Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Legend in His Own Mind-14

September, 1981

Dear Lázaro,

People who say New York is full of kooks just haven't been out here. I think Los Angeles is the training camp. They pass their finals here and then they're ready to go out into the world.

We were interviewing this lady for the show the other day. She looked like Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" Fifty pounds of make-up for each wrinkle on her face. A jet-black wig that looked like a mop that hadn't dried too well.

She sat down with her arms folded across her chest looking from side to side. Like there was an invisible tennis game or something. So me, being the official good will ambassador of the show, approach her and say hello.

She points to an actress making her entrance in a red bikini and says, "I don't like her! She called me Jack. Jack is a boy's name. And I'm a girl. My name is Jackie. Do you know that I went on "The Gong Show" three times? And I got gonged three times. I went as a comedienne. I write jokes for me and for my pet rock."

I'm still trying to figure out how the pet rock told the jokes.

She came back the next day to audition. The only thing that had changed was the color of her wig. Now it was ratty blonde. She sits down and opens up a shopping bag. She begins to take out teddy bears of various sizes and line them up in front of her.

She says, "I work better with an audience."

Then she pulls out this little pistol and sticks it in Joe's chest. Joe is this little Armenian guy who plays the Jewish Sheik. He has just had a pacemaker installed.

She says, "Give me all your money or I'll shoot."

She says this in a totally monotone voice. Merrick, who was probably high on Thai sticks, begins to laugh. José, who is sitting behind me, begins to get up.

He says, "I work in a gun shop, man, and that ain't no toy."

I'm a nervous wreck now. I'm trying to tell Merrick that this woman is one slice short of a loaf. I'm worried that Joe's pacemaker is going to explode from the excitement.

Well she begins to do impersonations. She stands up, waves her right arm in the air like she's shooing away a fly and says in a deep monotone, "What a dump! I fooled you didn't I? You thought it was Bette Davis, didn't you? It's not! It's Elizabeth Taylor in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" People have told me when I'm wearing my black hair that I look just like her."

Not even after a long camel ride filming "Cleopatra" through the Sahara.

Merrick is very amused at all of this and Joe hasn't moved. I think he went into shock. Merrick begins to offer her the part of his aunt.

She freaks, "Your aunt? How old do you think I am?"

I'm leaning over the chairs whispering to Merrick, "Shoot low! Shoot low!"

The idiot says forty.

She blows a gasket. "I happen to be twenty-one and you are real nasty to me. You are worse than Chuck Barris. I'm so upset I'm not even going to do the song I prepared on my ukulele."

She left in a huff and hasn't been heard from since. I found out that she's a counter waitress at the May Co. downtown. I hope they tip her well.

It's actually quite sad if you think about it. She's like the Hollywood clichés of star wannabes. Spending her whole life in a dream world where her big break is just around the corner. Except she hasn't stood on that corner for at least thirty years.

And you think you have to deal with shell shock.

October, 1981

Dear Lázaro,

I am so relieved. They only censor your letters. I can say whatever I want. I can even breach security if I wanted to.

I went with Tostita to a fund-raising party Halloween party at the Hollywood Palladium. It was for solar energy. She went dressed as a pregnant nun because she didn't need any padding. She figured people would think it was the costume. You see, she has this huge crush on Jon Voight and she wanted to make an impression.

I went dressed in a bathrobe and slippers. I couldn't think of anything else. I called it a man who didn't have time to get dressed.

We had a great time. The Village People performed and I danced my slippers off.

Of course, Mami is now upset that I'm hanging around Jane “Hanoi Hannah” Fonda.

"I cannot believe that I left my contry to avoid communism and jour father is in the jongles fighting it and jou..."

She didn't finish. I guess she grabbed her rosary beads and went to say another novena. She has more conversations with Mary than Joseph did.

Father is convinced that there are subversive coded messages in the counts that Jane does in her aerobics classes.

I hope it's okay to mention Hanoi Jane. It won't get you in trouble, will it?

Well my dreams of TV stardom went out the door. I never made it to Paramount. Slovak decided that he wanted another scene...and another scene partner. It seems that someone told him that taking another man would be too much competition. What competition? Like a skinny Cuban from New York would be considered for the same parts as a guy who looks like an armoire with a bad attitude. And I had already seen myself as Lenny and Squiggy's roommate.

But I had a taste of fame anyway. Or infamy if you want. Don took me to The Apache again and people were recognizing me from that billboard. It was very exciting. And embarrassing. Just because I'm in a shower doesn't mean I'm easy. These guys were like Pavlov's dogs. I should have been wearing a raincoat.

Don introduced me to this guy that right away I recognized from a soap opera. He was breathtaking lounging there bare-chested. He had the prettiest nipples that I had ever seen. I got so nervous that when I went to shake his hand I accidentally knocked a Piña Colada on his tanned chest. The pineapple wedge started this long descent between his perfectly shaped pecs.

I apologized profusely and quickly grabbed some cocktail napkins from a passing waiter’s tray to wipe him off. He beamed this sexy smile at me and said, “You could wipe me off another way”.

I was dumbfounded by what I thought he meant. Don had to lean over and confirm my suspicions in my ear.

Well what could I do? I couldn’t refuse the big-time television star. Let me tell you that pineapple has never tasted so good. And I have never been able to look at another Piña Colada the same way again.

But it does make me sex all they think about? I want romance. Moonlit strolls holding hands on the sands of Zuma. Going up to the observatory and gazing at the moon. You now, like James Dean and Sal Mineo.

I know what you're going to say. That scene was never in the movie. But you have to read between the takes. It was clearly obvious to me that Sal was in love with James. And James wasn't bothered by it. Natalie was just there to oversee the whole thing and cover the relationship with society's cloak of respectability.

