Friday, February 27, 2009

Hat People

At the R/W subway station near the Flatiron Building on 23rd street, the walls are decorated with tiles representing famous hats of famous people. There’s P.T. Barnum and far below his hat, the hat of General Tom Thumb. There are colorful tile hats for philosophers and actors, artists and dancers. Isadora Duncan’s hat is there, even though she is probably now more famous for her scarf. I love the walls of tile hats inside the subway station and I wonder if it is too soon for Aretha Franklin’s now famous Inauguration bow hat to join the ranks. We all wear different hats at different times and it was never more evident to me than it was this week as I saw two notable friends wearing decidedly different hats.

On Tuesday night after the show I headed downtown to Paris Commune, where I had such a nice time a few months back. It was back to the Rouge Room in the basement where my beautiful friend Ronnie Kroell was having a release party of sorts for his latest venture. Ronnie is well known from his constantly nearly naked turn on Make Me A Supermodel last year and since then we have become good friends. Now in the receding shadow of fashion week he is launching a new (and I suppose simultaneous) career as a singer. Ronnie is a sweet and wonderful guy and I am sure he can do anything he puts his mind and talents to. Singing may not have been the next logical step for him, especially after all of his political stumping this fall, but in this economy, in the immortal words of Kang and Kodis contemplating a series of Old Navy ads, “work is work.”

When I arrived, I immediately recognized Perry from the show, even though I had never met him. He had a ski cap on his head and a rumpled plaid shirt and he was so thin, TV thin. Just the way I would have imagined him. The Rouge Room is not large but it was crowded, so it took me a moment to find Ronnie in the melee. He was standing with Supermodel judge Tyson Beckford, whom I have seen on TV and in print many, many times. I have always thought he was extremely attractive but in person he has an otherworldly beauty that is nothing short of insane. Who looks like that? No one. Tyson. That’s it. Looking at him, it is impossible to imagine another career for him. He was designed by the hand of God to model. If he had been born 500 years ago, Michelangelo would have chiseled him in stone and then wept at his own inability to fully capture his essence for the ages. Fortunately for us, in our time we have Ralph Lauren ad slicks to commit him to eternity.

Ronnie has such a warmth about him that hugging him always feels like greeting finally a long lost and much loved relative. His firm low brow, stony chin and pouty lips remind me (when pulled down in gravity) of the face of the Statue of Liberty. I have not heard his music, but it doesn’t matter. I am his biggest champion. I hate how busy he has been that we haven’t had any real time to catch up and hang out. As we embraced in the Rouge Room, he reminded me of the last time we saw each other, too long ago. He asked when he was coming back up to my house. “Anytime!” I assured him as I squeezed his arm and rested my head on his shoulder, my home and heart wide open to him always.

Two nights later, the same drill, with me dashing out after the show and heading downtown on the R train, this time to Aspen, a bar in the grey shadow of the Flatiron Building. There is a Thursday party there called Jack which one of the weary patrons explained to me while I was waiting in a booth in back. “The theme was lumberjacks. Big guys in plaid shirts. But it’s less bear now than it used to be. I don’t know why.” Usually I get a “don’t like” vibe from slick gay men in bars but this guy went straight to “don’t care” and after briefly engaging after my question, returned to ignoring and imagining better people sitting near him. While not the bear stop it used to be, the bar was still packed, jammed with eager twenty-somethings buzzing around inside the latest hive.

I dropped by to check in on Erik Rhodes who has been like a magician’s rabbit of late. His blog postings have been sporadic at best and my phone calls and emails had gone for weeks unreturned. He passed a birthday completely in silence and I suspected that his rollercoaster dating life was as much to blame for his absence as the additional candle on his cake. Then last week he finally made a new post on his blog prompting me to send him a txt message: “Done pouting yet?” Two hours later, two simple words from his road back to reality: “I guess.”

