2 ] - [ Part 1 ] [
2 ][ Part 3 ] [ Part
4 ] - [ Book 3 ]
[ Diary Index ]
|Jim and Steve Take Two Days Off.||Getting Jim Ready for New York.||Home Alone.||Home Alone 2: Rewriting.||Home Alone 3: "Oh, it must have been a reprint of the Washington Post Article."||Home Alone 4: The Start of Civilization.|
|Home Alone 4: The Start of Civilization.||The Showcase in New York Is Set! The Weary Travelers Return.||More New York Stories. Virginia Appearance Set.||Shrinking Swelling? Doing a Steve.||"The Desperation is Gone."||Random Meanderings.||Jimmy Takes A Bow. A Disturbing Letter.|
|Jimmy Takes A Bow. A Disturbing Letter.||Birthday Bash Planned.||Down at the Pier. Dinner with KC.||Meeting Up With An Old Friend. Saving A Life.||A Birthday Party. New Readers in Battle Creek.||A Huge Disappoinment. A Deal Is Set.|
|KROQ, Pizza, 3rd Rock, Vids.||Steve Goes Mad.||Steve Gets Over Himself, But Then...||A Little Lesson In Humility.|
Sunday & Monday, September 1 & 2, 1996
Jim and Steve Take Two Days Off.
And so we did.
Tuesday, September 3, 1996
Getting Jim Ready for New York.Actually, on Monday night, I did got to Luna Park in West Hollywood for a very cool songwriter night called, "BODS -- Bunch O' Damn Songwriters." Robert Morgan Fisher, who is one of the guys who runs it, allowed me to do a couple of songs. So, I sang The Group and Going It Alone. I had lots and lots of people come up and inflate my already overinflated ego.
Mostly, over the weekend, I sat at the computer and fooled around with the photo program, Color It!, which is a shareware program. I have been having too much fun learning how to manipulate those pics so that we can have some great promotional stuff for Jim's trip to New York.
Which brings me to Tuesday's activities. Can you say "Laundry Room?" Well, everything we owned was dirty so I spent a good half of the day washing, drying and folding and hanging stuff up. Jim got out his suitcase and I got one of those weird little empty feelings in my stomach. He's going to be gone for five days to New York to find us a place for our showcase. I miss him already. Twelve years together and we have scarcely been apart during all that time. You'd think I'd be sick of him by now. Or he of me. But we seem to laugh a lot when we're together and so I guess we still find each other amusing. Last night someone asked Bill Cosby how he has kept his long marriage together. He said, "Go home every night."
I spoke to Randy Tobin at the recording studio and have scheduled a session for Saturday at noon with my all-female band led by Lynne Keller, who I jammed with a couple of weeks ago. She just got back into town and is checking their availability. Tomorrow I meet with David Robyn and his rock band for our big gig on October 1st. I also spoke with Chip Esten, who played Buddy in our LA workshop. He's going to join us on the pier and do a song or two from the show. ("Hi, Chip's mom. They got home safe and sound. Said they had a wonderful time showing the baby off to the rest of the family.")
And I've been designing some very slick looking promotional material for the show. I'll put a couple of samples here on the site once I get it finished. Jim just keeps saying, "SOMEBODY STOP HIM!!!"
But two things happened that got me to thinking. A friend of mine told me of a friend of his who just keeps getting sick but won't go to a doctor or get tested -- and he knows it's AIDS but he cannot face it. Will not face it. He's rather just die. And so he is. The other story was a friend who, like me, was very sick and dying for the last three months, but also like me, has had a miraculous recovery and he described a holiday he took with his brothers and niece in which he out-athleticized everyone. He was boating, skiing, swimming, having fun with the little niece -- in short, having the time of his life.
I know what's going on with me. I'm totally celebrating this new life. I can't pack enough stuff in. I want to do it all and I am doing it all. It just goes to show you the capacity we all have for accomplishment if we just find joy in the fact that we exist. He described how great it felt to be skiing and rafting when, last year, he could barely get into the boat and spent much of the time sleeping. I know that feeling. I was there.
So don't anyone begrudge me this time -- the Tarzan Years (!). Don't ask me to slow down and don't tell me I'm doing too much. I probably should and I probably am, but I don't care. I've never felt so -- well, Joyful! Life cannot get better than this. And I don't mean just the music and home page and musical.
I mean it doesn't get any better than being able to walk across the room, eat any food I want, look down at my arm and not see an IV port, carry groceries, do the laundry without having to sleep for three days, and even gain weight! (I'm up to 166 now.)
Only Thurber the Cat is annoyed because he's lost a sleeping-all-day buddy. I'll get him a stuffed animal. Who's got time to sleep?
[Found this on the net at Theatre Central. Go look.
