Last month, Dos Equis beer gathered “4 Lawsonia inermis tattooists, 5 exotic birds of prey, 2,109 bejeweled disguises, 13 legendary creatures, 4 daring capoeira dancers, 189 entomophagy delicacies, 6 beautiful Bollywood temptresses, 1 living canvas, 5 fearless Chinese acrobats,” one splendiferous Diplo and one effervescent Andrew W.K. under the resplendent roof of the old Masonic temple on West 24th Street to answer the eternal, burning question: if a brand sacrifices enough gold coins at the altar, can it perform some dark alchemy whereby it becomes cool?
“To be fair, some parts of the party were cool enough to transcend the cheesy fonts on the signs. For instance: I got to hold a fucking owl.”
I arrived before the “Most Interesting Academy” was officially in session to find dozens of norm-y looking men in suits and women in sparkles lined up outside the building already. Some of the men were wearing masks, while others found themselves woefully underprepared. “I didn’t bring any masquerade gear, bro,” one dude lamented to another.
Inside, the vibe was like a cross between Eyes Wide Shut and Indiana Jones, perhaps with an unintentional dash of Heart of Darkness. The overarching theme of the Most Interesting Academy was a little tough to discern, but between the falconry, henna tattoos, naked girls with lions painted on them (who kind of looked like they were in blackface but were probably supposed to look like cats), insects pinned under glass, backlit Yeti sculpture, displays of traditional Indian and African dance, corseted courtesans holding trays of exotic snacks, and sumptuous architectural surroundings, I’d say they were going for some kind of imaginary benevolent British colonialism, plus house music. If there’s anything that makes me want to fist pump, it’s thinking about how the British used to own entire landmasses of brown people. (How this jives with Dos Equis’ Mexican origin is unclear.)
In the “entomophagy” (bug eating) room, guests took iPhone pictures of each other chomping gleefully on worms, crickets and scorpions. “How is that okay to eat?” I asked the masked babe holding the tray. “It just is, I guess,” she replied with a seductive smile. Concerned, I questioned a stocky, stubbly man on what the scorpions tasted like. “It doesn’t taste like anything, it’s like a piece of rice. It also helps I drank, like, ten Dos Equis beforehand.” Branding!
To be fair, some parts of the party were cool enough to transcend the cheesy fonts on the signs. For instance: I got to hold a fucking owl. After one such sign beckoned me to “discover the secrets of hawking and falconry,” I entered a room in which several bird handlers from a Long Island wildlife sanctuary invited drunken revelers to don a glove and hold one of their impressively calm birds of prey while numerous cameras went off in their faces. Owls are terrifying aliens up close, all globular eyeballs, animatronic movements and dinosaur claws, but whatever fear I felt was quickly subsumed by the joy of holding one of nature’s craziest masterpieces in my hand. Miracles all up in this bitch. “If he wasn’t as tame as he is, he could rip your hand open,” the handler remarked of a kestrel he was letting people hold ungloved. “He was in a J.Crew catalog last month.”
Divorced from the uncomfortable colonialist context, the dancers from around the world were great too, and I’ll admit I got pretty into it when one of the “Bollywood temptresses” took my hand and made me dance with her to PSY‘s “Gangnam Style,” of all things. But the neatest thing by far was when fun aficionado Andrew W.K appeared to lend his blessing to the proceedings.
Clad in his customary party whites, Mr. W.K. popped up on the balcony of the grand Venetian ballroom around 11PM with a kingly wave, hyping up the crowd as a march full of pomp and circumstance replaced the dubstep that had been playing a moment before. He took his seat at the gorgeous old pipe organ, which the Internet and common sense tell me is really difficult to play, and without batting an eyelash behind his sunglasses busted out with the most magnificent version of “Party Hard” the world had ever heard. And the academy went wild.
After he finished, I chased him over to a stairwell to ask how playing the organ had felt. “There are so many feelings running through me right now,” he enthused. “I’m overwhelmed and overstuffed. I’m gonna apply the power I absorbed tonight to many future years of partying.” Had he done much organ playing in the past? “Not like that, and certainly not at a Masonic lodge, and not just any Masonic lodge, but New York City!”
He continued: “As I understand it, this is the first time this Masonic lodge has ever allowed a party like this to happen here. Masons are hard partiers — that’s where they get a lot of their power. The fact they let us in here is a testament to their partying ability.”
What was his favorite part of the shindig? “Everything! Getting to be with Diplo is a pleasure, he’s a very kind, very party gentleman. He’s excited to be playing beats in such a mystical, magical place.” Chalk it up to the man’s infectious energy, but for a moment, I thought I had an answer to my initial question.