“Was this really worth getting off at 9:40pm?” Ryan White asked, half-joking, his sly smile betraying the half-serious side of the question. He didn’t mean my hanging out with him. That is always worth escaping the studio a few minutes early for. We have only known each other a few weeks since our first fateful meeting in the back of a taxi, but Ryan is a delightful fast friend. He is good company and he knows it.
Tonight we met out at Therapy, which I used to love but the bloom is off the rose since the place became infested with lackluster stage shows on that tiny elevation in front of the fireplace on the second floor. What had once been a charming getaway to meet friends after work or contract mono from a stranger over communal nachos, has lately become that casual meeting with friends spontaneously interrupted by someone loud and wholly unwelcome collapsing on your table.
I thought at first that we had escaped unscathed. Ryan and I spent our first half hour or so engaged in polite conversation, our ears unmolested by shrieking comedians or bad amateur singing contests. But then while I was at the bar picking up a fresh vodka soda for Ryan, I realized suddenly that I was not on line at Zabar’s and the tiny woman in the bad wig waiting for her mocktail was, in fact, the night’s entertainment.
We had already been talking about the psychological power of drag and the grip over which it holds the gay community. And then this woman appeared, dressed literally in drag, to host a stripper contest. Well, at least I think that is what it was supposed to be. It started with her singing a couple of songs very badly and then encouraging some audience members to also get up and sing badly. This I thought (beyond the obvious) was a bad idea. Are you trying to get strippers or singers? Or singers who strip? People are drunk, lady. If you aren’t clear in your instructions, you are in for a very messy ride.
The area near the fireplace started to take on the kind of frenzied chaos less reminiscent of Broadway's Miss Saigon than Saigon's actual fall. This woman "performer" stripped layers off and warbled and berated the audience for understandably ignoring her. Honey, if you are on stage, and you aren’t more compelling than whatever pops up on someone’s cell phone during your show, that’s on you.
Right on cue, Jeffrey strolled in with his handsome friend Christopher. Christopher, it turns out, works across the street from me and his cousin I think works with Julie James in my office. How small world is that? Pretty damned small. I am pretty sure we have met before but I can't for the life of me remember where or when. Doesn't matter. We've met now.
Jeffrey asked me if I had any Twizzlers on me, recalling fondly our first meeting downtown where I did have candy in my pocket and I was happy to see him. Of course, since Halloween, I have Twizzlers all over my house and office like a hoarder, and could have kicked myself for not having them with me at Therapy (but I don’t have that kind of flexibility). In my own defense, I didn’t know he was coming.
As the karaoke go-go strip show rapidly cascaded downhill nearby, I spotted my Ukrainian pal Vitaliy, on a NYC layover between Utah and London, in the audience. He is all muscle-packed like Jeffrey but shorter. And I noticed he liked hovering near the equally ripped wait staff, including the shot boy who was either wearing a horrible duck-tailed wig or hasn’t been out of a cowboy hat since Brokeback Mountain. I guess since Vitaliy is visiting from out of town, it isn’t a problem for him to (as Ryan so vividly put it tonight) shit where he eats. I entreated Vitaliy to jump on the stage, remove his shirt and win the $100 prize but he giggled shyly and backed away. I don’t understand working out like crazy and then not dropping your clothes at a moment’s notice. It’s like getting a face lift and then always wearing a veil. If you want to wander aimlessly through life in a bulky sweater, just go ahead and get fat like everyone else. You can start by eating a pack of Twizzlers. They're 240 carb-loading calories in the blink of an eye.
In the future, I will always walk around with a pack of Twizzlers in my pocket. I do owe Jeffrey some after all and it is well known that I don’t care what people think of me. Obviously no one on the stage cared what anyone thought of them either, especially the loud screeching host lady with the terrible Rona Barrett wig. Maybe if she had Twizzlers in her pocket, the audience would have cared what she had to say. Besides, as accessories go, Twizzlers, like strippers and drag queens, are candy everybody wants, just not always at the same time.