The Xtravaganza Ball: Hard to Put Into Words (Photos Inside); Latex Ball Coming Up

The morning was swept away as I hugged my pillow and dreamt of Father Jose Xtravaganza’s iconic 30th anniversary WRATH OF THE GODS & GODDESSES” BALL last night at XL Nightclub. I dreamt of Aphrodite and Hercules and Gods and Goddesses and princes and princesses and sugarplum fairies and lots of other fairies and girls that would be boys and boys that would be girls. I never wanted to wake up. The Ball was everything. It was glamour and drama and love and sadness as those that have gone with God were remembered. It was beauty and emotion. It was professional. Grandfather Hector Xtravaganza was a proud father surveying the universe he presides over. I sat as a judge next to the legendary Patricia Fields who was flanked by the joy that is Jack Mizrahi.

Jack is usually an emcee and he commented on the uniqueness of his new role. Pat Fields was amazing. She was unforgiving as a judge. She was fair but demanding. She wanted excellence, and she chopped those who didn’t bring it. I chopped some guy in the Thug Realness category. He came at me at intermission with anger, demanding to know why. He pointed out that he had brought the required spear and, as he yelled at me, he was full of fire and brimstone. I explained to him – although all around me said I need not explain – that if he had come to the stage with the attitude he was coming at me now, like a thug, I would have given him the "10" and the prize he coveted. On stage there was nothing Thug about him. He got chopped.Xtravaganza Ball

Nunney Karma competing in the BQ Vogue Fem category was all attitude and athleticism and creativity and confidence. He twisted and pranced to his just reward. Jennifer Paris had to tell the MC and the crowd that she indeed was born a man as there were few believers in the crowd. She was recruited to be an Xtravaganza on the spot.

Claudia Charriez Xtravaganza was radiant. YouTube her on The Tyra Banks Show to believe. Claudia and I talked about ourwonder years at clubs gone by, when she and Jennifer were the new kids on the block. They are goddesses now in this Ball world and in mine as well.Xtravaganza ball

Lady Bunny was stealing the show, dancing and toying with every camera in the room. There were many so photos; video should be all over the internet. She was asked to the stage as a legend and told the adoring crowd that she represented the International House of Pancakes. As I have explained, the Ball has representatives from the various "Houses" that make up the culture, competing for prizes and glory. It was glorious.

XL was perfect. I hadn’t ever been. Old friends, owner John Blair and GM Tracy Choi, gave me the 50-cent tour and massive amounts of drink tickets. I keep finding them in the pockets of my jacket, which I got from SEW on Mott Street. I felt like a million bucks, all decked out in their duds, which are anything but duds.Xtravaganza BallBINGO moves tonight from the Bowery Poetry Club (now-shuttered because of renovations) to Duane Park, as Duane transforms it into its brand of paradise. BINGO lands softly on the enclosable roof of Hotel Chantelle.

Tonight I’m going to dream of another fitting befitting of the glow that the Ball has bestowed on me. The next big Ball is the Latex Ball at Roseland Ballroom on August 18th. Thousands will show as all the houses will represent. This will be the 22nd Latex Ball and it is, of course, a GMHC affair.

The Latex Ball’s theme: 

The House of Latex Project presents The Enchanted Forest

“The place in which inner darkness is confronted and worked through; where uncertainty is resolved about who one is; and where one begins to understand who one wants to be.”- Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods, 1987

The inner life of forests has always enchanted us. It is that special place where roots, soil, leaves, insects, flowers, animals, and water collide to create the circle of life. And it is there that the sounds of the raindrops falling from the leaves of ancient trees were transformed into the deafening sounds of our ancestors beating on their drums. Inspiring them to create and spread the magical stories of our creation, our past, and our future – that we now call fairytales and fables.

Tonight’s categories will take you into this inner sanctum and help you travel from tropical jungles to alien worlds; from confronting scary spirits, to places of indescribable beauty. To a place where magical herbs grow unnoticed until they are found to hold the power to help cure illnesses and diseases. We hope your enjoy this trip filled with joy, adventure, mystery and beauty that we call The Enchanted Forest.

