Monday, February 11, 2008

Early Intentions & The Velvet Rope

When I relocated to the East Coast years ago, I had no desire or expectation to become a club kid. I moved here to see if I could make it as a stage and perhaps soap opera actor, and then eventually make my way to LA for movies and TV.

I did perform on stage (off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway), but it didn't equal the buzz of clubbing alongside celebrity models, actors, and assorted moneyed people.

"We had a special need to feel that we belong. Come with me inside my velvet rope."

I was introduced to clubbing and bypassing velvet ropes when I met Norma, an exotic, Asian-looking South American promoter at a tasting party for Johnny Walker
at a now defunct supper club, Laura Belle.

I can't recall now if I went alone, but I do remember that I met a beautiful African American actress, Echo, who wore Pippi Longstocking plaits and Western-style clothing. At some point during the night, we ended up dancing together in the center of the floor. Norma approached and introduced herself to us later that night, business card in hand, and invited us to do what we did the following week at one of her events.

I remember some of the club and lounge names from back then: Club USA, Limelight, Peggy Sue's, Supper Club, Tilt, Tatou.

Guest lists are interesting inventions because power and privilege shifts from day to night. Corporate sharks and executives were usually those opposite the velvet rope, whereas those of us without designer suits and trust funds were admitted free of charge and without delay.

It was an addictive lifestyle of our piling up in yellow cabs and traveling to several clubs at night, and having breakfast just before sunrise on certain mornings a week. We (Fitz, Sandra, Paul, Nigel, etc.) worked odd jobs and/or in retail, so it was easier to maintain our version of jet-set.

I wouldn't change much from those years of dancing alongside Beverly Johnson or Naomi Campbell while RuPaul or Lypsinka performed larger than life on stage. Nothing was remotely close to my experiences in NYC back in Houston when I visited over the years. What I liked about my temporary fabulous life was that it was an escape and an adventure.

"We had a special need to feel that we belong. Come with me inside my velvet rope."

Most of the former posse is no longer active in the NYC nightlife, now replaced by spouses, children, relocation, and careers. There was an older white man who either worked for Spy Magazine or just liked wearing a hat emblazoned with its logo. He was easily seventy-five years old ten years ago when we were clubbing. I wonder if he's still out there with a special need?

I ran into Norma a few years ago when I attended an event. She asked, "Are you still working it?"

"I'm trying," I said, and made my way to the other side of the club. I wasn't embarrassed, but seeing her did take me back a few years to the potato sack and circular slide at Club USA.

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