Saturday, November 12, 2005


Thursday, 10/27: Started with a conference call meeting of the Steering Committee of the NYS GENDA Coalition. We firmed up the plans for our first Regional Training/Education Session, which will be held at the Loft in White Plains on Nov. 19. Our liaison with our website developer promised that our website will be up by then (but I've been hearing such promises since last summer--or was it the spring?)

Then I went down to SOHO to a different Loft for Unveiling The Butterfly: An evening of entertainment by Asian American Women to benefit the feature-length film Tie a Yellow Ribbon. I really went to hear Wendy Ip, who has recently started to call herself Just Wendy. I used to hear her on Mondays at the Stonewall Bistro when I could make it, but she's not there any more. When I asked at the Bistro about her, they just said, "She hasn't been here for weeks." (More on this later.)

Despite my arrival a bit late, they weren't letting people in. I stood out on the sidewalk with a small but growing group, mostly young Asian women, about half in business attire, half in casual clothes. I was overdressed for the event, trying to straddle the line between this event and a more glam later one--a similar outfit to what I wore to the "Get Drag Racy" event, except this time my top was pink, and the fishnets were hot pink/black two-tones. At this point the top was invisible under my jacket, a fitted black leather one with silvery buttons and epaulettes, which someone has said makes me look like a dominatrix. But I softened it with a fuzzy pink scarf.

After a few minutes they let us in, and we crowded into the elevator. Upstairs there was a table where they took my $20, and a coat rack where I hung up my jacket and scarf. It was a big, high-ceilinged, mostly empty loft. There was a small bar, a couch and a few chairs. Bowls of snacks were scattered here and there. A small stage was set up in the corner. I recognized Wendy's keyboard (and its wheeled case lying on the floor behind the stage.) A projector put stills from the film on the wall. An opening in the wall behind a low bookcase led to another large room, which appeared to be the "backstage" (it wasn't). There was a long table with a dozen or so silent auction items--yoga sessions, a small silvery evening bag, a Leger art book, nothing I was terribly interested in. Since the way to win fixed-time auctions (including eBay) is to be the last bidder, not the first, I knew I had little chance, since I knew I'd be leaving well before the bidding ended.

I bought a drink from a disorganized amateur bartender, as the room filled up--several dozen people after a while. I knew nobody. Only two or three of the women besides me were dressed up.

At some point I realized that I was doing something unusual, at least for me. I was the only crossdresser at a non-LGBT event. I've been to many LGBT events where I was the only one, and occasionally I've been to non-LGBT events with other CDs. But this was different. No one seemed to take any particular notice of me. Did I just pass? I don't think so--I never believe I pass, despite what people tell me, and I certainly did not blend in that evening, with my overdressing. So I'm going to assume that everyone was comfortable with a CD in their midst. Which is good.

Eventually I found Wendy. She showed me a plate of egg rolls, which were actually quite good. We had a long conversation, with more drinks and egg rolls, waiting for the program to start. She also knew no one else there, except for the film's producer who had invited her, and he was quite busy running the event. So I pretty much had her undivided attention. (She did know some of the other musicians, but they hadn't arrived yet.)

I had seen Wendy only once since last June, performing at the Bistro, so there was quite a bit to get caught up with. First I asked her about her boyfriend status. She had been in this long, on and off relationship with a guy that ran very hot and cold--so cold that she had to call the police to get him out of her apartment, more than once I think. Even when I was seeing her perform regularly I never knew from week to week if they were together at the time. She told me that it was all over with him, and that she was going to marry her UK manager--"He's the one." He's going to move here. The engagement is not yet official (they have no money for a ring). Wendy also said that her old boyfriend was calling and text messaging her several times a day, asking her out, saying it couldn't be over, etc., etc. I wish her well, but I have a feeling her love life will not be sailing a smooth or straight course.

Then I asked her why she was no longer performing at the Bistro. She said it was due to a "three-way sexual harassment" problem, I think her words were. She said one of the bartenders was harassing her (and I thought they were all gay), so she sent a complaint to the manager. Another woman who worked there heard about it, and wanted to see Wendy's complaint, because she had already filed a similar complaint against the bartender--but he had filed a counter-complaint charging her with harassment! The management had rejected both of those complaints. At that point Wendy just decided to quit. The gig had never worked out the way it had been originally planned: a lesbian-oriented night, with a lesbian bartender.

