By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
James Melgar is a dark and handsome waiter in his early twenties. He is also a speed eater who has devoured 21 ears of sweet corn in eight minutes, modeled in New York, and done extra work in L.A.
And he has been sucking down suds since he was 10 years old. "The first beer I ever chugged was a Corona," he says with a smile that reveals a set of swoon-worthy dimples. "I got it from my dad's refrigerator."
We're standing on the lush, breezy patio of The Vagabond (30 NE 14th St., Miami) during (((Shake))), a Cuban-spiced Thursday-night shindig heavy on early-Nineties nostalgia and topped with tons of deliciously filthy 305 flavor. The event's hosts — Sweat Records and the ¿Que Pasa M.I.A.? crew — are rewinding to a time when Miami had only one area code (sorry, 786) and The JukeBox showed nothing but videos of Uncle Luke telling shaking, G-stringed asses that it was, indeed, their birthdays.
Although the gold-grill-filled night claims to be "anti-hipster," it paradoxically attracts the stylistically unwashed who love the tongue-in-cheek nature of popping their coochies to 2 Live Crew, playing old-school Nintendo, sipping on gin 'n' juice, eating pan con lechón off a sheet of tin foil, and possibly bumping into a grown man dressed up as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
The real star of the night is the Colt 45 Chugging Contest. And that's not because past prizes have included swirling, trippy artwork or Heat tickets. It's due to the crowd's desire to compete with the five-time reigning beast of a champ: James. Word on the street is that witnessing the guy in action is like watching Garfield the cat unhinge his jaw and gulp down whole chickens, lasagna, cupcakes, pots, and pans from a large banquet table in five seconds.
"I think the whole thing is hilarious," says James, mocking his budding notoriety before pounding a dewy can of malt liquor.
As he shuffles off to grab another drink, I move on to Marissa, a counterculture Barbie doll who is wearing tiny white shorts and leaning over the top of the outside bar, begging for male attention. She is heavily tattooed and leggy, and her blond hair emits a green hue whenever she strolls under artificial light.
I'm not a man, and she's not a chugger, but judging by her lips, spackled with layers of gooey gloss, I'm guessing she has stuck a few freaky foreign objects into that orifice.
"The weirdest thing I ever put in my mouth was chicken and waffles," she says, her blue, doe-like/Anime-porn eyes enlarging with the expectation of shock. "And I once accidentally drank some bong water."
"Uh, I once got paid $10 to chug a plastic cup filled with spit-out dip."
Well, at least that explains the hair color.
Next I spot two girls chatting by the centerpiece of The Vagabond's bohemian back yard: a fountain that propels fine streams of water up and over a glowing fire. One is Renee, a sweet and friendly 23-year-old with dyed red hair, a Cindy Crawford-mole piercing, and two teased and curled lavender gift-wrap ribbons safety-pinned to the spaghetti straps of her top. She says she wants to be a librarian and then fills me in on the wonders of playing a game called "Power Hour" that involves taking a shot of beer every minute for an hour.
It's almost midnight, and in the spirit of Dirty Hour — a 10 p.m.-to-12 a.m. special in which Colt 45 tall-boys go for just a buck — I ask her to serve up the nasty. "What's the foulest thing that's touched your tongue?"
She tells me about sucking on a pool cue. "I stuck the tip in my mouth for a dollar." Renee then admits to eating cake from the garbage and sampling random plants such as bougainvilleas and angel trumpets, right off the vine, in hopes of getting high.
Her friend, a pigtailed brunette named Kat, does better: "When I was 15, my friends and I thought it would be a great idea to make a beer bong out of a vacuum cleaner hose. We just took off the attachment without cleaning it, stuck one end in my mouth, and poured a bottle of Heineken down the other. As soon as the beer and a giant hairball hit my tongue, I got so grossed out that I started to throw up whole mushrooms from a pizza we ate earlier."
By now it's 1 a.m., and a brief come-and-chug announcement blasts from the sound system. Judging by the small crowd assembled at a DJ stand, I'm thinking it's time to unleash the beer-slamming stallions.
On the way to check out the show, I run into Alex, a small man with big plans. "I think I can drink faster than James," he says. "Unfortunately I almost died from choking on my own vomit after getting alcohol poisoning on my 21st birthday. A friend of mine heard me gurgling in my sleep and turned me from my back to my side, thank God. But it really sucked. I haven't really drank since then, but I used to be able to down a quart in a minute. When I heard about this competition, I decided to start training."