2 ] - [ Part 1 ] [ Part
2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part
4 ] - [ Book 3 ]
[ Diary Index ]
|The Halloween Flight From Hell||Meeting and Eating||Big Night At ODU|
|The AIDSWALK in Norfolk, Virginia.||Day 1 in NY: Getting Settled.||Day 2 in NY: Still Settling.||Day 3 in NY: Casting.||Day 4 in NY: Home Alone & A Big Opening.||Day 5 in NY: The John Houseman & Schedule Change.||Day 6 in NY: Pictures from Virginia & Family Business.|
|Day 7 in NY: Kinko's, Rest, & Cold Weather.||Day 8 in NY: The Keyboard & The Music.||Day 9 in NY: Rehearsing, Romance & A Changed Heart.||Day 10 in NY: Connecting With Sandra.||Day 11 in NY: The Unexpected Chicken.||Day 12 in NY: A 90s Kinda Guy.||Day 13 in NY: A Day of Rest.|
|Day 14 in NY: A Great Rehearsal. "The Day Before..."||Day 15 in NY: Opening Night in New York City.||Day 16 & 17 in NY: Steve Causes A Scene.||Day 18 in NY: Our Last New York Reading.||Days 19 in New York: The Day After.|
|Day 22 in NY: Setting on a New Course.||Day 23 in NY: Men In Love Would Not Come Here.||Bonus Day 1 in NY: The Lazarus Effect.||Bonus Day 2 in New York: The Man, The Pig and the Aged Cat.||Bonus Day 3 in NY: End of an Era.||Bonus Day 4 in NY: Looking for Lady Peel.|
Thursday, October 31, 1996
A Nice Halloween Flight From Hell.
The day started out early. I got up at 4:30 and took my morning Crix at 5am so that I was completely on East Coast time. I began doing computer stuff and getting ready for the flight out. I even went on the on the IRC to say goodbye to the friends I had made there. They all wished me Godspeed and said they'd miss me. Then I grabbed some food and raced over to Bob-A-Lew, tripping over the basket of dirty clothes which Jim had probably put out for me to clean. But it was too early to use the machines -- NO WASHING BEFORE 7 AM. At Bob-A-Lew I made copies of the tape and two copies of my book in case I needed them. I turned the stereo on really loud and pretended to be Tom Cruise in the at movie were he danced around in his underwear. I didn't get naked or anything, you understand, but I did have fun. Then I shot back home, grabbing some more food on the way.
Jimmy was already up and down in the laundry room. He seemed none to pleased that I hadn't washed the clothes and was acting kind of tense, so I made coffee and finished up my computer work. The clothes were kinda dry by the time we left. He had been very worried that we were on too tight a schedule. He shouldn't of. I sat down near the gate at LAX and was reading a magazine talking to a lady whose job it was to launch rockets. She told me of a new rocket that is launched from underneath a plane rather than on a launching pad.
The plane was late, late, late. They herded us aboard, but I kinda waited until the last people had boarded, then made my way down to the end of the plane. Sitting in my seat on the aisle was a very sweet, little old Japanese lady, who gave me this huge, guilty smile. I hesitated and said, "I think you're in my..." Immediately, the slightly younger lady next to her said, "We sisters!" And the kind of helplessly pointed to the lady in my seat. Then she pointed to the seat she was supposed to be in. It was one row back, center seat. I looked at her kind of helplessly and said, "But I sit on the aisle because my legs are too long for..." I stopped. She couldn't understand a word I was saying.
So, I just kinda trailed off, saying, "Oh, never mind. You're sisters. I'll go sit in the torture rack. After all, it is Halloween." I got approving looks from everyone around and wedged myself into the center chair. On one side was Alma, a Jewish lady from Austria living in Seal Beach. Alma and I had a great time. I called her a drunk after she said she only drank wine -- and then ordered a gin. On my right was a hulking kind of "guy" guy named Jeff who said he was an Enviromental Engineer. I looked like I knew what that meant. And then I asked him what it meant. He said he cleaned things up, like environmental messes left by companies or the goverment. I tried to make polite conversation by saying, "I cannot even imagine what kinds of polution disasters have been left by the Soviets in Russia." He responded, "I can't really get into that market right now because the government doesn't require them to clean up like the U.S. government does."
Until that moment, I had never thought of environmental disasters as a "market."
I had a great time with Alma. I don't think she'd ever met anyone quite like me before and, frankly, I was in a great mood. I told her that I told stories and that I was on my way to New York to debut a musical I had just written. But she started laughing at me because no matter what subject she brought up, I had a story for it. We passed over Albuquerque and I told her about being there for the hot air balloon festival, standing out on the plain at 5am in the bitter cold drinking hot chocolate; eating escargot for the first time in Paris; getting official "BBC" paper cups in London at the BBC on Jim's book tour; singing at the Salute to the American Songwriter; cruising Alaska; visiting Thailand; playing the Rodeway Inn in Columbus, Ohio on the day John Lennon died. She started laughing at me and decided I was just making the stories up as I went along.
Eventually, she wanted to know what my musical was about. I waited until Jeff went off to the bathroom and then told her about me having AIDS and being gay, etc. (because she was asking if I had a family, etc.). It might be strange coming from a guy who puts his whole life on the internet, but I'm not a radical, in-yer-face kinda guy, and I didn't want to make Jeff uncomfortable by making a big deal of the gay thing inappropriately. I did, however, give him this URL so he's learning about the guy sitting next to him on the plane probably about the same time as you're reading this.
The plane landed late in Baltimore and my connecting flight left just as we landed. I got out of the plane to the gate and found out that I would be taking a different flight.So, me and another guy from the flight started running down to the other end of the building and there was no one there, but there was a plane out on the tarmac. He ran through the door and out onto the runway and started flagging down the plane, waving his hands as if he were trying to stop a bus! I followed him out there, but I didn't wave. Suddenly, a guy wearing some kind of official uniform saw us and came running out, screaming, "Sir! Sir!" He was panicked and angry. Then they opened a door in the back of the plane and waved us in. The other passengers gave us dirty looks, of course, for holding up their precious plane.
So, now I was flying an hour or more late into a city I have never been to before, by bags were god-knows-where, and I wondered if Tracey and her college girl friends would be waiting for me. But there they were. We all hugged. They had panicked at first when I hadn't gotten off the first plane, but felt better when they found my bags. So they decided to wait around for me. We went back to the hotel, they ordered a pizza for me, since I had not been able to eat hardly anything since breakfast (being trapped on late plane).
The hotel was nice, Tracey and friends (Jodi, Pattee, & Tammy) were very sweet, and I went right to sleep.
Friday, November 1, 1996
Meeting and Eating.Today was a day for meeting all the folks from the Peninsula AIDS Foundation. Eileen Seal, the Executive Director, Ed Sedwick who was helping with volunteers; I also met Don Davis from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Mark Budrock & Kyle Taylor who were running the AIDSWALK to take place on Sunday. Also, Andy Hill, the Health Educator at ODU was there. Tracey had arranged for us to all have a nice meal together at a local restaurant.
Before that happened, though, I answered a knock at my hotel room door. It was Pete Krueger. Pete is a reader of this website who drove 3 and half hours to come and see me and meet me. Pete is a young aspiring theatre actor. What I didn't know was that he had been listening to a tape I had sent him long ago of the songs from the show. And he had his eyes on the role of Buddy. We sat and talked for a while until it was time for our big dinner.
Tracey came and picked us up. Well, frankly, I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to do at this dinner. Tracey kept saying, "You're the guest of honor." (As if I ever had a trace of honor). But we all sat in a private room in the back (which featured stark white walls and we all kinda got to know one another. Along with the people mentioned above, were friends and lovers and also Pattee Ryan, who sat next to me and giggled constantly (because of how cute Andy Hill is); Jodi Hardy, who is very pretty and also bashful; and Tammy Bird. These were Tracey's helpers and member of Sigma.
At one point I just sorta took off telling them all what it was that I do and how I got to where I was. Then I told them I'd sing for them but that there was no piano.
Pattee, sitting on one side of me, insisted that I sing a cappella. I looked over at Pete and said, "C'mon Pete! You want to do 'Buddy.' Here's your chance. Sing Going It Alone." He looked embarrassed and I let him off the hook. Then I sang that, plus The Group and Save Me A Seat. It was okay except that I started The Group way too high and had to change keys downward (the opposite of how it's really performed.)
After I finished, Pete suddenly said, "Okay, I'm ready now." And, BOOM, he started singing Going It Alone. I was impressed at his guts and his talent. It also struck me that this was a very unique event. I fly all the way across the country to meet a young person who sings my own song back to me.
Way, way cool.
Saturday, November 2, 1996
The Big Night at ODU.Early in the day, Tracey, Jodi and Pattee took Pete and me out to eat at Spaghetti Warehouse. We had a giggle-fest making fun of Pattee and Jodi (and me and Tracey, of course). Then I went back to the room to rest. I wasn't there ten minutes when the phone rang. I was SHAWN DECKER!! The Positoid Stud himself!! He had driven down from where he lives and was there. I made him come right over and we did the thing we said we were going to do from the beginning. We gave each other great big hugs!! (I just love this kid.) So, Shawn and I talked and talked until it was time for soundcheck.
This is where I always hold my breath because, as a piano player, one is always held hostage to the quality of the instrument in the room. (When I was on the road back in Texas playing churches, I used to bring along my own tuning equipment and tune the pianos myself).
Since, ODU is a college, though, I figured the piano would be a nice one so I wasn't too worried. What I was worried about, however, was the fact that there was no P.A. system arranged. Tracey, who was doing an incredible job of organizing the event, had assumed the room had its own P.A. because of how good things always sounded in there. For me, since this was a "recital Hall," I had told her to not stress about the P.A. because it probably had good acoustics. Meanwhile, I just crossed my fingers.
When I finally did walk into that room, my heart absolutely leaped from my chest. I came in from the back of the room and stood at the top looking down at these rows of seats which were raked very high. At the bottom was one of the most beautiful 11 foot grand pianos I have ever laid my eyes on. It took up at least half the stage. All I kept saying to myself was, "Please let it be a Steinway."
It was a Steinway. This was glorious. As for the room, it had the most perfect acoustics of any room I had ever been in. One could whisper from the stage and hear it in the back row. We set up one of "Uncle Bob's" paintings -- Bob was Tracey's uncle who recently passed away -- and I started practicing on the piano, getting used to the sound of the room.
Well, it was flawless. This was Shawn's first time to hear the songs, too. He seemed to really like them a lot. Then I signaled Pete to come up. He stood right in the crook of the piano and sang Going It Alone. It was really wonderful. After that I went home -- oh! and I sat in Pete's truck writing down the words to Friendly Fire because I had forgotten them. Finally, after changing clothes, Pete and I went back over to the recital hall. I found the backstage and they gave me a dressing room. So Pete and I sat in there laughing and talking. It was sweet.
Just before curtain, Tracey came up to me and said she felt really horrible that there weren't more people there. The room was a little under a half full. I told her that I was actually impressed with the turnout. Nobody knows me at all there and the words, "AIDS Survivor" on the poster would run anyone off if they were looking for an exciting "date" show of some kind. Then she went out and delivered one of the most beautiful intros I ever remember getting.
I strolled out onto the stage and sat at the big piano, looked out at the crowd and sang Connected. Then I looked at them and said, "Are there any questions? No?" And I was off doing Save Me A Seat before they had a chance to breathe. I think this audience really loved this music. They were literally hanging onto every word. There wasn't a sound out of them during the singing. (This is a good sign).
At one point in the show, which started at 7 P.M., I was to take my 8:00 pill. I had asked Tracey to put a candy bar on the piano because this pill needs food to be effective. At 8 P.M. I hear Tracey yell out, "8 o'clock!" I acknowledged the time and reached for my candy bar, apologizing to the audience. As I was unwrapping my Hershey's I hear this strange sound in the audience. It was candy wrappers opening. Tracey had given the entire audience candy bars so they could eat along with me!
So there we sat looking at each other eating candy bars. So, I said to them, "Any questions? Go ahead and ask me anything." From the middle back came a male voice. It was very matter of fact. The man himself looked a bit like a soldier. Straight back, short haircut. Here's what he asked me:
"How'd you get it?"
I didn't immediately answer. In fact, I sat in silence for a moment and took another bite of candy bar. Friends of mine who heard this and who saw me not answer -- and who consider this question to imply that there are "good" and "bad" ways of getting a virus -- froze up immediately wondering what my reaction was going to be. Other people I spoke to afterward said the tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. They were all wondering what was going through my mind in those brief moments. Was I angry? Was I going to launch into an anti-homophobia speech? I just let the moment hang. Now, dear reader, I can tell you something that the people in the audience did not know.
Inside I wasn't angry at all. In fact, I was doing everything I could to keep from laughing out loud. You see, in The Last Session, Buddy, the young preacher asks Gideon, the gay man with AIDS, the same question. Trouble is, in the play, Gideon has become very annoyed with the whole conversation and when he is asked this question, he reacts with anger. It's the only vulgarity in the whole show, but his response is pointed and graphic and shocking (and descriptive).
