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.
Wednesday, 10/26: The Crossdressers International (CDI) Halloween Dinner, at the Lips Restaurant. I went as a cheerleader. I was going to go as Little Red Riding Hood, until I saw Alicia's Little Red Riding Hood costume. No way I could compete with that. My costume was almost a disaster--I had forgotten the skirt when I packed my suitcase to go to CDI (and I had worked so hard ironing it, too!). Fortunately someone had put a skort on the free shelf, and it fit. It wasn't the right color, but I made do.
At least I didn't forget my pom-pons.
We had 25 members and guests at the dinner, taking up a good third of the room. The prix fixe menu (which they called "prefix") had a small but fairly wide assortment. I had the salad, salmon and flourless chocolate cake--all quite nice. Our waitress was All Beef Patty, who somehow managed to serve all of us quite quickly. Of course at Lips the food is actually served by the bus boys (that doesn't sound politically correct), while the waitresses take the orders, deliver the drinks, and collect the money--which is still a lot, since they also do a show periodically.
Wednesday is "Bitchy Bingo" night at Lips. The patrons play Bingo while the "Show Hostess," Ginger, and the Lips owner, Yvonne Lamé, insult each other while calling out the numbers. They really went at it, a little too long actually--some of the people in our group got restless, if not also uncomfortable with some of the remarks.
After a couple of games of Bingo we had the CDI costume contest. Ginger introduced each of us, and the rest of the patrons applauded for their favorite. I made the finals (though I think Ginger, whom I know a little, was a bit generous in judging the amount of applause I got). The winner, to no one's surprise, was Alicia.
Some of us continued the evening with some dancing at the Monster Bar. A few even stayed long enough for Jesse Volt's drag show. Jesse called me up to the stage to show off my costume for another crowd.
There were a lot of interesting statistics that came out over the two hours. For instance, 6.5% of NYC high school students identify as LGBT (and 9% of the teachers). Also, between 40 and 50% of all of the homeless youth in NYC that go into foster care are LGBT.
Right now what is happening is that students are coming out before the community, including the schools, is ready. Gay and lesbian characters are portrayed sympathetically on television, there are out gay and lesbian entertainers, athletes, even politicians (more lesbian than gay), so young people come out of the closet much earlier than they used to.
I think the main message that expressed by the panel is that the best way to confront the discrimination, harassment and bullying of LGBT youth is to educate all of the teachers. It's not enough to send the principals to a brief session. There are a lot of teachers out there who want to stop these things, but are paralyzed: they don't even have the language to accurately report what they see.
One thing I found a bit curious: not one word was mentioned about the efforts of GenderPAC to combat bullying and gender stereotyping. Perhaps it's just because their efforts are aimed more at college students (with a growing program for parents). But I'm wondering if there might be a little inter-group jealousy going on--the moderator was a staffer from GLSEN.
I saw my friend Donna there, who is on the ABCNY LGBT Rights Committee, the other main co-sponsor of the panel. But she wanted to go straight home, so I decided to go to the Pill Awards at the Splash Bar. My friend Clover Honey was one of the judges, and was also doing a "Joan Rivers" type of Red Carpet fashion reporting for Under the Pink Carpet. I knew I would be too late for that, as the Awards overlapped the panel discussion by an hour, but I hoped to catch some of it.
I got a cab on Sixth Avenue, even though it was going in the wrong direction--it always seems to be easier there than on Fifth--and went down to W. 17th St.
I managed to find the coat check (I think it was in a different place the last time I needed to check something, though both are in the basement. I went back upstairs for the festivities. Actually the first thing on my agenda was to dive into an apple martini, which I made disappear in very short order.
After I got my second apple martini I tried to figure out what was going on. Clover's e-mail said the Pill Awards were "Video Awards for the Best of Season 3 of cable's ADD-TV," but I had no idea what ADD-TV was. Attention Deficiency Disorder television? I still don't know, and I really don't care--you can Google it yourself if you're that interested. They showed the nominees for various awards up on three large video screens--almost none of them were the least bit familiar. The awards were interspersed with musical performances. A couple of women did a rap number (I'm not particularly fond of rap.) Later Kevin Aviance did his new song, unaccompanied, since his background music failed--that was good.
I looked around for Clover, or anyone else I knew. As frequently happens, some guy came up and greeted me, but I had no idea who he was--probably someone who had seen me in Jesse Volt's show at the Monster Bar. Eventually I saw Cashetta, way at the other end of the room. A bit later Milan and Peppermint arrived. They zipped by without noticing me. Peppermint disappeared, but I did catch up with Milan, who complimented me on my memory, for what I wrote about our visit to HMI.
At some point ABBAlicious won an award, and Cashetta was one of the acceptors. I do have that album, where a number of drag performers who can actually sing did their versions of various ABBA songs.
The final performer was Janice Robinson. Someone said she was a legend. I'd never heard of her.
By the end of the show I'd had three apple martinis (each one a dollar more than the previous one) and a handful of pretzels. Clover just wanted to go home, so I went up to East of Eighth to have a little dinner. They have a new menu (I hadn't been there since June). They call their appetizers "small plates" now. I had the duck liver paté small plate. It was excellent. For $8 you get two large slices of paté, with the usual accompaniments--perfect for a light meal.
Hi! I'm Caprice Bellefleur, a 67-year-old retiree enjoying life in the Big Apple. I'm a mixed-gender male-bodied person. This makes me a transgender person, trans for short. If you call me a crossdresser, I won't object, but crossdressing is just an activity I do to express part of my identity. This blog contains slices of the life of someone who crossdresses, but it's not about crossdressing per se. I hope you enjoy it--and leave a comment!