Wednesday, September 4, 1996
Home Alone.I took Jim to the airport with Ronda and they left for New York. Their mission? To find us a theatre space for us to do our NY showcase. They called late last night and Carl the Producer was so excited, he was practically peeing on the phone. He just kept saying, "This show is so cutting edge. It's so ready. I keep telling people it's not like anything they've ever seen. And this is my first New York show. I'm staking my whole reputation on it."
Jimmy said to him, "We're all staking our reputations on it."
He hadn't seen all the promotional material I've been designing nor had he seen the new marketing campaign I thought up a couple days ago. I've uploaded a preliminary sample for your perusal. Mostly he talked about the effect the show had on people. He said his parents work in the medical field so they're around patients all the time. He said his mother had never, until she saw the show, really thought about the lives of the patients before. That it's easy to dispense medicine, but to be able to peer into a life of a person having to take the medicine. For her, they were just people picking up pills. He said she just couldn't stop talking about it, about how much they learned.
I told him all that "educational" stuff and inspirational stuff in the show is all very fine and good, but people don't want to see something that's good for them. They want a show with an interesting story, colorful characters and singable songs. That's what they get with our show. All the goo goo stuff is the icing on the cake. For me, I just want people to see the show because I think it has a very important message and because it makes you feel. Long time since I saw a popular entertainment that actually told me something I didn't know and made me feel.
After dropping Jim and Ronda off, I came home and just got used to having the space to myself. I turned the TV off, put the new lyrics (One New Hell) on the piano and basically just wasted the entire day doing absolutely nothing except revel in my aloneness. Revel, revel, revel, revel.
Oh, I might have done some graphics, played the piano, worked on the home page, etc. but mostly I just revelled. And ate. And took pills.
Thursday, September 5, 1996
Home Alone 2: Rewriting.Today I went down to Redondo Beach to meet with David Robyn so we could plan our show on October 1st. I was very excited to play the new song, One New Hell, for him. And when I did, he loved it.
So he also played me a new tune which I told him was a total hit single. He was surprised because it was much lighter than his more heavy things and he's used to me killing any songs that don't have some meat to them, but I told him that even heavy people can sit back and drink a beer or just flip on the TV. Not everything has to change the world. Even world leaders relax every once in awhile and this song is wonderfully infectious. And it's very honest. I don't want to give the title away yet.
Then we picked up Kathleen Capper, his manager, and went to a 50s hangout and had burgers and fries and we planned the show on the pier. This is an important show for David because it will be the first time since I've begun working with him that we're really showcasing his band and his new songs. I told him the only thing to focus on was giving the folks in the audience the best show they've ever seen. Which, for me, means, get up, sing, get off. Keep it sweet, short, and always give them something -- just one little thing they were not expecting. The essence of great showmanship is, was, and always shall be, surprises.
I came home racing the clock because I packed my Crixivan but forgot to put the medicine box in my backpack. I'm such a space case, in case you haven't figured that out by now.
Lynne Keller the Bass Player told me later on that our session for Saturday is confirmed and that we'll be recording two new demos of song from the show: Somebody's Friend and Connected. I'm so excited to do this.
These are dizzy days for me. I spent the rest of the day at home playing the piano and just indulgently enjoying the time alone although I miss Jimmy at crucial moments, like when I need food. He's the cook in the house. And I hadn't realized how much I depend upon him to watch the clock for me. When I get my head buried in something, I forget there is an outside world. I think I it wouldn't hurt me one bit to get a timer or little alarm for taking pills, although it occurs to me that what I really need is someone following me around. It would be for my own good.
Health is staying strong and I'm more optimistic and energetic than ever. My whole mood is absolutely joyful these days as I bounce back and forth from piano to computer to the kitchen to the pillbox. It feels as though I'm on vacation. Each day I try to do at least one thing in each area of stuff I'm doing. Something for promotion of the the show on the pier, something for the musical, something on the home page, working on songs and just playing piano and enjoying myself way too much.
One thing I did get accomplished is I did some cutting on Save Me A Seat. The Mongoloid Kids are now excised from the song. I know they're called Down Syndrome now. My cousin, Jeffy -- who thinks I'm a superstar -- has lived with it all his life. But in the song, I used the term from my childhood because that's where I was in the rumination happening in the song. And I liked it because it was weird. But for the show, it slows everything to a halt and the song needs to just plow though and deal with the memorial service, which is the primary subject of the song. I added one new line after "...and think about the miracles we should have done." I added: "...and the people we could have become." Not a perfect rhyme, but I've broken so many rules with this show already, one more is not going to put me any further into Purist Police Hell.
Jim and Ronda called from New York and said they had gone to several places. Some were good, some not so good. They really liked the theatre in a church they found. Jim made his off-Broadway debut in that theatre. Holds about 200. Well, we'll see. They are going to see RENT tonight. That should be eye-opening.
One last thing: Jim is running around telling Carl that the "press" on this show is this: THE COMPOSER LIVED.