As I sat there biting off another piece of chocolate the only phrase going through my head was this nasty bit of dialog and, for a moment, I fantasized what this audience would do if I said this -- completely out of context. I could just hear the collective breath being held. Again, inside I was almost hysterical. So, I let the moment pass until I could regain my composure. Then I answered him respectfully and with class (of course). Unsafe sex a long, long time ago.
(Does that make me guilty of something? Unworthy of medications, maybe? Do I deserve to die?)
The other thing I included with the show was a sing-along on Friendly Fire and an order blank for my CDs. Of course, I forgot to mention the order form because I'm still not used to crass commercialism, and I didn't walk away with a single order, but that's okay. Tracey wrote me and described one man who said that his life had been completely changed by the experience. He was a person who did not consider himself to be homophobic, but who did allow himself to make jokes about gay people and AIDS. He said that I helped put a human face on both and that he would never again be the same.
Bob Hembree made a video tape of the event.
Just a personal health note here, since that's part of this diary. I began, yesterday to get an infection next to my fingernail on my middle finger. It is now swelling and curling around my nail. I've gotten these before -- they're like ingrown nails -- but this one is worse than usual. Other than that little thing, I'm holding up very well. My strength is good and my voice is strong.
Sunday, November 3, 1996
The AIDSWALK in Norfolk, Virginia.Well, I forgot to mention that yesterday I had one other Survival Site Reader drive to Norfolk for the show. Sarah Garwood, a young and beautiful woman who wrote to me earlier this year because she was working for an AIDS hospice and was using much of what I had written to inform her work. Since Shawn was already long gone back home, I invited Pete and Sarah to share the free breakfast offered by the hotel, with me. As soon as I saw them together, though, my matchmaking antenna went up. Pete is really a cute boy and Sarah is a very pretty girl. Hmmmmm. But I don't think it was meant to be. They live too far away from each other.
My friends, Linda and Rob -- actually, they're my "in-laws" -- had driven down from New York to catch my show and drive me back. But first we all gathered at the ocean near downtown Norfolk to attend the AIDSWALK where I was to be in the opening ceremonies. Mark Budrock and Kyle -- uh -- hmm, I've forgotten his last name. Anyway, Kyle and Mark were running the thing so we arrived and began looking for them.
Lots and lots of people were gathered on the grassy knoll wearing their AIDSWALK t-shirts and red ribbons. Many of them had pictures of loved ones or friends who had died of AIDS pinned to their shirts or hanging from their necks. It was very poignant to see a beautiful smiling face looking at me from a button and realize that this person was dead. And I thought to myself, if this had been a year ago, before Crixivan, I might be just as dead. (The accompanying thought, of course, is the tragedy that these lives might have been saved, too, if they had lived long enough. But, I digress.)
Kyle asked me to do Going It Alone and When You Care, so when the local TV personality (who's name I forget) introduced me, I moved to the Fender Rhodes they had set up for me and began to sing. Well, this P.A. system was magnificent. My voice is already pretty loud and clear, but with a huge system, I could hear it bouncing off the buildings half a mile away!! And, for the first time, the crowd got really quiet and began listening. It was a thrilling experience.
The other nice thing that came of it was meeting Miguel Bustos. Miguel is a young man who works out of the White House. He helped write the President's policy on youth and HIV. Well, Miguel, who also came to the show last night, gave me his business card and said something like, "If you're ever in D.C., come over to the White House and play a song or two for Bill and Hillary, or Al and Tipper!" Well, I don't know if it would be that easy, frankly, but this is the first time I've spoken to anyone from the White House! Who knows what might happen now. ("Bill, pass me that Big Mac. I got to take my pills.") Hey! That's it! Instead of giving out candy bars at my White House appearance, we can give out Big Macs!!
After I performed, Rob and Linda and I jumped into their car and drove to New York. We managed to catch up on all our news. But the most fabulous moment happened just as we were pulling into New York. Rob took a road into NYC that allowed me to see the Statue of Liberty and the entire skyline all in one big panorama. I took a deep breath and remembered back to the first time I saw this very sight.
I don't remember the year, but I remember the excitement of finally going to New York. And when you're a boy from Buna, Texas, going to New York is no small thing. Well, I flew into Newark and got on a big bus going across a bridge when suddenly the entire skyline of New York was lit up before me. I was jittery, thrilled, scared and elated all at once, but the one word that kept coming to me -- peculiarly coming to me -- was like a voice speaking to me out of the corner of my mind somewhere. It said:
Monday, November 4, 1996
Day One in New York: Getting Settled.Well, I'm going nuts. I need my computer. This simply will not do. I miss my online friends. I miss writing in my diary. And there is so much work to do while here. Plus, I'm in New York! I need to just go walk around and see it and smell it and be a part of it again. I once lived here for five years, even played some little piano clubs. So, I really want to check out the Village and Times Square and -- well, you get the idea.
Right now we're staying with Carl D. White, our producer, in Washington Heights near 181st Street. Getting anywhere is not going to be that easy since most of the action is either in midtown or the Village. But the 8th Avenue A train station is close. And the Broadway "1" train is about four crosstown blocks away.
Today I reconnected with my old friend, Diane, whose couch I slept on when I first arrived in New York, lo those many years ago. I took her out to lunch and we caught up. I also found a computer place were I could rent time to check my e-mail. But the cost was $20 an hour, so I couldn't do diary pages or anything. It was quite maddening.
I also ran into another friend, Loretta Munoz, who runs now runs the New York office of ASCAP. She said she would help me if I needed anything, but that we'd have to connect later in the week. I also visited Carl's office and was able to do a little more e-mail.
That night, I sat with Carl and showed him the video of the the show I did with David Robyn's Band out on the pier at Santa Monica. We talked for a long time about the music from the show. It's hard to describe what I write. It certainly does not sound like any theatre music I've ever heard. So, I described the new acoustic scenes popping up in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin and New York and said that my songs come from a tradition that is, in a funny way, a throwback to how things were done in the 30s and 40s.
Let me explain. Nowadays, the record industry is driven by bands and records with huge production qualities. Not that there's anything wrong with that, you understand, but once song has been cut on a record, that's pretty much it for that song. Back in the classic era of American songwriting, though, a composer and lyricist would fashion a song, give it out, and all the leading singers of the day would compete to get the "hit" on that song by recording it and releasing it as quickly as possible. There might be four or five versions of the same song competing on the radio. The public would choose which one they found to be the definitive one.
Now, however, the trend is towards making a record, not writing songs as they used to. In fact, SongTalk Magazine interviewed Paul Simon when I was there and he said that these days, he makes the record first -- that is, he puts down layers and layers of sound and music before he ever writes the first word of the song that will lay on top of that bed of sound. Since I love Paul Simon -- and love the records he's made this way (Graceland, etc.) -- I have no quarrel with that. Still, what I wouldn't give for one more "Bridge Over Troubled Water" or "Sound of Silence" where the melody and the words were king.
Even in the modern theatrical world the tendency is to write a big record with all the parts sung and worked out; all the orchestrations in place; hell, even all the tap dancing included on the tracks! And "buyers" get used to hearing these kinds of productions when they decide on what show they're going to invest in.
Well, I consciously had to buck that trend and here's why. First of all, I don't have money for that sort of thing. So, I just tried to write songs where I would never have to explain to a listener that "the drums go there," or "There's a big orchestra crash here." Second of all, I wanted to write a show we could do on a street corner with a squeezebox if we had to. Imagine doing Phantom of the Opera on a street corner.
Anyway, contrary to the trend of having this massively orchestrated demo tape, my first demo tape was made in one hour. I sat at the piano and flipped through lyric sheets, recording the songs at the piano with no retakes, no overdubs, nothing. Nothing but piano and vocal. Then I had the audacity to send this stripped down flawed masterpiece to everyone who would take one. We got all kinds of reactions. From, "Huh?" to "I don't get it," or "This is okay but there's too much piano."
This is how many industry types responded. They listened to the tape as if it were intended to be the final mix of a record. And I guess they were doubly confused by the fact that I sang all the songs myself. ("I thought you said you have females in the cast, too.").
I don't mean to sound arrogant here (even though I am very arrogant). I'm not saying what they saw or heard was good or bad. I'm just reporting the facts. After the initial demo, which contained, I think six songs and some partial songs, I went back to Theta Sound and made another one. This time I did a better job on the piano, I sang better because I knew the songs better, and I finished the partial songs from the first session. I started sending this one out, too. Absolutely and completely unashamedly going against the grain of what one is "supposed" to do. Perhaps I only wanted to attract the kind of industry executive who would actually "hear" them.
But I digress. Our big problem is that Jimmy has gout and can barely walk. I 've just let him lie around the aparment while I run around town doing errands and trying to get our show together. My job is to find a suitable piano. It has to be electronic because a regular piano cannot really be put into the space where we are performing unless we spend a lot of money we don't have. So, tomorrow I walk around and look for musical instruments. I'm also trying to find a P.A. system we can rent.
The company Carl works for, Stone/Nederlander, is opening a new show this week and he is up to his eyeballs with phone calls, deliveries and other assorted stresses. So, I've decided to step in and make sure we have great sound. It's just that it's very expensive, so I'm trying to get favors from people like I did in Los Angeles.
The show has a new logo, too, but I don't have the file with the graphic on it, nor do I know what format it's in, so I'm working on that so the website will be updated. I need to find a computer. Oh, there's so much to do.
Tuesday, November 5, 1996
Day Two in New York: Still Settling.
***flowery language alert***
The neighbor we live in is quite nice, actually. We are in an apartment building which is at the end of a cul-de-sac. From this apartment we can see the George Washtington Bridge, which extends over the water with a majestic, playful strength; especially at night when its carnival lights seem to extend far up into the inky sky and I realize I am living a fantasy that few people ever get to experience.
I just don't want to seem like I think I'm some big be-all and end-all of the universe. There are millions of people who sing better than I do, play better than I do, and write better than I do. I'm not some "next big thing" but any stretch of the imagination although it's fun to pretend that it will be. Carl and I were talking about the music again today. Up to this point, he has loved what he has heard based on the simple fact that it moves him. He walks around all day long with his tape recorder on listening to the songs from the show.
He hadn't really analyzed what he was hearing, though. When he tried to describe it to someone, he just didn't have the words, the vocabulary, if you will. Again, how do you describe music? So he asked me to describe it for him. I took a deep breath and just said, "Tell them I think I'm Neil Young." He now looked puzzled. "Okay, tell them it's very American music. It's piano-based with strong Gospel undertones which inform everything he writes. It's an Acoustic Underground mixture of rock, gospel, folk, country, and reggae -- that great American musical style. It's passionate and honest and very, very real."
It's also comes in Extra Crispy.
I have figured, though, that I am probably the exact opposite of Andrew Lloyd Weber. And that is not a slam against Mr. Lloyd Weber.
I just seem to be exactly as small as he is large.
Today, I finally got a computer. A man I met through the internet read that I would be here and he offered to let me have use of his computer. Thanks, Joe. It's fun to be back online and getting e-mail. Oh, and by the way, I think there's a woman here who is making a play for me. She follows me around and begs for food. She's a dog. Indigo the Dog.
She lives here with Carl, and since he's gone a lot during the day, she has fallen in love with me. She especially likes it when I give her food while I'm cooking Carl's and my breakfast. (Jimmy doesn't eat breakfast.)
Jimmy also went to a doctor for his gout. Trouble is, I was coming from midtown on the A train, which was stopped dead in its tracks. By the time I got home, exhausted and tired, he was gone and I was locked out of the apartment. So I got into the furnitureless lobby by following someone else, sat myself down in the window opposite the door and promptly fell to sleep in the window. I was exhausted.
We had pizza tonight from Domino's and I cannot wait to get to sleep.
Wednesday, November 6, 1996
Day Three in New York: Casting.[Health note: Jimmy's gout is almost gone. The infection in my finger is much better too. I lanced it and squeezed it and then cleaned it. I 've been changing the bandage a couple times a day, too. So, all is well.]
Usually I'm the first one up in the morning. Carl tries to wake up, but he is not a morning person. Neither is Jimmy, as far as that goes, but he does better than Carl. Since I consider it rude to "beat up" on someone who is a late riser, what I've done here is first go out and pick up the three dailies (Times, Post, News), some breakfast items if we are out, the boys' cigarettes if they are low, and some coffee from the local diner since Carl does not have a coffeemaker.
This morning, though, Jimmy was up early in anticipation of our auditions for the roles of Vicki and Tryshia. I was, on the other hand, thrilled and elated because I was finally getting the computer. Thre company rented it from another Positoid I met through CrixList (the Crixivan mailing list). Rentals here ran anywhere from $500 to $800 when I checked them out. Joe, however, said he had an extra computer I could use and would give it to us for $250. He also said it would help him because he needed to pay his insurance premium. Carl and I decided to give him $300.
