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Sunday, May 25, 1997
The Lazarus Reintegration, Day One.I spent all day Friday and Saturday in bed with Thurber the Cat. He just has not left my side through all this strep throat stuff. I've missed the little wad of fur and he has forgiven me for leaving him here while I was in New York by letting me stroke him, feed him, pet him -- hey! who's getting the better deal here? (Me, of course.)
Today, I decided to end all the speculation and hoopla and begin Book Five. It's called The Lazarus Reintegration because I've discovered the speeded up "I'm gonna die soon" energy I've been living on is driving everyone nuts. I suppose it's time for me to reintegrate myself back into society and become a responsible adult.
So, since this is Sunday morning -- and therefore very peaceful outside -- and since too many of my readers and friends feel adrift in the netherlands between Book Four and Book Five, today we start Book Five. The promises held in Book Five are immense because of all the seeds we planted in Books One through Four, not the least of which is my chance to speak at colleges and universities, the CD, this diary (which would be a perfect TV movie for "Lifetime," don't you think?), and last but not least, our New York production of THE LAST SESSION, which seems to be an enormous hit with audiences.
By the way, in Book Five, I've decided that I might change a nickname or two. "Mean" Mike Wills, for instance, is now going to be called "Miracle Mike," something Margaret from Scotland called him once in my presence. The truth is it was he who "found" us at the staged reading this past fall and who talked Currican/Playful into taking the chance on TLS and who has brilliantly directed this production in his own quiet manner. Of course, he did write this in response to yesterday's discussion about turning these "books" into "levels" -- I had also referred to Tennessed Tuxedo and the Wayback Machine (a cartoon here in the states):
"MIRACLE" MIKE RESPONDS!
"First of all, it's MR. PEABODY and the Way Back Machine (and his boy Sherman). With your complete lack of skills for interpreting what people are trying to say to you, I'm surprised that you didn't think that Sarah from Columbus was saying: This diary is like a LIVING NOVEL - A BOOK THAT REFUSES TO DIE!"
Okay, I have a confession to make. I have gone out of my way in this diary to twist everything "mean" Mike has ever said. *laughing hysterically* Remember back when he made fun of my "Scottish accent?" and then had Margaret from Scotland listen -- who then told me I had a bit of the "Highland lilt" in my voice? At which point I ridiculed him ridiculing me?
Well, the truth is that Margaret was laughing at me behind my back as I read the Scottish dialogue. And he got her to confess that to me on the phone because she cannot lie any more than I can. The fact is, my Scottish accent is abominable. I confess. But I did get this wonderful letter from her and James after they got back to Scotland:Dear SteveMARTY RESPONDS!:
Thank you for letting me share in the Last Session Experience, it is an experience I wish everyone could share in. I was so glad that we (James and I) could make it for opening night which was a night to remember, so full of different emotions. I for one have never had my emotions pulled in so many ways at the same time and I have never known James to cry (he is such a tough Scot)...James has a neck injury which usually means that he cannot sit for more than 30 minutes without being in agony but he sat through the whole of The Last Session three times without feeling a twinge.
I hope that you get your voice back soon, I am listening to your CD as I write this. Do all your readers know that you have a CD out?
Does it really matter whether you call the next round, page, chapter, book, level, stage or track as all our lives are broken down into sections and the main thing is that WE LIVE IT TO THE FULL. Talent is something that should never be wasted but always shared and with the Last Session, you, Jim and Mike have certainly done that and I, for one, thank you for sharing it.
Maggie and James (from Scotland)
Levels instead of books or volumes? Harrumph! To reach the next level, one has to wait for Hale-Bopp in another couple thousand years. Shall we now reduce dealing with AIDS to a game? Must be something in those "cocktails." Anyway, I join the "scolds": GET BACK TO BED!
Okay. All right. I'll got back to bed. But not before I confess to one more thing. You see, I fired off an "I did it all myself" attitude speech at my friends and compatriots a few weeks ago. (I was too embarrassed to tell you about it at the time.)
This sort of egomania does not go well with people who have been slaving and working their asses off for "your" project. I suppose I became an ungrateful wretch. Of course, at the time, I thought it was THEY who were being ungrateful wretches. (And haven't I always confessed to having a huge ego??)
Well, the secret to ego-containment is to surround yourself with smart people who know what they're doing who won't be afraid to give you a dressing down. This whole process has been one of enormous strain, my friend. Some of it for reasons I could not describe in the diary because it involved the private lives of people who do not wish to be talked about in public. Some of it because one cannot always know oneself "in the moment." Drawing back and examining oneself in the light of day is vastly more illuminating.
I'm still fighting off the strep throat and so I will be speechless and motionless for a few more days -- a condition Jimmy thoroughly approves of. Perhaps a few more days of quiet reflection will help me in the reintegration process.
On Wednesday I return to the battlefield of New York and on the weekend, I'll be attending the POZ Expo at the Jacob Javits Center. If you plan on going, be sure to look for me (and the cast of TLS) in the POZ Magazine area. Shawn Decker will also be there and we intend to turn the entire place upside down!
(Oh lord, there I go again! This reintegration thing is going to take some work...).
Monday, May 26, 1997
The NY Times Review By Peter Marks."Blessed... haunting... exquisite... exuberant... from the heart."
Peter Marks, NY Times.
"THE LAST SESSION is blessed with several...ballads reminiscent of the music of Don McLean, including a haunting solo, "Going It Alone." It also features the exemplary voices of an exuberant cast led by Bob Stillman as Gideon, Grace Garland, Amy Coleman and Stephen Bienskie..."
Peter Marks, NY Times.
"...the vocal arrangements by Michael D. Gaylord allow for some exquisite... harmonies."
Peter Marks, NY Times.
These are called "pull quotes." One of the most difficult things to get from a NY Times review, particularly one by Peter Marks, is a pull quote. The full review is a copyrighted piece, so I cannot reproduce the whole thing here, but it was a few short paragraphs, as most off-off-Broadway reviews are -- squoonched between two other reviews of two other shows.
Overall, it wasn't the rave review, but neither was it a pan. He had a few problems, and wasn't really that interested in the gay/Christian debate, but he clearly loved the songs and even singled out Going It Alone. (Which means we can start promoting that song as the first "hit" from the show -- Bette Midler, where are you?)
His other critical notes were more technical than anything else. Something was clumsy here or an actor was a bit "emotive" there, but these are small things easily corrected, assuming they need correcting.
(And no actor has been half as emotive as the audiences, many of whom cannot leave their seats after it's over. A Kleenex concession would clean up at the Currican.)
With regard to the writing, he loved the music and he uses "Don MacLean" as his specific writer reference. Although I don't think I ever owned a Don MacLean album, "Vincent" -- with the lyric, "Starry, Starry Night," is one of my all-time favorite songs.
"Blessed... haunting... exquisite... exuberant... from the heart."
Peter Marks, NY Times.
Add his remarks to:
"There are large doses of humor... THE LAST SESSION... is as dramatically engrossing and warmly human as ANGELS IN AMERICA and RENT."
Matthew Mirapaul, NY Times arts@large.
I think we can live with those quotes.
Friday, May 30, 1997
NY Times Best of the Season?Hey! We think the New York Times has named us as one of the best plays of the 1996-97 season. I say was "think" we were named because the way we found out was kinda weird.
Andrew Miller, the Artistic Director of Currican/Playful Productions got a call asking the opening date of TLS. Since we've already opened, it puzzled him a bit. So when he asked who it was, they responded that they were the NY Times, that they were listing us among the best plays of the '96-'97 season and that they just needed the info for the listing.
He answered, "May 8th." They said, "Thank you," and then hung up.
It's been about four or five days since I've updated this diary because I've been in transit. I'm now back at Currican/Playful in New York City. I had a very comfortable flight in because I remembered to get them to put me in the seat right at the emergency exit where there's lots of leg room.
It was great seeing the cast and crew again. No one expected me to be back so soon and it was fun how excited they were when they saw me. But they were not half as excited as I was to see them.
Today, I went down to the Jacob Javits Center and hung out with Shawn Decker, POZ cover boy! In fact, they had appointed him to put POZ tattoos on people. At one point, a camera crew from Fox News was there to tape the process. Naturally, being the helpful type, I volunteered to assist. So, I put my hand right up next to my face and smiled really big for the camera while they taped away!
The Jacob Javits Center is this huge, HUGE steel and glass building on the west side highway right next to the water. Miracle (formerly Mean) Mike and I walked over and dove into the mayhem. (We noted that they had a big fashion expo going on at the same time -- a perfect match.) The first room was long and filled with booths from the big drug companies, mostly. People were milling about, filling out forms and getting free stuff.
This hallway/room opened onto a huge, spacious area filled with tables and chairs, POZ Magazine exhibits, and a great big stage where the cast from TLS will be doing a presentation on Saturday at 3pm. They also have a "meet the composer" scheduled for Saturday just after the cast does their thing.
[As I type this, the show is running in the other room. They're singing The Group and it's wonderful to hear it. The audience has been laughing and having a great time. This is the first time I've just sat outside the theatre and listened. It's thrilling and weird. Kinda like life.]
Saturday, May 31, 1997
A Fire! & The POZ Expo.I knew something weird was going on when I got to the Currican this morning. There were gigantic claw marks on the front door and the medeco lock was pulled entirely from its housing.
Just as I was about to put my key in anyway, Andrew Miller called out to me from the curb. He said there had been a fire and that he had no idea if there was damage to the theatre or not. He had called a locksmith and was waiting.