People really like hearing that. They've had about as much death as anyone can take. A whole generation of gay men have been slaughtered. I don't intend to join them.
The composer lives.
Friday, September 6, 1996
Home Alone 3: "Oh, it must have been a reprint of the Washington Post Article."Did you ever say something and then suddenly everyone laughs at you but you weren't really intending to be that funny? It happened tonight.
Jimmy and Ronda the Producer are in New York and today they were slogging through torrential rain. Right now Hurricane Fran is pounding away at the Carolinas, but this mother is huge and they are getting rained on in New York. He said they found the greatest cabbie in the world and they made him wait for them when they had their appointment at one of the theatres.
(One great thing that happened is that a theatre offered us a slot for a full production in their season. I'm not saying it's the right place or even a good place. I didn't ask. But the point is that we're going to listen to them, let them make their pitch, and see if it's good for the show or bad. It would be ridiculous to just jump at the first thing thrown at you, and equally ridiculous to ignore the opportunity and not scope it completely out.)
Anyway, Jimmy and Ronda tonight are at Club 39 for the East Coast edition of Jimmy's 50th birthday. All of our New York friends are there. Club 39, by the way, is not a night club. It is the home of one of Jim's oldest friends, actor Dickie Bell. He lives on the 39th floor of an apartment complex midtown. 48th street I think. And he decorated his apartment like a -- well, a bar. On one end of the apartment is a wetbar. When you sit at there on a stool, you can see all of Manhattan down to Wall Street and I think you can even see the statue of liberty!
The noise coming out of the phone, when I called them, was staggering. It sounded like a happy brawl. I had called them because of an e-mail I had just received. It told me that I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal yesterday! Since I haven't spoken to anyone at the Wall Street Journal, but did talk to a reporter at the Washington Post (and haven't heard back from her about any article that was to have been written), I assumed the WSJ probably got it from them.
So, it went like this: I tell Jimmy that I got an e-mail from someone who said I was in the Wall Street Journal. He asks, How did that happen? And I said, "It's probably a reprint from the Washington Post." Jimmy burst out loud laughing and then I hear him announce to the room, "I asked him how he ever got into the Wall Street Journal. He said, "It's probably a reprint from the Washington Post!!" At that, the whole room exploded.
I guess I just sounded like I get quoted in the Post all the time!
I also called my old friend, Diane, tonight. She lives in New York and at one time in my life I was living on her couch. Diane's one of my oldest friends. She's like a little child sometimes. But the year I spent on Diane's couch on 59th street and Columbus Ave. was one of the happiest in my existence. It was so exotic. Sleeping on a couch. The fire escape hung out over Columbus Ave., so I used to fix me a place out there and just sit and write and listen to reggae music. It was the only music Diane ever played.
Diane is also very serious and she loves to debate college style. She's not always in control of that so sometimes I have to just let her get it all out when she gets on a rant. I hate to compete in a conversation unless it's one in which we're all bursting with ideas coming too fast to articulate.
But don't get the wrong idea. I love Diane and I have long since stopped trying to improve other people. If someone has little quirks, all I ask is the right to laugh and enjoy everything you stubbornly demand to be. As long as we're laughing, I'm totally cool. Anyway, I faxed her the flier from the beach show and she laughed out loud. She said it was so dramatic and blatant.
I corrected her and told her I was shameless, although I suppose it IS dramatic and blatant, too.
I also told her that I was having a peak experience living right now. I know I'm boring you to death, reader, with all this talk, but one of the guys at Jim's party tonight was a great friend of ours I'll call Mr. R. because he's a very private person. Mr. R. is very large. Huge. And he used to dance better than anyone we knew though he'd only do it for us. (He could reproduce -- in large print -- all the choreography from just about any Broadway show he had ever seen.)
Then, a few years ago, he had a horrible stroke and lost the use of the right side of his body. He gave up on life for a long time and we didn't hear from him. It was all so very frustrating. Well, tonight on the phone, he wass a bundle of energy. A short time ago, He was finally able to move his hand for the first time -- and now he's decided to fight like hell to get his life back. We really commiserated with each other and it crystalized for me why I've suddenly become a Shirley Temple movie.
It's what the old folks tell us all the time. When you have your health, you have everything. I am so rejoicing in the sheer feeling of it. The feeling of health pumping through my body. You cannot truly appreciate something so valuable until you lose it. "Normal" folks get it in dribs and drabs when you get the flu or something, but until you lose it all with the prospect of the very real possibility that you might never get it back again, cannot imagine the joy one feels when it actually comes back.
So, as long as The Tarzan Years continue for me -- Diane screamed out loud when she saw that slogan on the flier, by the way -- I will probably be about as joyful a human being as anyone can be. Oh, there's a possibility, I suppose, that I could get very blase (Note to my cousins and brothers: that's "blah-zay" as in "ho hum") about it if it lasts a long time. But somehow, I don't think so. There will always be "the next blood test" to remind me that I'm living on borrowed time.
