A straight, married guy’s immersion in the gay circuit party scene of the 90s blows his world wide open—and apart…

By Nicholas Garnett

In the Pink, Memoir, MidTown Publishing, 275 pp.

Washed out of another corporate job, scraping by playing drums in a wedding band, delivering roses in a tuxedo. This was Nicholas Garnett’s version of the go-go 90s. Then, beautiful, worldly, Rachael turns his world upside down, introducing him to her gay friends who occupy the upper crust of the burgeoning gay circuit party scene. Nick and Rachael marry. They become known as the hot straight couple that party hardy with the boys in all he right places—until their friends self-destruct, Rachael burrows into addiction, the marriage implodes, and Nick is out on the street again. Follow his harrowing journey as he struggles to find his way in a life that’s been buried beneath a lifestyle.


In the Pink is a the story of a singular life, told coolly and cleanly, with admirable introspection. If I felt, at times, that Nicholas Garnett occupied an alternative universe — well, he did and I am glad that he decided to chronicle it with a refreshing lack of judgment for his fellow travelers — and himself.”—Laura Lippmanauthor of DREAM GIRL, LADY IN THE LAKE, and the Tess Monaghan series.

“By turns outrageous, hilarious, and truly moving, this unflinching chronicle of a profoundly mismatched straight couple’s foray into the gay party and power circuit sets a new standard for the tale of wretched excess, and provides much-needed perspective along the way.  Nicholas Garnett has–no lie–produced a book like none other.”–Les StandifordNew York Times bestselling author of LAST TRAIN TO PARADISE and BRINGING ADAM HOME.

“I’ve just finished reading Nicholas Garnett’s electrifying memoir In the Pink, and now I need to catch my breath and recover. And then I’m going to read it again. Here is a gritty and lyrical portrait of what it’s like living life way out there on the edge, spinning out of control, and staring into the abyss. Astonishing and slightly terrifying.”—John Dufresneauthor of LOUISIANA POWER & LIGHT and REQUIEM, MASS.

“Fasten your seat belts and take this ride through the A-list, drug-fueled, sex-centric circuit party scene of the 1990’s with Nicholas Garnett. Like Bill Clegg’s memoir PORTRAIT OF AN ADDICT AS A YOUNG MAN and David Carr’s NIGHT OF THE GUN, In the Pink will terrify, startle, and ultimately make you sigh with relief over Garnett’s unflinching look at this world and his place in it.”—Ann Hood, New York Times bestselling author of COMFORT: A JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF and THE KNITTING CIRCLE.

In the Pink might read like one man’s heady quest to become the gayest straight man in America. But look deeper and it’s your story, what you’ve done to hang on to love, to live beyond labels while searching for your own, to find yourself after decades of getting so lost. Do yourself a favor: buy this book. Read it now.”—Anjanette Delgadoauthor of THE CLAIRVOYANT OF CALLE OCHO.

Book Information

Release Date: October 18, 2021

Publisher:  MidTown Publishing

Soft Cover: ISBN:  978-1626770331; 276 pages; $22.99

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3zxQhYb 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3q0YDV0


Baby Steps


Hey, birthday boy―you lost?”

I turned from the dance floor and there he was―another clone―baby-faced, blond, shirtless, and muscular. He smiled affably, waiting for an answer. I had met him half a dozen times and should have known his name. But I didn’t. I bought myself some time. “Lost? As in, am I having an existential crisis? Feeling morally and spiritually bankrupt?”

He raised one eyebrow. “As in, are you so fucked up you lost your wife and friends on the dance floor?”


“Then, let’s finish the job.” He patted his pocket. “Got a little something-something right here.”

I gave up on remembering his name and, instead, considered his offer. The ecstasy had all but worn off; only the slightest tinge remained, soon to be replaced entirely by utter exhaustion.

“Are you implying I need it?” I asked.

He nodded. “Way too serious for the occasion.”

I looked out over the packed dance floor. Tomorrow was my birthday. What is that thing Rachael always said? “More is more.” Besides, this was Saturday night of Pride weekend in New York City, and no one was going anywhere for a long, long while.

I smiled. “Awfully generous of you.”

He reached into the front pocket of his jeans and removed the bullet-shaped snuff-snorter attached to a large vial, nearly full of white powder. He gave the bullet a backwards-forwards twist, filling the chamber, and brought it up to my nostril. I inhaled deeply and jerked my head back as it slammed against my sinuses. A chemically tinged sweetness with a hint of vanilla drained down my throat.

“Thanks.” I rubbed my nose. “I think.”

Now I remembered this guy’s name and reputation. Michael Murray―The Ketamine Kid―was notorious for treating his K like a precious commodity, spending hours chopping it up so finely it blasted into your bloodstream like a blitzkrieg, sweetening the assault with a little vanilla extract. Michael did some minor-league dealing but was as proud of his handicraft as any artisan, frequently offering up free samples to the unsuspecting.

