Main | Wednesday, September 13, 2006

David And Davido

Orlando, Labor Day 1979

Just a month shy of my 20th birthday, I was already old news at the Parliament House. After all, I'd been a regular there for over three years. You only really can maintain "new meat" status for about three months, six months, matter how young or pretty you are. After six months, you've had those that you wanted (and could get), and the ones that you couldn't get, you've dismissed as attitudinal bitches.

So by Labor Day 1979, I no longer turned the wagging heads when I strode into the piano lounge by the front door of the Parliament complex. I'd pause in the entrance, all hairspray and false bravado, but I'd merely get a flicker of recognition from the vultures perched along the walls, a nanosecond of appraisal and dismissal, before their attention returned to the door.

Pickens was slim in the Orlando gay bars back in them days. Tourists and businessmen were typically pounced upon before they got halfway to the bottom of their first Barcardi and Coke. (These were the pre-Everybody-Drinks-Vodka days.) "What's your sign?" Yes, people really opened with "What's your sign?" And sometimes, even if they thought you were very hot, the wrong answer would send them away. "Scorpio? Oh honey, Scorpios do nothing but break my heart. Bye."

That Labor Day Monday, I think I had decided to hit the Parliament House less in expectation of finding sex and more in expectation of finding drunkenness. Mondays were ten cent drink night. Seriously. Ten cents. And even in 1979 that was very cheap, because a regular cocktail was like....$1.25. Bud in the can was $.95, on which I would tip an outrageous 55 cents. Ten cent drinks could make a slow Monday night in a mostly-empty Southern gay bar very amusing.

It wasn't very smart of me to be out on the roads that Monday night. Hurricane David, the first male-named hurricane to threaten the United States, was forecast to come crashing ashore that evening, somewhere along the mid-Florida coast. And the first day of my sophomore fall semester at FTU (later to become UCF), was the next morning. But once my boss at Red Lobster realized that our customers were all busy at home nailing plywood over their windows, he closed us down and sent us home. I think I sat on my couch for ten minutes before I picked up my round brush and my blow-dryer and started getting ready for the Parliament House.

On the way there, the wind tossed me about quite a bit as I slalommed down Colonial Drive, as the outer bands of David were already bumping across Central Florida. The air-conditioner on my '73 LeMans had crapped out, so at every red light I wiped the inside of my fogged-over windshield with the cuff of my sleeve. (Why yes, I wore dress shirts to the gay bar. You probably did too, mostly, if you were cruising the bars back then. T-shirts and (gasp!) tank tops were strictly relegated to poolside events and t-dance.) I turned onto South Orange Blossom Trail and into the Parliament parking lot, where a scant dozen cars were in evidence. I waited for the rain to die down (my hair!) and thought about Davido.

Davido, Parliament's piano player, on whom I had a terrible puppy dog crush, always worked on Mondays. He'd sing Crystal Gayle's Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue while staring directly at me, causing others in the bar to turn and look. It always gave me strangely queasy feeling, standing there trying to not throw wood while my first grown-up man-crush sang to me. Davido looked very much like Freddie Mercury, probably on purpose, only without the overbite. He was about 30, far too old for me to do anything about, other than fantasize, or at least that's what I told myself. And oh, but didn't he know the effect he had on me, little did I realize it then, of course.

Taking a chance on a brief lull in the rain, I dashed across the lot to the covered walkways of the motel area and walked up to the front door of the nightclub complex. The door was unmanned. No cover charge. The piano bar is right inside the front door, next to the long mirrored hallway with the underlit floor panels that leads to the disco. Davido was standing outside, smoking and talking with an enormously fat black drag queen named Heavy Duty. I gave Davido a sheepish smile as I squeezed past them. He nodded back and said, "Hey! I was wondering if you were coming!" I nearly fainted. He was wondering...about me?

"Oh! Ha ha. Am I late? Ha ha ha ha." Lame, lame, lame.

Davido smiled and I ducked my lame self around Heavy Duty and into the piano lounge. The usual cock sentries snapped their necks around to give me a rake, then turned back to their eviscerations of whatever Broadway cast album had come out that week. I found a couple of my friends at the end of the bar and made small talk over my first vodka/sprite (see? ahead of my time!), but my mind was still out in the hallway with Davido, spinning dirty and excited fantasies over his comment.

The bartender unceremoniously yanked out the jukebox plug in the middle of No One Gets The Prize and Diana Ross' voice slid slowly into Barry White's range before the speakers went dead. That was Davido's cue to start his set, apparently, but he detoured on his way to the piano to slide a hand around the back of my head and pull my ear to his mouth.

"I know you're with your friends, but don't disappear," he growled.

"OK!" I said way too quickly, staring at his black forest of chest hair, slightly wet with rain beneath several gold medallions.

"Cool," Davido said. "There something I want to give you."

To be continued.....

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