Once, upon the glittering occasion of my 5th birthday party, way back when bumblebees were pinned to butter lids, the caked snot cleared from my freckled nose long enough to allow the inhalation of a certain kind of self-defeating drama. There, amid the kindergarten swimming-pool cacophony and Fudgie the Whale Carvel ice cream cake, a little blond boy stood among 30 of his bratty equals — each in their parents' interpretation of backyard swimwear — crying and squeezing the tip of his peanut (that's what we called it back then) through his soaking-wet J.C. Penney white underpants (or bathing suit), well aware that his parents lacked interpretive skills involving a child's shame. I wanted attention. I needed therapy.

Five years earlier, Bowie had already confirmed the apocalypse in "Five Years," when his "brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare, `he` had to cram so many things to store everything in there," so clearly I was at a pharmaceutical tether's end already, even if the only Ziggy I knew hung his fat nose over big walls and never worried. Five years was already long enough. My brain really hurt.

Thirty years later (minus one), I'm 34, Bowie's fucking 59, and the Hard Rock Hotel is a hairless child in damp tighty-whities, peanut pinched. To be clear, the five-year anniversary of the Loews interpretation of bloodstained Chelsea-Hotel decadence is set to be quite an event — the Go-Go's, bitches — and they've erected enough publicity barbed wire to make me have to be there.

Except I'm not invited. Not really, anyway. Publicist Jennifer Hodges has made it e-mail-clear that if I'm to chafe at this particular super-double-expensive ($50!) Velvet Session, I'll need an official letter from my editor declaring my publishing intent, plus a marketing lobotomy. Within moments of pressing my jaw-dropped face to the unsympathetic computer monitor, squealing, "Do you know who I am?" to a pixel, I was pissing bile into my J.C. panties.

VH1 is going to be there. Comps are limited. Belinda hates me, etc.

"You know, I've been to like every Velvet Session," I typed maniacally. They even sported me a room when I got so wasted with Missing Person Dale Bozzio that I almost believed she fell out of a Holiday Inn window while preventing her friend from being raped, landing her hiccuping self on the sign and in a pop-star coma. I have earned my velvet.

I didn't type that, though. I politely begged. Which brings me to here.

"I'll give you $25 for your wristband," a scraggle-mop of Ramones descent plays homeless at the door. "You can walk home $25 richer!"

Said dopey detritus goes on to verbally cling to rockist socialism, detailing the cultural downfall the inflated door charge represents, coughing up a hairball of egalitarian disbelief while holding "appealing" at an arm's length. Save it for CBGB's, Dee Dee.

"Omigod!" flames a sleeve-cut pompadour a few feet away. "I totally have pictures of you at ABC. You turned around and screamed right into my shot!"

Now that's more like it. Instantly, I'm sucked into the choreographed networking fray inherent to sessions that are Velvet, sporting that pale-faced searching gaze that isn't really looking for anything at all short of a reason to beg for free alcohol and talk about oneself while somebody gay takes your candid
picture. There's the heavy-pouring Smirnoff girl who is sorry if she gets me too drunk, the hired photographer who has traded his
affection for brown-skinned boys for one that involves Midwestern pasties, and the former Weekly web salesperson (now Universal web marketer) who is still holding on to his sitcom pilot about alt-publishing in the proximity of rodent ears.

"I think its time has almost come!" I pretend to think.

Soon I'm outside sucking the five years I have left through a mentholated stick.

"Are you the famous Billy Manz?!" bears a bear brushing by. Cory and his boyfriend cub are here from Tampa, and Cory insists that we are "cut from the same page."

"You're so much larger than life!" he calls me fat.

"Yet somehow so much smaller than death," I read my invisible cue card.

Inside, Carter from O-Rock comes up to buy me a drink while we wait for the Go-Go's (whom he hates) and small-talk Savannah (whom he loves). He's all golf-pinkish and name-droppy. When the words "Joey Fatone" and "Chris Kirkpatrick" slip to the floor, I pick 'em up just to drop them again, because it's fun. "You've got the fat-one in your cell phone, don'tcha," I nudge.

"Yeah, like that means anything."

It doesn't. But hair does. And out in front of the stage, where I eventually plant myself, a hairdresser type is hipster-shifting to the Thompson Twins. I frown like I always do.

"You look like you're having a blast," he flirts.

"I'm not."

Anyway, Venus (that's his name!) insists he's just finished doing Belinda's hair and that if I'm to get any secrets, I'll have to buy him a drink. I do. And short of the revelation that Kathy Valentine is a bitch (duh), I've probably been had. Still, Venus and I are in full fag pogo by the time the Go-Go's hit the stage, even eliciting the standard "You guys are so much funnnnnn!" from two pretty girls with mean boyfriends. So much fun, in fact, that the mean boyfriends aren't having it: Heels are about to go over heads. One shoves me, and I pretend not to notice. One shoves Venus, and hair's a-fixin' to fly. Then, out of nowhere, Cory appears with a forearm larger than Mars and shuts the haters down only moments before I can strip to my wet underpants, pinch a nut and cry.

"Do you want some Xanax?" Venus pill-drops in sympathy.

I need the Xanax. But I want attention.

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