Who says I'm dramatic?
Saturday & Sunday, September 7 & 8, 1996
Home Alone 4: The Start of Civilization.It felt fantastic to be back at Theta Sound Studios in Burbank. It's been a second home to me since I got Hollywood and is the model for the studio in The Last Session.. There's line Gideon says in the show when he comes back into the studio after much time off (being sick). He looks at Jim, his engineer, and says, "It gives me a sense of control for the first time in years!"
For me, I don't always feel a sense of control in the studio. There's always that moment when you sit down with a group of really great players, professional musicians, and they look at you waiting for you to tell them what to do. This is not my favorite position to be in. In fact, it scares the hell out of me. Luckily, I had Lynn Keller the Bass Player.
You'll recall that Lynn and I jammed a bit on some of the songs a couple of Monday ago. Well, on Saturday, she probably saw me sweating and she just took control and told the players what to play. I was so relieved. (Tomorrow is the first rehearsal with the all male rock band for our show on October 1st. They're going to do the same thing, only I don't have a Lynn with me. Yikes!)
Lynn brought in two members of her all-female band to do the session, Maria Martinez on drums and Joellen Friedkin on keyboards. On guitar we had a guy, Joel Wachbrit. Lynn met him at another session, I think. And on the boards, engineering the session, was the great Randy Tobin, who is responsible for one of my all-time great embarrassing moments in public. But we'll save that story for some other time. Just remind me to tell you about it. It involves a convention.
So, we get to the session and all these musicians are looking at me waiting for me to tell them what to do. Immediately, Lynn starts giving them instructions and, like a river gushing from a rock, the music just pours out of these musicians and suddenly the little piano songs have taken on a whole new life and a whole new sound.
(Sunday morning, the day after the session, I had one of those great moments you can only have if you're a songwriter. It comes after you've slept and forgotten most of what you did the day before. I took my Crixivan at 7:00 as usual and then, at 8:00 when it was time to eat and take the other medications, I got in the car, pulled out the driveway, took a deep breath and put the cassette in to hear what we had done. Few moments on earth are as much fun as that -- or a scary, by the way.)
(Well, these arrangements are different, all right. I'm scared to death to play them for Ronda and Jimmy. I went by Kim the Publisher's house and played them for him. He liked one and only half liked the other.)
The recordings we made today are far from perfect but they take the songs into directions no one would have guessed. Not even me, I think. And I have a feeling they could be the cornerstone of the "dream group" -- call it a "vision" I've been chasing for over 10 years. It's called Civilization and I decided that the version of Connected we did -- which can only be described as a alternative Irish-sound rock, uh, march -- is unlike anything I have ever heard before.
Sunday night, I circled by the Songwriters Campfire at Genghis Cohen and played it for producer cum legend, Nik Venet. I knew if anyone could "hear" what we were trying to pull off, he could. Well, his only comment was that, with changes, he honestly believed this was a hit single that light up the entire world. He said this is the universal theme of brotherhood Quincy Jones was wanting to go for but didn't quite get. (I think he was talking about "We Are The World.")
He told me to jealously protect this song. He said if we ever had the chance to really release it as a single, our show would play forever because everyone would know the song. Now, this is something I've believed from the very start.
Lynn and I also met on Sunday morning. She and her other half, Wendy -- a brilliant neon artist, came by and we sat in their truck and listened to the record. I told her I thought we had the start of a whole new sound, that I felt she and she alone understood the "vision" I had, and that I didn't think I could have made this recording without her. We talked about making a serious commitment to making this group a reality. We'd start by recording five or six songs, with Connected as the first. Some might come from the show, but not all of them. We just need to envision "our sound" so that it will stand out from every other band trying to get a record deal. Then we'd shop the sound around and see what happens. She also would like for us to open for some big name acts out on the road once it really starts to happen (as opposed to starting from scratch trying to eek out a living in little clubs -- we've done that already.)
So, this is my new quest. To find a way to put Connected out as a single by the group, Civilization. There was a time when these kinds of dreams were so far over the horizon, they were no more than possible than a six year old wanting to drive an 18-wheeler. But, so far this year, everything I've dreamed has come vividly true. Could this be the start of Civilization?
Monday, September 9, 1996
The Showcase in New York Is Set! The Weary Travelers Return.What a day. First I finished up some work here at the house, then I zipped over to Bob-A-Lew to make copies of tapes and fliers and stuff. Then I went over the hill to NAS to play the new tape for them and to get an entry in the Musepaper, their monthly bulletin, for the big show on October 1st. Then I went down to Redondo Beach to rehearse with David Robyn's Band. Then I went to LAX to pick up Ronda and Jim who were flying in from NYC.
