I'm here. I'm queer. I'm used to it.
So it comes as no surprise that, when faced with a trade show (ahem) homosexuality extravaganza, I don't pop out of my Hunter S. Thompson skivvies in a rash of swollen excitement. Gay Days 2002 has taken over the convention room of the Hotel Royal Plaza, literally pouring out poolside, and there's nary a sleeve in sight. Greeters pass out gift bags with offers of a better gay life perforated for your tearing enjoyment, as nearly everybody looks at you from your feet to your head. Isn't gay fun?
Obvious cantankerousness aside, I'm here on assignment. Ass-signment, if you will, to interview Robert Gant, better known as super-hottie Ben on Showtime's "Queer as Folk."
After weeks of telephone manipulation and its earned assurances, my tape recorder is practically sheathed in anticipation of meeting a real-life "Queer." Except he's not. In fact, few of the queers on Showtime's frivolous gay nighttime drama actually practice what they preach. And why should they, considering that our gay representation present at this particular event isn't necessarily convincing in the conversion arena.
"What are you doing here?" pipes the unexpected pleasure of Sir Jim Faherty, tonight passing out samples of this week's malt beverage, Bacardi Silver.
"What does that mean?" I grimace.
"Well, there just don't seem to be many Orlando people here today," he smoothes and serves.
So are you gay yet?
"I'm thinking about it ... " he thinks.
"Haven't we made out before?" I burp.
"I'm pretty sure we've made out a few times."
At which point I rush to the adjoining trash receptacle to once again try and purge my digestive memory in the most appropriately gay way possible.
Dry heaves. I have nothing to forget.
Anyway, myself and my tape recorder are still waiting around in malt-beverage misery for one Mr. Gant, Mr. Queer, Mr. Folk. The resolve of the publicity machine is waning, offering confessions that "well, I never really asked the Showtime people" and "we'll see after the sound check" in a descending round of symphonic denial.
Meanwhile, I'm conjuring despondent refrains of "Do you know who I am?" and "I've interviewed bigger people than you," as my foot futilely stamps the hospitality pineapples lining the carpeted floor.
Of course, neither movement can be heard over the pounding thumps of gay musical release offered by the makeshift sound system. "Right NOW!" beam the Pet Shop Boys, marking perhaps a better defense in my journalistic stammer.
Wondering around the pinkish midway, I'm struck by the greatest gay revelation I've had yet. That in the absence of chivalry, gay people aren't very nice. Pushing, shoving and bumping (ahem) prevail as hot pants and tank tops scamper to hepatitis booths, employment booths, bar booths, and underwear/accessory booths. Just as I'm contemplating rubbing this year's lube on my shoulders for an easier glide, I bump into Shelby Wheeler from Virgin. She's doing the gayday thing, she says, throwing pool parties and promoting her megastore.
"I like the bears," she concedes. "There just so ..." (At this point, she gestures at some invisible thickness standing in front of her.)
"Me, too," I worry, lubing my way to the wet bar. Still minus interview.
"Coming to the stage, we have Weego," half-asses some invisible thickness of an emcee. "There are no words for what he does ... "
Yes there are. Drag. Freak drag. Tonight, the inevitable squeals of Sylvester are dusted off for a leotarded performance of "You Make Me Feel ... "
Only, by now I'm feeling nothing. I've just tried to interview a live-action version of the Showtime animated atrocity The Queer Duck; only as most costumes are, this one is unwilling to talk. Instead, he pats me on my head. Oh, spite.
A screening of two as-yet-unseen episodes of "Queer as Folk" prompts mass attention for a moment, until the herd realizes just how depressing it all is: Pancreas problems in a hospital. Blue-light "Top Gun" sex against a lightpost. Worried moms ... Y'know the drill. Oh, the drill!
At the bar, some woebegone out-of-town lesbian begins to descend into some undiscernable rant about her personal failings. "I'm an UNDERGROUND DJ!" she fidgets. "They kicked me out!"
And I really want to leave.
Finally, I'm introduced to the Showtime rep -- some smaller beefy hunk representing the larger, more-televised beefy hunk -- and by now I'm burping indignation.
"New York told me that this wouldn't be a problem," I queer. "I need to talk to Robert!"
"Well, maybe he can call you on Monday," sneers the "Queer" schmuck.
That'll be too late. I'll be straight by then.