Tonight is a suspicious package.

“What’s that?” Tony swerves my swervy driving as we rattle down the cobblestones.

“Oh my!” I start mouthing the alphabet backwards and brain-walking a straight line. “It’s a suspicious package!”

But the potential bomb coated in anthrax that we’re seeking to detonate tonight isn’t resting in a neighborhood intersection. The bomb we want is a few blocks up the road, made out of cinder blocks and occasionally coated in an entirely different white powder. Or at least it used to be.

I think I’m gonna blow up.

Once upon a time, the little strip-mall appendage of Southern Nights spun with a decadent whimsy not unlike that which occurred in the heads of those passed out on GHB strewn across the front bench. Twinks clustered in Abercrombie poses, while erstwhile club kids crawled around the floor looking for that one sequin or one devil’s horn that fell off their pancaked faces after a fit of vinyl-panted, rhythmic epilepsy. Lesbians drank beer, etc.

But then things went south. New ownership brought the odd feeling that somebody else had moved into your disco grave and tried to redecorate it in a JCPenney VIP manner. The loyal staff was canned, taking with them a loyal clientele. And then something loosely involving tax problems turned what was once a utilitarian queer dream – meaning you could always get drunk, laid or high there, and usually all three – into the ellipses that follow a particularly bad joke about unscrewed light bulbs. Answer? Three.

Last month, the gay gossip gravy train started its bathroom-stall whispers of a resurrection, one that wouldn’t involve Jesus or Paas-colored Easter eggs. Southern Nights was going to be like Southern Nights again, only it wasn’t going to be called Southern Nights at all, but Revolution Nightclub. A collective plucked brow was raised, and the world waited.

And that brings us to now, which is essentially like then.

“Um, I’m Billy Manes,” I drop my own name after hopping the low-rise jean ranks. “So, like, um, I don’t have to wait in this line, right?”

“Um, do you know any of the owners?” a cute boy with a Madonna head-communication device attached to his ear quips.

“Yes, I’m sure I’ve fucked them all.”

I haven’t really, but I’ve certainly fucked up a few times in this particular homosexual enclave, and the big trick – given the cascade of uncomfortable emotional toxins presently squeezing their way out of my nasal cartilage – will be not to fuck up again.

“Do I still have my crow’s-feet?” I pinch Tony.


“Just checking.”

Anyway, beyond the expensive-smelling sardine can of the grand-opening front entrance, there’s not that much going on inside, because, well, it’s a bar and what people do at bars is stand around and drink and smoke and sometimes fidget in a dancing-like fashion. In my (and its) previous life, this place felt like some kind of pharmacology funhouse, in which you moved progressively from room to room and weakness to weakness, typically ending up on somebody’s ripped couch four days later with a pubic hair glued to the corner of your mouth. Glory days, really.

Now, it’s more like a meeting of survivors – an NA circle on a nostalgia-themed week – and ruefully pleasant.

“We need to make something happen,” I pinch Tony again. And Tommy. And Mike. And Doug. Everybody’s response? “Wait till I get a few more drinks in me.”

“I’m so Samantha to your Carrie,” Tommy renders my city sexless.

“Wrong show. We’re the fucking Golden Girls.”

I bump into two of my younger friends, Ben and Eddie, who both came out after slinging text with me in the salt mines of corporate bookselling hell, and start in with my two-drinks-too-many Auntie Mame affliction.

“You’re only gaaaahy because of mmmme!”

Tragic. Ben informs me that while he loves my column – or perhaps because he loves my column – he’s comfortable telling me when a particular spill of words sucks ass.

“I like the ones where you’re searching for pubic hairs,” he waxes.

Then have I got a necklace for you! Moving along, there’s a “show” scheduled to start at 9 p.m. in the restored show bar, now the Majestic Theatre and Lounge, and although female impersonation ranks somewhere near sandwiches on the short list of things I never do, I don’t want to be left out.

Manager Dan Fraser informs me that I don’t have a reservation – I have no reservations – so I won’t be able to attend. Of course, that sets off an ill-advised tizzy of the “don’t you know who I am?” variety, one that’s about as interesting as the 14 times I’ve retold the story about how this week I went to New York TWICE to see Duran Duran because they cancelled their Saturday show but that doesn’t matter because my friend flew me back up to see them on Tuesday and I was able to dance with Simon LeBon’s mom and have a highly intellectual 15-minute conversation with Nick Rhodes that I don’t even remember but that’s OK too. Phew.

“I’m getting in the show,” I stomp my feet. And it works.

And as some female impersonator picks the grapes and makes the sandwich through her rendition of Alicia Keys’ “No One,” everything coalesces into a charming glow. Tonight isn’t a suspicious package at all. It’s just a long-misplaced box that I forgot I liked.

A white-powdered explosion of pubic hair might have been nice, though. Just sayin’.

[email protected]
Scroll to read more Arts Stories + Interviews articles
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.