Of all of the aspirations on the hasty path to my current perfection the impeccably frosted straight hair, the impeccably frosted straight guy, er, sobriety there is only one that I can honestly still wrap my receding hairline around; one sad goal still attainable by odd, meager means; one flickering hope for perceived immortality.
That hope, shining like a beacon through a sewer, is to become Mr. Downtown, the sad sop who judges his own worth by the number of asses he can casually brush his hands against and still be awkwardly smiled at rather than smacked; he who parts the tides of trend-struck thrift-shoppers and Winter Park boutique whores alike while sipping free well drinks and gadding about to a healthy pass-out. I have a dream, you see. I have a song to sing.
So imagine my chagrin upon finding out that local nightlife cavern Tabu has decided to host its annual Mr. Downtown event on this particular manic Monday night without so much as a bouquet or tiara tossed in my direction. Anxious to get to the bottom of this (and virtually everything), I drop a line to Tabu-tina Amy Stanton, dropping a wherefore and a "how could you" in the most polite terms to be found in this troubled economy of words.
"Who the fuck is Mr. Downtown?" I type, invisibly including the phrase "it's me, dammit" in imaginary blood red.
"Some crusty guy who hangs out in front of the bar," she replies, and I hope doesn't imply "named Billy Manes."
Well, we'll just have to see about that.
Later that night, a little crusty and hanging out in front of the bar, I press my face up against the glass-covered poster announcing the whole affair, combing it for answers to my undying questions. Is it a pageant? Is it a shoe? Is it a bee? From all appearances, it's really just another night out on the sloppy underside of nothing to do. Mr. Downtown's Fifth Annual Birthday Bash promises drink specials, music, camaraderie and baby-oil wrestling. Everything but the kitchen sink, sans gratuitous dirty foam.
"Baby-oil wrestling!" marquees my friend, Tony-in-a-tie. "Will there be men baby-oil wrestling?"
We're not above this, you see. It's just more fun to judge from the other side of the taint.
But judge what? Tumbleweeds are fast replacing Orange Avenue's recent accrual of bent poles and hurricane debris, and when I press my ear against my soul, I swear I can hear the ocean. Surely there must be something to this whole Mr. Downtown send-up, right? Well, maybe not; it is Monday, the suit-and-tie Sabbath. And in a feat peculiar to such transient sideshows as night life in The City Beautiful, we're making a joke about ourselves at the expense of somebody else. Somebody crusty.
Intentions lubricated, we muscle our bodies past the muscle of the doorfolk to meet our overamped destiny and, presumably, spend the next half-hour or so justifying why we're here.
"That's Billy Manes," leans in a suit. "Give him whatever he wants."
Oh, that's why.
So off we go, past a dilapidated buffet of chicken nibbles and into the grand ballroom. A tedious up-and-down surveying walk around the circumference produces little trolling pleasure, so we crouch down near the back to receive the melodious rock-pop being pressed into us from the stage. This is what we deserve.
"We've got two more songs. Don't be pretentious," goads the band's frontman. "Where's Oscar? I know you're grabbing some tall blond booty!"
"Once again, we're Kaiser Soze!"
College boys beware: Usual Suspects references and Bruce Lee T-shirts do not mix. There just isn't enough irony in the world.
Someone on my periphery drags out a joke about never trusting a priest with a hard-on, and my brains drip lovingly from my ears, onto the floor and back to the gutter where they belong. Sob.
Brain-free, then, we take one more walk up to the obviously elevated VIP bar, just to see if anybody's here or if anybody's packing baby oil. No dice. Our exit beckons like a bad dream, until from the VIP corner-couch-velvet-rope hole comes a liquored come-on from none other than party girl Ashley Hoven, aka the little nick on the 'N Sync timeline. (She scored Chris. Pity.)
Ashley, tellingly, is now surrounded by a gaggle of well-to-do gay boys, one of whom runs a condo association. Really.
"This is the most sarcastic guy in Orlando," she kindly introduces, before suggesting that I "should do a story about how all the gay guys are moving to condos, and how it's such a great option." Wrong paper, wrong fag.
The ladies in the box start tittering about how they all told Ashley that Chris was gay, and that's why it would never last.
"Totally," I totally, somehow managing to drop my pants. This is my gauge of intake, by the way. A dropped trou means I've peaked.
Then, when Ashley and another gal-pal, Tammy, decide to go a little further and yank down my panties, I know it's time to go home. That's twice in two weeks, chart makers. I'm officially an exhibitionist, or a half-nudist. Either way, I'm empty.
Ill-advisedly, Tony and I make one final attempt to locate my Mr. Downtown crown at the almost-adjoining Bar-B-Q Bar enclave, where I'll do a ridiculous peeky-out-the-window cocaine-paranoia dance to the tune of "Rio," prior to dancing on the arms of a chair with my crotch in Tony's face. I'll think it's funny. The bartender won't.
This is the way a dream dies. Not with a bang, but a simper. Pass the tiara and the baby oil. I am Mr. Downtown.