|Look at those testosterone-fueled bears go!
Bears Invade Russian River for 10th Annual Lazy Bear Weekend
Gentle Readers, brace yourselves. Itâ€™s bad enough when someone hands me a microphone. Now theyâ€™re giving me several, um, â€ścolumn inchesâ€ť here as contributing writer and â€śentertainment ambassador,â€ť offering an insiderâ€™s view to the local scene. You may know me from my stage work in musical revues, like my Dirty Little Showtunes!, the notorious Naked Boys Singing! at Theatre Rhinoceros in 2000, or Howard Crabtreeâ€™s Whoop-Dee-Doo!, now at the New Conservatory Theatre, an old-fashioned gay vaudeville with outrageous costumes and a knockout cast that just got extended through Aug. 14. Before I moved here, however, I was a theatre critic for The Seattle Times for four years, and Iâ€™ve missed writing about the arts.
Itâ€™s fitting, then, that my first assignment is to preview next weekâ€™s 10th Annual Lazy Bear Weekend, a tiny gathering of 300 or so bears at the Russian River Resort (or â€śTriple Râ€ť) back in 1996 that has now evolved into a testosterone-tinged furry phenomenon that enriches the entire town of Guerneville (crowds of 7,000-10,000 are expected this year) and raises thousands of dollars for charities throughout Northern California and beyond. In my opinion, itâ€™s also the best weekend of summer, rousing and relaxing at the same time.
My first Lazy Bear was the summer of 2002 (I did â€śBear!â€ť to the title song from Hair, I recall). Last year, I opened for the one and only Madame, making her comeback with puppeteer Jerry Halliday, hand-picked by the Wayland Flowers estate. It was a thrilling night (I forgot how funnyâ€“and filthyâ€”her original material was, and I swear that puppet is alive!) and surprisingly moving for me and the huge capacity crowd; one of the Sacramento Bears hugged me the next day, weepy with nostalgia, remembering having seen Madame on the first RSVP cruise with a group of friends of which he is now the sole survivor. The auction during intermission between Madameâ€™s and my acts also raised over $10,000 for the Lazy Bear Fundâ€™s coffers!
his year, I got upgraded from opening act to headliner, as I kick off the â€śUnder The Starsâ€ť cabaret series sponsored by CastroBear Presents. My show, If Ya Got It, Flaunt It!, is Thursday night, July 14, at the Triple R. Iâ€™m still just a warm-up for the real divas, though: Connie Champagne revisits her hit Plush Room revue, Judy Garland: Being Alive, on Friday night, and perennial crowd-pleaser Sharon McNight will make Saturday evening A McNight to Remember. Lazy Bear Tag Holders can see all three shows for only $30.
Meanwhile, musclebears and otters and heavyset hotties from around the world will converge on the town for the various events being thrown, from beer busts and BBQs to Bare Bear Bingo with the Russian River Sisters, to the dance parties at Club FAB: Stink on Friday, Sweat on Saturday and Mega Woof on Sunday.
Aside from organized events, the real joy of Lazy Bear is relaxing poolside at the many resorts with hordes of hirsute hunks (Iâ€™m Mr. Nude Russian River 2004, so youâ€™ll see a lot of me over at The Woods). Bears are the last bastion of inclusiveness in terms of body issues, and beer bellies somehow still seem svelte. My absolute favorite part of Lazy Bear has to be the bonfires at Fifeâ€™s, where flickering firelight on furry faces casts a golden glow over everyone. Featuring every cop, cowboy, trucker and coach fantasy daddy of my dreams, itâ€™s like a scout jamboree after the boys go to bed and the dads stay up late. Legendary impresario Gregg Taylor hosts Friday nightâ€™s bonfire, and Saturday is sponsored by the Hairrison Bear Fair. Big fun!
â€śI try to throw a party that I would want to go to,â€ť says Harry Lit, the driving force behind CastroBear Presents and recent honoree along with Allen Eggman of the Rebecca LePere â€śHeart Of Gold Awardâ€ť for their fundraising and community service (last yearâ€™s Lazy Bear Fund raised $153,000!). â€śI accepted it on behalf of a lot of people,â€ť emphasizes Lit, who recognizes hundreds of volunteers and the generosity of Guerneville businesses. For example, all the beer at Lazy Bear is donated by Rainbow Cattle Co. and Liquid Sky (formerly The Eagle), as well as the Triple R, an enormous donation that makes it possible to raise so much for the charities. For a full list and details of all the events, visit www.lazybearweekend.com.