Into The Belly Of The Beast
Volume 2 Book 7 Part 3 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

[ Diary Index ]
[ Book 6 ] -- [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] - [ Book 8 ]

May 2001.
Los Angeles, CA

Mayor Riordan comes to El Portal Center For The Arts
North Hollywood, California USA

May 7 - May 13, 2001.
The Mayor & The Move.
El Portal played host to the mayor of Los Angeles giving his farewell State of the City report. He's been a very popular mayor, despite being a Republican in a liberal Democratic city. This picture is him on the mainstage where they dressed Ray Cooney's "Out Of Order" set to look like a library. (It's really a hotel room where politician is having a tryst. Don't tell the mayor.)

Jimmy salutes embattled Police Chief Parks.

Jim Brochu, British playwright Ray Cooney,
and Mayor Riordan chat afterwards.

This past weekend, though, was the big moving day. It began on Friday when a group of soldiering members of Actors Alley, led by Peter Husman, along with Technical Director Aaron Harper started pulling up carpets, cleaning out junk and scraping the walls.

Then on Saturday, the rest of the company piled into the building for their monthly meeting and followed up by putting on their grubbies and working their asses off, bringing things up two and three flights of stairs. i was appointed foreman for the general office. But no, I didn't just stand around. I took pictures!

Peter HusmanTammy Dahlstrom
Bringing Down The HousePhil Schultz & James McCartneyBringing Down The House 2
Jason SquireIrene Chapman
Kate AdamsonChryssa FreemanSummer Litwin
George DavencensMichael MirandaAndrea Miles
John Medici
Mark CostelloJason GuessBill Chapman
Charlie VaughnGene TriplettSasha Roseman
Mark CostelloElizabeth CliftDavid Mingrino, Jay Irwin, Larry Fortin, Sasha Roseman
Paul DiMeoChad Adams & Christina Anselmo
Jim Brochu in new officeJason Squire & Phil SchultzMelanie Ewbank & Barbara Haber
Alan Altshuld & Melanie EwbankAaron Harper & Jim Brochu
Seriously, though, it was a long, long day. And by the end of it, we were so tired we could barely hold our heads up. But the sheer volume of work we did was extraordinary thanks to Peter's pre-planning combined with the tireless efforts on everyone's parts, negotiating narrow steps, pushing huge desks over spiral staircases, stuffing a gigantic bin with trash, but having more fun than a moving day should ever supply.

On Sunday, I could barely drag myself out of bed -- and we still have umpteen boxes and things to unpack in the new digs upstairs -- and the DUST. Good Lord! Still, what I enjoyed the most was just getting to hang out with the Actors Alley troupe. No one complained. No one slacked. Everyone laughed, joked and hauled ass.

It'll probably be a few days before we get the phones all hooked up and we're back in business, but it was worth it. Now I think I'll go back to sleep.

May 14-18, 2001.
Random Stuff.
I received a note from my friend Bonny Dore, a movie producer I've talked about in the diary before. She was referring to the Stanford University Wisdom Project about death and dying. touched me with  your stories from Stanford...

my mother died in a hospital cancer intensive care ward with 18 tubes tied to her....she died in 13 days in horrible pain masked a little only a little by morphine [occasionally]......the doctors saw her as a chance to 'practice' some medicine (strange tests) ..large groups of medical students and specialists standing over her and talking about her like she was a plant, wondering what awful new thing they could do to her ..and see the reaction..after all she was dying it didn't matter. She could hear and see was horrible.

I swore if ever I could help other people find their space to die with dignity and family I would do it.....and here you are doing it brilliantly as always. God sure had a plan when he made you stay with us.
Love you always...Bonny

Now I have to clear up a little misunderstanding about the big move last weekend. This wasn't Jimmy and me moving out of our apartment. It was the El Portal offices moving upstairs in order to make way for a new restaurant that's coming in downstairs in our building.