I also had to clean the house so Jimmy wouldn't walk into a mess and I had to act like a petulant child and complain (to Ginger) because I'm this oh so very important artist who wants validation on the music made at the session on Saturday. I feel like I'm the only one who really loves the sound we got and it's frustrating me like crazy. Fortunately, when I went to NAS, I played the tape for them and all the people there thought I was a genius so my need for approval and validation was sated just a bit. When I finally played the tape for Jimmy and Ronda in the car, the first thing I said was, "I'm going to play this for you, but I don't anyone saying one single word about it."
Ronda loved the reggae version of Somebody's Friend. Jimmy didn't say anything. She also said she liked this bizarre new version ofConnected and again, Jimmy didn't say anything. I knew he hated the latter but I can't tell what he thinks about the former. Doesn't matter. I'm too emotionally attached to what we did to listen at this point.
I had tons of fun with the band. David's group is very good. Per, the guitarist, is a classic Scandinavian with long almost white, blond hair. For a rock guitarist, he has the unusual trait of playing softly and with taste. Almost unheard of. The bass player, Bill Cinque (Seen-kay) is a New Yorker with a very quick wit and big vocabulary. He's a pleasure to be in a room with. Long dark hair pulled back in a pony tail. Italian. The drummer, Jeff Falcone, is a more laid-back "dude" and is also very good. He told David, afterwards, that he was nervous as hell being with me there. David said he played worse than he's every heard him play.
I find it really weird that someone would be nervous in front of me. But they respect my position at Bob-A-Lew and I guess it was like playing for "teacher." You might remember that I told you about the song David wrote that I thought was a radio hit. Well, David and Per are having some angst because they think it's too radio ready and don't want to look like or sound like something Beevis and Butthead would be cheering. So, we and the band had a good talk about it.
The thing is that the song, despite it's immediate commercially bright and simple sound, actually has a very deep lyric. I think David's just being paranoid a little bit about it. It was obvious, too, that the band really loved playing the song. David has, with tutelage from yours truly, written some very deep and heavy songs. Something he had been needing to do. But when cumulatively, the whole project felt like it needed to lighten up a bit and this song did the job perfectly.
So we talked about it. For sure, the band just loved cutting loose and having a great time on a song that wasn't so encumbered with "meaning," so to speak. I agreed. I told David that sometimes it's okay for a person to just lie back and drink a beer and put on the TV. There should be songs for the whole range of human experience and slugging the audience with heavy song after heavy song can get very oppressive. I pointed out how much Jimmy used humor to leaven the darkness of the subject matter in The Last Session. It was a good discussion.
It was similar to the one I had with Ginger the Singer down at Bob-A-Lew. One can learn to sing and play and all that stuff, but when one has decided to step out and make one's own personal statement, there is no roadmap there. It's one where you simply have to dig deep and find things inside. Going where no one has gone before. It's scary and it's dark. There are no lights and no guides. It's why there are so many good players and yet so few original voices. Only a few can make that trip.
Jimmy and Ronda had a very successful trip to New York. The headline is that we have our showcase backer's audition set and on schedule! It will be at the John Houseman Theatre, 450 W. 42nd Street the week of November 18th. We need to gather some seed money for this and already one person has offered to help. Also, I spoke with one other person yesterday who might also want to invest. The good part about this seed money, Jimmy says, is that if and when the show becomes a success, this investment will pay off handsomely and it's not nearly the amount we'll need for the whole production. That's why we're having the backer's audition in the first place, to raise money for the full production.
So, there you are. The John Houseman Theatre. 42nd Street. November of 1996. I can't wait.
Tuesday, September 10, 1996
More New York Stories. Virginia Appearance Set.Jimmy was standing outside Rent when a man came up to him and said, "Excuse me, but aren't you the man who wrote The Last Session?" Jimmy replied, "Yes, I am." The man said, "I'm sorry, but I don't remember your name..." Jimmy said back to him, "I don't care!" (He was so excited that someone in New York would walk up to him out of the blue and know him by our show!) The man went on to say that he liked our show much better than the one they were watching.
The exact dates for the showcase/backers audition in New York is November 18, 19 and 21. We'll be doing two shows on the 19th, I believe. We're in the basement theatre at the John Houseman on 42nd Street (which, Jimmy says, looks absolutely spectacular these days). The basement. So appropriate for the show that takes place in a bomb shelter!
Jimmy said when they went to the John Houseman Theatre to meet with the man there, he held out a small stack of papers. Jimmy assumed it was the floor plan for the theatre or something, but it wasn't. It was the pages from The Last Session home site! All this work finally paid off. He was very impressed with the site (we're so 90s...) and said he really wanted to do whatever he could to make the show happen.
