THE GLASS CLOSET
Volume 2 Book 5 Part 2 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin
[ Part 1 ][ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Part 7 ]
August, Sepember 2000. El Lay. Olympia WA, San Francisco
August 15-17, 2000.
The Eyes Have It.
Dropping out of hiatus to report on my visit with the eye doctor -- now known as Dr. Eye. It was Dr. Peter (no relation to the organ) who wanted me to meet with Dr. Eye again. It's been about six months and my right eye has essentially become useless to me because it is frozen in place looking up into my eyelid unless I tilt my head down and really concentrate (in which case I can move it a little).August 17-19, 2000.
Dr. Peter wanted to know if it was time to talk about surgery.
Okay, so I go into Dr. Eye's office and he immediately is distressed that it's been six months since my last appointment.
"Well," I told him. "The last time I scheduled an appointment for myself you scolded me for doing so without a referral."
He looked shocked. "*I* scolded you?? I couldn't have done that. I wouldn't have done that."
I just smiled and assured him that he indeed had scolded me and so I'd been waiting on HIM to tell me when a follow-up was necessary, but finally made the appointment upon Dr. Peter's recommendation.
Several things he observed. First, that my vision has deteriorated in the eye. While I'm still able to see colors, I can't focus in the eye like I used to be able to. This distressed him. "Usually, color goes first if the optic nerve is being damaged from the pressure of the eye."
Then he put his fingers on my eye and pushed in to see how hard it felt. Then he pushed on the other as a comparison. Sure enough, my right eye was hard as a rock while my left eye rolled around like a grape in jello.
He then put in drops to dilate my pupils and they led me to the "Dilation Room." I swear there was a sign on the door that said "Dilation Room" -- a tiny dim room with four chairs. An old guy wearing a police cap sat down across from me. He looked kinda like Rudy on the Survivor TV show except he sat there clicking his dentures and asking me how much my glasses cost.
Then they led me back into the examination room and Dr. Eye shone pinpricks of light into my eyeballs and clucked mysteriously.
"Okay," he said. "I need you to come back on Friday for more tests. And if those show problems then we'll have to do more tests."
Doctors love running tests.
He did, however, give me a new prism at "20 power down" which fit over the entire right lens of my glasses. So now I look like a TOTAL dork. However, the new prism does seem to help me get a single image when I look straight forward. (But not when I look down to read).
I feel like The Fly.
We did manage to surprise Jimmy, though, for his birthday. A bunch of us gathered behind the curtain on the mainstage of the El Portal with balloons, Coke and cake. Then they guided him into the theatre whereupon we raised the curtain and sang "Happy Birthday" in 12 tones. It was ear-splitting but great to see him blush with surprise.
I even brought the video camera so I got Maxwell Caulfield and David Faustino (from the cast of POPCORN which they are rehearsing) hugging Jimmy and wishing him well. He hated it but he always hates surprises which makes it even more delicious to do.
Bursting at the Seams!
I'm so happy and full of joy, I had to stop and catch the feeling here in this diary before it got away. It's Saturday afternoon as I write this. Bobby Cox has just left and the REASON I'm about to jump out of my elated skin is because of our rehearsal!August 17-31, 2000.
We TOTALLY rocked today!! Why? Cuz today we finally REALLY connected musically and vocally -- and it's starting to feel like we're forging a brand, new sound... particularly on two songs: The Closet and Where Is God.
I had been telling him for the longest time that in my head I was hearing Where Is God in a totally different way than on the record (where I had to do it in one take with just me and piano) -- not solo but with tons and tons of vocal harmony. I kept telling him to think Crosby Stills and Nash or The Roches (which would cause him to look at me like I was nuts).
So today I put the words in front of him and told him to sing the melody and I would sing harmony. OH MY GAWD!!!! The sound exceeded ALL my expectations. I can't even BEGIN to tell you how it changes the whole song. How it suddenly just BURSTS with life!
In fact, we started the song off completely a cappella with him chomping in with hard acoustic guitar strumming on the last word of the first long phrase. Then stopping and coming back in after the second long phrase.