The Latex Ball’s categories:

RUNWAY
Cinderella – A classic story where a young girl goes from rag to riches in spite of her evil step mother and step sisters. In the classic Disney animated film, Cinderella is the much-loved only child of a widowed aristocrat. After deciding that his beloved daughter needs a mother’s care, Cinderella’s father marries Lady Tremaine, a proud woman with two daughters from her first marriage, Drizella and Anastasia. Plain and socially awkward, these stepsisters are bitterly envious of the beautiful and charming Cinderella. After the death of Cinderella’s father, Lady Tremaine and her daughters take over the estate, and begin to abuse and mistreat Cinderella out of jealousy. Despite everyone trying her, Cinderella becomes a kind woman and befriends the animals living in the forest around her, until her Prince Charming comes along and saves her.

Women – $ 1 Trophy
The Fairy God Mother came to rescue Cinderella from her misery and granted her a blue dress and glass slippers. Tonight, bring your wand and transform your simple look into a glamorous effect before our eyes. Don’t forget your wand!!!

Butch Queen – $ – 3 Trophies. European (Small vs Tall vs Big)
Lady Tremaine (Tall) and her daughters Drizella (Small) and Anastasia (Big) drove Cinderella to tears with their shade. Before Cinderella could get to the ball, they tore her dress to shreds to prevent her from going. Tonight, we want to see you take those tattered and shredded pieces of fabric from Cinderella’s original gown and create a Victorian BQ high-fashion effect and walk with your wicked step-family attitude.

All American – $ -1 Trophy. All American
Welcome to Prince Charming’s ball!! The King and Queen are ready to marry you off and set you on your regal way. Bring us Prince Charming in your ROYAL HOUSE COLORS.

Butch Queen Up In Drags vs. Fem Queens – $ – 2 Trophies
From Rags to Riches is how Cinderalla’s life unfolds. Tonight we would like the BQUID to bring it as Cinderella BEFORE her fairy godmother came and transformed her into the belle of the ball, and we want the FQs to bring it like Cinderella in her blue gown as she steps into the ball with one of her feathered friends on her shoulder cheering her on as she gets her prince. FACE
In the original story of Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault, seven fairies were invited to the christening of a King & Queen’s long wished for baby girl. Each fairy brought her gifts of BEAUTY, WIT, GRACE, DANCE, SONG & the ABILITY TO PLAY ANY MUSICAL INSTRUMENT. An eighth fairy was accidently not invited to the party, and showed up plucked and gave the little girl the gift of a curse – should the princess prick her hand on a spindle, she would instantly die! Fortunately, a quick thinking fairy granted the princess with one final gift and transformed the shady fairy’s curse into 100 years of deep sleep that could only be broken by the kiss of from a king’s son.

Women – $ – 1 Trophy
Paint your face as a gift of beauty, wit, grace, song, or music – and dance down the runway to the judges and give them the best gift of all – your face!

Drags – $ – 1 Trophy
The overlooked and understated fairy served Sleeping Beauty’s face with a look that made the poor child go to sleep for 100 years! When she awakens, will she gag and live for your wicked beauty – or will she fall back into slumber for another 100 years?!!

Butch Queen – $ – 1 Trophy
The King’s son traveled through the enchanted forest on his steed and stumbled upon a sleeping beauty like no other. In your most royal garb and crown, bring us your look of love tonight. Will your kiss wake her up to love at first sight or will it send her back into a dip of deep sleep?

Fem Queen – $ – 1 Trophy
Sleeping beauty’s face remained ageless when she pricked her hand on a spindle at the clock stopped at the age of 16, keeping her face timeless and effortless. Bring us an effect that only a true Sleeping Beauty could wear to sleep for 100 years and sell us your everlasting carta with a bejeweled mirror. Honey, this Princess is ready to become Queen of Carta!!

