“Michelle Obama” and “Cindy McCain” Walk into a Bar…
You can sacrifice your sac-ro
Working in the back row
Grind your behind ‘til you’re bent
Kid, you got a get gimmick
if you want to get ahead…
St. Stephen Sondheim wrote those lyrics to encourage Gypsy Rose Lee to get a gimmick. Mayhem ensued and of course, Ms. Mazeppa stole the show, bumping it with her trumpet. Fame and fortune flowed.
Each Halloween, gimmicks are a time-honored tradition for drag queens across the land. Gotta get one. Well, Walter and I are both from New Orleans and we tend to party hard. We had already done “Ebony and Ivory” to death. When 2007 rolled around and our guy, Barack, was solidly ahead in the polls, I suggested to Wally that we go as Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, vying for votes for our spouses.
This is politically incorrect drag. Stereotypes be damned. As a Republican, I was behatted and bejeweled and had a purse full of monopoly money, repeating “Mine! Mine! Mine!” Walter—who seems on paper to profile well as Michelle O—was to say, “Hope and health care for all. Hope and health care for all.”
Very classy and dignified, you see.
Fame and fortune awaited us. And in the near term we hoped to get invited home to some nice young man’s beach house for a nightcap. We wouldn’t need to grind our behinds ‘til we were bent—we had a freaking mimic gimmick that would catapult us to stardom. Heck, we’d probably be invited on the Hoda and Kathy Lee Show. They had been known to frequent our establishments.
The first stop: Blue Moon.
We parked and got out all lady-like. Me rehearsing Mine! Mine! Mine! And Wally rehearsing Hope and healthcare…. Hope and healthcare. High heels are torture and our foundation garments were way too tight. But it was worth it. We were gonna be famous. We took two uneasy steps toward the Moon, and a man screamed out:
“Look! It’s Gwen Ifill!”
It stopped traffic. And both first ladies. He went low, so we both got high. And doubled over laughing. We probably should have gotten a second opinion before deciding on this gimmick. Or, perhaps just looked in the mirror again.
We could ask ourselves “Do we look anything like the first ladies?” But no! Walter is not the elegant and smart Michelle, but indeed the just plain smart Gwen. (Sewed her own clothes and cut her own hair.)
So, the spell was broken. We were no longer first ladies in waiting. Wally was not Michelle, so I was no longer Cindy. I was just a gimmick-less mature gay man in a big ass hat and a party frock, bellied up to the bar to buy my own cocktail. Something Norma would enjoy. Humming my favorite tune from Hairspray:
You’re like a rare vintage ripple
A vintage they’ll never forget
So pour me a teeny weeny triple
And we can toast the fact we ain’t dead yet!
“Gwen” was off chatting with the guy who named her. I turned from the bar, sipping my triple, and a rather handsome younger gentleman asked me to dance. Things were looking up! Maybe I was no first lady, but I was a woman of a certain age being escorted to the dancefloor. Avoiding the bales of hay scattered all over the jack-o-lantern floor, he leaned in and said (wait for it), “Are you supposed to be Norma Desmond?”
Well at least he didn’t yell it from the patio out into the street.
Remember those quaint election seasons like 2008 when the worst thing we could think of was Sarah Palin being a heartbeat away from the presidency? Well, we had no idea then that we’d go through something far worse—an “Orange Jesus” heartbreak that lasted four years and then only got worse when he infected all 50 states with hate.
Wally and I have hung up our pumps and gone our separate ways—me back to New Orleans, him to Denver. We only catch up on occasion, but he never misses a beat when I say, “What you wearin’, Gwen?”
And here’s the real rub: both of us are sacrificing our sacro, working on the back row. Grinding our behinds ‘til we’re bent.
Bent over laughing, that is. That’s important. ▼
Brent Adams Mundt is a freelance writer who lives in Rehoboth and New Orleans. Once a terrified and bullied kid, he’s now focused on scholarships for LGBTQ students through PFLAG New Orleans, his hometown. He’s a/k/a Roux Paul on FB and reachable at email@example.com.