready long woolen scarves.

Tonight Rob greeted me at the door in a sleek red cardigan and that winning Sphinx smile of his that gives away nothing. The party was a sea of dark colors, save for Rob and me in my red tank shirt from Otter Fashion. For just a moment I didn’t feel so alone. The party was the whitest cream cheesy smooth collection of J. Crew boys I had ever seen, mixed with a smattering of Asians, a few chic young women and three impossibly handsome black men (aka argyle sweater, Club Monaco pullover, and tight green Polo). If it hadn’t been so dimly lit and filled with Beyonce songs, I would have sworn I was at a Harvard MBA mixer. Everyone had the kind of feckless smooth skin usually reserved for after photos in a Proactive infomercial. I’ve never felt so “ethnic” before in my life, awash in my glaring bohemia. That I met at least three men named Blake should come as no surprise to anyone.

Almost immediately, I ran into Hooper from work. Hooper, no stranger himself to this post-post gay narrow tie and vest set, always manages to be a relaxing figure for me in these environs. Maybe because we spend occasional quiet time in the flat unforgiving light of the office, when I make the arduous journey across the building from the sloppy “creative” side to the otherworldly quiet corporate side that is for most of the on-air personalities at SIRIUS as unknown to them personally as the land of Oz. I spent some time with Hooper upstairs before he decided to see what the heretofore unseen basement had to offer.

I decided to wait upstairs, still expecting to see Terry Goldman, who I had invited to join me at the party. Terry never made it, but while waiting, a parade of familiar faces came through the door. It turned out, there were people I did know, mixed in with the people I may know. Corey Johnson was first, and like most of the guests, also in a suit. As usual, he was flitting around bridging the gap between the moneyed A gays who hovered around the edges and the pretty boys who were up and coming in the centers of the rooms. Conor bounded in from the rainy night, embracing me in his warm loveliness. Moments later, almost as if on cue, Matty arrived with Hanno. Upon seeing Matty I knew the night would be fun.

After Matty and Hanno ditched their coats, we pushed through the crowd of familiar faces, recognized from a million Facebook Fire Island photo galleries and fundraiser party pix and headed for the basement. Hooper had since gone upstairs to throw himself on the mercy of a white U-shaped couch. But Chris was there, last seen in his apartment throwing a party of Shay, and we all had a round of drinks together. The basement was just like the upstairs but slightly less crowded and slightly hotter with a more accessible bar and longer bathroom line.

I had a nice chat with Chris and the usual laughs with Matty, but I was anxious the whole time. Something about the party had me on edge and I had a hard time shaking it. Maybe it was the waiting for Terry, or the juggling of Conor and Matty so they were never within drink throwing distance. Whatever it was, something felt not right, and then it went haywire because I think a guy started hitting on me. It’s hard to say.

After our first round of drinks, we all headed back upstairs, and while standing near the edge of the bar, a guy came up to me and started talking. We had met briefly at the front door when he first arrived, and in the jumble of last names as first names that wafted through the entryway like a stiff winter breeze as usual I did not immediately retain his name. (Finley, is that you?) He was handsome, intense of eye, looking without seeing in that way that denotes a still functional yet high level of intoxication. I made a reference to Douglas Sirk that I am quite certain he didn’t get. Then, in discussing his neighborhood, he said “It’s Chinatown” in a sly way that made me think he was quoting Robert Towne’s screenplay but moments later he continued his discussion of the neighborhood in a way that made me think he might not even have seen the movie.

We talked a bit about New York City, and how nice it is when it first snows and the city is covered in that white blanket that calms everything and covers all the grime…for fifteen minutes. That’s the trouble with Manhattan, I told him, nothing good here lasts. You have to enjoy it in the time you have it because you never know when it might be gone. We were rueful about it for a moment, but later as I walked to the venerable Grand Central on my way home; I looked up at the Chrysler Building and smiled. Chrysler itself may be gone soon enough, but the building remains. Nothing in New York City is permanent, but some things are the nearest thing to forever that we have. And in that moment, looking up at the glistening white lights in the hazy night sky, I savored it. Maybe things went right after all.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blogged And Tagged

This Sunday marks the finale of another season of my beloved Amazing Race. Even now as I blog from a taxi speeding across a deserted Manhattan in the predawn hours on my way to JFK, I can imagine that I am on the race. As it was, my night out on the town was in its own way a series of challenges, each task completed with the same level of happy satisfaction one would imagine I would employ on CBS primetime. The final challenge being a simple choice: Blogged or Tagged. In this Detour, contestants choose between blogging their adventure out on the town or taking a series of photos to be uploaded and tagged on Facebook. As expected, I chose blogging while Matty’s team went for tagging.

