QUEER EYE ON THE PITTSBURGH GUY
Happy Labor Day everyone! I thought I'd post a fun little bit of fluff in honor of the holiday. It's unbetaed so blame no one for the errors. I've had conversations with various list sibs about assigning roles to the QAF boys to fit the Fab 5 on Queer Eye On The Straight Guy on Bravo. I thought it might be fun to take it a step farther, and just riff on it. So here it is. With a very deep bow to Carson, Thom, Ted, Jai and Kyan. Hope you enjoy. Have a happy and safe holiday. Love to all, Randall
"What's wrong with Deb?" Brian asked with a penetrating look in the waitress's direction, as she worked the breakfast crowd. "Is she going through the change? Again? She's being such a bitch."
Michael rolled his eyes at his best friend's inquiry. "I think it's all about her sex life."
"What sex life would that be?" Brian persisted.
Justin giggled, leaning into his lover's shoulder, as he said, "Bitch!"
"Seriously, is she having some secret sex life we don't know about? God, I hope so, for her sake. Other than the battery operated kind, I mean."
Michael scooted over as Ted and Emmett squeezed in beside him. "If you don't mind, Brian, I prefer not to think of my mother with a vibrator."
"Ditto," Ted announced.
"That makes three of us," Emmett agreed with a groan. "What did we miss? This sounds fascinating. Oh, hi, Deb. We were just discussing moms and vibrators."
"Well, if you can get your brains out of the gutter long enough to order, I have other tables to serve!" Debbie snapped at them and Emmett made the sign of the cross with his cutlery as if to hold her at bay.
Brian gave Michael a knowing look and they all ordered quickly.
"Is Horvath still out of the romance picture?" Justin asked as Debbie left with their orders. Michael shrugged.
"He's called. He's tried to make up to her, but she's cold-shouldered him. She says he'll never really make any changes in his life, so she's not willing to give him a second chance."
"Don't knock second chances," Brian said, slipping an arm over Justin's shoulders and kissing him as Ted and Emmett beamed and Michael looked sour. "It's not half bad."
Justin patted Brian's thigh under the table and Brian leered at him. "Don't touch me below the waist unless you mean it."
"Do you two mind?" Michael complained. "We're about to eat, here!"
"I think it's sweet," Emmett defended. "I love to see old marrieds still able to show affection towards one another."
Brian picked up his fork and held it like a machete. "I have tableware and I know how to use it. So why is Deb being so inflexible about old Carl, Mikey? It's not as if she has a bunch of hopefuls standing by."
"I don't know. It's her belief that he's hopelessly in a rut. She sees that as the way their future would be. Bowling and beer with the guys."
"Kind of like us, except it's BLOWING and beer with the guys," Ted observed. Brian shot him a long look.
"You have a problem with that, Theodore?"
"I didn't think so. You know what's wrong with Carl?"
"He's old and fat and bald?" Justin said with the callous honesty of extreme youth.
"I'm sure he seems less old and fat and bald to a woman his age, brat. Carl needs some faggots in his life. He's lost touch with what's cool and what's right for him because he stopped noticing those social things thirty years ago. There aren't any fags in his life to remind him of where the world has gone since he stopped looking."
"I don't think Horvath's going to go out trolling for queers to ask their advice on what he needs to do to show my mother he's capable of changing," Michael said with a laugh.
"So we could bring the queers to him," Brian replied. "Look at us. Who knows more about fashion and grooming and what's in and what's not and how to cook a decent meal and how to fix up your life than we do?"
"Any five fags in New York City?" Emmett suggested. Brian glared at him.
"We're just as gay as any five fags in New York City. And what little we don't know or can't do, we all know faggots who can and do."
"What are you suggesting exactly, Brian?" Justin bore in on his lover's scheme.
"Debbie's done a lot for us... all of us. We could do this one thing for her. I say we put the queer eye on Carl and bring him out of his Alley Oop alternative universe and into this century."
"And he would do this because?" Michael asked warily.
"Because he wants to fuck your mother," Brian answered, and they began to conspire as Debbie left their food and their bill without so much as a smile.
Carl Horvath was spending his Saturday the way he always spent his Saturdays. He finished his grocery shopping for the week before the crowds were out of bed. He washed his car, dropped off his laundry and circled the TV Guide for the must-see sports events he couldn't miss. Dressed in his favorite maroon velour track suit with the navy running stripe, the zipper of the jacket lowered to show a patch of grizzly chest hair, he was forced from his easy chair when his doorbell rang. He expected it to be the kid who threw his paper collecting for the month, but instead he found five strapping young men on his doorstep, one of whom, was wielding a video camera and taping the whole thing.
