Alan Cole is dressed in a cowboy hat and long-sleeved button-up camo. His goatee is trimmed neatly. He's tall and thick, built like a brick shithouse. You wouldn't want to mess with Alan Cole. He'd whip your ass.
No, Alan Cole is no pussy. In fact, he doesn't even touch the stuff. You see, Alan Cole is Mr. Gay Pride 2004, and right now he's on the stage of infamous homo biker dive Mary's, lip-synching a tune by Tim McGraw, who, by all appearances, could be his twin.
For years, I've driven by the bright pink joint at the corner of Waugh and Westheimer, but I've never walked in. I've long admired from afar the mural on its outside wall, in which shirtless men in leather vests grope one another while drag queens look on from barstools. I admire the balls of it all -- it's as if Mary's were shooting a rainbow-painted middle finger right at the heart of Bush country.
The occasion of my first foray through the famous doors falls on Mother's Day. Mary's is hosting the Mother of Montrose Pageant, so I decide to round up some troops and make a night of it. It's as good a night as any to, ahem, mine that cave.
After Cole moseys off the stage, a rotating cast of emcees announces to the crowd that the talent competition will be taking place shortly. I scan the sparsely decorated interior to see what the locals are drinking. The room's dozen or so Rob Halford ringers -- complete with bald heads -- drink light beer. Meanwhile, a few drag queens sip sophisticated cocktails complete with tiny blinking lights at the bottoms of their glasses.
We order in kind. The talent competition begins.
Contestant No. 1, DeeDee Demarco, stands center stage wrapped in a cloak and flanked on both sides by men in plain clothes holding their palms together in prayer. The solemn sounds of bells begin to toll. The mood is morose. That is, until the drums kick in and the cloak comes off, revealing leather and chains. Plain clothes A and B start tossing condoms to an enthusiastic crowd as Demarco sings the Little Peggy March hit "I Will Follow Him" with a slight lyric change.
"I will swallow him," she belts, " no matter how deep he may go." It's all very elaborate and, dare I say, faaaabbbulous.
The crowd can't get enough of the act, uproariously shouting, "Go DeeDee!"
Contestant No. 2, Pila Debris, has quite an act to follow. She knows it. She doesn't disappoint, twisting and twirling out of the restroom swathed in a tornado-gray netted material from neck to ankles and a dollhouse headdress, to the strains of the theme to The Wizard of Oz. The music stops as three men help her unwrap; underneath is a green strapless gown whose top has fallen around her stomach. "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" she inquires of the crowd.
Chanel Cartier is the night's third contestant. Her act is straight drag-show camp. Big dance moves, big hair, big hands.
As the talent portion draws to a close, I'm slipped a miniature yellow pamphlet. "Don't use drugs," it says, "but if you do, please...party safely."
Inside are helpful hints on how to survive a night of drugging and boozing.
"Dehydration, exhaustion and heatstroke can be deadly. Take breaks, relax and drink water, even when your party drugs make you feel like you don't need to," it advises.
I order a water as the evening-gown competition begins.
Debris and Demarco look like belles of the ball -- shimmering in flowing silk and lace and even taking the time to change their hairstyles (read: wigs). Both answer questions from the crowd. (Cartier has somehow disappeared from the mix.)
If you could have only one lover for the rest of your life, who would it be?
Debris: "Oooooohh, don't make me choose! That's cruel!"
What are your biggest turnoffs?
Demarco: "I don't like hairy men. You. Have. Got. To. Shave. Honey!"
Why do you want to be Mother of Montrose?
Debris: "I've always wanted a title."
After the Q&A, there's a break in the action. Several other queens take their stab at lip-synch glory, among them MOM judge Ginger Vitis, a man in the beginning stages of his own bearded tribute to ZZ Top, wearing a red dress, red wig and a good deal of blush. "Girl, you look scary tonight," exclaims the emcee.
After sitting through a half-dozen songs, Debris and Demarco are rounded up on stage so that a winner can be announced. Drumroll, please.
Houston, your 2005/2006 Mother of Montrose is...DeeDee Demarco!
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We're informed the margin of victory is a mere two points. I'm thinking Debris's mustache cost her the coveted title. Next year, take a Remington to that piece, darling.
I polish off one more drink before hitting the road. It's served by a squat man in a T-shirt that reads, "You call me a freak like it's a bad thing."
Touch. The phrase elegantly ties up the spirit of the place. Mary's has a solid sense of community that's not suffocated by blankets of ostracism but warmed by them.
See you on Father's Day, kids.