Saturday, May 16, 2009

Backstory

Nothing clears up a mystery like a flashback. Sure, it’s lazy writing. But in the real world, knowing someone and then discovering something about their past instantly rounds out their character in a way that is not visible to the naked eye. So in a bid to make their characters sympathetic or reveal a crucial detail (i.e. explaining why Miss Marple solved the case before you would have even had a chance to put on your shoes), it is no wonder that screenwriters employ such tactics with frustrating regularity. And now, so will I. In a sense, that is all that this blog is. You think you know me, then you read about the night before and suddenly I am illuminated as if from bad fluorescent lighting in a bus station men’s room.

I thought I might go out on Friday night. But not too late. After all, the DVR at home is at 92% capacity (thanks to a sweeps month filled with High Def two-hour season finales) and the lawn is as high as an elephant’s eye. Yes it has been forever since I wrote something, but I do have a very full life of watching TV and digging wet clogs of grass out of the mower blades. It may not be worth writing about but it sure does fill the time. Lately, Matt Kugelman has been a reliable bar crawl companion but on this Friday night he was locked into his roommate’s birthday party inside his own apartment. “Why don’t you come here?” As much as he likes his roommate, I am pretty sure he stayed for the entire party mostly to make sure the other guests didn’t have sex on his bed or steal his computer. You know how the gays are.

I was in a foul mood on Friday. A bad end to a bad week. Just ready to throw it all in the junk heap. So I knew I wasn’t going to be a great party person, but then again, this wasn’t my party. No real reason to put my game face on. And since I am so rarely invited to any other parties, I have to take the opportunities as they come. Besides, new people mean new unsuspecting blog subjects and radio show gossip fodder. All of this explains why I was so terrible from the moment I arrived until I happily slammed the door on my way out.

You would think a totally nice guy like Matt wouldn’t be happy with this kind of behavior, but it was perhaps strangely just the opposite. We have very different public personas. When I am mad, it’s like Tennessee Williams’ Cat On A Hot Tin Roof: “When a marriage is on the rocks, the rocks are there. Right there!” Mad Matt on the other hand, smiles and laughs and dances like Ally McBeal’s biological clock baby. As a matter of fact, I suspect when he starts spontaneously laughing and dancing at the same time, he is about five seconds away from ripping your fool head off. Although he never does. He keeps it all inside. Which might explain some small satisfaction in seeing me express it all and then some, even if I do end up crossing all sorts of lines that no rational dignified person ever should.

At the party, my worst behavior was confined to vicious asides and they began the split second I entered the room. “There are pregnant women coming in right behind me,” was my opening shot across the bow as I preceded two oblivious and not pregnant women in blousy empire waist tops through the threshold. It was all downhill from there, with guest after guest quietly eviscerated by me slung off in a corner,whispering evil into Matt’s waiting ear. I think we were even sitting for most of it. Look, it was Friday night and I was tired. But not too tired to run off at the mouth about every little nonsense.

Meanwhile, Matt kept a wary eye on his own bedroom door. It had been closed, inside light off, with my coat (such as it is) strewn across his bed. But a steady stream of people wandered in and out all night. To…? No one knows for sure. The cat was sleeping on his bed. And the air conditioner did keep the room a bit cooler than the rest of the party. So there were some objects of curiosity in there. Mostly I think it was the trend nature of the gay community mixed with its heightened need to know everyone else’s business at all times. One person goes in the room, suddenly it’s the place to see and be seen! No doubt photos will surface in this Sunday’s Styles section of The Times featuring the usual assortment of no-name-brand Princesses that seem always to be in season on the Upper East Side and the tight, wealthy faces layered over loose bejeweled necks who love them. This was not to Matt’s liking at all, but he just smiled and waved his hands in the air like a happy-go-lucky marionette, one final broken string of sanity away from freedom.

I downed Fresca like it was scotch on the rocks and the God of my universe was Raymond Chandler. Chachi was there, but though he recognized me, he couldn’t quite place where I was from. Time for a flashback! Though even after I reminded him of the previous party in that apartment we had attended together and the four hours we sat together at the GLAAD Awards earlier this year, he still thought my name was Josh. The news of my radio show moments later also came as a total surprise. But all things considered, he was happy to see me again.

Singer Billy Porter was there, a returning champion from Los Angeles. I rewarded Matt with Billy’s flashback story. He attended one of my parties when I lived up in Harlem but never left the relative security of the welcome mat inside the front door. One of my friends walked up to him and said that he looked just like Billy Porter. When he assured my friend that he was, in fact, Billy Porter, my friend, who was quite drunk simply walked away. This was like exit music to his ears and then it was just eight bars and off. I have seen him many times since, though I don’t like to bring up our first meeting and I didn’t again this time, even though it probably would have jogged his memory. And thus, like a friendly Alzheimer’s patient, he never remembers meeting me before but he is always very, very kind about it.

