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Joel Cruz had promised to take me to a gay club on my last night in town, which happened to be a Tuesday. The Good Ambassador had taken Mom and Dad to the mountain residence, and Cousin Tardy was caught up with god knows what on his computer, so I basically had the house and staff to myself. But rather than relax, I had one of the guards flag down a cab for me so I could buy more cheap underwear at the 199 mall, which, by the way, was about a half hour drive! I feared what the meter would say, but it only came out to 200 pesos (about $5) each way.
|image from theeifflers.com|
I had just enough time for a disco nap before Joel pulled up. He had everything planned out and was on the phone with the venue’s hostess who was taking care of us personally for the night. You can imagine my surprise when Joel, Frank, his driver and his body guard rolled up to Mankind, which could have easily fit into a strip mall in Wilton Manors (Ft. Lauderdale, where all the nightlife is situated in strip malls). The inside was no more glamourous.
The crowd was sparse, to say the least. A catwalk, which ran from the front of stage and had a platform and a pole at the end, parted the rows of couches and tables that surrounded 3 sides of the stage. We sat right near the catwalk on the front row while Joel’s staff uncomfortably camped out on the side a few rows back.
Our hostess, the 30-something femme twunk who had ushered us in from the door, gave us drink menus, apologizing for the lack of flavored vodkas. I told him I wanted a vodka-Sprite, and Joel pointed to the Absolut on the menu and mumbled something in Tagalong. She came back with a container of Sprite and a goddamn bottle of Absolut. No pressure…
When we walked in, I saw that the biggest group was sitting on the side of the stage opposite the entrance, and all 20 or so of them wore white tank tops. I wondered if they were a group of tourists or just a shitload of friends who dressed alike for someone’s birthday. It wasn’t til I saw one of them duck behind the curtain that led to backstage that I realized that these were all dancers.
Me: “So, do you tip the dancers here?”
Joel: “I have no idea.”
Hostess: “No, you don’t tip here, but if you want to buy one a drink, he’ll come over and flirt with you and touch you and be very friendly with you.”
Me: “I’ll certainly keep that in mind.”
Now, I love tipping a good go-go as he’s performing. And I wouldn’t be opposed to buying a guy a drink to help encourage a free-will decision in my favor. But basically paying a guy for a prolonged interaction that will end at a specified time? Knowing a guy is only paying attention to me because I’m buying him a drink? It’s so not my style.
Now, being in a different country, I expected to find different customs, even in the gay world. But nothing prepared me for what I saw these dancers doing on stage.
First off, they all danced to the slow, old-school ballads. I mean, one performed to Michael Bolton’s classic, “Said I Loved You but I Lied”! I was a touch heartbroken that the night’s playlist didn’t include “My Heart Will Go On”.
And their dancing… it was like slow motion movement between poses. It really reminded me of tai chi. I’ve done similar movement when joking about the glamourous effects of a wind machine. Now, some of these guys actually looked hot doing it (once I got over the initial WTF factor). But some of them looked like they weren’t even familiar with the word ‘gym’… in English or Tagalong. I mean, do some pushups or sit ups… something!
But then, after a few guys did their individual songs, all of them came on stage for a group number. While they had their individual dress for their solo numbers, they all wore white tank tops, daisy-duke denim shorts and cowboy boots. All of them crammed on the stage with the 2 leaders on the catwalk. Their choreography was very simple and repetitive, but even the leaders up front were lackluster in their execution.
Me: “So are the guys up front the choreographers?”
Hostess: “They’re just the best dancers. Some of the other guys have to watch them because they’re not as good.”
Me: “Ah, okay. And the dark guy. Is he American?”
Hostess: “I believe he’s half. Do you like the group number? I can request another for you.”
Me: “That’d be cool. Can I take photos?”
Hostess: “Only of yourselves. Not the stage. Oh, and there’s a shower show later.”
Me: “A shower show?!”
Hostess: “Yes, behind that curtain where they’re sitting.”
The next dancer came out with half of his (quite girthy) erection sticking out of the top of his speedo. I looked over to Frank, who was between Joel’s bodyguard and his driver, giving him thumbs up. He looked back with a horrified look, shaking his head, which made me almost fall off the couch laughing.
Joel: “He must be part something else. Filipino boys aren’t that big.”
Me: “Aren’t y’all all part something else?”
The only indication of time that I can remember when we left was that the bottle was halfway gone. Joel had had a drink, and his driver had tiptoed over a few times to pour himself one, but the rest was all my handywork. Of course, I wasn’t ready to go to bed, but Joel had had enough gay nightlife for this decade. They dropped me off in the gay village on their way back to his place.
I really don’t recall the name of the club I went into, but from the moment I walked in, some guy was eager to introduce me to his friend. He seemed a little too eager.
Me: “Hold on. Is this friend of yours going to expect payment?”
Him: “Nooooo, man. It’s cool. Come meet him!”
So I met the guy. And he was cute. I bought him a drink, and I’m sure we had a nice enough conversation (honestly, I don’t remember). But when I made moves to close towards the end of the night, he was like, “So are you going to pay me?”
I explained to him that I’d specifically asked his friend if he wanted money. Then he got his friend, and I reminded him of our conversation. Then it dawned on me that I was basically dealing with the equivalent of a prostitute and a pimp. In a far less regulated country.
I don’t think I’d ever found a club’s exit and turned a street corner so fast.
I was relieved to see no goons on my trail as I hopped in a cab. I got home just in time to sleep for about 3 hours before I finished packing, set aside what I wanted The Good Ambassador to ship, and hitched a ride to the airport for with the guy who had come to deliver my bags (ha! I’m not checking any). At the airport, I went through a private entrance and security clearance before being held in an immense lounge with absolutely no people-watching amenities. My plane arrived late. But it was no big deal.
Did I mention I was headed to Hong Kong for 6 days? Yeah!
Click here to check out my first post on Fire Island from 2008.