Playing with Matches; Fireballing from the Hearts

Tue. March 1, 2005 12:00 AM
by Jason Paul


It was the first night of the Hearts Foundation’s annual weekend fundraiser and JP’s first Fireball ever.

Guessing from all the swarms of ads and hype, I expected a mad crazy party but still believed things would tend to be a little lower key for day one and wanted to look the part. GQ said tuxedos and T-shirts are way in this year and Gay-ing it up a little with some east coast Christopher Street flair, I figured I’d fit in just fine.

I was wrong.

There were three things I quickly learned soon after arrival:

1. Plastic glasses at $9 a pop. The bank is going to break long before the ring of the stock exchange bell tonight boys and girls.

2. I’m way – WAY – overdressed.

But that was an easy fix.

And 3. Volunteers are Super Hot Sexy both on the front lines and backstage as well.

Thank my gay stars for my House of Blues Security Stud Lee, who found me wondering in the lobby right before the start of the night’s event.

I’m Jason Paul! I was not going to stand on some general admission line! Are you kidding? Aside from my world renowned fabulousness, I also had on my person not one, but two esteemed press credentials. Ladies please, it doesn’t get more official than laminated laser printed paper. Don’t you know who I am?

I was so grateful Lee came along, recognized my high standing celebrity status and pulled back the velvet rope to grant me entry. Thanks baby! Kiss Kiss.

(View the photos full screen.)

Oh no, this isn't just the bottle tanned bare back of just any anonymous stranger. This gent here represents the torch runner of a time honored circuit tradition in being the first to remove his blouse. Huge props go to him.

Yet rest assured the crowd wasn’t going to let him be the only one.

Here’s Anthony and his pal Brian at 11 pm.
Here’s Anthony again at 11:07.

There’s a certain sense of pride, Chicago Pride if you will, one gets when they behold their benefactor’s logo boldly emblazoned across the sky, floating about the room from a million dollar laser show.

I suppose seeing that along with me in my tailored tux with T-shirt and the CP.com logo dangling from my belt, attendants were inclined to ask me if I was indeed the owner of the highly appraised web address. To that, I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Yes.”

Damn my bumper boy responsibilities to hell! When Jessika Sterling somehow got her boot laces all knotted up – which I had absolutely nothing to do with despite whatever she says – who do you think had to get down on his knees and try to gnaw the knot loose?

An entourage of onlookers and camera snappers gawked a gasp at me while the glamorous Ms. Sterling just stood and posed! Had I known being a bumper boy would be so demeaning, I still would have agreed to it but would have done so offering a very displeased grunt, at least once. Maybe even twice.

There was more than just Mercury Rising when the tall, tan and buff Chicago pop icon took the stage in his white patent leather ensemble, exposing his body piercings with his equally undressed back up dancers.

However being in the front row with the rest of the VIP’s, and Mercury on that big tall stage, arching my neck to view him was really painful. I was forced to endure his entire hot sweaty show staring directly at his crotch.

Poor me.

The shirtless flagger boys took the stage soon after but at that point I had to put the camera away and rolled out the rest of the evening in a swanky opera box. With two more days to go, I didn’t want to blow my entire load on the first night.

Speaking of which, I did get to make out with the photographer who swore me to never tell anyone about it. (Notice the emphasis on the photographer) So all I can say, ethically speaking, is that it was hot.

And there’s Jessika walking away from me again. What? You still mad about that boot thing?


The second night was at Union Station’s Great Hall, and great it was indeed. An absolutely extraordinary venue, totally Chicago and totally architecturally old skool hip – it’s a circuit Party over the Amtrak. Serious pats on the back to whoever thought of it.

And the outside “Relief Lounge,” was probably the classiest I’ve ever experienced.

This is the night when you really let loose. It’s all about the scene. Learning my lesson from the night before, I dressed down a bit. Yet still feeling the gay need to accessorize, I affixed to my arm the popular and deliciously tattooed handsome local artist Brian Hofmeister .

Of course your not-for-profit circuit party musts were well present and accounted for. You need your flaggers, your hot ass volunteers, and your topless attendants.

This being the premier weekend event, all my industry’s elite were out in rare form. Since I always out scoop, out write, out photograph and out last all the rest, there’s no reason for any of us to engage in childish competitiveness.

It was my absolute pleasure to meet and hang with some of the local media’s finest, like Emmanuel Garcia from Scene Magazine and Pink Pages’ Blake Rogers .

I even had a brief run in with Nightspots’s editor Kirk Williamson who loved my show so much, he wanted to make me one of this year’s honored 30 under 30.