Oh, man. I can't wait to debut this new sound a week from Sunday at the Blue Sphere Alliance theatre. For one thing, the sound system there is perfection and because it's such a small room, we're going to be making a joyful noise of epic proportions. I promise. If anyone comes and doesn't like it, I'll give them their money back.
Honestly, the feeling of getting something so RIGHT and to watch something that's been in your head for so long suddenly just WORK. Okay, have I made my point? All I know is my stomach is churning and I feel like I could hop right out of my skin. This is going to be great.
Not only that, but my eye tests yesterday -- no problem. He said I tested BETTER yesterday than on Wednesday. I explained to him that I'm sure if my right eye didn't focus so well Wednesday it HAD to be the fact that I HAVEN'T USED IT IN SIX MONTHS.
But with the new prism, I am suddenly using the eye for the first time in half a year. He dismissed my theory, of course, but I didn't care. The point is that I do NOT have to go back for more lab rat bullshit. However, he was very careful to make sure we made another appointment for one month from now.
He said, "I don't want to go six months without seeing you again. That's not good."
And of course, since it was HIS fault that so much time had passed -- as I told him on Wednesday -- I just kept my mouth shut and nodded politely. I should rename my diary "The Constant Patient."
So, to sum up, it's all good news. No, my eye isn't BETTER but at least we know the optic nerve isn't damaged (yet) and I just spent three hours of glorious singing and playing with Bob.
Ah, life. It is good to be alive. (And yes, I'm still going to wear the eyepatch on Sunday. I refuse to look like a total dork on stage.)
Concert 2 at the Blue Sphere.
My favorite moment this past Sunday night happened before the concert. Bev, her husband Walt and I walked down to the Mexican food restaurant where we saw the tranny hooker the last time. We had just ordered our requisite tacos, rice and beans when a guy walked out the nearby liquor store and came up to us asking for fifty cents.
The first thing I did was remember Robera's admonition that it could be Elijah -- which meant I should treat him generously -- but somehow I have to confess that, instead, I just felt intruded upon. I knew he would take the money and finish purchasing his booze for the evening.
Walt obliged him, however, and I felt guilty that I didn't respond. So anyway, we got our tacos and walked to the The Village (the gay and lesbian center) where I ate all of my and one of Bev's tacos. (Just helping her on her diet, you understand).
Then we walked to the Lex Theatre where we waited on Bob and Marie to rehearse. This would be Marie's first chance to sing her part of "Where Is God?" so we needed to run through it a few times.
Marie, Steve and Bob rehearse Where Is God
Now, I felt really pressed for time. We were standing there trying to figure out our parts so my mind was intensely involved. Bob and I had rehearsed this but Marie hadn't and I wanted to make sure she felt comfortable.
Marie Steve & Bob draw an audience
Suddenly a voice came up from behind and the man from the taco stand was there telling us a story of the last time he heard such "beautiful singing." He assured us we would be a huge hit on the streets of New York City. He was kinda of yammering on and on, annoying the hell out of me, when suddenly the doors of the theatre opened so we could go inside.
That was the first time I turned around to look him in the eye. Tears were streaming down his face as he continued to recount a story about his mom taking him to hear wonderful music. Needless to say, I felt completely heartless.
So I thanked him for his words and promised him we'd try to get to New York and do the subway. But for now, we'd have to settle on this theatre. He smiled a big toothless smile and wished us well.
By the time the concert rolled around, I felt like I was on fire. I was SO HAPPY to be singing. I was also happy that we actually drew an audience! We didn't fill the whole theatre but there were plenty more warm bodies than the last time. Marie went first again -- and once again, knocked everyone out totally.
Marie Cain kicking ass
I did find out one thing that I didn't like, however. Remember I was telling you that Marie had lost her apartment due to some unscrupulous actions on the part of her new landlord? Well, tonight I found out that she's been sleeping in her car.
Funny, but when she told me that, it was like a knife going through my heart. And immediately I thought of "Elijah" the alcoholic audience standing behind the gate and I wondered if *he* had a place to sleep at night. In L.A., it's easy to be homeless.