On their way over in a rented van, they discussed their assignments yet again. Brian was in charge of grooming and fashion. Ted was going to try and spruce up the dining room and living room of the nondescript tract house where Horvath lived. They had goaded a small team of volunteers to assist in the painting and furniture moving since time was of the essence. The others were due to show up within the hour. Emmett was in charge of teaching Carl the finer aspects of preparing a meal to show off that talent for someone special. Justin was to inject some of the twenty-first century into Horvath's time capsule. Ben was there to teach him a few cultural tips that might widen his conversational span, and was also their main cameraman. Michael had the hardest job of all. He had to convince his mother to show up at Horvath's house that evening.
Horvath looked at them with a confused expression and Emmett said, "First thing to go are those leprechauns on the lawn. They scare the shit out of me."
"Those are gnomes and they're from Germany," Horvath defended. "What the hell are you guys doing here?"
"Carl, you want Debbie back, right?" Brian asked. "You don't have to answer, we know you do. And we want you to have her back because frankly she's been a bitch since you two broke up. So we're here to make that happen."
"And how do you propose to do that?"
"Her big complaint is that you're rigid and not in a positive, life- affirming way. We're going to show her how pliant you can be. Look at us Carl, and then look at yourself. Let's face facts. We know a hell of a lot more about looking good and luring the flesh than you do. May we come in?"
Horvath stepped aside, unsure of what else he could do. "Oh holy shit," Ted said as they came into the main room of the house. "I think Ozzie and Harriett lived here."
"Fifties stuff is cool, though," Justin assured him, wondering if it were possible to pare down all the decades of bad choices to get down to the basic fifties styled furnishings at the core of the room.
Ted lifted an arrangement of orange and red plastic flowers from a table top and blew away a coating of dust. "Flowers don't accumulate dust, Carl. Flowers are supposed to smell nice and be soothing to the eye. These things are a wound."
"Oh my GOD!" Emmett's cry came from the kitchen. They wandered in that direction where they found him holding a grease-coated frying pan in one hand and a package of bacon in the other. "Everything in the fridge is either brewed from hops, culled from animal fat or capable of being deep fried!"
"I eat out a lot," Carl grumbled in his own defense and Emmett glared at him.
"Honey, if these were my choices, so would I! I'm going to teach you a new color. Green. Eat it occasionally."
Brian had gone upstairs, accompanied by Justin, to assess Horvath's wardrobe potential. He opened the one small closet and began flipping through the hangars. "Whatever you do, don't light a cigarette," he quipped to Justin. "There are enough petroleum products hanging in this closet to reassemble a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Is this a tie or a breast plate?" Brian held a wide, multi-striped tie up to his chest and Justin groaned.
"It's horrible. And look at this, Bri. A magazine called 'Jugs'? Why?" He picked it up from the bedside table and Brian raised a single brow as he took in a jar of Vaseline beside it.
"Put that down, you know where the hands that touched it have been. Someone needs to introduce Carl to KY-Liquid. Vaseline, for chrissakes?"
Justin tossed the magazine aside with a shudder, and smoothed his hand across the sheets of the unmade bed. They were a faded floral. "Can we replace these as well?"
"We have a limited budget based mainly on what we could induce all of our gay friends in various relevant businesses to donate to this experiment. Maybe, yeah, we'll see. I wouldn't put my fine, bare ass down on those sheets. That's it. There's nothing in here to wear. Nothing. My father had a better wardrobe. Even the jeans are polyester." He walked into the bathroom, cringing at what he found. Cheap shaving foam in a can, disposable razors, pink, obviously bought on sale, Old Spice, and not a single product for skin care. The shampoo was even a shampoo/conditioner combo which explained the greasy state of Carl's comb-over. "Disaster," Brian said, tossing item after item into the trash. "Add a new shower curtain and some decent towels to the list, kid. This curtain has the mange."
"What the hell are you two doing?" Carl asked in exasperation, and Brian glared at him.
"Do you have no conscience when it comes to your skin? Your hair? God gave you that, you know. This is how you treat that gift? Come on, Carl, we have an appointment with a friend of mine."
"Come with, Justin. You can educate him while we shop."