Well, luckily, whatever little fire there was, was entirely on the roof. Some debris, which had been thrown there from neighboring buildings had caught on fire and the inside was left untouched and unscarred. *whew*
Well, the POZ Expo on Saturday was a great big funfest. The cast showed up about 2pm and immediately began handing out cards and greeting people. Diva Grace, who used to be on "All My Children," as I've mentioned, gathered a group of fans and lovingly gave them autographs and pictures -- she really is cool about stuff like that.
The stage was placed in in the POZ Lounge -- located in this HUGE glass atrium right on the riverfront -- positioned right in the middle half facing the long exhibition hall which led into the POZ Lounge.
Bob Pelham, the handsome blue-eyed man who was in charge of the entertainment, told me the first act had cancelled and asked me if I wanted to go on first as a solo act. (By the way, I give only one answer to, "Would you like to sing?" The answer is YESYESYES.)
Of course, that presented me with a problem. The only songs I ever sing are from the show and the cast was going to be following me. What could I sing??? Luckily, I had some lyric sheets from a few other songs, so I jumped onto the piano and wailed away! (...while the cast sat over to the side and laughed at me.)
When they took the stage, though, they looked like stars (which they are). They sparkled and just took that huge room by storm. People began gathering and smiling and loving every note. Grace and Flamin' Amy were particularly having fun playing to a group of women who were just screaming, "SING! SING!"
Afterward, they handed out cards and signed autographs.
Tonight, we had a full house. Absolutely packed because Dr. Bruce Dorsey (the scientist who synthesized Crixivan) brought down a busload of workers from Merck. Next week, a big group of fellow pozzies from my online irc group, "#aids/hiv+2." They're flying in from all over the world just to see TLS. Afterwards, I'm going to do a special midnight concert just for them. (Hey! They asked for it!)
Sunday, June 1, 1997
Sunday Mailbag.FROM MAGGIE IN SCOTLAND:I have just read your latest diary entry and choked on my coffee while doing so. I confess I did laugh while you were doing your "Scottish Accent" as I said on the phone I could never lie, especially to Mike. I have one correction to make though, you did have a true Highland Lilt when you read that piece for me, honestly. I have American friends who have been across to Edinburgh on many occasions who try the Scottish Accent and fail miserably.FROM KERRY:Very cool title to Book Five! I just love good stories, and damned if this isn't one of the best. Who'd a thunk it? Truth definitely beats the hell out of fiction. I thought about what if you'd tried to write this from a novelist standpoint? Got a good laugh from that, my friend. I can hear the publishers now: "Now sir, this is just too unbelievable to work, you're going to have to edit out where the main character's health turns right around in time to get his music out and let him be one of the first to sing his own songs." they'd go on.."Puhleese, it makes it to NY and turns out to be a great play to boot?"FROM "JACUZZI":I read your diary whenever I get a chance, but today I was really struck by something you wrote in it: regarding getting over the "i'm about to die" feeling that sometimes drives us Lazarus guys... You mentioned, when writing about this "about to die" feeling, that you were getting back to being a "responsible adult"FROM STEVE W. - A NEW READER:
Steve, I really know what you are talking about. Ever since I started the crix, it is like I am trying to make up for lost time in everything, and getting all absorbed in myself, and just basking in my new energy, and new body...but really, being like a child. No responsibility, no job, no duties really.
All that came crashing down, just 3 weeks ago for me.... Dad has developed cancer, and... The worst is my poor mother.. when paying more attention to him, I and my brother and sister realized my mother had alzheimers really bad.. she was getting no meds, as dad is "old school" and wanted to keep "mental illnes" to himself..
I am now a responsible adult out there. Now, they are the children, I am the adult.. every day, I must function in a reasonable and apt manner --- not a cushy ride any more... but thru this, I have finally found that now, instead of being the one that needs all the care, I can care for somebody..
...being away [from my lover] makes me realize how much I have... and how much he sacrificed to care for me, when I could barely function....Dear Steve,
I have just completed your diary thru May. I started reading it about two weeks ago here at work. Needless to say, I've not been getting alot done here. Like countless others have mentioned, your life is an inspiration to me. I have known of my hiv+ status since October of 1987. As of yet I'm not on any medication. It's comforting to know that with the new treatments, and examples such as yourself with such astounding results, I have hope of a life other then barely surviving. (like those brothers and sisters that clung to their lives before us and have since died.)
Like many others, I have had no goals in my life. Now I hope to do something about that. You've touched me like nothing ever has before Steve. I don't know what I have planned goal wise (besides live longer then planned ...), but I know that life can go on. My life. Thank you Steve SCHALCHLIN for sharing your tremendous life with me. One day I hope to see TLS and experience the very deep emotions I have only read about. I look forward to hearing your music too Steve. Again, thank you. I hope things are continuing to go well with you, and look forward to continuing to be a part of your life.
Monday, June 2, 1997
...And Now A Burglary?This morning, Miracle Mike was still in bed because he has a cold and some terrible sinus thing happening. I was on the phone trying to deal with some business stress when we got a frantic phone call from Amy the Angel down at the Currican. (Have I introduced you to Amy the Angel? She's a ballet dancer and screenwriter -- and she's beautiful inside and out).
It seems the Currican was broken into last night and after she saw how messed up the office was, she left immediately and called the police.
So, we had no idea what, if anything, had been messed with. Mike dragged himself out of his bed and we hurried onto the subway and down to the theatre. I could just picture someone having taken a sledgehammer to our beautiful setour set or the keyboard stolen and sound equipment stolen or the computers destroyed -- we were distraught, to say the least.
As we approached the Currican, I just got this sick feeling in my stomach. The door was propped open, but no forced entry. We walked up the staircase and saw that Amy had gone into the sound booth. Nothing stolen from there.
The office was a mess and the bars at the ticket window had been forced out of the wall, but the computer was still there. Mike went into the theatre. Nothing. No damage. Nothing stolen.
Amy said her bike was stolen. Her leather bag was gone and $64 from petty cash was gone. Oh, and a boom box was gone.
What kind of burglar takes a bike and a few bucks leaving thousands of dollars worth of sound and computer equipment? Someone in a hurry, I guess. Or maybe a crazy bike messenger who needed a new bike. (Amy cried about her bike. She loved it.)
Well, we were so relieved to say the very least. So, the show will go on. But what a frightening thing. The cops who came later and dusted for prints could find nothing. We found their entry point and sealed it up but the whole was scary.
SITE OF THE MONTH!:
Hi Steve, hope this note finds you well. Your "Survival Site" is the "Cool Site of the Month" on the Michigan State University AIDS Education Project's home page that I maintain. Our web site isn't fancy, but I think it's useful and informative. Come check us out at:
Click on "Links" to see your site and other HIV/AIDS-related sites listed.
Frank J. DeMarco, M.A.
Department of Psychology
Michigan State University
AIDS Education Project
Department of Psychiatry
Michigan State University
Tuesday, June 3, 1997
Dead Man Swimming?It was a mystery that happened a couple of weeks ago when I was back in El Lay told to me by Miracle Mike. Now, the mystery is not what happened, but rather which story are we to believe... The story was that AndBob (Bob Stillman) was walking through Central Park with the ever-resilient Tyler the Dog when Tyler decided to take a swim.
Suddenly, Bob looked down and gasped because, clutched in his mouth, was a dead body of man. then the cops were hailed and AndBob got a ticket for letting his dog swim in Central Park.
Great story, huh?
Well, after I got back here, it turns out that Tyler did NOT find the dead body, although one was found there. Mike said that when he told me the story, he simply had said that Tyler had swum there there the same day the body was found and that Bob had gotten a ticket. He said I had put two and two together incorrectly.
AndBob said the truth was that Tyler had not swum there that day, but that he did get a ticket. It's like that old parlor game, "Telephone."
I prefer the first story. Much more dramatic.
It's been cold here the last few days. I did a lot of walking yesterday -- went up to BMI to see a reading of a 10-minute musical written by my friend, Chuck Sachs. It was very impressive. He's a more "composer" composer type person than I am. As I have said before, I consider myself more of a songwriter than "composer."
Lots of activity on the producer front here. Our production team, which has optioned TLS for off-Broadway has been meeting with investors and other interested producers trying to work out their deals so we can move up to the next level. Naturally, I'm in there with my nose pressed to the glass wanting to hear every detail, but that's just not possible.
So, I just hang on and cajole as many people as I can to come see the show. Again, one of the great difficulties of TLS is convincing them that this is not an "AIDS play" or a "gay play," because it just isn't. But like any work that cannot be reduced to a single sentence, it's almost impossible to describe the show without using that syntax. Our best advertising is from those who have seen it because we almost never fail to get a standing ovation.
I spoke to John Bettis again today. He said I needed to just remember what drew him into the songs and the story -- mainly that the show speaks universally to the human condition. It was what made him excited and want to be involved. But that's also hard to put into words. What do you say?
"It sounds like AIDS and gays, but it's really about YOU!"
Meanwhile, I've been watching the phones at the Currican and taking ticket sales orders. Also, I'm about to be featured in a big national magazine, I'm told. I won't say which one because I don't want to "jinx" it, but you know it well. And also, tomorrow we are supposed to get Jerry Talmer's article in the Villager. I'll keep you informed.
Wednesday, June 4, 1997
A Rave Review & A Pajama Party.I spent most of the day today in the Currican office fielding ticket sales and taking phone calls. I wonder if Stephen Sondheim ever did this?
About 5pm, I got on the 1 Train and went down to the Sheridan Square/Christopher Street newstand to get The Villager to see if Jerry Tallmer's article had come out and, lo and behold:The article itself is very long and contains a wonderful and extremely funny interview with Jimmy and me. At the end he mentions that we are scheduled to run through June 29th and "...may go on to larger auspices."
