Auld Lang Syne.

Amateur night. The night when people put on party hats and act like they can hold their liquor. They hug, kiss, drink, make resolutions, drink some more.

You always know New Year’s Day is approaching because all the TV stations have their “Best of” lists, their hangover suggestions, and their gentle reminders about resolutions. I even saw a sale today – “Let’s resolved to get organized this year honey, go to Home Depot for their big sale.” Jeez.

I find going out for New Year’s is less of a priority. It’s like Valentine’s Day – restaurants pass out noisemakers and cheap champagne, then charge out the wazoo for a fixed menu they produce by the boatload. Crap food dressed up to look nice. I’d rather celebrate at home and save the celebrating for a regular mundane day in early March when I really need it because the winter crazies have hit me hard. Yay, I didn’t kill anyone today, let’s crack open some champagne.

I do have a few memorable New Year’s I’d like down in writing – recorded somewhere so when I’m too old to remember them I can say, “Wow, I did that? Nice.”

So, in no particular order:

New Year’s 1977
It could’ve been any year in the 70’s. As a kid it was the pleading to stay up late, the thrill at watching the ball drop, Dick Clark and “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” all that stuff. I can remember wishing I was there in Times Square because everyone seemed so excited, jumping up and down like they’d won the lottery. And the dancers inside looked blissfully happy, covered in disco glitter, glaring at the camera saying, “Don’t you wish you were me?”

One year my parents went to a party at a friend’s house and got so drunk they couldn’t drive home, so we spent the night. That was the coolest, an impromptu sleepover complete with brunch the next morning. We never got brunch growing up, only on Christmas so that was a special treat.

I remember playing HotWheels with their son Michael, crashing cars on the looping track over and over way into the night. Mom’s friend Tony playing 70’s rock tunes on a reel-to-reel stereo system. Mom was actually really pissed we couldn’t drive home that night, but as a kid you block out the fighting and yelling, you just remember that it felt like an adventure.

Patrick’s House – 1983
My first real boyfriend. I asked to go over his house to watch the ball drop, all so I could have someone to kiss at midnight. And we did, sitting on a beanbag, watching those people freeze their asses off in Times Square and this time girls with big hair and guys in skinny ties dancing to Huey Lewis or something equally terrible. Still looking blissfully happy.

It’s funny about New Year’s, the momentum builds until midnight, you jump, scream, kiss, hug, blow horns and throw glitter, dancing around and then maybe an hour later, it’s like, “What now?”

And the older I get that moment comes sooner and sooner. We stay up, toast another year, flip channels a while, then say, “Okay, off to bed.” Another year down.

I’m digressing. I remember my heart pounding hard right before midnight 1983 because it was the first time ever I had someone special to smooch at the stroke of twelve. I felt like Cinderella. It was so innocent and poignant, just like you’d think it would be. I’ll never forget it.

New York – 1992 (or thereabouts)
The only time I’ve actually gone to Times Square. A bunch of friends racing like mad people for the train from D.C. to New York – a last minute decision because an acquaintance offered us his apartment for the weekend and promised us “Big Fun” and big parties. It was our Sex and the City weekend – just imagine the show and yep, that was us. Throwing party clothes into carryon bags, making sure we would be bejeweled and high-heeled for a big city adventure.

It was cold as shit and because back then it was better to look good than to feel good darling, I didn’t wear a winter coat. Just a navy strapless cocktail dress and sheer wrap. And heels. I looked great walking 40 blocks, my hair big and curly, the only problem was that Kevin thought he could do makeup too and so my eyebrows looked frightening and my lips garish. But the lights in the clubs were dark so that helped things somewhat. I remember Kevin’s friend had so much pancake on he looked like a ghost. I remember my feet hurting and being cold, but I didn’t care. There were no cabs, subways too crowded, but I was in New York baby!

We couldn’t all fit in the one cab we got early on. So Eva in her beehive pompadour lay across us horizontally. We paid the driver $20 extra. Howling with laughter, feet and hands everywhere, the cab driver shaking his head, Eva screaming, “Watch the hair guys, watch the hair!”

First stop? Some club for drinks – but then we went to a loft party – some guy who had helped finance the documentary “Paris is Burning” – I held up a wall and watched Patty Davis act drunk and drape herself all over everyone. And I met Lypsinka – out of drag and looking like a Microsoft nerd in a down vest and jeans. I never would’ve recognized her.

Later we danced in a tight circle at Jackie 60, then eavesdropped on Debbie Harry holding court in the basement. I met Patrick McMullan and Chi Chi Valenti and felt pretty fucking cool since I was a lifetime subscriber to Interview back then. And here I was in Jackie 60! Interview was my guide to life living in little ol’ Richmond, Virginia. I could hardly believe it. It was my own “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” come to life, except better. Because the music was HOUSE.

Glasgow, Scotland – 1995
New Year’s here is less of an event than Burns Night (1/25) but it’s still pretty nuts. In Edinburgh they do a huge military tattoo in front of Edinburgh castle and pretty much everyone is hyped up on lager. I remember a small flat in Cumbernauld, feeling colder than I could have ever thought possible. We drank a case of Stella Artois that Stewart’s brother had brought back cheap from France. Said brother was in Shropshire for the holidays, so we drank his beer. Needless to say he wasn’t happy when he got back. I remember fireworks on TV, Deacon Blue on the stereo, cold Stella Artois and chicken pakora to wash it down.

