Boy's Night Revue: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Burlesque

Boy's Night Revue: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Burlesque

First things first, it's a family show.

Ha. No, not in the sense that Disney would produce a live action version on ice and the MPAA would give the wholesome and family approved G rating. It's burlesque! Or in this case boylesque. Still, Boy's Night Revue is a fantastic, family show. Let me explain. 

I met the group on the Tuesday (before the next day's evening performance) at the aerial studio where they teach up-and-coming artists and practice their routines.  Stepping down into the facility, located beneath an apartment building east of Midtown, I rounded the corner into a two-story expanse of gymnasium, hoops, scarves, ropes, and other circus equipment. Ben Franklin, the front of house for the gym and member of the revue, excitedly welcomed me to the gym and introduced me to everyone.

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Ben Franklin: Yes that's his real name. A dapper beard and curled mustache reminiscent of Victorian era England adorned his smiling face. He is a hula-hoop connoisseur, the physical embodiment of every 90's child's dreams, with the ability to whip hoops around any appendage while simultaneously whipping his clothes off. If you blink, it appears to be a quasi-magic trick. He often performs alongside his spouse Josh Dean who co-owns the gym in which I was standing.  See, a literal family. 

 

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Josh Dean: The other half of Aerial Arts duo, Josh is characterized by his short, blond mohawk, vine tattoo, bright smile. That smile usually dons his face when performing a quirky duo with Ben, a solo aerial act, or intermission dance in the audience. But his range isn't limited to circus whimsy. His introductory rope act to a haunting a cappella rendition of Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow" gave me shivers reminiscent of those I had during Alison Krauss' musical performances in Cold Mountain.

 

Jason Mejias: He was my connection to the group through Guy Social and the last of the team I met as he was teaching during my arrival. Of the group members, he appeared the most reserved, characterized by watchful eyes and the occasional wry smile that cracked across his face, and like the rest of the troupe, his performances mirror his outward persona. He gives an emotive performance, a slow and sultry dance high up on ropes. It's the sort of seductive scene you might witness in a French avant-garde film. 

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Mr. Gorgeous: He enthusiastically introduced himself as a bottom and laughed through the rest of the greeting while the brief flash of confusion on my face turned to creases of amusement. I was quickly launched into Mr. Gorgeous's world of quick wit and charm. It's with this same warm charisma that he performs and thus became one of the best male burlesque performers in the country.  If you had any doubts that a crab could be sexy, prepare to have your mind blown.

 

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Eve Starr: I first met Eve out of drag save for some boots made for stomping.  She's known as the Vixen of the Kitchen and in her own words, "Don't come for the queen with the microphone!" Despite being a self-described trouble maker and ability to tip-toe the line of friendly and bitchy, there is a motherly heart that grounds Eve.  She took me under her wing during my visit with the group at the gym and at Uncle Charlie's Piano Bar for post-practice drinks where she was a fount of Broadway stories and Boy's Night history. 

  Cunio: If you ever encounter an old Romani woman who reads your palm and proceeds to tell you that a dark, handsome stranger will come into your life, there's a high probably that she's speaking of Cunio. If his striking cheekbones and a jaw line that could carve a turkey don't catch your eye, his voice will catch your ears.  While I wasn't privileged to see him perform at the Revue, I did meet him the night before the show and listened to clips on Instagram. This clip, where Cunio sings "This Is a Man's World" and seamlessly blends his voice with a saxophone, is something of a marvel. 

Now that you've been introduced to the members of the family, it's time for you to join. The Slipper Room, where the revue is held, is a cozy venue with a corner bar and tables that butt right up against the stage. Be sure to get there early if you'd like a seat, otherwise it's standing room or a seat wherever you can find a ledge. However, it never feels a burden to stand as your proximity to the performance throws you right into the show, with Josh tumbling down from the ceiling on silk scarves above your head or cake crumbs flying into the audience.  Mr. Gorgeous dancing around with his face on a towel feels like the best friend you never knew you had and you can't help but cheer him on.  He walked out in a crab outfit at one point and his first words to the audience were, "I'm a crab!" and everyone in the audience couldn't help but respond with something like, "Yeah man! You're a crab!" The audience was asked multiple times to come up on stage and hang with Eve or dance with Josh so it's almost a blessing to be on your feet. You never know when you'll have to spring to the front for a free drink.  