Erik is now bartending at Jack @ Aspen, so even though I knew we wouldn’t have a lot of time to talk, at least I would see him. But he was the first to see me. While texting him to find out where he was, he suddenly appeared in the crowd and rushed over to hug me. It was great to see him again, looking good and all in one piece. “I was so worried about you. I almost went to your apartment to check up on you.” I told him when we finally connected in the back of the bar. He looked the part but I could see that he was struggling. I don’t know that bartending is the future for him, but he sure is giving it the old college try. The problem though, as I explained to Ken Hunt who was also hanging out at Aspen tonight, is that Erik bartending is a little bit like getting stuck behind the old lady at the supermarket. The customer wants their moment. In the case of the old lady, it may be her only meaningful human interaction all day (“The grandkids never call. My son doesn’t visit.”). For the gays, they want a photo or to bask in the glow of Erik’s massive arms and rippling torso. And all he wants to do is just pour them a fucking drink and make a life for himself while he still can. But the gays each want to wrench as much as they can out of their vodka cranberry experience with him and seconds later the line is a mile long and no one has a drink in their hands. It’s not Erik’s fault either. He is a God among men. It just impedes his ability to function among the mortals, especially when they won’t get out of the way.

I have had a lot of jobs in my life and some of them I loved and some I hated. Some I was really good at but most of them were all wrong for me. I like where I am now, writing and talking on the radio. These are good occupations for me. I get to express myself creatively but I don’t have to labor too hard. Perfect for a lazy narcissist like me. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right place for yourself. It took me 15 years of trial and error to get it right. That’s a long time. Maybe Ronnie will be a big music star, dancing around on stage with his shirt open to thousands of screaming and adoring fans. And maybe Erik will develop the acumen for being one hell of a bottle jockey. Perhaps these are the hats that will someday adorn the walls of the 23rd street subway station. Or perhaps they will be as temporary as a paper crown at Burger King.

Personally I have never been much of a hat person myself.

Monday, February 23, 2009

25 Things About Oscar

I loathe those 25 Things About Me lists but what about 25 Things About Oscar? These are my thoughts on the 81st Annual Academy Awards.

1. When Hugh Jackman said "I don't actually have a joke for them" he didn't just mean Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie because he didn't seem to have any jokes about anyone. Four minutes in, room breathes enormous sigh of relief.

2. Angelina smiling like a lady while her husband's ex-wife is on stage with her former co-star. And Aniston acting like it is all perfectly normal. A whole lot of acting going on around here.

3. Since Carlo Ponti died, Sophia Loren is apparently now stepping out with Jose Cuervo AND Johnny Walker in the most talked about three-way since Vicki Christina Barcelona. Elizabeth Taylor screeching "GLADIATOR!" at the Golden Globes is suddenly a dim memory for everyone else too.

4. Um. Sean Penn and Robin Wright are back together?! Okay. Are they living in that Airstream trailer again? Oh wait. He didn't seem to thank her. Maybe it's a "just friends" thing. I wonder how Chad Lowe feels about this.

5. Kunio Kato's speech for Best Animated Short looked to be the least interesting of the night until he capped it with "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto." Things just got interesting!

6. Oh! An incomprehensible dance number that doesn't really have anything to do with anything? Hmmmm Oh, Baz Luhrmann created it? Well then I guess we all love it now, don't we girls?

7. Kate Winslet tells Meryl Streep to "suck that up!" a clear reference to Albert Brooks' line to her in that spaghetti eating scene from "Defending Your Life" that Winslet is always quoting at parties.

8. Man On Wire man Philippe Petit balances Oscar on his chin, briefly becomes this year's answer to Jack Palance's one-armed push-ups.

9. Dustin Lance Black's acceptance speech for Original Screenplay plays into the old stereotype of gays being pretty, smart and thin, while Greg Cannon's speech for Best Makeup proves the old stereotype of gays as bitchy and insufferable old queens. Gays everywhere flock to Dustin Lance Black. In alternate gay universe, the April 2009 BOP magazine appears on newsstands everywhere with foldout, heart-encrusted "Dusty" poster in the centerfold.

10. Death Reel sad as usual. New this year: no cutaway to Mickey "You're Next!" Rooney sitting in the audience.

11. Jerry Lewis caps a sixty year Hollywood career by once again not doing anything remotely funny. In the wings, Oscar winning French actress Marion Cotillard is in hysterics.