Death Is No Joke in "The Last Session":BY JERRY TALLMER
PLACE: A recording studio.
Gideon, at the keyboard, throws back his head and releases the molten lava of Save Me A Seat, a song disclosing his intended imminent suicide. Jim, the stoic sound engineer -- they go back a long way together -- emerges, shocked and furious, from the control booth.
Then three other people show up. Two women, backup singers, who love Gideon, an a young pushy pure-voiced Christer who doesn't love him, but -- revolted to learn that his until-this-moment songwriting hero has AIDS -- now wants to save Gideon's soul from burning in hell forever.
And we, taking this all in, are off into a powerhouse two hours of a show called THE LAST SESSION at the little Currican Theatre, one flight up on W. 29th Street.
The Gideon at the keyboard is actor, musician and singer Bob Stillman, who became available when "Whistle Down The Wind" died en route to Broadway.
Jim, the guy in the control booth, is actor Dean Bradshaw.
Tryshia, impassioned backup singer No. 1, is Grace Garland.
Vicki, backup No. 2, the harsh redheaded hurricane lady who was once married to Gideon, is Amy Coleman, an actress-singer also known as Flamin' Amy; and Buddy, the offended, offensive, but deeply human Christian fundamentalist, is Stephen Bienski.
You won't find five better, more concentrated, more believable performances anywhere in New York than right here, under the dirction of Mike Wills.""Right now it's dreams and people talking," said Schalchlin.The Villager can be ordered from THE VILLAGER, 80 Eighth Ave. NY, NY 10011. Each issue costs 50 cents.
"You can attribute that to me, I like that," said Jim Brochu.
"See! I write all the good lines and he gets all the credit," said Steve Schalchlin.
A PAJAMA PARTY:
On Wednesday night, Mike Wills and I spent the night together. (You can start rumors now...fantasies on the left.)
Andrew Miller, the Currican's Artistic Director, was concerned about "...thieves that prowl the night..." after their break-in, so he asked us if we would mind spending the night until the men with the new metal gate arrive tomorrow. (He had slept there the night before.)
Naturally, Andrew and Amy the Angel were concerned that, since I am this magnetic powerhouse of a masculine force of sexual beautiousness, that Mike would not be able to hold his little self back. I understood their fears, of course. I've had to bear that burden all my life.
The Currican (which at one time was a synagogue and then an oriental whorehouse) has two white leather couches which are not exactly long enough for this "Lincolnesque" -- as Jerry Tallmer described me in his article -- songwriter. Mike, on the other hand, isn't so tall, so he fit in his couch.
But fortunately, I was long asleep before Mike finished doing work around the theatre. So, if he was unable to control himself, he didn't wake me up to tell me about it.
Thursday, June 5, 1997
New Test Results & The New Songwriter.Dr. Ellie tells me the new blood tests indicate that my viral load remains below 400 and my t-cells are up to 250!!
Well, much to everyone's chagrin, I shall live awhile longer it looks like. It'll give me a chance to stir up more trouble.
Not much happened today. After spending the night at the theatre, Miracle Mike and I went back to his apartment (where I am staying) and took showers and rested. I am reading a book about the history of the American Popular Song and am finding it fascinating. It's a very detailed book which even shows examples of how chord and song structures changed from the turn of the century.
When I worked at National Academy of Songwriters, I was often appalled that so many younger songwriters had no clue about their own heritage -- had never listened to the canon of great songwriters nor even knew their names. For all they knew, Cole Porter used to hang out with Beethoven. It's too bad, too, because there is a wealth of history and tradition that informs every note of today's music.
When one's musical knowledge extends only as far back as Mariah Carey or Ice T's first album, it's like writing a novel after having only read the Classics Illustrated versions of "Great Expectations." But I used to be like that. God knows there was a time when I thought "September Song" was a Neil Diamond song.
THE NEW SINGER-SONGWRITER:
The NY Times had a story this past Sunday about the new singer-songwriter movement. It was fascinating because it showed how the early writers in the late 60s wrote cutting edge lyrics that addressed not only political, but intense personal issues. As the 70s took hold, it devolved into what is called "soft rock," a toothless, boring thing that took over the airwaves and chased the "good stuff" off the air.
In the article, they cited my old buddy Dan Bern as being one of the leading lights of this new era. Dan Bern, as I have endlessly boasted here, was one of the artists we discovered on our Acoustic Underground series out in El Lay a few year ago. And it's from this tradition that I write my own songs.
Nik Venet's Evening Star Records, where I'll soon be an artist (God willing and the creek don't rise) is also releasing records from this new wave of exciting songwriting talent. Be sure to check out their website and get some of their stuff. It's really thrilling.
Friday, June 6, 1997
A Reason To Live.[I'm writing this on Sunday, but I'm keeping the days consistent with when the events happened...]
The Currican has been generously providing tickets to ASO's (AIDS Service Organizations) here in New York so that their clients who cannot afford it, can attend performances of TLS. As one put it to us, "Most of our clients are desperately poor from this disease and getting the chance to see a show does more for t-cells than just about anything else."
Last night, we had a group for Queens in and after the show one of them approached Flamin' Amy Coleman to tell her how much he enjoyed her performance. In the show, it's Amy's character, Vicki, who angrily tries to talk Gideon out of committing suicide. She even (in an effort to just provoke him) offers him a gun and tells him to do it right then and there.
Well, this young man told Amy that not two weeks prior to being there, he (because none of the new medications were working for him) had told his own sister that he had decided to end his life and she reacted exactly like Vicki. She flew into a rage and challenged him to just get it over with.
I guess it really jarred him back into some kind of reality because he didn't kill himself (mostly just to spite her). Then he told Amy that he felt it was because he needed to see our show. That our show had put some perspective back into his life and realized how important it was for him to fight for every single day.
Amy was kinda shook up when she related this story to us. I think actors get used to learning their lines and seeing their characters in the fictitious setting. How rare it is when "real life" suddenly becomes very real. This happened in a big way on Saturday night:
Saturday, June 7, 1997
Meeting Maggie & The Group.Two fantastic things happened today. The first one was that I finally got to meet one of my favorite online friends, Maggie Heineman; the other was that my IRC chatroom group from #aids/hiv+2 came in from all over the country and the world to see TLS. It was a glorious day.
Maggie drove down from Philadelphia and we met at 11am down at the theatre. Then we walked over to a little Greek diner on 6th Ave. and "over the teacups," we chattered like two old friends even though it was our first time to actually see each other in the flesh. It was thrilling to meet Maggie because we have both had one incredible year. When I "met" her, she was one of PFLAG'S most ardent online activists, fighting homophobia and hatred in coordinated, well-organized campaigns.
So when she suddenly, this past year, struck up a friendship with a born again "ex-gay," she shocked everyone. Some even accused her of being a "traitor" to the cause. And this was understandable, frankly, because few organizations have been as destructive to young gay people as so many of the so-called "ex-gay" organizations. And personally, I find the whole concept both laughable and "evil."
However, understanding that people, no matter what their beliefs, are still human beings, she allowed herself to "love those that hate you" and as a result, she created Bridges Across. A place where two absolute enemies can engage in constructive dialogue. Imagine that, talking instead of fighting. What is this world coming to?
She and I both agreed that there needs to be less "legalism" on both sides and more compassion, understanding and tolerance (on both sides). At stake are the lives of young people, both straight and gay. These are not gay or Christian issues. These are human issues.
It was warm and moving to sitting there talking to this white-haired grandmother who cares so much about people she hasn't even met, daring to venture into the camps of those who literally hate her because she's a pro-gay activist. Daring to refuse to demonize anyone for their beliefs.
Maggie particularly loved the fact that in TLS, we chose -- in characterizing "Buddy the Fundamentalist" -- to NOT make him a caricatured strawman. But instead, made him a fully fleshed out human being (thanks in no small part to the mind-blowing performance of Stephen Bienskie here in New York).
She later wrote and email to her online group and cited the lyrics to One More Song and When You Care. "Either you love or you don't; either you will or you won't. You can only lift the darkness when you care."
MEETING MY GROUP:
After the matinee, I raced down to 18th street because I was late for the dinner that had been scheduled with my HIV poz chatfriends. (Actually, I was also late because I had written the address wrong and landed at 10th street instead of 18th, but I did make it in time for chicken fried steak).
The restaurant is called America and it is a massive place that was either a warehouse or a big hotel lobby at some point in its early existence. But it's hard to miss a party of 25, so I walked right up to them and said hello. They recognized me immediately and began applauding! (It was so embarrassing).
I looked around that table and saw the true face of AIDS. Men, women, one 12 year old girl with her daddy in tow, one from France, one from Italy, many from the midwest, Texas and San Francisco -- it was glorious. And all of them had come here just to see The Last Session and me and, oh yes, each other!
It's such a strange experience to see face to face people you've been "talking to" for a year. It's embarrassing to be excitedly chattering with someone and then suddenly realize you're not sure who it is (because you usually only know them by their IRC "handle"). Are you Radec? Topster? Positive? It gets very confusing.
Well, talk about your friendly audience, though! They laughed at every punchline and cheered each actor. They also got all the HIV "in-jokes" that your normal crowd won't get -- like describing 3TC as a "very nice chevron-shaped pill. During the more emotional songs, they cried and hugged each other and relived so much. Remember, this is a group that, until now, has mostly "cyberhugged" -- which is completely different from actually putting your arms around someone in real life. Such a glorious experience to do it "for real."
THE MIDNIGHT CONCERT:
One of the things my group requested was to get their own "midnight concert" by yours truly after the show. Honestly, it's such an ego trip for me and I couldn't turn down that kind of request. Because they're all "fans" of mine, they see my versions of the songs as the "original," as opposed to those who see the show first, fall in love with "AndBob" and then view my versions as the "demos." (laughing) I have mentioned how magnificent Bob Stillman is when he sings, haven't I?
