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Putting out the Fire with Vaseline

The planets were aligned, so I finally managed to attend Vaseline, the homosexualist (glam-)rock night at the El Mo.

As an avowed rock apologist who spent four long years writing about bands who unironically deploy electric guitars in my little-read Xtra music column, Queer in Your Ear, you’d think I’d find a refuge at Vaseline.

Fashion sense

I did not have a thing to wear. I don’t have the right kind of new clothes and certainly don’t have the knack for the right kind of second-hand. (TPOH: "She was so Betsey Johnson–and–MAC over-the-top now. I was second-hand-shirted, ripped jeans, like all the boys in this town.") I gave up and wore shorts, vegan Doc Martens, and a T-shirt under my silver Cannondale vest. I wasn’t fooling anybody.

Having endured Art Fag 2000 a couple o’ months ago, I was not unfamiliar with Vaseline organizer Will Munro, but I kept mistaking him for another Art Fag contestant, Kelly McCray, who skipped past the concept of evening-wear and swimwear competitions and showed up for Art Fag wearing nothing but shoes and bodypaint. He’s short and kinda sexy, in a short-kinda-sexy way.

Though he was fully clothed for Vaseline, I spotted Kelly and followed him down to the green room. I bellowed for Will Munro. A response along the lines of "Who wants to know?" was heard. I’m Joe Clark, I replied. I run the Bad Religion Mailing List and I’m organizing Bad Religion Karaoke in November and I need help.

Their attention secured, I then spent five minutes explaining what I meant. Some tips were passed on. Kelly, while still short, is a bundle of love, while Will was the rail-thin white duke on quad roller skates touching up his eye glitter in the mirror. "You look taller naked," I would later tell Kelly, to great acclaim. (Putty in my hands?)

The scene

A startlingly gorgeous Italian fag played pool with a would-be rent boy as I sashayed in. The rent boy had the coördination of Stephen Hawking and rivaled me for pool-table incompetence, while the Italian, despite his winning triceps, nonetheless managed to sink the cue ball. The rent boy chatted me up a bit, and at the very end, I declared "You both suck! And I like that in a man."

The DJtrix played a single Blondie song (more were heard in Queer as Folk, for fucksakes), but two by Billy Idol. I sensed a Hits of the ’80s domination at work. If I wanted kids running the turntable, I’d go back to high school.

It became apparent that even the tough dykes weren’t about to chat me up (and do tank tops, mid-tibia-length raver shorts, and tight haircuts ever work well on those gals), so I resigned myself to another Morrissey moment and retired to a stool by the entrance to do a RuPaul ("You’ve never seen a better fashion show than black ladies coming out of church on a Sunday morning") and watch the incoming crowd.

If these boys are all queer, I’m the King of Siam. They certainly are thin, I’ll give them that. Iggy Pop is a bear compared to these lads. Onstage, very far away but very, very loud, were amateur strip performers, whom the crowd adored. I knew I was missing something, but stuck where I was. If I’m going to be a misfit misanthrope, I’m going to be a misfit misanthrope you have to walk past to get inside.

Unfortunately, I neglected one of the cardinal rules of retail, the Decompression Zone: Don’t put anything you really want to sell within the first ten feet of the door, because people are just slowing down and getting reoriented over that distance. They saw right through me.

Who were "they"?

  1. Three redheads, one of them familiar, another spectacular. Guess which one noticed me, then looked away? Both.
  2. Craig-n-Dean, friends and/or former lovers of a Maltese acquaintance who brightens my month whenever I bump into him. (The Maltese are a beautiful race.) Craig decided to be friendly that night, and whatever he decides to do he does balls-to-the-walls, to drop a rockist line. Dean is short and in his 40s, with a heavily-lined face; he looks like a million bucks. We remember his appearance at a Black Eagle foreskin contest, where he was able to insert over 30 marbles inside his prepuce. It took ten full minutes, and the host had to head offstage to refill the source bottle. (Miss Congeniality, named Anders, was a Spandex Spider-man costume by comparison, handling fewer than a dozen.) The pair, attired in the Black Eagle uniform of moustaches, cutoff T-shirts, and shorts, looked great and stuck with me for a good ten minutes before blowing the popsicle stand. Wow. For that brief, shining moment, I belonged.
  3. Another familiar Black Eagle trope, the skinhead with the pointy, bushy goatee. Two of them. One’s 25, the other pushing 50. The youngster is my height, irresistible. His bf unit is a full head shorter, built like a brick shithouse (we’re talking competition quality), and tattooed on the neck.

