After a moment of silence during the holidaze (due in no small part to the obscene quantities of prime rib, turtles and pancetta roasted brussel sprouts I've been shoving down my gullet courtesy of the parentals and the Kangagi's sistah, oh sistah), the Emperor is back to report on our naughty and nice pre-Xmas gaycation with Mr. and Mrs. Trollito in the I.E. Despite the frigid, windy temps--we're talking frozen desert hearts here folks--'twas truly H-O-T-T-T.
Drag Queens and Porn Stars and Grinders, oh my!
In the name of research and commerce, we rolled out for an overniter in the land I call home-o, Riverside, CA. The parental abode (see left) is too tiny and over-populated by ersatz kids of the four-legged variety (exhibit A, "Yuki," to the right) to accommodate a gigglesnorting gaggle of husky lezzies and lithe andro hooves, so we decided to enlist our travel agent--aka Priceline-- to score us a room at Riverside's own "historic Mission Inn." Hey...if it's good enough for Richard and Pat Nixon's wedding, it's good enough for a fab "don't call us homo-normy, we're homo-smarmy" foursome apres outlets and queer clubs.
My dad has a regular Thurs-Sat jazz trio gig at the Mission Inn's Presidential Lounge, despite the fact that he's a yellow-dawg Democrat, and Republican presidents are notoriously overrepresented in the presidential portrait gallery flanking the lounge, with the notable exception of JFK. This past weekend, howevs, daddy-o took time off to entertain my Uncle Lee, visiting from Vancouver, B.C. where he's lived since conscientiously objecting to the Vietnam War (that's dodging the draft in jingo-speak). In short, we had the M.I. decked out in all of its gaudy animatronic holiday splendour all to ourselves that night...or so we thought...
(Below: note the noir-ish pool view from our room)
Earlier in the day, our I.E. adventures began when Kangagi and I converged with Mr. and Mrs. Trollito, and fueled up for what was to be a late afternoon of torrid Cabazon consumption at one of the Riv's finest homegrown eateries, D'Elias Grinders. Anyone who's ever spent more than 24 consecutive hours in the Riv knows about this place situated between UCR and downtown. One of the few sincere connections I had with one of my profs in grad skool at Berkeley came about because of D'Elias reminiscences. She came from the Riv (rare for an academic), she went to my high-school (even rarer), and talked about craving D'Elias daily (not so rare).
As Mr. Trollito remarked while we were cruising across town, she was charmed by the resillience of numerous mom and pop shops in Riverside, an observation often lost in the standard scholarly and journo rhetoric about the stripmalling of southern California's suburbs and exurbs. All it took was a casual jaunt down Magnolia, Market and Uni Aves in Mrs. Trollito's zippy black Mini to bring this point home. We spied premium views of places like the Thunderbird Lodge and Skylark Motel on Uni Ave (both outlasted the ill-fated Hampton Inn, my very own high-school "party pad" where we'd fill the bathtub with bottles of Bartles & Jaymes), and unassuming joints like the family-owned Zacatecas Mexican Restaurant (best mariscos in the Riv), as well as the Kawa Market on Magnolia and Bandini--the first Asian market I ever knew in So. Cal. Kawa is basically a small wood house converted during the early '50s into an Asian convenience shop.
D'Elias Grinders is another one of these mom and pop joints. Founded by a group of Italian brothers in 1959, D'Elias firm yet flaky fresh bread, baked daily on the premises, is nothing short of "sekshual" to use the Trolls' term of endearment. Kangagi and Mrs. Troll were adventurous and sampled the hot meatball sub and BLT grinder, respectively, while Mr. Troll and I stuck to the house classic--the capacolla with everything on it, including the potent, powdery red chili you sprinkle yourself from the mammoth plastic shaker attached with a hefty chain to the condiment station. Yeah-yuh! It had me D'Elias dancing my way out of the joint.
