Tuesday, October 5, 2010

cabaret chanel

As soon as I got back to my room from dinner I got a call from Alejandro. His cousin and her friend were performing tonight at this gay cabaret show. There would be, in his words, "she-males." Did I have any plans?

I took a quick nap and got dressed up, because his cousin told him that people get dressed up at this place. We piled into a cab, all four of us in the back seat. It would take us two cabs to get there because it was so far away.

On the way I learned that the guy who owns the cabaret is a Cuban who lives in Holland. He comes back to run this cabaret out of his house. It's supposed to be really fancy and big.

We show up at around 9 and watch his cousin rehearse their number with these two beautiful, muscular black men. Their choreographer is teaching them the moves. I know the song well. Vogue, by Madonna.

Alejandro and I wait around for a while for the show to begin. The owner's mom is acting as hostess, and she offers us little shot glasses of creme de vie. Rum mixed with creme, explains Alejandro. There's cinnamon sprinkled on top. It tastes kind of like egg nog. Except I've never liked egg nog, but I really liked creme de vie.

The house felt like it had arrived in Cuba from some other planet. It reminded me of what I imagine Elton John's house might be like. Except it's the Cuban version, so instead of real Louis XVI armchairs covered in cowprint fabric, they're fakes. Gilded this, gilded that, satin curtains, rhinestones, urns filled with sparkly things, faux-granite everywhere, enough fleur de lis wall paper to cover the entire country. It was practically a gay shrine. And this was just the antechamber. Upstairs was where the party was at.

The host, a drag queen with this bouffant wig that reminded me of some eighties country music star, explained the theme of the evening in perfect Spanish that was easy to understand. This evening was devoted to celebrating Chanel. Hence the creme de vie. Hence the fashion show that followed. Hence the glittery home-made Chanel logo above the stage.

The main salon was two-stories, with a balcony overlooking the stage. Tapestries and bright red curtains hung over the windows and walls. A long dining room table with chairs that had red fluff upholstery. There was a throne-like bench in one corner. It wasn't over the top, it was like way way past the top. But again, endearingly home-made in that oh-so Havana way. I could tell that this was someone who had left Havana for Europe and was attempting to recreate what he had seen.

The show was really entertaining. One drag queen after another lip-synced her way through saucy ballads about love and heartbreak. A particularly beautiful drag queen turned out to be a male-to-female transexual. Allegedly the first one in Cuba, according to Alejandro. When I asked if this meant she was the first to have the surgery that is paid for by the Cuban government, he was skeptical and had never heard of it. So on this point I'm still not sure. But I heard Cuba was the first country to offer free sex changes.

Alejandro's cousin and her friend performed the Vogue number. The two nearly naked men that danced with them were wearing masks and looked like they might've come from some sex-dungeon. I ordered more creme de vie from the bar.

After the show we danced for a while and waited for girls to get paid. But of course this took longer than expected. We finally left a little after 4 am, and weren't able to get a cab for another half hour. Luckily the driver took us directly home, so we didn't have to catch another cab and didn't have to walk at all. By the time I got to bed, it was after 5 am. My roommate Tommy woke up while I was snacking and used the bathroom. When he came back he said to me in Spanish, "Is everything ok?" I mumbled something back. He was sleeptalking. He almost never talks to me in Spanish. We slept in until after 1 pm.

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