"You're abandoning us?" Ben said with a grin as Brian motioned for Justin to take over the camera.
"He's too far gone to be helped at home. He needs hospice care. Later, and good luck. Tell Ted new shower curtain, towels and linens, too."
"You got it."
"Where are you taking me?" Carl asked uneasily, allowing Brian to drive his car since he didn't know where they were headed. Brian explained the others would need the van for their own chores.
"I have a very good friend," he exchanged a look with Justin who smirked at him. "Who has kindly volunteered his skills to give you a new look. His feeling is if he can make an improvement so visible that your friends notice, he may end up expanding his already successful business to the straight world."
"Not to mention, he hopes to have a shot at your ass," Justin teased and Horvath winced.
"No gay guy is getting a shot at my ass!"
"Not yours, Brian's," Justin responded with a giggle.
"Trust me on this, Carl. No gay guy wants your ass," Brian reassured him, and drove to Liberty where the spa and salon was located. They were greeted by a tall slim man with spiky black hair wearing heavy black frames for glasses and a body hugging black shirt and slacks. He kissed Brian and Justin on the lips and then grabbed Carl by both arms and stared hard at him.
"You're kidding me, right?" he said to Brian who shook his head.
"Hey!" Horvath protested and the stylist sighed. "No offense, honey, but you're what we call in the trade an unpaved road. Let's waste no time. Facial, manicure, pedicure and restyle. Oh god, what have I gotten myself into and for WHAT reward?"
Brian winked at him, and he suddenly perked up, leading Carl towards the back. Justin glared at his lover. "Are you really going to pop for him?"
"No, but he doesn't know that. Come on, let's go supervise the transformation."
Later, Carl emerged smooth-shaven, his skin fresh from a facial, his haywire brows tamed with waxing, and his balding pate shaved down so that what hair he had left flattered rather than distracted from his face. Justin smiled and clapped his hands. "Bravo! You look ten years younger."
"I feel bald," Carl complained. "But that pedicure was great."
Brian smiled and slapped his back. "Even young guys with hair shave their heads. You still have hair around the fringe, it's not a total Yul, but it's good. Comb-overs are bad, Carl. Comb-overs should be illegal."
"Easy for you to say with all that hair," Carl grumbled, missing the exchange between Brian and the stylist.
"Babylon tonight? Backroom?" The stylist reminded him and Brian nodded, ignoring Justin's glare as they left together.
"Now what?" Carl asked, having given himself over to the inevitable.
"Now we get you out of that slipcover and into something hot," Brian explained as Justin went to work.
"Deb feels you're in a rut. So tonight, after your dinner, you're going to surprise her with a tango. Women love to tango. Men love to tango. It's sexy, it's elegant, she'll melt in your arms."
"I don't know how to tango," Carl complained and Justin shrugged.
"If you can walk, you can tango. After we get some clothes, I'll teach you some steps."
"He's a great dancer," Brian bragged on his lover. "He was the King of Babylon after all."
"Shut UP, Brian," Justin said with a giggle and Carl didn't even ask what that meant. Brian took him to his favorite designer boutique, having promised the owner he would walk down the catwalk wearing his fashions next month in exchange for some reasonable freebies or deep discounts. In the dressing room, Carl stripped to his long, baggy skivvies and a droopy undershirt. Brian, Justin and the owner stared at the three-way mirror view of their Cinderfella and collectively sighed.
"Nothing we can do about that unfortunate...." the owner mimicked Carl's protruding belly as if unsure of what to call it. "That uh...."
"Gut," Carl supplied a term for him. "I call it my gut. I earned this gut with years of pizza and beer. It's a trophy."
"Then you should get it engraved and put it up on a shelf," Brian said with a sarcastic glare. "But it's too late for a gastric bypass since Deb's coming over tonight. So let's do what we can, Steve. Let's see what you got."
Justin played with his Game Boy while seated on the suede couch in the boutique, bored with the debate over the potential fashions while Carl dutifully tried on and rejected several choices. Finally, he emerged in Brian's favorite black silk gabardine shirt, black and gray woven silk and wool trousers and a charcoal cashmere blazer.
"Wow," Justin said from the couch. "He looks...okay!"
Brian stood behind Carl, fussing over the drape of the jacket while the owner tested several different belts with the outfit. They decided on a plain black calfskin with a small silver buckle, and rounded the look off with smooth black leather Gucci loafers. "I can't say I'd fuck you," Brian observed. "But I might ask you where you got that jacket."
