Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Club at Firestone

What's this? A stir on the horizon?

The Club Firestone?

We had been hearing rumors for quite sometime that a hot happening gay bar was going to open in Orlando. It was going to be in the historic Firestone building in downtown Orlando. I had lived in Orlando since 1976 and I had never seen the place or knew what anyone was talking about. How could an old garage make a good club space. Everyone knows that ex-theaters make the best clubs. One need look no further than Club Z, 1235, or Paragon. By the way those were all the same club in Miami Beach, different names, but same amazing space.

Yes Firestone was coming and I knew I had to seize the moment. We could not let another great space fall in our laps once again, frequent it at the beginning and then go back to the PH a few months later only to watch the demise of the newer space. This had already sadly happened to our Central Station out in Fern Park, FL. To be fair there was something to do with shady finances on Central Station. Allegedly. What a shame they were the first club that I ever remembered bringing in hot muscle stud strippers from TX every Friday night. The Headliners. They should have called them The Curly Mullets, or The Workout Socks in Cowboy Boots with G-Strings. That was their look and they owned it. They were all HOT and I hated when that place closed.

Focus, focus. Sorry, back to the opening weekend at Firestone. Look white had worked for me in the past and it was easy enough to do. Everyone had at least a white t-shirt. But remember,
If you rolled with me, you commit to your costume and you commit fully or you Drive, Arrive, Dance, and probably Leave alone! You are not on my list and I don't want to stand next to you at the door. Got it? Believe me they all got it. If you chose not to participate in any one of my escapades you could always bow out, but not last minute. I told everyone that we needed to get on that guest list and that our theme was all white. Since we are going out in white let's just make them the hottest sexiest trend in the gay community: White Calvin Klein boxer briefs. Complete your look with combat boots and no shirt or a white shirt. I also knew that that particular look would show up great in all the black and white press photos that were sure to be taken. (See how my mind is always thinking?) Yes we really did go out in just our underwear (a lot). We did it all the time. Remember, safety in numbers...

We did it. We cracked the code and got on the DJ list, or manager list, or someone's list. It wasn't easy. It was also about the only time we were on the list in any way for years. Yeah, they got all that for nothing. Except for Don. Don knew one of the managers who had given him a black rubber pass. The black pass got you and one guest in, no questions asked. The rest of us scrambled. One exception was that Singhaus family was always kind enough to call ahead for a few of us if asked, or we just didn't care. We just wanted to go dancing. We had jobs, so we were about the only Club kids I knew that weren't all broke.

We went all 3 days of the opening. finishing off on the Sunday T-dance with Marcy Singhaus's famous & enormous Sangria. I told the boys if we could all go in force for 3 days, then it would help to create the buzz that would be needed to sustain our new playground. Lucky for all of us it worked. We only got better from that point on. We went every week. We were photographed often and our pictures were in all the rags. We were often mistaken for the Clubs own stripper/dancers. Hey hot bodies were in and I was in between them. Many of my friends could easily rival the muscle boys that actually were hired to dance on the tall speakers.

Speaking of speakers, I have a thing for dancing on them. Some girls dance on tables, some boys dance on boxes, but Glamour Boys dance on top of the biggest speakers in The Club. This is an old move that I had used at 1235, Backstreet in FLL, and the Palladium in NYC, etc.

The Club had one really perfect speaker. It was just past the first bar, adjacent to the dance floor, pointed at the big stage and high enough to deter others from thinking they could or would be welcome to join you atop it's lofty heights. That speaker was OURS. When I say ours, I mean it. We were known for dancing on that speaker and while I might have made a guest appearance on another speaker on a given night, that is the one we called home. The Club wised up and bought a spot light for that real estate so they could light us up the minute we decided to all jump up on top. Now this speaker was probably 8-10 feet long and about 5 feet off the floor. It sounds plenty big, but if you have 10 boys all in there underwear trying to dance on it and look cool, it often just became a giant grinding stone. We had lots of fun, cool moves for dancing together in the closest of quarters. Left hand forward, right hand back, all hands left over head, all hands right overhead all rock and grind forward, now all backward. I know it's hard to describe, but trust me if it didn't look good, would they have spent money on buying that spot light? I think not.

If the night at the Club had just the right energy (and it usually did, all it took was a diva singing out our new favorite tune) we would instantly know that our presence was needed. We would swarm from all corners on to our speaker and get in to the groove. Energy and excitement. The great music, costumes and space made us feel like we were a part of something big, something special.