So, we gathered the chairs up close to the set (and to me), hung a work light, turned the PA system off, and had ourselves a little intimate concert/lovefest. Before I sang the first note, however, I dedicated our gathering to Jimal, our friend undergoing chemo because of lymphoma -- who was put into the hospital only a couple of days ago, despite the fact that he wanted to be here and actually had his plane tickets in hand.
My lord, how I wish I could describe the experience of looking into the faces of those who have truly been through what you yourself have been through. To sing words like, "...but how strange to be a member of a club/That nobody wants to be a member of..." or "...together we've been going it alone" to people who truly understand what it means because they've been there/done that...
We were all in tears and they were hugging each other. It was a marvel and a miracle, actually. Not possible in a world before computers and not possible in a world without Crixivan, frankly, because I know many of them would not have been alive for it, myself included.
In the back of the room, sitting on risers, Diva Grace and AndBob, along with Amy the Angel, Miracle (formerly Mean) Mike and Andrew (the True Believer) Miller sat and watched us have our little private party. I kept thinking why would they want to hear these songs yet again??
As we came to the end of our little "moment," we all said a silent prayer for Jimal and then gave each other big final hugs. I knew they would all go back to their homes the next day, but they gave me a gift that will never go away: the renewed faith that it pays to keep fighting for life and for each other.
You don't need AIDS to lose faith in life, you know. That's something that can happen to anyone. But when you do wake up each morning to a mountain of pills and pill-scheduling, wondering if you've taken the right pill at the right time -- when your life becomes so regimented, sometimes it can get downright frustrating, particularly if you're sick or poor or isolated from others. One member of our group lives in a tiny town with his mother and our chat group is just about the only contact he has with the outside world.
I know how much it means to just get a hug from someone who really "gets it" and tonight, we all hugged and we all "got it."
Sunday, June 8, 1997
A Day Off.After yesterday's events, I pretty much just took the day off. There was a TV crew in from a local cable show and its host, Barry Z., who took some "b-roll" footage and then interviewed the cast and myself for Barry's show on Sunday night here in Manhattan. And it was a magnificent performance by the cast and crew.
Monday, June 9, 1997
The Fight To Survive.Today, I made a lot of phone calls and tried to help coordinate getting us more publicity. The fight right now is to help the Currican keep TLS up and running. This is their first time to extend a show beyond the showcase contract and it's expensive for them. More than they realized, so these days are crucial.
It's a struggle, frankly, because as I mentioned before, they are a not-for-profit company with very little money for publicity or promotion. And last week, because of the burglary and the fire on the roof, they incurred expenses they were not prepared to have to deal with. It's very scary for them because they run on a very slim margin and have to make appeals for donations and grants.
Plus, we've been kinda buried, this being Tony Season. Luckily, because that's mostly over and the new season has begun, we were able to FINALLY get a few new critics in this past week. Preliminary buzz was that they loved the show (just like Jerry Tallmer did) and that we will be getting some good press. Now we just have to hang on.
The immediate goal is for The Currican to be able to make payroll -- the actors are no longer allowed to donate their services according to Equity rules -- and to extend past the June 29th date but it will be very difficult and expensive to do so because The Currican will have to pay new rental fees on some of the equipment and the set, plus the landlord wants to raise their rent by a substantial margin.
I suppose if this were just a "normal" show, they wouldn't have bothered placing themselves in this kind of jeopardy, but none of them consider TLS to be a "normal" show. They feel it has a substantial and urgent message that needs to be heard and they are working overtime to see it survive.
Luckily, there are a few angels who have seen The Last Session who have come forth and are in the process of making a few donations. Also, the team that holds the option for an off-Broadway run has joined with newer partners who have thrown themselves into the fray, but it's a daily struggle. I supposed any fight for life is a daily struggle.
And there are no guarantees. TLS a baby that has been born and now it will be up to the people who care for it to help it survive (myself included). This week, I'm doing a TV appearance on cable, plus we have "Gay Pride" happening soon, and the possibilities are there. So, I'm very optimistic. Cross your fingers for us. It's not going to be easy.
Even in the best of circumstances, theatre is never, never easy.
And tomorrow I'm going to be on the Rosie O'Donnell Show!! (Well, actually I'm going to be in the AUDIENCE of the Rosie O'Donnell Show, but that's something, isn't it? Well, isn't it? Look for me! I'll be the idiot waving his hands in the air screaming at Rosie, "HEY! HAVE YOU HEARD 'GOING IT ALONE????').
Tuesday, June 10, 1997
Rosie! Over Here!! Rosie...!!!Well, today was my day to be in the audience at the Rosie O'Donnell Show and I was determined -- DETERMINED -- to do something to get Rosie's attention. I didn't know what, but I couldn't allow myself to get that close and not find a way to say something. Anything...(if only for the kids in the chorus!)I put on my best teal blue silk shirt (the one Jimmy bought me at the close-out sale just before the GMHC show last month), my cream colored Dockers and took off early to be at Rockefeller Center for the Rosie Show. Just as I was leaving I realized I didn't have a CD with me, so I got on the train and rushed to the Currican to pick one up.
Since I was a guest of the Gay Mens Health Crisis (because they were doing an AIDS themed show for TV's "Day of Compassion") we were escorted up to the studio and treated like VIPs. When I gave my name to the person who was doing the seating, I was thrilled to find out that they had actually put my name on a seat on the second row center on the aisle.
Would Rosie suddenly call my name out and talk to me, telling the world about the songwriter with AIDS who has a show in NY, defying all the odds? If she did, what would I say?
As I took my seat, my mind reeled with all the possible things I could say to Rosie when she singled me out. But nothing sounded good to me. When I get put on the spot, as Jimmy will tell you, I can be an absolute idiot. Suddenly I was very nervous.
On our seats, each of us found a package of "Devil Dogs" -- which are like Ring Dings -- and a carton of milk. Fearing I might make my nationwide appearance with chocolate all over my teeth, I decided I wasn't really in the mood for that and tried to give it to a kid, but he looked at me like I was a stranger on a subway, so I just put it under my chair. Like most studios, it was really cold in there, so I was glad my (pretty) shirt had long sleeves.
Soon, there appeared a nebbishy warm-up guy named Joey who got us all cheering and yelling. Then John McDaniel appeared and the band played some music. Then they did the countdown and, as usual, an audience member introduced Rosie. Luckily, I was right behind him across the aisle, so the camera was pointed right at me! I didn't do anything tacky like look right into the camera or at the monitor, so I don't know if I was in the shot, but I think I was. (look for me--it will air on Friday, Jun 20th)
The first guest was a man with AIDS who ran across the country. Then it was Liza Minnelli! (I almost got to meet her once, but she left town.)
Then Jack Wagner from Melrose Place came on. He wasn't wearing socks (but he was wearing shoes).(and rosie had still not called on me -- between segments she was surrounded by five or six people who doted on her. a couple of times, she spoke to the audience, but i didn't have my ultra-cool thing to say down, so I just watched)Then kd lang sang a song about forbidden love -- she was actually on tape, but Rosie pretended she wasn't -- and finally, Julie Harris the actress came out and they talked. Then the show was over.
Well, I didn't get called on or anything, so I started to get my things and leave. Suddenly, though, Rosie came towards us and began signing autographs. Hope arose in my soul until they announced that she would sign autographs only for kids and let their moms take their pictures -- could I pass for 15? I watched as the kids got their autographs and posed with Rosie for pics. It was really a very nice gesture. (One time I was on Geraldo and he didn't do anything for the audience.)
She first signed for the kids on the opposite side and then came over to the aisle where I was sitting. By this time, Joey the funny warm-up guy was now becoming Joey the hard-nosed room-clearing out guy. He kept saying, "If you aren't with a child, then file out please!" But I was not to be deterred. I was going to get to Rosie, dammit!
I crossed the aisle and joined the other guys from GMHC so I could look like I should stay. Maybe Rosie would talk to us! One of the workers looked very annoyed that I was cutting across the line to get to the others -- he said, "EXCUSE ME??" as I pushed past -- but I was not going to be stopped.
Finally, Rosie signed the last autograph and I was only a few feet from her. I had to think of something. What could I do? How could I get her attention without scaring her half to death?
Just as she was turning to go away, someone in our group said something to her and she smiled and said something back. This was my chance. Again, she was beginning to turn away when suddenly I stood up and said:
"ROSIE! I WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE BUT I WROTE A MUSICAL INSTEAD!!"
She looked at me and smiled and said, "Well, I'd rather have music!" So I said, "Okay! Here's my CD!" And I pulled it from my bag. She smiled again and took it from me and said, "I'll listen to it." Then she smiled again and walked away.
I was supposed to die but I wrote a musical instead????
Sometimes I surprise even myself.
Wednesday, June 11, 1997
A Boardroom Miracle.(If you read this diary on a regular basis, you know that Dr. Bruce Dorsey is the man at Merck Pharmaceuticals who synthesized Crixivan, the drug that saved my life. He "found" me one day last year and sent me a note. Last week he brought 25 "Merckies" with him to see THE LAST SESSION:OFFICE MEMOI was so moved and excited about this note from Dr. Bruce, I sent a copy of it to some of my cyberfriends. Here's a note I got back from Kerry:
Just thought I would send a note your way and tell you a little story. First - as you know - everyone from Merck loved the show! We had a blast traveling up to NYC and thanks for being the welcoming committee. The show keeps growing and should soon be on Broadway-right above Rent!
