Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Boyfriend Racket

So, there I am, ascending the stairs backstage at the Roseland Ballroom. And waiting for me on the landing for a quick hug is Alec Mapa, America’s gaysian sweetheart. “Welcome to the other side of your career,” I whisper in his ear as we embrace. He is happy to see me but I have no doubt he suspects I have some jokes at his expense waiting for when I get on stage. It is true, I have my material ready, but as it turns out, not as ready as I thought.

It is time for me to once again make my annual appearance at The Hookies, the official harbinger of Spring in New York. There are cherry blossoms on 24th street, daffodils lining Fifth Avenue and prostitutes as far as the eye can see inside the venerable dance venue on 52nd Street. It turns out that San Juan Capistrano is not the only place in America that swallows return every March.

I like presenting awards. I know this is not the classiest show in the world, but you have to start somewhere.   Or in my case, begin and end. I did host the GayVN awards one year and received an award from GLAAD but no one outside of is beating a path to my door to ask me to present anything to anyone anywhere. So I am grateful they allow me to act out my Oscar fantasy, however cheaply.

Earlier in the evening, Jake Steel joined us on the show. I had never met him before but he messaged me on the DNR Social app a few weeks ago asking if I was friends with his agent Howard from FabScout. It turns out he lives in New York and Howard was telling him that he should meet me and do my show. Since he was nominated for Best Boyfriend Experience, I asked him to drop by tonight before we headed over to the awards.

Jake was a good sport as Romaine honed her interview skills with a series of very probing questions. This is her new thing and she is very into it. It is nice after nine years to see Romaine find something to interest her in an exciting new way on the show because as you can imagine, like anything, nine years gets repetitive. Jake met it all with the kind of equanimity that the boyfriend experience requires. “I’m not an asshole,” is how he described the secret to his success.

As we walked up the street to Roseland after my show, Jake put his arm around me and asked me if I would be his boyfriend for the evening. The Boyfriend Experience was working on me which made me think his odds of winning were pretty good. “If I win, will you come up on stage and pretend to be my boyfriend?” he asked. I guess there is nothing lonelier than winning an award for best boyfriend when you are single. I promised to run up there and shriek and generally make a fool of myself. Besides, what are the odds I would turn down a second chance to be on stage at an award show?

Once at Roseland, we did a red carpet interview with Mike Diamond, unrecognizable in a weird fake moustache, posed for photos together and then retreated to the relative safety of the VIP bar upstairs. There we ran into Bianca del Rio, who assured me Matt Kugelman was on his way over shortly and Jack Mackenroth who was distracted by the sudden loss of his Facebook page. “They don’t believe it’s really me!” he lamented while we both wondered who all these Jack Mackenroth imposters might be that must be epidemic on Facebook.

As the show started, Bianca del Rio and Alec Mapa trotted out on stage while Jack and I watched from a safe distance in the balcony. The first presenter was singer turned porn star turned singer again Colton Ford, who is very nice and has been on my show. Colton strutted out on stage with his flawless body and not a clue what was happening. He pattered around on stage for a minute in his tight outfit, struggling to make sense of the proceedings. Jack and I were relieved. At least, we declared confidently, we can do better than that!

But soon enough, it came time for me to present my award. So I waited patiently backstage next to Alec Mapa while Bianca del Rio introduced me from the stage. And by introduced, I mean she implied that I was too fat to present an award for “Best Body,” even ironically.  As I walked out on stage, a shirtless Tommy Defendi rushed up to the edge and demanded that I laugh my loud obnoxious laugh, while Bianca chided me for dressing like I came to watch an episode of GLEE. I suppose if her dig had been better I could have mustered a laugh but she was just killing time while I Jiggly Caliented (yes I turned that talentless bitch into a verb) off to the side. “Insult me all you want,” I thought to myself as I smiled and waved like a vacant beauty queen, “I’m ready for you, Bianca.” Or so I thought.

My open came off without a hitch. “It is great having Bianca del Rio here tonight. She almost didn’t make it. But at the last minute, the CDC cleared her to fly.” That got a big laugh. Emboldened, I added: “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news… no wait. How does it start? The bad news…” I trailed off as I suddenly blanked on how to tell a good news/bad news joke. The audience stood silent in front of me. The worst possible reaction. Jesus, getting old sucks. “Oh crap. I’m as bad as Colton Ford now.” I blurted out.

I abandoned my joke about Bianca and decided against my even less rehearsed rejoinder about Alec Mapa taking all the best jobs in Hollywood. “It got so bad, before he booked Suburgatory, Rex Lee had his own ad on! And if you don’t know that Rex Lee and Alec Mapa are two different people, you’re as racist as Bianca!” Instead, I just went on with my line from last year calling the “Best Body” award the “Neck Down” award, which got a laugh this year instead of a boo. And then I told the audience we had to move on quickly to the award because “we can’t stay here all night since you all only paid for an hour.” From there, I very smoothly introduced the video clip showing each of the nominees. When the one-named nominees came up I said they “couldn't afford a last name” and I reflexively called the one with King as a last name “Queen.” That cheap joke works every fucking time.

“And the winner is… whoever showed up.” I announced as I ripped open the envelope. “Jesse Santana.” Jesse strutted up on stage also in shorts like me, but without a shirt and I didn’t hear a peep out of Bianca about it. Jesse dropped his shorts and half-heartedly danced a bit, shrugged his shoulders and then asked for the mike. His acceptance speech was shorter than my tennis shorts. “It’s a good thing they aren’t paying you to talk,” was my final quip and then I handed the mike off to Bianca.

Moments later, I rushed Bianca as she returned backstage. “I’m so mad! I had the best joke about you! I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Bianca is the only one here with syphilis. The bad news is it’s airborne.” Bianca let out a hearty laugh. “Save it. You’ll use it again one day. Or better yet, just put it on Facebook. More people will see it there than they will here, that’s for sure.”

The Boyfriend Experience award was next and like a good temporary boyfriend, I held Jake Steel’s hand in the audience. I prepared myself to console him if he lost, but then he won! He rushed excitedly to the stage. “I don’t have a boyfriend,” he said, holding the award and scanning the audience. “Does anyone want to be my boyfriend?” On cue, I rushed the stage and embraced him as planned. And for a moment, it really was the perfect boyfriend experience. It was all just show, I had to remind myself as we stepped off the stage into oblivion, but at least I didn’t forget my lines this time.

Prior Adventures At The Hookies:
2011 At The Hookies: Miracle On 52nd Street
2010 Ar The Hookies: Hooked On A Feeling


Read more of Derek's adventures in When Nightlife Falls and Colonnade A Life In Columns. Both are available now On, and in digital form for The KindleThe Nook, and in the iBookstore.


Tony Phillips said...

Um, are you sure Jake didn't ask, "“If I win, will you come up on stage and pretend to be my soy bomb?” It was kind of noisy in there.

Derek Hartley said...

Tony, I am sorry you and your communist bun held together with chopsticks didn't make the cut. With all of my A+ jokes, there just wasn't room for other people in my story about me on the adventure I had.

Peter G said...

I had great time with you!!!

Peter G said...

We had a great time with you Derek!!!!! Thanks again