We started off my portion of the concert with "Where Is God" sung in three-part harmony. Like Crosby, Stills and Nash or The Roches. It was WONDERFUL!!!
Bob and I tore through our set and I think it went great. Lots of laughs. Lots of applause. And a lovely encore of "The Group," a song I'd never pick for an encore but who am I to judge. LOLSeptember 1-12, 2000.
Hopefully, we'll be invited back soon.
James Madison University.
It was wonderful to be back on the road again this week. I flew to Dulles airport in Washington DC and got picked up by my two favorite Jasons, Hungerford and Seymour. Jason H. was the founder of Youth Guardian Services and Jason Seymour found Elight Magazine on the net -- both sites dedicated to helping young gay kids find support and life.September 13-16, 2000.
(All the proceeds from the Bonus Round Session CD gets donated to Youth Guardian Services, you might recall).
They have now been a "couple" for two years and have recently bought their first home together. They are barely past 20 years old and are great role models. It was fun to see their new digs since they don't even have furniture yet. But how wonderful to see how much they do love each other.
On the two hour drive to Harrisburg, Virginia (where I would be singing at James Madison University) we had a great talk about long term relationships, Jason S.'s new job, dreams for Youth Guardian Services and their desire to raise a family.
Jimmy and I are too selfish to raise kids. It's all I can do to remember to feed the damn cats (just kidding).
The next day I spoke at a Health Sciences class called "Changing Behaviors." They had an overhead projector connected to the internet so I got to pull up my site and show them stuff like my diary and my arm bandage on the front page.
That afternoon I was brought up to the offices of the tiny Valley Aids Network, where they specialize in provided support services for people with AIDS living in rural Virginia. They explained to me how difficult it was to raise money in a rural community where people would rather prefer to believe AIDS doesn't exist.
I told them I would love to return sometime and do an AIDS education presentation for the local high school. They explained it was really difficult because of how squeamish school districts are regarding AIDS and (gasp) sex. I know that kids today know more than any adults in their school. I don't understand the withholding of life-saving education. This country is so prudish and weird sometimes.
Ann, who was responsible for bringing me to JMU, and who is an administrator in the Student Health Service division then brought me back to the school where I took a LOVELY nap on a hospital bed.
Later on, we went to Wilson Hall where a GORGEOUS 11-foot Steinway was waiting for me. The old blue stone hall, newly refurbished was also gorgeous and the students running the sound and lights took a personal hand in making sure everything was just right.
Just before a concert at a school is always the hardest time for me. I know how crowded a student's life is with homework, extracurricular activities and the like. I've seen a huge hall have no more than a handful of people if the event isn't properly publicized -- and sometimes even when it is. You never know. A half hour before the concert I looked out into the huge 1300 seat hall and just crossed my fingers.
I needn't have worried. The place was JAM-PACKED to the rafters. They listened to every single word, laughed at all the appropriate places, responded like crazy to "Friendly Fire" and we ended with a great standing ovation. Thanks!
Then afterward I went home with Shawn Decker and his girl Gwenn. It was great to see The Original Positoid and Positoidess. In the morning, Shawn drove me two hours back to Dulles and I made it back home late this evening. Tomorrow, I'm off again to Seattle. Sorry if this diary seems a little rushed but it's time to spend time with Jimmy and the cats.
See you in Washington!!
After four years it was finally happening. Four years almost to the day that I posted Bill Clayton's story on my site I was finally in Olympia Washington where his family lives. And I was staying in their home!
The first thing I want to say is that there is a reason Gabi Clayton is called GABI -- or GABBY. If you ask the woman a question, she'll start the answer from, "Well, I was born in..." and there's no stopping her except for her cigarette breaks.
The biggest laugh we had was when she and Catherine were walking behind us and had to take a cigarette break after having a cigarette break, but I digress.
This was about raising money for the Safe Schools Coalition and several other local LGBTA organizations in the area. Before I even left, though, Gabi informed me that Jeff Kingsbury who runs the Capital Playhouse in Olympia where all this would be taking place, wanted to sing with me. She assured me he was a good singer so I said yes immediately.
