Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Legend in His Own Mind-16

January, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

You're not the only one living out a dream. I have just fulfilled one of my childhood fantasies.

I am doing this movie called "One from the Heart" at Zoetrope Studios. Francis Ford Coppola owns this. You know, the guy who did "The Godfather?" Anyway, I'm part of their stock company. It is such a thrill to drive through those studio gates and give my name to the security guard. I feel like such a movie star.

I'm actually an extra. A glorified extra. I play a cop on the beat. Such an incredible thrill. Megan and I are in awe of the whole thing.

We were sitting down watching the rushes and in front of us were Warren Beatty and George Burns. And the movie stars Nastassja Kinski and Teri Garr. Oh and Raul Julia. He is so nice, let me tell you. I guess he noticed that I'm always trying to get into a shot as best I can, so he told Mr. Coppola that since he's madly in love with the lady in the shop, maybe he can get on top of those stone garbage cans on the street corner and do a little dance. Then the cop on the beat(that's me, in case you forgot) could come over, tap his nightstick on the can and ask him to get off. All of that to give me more camera time. What an incredible guy he is.

Come Oscar night, he’s the first one I thank.

They gave a party on Friday night and I'm dancing with Megan. I'm making sure that she stays vertical the whole time. You will never believe who approached us to tell us how well we danced? Gene Kelly! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. That man is my idol. I have watched "Anchors Aweigh" a zillion times. I mean he is dance. That's it! There's nobody else. And he's telling me I dance well. Wowee Wow wow! Then he tells me that he needs a couple of more dancers for the movie. Megan and I started on Monday.

I AM BEING CHOREOGRAPHED BY GENE KELLY! I cannot believe it! You know I could die right now and you could put that on my tombstone. My epitaph. THIS IS THE ONLY MOVE NOT CHOREOGRAPHED BY GENE KELLY!

The man who danced with Garland in "For Me and My Gal." The man who did "Singin' in the Rain." Who directed Streisand in "Hello Dolly." He was choreographing me...and about fifty others but who cares. He was choreographing me.

After one of the rehearsals this leggy blonde approaches me. She wants to know what Gene is like. (We’re on a first name basis now) I recognized her. She's a Roller Derby skater for the Los Angeles Cultists

She says to me, "Yes I'm with the Cults but don't say it too loudly 'cause people in the industry think that all Roller Derby women are lesbians."

Not Raquel Welch in "Kansas City Bomber."

Anyway she invited me to their training center in Pico-Rivera. That was another thrill. After all those pseudo derby games we would play in the courtyard. Skating around the green chains that encircled the patch of grass that stood for a lawn; I was now actually on the banked track. The same track we saw at all those championships at Madison Square Garden. Remember how Abuela hated B.J. Petersen? She would scream, "Kill her! Rip her eyes out!"

Well guess what happened? They're in need of a filler skater and I got offered the job. I'm getting whupped up and down that track and loving every minute of it. Now I know how Raquel felt.

February, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

My non-existent romance with Gary is surely up in flames now. He's moving to Palm Springs. He said he got a great job offer. I'm going to miss him incredibly. I mean technically he was my first.

At least I have work to get my mind off of him. I'm doing another extra bit with Samoa. We're playing party guests at a fancy ball honoring Patricia Neal. The master of ceremonies is Rock Hudson. I had to take a peek at him. I mean that's the man who almost impugned Doris Day's virginity. Well guess what? That big, powerful chest is actually his belly. Once they put this girdle on him it gets all pulled up. Movie magic!

Samoa is enthralling all the other extras at our table with her dietary secrets. She can eat anything she wants for breakfast, and Anything she wants for lunch and ANYTHING she wants for dinner and then at precisely twelve midnight she drinks a glass of hot water with lemon and it washes away the pounds. She claims to lose six pounds a day this way. She already weighs forty pounds with wet blue jeans on. At this rate she'd disappear in a week.

I also got to do another movie. It's called "Night Shift." It stars Henry Winkler and is directed by Ron Howard. I’m actually in the same room with The Fonz and Richie Cunnnigham. There's also this very funny guy named Michael Keaton that I've never heard of.

Anyway it's a disco scene and I'm dancing with the dancers from Solid Gold. We're doing a bump and grind to Skyy's "Call Me." You know that song about the woman who tells her best friend's boyfriend to give her a call and then supplies him with a dime?

I was wearing gold shoes, white satin pants, a turquoise glitter shirt and a peach lamé vest. I was a disco peacock.

I loved it. I was partnered with Darcelle. You know the beautiful Black girl from the show with all the hair? It was real difficult to do because for recording purposes we had to dance without music. I mean they played the song so we could get the rhythm but when it came time to actually filming the scene we had to do it in silence so that the music wouldn't drown out the dialogue.

It was really neat. Mr. Winkler doesn't act like Fonzie at all. He's actually very nice and polite. And that new guy, Keaton, kept everybody in stitches. I think he's going to be real big one day.

Don took me to San Francisco for the Gay Pride Weekend. Absolutely unbelievable. I didn't know that many gay people existed. It felt so incredibly powerful to be everywhere like that. To actually be the majority.

And San Francisco was the Emerald City. What a breathtaking place. These quaint houses painted bright colors. Those hilly streets where some of the sidewalks are actually steps. The weather is spectacular. Always nice and cool and no humidity.

We were at a bar in the Castro district (the gay neighborhood although in San Francisco that's kind of an oxymoron). Don, of course, did his little disappearing act and I stood around the piano. They were playing show tunes show by show. During the "Flower Drum Song" section when this beer- bellied biker with a devil tattooed on his shoulder began to do "I Enjoy Being a Girl,” an old man dressed in a tuxedo with the most shining silver hair I had ever seen approached me.

He said to me, "My Lear jet is parked at San Francisco airport and if you say the word I will fly us to Paris for dinner."

I was shocked. I didn't know if he was real or not. I politely refused. I mean can you imagine what he would demand from me after dinner? I couldn't. It would be like dating my grandfather.

Don's tour of The Emerald City continued. Next came this bar where the walls were full of metallic things that looked like car fenders. I noticed arms and legs coming out of those fenders. At the risk of incurring Don's wrath, I asked him what that was? He told me the walls were really full of cubicles for the guys to have sex in. It looked like something out of Dante's Inferno.

By the way, did the news get to you guys over there in Lebanon about the mysterious gay cancer? Probably not. Anyway, it's all over the news here. There seems to be some weird form of skin cancer that has affected a few young gay men in the San Francisco area. How does a disease know you're gay? That's weird, don't you think?

Anyway, people are speculating that it came from using poppers. Something I've never understood. I've been on the dance floor when some guys were opening those things and it smelled like ammonia. It was like being stuck in the bathroom after one of Mami's cleaning frenzies.

Other people say it's only affecting guys who sleep around a lot. It's weird, though. What's a lot? Look at that club with the holes in the walls. Is that considered a lot?

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