12. In the fervent hope of somehow winning Etta James over, Beyonce AGAIN sings "At Last" this time staring directly into the camera and hopefully into the burning soul of Etta James herself. Closed Captioning notes an undertone ["The song is mine now, bitch!"] woven within the familiar lyrics.

13. Jessica Biel presents the technical Oscars and appears on stage at the Academy Awards forcing the recall of millions of milk cartons with her photo on the back.

14. Kate Winslet acts like she is smiling when Marion Cotillard calls "The Reader" another "unmemorable performance" moments before she hands her the Oscar.

15. Dear Mickey Rourke. You are not Jack Nicholson. Please leave your shades in the car and stop being a douche until after you have three Oscars. Sincerely, The Management.

16. During Benjamin Button montage about aging backward, Goldie Hawn attempts to blink.

17. Memo to show casting: No past Oscar winners who starred in anything in black and white can present an award this year. Too confusing for younger viewers who didn't know movies weren't always in color.

18. Catherine Zeta-Jones' grandfather presents Sean Penn with the Oscar for Best Actor.

19. Halle Berry gushes over Melissa Leo's performance in Frozen River, a film few have seen, including possibly Halle Berry.

20. Speaking of Frozen River, Nicole Kidman's facial expressions have logged out due to inactivity.

21. Alicia Keys is here? Is Hollywood now officially out of stars? Also what's with that accent? I get that she plays her own songs on a piano and all but does she need to talk like a character named Daphne Davenport from a 1930s movie set in a Park Avenue penthouse?

22. In hopes of getting in some last minute upper arm tone, Death Reel songstress Queen Latifah attends Oscars with personal trainer.

23. Ummm.... where is Jack Nicholson?

24. Gay control of Oscars this year means welcome addition of hot trophy stud.

25. Continued gay control of Oscars means Hugh Jackman does 82nd Annual Oscars shirtless. Channing Tatum to present new award in 2010: Best Male Abs with no equivalent female category created. Original score medley replaced with twenty minute long Hex Hector dance mix. Graphic new Deliverance remake with Zac Efron in the Ned Beatty role sweeps the awards. Mel Gibson's Oscar show ban made permanent.

See you next year on the red carpet!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Brunch Bunch

Some days just don't come together right. I know it sounds strange to say "I woke up early at ten a.m." but ten is early for me these days, especially on a Sunday. But this is when birthday brunch for Ben Harvey was declared. I tried to have dinner with him on my free Friday night but he was experiencing an alliterative birthday burn out and who can blame him? It has been a non-stop week of bi-coastal adventure, though he looked fresh as a daisy at Commerce while I looked like I had been up all night. I couldn't do anything with my hair so I threw it all under a baseball cap, and as bad as my hair was, I am not a hat person either. Then I had trouble shaving! Like I haven't been doing that for years and years without major incident. By the time I arrived at Commerce through the chilly rain, I had only one thing on my mind: bloody mary.

I sat alone at the beautiful deco bar inside Commerce, my fingers lingering on the edge of the glass. Commerce is a really beautiful place and in a moment like this, I always wish I was more suitable to the occasion. Being the first to arrive gave me time to delight in the whimsy of my drink. I love the green olive and pimento speared on a toothpick floating on top and the jauntiness of the celery stalk erupting from the rouge murkiness of the glass. Matty arrived moments later and we had some time to catch up before the others started to stream in one by one.

Years ago in reading the sensational biography of Louise Brooks, I learned that unlike the fictional depiction in Citizen Kane, Hearst and Davies liked to sit at the center of their long dining table facing each other, with the rest of the guests radiating out from them on either side. Newest arrivals started right next to them and as house guests stayed longer and longer, they moved further and further away. The thinking was that by the time you got to the end of the table, you would know you had overstayed your welcome and would start packing after dinner. This is both a wise dining strategy and a polite way to dispatch with perpetual house guests. Thus the center of the table is the preferred location to always be to see and hear everything. So I immediately rushed to that spot, which was directly across from Ben Harvey, the guest of honor. I probably should have let Ben decide who sat there since it is his birthday, but as usual I stuck to my guns no matter what the social cost.