About a week after the show several of the chemists at West Point had dinner with the top scientific management at Merck. (the # 1,2 and 3 people in charge of research at Merck). The dinner was to honor the chemists at our site who have been responsible for inventing drugs that are now on the market.
As we sat around the dinner table discussing our "war stories" we each had a chance to comment on the most significant moments involved with our discoveries. Mostly people reflected on the high and low points of the medicinal chemistry involved with their project.
As my turn approached I had time to reflect on what was the most important moment to me in the discovery of Crixivan. Far and away the most significant moment of the Crixivan project was connecting with you - the patient. I was able to describe how I connected with you through the internet, how you described through your diary your decline and comeback with Crixivan, how you were able to get your musical to off-Broadway and how a group of us Merckies went there to see The Last Session.
It was emotional, but I was able to get it all out. So I just wanted to say Thanks for being out there! Thanks for being so open and exposed and so accessible. There is not much in this world that is as satisfying as knowing that what you have done is giving someone else a chance to live. Every time time I listen to your CD I get that feeling. I can carry that with me the rest of life.
Thanks for being my highlight of Crixivan.
Now I tell ya, I'm married to a scientist and all our "real life" friends are scientists. They all are warm folks, but to be able to actually convey that is not exactly a strong point that I've seen. Bruce has been "Steved"! My gosh man, now this is a damned amazing talent.
I could just imagine this meeting, scientist #1 stands up and talks of fatty acids in cell walls, writing proposals, the lastest publication, etc...then #2 would follow suit and so on until Bruce. Ya know what, there isn't a one of them that'll ever be the same. Bruce told a wonderful story, mentioned humans and art, and mostly Steve. He put a face on their work and in doing so put thing into perspective for all of them. I've been to these meetings, I've lived in the midst of these folks and that one act will do more than we can ever imagine.
So what are ya gonna do for an encore?
Thanks many times over for sharing this, in this household it comes across as a miracle.
Geez and all I did today was make a teapot :-).
Thursday, June 12, 1997
More Than A New Song.I wrote a new song for The Last Session. It's for the moment when Tryshia is trying to convince Gideon -- who has just discovered he has cancer -- to not kill himself; a frightening and difficult thing to convince anyone of.
Right now, we have a number called One More Song there and it is very dynamic and brings down the house and all those good things you want a big "11 o'clock number" to do. But Jimmy and I have always felt that there was something lacking -- a feeling reinforced by Miracle Mike (whose job it is to look for that sort of thing).
So, I began by putting myself into Tryshia's shoes and into the shoes of Gideon. How can anyone insist that someone go through pain? How can you tell someone that they should take toxic drugs and endure another bout of pure medical hell? Who has that right?
She sings:"...Nobody has the right to tell you what to doI played this little bit for the Currican/Playful Artistic Director Andrew Miller, who looked absolutely stunned. He said, "It's got to go in. When can you have it finished?" I quietly panicked when I realized I had just committed myself to finishing a new song. So, I went to work conceptualizing the rest of the song.
I don't; they don't..."
"...But you were the one who made us believe
You were the one who wrote the songs
You were the one who made it fun..."
The next piece of the puzzle was a clue from the show itself. In Preacher and the Nurse, which is sung toward the beginning of the piece, Gideon laments his father giving up a church because he felt inadequate to continue on."The preacher stood in front of the church he builtSo, took this piece of "Preacher", which has bluesy flat 7 chords, made them major 7, and wrote a parallel verse for Tryshia to throw back at Gideon, who had judged his own father's actions:
And he said I'm leavin'..."
"...and I thought the preacher made a mistake that day
'cause I think the people needed him to stay.""The singer stood in front of the choir he builtWell, at this point in the song, now that Tryshia has said they don't want him to leave, I felt she needed to let him know what he meant to them. I found this inspiration at the Currican and in Andrew himself.
And he said "I'm leavin'..."
"...and I think the singer made a mistake today
Cause the choir cannot let him slip away..."
After last week's break-in and the fire on the roof and the struggle to get critics and audiences to find us and to know that we are here (through the jungle of the Tonys and countless other award ceremonies), I witnessed a day in which True Believer Andrew Miller, seemed to lose heart. I haven't told you much about him, but he literally built this theatre with his own two hands -- designed it himself, cut wood, nailed it up, painted and hung the banner outside. Everyone feeds off his energy to accomplish the impossible and to make the Currican dream come true.
But on that day, I saw him, for the first time, crestfallen, crying -- losing hope and faith. And it broke my heart. So, this became the bridge:"When you lose hopeNow I needed a finish. I played as much of the song as I had for Miracle Mike to get his feedback and some more direction. He reminded me of an email I had gotten from Ronda Espy when I was getting very stressed out during the production of this play. She told me to remember that my life is not this play; that my life is not my songs, no matter how much I might love it and them. She wanted me to remember the feeling of just being grateful to wake up each day; the simple joy of being alive.
Then we lose hope
When you don't fight
Then we don't fight
When we don't live
Then we don't live..."
Regarding death, Mike added that for him, the greatest tragedy of losing such creative giants as Michael Bennett (a Broadway director and choreographer) to AIDS was the loss of the person himself. Sure, much of his work will live on, but it's the loss of the person that is the tragedy; the inspiration he could spark in others -- the life he brought to those around him and to the theatre community. And that was it.
So, the last chorus became:"You're more than just a songAnd for the first time since we began this process, I felt like a "composer/lyricist" (as opposed to just being a songwriter). Proudly, I remembered when Stephen Sondheim described writing "Send In The Clowns" in one night for A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. Jerry Herman putting "Before the Parade Passes By" into HELLO DOLLY as a subsitute for Davey Burns' solo, "Pennies In My Pocket."
You're more than just a rhyme
You're more than just a tune that fades away
You're the one who makes us strong..."
"...More than the singer
More than the song..."
REVEALING THE SONG:
Finally, night before last, I gathered the cast around the piano and played the new song for them. Amy the Angel stood in the doorway with tears in her eyes. Diva Grace Garland (who would sing it) practically snatched the lyrics out of my hands and said, "When can we rehearse? How soon can we put it in?" They were all enthusiastic. Then last night, Bob Stillman and I worked out the piano parts, eschewing the syncopation of "Preacher" for an straight arpeggiated riff.
I called Jimmy back in El Lay, sang it to him over the phone, faxed him the lyrics and asked his permission to slip it into the Saturday matinee as a test run. After all, it might not work. What sounds good in theory does not always work out in practice.
But that's the thrill of theatre, I'm beginning to understand. It's trying things, putting them up and then crossing your fingers. Sometimes all it takes is just the right song at the right time to make or break a show. It's risky doing this, too, because we haven't had many complaints about One More Song. Why fix something that ain't broke?
Well, because it ain't just about something working. It's about making sure you say the thing you want to say.
Selections from The Singer & The Song © 1997 by See No Evil Music/Lil Shack o' Tunes.
Friday - Saturday, June 13 - 14, 1997
Hot Days & The Gentle Breeze.[It has been sweltering here in New York City for the last few days and it has exhausted me. Unlike El Lay, which is very dry, NY isn't. Dry, that is. And the Currican air conditioners have been working overtime to keep the room cool. Theatrical Rule #1: People won't laugh in a hot room.]by the way, the comedy corollary to that is "Never do comedy in a blue light." don't know why.Because of the heat, and because I'm tired, I spent most of Friday piled up in bed reading and writing. I spent an extra amount of time doing the diary page yesterday because I wanted to meticulously document how the new song was written so I'd never forget. It's more than just a song, you know. It's a lesson I needed to give myself.
We had a couple of special guests in the audience Saturday afternoon. One was Matt Mirapaul from NY Times CyberTimes. This was his first time to see the show with sets and lights and sound. He came with his beautiful fiance (Hey, honey, he doesn't deserve you! You're GORGEOUS!!). Matt was the first "major media" person to discover this diary site and he wrote a fantastic article which is still available online.
The other special guest was Jimmy's Aunt, Sister Mary Catherine, who is a nun. She brought another nun friend of hers and we joked all afternoon. I keep calling her a deadbeat and she keeps telling me I'm "fresh" and that she's going to "tell" on me. After the show, both she and her friend were in tears.
This happens a lot when people come to see TLS.
THE GENTLE BREEZE:
Well, Jimmy has now arrived from El Lay, just in time to see the new song get inserted into the show. We did it at the matinee and it was really wonderful. It's a bit jarring for people who have already seen the show because it's not a big rabble rousing song like
One More Song, but it's very real. There's still some work to be done on it, but Jimmy said he thought it moved clearly in the right direction.
A THANK YOU:
The Currican recently got a nice donation from someone who none of us knew and we think it may have come because of this diary page. (I told the Curricaners my readers were exceptional people). Whoever you are, thanks so much. Every little bit helps. I don't do direct appeals for money through this page because that's boring -- and I NEVER do "boring" -- but I do want to thank everyone who writes me, reads me or befriends me. This has been a fantasy come true for all of us. I just hope you're enjoying it half as much as I am.
Sunday, June 15, 1997
The Kids In The Front Row.[I'm writing this on Thursday, June 19, after having taken four days off from the diary. Part of the reason for this is that Jimmy and I have now moved in with friends where there is no internet access, but I was tired and needed a break. However, I shall update you on the goings on. Thanks for hanging in there with me. One of the reasons I am back, by the way, is because my beloved Baptists are at it yet again. But we'll talk about that later on.]Tonight, Sunday, there was a group of high school kids in to see the show. I believe they were drama/theatre students. Their instructors wanted to bring them to TLS because they felt the kids needed to see something in a small theatre. "They had only been taken to big Broadway shows and we felt they should see how theatre is really produced on a scale they would be more likely to encounter fresh out of college."
