Taking It Off for the Kids

Photo: Eric McNatt

Four years ago, Tim Young, founder and director of Brooklyn’s Puppetry Arts Theatre, which puts on puppet-based educational programs for underprivileged city youth, was facing a stark reality. He was pushing 30 and needed to strip down his life. “I was catering full-time, and I was working so hard that I wasn’t getting anywhere with the theater—­nowhere,” he says, sitting fully dressed on a stool in his cramped Park Slope kitchen at one in the morning recently. A group of guys in boxers and bright-colored American Apparel briefs breezed by; some stopped to dispense Cosmos into plastic cups from an Igloo cooler. “I was going to have to get a roommate, I was going to have to get a third job. I just wasn’t bringing in the money I needed to run the not-for-profit.”

Then, one day, a friend took him to an “underwear party” for gay men. It suddenly occurred to him: He could throw a similar skivvy shindig and use it to help fund his dream. Tonight was the fourth anniversary of his twice-a-month “Hot Brooklyn Party.” While we spoke, Young buzzed new arrivals into the well-lit first-floor apartment, greeting them with a cheery “Hi, nice to see you” and directing them to a glass jar where they could put their mandatory donation ($20, or $10 for “college boys” before 11 p.m.). The party, which he promotes on Craigslist and Manhunt, is supposed to be restricted to “lean, in-shape guys! No fats, chubs, dads, or bears! Thirty-looking and under.” But he’d rather admit a zhlub than have him get annoyed and cause a ­ruckus out front. Young describes the fêtes as an antidote to the city’s ­sometimes-­intimidating gay nightlife. “You can be yourself,” he says, a nude ­Cosmo drinker nearby. “There’s no attitude, there’s no darkness, there’s no smoking. It’s social.”

Half of the theater’s $30,000 operating budget—­insurance, supplies, actor and musician fees—comes from the party’s proceeds (donations, sponsorships, and grants pay the rest). They have let the theater, which is approved to go into the schools by the city Board of Education, expand from throwing one or two events a month to five to seven. Activities range from visiting classrooms to teach students how to make puppets out of paper bags to an annual Halloween carnival in Park Slope. It also puts on a musical, called In a Round About Way, about a girl who runs away from home. Young’s puppet Oglesby also appears in John Cameron Mitchell’s upcoming sexually graphic film, Shortbus.

And although Young can sound a bit defensive—“If someone says, ‘You’re throwing a party for gay men in their underwear!’ I say, ‘Well, I don’t see you paying my rent or giving me money to buy glitter’”—the guests approve. “You come here for the social atmosphere, but you’re also helping kids,” said Mike, 34, a burly lawyer, as he retrieved a plastic bag filled with his clothes. “I’m all for that.” Next: Wall Street’s Old-Boys Network Bust Some Heads

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.

Taking It Off for the Kids