TEAM REALNESS
Any type of Realness, Male Figure, Female Figure – $ – 2 Trophies

In the original story of Hansel and Gretel, two siblings try and find their way home from deep in the forest. Unfortunately, the birds ate the breadcrumbs they left behind and they found themselves at the hands of an evil cannibalistic hag. Forced to outwit her in order to escape her stew pot, bring to the judges your realness as Hansel and Gretel and see who survives to live another day in the enchanted forest. FASHION
In Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice is transported to another world and told that she is the only one who can slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature controlled by the Red Queen who terrorizes Underland’s inhabitants and bring peace back to the forest. With the help of the mad hatter and Mirana of Marmoreal, the White Queen, Alice is able to outwit the evil queen and slay the Jabberwocky, and save the forest and return back home.

OTA Labels – $ -2 Trophies Female Figure vs. Male Figure
The Mad-Hatter is hosting a “Wonderland Fashionista Affair” at his house and only the richest of them all will attend. Bring us this Season’s Labels…

Sneaker vs Sneaker – $ -1 Trophy
Wonderland is full of bright colors and outrageous surprises. Bring us your most colorful sneakers that you would wear to enter the Wonderland forest.

Best Dressed – $ – 2 Trophies Female Figure vs. Male Figure
She really likes the dark side, but she’s so scared of going too far into it that she’s made everything appear very light and happy. In Honor of the White Queen, come dressed in all white best- dressed look.

SEX SIREN
Dating back to 1697, the tale Little Red Riding Hood tells the story of a little girl going to go visit her sick grandmother. During her trip she bumps into the biggest, baddest, and hungriest wolf in the forest. At first he’s ready to eat her, but decides on another plan. The wolf runs to the grandmother’s house and eats her, then waits for Little Red Riding Hood to arrive so he can eat her. When she arrives, she is confused by the deepness in her grandma’s voice and the size of her Grandma’s hands and teeth, she gets a little too close and is quickly gobbled up too!! Luckily a lumberjack from the forest steps in and chops the wolf open and frees the Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood!!

FQ – $ – 1 Trophy
Little Red Riding Hood is on her way to visit her sick grandma, but had actually planned a date for later that evening. Bring it in a red cloak and sexy lingerie underneath!

BQ – $ – 1 Trophy
The lumberjack stepped in and rescued Little Red Riding Hood from the big bad wolf. Bring it in your plaid sexy wear and show us how chopping wood all day does a body good!

TM – $ – 1 Trophy
Come as the biggest baddest wolf in the forest ready to eat some young tender white meat. The bigger, badder, and hairer…the better. BODY
Written by a female author in 1740, the story of Beauty & the Beast is about a merchant, his three daughters and a tortured prince who has been cursed to live his life in the shape of a beast. Lost in the forest on his way home from a failed trip to bring back his daughters jewels and riches, the merchant bumps into a castle and seeks shelter for the night. The next day, the merchant steals a rose from the garden to bring to Belle – it’s all she really wanted, since she was his most humble and good daughter. Enraged by the merchants disrespect, the owner of the castle – the Beast, forces the merchant to give up his daughter Belle in exchange for the rose and gives him the riches he promised his other two daughters. Belle agrees to live with Beast and is showered in the finest clothes and jewels but misses her family. The Beast agrees to let her leave for a week and when she fails to return he almost dies of a broken heart. When Belle finally
 returns she finds him half dead and weeps over his body and her tears magically break the curse and the Beast transforms into the most handsome Prince she has ever seen.

Beauty and the Beast
Team FQ & BQ – $ – 2 Trophies
Bring Belle and the Beast to the runway in their finery. In his search for love, the Beast has spared no expensive and showered Belle with the most beautiful ball gowns and jewels money can buy. Tonight, you are the most elegant couple at the ball. Bring the house down.

Women – $ – 1 Trophy
A rose is a rose is a rose….come covered in roses and show us why the rose is such a powerful symbol of beauty.

BIZARRE
OTA – $ – 1 Trophy
Bring the enchanted forest to life in your effects. Forests are often the home to rare animals and flowers that live nowhere else in the world. Show us an effect no one has ever imagined or seen before. You are the forest that brings life and beauty to the world, and especially to tonight’s ball.

