Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tress This Mess

My hair is a fair weather friend. It does not do well in the elements. I have long been jealous of my grandmother Doris and her sassy wig and I live for the day when I can just give up on hair altogether and don a wig. It must be genetic. Besides, under certain circumstances, like tonight, the mop on top takes on a certain plastic wig-like quality anyway, so it isn’t like synthetic would be some kind of step down from normal.

Since we are on the subject of wigs, it is probably most appropriate that I journeyed down to XL tonight for Hot Mess featuring two of the hottest messes in Manhattan: Bianca del Rio and Lady Bunny.  It is day two of Josh’s first ever visit to New York City and I am determined to make sure he has the most amazing time anyone has ever had in our city ever. If only I approached fitness with the same zeal.

I figured if anyone could put on a show that once seen can’t be unseen, it is Bianca and Bunny. And that is the kind of unshakable memory of America I want Josh to take back to Afghanistan. While he is on leave from his deployment, he needs to see two people who are on leave from their senses. He needs to know what he is fighting for: the right to tell racist jokes in between subpar dance numbers. In this regard, they did not disappoint.

The usual dance floor at XL was taken over with small café tables with “two drink minimum” signs delicately placed on them. A queer (in every sense of the word) maître ‘d showed us to our table and I dragged over a third chair for Matt Kugelman, in case he decided he wasn’t tired after work and his class and joined us. We weren’t there long before Bianca popped up behind us. I was glad for Josh that he got to see the star of the show make an appearance at our table but then instantly remembered that Bianca is not known for her warm shout outs from the stage.

True enough, moments later on stage, Bianca was saying something terrible about, oh I don’t know, Asians and then ended with: “I know, Derek Hartley. Racist!” Look, Bianca is an insult comic and there are plenty of insults to go around, plus she has some extras in her purse under some hard candy if you aren’t tired yet and can stick around. I love it. But then again, I appreciate very daring humor. I can’t abide genuine racism, but give me poor taste any day. And Bianca let’s me talk to her like a drag queen, even without a wig on my head.

The show was fine. Bianca and Bunny were the best parts. And Milan from RuPaul’s Drag Race danced the hell out of that stage. But Jiggly Caliente! Get the hook. First of all, she was late for her number in the second act so Bianca and Bunny had to kill time on stage. Bunny seemed very Xanax calm about it, but I thought Bianca was going to go at Jiggly with her Joan Crawford hatchet. I would have! There is nothing worse than emceeing a show, introducing the next act, turning to the side of the stage and seeing no one there. Plus, as Bianca deftly pointed out, it wasn’t exactly a performance worth waiting for.

While the show was going on, I couldn’t help but stare constantly at the cute blond guy at the table next to ours. I was less endeared to him when I comically shouted “racist!” at Bianca following one of her appalling bits and he turned around with a disapproving look, but you know how much I am willing to let slide if I am attracted to someone.   “Don’t you remember him?” Matt Kugelman whispered after he arrived and noticed me staring. “That’s the guy you gave six months to.” It turns out that the gay community is much smaller than you think.

Even though it has been three years, I still stand by my six months estimate. I just didn’t take into account how hearty young people are. After all, when he tried to leave with a friend before the show ended, he was so drunk he nearly strangled himself putting on one of those terrible long knit scarves that all the hipster gays loved last winter. Then, as his friend started to pull him away, he did that classic hostess trick of trying to quickly empty all the half-finished vodka drinks on the table as he backed away in a hunched over fashion. Naturally, he didn’t miss a drop but he did leave his messenger bag behind. I spotted the bag and handed it to him as he stumbled away.

After the show ended, Bianca sat at our table while the club cleared out telling me one horrifying story after another, none of which I can EVER repeat, except in a dishy tell-all book with a fat advance.  As soon as Carol Burnett started sweeping under our seats, Bianca suggested we move to the front bar and then promptly disappeared.

Josh and I hung out near the DJ booth with Bianca’s roommate Logan Slaughter, who was hilarious. While waiting for Kugelman to make his way through the sea of big armed men who all seemed to know him from somewhere, we all couldn’t help but notice a very sad face across from us on the other side of the oval bar. It was six months guy, sitting alone with a bottle of water, his iPhone and two cocktails in front of him! The party people next to him kept jostling and shoving into him, which he gave full badger face to before returning to a series of glum presses on his iPhone screen in the hopes that something would happen. It was so awful. I had to put him out of his misery.

So I walked over to the other side of the bar and introduced myself. “Hi. Remember me? I handed you the bag you left behind.” A hint of vague recognition. “Listen. You are sitting here all alone with this sad face on. It’s bringing the whole bar down.” He seemed surprised, “Oh I’m not alone. My friend is working coat check. I’m just waiting for him to get off.” I rolled my eyes. “Well you are depressing. Come wait with us so you stop darkening this corner.”

Six months guy agreed to join us and started gathering his things. I walked back to our side of the bar and as I did, Logan beat it on the lam. I think he was afraid that being sad and drunk was contagious and he might catch it. But Logan’s fears were unfounded. When I got back and turned around, the guy was gone, apparently preferring to retreat to coat check or die alone in a gutter somewhere. In either event, I did my part.

The rest of the evening went on with the usual drinking, dancing, loud music and trashy hilarity, mostly thanks to Logan and his eye rolling, arm flailing comic nonsense. The big armed guys near us spent a lot of time trying to take the shirts off of hot strangers and grabbing at bartenders. “It’s very friendly here,” Josh understated. In the end, what matters is that Josh had a great time. And as we stepped outside into the cool night air, my hot mess of a hairdo blowing in the wind, I felt a certain pride in a successful evening out on the town. Mission accomplished.   


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.

1 comment:

Jason Warner said...

Entertaining prose as always. I suspect the Soldier Josh is on your attractive list considering how far above and beyond you've gone for him.