Through the refracted blue-neon reflection of nightlife's anthropological looking glass, time has a way of bending in on itself, rendering context useless. It's supposed to do that. The collective po-faced stupor-sway of corporate inebriation never comes as a real surprise — it is, after all, the commoditized spectrograph geometry by which bar budgets are routinely set — but sometimes the architecture of bacchanalian people movement produces something unexpected and absurd: an alchemic reaction in the drip pan collecting time and space's runoff. Two parts Luke Perry sideburn pomade, three parts opaque black breast-implant casing, a splash of body paint and the flashbulb pupil dilation of enterprising bar photographers collude to create a lifestyle both familiar and foreign, a bizarre production that vaguely resembles a 1989 that's in dire need of a Wilson Phillips pep talk. Hold the fuck on.
"Well," I reach for an appropriate appraisal somewhere near my uvula. "At least it's good to see that there's still a place for LaToya Jackson to have her life's never-ending cocaine deal go sour."
"I just love that we can stand over here in the corner," Savannah fails to recognize that this place has no corners, "and look like we're way cooler than everybody else when we're really just uncomfortable."
We thought we had already worked all of this out. Chants of "this is going to be so much fun" peppered the air in the bubble around us as we primped and pouted in preparation for a night of projected philanthropy at the Decades of Glam MAC cosmetics AIDS benefit locked in at the end of our night-vision sights. We would be just like Fergie or Gaga or Lauper or whatever other slouching belter worked better with a handbag full of distracting makeup and a heart full of love. Even the few passing mentions of the location for this fête — Blue Martini, mall bar — were given a glib pass, regardless of the fact that the only other time we tried to go to Blue Martini for this very column, we turned around and left because we refused to wait in line outside a bar adjacent to a Cheesecake Factory just to see now-deceased DJ AM spin celebrity iPod effluvia for assholes. Nope, tonight would not bear those telltale markings of shiny-shirted disaster averted. Tonight would be real, actual fun.
Surprise. It isn't. At least not yet.
"So, what do you think?" Orlando's own Annie Potts, Kerri from Dechoes, unexpectedly pierces our awe. "Pretty cool, huh?"
Thankfully, she's lying. Also, thankfully, she's here. Kerri and her husband, Mike, are the only thread of reality in an otherwise surreal scene of overdressed extras. Over here, a body-painted girl changes still modeling positions every 47 seconds; over there, a pink tennis skirt rides up to reveal a snatch of sad youth married too early and for the wrong reasons. Everybody is seemingly playing a part in an after-hours 90210 trouble scene where Kelly and Brenda have totally locked themselves in a bathroom stall and refuse to come out. Everybody except us.
"So would you guys still have left last time if you knew that DJ AM was going to die?" Mike makes morbid small talk.
"Yes," we both stare into our imaginary MAC compacts as if to say, "How could we help him if he couldn't help himself?" Philanthropy is a double-edged sword … that kills!
It's also irrelevant in spite of tonight's dressing. Even though it's conceivable that the $10 cover and raffle proceeds would find their way into some charitable kitty, the overwhelming awfulness of everything surrounding this horrific 20-something talent show would necessarily spend it all in dignity reclamation.
"We have a very unique line-up tonight," an emcee resembling both Dave Coulier and Eddie Haskell stripper-announces from a stage. "But first I want to remind you all that we have a $2 drink available up front. It's called the ‘Fatal Attraction.'" Oh.
What follows is less a production than a nasty bout with temporal indigestion. Basically, hapless kids in varying stages of "sexy" and body paint act out actual decades as a fashion show, presumably aided by the color photos from a fourth-grade social studies book. The 1920s (flapper, dapper) give way to the 1950s (T-Birds, Cleavers) give way to the 1970s (cocaine Cher, Re-Run) give way to the 1980s (fuck this) give way to, well, now.
"She's a fucking iPhone," I frown at the human mural parading before me.
"And she has ‘Google' written across her ass," Savannah search clouds.
"What I wouldn't give to be some body paint right now," the emcee dies.
Back at Kerri's table on the patio — with a mall parking lot as its view — my disgust turns playfully outward.
"I have an idea," I grind the top of my throat against the bottom of my throat. "Let's pick up guys, take them to the bathroom like we're going to fuck them, then laugh at the size of their cocks! It'll be fun!" I'm not sure where it's coming from, but the displacement rage carries on into some discussion of a giant eagle belt buckle on a not-so-giant guy and the potential for wing imprints on my forehead should I choose to go oral. Before any such naughty ornithology can actualize itself, though, the night's program careens into unintended karaoke via some girl who was "born in the '80s," and therefore doesn't know half the songs she's murdering.
"It can't get any worse," my jaw drops.
It does. "Contortionists," or So You Think You Can Dance castoffs, split their foot-eating way through Madonna's "Like a Prayer," and I don't think this evening has a prayer left. Well, maybe.
"Someday somebody's gonna make you want to turn around and say goodbye," my speakers blow out all of I-4 on the way home. We lose our voices screaming along. Alas, we can say nothing. Hold the fuck firstname.lastname@example.org