Saturday, March 19, 2011

Miracle On 52nd Street

When I was a kid, I fell in love with Xanadu. I thought being an adult meant roller skating to work and hanging out at night at some kind of 1940s-inspired dance club. Naturally, I was in for a rude awakening. In all of the fifteen years I lived in Los Angeles, I searched for Xanadu and never found it. Not because the Pan Pacific Auditorium where it was set had already been destroyed by fire, but because whatever magic had poured out of that terrible movie into my little gay boy heart didn’t really exist in Hollywood. At least not for me. I had to come all the way to New York City to find it.

Tonight, I ventured off to a place that (practically) nobody dared to go: The Hookies, the annual award show for the escort elite. I was a presenter last year and looked forward to nothing more than returning to reclaim my place in the lower echelon of fame. As I quipped last year, it is a veritable “who’s that” of New York gay society. The previous year’s event took place at RentBoy.com’s favorite Manhattan location Club Rebel. But in honor of the Black Party weekend, it moved into the historic midtown venue Roseland.

I knew Roseland well enough, first hearing of it in passing during a bit of dialogue in the great Hitchcock movie Lifeboat. For decades, it has been the site of concerts and dance marathons and most recently, the place I saw Broadway Bares for the first time. You can still see in its oval layout and faded ornaments the ice skating ring and big band palace it was in its heyday. As I ascended the staircase to the balcony in a vain attempt to find the VIP room, suddenly I was overwhelmed by the history of the place. The paint was chipped, boxes stacked up against the beautiful old metal railings, but suddenly the wheels were in motion. “Now that I’m here, now that you’re near,” I thought to myself, “in Xanadu.”

It seemed strange to experience Xanadu in the midst of an award show for prostitutes but I guess that is why they call it magic. So it must have been kismet that led me to run into Tom Judson at the door on my way in. Handsome as ever, Tom is enjoying great success with his one-man show down at Dixon Place and, like me, was a presenter. Or so he thought! It turns out that he wasn’t on the final list. But no worries I offered to present the award I was presenting with him. Problem solved.

For the rest of the night as Tom returned to embodying his former porn alter ego Gus Mattox, we were joined at the hip. Not literally, although at one point, Tom said, “We’re like Chang and Eng.” And as we touched the sides of our ribcages together, I quipped, “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead!” I thought it was my best line of the night, but Tom thought it was when a photographer stopped him backstage to take a shirtless photo of him. As Tom gamely flexed his muscles, his insanely tight abs rippling like polished cobblestones, I shouted, “Crunch your abs, Tom. I said crunch them!”

Backstage at something like The Hookies is always fun. It is a nice hodgepodge of people (my pal Will Wikle, nightlife writer Michael Musto, designer Richie Rich) and a place of adventure. After Chi Chi La Rue lost her purse, I leapt into Chi Chi helper mode, and retrieved it from the chair she was sitting in earlier. Michael Lucas cornered me and asked me to write a joke for him to use when presenting his award, “Best Top,” and then started to thump my chest impatiently for what I can only assume was encouragement. This was not completely out of the blue since I did write some jokes for him to say in Bianca’s birthday tribute video, even if he didn’t use most of them.

I did come up with a joke for him: “I am here to present the award for Best Top. That is basically the biggest dick in New York. But I thought I was the biggest dick in New York.” He didn’t really seem to understand the punchline. “But I don’t have the biggest dick in New York,” was his flat response. In the end, his moment in the spotlight was upstaged by a late arriving winner from a previous category and my joke never had a chance to be told.

That might have been for the best since two of my own jokes got booed when I got up on stage myself. I don’t feel a lot of pressure presenting an award at something like The Hookies because the audience isn’t there for the presenters. They want to see the hot shirtless guys and they don’t care what you have to say. But the fact that I got booed is now my new badge of honor. Tonight Keith Price, who was also presenting, told me that if they laugh or boo, it doesn’t matter because either way, you are touching them (although not in the way that the escorts will touch them for $165).

Tom and I worked out some banter beforehand about us being forced to present together. Tom dutifully plugged his one man show which caused host Leslie Jordan to get on the mike and chide us for the shameless plug. After Tom also plugged my DNR Social app, he turned to Leslie and said, “That was a double plug. Have you ever had a double plug, Leslie?” That joke I and the crowd loved. At one point, Tom stepped on my line and as we had rehearsed it, I retorted, “Ladies and gentlemen, America’s oldest porn star, Gus Mattox.” That was my first boo. Then I suggested that our award, Best Body, was the New York award because as we tell tourists visiting the city, don’t look up. And then making a line with my hand at my neck, I indicated nominees in this category were better from the neck down. Second boo.

My friend Tony "Just Put On A Tape, No One Will Know The Difference" Phillips, sitting in the crowd watching, thought it was pretty nervy of me as a radio show host to make a crack about other people’s faces, especially those faces that people are willing to pay to have sex with. He isn’t wrong. When I calculate out all of the hours in a month that our show airs, my hourly rate to listen to me talk comes in somewhere in the neighborhood of about eight cents an hour. It turns out I was the cheapest whore in the place.

After we got off stage, a nice young man named Michael, very drunk, started talking to Tom. I recognized him from earlier as someone who had been dragged onstage by Mr.Pam when she had opened the show with a parade of half-naked porn stars. After getting up there, Michael was then much surprised when one of the gathered stars peed in his mouth. Not the kind of moment, anyone might quickly forget. But when Tom was called away from the conversation, Michael turned his drunken attention to me and after a moment, leaned in to kiss me. Not forgetting for a second, what had happened on stage, I politely leaned my head away as far as my 41 year old body would let it go and insisted that I was late for something and had to leave that instant.

In my own defense, should I need any, it was getting late and I did have a train to catch. I squeezed a good hug out of Barrett Long, Drew Cutler, and Ben Andrews backstage and headed for the floor of Roseland. I said good night to Adam Killian who had been on the show earlier in the evening, and caught the Broke Straight Boys I had met in Florida last weekend on their way out too.

Finally, I went back up the stairs to the balcony to say good night to Chi Chi La Rue, who was back up there DJing the party to its inevitable conclusion. She had just put on Born This Way and I thought to myself that Lady Gaga would probably be in Xanadu too if she could be. Chi Chi was starting to pack up and as I arrived and had once again misplaced her purse. I found it pretty quickly and handed it to her with a hug. She planted a big red lipstick kiss on my cheek and I was gone. Outside on the street, the evening air was warm. Spring is hours away but already the magic of the city is in full bloom. In all its faded glory, odd characters, and strange occurrences, this is home. And there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be.

2 comments:

Kenneth Walsh said...

Classic!

But Chang and Eng? Are you sure he didn't mean Shields and Yarnell?

Nick said...

you sure know how to tell a story !
your jokes were good :)