VOGUE
An orphan with the ability to fly and never age, Peter Pan is one of the most beloved forest dwellers of all time. With his crew of other orphans known as the Lost Boys, Peter Pan invites Wendy Darling to be the house mother and join his wild adventures on the island of Neverland that have inspired us for more than a century now. At the Mermaid Lagoon, Peter Pan saves the native princess Tiger Lilly and fights off the evil Captain Hook and his crew of pirates. Captain Hook tries to poison Peter Pan but his best friend, a fairy named Tinkerbell, drinks it and is saved by the promise that we will always believe in fairytales no matter how old we get!

FQ – $ – 1 Trophy
Tiger Lilly is the prettiest Native in the forest who fiercely took on Captain Hook and his men. Tonight bring us this princess warrior, ready to fight and snatch that trophy for her tribe.

BQ – $ – 1 Trophy
This mischievous man-child can fly and twist and turn in the air on a dime. Tonight bring us that childlike spirit and energy and take flight!

Women – $ – 1 Trophy
Tinkerbell is Peter Pan’s best friend and always has his back. She’ll even drink poison to save him. In a fairy effect, spread your fairy dust love on the runway.

Drags – $ – 1 Trophy
In the end, Wendy chooses to go back home and leave Neverland, but not before she leaves her mark in her signature blue dress. Show us what you got and why you’ll always be remembered in the forest of Neverland.

Pop, Dip & Spin vs New Way – $ – 2 Trophies
Captain Hook and his pirates are always in search of treasure and will do what they gotta do to get it. In a pirate effect, show us why we will always treasure the Pop, Dip & Spin, and why New Way gets the crowd to their feet.

Twist – $ – 1 Trophy
Sometimes parents just don’t have it together and can’t take care of their kids, so the kids are left to figure it out on their own. We call these the Lost Boys. They’re young, they’re strong, and they have what it takes to survive in a hard world. And when the pixie dust touches their skin, they get cunt and twist it out. Bring it in a lost boy effect and let the battles begin!

GRAND PRIZE
As A House – $$
James Cameron’s film Avatar took us to a whole new world where the forest was the center of all life. As a house, take us to the future of 2148 and into the forests of Pandora, where the cure for HIV has been growing deep in this alien world. Your house has recruited 1 Legend, 1 Face, 1 Runway, 1 Vogue and 1 Realness to find this rare flowering plant that is the panacea to all that ails humans, including the HIV virus. Your house holds the key to end the pandemic of HIV and on Earth. Bring us your best, as undercover Avatars to help humans find the secret location of this rare alien flower.
 

Will Back in the Day Come Back?

The other night at the Latex Ball, I had a eureka moment. It occurred to me that I was witnessing what nightlife was like back in the day; when large, mixed crowds of creative people were all getting along and enjoying each other’s company in a huge room. Out of necessity and circumstance, bottle service drove the creative types from the game. The rising costs – which include rent, insurance, DJ fees, litigation, and too many etceteras – drove the clubs that didn’t embrace the table service crowd to Brooklyn or oblivion…which isn’t another name for Jersey, Queens, or Staten Island, but could be.

Yesterday I wrote:

"Creativity on a grand scale will return to nightlife as a business decision. Creativity is hard to extinguish. It has thrived on the street and in the subways, cave walls, in prison, and in societies that have repressed it. It has reared itself at advanced ages. It has given those seemingly impaired a way to the light. It has channeled the beasts and the fears within us and brought them to survivable places. Creativity will be embraced by the bean counters because it will be useful to separate their bean machine from the others."

