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.

A Legend in His Own Mind-18

July, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

After what you've told me about the army, I think my choreographer was a drill sergeant. Of course, he doesn't call us dogfaces or scum suckers. Oh no! We're tone deaf, rhythm-less Baryshnikov wannabes. I tell you he's Paul Lynde's wicked stepmother. He's beyond a queen. And beyond bitter. It seems he ended a promising career as a musical comedy performer when, on a bus and truck tour of "My Fair Lady," he got a bit inebriated and fell off the library scaffold and into the front row of the theatre.

It's not like this show is difficult to dance. There're just a million and one costume and set changes. And everything is computerized. If you're not in position at the exact time, the whole thing takes off without you.

The show basically recreates scenes from Hollywood movies like King Kong on top the Empire State Building or the Titanic sinking. It's a lot of papier-maché and breasts. It seems that most women in Vegas shows don't wear tops. Just shiny tassels to cover their nipples and rhinestone-d rings to hold their breasts up. Of course the headdresses weigh about forty pounds. My job is basically to make sure they hold onto me for support.

You know I have no depth perception, so I can't see the steps. Here I am on a twelve-foot staircase with two topless, marabou-ed women on each side. Can you imagine what would happen if I missed a step? An explosion of feathers and bugle beads. No thank you. I just gingerly point my foot to feel the step. Now the choreographer has seen me do it; has decided that it looks very balletic and has instructed all the other male dancers to do it. They have all lovingly dubbed me Makarova.

The guys are all cute with these tight little bodies. But they're so feminine! I'm not passing judgment but I don't get it. If I wanted femininity, I'd be straight.

Speaking of women, Megan plays one of the handmaidens in the Samson and Delilah sequence. Of course, she's always trying to look underneath Samson's skirt...or is that kilt? I may have had something to do with that though. I told her that he was a method dancer, so in order to get into character he dances with no support underneath.

So the other night she cranes her body so much from the step she's laying on, that she caught her headdress on her feathered fan. As she tried to pry herself loose, she ended up dropping the fan on Delilah, who in turn managed to fall off her chaise longue. All this as Samson's trying to push the pillars apart. So she managed to use the inspiration from Delilah's fall to roll, full of loyalty for her mistress and position herself between Samson's legs as the stone blocks began to fall. The actor playing Samson sees this and tries to pull her up but she manages to get her face caught inside his skirt. Talk about Biblical revelations!

She yells at me, "You lying bastard! He wuz wearing a dance belt! I could have been kilt! But it was woith it. At least I gave him a great big bite."

I wondered if she would invite Samson over on the weekends when Dudley came to visit?

Speaking of visits, Don came up for a week and decided to move up here. He says he needs a break from the radio commercials and just cool out a while. He suggested we get a nice apartment together. That way I could relax away from The Strip too.

Not that there's much of anything else here. Yes there is an actual town named Las Vegas that's not The Circus Circus, The Aladdin, The Hacienda or Caesar's Palace, but everyone's lives revolve around that. If you're not on the performing end, you're a blackjack dealer, a cigarette girl or a tour guide at the Liberace museum.

Don and I went to downtown Vegas and saw a drag show. I had never seen one before. A drag show I mean. Remember I told you about that incident at the 7-11? The day Merrick and I went to get something to drink and there was this big lady walking inside. Merrick says to me, "You see her? She probably has a dick tied up under that skirt."

I said to him, "Don't be gross, Merrick."

So we were standing behind her on line and I said to Merrick.

"Can you pay for my soda because my pants are so tight I can't fit my wallet in them?"

She turns around, looks at my crotch and says in this deep voice, "Well obviously!"

I almost had a stroke!

I think I've come a long way since then.

All the performers were great but one guy in particular was a standout. He came on as The Weather Girls doing "It's Raining Men" and then tore the house down with The Dreams "One Night Only."

I nagged Don so much during the whole evening that he took me backstage to meet him. Well I was freaked out! Not only wasn't he Black; he was another Cuban. From Aruba. He goes by the name Dainty Domínguez and he was absolutely marvelous. He told me later on that they needed boy dancers in the show.

So now after the MGM Grand show, I come down here and dance in this show. This is another world, let me tell you. All these guys have men, most of them married, waiting for them outside in limos to take them out on the town dressed like women. Now these guys know these other guys are guys, but as long as they pretend to be women, then the other guys can pretend to be straight. I'm getting a headache just saying this. Bet you don't have much of that going on in the army?

August, 1982

Dear Lázaro,

Dainty and I are doing Danny and Sandy from "Grease." I told you this guy's at least three hundred pounds, so picture him in Olivia Newton-John's leather pants singing "You're the One that I Want" to me in my best juvenile delinquent mode. I have to use Dippity-Do to keep my spit curl. I have so much oil on my hair you could lubricate my car with it.

I took Megan to the show one night. I was hoping she'd see me and get the idea. Oh she got an idea all right, just not the one I wanted. She decided that it would be great to have a threesome with Dainty in his Little Bo Peep outfit. Do you think that there's more to Megan than just nymphomania? You think I should be worried?

Do you know how Don is supporting himself while he's cooling off? He's an S& M prostitute. He says he doesn't do anything with anybody because his specialty is humiliation. He says his customers pay him so he can tell them that they are so insignificant that they're not worthy to even touch him. This seems to turn them on to the point of orgasm. I'm getting the feeling that it's a very strange world. I'm beginning to doubt some of the things that Don says. I should, right?

I think he does a little bit more than what he claims. And I'm beginning to wonder about those lengthy bathroom trips. And how he never really had any clients other than Taco Bell. How did he afford his incredible office? And his fantastic apartment? Do you think he was always what he is right now and the office is just a front?

I don't really care what he does. I just told him never to bring his clients home because the whole idea of waking up in the middle of the day and seeing Don in some leather outfit with storm trooper boots and a riding crop while some middle-aged businessman with his testicles wrapped up in his narrow tie lays on the floor screaming "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!" was not my idea of breakfast.