I wanted to leave even before I got there and finally I had my out. A guy who slept with Matt’s roommate last year started rubbing up on Matt. The skinny twink boy obviously doesn’t know the cardinal rule of gay sex: if you go home with a guy and his roommate is hotter, too bad. That’s just your own bad luck. No do overs. Undaunted, he whispered a sex act into Matt’s ear that he wanted to do to him that I am pretty sure requires if not an advanced degree, at minimum a proposal of marriage. To say the least, it is not the opening salvo of foreplay outside of a straight-to-DVD film directed by Adrian Lyne in a very raunchy mood. This was my exit music. Nothing like leaving a friend stranded in an awkward moment to really cap off an evening you were never in the mood for in the first place. Yes that is terrible behavior, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s me in a nutshell.

Cut To: present day.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pyramid Scheme

They say that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas but I am pretty sure that was a notion invented by straight guys for whom nothing ever happens but they want it to see like it does. That way, you can brag without substantiating your claims in any real way. Gays do not have this problem. Shit goes down for them all the time. Also they are notorious gossips and braggarts. So no, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there, it goes global. Case in point: my weekend at The Luxor.

I got invited out for the weekend by the Luxor Las Vegas as part of a deal with the radio show. Who wants to say no to a free weekend out of town? Not a cheap ass like me. Plus, I have connections in Vegas. And even though I can do nothing for them in return, they are still happy to help me out. Suddenly, thanks to my friend Ryan, I was busy every night I was there. And I made the most of it.

Roommate came with me and my friend David flew in from Los Angeles to hang out with us too. Of all the people I knew in my fifteen year prison sentence in that exotic hell hole, David is the one I have remained the most in contact with. He does prefer long distance situations, so in a way, my moving out of town was the perfect excuse for us to hang out more. And when we hang out, we drink. A lot.

Friday night, we went to see Wolverine, which was a terrible movie, only made better by the fact that we had consumed a delicious tapas meal just before. After the movie, Roommate was dead beat tired from all the travelling and drinking that had already taken place. So he sacked out early while David and I headed down to Piranha to hang out with Ryan and the host there: Hot Chocolate. Piranha was like a dream come true. When I arrived, everyone made a giant fuss over me. I felt like a celebrity, ushered past the velvet rope in a blurry haze and then escorted up to a private room overlooking the dance floor with my friend Roman Heart twirling on a box below.

The VIP room was isolating from the rest of the bar which was a little frustrating but the party really came to us. Reichen came by, beyond blind drunk, mumbled something sweet and wandered off with a muttered but later unfulfilled promise to return. The drinks kept coming though as did two dancers from Zumanity who then enacted part of their act for us. Then Brent Everett came in and we all took pictures with him in various stages of undress. He didn’t know who any of us were but he went along for the ride. He’s a good sport. Then suddenly it was past four am (seven am my time) and really way past time to go home!



Saturday morning I had some work obligations, including some morning activities. Running on a lack of sleep and not able to nap, I made effect use of the jacuzzi tub in my suite at The Luxor to compensate. It worked pretty well and by Saturday night I was really for more marathon adventures. Our first stop was the Chippendales show. My friend Michael is the publicist and has had several of the dancers up to the show in the past. They ushered us in, plied us with drinks and we had an incredible time. It was really a ton of fun. A quick trip through IN N Out and it was off to a late show of Zumanity. Back to back shows was draining but we still had enough energy to pull another four am non-stop party at Krave afterward.

Krave had some kind of contest going with Janice Dickinson and designer Andrew Christian. There was a nominal emcee but I don’t think Janice thought she was sufficiently loud and proceeded to take over hosting duties from a chair on the side of the stage. The main attraction was really just hot guys parading around in Andrew’s underwear and after that was done, the twirlers returned to twirling on the dance floor, the music cranked up, and Janice returned to the relative safety and security of her VIP banquette packed, PACKED with gays. My friend Ryan asked me if I wanted to meet Janice. She had been a guest on our show once(over the phone) and I ran into her in 2005 at the White Party in Miami, but I knew she wouldn’t recognize me.

