Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Night and the City

For a long time I used to go to bed late. 4 a.m., 5 a.m. on the weekends. Sometimes more. Eventually not coming home to Queens at all. "I'm staying over with a friend," I told my mother, not bothering to mention that the "friend" was someone I'd just met and likely wouldn't be seeing ever again. I couldn't have stayed home if I’d wanted to. The night was much too attractive. It had a "character" of its own -- like a person.

New York at night was cozy, seductive, warm -- even in Winter. Especially in winter. The "dead" of it. I loved the stillness so much, that there was no reason to "find the courage" to walk out into it alone. I felt perfectly safe. Even in the park. Even at the docks. Even at the trucks in the West Village. Everywhere, really. I could sense that safety, like a presence in and of itself just outside my bedroom door, out of the house, down the street, across the marshes of Flushing Meadow and onto the IRT.

When I was very young I would curl up in bed to listen to "Ol' Shep" on my transistor radio into the wee smalls. When I was older my favorite became "The Adventures of Johnny Nightsounds" (John Leonard’s misspent youth) on WBAI. What John Schlesinger said about listening to "Soave sia il vento" from Cosi Fan Tutte applies here. It was "music to be listened to late at night. But in my case that music was "Mas Que Nada" which a late night WBAI d.j. (whose name I've completely forgotten) used to play with almost as much regularity as the p.a. system at the Bleecker Street Cinema used to play "Sans Toi" from Cleo From 5 to 7 and the main theme from Shoot the Piano Player.

"I would pretty much go out every night until really late. I did that for a good 10 years. And I had a wonderful time. I highly recommend it, but there just comes a point when you have to take care of yourself." -- Rufus Wainright

By the mid sixties I’d learned how to move through the city in that perfect hush of ease that’s the soft underside of the "danger" of "being out late at night." I was, in point of fact, perfectly safe. Looking for sex in the never-quite-empty streets, dropping in and out of the bars, then riding the subway home to Queens in happy solitude -- even if I hadn’t "scored." I had a set routine of places to drop in on along a route I'd developed in the West Village. A few beers at the bar across the street from the Theatre de Lys, then down to Kellers and The Ramrod, then on across the vast empty expanses of cobblestone to The Anvil, The Eagle, and The Stud. A ceaselessly revolving repetoire of characters would assemble and disassemble in suitably dream-like fashion not so much to "have sex" as to think about it. We were "up late" yet at the same time fast asleep, drifting off in a dream of sex as warm as a bed in winter after a late stroll, a nightcap, and a fast fuck

"As soon as one penetrates there, writes it, one realizes that one is in a privileged corner of the world, like a square. Mysteriously left with the abandonment in the medium of a garden; a place where the normal order does not exist but where another order, very curious, was created "-- Bernard-MarieKoltes

He was writing, of course, about the the piers -- abandoned like the West Side Highway that loomed above them. But these "empty" spaces were full of life, especially during the day. But those days -- shadowy, delicate, warm, were in many ways indistinguishable from night.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe

Is love necessary?

No seriously, sometimes I wonder. It's so much trouble. It's so much bother. Sex, on the other hand is necessary. Sometimes. In any even it's a whole lot easier. Take Joe Drexel (Please!)

I really can't remember when we met. A play. A screening. Maybe it was at the Judson Church. Or maybe it was at a party where introductions were made by a mutual friend -- because we had so many mutual friends. One thing's for certain, it started with a lot of talk. Joe loved to argue. I loved to argue back. So "talk" consisted of long, quasi-stream-of-consciousness monologues on his part punctuated by the "additional dialogue" I'd provide by challenging him. And then we'd fuck. Intense angry fucks. A struggle for dominance? Possibly. More like clearing the air. Fucking was a way of saying "I don't love you." Fucking was a way to keep warm in his cold water flat on the lower eastside. All painted white and clean. Cozy. Joe was a dancer. What's called a "performance artist" today. He had no name for what he did back then. He had plans.

An original member of the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds Joe appeared in Wilson's very first spectacular The King of Spain. But not in any of the others. He'd moved on. Wilson moved on. Deafman Glance was his last really interesting work. Who could forget that performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the tropical forest, Egyptian pyramids, dancing mammies, and Jack Smith fighting his own appearance in the thing every step of the way and screaming about the penguins (a concept Wilson had of course copped from him among others.)

After that Wilson was taken up by Jerome Robbins and was off to the Big Time and shows that were about as "avant-garde" as a dinner theater production of Private Lives with Russell Nype and Betsy Palmer. (Actually that would be rather avant-garde come to think about it.) But Joe was elsewhere. And still is last I heard. I remember the last time I saw him. I was invited to Baird Searles and Martin Last's place for a party around the Christmas holidays. They were toying with the notion of an orgy. Everyone was supposed to come dressed for the beach in bathing suits. But weren't really serious about it. So Joe and I (we didn' bother bringing bathing suits) fucked in the shower, and then left.

I'm not sure why I never saw him after that. We hadn't quarelled. Perhaps we spoke again in passing once or twice. Or maybe not. People started to recede then. And so did I as New York in the 70's had begun to take on the aspect of a vast stage spectacle -- far more complex than any Wilson could devise. And I was making plans to bring down the curtain and leave for California. That's all gone now. But happy thoughts of angrily fucking Joe remain. One more curtain call before we go, Joe.

