Metro Weekly

Cherry Pop

Cherry 8: Party with a Cause

Cherry 8 Main Event photographed by Michael Wichita

Three solid nights of staying up till dawn. How did the throngs who flocked last weekend to Cherry 8 do it?

For many circuit party veterans, it’s become almost second nature to party hardy all night long, all for a good cause — in this case, the Metro D.C. Center for GLBT People, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Foundation, the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), and the Mautner Project for Lesbians with Cancer. And yet, this year’s Cherry attracted plenty of “virgins” who wanted a look at the new digs that housed the Saturday night Main Event.

From the Massachusetts Avenue entrance of the mammoth new Washington Convention Center to the enormous exhibition hall where Cherry was held, it was a ten minute walk. Over 3,700 people made the journey, a number exceeding the attendance at the Old Post Office Pavilion, the former main event venue.

“Looking out from the VIP balcony,” said Cherry Fund Board Chair Martin Yeung a few days after the event, “all you could see was a sea of people. It rivaled any other party from Miami or Palm Springs.”

Yeung had good reason to be happy: this was, by all accounts, the smoothest, most professionally run event in Cherry’s eight year history.

There were a few minor glitches, of course. Several revelers complained about having just missed the 2 a.m. cutoff at the bar, an hour earlier than usual in D.C. There was no coat check, which on a chilly spring night forced some to stash their coats wherever they could. But these were minor compared with the party potency of the Main Event itself.

The vastness of the Convention Center was moderately disorienting. Dillon, from Alexandria, lost his friends somewhere as they left him to take a bathroom break. And Jeff, from Cleveland, lost the guys he came with somewhere on the dance floor. He couldn’t stick around to chat, since he was about to lose the new friends he’d just met.

The Convention Center beverage contractors didn’t think to carry Red Bull, a much-needed staple for many clubgoers to make it through the night. So patrons had to make do with alternative sources of party fuel. For many, alcohol worked wonders. Cleveland’s Jeff and his friends took breaks from the dance floor at regular intervals, to get another, and then another, and then another shot of Jagermeister. Others preferred slightly stronger substances.

The dancing queens couldn’t have been happier with the Main Event DJs, Brett Henrichsen and Tom Stephan. Henrichsen went on first, at 9 p.m., a good two hours before anyone but Cherry planners were present. A seven o’clock cocktail hour kicked off the evening, but only a handful of attendees saw the short films screened by Reel Affirmations, and a fistful more saw the Whitman-Walker Clinic’s G-Net boys demonstrate the art of catching XXL dildos. You snooze, you lose.

Would circuit fans still attend even if the Cherry Fund were a profit-making enterprise, with no charitable disposition? Probably. But the nonprofit, philanthropic nature is worth celebrating. And Yeung was doing just that toward the end of the Sunday night’s Closing Party at Nation (Scene, page 31), where preliminary figures indicated the night would be an unqualified success.

“Sunday night was the best we’ve ever done in terms of door sales,” said Yeung. “Ever.”

The main dance floor at Nation was still packed as the clock struck 5 a.m. (perhaps the crowd was hoping for an encore performance from the incredible Eye of Newt Circus), and a majority of boys queried at random confessed that they were skipping work on Monday, calling in gay.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.