This is so fucked up. Imagine pressing your thumbnails into your eyes while contorting your limbs into the shape of an angry question mark (use your broken heel as the point at the bottom), and you'll still have no idea how fucked up it really is. Having survived a militaristic corralling into a wire-fence holding pen, being shouted at by nervously self-important security staff, and being brushed against by countless shades of unfounded credentiality, my terror level has been raised to an unprecedented violent pink.
Yes, Osama, this is where the bomb goes.
(Naturally, this is where I go, too.)
Tonight is the VIP/media non-opening of Club Paris, and the city could not be in more poisonous bloom. Church Street is virtually non-negotiable, and the parking situation downtown "event" style implies messy things afoot. In effect, it is the manifestation of the City Beautiful's identity crisis: overwrought amplification of "fantastically urban" in the face of "perpetually dead." For that alone, it is very funny.
Add to that the shambolic maze of fake paparazzi and overdressed Windermere socialites. Sprinkle in a dash of controversy involving a key to the city, plus Buddy Dyer and Patty Sheehan, and it starts to feel like something between a South Park episode and Waiting for Guffman (or Godot, depending on your tolerance for drunk, clueless heiresses with the last name of Hilton).
"You can be my pop culture go-to guy," offers a frazzled Associated Press friend more accustomed to newsworthy assignments. "Who do you think is coming?"
"Nobody," I drop the bomb, shining a bright ray of light like I always do.
To be fair, I've already imagined the scenario and written about it in my head, all lining the panties of yet another Orlando cock-up. But I did fully expect to see Paris Hilton, trip her and possibly set her hair on fire. Her appearance is necessary, after all, if this whole thing is to fly.
Right? It's not going to fly.
Two hours of leaning over a large, pink piece of chewing gum parading as a carpet, pressing against velvet ropes with the worst of them (some in scrunchies), and the mood is getting decidedly dark. Funny, but dark. People who shouldn't be pushing and clawing at their age but still are are lining a pastel path to the club's entrance, where, instead of an over-rich twig, they are facing Orlando's own Jabba the Hut, Lou Pearlman, anxiously sweating in the face of failed Church Street revitalization. Presumably he's here to devour Paris' few bits of binge fat before swallowing the whole street, but he looks more like a portly bouncer.
Perhaps not so proud are the victims of his long dormant boy-band magic wand (ahem), although several former hopefuls (who can no longer afford haircuts) do appear to be in attendance, as does Nick Carter's mom (and her breasts). Ah, talent.
Still no Paris, though. Just Paris look-alikes.
"Are you from around here?" quizzes one such up-do, pressing for frontline digital-camera positioning. "We came down from Jacksonville. We're dancers." She adds that what she really needs, besides some face-time with her idol, is "a beer and a bump."
"I think I love you," I slither around an imaginary pole.
"You look familiar," she falls into my lair. "I could swear we've met before."
Only a million times.
"She'll be here in five minutes," is the phrase offered by people with microphones who really don't know. Eventually, Fred Khalilian, the ill-spoken bar owner, takes to the stage to somehow justify an extremely wasteful two hours.
"Paris missed her flight in Switzerland," he offers, then something about talking to her on the phone, her woozy apologies and getting on with things. "We need good publicity now more than ever," he shakes. To make that happen, a sullen Nicky Hilton is plucked from a limo full of flat-ironed girls and pushed up to the makeshift stage, where she speaks nonsense while hunching her shoulders like a girl, interrupted. Daisy Lynum and Patty Sheehan man their muted lesbian governmental rebellion and offer the city's metaphoric key to the sullen brunette, and nobody claps.
The later story that Paris was skiing (ahem) in the Alps and got caught in the holiday traffic overflow (ahem, ahem) is about as convincing as a Peruvian powder cut with baby laxative. As is Club Paris, itself.
Beer. Bump. Please?
With Willy Wonka flourish, Khalilian and Hilton No. 2 pretend to escort the masses graciously to the front door, pressing the motley crew of assembled interests through the opening slot like teenage girls at a 1998 Backstreet Boys concert, trampling ol' Lou and making their way to the bathrooms toot-sweet.
Inside, it's the worst bar mitzvah ever. Menopausal maidens and the men who keep them in furs execute poor funky-chicken incidents on the dance floor, while the canned music overhead skips through awful, non-ironic mass populism. "Paradise City" and "Billie Jean" are present and thoroughly unmixed.
The décor is spray-paint supremo, benefiting no doubt from the low lights, and the nobodies who are sort of somebodies languish, embarrassed, in a VIP balcony reminiscent at best of a small-town production of Evita. The giant pink room lined with couches sports no bar, and at the few bars scattered throughout the rest, the drinks come at a clip of about one every two hours (like Paris, presumably). But they're free, which is why it is still funny.
Though not funny enough to make me stay around to watch Paris wobble in at 1:15 a.m. to open her own club. No, even I could never be fucked up enough to do that.