I also confirmed a personal appearance I'm making on November 2nd at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia thanks to one of the readers of this page, Tracey Thornton, who is an adult student there. She told me they had a meeting a couple of days ago and she brought print-outs of "the best of..." this site and they all gobbled them up. I'll be speaking at little, singing a little, maybe answering questions, who knows? And it is my understanding that they're only asking for a donation at the door so anyone -- particularly people with AIDS who usually can barely afford food due the expense of living with it -- can come see the show. I'm really excited to do this. While I did speak at UC Northridge, it wasn't set up for me to sing. Also, the event is open to the public, so I'll be supplying more details if you, my dear reader, want to come and see the madness in person.
I had a good talk with my Manager-Publisher, Ronda, today. I told her how weirdly sensitive I had been concerning the new recording of Connected and I told her of my idea for forming the new group, Civilization. She got this very serious look in her eye and told me right out. "If you don't want any negative feedback, then don't play the song for anyone. If you play it for people, just remember that everyone has an opinion." She listened to the idea for the group and the only comment she made was that it was fine to make a CD, but the A&R people want to come out and see the group perform live. So, we should be prepared to do some club dates, etc. here in L.A.
Jimmy and I just spent the rest of the day alone. We were supposed to go to the theatre tonight -- he was supposed to review "Will Roger's Follies" at the Alex Theatre in Burbank for the newspaper there -- but it was postponed at the last minute and we just stayed in. And we ordered Chinese food. I asked, for chicken curry and they sent chop suey instead. I don't like chop suey and since it took forever to deliver it, I ate the egg foo young instead. Aren't you glad you read this? All the fascinating details!
My health is still going strong, by the way. We're into our second or third month of no diarrhea (after three years of chronic runs) and I'm having no problems other than the usual little skin problems that most PWAs (people with AIDS) have. A toe infection that's now going away thanks to an ointment Dr. Ellie prescribed and a rash -- uh -- elsewhere. The vitiligo (lightening of the skin) on my neck and face don't seem to be expanding, either, which is nice. My weight is holding steady at 166, just one pound under a full 30 pounds gained since the all time low last May.
So, now I'm working on the show for October 1st out on the Santa Monica Pier (with David Robyn's band and Alan Satchwell's Heaven Bound Sound 8), the speaking engagement on Nov. 1, the showcase later that month in New York, and, of course, the musical project, Civilization, which isn't quite on the radar screen yet, but is still being born in my mind.
I was also told today that a new protease inhibitor, stronger than the one I'm taking and capable of being taken with food, is only a few months away from being approved. This is a great relief. I'm living right now thanks to the good graces of Crixivan. But if and when the virus mutates and becomes immune to it, it'll be good to know there's another one out there waiting for me. Kinda scary, but then this whole thing is scary in its own way. Hell, life is kinda scary if you think about, I suppose.
Wednesday, September 11, 1996
Shrinking Swelling? Doing a Steve.Did a lot of running around today. Went over to National Academy of Songwriters to give them an ad (about the October 1st gig) which will run in their monthly calendar. Then I swung by Paul Zollo's house to play him the new tape of songs. He told me the new version of Connected was wonderful. I also told him about my dream musical group I wanted to form called Civilization and he said, "I remember you talking about that years ago!" You see? It has been a dream for a very long time. He remembered.
Then I was late getting to First Presbyterian Church of Sherman Oaks where I was supposed to meet with Alan Satchwell, who is the director of the vocal ensemble, Heaven Bound Sound 8. (They're singing with me on October 1st.) He didn't mind that I was late. He said it just gave him an excuse to organize his files.
It was when I was driving up Ventura Blvd. on my way to Sherman Oaks that I mindlessly began rubbing my swollen glands near my ears and darned if they didn't feel smaller--not my ears; my glands! I mean, there's still a little bit there, but there has definitely been a shrinking going on. (I was so happy!)
We had a great meeting and we spoke for a little while, afterwards, about dogmatism and how difficult it is to deal with people who are so dogmatic in their beliefs they can barely communicate with someone who doesn't completely share those beliefs. Alan says he has a problem with the simple word, "beliefs." That as soon as someone retreats into a "belief system," they stop functioning on love and instead become legalistic, the very thing Jesus taught against.
I'd never heard it expressed that way, but it made sense in a certain way. Except of course, that thinking that way is its own belief system! Still, I told him I've lately been in some raging debates on the newsgroup, alt.fan.jesus-christ and that I've been really getting into it with some fundamentalists who are so homophobic, I can detect not a single trace of love coming from them. But that sorta makes me judgmental, doesn't it? Man! This stuff is complicated when you get right down to it.
Finally, I kind of leaned across the piano (he was on one side; I, the other) and I touched his chest. I said that I didn't always understand the details and that talking about religion was complicated but that I understood heart to heart communication and learning to love people one person at a time. I said, To me, that's Jesus. Just loving a person because they are a person."