Charlie Herschel picked the restaurant and it was an inspired choice. The wall murals looked down on us respectfully and amid the amber lighting and witty banter, I felt like I was in a scene from a gay Woody Allen movie. If he ever made such a thing. Dave Rubin arrived to sit in the empty seat next to me that Ben had staked out for him. We pored over the menu together, me hoping for a classy eggs benedict to balance my unkempt appearance and Rubin wanting something akin to a Denny's Grand Slam. "I just want some eggs and bacon." Simplicity is something he does very well, and I have yet to learn.

The rest of the table was filled with Ben's friends that I had never met before. There were two guys named Chris, but it was gay brunch. I think that's the law. Chirag and Al sat across from me on Ben's left and they were very nice. Charlie sat next to me with one of the Chris's on the right of him. That Chris I hardly spoke to even though (or more likely because) he was very cute. I spent more time talking to the other cute Chris who was there with Cub. I had never met Cub, but I had always liked his picture on Friendster and like Shawn Hollenback, he was one of those people that I was connected to through dozens of people but heretofore had never met.

We all ordered and the food was sensational. I felt like a monster compared to the rest of the thin people at the table so decided to order the yogurt and granola, which got shrieks of delight from the table when it arrived. Charlie was particularly enamored and endeavored to chip away at it whenever I let my spoon rest for a moment. "It's delicious! And you obviously don't like it!" he declared scooping up another bit. Charlie also ordered a round of donuts for the table which were a big hit as well, prompting an immediate second round of them along with more mimosas. All of the food was delicious and I ended up stuffed beyond believe even though I had only planned to have little.

It is easy for a grown up birthday to devolve into something wistful, a longing for the past, a fear of the future. But Ben's birthday left me feeling optimistic. "Be honest with me, Matty. Will we all be wearing suspenders this fall?" I had just seen the pictures from fashion week on Andy's blog and it looked like depression era fashion was going to be all the rage: cardigan sweaters, button down shirts with the sleeves rolled up in can-do fashion, baggy trousers with suspenders to hold them up. Matty declared a thumbs up for the 1920s football player look as well, with the padded knit pullovers filling out firm torsos.

The depression era look is something I think I could get away with, so much more than an old baseball cap. For a moment, I imagined us all transported back in time. Pooling our resources for one last great meal before we headed back to the bread lines. Homo night hawks out in the muddy light of day. I wanted a cigarette, not to smoke, but to complete the scene. Instead of leaving me depressed, I find this coming depression strangely exhilarating. We don't know what the new year will bring and isn't that the exciting part? And just because my hair didn't work today that doesn't mean it won't work tomorrow, that America won't work tomorrow. Time marches on, but to me the old fixtures at Commerce shimmer like new. And so do we.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Surprise Part(l)y

Today is Christopher’s birthday so his wonderful boyfriend Kevin plotted a surprise party for him. This apparently took a lot of effort. Chris is smart so it took serious subterfuge on Kevin’s part. A couple of weeks ago we all got separate emails letting us know about the party tonight at Bamboo 52 but also to help “accidentally” suggest there was a surprise party on Thursday. This would throw Christopher off the scent. I told Kevin tonight that if he really wanted to surprise Christopher he should also go ahead with the surprise party tomorrow night too. Nothing like a double fake out.

I did my part in keeping the secret although I nearly helped Kevin botch it all. Two weeks ago we were all at their apartment playing Buzz on the PS3 and one of the answers was the Blondie song “Atomic” and no one had heard of it. Not the boys. Not Michelle from BestWeekEver.TV. Not even Jonathan who seems to know everything I know. So I told them I would email the song to them later. So a few days ago, I sent the song and a short email. I was going to include Christopher on the email with a “See you on Thursday” coda but then thought better of the idea. Maybe that wasn’t a subtle enough accident. So I just emailed Kevin, Michelle and Jonathan and said at the end “See you on Wednesday.” Well, Kevin didn’t read the whole email before starting to read it aloud to Christopher and when he got to the end he suddenly heard himself saying “See you on wen- wasn’t that nice of Derek to send us that.” As close a call as you want when plotting a big surprise.

