Queer Suburbia

We’ve formulated a theory in our explorations of the KC bar scene that more random, entertaining shit occurs at suburban, out-of-the-way watering holes. A recent Wednesday night foray to The Fox was no exception. We heard that its midweek karaoke session was drunkenly raucous. So, naturally, we were all over that like Clinton Portis in a costume shop. We assembled Research Assistants Erica and Cece and headed over Shawnee-way.

The Fox, which claims to be “Johnson County’s premier gay club,” is located on Shawnee Mission Parkway near Metcalf. Let the Steak ‘n Shake be your beacon; the Fox is tucked away in the strip mall just west of that purveyor of fried goodness.

Weird sighting No. 1 occurred after we parked the Night Rangermobile next to a Ford Contour with two dogs scampering about inside. It wasn’t so cold that the mutts would freeze before their owners finished humiliating themselves karaoke-style. But then we noticed something worse: The small, yippy one sported a little doggie turtleneck. The only abuse seemed to be one of fashion, so we continued on our way inside.

The bar felt like a rec room. There was a small stage surrounded by tables with black-plastic office chairs, circa 1976. A bluish fabric-covered sofa and maroon ottomans lined one wall; a round, white coffee table with a cool swivel top was already cluttered with empty beer bottles. Pool tables occupied the second and third rooms. The walls and ceiling panels were dark turquoise, and metal siding covered the bottom half of the walls. The effect was very comfortable, so much so that after we got our Bud Light bottles and plopped down on the ottomans, we almost tricked ourselves into thinking we were at a high school party in someone’s basement.

The crowd dispelled that illusion. It consisted mainly of guys in sweaters and women with mullets. Most were gay, but our straightdar went off a few times, too. By the time we arrived, around 11 p.m., the drunkenness was starting to manifest itself, and things were getting lively. As a bemulleted woman sang “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” onstage, the people around us danced energetically. One of them, a fit young guy in a black T-shirt with the Playboy bunny logo, hopped over mid-dance and planted his ass in RA Cece’s lap. He grinded away, to our amusement.

Then we noticed an expanse of flesh as a guy and a girl took off their T-shirts and swapped them. We talked to the strippers, Ashlee and 32-year-old Daniel. Ashlee, celebrating her 21st birthday, was in fine, inebriated form. She said that she just wanted to wear Daniel’s black shirt, which proclaimed, “Save a horse, ride a cowboy” on the front and “big and rich” on the back. In turn, Daniel was clad in her baby-blue girl shirt, which had “party animal” emblazoned around a picture of Eeyore. His gut looked constrained by the tight shirt, so we weren’t surprised when they switched back. Later that night, we asked Ashlee if her bra was white or cream-colored. The Night Ranger was trying to be a good journalist by double-checking her facts. Of course, after her shirt-swapping stunt, she had no qualms flashing us. “It’s white,” she said, running a finger down a triangle-cradled boob. That’s what we get for trying to be detail-oriented. The incident was amusing — and by “amusing” we mean slightly scary.

But all was forgotten when we met the awesome Griffin and Doug, whom the karaoke host billed as the “Dos Humpaleros.” We liked them so much that RA Cece nicknamed them G. Love and Doug E. Fresh. They were sitting by us on the sofa when the karaoke host summoned 34-year-old Griffin to the stage to sing ‘NSync’s “This I Promise You.” He missed his cue and broke down laughing. “Oh, my God, I’m so drunk!” he said. “If drunk was cheap furniture, I’d be the back of Nebraska Furniture Mart!”

Doug came over to explain. “He drank three times this year,” he said, then shook his head despairingly at Griffin’s low tolerance. Griffin may have had a terrific voice, but the beer didn’t help him remember the lines. “If drunk was ill-advised budget cuts, I’d be Matt Blunt!” he announced. Como se dice best line of the night?

Griffin sat down, and 28-year-old Doug took his place onstage. As Doug started crooning “Drift Away” in a Cartman voice, we asked G. Love what “Dos Humpaleros” means. He explained that he and Doug met at Missie B’s (“It’s purely platonic,” he stressed, tapping our notepad), where they started a karaoke tradition. They take turns humping a leg of whoever is performing. He emphasized that Dos Humpaleros isn’t an exclusive group. “Anyone can do this. We encourage it,” he said. He then made another announcement: “I’m going home with the Night Ranger! In spirit, at least. I wish I wasn’t so drunk.” We were flattered by his declaration of intent, even with the disclaimer.

After that fun chat, we wandered to the back of the bar and met Kong, a young-looking Asian guy who was born and raised in KC and is an HR manager for his dad’s company. As is the case sometimes with Asians, we quickly got down to business. “So, what are you?” he asked, meaning, What’s your heritage? He’s Hmong, he said, and told us about how his parents met in KC at an English-as-a-second-language class. We wanted to comment about how they must be cunning linguists but restrained ourselves.

Is it hard being Asian and gay?

“Oh, definitely,” he said. “Especially in the Midwest, where everyone wants to be a white person.” We commiserated over being stereotypically labeled submissive.

“I’m not submissive at all,” he said. “I know what I want and will not play the submissive role they want me to play.” Tell it, sister!

As we chatted, a sullen-looking guy curled up tight on the floor between a dartboard machine and a wall. By the time we went to investigate, the mysterious guy had left, so we asked a trio sitting nearby whether they had seen him. Apparently, he had sat there for about half an hour before exiting unnoticed. “If he left, he crawled out,” said Brad, a good-looking guy with salt-and-pepper hair (so hot!). He was hanging out with his boyfriend of three months, 35-year-old Jason, and Jason’s co-worker Anne.

Wearing blue scrubs, Jason reminded us of George from Grey’s Anatomy; we immediately had a celeb-crush-by-proxy. Anyway, Jason and Anne are nurses at KU Med’s neurosurgical ICU unit. Both were still in their work clothes and prepared for any sort of emergency with the guy in the corner. “Anne pulled out her intubation tube,” Brad said. Just in case.

On that note, we took our leave, for things could not possibly have gotten more odd than surgical tubing atop the bar. In the parking lot, sadly, the dogs were still in the car. After one last snicker at the turtleneck (that’s doggie-style for you), we headed back home, our theory about suburban bars intact.

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