I've never been overly fond of the Bistro. While most of the staff there are quite nice, I sometimes sense from a few an undercurrent that says crossdressers are not, shall we say, their favorite type of customer. When CDI has tried to arrange an event there, people aren't in, calls aren't returned. Nobody ever says no, but nothing ever happens. The Wednesday night entertainment--old show tunes and standards--is not particularly to my liking. I go there only because my friends want to. With this latest brouhaha, there's one more reason not to go. Two actually: the sexual harassment, and the absence of Wendy.

Eventually the producer of the film got up to the microphone, quieted the crowd (somewhat), and made a few remarks. He introduced the director, and then showed a brief clip of the movie. It could be interesting--three young Asian teenager/women in white America. They're still trying to find the money to finish it--hence the fundraiser.

Then the entertainment started. First was a Yellow Rage, a pair of young Asian-American "female spoken-word poets." Their "poetry" was so filled with vulgarity it lost any validity as criticism of the way Asian-American women are viewed, as far as I'm concerned. If I want to hear vulgarity, I'll ride the subway.

Next up was folksinger Annie Lin. She's got a nice voice, but the sound system didn't deliver it clearly enough over her guitar, so I really couldn't say how good her songs are.

Then it was Wendy's turn. After they hoisted her keyboard up on the little stage, she did about four songs, including "Just Wendy" and (I think I remember) "Take Me Away." I'm pretty sure I had heard all of them before. She was as good as she always is (I've never heard her sing badly). The people seemed to like her.

After she finished I went and congratulated her and said good-bye--I was already running late for my next event--Kevin's Birthday Party. I'm not really sure how Kevin knows me. He's worked at a couple of places I go to. He has worked at Lips on the weekend--but I've never been there on a weekend, and I don't remember him from there. He's also a bartender at the Townhouse, an upscale gay bar I've been to with friends a handful of times. (I think some of the clientele is none too happy to see crossdressers there, so it's not exactly at the top of my list of places to go to.) Maybe I met him there, but I really don't remember. Anyhow, the last two years he's invited me to his birthday party.

This year it was at the O.W. (for Oscar Wilde) Bar, across the street from the Townhouse. O.W. is a less fancy gay bar, with regular drag entertainment. The "Girls from Lips" were scheduled to perform, and I'd made arrangements to meet Ginger at Lips, and we'd go up to O.W. together. But I was running late, so I went to O.W. directly, and I actually arrived a few minutes ahead of her, and the rest of the "Girls." Most of them I see regularly, but some, like Paulina, I hardly ever see, since she only works at Lips on the weekends.

One of the people from the O.W. staff asked me if I was going to perform. No, thank you. I've done exactly one lipsync number in my life, and that is enough for the rest of my life. I did it at the Monster Bar as part of a birthday celebration for Jesse Volt (is there a pattern here?) a couple years ago. It was a lot of work to learn the song, which you still have to do even if you're not really singing it. Between that and the stage fright, it wasn't a whole lot of fun. Afterwards Jesse said that now that I had heard all the applause I'd get the bug and want to do it more, but I just said we'll see--while thinking thank goodness that's over.

Laid out in the back room there was some decent food (pasta, salad, veggies and dip) and someone gave me a couple of free drink tickets, and I stood and talked with some of the Girls. Kevin breezed through a couple of times, on his way to and from the smoking patio out back. Ariel Sinclair asked me how I did my cleavage--I was amazed (and flattered) that a professional drag performer like Ariel would want my advice.

Eventually it was show time, and I found a seat at the bar. Unfortunately there were a few people standing between me and the tiny stage, so my view was somewhat obscured. First up was P.J., a very diminutive performer I'd never seen before. He did Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach, I'm in Trouble," dressed in a home-made nun's costume. He pulled some sort of doll out of it--I couldn't really see, but those who could roared with laughter. There were three or four other numbers, interspersed with little "interviews" with members of Kevin's family. One of the numbers was a trio they do (or used to do) at the Sunday Brunch at Lips, which I had never seen. But my favorite was a lipsync duet by Rajene and P.J.: "I've Got You, Babe," by Sonny and Cher. Cher is a speciality of Rajene's that I've seen her do many times. P.J. came out in an excellent Sonny costume, with a furry vest, and an accurate wig and mustache. Now the real Sonny was a bit shorter than Cher, but Rajene is very tall, and P.J. barely came up to her chest--he was actually singing to her navel. It was hilarious. And somehow, by the end of the song, the mustache ended up on Rajene.

The show ended, and it was time for me to go home (or, more accurately, to go back to CDI and change so I could go home). I said goodnight to the Girls (most of whom were ready to party a lot more), and found a cab.

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