THERE'S THE BEEF 


In my white-knuckled world of emotional roller coasters and intentional nonprocreativity, there are certain biological anomalies that necessarily whiz right by unnoticed. It's not because they're not there; no, it's just that I've programmed my squinting reflex so efficiently as to diminish them into blurred comets resembling a hunk of roast beef with an eyelash in it. See, I can't even talk about it. My fingernails are threatening to throw up onto the keyboard at the mere mention of it. I … I … must get it out of my mind!

Conveniently, there are shiny gay bars like Lava, and immaculately conceived guy friends like Roy and Keith, available to distract me from that female personal space from which we all (except those pesky Caesareans) first poked our heads. Typically, bar moments like this involve very little thinking at all – just silent stares and over-it eye-rolls set to the beat of Eurodisco, cliquish clusters of similar body types assuming the proper position to effectively water their holes. Ah, life.

But this isn't a typical bar moment. There's a backpack on the bar: a sure sign of pollution. And in front of that backpack is a mouthy, lonely lesbian, the kind who might feel the need to carry a backpack into a bar. Naturally, all biorhythms are knocked out of whack and myself and my cliquish cluster are simply not having it. Shots are in order. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

"Ahhhhh," nellies my friend Keith on his bathroom dismount. "What's that?!"

"Is it a rat?" cringes Roy.

"No, it's just a chunky lesbian," I grimace to myself.

I'm wrong. Climbing out of the top of the backpack is a little black patch of fur, which of course throws me back to the pubic thoughts I am trying to avoid. In fact, it's an itsy-bitsy kitten, three weeks old and therefore devoid of inoculation.

"Say it," says Keith. "It's a pussy."

Ugh.

Sheepishly, the lesbian grabs toward the center of the commotion, pulling out said feline and holding it up in the air with the kind of pride reserved for handy ladies with cats. Despite its apparent cuteness, the bartenders are glaring from the corner, jaws dropped in polite disgust. As if on cue, the pussy starts to pee, spilling its urine all over the bar, the stool and the lesbian, who takes to wiping the three-inch furball with the always-available tissue.

The unsanitary situation eventually settles as Keith takes to holding the cat on his neck until we bitchily warn him of potential health hazards from scratches. And my nerves are brought back to a gay-bar calm when Keith tells me, "You look better than ever. I mean I was looking at old pictures and most of my old friends either got fat or died." Chipper lot we are.

But all is not so well. To our right a lone gay straggler is flipping through bar mags and telling the cute bartender, without any obvious flirtation, that what he has been up to is "not getting laid, that's for sure." And to the left, the lesbian has taken to a loud conversation about the pulled-hair pain of long-term relationships with another lone gay man who seems happy to participate. What is going on here? There is no talking in gay bars.

Meanwhile, the patch of fur still haunts me, all clawing and crowing from beneath its urethane weave. I know. It sounds bad. Admittedly, my only real experience – beyond that of stolen Playboy magazines and accidental porn walk-ins – is one of an unfortunate menstruation situation in my freshman year of college. Four hours of flaccid cajoling, an eventual fit of strained sexual giggles and a ruined mattress followed. Based on such vivid evidence, I gave up roast beef forever. And I don't like cats much either.

But I like shots, so Roy buys me one for my nerves before we hop along to our next destination, the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, for the opening (ahem) of Morgan Fairchild in the traveling Broadway version of The Graduate.

Both of us express some reservations about the potential for a Fairchild ham-shot in the proceedings, but write it off because this is Orlando (not New York) and this is perfect/pretty Morgan (not Kathleen Turner), so the nethers will surely remain tethered. To be safe, we trade seats with someone on the aisle, just in case the cat does indeed come out of the bag. Ew.

"The doors will be locked for the first 20 minutes," an usher warns us, probably in light of our boyish fidgeting in unison.

Oh, no.

Fifteen minutes of broad-gay style overacting by the male lead ("ARE YOU TRYING TO SEDUCE ME, MRS. ROBINSON!") reminds us that what made the original film so good is what wasn't said and who wasn't saying it. We can chalk this up to standard theater practice, though. But what follows cannot be forgiven. Even though Morgan's take on a drunken housewife is a touch drunker – and therefore more fabulous – than I expected, I get the sense the Fairchild is not playing fairly. Like something … is … about … to …

Ack!

Thirty long seconds in the company of her landing strip and we hear the doors unlock, the very crack of their opening sucking us out to safety.

"Omigod. I'm traumatized," cowers Roy.

"I'm going to be sick," I rejoin.

We're pathetic. In our attempt to enact a stealthy exit, we've revealed ourselves to be a rattling pile of ridiculousness. Which doesn't work in my favor, for once.

"You're not leaving, are you, Billy?" Broadway Series head Kirk Wingerson glares down his perfect face at me – that same perfect face that gave me two free tickets just hours earlier. "You always leave. You left Copperfield."

Did not. He just made me disappear.

"Uh, no?" I lie very badly. "I'm just, uh, traumatized by the flesh of Morgan. I'll be OK."

He knows better, walking swiftly away in a palpable huff. I'll never be OK.

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