This Is How Michael Musto Partied Through New York City’s Pride Weekend
With lockdown on the lowdown, LGBTQ people in New York City took to the bars and streets during Pride weekend and celebrated being alive, double jabbed, and feistily hormonal.
This weekend, with rainbows on every surface and a lot of exposed flesh, New York City’s Pride proved to be another humming sign of a city returning ravenously to life. The main Pride parade may have gone smaller (or “virtual” in organizers’ parlance, in advance presumably of a full-scale rebirth next year), and the brilliant spirit of the Queer Liberation March continued, for a third year, to attract those turned off by the corporatism of the main march—and who wanted, without floats and barriers, to simply take to the streets to protest and celebrate.
Everywhere this weekend, resourceful gays threw on some rainbow headdresses and made their own procession. With lockdown on the lowdown, the queers took to the bars and streets with a vengeance and celebrated being alive, double jabbed, and feistily hormonal too.
It all kicked off at 10 p.m. on Thursday night, when blue-haired queer icon Madonna had a Pride bash at the Boom Boom Room in the Standard Hotel, though by 11, forlorn-looking fashionistas were standing behind gates outside as people in charge either yelled at them or ignored them.
The event was as overbooked as Andrew Yang’s concession speech! Scanning the mass of aspirants, I saw a one-shouldered T, an orange mesh top, and several dominatrix dresses, all trying too hard and yet not hard enough. “Let’s go somewhere fun!” my friends and I declared in unison, then we went down to the reopening of the Cock, the East Village sex landmark where door diva Irene greeted me with “We’re alive!”
Especially on the lower level, where a gogo man (not a boy, by any means) wiggled in leather straps with cash sticking out, as customers engaged in various acts of public affection, as if none of the last five plagues had ever happened. The long, narrow area was dotted with guys suggestively fondling their privates, engorging their mouths with other people’s, and cruising around as the 1992 classic “Whores In This House” [famously sampled in “WAP”] blared as narration.
Bearded Brooklyn bears mixed with older men and East Villagey types in casual wear, and the most incredible sight of all was a half-naked guy hanging upside down on a pole and going down on someone at the same time. Ten-ten-ten.
The next night came the gala opening of the Q (as in queer, not QAnon), a multi-ambiance club in Hell’s Kitchen, with celebrity backers including Billy Porter and Jake Shears. A preview event on Thursday had been sponsored by Deutsche Bank. (Ugh. Are the gays now getting huggy with the people who enabled Trump’s shady rise to power? I guess the thinking is, “At least they’re pro-gay!”)
But on Friday, there were no bankers in sight—just twinks aplenty, all ebulliently running up and down the stairs as if in a queer department store. “We waited long enough,” exulted a moussed club regular. “And every room has its own personality.” The main floor features cozy booths, parquet floors, and wall mirrors, and will be the site of a jazz band and other performative party favors.
The second floor has two rooms—one with cartoonishly macho, Tom of Finland-style wall murals that rouged twinks were posing in front for irony, and the other with queer movie posters, Sinatra’s police mugshot, and other esoteric paraphernalia. In between the two rooms, a guy in striped shorts and glitter boots danced around as if he’d been appointed to do so. “But I’m not supposed to be a gogo boy,” he confided to me. “I’m actually a room checker. You know, for overcrowding.” But in this giddy Bloomingdale’s of gay chic, multitasking is as welcome as a glittery goatee.
The third floor is a dance space, and above it is a catwalk, where you can look at the reverie below before spiraling back down the different floors and trying to find those mirrors with white, penis-like forms emerging out of them. “The cabaret, the cruise, and the disco” is how one Q employee described the multi-levels to me. Not to mention the tea room/pee room!
The basement loo actually had a shirtless DJ spinning tracks, and various semi-drag queens were doing runway in front of the mirror for extra camp surrealness. Even relieving yourself becomes performance art at the Q. As you leave, a red neon “Thanks Babe, Cum Again” sign greets you, sort of like the “We Miss You Already” sign when you exit Trader Joe’s. The Q train stop was just a sashay away.
On Saturday, tireless confetti thrower Susanne Bartsch brought back her On Top party, a two-floor penthouse and rooftop soiree at the Standard’s Le Bain. (The bash goes back to being a Tuesday weekly starting July 6.) The line to get in went way around the block, but I barreled right up to the door lady and said, “You owe me for Madonna.” “Give me two minutes,” she replied, but that’s exactly what she had said at the Madonna thing before disappearing.
Miraculously, this time, another door worker saved me and opened the pearly gate pronto. Rather than look around for some stray blue hairs, I enjoyed the parade of fashion and gender warriors, who looked like what the Madonna crowd thought they looked like. Bartsch herself was in a clown suit—literally—but she didn’t look happy, moaning, “All those people aren’t going to get in.”
The lockdown me would have sobbed for them, but this was now, so fuck that. Besides, her and gym bunny David Barton’s son, Bailey, not only got in, he was working one of the bars. And drag queens were lining up to give me compliments. (And I’m not counting the one who weirdly gushed, “So many people have no idea who you are, so I’m happy to see you out and about.”)
Gossip kept streaming in too, like how Dorinda and Bethenny are supposedly back on Real Housewives, and how the Weimaresque jewel box of a LES club, the Box, is going kaput, though the owners are opening a multilevel HK speakeasy called 923, which sounds like a straight answer to the Q. The night’s reverie was shattered when I was bumped from a rooftop bench because people had reserved the table I was adjacent to. Yikes. Obviously, bottle service wasn’t killed by COVID. What’s it gonna take?
Sunday night brought Battle Hymn—Ladyfag’s party at the Rumi event space—which last week drew hot guys and interesting clubbies, all percolating to the house music and schmoozing by the side bar. I enjoyed talking to a bleached-blond nouveau club kid who admitted he was on K “because it cuts the sexual tension in the room. I feel like I’m floating through it all.” (He then floated right away.)
I went back to Battle Hymn for Pride night and there was that doorgal, who by now had pretty much become the central figure in my life. “Show your vaccine ID over there!” she called out, so I did so, went in, and saw a lot of guys I’d want to inject. And by the way, Ladyfag is showing. She and wife Skin, the OBE-honored singer, are adding a baby to the guest list. OBE, meet OB/GYN. Goodnight, all. Happy post-Pride.