One thing that cannot be denied, categorically or otherwise, is that this Columbus Day weekend was a landmark for sex in America. Some commentators claimed that Chris himself screwed a continent. Anita Hill’s testimony is well-known by now–many of the details will be referred to for years to come. Here in Chicago, during a half-hour recess after her testimony, Channel Two played Love Connection.
Many of the people who doubted Thomas thought he’d done what Ms. Hill had described but didn’t remember doing it. The Republican senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch, tried to prove otherwise by reading out loud from The Exorcist, and television newspeople described him as “impressive.” Every senator took an opportunity to say the name Long Dong Silver, rendering it variously as Long John Silver, Mr. Silver, or just plain Silver. If they’d ever seen a picture of Long Dong Silver, they’d know that his was an appendage more to be pitied than envied. Discolored and pencil thin, it was so long that he couldn’t achieve an erection. And if he could, where would he find a condom to fit him? This was the question raised at Berlin Sunday night at the party for the debut of a new video, “Condoms Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” produced and performed by Memory Lane.
Memory Lane is the brassy drag-queen alter ego of a quiet self-effacing man in his 20s named Dean, who, without the makeup and the wig, bears a striking resemblance to Pee-wee Herman. “Condoms Are a Girl’s Best Friend” is just one of Memory’s send-ups of old tunes, which she performs in a style reminiscent of Belle Barth, a blue comic whose fame was at its peak during the 50s. It took about nine months for Memory to give birth to the finished video, which promotes safe sex to the tune of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” She also performed it live after each of three showings at the party.
As she sang to the room “For big dicks and small dicks, these condoms fit all pricks,” a tall man named Steve exclaimed, “That’s not true! I can’t get these little things to fit me.”
A person standing next to him sneered, “Oh, come on.”
“No, really,” said Steve. “I have to get the extra large.”
“So? You’re complaining?” The other person walked off.
A safe-sex group gave condoms to everyone who walked in the door. The place was crowded. “Does this constitute safe-sex harassment?” wondered one man.
A table by the window next to the front bar was covered with copies of Memory Lane’s videotape, publicity photos, and a pile of condoms in four basic colors–red, yellow, green, and blue. Standing next to it were two men. One, named Harry, does publicity for Memory Lane, and the other, David, was promoting condom use, passing them out from the front of an apron tied around his waist. Harry said he’d met Dean before he’d met Memory. “I knew Dean from work, and after we got to be friends he introduced me to Memory. I went to some of her shows, and I’ve stuck with them ever since. It’s amazing though, Dean and Memory are like two different people. They even sound different.”
Memory’s voice intruded just then: “I’m really tired of this Thomas and Hill thing, aren’t you? So sordid, don’t you think?” She wiggled her parody breasts, big as pom-poms, at the crowd. “Now remember,” she announced, “size is power!” Then she sang, “If you’re gay and you know it, shake your tits,” and many in the crowd responded.
A guy at the bar tried to pick up two girls who didn’t. “What was Clarence Thomas’s job at the church?” he asked. The girls shook their heads. “He played the upright organ.” They walked away after he made a joke using the phrase “pro-boner.”
Someone heckled Memory Lane, and she leaned over the stage, saying, “I don’t bother you at your job flipping burgers, so don’t bother me at mine.” She continued, singing, “If you’re straight and you know it, scratch your head.”
David put out his cigarette and told a story. “A friend of mine got home late a few nights ago, walked into his living room, and saw a black guy sitting on the couch, masturbating. The guy didn’t notice him, so he ran in to ask his roommate if she had invited anyone home. She said no, she’d been asleep. ‘Well, there’s a guy sitting on our couch, masturbating!’ They both freaked. They went into the kitchen and called the police, and really quietly walked around unlocking everything so they could get out quickly if they had to. Then they heard the guy get up and go running out the door with their VCR under his arm. My friend ran to the door and threw his bag at him, but he missed him completely and the guy took the bag. And then the cops showed up. Well, they were there asking the same questions over and over until eight in the morning, until my friend said he had to go out and get some cigarettes. He found his bag under the Dumpster outside and nothing was missing from it. Then some other cops brought a guy over and asked if this was the guy, but it wasn’t. They’d just gone out and picked up any black person off the street, like they do. And nobody knows how he got in, everything was locked. It’s like he just appeared there, jerked off, and left. He didn’t leave a mess, either. They don’t even know if he came!”
Several drag queens had entered in anticipation of a contest (called the “drag races”) to be held after the party, and David recognized one of them. She wore a black cat suit with black gloves and red pumps. “You know,” he laughed, “she hasn’t taken off that outfit in two years.”
Memory Lane was on for her final set. It was getting late, and the guy who’d told the Clarence Thomas joke tried his luck with the same two girls. They walked away again.
A man sitting at the bar named Rich said that the girls were going home with the gay man he’d been talking to. “They’re going to perform lesbian sex and let him watch, and he said he wants to go because he’s never seen it before. Isn’t that horrible?” He leaned back against the bar and sighed. “Oh well, it looks like I’ll be lizarding here for a while.” He called the bartender.
Steve was about to leave as Memory sang the line “These condoms fit all pricks” again. “I’ll try one on,” he promised, “but I bet it’ll break.”
Memory Lane finished singing “Condoms Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and, thanking everyone, left the stage. Loud hip-hop blared over the applause. The people who’d been giving out the condoms took off their aprons and ordered drinks. One of them swept the condoms that remained on the table into a carry-all bag and commented, to no one in particular, “I bet Long Dong Silver isn’t within a mile of this joint.”
“Who knows if he’s dead or alive?” observed one of the others. “But I’ll bet that a hundred drag queens start calling themselves Anita Hill.” Then, as he gave away one last condom, he quoted the tag line of a popular poster, but rephrased it, saying, “Even if you’re with Long Dong Silver, if he won’t wear a condom, tell him to beat it.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rudolfo.