Melrose Place: Chicago

Tue. February 8, 2005 12:00 AM
by Jenni Spinner

Queers appreciate two things in their entertainment: hot, illicit sex, and catfights. This explains the wild popularity among gays of Melrose Place, the predecessor to Desperate Housewives that gave us heaping helpings of both in the 90s. I myself whiled away many a Monday night glued to the set eager for someone to scratch Sydney’s eyes out, or for some jilted gal to yank her rival’s hair out by the very visible roots.

When I plopped my big gay ass on the couch to watch VH1’s When Melrose Place Ruled the World, I relived the days of hot tempers, high fashion, and near-incestuous mating habits. Something that really struck me—besides the shortness of the skirts and Andrew Shue’s complete lack of acting ability—was striking similarity to Chicago’s lesbian community, and marked difference.

True, we don’t all live in the same fabulous complex, in apartments clustered around a pool that no one ever swims in. Granted, we tend to wear baggy cargo pants instead of tight Prada skirts. But when it comes to intricate romantic spiderwebs, we Windy City gals could go toe to toe with Aaron Spelling’s ladies any day. For example, let’s take my little group of friends (names have been changed to protect the innocent):

I recently attended a party at the lovely home of Billie, whom I dated for about two months this past spring. Among the two dozen gals in attendance was my friend Amanda, Billie’s current squeeze, and JoBeth, another of Billie’s exes. Perched on the couch in close proximity was Taylor, one of my short-term hookups. The guest list also included Allison (another of my exes) and her current woman, Sydney; Kimberly, who sort-of-dated Billie about a year ago; Lexi, who I had a fling with this past winter; and Jane (who had an unrequited thing with Lexi a few months past) and her current gal. Dizzy? Understandable. Lesbian love triangles tend to be more like love dodecahedrons, but I digress.

If you’re expecting me a tale of the tempers that flared and the drama that ensued, let me just say that here’s where the similarities between Melrose Place and our place end. If this had been an MP soiree, there would have been hair-pulling, face-scratching, and “bitch” shrieked here and there. Instead, no one’s ‘do was mussed, no one’s silk blouse torn, no fingernails broken. Instead, we laughed, ate, drank, and, when people left one by one, the gals remaining sent each departing guest off with a heartfelt hug. Bet you’d never see special-guest-star-for-life Heather Locklear munching on weenies and tater salad whilst yukking with her past and present romantic partners and rivals.

Lesbians have a reputation for drama. On the surface, we’ve got our share of heavy plotlines with potential for juicy conflict. Sometimes we deliver, like the night at Star Gaze when my fellow karaokers and I witnessed a grrl in a Le Tigre shirt yell at a gal in a football jersey to “get the F*CK away from me, and never F*CKIN’ TOUCH ME AGAIN, BITCH!” (oh, to be a witness to that backstory). But, more often than not, what could have been an ugly situation (i.e. three exes and a current surrounding you at a picnic) turns out to be a great afternoon.

Why the difference between our group the Melrose harpies? I have a few theories:

Drama is fun to watch, but no fun to be in. With the exception of Locklear’s ubervixen character, no MP denizen looks like they’re enjoying themselves during those conflicts—or at any other time, for that matter, except during actual horizontal relations.

We’ve got other battles to fight. Lesbians spend so much time fighting prejudice—from right-wing politicians, conservative Christians, the so-called ‘family values’ folk, employers, even our own families—that we have little time, energy, or inclination left over to squabble with each other.

It’s a small world, after all. Granted, there are more people in Chicago’s lesbian population than in the MP cast, but rather than just one hour, we have to dwell in our universe 168 hours a week. That leaves us 167 hours more that we have to live with each other, compared to the MP gals--and it’s much easier to get along than it is to fight or to anticipate awkward run-ins at Starbucks with exes. Even Le Tigre and football girl were exchanging friendly hugs before the night was over. No, we prefer to make peace with each other, and save the drama for prime time.