“Five minutes to blast off,” I said.

“It’s not for nothing they call it tripping, my man.” He administered himself one hit, and then another. Michael leaned forward, palms down, resting his weight on the railing which ran the length of Palladium’s mezzanine. He looked on, proud as a lord surveying his land.

The crowd was packed chest-to-chest―a mass of color shifting with the music:  red to green to white. After several hours of dancing and layering on drugs like stacks of firewood, everyone was settling in for the long haul―distance runners catching a second wind.

“Hey, Michael,” I said, “remember the days when we used to do one hit of X, be home in bed by four a.m., and that was enough?”

Michael clicked his tongue. “Vaguely.”

The lights flashed bright.

He tapped my shoulder. “Come on now, don’t get nostalgic on me. Go home before dawn? Might as well stay home. Junior doesn’t get serious until the sun comes up.”

He had a point. The music was potent force, especially when delivered by deejay Junior Vasquez: club icon, protégé of Madonna, and volatile diva in his own right. His specialty was blending songs and beats, wrapping them in nearly sub-sonic bass, and slamming them down on the crowd like a giant, percussive fist. It was the soundtrack to insanity, as powerful as any drug. 

The music and lights synchronized and began another slow build up, a single snare drum snapping slow eighth notes, increasing tempo, faster and faster, measure after measure, blending to a blur of sound and light, bursting to a new plateau, the base line ripped, the crowd screamed, leapt, reached for the sky. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck rose. Every sense was overloaded, overwhelmed. There it was. Everything was brilliant, joyous, connected. The X staged a slight comeback, filling me with warmth and euphoria.

“See what I mean?” Michael yelled. He waved one hand over his head and spun around, dervish-like.

The house lights spun wildly on dozens of crisscrossed aluminum trusses and descended from far above us to rest just above the tallest dancers. Thin strands of green lasers fanned out from each side of the club, tracing broad, slashing vertical arcs. At each corner of the dance floor, muscular go-go boys mounted four floodlit six-foot square black boxes and begin to sway, detached and blasé, as the crowd swirled below them.

Spectacle―no one delivered it like the boys.

“By the way,” Michael said. “You’d better sit your ass down somewhere, and soon.” He leaned over and planted a kiss on my cheek. “Happy birthday.”  

I wiped the wet spot with my palm and watched Michael navigate the crowded steps leading down to the dance floor on steady legs, impressive, considering he had done enough K to bring down a wildebeest.

It wouldn’t be long before I got nailed like a sharp right cross. I looked around for Rachael, beginning at the center of the dance floor though I knew it was unlikely I’d find her there. That space―downtown―was generally staked out by the largest, highest and horniest boys. Tonight was no exception. Dozens of them had formed a tight, groping conga line, spiraling out from the center like a constellation. Women were not welcomed downtown, not even Rachael.

Then I spotted her. Black patent-leather combat boots, white leather hot pants, and a studded black leather bra top. Her dark mane of hair was arranged the way I liked it best:  pulled back, exposing the full lips, dark eyes, brilliant smile. She and Trevor were deep in conversation, oblivious to the two-story bank of speakers pounding out the music just above their heads. Rachael bent forward, convulsed with laughter. Trevor spotted me over Rachael’s shoulder, spun her around and, using the cocktail in his left hand, pointed up in my direction. They smiled and waved for me to come down.

That’s when the dance floor fractured into angular splinters of color, then reformed into a crystalline carousel, spinning clockwise like a constellation. I closed my eyes and imagined individual particles of ketamine teaming up with the ecstasy, careening through my nervous system like a frenzied Pac Man. My eyes opened to find that Palladium had been filled with automobile-sized fluffy pom-pom balls made of cotton and anthracite. I reached for the mezzanine’s railing to steady myself, and, instead, grasped air. Down on the dance floor, bodies were tinged with spectacular auras of orange and cobalt. The music cracked, sending sparks flying from the ceiling in neon shards. Sound faded to a muffled thump, and I was aware of a heartbeat rumbling through my body, down to the dance floor, through the walls up to the ceiling and catapulting straight up to the sky.

 I was on the move, an occurrence which vexed me, because I couldn’t feel my legs, much less imagine them capable of propulsion. Yet there was no denying the slight rush of air past my face and the flash of smiles and shadows of those I passed. I felt pressure on my arm, glanced down to see a hand clutched to it, just above my elbow. I was being led along by a disembodied hand, which I found oddly comforting.

I arrived before a gold-beaded entranceway. Before me stood an enormous pale man with a shaved head and a tattoo which ran the entire length of his left arm. His face was emblazoned with jagged Maori warrior tattoos. I blinked and they were gone. Something took hold of my wrist and turned it so the big man could inspect. I sensed that this was someone in authority, someone with the ability to make or break my evening―not to mention my arm. I straightened my back and willed myself to focus.

