Who: A sweet, gigantic former NFL player and his friends
What: Esera Tuaolo CD Release Party
When: May 9, 2009
Why: Because Party Patrol thinks music brings us together
I have no idea what the sheriff of the Party Patrol thinks about
my lifestyle—does Steve like football? Does he like electro pop
performed by former football players that have famously come out of the
closet? But last Saturday, I was assigned the Esera Tuaolo CD release party at Trocadero’s.
And I nearly turned in my badge.
But I am a party patrol soulja, so I showed up at Troc’s at 10 p.m., just in time to hear Richard Moody
bark at the well-gelled crowd: “Come on, white guys, get closer to the
stage! There’s not a lot of color here tonight, so I need you white
guys to come up front!”
R.Mood was announcing Esera’s warm-up act, the winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Bebe Benet.
She was wearing a shimmery electric blue number, and she belted out a
big showtune number that did, indeed, get the white guys to the front
of the stage. Afterward, I talked to Bebe about her childhood in
Cameroon, West Africa. She batted her gigantic lashes at me, looked
down, and explained that she wasn’t allowed to dress up in drag growing
up, but now that she’s here, she’s performed with Cyndi Lauper and has an album coming out. Only in America.
I headed up to VIP and ran into my friend CJ, who was covering the event for the Star Tribune.
“Hey, man,” she said, motioning toward the free pizza and bottles of
Blue Moon Beer, “so this stuff is free for the VIPs, huh?” I told her
nobody had said anything to me yet.
I found a spot near the back of the stage in time to see Esera’s
dancers come out—there were four of them, and they were all wearing
purple Adrian Peterson jerseys. Finally Esera came out, wearing
his own jersey, and he absolutely crushed his electro-gospel hip-hop
opener, “Who’s House Is This?” Any song that’s versatile enough to
cross over from a bunch of macho NFL locker-room types to a bunch of
drag show locker-room types is powerful stuff, no?
As CJ pointed out in her column,
Esera “eschewed footwear” for his entire set, and the rest of the
night, actually, but he’s from Hawaii, so going shoeless is part of his
culture. Besides, I’m not into judging the style choices of gigantic
gay former NFL football players, even if they have as effervescent a
disposition as Esera does. After the show, we talked about his
influences—Motown—and the fact that he’s been singing much longer than
he played football. “I’ve been singing since I was five,” he says, “And
I’ve always been able to express myself through song.” His voice has
kind of that Aaron Neville, falsetto quality—it’s pretty good. Seriously. More than that, Esera is a genuinely sweet, gigantic Hawaiian guy.
After getting my CD autographed, I hobnobbed with some of Esera’s fans. Tim Mahoney was there because he’s friends with Esera’s producer, David Kellogg.
“As a musician, you can be really critical,” explained Mahoney, “but
Esera’s such a great guy, and the production values are really high.”
I ran into Dustin Barnes and Susan Slack. Susan is a
hypnotist from Edina, and she wasn’t there to deprogram Esera. She did
say she could cure my personal struggle with procrastination with “just
a couple of sessions.”
Although Esera admitted that not many of his football buddies come
to hear him sing—“there’s a lot of homophobia in the league,” he said
with a polite smile, I did run into one of his former teammates, Tuineau Alipate.
Tuineau played with Esera in the Pac Ten in college—he went to
Washington State while Esera went to Oregon State—before they played
tog says he loves Esera—“great guy, wonderful heart”—although when it
comes to his lifestyle, “I just don’t agree with it,” he says. “He
knows that I just don’t agree with it, but Esera, I love 98, 99 percent
of him.” He was hasty to point out that he’s married himself, with six
kids, one of whom, Moses, will be a senior at Jefferson High
School this year. He called over Moses, who was at the concert. “He was
an All-American last year,” Tuineau says, “and he’s committed to the
Gophers for next year.” They all posed for a picture together, proving
that, tonight at least, there was still room at Trocadero's for
traditional family values.