Many clubs seed their rooms with dressy or flamboyant people to add to the adventure. "Image" promoters are asked to bring in and babysit young model types, because that is the image that has traditionally sold bottles. Many joints have "hipster nights," where the music isn’t the same ol’, same ol’ stuff heard around the scene. These nights are usually reserved for off-nights and generate enough money to be worth opening. The theory is that it breaks up the week and, every so often, a traveling wale (big spender) wanders in and it’s a score. These nights are the more creative (as I define it) and, in a sense, acknowledge that when the crowds are smaller on early weeknights, the clubs become more creative in order to set them apart from their competition. They change their own game to emphasize that their bean machine is cooler than the next one. New music and even fashion aren’t breaking out of clubs.Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny are throwing a couple of weeklys that don’t attract the fashion-forward set, and the music is also a step ahead. Places like Home Sweet Home are pushing the envelope with great DJs and fun programming. The Box format of shock and awe still brings in a great crowd, long after the novelty has worn off. The very fact that it offers “different” delivers crowds who are bored with the top 40 sounds and condo-clone set. That club does attract the debutantes and the frat boys and black card babies who, like moths, are attracted to its flame – but its smart door monitoring understands how much of that can be let in without scaring away the core crowd. On a small scale it proves that those not starving in Bushwick can embrace a creative format, and the different mindsets can exist in the same club at the same time. The era of a large club where all types gather has passed, but is the time right again for a real monster of music and fun and new ideas?

Nearly every club for a decade or more has hitched to the "great service" wagon. The art of bottle service has been refined into a science, but the concept is wearing thin. The clueless are still all in it but the sharp set are less interested in it as an idea of fun. It just comes with the table. I can’t help but believe those spending the bucks want anything more than the same, and there is little doubt that they will demand more. They are just following their traditional leaders: the good ol’ boy owners who service them as they flit around from Vegas to AC to The Hamptons and back.

One of these smart owners will turn to creative types to set them apart. Will it be drag queens dancing on the bar?…I think not. At least not in the beginning. But nights need to be curated to keep people in their seats and spending. After all, a bottle of Goose is the same bottle of Goose at the A-list club as it is in the dive bar. Getting dollars out of the customer will, as the industry continues to expand, become harder. Every nook, every restaurant or cranny, every roof, every bar salivates over the revenue stream bottle business brings. Entertainment to attract the crowds may not be as out there as what The Box has served, but it may separate the men from the boys. Vegas slams you with the big DJ, the beautiful go-go girls, and the staged entertainment. New York rarely offers anything more than a forced smile from a waitron and a sparkler. It will happen. Managing partners will mix things up or be left behind. Eventually, a large club will be necessary. It will start with a revamping of mid-sized venues and talent bookings. Electronic dance music venues will route acts from Vegas into their NYC locations and maintain a strict door policy. Think Lavo, but on a grander scale. As soon as spectacle is embraced, the need for a larger venue will become apparent. It may not be easy or even possible for a new large venue to open in Manhattan. The existing joints that live on the "size matters" concept are set in their ways and successful at what they do. Webster Hall may not be all things to all people, but they continue to offer brilliant music programming and serve thousands of people who enjoy their version of a big club experience. Their detractors must realize that they are music-based, they do make tons of money (one of the primary reasons to be in the business), and they have been around since before your parent’s were born.

Pacha serves those who want their brand of music and crowd. District 36 isn’t often on my radar, but it does offer a simple, classic, house-head purity. All of these joints are not part of the club social set scene. They don’t care much about that. Off-parties are wonderful fantastic experiences, but the jet-setters, the bon vivants, don’t consider them since they are putting on their shoes to go out. The cops and their puppeteers probably wouldn’t allow a new mega club in Manhattan, but Manhattan is not everything anymore. The high-rises of the Brooklyn waterfront, the $28 entrees at new nearby restaurants, the baby strollers on Bedford Ave., tell me that a ginormous joint could thrive in an old warehouse in Greenpoint or near there.

I have been hearing rumors and have sat in on a few meetings – I believe that this will happen. The next big thing most likely will be born outside of Manhattan and could redefine the scene to what it once was.

