Ladies Night

Drag queens, hard rock, and the death of the nuclear family

It was late on a Monday at The Naked Grape in the Wilton Manors neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, after one of Richard Cortez's weekly concerts, that I first heard about The Fantasy Party. Richard was packing up his guitar and amps and walking them to his car with a portly, effeminate person who was barely awake, yet seemed interesting anyway. Eventually Richard introduced the creature as "Miss Noel," which was nothing weird. Getting introduced to men by their drag names is one of the things you get used to in SoFla. Miss Noel definitely had the drag queen vibe — the aura of convivial self-confidence that surrounds them like a cloud of knockoff Chanel.

"Nice to meet you," I said, and we proceeded to sleepwalk through the usual pleasantries. It was nice enough, but I cannot say I was really paying attention until Richard said, "Noel's the MC in my new show."

New show? I had heard of no new show. What kind of new show?

"The Fantasy Party," Richard said. "Boys in their underwear, lots of dancing, some singing, a little raunch — the theme is 'the ultimate bachelorette party.' Lots of audience interaction, a blow job contest. You should review it." I said something along the lines of,"I'll take it under advisement." This was a lie.

This was a lie because I knew already I'd have to review The Fantasy Party. Even a conservative definition of "performance art" should leave room for boys in their underwear. Say what you will about your Sondheims and Simons, your Mamets and LaButes: A few seasons' subscriptions to theaters with these men on their minds will explain the meaning of life and illuminate the infinite joys and sorrows of the human condition. But you will find very little nudity at a Neil Simon show. Nobody will tell you to "save a horse, ride a cowboy." It is improbable that anybody will sit on your face. If you think this is a problem, you're right, and that is the reason I reserve my right to seek the meaning of life in the curve of a Speedo's bulge.

My date and I arrive at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino ten minutes before the 9:00 showtime on Saturday night. It iss 9:15 before somebody directs us to Passions, a nightclub in the Seminole Paradise that we'd somehow zipped past no less than four times without even noticing. We fly quickly through the labyrinthine assemblage of velvet ropes that surrounded both sides of the club's entrance. Half of the room's dance floor has been filled with white folding chairs, and off to either side are sleek, modern couches next to sleek, modern coffee tables, all cream-colored or black. In the center of the room is Miss Noel, done up in a glorious outfit that is both stunning and lurid, her dress made of an unknown material that has been dyed a mutant variant of pink that I have never before encountered, and which I still cannot rightly describe.

The audience is made up of women in their midtwenties to early thirties, all of whom appear pretty suburban. These are the Future Soccer Moms of America, and at this moment a drag queen is instructing them to respond to any use of the word "sex" with a rousing chorus of "OH BABY."

"OH BABY!" the women shriek, and my date and I grab a seat on one of the couches in a corner of the room. Then Ms. Noel introduces the boys to the descending piano riff of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll." They lip-synch and work their buns and dance the kind of dance you'd see in a Janet Jackson video from the early Nineties. Then the women in the audience are exhorted to dance with the performers. Then there is a fake orgasm contest. Of the three contestants, one woman does a decent fake orgasm, another does an excellent fake Meg Ryan, and the third, I am pretty sure, actually has an orgasm. Then more dancing. The boys appear as firefighters (in their underwear); they appear as cowboys (in their underwear, to the strains of Big & Rich's aforementioned "Save a Horse ... "). All the while Miss Noel keeps a steady patter of high-velocity wit that's extraordinarily funny, but I find I cannot take notes with all of the strobes and clubby lights. It is the wrong environment. I am watching and trying to find a moral.

A moral? This is the wrong environment for that too, but I am curious: While the dancing boys are all genuinely sexy, and while the music is loud and infectious, aren't the ladies going a bit overboard? I have a healthy libido, but I am having no trouble controlling my hands. A woman in front of me, meanwhile, snatches one of the dancers' asses and squeezes. He raises his arms, doing whatever it is that male dancers do in these situations, and this woman pulls his ass in towards her face, parts his butt-cheeks with her hands, and then plows her schnoz right into his Speedoed ass crack. She roots around like a sow snuffling after truffles. He laughs and dances away.

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