It seems like camp every time we go back there. Back to the Beach;
back to summer camp. There's a framework in place, some kind of
expectation connected to memory. The time before, the summer last
year when you met so-and-so and the song you were hearing and where
you went after and who was with who...
And maybe if you did it more than twice a year, more than White
Party and Winter Party, you'd feel like you were trapped in a time
warp. But somehow with White Party, it's like the last week of
summer camp -- before everyone goes home to hibernate for winter.
While with Winter Party in March, it's the first week of summer
camp, when the whole summer is waiting up in front for you.
This White Party week crept up on us -- and then washed over us like
a wave. We were focused on other things this autumn, the election
and other trips, and after our week in Paris, we were maybe more
drained than anticipatory, and when we arrived in South Beach on
Turkey Day, we were thinking, Whew, let's just collapse.
But there's something about the energy along that sandbar and you
take a walk along the ocean, the sand beneath your feet and the
waves crashing along the shore and there's a full moon hovering
above you and soon your phone's ringing with calls from other
snowbirds who've just arrived and you're getting revved up because
none of you are any longer in your work mode, responsible being,
frame of mind. It's camp time. Back to the beach, baby.
This year the Welcome Center was at the Host Hotel, the Raleigh,
which really is one of the most accommodating and gracious hotels on
the sandbar. Okay, so maybe the rooms aren't quite right, not quite
yet, but those public spaces-- That oasis surrounding that pool,
like a tropical jungle mixed with a base camp designed by Billy
Baldwin. You walk in and you're in another world. Summer camp for
And then you collect what you need from your friends around town and
you're meeting more people, some who live on the sandbar and some
who are leaving the sandbar, and some who've just lost their
boyfriends on the sandbar and are heading back to some other place.
South Beach is so transient. You meet people from everywhere: Maine,
Sao Paulo, the Bronx, Rio, Caracas, LA, even Woodside, Queens. We're
sitting in an apartment listening to everyone's Turkey Day stories
and suddenly it's almost too late for a nap before White Heat.
We race back to our apartment and set the alarm for a ten-minute
doze. Which quickly becomes a ninety-minute coma. Eeks. It's two
a.m. by the time we pull up in front of Space for White Heat with
Abel and Manny and we walk in -- and BAM. Suddenly the wave slams
into us hard, and we can't keep from smiling. We're in the thick of
it now. It's Manny Hard. Manny Deep. Manny Without A Doubt. He's in
control and the entire place is packed, way way crowded, and there
are flames licking the walls and flickering over the bars and
everything's in orange and red and the heat is palpable. It's hot,
This is a Friday party we hadn't expected, hadn't previously
experienced for the Friday of White Party weekend. It's closer to a
Friday for WinterParty, when everyone has been pent up inside all
winter. But the animals have been released -- the animal in all of
us and Manny is making sure we're dancing without restraint.
It's genius, having Manny and Abel open the weekend. Welcome to the
Final Weekend of Summer Camp, that's how it feels. The best of all
summer weekends come to launch you into winter. It's the best of
Manny's LA crowd and all of Abel's Alegria/SouthBeach boyz.
Everyone's turning it out. And everyone's so friendly. How great is
it when people come up to you and introduces themselves? God, I wish
I were more like that. These boys, they just come over and say,
"Hey, how ya doing? I'm Jose. I'm Christian. I'm Hank. You having
fun?" Love that. These frisky friendly boys. And OMG, there's our It
Boy. With boyfriend in tow. The pieces are falling into place.
Welcome back to South Beach, the final weekend of camp.
Meanwhile, Marion's missing in action and so we text message her and
tell her to get her ass in gear. It's the party of the weekend, we
can tell already. Move it, girl. And she arrives and texts Anic and
tells her the straight boy she had at WinterParty is here too. It's
five a.m. and the party is only getting better. Abel's on now, and
the rooftop is packed with boyz, all dancing beneath a full moon
while the ocean breezes (and the fans) whirl the air around us.
Anic's in pursuit of the Brazilian she had behind the palms in March
-- and it's five a.m. and she just paid $70 for this party, and she
walks in and hits this massive wall of muscle men and circuit boyz
and she's thinking, Shit, how the hell am I ever-- And then, bam,
there he is -- her Brazilian.
Everyone's off the walls. Who knew we needed this party so much?
There's so much release in the air. We were so hungry for this
music, this crowd, this energy -- and it's Manny who took the boat
where it needed to go, out into the uncharted waters and let it
loose. Just enough we recognize but harder and twisted into a shape
which is more about letting it all go. Release yourself and all that
frustration from earlier in the month. Let it go, what we think they
think of us. We're the ones who know how to do it right - - and it's
their problem, not ours, if they don't get it -- yet.