The interaction with the audience is what makes this circus-lesque show special; the connection with the performers feels genuine, as if you could walk up to them after the show and head out to drinks like a family.  These men literally bare themselves for your viewing but, the bare something beyond abs. Friendship, a genuine smile, and warmth of the heart.

The most striking moment of the night was song by Eve Starr, which (even though I have spent a short time in NYC) was the best drag performance I have witnessed in person or on television. Yes, including Drag Race. She sang to an eclectic medley of New York songs dedicated to her late drag mother.  Pure heart and soul radiated with the sound waves throughout the room that left few eyes dry. But a drag queen isn't without her comedy and Eve rocketed the audience through ballads, broadway, and physical comedy to the point that I was laugh-choking on my tears. 

Cirque du Soleil may be the first thing to pop into your mind when you hear "circus act," but such a spectacle will never achieve the close-knit community atmosphere of Boy's Night Revue. When I moved to New York from the Midwest, I was under the impression that it was a place that would make a person cold and hardened, but that, like Fargo's representation of the Midwest, was a myth. It's groups like Boy's Night Revue that add a cordial vibrancy to the city. If you are a first timer to burlesque or a seasoned queen, join the family. As the longest running all-male burlesque show in New York City, it's a necessary viewing and re-vue-ing.
 

The Library is Open!

The Library is Open!

RuPaul's Drag Race Season 9 begins today (March 24th) and before you become absorbed in the best of gaudy reality television, take some time to watch the documentary that started it all and enjoy some other critically acclaimed pieces of LGBT cinema. 

Paris is Burning
The library is open hunties! This documentary is mentioned by title in every season in RuPaul’s Drag Race with numerous tributes to the 1980’s ball cultural throughout the show. In fact, a large part of the modern gay culture (reading, drag mothers, realness, surrogate families) and even modern pop culture, originated from the black queer scene depicted in Paris is Burning. Madonna, Lady Gaga and others would be without their signature styles if it weren’t for the 80’s queens of color.  Even if you have no interest in drag culture, Paris is Burning is a must watch for any gay individual. And if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, becoming overly emotionally invested in the trials of this season's queens, Paris is Burning should be watched now, before you even touch the remote tomorrow. The originals of everything from "realness" to "reading" will become clear. The film is entertaining and educational, produced in an approachable style. You’ll thank me.

Stranger by the Lake
What if porn films had great performances and a plot that extends beyond the conventional, "How will I every pay for this pizza daddy?" What if Alfred Hitchcock made a modern thriller with more cock than his last name? Mix in some classical French filmmaking and a messy game of cat and mouse and you're left with the powerhouse film that is Stranger by the Lake. It's a slow burn as we vicariously cruise alongside the protagonist Franc who lusts after a smolderingly handsome Michel (who rocked scruff and a mustache before it was back in style.) There's a danger surrounding Michel which is both enticing and chilling, a feeling recognizable to anyone who's had a sketchy Grindr hookup. The fall from will-they-won't-they to a cat-and-mouse game that could happen to anyone in this current hookup era feels all too real, but it's best left to experience on the silver screen in this vital piece of cinema. Needless to say, the film will only affirm the idea that "hiking" in Central Park at 3a.m. is a bad idea.

Weekend
As a gay in New York, there’s a high chance you’ve experienced a one night stand that turned out to be a little more—an intimate conversation after sex, a friendly second date, or a connection that extends beyond the wham bam thank you, man. It lies in that uncharted territory of emotion, sitting between one-night-stand and relationship that usually leaves people in a confused mess. Andrew Haigh, in his directorial debut, examines this gray area of connection through some of the most explicit and intimate dialogue on sex and love ever put to film. But, it never reaches pretentious philosophy or preachy dialogue.  If Richard Linklater began the modern, cinematic study of brief human connections with Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Andrew Haigh perfected it with Weekend. The film could easily be a documentary, following its breakout stars as they burn brightly through their brief encounter.