"You look twenty pounds thinner and ten years younger," the owner said, giving Brian a dirty look. Horvath stared at his image and smiled. He felt twenty pounds thinner and ten years younger. The clothes were flattering and sophisticated, fashionable without sacrificing either his masculinity or his age.
"I like it," he admitted with a grin. "I really do."
"Good, now bag it up, and let's go. We have a dance to learn," Justin said, taking over. Brian told him he would get a ride back to the house, planning to supervise the work going on there. Justin had reserved a dance rehearsal hall at the college, and one of the instructors, who was very fond of Justin's blond beauty, had agreed to give his straight friend a few pointers on the tango. He used Justin as his partner, rewarding himself with an armful of the unavailable blond. Justin tolerated it for the lesson, for this was a donation he could draw.
Meanwhile, Michael and the lesbians, assisted by Vic, were tackling a testy Deb.
"I don't see why I have to get all dolled up to go out with you guys!" She complained, wincing as Lindsay shaped her brows with tweezers.
"I told you, Mom, Brian is treating us all to dinner at a fancy restaurant to celebrate some big account he landed. It'll be fun. I'm even gonna wear a suit."
"That may be worth it to see you dressed up for a change, but damn it Michael, Brian Kinney couldn't give a good goddamn how I look, so why do I have to be remade?"
"It'll be fun," Lindsay assured her. "Mel, go get that dress we got for Deb as a surprise."
"Titanic disaster," Mel whispered to Vic as she passed him in the doorway.
He nodded and whispered back, "All lives lost."
When Carl came home with Justin, whose feet were still aching from being soundly trounced by his less than agile dance partner, he paused to stare in wonder at what used to be his house. The walk leading up to the house was gnome-free, with terra cotta planters holding flowering plants left in their place. A hanging basket of ruby flowers continued the theme, brightening the porch. Hammered tin luminaras lined the sidewalk, waiting until dusk when the candles inside each one would be lit. The smell of paint was only less shocking than the lack of clutter as they went in. All extraneous knick-knacks had been stored in the attic, and the remaining blond wood classic furnishings from the fifties-era were properly showcased with freshly gleaming hardwood floors and some hastily purchased fun lamps and art objects secured from a period-appropriate vintage store.
The room looked like a set from a fifties-styled bachelor pad, with low slung chairs, amoeba shaped table and curving couch. The pale turquoise wall color enhanced the mood and the chandelier over the dining room table looked like the Sputnik, throwing glow on the colorful Fiesta ware that marked the place settings for two people.
"Can you believe we found a whole collection of Fiesta ware in a box in the attic?" Ted said jubilantly. "Mint condition!"
"It was my mother's," Carl explained. "Old stuff. It looks pretty good all set up that way. And the candles that are the same bright colors are a nice touch. What smells so good?"
Emmett came from the kitchen, dressed in an apron and brandishing a wooden spoon. "Look at you, cutie! The hair is to die for! I can't wait to see you in those clothes Brian brought back. In keeping with the festive theme of the pottery, and the era reflected in the house, we're having a south of the border feast. Here's the trick. You're assembling the whole thing yourself. Not a big deal. I rented a frozen margarita machine, and yes, we all tested it several times and it works. Too well. Ben was absolutely silly for awhile. There will be a taco bar, so you sort of assemble it yourself, and Spanish rice, and to start, homemade guacamole and a luscious queso dip to be served in a new fondue pot. Fondue is huge now, honey."
The sound of a margarita being extruded from a machine punctuated the atmosphere and Emmett rolled his eyes with frustration. "Ben! Brian! Stay away from that machine! We've already run through a whole package of mix and a bottle of tequila!"
Carl would find other surprises upstairs. His bed linens were replaced with a plain taupe and gray blended duvet and shams to match the new charcoal sheets. The walls were toned down to taupe with white trim and the bathroom was the same color scheme with a heavy fabric shower curtain to match the linens and towels that were charcoal gray topped with washcloths that were taupe. The expensive skin care products and scent that Brian wheedled out of the salon replaced all of Carl's discount store purchased toiletries.
The time came for him to dress. His cooking lesson was still wandering through his mind as he tried to balance all that he learned from Ben with the dance lesson, the cooking tips and the grooming pointers. Of course, the big imponderable was yet to be known. Would Debbie show up? If not, Horvath would go looking for five faggots that night in order to reclaim his old life.