I don't know how we leave, but we do, in the early morning light of
dawn. Anic and BrazilBoy and Marion linger on, and it gets better
the later it gets. Good for them. Keep it rolling, girls.
So then it's Saturday. The Triple Crown Saturday. Trifecta. We've
got the Pool Party at the Raleigh, and then Vizcaya -- with Junior
and Tony after that. Oh, God. Coffee, please -- and more of
The Pool Party at White Party has often been something of a letdown.
Ha -- but not this year. Oh, yeah. This year, it was so very much
closer to what WinterParty does with their pool party. Having it at
the Raleigh made the difference. That oasis. That Esther Williams
pool. So many different seating areas. So many viewpoints and
vistas. The music gets really good after about three p.m. Because by
then, duh, everyone's loaded. So it really sounds great. David Knapp
keeps the crowd bobbing on the platform overlooking the pool. Chris
Geary is standing beneath the fountain, poseur-ing. The sun's out.
The pool's warm. The nervous heteros are fenced in, behind velvet
ropes and stanchions -- but they can't keep from smiling. Who
wouldn't love who we are when we're having fun? What's not to love
about a bunch of dancing fools? They're afraid of us?
I don't want to leave. I love this party. It's so easy. You just
walk around and laugh and talk and dance and drink and smoke and
laugh some more. I want every day to be like this.
But no, we have to get dressed. We have to wear white. We have to
freak out about how we're going to look at White Party at Vizcaya.
The girls have already spent six hours on Friday night haunting the
shops along Lincoln and Collins. Shopping snapped their nerves. But
it's worth it: the three of them make a tableau vivant, an ad for
Cavalli, Versace and Escada.
Vizcaya. That estate. That long walk from the entrance gate through
what is called a hammock (my new vocabulary word for the weekend --
a tract of forested land rising above an adjacent marsh). That
dimly-lit walk where everyone talks in whispers as the trees absorb
their voices. Shadows of white -- and then another gate with
greeters in white and then you're heading across a 100-yard
dove-gray carpet and up toward the front of that Venetian palazzo
and through the marble-covered main hall and out onto the side
courtyard where--- it's all white, white, white. Hundreds of people
in the most beautiful white outfits, and skin, skin, skin, and yeah,
I've been here before, four years in a row, and still, I'm not
jaded, because this is a party which just has no rival for sheer
opulence and eye-popping glamour. You let your imagination go and
you know that you're living in the 21st-century version of the Sun
King's courtiers. At Vizcaya, you are one of the 4,000 people who
live in the Sun King's palaces -- and you travel with him to his
other palaces, or else you wait for him to return to party at the
palace where you reside.
And that's when it hits me that all of us on the circuit are the
courtesans and courtiers of the circuit. We, the four thousand or
so of us who have the good luck and fortune to move with the circuit
from locale to locale, are the 21st-century equivalent of those who
partied with the French kings.
And all of us are so media-savvy. There are cameras and videocams
everywhere and every one of us is on camera at all times. We sniff
out a lens the way we use gaydar. Is there any one of us on the
circuit who doesn't have the illusion that every aspect of our life
on the circuit is being filmed for posterity?
And Vizcaya is the centerpiece of our celebrations. It's our b'day,
anniversary, and all the holidays rolled into one party.
And this year, the 20th year, it was fine, fine, fine. Organized and
well-managed. No glitches. And yes, you don't really dance the way
you do at the parties before and after, but you look damn good even
when you're just standing there posing. The food, the drink, the
divas-- And yes, RuPaul -- wearing red? What's up with that? Grrl.
Did no one tell you? You may be a star, honeychile, but it's not
only EVERYBODY SAY LOVE it's EVERYBODY WEAR WHITE. Get it right,
There are no shuttle buses to Junior's house, not that we see. So we
cab it to Coconut Grove -- where the cabbie is so fixed on his
cellie that we hurl by the Expo Center and get out on Cocowalk and
wander through the marauding Saturday night heteros -- us in our
white, white, white -- until we finally get to the front door of the
Yes, a convention center. And yes, what can you really do with a
building like that? It's a Space Odyssey theme -- kinda, with some
carnival rides, like an inflatable romper room and a VIP igloo, but
also some nice loungey banquettes and chairs and tables covered in
white tailored fabric (which Scott(y) would approve of and unlike
the VIP area at Main Event in BB2004 which we're sure to hear
about--- Oh never mind). And Tony's on, above the carnival midway,
and the sound is fine to my mind, if not exemplary, and Tony's
playing well, and actually, the more I hear him, the more I
appreciate what he does, and given that this year, we're all hearing
him a lot, well, hey, I think he's definitely earned his chops --
and there are risers/bleachers for us to dance on and cruise over
the crowd, and it's nice to see so many people in white.
