As I approached Greenhouse for the launch party for Nation’s Bravest, a calendar featuring 12 firefighters from across the country, 11 muscular men in matching tight blue T-shirts stood outside the entrance talking to television reporters. Just a few seconds passed before one of them leaned over to talk.
“You girls coming in tonight?” asked Tommy DeFrancisci, aka Mr. Charlotte (all of the men are named after the city they hail from).
“Yep, just finishing this!” I said, holding up my cigarette. “But don’t worry, I promise I’ll do a sufficient job of putting it out,” I quickly added.
“Well, you’d better! ‘Cause I’m off duty,” he joked.
Garon Patrick Mosby, or Mr. St. Louis, joined the conversation and quickly handed us his card, which had two photos of him with no shirt on and included his Facebook and Twitter information.
The scene inside was markedly different. Most of the firemen were still outside, enjoying the press attention, and the club was dead, save for one girl who quickly joined my friend and I. Her name was Carolina Pichardo, and she worked in marketing. We sipped our drinks and flipped through the calendars we’d been given until the eye candy began floating inside, lured by the open bar.
Mr. Charlotte wandered over, drink in hand, and promptly asked me if I had, indeed, put out my cigarette. He was younger than most of the other firefighters, with brown puppy-dog eyes and a goofy, eager smile. He talked nonstop.
“Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame!” he said. “I guess this is mine. Although I’m not making any money for this, so maybe it doesn’t count.”
Mr. Charlotte, like the rest of the firemen, has selected a charity in his home city to which proceeds from the calendar will be donated.
As we continued to listen to Mr. Charlotte’s jokes, another fireman wandered over. “This is Mr. San Francisco, and he’s not gay!” shouted Mr. Charlotte.
Mr. San Francisco, or Kevin Kuhn, laughed wearily at the oft-heard joke. He had big blue eyes and a soft voice. Sipping on whiskey, he talked to us for a bit about being chosen as one of the 12 sexiest firefighters in the country.
“No one is super serious about this,” he said. “We can all make fun of each other, like, ‘Oh, I’m a model now!'” After chatting and resisting the urge to ask them if they would please remove their shirts, we all migrated outside again, where most of the firefighters were still soaking up the attention. That’s where we met Mr. Minneapolis, Justin Reid. Tall, blond, with blue eyes, an adorable smile and big dimples. He had a cute Minnesota accent and was, like everyone else, unbelievably friendly. As he signed my calendar, I asked him if he had traveled to New York alone. No, he said, his wife and two children were here as well.
We continued garnering autographs and chatting with the men—Mr. New York, Philip Sylvester, was from Flatbush, and Mr. New Orleans, Leonard Daigle Jr., had a classic Louisiana accent. But then the calendar’s publisher, Katherine Kostreva, who stood out in a beautiful, floor-length yellow dress, tried to gather the men together for a photo.
As we began heading down the block, we turned to wave goodbye to the hottest group of men we’d ever had the pleasure of hanging out with. Just before I turned my back, Mr. Minneapolis caught my eye and gave me a big smile. I was a pile of mush all the way back uptown.