Cue the music, fog the room… Time to write
M People, One night in heaven…
Shift change has started and I am off the happy hour shift that I used to work. Off to the kitchen to change for the night shift that is going to start soon. Farkle is in the booth and he fires up the first song of the night.
Jeans, t-shirt and chaps. The hot little stud is going to tempt the Temple of Earthly Desires once again tonight. A little tug here, and a zip there, I am ready for action. In the grand scheme of things I am a jack of all trades. Larry is in charge of liquor distribution, Kevin is in charge of incidentals, beer, ice, stock and supply. I am following up my fellows with the same.
But I have other responsibilities.
Open up your heart…
Aside from bar responsibilities, I am in charge of taking care of special guests and entertainers. I check them in at the door and escort them through the maze into the back stage area where all the real action is to take place. Nobody has access to the backstage area except employees and management. I am to make sure that they all have what they need, and that means, everything.
We are hosting the Leather man contests that are very common in the Leather community at that time. The schism of the Ft. Lauderdale leather men has not yet taken place, between the Old Guard and the New Guard. I am of the Old Guard group. I was born into this life by my Master Todd on that fateful night some time ago at the old location.
Someone to count on in a world ever changin’.
Here I am, stop where you standin’.
What you need is a lover, someone to take over.
Oh baby don’t look any further.
Strange when you think of the chances
that we’ve both been in a state of mind.
Too cool to be careless. Looking for the right thing.
Oh baby don’t look any further.
Tonight (tonight) we’re gonna taste a little paradise.
Rockin’ all night long. Rockin’ all night long.
Daylight (daylight) I’ll still be looking in your heavenly eyes.
Oh we rocked on and on and on.
I am in the position of leadership. Part of my education in those early days is obedience and respect. The hierarchy is set in stone and I know my place, I report to the Master, the guests report to me. I am in charge of taking care of their supplies and to make sure that they are treated with respect and the position that they hold in the greater community. This job, I take very seriously, because what the guests tell my boss later will reflect on my future as a man to be trusted and it will also either permit me further access or punishment. To be removed from community or silence is the greatest punishment in my world at that time. I learn that lesson the hard way at one point in the story…
Kevin has just walked in the door. He is young. He is a Leather man of the highest degree. I spent a night with him at the Caribbean Resort a few nights ago. I was caught in a moment of rapture. He is the finest specimen of a man I have ever seen and after the first introduction, I was taken. I was “Taken!” Sitting in the bar with him and his crowd was worshiping God. Kevin has my full attention and then some. There is nothing I would not do for him, and many things I would like to do for him.
He is competing tonight for the crowd, and I am going to make his competition the best of the night. In the grand scheme of things, he who is represented outstandingly is going to win this competition. But first they must prove themselves worthy of the award. A little conversation and a little performance that is going to knock to crowd off their high and mighty pedestals. This is where we separate the real men from the boys. That he is younger than most he is automatically at odds with them.
After all of my settling in work is done and everybody is checked in and I’ve seen to their comfort, I am off to take care of the rest of the bar. Everyone of our guests has a handler, and I am only to take care of Kevin. The lights are swinging at a fast pace, the music is pounding and I am dressed to the nines’ so to speak. I have rounded up all of the young leather men and we have discussed strategy for the night. As representatives for the young leather community, it is our job to look out for the interest of our club and the community at large.
As part of our education as a group, the bar has had weekly meetings of the Young Leather men. There are about 30 members and several Leather MEN to guide us and teach us about protocol, respect and personal safety. We have attended lectures and demonstrations and spent hours discussing situations and life experiences. When the bar is called on to host events, we are the first line of representation and service. I am the closest one to the center of the universe, by my position “to” my Master.
I am in charge of cleaning up the club all night. I am the one who is going to take up bottles and glasses and garbage on the main floor. It is my job to always keep the bar in a condition worthy of proper presentation. In addition to picking up refuse, I am the one who is going to keep the bathrooms up and running. Nasty pig men can be nothing but a head ache because while they are adults, they do not know how to clean up after themselves. They stop up toilets with glasses and mounds of toilet paper and this must be kept an eye on. Running toilets are detrimental to a proper nights business. This is one of the serious lessons that I must learn about because if I cannot clean up shit and dirty toilets, then I won’t be able to do it for myself.