Go me! At 21.5 years old, I’m making headway rather quickly!

There are also pics with Dave Ouano (CFP/CP.com), the photo famous Jason Smith (Chicago Free Press), CP.com’s Emilio Alexandrov and Male Image Photography’s Frankie Failing . However taken well after 3am, Jason Paul was looking haggard. I refuse to post them. Sorry boys, but it’s in my contract. Totally out of my hands.

Some of us weren’t lucky enough to get an all access pass; however BFF Jessika Sterling did come down from the golden terrace to mingle with the less thans for a brief moment and allowed me the privilege of a photograph.

She even remembered my name.

Fireball’s VP of Communications and PR Keith Glennon couldn’t wait to greet me and spent many hours searching the crowds to find my entourage. With the exact same media affiliations listed on our respective résumés, he and I could be the same person, at least on paper. The only difference is he does all the commendable community organizing and fundraising grunt work while I just show up and steal all the glory.

Robbing the show everywhere they go; party girls and Fireball hostesses Ms. Vanity Fare and Ms. Russena were certainly something to behold. Of course once they got a piece a me, we all had to hang together and up we went to the VIP lounge where I looked down on all the masses and waved, like the debutante I am.

However what we all came to see that evening was the main attraction performance by Mega Superstar Kristine W! Imposing my will to push up to the front of the stage was easy, and got to snap the illustrious Ms. W in all her flaming leather fishnet glory!

Last call means time to go for JP. With one more night left, I needed some rest anyway. Besides, no photographers would make out with me. I asked. They said no.


Things only got hotter Sunday when Boi Magazine photographer J.R. joined forces with Riding the Velvet Ropes’s Jason Paul. Now with twice the man power, this dream team grabbed a drink, flashed their passes and engaged the evening to bring their readers the sexiest, most dynamic and most internal Fireball coverage this year.

The night was featured downtown at the famous multileveled Excalibur Nightclub. Of course there were Flaggers. Hot volunteers.

Jessika Sterling didn’t even pretend to know me this time.

And as always, a deep flesh toned ocean of hot buff bodies on the dance floor.

Speaking of which, I always wondered what Gay Games ’06 Martial Arts contender Brian Butler looked like topless. Now I know, and it was just as sweet silky smooth as I had always imagined it to be.

Much like his reality show counterparts, Tim is using his runner up status from Crew Bar and Grill’s Hot Jock Contest to achieve his 15 minutes of fame and bringing his gorgeous girlfriend Joy along for the ride.

Down from Milwaukee, host of Pump Night John Three was sure to offer us his greetings and a handful of drink tickets. When asked where my VIP pass was, his answer was the cute and very diplomatic, “We have a VIP room.”

Lovers came from all over the country to take part in the weekend’s revelry. The dapper duo Paul and Mark flew from Miami just for the Fireball.

And Scott and Toby drove in from Kansas.

Where as Toronto Scott and Florida Juan just figured they’d find love here.

Still these Texans show they do it best as this 7-way hailed all the way from Dallas. When asked how I could get a piece of that pie group Master Sam Clark passed me his e-mail address with a smiley face on it. Um, hello! You’re from Texas and inter-state e-mail hook ups went out in ’98!

Of course it’s okay for me to flirt. That’s my job, but I did have to remind J.R. he was there to work.

HEY! Get off my photographer! How unprofessional! (I was just jealous)

Rub my shoulders and call me cute and you’ll be sure to get your very own place in RtVR, much like this buck daddy did. However so infatuated I was with his hairy hotness (drunk), I forgot to get his name – so no different from any other date I usually go on, except this time my drink didn’t have that fizzy metallic aftertaste. Sorry!

The night’s main event was the DJ showcase featuring the spin stylings of a handful of jockeys from across the nation like Chicago local DJ Matthew Harvat and Kansas City’s DJ Jerry Griffith .

Our own Goove Line’s DJ Plez was there to show his support and called to me from over the dance floor, “Hey! You’re the Velvet Rope guy!” So grateful I was for the public recognition, I hugged him.

Feeling accomplished in what material had been gained and having such a good time (really drunk), J.R. and I went off on our own naked butt and phallic campaign. For the rest of the night we implored the Fireballers to share a little of themselves for our camera’s lens. But that, boys and girls, is a private show.

Call it what you will. Pass judgment if you must, but the Hearts Foundation still continues to throw a kick ass party while raising millions of beans for the charities that directly effect our community -- and leaving hundreds of us to crave what may come next year. Book your hotels now.

View the photos full screen.