A friend on the net then suggested this might be a "Waiting For Guffman" situation. We all went over to the theatre on Thursday to meet Jeff. He was tall and good-looking and really smart. His humor was like Paul Lynde on acid. I told him I'd love to sing "Where Is God" with him but that it has about a billion words in it, and if he didn't want to, I'd understand.
He instantly dismissed THAT notion with an "I'll have it perfect by tomorrow morning." And I thought, "Okay, he's got balls."
Capital Playhouse is an immaculate black box storefront theatre (with HUGE lobby) in downtown Olympia Washington, a snug hilly city surrounded by dense forests -- and which sits on the south Sound. Overlooking it all, kind of on its own hill was the state capital building.
Gabi and Alec's house is this great rambling house set out in the woods and filled to the brim with artwork, dark orange shag carpets, hippie beads and life. Catherine, their housemate, gave me what I called her "suite" which consisted of a bedroom with its own bath.
(The whole weekend was almost like a little vacation. A bunch of friends from the TLS list joined us and at one point, there wasn't a room in the house that didn't have at least one person sleeping in it, including the living room and Alec's spacious painting studio in the back.)
Noel, Dixon, Ron, Amy, Gabi, Paul, Alec
Michael Sugar & Steve
photos by ron
When I got to my (Catherine's) bedroom, I layed down on the bed and the first thing I found was a book under the pillows. Something called "The Erotic Naiad." It was filled with erotic lesbian stories and if anyone had seen me, they'd have seen me turn a shocking shade of red. I felt like I had peered into her private diaries, crossing a personal intimate boundary. So I put it on the bookcase next to me and decided to just not say anything, hoping she'd think she just left it there instead.
(Four days later, we were all having dinner just before I was to leave. She and Gabi had this twinkle in their eyes. "So, did you find anything under your pillow?" Yep, it was a set-up all along.
THEY GOT ME. Totally. I found out during the rest of the conversation that they are always pulling pranks on each other. Or rather, everyone but Gabi, who complained that she never could think any up.)
Anyway, I slept almost all day Thursday.
Paul, Alec, Amy, Lisa posing with newspapers
That's bighead on the front.
Alec drove me into town and I arrived at the Capital Playhouse to rehearse with Jeff. The first thing I saw was a beautiful black Yamaha baby grand (yum). The second thing I saw was a podium next to the piano with all the lyrics printed out from my site.
I told him to just take the melody, hit the first chord and the first run-through was almost picture perfect. His lyric baritone voice blended well with my lyric tenor. We had a blast just hanging out all morning. Singing, laughing, talking... Trying different songs.
Steve with Jeff Kingsbury
(photo by gabi)
Right at the end, I began rehearsing "The Closet." Suddenly that turned into a duet too. Jeff Kingsbury, I was learning, is a VERY fast study.
Act one of the show Friday night consisted of two Seattle groups, Janie Worm & The Early Birds, an acoustic trio, and the Lesbian & Gay Chorus off-shoot "Something Else!" Both acts delivered warmth into the packed theatre, as well as some great music. I sat there listening to them and watching the crowd, wondering what song I would sing and when.
Earlier that day, Lisa and Amy had tried to help me construct a setlist but I couldn't decide. Jeff and I had decided I could divide my concert in two and let people go early if I really wanted to stay longer.
I did. I sang 'em all, as Jimmy would say. But the audience was with me every step of the way. I could hear and see laughter, tears, applause... we had a blast. Jeff joined me on the new songs, inventing some rather unique dance steps along the way. :-)
We raised a lot of money for the local AIDS and Safe Schools organizations and for Youth Guard, too!
Steve collapsed on his bed after the concert
Saturday consisted of more hanging out. Michael, Barefoot Ron, Dixon, Paul, dogs, cats -- and all of us visiting Linda where we found online friends, Dori and Barb. Dori is the teenager I wrote about who got to meet and get a kiss from Ricky Martin. Remember the picture? And Barb is her mother, who is an excellent songwriter with a FANTASTIC voice.
