I just saw this in the NY Times' online edition. If anyone's booking group activities, it could be fun. Don't invite me, but someone out there might enjoy! Anyway, it's a fun read.
January 13, 2006
The Drinks on the Bus: Round After Round
By ANDREW JACOBS
Despite their better instincts, the stalled drivers on Second Avenue could not bring themselves to honk at the big blue bus double-parked at 52nd Street, with its disco lights and gut-shaking bass. Sure, a few passers-by snickered at the sight of grown men staggering from the bus, the coffin-size beer cooler that blocked the center aisle and the idea that anyone would hire a 35-foot whale christened the Princess Shannon to bar hop around the city on a Saturday night.
"What is this thing?" asked a young woman, tentatively climbing the stairs until she noticed the carpet of crushed Doritos on the floor.
"It's a party on wheels, come on up," responded the choir, most of them married men in the midst of an alcohol-splashed bachelor party.
The woman quickly retreated, the door closed and the bus rumbled on toward a strip club in Queens named Wiggles.
New Yorkers love a good party. They also have a certain fondness for public transportation, even more so when it functions. Imagine, if you will, a leather-upholstered boxcar that allows all manner of pleasure seeking, including smoking and go-go girls, a flat-screen TV and a bathroom, and you will understand why John Grando and his business partner, Hesie Elias, have invested millions of dollars in a tricked-out collection of diesel monsters that are revolutionizing the rent-a-limousine business in New York.
On weekends their company, the Party Ride, regularly rents out the dozen vehicles in their fleet for proms, birthday parties and for 20-something club kids who want a novel form of transportation that can accommodate 30 of their closest friends.
Tommy Radalj, the company's director of marketing, said a new stretched-out generation of 50-passenger giants, arriving in the coming weeks, would bump up the excess with a private necking room, a karaoke machine and not one but two flat-screen televisions that show satellite programs.
"Did I mention the stripper poles and the diner-style booths?" asked Mr. Radalj, sitting in the company's Long Island offices as he juggled several ringing telephones. The stripper poles, he quickly added, can be removed for weddings and family reunions.
The buses, which rent for $95 an hour on weekdays and $175 on weekends, have become an increasingly familiar sight on city streets, where the lumbering, thumping strobe-lighted vehicles draw gawkers and invariably snarl traffic.
When the shades are up - which is often because, let's face it, who doesn't enjoy a bit of conspicuous consumption - the public can catch glimpses of dancing passengers or as on last Saturday, the sight of Mystic and Angel, two hired hands, gyrating around Drew Schoonmaker, the 30-year-old Long Island man being celebrated in advance of his impending marriage.
Although the Party Ride is a crowd pleaser, it would be misleading to suggest that the experience is not without its bumps. If you have ever felt a bit of nausea on a packed cross-town bus, then you might want to take some Dramamine before boarding a Party Ride excursion.
On many outings, at least the ones sampled last week, the incessant jostling and free-flowing liquor - combined with the blast of surround-sound hip-hop, the zipping laser lights and the smoke from cigarettes and other substances - inspire a small epidemic of unwellness. (For this reason alone, the onboard bathroom is essential.)
The city's potholed thoroughfares also make the act of dancing while holding a martini glass particularly challenging. On a trip through Queens, chartered to celebrate the birthdays of two young cousins, there were frequent spills and mashed toes, although none of the guests were complaining.
"This is the most fun I've ever had," said Kelbyn Reyes, who was marking his 21st birthday alongside his cousin, Chris Lezama, who was turning 22.
Their seven-hour voyage, which started off from Mr. Lezama's home in East Elmhurst and ended at an International House of Pancakes in Jackson Heights, involved two hours of picking up friends across the borough and multiple passages through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.
"We don't need to go nowhere, as long as the drinks are flowing," said Mr. Lezama, who walked up and down the aisle pouring tequila, rum and brandy into outstretched cups as the bus pushed off. (The three wet bars come with a starter supply of beer, Champagne and soda, but most people bring a supplementary stock.)
The speakers blared and every few minutes, Vadim Shakhmurov, the Uzbek-born driver, would push a button above his head, filling the cabin with clouds of artificial smoke. Roving red lasers darted through the fog. People danced.
Everyone had a few more drinks. The mood was euphoric. People drank a bit more.
But by midnight, all that drinking and cruising had taken its toll. The fallen were splayed like rag dolls along the wraparound seating and a few of the inebriated were forced to disembark for more stabile terrain. Mr. Shakhmurov, an endlessly patient man, could only shrug in the face of so much sloppiness.
"I have seen it all," he said, as one of his charges retched into a trash bag. (Concerned parents take note: The Party Ride offers chaperoned excursions that can help keep the lid on prom-related shenanigans.)
If this bus, the Princess Diana, had its moments of youthful excess, the Princess Shannon was the picture of grown-up loutishness, a reflection of the ride's all-male cargo and lots of Southern Comfort.
The crew, friends who grew up in Northport, N.Y., boarded the bus at 5 p.m., dipped into a nearby bar and then stopped at the Nassau Coliseum for a hockey game.
With the Islanders clearly headed for a loss, half the crowd returned to the bus, where the drinking continued.
Eventually, after the previously mentioned onboard erotic entertainment, the Princess Shannon made her way into the city.
At midnight, by the time the men emerged from an Upper East Side bar, the guest of honor was incoherent, several men were prostrate and a number of others were gathered in a N.F.L.-style pileup at the back of the bus.
"The black seats, the black carpeting and the black shades are making this bus feel like a tomb," one dispirited man said on his way out the door.
The remaining passengers failed to settle on the next stop, although there was general agreement that it should be a strip club.
Although three hours remained on the clock, John Schoonmaker, the brother of the groom and the evening's organizer, made an executive decision to just head back to Long Island for pizza.
"No one will even notice if we don't go to a strip club," he said, glancing back.
With the disco lights and smoke machine dead and the music turned down low, the Princess Shannon resembled the sleeping car of a transcontinental train.
As the bus sped along the Long Island Expressway and the Manhattan skyline faded from view, a lone voice cried out from the darkness, "What about Wiggles?"