My original intent was to write about a different friend every day to tell the world about their awesomeness. I seem to have so much to say that I’m blogging about other topics as well. I kind of like how the two are working together, my random thoughts dovetailing into who I’m presenting. I’m also enjoying the immediacy. So I’m gonna stick with that.
Last night, as I mentioned, I wound up as a plus-one at a fab gala. My “date” was Chi Chi Valenti, Empress of the Motherboards (and formerly club Mother). It was a glamorous evening — cocktails, dinner and a wonderful show put on by Rosie’s Kids — where our table wound up in an awkward but hilarious spotlight: Kicking off the donation segment of the evening, Rosie asked who might want to start at $10,000. When she came down to $1000, she looked at our table. We were a colorful little crew, two of whom were sporting rather large chapeaux. “How about you, pirate?” she asked one. “No? Okay. Love that Pharrell hat,” she said to the other, who was wearing Westwood, sweeeeteeee, but not the Pharrell one, thankyouverymuch! Anyway, after another ribbing at the $500 level, someone side stage whispered, “They’re Jane’s friends!” which let Rosie know not to harass us for donations since we weren’t members of the moneyed class, merely guests of. It was an amusing little culture clash.
Coming home from the desert every year I experience similar culture clashes. I’ve wound up at a luncheon with Condoleeza Rice and a dinner with Susan Sarandon. I’ve celebrated a birthday at a posh resort in Playa del Carmen and spent weekends at expensive spas from Monterey to Sonoma. A week ago I was at a dinner dance at San Francisco’s St. Francis Yacht Club. Just having dinner with my sister and her friends can feel like a journey to a parallel dimension. So being in a room full of people who can raise their hands and donate a few grand wasn’t all that odd. But getting singled out about not being able to was pretty goofy. It will provide chuckle-factor fodder in the future between Chi Chi and I, along with our flying foil-wrapped bagels and the egg-splattered stage.
I’ve known Chi Chi since 1993, when she booked me to walk in the Goddess Ball fashion show at The Palladium. I didn’t realize then just how incredible that was…I was so excited and flattered to be included that the enormity of it somehow escaped me. I went to a couple of Jackie 60s, notably one that paid homage to Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill (I wore Tura Satana drag) and one of the annual Shoe Balls, where I wound up on my hands and knees mopping the aforementioned splattered eggs (in addition to quite a good amount of piss). When she and her husband, DJ Johnny Dynell, bought the club, I was recruited as a co-producer (and “Kink Control”) of the cyberfetish weekly Click + Drag. It was nightclub heaven.
I have an appreciation for people who recognize those who’ve come before them, welcomed them and schooled them. It reminds us that none of us get anywhere alone; we’re all in it together. It is a tradition in both the drag and BDSM worlds, to acknowledge the “mothers” and “fathers” who, literally, “brought us up” in the subculture. Chi Chi is my “club mother” and a mother to so many others.
Aside from contributing to my club education, I’ve absorbed oodles of other cultural ephemera from Chi. She is knowledgeable on an astounding array of topics: history, fashion, the arts, and, most especially, New York City. She was a fixture at Mudd Club before she ran her own establishment. And her legacy continues. Chi Chi’s expertise extends beyond being side stage or on the mic into the literary world. She has written for numerous publications and created one of her own: Verbal Abuse, “dispatches from the nightlife literati.” Her readings are theatrical and atmospheric, blending words with performance art, firmly based in both disciplines.
Chi has hired me to help co-produce Ghostlight, the Halloween haven that raises funds for HOWL Help, and Night of a Thousand Stevies, the annual evening of musical homage to Stevie Nicks, and Low Life @ HOWL Festival. It is always a pleasure to work with her. I am grateful for the many opportunities to be a part of New York City’s vibrant nightlife.
A note: This post is part of my 30-day “YES-vember!” project.