AIDS Benefit

I could have been a hooker…

…and all this starts with an actual person, Travis Thomas, who is a sweet man.  Travis Thomas is a tall, beautiful, and black.  He is a dancer and choreographer, and not a fictitious character.

Travis, if you are reading this, I tell this story with the greatest respect…

I danced as part of Travis’s back-up, at the age of 17, in an AIDS benefit.  The benefit took the form of a drag revue at a club called Stutz, in White Plains, New York.  Travis performed as Tina Turner, via playback.  He rocked a mini skirt.  I was one of two back-up dancers.  Neither of us was in drag.  Neither of us was in much, actually.  It was a gay club, of course.  The year was 1995.  Or 1996.  I can’t remember.

There was a lot of coke.  And a lot of liquor.

In any case, the drag revue at Stutz closed with Martha Wash performing “It’s Raining Men”.  There was only one other performer with her, a male dancer.  He was a small, compact guy who had good turns.  He also had a high, sweeping fan-kick, and, not incidentally, backflips.

I suppose it’s only right that someone is doing backflips and fan-kicks while Martha Wash sings “It’s Raining Men” for an AIDS benefit.

That night, a particular Swedish gentleman offered a high sum of money for a night with me (a seventeen year old virgin go-go dancer in Doc Martens).

The more Travis explained to him that I was a dancer, and not available, the more it seemed to the Swedish gentleman that the only question was one of price.

I remember sitting in a dark corner of the bar with Victor, the other go-go dancer.  We each had a glass of whiskey, and we weren’t drunk yet, which meant we were quiet.  Travis came to us.  He was excited, and began explaining how he had defended me before even taking a seat.  He tried to point out the Swedish gentleman, who stood on the opposite wall of a dark, crowded bar.  In pointing to the man, Travis also subtly provided an opportunity for me to accept the offer, in the unlikely case that I were interested.

I answered no.

Travis now had my answer to fortify his argument, and returned to defending me on the opposite side of the room.  The more he tried to explain, however, the more the sum went up.  The man stared at Travis intently.  He glanced at Victor and me.  He flashed a money clip…

…I will not mention a number here.  It was ridiculously high, and, if I give a number, it will appear as either self-aggrandizement, or pure fiction.

Nonetheless, the answer was no.

Answering no, however, did what it always does.

It opened a door…

(A Footnote:  Martha Wash was the invisible vocal talent behind many of the house and dance music hits produced by C+C Music Factory and Black Box.  Although her career began in the 70s, Ms. Wash’s vocal work was not properly credited until decades later.  Fact checking via Wikipedia.)


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