NY Mirror

I finally cranked up the cojones to go to El Mirage, the gay sex club on East Houston Street, where love is just 43 bucks and a leather harness away. Crawling into the unremarkable-looking entrance while covering my face, I found an eager line of wannabe wankers, which I joined for the 10 longest, most brightly lit minutes of my life. Eventually it was my turn to check in, which involved being shown the rules—"Be courteous," etc.—and signing something that said, among other things, "I was born a male with male genitalia and chosen to retain such." (I guess that weeds out all those irksome transsexuals, if not the illiterates.) After forking over the 40-buck initiation fee and swearing I wasn't a cop, I was not only named a throbbing member, I was given a "frequent fucker's card," which guarantees that after only 18 visits, you get one whole entry, as it were, for free.

Alas, I won't even make it for a second time. The place is just too humiliating—in different ways than one had hoped. At the checkroom, I was ordered to hand over all my clothes except either my T-shirt or my underwear—plus three more dollars! This became like a gay Sophie's choice, as I anxiously stood there deciding which body part should be exposed, my doughy boobies or floor-scraping scrotum. Under pressure, I cooked up a plan, shrewdly telling them I'd wear just my T-shirt, while slipping my undies in my bag so I could sneak them on again in the club and cover my male genitalia. Practically everyone else chose to wear neither option, so I ended up as overdressed as Bette Davis in Jezebel—the only person to ever sport a cluttered look in a sex club.

But however you dress, the place turned out to be surprisingly lovely-—let's be courteous—with fenced-off or netted areas studded with trees and awash in soft lighting and low-playing Brazilian music. It's all very Chelsea Market meets On Golden Pond en route to the Ramble. Too bad what's missing is any palpable sense of sex appeal. Every single guy there seems to be a five—not good looking, not bad looking; not young, not old; not to die for, not to die from. They're all about the same! It's totally tragic tuna! If a six ever wandered into the mix, he'd be mass-eaten alive before even getting to the clothes check. What's worse, though they've got it all hanging out, a lot of the guys act so skittish and tentative that the mood hardly ever becomes charged, and the paper towels available on tables (along with lube and condoms) seem to only get used for flop sweat. There's an occasional sex tableau on a sling or herky-jerky scene in a corner—with hungry faces pressed against the fence to watch—but I barely noticed them since I was busy dodging all the customers blankly roaming the joint, self-consciously waiting for Godot to come and pinch their nipples.

I had to applaud the more proactive types, like the two gentlemen lying on their stomachs with synchronized butts perched in the air—but they had to stay frozen in that pose for hours, devoid of any available frequent fuckers. Imagine the discipline that takes! "It's dangerous in here," one guy murmured to his friend outside the supposed orgy room. "I almost poked my eye out on a tree." Oh, that's what that was. Well, my bag must have been a hazard too because an employee eventually tracked me down and demanded I check it, no doubt for three more dollars. Instead, I took my male genitalia, along with my street clothes, and went to a tranny bar for free.


WE'RE OFF TO SEE THE LIZARD

Fully clothed and confident again, I determined to grab life where it hurts by actually interacting with other living organisms. At the opening-night bash for EDWARD ALBEE's Seascape, I asked ELIZABETH MARVEL—who's excellent as the female lizard— if this was her first reptile role. "Yes," she said, "but it's not my first role on all fours." Don't ask. Is it her first wildlife role? "Yes," she replied, "but I've barked like a dog." Haven't we all? (Especially in some of the above paragraphs.)

At Dillon's Lounge, the zanily entertaining The Ultimate Drag Off! pits animalistic people of all genders against each other in a tuck-and-pluck contest judged by the increasingly drunk audience. When I attended, the flawless host SWEETIE guided the gals through a MADONNA showdown that had the uncannily beautiful RAPHAELLA edging out the surly MIMI IMFURST, who lip-synched "Burning Up" while lighting sparkler titties and playing with her hairy patch. Beneath it, of course, she had male genitalia just like Madonna.

Another drag queen with balls, LADY BUNNY, has come out of the forest with a new DVD, Rated X (For X-tra Retarded), that showcases her shellac-haired self in club-performance clips, Wigstock highlights, and segments that have her blithely go-go dancing in between doing lines, I mean one-liners. Among the chortlers: "How does CLAY AIKEN remove a condom? He farts!" and "What's the difference between a priest and acne? Acne doesn't come on your face until you're 13." If those are too racy for your suddenly so sensitive ears, there are more family-friendly bits like, "What do you get when you cross a crooked politician with a crooked lawyer? CHELSEA CLINTON."

Back on Broadway, crossing The Color Purple with the musical genre is a little akin to turning War and Peace into a sitcom. But the show's creators have taken the potentially unwieldy material and come up with something that, while admittedly a mess and way too soft, has a lovely homemade feel and a gigantic heart for something so large of budget. And Purple turns lavender with a lusty lezzie bathtub scene, which eventually leads to a kiss (nervous titters from the audience) followed by a delighted grin from Miss Celie (full-out applause). So straight men will love this show—though my theater queen spies say that about a month ago, Shug was noticeably more demonstrative with Miss Celie, wouldn't you know.


CONCESSIONS ON A DANCEFLOOR

While we're mixing the straights and the gays, Happy Valley's SUSANNE BARTSCH/KENNY KENNY bash on Tuesdays is the most crazy-fresh club party ever. And THE MISSHAPES play the best dance song ever—"Sorry" by Miss hairy patch. And they do it from the best DJ booth ever—a big, hollowed-out disco ball that looks like a giant eye made of sequins. And they have the hottest bartender ever, ROBERTO. And I'm on all fours barking like a dog forever.

Slithering on all fours over to the same night's Beige, where cute boys flirt with themselves, I have to report that a love connection was finally made. A straight gal I brought hit it off with one of the go-go boys, who was the only other hetero in the joint. Sick!

I saw no straights at Spirit on gay Sunday, but I did catch a skinny white queen singing in piercingly high octaves and telling the crowd, "I want to thank JUNIOR VASQUEZ for believing in a skinny white queen!"

You're welcome. Now everyone please pick up your clothes on the way out.


Litter Box
MUCHO MACHO

Last year, before ex–Village People star VICTOR WILLIS's recent criminal woes, Willis already seemed in need of help. He was spotted by a friend of mine on a San Francisco street, hawking clothes he said belonged to his ex-wife PHYLICIA RASHAD. The asking price? Fifty cents!

You want higher class behavin'? At a City Harvest benefit at English Is Italian, I showed Queer Eye's TED ALLEN how to lick something called a shrimp-and-lobster lollipop and he wisely said, "It would be unseemly if I ate it like that." (That sums up my life—while I'm doing obscene things with food, others are being dignified and using fancy words.) You want sex on a stick? Blactress RUPAUL is doing a movie as her old Star Booty character, and I hear drag legend LAHOMA's come out of "vacation" to be part of it. (Says Lahoma, "How could I ever turn down a hooker role where I get to flag down cars in terrible wigs with my ass hanging out?") You want more, whore? For JULIAN SCHNABEL's film version of JEAN NATHAN's book The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll—about children's author Dare Wright and her daring mama—I hear they wouldn't mind NAOMI WATTS and JESSICA LANGE. Perfect—they already have that King Kong connection.

Chopping off that king dong? Well, some trannies are complaining that the FELICITY HUFFMAN film Transamerica doesn't reflect the fact that for a long period before your operation, you've got to lay off the hormones. But try them on again. I hear Logo is developing a gay dating show. Yay, more boyfriends for everyone to avoid sex clubs with!


musto@villagevoice.com

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