After the show, I raced down to Bamboo 52 to make sure I was sequestered in back with the rest of the gang before Christopher left the Broadway theatre where he is performing in Shrek The Musical. He steals the show, by the way, in case anyone was wondering. While waiting I ran into dreamy Steven DeLuca’s boyfriend Carl who by chance was there having dinner with friends. I told him to join us back there when he was finished and then headed for a banquette in the corner. I recognized a few people from my two trips to Kevin and Christopher’s island but by and large we don’t have a lot of friends in common.

Christopher was dutifully surprised when he walked in and soon the room was buzzing with cocktail chatter and clever Broadway bon mots. I felt like I was in All About Eve but everything was in color and there was a fight on to be Margo Channing. Kevin complained to me about how loud it was. I assured him that it is because half the people can’t hear anymore and the other half demand to be heard no matter what. “It’s all loud from here.” I told him referring to the domino effect of our birthdays: Kevin, then Christopher, then me, but in retrospect, I think that might make a good book title. Hmmm. I will store that idea away for later.

My pal Eddie from LA was there but left quickly for Florida. Then Adam Jay flew in direct from London with barely a moment to shake the dust of the West End off himself. Suddenly, Steven DeLuca popped into the room, no doubt encouraged by Carl who was still out in the restaurant talking at the sushi bar. Steven and I caught up, and when we spent a few moments with Christopher, he reminded him of when they met so many years ago while Christopher was doing a show in his theatre called “Avow.” Names of shows and actors and directors flew between them and past me like a newspaper headline montage in a 1930s movie. I gave it my best Joan Blondell perplexed and tried to keep my mouth clamped around fists full of sushi as much as possible. When I am in a crowd of strangers, I eat like Shelley Winters and Dom Deluise fighting over the last piece of chicken in the bucket. And tonight was no exception.

I hate surprises myself. And it’s a good thing too because I don’t think anyone could effectively throw a surprise party for me. Maybe I keep it this way, but I am the only person who knows everyone I know. It would probably take four or five of my friends who don’t even know each other well to actually piece together the guest list. And as lazy as my friends are, that isn’t happening anytime soon. But I do have a big birthday coming up this year, so I suppose I will have to do it up right. I have been thinking of a birthday in NYC and one in LA. Why not? And as for surprises, well I promise you that no one will be as surprised as me that I am turning as old as I am. In any event, I hope by then that I have had so much Botox that I will look surprised no matter what.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Maritime Of My Life

Getting a bunch of gays together in one place is no easy task. The expression “herding kittens” comes to mind. As our major LGBT lobbying organizations long ago learned, our community is no monolith and it is never more evident than on a Friday night when competing personalities have different ideas of what makes a fun night out on the town.

Michael Bond is visiting this weekend from Boston. He started assaulting my Facebook Wall more than a week ago with demands for an audience and the opportunity to play a little “Gay Chicken.” Bond is adorable, as everyone knows, so a quick Friday night make out session never seems like a bad idea. Unfortunately, Bond has a terrible habit of coming to town, getting blind drunk and then becoming very difficult to pin down (in both location and at the shoulders up against a wall). I knew that if I wanted to win at Gay Chicken, it was going to take a little extra effort on my part.

Several weeks ago, Matty and I were at a party (you remember, the one with the awful furniture and good art) and while we were in the ad hoc coat check area in the hall outside a cute gay approached us and invited Matty (and by default, me) to his birthday party on the 13th. So I knew there was a party somewhere, but that was all I knew. Earlier this week when I grilled Matty about it, he remembered the encounter but not whose party it was. Then Thursday night, out at Matty’s Park party, Joe let me know that it was Micah, who I was so hostile to some weeks ago at The Ritz. Fortunately, on our second encounter, he was too drunk at both to connect the dots. This small mercy is what keeps me afloat in Manhattan gay social circles.

