The ‘Beautiful People’ at Sonsie, the fun ones at ManRay

BY DOMINIQUE CASTRO

I bet that a fair number of guys wonder what girls talk about when they go to the bathroom in groups. I suppose it can be unnerving to wonder if “the girls” are getting a debrief of your date’s real feelings for you. Well, guys, unfortunately I’m not here to divulge the secret conversations and private deals that are negotiated in our ultra-secret society. Suffice it to say, however, that the conversation I had in the ladies room at Sonsie (327 Newbury St.) on October 19 was not at all typical. I share this story only because the encounter is better than any description I can come up with of this hip, ultra-trendy hangout.

So, I’m cramped in line, No Exit style, in the impossibly small ladies room, and I mention to my friend that my husband has closed out our tab and was getting the car from the valet. Standing next to me is a future Boston socialite, now in the social climber stage of her development. She might not otherwise have spoken to me, but her ears perked up when I said a word in her language: “valet.” Without missing a beat she turned to me and asked point-blank what kind of car I drive. “I beg your pardon?” I said, bewildered that she felt entitled to make such a query. “Car,” she said impatiently, “what kind of car do you drive?” It was one of those instances, sort of like in my Contracts class, where after I’ve answered the question, I can think of millions of witty things I could have said. Instead, I just answered the question.

She then looks me up and down tells me that I should venture down to the Red Room, the downstairs club/bar area of Sonsie, where, as she said, “all the beautiful people” hang out. Why on earth would I be getting invited to hang with “the beautiful people” of Boston? Mind you, I’ve been told I resemble the transexual from ‘The Crying Game’ and the little troll figurines with the big afros. My only guess is that she was blinded by the Swarovski-esque crystals draping her lithe frame. She then proceeds to launch such an aggressive name-dropping campaign that I’m tempted to ask if she works with Alan Dershowitz, since they both seem to be chummy with the same ilk of high-rollers. She regaled me with stories of partying with none other than P. Diddy, and the more enigmatic “guy from that movie Can’t Hardly Wait.” OK, well, the only famous person I’ve run into recently was MTV’s Julie Brown (the white one, not the somewhat more interesting black one) at the Newark International Airport, so I keep my mouth shut, and decide that perhaps I’m not quite fabulous enough to lounge about the Red Room …

I in no way mean to throw dirt on Sonsie or its clientele. For those seeking a modicum of hauteur when they hit the town, this is, to be sure, the place to see and be seen. My risotto with autumn squash was delectable. The highly suggestive artwork and dark wood decor makes you feel a bit naughty as you sip decadently on expensive red wine and flick a cigarette seductively over the ashtray. You can watch the game at the bar, and rub elbows that are certainly not clothed in (gasp!) last season’s Prada. With a great view of Newbury Street and proximity to other nightspots, Sonsie is the place to go for dinner and drinks before hitting the town.

As we left, Sonsie, however, I felt a draw to a scene altogether grittier in nature. Somehow I ended up at ManRay (21 Brookline St.), a gothic/leather/gay/bisexual (depending on the night) nightclub in Central Square. As we approach the door, the bouncers stop us, not to pat us down and check for contraband, but to unzip our jackets to check for compliance with the dress code. Apparently, all black was the order of the night. Once it was determined that our duds were legit, we were ushered inside. We paid a higher cover charge than I was expecting ($12/person), but the experiences that awaited us inside more than made up for it.

ManRay is not a place for the conservative yuppie. A man dressed as Jim Carrey’s Vera de Milo character paraded about the dance floor. We were treated to a vinyl/latex fashion show, a bondage show and an endless barrage of freaky-but-friendly patrons gyrating about in various stages of undress. The music was dark: gothic and industrial techno-rock reverberated from the sound system, but then turned almost campy at times, with dancers painted to resemble witch doctors shaking to “Groove is in the Heart” by Dee-Lite. Trust me, if you have anything even remotely approaching a gothic ensemble, you want to get down to ManRay on Friday nights for unparalleled people watching.

I decided to have a tarot card reading ($5), thinking that the cards might resolve my current dilemma about whether my professional destiny lies in the private or the public sector. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the “Success” card was placed on the table before me. I was slightly less amused to have the “Death” card plunked down next to it. (Note to self: call Miss Cleo for a second opinion.).

As for the ladies room, I don’t get the impression that ManRay emphasizes as strict a male/female dichotomy as Sonsie. Its more of a continuum: if you need to borrow black eyeliner, for example, you’re just as likely to find it either the men’s or the ladies’ room. While ManRay may not be the venue of our next section outing, it is undoubtedly a bastion of tolerance, where it doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive as long as you’re dressed in black and ready to have fun.

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