“K or G?” asked the big man, who still had hold of my wrist. The tattoo on his arm, the head of a phoenix rising from the ashes, throbbed to the beat of the music.

I opened my mouth to answer, but from behind me a voice something like mine said, “It’s K. He’ll be fine.”  

I had become a ventriloquist.

The big man said, “Better be. This is a lounge, not a frickin’ emergency room.”

“No prob-le-mo,” I said. “I’m ab-so-lu―” I stuck on the third syllable, partly because of the K, but mostly because I was surprised by the reemergence of my voice from my own throat. I needed to learn how to harness the power of my new-found skill. I tried to give the big man a casual, reassuring thumb up, but there was a good chance the gesture I made looked more like late-stage Parkinson’s disease. I wracked my brain for something to say to set him at ease, something casual, but not glib. I laid a Clint Eastwood squint on him, grinned, and pointed both fingers at him as if firing pistols.

He grunted and released my arm. I glided forward and pushed through the beads, which drew themselves across my neck and shoulders like a quilt made of marbles. There I went again, sliding along, a puck on ice, closing in on a padded silver lame banquette coming up hard on my right. Now, the hand was on my left forearm, guiding me like a truck backing into a loading dock. I flopped down and backwards, grateful for the banquette’s generous padding. The table-top’s polished surface swirled and coiled.

“Stay here,” the voice said.

“No prob-le-mo,” I said.

The silhouette laughed and disappeared.

Funny thing about K―one second, you’re in the spin cycle, the next, you’ve materialized, as if through the transporter on the Enterprise.

The lounge was dim, long and narrow, the walls black and lined with banquettes. At the far end of the room was the deejay booth, the occupant of which was laying it down, softened and sinuous, nothing like Junior’s take-no-prisoners assault. The laid-back sound and gentle lighting soften up what was left of my high.

Knots of men and a few women were clustered together at the banquettes, talking, and smoking cigarettes. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed my spastic tightrope act, but no one seemed to be paying the slightest attention.

As if to prove the point, a sinewy, black form appeared from the back of the room. She was all legs and lanky arms as she glided past. The five-inch stiletto heels were a bit much, but they were a look. She wore a short, black leather miniskirt, bustier, and a long, straight, onyx-colored wig. The center of the VIP lounge was her runway, and she was working it hard. Hands on hips, the perfect combination of nonchalance and attitude, she shot past me trailing the scent of sweet perfume.

There was a little hitch in her walk. The heel of her right shoe was loose at the point it attached to the sole. Her Achilles heel. My clever little allusion made me smile. She paused a moment, pivoted her body, and whipped her head around last, just like fashion week in Paris. We locked eyes, just long enough for her to give me a knowing grin. I closed my eyes and watched her image flick and skip forward like a snippet of old film. When I opened them, she was next to me, sliding into the banquette, trapping me against the wall. She smiled, revealing a confusing assortment of teeth.

“Having fun, Papi?” The illusion was shattered. Her voice was Brooklyn, Queens, Puerto Rico with a slight overlay of Telly Savalas.

 “Maybe too much,” I said. The full force of her perfume hit me like a whiff from a broken ammonia ampoule.

“Been to this little soiree before?”

I sighed, trying to sound blasé. “My second. And you?”  

Her laugh rumbled. “Papi, she’s a circuit girl through and through.”

Why did drag queens refer to themselves in the third person? And why did they always call me Papi?

“This is my sixth,” she said.

I tried to look suitably impressed.

“Saw you come in,” she said. “You was in quite a state, Papi.”

I set her up for the winner. “I’d rather be in your state.”

“Which is?”


“Mmmm-hhhhhhmmm, honey, what-eva.” She waved me off, but I could tell she dug it. She slid a couple of inches closer to me. “What’s your name?” Her big, liquid eyes shifted to my chest.

“I thought we decided I’m Papi.”

She gave me that husky laugh again. “I’m Bianca,” she said, suddenly earnest, like a well-mannered eight-year-old meeting her daddy’s boss. She extended her hand, dangling from her narrow wrist.

I touched her hand, and it was all I could do not to jerk mine back. Her fingers were cold and wiry and trembled like the claw of a terrified bird.

“What you doing here alone?” she asked.

“You wouldn’t believe me.”

“Bianca’s heard everything, trust her.”

“Trust me, Bianca. You haven’t.”  

Her Adam’s apple quivered. She placed her hand on my forearm. “Boyfriend trouble?”

I shook my head no.

“Trouble, though.”

“I think you’re barking up the wrong Papi.”  

She took my hand in hers and turned it over, leaned forward, and traced one fingernail across my palm. “Ever since I was little, my momma told me I could see things.” Her voice was softer now, gentle, and less affected. “She was right.”