Bow Down to Princess Xtravaganza and Her Royal House of Magnifique

For over 20 years I have attended balls. The balls I attend aren’t the ones seen in old movies, with rich white ladies in gowns and rich white gentlemen in tuxes, sipping champagne and listening to the unlistenable. That’s not really me and I’m never really invited to those except when some misguided publicist thinks I might cover their charity soirèe. The balls I attend are the balls thrown by the houses sometimes referred to as the voguing houses. I was honored to be a judge at an Xtravaganza Ball a couple years back. This culture became popularized by Madonna with her song "Vogue." The world learned to pop, dip, and spin, and the balls were never the same. In reality, balls and this culture have been around for a century. I am a regular at the annual Latex Ball which is now turning 21. This ball is presented by the GMHC, now in its 30th year of helping educate and support people with AIDS. Education helps with prevention. Despite a very relaxed attitude by the general public regarding this scourge, HIV and AIDS are still killing people.

The houses play an extremely important role for people who are sometimes left out of the process we call society. They serve as a support group for people who are sometimes shunned by family and schoolmates and their surroundings. They are perceived as different, often made outcasts by a world of the straight and narrow, and more often than not – racist. The balls are an opportunity to show the community and family of like-minded souls what they have and why it is wonderful.  
 
The date of this year’s Latex Ball has not been announced, but I was told that it will be held, as is the norm, on the third Saturday in August. The August 18th bash is by far – at least for me and mine – the best party of the year. You will scream and cry and yell and laugh and protest and agree as judges of reputation and qualification award prizes to the best in 20-something categories. As we get closer to the event, I will inform you.
Princess Xtravaganza
 
I am writing about it at this early juncture because of an announcement which has shocked and awed the Lewis household…in a good way: my dear friend Princess Xtravaganza has announced the reformation of the House of Magnifique. It gets better. She is now once again Princess Magnifique and she has asked me to play a major role in this endeavor. This is a great honor and something that I had always wanted. As a straight white male, to be asked to be part of this legendary House is something I didn’t think was possible. It has left me speechless and you all know how impossible that is. 
 
Princess has asked me to be Emperor of the Royal House Of Magnifique. Chi Chi Valenti is Empress. Princess will be the Mother of the House, and  Adrien Xtravaganza will be the Father of the House. Before I was anybody except my parent’s son, I hooked up with the Ramones and, as a friend of their’s, was awarded access to the best clubs in town, including the legendary Mudd Club. There I was, able to learn the club world and meet many different types of people that my Queens upbringing had denied me. I had regularly met up with Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi at Fiorucci and on St. Marks place. They taught me to think outside the box that everyone I grew up with accepted. My head always tilted to the left of my upbringing and, until Joey and Klaus, I thought I was alone.
 
Although connected, I wasn’t connected enough to gain access to the VIP second floor of Mudd. Chi Chi Valenti was the separator, the door person. She denied me time and time again. Not deterred, I studied the crowd she embraced and came back one night in torn jeans, a Ramones t-shirt, and carried a perfect red rose. I presented the rose with my head bowed slightly for Chi Chi and she smiled and let me in. I have never left. She is to blame for my club career – an honor she may or may not embrace. Now she is the Empress of the Magnifiques and I am there.
 
This probably sounds like a bunch of hooey to many of you. I urge you to google voguing balls or The Latex Ball and such and see this world that has now honored me with acceptance. I see this as an opportunity to do some good…make a difference. Punk Rock Frankie is one of the original Magnifiques and his blessing was all-important. I asked Princess to tell us all about this happening.
 
Why are you relaunching the Royal House of Magnifique? 
We were such an amazing House, and when it started getting stronger, I forgot what really happened – why Punk Rock Frankie closed the House. But it’s been on my mind for some great time to reopen this again. I just felt it in my soul that this time is the right time to make this bigger than ever… powerful and in the name of Punk Rock Frankie.. so this is why I’m not letting this Royal House die. Point 1: This is where my roots are I’m grateful that I have Punk Rock Frankie’s blessing. I’ve got to bring this back on top. This is not a game, point blank.  
 
What is a House and what is the history of the Houses as you know it?
What is a House? Well, this House is a group of powerful, talented people that not only go to a ball, in battle for trophies. We are a performance house that travels the world, showing what Magnifique is made of. This Royal Family is of every color and background, gay and straight, boys and girls, men and women. This house was born in 1986 and now again in 2012. 
 