I gave in and crowd-surfed to the stage. The would-be rent boy had been one of the strippers, it turned out. I applauded in my fey, overpolite way. I sheltered my ears. I noted the presence of Paul DeBoy (a recent Xtra cover boy). Over a year ago, sashaying into Woody’s, I instantly spotted blond dreadlocks with a guitar slung over a shoulder. To my own and everyone’s horror, this blonde delivered a bombshell on the order of a talent night at a Manitoba tavern as his trannie friend crooned a folk song to which he strummed along. Paul was later met at Juice for Life (“Jews for Life – the Hasidic Anti-Abortion Restaurant”) wearing a T-shirt, reading right to left, that prompted my line “Funny, you don’t look Hebrew-speaking.” (His bf was. And Paul is Amerikanski. Spotted him while crossing de-l’Église-Straße; chose between saying hello or getting plowed by a car.)

A voluptuous chick in glasses with ample tits won the applause-meter stripper contest, unnerving me with her odd resemblance to my landlady. The Italian danced and clapped along to the music, in rather a naturally erotic way. (The current trend of tight short-sleeved shirts with collars works famously on him.)

The young skinhead kept his arm wrapped around his senior bf and cheered lustily at the performers. Every closely-shaved follicle of hair was visible on his magnificent dark complexion, in the top three of any acreage of skin yet seen. As a scientific experiment, I manœuvered myself into his field of vision, eliciting all the reaction of a neutrino whizzing through the earth.


The stage was cleared for a glam-rock band, and I swam through a crowd of Soylent Green density to head back to the exit. You know you’re invisible when you’re in full mosh-pit body contact, deodorant-commercial closeness, and eye contact is as studiously avoided as though you wore a nametag emblazoned ELDER CLARK.

I’ll be back next month (on the last Friday thereof). I won’t fit in. I oughta.

Craig-n-Dean knew just when to leave. Smart boys. Me? I walked to the Black Eagle, where the bear DJ was playing his usual drum-n-bass – in this case, the very acceptable Mocean Worker (passim). From matter to antimatter in the same night. And frankly, despite the absence of redheads at the Eagle, Mocean Worker made me happier.


Rusty Vaseline

After a great deal of deliberation, and since I had the $7 cover on me, I elected to do Vaseline again.

One had a bit of a chuckle en route to the eetcarstray. A red tabbykitten was seen cavorting on a lawn. He was all too happy to run up and say hello. Rather less happy to be picked up, but I figured it was better to hold him while the black chick behind me passed by rather than watch him get spooked and bugger off. “G’ahead,” I told her in my best Ratso Rizzo voice. The black chick gave me a look, walked half a pace past me, turned smartly onto the walkway of the lawn, and called for Rusty to come on home.


What-all happened at Vaseline? I kept a moment-by-moment tally. You Are There!

