"Yes!" my friends and I guffawed. The word "outing" didn't exist, but we still spent a lot of time cooking up ways to let this twisted sister's coterie of straight conservative pals see what was obvious to our group of Anita Bryant-hating, Cher-loving disco boys: The Big Man on Campus was a Queen.
Finally a rumor raced around the school that the dimpled Young Republican had been arrested for doing God only knows what in a public park. To this day I'm not sure if the gossip was true. But instead of slinking back to his small town and that mythical girlfriend, he returned from the hoosegow a politically reborn gay activist, complete with brush mustache and a tank top silk screened with a pink triangle. He cut off his wavy hair, became a Democrat and spent the next two years somberly passing out gay-rights fliers.
"He was much more fun when he was in the closet," sighed my friend Scott. "And he dressed better too. He's not gay, I'm telling you. He's just a glum homosexual."
And that's my biggest complaint with Sharp's, the Brookside diner that's not a gay restaurant. In fact, Kansas City has no exclusively gay restaurant (ideally, every restaurant in town should be friendly to all its patrons -- gay, straight, whatever). But Sharp's is a nongay joint that many heterosexual diners perceive to be gay. If there's a common view of Sharp's, it's the one voiced by Lesbian and Gay Community Center director Jamie Rich: "It's a neighborhood diner that welcomes the gay community."
"If you're located in Brookside," says owner Trasi Sharp, "you have to be gay-friendly. But we're by no means a gay restaurant. Sixty to seventy percent of our clientele is straight."
Except on Saturday and Sunday mornings, that is, when the dining room is a who's who of gay theater, interior design, literature, music and fashion and the musical accompaniment is appropriate: My hot, steamy pancakes arrived just as the sound system squealed with the late disco diva Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)."
It's a signal of some sort that the most popular shift at Sharp's -- the breakfast hours -- also attracts the most culturally diverse audience. Mainstream diners may flock in for the lackluster lunches and dismal dinners, but the morning crowd makes for a livelier scene thanks to excellent (and reasonably priced) offerings of egg dishes with crispy fried potatoes and a creamy sausage gravy lovingly ladled over flaky biscuits.
To remind the tongue-in-cheek crowd that this scene is no ordinary hash house, there's a well-endowed sausage omelet called "The Italian Stallion" as well as a health-conscious one that "Does a Body Good." Both justify standing around and waiting for a table on a weekend morning. And some customers don't even have to stand around; like my (straight) friend Linda, they work the room, greeting all their old friends: "I see everyone I know at Sharp's," Linda says. "Who cares about the food?"
I care enough to agree with my actor friend David, who goes to Sharp's only in the mornings. He adores the biscuits and gravy and loves running into friends and acquaintances but thinks the place needs a makeover. "It's gotten a little shabby," he whispered one morning.