The move was a monetary decision to help us keep on making the rent and improving the building. However, the new space we have moved into is not exactly... uh, Park Avenue. It was part of the renovation process that didn't get finished after the earthquake.

In the far corner, left, is Jimmy's office.
We keep joking that New York restaurants pay a lot of money
to get this raw industrial "look."

I received some pictures of my performance for the American Association of Sex Educators Counselors and Therapists. So I've posted the snapshots here (for all of you who can't get enough pictures of Steve).

In San Francisco singing for AASETC
Oh, and recently I was elected Chairman of the Board of Youth Guardian Services. I guess this means I have to start wearing shirts and shoes and look dignified all the time. I hope not. I don't really "do" dignity. We've raised about $10,000 for YGS selling the Bonus Round Sessions CD.

Speaking of young people, my next gig is May 27th. I'll be singing in Irvine for the United Synagogue Youth Conference. As much as I love helping Jimmy at the theatre, what I really love is teaching young folks about HIV and AIDS. The following week on June 5th I'm off to New York City for a few days (to see Batboy the musical, of course!). Then that Saturday I'll be playing for a benefit for Body Positive on Long Island, then flying back to Davis California to sing for "Gay Day" there.

Ah, it's a wonderful life. Now if I could just find a very rich person who will donate a million bucks to El Portal Center For The Arts, I'd be happy as a pig at the Pig Sanctuary. Where are those theatre angels?? We need you!!!

May 19-23, 2001.
A "Dying" Dream.
Last night I had a dream that I was dying again and it scared me. Not that I'm not dying now, but rather than being in my current holding pattern of robust feistiness, I was back where I was six years ago.

The other night, Todd was visiting and we were zooming through some videotapes of a cruise Jimmy and I took to the south pacific. At one point in the tape when the camera was pointed at me we all suddenly gasped. There was this thin, fragile, dying person on the screen.

His eyes were hollowed out, his glasses were wider than his head, his legs looked like toothpicks and you could see him struggling to just move. And yet there he was in the lobby of a hotel in the Philippines singing a goofy version of "Climb Every Mountain" with his friends the Derricks (because that's what the hotel band was playing in the background).

But in the dream, even though I was dying, I looked  like the lead singer from R.E.M., Michael Stipe. And I had this feeling of being overwhelmed, that I had so much to do, so many people who depended on me, so many things to accomplish, and yet my body was starting to deteriorate. I could see my eyes hollowing out, my hands looking bony, my body feeling weak and fragile.

And when I woke up from the dream I had this urge to just tell everyone to just go away and leave me alone. I wanted to just have a day in bed where no one came near me. Where no one asked anything of me. Where I could just lie peacefully like a dying man is supposed to do.

At the foot of the bed, Steinbeck the Cat was asleep. And even that was little comfort since I remembered we didn't have any food in the house -- another trip to the grocery store.

It's been a long time since I felt this way, this feeling of dread in the pit of the stomach, this feeling that the life was draining from my body and that nobody could do anything about it. It's a feeling of helplessness mixed with despair and maybe a little anger that nobody COULD do anything about it.

Maybe, with the theatre (going in every day) and the concerts and the website and YGS and making new music and trying to change the world; with activism for GLBT people, dying people, AIDS people, old people -- maybe it all starts to feel a bit overwhelming and maybe there's a part of me down deep that just wants to scream, "HEY! Whaddaya want from ME??? I GOT AIDS F'R CHRISSAKE!!"

And for a moment I curled up in my beloved bed and just thought, "Okay, I'm not getting out of bed today. I'm gonna take an 'AIDS day' where I don't do anything. Where I just stay right here and let the world take care of itself. Pop a Marinol, lie back and just rest or sleep all day long."

It felt so good to know I could do that. Every single day I've been packing up my little laptop and trudging down to El Portal to help Jimmy and Pegge and Jay in the office. Every single day I answer the phones, help put out little fires, and do things around the theatre.

