fantasy fest 2016









best costume ever!


Wow. My first Fantasy Fest. So much stimuli and activity, my head hasn’t stopped spinning. I’m going to try and put it to paper, knowing that some out there may have a completely different spin on the event. Keep in mind I’m a Fantasy Fest virgin, these are first impressions, subject to change come next year.

Fantasy Fest (FF) was the brain child of Joe Liszka, President of the Monroe County Tourist Development Association, in 1978; a festival created solely to build tourism in a typically slow and beautiful month, not connected to any religious or holiday calendar (check out the official Fantasy Fest website for history, code of conduct, events, etc.). It is now a 10 day extravaganza with too many events to list here, with 10s of thousands of visitors, and more of a heterosexual affair than some think, the big homosexual party being Bone Island, later in the fall. If you’ve never been to Key West during FF, you should definitely put it on your bucket list. It’s raucous, it’s alcohol driven, it’s salacious, it’s hilarious and exhausting. Go with a posse, or girlfriend or boyfriend— but just go.

The nudity:  There’s plenty of it, all walking (or staggering) down Duval Street, the designated FF zone. As the week goes on, more clothing comes off. There’s the beautiful, creative and head turning body painting, of course (with some kind of covering between the legs), but there are more bare breasts than anything—painted, bejeweled, pastied and pushed-up. If you’re a breast man or woman, there are many to be enjoyed and some not so much. The “hotties” and the “notties,” all there, just slightly below eye level. Black leather is big for both sexes—between the cheeks, lips, around the neck, cock, down the legs to the boots and back up again. Collars, chains, wigs, masks, stilettos, professional make-up jobs, everything. I was told about “fetish parties,” paid parties at bars for late-middle-aged, heterosexual swingers, where the leather comes off and anything goes—and it goes down on pool tables, dance floors, in swings, bathrooms, against palm trees and under them. I walked to one of these parties and watched those going in, grossly fascinated, but in a very short while all those breasts and buns started to look alike—the new normal. I really wanted to go in and see for myself if it is indeed an orgy, and the bouncer encouraged me to do so, but it will have to wait until next year. I don’t want to go alone, but I do want to go full tilt, meaning I want to look damn good—meaning hundreds on a good costume or paint job.

The costumes: Despite all the attention given to the nudity, the costumes are the showstoppers. You see them everywhere, but the best come out for the Zombie Bike Ride and my favorite, the People’s Parade. Outrageous, jaw-dropping, genius outfits. The best costumes were worn by groups of people, for not only did they look fabulous in mass, they were clearly having the most fun (why I recommend a posse). Twelve or more men and women in shiny, turquoise, mermaid outfits; five Monica Lewinskys; eight flights attendants from Transgender Airways; judges, donalds, baskets of deplorables, dysfunctional marching bands. I am embarrassed to say that I totally failed in the costume department; I’vimg_1918e never been good at putting a costume together, a craft that has always baffled me, and my FF attempts were no exception. But I was also too cheap, and frankly, I really didn’t care what I looked like—I was there to be a gawker (although I am thinking about what to do next year and who I can do it with). My friend Dean was far and away the most photographed parade participant. Good to hang out with FF royalty. And free liquor the entire parade route, more on that later.

Dean as George, Keith as a Hillary float

Philantrophy: Giving is a huge piece of FF and I was proud of my new hometown and honored to be introduced to that aspect of the festival amid all the bizarre behavior. The Coronation Ball, the Headdress Ball, a 5k, restaurant profit sharing, all for good causes and good times. I learned of one non-profit called the Sister Season Fund, a organization to help those employed in the tourist industry; the bartenders, waiters, hotel housekeepers, who still live and work here during the off season and receive few tips. The Headdress Ball was a gorgeous half-Vegas, half-amateur-hour production to benefit the Key West Business Guild, one of the nation’s top ranking, gay business associations. The Headdress Ball is a competition, locals and out-of-staters vying for small cash prizes and bragging rights for their homemade headdresses, some showgirl, some mechanized, some comic. These brave and crafty souls (close to twenty) played to a whooping packed house, the MC was outstanding, the evening a blast. Kudos to you, Key West.

