Barfly - Ain't no party like a Prop 8 party

With Cali's gay marriage ban deemed unconstitutional, Burkharts Pub is the place to be

Thursday August 12, 2010 04:00 am EDT

It's a smoky arena with blinding lights. The customary techno backbeat reverberates as enthusiastic men dangle and cling to the railing above. The catcalls escalate and the strobe lights compound the confusion. It's a Thunderdome of sorts — glamorous and hectic — and we're on the ground floor of this campy spectacle.

"Make some noise for the muthafuckin' one and only ... MARY ... EDITH ... PITTS!"

Miley Cyrus cranks up and out sashays a mountainous lip-synching man in a scant cocktail dress. Large and in charge, the only thing working harder in this room than Mary is the size 13 flip-flops carrying the voluptuous queen around. And Miley couldn't be more right, this is definitely not a Nashville party.

We're at Burkharts Pub, a 25-year-old Mansley, er, Ansley Mall fixture, and it's a perfect place to Prop 8 party. With California's ban on gay marriage declared unconstitutional last week, there's certainly cause for the gay community to celebrate. Not that the gays ever really need an excuse to party.

Burkharts Pub (1492 Piedmont Ave., 404-872-4403) is a laid-back, no-frills gay bar, located in what was once the epicenter of the scene. While Blake's on the Park is a younger, more high-profile spot, Burkharts has zero attitude or pretense. So if 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue is S&M (guys standing and modeling at the bar), Ansley is more the Walmart of men.

The place winds in and out and up and down like a flamboyant, musty amusement park. Dark wood paneling is accented by hot-pink neon lights. "Friends, Family, Food & Fun" is its catch line, but you could easily add "Fucked up" to the F parade, because there are eager and accommodating bartenders at every turn.

Ms. Mary, a drag diva for 20 years, is working the room with her terrifically crude act when she's bestowed with 40 ounces of Smirnoff Ice. "Thank you, and fuck you," she says to her admiring enabler.

Getting "Iced" is the terminology and it's all routine as she turns it up and manhandles the phallic 40, Shake Weight-style. While she wipes the foamy, white malt liquor from her chin, the surrounding balcony makes it hail balled-up dollar bills. As the crumpled paper — which all goes towards AIDS and HIV charities — accumulates on the cramped dance floor, Mary reminds everyone, "There's a separate fund for my liver transplant. Oh, Jesus."

Amongst the melting pot of men is a bachelorette party from Newnan. The groom's mom — who is certainly being a good sport surrounded by the hedonistic hoopla — is obviously a bit uncomfortable. When I ask for her thoughts on gay nuptials, she respectfully declines, "I'd rather not say anything."

It seems par for the course considering our conservative state's antiquated views.

In between Mary's brash, improvised crudeness, the queen offers beautiful, uncluttered reasoning to a complicated issue: "You love who you love. The state can't legislate that shit."

Of course, that's followed moments later by her giving mock fellatio to a willing participant. Warm sentiments, indeed.

Yes, the heart wants what the heart wants. And there's Calvin, an old hustler on the dance floor, and his heart (among other things) wants to get weird. It's nearing the end of the night and he's getting loose, bouncing up and down, and singing along to Shania Twain's applicable lyrical genius: "Man ... I feel like a woman." As he gazes upon a tall, dark and handsome drag queen, bedecked with the lofty title Ms. Missouri Continental Elite, Calvin stretches his hands out like Superman and proclaims, "Dats how I'm gonna jump up innit!"

It seems like you would need much more than a marriage license for that holy union.

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