Which, of course, fit in very nicely later tonight when we went to Glendale to see The Will Rogers Follies starring John Davidson. ("I never met a man I didn't like..."). The show I wasn't too crazy about -- slept through the first act, loved the second act -- but I liked the fact that this simple farm boy simply liked people and liked being around them. I related to that and I thought about the personal appearance I'm going to be making in Virginia in November. This will be the first time since all this AIDS and stuff that I will be stepping out of California to do a presentation of my music and my life. I'm not sure what I'll do exactly, but if you wind me up, I can talk or sing or answer questions for hours.
I felt really good today. Pleasant is the word for it. I felt pleasant. As if the world liked me and I liked it. Alan was really happy to see me so healthy. The last time we saw each other was at a performance of the show last July. So, I've gained about 10 pounds since then. (I love it when someone notices I've gained weight). The only bad part of the day was dinner. We went to this 50s diner near the Alex Theatre before going to the show and I ordered chicken fried steak. I should have known better. You can only get good chicken fried steak in the south. They actually made it with a steak, not a hamburger patty and the mashed potatoes were cold and lumpy.
I think, also, I 'm getting a weird taste in my mouth. I know it's from these drugs I'm taking. In fact, at the restaurant I suddenly remember that I had left them in the car, so I trudged back to the car and retrieved them so that I could take them before the show started and ... oh ... should I tell you? Okay, I will. I had one of my most embarrassing moments when I got back to the Alex under the marquee lights.
Just before we left the house, I was digging under the bed looking for my shoes (my good JCPenney shoes with the tassles). It was kinda dark in the room but I found them and with my tan pants and tan colarless polo-looking shirt (which I got at Target), I was actually quite dapper looking for a warm California night. In fact, I paraded around the living room and showed my emsemble to Jim who quite approved.
So, off we go to the theatre, we eat, I go get my meds from the car and meet Jim back under the marquee. He's already standing with John Sparks, our theatre companion for the evening. Then my eyes kind of wander down and to my horror, I realize I had done something really stupid. (Jim calls it "doing a Steve.") I had put one of Jim's shoes on in the dark by mistake -- same style, different color.
I was wearing one black shoe and one brown shoe. Well, I turned beet red and then started laughing at myself (isn't it wonderful to be able to laugh at your own foibles? If you can't, you should). One brown shoe. One black shoe. I leaned over to Jim and said, "Look at my shoes." Well, he loved that! He practically shouted out, "You're doing a STEVE!" I just wanted to slink off and hide. But instead, I held my head up high and pretended it was the height of fashion.
Lord. I always have these moments. Where at one moment you think you're the cat's pajamas and the next moment you realize the cat has scratched a hole in your seat. Oh, well. These are the moments that make life grand, are they not? They remind me that I'm human and that I'm alive to do such things. After we got home, Jimmy said, "Well, you know, you're such a fashion plate, in a month or so, EVERYONE will be wearing one brown shoe and one black shoe." Mm hm. Right.
Thursday, September 12, 1996
"The Desperation is Gone."Today I was sitting and having lunch at Jerry's Famous Deli with my friend, Marty. I've only known Marty for a year or so, so he only knows me in my period of being sick with AIDS and he has no reference to the life I lived before. We were talking about me (of course) and he said that since this turnaround in my health -- i.e. that I didn't die last month -- since I have gained all this strength, he says I'm a completely changed man. He posed the question, "Is this a new you, or is this the old you returning?" He said it didn't matter one bit because he approved of the change.
I asked Jimmy about this later and he said, "It's the old Steve. But with purpose." I liked that.
Marty also said the one thing he liked was that I don't seem to be desperate anymore. When I was sick a few months ago and going downhill, he could tell that I was feeling desperate in my attempts to get The Last Session up and running. He could tell that I was considering it the very last thing that I would do, a testament. Now he sees me planning new musicals, new ideas, making personal appearances, trying to expand and expand. He said I have the same drive, but it's not just about the show anymore. And all the desperation is gone.
All the desperation is gone.
He also said he was greatly relieved to see that I don't need the desperation to accomplish and to succeed. It might have been a great motivater, but it's not the only motivater.
I spent a good deal of the rest of the day working on the vocal arrangments for Heaven Bound Sound 8 and the totally a cappella version of The Preacher and the Nurse. Tonight, our friend Chris came over and we talked and had fun. Jimmy cooked up fried chicken breasts, mashed potatoes and broccoli (I can eat broccoli again!).
Finally, I went to sleep on the couch, Jimmy woke me up to take my Crixivan at 11, and I stumbled off to bed.
Friday, September 13, 1996
Random Meanderings.The thing that I've been convinced of since this whole enterprise started was the that songs in this show will sell the show. I'm not saying I'm a great songwriter or anything, but I can see how these songs affect people. They're very honest and emotional and kinda funny. And sometimes I get the rhymes exactly right! The big thing for me is prosody. I do prosody good. And nouns. Lots of nouns.