Who else is joining you?
You ask who else is joining… only the chosen talented, and some of the most colorful and artistic people that are powerful and fit – what I’m looking for and what Magnifique stands for. I’m holding a casting next month to requite new, fresh, talented members. 
 
You gave asked me to be Emperor of the Royal House of Magnifique. I am deeply honored but must ask this…as I am a straight white male… isn’t this a departure from the norm? Am I qualified. Am I worthy of this honor. Is it a statement that the Magnifiques are going to be traditional but unafraid to break new ground?
Yes, I ask you, Steve Lewis, to be the Emperor. It really does not matter if you are gay or straight. You have that personality to do it, so I fell you can do it. You must believe in yourself. Bring it. Chi Chi brings it all the time and she is the Empress of this Royal Family. 
 
Will there be a ball to celebrate?
Yes, of course we will be having a major ball to really announce our return. 
 
How does belonging to a house help you in your own life?
Just because you belong to a house… you can live your life as you always do, or you can also benefit from belonging to a strong talented house full of people that are talented in every known way. It really depends on what type of house you belong to. 

Party On: Ball Awards and Some Scottish Love

The Ball Awards held in the The Lab Banquet Hall on Fulton Street, Brooklyn has left me limp. (Please, no wisecracks from my ex-wives.) It was a reassuring chaotic happening. It said that the world, as I know it and love it and live for, can and does indeed exist…albeit sometimes in Bed-Stuy, and other times in those places not on the beaten-down path of nightlife. It was thousands of people gathering to hug, kiss, and scream for joy as the most limber and creative amongst them competed for prizes and status. The outsider who accompanied me was amazed, dazed, and sometimes confused, but she was not alone. I was often brought to tears by the magnificent mayhem, and the love poured at us and at everyone in attendance.

I waited with the crowds outside for the doors to finally open around 11:30pm. We were told to be there at 9:30pm, but have some experience with these affairs; nothing was going to happen until midnight. The cold air had us all huddled up and tight as the line went way down the block. Little skirmishes with line-cutters were dealt with Ball banter from attendees who sometimes looked thugish or shady on the outside, but of course were as sweet as can be once they let their masks down — not that they can’t roll if they have to. The ballroom life brings many who traveled a rough road to find acceptance. Sharp tongues managed by sharp minds gave shade like an elm tree to the misbehaviors. Someone in the crowd scolded a young transgressor, telling him he could "get Brooklyn-hurt, not Jersey-hurt" if he continued to offend. Once inside, a female staffer who could kick my ass with one hand tied behind her back, searched me good. That gal knows more about me than half the
dates I ever went with. It hurt, which means it must have been good for me. I wonder if it was good for her as well. 
 
Ball Awards
 
A 6-foot-3-inch man — who was more of a lady than most of the security who harassed her — stood her ground at the inside ropes. She wasn’t going to take the laughter or put-downs and got in their faces and demanded a manager. She got an apology. She was magnificent.The mandatory coat check was $3, but you could pay $5 and keep your outerwear. I knew I wasn’t in Manhattan anymore. Inside, people were complaining about the $10-a-glass Hennessy, reaffirming we weren’t in Manhattan anymore. The Lab is an amazing room and a brilliant choice for this affair. I have been to many Balls, but don’t remember one as fun and exciting as this. I sat with the wonderful Princess Magnifique and Punk Rock Frankie Magnifique. Frankie hadn’t been out in a while, so a lot of people came by to say hello and pay respect. The Latex Ball is coming August 18th at Roseland Ballroom, I believe. Cancel all vacations or other plans as this event; this culture must become a part of you.
 
Tonight, Mr. Mark Baker has implored me to attend "From Scotland With Love: The Tenth Anniversary Show." He refered to it as "Dressed to Kilt" and I thought that was clever. It’ll be at The Liberty Theater and starts at 7:30pm. I will, of course, be at BINGO at the Bowery Poetry Club and unable to attend, but as I am a supporter of all things Baker, I had to tell you about it. The affair benefits The Wounded Warrior Project and Cash For Kids. Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin McKidd are expected to show.

