I met my business partner Shawn on a yacht full of gay men.
This is that story…
It was Friday night in the summer of 2012. I had recently moved in with my buddy who is a member at a local marina. (It’s not as fancy as one would imagine; I think it costs $100 per year.) It was one of those beautiful nights with nothing really going on.
“Why don’t we just call up a couple of friends, grab a cooler of beer, and go sit at the dock at the marina?” he asks.
I had no desire to go out to a bar or anything like that.
“That sounds fantastic.”
A small group of us arrive with our humble set up – a couple lawn chairs, a cooler full of beer and portable speakers. We quickly notice there is some sort of party way out on one of the docks. This isn’t uncommon, but we weren’t trying to crash a party.
An hour or so goes by until someone walks by us. She’s fairly attractive, middle aged, and obviously had a few. Now… you know this lady. This is the lady that’s 50 going on 21. This is the lady who has a good job, no husband, no kids, and just loves to party. She’s the one that will walk up to any young guy in a bar and ask why he isn’t drunk enough. This lady has probably been to Mardi Gras and come back with countless beads. This particular lady introduces herself, and we all get to talking.
“We’re having a party on Dock A over there, come join us!” she says.
Boy was our set up lousy compared to this one. We’re talking a row of beautiful yachts, a bar area, music blasting, people dancing… and string lights. They even had string lights. It was the best summertime party ambiance one could imagine.
We were the youngest people there by at least 20 years. And they all had the boat owner’s lifestyle. I love that lifestyle. Carefree, and all there for the same reason: to have fun. Yet it was an eclectic group. Several middle-aged single folks, several married couples, a handful of divorcees, and a few gay and lesbian couples. My kind of crowd.
We all ended up getting hammered until about 3am.
At one point we met a very nice man named Ben (not his real name). Ben was a pretty masculine guy, made his money doing some sort of engineering. As it turns out, Ben is actually gay and married to another man named Mama (obviously not his actual name, but that is actually what people called him). Just to give you a sense of who Mama is, at one point he was doing a stripper routine to an Etta James song. Ben and Mama been together for 20 years, and own a beautiful yacht.
Now Ben, Mama and the gang took a liking to us, and one of the ladies says, “Hey, you guys need to come out on the boat on Sunday! We have a Sunday fun day every week!”
Who would turn that down?
Ben then pulls me aside.
“You guys are absolutely welcome to come, but just so you know… it’s kind of a colorful crowd.”
I look around at several of the gay men surrounding us.
“I got you.”
“Nooooo, I don’t think you do,” says Ben.
Sunday rolls around, and we grab our bathing suits and another cooler of beer and head back to the marina. When we get there we run into Ben at the entrance and greet him, arms in the air, as if to say, “We’re ready to party!”
Ben looks at us stunned.
“I honestly didn’t think you guys were gonna come.”
“Come on down, we’re just getting everything ready.”
We step onto the boat, and I see the following: Me, my roommate, about four of the middle-aged ladies… and about 40 gay men.
Now when I say gay men, I’m talking everything from “bros” with backwards hats and frat tattoos to banana hammocks and eye shadow. One spritely young lad, who affectionately became known as Tinkerbell (not by me), had on blue nail polish and carried a makeup kit. “Colorful” was an understatement.
Fuck it; let’s party!
We helped ourselves to drinks, partook in the Jell-O shots going around, and as we pulled out of the slip (I promise I’m not making this up to enhance the story), someone cranked up Dancing Queen by ABBA.
Now I’d like to take this time to say that yes, Shawn was on this boat; however, I must put his involvement into context. He had been in LA for months, and had only returned to Nashville about a week prior. He was invited by one of the middle-aged crazy ladies, and knew not what he was about to be involved in… much like myself. But we meet later in the story.
Me and my roommate had a blast. People were dancing, drinking and singing. The middle-aged crazy ladies were being middle-aged and crazy. A couple were sunbathing topless, and… Tinkerbell was on a mission.
Another quick aside: I must say, for those reading, that this part of the story gets a little risqué. Reader discretion is advised.
We came to find out that Tinkerbell was from a small town in Tennessee with a very conservative family, and hadn’t been “out” very long. So he was making up for lost time.
Tink was going around offering people fellatio.
Now, before we go any further, I did not partake in his [very generous] offer, but I can’t say this sort of thing has ever happened to me before. I was not weirded out or put off, but rather mildly impressed at his brash approach. You must admire the technique. And I never witness any evidence of it, but I’m sure, given his odds, Tinkerbell wound up succeeding. Either way… I thought it was a kind gesture.
Anyway, this is how it actually went down:
Tinkerbell approaches me and my roommate who are standing in a small group of people. He turns to my roommate first.
“Would you like a blowjob?” (I swear, he was a to-the-point kind of guy.)
“I’m good, but thank you.”
“You’re straight, aren’t you?”
He turns to me.
“You’re straight too, aren’t you?”
Tink then turns to the man, who I have never met, standing right beside me. Before a word comes out of Tink’s mouth, the man yells at him:
That, ladies and gentlemen, was by now-business partner Shawn.
Tinkerbell, rather taken aback, slinked away defeated (at least from this group of people).
The rest of the story isn’t nearly as entertaining; however, the short version is this: Shawn and I got to talking after I laughed at his comment, and it turned out we had a mutual friend. He seemed like a good person to know, so I gave him my card. Shawn is the ultimate “connector,” so he would invite me to industry shows and events. Before you knew it, we developed the concept for Nashville Underground Radio and, like young Tinkerbell… just went for it.