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The Public Blogging of Pomosexuality, Homotextuality, Homophobiaphilia, and Drear Theory (aka Career Theory) [aka Gay4Pay]. We also read the Corner and OpJournal so the right buttock will be punished as well.
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Heads up to our readers in a 2065 (or maybe that should be 2005) post-tobaccolypse NYC. I just saw a picture of the contents of the Westinghouse Time Capsule buried at the 1965 World's Fair site and there's a perfectly good pack of cigarettes (Kents, my ma's brand) waiting inside it. The capsule isn't supposed to be dug up till 6965, but they weren't counting on the short-term transformation of filtered cigarettes (the filters were the hook that made the pack worthy of encapsulation) from innovation to abomination, so I'm sure they'd understand in you rescued the smokes sooner, just so long as you resealed the capsule and reburied the rest.
Place this in the category somewhat amusing (a subset of the infinite): the prodigious dads in the two versions of Cheaper By the Dozen are both Hollywood prodigies of non-fatherhood. Clifton Webb's unfruitfulness extended only to reproduction, while Steve Martin's is more willful and subject to possible late course correction. Martin is a Webb for our time, the go-to-guy when your script features an exasperated dad of a certain age and urbanity.
Randolfe Wicker, a pioneering gay activist turned cloning advocate who says, according a quote in the Observer, that "when I saw the movie, Cheaper By The Dozen, I wanted to be Clifton Webb and have 12 kids."
Andrew Sullivan quotes today from James McCourt's new book, his first work of non-fiction. It looks inordinately interesting. As is this theory from the Publishers Weekly review quoted on Queers Street's Amazon page:
His fans formerly waited eight or nine years for the master of camp glamour perfection to issue a new novel, yet the years since the century's turn have brought three books in rapid succession. Is this new productivity linked to a newfound confidence born out of Harold Bloom's elevation of McCourt in his appendix to The Western Canon (1994)?
Lot of news in that sentence but a plausible bit of psychologizing. Which probably means it's wrong and McCourt was stymied by something else again. Maybe the plague he was epicenter witness to. Thing like that could cut into your writing time.
I've only read McCourt's legendary debut novel, Mawrdew Czgowchwz, but it was so good I've always wanted to read more. For a long while there was no more, so I stopped searching. I have Time Remaining on a shelf somewhere, but I think I'll read Queer Street before I go looking for it.
News of a new Bruce Wagner novel is also newsworthy (hire me PW). I recommend all of his earlier books enthusiastically. Even his Dickens goes SoCal moment, I'll Let You Go. Don't judge Bruce by his movie Women in Film, if you saw that by some tragic multiplex mishap (or Sundance Channel screw-up, more likely I imagine, it couldn't have had much of a theatrical run anywhere). It had a terrific title (perhaps too clever, though I'll take that over too dumb any box office weekend) and was based on an hilarious section from I'm Losing You, but it was dead from high concept strangulation before the cameras rolled. Almost every scene was a static shot monologue, with most of the monologues too baroque for the talents involved. Maybe too baroque for any earthly actress. Certainly a cheap way to make a movie (so probably low-cost was mother to the still-born high-concept). Of course, not making it at all would have been an even greater savings in money, time (mine included), and reputation. I imagine Mr. Wagner is aware of this. Now.
Fred Hersch records are dependably good. His take on an even dozen Billy Strayhorn compositions, Passion Flower, is really good. Except for one failing, that eternal jazz delusion: Upright bass solos. They throw the whole genre into disrepute. Muso hiptserism at its self-satisfied emptiest. Hey let's put the muddiest, most indistinct musical instrument out front at regular intervals! No not the tuba, its tone is too clear! Yes, that cumbersome sonic blur, the upright bass. We'll nod our heads along to the soupy sounds and knowingly clap when the soup is done!
How even worse than usual when the bass solos interrupt Hersch's crystalline meditations on Billy Strayhorn. Things have gotten just too beautiful to bear--bassman, make with the subtle sludge, please.
And Billy S, unlovely avatar of the sublime, unpretty disciple of gorgeousness, you're the Agenda Bender approximate dude of the year for circa 1935, the more-or-less birthdate of Something To Live For. Add Billy's melody to his words and gayer than this it doesn't get:
I want something to live for
Someone to make my life an adventurous dream
Oh, what wouldn't I give for
Someone who'd take my life and make it seem
gay as they say it ought to be
Why can't I have love like that brought to me?
My eye is watching the noon crowds
searching the promenades seeking a clue
To the one who will someday be my
Something to live for
Something to live for
Something to live for
I may have some of the details wrong. I believe Bill died in September of 1995. Possibly it was '94 or '96 though. So it's more on the order of 3000 days without Bill as I write this. I'd known him for about seven years by then. He was the doorman at a gay dance club I helped run for most of the 80's. He was hardworking and funny--the two things I valued most highly in an employee-- so I kept calling on him to help me with other projects. He became less of a doorman over time and more of the all around backstage guy who did whatever needed doing. He ended up managing the club on the odd night and doing the banks and money runs many days, too. He became my best friend over these years. So he'd told me a lot before he died, though he saved his biggest surprise till near the end.
Bill grew up rough. Bunch of brothers, a tough mom who'd mellowed a fair bit by the time I met her. No dad. One older brother died in a truck (motorcycle?) accident at 20. Another brother Bill always hated with an unexplained passion, but I had my guesses why. Bill was a bully growing up, and I think he learned that family trade from the hated brother. I believe he might have taught him other things as well.