It all started innocently enough at Vlada with Original Jonathan. Initially we were going to have a drink and a snack at Vynl, but that hot slab of a bartender Aaron wasn’t working so we switched to old reliable Vlada around the corner. Jonathan is at something of a crossroads in his life and career in Manhattan and we were long overdue for some one-on-one time to discuss it. In the meantime, some guy named Mark recognized me from who can even say how many years ago. I am sure he knew me because he said, “I thought it was you but then wasn’t sure because you weren’t in shorts.” I was correctly identified but Jonathan was not so lucky, planting a cheek kiss on a guy named Chance, who as it turns out, was not his former co-worker Spencer.

Our drink and discussion at an end, we headed for the coat check, to retrieve our jackets and our next clue. It was there that I ran into Joe, who was just on his way in, but upon seeing me, realized it was already time to leave… with me! Jonathan went back to his apartment and Joe and I hopped into a cab to head down to the Village for a small party at Chris’ apartment, the scene of my notorious Halloween blog entry. Matty would be waiting there for us with his charming Austrian boyfriend Hanno. This time instead of hot shirtless men, the party was jammed with cleavage-heaving young women… and adorable Ryan Newman.

Ryan was there with his new boyfriend who, like me, is from Westchester. Although I own. They must be very happy together because the moment I arrived, Ryan flew into his arms like a long separated lover and was never more than a fingertip away the rest of the evening. Matty, ever the publicist, bragged on Ryan’s Britney Spears dance moves and prodded me to encourage an encore. However, the new boyfriend, in full Footloose-era John Lithgow fashion had banned the dancing. This only encouraged my worst instincts and I relentlessly goaded Ryan to dance, in or out of his underwear, at the soonest possible moment.

Despite my warm small talk about the cookies he had made, the new boyfriend was unbowed in his banned stance. However, before we made our hasty retreat to the Maritime Hotel for our next challenge, I am quite certain that I spied Ryan busting a move or two in the corner. Perhaps he was ginned up by the excessively controlled Vanity Fair cover photo posing that I deftly avoided by ducking under a plate of half eaten chocolate cupcakes, though Matty happily flung himself in despite his less-desirable placement on the third fold next to the perfume ad.

I had thought we would end up at Corey Craig’s CD release party further across town at the Chelsea Hotel, but instead we landed at the new hot gay party in the winterized cabanas off the upper patio of the lovely Maritime Hotel. A birthday party was being thrown for a woman named Zoe, who by all accounts is the woman of the moment in the gay community. The party was a weird mix of young gays in purposefully hetero gear (a self-ripped sleeveless t-shirt… really?), even younger gays in collar and tie and 90s leftovers who don’t realize they are in their 30s now and wearing ANF days after the company posted a steep double digit decline in sales on Black Friday (the final nail in their pop culture coffin) while still clinging to an ecstasy fueled Palladium fantasy that even for them is but a dim memory. For everyone else at the party, that look evokes an era near the end of the last century best described as “middle school.”

Also there seemed to be a lot of vests out tonight. I know I am not exactly the cutting edge of fashion. Earlier while comparing Polo shirts at Chris’ party, a co-worker of Matty’s gave my Ralph Lauren shirt a quizzical look and then smiled a smooth knowing smile. “Ah. Factory. No wonder I didn’t recognize it.” That being said, these boys in their vests just looked like out of work valets. I had to resist the urge to hand them my car keys. I guess it is all part of this ADD generation. Everything is so sped up, they don’t even have time for sleeves! Even the DJ got into the act and spun 28 seconds of all my favorite songs. It was like walking through a low rent carnival game row that didn’t want to pay music royalties. It made me long for the days of exhaustive ten to fifteen minute dance mixes that seemed all too short while dancing under the watchful spin of Junior. I am sure the thirty-something in the Abercrombie tee sipping on a cosmo thought the exact same thing.

Conor was there in a gently worn hoodie that undoubtedly had been tirelessly and expensively distressed to appear so casually at ends on a chilly winter night. He and Matty spotted each other and sparred at a distance though it didn’t have any of the venom I expected. Whatever intense animus there once was between them has apparently since been replaced by the kind of playful sniping that usually ended with Krystal and Alexis plunging into a fountain during sweeps. The ever winning smile of Brian Babst was on hand as well, ready the second he spotted me with lines from last night’s 30 Rock, all perfectly memorized. “I watch each episode twice,” he confided. “Once the night of when I am drunk and again in the morning when I am sober.” It was a tactic that clearly was paying off.

The evening ended as suddenly as it began. Joe was fondling his coat check ticket while lamenting all the photos Matty was taking, and when I returned from the bathroom, he was gone. In a flash, Zoe, the birthday lady in red, was gone from her own party too and it was like the air was let out of the balloon. In the end, some friend of Matty tried to coax us to join them at 3am at Brandon Voss' apartment, but we just stood in stunned horror as they (Conor included) swirled out of the nightclub into the street like the dancers from Fame, screeching and mobbing taxis in a mad clamour to reach the next destination. Matty, Hanno and I slipped away quietly uptown toward Chelsea, where I left them happily on the corner on their way home. For them the adventure was coming to an end, but for me it was just beginning. An hour later, bag in hand, I was in that cab on my way to the airport. For me, the race continues.