The official kick-off to a Broadway themed extravaganza of a weekend saw me and four of my friends partying at the super casual, super gay dance party at The China Club sponsored by Budweiser* (For all you do, this Bud's for you). Your choices of drink included Bud, Bud Light and Bud Select. And while I still think that actually approaching a bartender and having this exchange:
Bartender: “What can I get you?”
You: “Budweiser Select.”
is beyond hilarious, the fact that it was free means that I had to try one just to see if it lived up to its billing as a premium alternative to the traditional Budweiser beer. The conclusion? It tastes exactly like original Budweiser – a heavy, bitter start with a bready finish. Goes down hard, makes you bloated. Budweiser Select.
After trading in our Budweiser Select for Bud Light, we began dismantling the buffet table, where we overcame their stinginess by filling up a plate, bringing it to our table and immediately going back and starting on line from the other end with a new plate. We then sat down and relaxed with approximately eight plates of food and 16 Bud Lights and watched as groups of people filtered by, of which there were two kinds: 1) the group of four guys with one girl, always with the girl leading the way and the guys looking for someone cooler to talk to, or 2) the group of three girls, mildly attractive, wearing new outfits from H&M, with their heads on a swivel surveying the crowd with a keen eye that gave off an air of “If there is a straight man here, I will find him.”
For our part, I have no idea what people must have thought of us. One moment a gay guy would be ready to approach our table after overhearing my friend Scott say, “I don’t know what kind of jeans they are, I just got them. Here, check out the label on the back,” and stand up with his ass in my friend Matt’s face, then immediately do a u-turn when overhearing, “OK, let’s all put in $20 for the first guy to make out with a woman over 60.” We were a group unto ourselves, men who made the decision early on in the night to accept the facts of our circumstances:
1. that we would appear gay
2. that there was little to no chance of meeting a likeable girl
3. that we were at a party for an industry with which we had zero affiliation outside of being invited to parties like this
We decided to embrace it and view it as a liberating experience the same way that traveling to a foreign country imbibes you with the feeling that, for lack of understanding the laws native to the land, you can do whatever you want. When in Rome, eat carbohydrates and drink wine. When at a Tony Awards party sponsored by Budweiser . . . dance.
I will say this as unequivocally as I possibly can: It is a damn shame that somewhere down the line it became embarrassing for guys to dance. And I’m not talking about dancing like “grinding up on a girl for five minutes before making out with her.” I mean dancing like unrestrained movements of both arms and legs, like the way you danced at weddings when you were a child and all you wanted was attention and more sugar. Yeah, I agree – most of the time it’s not a pretty sight. But if we could all just have a collective “GET OVER IT” and realize how fun it is, the world would be a better, less horny place.
Even I had my reservations when the music switched over from hip-hop to 80’s, the traditional dance music of gay men and New Jersey women for over two decades. But as I sat there on the stage (did I mention we were on a stage?) listening to Madonna and thinking, “How can you possibly dance to this?” I watched everyone flail around me and, with the final swig of my sixth Bud Light, all semblance of masculinity seeped from my body and by the time Elton John came on I was in the middle of a dance circle pulling out and old Kid N’ Play move. For a man who trades in sarcasm on a daily basis, it was some of the most unsarcastic moves my body had ever made.
And you know what? It turns out the truth is attractive. Because with about 15 minutes left in the night, my friend Scott and I were unabashedly dancing around each other in small circles when an attractive girl approached us coyly from the side, dancing by herself with modest, unobtrusive movements. When my friend Scott noticed her he called her over to us and motioned for her to dance with us. Wordlessly, she gladly obliged and jumped in, fists pumping and legs kicking. When the song was over, we were all smiles and adulation. Then after introducing ourselves, we had this conversation:
Me: “So where are you from?”
Her: “Edmonton, Canada.”
Me: “Oh, wow. You must be pretty excited right now [for the Stanley Cup finals, of which Edmonton is a part].”
Scott: “Well, not that excited [as Edmonton was down 2-0 in the best of seven series].”
Insert fake laughter and guy banter.
Her: (clearly confused at our non-gayness) “Uh, yeah. Totally.”
And with that we took off, reveling in our dance moves, ambiguous sexual orientation and free Budweiser haze. The best part? This was only the first event. There were two more to come, each with a much different tenor, i.e. more dignified, less “Dancing Queen.” But for those few short hours, we were in the moment, enjoying this industry with which we have no affiliation, yet collectively we knew that we belonged on Broadway. Or at least the part of Broadway where the hookers hang out offering hand jobs for $5. Yeah, at least that part.
* Apparently, back in 1999 Budweiser ran a series of gay-friendly print ads in a limited number of publications. The ads, which showed two men holding hands with the slogan "Be yourself and make it a Bud Light,” prompted such outrage amongst conservative beer drinkers that a grassroots campaign was established in opposition to the ads. One chain email circulated to drum up support wrote: “We can let Anheuser Busch understand that pro-family Americans are terribly concerned about homosexual images coming into our homes through advertising campaigns.” And you know what? They’re absolutely right. I remember back when I was younger and my Dad would sit me on his lap and we would read through the beer ads in all the current weeklies, and I always felt “This is what family is all about.” But here we are six years later, and Budweiser is back to their family-destructing ways, transforming five otherwise heterosexual men into Bud Light waving dancing queens doing the YMCA dance ON A STAGE.)