All She Wrote: Midnight at the O. Henry

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Dancing Queens, all night long.

by Nicole Crews

Escort: Whoa, you look good as a blonde. You remind me of my mother.

Me: Ew.

Escort: Haven’t you read Oedipus?

Me: Dude, I wrote my exit thesis at Cambridge on Aristotelian tragedy. Of course I’ve read Oedipus.

Escort: I think that’s the first time anyone has used “dude” and “Aristotelian tragedy” in the same sentence.

Me: Aristotle was totally into dudes.

Escort: Then he would have really liked this party.

I have long felt an affinity with the lesbian and gay community — and not just because I once played industrial softball, nor because I have, more than once, been mistaken for a drag queen when going strapless.

I think it has more to do with feeling like a square peg in the wrong hole, if you will.

Growing up in a small Southern town with a designer mother with a pied a terre in Manhattan was a bizarre and wonderful childhood existence — albeit a segregating one. On an odd Friday, I’d get to borrow a silk dress, wear satin heels and get swept along to Regine’s where I’d witness Bianca Jagger and Suzanne Somers powdering their noses in the ladies’ room. I’d dance the night away with mother’s gay designer friends, sip a little Champagne and overhear odd stories about Richard Gere’s predilection for gerbils. (And I just thought he was an animal lover.)

Did I mention I was 12?

By Monday morning, I was back in a tiny town classroom diagramming sentences for teachers with beehive hairdos and pinched up faces who, based on wardrobe alone, probably thought I was from another planet. In a sense, I was. Or at least I realized that there were more worlds out there than what Smallville offered. And why can’t we all just get along?

So when the Guilford Green Foundation, an organization whose mission is to promote diversity and inclusiveness throughout the LGBT community in the Piedmont, said they were having a party — a ’70s-themed,black-tie party, no less — I knew I had to attend. The event that took place last Saturday night is in its 17th year and gave Regine’s a run for its money.

Arriving fashionably late for the cocktail hour at Greensboro’s O. Henry Hotel, my three dates and I were greeted by a flank of boy/girl disco-a-go-go dancers in full ’70s sequinage.

Escort II, referencing a portly, hirsute go-go: How did they get Jack Black to dance at this thing?

Me: He must be researching a part. Maybe they’re making Magic Mike II — The Retirement Years.

Passing the paparazzi gauntlet, the spotlit spectrum of one miss Jessica Mashburn, in full-on fro and red-velvet gown, is alit aside a baby grand, tickling the ivories and tickling our fancies with hits from the decade of decadence.

The bar is chin deep in polyester and the adjacent patio with flamethrown appetizer stations and blazing fire pit does not bode well for the lack of natural fibers at this fete. An expansive silent auction lines up the ballroom where glittering banquet tables and chandeliers rival the divergent costumes of guests.

Me, to GGF executive director Shane Burton: I love the plaid pants.

Shane: I don’t know how ’70s it is.

Me: Very Richard Burton in repose.

Shane: Who?

clip_image001Along with the Burton celebrity siting, a Phyllis Diller doppelganger barrels her way from the bar to a group of women in heel-to-chin chiffon Fortuny pleats while a gaggle of tuxedoed women in candy-colored hornrims sing along: “I love the night life/ I got to boogie/ on the disco ‘roun. Oh yeah.” Holding court on the patio, a ginger stylist in a lite-brite black shirt addresses a group of mini-skirted mamas with athletic thighs and no purses.

Stylist: I’m so tired of taking care of people. It feels like the ’80s in the gay community. 

Lipstick lesbian: Our parents are getting older. We have to do what we can. 

Stylist: Not tonight honey. I’m higher than a Georgia pine.

High indeed, on life, a great spread, 375-plus kindred spirits (as well as the liquid variety), great music and dan-cing and a mutual mission that raised upwards of $80,000. “Through this celebration, we are able to raise funds to carry out that mission and make our entire community a better place for everyone, LGBT and allied, to live, work and play,” Burton says.

Meanwhile, back at the Oasis, where the dancing continued past the midnight hour, a few of us got philosophical.

Me: I think the ’70s is really emblematic of a heyday in the LGBT community. Before AIDS reared its ugly head and there was a new layer of fear and ostracism.

Lee Carter (recipient of this year’s Visionary Award): I think today is the real heyday. This community has had to pave a long road to get here.

Me: You’re exactly right. Today it’s okay for all of us to be Dancing Queens.

  • Lynn

    LOVE IT! OH and I know the “ginger stylist” you refer to…great quote from him.

  • I’m sorry I missed this one … Love the Jessica Mashburn description