On a recent Friday night, Living Room, the cavernous Fort Lauderdale gay club, was bathed in black lights. There were the usual go-go dancers and drag queens.
Men, and the occasional guidette, danced to stock tribal house in varying degrees of undress. The place was a jungle. Literally. This wasn't your typical circuit party, Living Room was in the middle of an "Avatar"-themed party. And it wasn't the only one. Discotekka, downtown Miami's twink mecca, had one the same night. What was happening here? After getting bruised by Cuban communists, was 20th Century Fox pushing a queer meme on "Avatar"? Is James Cameron the new gay diva?
The Fort Lauderdale club went for the full Cameron Friday night. Christian Leonard, the club's publicist, says it took ten people, eight hours to fully transform the already Amazon-like space into something resembling Pandora. They painted the floor with fluorescent colors, and covered the ceiling with weedy netting to resemble a canopy. The typically scantily clad bartenders were scantily clad again, only bluer. Drag queens Na'vi-ly accessorized with head-dresses and day-glow makeup. The club even hired a face-painter to bedazzle the gays, gratis.
It would seem sci-fi and gays mix as well as water and oil, as Michele Bachmann and Barney Frank. James Cameron's movies are the stuff geeky fanboys' wet dreams are made off. But with this movie Kathryn Bigelow's ex has accidentally created a mirror universe for locals: going to gay clubs in South Florida is already a CGI, out-of-body head-trip. Down here, "Avatar" plays like a documentary.
When asked why, of all the movies to organize a theme party around, they chose "Avatar," Leonard got reflective. "The drama of the movie parallels the drama in the nightlife world," he says. "Everyone's calling the police on each other, liquor license inspectors, booking celebrities against each other."
There was also another reason for the event: sales. Club-owners saw an opportunity to capitalize on a massively popular movie. Between, the two clubs, Leonard says the party attracted 4,000 guests. Expecting "Alice in Wonderland" to do well at the box office, he says both clubs will throw parties for that too.
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But, Jason Tucker, one of the organizers of Gaylaxicon, the annual queer sci-fi convention, doesn't see the parties becoming ubiquitous. The mainstream still sees sci-fi as unhip, he says. And James Barrett, a former convention attendee, says that while in "someone's fantasy-writing some poor human has already been fisted by a Na'vi," the movie is not likely to explode as a fetish object in the gay community for that same reason.
Living Room and Discotekka are the only clubs in the country so far that have thrown "Avatar" parties, according to noiZe magazine, the official circuit party magazine. Tucker, instead, has a simpler explanation for the success of the South Florida parties: "We rarely seem to need an excuse to dress up."
Queer shaman Michael Musto, who incidentally is celebrating 25 years as a columnist for sister paper the Village Voice, put it more succinctly: "'Avatar' is across the boards in popularity but it's not going to become a gay phenomenon that will replace Lady Gaga as their favorite blue person."
But maybe the pope is wrong. A week after Living Room's party, this avatard turned up at one of this weekend's Winter Party events.