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Tea Dance and Sympathy

By Fay Jacobs


Fay Jacobs

I love Rehoboth.

Although, for the past two weeks I've been kicking myself for saying "yes" to participating in a fundraiser at one of our illustrious watering holes, Café Zeus.

When a brave Sussex County AIDS Council volunteer came to my office to ask me to volunteer for this event, he made it sound very innocuous.

All I'd have to do is climb up to the big white lifeguard chair in the Zeus courtyard and spend five minutes at the Sunday tea dance asking for SCAC donations. How difficult could it be?

Well, that was before I found out what usually goes on in that courtyard for Happy Hour. Then I was plain scared.

Part of the Zeus bar culture is a fabulously well-attended Sunday tea dance where the lifeguard chair is filled by muscled, six-pack-ab-sporting lifeguard type males, with and without body jewelry, with and without shirts on, promoting the sale of beverages to guys who appreciate the abs, body jewelry and shirtlessness.

I hear tell that sometimes the shots are delivered using flat abdomens as serving trays. Sometimes there's a little CPR practice involved.

Why Me?
What could they possibly want with me? My panic was only slightly assuaged knowing that other Rehoboth fools, favorite middle-aged bartenders and local coffee baristas of a certain age were similarly hoodwinked into participating.

After all, SCAC desperately needs money for their transportation fund-the only way many clients have of getting to their doctors. How difficult could it be to raise the cash and have some fun?

How difficult? When I got to the Zeus courtyard on Sunday I found out. First off, the damn lifeguard chair looked three stories high. Yeah, there were steps, but they were further apart than these thighs have been in a decade. Short of hiring a crane, I'd need a sand bag and pulley system to hike me up.

As the event began and the first life-guard victim took his seat, I sidled up to the bar for a cocktail. I know that worrying doesn't solve anything, but it gives you something to do until the trouble starts. And there was going to be trouble.

The "lifeguard" before me was a buff, bejeweled Baywatch clone. Twenty dollar bills for SCAC flew at the young man as he poured drinks into willing jaws-not exactly an act I wanted to follow.

They called my name and I walked to the side of the chair, hauled my ass up the first two steps, and from what has been reported to me (I have post traumatic stress amnesia), climbed Everest only with the assistance of three dykes and a boost from a body builder in leather swim trunks.

Ah, the cheers! No, not for me. People cheered that I made it into the stupid chair so they wouldn't have to put down their drinks to make room for the ambulance gurney.

A Great View
Once at cruising altitude, I loved the view: throngs of people braving the oppressive heat to drink for a good cause. A bunch of my buddies had shown up to support SCAC and their stupid friend, who was now waving a microphone and trying to figure out how to please this crowd to get donations. Singing "Let me Entertain You" and taking off a glove wasn't it.

Perhaps reverse psychology might work. I gazed across the ocean of mostly young male faces and found myself hollering "give me the money…or the clothes come off!"

You should have seen the rush. Tens, twenties, all for SCAC.

"Show me the money!"

People plunked bills into the silver wine cooler collection pail and others stood below me, mouths agape like baby birds, with mama here pouring pink liquor into them.

For the Miss Manners crowd we had tiny shot glasses so they wouldn't have to rely on my aim. Good thing, because I missed a lot of mouths, dousing donors and causing shrieks, applause, laughter and sticky tee-shirts. I think I gave somebody a nasal enema.

By minute three my loyal and long-suffering friends had all coughed up their cash, my previous victims were rinsing off and I was desperate.

"Calling all Schnauzer lovers! " I yelled, and amazingly a Schnauzer owner appeared with some currency.

It was a hundred degrees in that courtyard, and I was schvitzing like no other Jewish girl had ever schvitzed. Finally, the longest five minutes in the history of beverage service was over. Yay!!!!

Now The Fun Part
Oh god, I had to get down. By this time I'd stopped asking myself how difficult it could be. Would they let me just stay up there along with the next "lifeguards?" Then I could wait for happy hour to end and summon the volunteer fire department to retrieve me with the bucket truck.

I looked down. It was a really long way to Tipperary. Thelma and Louise flashed through my mind; should I take a swan dive out into the crowd?

I stood up, inched my way toward the ladder and dangled one foot, searching for base camp. The lesbian posse below gripped my swollen ankles, guiding me to the next step. There were so many people participating in the dismount I felt like a balloon in the Macy's Parade.

Finally, I hit terra firma to another round of cheers, mostly because people were relieved to have this particular circus act over.

How difficult could it be, indeed. I understand that there were many thousands of dollars raised thanks to the incredible generosity of Café Zeus and the many, many greenback-tossing participants.

So for those who witnessed this whole discomforting affair, as they say in the play Tea and Sympathy, "when you think of this, and you will, be kind."

I love Rehoboth.
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Fay Jacobs, a native New Yorker, spent 30 years in the Washington, DC area working in journalism, theater and public relations. She has contributed feature stories and columns to such publications as The Advocate, OUTtraveler, The Baltimore Sun, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, The Washington Blade, The Wilmington News Journal, Delaware Beach Life and more.

Since 1995 she has been a regular columnist for Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, and won the national 1997 Vice Versa Award for excellence. Her columns are collected in the books, As I Lay Frying: a Rehoboth Beach Memoir and the newly published Fried & True - Tales of Rehoboth Beach.

Fay is Publisher and Managing Editor or A&M Books, the publisher of the 14 classic Sarah Aldridge novels.

She and Bonnie, her partner of 25 years, relocated to Rehoboth Beach, DE in 1999. They have two Miniature Schnauzers and a riding lawn mower.

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