Planning a big event in Tulsa, I knew anything could happen. The relationship with my hometown's LGBT community is complicated, and it seems whenever I go out in that city some disgruntled queen tries to read me. While home to many nice people, unfortunately there are quite a few who mix with outsiders about as well as cats in a bag. I upset the apple cart simply by showing up.
The community has many colorful eccentricities, for example, if Tulsa queens haven't seen you in a few years they'll just say you're dead. Seriously. I've been told several of my long lost friends were dead, including an old roommate named Tony Fields. Well, my last big event there featured the person who told us all Tony Fields was dead, and to their surprise, also featured Tony Fields.
When I decided to throw my friend Donald Cole a grand sendoff in advance of his six month African adventure my first thought was to host it in St. Louis. We both have so many friends here and our "Wanton Wanderlust" event at Rehab last summer was a lot of fun. Donald lives in Oklahoma City, so that was also an option, but feeling particularly ambitious I decided to inflict the party on Tulsa, where our story began as underage chickens running the streets. Since many of our guests would be flying in from out of state, I named the event "The Emperor Presents: Jet Set".
I fully expected drama at the event, but I wasn't prepared for so much drama in advance of the event. The event page became like a soap opera, and my nemesis was a crazed hotel assistant manager drag queen we'll call "Miss Fairfield". I had never met Miss Fairfield, nor had any of the guests outside Tulsa, but she learned this event was happening and didn't just want a piece of the pie, she wanted the whole damn pie! She decided we needed to move the event from New Age Renegade, the bar on the south end of downtown, to the bar she promotes on the north end, and our guests should stay at the neighboring hotel where she works.
She became increasingly disgruntled with each passing day as it became clear she'd get no piece of the imperial pie. On the event wall when guests posted about securing a hotel room, Miss Fairfied would immediately ask "What rate did you get?". She'd post flaws with the other hotels while pitching her own, tell guests I was wrong about the shuttle info, read folks for not choosing her hotel - and incredibly she even claimed to have called the other hotels asking about rates Jet Set guests were getting!
As crazy as the Miss Fairfield drama was we were just getting started. I had recently reconnected with a local friend who planned to attend, and it would be the first time I saw him in nearly 20 years. Since guests were coming in from all over and many didn't know one another, we'd been introducing them on the event wall. The introductions often included a photo and a funny story about how Donald or I knew them. I did the same for this friend and his initial reaction seemed to be amused delight.
Something changed, however, in the middle of the night and he posted a bizarre rant asking what my intensions were "putting him on blast", if I had "angst" over seeing him, and if I were stockpiling his photos for my personal use!
The apple cart had been upset well before the planes began landing.
Word got back to me that Miss Fairfield threatened locals within an inch of their lives not to attend the event, and aside from a large straight local turnout, the local LGBT community largely snubbed it. Fortunately, Oklahoma City really pulled through. Led by "the Gay Mayor" Floyd Martin, dozens of guys made the 100 mile trek to welcome the out of state guests from California, New York, Dallas, Denver, St. Louis, Kansas City and Wichita. I was tipped off, again, the evening of the event that many locals weren't showing. I messaged my OKC crew telling them they needed to take on the host roles Tulsans had abandoned. "THIS IS A HOSTILE TAKEOVER" I began in an email, followed by logistical instructions.
The house was packed and the Renegade performers put on an incredible show as did headliner Whitney Paige, All American Goddess at Large 2012- who also came from out of state.
The positive side of the boycott was that there was no drama to speak of. A couple of irritated locals who were unaware of the event complained about the long lines and lack of seating, but that's it. Several locals snuck by early before "clocking in" with Miss Fairfield. Those who attended in spite of her were unfriended, including Courtney Groves. "She unfriended me the following day- which was my Birthday! This event really got under her skin!"
Once the event was over the two host hotels looked like Madonna's "Justify My Love" video as the intoxicated jet setters did their thing.
Guests are already asking about the next event, which is planned for late summer/early fall at Rehab St. Louis. I can't wait until the jet setters see how the Gateway City rolls.
Chris Andoe is a writer, storyteller and activist who wanders the West, from St. Louis to San Francisco. Always in the fray, the crown wearing Andoe's been interviewed by NPR & CBS, has been quoted everywhere from CNN to The St. Louis Post Dispatch, and has had pieces tweeted by The New York Times.
By CHRIS ANDOE - VITAL VOICE WEST
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