Gathered at Brian's loft, the miracle workers all hovered around his flat screen computer which was broadcasting streaming video from a hidden camera Ben left in Carl's home. It took in only the dining and living room, and they had a gentleman's agreement if things got romantic, they would cut it off. No one wanted to see that kind of thing, anyway. But they did want to see how the date went, and whether Carl took their advice. They were all sipping green apple martinis in the loft, when Carl came downstairs, dressed to the nines in the outfit from the boutique.
"He looks fabulous!" Emmett insisted, clapping his hands and Brian nodded, the proud wizard.
"He certainly looks better. He's tolerable."
"Ah," Ted observed with a smile as Carl turned on the music, picked up by the microphone. "I chose fifties classics, with a romantic turn. Torch songs. Fever, The Man I Love, That's Amore, you know, a perfect mix for this kind of reunion. Yes, he's lighting the candles, good. Do you think those flowers are too garish?"
"Garish?" Justin said with a laugh, focusing on the centerpiece of brightly colored spring flowers on the table. "Isn't it supposed to be? To go with the china?"
"It's perfect," Ben reassured him. "Uh-oh, doorbell. I hope he remembered to light the luminaras."
Carl crossed himself as he walked to the front door, bringing an "Awww" from his unseen audience. Debbie was standing there, flanked by Michael and Vic, who were keeping her from retreating. "She looks good," Brian observed, noting that the simple black dress with a floral, fringed shawl and subdued makeup were a perfect touch. The lesbians had a sense of style their kind was often not credited for having.
Debbie stared slack-jawed at Carl's new look and he beamed at her. "I'm not staying," she said automatically, and then added, not without a hint of admiration, "What the fuck happened to you?"
"I updated my look. For you. Come in, Deb. You look beautiful," he handed her a single red, long-stemmed rose bringing another appreciative sigh from his unseen audience.
"Maybe for a second...jesus! Look at this place! What the fuck?"
Brian laughed. "I love it when Deb is so eloquent and ladylike."
"Which is always," Justin observed wryly as Vic and Michael took a quick look around, and then smiled.
"We're gone, Mom. Have fun," Michael kissed her cheek, and she waved them away, still lost in the redesign of her surroundings. Michael and Vic rushed back to the car where Melanie and Lindsay awaited them, prepared to make record speed on their way to the loft.
"Carl, what the fuck is going on?" Debbie challenged him, and he motioned for her to sit and try the guacamole dip that was in a colorful Fiesta ware chip and dip set placed on the coffee table. He went to the kitchen and returned with two frozen margaritas, sitting beside her on the couch as she exclaimed how good the dip tasted.
"Since when can you prepare anything that isn't fried?" Debbie grilled him and he sighed.
"Look, Deb, you thought I was incapable of change. Well, you're wrong. I can change, and I will, if it will make you happy."
Another sigh from the boys followed that remark. Debbie looked him over again, then nodded. "I get it. It's a conspiracy. You've been Brianized, I know that look you're wearing. It's pure Brian Kinney's perfect taste. And the music? And the clean look of the place? Ted. And I've had this dip recipe before. Emmett. What else do you have in mind?"
The music changed to a tango, and he stood and offered his hand to her, leading her into a dance. "Justin," she murmured against his ear as he clasped her to his body. No one could dance like Justin.
Carl leaned back and looked at her with a smile. "It gives a whole new definition to the term, 'fairy godfathers', doesn't it?"
She laughed as she agreed that it did, and Brian leaned over to switch off the computer as the others complained loudly. "I think we've seen our success," he said. "What follows are terrible things gay boys should never have to experience."
"I'll drink to that," Justin agreed, refilling his martini glass from the shaker as Michael and the girls joined them. They shared the success story they had witnessed as they sat around the loft, waiting for the Chinese food they ordered to arrive. Justin suddenly proclaimed, "You know, maybe there's something in this idea. We go to straight guy after straight guy and teach him a few grooming tips and design hints to spruce up his looks and his environment, spreading joy to breeders everywhere. And charge for it."
"Why not put it on national television? Let the breeder world in general profit from our infallible taste?" Emmett suggested, as Brian laughed.
"Yeah, the breeders would be sure to tune in to a bunch of faggots redesigning the het world in their images."
They all agreed it was a dumb idea, if titillating, trolling through the channels for something they could agree to watch as the romance they rekindled across town continued to ignite.
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July 25, 2004