It’s the return of the ‘Demon’ Exorcised floating gay party series.
A year after a “demon twink” got them a lot of attention, the D.J. Ty Sunderland’s “Gayflower” parties started a new season with an event based on the Spice Girls.
Ty Sunderland was walking back and forth with his head bent over his phone. It was 5:52 p.m. on June 18, eight minutes before 500 guests were expected to board the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises boat where he was having a party, and the sound system hadn’t been tuned yet.
DJ and event producer Mr. Sunderland, who lives in Brooklyn and is 32 years old, had started sending text messages to an engineer. The problem at hand could have caused “Gayflower: Spice Girls,” the first of his annual Gayflower boat parties, to get off to a rough start. These parties started in 2018 and are named after the Mayflower ship that brought the pilgrims from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620.
Since the first party, the music and clothes at each one have been a tribute to a different pop music act. People who come to the party, who are mostly gay men, often dress like the artist being honored. As a sound engineer finished tuning the boat’s speakers, Mr. Sunderland told the crowd what he hoped they would do to honor the British girl group from the 1990s known for hits like “Wannabe” and “Spice Up Your Life.” The group was made up of Scary, Sporty, Ginger, Baby, and Posh Spice, and they had songs like “Wannabe” and “Spice Up Your Life.”
“I want to see five-person groups. I’m looking for signs. “I want to see little Gucci dresses,” he said, referring to the black dresses that Posh wore when she was a Spice Girl. Posh was the stage name of Victoria Beckham (born Adams), who is now a fashion designer. “She’s in style,” said Mr. Sunderland, who used to work as a buying assistant at Barneys New York before he became a regular in the nightlife scene. “I like clothes, and she was always there for me.”
Mr. Sunderland said he started wearing black and white because it helped people recognize him in clubs. That night, he was thinking about wearing a short black dress. But he decided to wear one of his close to 100 black-and-white Stampd caps, black-and-white Adidas track pants, and a black Nike warm-up jacket over a Spice Girls T-shirt instead. He came to the conclusion that the separates would be better for spinning tracks on the open water, where the temperature was just above 60 degrees.
Party guests who got on the boat at Pier 83 on the Hudson River and went on a tour of Manhattan didn’t worry too much about how practical their clothes were. Ivan Lizardi, who is also a fan of Posh Spice, wore a little black dress from Zara. Mr. Lizardi, who works for the streaming platform Paramount+, said, “Posh is my favorite because she does the least amount of work.” “She does nothing but sit there and look nice. So relatable!”
Sean Riordan, who was 30 and from California, was in town for his bachelor party. He wore a dress with the Union Jack flag, which is a style made famous by Geri Horner (née Halliwell), also known as Ginger Spice. Mr. Riordan, who works in hospital administration, has liked the group since he was a child. He said, “I had Spice Girls bedsheets, and my first Barbie was a Spice Girls Barbie, which made my dad upset.”
Many people went to the event because they wanted to remember the Spice Girls and celebrate “girl power,” which was one of the group’s slogans. Tim Fitzgerald, 27, wore a more weather-appropriate outfit of a black leather jacket, hoodie, and pants. He talked about how the 1997 movie “Spice World” with the five Girls affected him as a child.
“My best friend and I watched “Spice World” until the VHS tape ran out when we were kids,” said Mr. Fitzgerald, who works in public relations for the fashion brand Coach.
People paid up to $55 to go on the four-hour cruise, which was mostly set to songs from “Spice,” “Spiceworld,” and “Forever,” the group’s three studio albums. Ginger left in 1998 to start a solo career, so she wasn’t on the third one. Halfway through, drag queen and dancer Brie Bordeaux performed in a pink minidress that the performer said was a mix of “Baby Spice and Elle Woods.”
In between the drag show and the Spice Girls songs, there were songs by other artists, like Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, who had been honored at past parties. In the summer of 2018, Mr. Sunderland’s first Gayflower event was inspired by Ms. Spears. This party, which he calls “the flagship” of the series, is held every year and is called “It’s Britney, Boat.”
Even if you haven’t been to one of the boat parties, you may have heard of them because of the 2021 event honoring Ms. Spears. During that event, a story about a rowdy partygoer went viral on social media.
Mr. Sunderland wrote on Twitter the day after the party, “There was a DEMON twink on Britney boat last night.” This is a term for thin, hairless gay men who are usually young. “Threw a drink at the DJ equipment and wouldn’t leave the stage until I turned off the music,” he said in another tweet that wasn’t fit for public consumption.
Others responded to Mr. Sunderland’s post by tweeting. One tweet said that the character would be in a new Netflix show, and another asked for a line of demon twink merchandise. (The phrase is now on crop tops that you can buy on Etsy.) This month, the event was talked about on an episode of the Showtime talk show “Ziwe.” Mr. Sunderland said, “It was my little contribution to the gay lexicon. We now know what a demon twink is, and it let straight people know what I do.”
But by the time the Spice Girls went on their trip, the ghost of the demon twink was mostly gone from the party. A few brave partygoers climbed on the life jacket containers as the ship went back to its original dock, but most guests were good.
Mr. Sunderland, who is also the host of Ty Tea, a regular Sunday event at the club 3 Dollar Bill in Brooklyn, says that it is much easier to predict what will happen with the boat-party series than with any future demonic appearances. This year’s schedule includes five more trips, such as “Gayflower: Bangerz” on June 24 for Miley Cyrus fans and another “It’s Britney, Boat” on July 30.
“Britney, Boat” will be my thing until I’m 50, he said. “I’m going to sail if people are coming.”