FUN AND GAMES The crew at Hush. [Photo by Natalja Kent]
“All right, cocksuckerrrrsss! Happy Pride!” Jacqueline DiMera screams into the microphone.
DiMera — “Rhode Island’s Drag Sweetheart” — is wearing a red sequined dress and a healthy coat of eye shadow. And, at the moment, she’s strutting the length of the dance floor at Hush, a dimly lit, techno-thumping strip club across from a scrapyard on Allens Ave. in Providence.
Tonight, though, the dance floor isn’t a dance floor; it’s covered by a knee-high inflatable plastic swimming pool ringed by white towels on the floor. Shortly after her opening salutation, DiMera — along with 2013’s Miss Gay Rhode Island Justus Starr — tips a gallon jug of ID Lubricant into the pool until the last drops glubglub from the bottle. After this “ceremonial pour,” the 10th annual Rhode Island Pride Lube Wrestling Contest can officially begin.
“This is so different from my other job at the Vatican,” DiMera says.
Tonight’s wrestlers are plucked from Hush’s corps of shirtless, muscle bound dancers — the same guys who have spent the last couple hours languidly swiveling hips and spreading legs and toying lasciviously with waistbands on the club’s stage. Now, having dumped the dollar bills from their boxer briefs, they’re gathered by the pool to remove any jewelry that might cause a mid-grapple injury. “How many homos does it take to take a necklace off?” Dimera shouts at a cluster of guys helping one dancer unlock a finicky clasp.
Then the night’s first two combatants, Shane and Kyle, step up to the pool, and DiMera announces the rules. The match must begin with one wrestler on his hands and knees and the other behind him with an arm around his opponent’s torso, she says. “Just like high school gym class…the good old days.” Once the match starts, the first man to rip off the other’s underwear wins. She counts down: 3 . . . 2 . . . 1. Then the DJ flicks on the ’90s club anthem “What Is Love?” at a booming volume.
The crowd shrieks. Lube flies. The wrestlers twist and turn and thump and slip around the pool in what appears to be a sustained mutual attempt to give an atomic wedgie. Then, after about a minute with the wrestlers in a sort of tense, interlocked fetal position, one eventually triumphs, holding the undies in the air as a trophy.
Other matches follow, including one that leaves the winner with torn, frayed briefs hanging loosely from one leg. “Do you still have your panties on? By a string!” DiMera says. “It looks like a friggin’ eyepatch!”
It’s a wild, raunchy spectacle. But chatting poolside with Rhode Island Pride board president Rodney P. Davis, the scene takes on a different aura.
Twenty years ago, this week, Davis explains, he was disfellowshipped from the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses for being gay. A “disfellowship” is a form of excommunication; a “judicial action from the organization that my behavior is unacceptable for their belief system,” he says. All contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses friends and family was severed.