His butt drove them crazy.
Ancinello was a genetic freak. He had this bubble butt that sent the patrons of the gay nightclubs where we worked together as go-go dancers into a wild, frenzied state. It was as if he had two bowling balls implanted atop his hamstrings -- two perfectly spherical globes of glute muscle tissue above his thighs, defying the laws of gravity.
Excited boys made it rain with dollar bills to show their appreciation.
I'm no stranger to the art of a well curated posterior -- I make sure my personal training clients always get some good work in on their behinds. And let's face it, in this crazy day and age, everyone wants a good butt.
Speaking of which, there was no buts about who had the best butt on the go-go circuit. The numbers don't lie, and when all the dollar bills were counted, Ancinello was the clear fan favorite.
At the back of the club where we worked, the manager had spared every expense in making sure the go-go boys were poorly accommodated. He painlessly took no time at all to organize for the back of a delivery truck to be used as a makeshift changing room for the dancers he employed.
In winter, I'd sit there on my break, trying to get some semblance of warmth off the smallest heater ever invented as I counted my hard earned dollar bills carefully. It was all very Dickensian -- David Copperfield as imagined by John Waters.
Now, throughout my life, most every dollar I've earned has been earned with my sweat, and go-go dancing didn't buck this trend. I had to work my not so popular ass off.
Ancinello on the other hand was an anomaly. He made the art of making tons of money on the go-go stage look easy. He would arrive, wearing both his trademark tracksuit and big smile, bend down and pull on the bottoms of his suit, loosening the elastic around his ankles. Mountains of money would then pour out in onto the dilapidated floor of the truck and collect by his feet.
He didn't even really need to dance. He'd just kind of drop down his track suit pants a bit, revealing what god gave him, and cash started flying in his direction. He'd just smile as if it was no big thing, when everyone could see that it was. His was a charmed existence.
I tried to imitate him briefly - unsuccessfully. Tony Robbins says, you should copy those that are getting the results you want. In this case it was an exercise in futility. The reality was that he was far more attractive and charismatic than myself. There are role models and goals, and then there is delusion.
Reality is a humbling master.
Ancinello was always gregarious. He had an infectious levity about him. He was the popular kid that everyone liked to be around - the high school football star. Definitely an automatic selection for the go-go Hall of Fame.
But life goes on and go-going went.
A few years after I had retired and hung up my short-shorts, I was at The Vermont with a bunch of production staff. Production work was tough, like go-go, but with much more faux drama. I guess you can't take yourself as seriously when your dress code is half-naked.
I had just ordered a drink when I turned and saw Ancinello's immoveable grin.
"Hey man," I said. And as words began to tumble automatically out of my mouth, I realized he was in a wheelchair. He had lost both his legs - I was looking at two stumps. Before my brain could catch up with my lips I said:
"How's it going man?"
I was in shock.
He kinda looked and gestured at his stumps, then back at me, then gave a shrug and a smile as if to say, How does it look like it's going?
"I'm sorry man. What happened?" I asked.
"Drugs. I was driving too fast. I was crazy. I went crazy. Meth."
I tried to change subject. We began to reminisce a little about the halcion, glory days of go-go.
"I saw K.J. got that TV show he always wanted," I joked to Ancinello. K.J. was a go-go diva who was always talking loudly about his next big production. His voice was always at such a high volume that everyone had no choice but to hear of his alleged successes in the biz of show.
"That's right. The reality show about gigolo's," Ancinello chuckled.
"Exactly. Well, it's great that all his dreams finally came true." The words hung in the air.
We chatted for a while, laughed and then said our goodbyes. Ancinello flashed his outrageous smile one last time, turned and wheeled himself out onto the street. I walked back towards the party and life seemed in that moment balanced in equal measures of resilience and fragility.
I ordered a dirty martini and noticed my heart was racing just a little. The lights of nightlife sparkled haphazardly on cocktails, mirrors, the jewelry and in the excited eyes of the merry-makers.
Ancinello and I were never really close. And while I wasn't overcome with grief, seeing him after his accident did serve to act like a pin and burst my bubble of self-conceit. It connected me quickly with the awareness that life is precious - an awareness that is often lost in the white noise of our daily bustle.
We all exist in our own clouds of perception, and tragedy sometimes brings a clarity by burning through our egoistic delusions to reveal what is truly important.
I need to be reminded sometimes of how precious this fleeting existence is and to appreciate the simple joy, the sense of gratitude that comes from just being alive. The feeling you get when you are lost in the music, dancing into the night.