Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Legend in His Own Mind-29

December, 1983

Dear Lázaro,

If a language barrier helped me to not understand the inner workings of Arpeggia and Buffo's marriage, now I really needed Berlitz to intercede on my behalf.

I met this guy named Chucho. Another Mariel refugee. Dainty said that I should just rent a boat and pick them up as they come ashore. With a sign hanging from my back that reads: “Enter America Here.” I tell you, Lázaro, she can be so crass at times.

This guy was adorable. Chocolate skin, tightly muscled body and a drop-dead smile. He spoke not a lick of English, was loud, obnoxious and a pathological liar.

He was stage managing Panorámico's production and he found out that I was driving Manuela home one evening. She was this beautiful Mesquite Indian from Nicaragua who was one of the actresses in the show. He quickly informed me that he lived near her. Did I mind dropping him off?

The three of us ended up at "La Carreta." It's a Cuban restaurant in Little Havana that seems to be a popular hangout. The theatre crowd goes there after their shows. The Dade County police department goes there for dessert. The drag queen hookers that work Flagler go there with their johns. The Alpha 66 terrorist group has meetings there. They actually take up a back room, put a Cuban flag and a picture of Batista on a table and plot out ways to kill Castro. Dad has lead some of those meetings.

The place is decorated with paintings of old Havana and legs of pork hanging from the ceiling.

This became a nightly ritual for the three of us. I enjoyed it. It was interesting to be submerged in a culture that technically was mine but literally was so foreign.

Then I took them to an extras audition for "Invasion U.S.A." Some new Chuck Norris no-brainer. It seems they had scenes of the Mariel boatlift and they needed people for that. I went for them. I knew they would decide that not only was I not ethnic looking enough but also with my skin color it would be unbelievable that I had ever been out in the sun.

We ended up at the beach. Manuela bought some blankets and we laid down to watch the moonlight. She conveniently goes to sleep and I get swept up in the romance of the ocean and the moonlight and Chucho's glistening brown chest. The moonlight illuminated some of the beads of water on his chest just like body glitter. And you know the old disco kid and body glitter.

Well one thing lead to another and we made out on the blanket. Then we fell asleep in each other’s arms 'till we were rousted by the Shore Patrolman's flashlight in the morning.

To me it was a lovely moment and that's that. Well not to him. He's decided that I'm his boyfriend.

I keep telling him that I was not in love with him.

"You'll grow into it," he keeps telling me.

I keep repeating "I never have before. If the feeling is not there at the onset it never comes."

He keeps insisting he can deal with it.

I keep hearing all of this and wondering. Am I getting through to him in Spanish? Am I saying the correct thing?

He told everyone at Panorámico that we were boyfriends and kept ramrodding me into going out with him. I didn't know what else to tell him without hurting his feelings.

And talk about ghettoi-zation! He made Pablo sound like Yankee Doodle. He even made me translate the third act of "Torch Song Trilogy" so we could do it in class.

He always insisted that we bring Manuela along. I certainly didn't mind her company. Anything to divert my attention from him. But Manuela had this habit of holding my hand in public. Or sticking her hand down my shirt at the theatre and pinching my nipples. One time she even pulled the lever on the seat of my car. When the seat went back she climbed on top of me and bit my penis. I had to beg her to please get off.

"Please, Manuela, if that crazy Cuban sees us he'll take out his machete and turn us both into picadillo.

In the car, Chucho would lay across the front seat with his head on my lap while Manuela cuddled next to me with her arm on my waist. Then they'd look at each other and say, "You know that I can take him away from you anytime I want."

"You can try if you want to. I'm not scared of you."

This went on every night. Yet Chucho would accuse me of getting my macho thrill showing off in public with Manuela. He felt that he was being made a fool of since everyone knew he was my boyfriend. Yet it was he who insisted we bring Manuela along.

Manuela on the other hand told me that she had only been in love once in her life with a man back in Nicaragua who ended up marrying her sister. She said that until she met me no other man had been able to erase his memory

She showed me an 8x10 glossy of me that she had framed and hung on her living room wall. She said she tells everyone who asks that that's her boyfriend.

I feel like I'm in "Cabaret” all of a sudden

A Legend in His Own Mind-28

November, 1983

Dear Lázaro,

Since my participation in Buffo's show had been so drastically diminished, I had to get involved with other stuff quickly. I joined Panorámico. It's a Spanish language theatre group. Luckily they do some things in English or else I would have to be a mime.

First day of class I'm greeted at the door by Euphoria. She has this wild looking long black hair that she tosses all over the place. She grabs me and takes me to the dressing room. She proceeds to tell me that she needs me to do a class exercise with her.

"Something really dramatic! Rape! No. I was raped last week. I got it! You can kill me! I've never died before."

Right there she created this impromptu scene where I am her ex-boyfriend and in a jealous fit I strangle her and drag her dead body by the hair across the stage. Well in the middle of this scene, Thespia, the director, yells out to stop. It seems that Euphoria neglected to tell me that last week she had dislocated her hip.

