Control topper

Funny the distances that we'll go to communicate the utterly unnecessary markings of our choreographed misanthropy -- boys and girls in contextual alchemy, trying to find something that's already been found a million times before. Take myself, for example, loped over the wheel of my beat-up sedan on a Friday afternoon, photographer and potential decoy in tow, to hightail it out to a fan-fair signing situation in another Super Wal-Mart graveyard parking lot ... and, well, take it in and spit it out.

The distance in this particular bout with B-listery (making me, presumably, a B-lister), however, should have been examined more closely. It seems that Trans Con almost-rans LFO (originally the Lyte Funky Ones, until either reason or a level-minded publicist tripped over the unintentional humor of the uncanny moniker) are to be waving Sharpies and pectorals under a tent in lovely Haines City (where?). By the time an hour and a half of flat-ride driving passes, the hosiery jokes fade into the dull hum of tarmac and tire, and the distance is indeed dissolving the drive. Are we there yet? Do you see hair yet? And so on.

First leg

First leg

More alarming than the mile-marker flippery, though, is the fact that seasoned cargo-capri boys with second-album, white-boy afros are targeting the outskirt masses for their "grass roots" re-entry into the lite-rap, pop-icon fold. They fell in love with the girl on TV, after all, and nobody sells more TVs than Wal-Mart. It's an odd ploy, and perhaps an admission of guilt even, to feign populism by courting a seemingly nonapplicable segment of culture with a sugar-coated lack of pertinence. The Backstreet Boys were launched in Germany, as were their bubblegum brethren 'N Sync. Haines City can't be worse than Berlin, can it?

Dunno. But from the bloated glares of the few teen-age girls leering upon our tardy arrival, it doesn't seem to matter. In fact, nothing does. A few diehards squeal mild squeals about this Abercrombie or that Fitch, but for the most part, the dull hum of the road, the distance and the subsequent pop-culture rumination bleed out any spew of enthusiasm that might have been expected for yet another Trans Con campaign stop. This is a boy-band ghost town.

"He missed his flight," I overhear a publicist rattle into her Nokia and discern that indeed either L, F or O (nobody can be sure which) is not present at his post. Say it isn't so.

Regardless, everybody's packing up the promotional flats and teen-dream centerfolds just as we arrive, so despite any informed cynicism, the joke is indeed on us. A long drive to nowhere for nothing. Now I know how LF (or) O must feel.

Final stretch

It can't be as bad as I feel for the mismatched debauchery of a different kind of staged exploitation on the following night. Billed as either a "burlesque" or a "masquerade," depending on the severity of your interest, the Kit Kat Club's increasingly (and often fabulously) depraved noodlings with overt sexuality bring to mind a whole other kind of pointlessness. Wandering around the room are the mixed messages of Marilyn Manson and Hooters that make up the whole of Orlando's downtown promise. Over here, a goth-drag princess; over there, a Bubba -- all here to hail the breast-wagging and ass-shaking that only a greased pole in the middle of the stage can bring.

One of the hapless flesh contributors stares me down from across the room, as my mind works its prisms and angles to dismiss her and her nightie. A lifted mask and a whisper into my ear reveal an old college friend, to my fright and amazement.

"You're Billy Manes!" she jiggles with her mouth open.

"Not anymore, I'm not," I cower. (That Billy Manes LOVED "Showgirls.")

Anyway, the night descends into a Caligula pit of iniquity, as people I know (but not THAT well) take to some amateur shoulder-heeling and pole-twisting for the ogling masses to devour. At first it's electrical-tape-over-nipple legal, although halfway through it appears that somebody must have slipped some Scotch tape into the dressing room (I See Nipples!). The sound people forgot to talk to the breast people, so the mayhem of stripping types with bad attitudes begins to saturate the vibe of the evening. Nobody looks happy. Everybody looks silly. I run out like the Pope squeezed from the bowels of hell, grabbing my dignity and feeling like the class geek ... in makeup.

Bar talk a few days later sheds some neon light on it all, though. Misplaced overstatement, we surmise, is something of a tragic wake to a society spinning out of control, or something.

"The only things considered to be in bad taste anymore are things which break the law," credos a friend.

"Yeah, I guess we've all blurred into a dull hum," I blur.

And the distance dissolves the drive.

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