Sometimes you know just what you need. It’s mid-January in New York,
the ice crunching beneath our feet as we walk outside at three a.m.,
searching for a cab on a silent street. It’s the coldest night thus
far this winter – and we need a roomful of hot men. We need a BIG
room of hot men, with music and lights. We need a party. It’s been
four months since the last one – and what we need now is Alegria.
Outside Crobar, the bank of television monitors has the Alegria
Tribal IV ad reproduced to infinity. There’s no line, and security
is polite, and with coats checked, we’re heading down the stairs,
and it seems there’s a kind of lull or a pause – and then, just as
we’re about to walk into the white tunnel, which leads to the Big
Room, Rosabel slams it over us: “I NEED IT TODAY. I WANT IT TODAY.”
We hold on as we move through the sea of men. Yet again, here they
all are: faithful at the altar of Alegria. Men you don’t see
anywhere else, or at least not all assembled like this: bodies
sculpted like statuary, those impossibly beautiful faces. We circle
around the back bar, soaking it in: this rush of energy, such a far
cry from the morning quiet we’ve left outside. The bartenders are in
leopard loincloths with pineapple volcano headdresses. And suspended
from the ceiling, there’s a huge tribal mask, surrounded by a dozen
illuminated lanterns which rise and lower, flashing sulphuric
yellow, the mask glowing pink, smiling beneficently over the
entirely packed floor.
My God, this is what we wanted. Controlled chaos. Managed hysteria.
“BANG BANG. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go.” It’s all in there, in
the aural symphony pounding our ears. “Ready to go” with “I want
We head to the skyboxes to see what we can see. To pay our respects
to Abel, and also Ralphi Rosario, who, truth be told, we’ve never
heard before, which means we’ve never heard Rosabel, and so we’re
upstairs feeling the vibe, listening to hear if it’s different from
what Abel usually gives his Alegria boyz. And we’re hearing “Return
to the Latin X-Press” but also there’s that chunky Chicago house
beat, which maybe in sum total equals Chicago Latin Tribal House.
Well, whatever we’re calling it, it’s working us just fine. We’re
just where we want to be: the sea of beauty below us, Abel and
Ralphi to our right, and there’s Ric looking like a man who knows
how to throw a good time, and also – oh, goodie – here comes our
favorite South Beach papi. So yummy, he used to work these parties,
at the bar in VIP, but now – now, he’s become a VIG (Very Important
Guest). My, my, how time changes everything – and here comes another
one we’ve been watching for some time. Five years ago, he was a
fashionista on the Beach, perhaps a little ill at ease sporting all
that Prada at the beach parties – but now, he’s beefcake. Perfectly
sculpted (no doubt it’s all natural) and looking cozy comfy in his
new body like a boy who’s finally found the right pair of jeans.
Oh, the thing about Alegria – you’re tempted into hyperbole. The
gorgeousness, the professionalism, the calibre, the standards. And
the thing about New York is you might take it all for granted – if
you didn’t check out the scene elsewhere. And so you do, check out
the scene elsewhere – and then you’re back home in New York, the
largest city in America, in case you might have forgotten, and it’s
the dead of winter on the coldest night of the year and Crobar is
packed for Alegria – and you’re like, YEAH. OH, YEAH.
And we look at each other and roll our eyes and shout, “This is NEW
YORK CITY, b*tch.”
And we’re rambling on with Michael Circuit Dancer, getting giddy,
being silly, when musicians take the stage. Bongo drums and tribal
drums. Kettle drums and drums strung between two poles. And there’s
this woman who is absolutely railing on the drums. I mean, she is
throwing her body into the force behind her drumsticks – and the
whole room is hearing DRUMS, DRUMS, DRUMS.
And from the Left Coast, we get a tm from Scott(y) who asks,
“Anything going on in your town this weekend?”
DUH, we tm back. DOUBLE DUH.
This is Alegria Tribal IV, baby – and maybe some people might say
we’re hearing pots and pans, but guess what, tonight it’s called
percussion, and there’s a beat and a rhythm you have to answer to
and you’d better get your ass in motion like everyone around you.
