Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Legend in His Own Mind-17

June, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

If I hadn't had to play in a final game at the L.A. Coliseum, I would have driven to Palm Springs myself. They threw me a going away party. Told me that I was entering a far more competitive world than Roller Derby could ever be. I don't know about that. I mean, I've heard stories about over the hill choreographers and envious up and coming dancers, but once you've had ball bearings at your larynx, you seem to get a different perspective on things.

They bronzed my roller skates as a gift. It was very thoughtful but not very practical. Can you imagine how heavy those things were?

Eric and I had a special dinner together. But first he took me to see "Fame." He said it was a musical and that I would love it. He was right. I did love it. It made me more anxious than ever to start my new job. But I thought it was more of a science fiction story. Can you imagine that in the entire High School of Performing Arts there was only one gay student?

Afterwards we went to a lovely restaurant in Malibu. It was built on pylons right on the beach. The main dining room had a fireplace. We sat overlooking the ocean. The crackling of the flames mixing in with the roar of the waves created quite a beautiful symphony.

I have always found the ocean so romantic and mysterious. I think I was a pirate in another life. It is just so infinite that it makes all of my troubles go away with its sheer vastness. And this moment was very bittersweet. I had grown very fond of Eric. But it was a nowhere situation. I didn't expect him to leave his wife and kids for me and I'm not about to miss a career opportunity for a few stolen nights when our road schedules coincide.

Still he looked like Winnie the Pooh sitting across from me. I guess it was the light of the flames that gave that orange hue to his features.

He said to me, "You've shown me a lot this past year. I always thought that I could have a good time with a man but that lifelong security could only be found with a woman. I don't think that anymore. I know it would've been different with you, but I can't do anything about it now."

He held my hand across the table and started to cry. He wept like a little boy being sent off to school. I felt so bad for him. I realized at that moment that I was going to miss him; his tenderness, his attention towards me; those grizzly bear arms wrapped around me. But he was going to miss me even more, because I was a connection to a life that he'll never have. He'll meet other guys and have clandestine affairs with them; go back to Michigan and share an empty lifetime with a lovely woman; be a responsible, loving father, and always yearn for what he can't have. Thank God I don't have to live that way!

Dad and Lucy came to help me pack. Dad kept raving about the plane. If they had had those incredible engines back in the Bay of Pigs invasion, Castro would not be here today.

You know my sister, Lucy. She was appalled at the decadence of Hollywood. How could such vile people make such beautiful movies?

We were getting ready to leave for LAX, when my apartment shook like a tree house on a shaky branch. Father right away thought it was a Communist bomb attack. You know how close California is to the Soviet Union. They didn't do it in World War II because the Germans wouldn't let them. But now it was the perfect time.

With everybody out here so stoned all the time, they wouldn't even notice.

He felt a bit disappointed when I told him that it was just a minor earthquake.

Lucy immediately felt that California had so many earthquakes to shake the undesirables out. Sort of like Sodom and Gomorrah.

I told her that if I heard of anybody turning to salt, I'd let her know. She immediately dropped to her knees and prayed for the salvation of my soul. She feels that I have been corrupted by the lax morals of this liberal state.

I drove the four hours between L.A. and Las Vegas all by myself. Megan offered to accompany me but I told her I had a lot of errands to run. I would meet her up there.

Yes she's in the show too. I promise, Lázaro, when she gets there I will tell her that I'm gay. Please leave me alone.

The drive was incredible. Four hours of nothing but mountains, dirt and cacti, with an occasional tumbleweed rolling by to break up the pattern. I felt so small. I kept thinking, back home we live one on top of the other and there's so much space here. I didn't know there was this much space left in the world.

I saw the road sign leading to Death Valley and I swear to you, buddy, I could feel all the Indians and pioneers that went by. I could almost see them kicking up dust clouds over those mountain ranges. No I have not been out in avocado land too long. I'm not joining any cults or smoking any peyote.

I guess I had to occupy my mind with thoughts other than what happened to Gary. I never found out and it's still driving me crazy. I don't know who else to call. I know he came from Boston originally but I don't know who to call there. And who's to say that he actually called me from Palm Springs? Or that he actually even went there?

I stopped at this McDonald's that's actually a converted train car. It was so Hooterville. I kept looking for three naked girls in a water tower and a talking pig. Finally, like an oasis in the middle of the desert, you see this mass of lights and it's Las Vegas. I tell you man, who ever thought of building this place in the middle of nowhere?

You think New York never sleeps? This place doesn't even have nighttime! The neon signs are so bright that if you look out your window it looks like daylight...all night. The casinos have no doors. Everything's out in the open. And I do mean everything.

I went to the motel where the company was putting us up and when I went back there was this pamphlet stuck to my car. It looked like grocery store coupons. They were coupons, all right, but not for the produce section. They were for hookers. Girl and boy hookers, I might add. A list of what they did and what they charged for what they did and what credit cards they accepted. Can you picture your Amex statement at the end of the month? What's it gonna say?

They had an announcement for a company that would video tape you and your partners having sex. Maybe this place will keep Megan so busy she'll finally leave me alone.

Oh and excuse my ignorance. I didn't know that admirals were only in the navy. All I know about the navy is from the Village People song. And their uniforms are prettier anyway.