If Gary R (not to be confused with Crazy Gary, as he had moved to D.C.) had a frustrating week, well nothing seemed to pick him up more than picking me up. Literally picking me up on his shoulders. Lucky me, all the Glamour Boys loved to play and put me on their shoulders. It was only natural and I was only about 130lbs, so it wouldn't kill even the smallest of my boys. I would fall back a bit and then it was just a simple tilt from there and outstretch my arms a bit and I was suddenly in the shape of a cross. They would carry me over the crowd to reach out to my adoring or abhorring fans. It was a great move. It was mine. I own the rights. Don't try it-you're not suited for it. Besides, it takes a lot of trust to let your friends carry you over a crowd. I should make it clear that I was never passed to the crowd. That would have never do! My carriers were selected based on height and shoulder strength. The tallest and the strongest got my shoulders the rest would grab my legs, back, or ass. I have a small advantage, I was only 130lbs but also 6 ft tall, so they had plenty of length and no real weight to bear. I also have a herrington rod in my spine so I was already stiff as a board. That is really the key to a good cross formation, you have to be stiff or you will look sloppy.

We almost always met at my house on Saturday nights (then the Clubs only real gay night). We drank Absolut and Cranberry. Then the famous words would be shouted from my mouth, "Get out of my house!" No kidding. I really meant it. Get out! The Club parking lot was $5 and it only held a few hundred cars. I did not want to be walking all over downtown in my underwear week after week. I needed to be in the official watched lot or I would not be a happy G.B. I also needed them all to leave as I had a long narrow driveway and that meant my car would be the last to leave the premises, making my parking chances dicey at best.

I believe that the true heights the Glamour Boys reached were forged in that Club Firestone and it all had it's roots in my past experience with how powerful a simple statement of all white dress could be. I have used a white theme for more than just Cinco de Mayo or Club events. But more on that later.

I have always said that my closets are our archives and our Costume Institute. My home is the THOMA Gallery (Thomas' House of Modern Art) . Hey funding is always hard in a downturned economy. Everything must have multiple uses.

I just thought you should know.

Middle picture left, you can see me with the long hair, and 4 of my boys on Our new speaker.
I am also in the bottom middle getting kissed by two of my hottest boys, Patrick and Darren.
(click on the photo to enlarge. Photo by Lorrie Del Mar, how funny is that. I have a great Lorrie Del Mar story to tell you about...)

Cinco de Mayo

I live in Florida and have been to both Spain and Mexico many times. I was also in Spanish Honor Society in High School. Yep, you guessed it, I can barely speak it at all. I can however tell most cab drivers from Madrid to Mexico City, where I want to go; how much I am willing to pay to get there, and to get back. I can also order off the menu and make sure we all get to the hottest night clubs no matter how scary that part of town may be at night.

What does Cinco de Mayo mean to me? Well it used to mean Jim's annual condo party in Winter Park FL. Now I don't know how I ever met Jim since we never hung out other than at his yearly party. It was probably during a happy hour at the Cactus Club in Orlando. Cactus used to be the Silver Hammer. The Hammer was a sleazy beer dive complete with male porn torn out of magazines, glued to the bar, then covered over poorly with resin like Evita's dead body...To last forever. Now the Silver Hammer had had it's day. Monday nights back in college were fun and I freely admit it. New owners many changes: Cactus Club. They cleaned it up and put down some tile, added pearlized peach leather sofas and removed the disgusting stall in the mens room that had my favorite Latin phrase, "Similie, Simili, Quo-dat (sp?)" Oh, yeah, I don't speak Latin either, but luckily the author may have neglected to leave a signature, he was kind enough to leave a translation, "One seeks to finds one's equal." You see a lot of that among gay men. So many want to date themselves and many do. "Which one is Frank again?"

So let's say I met Jim at the very busy Friday night happy hour at Cactus Club. I would get off work at 6pm and go home and take off my casual Friday shorts or jeans and put on a blazer and tie, call Crazy Gary to give heads up, and head out for the most fun happy hour this town ever really had. The CD juke box had a lot of dead black women singing the great standards. I know it sounds odd, but the music and the crowd were fun. Crazy Gary and I were sure that our upgrade in attire and our penchant for the standards, elevated this newest happy hour to the sensational success it enjoyed for many years. It was here that Jim most likely saw me and thrust an invitation to his annual event. Now, I didn't know him too well and wasn't sure who his crowd was but my boys were always looking for a new experience. I'm two steps ahead. If I was going to go to a party where I might not know many people, then I would bring my own insulated entourage. I have lots of party rules. Remember that one, because it's a good one.

The best way for others to know who is with you when you get to a party? Make them all wear white; show up during the peak. Peak hours at parties can be hard to judge. But, it's very important because you must also leave before that peak is over. You really can't be taught these things, but think about what time your local club gets hopping on that same night and be at your party about 40 min prior to the bar happening hours. If you arrive and cannot find a parking spot, then you are right on time. Park. Pool together. Enter en mass. I told you I have a lot of party rules, but never forget how fun I am to party with.