After picking up the computer, I came home and began working on the home page. Then I raced down to Nola Studios for our auditions. You know what excited me? (And it's only a small thing). But, on the wall just at the door is a blackboard with the rehearsal hall rental schedule for the day. And there we were: THE LAST SESSION 4 P.M. to 6 P.M. I took a picture of it. We were in New York and we were casting our show.
The room was very sizable with a grand piano at one end and big gigantic mirrors on the walls. We unfolded a table and some chairs and sat behind it. As the women began to come in and sing these extraordinary songs (as only New York theatre professionals can do), I felt completely unworthy to be sitting there judging their talents. They were, every one of them, magnificent. How were we to pick?
[A tip for all you girls wanting to get in to showbiz. Except for one, every single one of the women dressed in black. Conservative "suits" with skirts, heels, black stockings. Who knows how these kinds of traditions start? But it you want to audition in New York and look like you've been doing it for a long time, I suggest starting with basic black.]
We finally chose, for Vicki, SUSAN DAWN CARSON. She is currently in SUNSET BLVD., both playing a regular role and understudying the lead. She sang "With Just One Look" from that show and then proceeded to bowl us over with her comic timing (for scene one) and brillian, honest anger in the fight scene between her and Gideon.
For Tryshia, we chose SANDRA REAVES, who has a long, distinguished Broadway career. What voice this woman has. When she came in, she asked us what song we would like. I replied that her big 11 o'clock number was a Gospel rouser -- after all, Gideon is/was a Gospel songwriter -- so she just looked down for a second, told the pianist she was doing "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" and then she proceeded to blow the roof off the joint. In her scene with Gideon where she is the one to try to talk him out of committing suicide, she had us all in the palm of her hand.
This is going to be a hell of a reading if these sensational actresses deliver even half of what their auditions promised.
After the auditions, Jimmy and I went over to Sardi's where Jimmy used to hang out all the time when he was a kid. He was bitterly disappointed that David Burns, one of the last great Broadway second bananas' caricature was no longer on the wall. He said to me he should have stolen it long ago.
We asked for the Actors Menu (which is a cheaper version of the regular menu for all us starving actors) and we had a nice meal surrounded by more "stars" than you can shake a stick at. Well, actually there were pictures of stars, but, HEY! This is Sardi's!
After that we went down to the Village to catch a nightclub act, ERIC & THE SNOW MAIDENS, featuring another actress who wanted to audition for "Vicki." This act was one of the most startlingly bizarre cabarets Jimmy and I have ever witnessed. The program claims that the troupe of actors is from Finland or Iceland and that we, the audience are a bunch of sailors in a little hunting lodge somewhere in Scandinavia. The time is slightly post World War I. All I can tell you is that the first person on stage was a perfectly deadpan man dressed like Whistler's Mother. He sat at the piano and presided over the act like a stern schoolmarm. "Eric" was a woman dressed as a man in tuxedo and fake mustache (and black net nylons). The three Snow Maidens were played by actual women (I think). One was an overweight, over the hill operetta diva with a black eye, one was dressed in Snoopy flight goggles, and the other, well, she wore antlers explaining had had a bad moment with a witch who tried to turn her into a reindeer.
Later we went down to see our Musical Director, D. Jay Bradley, playing songs loudly at a place called the Duplex. It was noisy and fun and rollicking. Until, of course, he asked me to come up and play a couple songs from. I couldn't have picked a worse room. I was drowned out and ignored. Taught me a lesson, though. The songs from our show are not drinking, partying songs.
Thursday, November 7, 1996
Day Four in New York: Home Alone & A Big Opening.Today I did nothing but stay home and rest and write in the diary. Tonight, Stone/Nederlander, where Carl works is opening a new off-Broadway show called, "Santaland." It's a very funny monologue about a man who worked as an elf at Macy's Santaland one year. For the aftershow party, Jimmy was "hired" to be Santa and give out presents to all the crew who worked on the show. They each were to sit in Santa's lap and have their picture taken.
I couldn't wait to watch that.
Mostly, though, ever since last week, when I got on that Halloween flight to VA, I've been going night and day, working very hard. Now, at last I spent the whole day alone in the house, writing and playing with my new girlfriend, Indigo. When I was at the computer, she was on the bed next to me. When I went into the living room, she followed me there. I gave her little bits to eat throughout the day and we walked around her little park once. Funny thing about Indigo, she doesn't like to go outside. When we go walking, she does her little poop and then she flies back to the apartment as fast as she can go. Perfect city dog.
Tonight the play was very funny. It was at the Atlantic Theatre, which is an old church building remodeled. After the play, though, is when things got fun. We went over to Fifth Avenue to the place where the party was being held and they ushered Jim to a back room where he donned Santa gear and sat in a chair. With a Scotch, of course.
As the crew filed in and sat on Santa's lap (and got their little prizes), they were quite surprised at this rather lecherous, evil Santa named Brochu. Clearly, he did not to go Santa School. I sat in the corner and took pictures.
And brought Santa more Scotch. When we get back, I'll scan the photos and insert them here on the website.
So, all is well. We have our cast. We have a great team who believes in us. We have all you online readers (thanks for the great e-mails, by the way).
Friday, November 8, 1996
Day Five in New York: The John Houseman & Schedule Change.Today, New York was overcast and the wind was blowing a lot. Curiously, though, the temperature was 70 degrees F. when meant it felt exactly perfect. Like standing in front of a perfect air conditioner. Jimmy and I had an appointment to show me The John Houseman Studio Theatre A where we will be doing the staged readings.
The John Houseman is on 42nd Street between, like 8th and 9th. It has a red canopy in front of it that extends into the street. Studio Theatre A is down a flight of stairs and is in a basement. The walls are cinderblock painted black, there's pieces of concrete that hang from the ceiling and just stop, there're pipes -- all kinds of pipes -- in the ceiling, also. Everything is painted black. There is a pole in the center of where the seating has been arranged, so the seats are on two sides, raked on platforms with comfortable folding chairs.
Since TLS takes place in a basement bomb shelter that's been turned into a recording studio, it's very appropriate.
Jimmy and I arranged some chairs on the stage area (which is the floor) and then sat in various seats so we could be sure that everyone will be able to see the action. I also got to meet Jeffrey, who is in charge. What a sweetie he is. At one point we hugged and it felt like two old friends hugging for the first time in a long time. Since I am a big time hugger, it made me feel right at home.
I also got the feeling that he felt something very special about our show. He or Jimmy asked me to sing Going It Alone. Somewhere in the middle of the song, he leaned over to JIm and said, "He wrote this for you, didn't he?"
We also did lots of walking around to see old friends and to give them fliers. Glen the Florist (who used to be an actor), Mitch Douglas the LIterary Agent at ICM who negotiated Jimmy's Lucy book, the Concierge at the Algonquin whose name I forget -- the Algonquin hotel has a "house cat." Over behind the concierge desk, they have a little space in the wall set up with a tiny little canopy bed. It looks like a little cat house built into the wall. He laughed and said that the cat likes to sleep in the canopy rather than in the bed.
We were about to head home when my poor feet finally just gave out. I couldn't walk another step. We slipped into a club called "Don't Tell Mama" to give Sidney, the owner, a flier. I practically fell asleep at the bar. Finally, we decided to cab it home. "Collapsing in the doorway..." or just about, I came and did e-mails. Carl came home later and we ordered pizza.
In cyberspace, I was happy to see that my little Positoid Buddy, Shawn Decker, has begun an online diary, something I've been trying to get him to do. He has some very big decisions he is trying to face. I had been trying to tell him how much good it has done me to put my pages online -- especially because it helps me articulate my difficulties so that I can attack them head on. He's been avoiding taking any HIV medications but now his viral load is up and he knows it's probably time to jump into the medical waters with the rest of us. But it's up to him. I remember when I was at that crossroads. It's very frightening; mostly because it's no secret that these drugs are very powerful and can be very toxic. They are, for the most part, untested over a long period of time.
Saturday, November 9, 1996
Day Six in New York: Pictures from Virginia & Family Business.Pictures of Steve at Old Dominion University by Rob Hembree have been posted on his website. You can kinda see my little fat Crixivan belly in the middle picture.
Today, Jimmy and I got on the train and went to Mamaroneck to visit some of our extended family. We were so tired from all the running around we've been doing, we literally went over there, took a nap and came home! What they must think of us. I fell asleep right in the chair in the living room.
It was fun to see Grand Central Station, though. They are completely remodeling and restoring it to its original splendor, I guess. There was construction tarp up on every wall. I saw a jazz combo start to play, so I threw a dollar in the guitar case (first!). I thought it might get them off to a hopeful start.
So, all is well. We're taking it easy this weekend because next week we begin to fly furiously and fast(ly). We have rehearsals, we're picking up the electronic piano so I can practice with it, I need to finish the graphics on the CD at some Kinko's around here, if I can find one. I also want to meet with some record execs while I'm here. I might seem more exotic to them since I'm from out of town. And they all like the fact that RENT has gone platinum.
Sunday, November 10, 1996
Day Seven in New York: Kinko's, Rest, & Cold Weather.The one thing I did productive today was to go to the Kinko's on 47th Street and finish the art for my CD, Living in the Bonus Round. I've been getting letters from you asking when it's going to be ready. All I can say is I'm working hard to get it out to you. It would be easier if I were in L.A., but I'm not. so just hang with me a little while longer.
Jimmy had a fan of his -- from the Lucy book -- drive down from DC. They went on a little tour of NY to look at Lucy places. They even found some memorabilia. It was very sweet.
I forgot to mention that being in New York makes my med-taking scedule a bit erratic. I've never worn a watch in my whole adult life, but here, it's a necessity or I'll forget to take my pills on time. The instructions on Crixivan are very strict. Every eight hours on an empty stomach. DON'T MISS ANY DOSES and don't be late. So Carl the Producer gave me a watch.
Since I never, ever wear jewelry, it feels weird having this thing on my arm. Like a chain. But I love knowing what time it is. Since I began taking Crix, I've not missed a single dose, nor have I missed taking it on the required empty stomach. *such a good boy*
Anyway, it began getting very cold here today. They think some snow might be headed our way, but when I got in from doing the artwork, my cheeks were stinging from the cold. So, now winter begins to head our way. Jimmy's been telling me I need a hat. Well, I could really feel it yesterday. Time to get me a wool cap.
The readings begin in one week.
ADDENDUM:Today, we also -- and I forgot to tell this story above -- we also went to see Mother Cabrini. Now, for (semi) Baptists like me, the name means absolutely nothing. But for Catholics, Mother Cabrini is an adored figure. She was the first American "saint," whatever that means, for her work with immigrants who came here primarily from Italy.
Well, Jimmy heard that Mother Cabrini's body lies just a few blocks from here under glass in a church. So, this morning, we decided to go have a look. We took Jim's fan, Breck -- who was raised in the south with big pictures of Jesse Helms on the walls -- myself, Jimmy and Carl, and went down to see the dear departed saint. Since it was a Sunday, there were quite a few people trying to get in and we just followed the crowd not knowing what we were going to see.
They directed us to the main sanctuary where a little nun in a grey nun's outfit was blowing into a microphone trying to get everyone to settle down. The attendees in the church reflected the mostly Latino population of this neighborhood. We went down the side wall to the back of the auditorium. Jimmy grabbed my arm and said, "Look!"
There on the "stage" right where the main speakers podium would normally be was a huge class box. Inside the box was the tiny figure of a woman dresses in a habit with her arms crossed. The face was powdery white like a mask, as were the hands.
Mother Cabrini in a glass box.
I told Jimmy, because of the way the box was so blatantly displayed on the stage area, it felt more like the body of dead chorus girl from some Broadway show. He shushed me, of course. We quickly got out of there, but, Lord...
Mother Cabrini in a box.
Monday, November 11, 1996
Day Eight in New York: The Keyboard & The Music.We finally were able to get the keyboard we need for this reading. Carl and Jimmy and I went to Sam Ash on 48th Street and got it. It took forever, though, for them to do the paperwork. Then it was delivered last night about 10:00 p.m. We gave the guy a tip and, just as he was about to walk out the door, I asked him if he needed a drink of water. He looked so relieved that I asked. He gulped down the water and I gave him a flier and told him to come to the reading.
Carl has been faxing like crazy all over New York to get theatre people out to see this. As "big" as we felt in L.A., well, that's how small we feel here in New York. I've seen notices for readings by great composers like Cy Coleman and others, and wondered if anyone would even notice us. For all my bragging and carrying on here at the Survival Site, we are not even a speck in New York City. They do not know us at all. I keep having this walking nightmare that we're going to play to empty houses.
Our Musical Director/Arranger for the New York reading is D. Jay Bradley, a fantastic musician and arranger who has worked with both Carl and Jimmy when they did Club Indigo Revisited back in California. Jay and I had a long talk about some of the work he's done on the show and it has become very frustrating for both of us. When we hired him, he took a look at the music and his title (Arranger) and went about completely rearranging all the songs in the show so they sounded more "theatrical." A natural assumption on his part.