I became real close friends with her. We were even neighbors. She's a bit of a free spirit. Like this one time I took her to one of my aerobics lessons and found out that she doesn't wear underwear. Unfortunately I discovered this at the same time as my students.

Another time she was holding a pissing contest at the beach with three guys. Afterwards she needed to spend the night with someone until her mother's dress dried.

We were doing a production of what Thespia called "Representational Theatre." It was a series of monologues with song and dance interspersed. You know I was dance. Anyway, all of the performers are on stage the entire time and Euphoria was one of the last ones to speak. She had to maintain her concentration and she chose to do it by being on her knees, constricting her face and twisting her hands in a severe arthritic attack. I was up on a platform overlooking her. It was so hard for me to keep my concentration 'cause she looked so constipated.

Arcadia got mad at me the other day. See she and I have been organizing a bon voyage party for Aurora. She's going back to Uruguay. Arcadia wanted to hire a Strip-O-Gram but the restaurant said no. I tried to explain to her that that kind of entertainment might be offensive to the other patrons. She said that I just didn't want Aurora to have a good time.

We finally settled on Prince Charming. Unfortunately they sent one that looked like Dom De Luise. I thought he was hysterically funny. Aurora loved him. Arcadia was fit to be tied. I could see the smoke twirling out of her ears.

Romero went to bid farewell to Aurora and later informed me that he came without Rumba in case we could get together later. I surprised myself but I turned him down. I have always been such a wimp when it comes to sweet talking, hard loving sexy Latin boys. But I really felt he was using Rumba and me for his own gratification. He certainly was gratifying but I wasn't feeling magnanimous.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Legend in His Own Mind-27

October, 1983

Dear Lázaro,

Time rolled on and this crazy scenario with this rather odd theatre family has come to a rather tumultuous finale.

Buffo invited me to a penthouse to discuss the choreography for the following show. It was still six months away but he said he liked to plan ahead.

He told me he was housesitting a penthouse overlooking Biscayne Bay for a friend that had just been deported. He didn't want to meet me at his house because Arpeggia disapproved of "American" music. He didn't want her negative influences disturbing us. He asked me not to tell anyone about this penthouse because it was the perfect party place and then everyone would want to go there.

When I get there he tells me that he just came from an interview with some producers who are developing a sitcom a la "¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A?" and they want him for the starring role.

Remember when we were in high school, “¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.?” was the big bi-lingual hit on PBS about the Cuban-American family in Miami? Remember it made a star out of Steven Bauer?

So he says to me, "As a matter of fact, there's a part of the young Anglicized son that would be perfect for you. I'm going to suggest you for it but first I need some information."

"I can bring a picture and resumé to the theatre tomorrow," I said all excited.

He said "No, no. I have all that. It's for the costumer. They would need your measurements."

I told him I didn't know them off hand and he said, "No problem."

He dashes into the bedroom and comes out with a tape measure. He then proceeds to measure me. Then he keeps insisting that I take off my shirt.

You know that I don't do that. If I had your muscular build I wouldn't mind, but with my little boy chest there is just no way. I think the only way I managed in "Queen's Reich" is 'cause the dancing took my mind off my slim build.

He kept insisting. He said that he couldn't believe that I, who was always bitching about the heat in Miami, could be in this hothouse.

I politely refused.

He stripped…down to a black and white striped bikini brief with his pot belly hanging over the crotch. Now you've got to picture this scene. I'm sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table with the costume designs for the dance numbers and he's perched up on the couch, knees tucked under his butt, pot belly and pelvis thrust out in the forefront looking at me with beads of sweat rolling out of his orange Afro. It was like a porno starring Ronald McDonald.

I discussed the songs that I wanted and he discussed the costumes. All of a sudden he leaps from the couch, puts his hands on the coffee table and stares me right in the eyes.

"I never noticed your contact lenses. They're huge!" he says to me.

I explained to him that I have a flat cornea so I need these special spherical lenses that make up for the curvature that my eye doesn't have. That's why you can see the rim of them around my irises.

He told me to take the sketches home and work on some ideas.

Next day, Bambi is in my dressing room ready for a dramatic denouement.

"I thought you were my friend!" she says all teary eyed.

I told her, "I am your friend."

"Friends don't keep secrets from each other. Why didn't you tell me you went to Daddy's penthouse last night?"

I told her that he asked me not to tell anyone 'cause it's not his.

"It's his! He bought it as his escape from Mom."

I was shocked. I told her that I don't betray confidences. "He said not to tell anyone and I didn't"

"I'm not just anyone," she says very defensively

I told her that he didn't specify, but she wanted to know what happened.

So I told her we discussed the dance numbers for the next show.


"And when I finished discussing them I left."

"Look, I don't mean to pry, but I love my Daddy and I want him to be comfortable. I know how he is about his things. Tell me, was there a TV set in his bedroom?"

I thought that was an odd question but I told her that I didn't know 'cause I never went to his bedroom.

"Well, Fausto's been to his bedroom."

Now I'm getting upset. I told her to ask Fausto about the TV. I didn't know.

