We first heard about Gabe Boyer in 2001, when the then-24-year-old gave a series of lectures — at Boston’s Berwick Research Institute performance lab — on romantic love, utopian thought, and causal reasoning, punctuated by his Wurlitzer noodling. In 2002, Boyer founded Bedroom Theater, a weekly happening in his apartment’s bedroom; in 2003, he took his show on a bedroom-to-bedroom tour across America. This series recounts what happened.
Afterwards, we stepped into the street as a crowd and fanned out to our respective vehicles. Mary, Justin and Jen slipped into some anonymous automobile far down the block while Frederick climbed on his motorbike and secured his opaque helmet. Julian whistled and pointed at his car with an implied bass line. Jill and I climbed in back and slumped into our seats. Frederick swept past us with a raised fist. The race to find the Next Big Thing had begun.
On our way there Julian told us all about his D List celebrity obsession. He was a big fan of some guy who’d come out for a single episode of CHiPs whose name escapes me. There’s nowhere else like it, he said. He’d seen some up-and-coming teen idol trying on underwear just the other day. We took a left down another road lined with palm trees, their fronds obscuring the streetlamps.
Where is this place anyway, Julian asked Lisa. We continued up a street with all eyes strained out one side or the other. I swear I went to an opening here somewhere on the left, Julian said. An authentic oriental stone garden passed and then a stucco apartment complex, the trees that lined this street thick around and soft to the touch. Just then Frederick pulled around us with a sudden vehemence and pointed back the way we’d come with all the authority of a starlet from some death squad sitcom. We turned and followed.
We parked around back where the valet told us. Julian couldn’t believe they had a valet. A man wearing wrap-around shades and sandals, his muscles made voluptuous to the point of potential rupture, was leaning against the wall and eyeing us awkwardly.
We crammed past all the pretty darlings with their hair mussed in all the right places and made it into the large hall where photographs were on display the size of coffee tables. The entire hall was filled with the slightest hush of conversation. Each person had perfected a look was both unique and universal, as coiffed as a Calvin Klein ad or as articulated as a bendy toy, while simultaneously just another pretty face in the sea of pretty faces. It hurt to see in the same way it would be painful to watch a hunter sodomizing a deer carcass. Jill and I went upstairs where several chairs had been placed to accentuate the walls and their necessity. This was unacceptable.
The others were in line for refreshments. The line wove about the room in a lazy squiggle. Between words their eyes made quick darts to confirm whether there was anyone they recognized in among the rest. It’s all crap, Julian said and the rest agreed, Julian being the expert in such matters. He wanted to take us to a traditional German beer garden.
Let’s just go then, Jen said, before becoming distracted. Then everyone craned necks to follow where she was pointing. There was yet another celebrity I’d never heard of in there somewhere among all that flesh.
Those photographs might as well have been produced by a first year design student, Julian said just as he was pulling out with a screech. He caught my eye in the rearview mirror. All the waitresses wear lederhosen, and have those braids. He demonstrated with his hands the length and width of their braids with a wink. And the food. Have you ever had borscht?
There were artificial sausages and ivy hanging from the ceiling and all the waitresses wore tightly starched skirts with their hair indeed done up in perfect braids. The wood was all darkly varnished and all the beer came in hefty frosted mugs. The conversation was thick, and the patrons were lines drawn in a minimalist painting that had somehow become overcrowded. They were belligerent with each other, hawing, ties thrown over shoulders. The DJ was sixty years old and a Ukrainian with a toupee.
Meanwhile, Julian was haggling with a waitress who didn’t want to serve us food at this hour. Come on. What’s five minutes, he said. The waitress would do what she could.
By the time the food had arrived, the table was clattering with half-digested phrases, and I was listening in to what was going on down the far end, where Jill had squeezed between Mary and Justin. Mary was trying to convince her that we really needed to visit a strip club tonight. Neither I nor Jill had ever been. Mary appealed to the rest. Where’s the best strip club in town, she said while looking at Justin and Frederick simultaneously, but all Justin cared about was convincing Jill that she needed to be his own private dancer. His eyes were glistening with desire. I couldn’t eat another bite.
You should try some of this, Julian said. He was offering up his plate at an angle so I could get a better look. I rubbed my belly and offered him a weak smile back.
You know, Julian, Jen said then. Her smile was pristine. That mustache of yours looks pretty faggy.
Julian became defensive immediately. Lisa likes me with a mustache and you know how I am, he said with a barely suppressed sneer. Lisa nodded while leaning forward to look Jen in the eyes, and Julian continued. I’m a fool for that sort of thing. Pleasing other people’s silly requests. Then silence. The consensus was that we should go out to a strip club.
We paid up, Julian did a little dance to hurry us on our way (rotating his hands in place, and doing soft shoe) and we all crammed into our respective vehicles, drove, parked, got out to find the strip club door blocked. It’s too bad. That, Julian said while pointing. Is one of the great strip clubs. Black velvet clown portraits and all.