Every straight man in the club was sitting in the VIP. My friend Jillian was celebrating the first anniversary of her lesbian night at the Funky Buddha with a party that featured live goldfish in plastic cups and an appearance by Amanda Lepore. We sat around drinking some vodka-and-juice thing called X-Rated while attractive women made out on the dance floor to house remixes of Snoop Dogg songs. Amanda Lepore's entrance, somewhere around 1 o'clock was part movie star red carpet and part in-store meet and greet; every club photographer in town swarmed to get her picture, along with the gay club kids trying to get a shot of themselves with a club legend.
If you want to be famous for being famous, you have to be willing to make an effort. Becoming a transsexual with Jayne Mansfield tits and collagen lips too outrageously inflated to be compared to any woman living or dead works, or at least it does for Lepore. On paper, at least, she was at the club to perform. She's got a few clubby tracks that she sings on, and her single "Champagne" is definitely the number one best pop song by a transsexual probably ever. But the real reason she was there was to hang out. Hanging out is what she does. She's so good at it that all her singing and David Lachapelle and Heatherette modelling just look like side jobs, the way that everyone else in the place works at Whole Foods or waits tables. The Buddha's VIP section is just a roped-off area in the bar's corner, so everyone could see how the world's most famous professional clubgoer hangs: There's a lot of posing for pictures. There is a sidekick in punk-kabuki makeup and a stuffed animal backpack that may or may not be a conscious throwback to the Party Monster club kid era. There is an enormous bottle of champagne. Beyond that there is just hanging out.
It's hard to put your finger on whatever it is that makes Amanda Lepore compelling, but she is. She's a knot of America's unravelling sexual identity, the artificial incarnation of the blonde bombshell, the heartland's sexual ideal made out of skin-straining breast implants and a surgically-crafted pussy. I think what makes her matter has a lot to do with sacrifice. Lepore's something of a martyr, putting herself on the altar of the surgeon's table so we can all gaze upon the results. Think about it like this: she's Jesus, Andy Warhol is God, and on the edge of the scene in a darkened corner Marshall McLuhan is chuckling into his balled-up fist. It's 2005 and that's not too far from the truth.