Barb, Steve, Lisa, Linda, Amy & Dori
all eating the spaghetti lunch
I told Dori I wanted to re-create the Ricky Martin kiss photo but she immediately shot that down and I realized I had a long way to go to win THIS girl's heart. But I was determined.
THE SEATTLE CONCERT:
Once again, Janie Worm & The Early Birds opened the show. Her clear alto resonated beautifully in the big open United Methodist Church where the concert was being held.
Uiversity Temple United Methodist Church
photo by michael stevens
Next came "Something Else" once again doing their meditation on queer life followed by The Girlfriends, an a cappella vocal group.
Something Else! & The Girlfriends
photo by michael stevens
Our host for the evening was the Dr. Grethe Cammermeyer, the officer they tried to throw out of the armed services because she is a lesbian.
Upon introducing me, she remembered that the infamous bashing of Bill Clayton -- which culminated in Bill's suicide -- came after an appearance she made in Olympia. Which was a perfect intro to my set because I opened with Gabi's Song.
It's funny, though. Each time Grethe pronounced my name, she got it increasingly wrong. So when I sat down to sing -- right in front of her, I might add -- I said, "Thank you, Miss Camembert."
Having fun singing.
I'm still wearing the patch while I perform because
the prism throws bright lights into my eyes blinding me onstage.
Plus, it looks good. hehehe.
(photos by barefoot ron)
It was a thrilling night and once again we raised a lot of money for the local charities. Dr. Grethe even made me promise to visit her on her radio show which is on gaybc.com.
Dr. Grethe, Steve & Dori
The best part of the concert, for me, was being able to see Dori there in the second row. At intermission she said she thought she was too sick to stay for my songs, which I totally understood. So I asked her to stay for at least one. She picked Gabi's Song. She also asked me to sing "La Vida Loca" but I don't really know it.
But she didn't leave after that song. In fact, she stayed for the whole concert and during songs like "Going It Alone" and "Friendly Fire" she really knew and understood what I was singing about. She said it gave her amazing strength just to hear me singing about the things she battles on a daily basis. I can't imagine having to fight cancer AND aids. No way.
Finally, came the big moment. "Can I have my Ricky Martin photo?" I asked. (Except she decided she would make this hideous "yucch" face instead of the beaming smile Ricky got. LOL).
And here it is:
These kids today. Ya can't trust 'em.
September 17-28, 2000.Michael Stevens review of the concert is at http://www.wittybanter.com/volume46/4610.shtml and an archive of the interview I did with Charlie Dyer of TraQz is at http://www.gaybc.com
Steve saucily tweaking Alec's nipple
Charlie Dyer & Steve at gaybc internet radio
Demos & Theatre Conference.
Next month I have a chance to record with a full band up in Oakland thanks to Bev's son, Ned, who is a radio producer and drummer. My first thought was to record the new song, The Closet. Bob and I sang it here in LA. And I also sang it in Olympia and Seattle.September 29, 2000.
However, the song hasn't QUITE felt finished to me even though it essentially "works." Barefoot Ron, who is one of my most trusted advisors had some "notes" for me on it, too. He said he liked the song but was distracted by the last verse because, even though it's a good verse, part one of the song is about my personal experience and the last verse is about someone else -- so the song, to him felt inconsistent.
You know what I hate about Ron? He's right. I've had the same misgivings about the song. (Have I already talked about this? I'm getting a deja vu here). But even putting all THAT aside, my goal for this number is for it to come in, timewise, at about three minutes cuz I want gaybc to play it -- and radio normally hates songs over three minutes altho I haven't spoken with gaybc.
ANYWAY, Bob Cox and I went to Kim & Ronda's studio and banged out a quick pre-demo to test the waters this past Sunday. The song came in at over five minutes long. YIKES. I knew it was a bit long, but can I cut TWO MINUTES out of it?? Oy.
It was confirmation. The last verse has to go. (And this is where Stephen Sondheim's dictum to be "ruthless" with your material runs like a mantra in the back of my head). Even though I love that verse, it doesn't quite fit. I also figured out I could cut the second verse too because, upon examination I see it just repeats the same information from verse one but using different words. (The song has four verses -- what was I thinking???).