I did meet this great guy there. He doesn't want me to reveal his name because he just got cast in a television show. Talk about security breach. Personally I think it's silly but...I will tell you that he plays a mounted policeman.

He's a sun-drenched blue-eyed blond boy from Nebraska. Birthplace of James Dean, I might add. He has that type of hair that falls over your right eye all the time. We went to Palm Springs for the weekend and he did the most incredible thing. I was driving his blue pick up when suddenly he takes off his clothes.

I said, "Wow! You want me to pull over?"

He goes, "That won't be necessary. Drive on James."

He unzipped me, straddled me and began to have sex. I didn't think that was possible. I thought I was going to crash. I had to lean over his pecs to see the road. Using his nipple as a marker for the center line.

It was incredible! I guess the fact that I had to keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times added to the stimulation.

You can imagine. If this was the ride over there...I couldn't wait to get to Palm Springs.

A Legend in His Own Mind-13

July, 1981

Hey Pal?

Screw you and your suggestion. Binky Wendelsohn III? Come on, what do you think I am? Some country club tennis playing geek? Besides I already picked one.

Mami won't talk to me now. The Dragon Lady says I am denying my family roots. I told her it was a professional move not a personal one, but she wasn't having it.

Anyway, my friend Slovak has an audition for "Laverne and Shirley" at Paramount and he wants me to be his scene partner. Isn't that great? I know it's his audition but they might like me too.

We're doing the linguini scene from "The Odd Couple." You know where Felix is not talking to Oscar and Oscar kicks him out? I'm Felix. We're at Slovak's house trying to rehearse while his girlfriend, Samoa, is running around moving linen from one closet to another. This girl is so hyper. Beautiful Hawaiian girl with long black hair but totally whacked.

Later on she's sitting at the dining room table with a bowl and she dumps an entire box of Captain Crunch cereal inside of it. Slovak is getting mad. Looking like he looks, I wouldn't want to see him angry. He once took on an entire busload of Mormons in Utah. He told me that the reason he had to leave Yugoslavia was because he killed a man in a bar fight.

He says to her, "Now, Samoa, why do you do that? You know you're not going to eat all that cereal."

So she answers him, "Don't worry about it, Hon. Whatever I don't eat I'll just blow dry it and put it back in the box."

I can see it too. This woman is fried.

And talking about fried...are you toasted? Why would you want to join the army? I know they pay for your college but you could have gotten a scholarship. I mean you graduated Summa Cum Laude in high school and you were great in baseball.

You were the star pitcher of our team. I don't know why I still refer to it as our team. All I did was shine the bench. The only time in the season that I actually got up from there was to hit a foul ball that beaned the coach's wife from the dugout.

Why would you want to go somewhere where they treat you like that? I mean they're all so nasty and rude.

August, 1981

Dear PFC Vega,

Does that sound officious enough? Wow! I still can't believe it! You look good in your uniform. But don't be doing anything stupid like volunteering for missions to Yassir Arafat's house. I know we're not at war but they are shipping you to Beirut. I mean, come on, those people throw mortar shells like we throw firecrackers.

When Dad saw your picture, he was so proud. He'd love it if I joined him in the Everglades with his revolutionary group. Revolutionary group! Six old men dressed in camouflage planning to overthrow Castro from an airboat. Not me. Green is definitely not my color. And I don't do well in mud.

I'm sending you a picture of my Head and Shoulders ad. You can hang it up in your footlocker. I'll be the Farrah Fawcett of Lebanon. They have this shot blown up on a billboard overlooking the Ventura Freeway. I have to see a twenty four-foot image of me coming out of the shower every day. Could you die?

I sent the picture to Mami and you know what the Dragon Lady said?

"I'm glad jou changed jour name since jou estarted doing porno."

All you see is my chest! What is she talking about? You know, someone has to tell that woman that she's living in the twentieth century. Abuela thought I looked real cute with wet hair.

Even though I'm "young and confused", Gary still took me to Oil Can Harry's. Another gay bar on Ventura Boulevard. It was very strange. He said it wasn't a date or anything but he hovered over me like a chaperone.

Gary should've been hovering whenever Megan got close. Yes I'm still dancing with her but see we keep winning dance contests. It's a great way to supplement my income.

Anyway I was in the backseat of her car. Well? I couldn't offend her by refusing, could I? She managed to get under me and I'm sweating bullets. She pulls me over her and I start to fumble...I mean, I really don't know where IT is. All of a sudden my search is impeded by flashing lights. She yells, startled, thinking it's a cop. It wasn't! But I took the opportunity to tell her it wasn't safe out there.

I didn't know what else to tell her. Stop yelling at me! You're right. I should tell her that I'm gay. But I don't want to hurt her feelings. I mean, I didn't tell her the first night 'cause I really didn't know. But she doesn't know that. She's gonna think I lied. That I lead her on somehow. I'll just keep subtly refusing her 'till she gets the picture.

On to brighter things. Don finally got his office. It overlooks Sunset Boulevard. I helped him move the other day and we spent all night talking about the clients we were going to have. The sun started to set and let me tell you, it was one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. This orange haze covered all of Hollywood. I guess methane gas will do that.

Don wrapped his arms around me and we both sat huddled together and admired that incredible glow. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had. It wasn't sexual at all. I mean he didn't try anything. Not that he would. He's my friend. But it was this incredible union between our souls. We didn't have to say anything. It was like the mere touch of our bodies communicated everything.

I better stop before this sounds like Harlequin romance erotica. You know, the hot breath on the nape of my neck and things like that. I don't want to get you into trouble when they start to censor this letter.

Well don't do anything I wouldn't do. Not that you ever would.