Competing Chicago mob bosses ARGANTE and GERONTE are away on secret business. Sons OTTO and LEO (long-time pals) meet at a drag-bar cabaret and, despite the vigilance of their bodyguards SYLVESTER and PINKY, fall in love; Otto with HYMENA, a shipwrecked girl who speaks no English, and Leo (shockingly to him) with ZORA, a transvestite singer. The youngsters impulsively marry only to then be separated; Hymena by her chaperone EPINEPHRINE, and Zora by the LAVENDER GYPSY GANG to whom she is deeply in debt. Desperate, the two young men search for a way to get back their new-found and just-lost loves.

Word arrives the fathers have returned with plans that Otto marry Geronte's long hidden daughter, a move that will join the two mobs in a united front against the Capone crime syndicate. Otto is terrified of his father finding out that he has gotten married and fouled up the Argante-Geronte deal.

He meets ARLO KEENO, a two-bit conman being run out of town by Geronte. In return for his freedom, Keeno promises to assist Otto and Leo in dealing with their fathers but his efforts only scramble the situation into a big mess. Argante disinherits Otto for fouling up his plans. Geronte disinherits Leo for being in love with a transvestite. Leo suspects Keeno of ratting him out and vows to take vengeance.

Meantime, Keeno sets a devious plot in motion, to persuade the fathers that they really want what they don't want and don't want what they do want, while conning them out of money on behalf of the young lovers and himself. As well, he takes out a furious revenge on Geronte for running him out of town earlier. In a dizzying series of events filled with disguises and imaginary hitmen, fathers find long-lost children, young lovers are reunited, and even Keeno is forgiven his trespasses.

All ends happily with Keeno telling everyone "Life is short, so dance 'til you drop."