Washington, DC – The Benetton Party – 1994 (?)
My sister, friends and I all drove to Washington from Richmond for the party of the century. The Greek tycoon who owned pretty much every Benetton on the East Coast was holding a thank you/New Year’s party for his employees. I was in college, working two jobs, one of them the evening shift at Benetton – folding sweaters and selling sweaters, but constant folding, folding, folding.

This party was incredible, and to this day I wonder how much he spent. An entire office building lobby was set up to look like Rio at Carnivale, and the party came complete with dancers in huge headdresses covered in rhinestones sashaying down a spiral staircase to the music of a steel drum salsa samba rhumba band. I obviously don’t know my Latin music, but those guys were great. If you weren’t dancing, you were dead. The food was incredible, the desserts were incredible, and the drinks were free. There were miniature musical instruments on five huge Christmas trees and after much champagne, we of course tried to play like the guys on stage. At midnight balloons and confetti fell from the ceiling and I remember all of us looking around stunned, as if to say, “Wow, are we really here?” It felt like Rio. Even today when I think of the top five parties I’ve ever been to, this one rates right up there. There was nothing cheesy or “New Year’s Evey” about it. It was just a great friggin’ party.

Chincoteague, Virginia – 2000
My then fiance and I went to Chincoteague for Christmas week – to hike, to drink wine, mainly to rest. Again, it was cold and the beaches were deserted, but we bundled up and hiked around the wetlands, stopping in a Mom and Pop restaurant to dethaw every so often.

The wind felt like a knife across the beach, but the horses, who so often steer clear of the tourists, came right up to us to stare. “Why are you here this time of year you fools?” they seemed to ask. I loved the feeling of the deserted winter beach, no one but us around, drinking from a flask and trying to stay warm.

New Year’s Eve found us at the local VFW, guests of the “Year of the Horse Inn” owner, who I guess thought he could make some money out of selling a “Chincoteague New Year” package to tourists. I’ve discovered he’s since sold the B&B and moved elsewhere, but it was a nice little place to stay. We had our own table, party hats and favors, and some really terrible champagne. But the band was good, and the people at our table friendly.

We got totally trashed – I remember going in the bathroom and catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror – New Year’s tiara, Mardi Gras beads, plastic champagne flute and a noisemaker all in my hands, purse tucked up under my arm. I cracked up laughing. I looked totally ridiculous and it was fantastic.

Las Vegas – 2002
My husband and I came to Vegas for the first time for some much needed R&R. I always thought we’d “do Vegas” one time and be done with it, but it’s so much fun we’ve been back three more times. Anyway, we chose Christmas week for our first trip, rather than travel to every relative and their mother to visit. Just because we don’t have kids, doesn’t mean that we’re the ones “obligated” to do the visiting. We deserve a great Christmas break too.

I’m digressing again. This trip was fantastic. The food here is fantastic, the gambling and drinking are great, and there is so much to see and do it’s like Disney for grownups.

For New Year’s we decided to go “Old Vegas” and see Wayne Newton live at the Riviera. Old school Vegas with Old School Wayne. They shut down The Strip and turn it into a giant pedestrian walkway. So while everyone is walking downtown to see the fireworks, we’re walking uptown, toward the older casinos to see Wayne. I remember people calling out, “You’re going the wrong way!” Yeah, whatever dude, I come from Pittsburgh, land of fireworks.

As we walked, we passed every type of humanity. It was crazier than Times Square. Old people, young kids, teenagers, you name it. This one guy had a plastic glass around his neck that was as tall as he was. One huge daiquiri. When we asked him what it was, he replied, “The best $30 I’ve ever spent. This here is 100 ounces of happiness.” Yeah, and if you drop it, you won’t lose any, because it was hanging around his neck on a rope! Truly bizarre, Vegas genius.

We also saw doomsdayers – people in white robes with big signs that said, “The End is Near!” For some reason, I kept thinking of Stephen King’s book, “The Stand”. Hmmmmm…..isn’t Las Vegas the city in that book where “The Dude” appears? I felt for a moment like I was living the book.

Wayne was awesome, but his fans were even better. I didn’t bring a camera because I didn’t want to carry a purse, and I regret it. We saw an old guy in a brown velvet tuxedo with a ruffled shirt and the most perfectly coiffed combover I’ve ever witnessed. His date had on a baby-blue evening gown and a tower of black, high hair. Hair so tall and coiled it put Madame de Pompadour to shame. It was better than a David Lynch movie.

You just know this couple spent hours getting duded up and set for their big night out. They sat in the front row and of course Wayne bent down during his show and gave her a kiss. She giggled and blushed like a schoolgirl, and I just howled with laughter. You go girl! In all your finery getting a piece of Wayne!

We saw a guy actually get thrown out of the casino like in the movies and the hubby witnessed a chick pulling a “Britney” because she was too drunk to walk, but that couple was definitely the highlight. As we slowly made our way back downtown, among the literally THOUSANDS of messy drunks (amateurs!) and discarded horns and beads, I kept wishing we’d just stayed at the Riviera. I wanted to soak up more of its “Wayne-ness” and sit and watch the Riviera and its goings on. Not as pretty, not as sanitized, way more interesting. While other people were watching fireworks and Ashanti shaking her booty in front of the Venetian, we got to see some of the real Las Vegas. I mean how much more Vegas can you get? New Year’s with Wayne at the Riviera, the same place my parents had stayed in 1973. It was awesome.

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