And then suddenly, there's Yoko, looking like some kind of perfect
embodiment of a Fifties debutante in a sleek white gown with an
incredible white hat and she's singing this song and somehow it all
works together and there's sentiment behind what she's singing, and
heart and soul, and it gets me.
Then a huge confetti cannon bomb sprinkled with glitter explodes
over the crowd -- and Junior is at the controls. But then it's
silence, and applause, before he gets it all figured out -- and you
can feel all of us praying, Gees, get it together, sweetheart. And
then he does -- and we're off. He's here; he's playing. Breathe a
sigh of relief. Move your body. Find the beat.
We're in the bathroom line when suddenly there's a flurry of
security, and then, Whoops, there he is, JunYah himself -- with a
bladder issue. Security is pounding on the stall doors -- but the
queens inside ain't moving -- and then Junior says, "Oh fuck it,
it's not fair to these people. Just get me a bucket for the booth."
See? The life of a deejay -- it just ain't all that.....
Jason Walker sings his heart out. And Junior does a fabulous job
with this song that might be called Heart Attack. I hate how bad I
am with song names. It's about a twenty-minute version and it rips
me up. Love that.
Fortunately, when we leave around five a.m., there's a cab out front
-- and we're heading back to the sandbar.
It's been a long Saturday. It's hard to do PoolParty,Vizcaya, and
AfterParty all in one long drive. But we did it, and now it's
nothing but Muscle Beach on Sunday afternoon.
And is the weather ever perfect? Perfection. Clear, clear, blue,
blue sky. And the boyz turn out. It's the most crowded Muscle Beach
party we've been to at White Party. And Brett is playing just as his
reputation precedes him. The kind of thing I read about when people
from LA talk about him playing during the day in Palm Springs. He
plays just what everyone wants to hear during the gloriously sunny
It's the last outdoor party of the weekend. The last Sunday of
summer camp. The sun goes from on high to down low, behind the
buildings lining South Beach. And we've spotted our It Couple and
we're getting great footage. So what if we lose the back of the
videocam somewhere in the crowd? ChiChi La Rue's boyz are turning it
out on the stage and there's a swimsuit show and Jeanie Tracy
singing (hold your noses now, boyz), that's right, C-- C-- H----.
And even though we're sitting on the beach and watching it from a
distance, I say, C'mon, let's go see how she makes the boyz move.
Because she does, because that song is like some damn virus, and it
makes them shake, and it's fun to watch, and sometimes it sweeps
over you too and why are you fighting it anyway....
Dusk. Dusk with its elegiac tint. The glow of a lost day. Another
summer at camp, now rapidly slipping away, and the Spanish guitar of
some achingly beautiful song and I say to Robert, "Oh, why do they
always have to play these sad songs at this hour?" It's too hard to
take. Letting it go. Knowing that you have to endure winter now,
before we can all play together again. How to go on? How to let it
pass gracefully without throwing a tantrum in the sand?
And there's our It Couple high above the crowd, on the runway in
front of the stage, and they're dancing together, but not entirely
close, not until this one song comes on, that song called "I Never
Knew (There Was an Angel)" or something like that, and it's one
we've all heard a hundred times before, and yet, at dusk on the
beach at the end of a sunny Sunday, it hits you so hard, so
emotionally and you're watching all these beautiful people around
you, dancing and laughing and loving and just being who they are,
and you're thinking, I want it like this always, why can't it be
like this, just let us be.
And on the runway, our It Couple is dancing closer, together,
singing to each other, words they know by heart, and to see them,
two such beautiful boymen so happy together, is to want all of us to
share this happiness. Let it be so.
We're wrecked. Thank God my sunglasses shade my eyes. All around us
people are feeling it. Ric Sena is dancing over there, and Hilton
next to us, and Marion's holding on and Anic and her BrazilianBoy
and Luiz and there's a man over there who's crying, I swear, I can
see the tears sliding behind his shades, and all of us are here,
right now, in this transcendental moment -- and it's all worth it,
everything we endure and all that we share -- this is what makes it
It is so very beautiful.
Let's all hold on through the winter and then make it happen again
on the Beach.