Anyway, I'm trying to be ruthless with the song and as soon as I figure out how to edit this thing down, you'll be the first to know.
Jimmy got to host a great panel discussion last weekend called "Acting in Musicals" featuring some GREAT Broadway stars including Harry Groener, Douglas Sills (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid), Lillias White (The Life), and Billy Porter (who we just saw in Dreamgirls out here and in the original Broadway cast of Miss Saigon -- WHAT A VOICE). As usual Jimmy was hilarious and so was everyone else.
It was part of the larger "West Coast Musical Theatre Conference" presented by Broadway on Sunset.
GREAT COMPOSER MOMENT:
I was sitting in the "VIP room" eating all their food when I saw Dean Pitchford (Footloose, Fame) meet Michael John LaChuisa (The Wild Party, Marie Christine) for the first time. Dean, who is a friend of ours, and Michael John really seemed to admire each other and Dean jokingly helped place Michael John's microphone. ("Unless you put it here, it just doesn't work with the cut of this shirt.")
I also got to meet the great Julie Taymor (The Lion King) and Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls). It was a musical comedy queen dream come true. There I am eating a bagel and watching these giants of the American musical theatre all hobnob with each other.
BARE THE MUSICAL:
I also saw someone I've liked for a very long time. His name is Damon Intrabartolo and he has co-written a musical rock opera called BARE. It opens here in Los Angeles this month at the Hudson Theatre. Jimmy and I saw a rough version of it a year or so ago and I think Damon is a MAJOR talent. (We both hate him cuz he's only, like, 20 years old). But Damon had the good sense to let us critique that early reading :) and he says the new version kicks ass. I have no doubt that it will.
I'm also arranging to do a benefit concert in Jonesboro Arkansas this month on the 23rd. It's a last minute addition to the concert schedule after I sing in Kentucky for the activists conference. If you are near there, I'll be putting up the info very soon on my badly-in-need of an update tour page.
Oh, and before I forget, I did do the radio interview for gaybc internet radio. It is now archived for listening on their site. Look for TraQz with Charlie Dyer archives.
SF is OK!
I have some really cool news -- something that happened on my birthday this week -- but I can't tell what it is yet. The short version is that it's a TOTALLY kewl birthday present and it involves Jimmy.
I'm writing this from San Francisco where on Sunday Oct. 8th I was a guest singer for Dolores Street Baptist Church. They're meeting with Bethany United Methodist Church in an unusual arrangement. But hey! This is San Francisco.
Brother Doug Donley and I coordinated via email and we decided we would do a joint "sermon" called "Where Is God?" based on verses from the book of Job and the song written my myself and Marie Cain.
The sermon began with a congregation member -- obviously a classically trained actor (speaking in a Shakespearean voice) -- reading this passage from Job where Job is basically screaming in despair at God for abandoning him. It was chilling.
Then Doug began talking about how people, in despair, come to a church for support and instead, like Job's friends, are given pious platitudes and cheap "spiritual band-aids". Doug talked for about 15 minutes and then introduced me. I went to the piano and said, "This is my version of Job." And I sang "Where Is God?"
Bev made it to the service late so could only find a seat over on the side where she couldn't quite see me. Here's the photo she took.
After "Where Is God?" I mentioned that my grandmother is Methodist and my parents are Baptist so it made perfect sense to me that these two congregations met together. Then I sang "Going It Alone" and "A Simple Faith."
Bev moved around back for "When You Care" so here's a better picture:
After the service, we had lunch with Bev and her friend Peggy visiting from Australia (the west coast of Australia that no one knows exists, she says) and then Ken and I went up to the roof of his apartment building and watched the Blue Angels doing a BIG show.
It was a perfect day in San Francisco. The air was cool, the sky was clear and it was GREAT to just be there. Here're a couple of pics stolen from Bev's diary:
The Blue Angels were spectacular
[ Part 1 ][ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Part 7 ]
© 2000 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.