Monday, September 06, 2004


Kissing Time

It was the winter of 1967 -- right around New Year's, I'd gone to a party, I forget whose, that Warren Sonbert had told me about. Several of the people he'd put in his movies, most of whom I knew rather well, Vivian Kurtz in particular, were there. One I didn't know until that night was Tom Dillow. Tom was in Warren's first film, Amphetamine where he shares one of the longest screen most intense kisses ever with Warren's friend Ronnie. They were both high as kites, and Warren was doing a rapid hand-held 360 around them -- a homemade hommage to the climactic kiss in Vertigo where the camera circles James Stewart and the iconographically reconstructed Kim Novak.

Tom was very loud and very forward and very drunk and very hot. Grabbing me in the bedroom alone he stuck his tongue right down my throat with an eager alacrity I'd never experienced before. Then, right out of the blue, he proposed we leave and go to the movies. So we went to the Regency and saw The Chelsea Girls -- which we'd both seen many times before. Being from Boston Tom knew everyone in the movie personally (Ed Hood and Patrick Fleyming in particular) and began dishing away with great enthusiasm -- all the while making out with me. I came very close to coming several times. It was a delirium of talk and sex. (Nothing like it. Wish it could be bottled. ) And each time I reached the brink he cooed in my ear to calm down and hold off -- which I did until we got back to his hotel room for what turned out to be somewhat anti-climactic in context. We were both too drunk and too distracted by then -- essentially already spent. Naturally I never saw him again. Yet oddly I wasn't crushed. I'd gotten more than I'd asked for.

Just this month I finally got around to reading Savage Grace; an amazing oral history of a real-life incest and murder story that Tom Kalin has been trying to turn into a movie for years. Now I hear it's going to be a "go" for next year with John Malkovich and Julianne Moore as the rich and twisted Brooks and Barbara Bakeland -- heirs to the "Bakelite" plastics fortune. An unknown will be cast as Tony -- the gay son that Brooks ordered Barbara to "ungay" by sleeping with him. To their great surprise (but no one else's) this didn't do the trick, and only spurred his hatred of her. In fact things got so out of hand that he slashed her throat in a fit of pique. He was sent to a looney bin in England (where the murder took place) and was thought to be successfully rehabbed enough to get shipped back stateside for care in a nice expensive clinic. But due to a technical screw-up he was sent instead to his grandmother. He pulled a knife on her stabbing her several times. She lived. He went to a U.S.looney bin where he eventually killed himself. Minus the murder and incest, Tony Bakeland struck a familiar chord -- An Arthur Loeb gone wrong as it were. But there was something more that popped upright into my face -- Tom Dillow. My epic trick of 37 years ago was one of Tony Bakeland's boyfriends!

You must remember this, a kiss is not just a kiss.

Old Boyfriends

Old Boyfriends,
Lost in the pocket of your overcoat,
Like burned out lite bulbs on a Ferris Wheel [Tom Waits]

Oh Barry Prince! Lost in the pocket of my overcoat. The best fuck I ever had.
I'm sure he’s dead by now, though I’ve been surprised before. When so many are dead it’s hard to count the living.
So its -- when? 1969? A good enough guess. Madison avenue around 59th in the late afternoon shafts of light cutting through the dusk. And I run into Barry the way I always did back then, "by chance." I’d seen him only a few weeks before walking down Fifth Ave, so "I was just thinking about you," jumped out -- which was ever-so-slightly true. I thought about Barry a lot -- but intermittently. Just a genial presence. Never anything sexual exactly. Or if so, nascent.
When did I first meet Barry anyway? Who introduced us? He was part of Peter Blum’s circle I know --like Ronnie. But like so many people back then Barry was just around. At the screenings, at the museum in the cafes on the streets. Not foregrounded ever, really. Somewhere just off to the side. Smiling. Usually there was a girl in his general vicinity. Or seemed to be. And that was enough to mark him as "taken" -- even though I wasn’t attentive enough to realize what was really going on.

"There was proximity but no relating." (Nichols and May)

So for me Barry Prince was "off the menu." But was he ever "on the menu" ? Was I was attracted to him? Sure, but not consciously. Odd to think of the "unconscious" as consciousness was such an obsession. We all wanted to be "awake" to take it all in. I had to stay "up" or I’d miss something . And I nearly missed Barry. His face was very beautiful in a Modigliani kind of way. The great bush of curls on top of the long head, like a crown. But it was his manner that got to me. Quiet. "Too quiet" as they say in the westerns. That plus the sudden realization that this was the first time I’d really been alone with him. He wasn’t saying anything much at all. Just "Hi, how are you?" But the smile was more intense than ever before. I started prattling on about some film I’d just seen, as if that were the only conversation he'd be interested in having with me. But film and literature were the only things I ever talked about with that group (Pynchon's V especially). Certainly not "personal experiences" of any kind -- for the ones I’d had up to then were brief, quasi-violent, and impossible to put into words. Yet I didn’t really think anything of it when he asked me up to his apartment -- which was just half a block away -- for "a drink or something". Yet at the same time I really wasn’t suprised when we walked in the door and he grabbed me in his arms and kissed me. Hard at first, and then softly, and then more rapidly, giggling as he did. I giggled back, and we tumbled out of our clothes and tumbled onto the couch, rubbing aginst one another, getting hard -- looking at our hardness, stroking it, laughing. And then onto the bed -- a waterbed. It was my first and last time on one. Funny to find one in Barry’s apartment. It was the end of the waterbed era and he never struck me as one susceptible to "trends." But when we started fucking it all became clear. Such a tender fuck. He cooed softly. Smiling, smiling. And I grinned ear-to-ear as well --amazed at my good forune. "Of all people!" And we rocked with the flow of water in the bed after coming. We lay and almost slept -- stroking each other and kissing some more in anticipation of the next round, and then some rest and then some more. Night falls on the city as we rock in each others arms. Time stops and the world goes away.

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