Unfortunately, what I really wanted him to do was to take the harmonies and stuff we had cobbled together for the L.A. run, transcribe them and clean them up with an idea or two, here or there. Because I'm a relative "newbie" to theatre, though, I hadn't really made this clear. Today I had to tell him to basically throw everything he has done out. When I told him this, he rigorously defended what he had done. I tried to explain to him that the arrangements were out of character for the realism of the moment, but I suppose unless one actually sees the show, it cannot be properly explained. I mean, he was doing all the right things: creating musical "space" for dancing (which doesn't occur in our show except in one number), adding thicker and more fun harmonies to songs (in songs where the characters are not onstage), etc. He always had great reasons why he thought his ideas would work, but well...
This piece is not like any theatre piece I or Jimmy or Carl has ever seen before -- and Jimmy has seen them all. It's entirely new in its approach to storytelling. The lead character is a songwriter and he is trying to record a pop album in Los Angeles. The arrangements have to sound like arrangements he would have made on his own. To add "theatrical" vocals or rhythms would be completely out of character for him. In a way, our show is a play with songs which evolves into genuine musical comedy as it progresses. It's a natural evolution that, I think, will allow audiences who do not like theatre, or are unfamiliar with its conventions, to "grow" along with it. By the time, Gideon breaks out into a song "in his head" -- as a fantasy -- the audience is ready for it. In fact, they are dying for it because it begins to reveal things Gideon couldn't have known before the session began.
None of my comments about Jay are a slam against his work, you understand. It's just that when you are creating something wholly new, you have to go through a process of trying new things. I have, I think, three recorded versions of The Group, and until Barry Fasman and I stumbled upon the arrangement which will be featured on the CD, I didn't have one that worked for me. We've done the same thing with Connected. Tomorrow (Tuesday) Jay will come over here, and we'll try to get it all together before our first rehearsal at three.
All of this is a learning experience for yours truly. It was sheer chutzpa that got us here, and it will be the same that will get us through it. I just need to be clearer and not so insecure when dealing with such experienced professionals.
Again, today, it was cold. We had to go downtown to get the keyboard, but also, Jimmy suddenly realized he had given out the wrong version of the script. So we went to Kinko's, printed out the good one from the disk, and ordered copies all the way around. So many little details. It's easy to get lost.
Oh, and I finally got a wool pullover hat. Now I look like a cute little sailorboy.
Tuesday, November 12, 1996
Day Nine in New York: Rehearsing, Romance & A Changed Heart.Jimmy and I had a supremely beautiful moment together this evening. It was after we had had our first rehearsal with Susan Dawn Carson, who is playing Vicki. Susan has a sensational voice, by the way. As I mentioned elsewhere, she's one of the understudies for Elaine Page in the current production of Sunset Blvd. She is also a hell of an actress.
We had a great time teaching her the music she will sing. (Jim and Jay and I had a great meeting yesterday ironing out our differences on the music. Jay was a little disappointed that we wouldn't use a couple of things he did that he really loved, but by the time we got to the actual rehearsal with Susan, he was a total pro. He stepped right in and made it all easy as pie.)
Anyway, the rehearsal took place on 72nd street between Columbus and Broadway, so we walked around the corner to Perretti's on Columbus and took a table right on the street (behind glass of course) -- hmmm, Jim and Steve in a glass box. We met our waitress; a very cute little 20 year old blond girl named Katie Brown who has been in town exactly one month (to be an actress, of course). Jimmy gave her lots of advice and told her she was a great "type," i.e. "castable." Needless to say, she loved hearing that.
As we were sitting there dawdling over a Merlot waiting for Carl to come down from the office, I looked out onto Columbus Avenue and the bundled up people rushing about; I looked back into the restaurant which I knew well because it had been there forever; I picked up a piece of Italian bread and swirled it in the olive oil they had provided in a little plate, and had one of those crystal clear moments where all was completely and utterly right with the world. My whole being just relaxed into a gentle, peaceful smile.
Jimmy and I toasted each other and he said, "I feel like I'm in a movie from the thirties. Two 'kids' come from out of town with their musical, they find Broadway level performers to be in it, and they're producing it with friends they love." It was a supremely romantic moment. Jimmy and I are not big on public displays of affection. You won't see us all over each other in public or making goony faces or anything. But at that moment, I looked over at him and thought about what we had created, how hard we had fought to get to this place, including the three year struggle to keep me alive, and I never loved anyone as much as I loved him right there at that moment. It was a moment we deserved, fully and completely.
How important it is to savor those moments. I remember another of those moments. It was when I was still very sick and lying on the couch, when Jimmy was still waiting on me hand and foot. At one point, barely able to move, I looked over at the big doofus eating pretzels and watching "Jeopardy," and suddenly, even though I was hanging onto life by a thread, all seemed totally right in my world. And it taught me that we don't need to be in New York with a musical or making a million bucks or flying around the world to be happy. The simple fact of knowing that we are loved is, and should be, enough.
I got a letter from Tracey Thorton in Norfolk this week and I couldn't help but post it here, partly out of vanity -- you know how vain I am -- but also because it proves to me that when you reach out with gentleness and humanity... well, here it is. The name with the *asterisks* is a phony name to protect privacy.We had our first meeting since your appearance today. I admonished (gently of course) those members who didn't come. I had the people who were there tell a little about what they thought of the performance. 3 of the 5 people who spoke couldn't continue because they were close to tears. The one who really touched me was *Mark Helpern*. He said (and I paraphrase here) "It doesn't matter what your politics were before you saw Steve perform because you can't deny that he's human" (Let me interject here that I would venture to guess that *Mark* leans really, really hard to the Rush, whoops, right.) He said that, for one thing, the night offered, at minimum, great music, and even more importantly that your message was one that really needs to be heard -- that your story and the way you tell it was inspiring and touching and most of all, HUMAN. He was nearly in tears, Steve -- I thought I was going to have to go get some tissue. He was so sincere and it was blaringly obvious that he had been touched.One heart at a time.
Another girl said that she was high for a week after the performance and tried to incorporate what you talked about into all of her lesson plans for her Methods class that she is taking (she's a Teacher Ed student). Others said they had never before met anyone or even knew of anyone with AIDS and that before the performance they didn't know how they'd feel - whether they would be hesitant to touch you -- and then they said that they couldn't wait to give you a big ol' hug afterwards.
So even more so than before, the night was a success. I was really touched by *Mark's* testimony and it was clear that he had really been affected. So my admonitions didn't work as well as the testimony of these people -- the ones who didn't attend were really sorry that they had missed you -- so now we really have to bring you out here next semester.
And the fight goes on, my friend -- and the fight goes on -- and I love you more every day. I am so proud that you call me friend.
Wednsday, November 13, 1996
Day Ten in New York: Connecting With Sandra.Sandra Reaves, who plays Tryshia joined us today for her music rehearsal. She and I got there early so we sat and talked. I don't know if I can share her story in "public" yet, but it's enough to say that AIDS has cut down a very close member of her family and also someone she has worked with closely. So, the first thing we did was sit and talk about all this. Needless to say, she loved the musical and was astounded when I told her it was the first "real" musical I've written. Oh, and she was dressed to kill! A black gown, black mink hat, black jacket with gold lame threaded through it... she was fabulous. And when it came time to do the music, she put her chair close to mine at the piano and leaned in.
What she wanted me to do was to simply sing her solos to her first, which she recorded on a little recorder we bought for her, and then she sang them back to me. Perfectly (with me kinda guiding her if she strayed off note). She's the genuine article. By the end of the rehearsal, we were jamming and singing together. It was church!
And this relationship is crucial to the role, too. Tryshia and Gideon have sung together off and on for 20 years or more. So, they can practically read each other's minds. Well, that's exactly what happened with Sandra and me. At the end of the rehearsal, we were singing "Amazing Grace" together. We had a little revival right there at NOLA Studios.
Today, also the print shop finally finished our postcards for mailing. They are really late. So, as Sandra and I worked, Jimmy was affixing address labels and stamping. I felt really sorry for Carl today, too. He's been working seven days a week down at Stone-Nederlander. Yesterday, he was a wreck, but today he was incapable of movement. It was complete physical exhaustion.
So, Mama Steve made him stay home and sleep. And he did. He slept all day long.
Thursday, November 14, 1996
Day 11 in New York: The Unexpected Chicken.Charles Esten (aka Chip), who plays Buddy in The Last Session, is in Los Angeles today shooting a "Lois & Clark" episode where he plays a bad boy spoiled child who tries to kill Superman. We must watch for it sometime this season.
Today I got an e-mail from someone on my Crixivan Mailing list who said -- after I announced that Susan Dawn Carson would be playing Vicki -- "WOW! You've got Susan Dawn? Now I'm really impressed..." I thought that was cool.
Today, for the first time, we brought, Susan Dawn, Sandra Reaves and myself together for the first time to work on the music. Until today I hadn't really heard Susan sing. If you'll recall, Sandra jumped right into singing this thing on the first day. Susan, however, had held back on her first day, preferring to learn the music first. Well, today, she soared on wings of eagles. What a beautiful voice. And since she's a more legit singer than Sandra or me, I was very happy to hear how well she sang these songs which are much more pop oriented than Sunset Blvd. She has a very rich and warm resonance.
Jay and I added some harmonies where none existed before because of this and the unexpected way our three voices blended. Sandra is like a trumpet from Harlem, Susan is higher and more theatrical, and mine -- well, mine is Baptist. But together we sounded like three angels. I'm so glad the music is getting a strong emphasis for this workshop. In L.A., we let the music take second chair so Jimmy could concentrate on the book.
After the rehearsal, we went to Sardi's again -- Jim's old hangout. Normally, it's very expensive, but did you know that they have "actors menus?" Neither did I. But we can order off the Actors Menus for much less money than they full menu and still enjoy the ambience. We sat right next to a theatre producer Jimmy met, like, 20 years ago. He introduced us and gave her a flier. Of course.
Then we went to West 29th street (I think) and saw a play directed by an old friend of Jimmy's, Michael Wills -- who I adore. Michael is a co-owner of Currican Theatre Company, which is new. For their first play, they chose a new play by Penn Gillette (the talking half of Penn & Teller). It was, to say the least, bizarre.
I saw in Shawn Decker's diary that he has chosen not to take any AIDS medications even though he has a high viral load. He explained his decision by saying how he had friends who told him he SHOULD take the meds and he had friends who told im he SHOULD NOT take the meds. This very thing is one of the main tortures of having AIDS. It's not enough to have AIDS, you see. You also have to have people from both sides of the med camp screaming at each other constantly. There are still people who write me, frothing at the mouth, telling me that I am killing myself by taking anti-retrovirals. I personally think they are total and complete idiots, but who am I to judge. All I have is my own experience. I was sick and dying before the drugs. I am alive and relatively healthy after the drugs. Case closed.
And now Shawn, 21 years old and probably scared out of his mind, even though he puts up a very courageous front, is now facing this issue. Personally, I am angry and exhausted from this exquisite torture. I would much prefer the way to be clear and easy, but it is not. In fact, these drugs (I'm taking four of them right now), are very hard on the system. There is no doubt at all that they are "toxic" in their own way, and they have not been tested over a long period of time but when you're dying, you deserve to try anything that might help.
I met Shawn in person two weeks ago and I fell immediately in love with him (as a person). I told him privately that all I cared about was that he live and thrive and be around for a very long time. Someone wrote me and asked me my opinion about whether he should take these drugs. My kneejerk reaction was, "Sure! I want him to take them as soon as possible." After all, I said, it does no good to throw water on a house that has already burned down. But the bottom line is that it is his decision and his alone. He knows my opinion because he asked me for it. Shawn, I love you, man. I want you to do what you want to do. Just make sure you are making this decision because you think it is the right one, not because someone has scared you. Fear has no place in this. You've got hundreds of people online who are praying for you and caring about you. I'm at the head of the line.
You know how I'm always the butt of "Guess what he wants to do now?" Well, the tables have turned. For the past few weeks I've been begging Jimmy to let me get a haircut, but he said that Gideon, the character I'll be playing next week, would not be worried about his hair. He's just been in the hospital and he's very sick and he is not a fashion plate.
But Jimmy gave me an option: either leave it long or cut it all off. Severely off. As Carl said, "You look too healthy." Well, last night they all got together and made a final decision. They want me to cut it. All of it. Off.
So now it's me saying, "Guess what they want ME to do NOW??" Ah, the sacrifices we make for our art...
Oh, and you probably noticed that I called this page, "The Unexpected Chicken." That came from a remark by Sandra at the end of our rehearsal today. She said that she felt our show, because it so clearly details a real life in all its glories and humiliations, is deserving a Pulitzer. Jimmy said that when he was a kid he thought Pulitzer Prize was "Pullet Surprise." That's when I began calling it "The Unexpected Chicken."
Friday, November 15, 1996
Day 12 in New York: A 90s Kinda Guy..Well, I didn't waste one second. Right after I finished writing about how I was going to get my hair cut, I put on my coat and hat and walked right down the 50 stone steps at the end of our cul-de-sac, stepped onto 181st Street, and found a "Unisex" shop. Funny. I hadn't heard the word "unisex" for a couple of decades. But on 181st near Carl's place, there are four hair salons, all with the word "unisex" in the window.
