I should have known. Glaring wanly into my evening mirror face, fingers twisty-twirling directional volume into my mat of hair as if to say "anywhere but here," sweat dripping down my (why the hell am I wearing a) suit-covered side, and then there it is: that twinge. All of the knowledge and bile, the Tic Tacs and Vitamin Water, the Vicodin and the Vicodin, the vodka and pomegranate juice swirling together into a nervous cyclone that's threatening to violate the nearest available orifice soon … if not now … here it comes!
"Broooooooooooke," I violently hurl into a nearby toilet. "Hooooooooogan."
That's it! That's what this whole dressing-up-on-a-Thursday-to-go-stand-in-a-restaurant bit is all about: the irony of existence's fishbowl when the oversized daughter of a bald wrestler is actually swimming in it with you! Tonight should be intentionally ridiculous. A group calling itself VIP Escapes has arranged a "red-carpet event" at Graze, where several low-rung celebrities (Mario Cantone, Christine Ebersole, Brooke!) will join Orlando's corps of high-strung gays in the act of watching Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D-List -— one that features several Orlandoans in Bora Bora with La Griffin — in public. It's comic gold, really, and has the potential to successfully replicate the unhinged social commentary that the show itself wallows in before it asks you to "suck it!" Look how stupid we are for striving for plasticity, for looking up to people who no longer have the physical ability to look up themselves. Hilarious, right? Wrong.
"Omigod, have you seen the web projection screens?" event planner Michele is a living perm. "They only cost us $8,000! Can you believe?"
The problem here from minute one is just how seriously this shindig is being taken. VIPs — or people who bought $65 tickets — are asked to valet-park their cars and then wait for a cavalcade of BMWs to whisk them an additional 10 feet to the entrance. There, participants will walk about 5 feet of red carpet up to a photographer who will do his or her paparazzi best to simulate the immediacy of disposable importance. Who are you wearing?
"I didn't know what to tell them," smirks commissioner Patty Sheehan, in head-to-toe black. "I just said vintage, vintage and Versaaaaaace," she holds out a black patent leather clutch with an ostentatious animal clasp.
"Oh, Nomi," I drum my fingernails. "There's always someone younger and prettier coming down the stairs behind you."
Seeing as I'm not a VIP at this event, but rather a "Press/Media" lanyard-wearer, my experience is somewhat different. A back-and-forth of e-mails with somebody named "Mykael" instructed that if I were to accept his humble offering of entry, I would have to agree to a few minor stipulations. Hilariously, I am to mention VIP Escapes (second!) at least three times and somehow weave the remainder of the sponsors into my elegant prose at least once. Something like: "These Standout Destinations are like a Passport to Air Tahiti during a Revolution where all of the Beat Creative are being forced to Graze. Better grab ShaunandPaul to find out What's Happening with all of the Vitamin Water that the Fields Auto Group is hiding with the Funky Monkeys in its BMWs. Are they at The Spa, lost on Planet Beach of Baldwin Park, or wearing Giorgio Armani? Quick, JetBlue is calling!"
That, dear reader, is something I would never do. What I will do, however, is drink away the awful feeling that this is just another one of those superfluous situations reminding me that the world is slipping through a pinhole in a hot-pink balloon. Through the course of the evening I'll hop from gay clan to gay clan and embroil myself in overstated quippery made for roving event photographers with nothing better to capture. I'll do my best to avoid tripping the Barbra Streisand and Kathy Griffin impersonators hired for the event, and make certain that when I really need to point and laugh — like during the drag-queen re-enactment of the Moulin Rouge medley scene, rose petals included — I'm outside on the smokers' deck with a separating plate of glass to muffle my scorn. I'll talk about stabbings and tramplings at Parliament House earlier in the week, making sure to say something like, "Well, at least nobody was strampled!" so that everybody thinks I'm stupid. But, sadly, I won't meet Brooke Hogan. She, it turns out, was too exhausted from "traveling all over China" to show up. In fact, the only almost-real celeb to accidentally appear is Ebersole, who Michael Wanzie will later report could only mutter an indignant, "Can you tell me what the hell I'm doing here?" before making a hasty exit. It doesn't get any worse than this.
Oh, wait! It's Brooke Hogan's Brooke Knows Best roommates! "Um, I'm such a big fan!" I creep into their conversation, and eye up gay Glenn's comely tartan-knickers-with-leather-holster-top ensemble. "On a scale of one to 10, how gay are you?" That's what Hulk asked him. See! I really am an idiot.
"I'm a 10!" he plays along. "But I'm not the gayest."
"And you, missy," I turn to brunette Brooke-counterpoint Ashley, "remember that night when you guys all went out to the clubs on South Beach?"
"Totally!" she Joyce DeWitts. "They kept filming me with food all over my face!"
Suitably sated for the apocalypse — or Revolution? — I grab my VIP Escapes (third!) gift bag (actually, I make a stink for them to give me one), and head for the valet stand. Peering into its invaluable contents, that tinge comes back. Right there next to the magazines, magazines, magazines and fliers is a pink bottle of Vitamin Water. Um … um ….