I moved to NYC in July of 2011, only knowing one person there who actually lived in NJ and another friend from Boston, but worked in Manhattan quite often. The friend from NJ, Miguel, introduced me to his group of rather tame friends and we all hung out together pretty regularly. As much fun as that group of guys were, none of them were that well connected to NYC. Even though they had all been born and lived there their entire lives. I wanted to get more localized, volunteer and meet different people from all over the 5 boroughs. I was lucky enough to make a wonderful group of friends from my office at Out Magazine, and here is where I got what I desired.
My coworker/friend Argus got me connected to the New York City Front Runners, a fabulous group of which I will go in to more detail in another post. My coworker/friend Jeff was the one who introduced me to the magical, glittering group known as The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC). A group that has done so much for the gay community for generations now, bringing love and music to those who need it most.
It all began when Jeff, Argus, John and I were at lunch one day and Jeff was talking about an upcoming event he has done over the years that has been a great fundraiser for the NYCGMC. He said that they needed more help with set up and break down for the event, but just didn’t have the volunteer turnout they needed. I jumped in, not even knowing what the event was, and offered my services. John was a member of the NYCGMC as well, however because the group was singing more pop culture tunes rather than more classical songs, he was going to be taking a break from the group. I learned that the event was called “Porn Again” and it was a fundraiser where guys in the chorus had donated their old porn videos and dvd’s to sell them off. Even major gay porn companies donated dvd’s to the event. They would sell 10 videos for $10, quite a steal for porn (Internet not included).
The day finally arrived, and Jeff told me the day before to arrive at his apartment at 8AM. Jeff has a wonderful apartment in HK, perfect location to almost everything and easy walking distance to work and more importantly the bars. When I moved to NYC, Chelsea was the “Gayborhood” but it started to migrate to Hell’s Kitchen that year. I showed up at Jeff’s place, and we went across the street to the bodega and grabbed a couple breakfast sandwiches to start the morning off right. Another member of the chorus picked us up and we headed over to another members house to pick up a few trunks of DVD’s and VHS tapes.
We loaded up the car and went to the bar where the event was going to happen. Once there, 8 more volunteers showed up. These guys all knew each other and I felt a little out of place, as I have never volunteered with the NYCGMC before, and Jeff was the only member out of over 200 members that I knew. Some of the guys had been doing this for years, so they knew what their role was for the night. A few of the horny members would come over and flirt with me, and that made me feel much better, so I was flirting back with them. Flirting has created some beautiful friendships over the years. Jeff told me that the porn star would be arriving soon, and that my job was to make sure he was well taken care of and if he needed anything to let Jeff know.
Up close and personal with a gay porn star…how exciting. His name was Vito Gallo, stage name obviously. You might have heard about him, as he was the one who got in to a brawl with Michael Lucas. But at this time, he was still working for Lucas Entertainment. He arrived, a tall good looking guy. He was incredibly sweet to me, and even grabbed my butt a few times. I was planning our marriage in my head, but then I realized that he was a professional porn star and I would never be able to explain that to our children. The night went beautifully. Drinks were being poured with a heavy hand, a large crowd of people were there to buy porn and to see the drag queens show, the “Best Buns” & “Best Pecs” contest and the porn star auction off a few goodies, including his underwear.
One of the first NYC Drag Queens I ever met was Loopee Chenille, she was magnificent. She was also a close friend with Jeff, which made me love her even more. This beautiful platinum blonde queen had such an amazing presence, and an amazing disposition. I loved standing and talking with her near the stage, because she had me cracking up and her running commentary of everyone and everything that was happening. Some of the other amazing queens that night were Steady Mess, Lily Putian, Ginger Meringue and Ermine Muff. All of these queens have such amazing talent and fabulous stories to go along with them, I’ll try to write them soon.
As the night progressed, so many people were asking Jeff if Cissy was going to make an appearance. I assumed Cissy was another drag queen, that or Sissy Spacek would be an interesting mix in this crowd. Jeff finally confided in me that Cissy Galore was his drag persona. My smile beamed from ear to ear…I could not wait to meet her. Jeff informed me however that she only comes out for very rare occasions, so I would have to be patient. All of these super talented people were part of the NYCGMC and all wanted to see this great organization thrive. I was loving ever bit of this event, and wanted to get more involved.
Later that night Argus showed up with his husband Walter. The drinks started to flow much more frequently, (thanks to Walter) being a first time volunteer however, I was good and cut myself off after 8.
The night had finally come to a close, everyone had a fabulous time walking out with alcohol in their stomachs, porn in their goody-bags and smiles on their faces. The event raised a large amount of money for the NYCGMC, and was an overall success. The best part, was that it would happen all over again in a year.
Another great event that is held annually is the Big Gay Sing! This event is held in the spring and is a karaoke style concert. The chorus encourages the crowd to get up and sing and dance to the songs.
The energy of this event is incredible, and each years has a different theme to attract more people. Although, I am not a singer, I have been volunteering back stage since 2012 as the celebrity handler. I have had the pleasure to work with actress/comedian Jacky Hoffman, singer Martha Wash, comedian Bruce Vilanch, and actress/singer Lorna Luft. And although I have some great personal stories to tell about and and everyone, modesty forbids me to do so.
Stephen, a member of the chorus, is also the stage manager for this event each year. He is such an incredible person, working his butt off to make sure that everything is perfect. I love when he reaches out to me every year and ask me if I’m willing to do it again. Even if it means flying thousands of miles, it’s always an incredible 3 night event, and I can’t say no to Stephen, he’s a doll.
The chorus does many different events each year, so many great fundraiser, and beautiful shows with amazing vocals, dancing and performances that rival Broadway. If you have not yet been to a New York City Gay Men’s Chorus show, I highly encourage everyone to go and see one. This group of amazing people are not just singers, they are a family. And I am lucky enough to call them part of my family!