I put all my boys in white and we would burst through the front door, throw some cold beers at someone and make our way out to the tiny pool out back. The pool is where I knew we could find the bar and the bartender. Besides a crowed condo in FL is going to be way too hot to deal with. Now it wasn't always an open bar at this event, that is why you show up with the beer. If alcohol is not being freely offered, you won't be a freeloader. Beer is not a big commitment if the crowd is dull, you just bolt and you're out nothing. It would be tacky to take your beer with you when you leave.

The crowd would part when we arrived. Why? Because when 8-10 good looking men arrive at your party all in white, that is just how it goes. I didn't make that rule; but I respected it. (No, I probably did make that rule too come to think of it.)

(pictured Gary R., Darren , Tony I, Don, Me and my pussy, Dreeny, Miss Jackson, Blaine)

We would make our rounds, discreetly have a piece of cheese, some small talk, cruise, and then off to the Parliament House. Yeah, it's still there and is still going strong. I am happy to have our PH, regardless of it's reputation. I know how lucky I am to have had such a big place to go and play 7 nights a week. Say what you will about it's history, at least it was a big club and had a bit of everything. Many towns would kill for that and we just took it for granted. New places came and went all the time but the PH never left us even though sometimes we all wished it would. I don't hang out there any more, but I would be most likely wrong if I said I was never going to end up there again some evening. Since the PH was also a motel, it could stay open even without a big night. They could outlast any new upstart when it came to bars or clubs.

What's this? A stir on the horizon?

"There's an old garage on Orange Ave. that used to be a Firestone Station? What does that have to do with me and my needs?"

(to be continued)...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hotlanta Showgirls

Timeline: Circa 1991

Not Invited, and Underestimated.

So here is the scoop for gays under 30, straights almost entirely, or anyone who lived under a rock in the gay community. HOTLANTA was a really HUGE deal. It was pretty much the first Circuit Party and one of the biggest. It was basically a lot of hot gay men who would roll into Atlanta, stay at the Colony Hotel, drink 24/7 (because the bars never closed), go to the Circuit Parties, and then wake up and put on something silly like a Catholic School girl outfit with sequin swim cap, get on a raft and float down the river for hours to determine a winner. Or something like that, I'm no historian, but those are the basics. Most of my friends were always too hungover to even consider going down the cold dirty river on a raft.

Many of our friends had already decided on their roommates and it was clear that we were not invited. Furthermore we were never even considered during roommate plans that occurred at least a year in advance.

Enter Gary. Gary seemed to always be working an angle and this time was no exception. It turns out he had slept with a man who just happened to be in charge of costumes at the towns only real costume shop. He was told that he could put something together anytime if he ever needed to.

I should stop here and tell you that I have always thought that Gary might have been a crow in a previous life. He is always immediately drawn to anything that glitters, glows, or is bejeweled or bedazzled. He simply could not fathom letting a costume offer grow stale.

He called me from the costume shop and demanded I come down there after they were closed. He had suggested that we book flights ourselves and stay at a non-host hotel as the Colony had been sold out for a year (oh the shame!) We could go to Hotlanta on our own and rock out some fabulous costumes for the big major warehouse Circuit Party that Saturday night. We were too late to get a raft team together for the Sunday float, but we knew that we would be too exhausted to do that anyway. It wasn't the first time I'd ever crashed a party in full swing.

Gary and I were good friends, but not like we are now. Today we have lots of battle scars and many more stories to tell. But, a this point in our friendship, I can't say that I trusted his taste or ideas 100%. My reputation was on the line and one thing I have always been in charge of it ME. I didn't have the body that Gary did and I needed to make sure that I was not too exposed. I showed up at the costume store and immediately said no to the beaded skull caps that Gary wanted to wear on our heads. I can commit to my costume all night long, no matter how uncomfortable, but a skull cap would melt us in the Atlanta muggy heat of any Circuit Party, plus who would be able to see them from a distance, beaded or not? To top it off he had chosen the most risque outfits the shop had to offer. WRONG!

I shouldn't be so harsh, they were fabulous outfits, but they were going to need some modifications if I was going to rock it out with confidence. The shop was closed and now in my control. I did some quick looking around and found the perfect head pieces and they even matched the sequin beaded outfits he had chosen. I don't have the ass for a g-string look, but I solved that too in another little trick of the trade, feathers. I also found something else to provide me with a little more coverage and a little more glamour. We borrowed some combat boots to pull our look together. Now all we needed were the balls to pull this off in public. Have I mentioned that Gary and I have big balls? Gary and I have big balls. There now I've mentioned it.

