I went to a big, commercial, New York dancing party Sunday night and enjoyed Martin Luther King’s birthday in the company of several thousand black, brown, white, gay, straight and funnily-dressed people. There was hardly enough room to take a deep breath, and the lines to get up and down the stairs were ridiculous not to mention the coat-check process. But people were in a remarkably generous and cordial mood.
Maybe it was because the drinks were too expensive for anyone to get wasted, but I was continually struck by how people tried to lean politely out of one’s way, smiled at each other and seemed genuinely concerned about not having their good time at the expenses of other people’s.
I stood rather stiffly pressed against the bar (not to say trapped although I did have nervous recollections about the Rhode Island club fire) and watched a diverse group bounce joyfully up and down, including one big guy with whose shoulders I got well acquainted since they spent a good half-hour just centimeters from my nose. ‘Feels like the ‘70s’ he said, and indeed it did feel like the scene in one of the tribal gay clubs of yesteryear before the stratification of gay commerce based on one’s sub-clan identification.
There’s something special about a social environment dominated by gay men and yet fluid enough to incorporate everyone with ease. I kept pondering how the dance floor vibe would have changed if it had been predominantly straight guys (who were mostly home watching the New York Giants win a ticket to the Superbowl) instead.
I think the answer is that there would have been more fistfights.
Of course, there were a lot of muscle-y fellows with those rounded titties that don’t come from hauling bricks or lumberjacking, but it wasn’t a place to stand around looking fabulous and sneering at people with the wrong bodies. I watched a short, bulbous fellow and two gym Adonises interact quite playfully in recognition that the point of the evening was not who was going home with whom but physical ecstasy of a more collective variety.
On the way out I wanted to rip the face off a saucy little queen who slipped out of the men’s room and into the coat-check line ahead of everyone else, thus saving himself the half-hour’s tedium that a belief in democracy required. But that’s our human fate—while the majority cooperate intuitively, a few stand ready to take advantage and set themselves up with special privileges. The ideological justification follows close behind.
Anyway, I enjoyed my Martin Luther King holiday. He would have, too.