With a whopping six of us staring at the walls wondering when the place will cease to feel like an Edmonton straight bar on an ’80s Appreciation Night, there’s nothing to do but spot the tunes. “Bang & Blame.” Something wailing by Morrissey, fabulously. “Homo Sapien,” getting it over with. Isn’t that Ryan Bureyko sitting resolutely alone over there? How shockingly B-list. Howcum he’s here so early, and all alone? Where are all your punker street-trash friends now, Ryan?
Some creature half an increment removed from a transvestite tosses a baby-blue wading pool onto the stage riser. It’s ribbed like the Michelin Man, or like his condoms. What’s with the badminton racquet protruding from this other lad’s knapsack? I decide to help myself to the expanded-polystyrene cups and jugs of free water, very sensibly and considerately provided, possibly in compliance with the intent if not the letter of the city rave code.
The very dangerous, imposing, severe, authoritarian and fearsome Black Eagle bartender Adrian stomps in. What’s with the cowboy hat, mate? Glad to see you and the pudgy bf dressing up. Looks like you actually ironed the flannel and denim shirts.
Pudgy butch dyke in a black tank top wonders why I’m taking notes. It’s what I do, honey.
White hanky protruding from left pocket, Adrian somkes a fag and notes Ryan seated quite unfabulously alone and nursing his own fags. Adrian deigns to chat with him for a while, no doubt reminiscing the glory days when Ryan condescendingly bussed tables at the Eagle. Still laughing at the straight world, I see, Ryan – and it’s laughing right back.
A 6′5″ lad, his SECURITY tank top spray-painted to his chest, sashays in. Yes, it’s Mike the former bouncer of the Eagle, looking even more ravishing in his new shaved head. His pudgy friend (funny, he doesn’t look like a top) is smouldering in his bristly hair and goatee.
Pudgy R.M. Vaughan enters.
Some unaccountable lad in tousled hair and faux leopardskin waves at me. Momentarily, some rather tall, blond twink in a cowboy hat cruises me. The rawk music is superb, and so obscure I can’t identify any of it at all.
Fidgety young kid in a loose Dawn of the Living Dead camisole sits next to me and nurses a Coke. His friend, evidently a busboy, is overheard saying “He’s a cool guy. He’s a social worker.”
At this point, against the back wall sit a trio of losers: Me, the kid in the camisole, and some ponce in a polo shirt and highlighted brown hair.
An average dude with black hair and his blond friend look at and talk about me. Separately, the biggest basket in the joint ambles by, all smiles. (Why wouldn’t he be?)
The band starts. I decide to power-mingle, rubbing right against R.M. There’s Sky Gilbert sulking pudgily in a grotto.
First B‌r‌e‌t‌t sighting. I stumble and wave. I’ll be fucked if I’m going to talk to him.
Across the way – is it? Yes! It is! David Klein, whom I know not at all well. He’s one of my favourite people.
B‌r‌e‌t‌t’s... friend deposits gum or like mucosal exudate in the nearby ashtray. B‌r‌e‌t‌t’s A-list posse numbers four.
“I hope you guys are having a good time tonight,” the girl leading the band asserts generically. We’re not.
Bruce LaBruce makes his appearance, relieving minutes of extended boredom. Finally the fucking band calls it quits. If only they’d do it permanently.
I’m on my third expanded-polystyrene cup.
First airing of Stevie Nicks, an inevitability in this crowd. (Donna Summer is verboten but Stevie Nicks isn’t? Very alternative.)
A wet–T-shirt–and–panties contest begins. I barrack for the trio of girls, one of them 6′1″ and wearing a sailor costume (until the contest starts). A pair of lads seem to have come equipped with their own... homemade... bottled liquid. Keep your bodily fluids to yourself. The transvestite running the show can’t decide on a winner, forcing six contestants to split a hundred bucks and two dildos among them. I applaud decorously, knowing B‌r‌e‌t‌t is three ranks behind me.
Contest ends. Thankfully. No one particularly made a splash. I have to take a leak. By sheer coincidence, supertall Mike is at the urinals, as ever with his pants completely undone and spread-Eagled. He can’t just unzip his fly like normal women? I do the usual, but in a stall, as usual. We have our standards.
We can observe three eras at Vaseline: DJ before contest; contest; DJ after contest, who subjects us to particularly gruesome undanceable Metallica and “Dragula.” We’re supposed to dance to this? I’ve been to engineering beer busts with more readily danceable rock music.
I walk manfully out the door, then over to Church St. to see what the girls are doing. Since this is Toronto, the answer is nothing. I splurge on a cab homeward.

Return visits would seem unsupportable. The eponymous song is a better entertainment value.

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Updated 2001.09.22

Speaking of updates: Sasha’s been there, too