As my show wound down on Friday night, Roommate texted me and let me know he was hanging out around the corner at Barrage, our original Manhattan staple when I lived on 42nd Street back at the beginning of my NYC adventures at the start of the century. I tried to convince him to go down to Chelsea, or worse, south of Houston for Micah’s party, but he was adamant. After going to bed at 5:30am the night before and working all day, he was only in the mood for a quick beer and then an express train to slumberland. I headed down to Barrage to try to convince him in person, while texting with Bond to see where he was. Bond planned to join Michael Warner’s bar crawl and in the interim was pre-cocktailing at a friend’s apartment in the heart of Chelsea.

To no one’s surprise, Roommate finished his Blue Moon and headed for the 11:10pm train. I hopped on the E Train, bound for Chelsea, while Matty texted me from Micah’s party way downtown wondering where I was and when we were coming. Still hopeful that I could pull Bond out of the pending bar crawl, I joined him at his friend’s tastefully standard Chelsea apartment for a surprisingly delicious vodka cranberry. There was some smooching, some hand-holding, and at one point, he even licked my face. “Should I have one more? I don’t want to get too drunk.” He asked as I wiped the saliva off my face. I told him to have two. He was already over the line, what difference did it make if he had two or two hundred?

More gays arrived at the apartment and all of them looked like they were churned out of the Play-Doh Chelsea Boy Maker by Hasbro! All trim plaid shirts, smooth haircuts and zero body fat. Apparently we each took a jump on the super accurate scale in the bathroom, though I was the only one there with the shock of recognition on his face when he came out moments later. After a group photo destined for Facebook glory, we all decamped around the corner to Ate Ave (which I think used to be Food Bar). Michael Warner was climbing into a modified luxury SUV, on his way to Splash, which as usual, only sounded appealing to Bond and the other gays visiting from Boston. Inside, I ran into HX photog Jeff Eason, Ben Andrews in full porn star mode (razored haircut and no Clark Kent glasses), and Amanda Lepore, more and more a Japanese robot fuck doll every day.

While still debating a trip much further downtown than I ever like going, I got a single word text from Matty: Maritime. Glory be! A bar around the corner. I tried once again to convince Bond to join me and Matty at Maritime but now his drunken heart was set on Splash. We made our way through the chaotic mess at Ate Ave and made our sloppy good byes outside. Moments later, I was in the familiar throes of Maritime with Matty, Joe and our returning champion Andrew. I discovered that part of the secret to Andrew’s insanely narrow physique was his recent adventures in marathons and, slightly more to my liking, half marathons. “What are you running to or from?” I queried to Joe’s delight and no answer from Andrew. He was in a contemplative mood, but as it turns out, not very self-reflective.

My time at Maritime was terribly short. Too short. But I did have to commend myself on a job well done. It isn’t easy seeing three different people in four different locations in only three hours. And even though it was a week of pure junk food (chicken fingers at Moonstruck, the most amazing onion rings at NY Burger Co., Valentine’s Day cupcakes, a package of Twizzlers, Michael Bond), I rewarded myself at Grand Central with a hot dog smothered in sauerkraut and mustard. And on my walk to the train, I hung my own “Mission Accomplished” banner over my head. True, I wasn’t able to bring everyone together, but I did get a little piece of each of them, and that made my evening complete.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Twice Told Tales

Last night was my second sojourn to Matty’s sensational new party night Thursday at The Park. It also happened to be Roommate’s birthday and after I surprised him earlier at his office with an Oreo cake and presents, I was the surprised one when I spotted him waiting downstairs at The Park. Despite it being his birthday, he had had to work late so he figured he might as well have some fun. We were soon joined by John, whom ADD Jeff had convinced to come out as well. Earlier John and I had been talking about how Facebook had so deftly revealed the myriad friends of friends we had in common, who in turn did not know each other. Well, it was a night of connected connections when Ron showed up a few minutes later. I met Ron last summer on the R Family cruise up to Canada and he came in from Long Island for a planned meet up with his friend Jeff, who it turned out, was friends with and had invited my neighbor Clayton. Soon ADD Jeff appeared to bring us all upstairs and the party really began.

