Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Legend in His Own Mind-8

January, 1981

Dear Lázaro,

I'm glad this cable TV show I'm doing is only local, 'cause if you ever saw it you'd never let me live it down. It's called "Queen's Reich." It takes place in this run down gay bar in West Hollywood owned by an ex -SS officer. Guess what I play? Go-Go Gómez, the Puerto Rican go-go boy. I spend every show in this teeny-tiny speedo dancing on a barstool and lip-synching to things like Doris Day's "Secret Love", Mary Wells' "My Guy" and "There are Worse Things I Can Do" from "Grease."

Speaking of "Grease,” I went to the "Grease 2" auditions. My first Hollywood audition. I was scared stiff. I had never seen that many dancers in my life. And all of them so beautiful. Where do they find guys like that? I felt so common.

But I knew I could dance so I figured that's what they would be looking at. By the time they got to our group it was so long in the day that they told us to just do a chorus line of side kicks. They thanked us and goodbye. I don't know what they can tell from side kicks.

Someone later told me that they were eliminating all the tall guys ‘cause the lead was a little guy. Isn’t that a kick in the head? Height is one thing I can’t change with a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon.

I just found out from Merrick that "Queen's Reich" has been banned in some of the affiliates for being too risqué. So now he wants me to wear a G-string. The man is out of his mind, man. Either that or all that pot has affected his brain. I'm naked enough as it is. If Mother saw this show she'd run right over to 119th Street to Caracol's Botánica and buy every candle in the joint.

You know, Mother, she can be more Catholic than the Pope but she never stops dabbling in alternate religious methods. Hey whatever works, right? I know she has a standing account at this spiritual shop, the Pathmark for religious practitioners…herbs, lotions and potions right alongside statues of saints and shrunken heads.

But I guess you gotta start somewhere. That's showbiz, right?

Speaking of show biz, I had a singing gig the other night. In Spanish.

Tovah is our editor. She's this adorable Jewish girl who is obsessed with illegal Mexicans. She even taught herself Spanish in order to communicate with them. Her Spanish is better than mine. I know that's not saying much but she doesn't even have an accent.

When she found out that I was Cuban she decided to soak up more ethnicity for her repertoire. Little does she know that the only ethnicity she's gonna get from me is Obnoxious New Yorker.

She's been taking me to these little Mexican dives way out in East L.A. This is like El Barrio-Mariachi flavored. Instead of graffiti talking about "Henriqueta under La Marqueta," they have these big murals of Tenochtitlán and Quetzacoatl with Viva La Raza scrawled under them.

There are ladies on the street selling tortillas. I thought they were going to be those thick omelets that Abuela would make for Sunday breakfast. They're actually these pancake- looking things made out of corn meal and then stuffed with meat. Isn't that weird? We're all Hispanic but yet the cultures are so different.

Anyway, Tovah took me to a club called "El Tropical." They frisked us at the door. Not only the normal body pat and opening of purses but they dug their fingers into the women's big hairdos. Tovah later explained to me that a lot of the Cholas would hide their boyfriend's blades in their hair in order to pass it on to them later.

I was already scared at the looks we were getting. Like we were invading their turf. Luckily Tovah knew everybody there but I was still nervous. She entered us in the talent contest. She wanted to duet with me on a song. I told her I didn't know any Spanish songs so she quickly hummed out the tune to "Bésame Mucho."

When we got up there she had to write down the lyrics on a cocktail napkin. Would you believe they gave us first prize? I think it was on sheer audacity alone. I really don't think that I was a threat to Julio Iglesias. Or maybe it was be nice to Gavacho day. (That’s white guy to you non-Angelinos)

Technically I'm not an Anglo, but you know...same old story. One look at my white skin and blue-green eyes and my name might as well be Tad or Mumford.

Anyway, I'd better get going. If I really am gonna wear a G-string, I'd better go to the gym and increase the amount of weights on my squat machine. I am well aware that I am the only butt-less ballet dancer in the world. Unfortunately, a G-string leaves no room for padding.

A Legend in His Own Mind-7

November, 1980

Dear Lázaro,

Have I told you how beautiful the ocean is over here? It's incredible. The mountains are right next to the shore. It looks like some European coastline or something. I love to relax driving by it late at night. It's about the only place in this city that the air is clean.

The other night I took off in the direction of Zuma. I had already seen Malibu. After hearing so much about it, I had to see it for myself. It's the neatest thing. From the road all you see are front doors. The rest of the house is on pylons leading down to the beach. For miles and miles that's all you see. Doors. It's like being in the home furnishing department of Sears. Zuma is further north of Malibu and I had never gone that far up. I actually got off and walked on the sand. It's so cold. See the weather drops about twenty degrees every night and the sand is actually cold to walk on. I loved it. I pretended it was snow.