I though about this last night after I wrote my last entry. I was dating a particular man at one time in this life. He was arrogant and yet I liked him. He did things for me that no one else had done. He made me feel things that I had never felt. He had room mates that were sick and could not go out in public without a diaper, because they were struck so hard by illness. It was very sad. They did not make it. but I digress…
The nights fly by one after the other and the job is the same. I am visible to everyone in the bar, because I have planned it that way. Part of my mystique is to get the right men to notice me. I have amassed quite a collection of gear to wear. I have collected it and some of it is custom made. This was the age of “High Leather” and I was at the center of the universe. I would troll the crowd as they came in looking at all the signs that were being flown. The hankies in the right or left pocket, what color they were, and what arm the armbands were being worn on. After a good hour of trolling I could go to my locker and replicate whatever “response” I was going to give back. It always worked. I could play the game just as well as the heaviest hitters.
Nothing pleased me more than to walk out of the kitchen in my chaps and usually by the late hours of the night, I wasn’t wearing a shirt. I could do that then and get away with it. I would be carrying a bucket of ice (they were small garbage cans) full of ice, over to a particular bar, where the heavy hitters would be gathered. I would bounce behind the bar, dancing to the music that was being played and I would fool around with a bar tender, we were all family.
What the ‘lookers’ were very cognizant of was that I knew that many of them were flying red or red brick HANKIES in their left pockets. I had responded with the same hankie in my right pocket. And we would stand there and I would watch them look at me and then they would make a fist and hold it up in front of their faces, pondering the thought, look at me, well, at my backside, and then back at their hands and then they would shake their heads, in disbelief. That was the most excellent feeling…
To know that they noticed me. I played the game and I usually won…
The music would change as mixes were played…
One night in heaven.
I’m on the dance floor, Farkle is in the booth, he is dancing as I look over to the booth from where I stand and I can see him pointing towards the speakers above the booth. He is in a good space tonight. He is playing “up” music and everybody has escaped into that place of utter bliss. It is all well tonight. We have done our jobs. The bodies are gyrating to the same beat, bodies move in unison. Sweat is falling down all around me, I fell arms around me. Hugs and pushes, tugs and tweaks. I set down my bag for a moment on the bass speakers lining the wall and I am engulfed in the arms of some of my friends, and we dance for all it is worth. I am watching the lights swing from one side to the other, and I am in heaven.
From my days at the Stud, I wrote this reflection many years later, at the end of the QAF series as it happened here in Montreal. (Mark) I refer to in this later piece is the same (Farkle) who DJ’d at the Stud during these years I have previously wrote about in the Temple of Sin.
The end of an era has come; the boys and girls of QAF have taken their final bow here in Canada. Tears rolling down my face, she sang, “What have you done today to make you feel proud!” Five seasons and two countries and a lifetime of memories set to the music of the thumpa, thumpa, thumpa. In my earlier life, QAF would play on Saturday nights before the bars would open for business. I would always watch and I would dream, then I would shower and shave my body bare and dress in the skimpiest shirt and tightest jeans I owned and hail the cab that would spirit me away to “Salvation!” This club was in a HUGE warehouse on the west side of Miami Beach, it was a $5.00 taxi ride from home.
I would work all week, to save enough cash to get as drunk and as high as I wanted every week without fail. This was prior to my second coming! The early boys would gather in the retaining area for free drinks before midnight and we would take the time to do our selected drugs in the hopes that they would kick in by the tolling of the midnight bell as the doors would swing open and the darkness and thump of the music would beckon.
Slowly we would file into the main dance hall and stake our claim to our section of the dance floor as the lights and lasers would begin to spin. The drama began with the opening welcome number performed by the greatest entertainers that Gay Miami Beach could offer. We would sing and dance and cheer on the show and salute the dj from the floor. As the show ended the lights would bow out and once again darkness would envelope the crowd.