I went to the one which usually is filled with a lot of guys. The others are very female looking. This one even has a black store front, so it's very butch. Inside were an assortment of tough looking Latino guys, which reflected the mostly Latino make-up of this neighborhood. I like this, by the way. It reminds me of when I spent a summer in living in Mexico at the age of 19. I had been invited down from Texas to play the piano in a little church in Monterrey, Mexico. The family I mostly stayed with couldn't speak a word of English. By the time the summer was over, I was speaking Spanish like a native. I've lost most of that, unfortunately, but it comes back quickly when I'm in a mostly Spanish-speaking environment.
So, I walked into the place, asked if someone could cut my hair immediately and the girl pointed over to a corner where four very tough looking guys were sitting around. Out from behind a wall, came a lady, though. A girl, really, of about 25. I sat down in the chair, took off my hat, shook my long locks and said, "Corto." (short)
"Corto?" she asked quizzically.
"No," I responded. "MUY corto. Todo." (Very short. All of it.)
She looked momentarily horrified and then she got out the clippers. I nodded, she clicked them on and slowly but surely, all my long salt and pepper hair fell to the floor in a huge heap. Felt like I was in the army!
The tough guys in the corner began to nod positively as I got increasingly balder. I tried to make small talk, but she didn't have any English on her and my Spanish is decrepit. I did get her to understand that I was an actor and needing to look like I just got out of the hospital after a cancer treatment or something.
So, off it came. I probably have less than a quarter inch of hair all over. And I was expecting, hoping, to look a bit freakish, of course. But NO-O-O-O.... Instead, at rehearsal, Sandra said, "Honey, you don't look sick! You look ten years younger!!" And Carl said, in his very hip producer lingo, "It works. It's severe, but it's also VERY 90s."
Very 90s. A 43 year old man with AIDS gets his hair skinned off to look like he's on the brink of death and instead he ends up looking 30 years old and fashionable.
I think this says more about fashion than it does about me.
Today we had a fantastic rehearsal. The two women and me. I was at the piano and they were standing behind the piano looking at me. Now that they know the songs a little bit better, today we got looser and began to find new things. Our voices blend like angels. It's spectacular. Honestly. I cannot wait 'til Chip gets here and we really have these songs down cold.
Just as we were leaving the rehearsal, Susan got a call from her agent. She is to sing the lead role of Norma Desmond for tonight's Broadway performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber's SUNSET BLVD. She's also doing two shows on Saturday and two shows on Sunday. I know she will be spectacular. She's such a marvelous actress. And her voice. Oh, god her voice. It's a perfect blend of legit and natural styles. I wish all of you reading this could hear her. (Sandra I've already told you about).
Late tonight, Chip Esten called and said he'd miss his plane out here because he's still on the set of LOIS AND CLARK killing Superman. So, we are going to postpone our rehearsals until Sunday when he can be here. Also, this will give Susan a day off (something she greatly thanked us for). No big deal. The fresher we are, the better the music will be.
Carl was concerned that we approach this reading as humbly as possible. He pointed to the fact that a show featuring "unknowns" where it's written by, staged by, directed by, sung by and performed by "us" will seem a bit pretentious to those who do not know us. I guess this is true. Whenever I see that kind of credit, I certainly roll my eyes expecting disaster. So, we're going to try to avoid looking idiotic if we can. One does not roll into New York with a chip on one's shoulder acting like God's Gift to mankind.
As much as I love what we've done, i approach New York with respect and, hopefully, a little grace. The greatest theatre directors, actors, artists, producers, etc. in the world are here. We are but one tiny dot on a huge landscape of people trying to make a success. It's possible we may do our show, get a little applause and then disappear. It happens thousands of times every single year. So, I don't come in "expecting" New York to roll over and ask me scratch its tummy. All I ask is a fair hearing. I just want people to listen to our music and our play, and then decide if we're worthy of a full production.
It's up to us to deliver. For all the "message" in The Last Session, it's not a "message play." It's a crackling good entertainment, IMHO. People will get their money's worth (especially because there's no admission fee). Opening night is this Monday and we are all so excited, we can barely contain ourselves. WIsh you could be here.
Saturday, November 16, 1996
Day 13 in New York: A Day of Rest....after this past week, we could barely move.
Sunday, November 17, 1996
Day 14 in New York: A Great Rehearsal. "The Day Before..."Poor Chip (Charles Esten who is playing Buddy in The Last Session. He was killing Superman this week doing a "Lois and Clark" episode. He missed three different flights and finally made it in on Saturday. As you know, we took Saturday off to just let Susan do SUNSET BLVD. and give ourselves a break.
Today the big problem was getting this keyboard down to the rehearsal studio. In Manhattan, everything has to go by subway or taxi and the piano is too long for a cab, so Jimmy called a service that gives us a station wagon and we did it that way.
The rehearsal was good. It was our first with Chip and the first where the "girls" heard the entire show with all the songs (we had been primarily focusing on their solos and things). Sandra cried all the way through Going It Alone and barely got it together to go on. And of course, Ronda the Producer sat in the corner and cried through the entire piece. Now, I don't want to give anyone the impression that this show is a big cryfest or anything, it's just that Ronda cries at everything. She's just like my mom.
The big headache came when we tried to get the keyboard to the theatre. We hit some big traffic -- people exiting Manhattan back into Jersey. It took us 15 minutes at one stoplight! We got there and the person who was waiting for us had already left, so we instead hauled it all over to the hotel where Ronda is now staying. Tomorrow morning, the day of the show, we will have to haul it out of there and back to the theatre.
We finally ended our day at the Stage Deli where Ronda and I shared a big plate of BBQ ribs (my apologies to the Pig Page, of course). I'm too Texan to give up my barbeque at this point.
But the main thing is that I can feel every nerve in my fingers and toes tingling because Monday is the day we do our first show and it's the day I meet Bruce Dorsey, the synthesizer of Crixivan. We have a full house booked. WE're ready to do it. And I'm just so excited, I can't stand it!!
Monday, November 18, 1996
Day 15 in New York: Opening Night in New York City.I'm going to start with the ending. After we finished the first reading of The Last Session, we got a huge standing ovation from the very packed room. We held for a moment and then bowed. Then we went off into the dressing room and hugged and kissed. After a moment, the stage manager said, "You guys better go back out there. They're not going to stop." So, we went back out onto the stage and took another bow. The ovation continued and continued.
Merck was there with a photographer who took endless shots of me and Bruce Dorsey, the scientist from Merck who was responsible for synthesizing Crixivan, the drug that saved me life. The publisher of POZ Magazine was there. She immediately let me know they wanted to set up a photo shoot for a full interview/feature in POZ, a magazine about People With AIDS.
Jeffrey Brooks from the John Houseman Theatre said he's never heard a reading get the kind of response we got. He said most readings are quiet as a tomb and that he has to check on them to make sure eveyone in the room is still alive. But our audience was rocking and rolling with laughter and applause. As for the ovation, he said he's never witnessed that at a reading. Never.
Carl, our young Producer, said the theatre producers he invited were completely blown away by the show. They just kept telling him, "Carl, this is a hit show. This is a hit show. Word is going to spread like wildfire." They went on to tell him that they had never seen or heard anything like it. They told him, "Carl, this show is full of radio hits. The music! The MUSIC!" One said, "Whatever I have to do to be a part of this, I will do it." What they loved was how the music tells a complete story all on its own set against a backdrop of contemporary issues and real people. No trickery, no phoniness, no bullshit. Real stuff.
Carl told them, "You see? I kept telling you that this show could not be explained. It's cannot be described because there's never been anything like it!" They were also impressed that there were at least 15 people there who came because of this diary page and the internet. (Show biz people love "innovation," you see, and nothing has ever come into town with a built-in internet audience.)
I'm still getting over what happened tonight. Carl and I stayed up til 1:30 just buzzing and chattering and reliving the show and the reactions to the show. He said that Ronda had told him that people were going to look at him in a whole new way after they saw this. He said he didn't really understand this until he saw how they treated him afterwards. He said they were looking at him with completely new eyes.
It was such a relief. I have to tell you that I was kinda sweatin' this one, as if you didn't know. Sandra Reaves, who plays Tryshia, called us and told us that she had to use every bit of strength in her to keep from losing it during tonight's show. She just thanked us for "letting" her be a part of it.
No, honey, it was OUR privilege to have Sandra on that stage. Her singing and her presence brought something so real and down to earth to Tryshia. As for Susan Dawn Carson, well... God. She was brilliant. For this reading, because we trimmed it to a packed 90 minutes, much of her character development and back story were sacrificed. The character of Vicki is unstable, a little bit dim sometimes and very emotional. She and Gideon have a knock down drag out toward the end of the play.
Well, during our scenes, her eyes were red with hot fury and tears. This just set me off, too. You know I'm not a trained actor, so I totally depend upon the others to get me "in the moment." Well, she drew me in during our most crucial scene. People afterwards complimented me on the rage I found during that scene but it was she who got me there. That, combined with her crystal clear singing voice, just had the audience begging for more.
As for Chip (Charles Esten) who played Buddy, Carl said the producers he invited all, hands down, said he was a major star just waiting to happen. I, of course, already knew that. Hehehe. Chip sacrificed a lot to be here, by the way. His agents are furious that he is not in L.A. right now auditioning. Remember, he just co-starred as a villain on "Lois & Clark," so his career is beginning to really take off. But he told them he was going to New York to do our reading, no matter what. And thank GOD he did. Aside from being a hunk of epic proportions, he is a great, great actor. Our scenes together are the most crucial scenes in the whole play and he has helped me so much.
Chip, by the way, loves Sandra Reaves as much as we do. He said her singing was so great, it was like having two new songs in the show (she sings two solos).
Anyway, I might write more later, but right now I'm going back to sleep. Thanks for all the great wishes and letters. They were much appreciated.
Tuesday & Wednesday, November 19 & 20, 1996
Days 16 & 17 in New York: Steve Causes A Scene.Okay. Here's the scene. There's an exchange that happens in The Last Session between Gideon (me) and Buddy (Chip). It's a line of dialog that I think is most crucial and it's one that, frankly, I suggested to Jim about six months ago. Well, Jimmy wrote it in but he changed it somewhat and I'm uncomfortable with it. So, on opening night when we got to the line, I changed it around and said it my way. It was in the heat of the moment on stage, mind you. I wasn't trying to be belligerent, but I said it my way. Jimmy was not happy and told me so. Then today, I did the line more like he wrote it, but not quite.
So, on break between performances, we went to a coffee shop down the street for some soup. Jimmy made the comment that I still haven't said the line correctly. Well, I had had a great time in the 3:00 show, and was ready for praise, not criticism. So, it just went up my spine and pissed me off. Call me a diva or whatever, but it just hit me wrong. He said, "I wish just once one time you'd say the line the way I wrote it." I said, a little too loudly. "I *said* the F...ing line your way. The best way I could!"
He just stopped talking at that point and we sat in silence and ate our soup, but my stomach was churning. I hated that he wouldn't say anything, but instead just sat there so ... so ... smugly. (It felt like smugness to me.) After a second, I grabbed my coat and said, "I'm leaving. It's too stressful to sit here with you." And off I went.
He came in a bit later on to the theatre and silently gave me the burger I had ordered. And he didn't give me a ketchup. Imagine that. No ketchup. (G) So, I knew someone was in a snit, and it wasn't just me. We didn't speak until just before we were to go on. He just held out his arms and hugged me. I didn't really want to hug. I wanted to poke his eyes out with sharp sticks, but I dutifully hugged him to be sweet. (Because I'm sweet). Also, I don't carry grudges; but this whole drama wasn't over in my mind, yet.
Anway, Carl made his little speech, where he brings me out and talks about how happy everyone is that I'm still alive (thanks to Crixivan). I smile and mug to get a cheap laugh and then he sets up the scene for them. Inside, I was knotted up because of our little tiff. Now, one time Chip told me that when you're acting, you should just use whatever emotion you're feeling at the time and let it be a part of your performance. So I did. I think it made me more intense. Funny thing, though. I found the evening performance tough going. I just couldn't feel anything. Not like I did in the early show. And when we came to the line in question, I said it exactly the way it was written. Just as I was told to do.
Now, here's what's weird. After the show, everyone was telling me how much better my whole performance was at the night show than at the early show. Not specifically that line, mind you, but about the whole show in general. Maybe sometimes if I'm too emotionally caught up in the emotions of the show, I get lost or unfocused or something. Whereas, tonight, I didn't "feel" as much but my attitude was more intense and more focused. Who knows? It's Acting 101 for me. Did you see the review one of the Survival Site Readers put in the Guestbook? It's nice.
There was another Survival Site Reader who drove down from Boston with a friend to see the reading today. What was funny was that when we met in the lobby afterward, he saw my watch and said, "Hey! There's the watch your producer, Carl, gave you; and there's the keyboard, and your haircut looks good!" We laughed and hugged. He said it felt weird to him that he knew so much about me but that I didn't really know him. Well, you know, this trip is the first trip I've made since I began the Survival Site and this is my first time to meet so many Readers. It's fun.