On the way back, I was feeling really sleepy. I got a little bit scared to drive through those mountain overpasses while feeling so drowsy. Leave it to me to nod off and fall off the edge. A brilliant career snuffed out before it even started. Or worse! I could end up disfigured like Montgomery Clift. So I saw a motel down the Pacific Coast Highway and decided to spend the night there.

When I went into the room something odd struck me. The bed was circular and had leopard print sheets on it. They were satin too. I thought it was a bit tacky but hey, this is California. When I lied down on the bed I noticed a mirror on the ceiling. And when I put on the TV there was a porno movie playing...on every channel.

Lázaro, I think this was an adult motel. I'm glad no one recognized me going in there. I would have been so embarrassed to be seen. Of course, now that I have time to think about it, I'm probably the only person in America to spend the night in an adult motel... alone. That must be a record somewhere.

And by the way? Since when are leopards sexy?

December, 1980

Dear Lázaro,

Would you believe that Dudley referred to Megan and me as lovers? See Megan told me that she used to be a beautician and she would cut my hair for free. So I went over to her apartment. Dudley opened the door and said, "I'll be stepping out so I can give you two young lovers some privacy."

I thought I was on "Candid Camera" and at any minute Alan Funt would come popping out with an explanation. I didn't know what to do. I thought it was some sort of trap. You know like when the narc posed as a buyer to trap Polous the Skunk for selling smack in the park. But he really left. And she really cut my hair.

Although she did cut it in the nude. Well she told me that she usually does it this way because clothes constrict her movements too much and she doesn’t want to nick my ear.

Do you think they might be into something strange? I think I saw an episode like that on "Love American Style."

I think it was called, “Love and the Naked Barber.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Legend in HIs Own Mind-6

October, 1980

Dear Lázaro,

I need to become rich and famous right away so that I can get a maid. I mean, homemaking is not for me. I don't know how anybody does it. It's all so complicated.

I went to do the laundry the other day. I figured it'd be a neat experience. Something I could draw back on for my acting. If I ever had to play one of those househusbands that Women’s Lib is always talking about.

We have a laundry room in the complex overlooking the pool and everything. Not those Blitzkrieg Laundromats in the old neighborhood...if you even looked the other way some little old lady would storm troop your dryer.

I had no idea that certain clothes went in certain temperatures so I bought all Tempa Cheer. That came with a little guide. So I separated all my whites from my coloreds and went to do my first laundry.

I wasn't sure of the amount of soap to put in so I figured the dirtier the clothes, the more detergent you have to use. I dumped the whole box in 'cause those clothes were filthy. Then I went back upstairs to finish watching "Let's Make a Deal."

That show has always fascinated me. Adults dressed up like carrots and bumblebees jumping up and down like lunatics to pick a two-headed llama behind door number three where the lovely Anitra Ford is standing.

I wish I could have hidden behind door number three. When I walked down to see my laundry, I noticed that the pool was full of suds. And they were coming from my washer.

Luckily this lovely old Mexican lady that lived downstairs saw my predicament and came out to help me. Tia Juana showed me how to turn off the water and then helped me clean up most of the mess. She said the rest of the suds would just evaporate with the chlorine.

I had to call Tia Juana again the following night. I was attempting to cook. I had bought a can of Campbell's cream of chicken soup. I opened up the lid, added water and put it on the stove. Before I knew it the damned thing exploded and all the cream was shot up onto my ceiling.

She told me that I had to put it in a saucepan first. I felt really stupid. But then I's the manufacturer's fault. Nowhere on the can does it say remove contents first. You think I can sue?

A Legend in His Own Mind-5

September, 1980

Dear Lázaro,

Something very odd happened to me the other day. I was driving down Hollywood Boulevard to go do the show when I see this guy hitchhiking. I picked him up. I mean he looked so pathetic standing there. And he must have been roasting wearing all that leather.

As I'm driving him to his destination, he keeps telling me how hot it is outside. He keeps asking me to touch his skin to feel how hot it is. Somehow that didn't feel right. I mean he was a stranger. He kept insisting and I kept declining. Finally he tells me to drop him off at the next corner.

I don't understand. That wasn't where he had told me he needed to go. Isn't that strange?

Then another day I went to the Egyptian Theatre in West Hollywood to see the sequel to "Star Wars." You know, "The Empire Strikes Back." You know I don't see very well to begin with and the movie had already started so the theatre was dark. I sat down quickly so that I wouldn't fall. I noticed that the seat was a little bit higher than usual but I figured it was a California thing.

All of a sudden a man yells out, "Get off me, you punk!" I screamed out loud 'cause I was so scared. The manager came by and accused me of sitting on top of this man on purpose. He said they didn't permit hustling in his theatre. And they threw me out.

I was so upset. They didn't even give me my money back. And how was I hustling anybody? I sat there by mistake. I didn't mean to block his vision or disturb him.

Some people can be so unreasonable. But that’s okay because it will give me a good anecdote to tell Johnny Carson when he interviews me.