A Night of Fun and Mischief at the Go-Go Festival

Hundreds of gay men (and quite a few of their lady friends) descended on Larrabee St. between 11 Bar and Revolver on Saturday night for West Hollywood’s 2nd Annual Go-Go Dancer Appreciation Festival.

Now, I can already sense the eye-rolls and mutterings of “Only in West Hollywood” (But seriously, where else?). However, more than just an ubiquitous part of gay nightlife, go-go dancing is an important part of West Hollywood’s history.

The art of Go-Go dancing was popularized (and possibly invented) in 1964, at the legendary Whiskey-a-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. From there, it spread to other clubs in the region and then around the world.

It was that history that West Hollywood councilmembers John Duran and John D’Amico were paying homage to in 2011 when they co-sponsored the bill creating a holiday to honor the nightlife’s half-naked heroes. And both Councilmen were on hand Saturday, looking pleased with the results while watching dozens of platforms populated by impossibly attractive men, swaying and thrusting to the music provided by DJ Derek Montiero.

Throngs of Go-Go admirers crowded around, hoisting dollar bills into the air, vying for the opportunity to slip some money into the underwear of an Adonis, and maybe, just maybe see their favorite dancer awarded the slightly awkward title, “Mr. West Hollywood Go-Go,” by a panel of celebrity judges.

Each of those eight judges seemed to be looking for something different. Author Dennis Hensley was looking for “soulfulness and artistry.” Comedian Jonny McGovern was on the lookout for his “Three C’s,” which were “class, confidence, and a huge c—k,” he said. Michelle Visage, the immaculately manicured right hand of RuPaul on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was looking for more than “a big dick and a big ass,” she said. “I’m looking for presence. I want to feel special.”

Regardless of their criteria, the judges certainly had their work cut out for them. The six finalists, chosen by popular vote from a group of 14 semi-finalists, were universally handsome of face and chiseled of body.

Though, with four Caucasian men and two gentlemen of Puerto Rican descent, the event was hardly representative of the overall gay, or even go-go, population.

Between jokes about diet pills and impressive high-kicks in platform heels, drag-hostess Billy Francesca summoned the finalists onto the stage one by one to display their assets, and even answer some hard-hitting pageant questions: “If you could be any animal at all, what would it be?”

Adorable corn-fed twink Colby responded, “A goldfish, because they have the best lips.”

When asked “Who would you rather be, Cher or Christina Aguilera?” sexy bearded boy Dan said, “Cher, because she’s timeless.”

But I knew the victor would be renegade Bel Ami model Volodymyr Shmygol, when he answered to “What do you look for in a boyfriend, inner beauty or outer beauty?”

“Inner Beauty,” he said, “because anyone can hook up with a hot guy with a big…”

Well, you can fill in the rest.  His response sent a ripple of “awwww” through the audience.

Last year’s Mr. West Hollywood Go-Go winner, Dominic Munafo, was on hand to pass on the tiara Denato-designed, Swarovski Crystal encrusted, leather jockstrap to the new champion. He also received a trip to Palm Springs, a one-year membership to Gold’s Gym, $1,000 cash and the chance to have his face splashed across the cover of Frontiers magazine.

Afterwards the crowd gradually made its way to Micky’s for the afterparty.

And I made my way home, happy to be living in a world that has a Go-Go Appreciation Day, and already looking forward to next year’s event.