Like so many other spry bits of queer bait with a propensity for nightlife chumming, I've dropped most of the obvious pretenses of dolled-up, decked-out, program-oriented entertainment in favor of that elusive worm at the bottom of the next cocktail. And while some of my best friends are drag queens, there is very little warbly-lipped impersonation involved in my daily stumbles, and I like it that way.
So the fact that there is a decided grimace and a barely audible buzzing grumble coming from my face should come as a surprise to no one as I await what is the beginning of a very long, dragged-out affair. Tonight, in the Footlight Theater of The Parliament House, some sort of Miss Comedy Queen pageant is to unfold to the bemusement of those typically bemused by a shiny sequin and a rolled eye. I'll just bury myself in my gaggle of hens, and nurse my own peculiar brand of ADD (another double drink).
In order to make things more interesting to myself, I'm instantly squeaking along to the preshow music and making up my own haphazard routines to "Caribbean Queen" and "Object of My Desire" in my head.
"Billy, it's amazing how you imitate these artists," my friend Darren lies to my face.
"I know, right?" I kick up a gam. "It's like I just fall into their skin."
While I'd like to report that I have a clear memory of the evening's events, that's never the case. Instead, I take to writing down random quotes that hover in the air and observations about cheekbones beneath concealer, praying that later they might jar an alcoholic memory loose and congeal into something resembling a body of work.
What I do remember, though, is that the event, hosted by the ubiquitous Miss Sammy and her sometime sidekick, Carol Lee, is kind of funny. And since they're both dressed in nun's habits, it's a little scandalous, too. There's the obligatory Supremes number replete with simplistic choreography and standard-bearing irony, mostly proffered by my friend Loc, who, in drag, is April Fresh, and some blasphemous comical shtick given willy-nilly (which is a nickname assigned to me by one of my friends not in attendance) by the hosts. And while my cynicism is dripping from my temples, quips like "Sister Marijuana could be a hit" do provoke a digestively unsound chuckle.
Mary Magdalene is tonight's Pamela Anderson, actually, roasting in the juices of gay inventiveness.
"Mary Magdalene took it in the behind," Sammy lubricates for no apparent reason. And, predictably, "habit" jokes are easy to come by.
Yet, still, I'm not convinced that there is any reason to be here polluting the situation with my Debbie Downer finger-drumming. And that won't change, like my gender. The point of the evening, because there has to be a point, is for a series of eight impersonating hopefuls to display their wares in a contest of relative hilarity, except they really aren't amusing. They are either large or skinny, boring or boring, and the only things saving the affair are the seasoned regulars who know how to get a rise out of a captive audience.
One contestant appears in a shawl/ muumuu situation, twirls and elicits only the roll of one eye from me, and I didn't think that was physically possible.
"It looks like a couch cover," upholsters my friend Taylor. "And the 'ch' is silent."
Another tragic twig high heel-tiptoes through the theme from The Nanny, introducing her/himself as somebody from Tampa (oh, Tampa) and then slipping momentarily into character with a sad take on Fran Drescher's toxic laugh. It's almost too much to bear. OK, it is too much to bear.
My friend Tony and I have already devised a secret pinkie raise for when we need to impolitely excuse ourselves, and by this point our pinkies are cramped in rigor mortis. Even though, come to find out, we'll miss Loc's fabulous rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "I Drove All Night" and a fatty drag queen in an orca costume being pelted with canned tuna, this sort of sacrifice is sometimes necessary. But not always advisable.
Tony and I decide to make ourselves even less able to stand up and even more able to hate everything by popping into the Peacock Room on the way home. Niceties abound, conversations percolate and all of the ingredients for a sealant to cap off an iffy night swirl lovingly in the air. But like most studies in toxicology, things quickly go horribly wrong.
Somebody I don't really know well at all introduces me to somebody I've never met, and a sort of psychopathic, Bret Easton Ellis queer dance ensues. In one hour I'm effectively kidnapped to go to an ATM at 7-Eleven, and I'm dancing on dangerous psychological ground.
"That's my coke dealer," snorts the Full Sail faux-hawk with whom I have no history.
"I don't do coke anymore," I wipe my nose.
"Nobody doesn't do coke anymore," he laughs like Patrick Bateman.
Fortunately, we arrive back at the bar unpowdered, but I can't help but think I'm being taken for another sort of ride altogether. My insistence that I have a boyfriend at home and absolutely no interest in another 20-something haircut who used to promote parties in South Beach is met with an ottoman straddle and an open mouth over my polite closed-mouth kiss goodbye. Said hawk also stumbles into a tirade at my friend Claire, who actually has a career in broadcasting and not just a $20,000 IOU to University Boulevard.
"You can just stay in Orlando," he bitches. "I'm going places." He brags to Claire that he had indeed "made out with Billy Manes … twice."
Who hasn't? Well, he hasn't.
It's a tumultuous ending to a night that might have involved a slipped mickey and a few slipped wigs, and I'm never going out again. Not until I get my heel fixed, anyway.