I’m a collector of colorful characters. And I’ve summoned them all to St. Louis for Labor Day Weekend, a city that not only has character, but is in itself a character.
Following the local LGBT community over social media is like watching a soap opera – and I’m not talking about your run of the mill bar feuds or relationship drama. No, in St. Louis you have a queen successfully pretending to be an attorney for months – handling cases in the courtroom and collecting fees before getting caught.
You’ve got a bar owner rumored to have burned down one of his bars for the insurance money, then getting his mugshot in the paper for allegedly embezzling funds from a Hamburger Mary’s – all while former employees, who publicly complain of bad checks, vent about him showering his beautiful young boyfriend with expensive gifts including a car.
You’ve got a beloved local celebrity forced to resign from leading the LGBT Center for misuse of funds.
You’ve got a trans advocate who, having fallen out of favor with the establishment, bitterly calls out community pillars in epic tirades vowing revenge.
Then there’s the former Pride President turned convicted sexual predator. And this is just scratching the surface. I live in the Bay Area, have traveled from New York to New Zealand, and I’ve never seen a show like this.
Drama aside, St. Louis’ sizable LGBT community is vibrant, interesting, and uncommonly hospitable. The city is rich with gay neighborhoods where couples enjoy palatial historic homes with lush gardens; many circa 1880 to 1925, for prices that make coastal queens cringe. They make use of those homes too. I’ve never seen anyone who can entertain in the home/garden like my friends in St. Louis. And speaking of friends I’ve lived there on two occasions and have no greater concentration of friends in the world. St. Louisans aren’t only a good time, they’re fiercely loyal.
St. Louis has an impressive backstory, which I’ll attempt to highlight in one breathless paragraph. A few miles east of the Gateway Arch is the World Heritage Site Cahokia Mounds. The ancient city of Cahokia was the largest settlement north of present-day Mexico and was larger than London in AD 1250. The French flag and the Spanish flag flew over St. Louis before the Americans took over. Little more than a century ago she was the 4th largest city in the nation, neck and neck with Chicago, and was the largest city west of the Mississippi. A city mighty enough to host the first Olympics in the United States and to launch the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight. As recently as 1960 St. Louis was larger than Dallas and Atlanta combined, so the brick urban core is substantial.
Guests attending my “Jet Set: Gateway Glitterati Weekend” include my San Francisco happy hour crew, known as “The Castro Consorts”, “The Mayor of Gay Oklahoma City” Floyd Martin and his entourage, a group of high-powered Kansas City attorneys, a straight auto mechanic from the great plains, a gal from Tulsa who explained sex to me when we were in the third grade, and a couple dozen others from around the country.
We’re taking over two floors of the historic Chase Park Plaza, and our main public event is a show called “HOT MESS” at Rehab St. Louis on August 31st. VitalVOICE gossip columnist Penelope Wigstock sums it up this way:
“Former St. Louisan and AMERICAblog/Vital VOICE writer, Chris Andoe, is bringing his twisted dog and pony show to the Lou on August 30th. He’s named the weekend “Gateway Glitterati,” and if you’re wondering what treats might be in store for those who participate, check out an old David Lynch film or watch one of Stefon’s “club revues” on Saturday Night Live: narcoleptic drag queens, loud drunks with access to limitless booze, an entrepreneur with a glory hole franchise, and garden variety predators and sycophants…these are a few of my favorite things!!! The highlight (?) of the event-Hot Mess- takes place at Rehab on Saturday, August 31st. Mark your calendars and make it a point to stop in to see the Emperor and his merry troupe of misfits as they entertain and delight the curious and uninhibited.”
My cast of characters will take to St. Louis like catfish to the Mississippi, and any kindred spirits or voracious voyeurs are welcome to join us for an epic weekend in this storied metropolis. Like Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond- once the biggest star the world had ever known, St. Louis is a regal old diva. With her world class attractions, fine architecture, fascinating residents and one of the most recognizable skylines in the world, she’s just as BIG as ever!