We booked a cheap flight and headed to Atlanta. On that flight there was a small boy with dark features in short cut offs and combat boots. He was adorable and I knew that I had seen him out before. Poor little elf was just too short to stow that duffle in the overhead bin. Lucky for him I was available. That was the first real meeting of a future Glamour Boy. This meeting was important but no one knew it at the time, but more on him later.

Gary and I checked in to our to our B hotel and then went to the Colony Hotel to a frosty reception before the big warehouse party. Don't forget we weren't invited so all were surprised to see us. So far I am bored and hot.

We borrowed my good friend Joe's room at the Colony to get dressed. Here we go, no turning back now. We ended up coming down the Grand Staircase of the Colony Hotel side by side, and after we turned the corner on the staircase there was applause and a standing ovation from all the hot Atlanta boys and men still gathered at the overcrowded lobby bar. Vindication, table for 2?

We were a hit at the party and really the only ones in any kind of costume. Costumes and themes had not yet caught on at parties. We were always ahead of our time. We posed for 100s of photos with hot men. Many of the boys thought we were from NYC. Hmm, I hadn't even considered that when choosing our pieces, but a NYC reputation only put another plus mark in our column. I can't tell people what to think, but I can guide them...

After the party we hitched a ride back to the Colony on the back end of a friends VW Cabriolet. We sat on the back and waved to the crowds in the huge traffic jam. That was almost as much fun as the party.

I was not used to wearing heavy combat boots and my feet and legs were killing me. I was done. Boring I know, but I preferred to always leave them wanting more. Gary on the other hand was energized by our success and he preferred to rub some noses in his earlier rejection by partying all night long in his outfit. But, while I was sleeping I was also extending my own success and reputation through Gary, because he was still in costume. Important lesson; you can extend your reach through others when you dress in costume. Everyone simply assumed I was at the bar or grinding on the dance floor. This is especially successful when attending multiple parties on the same evening in costume. "Where's Thomas?" "Oh, he probably over there..."

I finally saw him again around 8AM when he straggled in the next morning. He was still in what was left of his outfit. He had chosen to go out wearing only the few scandalous items he had originally chosen. That meant no headpiece and no coat. We had had them sew some feathers onto our g-strings, well, that morning the only thing left of his feathers were a few filthy strings. Lucky for him the deposit he left at the costume store was not exactly in cash, if you know what I mean. He was not certainly not going to get that deposit back.

You know in the harsh light of day, you realize some things are really meant to be seen only at night and with kinder lighting. He was exhausted but had many fun stories to tell.

From this point on Gary will also be known as Crazy Gary, and if you are not yet convinced, well then stay tuned. I can prove it all many times over. Don't worry he knows he's crazy.

We proved HOTLANTA was not just for the hot bodies that year. All you need to do is make a splash and I don't mean in the river. If you can cover, or uncover most of your body then you can own that town. HOTLANTA is over now, sad, but what do I care? Our stock had risen.

We did have fun in Atlanta, but we never went back to HOTLANTA. A few years later we did send one of our own Glamour Boys to compete in the Mr. Hotlanta contest. We even took out a full page ad to promote and congratulate our contestant. The ad and the contestant proved the Glamour Boys were not to be taken for granted and we were here to stay.

What about the boy on the plane? Oh, that is another book or two books, but I assure you that you will hear more about that character as I have already obtained authorization to use him and his name on my blog or any other medium. "That's a Tony Ivory Story" they will be hilarious.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

So here I am,

Okay, you got me. I am a self titled and self professed Glamour Boy. A title that me and many of my friends have carried for 20 years.

I lived my life for many years as if I were a supermodel. I grew my hair LONG and invested in some amazing Steam Rollers. Hot rollers? Never! I could do a 4 roller full body set, but for special occasions; 13 rollers and voila!

My boys were beautiful men, muscled, toned and groomed, and no one even smoked. We were all such wonderful friends and making our way in the World . But on the weekends, I led them all on a very wild ride that lasted many years. Costumes, props and travel. Fun and mayhem. Drama? Not really. I was very careful with my influence. I knew I had a lot of power over the boys but I always used my power for good and not for evil. But those who crossed me were crossed off and tossed out. Many tried to break in (usually for the sole purpose of sleeping with one of my boys) and believe me it wasn't easy, even if the boys were. You were always on probation with me. My way or highway honey.

I was usually one step ahead of our press and had a knack for knowing what would work and what wouldn't work. It's amazing how much attention and fun you can have when you get 8-12 muscle boys to dress alike and carry you over the crowds in a cross formation.

Let the fun begin...