Ty Sunderland paced back and forth, his head bent over his phone. It was 5:52 p.m., eight minutes before 500 guests were expected to board the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises boat where he was throwing a party on June 18, and the sound system had yet to be tuned.
mr. Sunderland, 32, a DJ and event producer living in Brooklyn, had started firing text messages at a technician. The issue threatened to kick off “Gayflower: Spice Girls,” this year’s inaugural installment of its annual Gayflower boat parties, which began in 2018 and are named after the Mayflower ship that took pilgrims from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts. . in 1620.
Since the beginning of the celebrations, each party has been a tribute to a different pop music act, both through music and clothing. Revelers, mostly gay men, often appear in outfits inspired by the artist being celebrated. When a sound engineer finished tuning the boat’s speakers, Mr. Sunderland expressed his hopes for how those in attendance would honor the ’90s British girl group known for hits like “Wannabe” and “Spice Up Your Life,” which originally consisted of five members. : Scary, Sporty, Ginger, Baby and Posh Spice.
“I want to see groups of five. I want to see signs. I want to see little Gucci dresses,” he said, referring to the black dresses worn by Posh, the former nom-de-spice of Victoria Beckham (née Adams), whose career as a fashion designer followed her time as a Spice Girl. “She’s fashion,” added Mr. Sunderland, who had worked as a purchasing assistant at Barneys New York department store before becoming a fixture in the nightlife scene. “I like fashion and she always served.”
Mr Sunderland, who said he started wearing black and white because the shades made him more recognizable in clubs, had considered wearing a short black dress that evening. But instead, he opted for one of his black and white Stampd caps, of which he owns nearly 100, black and white Adidas track pants and a black Nike warm-up jacket over a Spice Girls t-shirt. The separations, he concluded, would be more suited to running tracks on the open water at temperatures hovering just above 60 degrees.
Getting dressed was practically less of a concern for revelers, who cruised around Manhattan after boarding the boat at Pier 83 on the Hudson River. Ivan Lizardi, 27, another Posh Spice fan, wore a little black dress bought from Zara. “Posh is my favorite because she does the least amount of work,” says Mr. Lizardi, who works for the streaming platform Paramount+. “She just sits there and looks beautiful. So recognizable!”
Sean Riordan, 30, who was in town from California for his bachelorette party, wore an outfit equally recognizable to Spice Girls followers: a dress with the Union Jack flag, a style famously worn by Geri Horner (née Halliwell), or Ginger Spice. A fan of the group since childhood, Mr. Riordan, who works in hospital administration, said he had “Spice Girls sheets, and my first Barbie was Spice Girls Barbie, which gave my dad a seizure.”
Whether dressed as the Spice Girls or not, many in attendance were drawn to the event by a sense of nostalgia and a desire to celebrate “girl power,” a rallying cry of the group. Tim Fitzgerald, 27, who wore a more weatherproof ensemble of leather jacket, hoodie and pants (all black), recalled the impact “Spice World,” the 1997 film starring the five girls, had on him as a child .
“I watched ‘Spice World’ with my best friend growing up until the VHS tape ran out,” says Mr. Fitzgerald, who works in public relations at fashion brand Coach.
Guests paid up to $55 to attend the four-hour cruise, much of which was set to tracks from the group’s three studio albums: “Spice,” “Spiceworld,” and “Forever.” (The third was recorded without Ginger, who left in 1998 to pursue a solo career.) Midway through, dancer and drag queen Brie Bordeaux performed in a pink mini dress that the performer described as a mix of “Baby Spice and Elle.” Woods’.
Peppered between the drag show and the Spice Girls songs were songs by other musical artists celebrated during earlier parts of the party, including Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. Mrs. Spears was the inspiration behind Mr. Sunderland’s first Gayflower event, in the summer of 2018. Dubbed “It’s Britney, Boat”, which he describes as “the flagship” of the series, this party has been rescheduled every year since.
Those who didn’t attend one of the boat parties may know them because of the 2021 event honoring Ms Spears, when an incident involving an unruly partygoer unexpectedly spread through social media.
“There was a DEMON twink on Britney boat last night…” Mr. Sunderland wrote on Twitter the day after the party, a term used to describe gay men with thin, hairless bodies who are typically young. “Throwed a drink at the DJ equipment, wouldn’t get off the stage unless I stopped the music,” his tweet continued, listing another alleged offense unfit for publication.
Mr Sunderland’s post sparked tweets from others; a including a fake announcement that the character would be featured in a new Netflix series, another called for a line of demon twink merchandise. (There are now crop tops with the phrase for sale on Etsy.) Earlier this month, the incident surfaced on an episode of “Ziwe,” the Showtime talk show. “It was my small contribution to the gay lexicon, we now know what a demon boy is,” Mr Sunderland said, adding, “it made heterosexual people aware of what I do.”
However, by the time of the Spice Girls trip, the demon boy specter had largely been driven from the festivities. Except for a few intrepid revelers who climbed the life jacket containers as the ship returned to its original berth, most of the guests behaved well.
While future demonic presence may be impossible to predict, the fate of the boat-party series is much more certain, according to Mr. Sunderland, who also hosts Ty Tea, a regular Sunday event on land at the club’s 3 Dollars. Bill in Brooklyn. This year’s lineup includes five more excursions, including “Gayflower: Bangerz,” for Miley Cyrus fans, on June 24, as well as another edition of “It’s Britney, Boat,” slated for July 30.
“I’ll do ‘Britney, Boat’ until I’m 50,” he said. “When people come, I’m sailing.”