Amazing Grace


New Yorkers take the idea of “paradise” very seriously. Just ask the 2000-plus people who packed Central Park’s SummerStage two Saturdays ago for Paradise in the Park, Blaze/Shelter co-owner Kevin Hedge and West End Records’ outdoor celebration for the Paradise Garage‘s 25th anniversary. Nicely timed to coincide with Gay Pride weekend, old Garage members moved alongside curious newcomers and modern-day house heads for a taste of what was the legendary ’80s music palace and the sets of DJ Larry Levan.

“We gettin’ old, but we can still do it!” called out Hedge. Veterans flashed each other their membership cards to such Garage classics as the Peech Boys’ “Don’t Make Me Wait” and Loose Joints’ “Love Dancing.”

“It’s great to bring the old and the new generations together,” said Bruce, a member who can recall Madonna‘s first Garage performance—she got booed at for being a white girl.

Two Russian kids—Boris, 23, in wrap shades and a Body & SOUL tee, and his girlfriend Olga, 21, in Lucite heels and a scarf—had discovered Garage music as ravers. “This scene is back in a big way,” said Boris, a DJ. “I’m keeping the tradition.”

An hour into the party, a limo pulled up. Guest performer Grace Jones had arrived. “That bitch is baaad!” exclaimed a woman, fanning a freshly snapped Polaroid.

Jones drifted onto the stage in a huge, sloping white Philip Treacy hat and a voluminous robe. “Just hug somebody and dance for me,” she cooed, launching into “La Vie en Rose.” Four Alaia gowns, two Treacy hats, and three tracks later, she got bold, lifting a hoop skirt to shimmy her bare ass and bellowing in that slurred drawl built by years of hard partying and transcontinental living.

Later, she flung off her Mugler breastplate to reveal her titties. “I thought that would wake you motherfuckers up!”

The music that resumed couldn’t really match her astounding performance—Jones had captivated and exhausted everyone. Just as captivating, though, was the sight of equally bad bitch Björk, pregnant with Matthew Barney‘s baby, chilling with Jones backstage post-show.

For all the lavish budgets cast at your typical Pride super-party, nothing beats the flow of intimacy. Dave Morales played his banging house beats for black and Latino boys in Chanel-logo baseball brims at Emil Wilbekin and Rob Promotions‘ third annual “urban targeted” Pride event, Hotboyz, held at Cheetah. This year, the Queen of Hooks, Ashanti, was slated to perform.

Interestingly, there were several straight women in the club. “It has its benefits,” said Ralynn, of the almost all-male crowd. “No guys are grabbing your ass, but then you still wanna get talked to.”

Soon, hands were up in the air for Ashanti’s hits. “Follow your dreams,” she told her boys. “Forget all the haters, the naysayers.”

It used to be that the more disdainful gay porn icons were of their fans, the more popular they got—pretty boy Ryan Idol coasted through the ’80s by crapping on his adorers. Now tastes have shifted toward oxen-sized pussycats like Billy Herrington and, most especially, 22-year-old Mark Dalton.

The Texan Goliath has become an instant icon for his Li’l Abner-esque appeal: globular muscles matched with self-effacing Southern charm. At Raymond Dragon, a boutique filled with all things Lycra for gym-addicted Chelsea boys, Dalton was modeling in the front window as a special pre-Pride treat. The naughty Texan was on go-go dancing duty at SBNY and the Alegria Circus party later that weekend.

“He’s a crowd pleaser!” said store manager Tim Cass. “It’s really unique that people so good-looking don’t have any attitude.”

Dalton started doing solo videos after being discovered dancing in a Miami club. His on-screen antics, like slinging his grapefruit buns across a black-leather sofa in a striptease scene and flinging whips at the camera, call to mind ’50s pinup starlet Bettie Page, a country girl who gamely posed in bondage gear. Now he’s posing for a slew of mags, from HX to Instinct.

In a past life, Dalton was a pole vault champion at the University of North Texas, as well as a football player at a small Christian school. A huge jump, considering he still goes back to Texas to be with his family. “They know what I do, although not the full details,” he said. “They like it better than me sitting on my mama’s couch, eatin’ and lifting weights all day.”