Just when you thought New York had lost its handle on dirt and
sex—along comes the Saint-At-Large’s Black Party to reclaim smut for
the masses. This year’s edition of the annual 16-hour marathon at
Roseland bore the polarizing theme “Holy War,” and yet the theme’s
execution was less divisive than democratic. The legions of
leather-clad patrons were greeted at Roseland’s massive entryway
with a junkyard pile of rubber tires and racecar detritus—as well as
an oversized gun target. Inside, the dance floor (Manhattan’s
largest) had been converted into something resembling a NASCAR track
with walls lined with ads for the evening’s sponsors: Daring Queen,
STD, FIST UNION, PNP, Rock Hard, Tina, and Dick in the Box. Life on
the NASCAR circuit when the gays take over.
Combined with scaffolding and scrims (behind which werked boys in
silhouette, wearing rubber and leather), the overall effect was
industrial dank chic—or perhaps a preview of life post-oil-wealth.
Think Eastern bloc after the collapse of Communism—and the ensuing
Dionysian mayhem. Because there was also the matter of the
suggestive Norman Douglas quote which encircled the room’s rim,
albeit in pithy Jenny Holzer pieces: YOU CAN TELL – THE IDEALS – OF
A NATION – BY ITS ADVERTISEMENTS. It got you thinking—and not just
This is how it went. It was just after four and Tony was on the
boards. His first time at the Black Party controls—but this was a
man who’d spent time on the Black Party floor in years past. He knew
what the crowd wanted, and why they were there, and he gave it to
them his way (which is always an issue for some—the notion of a
right way to do Black). Accompanied by Tony’s galloping bass beat,
sex workers in shadowy silhouette writhed behind white scrims, high
above the packed floor—while NASCAR boyz werked the stage in front
of another gun target. Wrestlers in leather singlets and
post-apocalyptic warriors, all highlighted by the flash of pink and
fuchsia lights as the scrims were razor-sliced and slashed—save for
one scrim which remained intact, silhouetting a single interrogation
Video screens around the scaffolding showed an ever-rapid repeating
montage of oil fields and ads for the American Oil Company, as well
as sex education newsreels and the word ejaculation scrawled over
and over on a chalkboard, interspersed with photos of dick and dick
and more dick. Subliminal seduction? As if the packed floor of sex
addicts needed further provocation.
This was a celebration of the vernal equinox, after all. A
reawakening of the libido—and if the Saint-At-Large (under the bold
leadership of impresario Stephen Pevner) had anything to say about
it, seeds would be scattered—all over da skate flo, as some might
say. And as a matter of fact, we know one friend who was finally
able to fulfill his long-held fantasy of schtupping his boyfriend
amidst that crowded and notorious floor. We all have dreams—and for
some of us, they come true at Roseland.
Because, let’s face it, we were dancing in the face of distress.
Even if you didn’t know the Black Party theme this year, even if you
only glimpsed pieces of the video footage—oil fields burning,
climactic disasters mounting…. Even if you were basically clueless
about the current state of the planet and our community’s often
precarious place on it…. But there we were, nonetheless, dancing to
“Everybody Needs Someone” with its insistent lyric “I can make you
get down. I can make you…” while overhead flashed scores of green
lasers. Not just six or a dozen, but literally scores of green
lasers crisscrossing above the floor. Not unlike an electrical
grid—and in this case, the grid of connection.
And then that single chair behind the last scrim— And the boyman
straddling the chair, global ass high in the air—and the man in
leather behind him— And then the fisting. Fisting for a cast of
thousands. Karate chopping, double fisting. Fisting? No, make that
elbowed. And batted, too—for how else to describe the entry of the
implement most often used for baseball. A rather riveting
performance, to say the least. And in fact, one person might have
taken the concept of disembowelment a bit too far…. It became THE
topic of conversation for WAY TOO LONG. Enough already, and in the
future: Boyz, please—a little courtesy amidst the madness.
Fortunately, above it all, and all around us, Tony was werking it
out, sending out Madonna’s plaintive wail, “Will it ever be the
same?” No, Madge, no, it won’t—but never mind, we’ll survive, and
maybe even thrive. Because gay men are like cats, prowling through
the night—until we find what we need. And on the video screens, an
ongoing pounding repetition of the words: IT’S---MORE---HUMAN.
IT’S---MORE---HUMAN. Again and again, until the point got hammered
home: the reason we were there. Dancing in the face of distress.
Because this was more human. Dancing and love versus war and hate.
Figure it out: we don’t have to be the sum of our nation’s
And meanwhile, Tony kicked it up again, this time with his girl,
Deborah, a splattering of “My House, My Home,” with its own
connotations of belonging. The man was totally in control, in full
gallop mode. And any lingering sense of discomfort or doubt, about
the night or the politics, was dispelled in toto as Tony led the
way. He made Xtina’s “Hurt” into something both mournful and yet
joyous. The end of one season, or one way of life—leading into the
embrace of something new. That marching beat. And all around was
evidence of what the writer Barbara Ehrenreich has christened
“collective joy,” her term for “the ritual, organized ways that
people make each other…joyful, delirious, even ecstatic.” Buck
Angel, for example, clearly in ecstasy as he werked that kitty
onstage in a seemingly impromptu performance. And, for that matter,
all around us were butt-sniffing, tea-bagging, ass-licking,
mouth-filling performances. You werked it out the way you wanted.
And then went off somewhere and changed your clothes—costume change
in the wings—before coming back for more. We lost count after Joe
Caro strolled by in costume number three: a full-body leather apron.
Meanwhile Adam T. in backless chaps safeguarded his hole with a
carefully positioned water bottle.
And amidst all this sexual delirium, there were newbies, youngsters
fresh to the Black. There for the dance more than the shenanigans,
they were ecstatic when Tony dropped “For Your Love” and also
“Desert Rose.” And two adorables in matching NASCAR uniforms,
complete with racing stripes, and unzipped to...the nethers. And
even when there were food fights onstage and mishaps backstage,
there was the ever-dedicated Saint-At-Large staff: always helpful,
mostly smiling—beacons of calm in the midst of the maelstrom. Thanks
be to them, all of them, both young and older.
And of course, the upstairs leather shop ran out of leashes. And Joe
C. considered a quick run to the nearest Petsmart—in order to better
train his nineteen-year-old bf. Meanwhile, Steve W., took time out
to walk his pits, Precious and Killer—not once but twice—and still
he might’ve won the Marathon Award for clocking in a full thirteen
Downstairs, some of us lined up for photographs shot by Robert Zash
in his tenth and final year of shooting pics of us nasty heathens. A
$25 souvenir soon to arrive in the mail so you can say, “ACK! I WORE
Oh, but everyone was there, in equally outlandish attire: Alan F.
(who managed at least two costume changes) and Patti Razetto and Kat
C. and Gael and Talley and Billy Porter and Christian and Eric and
Rich Campbell and Matt Kalkhoff and that sly dawg, Jonny McGovern.
And then it was “Where the Streets Have No Name” and from the
scaffolding, paint cans were emptied over the crowd below. Was it
paint or was it—
Around and around, we lapped the room; we circled the floor. On and
on, it went: sensory overload. So much to see—and touch. And so much
more to come… What a wonderful way to welcome spring: the scattering
of the seed amongst our own.
And then, finally, walking home through the Park on a late Sunday
morning, walking home amidst the “other” kinds of family, we slid
back into that “other” world—but, for the moment, sated.
Happy Black, Happy Spring—what’s one without the other?