Here we are. The end of our journey — the final episode (lucky 13!) of our Throwback Thursdays, Memorable Mondays, F@#king Fridays, and all the weeks, years, and decades I spent in the rainbow trenches of several gay bars.
My resume recounts 35 eventful, exciting, and exhausting years — days and nights working with characters who could easily be cast in gay soap operas. Their outlandish antics easily rivaling any twisted plots served up to date. Yet, I feel as if I barely scratched the glittered surface of the booze-soaked, weenie-wagging, perpetual party of my history. Not to mention the all-out drama that came with the territory.
Though true, I spilled tea like a drunken drag queen spewing obscenities over a microphone. I found myself avoiding naming names (though it wouldn’t take Nancy Drew to figure them out), feeling a hint of loyalty to our lifestyle which to outsiders might scream of decadence, dysfunction, and downright dirtiness in deeds and words. But from inside the whirlwind, I was able to see beyond the constant craziness to the heart of our mirror-balled culture.
I’ve seen dozens of first-timers don hideous dresses, ratty wigs, and size 14 shoes looking like lumberjacks (or the rare supermodel!) sweating caked-on makeup off to raise money for any number of causes. Employees spending hard-earned dollars on costumes of fake hair, hips, and oversized tits to assist friends and strangers. There were countless professional entertainers who donated tips alongside singers and dancers. Enormous amounts of dollar bills stuffed in fake bosoms and packed G-strings (some also fake).
Bar owners would step up, donating space, offering discounted cocktails, and occasionally pitching in their own profits to further the charitable cause. Behind the scenes, there were good deeds that were never spotlighted. Bar staff generally considered themselves extended family and assisted each in multiple ways on the job and off. Of course, there were always feuds based on who was sleeping together, jealousies, and all-out bitchiness over any number of petty quarrels deserved or not.
Not to be discounted where the majority of patrons could be fiercely loyal to a bar or bars. They would generously give to fundraisers and support their favorite bartenders.
But let a new club open and they would scatter like rats from a sinking ship to check it out. It would not take long for them to cast a critical verdict and add the new establishment to their partying rounds or settle back on their familiar barstools.
There were social organizations that worked tirelessly to raise money for charitable causes. Some have now dissolved, but in their heyday generated impressive funds with fabulous parties and shows. Many have weathered decades of change and remain, giving a stable recognition to what can appear as the shakiest of foundations.
Although now removed from so much of the mirror-balls, music, and manic energy of the bars, I had my fair share over three decades working in marketing, promotions, and event planning, plus a long stint slinging cocktails and emceeing strip shows and karaoke. I experienced the lifestyle in all its drama and tragedy, rich diversity personally and vicariously. To say “never a dull moment” is a gross understatement. In the rare moments of quiet, it was merely “the calm before the storm.”
A storm of fabulous fun on so many levels. Laughter to spare. An abundance of sex and occasionally tears, mostly over the complications from the abundance of sex!
I somehow survived many pitfalls of our oh-so-gay lifestyle and emerged as a voice of our history, reason, and a mentor to younger gays who rival my generation in their ability to grab all the gusto life has to offer while avoiding some of the pitfalls. I hope through my recounted experience that there is a footprint that provides a path of good choices. After all, we are given all of the elements to be unique. Let’s throw a little glitter, avoid throwing shade and share ourselves with the world! After all, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”
The end. For now.