Column Inches #12 in Great Adventure
by Tony Phillips
Uber-promoter Mark Nelson is egregiously late. Whitney Houston would have shown up by now. But we’re willing to forgive him a little tardiness as he’s putting together Fairgrounds: his September 9, all-queer extravaganza at New Jersey’s Great Adventure theme park that ranks as one of last year’s mightiest parties.
And besides, the later Nelson is, the more time I can spend mooning over Susan Morabito, a DJ who’ll be playing SBNY that same night and then closing out Fire Island for the season on September 17 at the Pavilion. Morabito is joining us this afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to talk about what gay people do for fun. She looks good in a muscle-tee, rides a Harley and the top of her head feels like a GI Joe. In short, if she owned a dog, she’d hit all my criteria for boyfriend, so Nelson can be as late as he wants.
When he finally does show, there are air kisses all around — this has turned into a bit of an annual pow-wow — and we make our way up to the roof of the Met. Its current installation, Sol LeWitt’s vomitously colored sculptures which look like someone spooged a rainbow flag onto Space Mountain, entitled Splotches, Swirls and Twirls, makes for the perfect backdrop to talk about gay recreation.
As usual, we can’t agree on much. “We’re more into recreation, less into clubs,” Nelson states. “I would assume that by having an amusement park thing, you get people beyond the circuit,” Morabito adds. When I ask Morabito what her sure fire party starter is these days, she comes up blank. It’s a bad question, puts the person on the spot. “’Holla Back Girl,’” Nelson exclaims, adding, “by Gwen Stefani” as if he suddenly forgot he’s talking to a DJ.
“I won’t play that,” Morabito deadpans. “Dontcha,” Nelson counters, “Pussycat Dolls?” Nope. “I don’t play that either,” Morabito explains, “I don’t play anything you can hear on the radio. I’m a little more underground.” As far as why gays are moving away from the clubs, Morabito ignores the smoking ban and rising costs and just says, simply, “It’s something different to do.”
As far as what’s different about Nelson’s Fairgrounds this year, he promises, “Less acts. Randy Bettis is making a continuous mix CD that’ll play through the whole park and Eddie Baez is going to spin, but we brought the ticket price down.”
As to the economics of squeezing an already bargain price, Nelson explains, “We wanted to make it really affordable. Literally, people can go for fifty bucks: the ticket for the bus and the park, all in.” And, Nelson adds, “You don’t stand on any lines at all. You forget how long they would be until you’re running through all those holding areas. If there’s nobody on the line, you can just stay on the ride.”
Surely the Hollywood studios have not forgotten how long lines used to be in the summer, but with duds like Stealth and The Island stinking up the box office this summer, perhaps it’s possible to finally smell the end of the mindless summer tent pole. In fact, we may even smell a bit of a French new wave.
We recently talked to a bunch of French film directors coming through town with their remarkably successful summer product — some gay, some not so gay; some French, some not so French — but if they had one thing in common it was that they worked outside the Hollywood studio system, yet held their own at the box office.
Surely, the French king of summer box office has been the ruggedly handsome Luc Jacquet with his unlikely hit March of the Penguins. Jacquet is even progressive enough to allow that although he’s not gay, some of his penguins might be. Around about the time his film was screening at Sundance, a story broke about two penguins at the Central Park Zoo gone gay.
“You have to be very careful when observing behavior in nature,” Jacquet explains, “we all know that in captivity, both men and animals change their behavior. Captivity induces that. Homosexuality, as far as I know, could exist in this species of penguin in nature, or maybe it doesn’t.”
Obviously mulling over the question, Jacquet concludes, “It needs to be proven that it’s actually a behavior that can exist more widely. We couldn’t recognize females from males so I haven’t been able to observe it. For me it’s more anecdotal and it needs to be studied more scientifically.”