Moonlight
This year’s winner for Best Picture, Moonlight, is an intimate portrait of a gay, black male growing up in a penurious Miami neighborhood. Barry Jenkins directs a deeply emotional drama, slowly burning over three decades where complex and nuanced relationships develop.  Mahershala Ali, Naomi Harris, Trevante Rhodes and the younger actors have the audience captured with quiet emotional intensity as they navigate drugs, sexuality, and ultimately the human condition.  The eyes have us. Looking. Analyzing. Deciding. Imagine cruising a man in a club, but remove the feeling of lust while maintaining the intense need for connection.  The characters in Moonlight are cruising on a deeper level, looking for understanding while swimming in a sea of ethical, financial, sexual, and emotional uncertainty.  Like Brokeback Mountain, Moonlight doesn’t fit into the category of popcorn entertainment. It’s meant to make you listen, feel, and think.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Neil Patrick Harris brought Hedwig to the front of pop culture with the play’s Broadway debut.  But before Hedwig was popularized and later portrayed by well-renowned actors like Michael C. Hall, Darren Criss, and Taye Diggs, the character was rocking it off-broadway and in this cult-classic indie film helmed by creator John Cameron Mitchell.  Hedwig and the Angry Inch pulls from the lunacy of 1980’s rock films like This is Spinal Tap and Pink Floyd: The Wall, and bests fellow rock musicals (looking at you Rocky Horror Picture Show) by not losing its characters in campy comedy, transphobia, and satire for the mere sake of satire. Dr. Frank-N-Furter may be Transylvania's leading transvestite but Hedwig is the real rock queen in town.  Transsexualism is a stirring element of the plot, deepening the complexity of the main characters, and not thrown around as a creepy anomaly. Mitchell’s creation is an artful homage (sometimes using literal art and animation) to glam-rock and the crazy excess of such performances while exploring gender identity, homophobia, and self-discovery with the speakers cranked to eleven. 

The Way He Looks
“No pics = no chat” is a Grindr profile staple. A Tindr decision is made with a fleeting glance. And that really cute guy at the bar was also looking at you when, oops, you made eye contact which was held just a millisecond too long for it to be mere coincidence. Clearly, you were both checking each other out so it's time buy him a drink. Conclusion: gay men have a dependency on sight.
Now imagine your life without sight. What happens to your nights at the club, the late nights on hookup apps, or meeting the guys for coffee? Close your eyes for a minute and feel the darkness wrap around you.  Place yourself in a bar, a club, or the street, but without your sight. How would you function as a gay man? How would you meet people…trust people? The Way He Looks is a beautiful foreign film that examines these exact ideas with an extra dollop of teenage angst.

You Should Meet My Son
This one is for the baby gays. Everyone in the gay community, at some point in their life, has experienced coming out and finding their true family. This little independent film follows a mother as she and her kooky sister explore the gay scene after discovering her son is gay. The acting may be a little stilted and the plot is straightforward but this film is overflowing with heart. Whether you connect with the closeted son, the explorative mother, or any of the colorful supporting cast ranging from gogo dancer Chase to drag mother Fantasia Xtravaganza, there’s a good chance this film will give you warm-fuzzy feelings that leave a goofy grin on your face. Pop this flick on during the winter months to alleviate a little seasonal depression and make you feel wonderful to be gay.
“I want you to be happy. Laugh-out-loud, thrilled-to-be-alive, smiling-all-the-time kind of happy. And if you think this world won’t give you the things that you want, then I am going to have to change the world, because I will not have it change you.”

