For the last three months, I’ve been sort of wrapped up in work. The only day I’ve taken completely off from working was Christmas Day, and I was mildly annoyed that I could not get anything done because no one else was working. I realize this is not particularly healthy, so I have decided to actively pursue being social again – doing fun and interesting things out on the town with fun and interesting people. I’ve decided to share the highs and lows of this process as I venture back out into having a life.
A Typical Tuesday.
Tuesday afternoon after having coffee with one of my nearest and dearest, Justin Martindale, we decided that a fun evening activity would be to see the Showgirls Drag Show at Rage. Rage is one of the homo bars here in West Hollywood, and up till now I’ve been able to say that I’ve never been there. For a long time I had no reason to go, and then it became a sticking point to say that I had never been. No particular reason, just because. We agreed we’d see the show, hosted by the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Allstars – Chad Michaels. Should be fun.
Smash cut to, 9:40 p.m. I’ve parked my “it gets me there” 2001 Nissan Altima at the West Hollywood City Hall – it’s free parking after 6 p.m. – because Justin and I have decided to walk. A little history. Justin and I attended Baylor University together, though we did not truly become friends until right after college while we both lived in Dallas during our earliest “yay, we’re going to be actors, oh my god, how do we make money to live?” years. Frankly, in college he annoyed the crap out of me till we were seniors, but we’ll save some of those stories. For now. And because he’ll be reading this (maybe) and already probably be annoyed. So, suffice it to say, if you had asked me in college if he would be one of the best friends I have now, I’d have laughed at you. But he is. And I love him. And he’s hilarious.
To the story. I park at City Hall, text Justin to walk up and meet me, so we can walk to WeHo without having to pay for parking. (I live in a house with 14 people, and my legs work fine, so yes, I will walk a mile for free parking.) No response to my text. Second text. Nothing. I call, now standing in front of his giant apartment complex. No answer. Okay, at this point, I know he’s fallen asleep, it isn’t the first time. But I wait, in the event he’s in the bathroom. I call again – nothing. I text his roommate, who I adore, thinking she might be home and can wake him. Nothing.
Screw it. I’m being social, and I am a grown ass man, and I can go out on the town by myself. See, I even took the Instagram photo to prove that I was doing it.
It was cold. Well, cold for LA, and without a walking companion, I drove closer, parked at a free meter and got out. I stopped at Starbucks – I frequent this particular big gay Starbucks so often that no matter what time of day it is, I know at least one person working – it makes me smile. I purchased a hot chocolate and strolled the rest of the way into the West Hollywood Tuesday evening on the town. Okay fine, I stopped in front of the Andrew Christian store to use their nice halogen lighting to take the above photo while I was at it.
Then I received a phone call. From Justin.
Me: You fell asleep.
Justin: (truly apologetic) Oh my god, yes, laying on the carpet, I had the fireplace on and passed out.
Me: It’s fine. (It’s not though)
Justin: Where are you?
Me: Almost to Rage. I don’t wait 20 minutes for anybody.
Justin: Oh, you’re already there? Should I come meet you?
Me: I’m here, but the show hasn’t started, if you want to come, come on. (You better come hooker.)
Justin: Okay, I’m on my way.
So, now it’s after ten, there’s no one at Rage yet, but Justin’s on his way. It occurs to me that a new friend of mine gogo dances at Micky’s on Tuesdays, I have free time, so I’ll see if he’s there and say hi while I wait for Justin. At Micky’s this particular night is called “Lip Tickler” and why wouldn’t it be. It’s a signature WeHo event promoter move to pick a night, give it a name and thus a way to promote it on social media to get people to show up. Sometimes it works. A lot of the time it doesn’t.
I walk in to Micky’s, it’s early, there’s a decent crowd near the street, walled off with partitions with stickers of giant mustaches on them, but it’s early. The first thing I hear at the same time is the unmistakable voice of Leslie Jordan. I look down, and see him standing right in front of the bar with his two current boys in tow, talking with our friend Johna who I had come to see.
In the unlikely event that you somehow know me, and do not know Leslie Jordan, he won the Emmy for playing Karen’s nemesis on Will & Grace and has been in every TV series known to man. Together we did the production of Southern Baptist Sissies that I moved to Los Angeles to do, the national tour of Sissies, Sordid Lives: The Series and we just finished a week ago shooting a film of the play of Sissies. We once got into a screaming match and about 60% of the time I’m relatively sure he knows who I am.
Leslie is also sixteen years sober – I’m not talking out of school here – I’m not saying anything Leslie hasn’t told from a stage in one of his brilliant one-man shows, and it is nearly impossible to get him to attend an event at a bar, much less be out at one socially. On a Tuesday. In West Hollywood.
