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Cocktails with
the clueless

Cocktails with
the clueless


When I perform on cruises I usually mingle with the guests, but on one recent cruise I found myself hanging out with the cast of the onboard Broadway revue, who cope with the months at sea by seducing passengers and becoming alcoholics. One dancer, whom I'll call Nigel, was so stunning that he could wear torn sweatpants and a dirty tank top and the world was his runway. In a black suit, he looked like a cater waiter at the Oscars. He knew it. One night I accompanied Nigel, and his suit, to the ship's disco. The place was packed with young people on winter break hoping for a meaningless shipboard fling, and middle-aged parents trying to convince the DJ to play "Funkytown." Nigel soon introduced me to Gary, a cute 22-year-old with whom he had been flirting on board. Gary looked like a star of Up With People, complimented me on my comedy, and said he was with his family and fiancee. He was also a dancer and was doing an internship in Colorado. I thought he was interning at Colorado Ballet, but when I asked where he worked, he replied, "Focus on the Family." I did a double take akin to Lucy Ricardo's after Ricky's L.A. press agent asked her to jump in the hotel pool for Hedda Hopper's benefit. What was this kid--who gazed at Nigel like Kate Winslet on her first night with Leo--doing at the most antigay organization in the country? I asked Gary exactly what he did, and he told me mostly secretarial duties, but added, "Dr. Dobson has taken a real interest in my leadership qualities." I try to be more like Atticus Finch of To Kill A Mockingbird, who said, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view." But for some reason my high horse was at the starting gate, and I blurted, "Are you aware of the damage this organization has done to families with gays in them?" He bristled with the earnestness of a high school debater, saying, "No, why?" "Because they use religion as a pretext to remove gay rights, they spread lies and antigay bigotry, and blah, blah, blah," I said, my vodka-soaked voice rising in righteous indignation. "Dr. Dobson only wants to save the family, which is in danger," he countered. I've seen families fall apart from alcoholism, divorce, poverty, neglect, teen pregnancy, bad hair, and so on. I have seen only one fall apart because of the presence of gays: a fundamentalist family's refusal to accept their son, with no help from organizations like Focus. I pressed Gary on Focus's crimes against gays. The startled crew around us, unaccustomed to hearing a sociopolitical argument in the disco at 1 a.m., looked on with mouths agape. Nigel rolled his eyes and ordered another drink, peeved at me for ruining his cruise on the cruise. Gary proved to be a formidable debater, and things got heated as several crew-members chimed in. Gary found himself on the defensive--he just didn't see the problem. After 20 minutes of spirited debate in which the crew lost interest and Nigel glared at me, we parted. I finally realized that it simply doesn't show up on Gary's radar. He's taught to think, Why can't all families just be like ours, and everything would be OK? My own radar said Gary was struggling with his sexuality. If he is, I pray for him, because he must be receiving twisted signals. I have no doubt he will go far, and I'm sure he won't forget our encounter. Maybe he could even be a positive influence within Focus and change some minds. Maybe not. But I'll be more careful with future shipboard arguments. Nigel stopped speaking to me. Jim David's comedy can be seen nationwide and on Comedy Central and heard on his CDs.

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