After a lazy Sunday afternoon walking along the West Side piers, what better way to finish a nice summer day than to embark on the “Queen of Hearts” for a little cruise around Manhattan as the sun sets over the city. All summer long, this charming boat is home to “the Gay Sailing Tea Dance”. Each Sunday, a different gay organization takes over the decks of this boat and provides the entertainment, in the forms of drag queens, go-go boys and the occasional porn studs, bringing its own distinctive flavor to the party. On our first trip on the “Queen of Hearts”, the theme is decidedly “old school”, and the party is helmed by a former resident DJ at the Saint nightclub, Robbie Leslie. This veteran of the New York dance music scene got his start in the 70’s playing in Fire Island, before landing a residency at the mythical East Village gay disco during the glorious 80’s.
The dance floor is located on the upper deck of the boat, in the open air, and offers a gorgeous point of view on the skyline of Manhattan. The main deck has a bar and a lounge area, while the lower deck is occupied by a vast dining room where a buffet dinner is served during the cruise. Robbie Leslie has brought out his loyal followers that probably were introduced to his music back in the Saint days, and tonight feels like a mini “Saint reunion” on the deck of the Queen of Hearts. The veterans of this glorious era have come out in full force to rekindle the flame and dance to the classic disco tracks and early house anthems spun with grace and elegance by Robbie Leslie. The Latin diva Laritza Dumont is the mistress of ceremony: she graces the love boat of her glamorous presence and gives a delightful performance later in the evening with her rendition of old-school cabaret songs. Meanwhile, as the sun sets over Manhattan and the ship sails under the Brooklyn Bridge, the party is peaking on the upper deck. The classic tunes spun by Robbie Leslie send the revelers on a trip down memory lane, and this festive atmosphere that smells good of poppers and marijuana makes you almost feel like it is 1984 again.
The promoter, Michael Fesco, is a veteran from the New York gay club scene. His summer cruises convey a beautiful, somewhat old-school and nostalgic vibe. The great variety of themes and co-hosts keep the party fresh and lively and the list of rotating organizations featured each week is enough to satisfy all tastes and likings. Some of the theme include: the Muscle Bears cruise, the Latino hunks cruise, the Rentboys cruise, the gay men’s chorus cruise and even the Gay Police Officers cruise.
Boarding starts at 6 PM and the boat leaves the pier at 7:30 pm to return by 10:30 pm, which leaves just enough time to appreciate the magnificent sight of the sunset over the New York skyline and be back home by bedtime.