So, I say hi to Leslie and discover he is out because the two mid-twenties, Detroit-raised straight boys that make up his entourage currently have never been to a gay bar. They did come see Southern Baptist Sissies, and as one of them explained to me, “It was definitely the gayest thing I’ve ever seen. It was going along, and then all the sudden (insert straight boy sound effect here) you took your underwear off.” Which I did, so he did definitely see the play. In fact, last week we all went to support Leslie in his first performance at the Comedy Store, which was a master class in comedy as he tried to tell a great story, while continuously interrupting himself to explain how nervous he was about getting the light telling him to wrap up. During one of the other comedians the waitress told me that a guy was buying me a drink. I glanced down the row to see a strapping young man with a bit of a beard give me the straight boy head nod acknowledging it was him. I was confused, so I saluted him back. Having a drink bought for me by a dude at the big straight comedy club was mystifying – was I supposed to suck his dick in the bathroom? After the show Leslie introduced them, which explained the drink – they saw the show – mystery solved.
Meanwhile back at Micky’s (I don’t know, but that was a long tangent, so “meanwhile” seemed appropos), I’m chatting with the Detroit boys, both clearly entertained by the big gay bar with drag queens, gogo boys and a lot of glittery gay, despite the mustache theme, and they are well dressed for a night out – better than the typical homo uniform of a T-shirt one size to small over designer ass-lifting jeans.
I chat with Johna, who is a professional model and gogo dancer and played the “Stripper” in Southern Baptist Sissies, so he is a new member of our family – and becoming a friend as well. Leslie likes the dancer boys so everyone’s having a good time.
I nearly wore my neon yellow mesh skintight pants, but I just don’t wear them as well as Johna. But we enjoy our mini-Sissies reunion with Leslie and his boys.
And Justin arrives. He’s met Leslie once before at the theatre during Sissies and it’s possible that my introduction went something like this, “Leslie, this is my best friend Justin, he has a horse penis.” Possible, I said. Justin, ever the southern belle, answered articulately at the time with, “Emerson!” and a fake hand wave to the face while looking around for a mint julep and a porch swing to pass out on. Back at Micky’s, however, Leslie remembers. “Oh, it’s big right?” he asks Justin. Justin smiles, laughs…and then nods in the affirmative. “Can I see it?” teases Leslie. I got distracted at this point, all I know is that later Justin said, “I just showed Leslie Jordan a photo of my dick.” Like I said, Typical Tuesday.
Leslie decides we should move on, that the supergay of Lip Tickler might be a little much for his boys, so the Sissies reunion ends and we move on to the Abbey. For a calmer Tuesday moment at the gay bars.
We arrive at the Abbey, which is lower key, it is still a Tuesday. A round of drinks happen, Justin and I muse over our adventure out going better than expected, then Leslie and the boys decide a slice of cake is in order. We belly up to the dessert station behind these two tall and striking blonde girls. Justin and I role our eyes, they are likely typical “Ambers” of Los Angeles. You know the ones, who can barely walk on their heels and scream and wave across the bar in those voices that make you wish stabbing someone with a fork wasn’t technically a crime yelling, “Amberrrrrrrr, get me another vodka cranberry!”
But the straight boys take an interest. Of course they do. Sigh, fine, whatever. The slice of cake is delivered, but more a slab of cake floating on a sea of whip cream and Leslie describes the fondant technique to the two boys who I am quite sure have never heard of fondant. Ever the charmer, Leslie disappears to convince the two blondes to join us. And they do.
However, in the continuing series of surprises of the evening (and a reminder, that I definitely have a tendency toward the judgy in public) they are both Swedish. One of them lives here and is studying to be an accountant, yes seriously, and the other is a nurse back in Sweden visiting her. Their names are Anna and Emma, and no, I don’t know which was which. We joked, and laughed, and Leslie and Justin and I were charming and interested while James and Nathan worked up to joining the conversation. We joked about Abba, Mama Mia, the Swedish Chef, and the original versions of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the Let The Right One In – quickly covering the only Swedish stereotypes I’m familiar with.
They turned out to be delightful conversation and amused by our silly references. Satisfied that his work was done, Leslie began the good-bye process. It is never quick, because he has no short stories, and all of them are brilliant and hilarious, so the actual departure happened long after he said he was leaving.
To be clear – I’m sitting in a chair and Leslie is standing.
So now Nathan and James, and Emma and Anna, and Justin and I are left to our own devices. Still, far more entertaining company than I expected and we decided dancing is in order. We move to the dance floor-ish area of The Abbey and proceed to entertain each other with Justin’s newest invention – The Swedish Shuffle – which is really just a gay version of “wax on, wax off.” There were probably a few runway catwalks across the dance floor and some Lady Gaga and such. The straight boys danced, the Swedish girls danced and Justin and I worked. it. out. Well, him more than me, as per usual.
As the night came to a close, James (or Nathan), decided he was not into the Swedish girls, leaving only Nation (or James) to give one final attempt as we headed for the door. I don’t know if he got her number, I was not all that invested in the result. We bid Anna and Emma adieu, and the four of us boys hiked back to my car, where it was parked at the free meter, and Justin and I dropped Nathan and James off on our way home. The car ride did include an amusing discussion of shaving Nathan’s (or James’) ass – but what night would be complete without such a discussion.
First night out thoughts – so we never made it to the drag show, but Nathan and James were far better company than expected, Johna is always a delight, hitting the town with Leslie is a rarity – and two Swedish bombshells makes it sound like we were shooting some kind of calender. All in all, a truly successful first attempt at returning to some sort of social life.