I'll spare the details of our shopping trip, since Cabazon is beyond the borders of the I.E. proper. "All-season Marc Jacobs seersucker" is all I have to say.
No trip to the I.E. is complete without a check-in with the parentals, and they were kind enough to invite all of us for a late evening re-fuel, family-chain style, at Ye Olde Spaghetti Factory where the Trolls were introduced to the exotic pleasures of mizithra cheese and free spumoni. Fonts of trivia that my dad and uncle are (L-R: Mom, Dad, Uncle Lee sipping scotch in profile), we learned at dinner that the Spaghetti Factory chain was actually founded by Guss Dussin, a retired psychotherapist who originally practiced in Vancouver, B.C. It turns out Mr. Dussin didn't only have a penchant for pasta: he was also a prescient proto-gentrifier whose success as a spaghetti mogul had as much to do with his "flipping" of abandoned historic warehouse spaces (mostly in blighted downtowns like Portland, OR the site of the first Spaghetti Factory), as with his creative applications of mizithra and creamy pesto. To keep overhead costs low, Dussin enlisted his wife to redecorate these massive warehouses with thrift store antiques and collectibles, foreshadowing with his chain of family restaurants what we now refer to in creative class parlance as Bo-Bo, or "Bourgeois-Boheme" shabby chic.
Indeed, Riverside's Spaghetti Factory is a restored citrus packing plant in a formerly dodgy patch of downtown near the train tracks, pre-Mission Inn rehab and before a fervent citrus heritage revivalism fully seized the city. Now Riverside's Old Spaghetti Factory is designated as a landmark in the City of Riverside's redevelopment plan to convert other historic spaces in the surrounding area. (L-R: Kangagi and Mrs. Troll sinking with spaghetti while Mr. Troll's just burnin' doin' Mizithra dance).
We quickly transitioned from pasta to porn after a brief digestive respite and costume change in our M.I. digs. Riverside's and (I need to fact-check this) purportedly the I.E.'s oldest gay bar, The Menagerie: "A Unique Lounge," was on our agenda for the night. "The Menagerie" is Riverside shorthand for "queer as a muthafucka," and though I couldn't really hang there until I turned 21 (well after I took off for college), I felt I knew the place because of local legend. Most of the insults kids spat upon the RUSD's schoolyards involved some invocation of that special place-name..."I bet you go to the MENAGERIE every night, you gaylord."
Unbeknownst to us, a local drag queen starlette named Raven was hosting a pre-Christmas spectacular with some special guests in the audience from Kelly "34FF" Madison's porn company, including Ms. Madison herself. At first the crowd was thin, literally and figuratively, with some scattered indie-hooved college girls, Abercrombie fags, and a stray cholo or two clustered near the massive bar. The Menagerie, like the Old Spaghetti Factory, is a historic space in an early 20th-century warehouse rumored to have been a former bank building. As showtime approached, the room thickened with screaming divas of all varieties--Elvis (Costello) and El Vez wannabes, homiesexual sistahs, Latino hetero-couples cruising for thirds, wizened butch fags, and of course, Kelly Madison's posse cumitatus. (Right: Raven works the stage while an admirer looks on)
After a few $8 pitchers filled with America's finest light lagers, we were rockin' our front row seats with fistfulls of dollars while dodging (or was it soliciting?) boob-grazes from Ms. Madison. (LEFT: Trollin' it up with "Mr. Kelly Madison," in the pink tie on the far left; RIGHT below: Kelly Madison and Raven toast the night's festivities). As we learned from one of Ms. Madison's minions after she busted a "hubby-and-I-are-looking-for-a-third" move on the Kangagi in the ladies room line--we may be smarmy but we're not that homo-smarmy--Kelly's porn company is based in Corona, CA, another I.E. spot on the cusp of the O.C. called out by the show, The O.C., as a shady spot populated by boozers who might be best described as "poor man's Matt Dillon." See Season 1.
