The Semi-annual Cancer Party
Back in '85 when my homegirls and I were younger and far more vivacious, my pal Martha the Cancerian Crab decided to throw a little birthday/housewarming party for herself.
I was a graphic designer and a bit of a barfly back then, and she asked me to whip up a little postcard invitation for her. I happily obliged, knowing I could stash a little stack of the printed pieces and pass them out to cute chicks I met at our local dyke bar.
Apparently I had over imbibed at the bar a bit on one or two nights and managed to invite 50-100 cute but total strangers to the party. They all came...and brought their friends.
Martha may have been a mite surprised at the volume of strange guests, but being a noted connoisseur of good looking women, she hardly protested.
As the years passed, the party swelled to about 400 and filled her back yard from fence to fence, with gay women of all ilks and from all over the country in attendance. Even a few gay boys and the odd heterosexual would show up.
Being a die-hard political/social activist, Martha started charging $10 a head at the gate and donating the money to area charities that catered to lesbians and other disenfranchised groups.
By 1995, porta-potties had to be brought in, off duty sheriffs were hired to watch the cars and dozens of sponsors lined up to pony up 50 bucks apiece to help offset the cost of the kegs, the margarita machines and the food.
As an enticement, Martha, who's a famed professional jewelry designer, made each of us sponsors a little sterling silver medal with whatever party motif was chosen that year. I have maybe 10 or more of them: party crab, party girls, party dog, party house, party hat, etc.
After she turned 50, the annual party ended for a while. She was tired of spending the months of planning, delegating, schlepping, renting and mailing...and nobody could really blame her.
When she turned 55, she geared up for another one. By then, people had heard about the myths and the magic of the famed Cancer party and they arrived in droves. Her large yard and house held hundreds of women, body to body in the humid Texas night.
The old ladies and military dykes usually showed up early, filled their little plates with food, drank a few margaritas and left before the sun had set. By 8 p.m. the ordinary rank and file lesbos would show up. By 9 the glamour girls would make their entrance with the artists and musician types, and by 10 the freaks would show up.
By 3 or 4 a.m., a handful of us would still be around, sobering up and swapping gossip about who'd been there, who we saw kissing whom, who got too drunk or stoned, whose ex showed up with whom, who looked sensational and who looked like hammered shit. I treasure those wee hours; I just wish I could remember them in greater detail.
So, last Saturday, Martha threw her famous party again.
This time she rented a site that specializes in parties. It's a nice spot with a huge expanse of green lawn, an air conditioned building for food and drink, clean bathrooms and ample parking.
Though I knew maybe 200 people there, I'd never seen about 300 of them. The younger ones called me "ma'am," which annoyed me until I realized they thought anyone wearing a sponsor's medal was some kind of authority figure.
So many of these young Gen X, Y and Z types I encountered were so fucking conservative! Many have never even seen a joint before, much less smoked one. I wondered to myself where their parents went wrong, rearing such straight little gay arrows.
Anyway, as I sat on a low wall with some friends at the back of the property, I reflected on Martha and thought how amazing it would be to know that many people.
All the while, she was strolling around the grounds in a totally unassuming state of grace. So nonchalant is she, she actually acted in a play earlier that evening, totally unruffled by the thought that a party of 500 women awaited her entrance.
Now 22 years later, I don't really go out to bars much--much less go about inviting 50-100 total strangers to a party I'm not even hosting.
But it's okay.
Martha no longer needs the kind of social juice I once had in my younger days to help publicize her Cancer party. All she has to do now is write, "Cancer Party 7:30 July 14" in an e-mail, send it to 20 people and ask them to spread the word.
And 500 lesbians show up.
How cool is that?