But also, every single day, just as my energy is fading in the early afternoon, Jimmy takes me home, insisting that I take an afternoon snooze. Still, I live my life as if I don't have AIDS. Even at my sickest, I still packed as much activity as I possibly could. If Jimmy wasn't here to force me to watch out for myself, I'd never stop. So if I told him, "Hey, I just want to stay in bed today," he wouldn't think twice.

He knows I never cry wolf. I never fake a bad day. If I tell him I can't do something, it means I *can't* do it.

But I'm not gonna take an AIDS day today. After the misty sadness of the dream began to burn off, I pulled my legs out from beneath the cat, pulled on my favorite stretchy athletic shorts, rubbed my bad eye, hobbled up on my bad left knee and went down for the morning paper, opened my inbox to 50 new emails, thought warmly of the many people who need me -- the ones who remind me why being alive is so WORTH it -- and began my beautiful, glorious, gift of a brand new day.

May 24-28, 2001.
The Idiots Have An Anniversary.
As everyone knows, gay men are incapable of longterm loving relationships. So you are welcome to completely ignore the fact that Jimmy and I celebrate our 16th anniversary this Memorial Day weekend. Shall I tell you what we're doing?

SLEEPING! (It's what you do when you get old like us. Sleeping becomes your favorite pasttime).

But we earned it. On Friday I personally cleaned out the alley way next to El Portal, dumping everything into a bin. But I must have overdone it because I made myself kinda sick and had to stay in bed all afternoon.

I felt better the next day, though. So I joined another large contingent of Actors Alley troupe members doing the "final" big clean-up. We filled another HUGE bin and I'm so glad it's DONE. Anyway, here are a few "catch-up" stories that have happened over the past couple of weeks:

Cover of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting

I've been featured in a new book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting." Three full pages. The writer, Joel Hirschhorn, is a friend and guess what he wanted to feature? My "pioneering" use of the internet, of course!

"Steve Schalchlin's Internet Miracle"
From "The Idiot's Guide To Songwriting"
Of course, there's more to the book than just STEVE but... hey! Let other people feature their own stories on their OWN websites.

The next show at El Portal is Charles Nelson Reilly's "Save It For The Stage" so we've been seeing him a lot lately. In case you wonder what he's like in person, he's exactly as hilarious as he is on TV and the stage. On Thursday he introduced us to one of the biggest stars of opera, baritone Rodney Gilfry. Jim has been talking to Rodney about singing at El Portal.

Jim Brochu & Rodney Gilfry talk business.

Steve, Charles & Rodney at lunch.

Rodney Gilfry in Streetcar Named Desire:What I love about Rodney is that he's such a "guy." One pictures opera singers -- especially famous ones -- as snotty and snobby with personalities like the brothers on the sitcom "Frazier." But Rodney is a small-town boy athlete who one day discovered he had this remarkable voice. And now he sings in opera houses all over Europe and the United States. Charles is trying to get him to sing some Steve Songs. I hope he does.

I also had a great time this past Sunday singing for United Synagogue Youth in Irvine but I FORGOT MY CAMERA so I don't have pictures. But if you can see in your mind's eye, a huge ballroom full of hundreds of kids -- and me sitting on a tall stool at a piano on the floor smack dab in the middle of them, that's what I'd show you. It was GREAT! The kids were amazingly attentive and many had tears in their eyes.

Okay. That's the latest. Now it's back to anniversary day. Jimmy's been asleep all day but now he's awake. Time to go bug him and get attention. When I think back on the time we were briefly separated, it was without a doubt the worst time of my life.

So when we come upon an anniversary, we might not hold a big celebration... and now that I think about it, we don't even exchange gifts. But we do know one thing: We belong together. I love that guy. We've been to hell and back, to Broadway and back, to Hong Kong and back, and even to the grave and back.

So, here's to us, my friend, my soulmate, love of my life. Shall we go another year? I can take it if you can.

[ Diary Index ] [ WRITE ME! ]

[ Book 6 ] -- [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] - [ Book 8 ]

© 2001 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.