Other films to check out:
The Times of Harvey Milk, City of Borders, The Celluloid Closet, We Were Here, The Sun, The Moon & The Hurricane, Undertow, Mysterious Skin, I Killed My Mother, Before Night Falls, Bent, Yossi & Jagger

First post! (featuring the fun and free Guess-A-Butt minigame)

First post! (featuring the fun and free Guess-A-Butt minigame)

Welcome to the first installment of the Guy Social Blog! Even though we’re an event planning organization bent on helping gay guys and girls step off social media and get social #irl, the digital conversation will continue to be omnipresent in our lives. So naturally, we’re choosing to keep the social aspects of our events alive online with the reinvigoration of our Instagram account and launch of this schmancy blog.

Now for some quick background info about me my name’s Ben. I’ll be curating the blogs and tackling some of the social media aspects for Guy Social. If you’ve been to an event within the past month or so, you may have noticed me running around with a camera and if you follow our Instagram, I am the guy wrapped up in the blanket (it was a Monday, what can I say!). If you see me at a future event, feel free to say hi! I’ll even throw in a few ice-breakers for free: 1) I once woke up to a muster of peacocks outside my house. 2) I have great potential as a bear whisperer (the wild animal, not the gay subgroup). Ask me about a story or hit me up with one of your own, it might just be featured.

So, how did I find Guy Social?

I moved to New York City five months ago, from the rural Midwest, to pursue a career in video production. As much as I hate to admit it, I was a walking cliché. Moved from a small town: check. Big dreams in the big apple: check check. Going to redefine myself: check check check. Explore the newly accessible gay scene: Cheeeeeck! Needless to say, I went from introverted, country bumpkin to city boi in a blink of an eye. Fun fact: there’s a good chance that your average New York office building holds more people than the population of my entire hometown. I lived approximately half a mile from my nearest neighbor on a gravel road which promptly turned into an unplowed snow drift during the winter months.

Because I moved from so little ‘city’ to so much city, I often got the question if I was ever overwhelmed. The answer naturally being yes, but not in the conventional sense.  I wasn’t overcome by the sheer volume of happenings in the city, but instead by my inability to find a community amongst the chaos.  I had work, but nothing after hours.  Going to lounges for parties and bars for pub trivia offered potential but rarely resulted in me walking away with a lasting connection. Grindr and Tindr were a new game entirely. The city had revealed a protective membrane, keeping its secrets safe.  I was furious that I had not yet found a way in.  

The next meetup.com event on my list of strikes was Guy Social’s monthly bowling event. In passing, I overheard some guys at work say, “The gays love their bowling,” so I took that as a good omen.  Wearing my only pair of chinos that conveniently highlighted my best asset (yes, that’s a pun about my bum), I entered the Time Square Bowlmor, awash with a mix of nerves and excitement. Actually, that’s a lie, it was just nerves. I had never been with this many gay guys in one setting that wasn’t a gay club. And I had only been to a gay club twice in the Midwest.  But unlike the club, there was no need for me to stand around with a drink.  Jonathan and Joey, event organizers, welcomed me with literal open arms, picking the New York newbie out of the crowd.  From there, I met my first New York friend and have been attending Guy Social events on the regular.  This was the community I wanted.

So whether you’re a staple New Yorker or a noob like myself, I would encourage you to come check out an upcoming event. We offer so many unique and diverse events, both paid and free experiences ranging from wine tasting to Gayzer Tag (yes, it’s laser tag for gay guys). Or, you can be a part of the community in another way through story contributions or our volunteer outreach programs.

See you ‘round!
Ben Bogard

Content Manager

 

*One last parting note: With the onslaught of political turmoil, no matter which side of the aisle you are on, I want to say upfront that we won’t have political commentary on this blog. Guy Social is designed to be a safe and inclusive group for all.  The blog’s focus will be on gay life and issues featuring personal interviews with attendees of our events, profiles on local gay-owned businesses, and guest writers. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean we won’t shy away from issues that stir up a debate: drugs, sex, race, relationships, and the flavor profiles of red wine.

Congratulations! You have completed the first blog! Now on to the Guess-A-Butt minigame. Which one's mine? Which one is Joey's (our CEO)?

Butt 1

Butt 1

Butt 2

Butt 2

Butt 3

Butt 3

Butt 4

Butt 4