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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Partying Hearty

By Janet Thompson

As other urban (many gay) pioneers were restoring their Victorian houses, my New Orleans neighbor, Bill, in keeping with his origin and traditions, decreed that his friends must come costumed to his 1983 Fat Tuesday bash.

My best friend, Vonnie, became a French exotic dancer (long gloves, ivory cigarette holder, red blouse, black skirt, hose and beret). My gentleman friend, Ralph, borrowed a Boy Scout leader uniform and with a pillow I turned into a pregnant Girl Scout.

My partners, Jay and Lair, portrayed Grizabella and Old Deuteronomy from Cats. Another neighbor, Mike, came swathed in Styrofoam, as the blizzard of ’82, the huge Christmas Eve storm that immobilized Denver a couple months before. Many others came in drag.

After too many boozes, Vonnie was seated on the back of a couch when the four folks on the seat all got up at the same time pinning her booted foot under as it fell over backwards.

She limped around for several weeks, never allowed to forget that embarrassing episode.

* * *

Jay had bought a catamaran thus forming the Curtis Park Yacht Club. To signify our club membership, we proudly wore blue T-shirts with little Ralph Lauren-like logos of a sailboat and the Yacht Club name on them.

Usually, about a dozen friends traveled to Lake McConaughy in Nebraska for “yachting.” Lair and Jay had made huge wooden chests for storing cooking equipment, games, tents and other camping gear.

One of the first trips I took with them to the lake, after a hearty dinner and many beers, I noticed Jay take something from a chest, go down to the lake’s edge and swish it around in the water. Then he came back to the campfire with a bagpipe. (Some old-timers say if a bagpipe bag is made of sealskin, wetting it makes for a softer sound).

All afternoon campers across the lake had assaulted us with their loud boom-boxes booming. Suddenly hearing the strains of Amazing Grace wafting across the water, the rowdy revelers instantly stopped their music. There was silence and we were sure they must have thought the rapture had descended and they were about to be swallowed up and swept away Revelation-style.

After that, Jay treated everyone to Scotland the Brave and other typical bagpipe musical treasures. Unexpected.

* * *

Socialites Marvin and Barbara Davis had Hollywood connections but also business in Denver. For several years they underwrote the annual gala, The Carousel Ball as a fund-raiser for the Denver Symphony.

All the city and suburban movers and shakers attended by invitation only. It was like a mini Oscars event with its long red carpet, stretch limousines, glitterati, paparazzi and the whole caboodle.

For our “Not the Carousel Ball and Polyester Party,” we hired an old, red double-decker bus. Everyone haunted Salvation Army shops for outdated polyester outfits. I'll never forget Jay’s puce-colored, polyester Nehru jacket and my brilliant orange polyester evening gown bedecked with rhinestones.

Clutching our beer in brown paper bags, we assembled downtown at the newly designed Confluence Park on the formerly polluted Platte River where bike paths and sheltered picnicking areas had been created.

At the small amphitheater, we noshed on hors d’oeuvres of Vienna sausages wrapped in Wonder Bread and Velveeta cheese as we held our fashion show.

Jay’s ice-cream-store partner, Diane, won the prize for best dressed. Then we bused our way to The Weinerschnitzel where we dined on 10-cent hamburgers and hot dogs.

Piling back in the bus, we arrived at the Convention Center just in time for the elegant donor-party-goers arriving for their big ball. As the limousines deposited their important passengers, our old bus disgorged about 30 of us, gloriously dressed appropriately for OUR event.

Partnering in twos, we strolled the red carpet right along with the distinguished others. That accomplished, it was back in the bus to the famous Tracks Nite Club by the abandoned railroad tracks for dancing and more drinking until lights out.

* * *

I imagine Jay, now in heaven, serving up his and Diane’s cherry-cheesecake ice-cream and welcoming the new arrivals to the bagpipe groans of Amazing Grace.

Some of the other newbies later succumbed to AIDS but Lair and many more friends are still living well, thank heaven! Those were the days, my friend.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


That sounds like a fun group and one I'd like to have known!

You have such fun! Good for you!

I think you have had a wonderful life!

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