But Fantasy Fest was not all fabulous in my eyes. I don’t know that I could become an aficionado, I don’t know that my body and brain and pocketbook could manage it every year. I see where I could get tired of it. I wanted a girlfriend with me, I wanted one or more of those wonderful women who make me laugh till I cry. Walking the People’s Parade with a good friend would have made the whole week. There was little to no dancing—hard to believe but true. The big Balls absolutely should have had dance floors. And I’m not totally comfortable with all the drinking; after more then twenty-five years of sobriety and no compulsion to drink and having long ago accepted the fact that this is a drinking world, the outrageous consumption of liquor during this event disturbed me. Shooters are passed out around town like political handbills. I suspect there are many participants who have to get pretty liquored up before dropping trou. There was chatter among my few acquaintances about freedoms, freedom of expression and nudity in particular, and how wonderful that people can enjoy that freedom in Key West. I agree. But off all the freedoms, fantasies and fetishes I have ever sought or still seek, baring my breasts is not one of them. Yes, I hope to do a full body paint sometime, but my fantasies are played out in full regalia in the bedroom, and freedom most recently came to me just 6 blocks from all the madness—in my very private, postage stamp, piece of paradise.


ps – I did not go to the BIG final event, another parade. I had hit my freak show limit. Edge of Old, remember?


the p word, and dirty words in general


I wrote this post a week or so ago and questioned it to the point that I took it down. I decided to go for it, however, making it now seem a bit untimely.




It’s not panties, it’s not politics—that’s right, it’s pussy. Poor little pussy, brought to the curse word, head-of-the-class by the vile and psychotic Donald Trump. I detest Donald Trump. But this is not about the predator or predatory behavior, as so eloquently expressed by First Lady, Michelle Obama. This is about cursing, and there’s a whole lotta cursin’ goin’ on, don’t you think? Everybody’s cursin’. And as if I didn’t like Donald Trump already, I dislike him even more for spoiling my use of the word pussy. I use dirty words a lot, I’ve used the word pussy on this blog, I write dirty, for cryin’ out loud. I try to use my words appropriately, but considering the current sensitivity regarding cursing, I’m compelled, once again, to defend my right to use dirty words.


  • I don’t believe in censorship. That’s it. You can’t be a little bit pregnant, and you can’t be on the fence about censorship—either you support it across the board or you are not supporting it. While I do not like and do not use racist words such as “nigger,” they are a part of our vocabulary and culture, available to those who feel the need to express themselves in that way.
  • We assign the significance to a word. “Nigger” is a significant word to me. My mother freaked out over the word “friggin”. I know women who shudder at the word “cunt,” who have told me that they find it offensive in my writing, the issue being that “cunt” implies the objectification of women. I cannot deny that that implication is often the case, but I like “cunt” over vagina, it’s a word that works in the heat of the moment, it’s raw and carnal, and let’s face it, no one has ever liked the word vagina. [I do use vagina and other words in place of, but see no need to give you my list.]
  • I like a little raunch in my reading and writing. In my writing, it feels authentic, a part of my voice, a part of the vernacular. In reading, I find that dirty words provoke, evoke, they annoy, they make me giggle, wiggle, sit up or lie down or walk away for a smoke. And while great literature certainly doesn’t need to resort to vulgarity to elicit emotion or interest or intrigue, I certainly don’t write, or often read, great literature. Yes, I use dirty words to compensate for a weak vocabulary and my particularly, amateurish story telling.
  • I like to stir the pot.


photo credit: forever21


zombie high


the key west zombie bike ride




I would have liked it to have been scarier, meaning, I suppose, a little more Halloweenish. As it was, I kept smiling all the time and could not strike a zombie pose to save my half-dead life; and I suspect that was true for all the riders. Thousands of zombie bike-riders and thousands of spectators on the streets, on balconies, to take pictures, to cheer, to pass out shots, to party on their lawns. Quite amazing. I was so cranked up—not just for the ride but all day and into the night; I knew it would take forever to come down. I smoked the last of my pot when I got home and I would smoke more now if I had any. A walk around the cemetery seemed appropriate. I studied anything I could see inside the darkness. Crumbled rocks over roots that were once someones grave, concrete box on top of concrete box, some blackened, some ghastly white, fallen angels, broken angels, flags and beads and bunches upon bunches of sun-burned, unhappy, fabric flowers. I could see deep into the cemetery from Passover Lane, even better on Angela Street, Angela so close to the coffins, I could touch the crowns. But then as I was coming up to Grinell, I started looking for the bound woman and couldn’t find her, the stars and my eyes only allowing so much. How elusive, how dark, how desperate she must feel, doubly confined—her hands so old and tightly bound they had turned to stone, her incarceration in the iron-clad, cemetery. I’m sure she saw me, however—cursing to herself silently, cursing my movement, spitting anger into the night, ridiculing her cell mates, ridiculing my childish and unknowing zombie high.


here’s to life




I was one of the lucky who saw Terri White, Broadway phenom, sing this song at the Friday night coronation of the Key West Fantasy Fest King. Here’s to Life became Shirley Horn’s signature song in 1992, but there are renditions by several artists, including Barbara Streisandplease listen, a beautiful, beautiful piece.


