Small World

Boys to Men

The Village People played last week at the Showbox, and their nostalgia act was a little stale, completely inconsequential, and, based on the number of people who left the sparsely attended extravaganza, some people probably found it embarrassing; if I'd had even just half a hit of acid, I could have totally immersed myself in it.

What to say about a bunch of fortysomethings in butch drag gyrating and physically proclaiming their sexiness? It was like watching some regulars from The Eagle warming up for The Full Monty (my friend kept leaning over and asking, "Are they gonna get naked?"). It squeezed my heart between the wincing. You can't expect this kind of stuff to run circles of excitement around you; you have to let the shaggy thing lie there and just be kind to it until it draws its last breath. The dumb creature gave you some kind of happiness once, like a faithful dog or a show on the WB.

The guys resemble a happy bunch of gym teachers now—you know, a paunch here, a sag there, a few wrinkles, and the memory of a swagger that used to be, but all probably able to show you how to do a chin-up. And you could still pick a favorite if you want to play that game: The latest Leatherman (the old one died of lung cancer last year) would be welcome to buy me a beer if he wants to and talk all about the Presidential Fitness Plan.

Since most people, if pushed, can likely name three of the group's original singles at most, the Peeps had a lot of cover action happening that evening, which was a mixed bag. The G.I., with a falsetto you can only learn in the army, did a plaintively robust "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)." The disco medley demanded a bit much: A lengthy plea to remember the '70s from the gregarious Construction Worker, whose once-formidable erecting days are over, was followed by a slew of pop hits that inspired invidious comparisons. Love ya, guys, but you can't trot out a snippet of "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" and ask us not to want Barbra and Donna. You're already asking us to be very gay; we can't be delusional as well.

But, oh, something was faded and sweet about the 'N Sync 20 Years Later choreography, the recorded background vocals, the sincere energy, and watching Felipe the Indian trying his lil' high kicks in his buckskin pants. And, yes, you had to go ahead and raise your arms to form the triumphant alphabet that was the "Y.M.C.A." encore. When you've already committed to writing off this bit of history with chagrin, you can't pretend you don't know how to spell.

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