leonHis name is Leonard Fontaine, but to all the world he is known simply as Leon.

In 1974 he was on top of the world. He was 26 years old, and “I Was Made for Dancin'” was topping the charts. He wore white pants without shirts, his hair flowed over his shoulders, and he made love to the microphone. He could have had his pick of women, had he wanted them. He did have his pick of men. Many men. As many as he wanted.

Now it’s 1982, and he is 34. It’s not so old, except that it is. He’s too old to cruise the clubs of hot young men in tight jeans, too young to be one of the silver foxes. His hair is cut short in a futile attempt to mask the graying temples, and he wears a loose shirt to cover the beginning of a paunch. Purple shades and a mustache hide the lines on his face and protect eyes made sensitive by too much coke. It’s been two years since he had a hit single, and a weak one at that. Those two years have been hard.

But he’s here tonight, at Mr. T’s big gay 4th of July party. He’s still on invite lists, still surrounded by admirers. He headlines at Studio 54, and even if he isn’t the one getting approached anymore, nobody turns him down.

There’s a pretty young thing on his arm, a boy dressed in leather pants and a harness. Leon doesn’t like to think of Chain as a rented boyfriend… more like a pet, someone he feeds and walks and buys treats for. There’s no love between them, but neither of them have any illusions on that front, and so that’s alright.

Here at Saratoga, they’re playing Dolly Parton’s Star Spangled Banner to kick off the party. Leon joins in, letting Chain hear his voice. It’s still silken, and he soars up to the high notes along with Dolly.

He’ll need that later, when he surprises them all.

Oh say does that Star Spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

The song comes to an end, hands come down from hearts, and Mr. T turns to address his guests. “Welcome back to the party everyone!” He is older amongst this crowd as well, a mid-40s gay WASP clad in khaki shorts and straw hat and Hawaiian shirt. But where Leon shrouds himself in regalia of the past, Mr. T has draped himself with charisma and power and influence that make him irresistible. “And thanks for coming out this year!”

This is the second of Mr. T’s famous parties to take place at the Saratoga Center, a former rehab center for children with cancer, high in upstate New York. The Saratoga survivors have been coming here for years for their annual get-together, but when Mr. T heard about the place, he somehow wrangled a deal with them to let him relocate his party to the sprawling, secluded campground. And of course his secretary Pen had to come with him, which meant inviting friends from her lesbian circles, just so she wouldn’t be bored.

Last year the groups didn’t mingle much, the gays and lesbians keeping each other at wary arms’ length, and the Saratoga people avoiding all of them. This year might be different, as faces that were foreign last year become more familiar and the party attendees reconsider one another. Time has yet to tell.

“I don’t know all of you nearly as well as I should,” Mr. T is saying, “but I’m sure we’ll fix that before the end of the night.” At this a chorus of cheers and wolf whistles rises from the crowd, and Mr. T grins even as he shouts to be heard. “Anyway! Take care of each other, and clean up after yourselves. I’m not your daddy; if you want that, talk to Steven.” He favors the leather-clad gentleman who has just raised the flag with an appreciative look, and the crowd howls some more. “Let’s have some fun!”

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