Alexander Eisele stood that winter night looking across the dance floor at Atlanta's Heretic bar not expecting much, but then his eyes locked with Michael Westbrook's and he knew.
Without even thinking, Eisele walked over.
“You’re the hottest guy in here,” he told Westbrook and then, just like that, he turned and walked away.
Gay or straight, you’ve had a moment like that. If you’re lucky, you’ve had more than one.
For Westbrook and Eisele, one was enough. Before the night was over, they exchanged phone numbers, and before the year turned into 2007, they were a couple.
Now, nearly a decade and dozens of adventures later, the Lawrenceville couple is hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tie the knot New Year's Eve in front of millions of revelers in, of all places, Times Square in New York.
It could happen, but they need your votes.
Should they get enough of them, Generation Tux will declare them 2016's "First Couple," much like hospitals across the globe have heralded the first newborn of the year for generations.
If they don’t, the title and grand prize nuptials will go to Monica Corrales and Alfredo Hernandez of Miami, but let’s get behind the home team.
The couples were notified last month that they’d been chosen from a large field of hopefuls who submitted videos detailing their love stories for Generation Tux, the online tuxedo rental company founded by business tycoon George Zimmer, who for years convinced men worldwide they were “going to love the way they looked.”
If you believed that, you’ll believe Zimmer, who will officiate the wedding, knows a thing or two about how to dress a couple for the biggest day of their lives and send them off in style.
Eisele, 46, and Westbrook, 42, are believers.
The question swirling around them now is whether the rest of us will believe in them enough to vote in their favor.
Perhaps their story will inspire you to get behind them.
When they met on the night of Jan. 6, 2006, neither of them expected a love match. The chances of that happening in Atlanta can be just as trying for gay couples as they are for straight ones.
As that night drew to a close, Eisele and Westbrook found themselves together again on the dance floor. They exchanged telephone numbers and went their separate ways. Westbook headed home to Augusta; Eisele a few miles away to Lawrenceville.
Two days later, Eisele called and the men talked for hours. Each time they spoke, they discovered a little bit more about each other, a little bit more to love.
Both preferred the simple life. A day just doing laundry and watching television was perfect. Both loved music, pop especially. And both were working toward the same goals: work, retirement, then travel until their dying day.
“We clicked,” Michael said. “I knew I wanted to see him again.”
In September 2006, they decided they wanted to live together, and Michael moved in with Alexander.
By the time the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage this summer, they knew they’d spend the rest of their lives together. Legal or not. For years, they’d fancied themselves a married couple because that’s the life they’d lived.
They’d been through a lot. Experienced more than a dozen cities from New York and Chicago to Los Angeles and Miami. And once, while en route to Michael’s parents’ home at Christmas, Alexander was nearly killed when their car fishtailed, skidded across three lanes of traffic and landed upside down on eastbound I-20.
Michael escaped with a few cuts and bruises, but Alexander would spend nearly two months in and out of the hospital.
“I think that was the moment that I knew we could get through anything,” Alexander said.
This past October, he had an idea and reached out to Bret Mega at Power 96.1 FM. He wanted to propose to his partner during the gay pride parade. Would they help?
Mega liked the idea. He invited Alexander and Michael to ride on the station’s float. At a stop at Sixth and Peachtree streets, Alexander dropped to one knee.
“With you every day is an adventure,” he told Michael. “Every adventure turns into a journey and I want the journey to last a lifetime. Will you marry me?”
As station personnel recorded the moment, they embraced for what seemed like an eternity. Michael said yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.
“It was pretty incredible,” Alexander said.
Of course, they had no idea what lay ahead. When the couple heard about Generation Tux’s contest, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Experiencing Times Square on New Year’s Eve had long been on Alexander’s bucket list. But marrying there?
They worked quickly to put together a video, explaining why they deserved to be the First Couple.
Two weeks ago, an email arrived from Generation Tux. They were among the finalists. A week later, they were interviewed by telephone, and a week after that, they learned they were one of two finalists.
“I read the email six times and had two people at work read it to make sure I didn’t miss anything,” Alexander said.
Will they get the votes needed to become First Couple of 2016?
You decide. Voting has started and will end at 8:35 p.m. Eastern Dec. 31 at www.FirstCoupleof2016.com.
Both couples will wed, but only one will win the title. If that isn’t incentive enough to cast your vote, consider this: Every person who votes will automatically be entered into a sweepstakes to win a three-night stay at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancun, Mexico.
Who wouldn’t love how that feels?
About the Author
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com