Much of the usual insanely beautiful crew was there. Chris (no slouch himself mind you) was mingling with his breathtakingly hot new boyfriend. Charlie, dark rimmed glasses denoting a more serious tone, passed through briefly before making an early night of it. Joe was revelling in not being the drunkest person at the party, which was already in full raucous and debaucherous swing. Brian was anxious to be home watching Liz Lemon display her trademark angst on the Valentine’s Day episode of 30 Rock and was showing a heretofore unknown soft, gooey interior over his LA-based low carb love muffin. And Matty was encouraging all of us to help make Andrew, the newest addition to the collective, feel welcome. Andrew, tall and trim in the way people used to be before McDonald’s became the shop around the corner and WalMart ate` the world, very politely and quietly got hammered. I found Andrew’s youthful calm endearing and his slight frame said he isn’t quite done growing yet. Maybe the alcohol will help speed things along.

Soon Clayton arrived, followed by Ron’s friend Jeff, and our group was complete. The DJ continued to do that thing I first encountered at the Maritime, where they only play 30 seconds of every hit you have ever heard. “In my day, we had eight minute dance mixes and we liked it!” I heard myself saying, the words echoing in a cavernous Tunnel long since razed into memory. Matty was a little perturbed. “I asked the DJ to play some Cher and Deborah Cox and it’s been more than an hour now. I don’t think he is going to play it!” We feared he might not play it because he didn’t have it, but Matty dismissed that old-fashioned argument in a hand wave through the murky party cloud, exposing our technowonder present. “He can download anything he wants in a second. He just doesn’t want to!” At one point, Ron thought he spotted an Ecstasy tablet on the floor. A guy nearby picked it up and inspected it. “It’s a Centrum” he responded blandly. Later as Ron recounted the story, Roommate panicked for a moment. “I hope it wasn’t a Centrum Silver.” We change with the times, but sometimes the times change with us.

That was never more evident than when I spied my former neighbor Nick Scotti sitting in a quiet nook with his pals. Years ago living on a quaint three block stretch of West Hollywood West called Dorrington Avenue, I had Jenny McCarthy, Oscar winner Linda Hunt, my pal Jeanetta Arnette from Head Of The Class, and hunky Nick Scotti as neighbors. Nick used to walk his dog without a shirt right in front of my house prompting my friend Eric to insist that I call him the moment it happened because he could “be there from anywhere in LA in under five minutes.” I reminded Nick of our old street and his face brightened with recognition. “Wow. Dorrington. I haven’t thought of that in forever.” Nick has since settled back home in NYC, and while over the years we have all travelled more than the 3000 miles from West Hollywood to Chelsea, I am sure no one around him will mind when dog walking weather returns in the next few weeks.

The party was great fun and finally wound down around 2am. Our group decamped around the corner to the Moonstruck diner. Like any good diner should be, the menu was overwhelmingly massive and when people are drunk or have been awake for almost 24 hours, it is tough to get them to make a clearheaded choice. But isn’t that most of the fun of a pre-dawn raid of the local owl wagon? Years ago, Mike and I had another late night awkward meal at that very same table with Patches and his ex-boyfriend Chris. This time was personally less tense, although a few drinks in ADD Jeff produced some graphic bon mots about cum swallowing while the waiter was standing there that made me seriously rethink my rice pudding order (and dramatically increased the tip we ended up leaving that poor man). But that is what happens when you get a disparate group together. Parties big and small are about pulling together the right elements and letting things take their wild and unpredictable course. It amazes me that someone like Matty who is so naturally a gifted party organizer would wait so long to start club promoting. But like a stack of golden pancakes or a platter of fried mozzarella sticks at 3am on a windy winter night, it was worth the wait.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Misbegotten

I met Steven Clark last summer at Ben Harvey's farewell to Manhattan party. Ben was giving up his beautiful apartment for new frontiers in the outer boroughs. Things were tense with Jonathan. And it was my first pride where I wasn’t working outside the city in half a decade. What should have been a time for celebration just felt difficult and strained, as if we had all arrived at the building just at the moment of sheer exhaustion. But I put on my happy face and scaled the heights to his party. While there, standing among the stand up comedians, I met Steven, visiting from Kansas. He recognized my voice instantly as the braying nightmare from inside his rental cars on a million and one business trips around the country. Always one to be flattered by an attractive fan, we became fast friends.