Ryan made the introductions and Janice pulled me down into the banquette into a seat right next to her deep inside the horseshoe. She told me I looked familiar and I mentioned the White Party. “How fucked up was I?” I tried to demur, but she pressed. “It was early,” I offered though that answer didn’t seem to please her. She was excited to do my radio show to promote her upcoming appearance on “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” and help her raise money to fight AIDS. “It’s for the gays. I only do gay charities.” I let that pass. Then she told me about her recent experience hosting the notorious gay porn awards, the GayVNs in San Francisco. I told her that I had hosted it the year before. “Oh, then you know. I don’t know what it was like for you but it was eye opening for me.” Her face turned serious in the moment. “You know, I’m a soccer mom.”

What does one do when the world’s first supermodel describes herself as a soccer mom? Not to diminish the many soccer games that I have no doubt that she attended for her son and daughter, but soccer mom is not the first moniker I would have used to describe someone who vivacious and dynamic. But I guess we all see ourselves in our own way. Suddenly, she leaped up. “I love this song. I want to dance.” She jumped out of the banquette and started to dance with some gays near by. This was my exit. It was never going to get better and this was the perfect moment to slip away unnoticed. I made my polite good byes to her gays and headed out.

“Soccer mom, huh?” I thought to myself as I headed out into the predawn strip. “Maybe some things are better left in Las Vegas.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bland Items

“Don’t write about me anymore.”

The message couldn’t be more clear. The bar was loud and crowded, but I could tell what he was saying by the stern look on his face, even if I hadn’t been able to hear his words as clear as a bell. Unlike me, this is not a character known for his wild swings of facial expression, though in his case, sometimes less is decidedly more. This isn’t the first time someone has expressed this sentiment to me, the first time at Splash, although the venue shouldn’t have surprised me either. Clogged with closeted Staten Island hunks who still live at home with their unsuspecting blue collar parents and quiet midwestern gays on vacation, it doesn’t have the kind of patrons that request the attendant attention one might expect of, say, The Real Housewives Of New Jersey. So running into an otherwise trendy pack of Manhattanites in such a place reeked of “don’t ask, don’t tell” nightclubbing. Duly noted.

Two listeners invited me to join them out at the bar and lacking much else to do, I decided to join them. I wasn’t much in the mood to go out and I am never in the mood for Splash, but I do have a blog that needs to be filled with idle chatter. Plus, living so far out of town, I really have to force myself sometimes to just go out and have a good time. The boys forewarned the club promoter who was overly happy to see me (as job title personified) when I arrived, and then ushered me in ahead of some drunk smokers and made quite a fuss over me in front of the expressionless cashiers who didn’t care either way.

One of the listeners had briefly been a dancer at the club some years ago, but unlike me, excelled at keeping up with old friends. He knew everyone. I was relieved to know no one. Not even my friend who is an occasional dancer there himself was in attendance that night. So I perched myself on a barstool near the front, drink in hand, and let the noisy bacchanal wash over me, waiting for blogtastic inspiration. An inspiration that never came.

Moments earlier, I ran into that frequent blog subject who didn’t want to be in the blog anymore. I was on the fence about not blogging the night as it was and that pretty much sealed the deal. He was travelling with the hot boyfriend of another hot blogger, so I wouldn’t want to incur his wrath by giving less than a flat out rave to his man while at the same time reassuring him that everything was totally above board. Better just not to write about it at all. After all, haven’t I caused enough trouble already? While the former dancer twirled around the dance floor from pal to pal, his boyfriend kept me company by the bar which while fun, was not really story enough to string my blog on, as flimsy as it may be most of the time.

At one point, or I suppose I should just call it the point, a hunk of a man walked up to me and asked if my name was Derek. “Derek Hartley?” Yes, I half smiled, a mix of excitement, dread and panic. I am so bad at remembering people, even the hot ones. Turns out he is a reasonably new listener of the show and happened to spot me by chance. This almost never happens in NYC, but when it does, the end result is always the same. For the next five minutes he tried to explain to his totally uninterested friends that this weary figure slumped unseductively across a barstool like a dust cover in an abandoned summer house was in fact someone famous. No one believed him, not even me.

That fame is a funny thing. It really isn’t any fun or remotely funny at all. I like to say that fame is just a series of humiliations, and it is your own willingness to be humiliated that determines how famous you are going to become. Obviously, the guy I wrote about in my blog who asked me not to anymore found his fame ceiling right here on my site, or more likely probably some miles back before he made the unfortunate mistake of knowing me. I can see my own fame ceiling getting closer and closer. If I get up on my toes and extend my fingers out as far as they can reach, I can almost brush it with my fingertips. But for now, it is just an object lesson in being in the wrong place at the right time.