There's a filthy carnal mist emanating from greater Orlando's gay pavement this week, and I'm determined not to inhale. But even my designer nose clamps and innate redneck tendencies — kept cleverly tucked behind my left eyebrow "in case of emergency" — may not be enough to counteract the pervasiveness of implied penetration, drawing genitalia to glory hole in the deepest recesses of the great local consciousness. Something stinks.
"He's so tiny!" eeks a perky sales associate. "But he's being frisky with all of the girls, especially the ones with tattoos."
Yes, even my vain attempt to duck-and-cover from the sniff-and-fuck of Gay Days — one that's found me attending an unlikely in-store performance from celebrated cowboy geezer Charlie Louvin at Park Ave CDs on a dreary Saturday afternoon — is riddled with the old-man goosing of innuendo. (And, for the record, I'm willing to bet a few of the wheatier hipster bobbleheads in country-fried attendance are guilty of inhaling one or two things in their laid-back, Americana preparation. Oh, and "cowpoke" can sound quite dirty when used in the proper context, you know.) Nobody is safe.
"Get here now!" a text message buzzes next to my cowpoker two songs in. "Bananarama. Sound check. NOW!"
Fidget, fidget, fidget … and I'm out. Now, knowing that a Bananarama sound check is less a musical exercise than one involving showing up and listening to a backing track or two, I'm still tense at the shoulders as I'm breaking every law — save sodomy — racing down Colonial Drive to get to the golden hollow of all things gay, the Parliament House. There are no speed limits for Gay Days, are there? They'll make more!
"You missed it!" comes the buzz-text as I hang a squealing louie onto OBT. Dammit, I didn't even blink.
Still, I could use a drink, so I pull up anyway, just in time to notice a giant white limousine (implying Cher, as limousines do) out front with nobody in it. And here's where things get desperate. Some 20 years ago I approached what may have been the very same giant white limousine at a Miami radio station, to which my reaction was decidedly ill-advised. On that particular occasion, I jumped in said limousine and onto the lap of Simon LeBon (not Cher!), knocking a lady cop down in my heroic leaping trajectory. I was pulled out by my feet and admonished while I licked the pop-star essence from my arm, and swore to myself that given the chance, I would do it all over again. So, 20 years later, here's my chance.
Of course, it is 20 years later, so I don't take it. I'm not that gay.
"Oh … my … God …" I whisper into my stalk-phone to Taylor as 'Nanas Keren Woodward and Sarah Dallin — sporting something that looks like Isaac Mizrahi mommy-wear from Target — preen for a photo in front of the Parliament marquee. "I … am … standing … next … to …," etc.
I'm that gay.
Later that evening, I'm back on tap for the full throttle of the P-House Gay Days faded-pop-star experience, sporting my own pill-shaped dose of something that feels like mommy's little helper (like Mizrahi might, at Target). Sure, I'll have to survive former American Idol contestant Kimberley Locke — currently fading in weight on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club — and her eighth world wonder, but I'm certain that I'll endure it well enough to, at some point, crash the stage and introduce myself to the world as the new Siobhan Fahey. I am this close to being in Bananarama. Until …
"The diva is here," squirts a sleeveless, bearded know-it-all peculiar to the faded pop-star circuit (if only for wearing ripped sleeves and, well, putting on a few). His name is Anthony, and he insists — OK, brags — that not only is Mizzzzzzz Belinda Carlisle here with him, but so is her crazy sidekick, Jane Wiedlin. I am equal parts intrigued and torn, bananas and gone-gone. It's as if somebody poisoned my drink with a WHOLE DECADE.
Allegiances challenged, I suffer Anthony's favorite Belinda story — she once ate a pile of bran muffins before a show and had to, ahem, defecate into a drawer side-stage; love her! — and muster enough strength to attempt to believe him.
"I'll bring her over to meet you," he smirks, adding, "But she's really tired and Jane is in a really weird mood."
Naturally, that meeting never happens — like bran-muffin bowel movements don't — and I'm left with little more than the promise of an autographed CD and the suspicious feeling of a new kind of being had. Or sad. Or mad. Still, just before I can punch my left eyebrow and pull out a redneck shotgun, the girls who are here bound to the stage with a brilliant set — "I Heard a Rumor" arm-to-ear choreography included — and turn the evening into a poolside triumph (one that almost involves my own arm-to-ear "Rumor" re-enactment tumbling into that pool … which is already full of man-o-war jellyfish lighting fixtures for no reason whatsoever). And I am happy.
Out back, where the foam-party pit is spraying out its bubbles of grope-hiding ooze, I try to sniff around for a hint of that sulfur-sludge-smut of my olfactory suspicion.
It isn't here; just smiles of rolling shirtlessness in what could pass for a needed bath. Nothing stinks tonight. It all smells like bananas. And maybe a few bran firstname.lastname@example.org