I shook my head to clear it. Either I was still high as hell or there was something to her. Either way, nothing to lose. I spread my fingers.

My hand hovered inches below her face. Bianca reached across the table and brought over a glass votive, pinched between her slender, dark fingers. She cocked her head. “What’s going on, Papi?”  

She knew something. Not everything, but something.

“I’m here. Same as you.”

She closed her eyes. A shadow skipped across the table. “Not the same. I belong.”

I smiled. “Hey, I paid my cover.”

She studied my face and squinted, as though peering through fog. My smile vanished. “How’d you get here?”

“Took a cab. You?”

She squeezed my hand. “Stop playing. Tell me.”

“It’s a long story.”

“Try making it short.”

“How does anybody get anywhere. Baby steps.”

“What’s that mean?”

“You have to walk before you can run.”

She looked me over. “You runnin’ now, ain’t you?” She smiled and shook her head. “Talkin’ in riddles. Chasing something, like one of them little ducks at the park hustling after their momma.”

Neither the notion nor the image sat well with me. I yanked my hand away from Bianca and pressed my palm onto the tabletop. “This is some crazy talk for the VIP room at Palladium.”

“Yes it is.” She shifted herself away from me. “But there’s one thing Bianca knows, Papi.”

“What’s that?”

“You need to back yourself up and get on out of here.”

I grinned. “Something I said?”

She placed her index and middle finger on my forehead. My skin tingled beneath her touch. “Something you didn’t say. And those little baby steps? They ain’t going to work. It’s going to take some big-ass strides to get you where you belong.”

I wanted to say something funny but couldn’t think of a single thing.

Bianca slid away from me. “You’ll excuse me, Papi. The diva is calling.” She stood and smoothed the front of her skirt with her hands. “I’m sure you understand.”

She did a pirouette and disappeared.

I sat there, rubbing my thighs with my palms. What was that all about? Here I was, sitting smack in the middle of the gayest scene in the world, dressed the part: shirtless, shaved chest, tattoos, leather pants, long hair, drug paraphernalia crammed into every pocket. Why would she think I didn’t belong?

“No prob-le-mo?” a voice said. “That the best you could come up with?”

Rachael stood next to me. I should have been relieved to see her, but I wasn’t. “So, I’m not a wordsmith,” I said.

 “I sent Wes to fetch you. He said you were in no condition to be fetched.”

“I’m fine.”  

All four people in the next banquette had turned around to stare at Rachael and make admiring comments. 

“You look rattled,” she said.

I was entitled. After all, it wasn’t every day I had a mystical connection with a psychic drag queen. 

Bianca clomped by and winked. I was relieved she didn’t stop to chat. Snide momma-duck references would not have gone over big with Rachael.

“Who’s your friend?” she asked.

“Bianca. Odd girl.” Bianca paused at the next table, permitting her hand to be kissed with great formality by a shirtless man in skin-tight black patent leather pants.

Rachael pushed the hair out of my eyes. “So, are you feeling better? Everyone’s asking where you’ve been hiding out.”

This was one duckling that wasn’t going to be rounded up just yet. “I doubt anyone even noticed I’m gone.”

Rachael frowned, her strategy derailed. “Okay, I’d like you to come down with me and start enjoying your birthday.” She slid onto my lap and put an arm over my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around her, feeling resentful.

“Really,” she said, “you don’t want to sit up here all alone, do you? Just you and Binaca?”

“It’s Bianca. Binaca’s a breath freshener.”

“Come on, Nicky, don’t leave me alone on your birthday.”

At least she was being honest. Except for the part about using my birthday to guilt me into doing what she wanted.

Rachael slid off and tugged on my hand to follow her. I did, and with her hands holding mine to her shoulders, allowed her to lead me towards the exit. I took small, mincing steps so as not to mash her heels.

“Baby steps,” I said.

Rachael turned part way around. “What?”

“Something Bianca and I were discussing.”

“That girl is a bad influence.”

I nudged her forward, thinking about how it was I got here, and, for the first time, wondering what it might take to get out.


Nicholas Garnett
 received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University. He has taught creative writing at FIU, the Miami Book Fair, and Writing Class Radio. Garnett is also a freelance editor and co-producer of the Miami-based live storytelling series, Lip Service: True Stories Out Loud. He is a recipient of residencies from the Vermont Studio Center and the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, and fellowships to the Norman Mailer Art Colony and Writers in Paradise. His writing has appeared, among other places, in Salon.comTruehumor.com, Sundress Publication’s “Best of the Net” and Cleis Press’s Best Sex Writing.

His memoir, In the Pink, is forthcoming from MidTown Publishing in January 2022.

You can visit his website at www.nicholasgarnett.com or connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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