No complaints and no regrets
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets
And I have learned that all you give is all you get
So give it all you’ve got

I had my share, I drank my fill
And even though I’m satisfied, I’m hungry still
To see what’s down another road, beyond a hill
And do it all again

So here’s to life
And every joy it brings
Here’s to life
To dreamers and their dreams

Funny how the time just flies
How love can go from warm hellos to sad goodbyes
And leave you with the memories you’ve memorized
To keep your winters warm

But there’s no yes in yesterday
And who knows what tomorrow brings, or takes away
As long as I’m still in the game, I want to play
For laughs, for life, for love

So here’s to life
And every joy it brings
Here’s to life
To dreamers and their dreams
May all your storms be weathered
And all that’s good get better

Here’s to life
Here’s to love
And here’s to you


Written by Phyllis Jean Molinary, Artie Butler • Copyright © Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, Dominant Jeans Music, Artie Butler Music Inc Division Of Royce Productions


photo credit:


political platforms




I went to my first drag-queen, fund-raising brunch last Sunday, with the phenomenal Mr. and Mr. Townsend, friends forever. It was awesome, pure rapture, song and dance and sexual fascination. I’ve been to drag queen shows before (albeit decades ago), but never to one quite like this; this show, this dig-deep-into-your-pockets event (proceeds of which go to AIDS Help, Key West) was for a gentleman in the running for Fantasy Fest (Key West’s mardi gras) King, a highly coveted, prestigious, elected position. The race for King (or Queen) is serious business, involving campaign managers, budgets, plenty of propaganda, souvenirs and several engagements/fundraisers where no stunt, no costume, no display of debauchery is too crass or calculating or comic. A campaign of clowns—sound familiar? This particular candidate, Christopher, was not a drag queen, but in the spirit of election frivolity, she hosted (and performed) as the captivating, Eileen Wayback. The lovely Eileen greeted her generous guests wearing more make-up than Sephora could sell, sweating as if she had just finished a set on Dancing With the Stars, carrying a massive, silver tray—stacked high with perfectly-cooked, perfectly-crispy, bacon. Got my vote.

The theater and cabaret stage was small, connected to a beautiful bar/restaurant/gay resort, the gorgeous La Te Da. The production contained amateurish missed cues, audio mishaps and wardrobe malfunctions, all laughable, all forgivable, all seemingly part of the merriment. But the professional performances and voices, the drag queens committed to their craft of entertainment and fantasy, blew me away. In particular, the drag queen in the above photo, Elle. She was stunning, shapely, wearing a blond wig that shattered all previous notions regarding wigs, wearing cat-like eyeliner that would have held me to her ice blue eyes had her body not been so smokin’. And holy shit could she dance. An acrobat, a circus performer, a twisting, turning, beat-bumping desirable and deceptive woman. I told my friend, “I love her,” never taking my eyes away from the tiny waist and rockette-rocking thighs, following her as she worked the room and wagged her ass for donation dollars. My friend told me that “he” was also gorgeous*—as if I had any doubt. My vote was so locked in. My take away—wear more make-up and up my exercise routine.

In a siimg_1755de story, I thought that candidate Christoper, a.k.a. Eileen, was the friend of my Baltimore buddy, and upon asking, Eileen told me, “Yes, of course I know Bill!” I was delighted and asked for a picture of her with me that I could send to our friend. She gladly obliged, and as I was leaving shouted, “Tell Bill to send me a check.” Later that evening, Bill told me he had no idea who the person was in the photo. I think Eileen was playing with me. Typical politician, she sure had me fooled.  All about building that war chest, I suppose (but I’m still going to vote for her).


*  I learned that men in drag are referred to as “she”—out of costume, it is “he.”


the king and queen 2016 candidates and events

a great piece on key west’s gay culture by the artist behind the Elle photograph, Mark O’Connell


photo credit: Mark O’Connell






I didn’t leave a forty year marriage and a beautiful home because I had nothing better to do. I didn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and move hundreds of miles to be cool, or to make a statement, or to prove anything to myself or others. I had come to a point in my life where nothing was working, where there was no comfort zone, where I had reached my limit of dissatisfaction and the only option was change—and I was what needed to change. I did not need to reinvent myself, implying that I needed to be someone new or different. I needed to rediscover myself, to experience once again the value, the strength, the potential of me, all lost over a period of deep hurts and the subsequent, all-consuming, debilitating, freedom-sucking need for approval. I’m about to air some dirty laundry. If it bothers you, do not continue reading. But I do so to heal, and in the belief that I am not alone in my circumstances and that my words might strike a chord with someone.

