There is a blur, a dirty yellow sunshine explosion surrounded by a rainbow halo of Kodachrome focus shifting. Synthesized strings of Lido Deck lugubriousness slip in one ear and out the other as the slow, predatory disco beat sneaks in with a "toot toot" and a "beep beep" in tow. Everything is hot and nasty and covered in baby oil; the night is a series of gold rope-belt chafes and curling-iron burns, but it's all smoky and hairy and reddish and sexy. A can of Tab is ripped open, and the tickle of carbonation elicits a primordial giggle. A tap, then a tap, then a tap at the door.
"I can't fit into any of my bell-bottoms anymore," Taylor wafts into the room, lighting up the floor panels with each weary step. He's wearing giant Playboy circle sunglasses and moping like a Klute-era prostitute. I'm a vision in head-to-toe white polyester leisure, all tightly suited and barely able to zip up. Oh, who the fuck are we kidding?
"I know your pain," I tug on a menthol and try to keep my diaphragm in. "This isn't exactly Plato's Retreat."
Tonight's ill-advised thematic endeavor would have us flashed back to the '70s — or at least the shadowbox version of the '70s that both of us plopped out of, but neither of us were old enough to enjoy — in the name of charity. Last week, Krystle Carrington (or playwright David Lee) called Valene Ewing (or me) and sassed on and on about this fabulous event that she'd be hosting in hopes of raising enough money to feed the unfortunate and finally get that diamond chandelier she's had her one good eye on for years installed in her gracious marble foyer. I, naturally, faked a tear, took a swig of my gimlet and accepted.
"Anything to get out of Knot's Landing," I thought to myself while staring in a brass-framed mirror at the wrinkles carving into my forehead. "Sign me up."
But it's not really that at all. In fact, the event in question — "Help Anita! Fight Anita!" at the Parliament House Footlight Theater — is meant to be an act of public humiliation in the name of sending Krystle, er, David Lee on a trip to New York to push his bendy-lamp Anita Bryant schtick on the NYC Fringe masses. Oh, and also to give money to Equality Florida, so there's that.
The idea is that certain willing members of the "community" — GAY! — will auction off the right to any other members of the community — GAY! — to throw pie in their faces. It's happened to the best of us — Ann Coulter, Bill Gates, Pat Buchanan (except that was salad dressing) — but tonight's cream pies are meant to mimic that most famous of glorious injustices, the banana cream face-smear on hateful helmet-headed beauty queen of orange juice Anita Bryant. This is going to be a mess.
"I should probably bring a hat, huh?" I scrape my polyester around the room in a going-out frenzy.
"Yeah, you should," Taylor stares down my last three hairs.
We arrive to not very much fanfare at all. David Lee is in the entryway sporting a yellow leisure suit over a green top, along with a porn mustache and Margaret Nolan. In the video bar, drag pancake Gidget Galore is goading two competing teams into creating the tallest penis structure possible out of a roll of aluminum foil. There is the thump, thump, thump of confined gay abandon, and that odd realization that drinking makes you think you're younger than you really are. The usual, then.
But then things get dicey. A few drinks in, my head is a twirling disco ball of "I don't know." The stench of home-cooked pies mixes with the heady odor of gay cologne and cigarettes, my white sunglasses fog up, that sliver of a conscience that typically holds my last fingernail to keep me from falling off the ledge magically disappears, and I am legitimately an asshole, all Steve Rubell swagger and Drew Barrymore sideways mouth, waiting for the next chance to fall over glamorously into a pile of white powder.
So this is the '70s.
In the theater, Michael Wanzie and Miss Sammy come out onstage dressed as poor-old-dead Mama Cass (half-eaten sandwich included) and Miss Sammy, and the games begin. And by games, I mean sloppy drag ridiculousness with pie thrown on it. Local nice guy Eddie Cooper attempts a singing-number-in-satin-shirt only to be ruined by me and Taylor jumping up onstage to clumsily faked disco behind him.
What makes me think that's OK?
"He'll love it."
Oh, Taylor does.
Crazy bitch Tweeka Weed comes out and does a be-Afro-wigged number before de-wigging and declaring that she's not on cocaine! For once! Not on cocaine! Fringe queen Beth Marshall gets a pie smeared on her ample bosom (not her face, which clearly isn't fair). And then, somewhere in the swirling olfactory mess of it all, the panic sets in. I'm called up to the stage and a slow auction creeps forward with relative disinterest, because I'm not really offering anything and I'm not really anybody. Taylor leaps up to try to save the proceedings with some finger-wagging and before I know it, somebody says something like "50 dollars" and Beth Marshall and her creamy breasts are lunging at me with my humiliation in crusted cream form.
First in the face.
Then removed from the face.
Then slammed down on my remaining three hairs.
Backstage, a mulleted Doug White offers his best wet-towel condolences, and I'm standing there staring into a mirror and trying to style my hair with whipped cream. But all I can see through the blur of sugar is a dirty yellow sunshine explosion with a rainbow halo.
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