Sexed and liquored

Standing in small circles amid the chaos of ringing cell phones, backstage workers and DJ-spun beats, slender, stiletto-clad models towered with huge, curly manes of black, brown and whitish-blond tresses. Meanwhile, the man in the suit rushed around shouting commands over the commotion. This was Sacramento-based fashion designer Richard Hallmarq, often referred to as “Mr. Cutting-Edge,” a half-hour before showing his 2006 spring/summer collection, Panamanian Summer, at Faces on Saturday night. As part of Sacramento’s 2005 Rainbow Festival celebration, Hallmarq was asked to open for ’80s pop singer Jody Watley with his latest clothing line, which also appeared at San Francisco’s Fashion Week in August.

While preparations continued backstage, the attending crowd grew. In a lot outside the club, a slightly cold breeze kept everyone on their toes. Single women, transgenders, gay and straight couples, and older folks mingled around the small stage and tables, keeping warm with beers from the Budweiser trailer, cigarettes or an occasional wiggle to a funky dance beat. Some stayed put at the few tables that had been set out, conversing and modestly sipping their drinks. A few others stayed intently entertained by watching the promiscuous “coma,” or “controlled machine” visuals on a screen, displaying snippets of naked women and wild sex. Men with ticker belt buckles that read “Need condoms? We got your back” tended the AIDS-prevention table, confronted occasionally by giddy, rosy-cheeked women whose attention their buckles had drawn.

Finally, the noise died down as Hallmarq’s line was introduced on the mic, and the crowd quickly swarmed around the stage. Accompanied by Latin dance grooves, the big-haired women sassily took to the runway, boasting Hallmarq’s off-the-shoulder blouses, tummy-revealing tube tops and low-cut pants. They approached the crowd boldly, looking smoky-eyed and even menacing. Stripe patterns, blacks, whites, bright yellows, blues and reds were all thrown into the mix.

Hallmarq’s male models, also with curly locks, were mellow and barefoot on the runway, wearing white pants with relaxed fits and animal-print, open-chested shirts. The crowd welcomed them with hoots and whistles, and some drunken cheers. Of all the fashions, it was the snug, snake-print bathing suits that earned the most enthusiasm. Women in the crowd responded gleefully to the tight swimming briefs that hugged certain areas of the men particularly well.

When the show wrapped up, after about 15 minutes, the audience was well-liquored and ready for the glamorous Watley to hit the stage. She kicked off the performance with her own top-10 hit “Don’t You Want Me,” shakin’ it like no other. “It’s nothin’ but a party, y’all!” Watley exclaimed, as people swayed their hips, clapped, jumped around and swiveled to the familiar pop song.

By the time Watley was done, people were amazed at how sexy the singer still was for her age.