There were about ten of them and they sat in the front row together. Now, normally one would expect that kids this age would cut up and be in party mode, taking none of this seriously. But (and I could only view them from the back) it looked to me like they were deeply engrossed in the play. It was when I saw them at intermission that I realized the full impact of what they were experiencing.
Frankly, they were in tears. Even the boys. They didn't say very much, but I could tell they had been very moved by what they saw on the stage.
After the play, they apparently went to a diner and sat for about a half hour before any of them could even speak. Finally, they got into a discussion and from what I have now been told, The Last Session had an incredible impact on them.I remember back to last summer when we did the workshop and invited the runaways from El Lay's Covenant House and had a similar reaction -- how the street toughs were absolutely leveled by the message and power of that production.I was speaking to one of the cast members about this on Monday. He said in high schools these days, gay kids are much more open about their sexual orientation, but that because of this, and because of their ages, the issues are very intense.
It was one thing for me, closeted until my middle 20s (until I found safe territory in Dallas) to endure at least one gaybashing (where only the straight people in our group actually got hit, ironically), but for children in their teens trying to actually live openly, dating like all the straight kids around them get to date -- it would never have been possible in Buna, Texas (and probably still isn't).
You gotta salute that kind of courage and raise some kind of hope that maybe there's hope after all despite the virulent poison of the Religious Wrong, stirring up hatred and ignorance for cold, hard cash. Just last week, a letter was circulated from Gary Bauer, the evil leader of the Family Something-or-other Council -- a letter so vile, so full of lies, and so hate-filled (and so full of "give us money to stop the destruction of society" language) that I literally felt like vomiting.
But for those kids watching TLS Sunday night, huddled together and finally seeing something that logically and with love, attacked the lies and hate (with love and with respect), I began to see, not just the impact that Last Session has on its audience, but the power of theatre and the power of truth.
Monday, June 16, 1997
A Steve Grows in Brooklyn.Today was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the air was dry, Jimmy and I were back together again at last and so we decided to take a walk down 7th Ave. and just see the neighborhood. Jimmy and I are comfortably ensconced in a lovely, spacious "walk-through" brownstone in Brooklyn. The owners, Linda and Rob, are lifelong friends of Jimmy's. They actually live elsewhere but have just purchased this place for their work when they are in town once or twice a week.
I could feel myself coming back to life today, taking this day off. The streets are lined with tall, green trees. The avenue itself was full of strollers and babies (and moms and dads) and little book stores, grocery bodegas, coffee shops, old stone churches, antique stores, an elementary school, diners, pizza places. It's just buzzing with activity and life. It could be a small town anywhere. I also liked that fact that gay couples and straight couples walked comfortably down the street together, arm in arm -- no stress, no stares, no weird glances. I wish more of America was like this.
It's a bit of a shlep to get to Manhattan from here -- about a 15 minute walk to the subway station followed by a 20-25 minute subway ride, but what a small price to pay for such a nice place to live.
After we picked up some groceries and a book ("Catcher in the Rye" -- a book that somehow slipped through the cracks of my education in the deep south), we came home and turned on the TV. On C-Span, the conservative reporter who originally broke the Troopergate story was being interviewed. He was on the hot seat because he has recently written something that actually dared to compliment Hillary Clinton -- he called her a good mom, sending his fellow conservatives into a rage.
During the course of the interview, it was noted that he himself was gay (and conservative). Well, suddenly every phone call turned into, "Well, I'm a Christian so I disagree with your lifestyle and I say you can't be a conservative and be gay." Followed by another caller who also felt compelled to state that he was a Southern Baptist and didn't "agree" with his lifestyle....
And on it went. It reminded me of being in the "Christian" chatrooms on the internet where, at the smallest mention of the word "gay," suddenly the dogs of Jesus descend out of the woodwork blasting you to hell and lecturing endlessly. What is it with people that they are so nice one moment, but the mention of gay people sends them into a frenzy?("Isn't it wonderful what religion does for people?" Gideon asks at one point in The Last Session.)
Tuesday, June 17, 1997
Sanctuary! Sanctuary!!Speaking of religion, wait until John Cardinal O'Connor gets wind of what happened today.
I was finally photographed for my big appearance in "the major magazine" I mentioned last week -- the only reason I'm not saying which one is because I don't want to jinx it, but it's one you'll find on any newsstand in any city and it's a generic word for "persons." Is that enough of a clue? (Plus, if it doesn't work out for some reason, I won't be too embarrassed.)
Anyway, the photographer was dead set on doing this photo shoot in a church with a big stained glass window. Since her little girl goes to Holy Cross Catholic School on 42nd Street, she asked the nun there if we could do the shoot in their sanctuary (also called "Holy Cross"). Jimmy, having been raised Catholic, knew the church well and said it was one of the nicest in Manhattan.
We had put off the shoot a couple of times because of overcast skies, and today it was also overcast, but rain was predicted for the rest of the week and she (Kimberly) didn't want to deal with that. We arrived at the elegant stone building about 2pm and, lo and behold, the skies began to clear. Jimmy and I went in and sat in the back.
The sanctuary was large and ornate. There were four or five people scattered throughout the building praying, lighting candles and crossing themselves in front of statues. Baptists don't do any of this kind of stuff (except for the praying part), so it was definitely foreign territory. There were many stained glass windows, all depicting saints or other religious figures. Then it dawned on me:
I'm not Catholic. Shooting photos of me here? In front of Catholic stuff? Wouldn't that be a bit misleading? Oh, well I suppose one religious image is as good as another.
While I was waiting outside for Kimberly to arrive with her photographic equipment, I looked up the street and saw George Peter Ryan, the actor who had to leave TLS early in the rehearsal process. He threw his arms around my neck and we hugged. His eyes were full of tears and he told me he had been through hell and back since he last saw us. I won't go into detail here because it's his own personal business, but he asked how the show was doing, and how I was. We hugged again and as he walked away, I saw him once again wiping tears from his eyes. Inside I just felt sad, I guess, but also happy that we had seen each other once more and that he was bravely tackling his own demons.
After the shoot, Jimmy said he was going to write a letter to someone -- the Cardinal or the Pope or the NY Times -- decrying the use of the holy sanctuary for the sole purpose of "promoting the homosexual agenda." (Anything to get publicity, I suppose.)
It was fun, though. There we were in the choir loft behind the congregation. Me seated at the pipe organ pretending to play. Then we took some shots where I was standing in front of the huge stained glass window with my arms outstretched while Jimmy egged me on, singing "Rose's Turn" from "Gypsy" and shouting, "Sing out, Louise!"
Thursday, June 19, 1997
Letter On Fire!![The front page of the NY Post this morning said it all: It was a picture of Mickey Mouse with a big red circle/slash sign across his chest. The Southern Baptist Convention has officially issued a boycott of Disney and all its entities]Dear Southern Baptist Conventioneers,
[Inside the Daily News was a political cartoon of a choir loft (seems to be a recurring theme these days) with "Baptists" singing, "...it's a small mind after all."]
I know you are very busy these days looking desperately through all your vacation folders trying to find a nice family spot which is without sin or blemish now that Disney World (and ABC and ESPN) has been banned, but could you just give me a moment? Please?
First of all, thanks so much for making this world little bit colder this morning. I know the idea that gay people..."IT'S A CHOICE!!!"...drive you absolutely crazy wanting their partners in life to have health insurance or own book stores on TV or visit Disneyland like "regular" godly folks such as yourselves..."THEY'RE EVIL!!!"...but this will be a bit difficult given the fact that Jim & Tammy's JesusWorld stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from couples who wanted to invest with "Christians," that Jimmy Swaggart spent your money on prostitutes and that all these ministries bilk millions from old people who might otherwise have given to their local congregations..."THEY'RE ANTI-FAMILY!!!"I suppose you could go to Vegas, which is now VERY family oriented -- oops, gambling. Or all 16 million of you could suddenly go to our national parks and leave those Christian Chick leaflets under all the trees, while simultaneously destroying those natural resources your conservative politicians are so eager to sell off to the timber industry.
HEY! I was just thinking: Since you think gay people are automatically sinful by virtue of who they are, and since this boycott is about stopping sin, don't you think you're being hypocritical here? Isn't it also sinful to NOT BE A CHRISTIAN???
Shouldn't you be boycotting every show that doesn't feature Christians in the lead roles? Shouldn't you be boycotting all movies? All plays? All books? Everything that doesn't feature Christians?Someone once asked the creators of the Muppets if Bert and Ernie were gay. Their response: Bert and Ernie are puppets. They don't have sex.Well, then, look. Let's be reasonable about this, my Baptist brethren. If you don't think it makes any sense to ban everything in your life that isn't specifically "Christian," then maybe you should do a little soul searching.
Ask yourself this question: Why are the delegates to the national convention specifically beating up on gay people to the exclusion of all other "sinners?"
Could it be ... ummm ... bigotry? Could it be for all the same reasons their brethren a couple of generations past dressed up in white sheets and murdered black people? And defended slavery?
Why us? Why do you hate gay people so much that you would deprive your child of Bambi or Hercules or Pocahontas? And do you really think Baptists in Dallas are going to boycott ABC's showing of Dallas Cowboys games because Disneyland lets gay people have their own days in the park or have health insurance? PLEASE! This is me you're talking to.
You pretend to love the sinner and hate the sin, but you're just lying. To yourself -- and to everyone else. And until you repent of this sin, it will only force the rest of the world to boycott you and your blind hatred because, in fact, this is precisely how fascism and fanaticism and begin.
