Friday, January 27, 2012
The New Tron Dance
I’ve never walked into a bar that smelled new before. Not just clean, but actually brand, spanking new. The whole experience reminded me of the old lady from Titanic describing the famous ship, “I can still smell the fresh paint. The china had never been used. The sheets had never been slept in. Titanic was called the ship of dreams, and it was. It really was.” Well, tonight I went to the all new XL bar in Manhattan to smell the fresh paint. The plastic cups had never been used. The stalls hadn’t had any drugs done in them yet. I suppose it could be the club of dreams if your dream is to see other gay men prancing around like always. And if that is your dream, then it was. It really was! I'm oversimplifying of course but what are gay men in a club if not overly simple?
I was excited to see XL since everyone has been talking about it for months now. And like the Titanic, the maiden voyage of this truly new bar for a new generation would either sail into glory or go down sensationally. I asked my friend and trusty nightlife pal Matt Kugelman to join me and he was more than game for the adventure.
The night was drizzly and we arrived so early there wasn’t even a pretense of waiting outside, which I appreciated. We moved quickly through the cattle corral on the sidewalk, down the long corridor that plunged us deep into the interior of the space and up to the cashier. I flashed my brand new John Blair gold card and swept into the club like a star! Since it was mostly empty, we quickly made our rounds through the place. The coat check was easy to find and reasonably well laid out. The bar in the front reminded me a bit of G Lounge, with its Tailhook circle that forces you to be groped as you walk around it. From my praise of the coat check and my dusty 90s reference to sexual harassment, it is probably safe to say that I am already too old to be out late on a Thursday night.
I wondered how long it would be before I ran into someone I knew as Matt quickly became reacquainted with Tom and his suspenders, and the hot bartender, and some other guys over there. I can’t remember. I found my friend Tony perched on a bar stool nearby and eventually, I did see Brian Babst wander in. I grabbed Brian’s arm and then gestured over my head to the bar behind me. “Did you want some whip-its?” Despite needing to send you to Wikipedia to look up Tailhook, sometimes I can be very in the now with my references. In this case it was less about poor Demi Moore (seriously, her publicist saying she was being hospitalized for exhaustion was the worst 90s reference since the one I just made) and more of an inside joke with Brian who posed this question earlier today on Facebook:
"Why is Demi Moore doing whippets? Eww"
“I am so glad you saw that.” He confided, in between air kisses and Portuguese platitudes to the gaggle of Brazilians who suddenly formed around him. “I was hoping you would when I posted it.” In an instant he was gone to the bar to get himself a drink. “That’s my friend Brian,” I said to Kuge, who pointed at him from across the way. It was very Jan Brewer! The pundits were all a wag over her wiggling her finger in the President’s face yesterday and I have been beside myself. That Obama is one cool bundle of nerves because I’d have swatted that finger out of my face. And I am convinced this wouldn’t have happened if he was white and she wasn’t bat shit crazy.
Matt and I stood by the dance floor for a bit but we inexplicably chose bad lighting and quickly moved to what I am going to call the mezzanine, the wide open space between the front bar and the back dance floor. This is where the VIP banquets are that no one will ever order bottle service in and the staircase that leads down to the bathroom and coat check. I explained to Matt that bottle service will never catch on in gay clubs because if you are hot or famous, you don’t need to buy drinks. Anyone who isn’t savvy enough or connected enough to score free drinks will not be the kind of person who will impress anyone. And the only reason to have a bottle is to impress someone, thereby increasing your chances of getting laid. If you can’t get sex, there is no reason to get a bottle. End of story.
Earlier in the day, I saw that Mark Thiry posted on Facebook that he would be at the club and sure enough, we ran into him on the mezzanine. He was there with the handsome owner of Dark Alley Media, who was not much interested in what I had to say. Kuge was explaining that he tried to find his own Friendster profile the other day and I had to talk him down off the digital ledge after explaining its quiet death last year. Then I lamented how hard it was to stalk someone on Facebook in comparison and Dark Alley Media gave me a sour look. But it might have been the lighting.
We ran into frequent show guest Lady Bunny who greeted me by the DJ booth. “You’re finally seeing me in drag,” she purred before twirling away. It is true that I haven’t seen Bunny in drag in many months, probably more than a year. Although I dimly recall recently Father Dave from the Catholic Channel asking me after Bunny visited if the very tall person in the giant wig and 60s gown trying to hail a cab outside our building had been a guest. Guilty as charged.
Kuge had to pee so we went downstairs to check out the bathroom. When I walked in, I thought there was a very clean black glass surface, like a go-go boy stage in the middle of the room. I went to set my empty glass down on it only to realize a split second before releasing my hand that it was in fact a gaping maw, with innocent people milling around down below outside the stalls. Well I don’t know how innocent they were but they still didn’t deserve to get hit in the face with my glass. That’s going to be a problem when it gets late and the gay guys get sketchy.
Later we wandered over to the far side of the dance floor where a cluster of hot guys had gathered. When we first arrived, the early crowd was very hipster Brooklyn but as the evening wore on, the reliable stable of studs started to roll in. The bartenders were all hot and Matt recognized one of them working the back bar. “I’ve seen him at my gym.” Despite that, he was the only one even approaching the notion of gay fat, which is to say he didn't appear to have stopped eating on New Year’s Eve and never looked back. Naturally he was the one I was the most attracted to.
While at the back bar, Tom in the suspenders reappeared with some diminutive guy named Adam. Tom was charming and was quickly harassed unexpectedly by a guy who claimed to be from England. Meanwhile, Matt started talking to another friend he ran into and to be polite, I tried to engage Adam in conversation. He looked forlorn, despite (or perhaps because of) the splash of glitter over his right eye. He wasn’t very chatty but he did tell me that he is promoting (or hosting?) Tuesday nights at XL. “You mean, you will be,” I offered helpfully since the club hasn't been open on a Tuesday yet and knowing that gay men love nothing more than to be corrected, especially if it is some kind of very minor technical error. The ice in my glass was warmer than his response.
That was enough fun for me for one evening. When I rested my empty glass on the deserted bar, the fat bartender didn’t even look me in the eye. Even in his desperate neediness to be liked, he knew after my series of $4 cokes that I wasn't the kind of high roller worth his time. Time to head home. On my way out I saw my co-worker Lance Bass. For a second, I thought about saying hello, but then in the moment, I was not convinced he would remember meeting me or even doing my show. I waved at Bunny in the DJ booth up front where she was twirling so hard I thought her wig would levitate and then I dashed off into the street. The night air was crisp and the rain had subsided. I took a deep fresh breath. It’s January but it feels already like spring is in the air. But it might just be the fresh paint.