Old Twist

In hetero circles, the mention of a gay South Beach nightclub still conjures images of Robin Williams and Nathan Lane flittering about the Birdcage. Visions of the Village People or even Keanu Reeves (c'mon, lighten up) dance in hetero heads. Aaah, the attitude, the glitter, the duct tape, the RuPaul sashay. It must be fabulous and fierce, dahling. Just like the movies. Or like TV and those really funny characters from Will and Grace must be there. Jack and Karen. Oh honey, those two are a blast.

But much to Clubbed's dismay, the boys are tamer these days. Long gone are the wild Twist nights when leering men came to dance and meet young twinks and banjees. There was movement and life on the upstairs dance floor as up-and-coming divas fiercely pounded through the club's dark hallways. Now only the lonely sit perched at the bar with no company other than Derek the bartender and a video of American Pie 2. Will and Anastasia Beaverhausen aren't watching Ingmar Bergman movies tonight. For one unfortunate solo drinker it's a Blockbuster Night. No popcorn though. Just the stench of too many fallen party victims. The reek of yesterday. Even Rosario and gallons of bleach and disinfectant can't remove the aroma of the battle-bruised.

White glow from the television acts as confidant for Mr. Lonely's private thoughts. This place doesn't even look like Grace did the decorating.

Closed captioning races up and down as Stifler and Jim share tongue to the soundtrack of the Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" ringing out in this empty corner of Twist.

"I bring in my own music and movies because I would rather watch this over some of the music videos, or the other stuff," says the young brunet barman, Derek. The other stuff he is speaking of is the Clockwork Orange behavior modification technique-styled videos that usually play on the video monitors in the downstairs bars. Watching bulging hunks on video can get a little passé, perhaps. It can make even the most undersexed person numb. But next door in the other bar there ain't no need to break tradition. No riveting cinematic dramas to debate over. Just the other stuff.

On the TV monitor in the other room, oiled, muscular male models wearing bulging banana hammocks stare narcissistically at themselves in a kind of cocktail circle-jerk. Hercules on parade. All the naked, buff flesh that you can digest -- and then some.

"So he says, 'There is no porn showing anywhere in this place!'" one of the tanned men chuckles, imitating a gentleman who left earlier in a huff. The thrill-seeker must have left moments before the bartender pushed play on this timeless tail, um, tale. No one here now is paying much attention to the skin flick, though.

A haggard transvestite sips martinis at the bar. She wears a T-shirt that hugs her silicone breasts so tightly the word Hustler practically jumps off her chest. Too much hard liquor and too much mascara mar her face, but she's better-looking than Bernadette Bassenger, and tonight she'll do just fine for her drinking chums as a surrogate mother.

A less socially skilled stiff in sideburns taps away at a game of Galaga, saving his Earth from alien invaders, or maybe from 50-foot women on the attack. The flashing lights have him in a hypnotic trance; oblivious to the Herculean congress at the bar laughing at his expense. Maybe the video games were meant to be bar-talk fodder for men reminiscing en route to the restrooms about boyhood schemes sneaking coins to play Ms. Pac-Man at the arcade, they joke, not as an actual date for the evening.

Outside in Bungalow Bar a more lively crowd of young and old, straight and gay, bears an eerie resemblance to the scene you might find on a drunken stroll up Duval Street. Still no Albin and Georges. Everyone is quietly reserved.

Hawaiian-shirted, round men in follicle regression chat it up with just-over-21 boys still learning the English language. Their middle-aged bellies rub against the bar as they squirm on the stools. Sprinkle in a bleached-blond fag hag here and there and you got yourself a mini-Margaritaville. Not all of the men (or women) are wasted away again, however. There are quite a few lookers squeezed in this standing-room-only crowd, singing along to the patio singer.

Her name is Lola. She is a showgirl. A tall blonde who's seen it all before -- and bought the T-shirts to match. For three years now, she's been serving up her sexy Bungalow sass. She gets the boys going with a rendition of the Aretha Franklin classic, "Natural Woman." Catcalls pierce the air.

"I don't like Vegas," she announces. "It's not for me." She would rather be singing to her fellas and Frank, the bartender in the Bungalow. The drunken and sometimes drugged-up rowdies dancing under the moonlight of Miami are audience enough for her.

Tara, a regular to Lola's Tuesday-night show, dances wildly. "You are just wonderful," she slurs, almost moved to tears by Lola and liquor.

Lola breaks into Luther Vandross's "Never Too Much" and everyone continues to sing along like characters from some old episode of Cheers. One of Lola's admirers blows out the candles on a birthday cake and for a moment Twist heats up again. Maybe we just needed a lil' alcohol to separate the party boys from the men.

But no. The moment flames out like the candles. When the smoke clears, all that's left is some guys, some video games, Lola, and Mr. Lonely watching kids come of age in band camp. Maybe Val really did go off and marry a woman.