This article originally appeared in BTL in January of 2017.
About a dozen days ago tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow — at my age how can I be sure? — I was gifted with a pair of John Lennon enchantment glasses. Gold-rimmed. Sunset orange. Autumn-tinted. Pre-Donald Trump, to be sure.
Reflected in my hand-held vanity, two-way mirror, these magic spectacles make me look and feel younger. (To be honest, not an easy thing to do at my gravity-compromised, sag-along-with-me age.)
The two-circle Lennon spectacles came rainbow-wrapped. Gay tasteful in a box filled with “magic sequins and let’s pretend glitter.”
Oh, yes! With a note. And, surprise of surprises! A note written in cursive writing — thanks to the Republicans, rapidly becoming a lost art form — one word: “Imagine!”
Underneath the sequins and glitter is a folded patchouli-scented parchment. A map. Headline: “Things Once Happened at Downtown Detroit’s gay intersection. Midnight’s the bewitching moment. Follow! In or out of high heels or leather.”
And, in small lavender hand lettering, “Count the years backward. Say, the magic word. Put on these glasses. For a minute or two, be glad you were gay way back then…”
Let me be honest. I’m a born skeptic. I arrive 15 minutes early — promptness is the courtesy of kings (or queens, in my case) as the old saying goes — and I discover, to my chagrin, two empty, dimly lighted downtown city blocks. Farmer & Bates. Come on, MoTowners, you’ve got to be kidding!
I stop counting backwards at 60, which it turns out, is just a few seconds before midnight. Looking about for safety’s sake, seeing I’m not in harm’s way, I — with just a touch of coming out nervousness — put on my Lennon specs, and … Oh, my stars. Mary, I can’t believe it!
Farmer & Bates is suddenly alive with hundreds of tourists eagerly watching from behind street-lined wooden barricades. There are shouts of approval. Loud applause, as one by one, gaudy costume by glorious costume, drag queens by drama queens arrive, turn, bow, pause regally for yet another take of in-your-face grandeur.
“You like what you see folks? You bet your sweet straight bippies you do!” chants Lola Lola, pausing grandly before the entrance of one of the intersecting streets of several gay clubs. “This year’s trade, next year’s competition!”
She blows a kiss to the crowd as imaginary light bulbs flash. And out of nowhere, blue side of the moon perhaps, a recorded band lip-syncs “Hello, Dolly!”
Even in this imaginary, make believe world of once-a-year royalty on parade, there’s got to be a star. Just to be sure it’s all for real, I push my Lennon glasses back on my nose. Oh, my. Yes! Of course, it’s Hazel Hobbs arriving by top-down, 1960-something red convertible.
Her gown, a year in sewing. Sequin by sequin. She radiates class! And chic. Her muscular Prince Charming companion holds up a sign. QUEEN OF FARMER & BATES! The crowd — straight and gay — roars its once-a-year awe-struck approval.
I look at my self-winding watch. How quickly time runs down when you’re having last-minute fun. Or so it seems tonight. Just as I reluctantly turn to go, an old-familiar parade passes by.
Somehow gathered for my imagined benefit. I’m gently touched. Perhaps one final farewell with feeling for me. They wave in gaily passing … I nod nostalgically …
… Big Red, Jean, Eve, Rusty, The Empress, Miss Bruce, Tall Dick, Virgil, Tabu, Rita Hayworth, Fran, Flo, Uncle Jimmy, Little Mama, Mack, Drano, Sky, Eve Taylor, Che Che, Fran & Wally, Bookie, Fat Jack, Bessie, Billie Hill. Rosie Bonham, Andy, Sam, Chunga, Bobby Johns, Billy & Maurice, Ruthie Ellis … Hugs! Godspeed! Gay today. Gone tomorrow …