Bill was hitting the couple of gay bars near his hometown just north of Philly by the time he finished high school. He was big (6'3") and had a mustache at 18, and the bars didn't particularly care that much back then anyway, so he had no trouble getting in. His trouble was leaving the house. The tough moms always figure it out quick, so she knew where her son was going, all dressed up and cologne soaked, with strange men waiting outside to give him a ride. I saw Bill's temper in full flower of evil many times, and he told me his mom was his match, so I can only imagine the weekend ritual of her screaming her faggot son out the door. And him screaming his fuck-you-ma-goodbyes back.
He got out as soon as he could, got his own place, worked in a meat packing plant (he was badly hurt there, half a cow fell on him or something, though his weeks in the hospital were made pleasanter by the orderly who became his nightly visitor and angel of relief), and then went the blue collar gay route. Non-glamour retail (supermarkets, discount stores) and restaurants. No glamour there either, mall steak houses and franchise joints. Then he moved on to gay bars and clubs--doorman, barback, fill-in bartender.
I don't think anyone had ever given Bill much of a chance before I saw how hard he was willing to work. Or maybe they had and his temper had fucked things up for him. I put up with the rages because he saved me so much time and effort in between the blow-ups. And they seemed to decrease after he felt like I was on his side and would defend him to the owner, who came eventually to like him quite a lot, anyway, so he needed less defending and he calmed down considerably.
Bill's biggest delight, outside recounting sex tales, was a ringing phone and a wrong number. The club's number was a digit away from a pizza parlors. Bill probably took a couple dozen pizza orders over the years. And then he would field all the subsequent complaint calls when the pizza didn't arrive, always promising the customer that the phantom pizza would be free when it arrived, with his deepest apologies. But any mistaken call would do. I'd hear him answer the phone in the next office, his replies would be puzzling, then it would click, and I'd grip the desk for the ride. "Oh no I'm sorry he was murdered last night... Yes, we're all in shock here... No we don't know the funeral plans, yet... Certainly, call back tomorrow and we should have a better idea...Well, I'm his son... Yes, he was young... he married my mother while they were still in High School, childhood sweethearts...I will, of course... Thank you... yes...he was a fine man." Then I'd yell over what the hell was that. And he'd tell me a woman had called to make an appointment with her dentist.
Sometimes the hijinks served a deeper purpose. We were opening another club and Bill had moved to New Haven to be the construction manager. I stayed with him the last month before opening and we split overseeing the job for those final weeks of 24 hour days. Our main contractor had disappeared from the job about that time, as contractors tend to do. His crew was still reporting for duty, but we needed him there to stay on top of the work. Calls went unanswered for days until Bill left a message that one of his carpenters had just cut his hand off with a sawsall and he didn't know there was that much blood in a human body. The contractor showed up about 15 minutes later and we had the punch list meeting we'd been trying to schedule all week.
Gay clubs, mid 80's to early 90, do the actuarial math. Someone was always dying, usually the DJ. Bill started getting sick while we were working on the New Haven job, the endless cough. He was tested in New Haven, shortly after the club opened. He found some good doctors up there, but the club went to hell in a spectacular way (some employees knew too much about a big heist, people got shot, people went to jail, and did I mention the IRS?), so Bill moved back down here. Camden, N.J. as a matter of inglorious fact. Two bears he knew from God knows where rented him an upstairs bedroom in their exposed studs and ceiling beams, bad corner of Camden (of which there is no shortage) row-home rehab. I wonder if any progress has been made since I last saw it, progress was pretty invisible during the two years I regularly visited it. They were great guys though, the housemate dying in the upstairs bedroom was very demanding, but they put up with it with tremendous grace, and very little reward.
It was there that Bill told me something a couple months before he died that put our times together in the previous seven years in an amazing light. He couldn't read. I don't even remember how and why it came out. I was so stunned that I think the precise moment has been erased. But I remember talking about it many other times in the last weeks. It was his biggest regret, his deepest shame. So much strange behavior made sense now. A good half of Bill's rages had the same schema, now that I reconsidered them. We'd be in the middle of planning some event under a deadline and we'd be splitting up the jobs between whoever was at hand, sending somebody to the liquor store, someone to the get bar supplies, dividing the list of calls to make. So I'd give Bill half the list or throw him the phonebook and say call all the vendors and see who has 5 boxes of coatroom tickets. And then the explosion, the book thrown back at me, the list balled up and Bill yelling out the door. He couldn't read the list, couldn't work the phonebook, so he'd cover with an attention diverting/destroying rage.
He told me that was his usual diversion strategy. When confronted with an unavoidable demand to read he'd engineer an argument and storm out. And then there was the time I gave him a book for Christmas. True it was a Boyd MacDonald sex book, but it was still mostly words with only a sprinkling of vintage porn shots. Bill gave it back to me the next day in a remarkably rude (even for him) way. His big complaint was that the guys in the (very few) pictures were ugly. They weren't.
I asked Bill how he'd ever managed to get a job without reading, how'd he fill out the application? I knew he'd done one for the club because I remembered meeting him when he did. He came in with another guy who'd filled out one, too. I left them both apps in the front bar, then came back in 15 minutes to pick them up. The other guy was his best friend David, who I only met a few times and who died two years before Bill. David would always accompany Bill to job interviews and fill in Bill's application as well.
Bill's school years terrorism was mostly fueled by the same thing. Shame disguising diversionary tactics. Though some of the anger was for the teachers he was sure had written him off as white trash and who didn't care enough, or weren't paying attention enough, to realize that he was faking his way through school
I asked him why he never told me, didn't he know I'd teach him to read if he asked me? He said David was the only one who ever knew, and that he wanted to tell me, and now he wished he had, and that he would have liked me to teach him.
He died shortly after this. He'd been moved to a hospice in the days right before his death. I was out of town. I called the hospice when I got home to see how he was. They said he wasn't. I had missed the funeral too. I think he was 39.