Fun meeting Tracey and all the girls from ODU, Pete Krueger, Sara Garwood, Shawn Decker and his mom, a bunch on the opening night of the show and then more today. I think they're all relieved that I am, in person, exactly as I am here, except taller and better looking (naturally). I think they also have noticed that my ego and vanity are just a large in person, too. I ordered them all to write reviews and tell the world everything!
Today's shows were smaller in audience number. The 3:00 show only have about 25 people, if that many. We're still too new here to be able to have gotten people excited after only one day. The evening performance had about twice as many. Still, both crowds laughed and applauded and had a great time. Now, I'll tell you. When you can get laughter in a half empty room, you've done something. People laugh in crowds. They do not laugh "alone." So, I was thrilled that the show works that well.
Carl has now told us that the Schuberts, the Nederlanders and the Jujamcyn's, the three major Broadway producers, are all sending people to the Thursday show. From a business perspective, this is great news because if they see each other there, then they'll think the other is going to snatch us up.
Carl said that each of their offices called and said that there was a strong word on the street that our show is good -- better than good -- and so they were sending "people." There were a few other big theatrical producers also sending "people," too, including some agents and who knows who else. So, I guess this means word is getting around. I still blanch white when I realize, though, that hundreds of these happen every year. Maybe more. And I know what a commitment it is to put money into a theatrical production. It's a huge risk. But if it pays off, it pays off bigtime.
On Wednesday, Ronda and I went to Carl's office. He showed us a CD he had just gotten. It contained the full score to a new musical written by some new guy. But get this, the CD was actually enclosed in an invitation to a presentation of the show. They spent thousands just on the invitation to the readings! And the invite said they would present "scenes and songs" from "Pilgrim." The CD was elaborately wrapped in a little fancy box. Inside the box was tissue paper, another insert, some artwork, a description of the show, the fully orchestrated CD itself -- unbelievable. And here I am with my budget cassette of me and my piano.
Wednesday night, my friends Adam & Nicky Derrick, flew in from England just to see our reading. I've known them for 13 years or so. They were on my first cruise ship as entertainers (as I was). They were also responsible for getting Jimmy and me our free cruise last year to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Bali. That was my first "last cruise before I die," the second being our Alaska cruise this past summer which I haven't yet finished putting in the diary (I'm so lazy).
Anyway, all is well with JImmy and me, in case you're worried. He told me later that that was our first fight as "actor and director." I suppose it's true. Also, on Tuesday night, we went out to Rachel's Restaurant with my old friend and TV soap actress, Ruth Warrick, who plays Phoebe Tyler Wallingford on "All My Children." She just loved our show and I gave her a tape. Jimmy and I had a wild weekend one time up at her house on Cape Cod. We shot a video where I starred as John Pilgrim and she was my wife, Mary Pilgrim. It was quite absurd and loads of fun.
Well, it's late and I must run. Thursday is our last performance and it's filling up fast. I love NY.
Thursday, November 21, 1996
Days 18 in New York: Our Last New York Reading.Just before the show today, Chip took me aside and said that since this was our last performance in New York, it would be a good idea for me to just sit and concentrate for a moment on my character. He said it's easy for "last performances" to become unfocused. So, I sat in the dark and just thought about Gideon; how he has just come out of the hospital; how he is sick and suicidal; about how he has gathered up his last bit of strength to do this session and finish it; and about how weak he becomes as the session comes to a close.
The house began to fill and Jimmy finally began to breathe more easily because it filled all the way up. He said this was his test for proving that good word had spread after all.
I really felt different in this show. I knew it when we came to near the end and it was time to do Connected. Normally, I sit and do it strongly and as well as I can. My mind has always on the music and making it sound good. But, tonight, I realized how weak Gideon is at this point, especially since it come after Friendly Fire and the interpolated skits where Buddy (as Gideon) says he's tired of the fight and wants to surrender. So, this time I just let myself feel weary. At each point where I was to sing, "Connected to a bottle" or "connected to a T.V." I hesitated a bit and let the audience wonder if I was even going to make it to the end. When it came to the last "connected" -- "connected to each other" -- I could feel my voice crack in appreciation of all the love I remembered getting from my friends.
Afterward, Carl wanted to know if I was all right; if I was getting a little sick or tired from all the work we had done. I just smiled at him and said, "Nope. Not one bit."
The only thing I felt was a profound sadness that this was our last reading. It had all gone too quickly. The incredible singers and actors we had brought on; the wonderful theatre; the great audiences; the many Survival Site Readers who had driven hundreds of miles to see us; the great Jeffrey Brooks at the John Houseman taking such good care of us; and so very much more.
I'm going to miss it all so much. And I know it's going to take at least six months before we even start up again because of how long it takes to put productions together. (Etc. etc. etc.).
Funny how you're hot in the middle of a show with your energy and emotions running high, and then all of a sudden it's over. Everyone goes home; the theatre is emptied out; people go back to their lives; and -- well, it's just over.
I finally met Linda George, a Survival Site Reader I've spoken about here. She and I met last year when she was having trouble getting her church upbringing reconciled with her own desire to not be judgmental about gay people. We had some great discussions for awhile when suddenly she wrote me in a panic because her own daughter had "come out" to her as gay. You've read this story here on the site this past summer. She's a sweet lady with a great husband, John, who is the silent type until he rings forth with a witty remark that blows us all away.
I got to see my old friends, Blythe and Dan, who drove in from New Hampshire with Linda. Blythe was my "right hand man" at National Academyu of Songwriters back six years ago or so. She did all the work and I took all the glory (!).
Jimmy's aunt, who is a nun, came up to see the show. Her remark was, "It has a great message despite the filthy language." (There's only one "filty" line in the entire piece, by the way, and it is not gratuitous -- it got past my parents without comment!).
Afterward, we went to see a show called "When Pigs Fly," which might be the funniest two hours I've ever seen in a theatre. This is another show that can't be explained except to say that it is five insane queens in a costumefest of epic, hilarious proportions. I particularly loved the little guy who sat across a chair and sang a love song to Newt Gingrich. It was priceless.
Friday, November 22, 1996
Days 19 in New York: The Day After.We spent the day trying to ship all our equipment home, meeting with ASCAP, meeting with friends and then going to a theatre piece which I mostly slept through, even though the people did a lot of shouting.
What I really wanted to do was spend the day in bed, whining and moaning that the show was over. (Actors Equity only allows us four performances of a reading).
I'm going to take the weekend off with family and friends, and have an early Thanksgiving. I'll probably check in on Monday. Thanks for all your kind and wonderful letters. Also, check out the cool reviews in the guestbook. I love you all.
Monday, November 25, 1996
Days 22 in New York: Setting on a New Course.Just before we zipped out of town last Friday, I found the new issue of >POZ Magazine, a magazine devoted to, and staffed by, people with AIDS. Our little cyberbuddy, the Positoid Stud himself, Shawn Decker, is the glamorous cover model -- his photo is on their website, too. And the story itself is fantastic. It fills in the gaps of his struggle with hemophilia and HIV very nicely. The chilling story was the one where the neighborhood kids were banging his head on the sidewalk to see how long it would take for a kid with hemophilia to die from internal bleeding. *shiver* It just made me admire him all the more.
Shawn's mother is also a gem. She and Shawn drove all the way up from Virginia to see the reading of our show last week (as did Tracey and friends). It was great meeting Mrs. Decker. You can tell how much she loves her kid. And after meeting him, it's easy to see why everyone who meets him falls in love with him.
We drove in from the weekend with family and immediately set Adam & Nicky (our friends from England) off to do more shopping. They love to shop and they are looking for things for their "Party Store" they've just opened in England.
This past weekend I announced to one and all that I was taking the day off. So, I sat in my kimono and vegged all weekend. Linda and Rob, our hosts (and extended family) were great. Linda is a chef who writes cookbooks, so she and Nicky and Rob and Jim all sat in her gigantic kitchen cooked a spectacular meal. It was Adam and Nicky's first real American Thanksgiving. I overdosed on the sweet potatoes.
It was a welcome relief after the intense month we've had. I'm feeling a lot better now, not so depressed from thinking about the readings coming to a conclusion. In fact, I'm now shifting my mind and looking ahead to what comes next. Apparently, if we continue on the progressive road we've taken, we have nearly half the money we need for a production raised. Ronda, who is my touchstone to reality, tells me she's very happy with the combination of Carl the Producer, Nancy Gibbs the Company Manager and a new guy who we're meeting tonight. I'll hold his name until we're sure. Carl says the main problem now is finding a suitable theatre. Theatre space is always at a premium here in the Big App.
My health continues to be strong. I can tell that I'm tired from the past week, which is why I'm taking it easy the next few days. All I really have to do is take a few meetings and get interviewed and photographed. Thanks to Shawn, POZ was at the show and they loved it. So, who knows? Maybe I'll be a glamorous cover model, too!!
I'm planning on staying an extra week here just to chill out and enjoy the city as a tourist since I haven't really done that yet on this trip. It might be interrupted, though. I might be going to New Mexico State University to perform on the 2nd. If so, I'll decide then if I want to come back here to go on home to L.A.
Not to be depressing -- just a reality check. I know many of us are rejoicing in the new hope brought along by the protease inhibitor drugs. I certainly am alive because of Crixivan, as I've stated endlessly. But this note came from someone and it just serves as a reminder that there is no cure yet:I wish those of you who are planning to eradicate the entire virus from your system luck but I don't see it happening for many. I have been in a protease study since June 95 and have seen it fail in many people over the course of the study even with the three drugs. Effects last different amounts of time with different people but from what I have seen it is definitely not a cure. The jump in t-cells can be large for an advanced patient but the immune system is seldom restored and the viral load starts inching back up within 6 mos. to a year to sometimes 2 years. In addition, there are many latently infected cells in the skin such as macrophages and monocytes that the medicine doesn't reach. There are numerous places in the body for hiv to hide and wait for its chance to start multiplying.The fight against this disease continues. It's why, when Crixivan first started helping me, I stated that I consider this time a new lease on life that could end at any time. So, I am not taking anything for granted. Not days, not weeks, not hours, not minutes or seconds. None of us should.
Tuesday, November 26, 1996
Days 23 in New York: Men In Love Would Not Come Here."Men in Love would not come here," is a phrase someone has posted in my guestbook and it now has become the object of derisive laughter between us all. I have no idea what it means except that I think it was posted by a horny Canadian looking for a cheap thrill. Well, honey, I might be a thrill, but I'm not cheap. Usually. And, yeah, there's no sexual content at the Survival Site. But as soon as anybody here has time to start having sex, I promise you people will be the first to know. Or not.
Carl the Producer, Nancy the Company Manager, Jimmy the Writer, Steve the Composer and Jamie, whose role will be to keep an eye on the books and the paperwork, had a great little powwow down at Joe Allen's on 46th St. tonight. Jamie is the person I referred to yesterday. He works at a production company which is producing a large Broadway musical.
This was our first time to really meet with Jamie and get to know him. He started off by asking permission to ask questions. Most of the questions were technical points about who we would cast in the roles, what kind of theatre we wanted, if we wanted to workshop it some more (or go straight into a production), etc. I told him, regarding the role of Gideon, that if he found somene better than I am at it, we should hire that person. If not, I'll do it. Jimmy felt the same about the direction and the role of "Jim the Sound Engineer."
There were some questions about instrumentation and arrangements, about possible theatres, and then he began talking about the show itself. He told us that he had sent lots of people to the reading to get their reaction and he said that all had the same reaction that he did.
They all told him they were deeply moved by it but they couldn't tell him was why -- all they know was that it did. He said, "That's how I felt. It's so different from anything I've ever seen, I found myself telling someone it was a Musical Diary. All I know is that I am compelled to be a part of it. This show MUST be seen."
He said the one thing that drew him to it was that it made him hopeful.
He picked up an Entertainment Weekly magazine and showed me an article about "hope" in the age of HIV and asked me my opinion. Funny that he should ask this right after I got the note yesterday about the protease inhibitors failing after six months or a year. I told him that my hope was cautious. I remembered back to when I first began to "live" after taking Crixivan. That for a brief moment, I suddenly felt like I had time. Stretching out before me like a long road. And I told him that I shut this image from my mind as quickly as it came, because I suddenly had lapsed back into my "pre-AIDS" mode of thinking "everything" could be done tomorrow instead of today.
I told him that it did me no good to assume that I had tomorrow. I explained that the only reason we were sitting around that table talking about our show was because, up to this moment, we've worked as if tomorrow would never come.
He asked me if the drugs had helped me get strength to write the show. I told him that, no, they really hadn't. The show was begun this time last year when I had had a brief surge of strength last December which began to decline shortly after our first reading last March. I told him that the Crix has enabled me to be around to see this show and to be in it.