The 22nd Annual Latex Ball: The Olympics for the Fringe (PHOTOS INSIDE)

The 22nd Annual Latex Ball at Roseland Ballroom this past Saturday was more than it ever was. It was packed to the rafters with a mixed crowd of Ball community regulars and voyeurs for the voguers. There were strangers of all types in this strange land usually reserved for the Ball culture and LGBT community. I saw more straight women at this affair than in years past. Tourists and first-timers were everywhere. There were times in years past where I felt like I was the only straight, white guy in a room of thousands. That has changed as more and more people of different races and preferences have come to realize the importance of what is happening at the Balls. This culture is eons ahead of the world outside of it in terms of our sexual journey as well as its acceptance and celebration of differences. It lives in a reality that TV is almost ready for. The "virgins” I brought with me, one of which included photographer Lela Edgar, had a hard time believing that “she” was a “he” and they were that and such. They can be excused as realness was everywhere. Lines were certainly blurred. The thing about blurring lines and perceptions is that it makes you go with your feelings, and I have a feeling that if we could just let go of the ancient rules that suppress us and went with our feelings, we would feel a lot better about a lot of things.

No one was disappointed – except maybe those who came in 2nd or 12th place in the fiercely contested competitions. The GMHC Latex Ball serves as the Olympics for a community that has lived on the fringes for decades. It is an event and a mindset that celebrates fabulous fringes, flowers, lace, ribbons, and serious designer labels. Categories like Butch Queen Sex Siren, Women’s Face, Legendary Performance, Realness with a Twist, and 20+ other contests were fiercely competed in. Trophies and cash were awarded after a panel of judges ruled. The GMHC has thrown this bash for 22 years. It serves as an educational reminder that the epidemic is still upon us and is still killing and taking prisoners. I can’t spend time explaining the Ball culture to those who have no idea what I’m talking about except to reference the flick Paris is Burning, the song and famous video "Vogue" by Madonna, Myballroomlife.com, YouTube, Wikipedia, or links to past articles I have humbly offered.

There was an energy in the air Saturday night, a feeling I get when I look to the past for fond and warm and exciting memories. Those feelings reared their wonderful head as creativity, love, and acceptance of each other blurred all lines and screamed that there was indeed a way back to a world of relevant nightlife by going forward with what I clearly saw Saturday. It was a eureka moment, like in that silly flick Avatar, when the light is extinguished and the hero sees that the jungle itself is lit up.  When I got home at 7am, I posted this on my FB page:

"latex ball completely over the top. the need for mixed fun nightlife created and curated by creative people will soon be apparent as the boredom of black cards and bottles implodes that scene. the edge will be sought again."

The ball had me high on its energy and the fabulousness of all involved, but I believe in that statement, and tomorrow I will outline the possibly-inevitable rebirth of club culture as I know it or, more likely, a retooled version of it. I, we have been blind and accepting. There are hundreds of great nights and events all over this town which have burgeoned to include a vibrant nightlife culture outside of the moated confines of Manhattan. Bridge and tunnel is now a good thing.

Creativity on a grand scale will return to nightlife as a business decision. Creativity is hard to extinguish. It has thrived on the street and in the subways, cave walls, in prison, and in societies that have repressed it. It has reared itself at advanced ages. It has given those seemingly impaired a way to the light. It has channeled the beasts and the fears within us and brought them to survivable places. Creativity will be embraced by the bean counters because it will be useful to separate their bean machine from the others. More on this tomorrow.

Today, my throat is still sore from screaming encouragement and worship; my eyes are dry from joyful tears; and the dancing of sugar plum fairies and other mythical creatures still hold sway over my feeble mind. The 23rd GMHC Latex Ball will surely be next August and will surely be at Roseland. Congratulations to all that came, served, and carry this night and the life it represents in their slightly larger hearts. Start thinking about next year’s outfit now.