Oh, I know you don't believe me. I know you are so very proud of yourselves that you have now struck a blow for Jesus. I can imagine you on your knees, picturing Him smiling down upon you as you brag how you've tried to end at least some human rights for those sinful homosexuals.
But, just for a moment, I would like to remind you of a time in history called the Inquisition. You see, a long time ago there were these Catholics who decided that the best way to serve Jesus was to stop sin from spreading through the world. They burned and tortured "witches" and Jews and scientists -- all kinds of people who disagreed with their interpretation of scripture. Know who else they fried?
Paulicians (also known as Baptists). HEY! I have another little piece of advice. And I know you'll ignore it since it comes from someone like me, but here it is anyway:Don't go after the speck in another man's eyes until you taken the burning cross from your own.Sincerely,
P.S. Sexual orientation is not a choice, but religion definitely is.
Friday/Saturday, June 20/21, 1997
The Bar In Brooklyn.It was such a hot day today. The humidity was high, the heat was high, & the Currican air conditioner went on the fritz. Mike Wills went up on the roof and found it frozen over, so he turned it off and we let it melt.
It was better after that.
Later that night Jimmy and I decided (especially after the media assault by the SBC yesterday) we needed to find a few other "sinners" and hang out. One of our friends told us there was a gay bar near our place in Brooklyn. So we wandered down to 5th Ave. (where it suddenly became very dark and seedy) and made it to Carry Nation, a neighborhood hangout.
There were a few stragglers hanging out and Bugs Bunny cartoons on the video above the bar. Not much to do, really. So we wandered to the back where there was a pool table and shot a few rounds. Didn't take long before regulars began to show up, a cool mix of men and women.
Since Jimmy and I are more than pitiful players, we happily surrendered the table and took chairs to watch. There was a rather butch-looking guy who went next. He played against a extremely stout African-American dyke, when she shot, barely flicked her arm. But the ball would go flying like a cannon shot across the table and almost never miss the mark.
We were smart to have stepped back.
What I liked about the place is how easily the lesbian and gay men mixed and enjoyed each others' company. When I was first coming out, I think there was more antipathy between the gay sexes than there is now. Not sure why. Probably because there is no sexual tension between gay men and women. Lesbian bars, also, have to contend with predatory straight males who can be very disruptive when they realize their "masculinity" has no effect on the gay women.
In fact, sometimes lesbians get the reputation of being an "all girls" club -- men haters. But I have never found this to be the case. In fact, I personally have a large group of gay women fans who like my music. In Boston, after the concert, I was surrounded by women asking for autographs and talked excitedly, and most of them were gay. In El Lay, the band that helped me do my CD were all women, mostly gay. Not that I'm bragging or anything; just stating a fact.
Anyway, we stayed for awhile at Carry Nation, told some of them about TLS and then headed back home. It was a nice evening.
Sunday, June 22, 1997
"Begging For Some Kind of Comfort From the Heat..."I was a lump. Jimmy was a lump. It was mid-morning and the heat and humidity in our un-air conditioned apartment was making us into cranky, icky people. "What do you want to do?" he asked me. "I don't know, what do you want to do?" I retorted with much irritation. "I don't know," he answered back with even more irritation.
Either we were starting to hate each other or the heat was finally getting to us, so we decided to go out and find someplace cool.
The walk down 7th Ave. put us into even crankier moods. There were a few places open with Sunday Brunches, but most of them were serving eggs and neither of us wanted eggs. TOO HOT! We were just about to give up when suddenly, a green awning appeared and beckoned: SNOOKY'S, it said. Snooky's.
We had never heard of Snooky's but it was a diner and it looked cool, so we went in and were directed to a booth opposite a group of about 15 old folks which included two nuns. One in white and one in black.
So, we informed the waitress that we might be sitting for awhile. I was so sticky, the vinyl booth had me glued in place anyway. So, Jimmy pulled out his NY Times crossword puzzle and I pulled out the book I was reading, "Working Sex" by my friend Marianne Macy. It's a book where she, intrepid journalist/reporter, went undercover in the sex trade.
We started with Buffalo Wings and told the waitress (who had a pronounced Carnarsie Brooklyn accent) to just let us eat those before ordering anything else. I put a few coins in the juke box and we settled back breathing in the cool comfort. Within 15 minutes, we had cooled all the way down and were our old chatty kathy selves. It felt wonderful.
My lunch prayer: God, thank you for air conditioning.
After our long lunch of burgers and wings, we were back in good moods and feeling great, but we still had a long afternoon ahead of us, so we decided to duck into the neighborhood movie theatre and watch something appropriately mindless. We arrived just in time for "The Lost World."
It was a terrible movie, but it didn't matter. I was sitting in air conditioning and my mind was too blown to really care. Besides I liked the dinosaurs.
Afterwards, we made it down to the theatre and watched the fantastic cast of TLS make magic. Two of the guys in the audience had flown down from Canada just to see the show. One of them is on my Crixivan email list.
After the show, we went across 7th Ave. (Manhattan) to the Triple Crown and partied with the cast. I sat with AndBob in a booth eating a turkey club while we talked about the recent script changes and the new song and stuff.
I love the members of this cast. They are quite remarkable. A few more blurbs have come out in NY publications and all of them have been effusive in their praise of Amy Coleman, Stephen Bienskie, Dean Bradshaw, Grace Garland and Bob Stillman. We are the luckiest writers on the planet to have them playing their roles in THE LAST SESSION.
Monday, June 23, 1997
Feedback From The Firestorm.Well, I've gotten feedback, both positive and negative from the open letter I posted to the Southern Baptist Conventioneers. Some people get a bit disturbed when I turn into what Miracle Mike calls "Loud Steve," but no one who really knows me is ever surprised when I get a bit thorny (and sarcastic).
My parents were worried that I was "spreading hate" and wondered if my diary was supposed to be about that. One of my brothers thought my tirade was against straight people or against all Baptists. I apologize to anyone who took my remarks in the wrong way. I was using acid-tongued humor because I was very angry. We'll discuss this again at another time.
The Daily News here, however, did a poll of Southern Baptists to see what their thoughts were concerning the proposed boycott. And, sure enough, at least 80% of them felt that gay people should have totally equal human rights, and that 71% would NOT follow the boycott.
It just shows, as I have stated here, that the Christian leadership is just as out of touch with their contituents as the Catholic Church is with theirs. Maybe even more. And it restores my faith that "normal" folks are decent and only want to play fair -- an attitude their so-called leadership might want to learn.
I have some theories about why some Christian leaders feel so threatened by gay people. It came from Marianne Macy's book. She quotes Robert Stoller, M.D., who posits that societies "need" their "perverts." Probably to help them feel normal."He who breaks the rules by refusing to play the part of the pervert as written in society's mores and sanctions -- who rebels againsts his assignment and will not help his neighbor by being clown and victim -- may in time force social change, in not downright revolution."My online friend, Charlene, wrote:Hi there! I haven't sent you a note in ages, but after reading your letter to Southern Baptists yesterday - and catching up on your diary - I thought I'd sit down and take the time to say hi.This came from a new reader. A "Christian" lady with a husband and three kids.
You write a very powerful letter you know. You had me all fired up by the time I was finished. Now if only some of those boycotters would read it and see the light. Hope springs eternal and all that...
It was particularily pertinent because I had just got offline after talking to a gentleman who had just come out to himself (at the age of 36) and was having a horrible time because he couldn't reconcile his charismatic fundamentalist background with being gay. At one point he said he was so depressed over his "sin" that he asked a friend to shoot him. I kind of lost it at that point. I believe I said something like - "Let me get this straight. You are so worried about a "sin" that shows up a few times in the bible - mainly in places like the Cleanliness Codes - that you asked a friend to break one of the 10 COMMANDMENTS for you??? Doesn't this strike you as being just a trifle MIXED UP???" Or something like that. He didn't answer for a long time, and I thought I had really offended him - and then he finally came back with "You know - you are right. Oh my God." I don't know if it made any difference - but he thought about it. If we could just get more people to THINK about it...Steve,
I was out cruising your neighborhood and found your site. I really like it. I also want you to know that I share your views on the boycott of Disney.
My husband and I are Christians... and we are nothing like the Baptists. They are judging people when we are told specifically not to. It is so much easier to point out other people's sins. Our lives are supposed to shine for the world to see. Unfortunately, there are self-professing Christians who don't have the light of Christ in them. I don't want to ramble, but I wanted you to know there are Christians out there who don't condemn homosexuals. Well, I'm going to get back to your site.
By His Grace,
"Sharon and Bill"
parents of "Ed"(6), "Susan"(2), and "Louis" (1)
Tuesday, June 24, 1997
Extensions & Disconnections.Well, the word is now official. The run at the Currican has been extended until July 20 (and possibly longer). Several things influenced this decision.
One, the ticket sales have picked up, indicating that word of mouth is beginning to spread and to take hold. Two, there are some more creative ideas we are tossing around and it's easier to make changes in the show if it's up and running than if we have to theorize by only seeing them on paper. Three, the fans of TLS have more or less been rabid in their affection and love for this show. Their emotional (as well as financial) outpourings have convinced our producers that if they take a chance and keep it going, it will be worth it.
The reason I put it this way is because the longer this show runs, the more expensive it becomes. Many concessions have been made by the unions, but some of the equipment rentals have to be renewed, so it's still a gamble for everyone involved. That they are "stepping out on faith" is quite humbling for this little songwriter. This is real money out of their pocketbooks and a crucial time for our New York run. I thank all of you who have played a part in this.
Jimal has died. On opening night of TLS, I wrote here about my cyberpal, Jimal (Jim Allison), from our aids chatroom. He had just been diagnosed with lymphoma and, in the midst of our celebrating, I remembered him here. I also dedicated the special "midnight concert" to him when the whole group came a couple of weeks ago.