He said what he loved about the article was the idea that there is hope. It has somehow strengthened him and made things much more endurable. I told him I was the opposite. Hope is okay for me, but the AIDS community has been burned on more than one occasion. I also repeated to him that Crix is keeping me alive now, but if and when it fails, all I can do is hope that there will be another drug waiting for me, and then another after that.
He asked me how long I have been on the Crix. I was thinking, Oh, several months. But we counted back and it looks like I've been on Crix for six months now. Six months.
This morning I took Indigo, my new canine girlfriend, out to the vet for shots. She and Carl will be leaving for California tomorrow morning. She is going to live there in a big yard with Carl's parents until Carl can more properly care for her here. He works 12 hours a day and Indy needs more company than that. Carl said that in the time Jimmy and I have been here taking care of her, her coat has gotten better, she's more healthy, etc. Dogs need company. I think he's doing a great thing, but he really loves her and is going to miss her. And she, him.
We've actually had an offer from a theatre to be included in their season next year here in NYC. It's a small theatre and is not precisely what we had in mind, but how great to know that we have a fall-back position, another option. I have to tell you (with cautious optimism) that after tonight's meeting, I have little doubt that we will open The Last Session here in the Spring.
So, all is well. Tomorrow we meet with the company which is producing a movie based on Jimmy's script, "A Flight Of Angels," and we're going to see the play, FULL GALLOP, thanks to friends who are helping us get seats. Thursday Jimmy flies out of here and then Yours Truly will be alone in New York. Mmmmm. Love the sound of that.
Wednesday, November 27, 1996
Bonus Day 1 in New York: The Lazarus Effect.Prologue:
[Newsweek Magazine today had an article called, "The End of AIDS?" and it details the lives of PWAs and the effects the new drug combinations are having. They are calling this new period of health after an assumption of death, "The Lazarus Effect." We have been raised from the dead. It also described a myriad of problems that come with this. Overdue and overcharged credit cards ("I figured I'd die before they came due..."), new cars and stereos bought with life insurance policies (which now require large monthly payments they don't have because they weren't expecting to be alive right now), and then you combine the belt-tightening in Washington with the price of these drugs and you have a stunning situation, to say the least.
I understand the concept of mile-high bills myself, although I will say to my credit that I didn't spend anything on outsized luxuries. We used what credit we had to buy food and make rent a couple of years ago. There is so much that this disease does to you and to your loved ones, that this weird mix of elation that we are alive and stress about new problems unforeseen, makes me realize it's all just a part of it. As the New York Times said a couple of weeks ago, this is the first plague where the survivors are not just those who didn't get the disease, but they are people who faced "certain" death -- but then didn't die.]
The wind was bitterly cold here in New York yesterday. And it blew so hard! My lips, already chapped from the Crixivan, looked like an ice floe, broken up into little chunks on a sea of blue. But we didn't stay in it for too long a period. Our first visit was to an independent film producer on 42nd Street. He wants to produce Jimmy's script, "A Flight Of Angels," based on the true story of Father Joe Turner who flew back into Vietnam during the final days to rescue orphans abandoned by soldiers there. These orphans are still alive and healthy here in the US now. It's a great story.
Tony took us to a Chinese restaurant where we talked and laughed. He is a Greek/Italian man who is very nice looking and speaks with an Italian accent. He says he has the finances ready but we need to clear up some paperwork. He also said I could use his scanner, so maybe I can put some pictures up here soon. I encouraged him to get the paperwork together (income at last!) for this one because we have a great vampire movie waiting in the wings.
"You do?" he asked. I think he pressed me for more details but all I could tell him was that it had a very intriguing twist and could be shot for pennies. He liked that. (We really do have this story, by the way. Jimmy and I also explained it to Carl -- telling him the whole story. He wants to immediately begin thinking of it as a big Andrew Lloyd Webber-style production on the stage).
Afterwards, looking like mimes doing "walk against the wind," we were treated to a free viewing of one of the hottest shows off-Broadway, FULL GALLOP, produced by Stone-Nederlander where Carl works. It was one of the most delicious hours and a half I've every spent. Mary Louise Wilson portays the late, great Diana Vreeland, fashion editor for Vogue for umpteen years in a one woman show she co-wrote. The first thing that grabbed me when I went in, was the RED. Huge amounts of RED.
Then we went to Club 39. Club 39 is actually an apartment on the 39th floor of Manhattan Plaza. Manhattan Plaza is a building for actors to live in. The rent one pays depends upon how much income one makes. Our friend, Dick Bell lives there. It's a one room apartment which Charles Pierce once described as the smallest gay bar in New York. His apartment is lined with Christmas lights (which are there perennially) and mirrors. At one end is a bar and at the other end is an out of tune piano.
But when you sit in one of the barstools and look out the window, you see one of the most amazing sights in the world. Lower Manhattan. You can even see the Statue of Liberty. So, I took a stool and a glass of water (which scandalized everyone, of course), and just set myself right in front of that view. On the left, you can see the grand old "New Yorker" building. It's "Superman" era architecture looking like a grand lady. In the distance, the sun had set, the sky was clear and there was a lazy yellow glow on the horizon just behind Lady Liberty.
At the far end of Manhattan, the twin towers gleamed with wild abandon. Everything looked brand new, shiny, inviting, luxurious. On the streets below, though, cars were lined up in their daily crush of getting into the Lincoln Tunnel. This was the crush that we got caught in the other night. Where it took us 15 minutes to make a left.
I just looked out and my mind went into some kind of alpha state because I didn't hear one word of the conversation that was going on. I just sat there dreaming, thinking to myself, "Now it's my turn. I put in the years, I have paid my dues. You may not know I'm here. But I am here." Part of what I'm going to be doing this weekend is just getting lost in the piano bars in Greenwich Village. Many moons ago, I used to work these clubs, singing and playing. And several years ago, when Dan Kirkpatrick and I had a few days in NY, we prowled the Village finding one of my old friends at the piano. He invited me to play again at that time, so I played, "Not While I'm Around" from Sweeney Todd.
Sweeney Todd. The first Broadway musical I ever saw. By Stephen Sondheim. About a butcher in old England who slits people's throats. People who are then baked into pies by Angela Lansbury. It was brilliant. I'll never forget that trip. I saw two other shows that year. Evita and The Elephant Man. Three great shows. The Elephant Man just ripped me to shreds. Sweeney Todd showed me that you can write a musical and it doesn't have to sound "old." Evita was my least favorite of the three and thus started me on my road to disliking "sung-through" musicals. Still, I've come to appreciate Evita more over the years and am looking forward to the movie.
It's very exciting to me to be in a "strange" city with no agenda whatsoever. All the possibilities lie at my feet and I'm very good at just making my way somewhere looking for adventure. The only thing I have to keep myself aware of is time so that I can take my meds -- which I have to remember to have with me at all times.
Dickie served Jimmy and me and George, another of our old friends, but who just had open heart surgery afew weeks ago. There at Club 39 at a little table we had meatloaf, carrots and new potatoes. We toasted each other -- old friends who rarely get to share moments like these, and we thanked God that we were all still here. All still breathing. And all still thankful for the little we can share.
For a moment, I thought of my brothers and sisters who are living with AIDS. I thought back a couple of years ago when we were getting some food from the APLA Foodbank. I remembered that for Thanksgiving, we were all given a frozen turkey dinner as a special holiday treat. I cannot think of that now without rivers of tears flowing from my eyes because I know right now there are people just like me popping their frozen dinner into a microwave or an oven and quietly trying to survive. Nameless. Forgotten. Alone. Frankly, it's a thought I can't bear.
I hope if you are reading this, you will also keep these people in your thoughts. And if you are anywhere near an AIDS Service Center, that you will find a moment to give some food or some shoes or some money to people. When it comes down to it, it's all about how we treat each other. I don't quote Bible verses very often, but there's one that is ringing in my ears. It's something Jesus said,
"Whatever you do to the least of these, you also do to me."
Thursday, November 28, 19964:42 PM.
Bonus Day 2 in New York: The Man, The Pig and the Aged Cat.Jimmy has left. This morning we went for a little walk in the sunny cold to get some cash for his ride home. I got a little cash for myself, but I'm going to be doing everything on the cheap while I'm here 'cause New York can be very expensive if you aren't careful. It's expensive when you are careful! God, that reminds me of when I first arrived in New York about 17 years ago.
FLASHBACK:The lounge band I had been in for three years had broken up and all I had left was one microphone, a little beat box, a one way ticket to New York City and $50 (which was on its way). I came to New York and slept on Diane's couch at 83rd and Columbus. Since I had no money, I used to hit the happy hour bars on Columbus Ave. and eat peanuts (at one), bananas at one, and then get someone to take me to a diner if I was really, really hungry. And no, I wasn't hustling. I wasn't good looking enough for that to begin with and my hair was ugly. I was just a small town guy in a large city.ITEM:
But I was always looking for a job. I applied for "Room Service Clerk" at some big hotel on Central Park South. I figured "no big deal," pays minimum wage. Well, when I opened the door to the office, it was filled with women in business suits with suitcases, men in suits with resumes, everything!! I felt like I was wearing a brown suit at a black tie affair for lesbians only.
When I met with the very attractive woman doing the hiring (in a very fancy office, me in jeans), she didn't pose many questions. She looked down her nose at me. And I know that's a cliche, but looking up at her face was like taking stock of Mt. Everest. Me so small. Her so large.
Well, my smalltown-nothing-can-get-me-down mind reasoned things this way: If the lowliest shit jobs get this kind of competition, I might as well try for a good paying job, because the competition will be the same! So every afternoon, I'd put my best jeans on and I'd hit every restaurant looking for a wait position (waiting was something I had done at the Grand Crystal Palace in Dallas. I even knew wines and how to balance and carry six plates at a time, which was the Dobson's requirement).
I was a courageous little soldier trying to survive until I filled out my application. This was when AIDS was first becoming a reality to me and to the world and I was kinda scared, being from the sticks and all, that if they knew I was gay, they wouldn't hire me. (There were terrible jokes and monstrous stories said in derision about catching AIDS from restaurants in New York because all the waiters and cooks were gay. (They aren't, by the way. Most of the waiters and cooks I met were straight men and women.)
My deception was easy because it wasn't a lie. At the blank where is asks, "Marital Status," I deliberately wrote DIVORCED. (I had been married to Vicki Eydie for six years.) I could tell that the guy who interviewed me thought I was straight just from the more locker room approach he took when we spoke. My conscience bothered me so badly, that I went out of my way to make remarks, after I was hired, so that he'd know. Once he said to me in front of everyone else, loudly, "I thought you were straight." I cannot tell you what my response was. I probably made a smart remark like, "That's what you get for thinking...", etc. I didn't lose my job, though. I was a good worker and I was completely reliable. A rare combination in this day and age, I'm learning.
So, my first "real" New York job was as the lunch waiter at Dobson's, a fish restaurant which is no longer there. Made an interesting friend. Amyas Nagel. How could I ever forget that name? He was a writer, I think, but he drew these exquisite single line cartoons of people sitting at the bar. Now I do them. (I draw one picture of every place we live. It might be a room or a wall or, in the case of Diane's house, "Diane's Closets." This masterpiece has been lost. How I wished I had put it on t-shirts like I wanted to. That's another lesson I continually learn: never put anything off.)
Someone in my online AIDS group said this today: Last week one of my doctors likened the new drugs to driving down a dark road at 70 MPH with no lights.
My cyberfriend Kerry, who designed the pig page and who lives with the pot-bellied pig that shakes and shivers when my music is played in her house said she needed to check on her man, her pig and her aged cat. Some commotion coming from the bedroom:Was good that I checked on the man, pig and aged cat. Seems the man thought it woud be a good idea to balance as many objects as possible on the sleeping cat/pig combo. Not a good thing to do in bed, but very entertaining for the man as he had: 1/2 full cola bevarage, alarm clock, 3 cassette tapes, and an empty coffee cup on the pile and was going for more. I carefully explained that 6 ozs of cola in one's bed is probably worse than cracker crumbs and highly encouraged non-spillables to be used in this "experiment". My hypothesis proved psychic as the pig had eaten that cereal with the covered raisons for supper which give him both much pleasure and much flatulence. On a particularly explosive release everything balanced on the pig went flying except for the aged cat who uses claws to maintain her place.I just remembered a quote from Diana Vreeland. I don't have the exact words, but she said something like, "There was a time when it was in fashion for people to improve themselves." I love the idea of constantly improving one's self. I never feel as if I know quite enough. That there is something staring me in the face and I'm not seeing it. It's that missing part that keeps me going.
For me, faith is believing that that piece is out there and it's my job to find it.
Perhaps I've already found it and don't realize it.
I can't tell you how I know this. But one thing I do know is that if everyone believed in that missing part and if everyone were searching for it, then we'd all sound exactly alike and we'd start puking. This is MY metaphor. You go get your own. HA! (See what New York is doing to me? Or is it Freedom? Or am I giddy knowing I get a vacation until Dec. 1, the first day of Bonus Round Three: The Lazarus Effect.
