HEY GUYS. Mickey Holliday knows things you don't.
He knows what women talk about when you aren't around. He knows their innermost desires. Their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their fantasies.
The amazing thing about this acquired knowledge is that it wasn't at all hard won. It was gained while having fun. You see, Mickey Holliday hosts bachelorette parties for a living. His company, Girls' Night Out, takes the hassle out of party planning for gals who want to throw one last crazy bash for a friend headed to the altar. Holliday works out an itinerary of bars, then rents a van, then carts the party all over Washington in pursuit of a good time. "I take the worry out of it," Holliday says. "I'm the designated driver, so the girls can all just concentrate on having fun."
It's while in the van that Holliday gleans his awareness. "The first hour or so is when you establish a rapport, then they realize they can trust me, and I become the invisible man. Then they start talking, and maybe the alcohol has loosened their tongues, but they're just going on and on like I'm not there. I think I've got tremendous insight into what girls are thinking now. Most guys, I have to say, have absolutely no idea what's really going on in their heads."
After I talk to Holliday a couple of times on the phone about his business, he finds a group that will let me and a photographer tag along as long as we don't mention last names. Hey now! Perhaps we, too, can collect clues about the cogs of a woman's mind. A few weeks ago, we hopped into a van with Holliday and were on our way to Falls Church to pick up a group of 10 women, celebrating the impending marriage of Suzanne.
Walking into the apartment of Suzanne's friend Claire we find the women playing an X-rated version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and sucking down Jello shooters. Holliday looks my way as if to say, "We've got a live bunch here!" He introduces himself all around, and after explaining the itinerary (the Bottom Line, Rumors, Lulu's, Decades) and handing out the "task list" (more on this later), he herds the women into the van. I hunker down in back. They ignore me! Yes!
Mickey gets onto I-66 inbound and starts his rap. "Our mission is to keep you going 'til the sun comes up!" he says to lots of whooping. "At the end of the night if you want to go to Bob & Edith's diner for breakfast, I'm happy to take you there." (An entire night of partying, not including any breakfast or drinks, runs around $300.) He goes on to say that his job includes watching over everyone and that if there's any trouble, they should know he's right there if needed.
Later he explains to me the whole safety issue: "Sometimes when there's alcohol involved, people can get rude, and the girls might find themselves in a situation where they feel uncomfortable. Some guys get aggressive, but the bars have people to deal with that kind of thing. I'm just trying to tell them, `Hey, we're here if you need anything. Signal and we'll be there.' Girls want to feel like they don't have to worry."
And clearly that night, the women were not worrying. After his little speech, Becky starts in singing "Oh Mickey, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind. Hey Mickey!" (Toni Basil would be proud.) The whole crew picks up the chant, and Mickey's grinning. I'll bet he's heard that one before. The radio (99.5 "Jam'n Oldies") starts blaring something from "Grease." "Oh my God! Turn it up!" Now they're all singing "Tell me more, tell me more . . . !" Yikes.
The conversation then turns to men. I sink lower in my seat. I hear things I cannot repeat. It seems there's been some sharing of boyfriends among this crowd, most of whom know each other from a particular Virginia Tech sorority. They are more than willing to discuss their overlapping experiences.
The Bottom Line on I Street NW is the first stop. There's a line, but Holliday has strings to pull. He gets everyone in, and gets a deal on Budweisers. He distributes the beers then lets human nature take its course. In this case, that means watching guys pluck dollar bills from their wallets for the right to nibble at the Life Savers taped onto the shirt of the bride-to-be. The shirt reads "Suck for a Buck." There's a line forming. The Life Savers are disappearing quickly.
One of the women, Heather, pulls out "The List" and gets to work. If you haven't been part of a bachelorette party lately, you should know that "The List" has become de rigueur. It's a scavenger hunt of sorts for the lucky gal, and Holliday is particularly proud of the lists he works up for his parties. Number 9: Get a picture of her with a cop as she holds his night stick. Number 12: Makeher use the men's room and scold guys for leaving the seat up. Number 6: Have two guys arm wrestle and dance with the winner. Some are a little more risque, but not too. Holliday doesn't want things getting out of hand.
After a round of beers, we hop back in the van and move on to Rumors. There are three other bachelorette parties there, one of them is another Girls' Night Out party. Holliday explains that he generally prefers to do all the parties himself, but some weekends he books two or three, and after he sets them up, he hands the keys to the van to a trusted part-time employee he calls as needed.
The DJs are spinning '80s fare like "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go." The dance floor is packed.
Members of the group are running around with "The List." They find a Marine who ducks into the men's room, returning to hand over his boxer shorts (Number 16). Suzanne kisses a bald man on the top of his head (Number 5). Mickey gets beers for everyone, sipping Coke himself. He hands a glass of water to one woman in the party, but it's too late. She leaves the club. She's overdone it and is sick in the alley.
"Oh, that happens," Holliday says. "I try to get them to pace themselves, or if I see one of them going at it pretty hard in one place, I'll get 'em back in the van and say to the one, `Maybe you should stick to water at the next place.' I'm not there to tell them what to do or not do, but it can really put a damper on the evening. Like what do you do with that person. Let her sleep in the car? Take her home? But I always have an emergency kit of water and towels and that kind of thing." (His kit also includes safety pins, needle and thread, hair scrunchies. Holliday has had to learn to anticipate the needs of his clients.)
With one of their comrades ill, the party goes downhill from there. The other bars are scratched from the itinerary. The women pile into the van, and Holliday points it toward Virginia. Heather is laughing ruefully: "This is the scary part! We're the youth of America and look at us!"
Oh, Heather, don't be so hard on yourself. It's just one night of partying. There's a life of responsibility ahead of you. On behalf of the photographer and myself, I thank you for the candid insights.
Find out more about Girls' Night Out by signing on to www.girlsnightout.net or by calling 703/319-7750.
MUSIC FOR LOW POWER
If you're frustrated at the state of commercial radio, consider the good news, which is that the FCC is considering opening up some FM frequencies to low-power stations. The fight is shaping up to be a long one. If you want the airwaves to be driven by something other than "marketplace magic," support the Low Power Radio Coalition by attending their benefit concerts Saturday at IOTA and the Black Cat. At IOTA (703/522-8340), from 2 to 5 p.m., Jenny Toomey, Warren DeFever and quiet rockers Ida will perform. That night at the Black Cat (202-667-7960) it's Girls Against Boys, Bald Rapunzel and Ursula Major.