In a perfect world, there would be ropes of costume pearls wrapped around flowing, trapezoidal layers of blouses; corals and pinks accented with pops of red pepper plumage in a Vaseline-lensed haze. We would dance in tumbling rose bouquets while clunky diamonds rattled on our ears like tambourines. We would crash to the floor in fits of giggles, all love-wrestles and smeared lipstick and smooth surfaces without angular elbow bruises. Everything would smell like strawberries, and our mouths would only know one word: "lucky." We are so very, very lucky — so blessed with good lighting and Josie Bissett wedge-bobs — that even our last breaths wouldn't hurt; they would just sigh out of our chests in euphoric harmony: "We are so lucky."
"What are you wearing?" I twirl an imaginary phone line around my imaginary five-carat finger.
"Two baby-doll dresses," comes Anna's reply. "And lip liner that doesn't match my lipstick."
"Perfect." It isn't. In lieu of the synthetic ideal this evening, we're faced with yet another chuteless ladder of Orlando nightlife realism: namely, the launch of a new night at a new bar promising objects modified by terms like "ultra" and "ultimate." Like the long line of marketing aspirations before it, somewhere in the process connecting the scented business plan to the harsh reality of people just standing there, things will inevitably fall apart. For now, though, we're withholding judgment. We've been disappointed before, see, so there's no use in turning jade to jaded just yet. We have the whole night, our whole lives, before us. Maybe we'll get lucky.
"So, where are we going and what are we doing?" Anna, who has just returned from an unlucky one-year geisha stint in New York and therefore will include the phrase "in New York" with undue frequency tonight, climbs into my car.
"Well, for one, it's called ‘Lucky,'" I scramble an upsell. "And, for two, it's a new gay Tuesday night at a bar in a strip mall!"
"Let's pretend it's a wonderful thing, like a Melrose Place surprise DVD extra where the plot just unfolds on itself while we all look fabulous or get cancer or get hit by a car or drown," I Spelling it out. "But then we laugh! Because it's a blooper reel!"
Even that kind of forced dream sequence isn't enough to prepare us for what's really going on down in the Kirkman-Conroy corridor. As we wind through the second strip mall of our discontent, my windshield is greeted with the fluorescent glow of glass-encased bubbles vertically ascending. A pock-faced bouncer in a dark suit hovers around an empty red carpet beneath a canopy indicating our destination, Rain Ultra Lounge; next door is Firehouse Subs. I've now seen Fire and I've seen Rain. Oh, no.
Once inside, the elements are even more jarring. There's a long white-curtained corridor before us and a distinctly sanitary smell to deal with. Is it a Paris Hilton hospital? At the end of the hall are the muffled sounds of circuit "hits" — radio ballads re-rhythm'd with meth-addled metronomes — vibrating against the ornate walls of a giant, empty room. There are couch-filled cubbyholes with velvet ropes and white string "curtains"; a few gay types in overly embroidered gay civilian uniforms (ridiculous jeans pockets, eagle-backed button-downs) are still-frame standing while the contrivance of scripted nightlife unfolds around them. Anna is frowning.
"Billy better come tonight, Sydney," I Jane Andrews as we lean against the bar. "Or I'm totally going to lose the baby."
"You're Billy." Anna slings back a gin and tonic. "And your baby is dead."
So is Rain, or Lucky, or whatever, although it's only 10:30 and the gays are probably still sleeping. Anna and I peruse the perimeter — which is large, given that this is a strip mall — and find little more than a few curious celebrants looking under things in some odd real estate open-house surveying maneuver. So we decide to sit in a booth and wait for things to happen. The booth, it should be noted, is made of ribbed rubber. Lucky, indeed.
"It's not like New York," Anna sighs. "And I can't fucking stand myself," she adds.
What follows are the last gasps of creative desperation one might expect from two creatures of discomfort. I glare at two old men in dad shirts across the bar massaging the two nearly naked go-go boys, then start to conjure some nefarious sex trade scenario that, when sprinkled with a dash of cocaine, could make for a decent bit of Cinemax beat-off fodder. Anna, meanwhile, falls into a fishy whirlpool of lesbian doubt, wondering aloud why the few chunky girls-in-boys'-clothes here all seem to be hating on her from afar. Nobody gets cancer. Nobody drowns.
"Oh," Anna stirs the straw around her drink. "Here come the ladies they paid to dance."
"Enter the Ladies Gaga," I follow.
Except they aren't and nothing is. A burlesque troupe called Fantashique has failed to materialize by midnight, and Anna is being lured away by the glowing exit signs. They are calling her, she says.
By way of explanation, event organizer Paul — that gorgeous blond Ken doll who once stripped down for Janice Dickinson on national television — explains that this is just the first night and he hopes to use a comment card strategy to eventually make Lucky lucky for everyone, or something. "What do you think?" he asks.
"Well," I reach for my imaginary pearls. "It looks expensive."
Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone" starts booming through the vacant ears all around us, and so we follow suit and make our way to the door, no luckier, perhaps, than we were two hours ago. At least that's what we think.
Instead of swinging by I-Bar on the way home, which we would because you do, we decide to call it a big gay disappointing night. There, three people will get shot at last call, we'll find out in the morning.
"We are so lucky," I text-sigh to Anna. "So fucking lucky."
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