Kelly specializes in "titty-fucking" and hardcore scenarios with her "all natural" 34FF breastuses, but mostly she's an entrepreneur who boasts "DVD quality" downloads from her website for reasonable monthly subscription rates. This apparently keeps her and her entire company (coincidentally booked at the Mission Inn that same night) clad in LOTS of Cabazon Gucci. Kelly's husband, who looks a lot like a latter-day Shadoe Stevens, the top-40 DJ best known to Inland Emperors and Empresses as "Fred Rated" from the Federated TV commericals, is her primary partner onscreen as well as off. (Monsieur "Madison" strikes a pose to the left).
The true stars of the show, of course, were the drag queen divas of the I.E. Their performances were driven by a sort of urgency I haven't seen in awhile, especially in some of the big-city revues that don't seem to encourage as much paw-y audience mingling, and offer little sympathy for performers with heftier backsides. (RIGHT: Ladies, give yourselves a hand). The set-list was eclectic to say the least, with some strong moves and sweaty writhing to Avenue D's "2D2F," followed-up with a requisite I.E. nod to Depeche Mode and a wet n wild Def Leppard finale..."Pour Some Sugar On Meh....."
Hoarse with enthusiasm and drained of all our singles (we noticed KM's crew were droppin' Jacksons instead of Washingtons), we managed to fumble our way to the indoor/outdoor patio after the show, where we tried our best to absorb all the BL's and free MGD's courtesy of Ms. Madison's minions with the Menage's house popcorn. I'll spare the details of how we got our groove on (I'll let the pictures paint a thousand words), but I do want to send a shout out to the Menage's bouncer, Rambo, a sweet and charming dude beneath an intimidatingly beefy Brooklyn exterior (see below). He tried to explain how he landed in the Riv to sweep up the spilled popcorn on the Menagerie patio (Rambo: "It's a great paying gig and they treat me good"), but most of that explanation was lost in the excitement over his revalation that his true baby is something called ExtravaGangsta Radio, an internet radio station featuring hip-hop and reggaeton by undiscovered artists, with some experimental sounds, rare cuts and preview tracks from mega-acts like Diddy, Kanye, Sean Paul, etc. for good measure.
The stumble home was truly precious, if mostly because we only had to walk about a block through downtown Riv. In what must be an I.E. first, we managed NOT to have to drive drunk. Also, in a shocking stroke of kismet surely to be filed under the "blessings can be curses" category, one of the porn couples was booked in the room next door. We already jokingly insisted on the "silence is golden" rule when we discovered this while hob-nobbing with the pair at the Menage, but drunken deals don't hold, so we were treated to the refrains, first of fighting:
W: "You're nothing but a big loser!"
M: "Don't call me a loser, bitch. I'm not a loser!" [door slam]
M: "I love you baby,"
W: "Oh baby..."
And then...well, you know...(moan, grunt, headboard, shriek, etc.) With all of us sharing a room for our overnite gaycation, the shrieks of excitement emanating from our space were reserved exclusively for the 24 hour room service and our apres clubbing club sammiches. (Right: Mr. Trollito misses out on our version of an after-hours club).
The next morning was pleasantly uneventful--we sauntered to the pool with our lesbo appropriate sporty swimming attire, and narrowly avoided a morning booze relapse into mimosas and bloody marys. We only frightened a few unaccompanied euro-children playing in the jacuzzi along the way. Yeah-yuh! To paraphrase the Go-Go's: Gaycation all I ever wanted...gaycation had to get away...
I suppose sometimes gaycation also means coming home(o).
Rollin' deep in the heart of the I.E. through the gnarled concrete arteries of 60+10+91 east to neon sunsets and Naugles, Taco Tia, the Mad/Friendly/Happy or Lucky Greek,The Menagerie, Spanky's, Butch's Grinders, The Denny's Cocktail Lounge at Hardman Center (in pace requiescat). We spell Paris P-E-R-R-I-S, bitches!