Flash forward and Steven is in town this weekend with his two girlfriends, a last hurrah in the big apple before they all go back to their tamely lurid hot tub fueled drunken shenanigans back home among the cows and corn. The ladies seemed intent on fulfilling a Sex And The City-laced fantasy, replete with stilettos and exhaustively flawless blond hair. We met up, along with ADD Jeff at ELMO, as reliable a gay eatery as there is in Chelsea. The ladies were tickled to note that ELMO had been the site of several scenes in the current edition of the Real World, despite Chelsea’s nodding acquaintance with real world Brooklyn. That one of the waiters at the restaurant was also an MTV reality veteran surprised no one.

Originally, I had hoped that Mikey and his boyfriend Mark would join us during Mikey’s birthday weekend trip to the city. But they took a wrong turn near the city and somehow ended up in Connecticut and our dinner reservation made a quick cut from eight to six. Damian was also supposed to be there, a long promised reunion since I last ran into him at DC Pride two years ago, but he was beset by a sudden friend emergency and that dropped us from six to five. So instead of the long banquet table they arranged for us in the center of the place, I insisted they move us to a quieter and smaller round table near the front to better suit our incredible shrinking dinner party.

Dinner was wonderful and we all made great conversation. I tried to be as witty as possible, to give the ladies the full SATC experience. Also, I had to assume Steven had filled their heads beforehand with glowing reviews of my spontaneous hilarity so I was certain that I had big shoes to fill (my own) no matter how fictitious they may be. I did get off one good line when we were discussing how much younger guys like dating older guys and how unflattering their innocent expressions like “grey hair is sexy” and "I love wrinkles!" are. “Do you know doesn’t like dating older guys?” I asked, “Older guys!” As annoying as the pups are, they can help you forget yourself for a while, which is a nice middle-aged game to play in preparation for full onset dementia later in life. After all, practice forgetting everything you know about yourself is perfect.
I had told John that we would be there and since ELMO is a frequent haunt of his frequent Friday friends, he said he might swing by the table and say hi if we were still there. I had completely forgotten our previous exchange earlier in the day until he was standing over the table with that adorable grin of his and a twinkle in his eye. One of the ladies looked up from her bottle of white wine and declared his striking resemblance to Colin Farrell. This was apparently a problem as he was, as it turns out, just too good looking to actually look at and she preferred he take his intense attractiveness elsewhere. As it was, he didn’t stay long. I am fairly certain that my ravenous encounter with a banana split at the end of the meal hastened his departure. And why not.

After ELMO, we dashed across the street to Duane Reade so one of the ladies could get a gel sole insert for her stilettos since her feet were killing her. I tried to explain that only women in movies and TV shows actually wear those shoes in Manhattan because, between the subway grates and the cobblestones, those shoes are, at minimum, a broken leg waiting to happen. (Note: Certain horse-faced actresses should take heed that prize thoroughbreds with broken legs are often shot and they should watch their steps!)

Then it was on to Barracuda to wrap up our evening. While lingering in the back area two guys tried to use the wing maneuver of talking to the hags to get to the fags. Steven and Jeff and I saw it coming a mile away but I think the ladies were just happy to have someone other than us pay attention to them, compliment their hair and try to motorboat their breasts. As much as I wanted to see how far things got, it was time for us all to go. The ladies had done their gay duty and Steven needed to lead them downtown to some straight parties and hopefully the waiting hungry penises of heterosexual men. And me, I went on to Grand Central Station and its underground passages draped with endless promotional posters for the musical sensation Wicked. “Now Leaving OZ” the green banner above my head waved as I headed for the train. It’s a long way from Kansas to the Emerald City, and back again after the stilettos have clicked their last, I thought. Even though I too make my temporary way in and out of the city, I am glad I get to stay among the magic for a while longer than most.