It’s so cool how it takes over you. One minute you’re kinda swaying
– and then, BAM, it hits your booty and you’re off. We’re up in the
back rafters, where the smokers convene – and oh, looky there, if it
isn’t Falcon’s latest discovery, JOEY CUMLEY. Looking just as he
should, fresh from a Porn Idol win, sporting bottomless chaps -- the
better to see your assets, my dear – and if that weren’t enough,
he’s got his roomie in tow. Well, howdy-doo. Isn’t he a sweetheart?
Maybe his name is Clay? Who can hear anything anyway? Who needs to
hear anything but the music. What a big smile Clay has, for such an
innocent boy – and, oh, looky, he’s wearing the same pants as Joey.
Oh, this is trouble. The two of them.
And now the stage is filled with the Alegria boyz, sporting their
“El Tigre” loincloths, bones and horns sprouting from their heads,
grass headdresses swaying against their thighs-- Oh, those thighs,
those abs-- How the hell do you isolate those muscle groups and keep
them-- It’s “Rhythm Intoxication” – and who isn’t? Absolutely
Alegria. We’re in it.
And would you look who’s up on the box next to the stage? Of course.
Who else but THE MAN WHO SINGLE-HANDEDLY SAVED NY NIGHTLIFE: JOE
CARO. He’s working right alongside the Alegria boyz, his blue light
flashing on every body part he deems worthy. Oh, Joe Caro – what’s
an Alegria without you?
We’re on the floor now, in Mother Africa, blissfully in the arms of
Mother Africa, and there’s this man – he smells delicious. You know
how you catch a good smell – and you want to just pause and let it
linger, or trap it – and keep it yours. And there’s Michael McElroy,
whom we haven’t seen in too long. And there’s a kiki girl serving it
up, having way too much fun. It’s so great. Gay boyz are so great.
We know so much about having fun. Who knows more than we do about
the joy in life?
Above us, the mask glows beneficently, guarding over us. Maybe we’re
moving from Mother Africa to Machu Picchu now, or maybe we’re in
Chichen Itza. And we’re singing Maya’s “First Time.” All around us
boyz are singing, mouthing the words. Oh, gay life. Who wouldn’t
want a gay life?
And Joey and his roomie, maybe his name is Clay (and it might just
be that Pei Chang has a rival for the title of MOST RADIANT SMILE ON
THE FLOOR), they’re dancing with a posse, where we can see them, and
see just what’s going on, every little thing – and isn’t it
wonderful when youth knows no restraint?
And even sweeter is a moment we catch when Joey recognizes a former
bf from across the room, and we watch as slowly they make their way
toward each other, until they’re hugging tight and holding on, just
like old friends. Comme il faut. As it should be. As gay men know.
We catch up with Ric and tell him it’s a wonderful party. As if he
didn’t already know. The way these boyz are smiling and jumping.
Even the bartenders can’t resist – they’re not just mannequins,
they’re bumping and pumping. And there’s a boy in a kilt with
knee-high black leather boots – with heels. And a woman who looks
like Chynna Doll – except, no, it’s a real woman. And the fog horns
blow long, and longer still, and napkins cascade through the air,
and smoke covers the floor. We’re snapping digital photos, trying to
capture it – for later, for when we’re home on the couch, feetsies
up and exhausted, trying to remember every single wonderful moment.
And on the floor, we overhear someone say, “Who needs breakfast when
I can feast my eyes on you?” Yeah, there is that.
It’s six hours before we leave. It’s heading onto ten a.m. We should
go, we think, but first we head back upstairs. We gaze down on it
again. It’s still happening, still going on. The boyz, the men, that
sea of rolling happiness. We’ll hold it close until we find it
And we’re heading out, passing through coatcheck, when – there he is
– the man who smells so delicious. And we tell him so. “You smell so
delicious” – and his face beams.
Sometimes you know just what you need – and sometimes, if you’re
lucky, you get it. We got it at Alegria Tribal IV. And we’ll be
ready for it again.