Joe and I hadn’t been at Dancing in the Streets (Cleveland’s big annual summertime Gay Pride Event) for even ten minutes when we heard the high-pitched shrieks above the crowd of gay men in hot pants, muscle tanks, yellow construction boots and rainbow pride necklaces:
“JOOOOE! JOE! MISS DETALLY! JOEY, HUNNY! OVER HERE, MARY!”
It was Racine.
There s/he was, a genderfuck supreme, all lanky arms, grasshopper legs and toothy grin, looking bizarrely fashionable in spandex black bicycling shorts, a lime green tank top, patent leather yellow pumps with matching purse and the finishing touch, a gleaming white pearl necklace. S/he was running towards us through the crowd, waving his/her outstretched arms like an even more deranged than normal Nancy Reagan on a press junket. A strange sight indeed, even moreso back then in 1994.
“Oh, God,” Joe murmured under his breath to me. “It’s Racine.”
“What the fuck is a Racine?” I wondered aloud.
“I’ll tell you later -- be cool. He’s really a nice guy.”
By then, Racine was upon us. “Oh, MISS DETALLY!” she bellowed at Joe. “You poor creature! How ARE you?” Joe went to answer, but was immediately cut off before the first word came out. “Whatever! Back to the MESS that is this so-called event. Mary, it’s the WORST. Clevelanders are hideous. I couldn’t take it anymore. I quit clubbing. I’ve been hiding in my coffin!” Racine was talking a mile a minute, regaling us with his tales of the day thus far. I didn’t hear a word. I just kept staring at this…person. I wasn’t quite sure why, then it finally hit me.
This was the nelly queen I beat down at Club U4ia three months ago.
FLASHBACK TO THREE MONTHS BEFORE, APRIL, 1994:
I was a somewhat angry 25-year old, having come out a little over a year and a half prior and displeased with the gay world around me, particularly Cleveland. I was entering the second year of a long-term relationship with a sweet guy that began only three months after I came out. Needless to say, it was far too soon for me to be getting that serious with anyone, so I was feeling suffocated and grumpy. And, like all suffocated and grumpy children, I began acting out.
Mistakes were made.
I didn’t like going to gay bars much. Make that going to gay bars in Cleveland. They were hideous – bad, amateur, trainwreck DJs playing the same songs, week in, week out, inflated cover charges and the same 50 people there every time you went. Plus, I was in a relationship. The last thing I want to do when I’m dating someone is go to a meat market. But one weekend, my boyfriend and his friends wanted to go dancing, so off we went to the largest, most populous gay club in Cleveland – Club U4ia.
Club U4ia was two floors of flashing colored lights, expensive cocktails, cheap drugs and snooty twenty-something attitude from guys who really should have known better. It was also infamous for the way it was finally closed down – after ejecting a drag queen from a show for fighting with another queen, the ejectee swore U4ia would “never host another pageant in this club again” and proceeded to have two hustler friends pick up a trick, knock him out, steal his pick-up truck, drive it to U4ia at four the next morning, prop a cinder block on the gas pedal, pop it into drive and watch it plow a gaping hole into the club. It made the local papers and even the AP wire. And my idea for a screenplay was born.
But that was a bit in the future. All I knew at the time is that we were all going to U4ia and that I was grumpy. A few beers soon curbed my grouchiness and we all ended up on the dance floor. Sharing the floor with us were hundreds of other gay men, assorted fag hags and a group of gender-bending, tranny-ish faboo types.
This group of queens was completely cracked out on whatever letter-named drug was popular that day (X, E, K, G, Q, you name it). There were about six or seven of them and they had commandeered a huge space of their own in the center of the dance floor, which was just fine with us, as we danced along the outer edges. They were loud, obnoxious, screeching queens, high as fuck, but they were keeping to themselves pretty much, so no harm, no foul. At first.
After about a half hour of histrionic theatrics, they decided to kick it up a notch. Two of them joined well-manicured hands and began spinning wildly around and around, like some demented, crystal-fueled game of Ring Around the Rosy. The faster they spun, the more out of control they became, leaving their little area and careening around the entire floor.
They were, quite literally, twirling on tina.