This was getting very strange. What was she trying to find out? If I slept with her father? Please, I would turn straight first. Did he call me up there for a big seduction scene? If he did, I must have missed it. Did he try that on Fausto? ‘Cause he told me he was straight. Bambi even accused him of the possibility of having gotten her pregnant. Now he’s giving another meaning to “Dancing the Worm.” I didn't know what was going on.

Then at the end of the day, when Arpeggia was handing out the paychecks, she thanks me for reminding Buffo about his interview with Ibis.

"He used to have me to do those things for him but I'm glad he's found you."

Now I know my Spanish is pathetic and l lose a lot of things in the translation, but I think she's broadcasting this loud and clear. And I still don't know what she's talking about. Ibis has a talk show on a local cable station and Buffo invited me to go with him to publicize the show. Then he asked me to call him and remind him.

I don't know anything. Except the facts. Buffo announced that he was changing shows in two weeks. He told me that my choreography would be used for the big extravaganza that he’s planning after he comes back from having his eyes done. Then he handed out the scripts. Sugar had a solo belly dancing number. Fausto and Candy were doing a break dancing number with a kid in a gorilla suit. And where was the lead dancer and choreographer? Acting, in Spanish, in one of his skits playing the Indian Rubber Man in a blue uni-tard and a dragon mask.

All of a sudden I felt like Neely O'Hara in "Valley of the Dolls." When Helen Lawson cuts all her songs. I have a run of the show contract and until then I will be in this show in whatever capacity. I just told Pablo to strike my name from the program as choreographer. I really had nothing to do with those numbers.

A Legend in His Own Mind-26

September, 1983

Dear Lázaro,

The vanished wanted daughter is invisible no more. Bambi has made an appearance. And she has decided that she wants me. Regardless of my orientation. It seems that she's basically a lesbian but says that I am the perfect combination of masculinity and femininity. I have both territories covered. I never knew I was Prince.

Anyway, she’s been stuck to me like white on rice. She even joined my aerobics classes. My students have dubbed her Miss Piggy. Let me tell you, the moniker fits.

She calls me every night to scold me for not looking at her in class. She says I individually point out the faults of every other student except hers. The truth is I can't look at her without breaking into spasmodic laughter. When my glance happens to meet hers, she starts picking up her blonde hair, whiting out her eyes and rolling her tongue in little oval strokes around her puckered lips. It's like Little Orphan Annie does Dallas.

So she calls me in the middle of the night to announce that she's holding a bottle of Seconal in her hand and that it's looking pretty good to her.

She's driving me crazy. Thank God Pablo is there to calm me down. Pablo is the theatre manager. He came from the Mariel boatlift and barely speaks English. With my lousy Spanish you can imagine our conversations. But we find other ways to communicate.

It seems that he was in his last year of veterinary school at the University of Havana when the government found out he was gay and kicked him out. His career shattered and his life in ruins, he decided to join the mass exodus.

He's made his interest known to me and I can't say that I don't reciprocate. He has jet-black wavy hair and ebony eyes that just pierce your soul. Of course, Coca-Cola colored skin. He's sweet and tender and makes me laugh, even though I usually don't understand the jokes.

We actually made love on stage one night. After everybody had left, he turned on the blue gels, took me up on stage and said that while I am dancing up here, he would fantasize that he could take me in his arms and move with me that way. We tango-ed our way into total ecstasy.

The problem is that he's too ashamed of being gay. I really can't identify with that. Never went through that "woe is me" phase. And I certainly never lived in a country where you were abused the way he was. I tried to understand his position but I guess my militant heart wasn't into it.

The day he told me that if he could change he would, did it for me. I personally don't think anyone can change their sexuality but hell, if I lived a life of misery like he did I certainly would try to make any kind of adjustment that I could to better my existence. He wouldn't listen to me about gay pride and our gay history. He said he accepted his “weakness” and that was that.

That certainly was that. Although one evening we made love for the entire night and how often does a man like that come along in a lifetime? I still couldn't continue. He was a very honest man and I couldn't lead him on just because he had incredible stamina. He deserved more than what I was willing to give.

Aside from our opposing views on homosexuality, there was also the ghetto-ization. I'm an American of Spanish descent. I am not a Latin American immigrant who grew up over there. I will not spend the rest of my life speaking Spanish and listening to Walter Mercado broadcasts and watching Iris Chacón TV shows.

Don't get me wrong Lázaro, I love salsa music but I'm not ready for Spanish only parties and subtitled films. I mean could you submerge yourself into Irene's French culture all the way?

He did try to warn me that he receives death threats for Bambi practically every day at the theatre. He was worried that one day at a disco, in the middle of the Tango Hustle dip, the bullet that was meant for her would find me instead.

You think this is a good reason to tell her to leave me alone?

She confronted me in the dressing room to ask me if I thought her father was gay. She says she knew that he and her mother were not sleeping together. I didn't know what to say. Didn't she know that story that everybody was telling? And why was she asking me to find out? How was I supposed to find out? Who was I? Closet buster?