1:00 A.M.At about 9 P.M., I got on the A Train and went down to the Village. Sat in a Greek diner and had pizza. In New York, I seem to eat from two food groups: Pizza and Chinese. Then I wandered down to Marie's Crisis, where an apologetic female pianist was trying to remember the verses on HIGH HOPES. I sat at the bar and ordered an O'Doul's and marveled that so many straight couples were there listening to the out of tune piano. I dropped a few bills in the bowl and wandered over to Eighty Eights.
The pianist here had much more finesse. There was a diminutive blonde girl singing torch songs to great effect. Then she launched into a comedy number with the pianist and finished off with MY ROMANCE. After that, she announced that she was the waitress and would be happy to serve us whatever we wanted to order.
Soon, the bartender, a 40s-ish black woman in a small cowboy hat joined the pianist for a go at ROUTE 66. Then they scatted and she did a jazz version of HOME from THE WIZ. It was quite nice, but it was late, so I jumped back on the A Train, which had now become local and I slept up to 175th Street. Thank god I woke up then or I'd have missed my stop.
Bed was warm and inviting but I miss Indigo. I miss how she would jump up on the bed and cover her eyes with her paws when she'd see me. Bashful little thing. Thurber the Cat would never stoop to such indignity.
Speaking of undignified, one of the Survival Site Regulars has put up a page which features a FAN CLUB for you know who (me). As vain as I am, and as much as I love the adulation, I cannot bring myself to provide a link to it, so you'll have to find it yourself if you're so inclined. A clue: the link is on one of the page listed below and it was put together by a woman who should know better. hehehehe.
Pergatory, the new guestbook server broke into a thousand pieces, apparently, because we cannot find them anywhere. However, I did save the entries in the guestbook. HA!! Now I have to find a way to add to them.
Friday, November 29, 19962:50 PM.
Bonus Day 3 in New York: End of an Era.I've gotten three e-mails now from people who are wanting to know if I'm depressed or melancholy. How interesting. What you all must understand is that we have completed a new era. All of the short term goals we set for the coming year were met in the past four months. In the fury of the Bonus Round with the monkee on the buzzer, we did things almost faster than we dared dream them.
I'm not melancholy. I'm at peace.
The extraordinary is becoming commonplace. Have we become so used to succeeding that we cannot look behind and see what we've done together? The one big wish I wished for was to have one AIDS-free day. Go back in Book One. You'll find it. Sometimes I looked at you all and thought how easy to just slip through life without the crush of AIDS. And it was so fragile, that place between having AIDS and not having AIDS. As if flipping a light switch was all that stood between heaven and hell.
No. I haven't gotten my AIDS-free day. Not literally. Not when I'm constantly looking at my watch and timing my medications. Today, i switched my Crix routine to 8am, 4pm, and 12 midnight. At least I was until just now when I took it at 3pm instead. That will throw me off. You see I have to get back on West Coast time. I only have about a half hour to an hour leeway on taking Crixivan every eight hours. On Sunday, the first day of Book Three, I'll try to move it to 9,5 and 1. Then when I fly to California, I can take them at 6, 2 and 10, gradually moving to my normal 7, 3, and 11 dosages. I also have to remember to not eat two hours before the Crix and one hour after. So, I'm always looking at my watch and figuring out when I can put the last bite of food in my mouth.
But that's not AIDS to me. That could be any pill for anything. AIDS is diarrhea. That's what AIDS is to me. Diarrhea. So, if AIDS is diarrhea (to me) then right now I've had four AIDS free months. That, my friends, to me is one of the most extraordinary miracles in the history of mankind.
We also wanted to get our New York reading done. Naturally, it would have been better if Elton John, Sharon Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, David Geffen and Matthew McConaughy had fought for space at the readings. (I put Matthew Mc in because I would just like to be in the same room with him. Hm, I should also have wished for Sandra Bullock for Shawn Decker. All you have to do is type her name and he becomes stuck to the ceiling.)
So, no bigshots of epic proportions showed up. It can only mean that they weren't meant to be there. Nancy the Company Manager and I stood outside the theatre showing FULL GALLOP the other afternoon. She said that we aren't doing any of this by the book, the way we're producing this show. She said she was with us because she believed strongly in this play, but also she wants to support young producers who are trying to change the way things are done. She's one of the best and most experienced Company Managers in the business and she thinks Carl and Jamie are just the kind of new young blood the theatre industry needs.
But, I ramble.
The Extra Surprise Bonus of this round which was a dream not planned was the CD of music. After I got my wish of good health, the awesome by-product was that my voice returned to me. And it's stronger and more relaxed now than in my entire life. The idea of making that CD was a momentary on-the-spot decision that just, well, happened.
There's a lot more than that, by the way, that has been great, including the strengthening of ties to friends on the web, an unexpected live solo performance at Old Dominion University, the prospect of a college tour, the chance to get out of debt, the formation of a band, Bill Clayton, the formation of a FAN CLUB (without me dropping even one hint, I might add!!). Best of all, Jimmy and I work together marvelously. One little tiny spat in the whole year of writing together. And that happened, I think, mostly because of nerves. Acting! Sheesh! Who needs it? But we've been able to push each other to improve and to learn. We are becoming stronger in our professional roles. In other words, I understand his big, fat ego and he understands mine.
I just got an e-mail from Shawn; he's clearing out some files and found our first exchanges from May 1996. The first line is him talking. The second line is mine. I edited it for brevity and clarity:
>>Hey Steve, thanks for checkin' the page! I'm so glad that you liked it.
>Hey, you looked at mine first! I always respond to compliments!
>[See? I've been vain from the beginning.]
>>POZ wants to do a story on me [while I'm in New York]. Someone is going to interview me while I'm up
>>there, and I'm going to be on a panel, I guess a Living With HIV panel.
>Very very excellent. You have much to give to PWAs. Remember, though,
>don't be a hero. Just be yourself. Be a guy. Part of living with it is
>working within our limitations.
(And exceeding them by being BRILLIANT!!)
[Present day. Shawn:]
Oh yeah, when we are long gone and sipping margaritas on clouds, people will read these old emails and will once again be riminded of how great and cocky we truly were!
See ya good positoid!
If nothing on the planet had happened to me except making friends with Shawn Decker (and the rest of you here), it would have been a great year. And this is what I call putting things into perspective. I had a talk with a friend of mine and told him that I don't find websites interesting. It's the people behind them who are interesting or are not. It's that flesh and blood piece of meat sitting in the chair behind the keyboard who is interesting.
I believe that when someone just says who they are and strive to be interesting and funny (and not bore everyone to death like I'm doing in this nostalgia-laden set of diary notes), then they'll have an interesting site.
But, I am rambling again.
These past four months have been spectacular because of you, ya know. When I went to Norfolk, I was treated like a celebrity. But because we all knew each other by e-mail, I felt like *you* were the celebrities.
What a strange world. You meet your audience and then go play music for them. Has this ever happened before in history? I certainly do not think so.
Plus, I made a pig shiver. Roll over Beethoven.
1:00 A.M.Tonight, I went to see an old friend of Jimmy's named Danny. His apartment is also "bar-like" but he's down in the Village. His place is named Club 226. Danny doesn't drink but he loves to tend bar. I had the address wrong at first, so I was late, but finally I made it. Danny is also a composer and he has a piano in his living room which is buried under stacks of sheet music, both printed and in pencil. So we talked music. He told me that Dick Bell from Club 39 writes lyrics (something I did not know), so he played me some songs.
Afterward, I needed to eat so we went to the cheapest place in the Village with the best burgers. It's called Julius' and it also has the distinction of being the oldest continuously running queer bar in NY. I never saw a bar like this. It's a small room with a bar that runs nearly the length of the room. Just opposite the bar there is a little oven facility where this tall, slightly stoned kid cooked us a fantastic burger.
Danny told me that Julius' survived most of the anti-gay wars back in the sixties by throwing out anyone in the bar who did not face the wall. Back then, gays were so hated the police would throw you in jail for any reason they could find. Just talking to another guy would be reason enough to get hauled off. No wonder Stonewall happened. It also sheds light on why people who fight for human rights for gay people are so adamant. The world of getting thrown in jail for just being who you are is not that far back in history. And it's a history/reality Jesse Helms still lives in.
After that we went to Eighty Eights for some piano and singing, and then cruised home about 10:30. I caught the A Train home and then went to bed about midnight. Gabi called me last night, too. She was grateful that I dedicated the CD to Bill. I told her no big deal about that and that I was grateful she had given Bill to us. I dedicated the CD in memory of Bill Clayton and to Shawn Decker. There's just something about being young and either dead or fighting like hell to survive that just gets to me. The song The Group begins with the most vivid memory I have of being in a group.Dave was only twentyThat was a real person and it cut me deeply as I sat there and watched this beautiful kid, barely 20 years old, tell us his life was over. I remember thinking, "Christ, at least I've forty years or more."
And he said his life was over
And he asked if this was all the life he'd getSome were old and some were youngOne last thing. I thought I was going to take this time to party and kick up my heels. But that's not happening at all. I've mostly been just resting and hanging out alone. It's nice. I can get a whole thought going and keep it going through the whole day. I did go the the Star Trek movie this afternoon. Not bad. Better than the last one, I think.
But mostly they were young
And mostly I kept looking at the floor
Saturday, November 30, 19964:00 P.M.
Bonus Day 4 in New York: Looking for Lady Peel.I am so tired right now. And hot, even though it was a very cold day today. Carl's apartment has radiator heat and so when you shut the windows to go out, you come home to a dry sauna. And I been out most of the day. Ned Rosen (young photographer on his way up who is shooting me for POZ Magazine) and I met this morning at 86th and Columbus, walked down to Diane's Hamburger joint, like at 76th . He had an omelet because he's a vegetarian like my friend, Diane, who does not own nor have any interest in, Diane's Hamburgers. I ordered a very well done chili burger (after asking Ned if it would make him uncomfortable, of course), but I had to send it back because there was pink in it. I hate sending things back. As a former waiter, I'm a very good table customer, but I got strict rules: no pink. (Diana Vreeland said pink is the navy blue of India, by the way.)
We did a shot in an arched doorway, then walked to Central Park West where he proceeded to put me in the middle of the street so he could get the temperature sign on a big building behind me. But we had to be in the street to do it. Luckily, there was almost no traffic. It was like a 60s fashion model film fantasy. I was in my long Army Surplus coat and little turned around English school boy hat with a rim. Very R.E.M.Don't tell anyone, but my brother David gave me the Army Surplus Coat over 20 years ago, I think. Paid 10 bucks. Get this. I've been wearing that coat to very fancy affairs for a very long time. A plain army trenchcoat. People inevitably say to me at these affairs, "Where did you get that? It's very hip. In Europe they're all the rage!" So near as I can tell, these coats have been all the rage in Europe for the last 20 years. I wonder if anyone has told the Europeans?We then crossed over into Central Park and, after getting a "we'll look the other way, just don't let the cops see you" from the Park Rangers, we climbed a locked gate and did some shooting on the huge bright green Sheep Meadow with an overcast sky and the Central Park South skyline behind me. We were the only ones on the whole lawn. At one point he said, "Don't pose!" I said, "Look, I don't know how to pose, much less how to unpose."
We then went to a lane in Central Park that has overhanging trees all gnarled up and leafless. He said, in the shot, because the sky was so overcast and the trees bare with the hotels on Central Park South, my face was the only color in the whole shot. Then we did some black and whites at the shell. For the most part, I was relaxed. We think we might go down to some cyber cafe on Monday or Tuesday. Carl comes back tomorrow and I meet Degen from POZ on Wednesday.
Lady PeelI finally saw Lady Peel today after a long absence. She's a very proper woman who has this hat with two huge feathers that fall to either side like twin red waterfalls. Her eyes are crystal clear and seem to follow you wherever you are in the room. The last time I went to see Lady Peel, she was not there. She had been rotated out. But today she was back. She lives in a little library, I believe, just off the big courtyard at the Frick Museum
Lady Peel is a painting. Or rather, she is in a painting.
I love the Frick Museum. Back when I was first in New York it only cost, like $2 to get in. I'd go after a particularly hard day at Dobson's and just sit in the courtyard and listen to the water in the fountains. It was a place of perfect peace. And the paintings!
I was looking at Lady Peel and noticed a short man who looked like Lou Costello in a uniform. I told him I hadn't been there in ten years or so and that I was really happy to see Lady Peel again. He said, gutterally, "Yeah, she's my favorite too. Know what Mr. Frick's favorite was?" I asked if he knew Mr. Frick. "Naw! Naw! He died back in 1918." I asked him how long he'd been working there. "20 years," he said with contentment and pride. I don't know how they do it, though. Standing quietly in a room all day. No sitting. Just watching. Watching people and protecting the collection.
Mr. Frick's favorite painting, by the way, was a Rembrandt self-portrait.
I hope you enjoyed Book Two: The Tarzan Years but it's time to move on to Book Three. In the big picture of performers around the world, I have ten people in my fan club. But soon I will have 20, and then 30. The sky's the limit! Who knows WHAT will happen...
END OF BOOK 2 PART 4.
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© 1996 - 2001 by Steve Schalchlin