My husband and I lost intimacy years ago, an embarrassing many years ago. While I cannot speak for my husband, I attribute this to my gaining weight and his obsession and attraction to all things thin. He would perhaps say that I lost interest in sex, which is partially true. I lost interest in sex with him—because I saw and felt his repulsion. It happens. I am sure our situation was not unique. The wife puts on the pounds, the husband is thin, he’s cool, she’s not, his ego inflates, hers shatters. I sought his approval constantly. And then I was fired from my job. For insubordination. At age sixty, after ten years of service and quality work. Escorted off the property. Can you imagine how humiliating that was? I suspect that outburst was the wheels of change already in motion, but the rejection and dejection reached heights that I am only now coming to realize. In my marriage, I was no longer wife, nor lover, nor household contributor. I was a commodity, and my pitiful self became so pliable, so weak, that I allowed my husband to run my life. I don’t blame him, I don’t hate him, he’s a very nice man with issues all his own. I had a voice, always a choice, I was not a victim but a player in my own pain. But I didn’t acknowledge and didn’t understand the extent of the damage. Approval seeking soared, and no matter what I did, what successes I achieved, it was not enough. We had gone too far.

My many years in Alcoholics Anonymous taught me that there is no such thing as a geographic cure. But they also taught me to stay away from triggers. And everything in my life—my home, my husband, my community—became a trigger for unhealthy behavior. I could have moved to Baltimore, or D.C., but life would have pretty much remained the same. It would be the same friends that I called on, the same series of half-assed jobs, the same stinkin’ thinkin’ that I was not worthy. I could have moved a little closer to home, to Delaware perhaps, or Charleston, but a radical challenge is what I believed, and still believe, is what I needed to push me, to force me to rely on myself and rediscover how capable I am, how deserving of happiness, and how I, without the input of anyone else, can make intelligent choices. And then a house in Key West came into view, and I knew immediately that this was the springboard for a new and healthy approach. Key West wrapped its arms around me, and if it made no sense to anyone else, it’s because they were not the one being embraced.

One change that I have to comment on: I cooked constantly in my marriage, constantly. I made my husband millions of meals. I have cooked twice in the 17 days I’ve been here, but one time it was only grilled cheese and ham so I don’t think that counts as cooking. The second meal I made for myself was scrambled eggs with sausage, potato, onion and cheese, and the rest of the time I eat salads. I cannot imagine that anything could feel more liberating. It is heaven.


from tiny buddha on approval seeking


daphne du maurier




For reasons I cannot explain, I have not read a book in years. I used to read quite a bit, but when I started to write my novella, I stopped. My explanation at the time was that I didn’t want to be influenced by someone else’s style or language, but in looking back, I believe I stopped reading before my writing began. I think it might have had something to do with my long and blind existence in a deep funk; a building of bad habits, hurts and insecurities that kept me from growth. But I recently picked up an old book of mine, a collection of short stories by the marvelous Daphne du Maurier, and have once again fallen in love with her piece, Monte Verità. Monte Verità is an otherworldly tale of one’s search for truth, set in an undisclosed, mountain location, spanning the decades between the 1st and 2nd World Wars. From the late Roger Dobson:

“Saying anything about Daphne du Maurier’s story “Monte Verità,” in an attempt to whet readers’ appetites, risks ruining its spellbinding effects. The only injunction necessary is: Don’t miss this one. More haunting than Rebecca, more bizarre than Don’t Look Now, with echoes of Picnic at Hanging Rock and ultimately as enigmatic, this novella is one of the most enchanting productions of du Maurier’s pen.”

And from Monte Verità:

“Once again I looked about me and at the faces of those who stood beside me, and I guessed dimly, with a sort of hunger near to pain, what ecstasy of love they knew that I had never known. Their silence was not a vow, condemning them to darkness, but a peace that the mountain gave to them, merging their minds in tune. There was no need for speech, when a smile, a glance, conveyed a message and a thought; while laughter, triumphant always, sprang from the heart’s centre, never to be suppressed. This was no closed order, gloomy, sepulchral, denying all that instinct gave the heart. Here life was fulfilled, clamouring, intense, and the great heat of the sun seeped into the veins, becoming part of the blood stream, part of the living flesh; and the frozen air, merging with the direct rays of the sun, cleansed the body and the lungs, bringing power and strength—the power I had felt when the fingers touched my heart.”


photo credit: 1952 edition of Monte Verità