I’m so used to traipsing the planks on Fire Island for hours on end that I was delighted to revisit the other gay resort—Provincetown, Massachusetts—and find that not only does the place brim with sex, fudge, and drag shows, but also, you can easily get to all of it. The town is hopping with locals, tourists, gays, straights, bis, and celebs including Michael Cunningham, Taylor Dayne, and John Waters (“48 years in a row!” he told me), and there are actual streets that you can run or bike around and feel a very gay part of.
The carnival-esque frenzy is hypnotically entertaining, as you sashay past drag performers hawking their shows, cast members from Naked Boys Singing! standing in towels and handing out brochures (“Close your eyes and pretend we’re lesbians,” one advised to a passing woman), and fully dressed members of the Well-Strung singing string quartet. (“I’d like to play with your instrument,” I cracked to a cast member, and he started to hand me his violin.)
The stores generally sell taffy, lobster rolls, framed old gay-porn photos, or any combination of the above, the establishments favoring adjective-laden names like the Squealing Pig, Dancing Turnip, Wired Puppy, or Whispering Cowgirl. At Toys of Eros, the big seller is the We-Vibe, an inner/outer vibrator for all of a woman’s needs—though I bet the Naked Boys Singing would like one, too. They didn’t have that at Shor Home Furnishings, but they were hawking an old chair, which they promoted by telling customers, “Patti LuPone sat in it!” Too bad she doesn’t come along with the deal.
And there are theme weeks! The town council has nothing better to do, thank God, than dredge up ideas like “Straight Cross-Dresser Week,” “Circuit Week” (I hear the guys were a mess, only pulling themselves together when going to the gym), and Bear Week. (Those men were immaculately organized and waited on line for everything. The staff wore mustaches in respect.) Halfway through my visit, Family Pride Week started, which led to increased lesbian shriekings of “The straights are taking over this place! They act so entitled!” But the fact is they simply coexist with the gays in a cool, utopian way, and besides, Family Pride Week is for anyone with strollers; banality knows no sexuality boundaries.
Generally, everyone is friendly and open for business, and because I was greeted like the second coming of the Christ child, my head spun like Regan MacNeil’s, but with lobster chunks in the pea soup. I was hosted by the Crown and Anchor, an all-inclusive complex with a restaurant (Central House, with food by celeb chef Devon Gilroy), a dark leather bar, a piano bar with Bobby Wetherbee crooning the Mame score till he drops, and two cabaret rooms filled with insurgents of all genders.
NYC’s favorite upscale chanteuse, Justin Vivian Bond, did a show there called Silver Wells—named after a Joan Didion character’s hometown—whereby Justin served bracing songs for the new depression, from Duke Ellington to Stevie Nicks, while advising, “Sad songs make me happy—but you gotta make a lot of cheap jokes between songs to keep people interested.”
Inspired drag star Dina Martina performed there with skewed lipstick and sang in a combination of octave leaping and gargling as she created medleys like “Love, ageless and evergreen . . . acres is the place to be.” Touchingly, Dina remembered viewing an Occupy Wall Street protest up close in her native Seattle. “I saw protesters clutching their pumpkin lattes,” she said, misting over. “It was like watching the coffee break of a Benetton photo ad. These are the seeds of change!”
And another surreally funny drag star, Miss Richfield 1981, sold out the large room—she’s a franchise—and snappily instructed audience members on what to do about the end of the world. (“Put on lipstick,” she told one butch lesbian. And to a single gay male: “Settle!”)
With the nightlife, you don’t have to settle because it’s all extremely agreeable to the squealing pigs and wired puppies. Tea dance at the Boatslip was zippy fun, especially because they had a drag theme that day that brought out all sorts of hairy people in skirts. (Yes, there are themes within themes!) The Porch gets slightly jaded types standing around holding cocktails, while the A House has porn films blown up large on the wall, prompting complete strangers to suddenly turn into pairs of dancing turnips.
And people make no bones about their agendas. A guy at a dance club told me he thought I was sexy, then informed me that he’s an emergency room doctor and could get anything imaginable out of my ass. (OK, but we have to get it in there first.) And there was a frisky pedicab driver who gave me a free ride, not to mention his phone number. But right after I left town, he sent crotch photos to one of my entourage. That’s it! We’re through!
Meanwhile, you can go for broke right below the Boatslip tea dance area, later at night. They call that region the Dick Dock, which brings to mind the haunting old nursery rhyme: “Hickory Dick Dock. The mouth ran up the cock.”
Shower extra hard the next morning, plug in your We-Vibe, and then rent a bike for glorious excursions that make it clear that a gay honky-tonk resort is natural and part of God’s plan. If you don’t buy that, then I’ll reiterate what Justin Vivian Bond told a nasty twitterer: “Fuck you. Try being fierce instead of stupid, and you’ll see how touchy you get.”