Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Legend in His Own Mind-19

September, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

Some things about Megan are beginning to bother me. The other day after the show I lent one of my silk shirts to a dancer. He's Hispanic like us. I think he's Dominican. I don't know. Anyway, Megan sees me and says, "You're going to let him use that beautiful shirt on his greasy body?"

I was taken aback. What the hell did she mean?

She explains, "You know, those people all have greasy bodies."

I asked, "What people are you talking about, Megan?"

She again explains, "You know! Mexicans, Caribbeans, Eyetalians. All those swarthy people. It comes from the food they eat."

I told her, "My family's from the Caribbean."

She says, "But you're not swarthy. You know what I mean."

I said, "Yeah. Dark. Brown."

She says, "Exactly. You're white!"

So I said, "I have relatives that color. So you're telling me that my cousin is greasy?"

She goes, "Jeez! I keep forgettin' you're Cuban. I didn't mean anything bad. You just don't act Latin. And you coitainly don't look it."

The more she spoke, the deeper her foot kept going into her mouth. By the time she finished, it had reached her pelvic bone. I was appalled. I could not believe the things she said.

But in some strange way I'm glad she said them. It made me realize something you always used to say to me about passing. Nobody ever followed me when we went to the toy store. When we jumped the turnstiles, I was the last one the cops would follow. I always thought you had crazy ideas. Well...I apologize to you.

Megan got close to me because even though she knew I was Cuban, she could convince herself that I was white. I mean, I am white but she meant Anglo white. Not only my skin color but I don't have an accent and I don't fit the stereotype. The same stereotype that my agent said characterized all Hispanic actors.

I never meant to pass as anything I wasn't. You gotta believe that, Lázaro. I never denied where my folks came from. So I don't speak Spanish very well. Is that supposed to be a characteristic of racial self-hatred? I'm an American of Hispanic descent. What does that mean to others?

If I don't speak Spanish or dance salsa music or watch telenovelas, I'm denying my heritage? We were raised watching Captain Kangaroo not Chespirito. (Remember that Mexican show where geriatrics play children?) But now Megan made me think. Am I accepted better because people can forget what I am? Can't I just be me? Do I have to represent an entire group of people?

I was discussing this with Dainty and he said, "Girl let me tell you, this world is ruled by straight white men and they make all the rules. If you want to succeed in their world, you have to be ten times better than the worst of them because they're always going to judge you. See with me there's no other way to go. I'm a big, fat, drag queen and I shove it in their faces. They know what they're getting. No surprises under this gift-wrapping paper. But with you, you throw them a curve. A white Latino with a better English than most natives. A butch queen who can out football the boys. But you know what they see? A spic with enough brains to learn their language correctly. A queen with enough sense to know how to behave herself properly. To hell in a hand basket with all of them, honey!"

I'm even more confused now. English is my native language. I object to derogatory words like spic. And I hate being called girl!

October, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

I think the world has gone completely crazy. You say that there exists this color thing in the army? And I thought that they were the masters of uniformity.

As I’m sure you already know, Mami just moved to Miami. She decided that Dad had spent too much time already with his terrorist plotting and nothing good was going to come of it. She says she has finally accepted that she's never going back to Cuba. After twenty-three years? Incredible! I don't even know if I'm going to stay with this show once my contract is over.

Don went back to L.A. He says he's ready to start writing again and told me when I was finished to come back and help him. How stupid does he think I am? Successful commercial writers don't take up prostitution as a sideline. No wonder he knew what all those kinky objects were. I'm surprised he didn't know the brand names.

Well Eric called me the other day. I was very surprised. I don't want to see him though. Why hang on to something that has no future? I want a relationship. A marriage. A ring on my finger and a house to call our home. And if I sound like Marcia Brady I don't care. At least I didn't say he had to be dreamy. The most I'm going to get with Eric is a wonderful weekend and some wild sex on the Hoover Dam.

Dainty stopped the show the other night with this number where he does Shirley Bassey's "My Life" while stripping out of his female garb into a tuxedo. I'm telling you it tore the place apart.

I came across another color barrier yesterday. I auditioned for "West Side Story" and they told me that I was too white to play Bernardo. I told them a million times that my parents were from Cuba and that was just an island away from Puerto Rico, but they weren't having it. They offered me the part of A-Rab instead. I would rather have been told that my dancing was not up to it than this stupidity.

You remember Sylvester? You know the guy in the sequins that did "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real?" Well I heard through the gay grapevine that his producer, Patrick Cowley, had IT. You know, that crazy gay disease. Now they're calling it GRID. Gay Related Immune Deficiency. I can't believe that only gay men get it. It makes no sense. And I can't get over Sylvester's producer. What a waste!

I can't believe they haven't spoken to you guys about it. I mean there are gay soldiers no matter what the army says.

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