30 QUEER YEARS 


There are lines that you cross, and lines that you either ignore or discreetly inhale. For me, turning 30 involved a healthy dose of both of the latter, and then a tail-tucked, drawn-faced shuffle through the former, only because time wouldn't listen to the primal screams my aging gut threw forth. Maybe because they were full of vomit.

Anyway, tonight is the 30th birthday celebration of and at The Parliament House, which may or may not be the only over-30 institution in this town that's still as dirty as me. I'm actually quite excited, if a little obligated, to be here. When I look back over my mental (and mentally challenged) scrapbook of dog-eared Parliament House memories, there is no math available to reconcile them, short of a suitably tipsy revisit to Calculus II. I've differentiated with the worst of them, and if the quadratic equation involves "all fours," then I'm so Good Will Hunting that I can't even stand it.

During my eight-year tenure in these parts and at this bar, I've conjured my first bathroom kiss, an odd situation with a minister, your typical grocery list of drunken exploits, a Gay Day or seven in which I might have hit a car or two in the parking lot, a secondhand introduction to the term "balcony bingo," a flipped car, and just about every regret-inspiring dysfunction imaginable, minus the STDs.

I also met my husband here – on Super Bowl Sunday, no less – when we played fingersies under the bar and ended up going to one of his company parties and making out in his boss' bed five years ago. Romance was born. Dogs were purchased. People really do win on MTV. Paint the muthah pink!

Clearly, I've got a lot of love for The Parliament House – sort of like I would have for a drunk, sexually abusive minister – but it's still love (Oh, Father!). You've got to hand(job) it to Orlando and its most unique institution, so I'm here to do so. And I'm not alone.

"Where are you?" screams my favorite person, Real Radio's Sexy Savannah, over the cell phone.

"I'm in a whirlpool of cultural observation, of course," I retort.

Savannah's just returned from a cameo at Jim Philips' Real Radio poker tournament, and is a little bit tired. She just wants to be in a place where she's "more comfortable." Naturally, that's with me at The Parliament House, where I can drink and fall out to her general bemusement, and I'm more than happy to oblige. We're soooo the new power couple, even if she's about 10 feet taller than me. Next to her I feel like Aaron Spelling, and that can't be bad, can it? Charmed, I'm sure.

Turns out my charm is short tonight, as cruise director Michael Wanzie is out with the gout and therefore unable to submit his guest list. I pretend not to mind as I flop out a couple of wadded $10 bills for me and my arm candy, but instinctively it raises one brow to a potentially sinister level. I mean, if Savannah and I can't get in for free, who can?

Enter Daisy Lynum.

The city commissioner is here to bestow some sort of honor on just what the P has done for her D, yo, and is hanging out with the owners at the front of the joint. Now, Daisy and I have some history – we were both judges at a drag-ish tennis benefit here once – but we haven't really remained close. I don't think she even spoke to me for one minute during my mayoral campaign (and, believe me, I never thought I would say that sentence). I'm more of a Patty guy, anyway (that one, too). But tonight, she grabs my arm.

"Hey, Billy," she daisies. "You know, I had this image of you as being so pure and innocent."

"Even though I pulled my pants down at that pageant?" I unzip.

"Yeah," she zips me back up. "But a friend of mine told me otherwise."

And maybe this column would have, too. Anyway, it's an odd encounter and I'm not sure just where to place it. OK, here would be a good place.

Savannah and I descend into a blond, childlike innocence peculiar to media personalities on a Saturday night at a gay bar. We meet up with my friends John and Greg and join around in a mobile gossip circle that is only occasionally penetrated by polite well-wishers – more for Savannah than me, but still somehow similar. And we're having a blast.

Daisy gets up on stage with the owners and sundry female impersonators to grant political immunity or something to the 30-year-old resort, and fumbles over unlikely words like "prosperity," opting to drop a syllable and offer "prospity."

"Did she just say 'prospity?'" I double-take.

"Totally," Savannah totallies.

Even the odd performances of people like Gioia from Exposé (I interviewed her once! And caught hell!) and the woman who sang "All Things (Just Keep Getting Better)" for the Queer Eye soundtrack barely snap us out of our communal reverie. We are as happy as bubbles floating in the air. And there are bubbles floating in the air. More specifically, there's a foam party situation going on in an enclosure in the courtyard. Awesome.

"Let's go get in the foam!" I pop.

"Nooooo," Savannah fizzes. "I would never."

I walk over with John and Greg, just to get a look at the people presumably cleaning themselves amidst sundry rubber duckies. And to say I'm appalled at what I see would be an understatement (not to mention severely out of character, dear Prudence). Let's just say that if you're going to ride the hobbyhorse (multiple hobbyhorses, even), get a room, and some real lube.

All of a sudden I'm a bitchy Nellie Olesen, soapboxing about the burning of my eyes and God's glory. Savannah, John and Greg do their best to console, but I can't be fixed. I'm ready to get the hell out. This is how far we've come in 30 years? I shouldn't care, but I do.

There are some lines you just don't cross.

billymanes@yahoo.com

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