Jim wanted so badly to come see TLS. He even had his plane tickets in hand. The last I had heard from him, he had gotten a bit better and had talked about coming here when some of the group reconvenes here this coming Saturday. Then, just a few moments ago, I got a note saying he had died.
So, I sit typing this with tears streaming down my cheeks. It always galls me when people tell me the fight against AIDS is over, as if building up a few t-cells means no one is going to die anymore. No. I am happy that there are fewer deaths and I am happy that I'm one of the "Crixivan wonderboys," as Degen Pener put it. But, nothing can take the place of someone just evaporating from view, disappearing from the monitor -- especially when you've fought and prayed and hoped and wished so intensely for them to have survived.
So long, Jim Alison. Jimal. We loved you so much. (Jim is survived by at least one sister and a son, Richard. I don't know the extent of his family, but if they read this, I just want to extend my sincerest condolences and to say that we loved him dearly.)
READY TO GO HOME:
As for me, I need to go home and I'd like to go home as early as next week, possibly returning in August. I am exhausted. I'm probably reacting to the intense heat and humidity, also, but I need to rest and I need to pet Thurber the Cat, etc. Now if I can just find a plane ticket. :)
Forgive me if I sound a bit down. I guess having a friend die can do that to ya. It also makes you just worry a teensy little bit when you get such a vivid reminder that you're still dodging bullets.
Wednesday & Thursday, June 25 & 26, 1997
Anniversaries & A Memory.Today I celebrate the one year anniversary of meeting my online friend, Don Kirkpatrick. Thursday the 26th is the one year anniversary of meeting Gabi Clayton and her late son, Bill. These are two of the most precious human beings I know, Don and Gabi. I only wish I had met Bill. But I see him in everything she does and in every young life her story saves from homophobic violence.
In response to the intense sadness I feel over having lost Jimal yesterday, I got this note from one of my new friends here in NY who is a part of one of my online hiv groups.Steve,
Monday night, I saw the New York City Gay Mens Chorus perform their Pride Celebration concert at Carnegie Hall. The second half of the show was a piece called "Naked Man" - naked emotions, naked pain, naked joy. Within the work was a song called "Dance on Your Grave". It expressed the anger, fear, and rage of our lost to the point of becoming a musical shout.
Those emotions came back to me as I read of the death of Jimal.
This is the double edged sword; many of us have been brought together, brought closer, because of AIDS. And it is AIDS that severs those bonds by death. I have met some of the most beautiful people in my life becuase of the membership in "the club noone wants to be a part of", and in an instant, it seems, they were gone. It almost makes me not want to open my door to invite a new visitor in. We talk, we laugh, and we share. But by the second cup of coffee, I find myself alone again. The truth is, though, I do enjoy the company while it's there.
My heart goes out to all those familar with a man I never knew. The light has dimmed on earth, but there is another star in the sky.
Friday, June 27, 1997
Seymour & the NY Post.We had a beautiful day today. The sun was up, the humidity was low and I spent the whole day reading "Seymour, An Introduction" by J.D. Salinger. (Remember I told you I was just now discovering J.D. Salinger?). I think this book may be the most spectacular thing I've ever read -- it's partnered with "Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters" -- another incredible story.
I'm still getting over Jimal's death, so I've been feeling a bit melancholy lately. That's why I haven't written much. The reader will forgive me, I do hope. You've been patient and compassionate above and beyond the call of duty. This morning, though, we got a very nice surprise:
I opened the NY Post today in Ward Morehouse's column and saw a headline and two paragraphs wrapped in a box!It's cool to get prominent space in Ward Morehouse's column. This weekend is Gay Pride NY, so we've got four or five hunky boys distributing a few thousand cards designed to get big crowds. This is getting very exciting.
AIDS-play run'The Last Session," a gritty new off-Broadway musical about a songwriter with AIDS working in his last recording session, is being extended.
won't be the
Originally scheduled to be at off-Broadway's Currican Theater on west 29th Street through Sunday, it will now run at least until July 20.
"Business is great and we may end up being at the Currican through the summer," said a production insider.
Meanwhile, I'm going home on Tuesday for some rest and relaxation. Jimmy is staying here to do some more work on the show. The new scenes are spectacular and tell us more about Vicki & Gideon, and about Buddy.
I hope you're hugging your loved one tightly these days.
Saturday, June 28, 1997
RENT & Stuff.I was sitting on a park bench reading "Frannie and Zooey" trying to look attractively bored. It was the kind of day where you wish the world would stop for awhile so you can catch your breath. There was an old couple with a little spikey-haired dog sitting next to me. So, while I read my book, I petted the dog (whose name was Chelsea) and found it very synchronistic that the character, Frannie, was feeling the exact same way.
Somewhere across the ocean, Hong Kong is being handed off to the Chinese and Mike Tyson bit someone's ear last night.
I know what it is. I'm still thinking about Jimal. Here's a person I've never met or spoken to except in a chatroom. And yet, I just can't seem to function after getting the news about his death. All I can picture is him holding his plane ticket to NY to see TLS.
The folks from the AIDS/HIV+2 chatroom he and I belong(ed) to came today to the matinee. It was great seeing them again. After the show, we went out to a restaurant and all around eating and laughing and enjoying each other. I sat in a chair at the long table opposite a tree. I pretended the tree was Jimal.
Last night, Friday night, one of the producers of RENT came to see the show. He really loved it and invited Jimmy and me to see the Saturday matinee for free (since I told him I hadn't seen it). So, his assistant, Elan, met us at the door and we sat in the back. I'm so glad I finally got to see it. It's quite an assault on the senses.
Afterwards, Elan told me to call her to talk about our show. Cool, huh? I raced down from the RENT matinee just in time to catch the end of our matinee so I could go out with my group.
Tonight, Merck bought some seats for doctors and patients to see the show. They were a wonderful audience and after the show, they asked me to say a few words about my own experience. They really are trying to encourage the doctors to understand what it feels like to be a patient; and for patients to continue fighting the disease by keeping to their medical regimen.
And I have no idea how to end this diary page so I'll just stop.
Sunday, June 29, 1997
Testosterone Day!Today was Gay Pride day here in NY, so I went over to 5th Avenue to watch the parade. All I can say about it is that if you like feathers and muscles, this was the place to be. (Both in the parade and on the sidelines).
At 2pm, though, they did something that has stuck in my head. They observed a moment of silence. Here we were at midday in Manhattan, thousands and thousands of people lining the streets, noise and confusion and chaos. Then at the drop of pin, it all because suddenly silent. Dead silent.
The only noise I could actually hear was the hum of air conditioning units in the buildings lining the streets. It was eerie. It was breathtaking. Like a scene from "The Day The Earth Stood Still."
After the parade, we were all invited to see a free performance of "Tap Dogs." It's a tap dance show from Australia featuring hunky men doing an industrial tap thing in boots. (It wasn't very good, actually).
Oh, a note from Dennis:Steve, if you are really feeling this way because of Jimal, please snap out of it! He would NOT have wanted anyone to suffer because of him. Of course I am sad at his loss and doubly so because I never got to meet him; never got to share our room in NYC like we planned; like he counted on.He's right, of course.
His suffering is over and for that, whatever that's worth, I am grateful! I would have preferred for him to be cured or at the least, to improve rather than deteriorate. But it was not meant to be. He has left us behind to carry on. And that is exactly what we must do!
No more self-pity, for it is always for US we feel sad because they left US behind...and alone. But if we follow his example and always maintain a superior attitude of stoic proportions, we will not allow ourselves to be down for one minute longer than is necessary!
I love you!
Well, tomorrow I'll be winging my way home, back to the land of endless movie marquees and frozen cappuccinos. I'm very thrilled with all the progress we've made on the show here in NY. Jimmy has been inspired beyond all belief, lately, and has been rewriting TLS filling in some blanks and giving the actors tons of new information to work with regarding their characters.
(He WOULD have to wait until I'm on my way out the door to be doing these sensational rewrites, but it's thrilling to be a part of this process. He's such a genius sometimes.)
Tonight, after the show, we had a little soiree to celebrate the extension of the show's run to July 20. Mike Wills informed me that last week set an all-time box office record for the Currican in ticket sales. More in that one week than they usually get in a month.
I said my goodbyes to everyone and gave them all hugs and kisses. Kind of like leaving my own family...
Monday, June 30, 1997
Diplomas & Times Square.Today, I spent the last few hours in NY catching up on emails (and sending them back out into the ether so that I could pick them up at home). I hugged True Believer Andrew goodbye, picked up my plane ticket from Carl. Then, as a lovely parting gift, I took the five pages of rough draft notes from the new number, The Singer and the Song -- signed them and laminated them. I couldn't afford to buy our hard-working actors a gift on opening night, so this was the best I could do. I rolled the lyric sheets up like diplomas and left them in the dressing room with a little love note.
As I walked around Times Square one last time and listened to the Usual Megaphone Preachers (the group of cowled blacks who claim that white people are evil and that Africans are the true Jews -- just down the block from the white group in blue shirts and ties who claim that gays and abortionists are evil), I surveyed the brilliant lights on the signs overhead and the lines of tourists trying to get cheap seats to Broadway shows, listened to the honking cabbies, smelled the honey roasted peanuts in the little street carts, watched men giving out fliers to cheap sex shows and Italian restaurants, felt the rumble of subway trains below my feet and the rush of warm air from the vents in the sidewalks melding with the heat of the sun coagulating the sweat on my body in the humidity of midday Manhattan; and I smiled a quick goodbye and let everyone know that I would be back.
© 1996 - 2001 by Steve Schalchlin