"Oh my gawd!" comes the clacking of gums from just outside the Parliament House's Footlight Theater. "Have you traaahd the green Jell-O mold?"
Well, I'll be a shit-ass at the wrong end of the beaver stick — no, I have not! It's here, though, wiggling in a fruit-filled rhythm peculiar to the coming and going of gays engaged in drag-heavy redneck appreciation. Tonight is Ladies Nite Out — a perfunctory fund-raising exercise (eventually it will raise a startling $3,507) to ship Michael Wanzie and Co. up to New York for three weeks' worth of Ladies of Eola Heights Fringe-tasia — and trashy food (with stray hairs from trashy wigs) is everywhere. Personally, I've never beheld au gratin potatoes in quite that bright a shade of electric saffron, but I've been away from my roots for some time.
"You should definitely try the bologna flaps," flaps my girl Lurlene Fishpaw (er … Roy), twiddling her greasy fingers from across the room. "I cannot get past the bologna flaps!"
And I'm having a hard time circumnavigating the irony. Not only am I at present a card-carrying member of the Lake Eola Heights Historic Neighborhood Association (by way of the actual homeowner with whom I share a bed), but I'm also in possession of a well-worn certificate signifying the historic nature of my own squirrel-hunting, incestuous, rednecked white-trashiness. Any and all pretenses of nimble urbanity are draining from my body faster than the pus out of a daddy longlegs knee-bite — or, perhaps, some rainwater ringworm — and I am at present fearing for my illegally adopted composure. Maybe if I spray some Windex on it, everything will be fine. Windex and Bisquick fix everything!
The main reason that I'm even here — other than the fact that by all defining characteristics of my tragic humanity I ought to be — is that one Jim Philips (with whom I'm having a torrid, if imagined, affair) mentioned to Wanzie and Doug on the radio a few days ago that my presence might be a deciding factor in his own. And seeing as I am presently carrying his illegitimate, hysterical child near to the end of its first trimester, I'm thinking a public meeting might be best. Besides, I can't afford my own abortion as I have 17 other imaginary children with Scott Maxwell who tend to require feeding.
"Ooooh, the bologna flaps are fabulous!" Lur lurs some more. "You should really try the bologna flaps."
It isn't all drag-queen drawls draped over dead dogs and fat moms, though. Sometimes it's just drag queens and dick. My favorite Miss Take, April Fresh, arrives at the potluck crime scene with an offering of her own. Some mention of "cock" from me — a sort of Tourette's, really — and s/he has s/her thoroughly modern digital camera out on rewind, flashing through last night's photo exploits of a different kind of beaver stick.
"That's me with his cock in my mouth," s/he doesn't really have a beaver. "And that's him with my cock in his mouth."
"His name is Peter. Big Peter."
Indeed. Inside the actual theater, something of a "revue" or "follies" variety is haphazardly taking shape: Wigs are circulating, drawls are drawling, fishnets are running, camels are toeing. Roy (er … Lurlene) and I bump into the ever-theatrical hotplate Scottie Campbell, who — like Wanzie himself — has just recently returned from the Tony Awards in NYC, and is presently post-postcarding some surreal observations like, "I guess you're not allowed to check your award at the Tonys," and, "You should have seen the scene backstage at Hairspray." And while it's all very interesting, it is necessarily in stark contrast to the humble histrionics of the theater at a gay bar. Naturally, I'm not even jealous, because I for one would rather pick the hair of dead rodents from my teeth than to suffer the Great White Way. I take my theater rare with some croutons on top. And with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth.
"Oh, wait!" I paw at my Marlboro Menthol Lights 100s. "We can't even smoke in here!"
For at least one half of a moment, I'm about to go all Flo on Mel in full-on "kiss my greeeeits" fashion, knock over a table and declare independence for my blackening lungs. Instead, I whisper to precisely no one, "Oh, so you can stink up the theater with pastrami, hot cheese and bologna but I can't even fumigate the place with a sweet and minty nicotine aroma? Where's the fairness here?"
"Yeah," Roy Marlboro Lights in. "Except for the minty part."
Of course, we're putting on a show for only ourselves, while onstage the real show — the one intended for an actual audience of hundreds here, and potentially thousands elsewhere — is fast overshadowing us. A good show it is, too. The Ladies themselves clumsily open the affair (with inspired genius Tommy Wooten's blatant scrotal cameltoe leading the proceedings), following a hilarious Ernestine/Lily Tomlin switchboard narrative by Doug Fish that includes both the object-tossing habits of Parliament House owner Susan Unger and the reporting habits of yours truly ("Mr. Manes. I think I have the story you're after," etc.). Matthew Arter as Carol Lee as Carol Channing performs Jennifer Hudson in the voice of Louis Armstrong, and tells us that she is not going, adding that "the first 80 years is the hardest." And soppiness meets hilarity meets soppiness again to fade.
"I'm fading," I lean into and onto Lurlene Roy Fishpaw and her beaver stick. "It's all a bit too much on the identity as performance as impersonation scale, isn't it? I mean it's good, but a little exhausting, right?"
"What?" Lur lurs her lur. "I never got past the bologna flaps!"[email protected]