NO ONE KNOWS WHERE MEN WENT WRONG. ALTHOUGH there is certainly an abundance of opinion. I constantly yearn for something-a Man’s Page, say, in the local paper- to lead me past the celebrated downside of the Y chromosome. Once, my search led me as far away as the Australian Outback, where men are men and women are mostly tourists, but all I learned was how to drink beer and pee in the bushes, which I already knew how to do and even if I didn’t, I could’ve picked up at a Wildman weekend in the Hill Country. Adrift in my own testosterone, like Pete Rose in a sea of bookies, 1 have floundered. A flounder is a fish with wandering eyes. It winds up living in the mud.

Then I went to Fight Night at the Fairmont. I don’t know how to put this so you’ll appreciate the true impact of the revelation, but a long April evening in the company of 1,200 tuxedoed real estate developers and lawyers, 87 semiclad models, a Marine color guard, a ’60s rock ’n’ roll band, a dozen boxers and enough free-flowing liquor to send us all to hell or Bob Tilton sort of brought me back to the fun-damentals. For a real man, life is neither a beach nor a bitch. It’s a Fellini movie.

This one started production four years ago, when an imaginative group of Dallas developers-men with a lot of free time on their hands-got the idea that about the swellest way to raise their post-bust spirits, and a little cash for their trade association, The Real Estate Council, would be to gather in the spring for some hand-to-hand combat. As developers, of course, they didn’t plan on using their own hands, so they enlisted the help of former World Boxing Council treasurer-turned-local real estate appraiser Steve Crosson. One thing led to another and they came up with Fight Night. It is now the Guy Stuff champion of the black-tie circuit.

And not just in Dallas. Crosson, who was also a WBC referee, and his partner, publicist Andrea Alcorn, have turned Fight Night into about the hottest entertainment commodity to come out of this city since Southfork. Dallas-type events are currently redefining the men’s movement in 15 American cities, LA to Boston, with imminent invasion plans for England and Germany. Pandering to every recessive synapse in the male subconscious, Fight Night is so off the scale of Gender Correctness that, like Madonna, it virtually reinvents the rules of what you can get away with. Which is why everyone is crazy about it.

For $295 a seat ($395 for ringside), you get an unlimited bar, a decent if unexceptional meal, and most of all a chance to see and be seen. Who’s that over there? Hizzoner the Mayor. And there? Corky Campisi calling out to Al Lips-comb. And there’s Bunker Hunt, Billy Bob Harris and Comer Cottrell, at least one of whom is still making money. There’s Harvey Martin and Drew Pearson. Over there, the Fabulous Cotton Brothers. Here comes Ron Chapman.

But the thing about guy gatherings that Robert Bly never quite seems to figure out is that real men are pretty much lost en masse without real women. Cattle are that way, too. In the Outback, we always ran a few heifers in with the bulls. Ergo the truckloads of Kim Dawson models. A local business writer at my table quipped, “Typical real estate guys-the only way they can get women to come to their parties is to pay them.” Not so. The chicks dig the gig, too. It isn’t that different from working the annual boat show, and may be better money. One hostess passing out cigars and selling raffle tickets stuffed some extra tissue paper into her bodice and earned about $1,000 in tips. Trashy and inexcusable, too true, but where else can a young woman take guys to the cleaners so efficiently?

Really, I knew that. I’m not stupid, just chromosome-impaired. I knew I was in a male circus hallucination and I also knew that it was as much Andrea’s doing as it was Steve’s. But as a well-trained Southern male, I gave in to the fantasy, even if it was a woman’s version. Heck, who should know better?

What could I do but submit? From my seat at the edge of the cavernous, all -red Regency Ballroom, I looked out upon a scene of proto-Americana that would put an NFL pregame anthem ceremony to patriotic shame. On the facing wall were draped enormous U.S. and Lone Star flags. Below, dozens of white-clothed tables, filled with the powerful, the ruthless-and anyone who didn’t want to admit he couldn’t afford a $300 ticket-spread out in layers of spotlights and thick smoke. There were even a few non-hostess women from the real estate game who braved the Freudian backwash to hang with the guys, but they were easily outnumbered.

In the center, rising Rocky-like amid the pomp and bustiers, a regulation boxing ring was festooned with red, white and blue ropes, waiting for a six-card event of minor fighters with great names, the main bout featuring “King” David Sample and Refugio “El Diablo” Guerrero. If that weren’t enough, a former Miss America appeared to sing the “Star Spangled Banner,” a cappella. Just when I didn’t think I could take anymore, the Greatest himself-Muhammad Ali-showed up, escorted into the ring by Alcorn to receive a cake for his 50th birthday. She got the whistles, he got the applause. And then I glanced through the Fight Night program and noticed that on top of everything else, this thing had redeeming social value-$40,000 of the proceeds have gone to help buy books for school kids. I lost track and entered symbolism hyperspace.

I admit, at the start of the evening, when I seemed trapped amid tuxedo pods devoted to witty repartee such as “Are we billing you on time?” or “I got 10 down on equity,1’ or “Don’t worry about it, we’re going to make a lot of money together,” I was humming Bruce Cockburn’s “if I Had a Rocket Launcher” and looking for the exit. But by evening’s end I was thinking-what the hell? So it’s decadent, so it’s Neanderthal, so it’s probably something John Sununu would like, so what? So 1 ain’t perfect. That’s woman’s work.

I stayed late. I milled around, made the tail-end parties, ate too much dip and drank too much wine. Somewhere in the wee hours the fantasy began to dissolve like cotton candy. But one image stuck.

Early on, I’d been standing next to four 30ish guys, well turned out but not flashy or hunky or even moussed. They weren’t checking out the exposed flesh or the big hair. They were swapping yarns. “Yeah,” said one, “1 got kids now, too. Daughters. Want to see them?” Reach-ing into his tux for his wallet, he passed around his photos for the other dads to smile at.


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