It’s no secret that gay men love to dance. They’re literally the ones who started the disco inferno of the 1970s. The dancing slowed for a bit as AIDS ravaged the community in the 1980s. However, by the 90s, the gays were out again – this time for a cause.
“The big benefit dance events really took off in the early 90s,” said Geared for Life Board Member Alan Brown, a veteran of what has become known as the circuit party scene. “They were AIDS fundraisers and there were many, many events all around the world. And I’ve probably been to more of those parties than any human on earth.”
“We in the gay community have a long history of dancing and dance parties,” continued Brown. “We have a few cultural traditions in our community that are uniquely ours. Sort of large-scale dance events are a part of our culture and have been for many years.”
Circuit parties are one of those traditions. Circuit parties, typically weekend-long events in most major cities across the country, include iconic-themed events such as the White Party, the Black Party and the Blue Ball. Started by a group of friends who called themselves Geared for Life, Detroit had its own circuit party.
The first Geared for Life circuit party, GEAR Party, which was later changed to Motorball, took place in 1994 at the Majestic Theatre. From the 1990s until the mid-2000s, GEAR Party and Motorball occurred at multiple venues including St. Andrew’s Hall, Clutch Cargo, The Shrine and Michigan State Fairgrounds. During their most active years from 1994-2005, Geared for Life’s parties dominated and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to Michigan-based HIV and AIDS groups in programming grants.
After an eight-year hiatus, original board members Tracy Hoffman and John Joanette decided to give the disco ball another spin and planned a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first party. Geared for Life produced Motorball 2014 and Motorball 2015 at St. Andrew’s Hall, in which net proceeds benefited the Michigan AIDS Coalition (MAC).
Now Geared is gearing up, pardon the pun, for Motorball 2021, which will feature a weekend full of events taking place from Thursday, Sept. 30 to Sunday, Oct. 3 around Metro Detroit.
“I’m really excited that Motorball is now a full weekend like other circuit events in other cities,” said Jason Misleh, the Motorball 2021 production manager, veteran promoter and DJ.
Misleh said that he plans to make this year’s Motorball bigger and better than ever.
“The Geared board members came together and said, ‘We’re not screwing around. We want you to pull the best of the best DJs, the best of the best drag queens and the best of the best venues,’ which is what we did,” Misleh explained.
“I’m excited that we’re bringing a world-class circuit event to Detroit,” he said. “The community here deserves what every other major city has.”
Brown couldn’t agree more.
“I’m excited about creating an event that is uniquely Detroit, that you can’t go somewhere else for,” he said. “I want to see drag queens and classic cars. Having just lived through Dream Cruise, I’m so ready for that. Secretly, I would love for Geared for Life to do something during Dream Cruise that was a parade of classic cars with drag queens as part of the Cruise. That would shake up things a little bit, wouldn’t it?”
To purchase tickets for the weekend events, visit gearedforlife.us. This is a vaccinated-only event, so you must be fully vaccinated for entry.
“Everyone who doesn’t live in Detroit thinks Detroit is shitty and we’d like to change their minds,” said Misleh. “That’s part of our mission.”
Motorball 2021 Complete Schedule
Thursday, Sept. 30
Motorball Warm-up Party at 251 W. 9 Mile Road, Ferndale, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. (with DJ Dani Brasil)
Friday, Oct. 1
Motorball/Thots and Prayers Party at Club Bleu in downtown Detroit, 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. (with DJs Deanne & Jace M)
Saturday, Oct. 2
Motorball/After Thots Party at Olympus, Detroit, 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. (with DJ Calagna)
Ferndale Pride, noon-9 p.m.
Motorball Main Event at Magic Stick, Detroit, 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. (with DJs Dan Slater and Isaac Escalante)
Sunday, Oct. 3
Motorball/After Thots at Olympus, Detroit, 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. (with DJs Cindel and Tom Stephan)
Motorball/ThotTea at Como’s, Ferndale, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. (with DJs DJs Jace M and Joe Gauthreaux)