We continued dancing, ignoring the whirling dervishes until one of them lost his grip and nearly flew into the air, his head landing squarely into my boyfriend’s stomach. They both crumpled to the ground in a heap, the sight bringing the dance floor to a halt, staring eyes watching to see which one was more hurt.
After a few silent seconds, the cracked-out drag queen shambled to her feet, laughing. She dusted herself off and looked down at my boyfriend clutching his gut in pain, unable to breathe. Then she chuckled, shrugged her shoulders and said in her most sarcastic, insincere tone, “Oops. Sorry!” and sashayed back to her friends.
I was beyond pissed, but I had to tend to my injured man first. My friends helped him to his feet and over to a booth where he was able to catch his breath. It sounds dramatic, but if you’ve ever been slugged in the gut completely unaware, you know the feeling. It’s far from pleasant. I watched from my spot on the dance floor and when I saw he was okay, I began walking in the other direction towards the Crack Queens.
I figured the best way to let these rude, inconsiderate assholes know how I felt about their behavior was to do unto them as they had done unto the boyfriend. I walked over to their group, where they were engrossed in their laughter and “ohmigod, I can’t believe you did that” conversation. I tapped Twirling Tina on the shoulder. He turned around and asked, in a high-pitched voice, “Yesss?”
“You forgot something.”
While he was unprepared, I punched him in his scrawny gut with all my strength, aiming not at his stomach, but for the wall on the other side of the club for maximum momentum, just like they taught us in hand-to-hand combat class during Army Basic Training. He went down quicker than Paris Hilton on prom night (or a Chumbawumba follow-up single. Take your pick). Eye for an eye, fucker. I didn’t stop moving. As his friends scrambled to help him, I kept walking past them to the other side of the club, then circling the long way around, back towards my group. As I headed back, I grabbed everyone and told them, “We need to leave. Now.”
While my boyfriend and the rest of his friends had no idea what I had done, our friend Mont had seen the entire thing. “Do you know who you just punched, John?” he asked.
“I don’t know and I don’t give a shit.” I was too busy grabbing coats and herding our group out the front door. I could see club security talking to the Crack Queens, searching the crowded club for my bald head. I grabbed Mont’s Cleveland Indians cap and shoved it on my head. Urban camouflage.
“You just punched Racine, the Queen of U4ia,” Mont explained as we walked quickly through the parking lot towards our car, our getaway nearly complete. He saw my “who gives a fuck” expression and continued. “Racine is like a legend in that place. He’s there every weekend and everyone loves her. She’s like, best friends with the owner. I think she’s a cunt, though.” He was mixing his pronouns, but in this case both applied equally.
And here I was three months later, shaking Racine’s slender hand and smiling through gritted teeth, thinking, “please don’t remember, please don’t remember…”
…and he didn’t. He shook my hand politely, said, “Nice to meetcha,” then turned back to my buddy Joe and jammered on and on about the incredibly lame Pride event we all paid far too much to attend. After a few more minutes, Racine spotted more people he knew in the crowd and flitted off. I finally exhaled.
I look back on this story with more than a little guilt and shame. I mean, on one hand, Miss Racine kind of deserved it. It wasn’t so much her slamming into my boyfriend, but more of her “so fucking what” attitude that got me so angry. Yet, on the other hand, I’ve learned in my mellowing age that violence is truly base and despite the clichéd sentiment, is no way to solve any conflict.
I also believe a lot of my anger probably came from my immaturity in dealing with being newly out. I saw drag queens and femme guys as the enemy, dragging us “normal” gay guys down in the eyes of society and keeping us from truly being accepted by the majority. It wasn’t until I became a DJ and worked with drag queens in clubs that I realized my problem was pretty much just that – my problem. I’ve met some great guys/girls and I now know it’s all a show. After all, who was I to complain about others ruining my chance for mass acceptance when I spent four years in high school with dyed black hair and goth clothes, openly rejecting the notion of fitting in. Fuck ‘em. So, to look back and realize I actually got into a fight over such nonsense is truly embarrassing. Again, violence is never the answer.
That is, unless you get jumped outside an ATM. Then, feel free to kick some ass.
Racine, hun, if I see you in Cleveland this Christmas, your first Cosmo is on me.