The only reason one left the dance floor was to further the high or the buzz. It was just an hour till the real show began, the 1 a.m. tolling of the bell, and as it rang everyone would be pleasantly tipsy and totally spinning in the clouds as one by one we would remove our shirts and the bare cheated SOBE men would appear from under their safe and sane muscle shirts, I was one of them. I was a lot thinner and much younger looking and I thought, well, I prayed that One Day I would become one of those “Babylon boys!”
Each weekend it was the same ritual, an episode of QAF, the proper grooming and dressing with the hopes that each successive Saturday might bring me closer to the nirvana I sought. But, I would always end up dancing alone in the same spot week after week. My friend Mark would find himself too pumped up on special K to remove himself from the stairs that took one to the second dance area upstairs.
On Sunday we would talk about just how terribly high we got the night prior and we would pledge not to do that again, because Sunday’s were a bitch. I would end my Saturday night around 6 am on Sunday Morning, by pouring my inebriated and tweaked out self into a taxi, and I would come home and crawl into my apartment and I would always do the same thing, I would shower, make some food and put on The Cider House Rules to which I would pass out for the few hours that stood between me and work where I had to be at 11 a.m. each Sunday morning.
For some reason, each weekend, I was fixated on one thing and that was to retain my SOBE party boy, Babylon seeking youth. I wanted that life, it was all about looking good and being seen in a sea of men who were no less than perfect in every way, shape and form, except for one thing, the entire weeks efforts were spent working out, tanning on the beach and buying the most fabulous clothes to dress to impress the goggling men who would come to Salvation to find their Salvation.
At one point in my SOBE experience I worked for a friend in his tanning salon, just across the street from where Salvation stood. And you’d never guess this, but a tanning salon on SouthBeach did incredible business on Saturday afternoons and evenings.
I wanted; well I coveted many things in my younger incarnation. The hot “to die for” body, I wanted the affection of those men I so followed each weekend. Fuck my HIV and the whole being responsible bit, I didn’t care if it meant for a few hours on a weekend that I could be just “one of the Babylon Boys.”
The music was thumping, and for a few hours I could “escape” and that is what it really was, an escape from reality. Sad though, how reality always wins when it comes to fantasy. The fantasy “escape” ended for me on the night that I prayed for the eternally nasty Hangover. God did not disappoint me on that prayer. He made sure he made his point perfectly clear. “THE PARTY IS OVER!!”
I got sober shortly after that response from God.
After I left Miami for the bright lights and big city for Montreal I was sober. And it’s funny that Salvation closed its doors, and here I thought that they closed because I was no longer a paying, drinking customer! HA, HA, HA, HA, the bar closed when the drunk left the establishment.
It’s all about me right? Wrong! Funny huh, I went from the life of Brian Kinney, the bar hopping wonder single boy who lived for Babylon, in Miami, I MOVED to CANADA and met a man whom I eventually MARRIED and became Brian Novotny, but I never forgot who I was, or left that person and memories behind.
There are really bad and nasty memories in my past, but there are also some
Wonderfully special great memories as well, As Melanie and Lindsay reminded us that it good to have bad memories because they keep us grateful for the good ones. Miami was NOT a bad place, I mean I grew up there, emotionally and sexually, and I would not have changed anything at all, save for one thing, I would want all my friends who have died since then to be here again, for one last night at Babylon.
So we say so long to the crew from Liberty Avenue and we say Thank You for what you did for the gay community in the United States and in Canada as well. I thank you for reminding me that as Michael said “Maybe some things are meant to stay the same!” but as Brian has said, “life changes we grow up and get older” but still at age 38 I refuse to grow up and let go of the young man who used to dance until the sun came up, and the boy who STILL appreciates good dance hall music, and the boy who still needs to be seen and loved for all his flawed humanity.
There will never be another series like Queer as Folk, and I for one will miss your visits on Monday nights, but I am forever grateful, that for a little while I was able to dance and party as if I were in “Babylon” itself. Brian said it so eloquently “No apologies and No regrets!”
Good bye boys and girls…….
I am sad that it’s over but as they say
All Good Things Must come to an End!!!