I know that it's hot in Beirut but it's the desert here too. It is unbearable. Everybody talks about the Vegas breeze. It's a breeze alright...from a heated oven. Wow! Thank God I work at night.

A Legend in His Own Mind-17

March, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

Don't be selling my signature to your platoon buddies just yet. Stardom has eluded me again. My big scene with Raul Julia has obviously ended up on the cutting room floor. And you can't even make me out in the dance number 'cause it was all shot with an overhead camera. I went to Grauman's Chinese full of expectations of seeing myself on a big screen at last. And all I came out with was a huge butter stain on my pants when I dropped the popcorn.

Then came "Night Shift." This one didn't even have a disco in it. Not a glimpse of my shiny shimmying could be seen.

I even missed out at the Diana Ross concert. Tovah and I went to the L.A. Forum to see The Supreme One and you know how when she sings "Reach Out and Touch" she goes through the audience. Well, she was two rows ahead of mine and I started brushing up my vocal chords.

This was going to be my moment of discovery. I would duet with Diana on a national TV special and have it made. I envisioned myself with a TV series like Tony Orlando and a Grammy winning duet with Donna Summer.

I started clearing my throat so I wouldn't sound phlegmy. She kept getting closer and closer. My Godsend in shiny rhinestones. Then suddenly she stopped. Gave a little tug to her microphone cable. The stupid thing wouldn't give. As I saw my angel of mercy sashay back to the stage, all shimmering lamé and billowing hair weave, I saw my whole life go up in flames.

Shot down before I could even get up. And to top it all off it rained when we got out of the concert.

See it never rains in Southern California. So I never bothered to fix my windshield wipers. The driver's side didn't work. Now I had to drive all the way back to Tovah's house with my hand out the window moving the wiper up and down to clear my windshield.

The only place you can see me is the televised Roller Games I skate in. The fun is fading fast, let me tell you. Somehow skating at sixty miles an hour into somebody's elbow is beginning to lose its luster. The big fights are fake, just like wrestling. But when you get knocked down on your butt, that's real. And it hurts!

I did find something to ease the pain. Eric. Number 52 for the Detroit Radiators. Big, burly, Irish guy. Reminds me of a truant officer at school. I had twisted my ankle at a game and afterwards he stayed in the locker room to show me a special way of bandaging where it doesn't restrict movement but still protects.

He started to massage my ankle before bandaging it and one thing lead to another know. We've been seeing a lot of each other. Schedules permitting. He's married and has three children back in Michigan. Told me he always knew he was gay but he was brought up a Roman Catholic and he knew that marriage was the only way of life for him.

I asked him, "So what are you doing with me? Committing adultery?"

He says, "I don't see it that way. I think two men share a very special bond that can never be shared by a man and a woman. It's a fraternal sort of thing. I'm not cheating on my wife. I would never be with another woman. That would be taking away from my wife. But what you and I have is something she and I can never have. So I'm not taking anything from her."

Was he serious or feeding me a line? Maybe he was feeding himself. All I know is, it felt really good to be with him. We always had a good time together and he took care of me on the road. It feels nice to be protected. He'd always massage me when we got back to the hotel room and prepare a warm bubble bath for me. Then he would rub these fragrant hot oils all over my body.

In the morning, he'd serve me breakfast in bed on this tray with a red rose and a white one. The colors of our teams. I don't know. I like him a lot. I miss him when he's not around. I'm beginning to become jealous of his wife. I think I want the kind of bond that they have.

April, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

I have just seen the movie "Making Love." I even risked going back to the Egyptian to see it. I think it's the first time I had ever seen two guys kissing on screen. It looked fake as hell but still it was there.

That's what I want to do with my life. I want to act in movies like that. Movies that tell our stories. Enough of straight people and their affairs.

Between the dancing and the Roller Derby, I really didn't have much time to take acting lessons. But acting is really representing life, wasn't it? I just had to go out and experience life.

So I spent the night at a transient hotel in downtown Los Angeles. All I experienced was fear. The look of all those bearded smelly men in the lobby. It was like taking a wrong turn down Delancey and ending up in the soup kitchens of The Bowery.

I couldn't sleep for fear of being eaten by bed bugs. The room was dank, with a single light bulb dangling precariously from a black chord. Peeling walls and yellowing windows. The toilet seat was so brown there was no way I was going to go anywhere near it.

I bolted the door and slid the bed right next to it so no one could crash into the room.

It was the most wonderful night of my life. I got to experience how another type of person lives and now I can recall it when I need to for a movie.

May, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

Something very disturbing happened to me last night and I don't know quite what. It was three o'clock in the morning and I got a phone call from Gary. He didn't tell me where he was or his number or anything. All he said was, "Your voice always cheers me up, my little ray of sunshine. I guess I wanted to hear it one last time." Then he hung up.

I called every major resort in Palm Springs this morning. No bartender by that name.

I have to find out what happened to him. What did he mean hear my voice one last time? Are you getting a creepy feeling?

The MGM Grand Hotel called this morning to tell me that I had the job in the "Hallelujah Hollywood " show. I don't want to go to Vegas until I find out what happened with Gary.

Do I sound crazed? You know how I hate mysteries.

By the way, congratulations on making corporal. Keep this up and soon you'll be admiral. Then maybe you can find out what happened to Gary.