Swimming in Charity
There were no trophies, no overbearing parents beaming at their bed-headed little superathletes, and no speed-challenged children being left behind.
In the banquet hall of the famed Swimming Hall of Fame on Fort Lauderdale Beach last Sunday night, it was just me, electronic dance mixes, and a horde of shirtless men stomping ecstatically through the strobe-lit mist. One hot boy is one great thing, but 60 hot boys bouncing around a room is enough to make a girl's upper lip perspire. It was, of course, the unpretentious mixed crowd that Fort Lauderdale's gay community is known for. But there was eye candy aplenty, if that's what you're into.
Still, no one was paying the slightest attention to me.
The second-annual Red Ball is an event put on by active members of the city's gay community and volunteers. Its atmosphere was a cross between focused fundraiser and small-scale all-day circuit party. One hundred percent of the proceeds, untabulated at this point, will go to a worthy cause: kids with AIDS. The entertainment, by local drag queen Miss Misty Eyez and pop diva Gioia, who performed with the '80s band Exposé, was sensational and erotic.
About 9 p.m., two buzz-cut flag dancers took the stage: a short man in red spandex pants and a taller man in mesmerizing red-sequined spandex slacks -- OK, so the place was wall-to-wall spandex, big deal -- with sunglasses on. They spun vigorously before they were shooed by men dressed in black who whispered feverishly into the microphones of headsets.
The stage was clearly being set for something big. I waited and waited, but nothing seemed to be happening, so I slipped outside for a breath of fresh air.
I approached a group of men standing around. One with short brown hair was wearing a red wrestling leotard, and he replied to my query about the Red Ball by saying, "I don't have a coherent thought right now."
His cowboy-hatted friend said, "I'm impressed with the music. Impressed with the turnout. Uh, and also impressed with how many people dressed the theme."
He wasn't wearing a speck of red. "Except for you and me, right?" I replied.
"My underwear are red," he said before pulling the waistline on his jeans down to reveal the red streaks in his tie-dyed underwear. "Does that count?"
"Have you shown your underwear to anyone else tonight?" I asked.
"No, I haven't," he replied.
"Then, no, it doesn't count."
Incoherent took a swig from his water bottle and asked, "What about you?"
I pulled my tight belt away from my hips and searched my panty line, hoping I hadn't worn my grannies that night, and pulled out a thin white strap.
Incoherent shrieked at its scantiness and said, "Damn." Then, he laughed and said, "That's not much for underwear. I like that."
His pleasant delirium was contagious. We all giggled for a brief momo.
A few minutes later on the lawn next to the hall, Miss Misty Eyez was sitting on a stool in front of a camera and stage lights while cradling the petite brunet Gioia, who was wearing a revealing red dress, in the nook of her arm. They were doing an interview for Queer TV.
While I waited for them to finish, I spoke to Justin Flash, a thin blond circuit dancer who performs in Vegas and South Beach. Like most of the people I spoke with, the focus of his reaction to the Red Ball was the fundraiser: "I think it's a lot of fun. I would have volunteered my services here, but I didn't know about it till too late. I'm glad we're helping out."
A friend of his walked out of the hall wiping his brow and sighed, "It's hotter than a blistered pussy in a pepper patch in there." I made him repeat it again and again.
Misty Eyez and Gioia finally finished their interview and began posing for photo shoots. Soon, though, Gioia was telling me about her recent divorce, her third: "It's the first time in 20 years that I'm completely alone. I'm diggin' it. I like it. I do."
I proffered an explanation: "Men drag, don't they?"
She responded, "I'm just sick and tired of raising 'em. I'm picking the wrong guys. I'm following a pattern here."
Miss Misty Eyez' voice was husky as she offered herself to Gioia: "I will make it for you, I swear."
Gioia laughed before being dragged away to another party, which gave me the opportunity to get Misty Eyez's take on the Red Ball. She looked at me with penetrating clear eyes, unobscured by her two-inch lashes, and explained that the event is "an absolutely fabulous conception of an idea." Not only is it for a good cause, she added, but it's "gay men getting together to have fun, being at a circuit party blah, blah, blah."
Then I went back inside to see the big performance. A man set up a camera in front of the stage, and two tight-bodied hunks in red spandex briefs got up on the stage and stood flexing their glutes at the crowd for a full minute. Then, a beefy bald man wearing a long red cape and eye mask mounted the stage and walked to the podium behind them.
It was Yanko, Mr. Hotlanta 2000.
As the three started an intricate choreographed dance, they stared at the crowd, projecting intense sexuality. Suddenly I noticed that Yanko's three-inch platform boots had no heels. He did a moderately good job of balancing himself on the soles while performing the dance routine, but the effect was kind of ridiculous. Then one of his dancers jumped up and straddled the other while Yanko sat on the podium stroking their bodies. The simulated threesome revved the crowd. Next, the two dancers lifted Yanko over their heads as if he were the corpse of a great warrior killed in battle. When the song ended, they set him down and strutted off the stage, swinging their hunky legs with as much attitude as they could muster.
Like many charitable ventures, the entertainment was one thing and the cause another. Last year, Terry DeCarlo, the passionate organizer of the Red Ball (fellow organizers are Alan Penrod, Ken Moore, and Bill Huelsman) tore down the fence between his and a neighbor's yards and held the fundraiser at home. Far more people than were expected showed up, so this year, they held the event at a larger venue. When I tracked down DeCarlo, he insisted that the Red Ball, its color theme signifying AIDS awareness, was not a circuit party with all the drugs and debauchery the term evokes: "My mother was here earlier," he explained.
The money goes to the Children's Diagnostic and Treatment Center for Direct Patient Care of Children Living with HIV/AIDS, he said. "The kids have always been something that's been close to Alan and myself, our hearts... These kids with HIV, it's not their fault. This money helps get them food and clothes and shoes. When you see the kids, it's absolutely tear-jerking. These are children. The children are our future. We'll keep them going until someone finds a cure."
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