So I have to figure out how to get the music out to the people. I do have a demo tape -- someday to be a collectors item no doubt -- of me doing the songs live in the studio at the piano when they were young and fresh. They're fun as a curiosity but they are not professional enough for radio. And they have little mistakes and stuff.
That's why I've been having so much fun with the more professional sounding tapes from the session last week with Lynn. Two songs -- and I play them constantly while driving in the car. Yesterday I drove up Ventura Blvd., a tourist-friendly area with lots of stores. Very city-like atmosphere down around Sherman Oaks. I was on my way to Skunk Baxter's house. I don't mean to be dropping names here (if you know who he is) but I wasn't actually going to see him. I was meeting his secretary, Mandi, with an ad for the Beach Show. And it was so fun to just listen to the music and watch the traffic. Then I got an idea!
How about we do an EP of songs from The Last Session as a dance record that can be played in dance clubs? Some of you may remember when Evita came out, they released a dance mix album that made "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" very famous worldwide. It made everyone aware of the show. Unfortunately, it is very expensive to record a professional sounding record. For instance, the tape I did last week with the four musicians: we did it as quickly as was humanly possible.
Two songs, rough mix, bare-bones production, made as quickly as possible and the tab was still $500. See what I mean? So I'm scrounging up bucks here and there and trying to get free stuff from people, like studio time and musicianship. But, hey, that's how I've done everything connected with this show so far, so I'm used to it.
(This relates a little to an entry in the guestbook, by the way -- I am not doing a "pitch" for money. My response to her note, which is also on the guestbook, will tell all.) Believe me when I tell you that I am a most resourceful human being and I have been able to accomplish every goal I have set for myself, money or no money. And isn't it more fun to be able to watch someone do for himself? I think so.
I love the fact that I've met such incredible people through this medium -- the net -- and the way we affect each other's lives. Sometimes it's just a couple of e-mails and sometimes it's a phone call. I spent about an hour on the phone this evening with a young kid named Sean (who I call "old man.") Sean I've discussed here before, but he is 20 years old and has had AIDS since he was 11. He's a hemophiliac. We met through this page and we were talking about some decisions he is in the process of making.
(Speaking of meeting people, Lucille Ball was probably the most famous person I actually got to just hang out with. Somewhere Jimmy and I have a video of the two of us escorting Lucy to a benefit concert that her daughter, Lucy Arnaz, was singing at. If you want to know more, please ask. I'll tell you the whole story.)
Tonight Jimmy went out and played poker and I just sat around playing with the computer. It was great fun. Health is still the best I ever remember even though now I need to start exercising to get rid of my new Crixivan gut. (It's not that big, but you know how vain I am...). Still, most people are glad to see me with some meat on my bones after the way I looked earlier this year.
Saturday & Sunday, September 14 & 15, 1996
Jimmy Takes A Bow. A Disturbing Letter.On Sunday afternoon, Jimmy got to be the "guest Wiley Post" at the Alex Theatre's production of "The Will Rogers Follies." Wiley Post is the pilot that flew Will Rogers in his plane on his fateful, deadly trip to Alaska. In the show, which is done like a revue, Wiley sits in the audience wearing an eyepatch and every once in a while, stands and says, "Let's go flying, Will!" I took the camera, so if the pics develop well, I'll post them on his home page. The main reason he agreed to do it was because he got to come out on stage at the end and take a great big bow. He's such a ham -- like I should talk.
Saturday night, some friends took us out to a very fancy restaurant (isn't that funny? I was just talking about taking a PWA out to dinner) where the Italian waiter was aghast that I ordered some lamb well done -- I'm not a big meat eater, but those of us with bad immune systems are forced to have any meat we do eat cooked as thoroughly as possible. He just was appalled. When the lamb arrived, it was pink on the inside so I sent it back for more cooking. I wonder if he slept that night thinking of that beautiful lamb all overcooked. Ah, the things a waiter must endure...
This weekend, I felt a bit lost. I've now stacked a lot of things on my plate, to continue the dinner metaphor. There's the book I need to finish editing, the concert on the pier and rehearsals for that, the appearance in Virginia, and most importantly of all, the showcase in New York. I suddenly realized I am going from not having played or sang in 5 years to performing my own musical in front of the most important theatrical producers, agents, directors, etc. in the world. Is that cheeky or what?
My focus this week has to be on Public Relations and rehearsals for October 1 since we're about two weeks away. I got a nice mention in the local music rag here, The Music Connection. They gave me two paragraphs in their "SongWorks" column despite telling me they weren't going to do any such thing. It's a very nice article. I'm also thinking about the NY press. It would be very nice to get something written about me in the Village Voice. So, I working on that, too. Well, I have some names and some addresses. I haven't sent them anything yet because I'm not sure what to write. It'll come.
I also got a devastating e-mail from James, an 18 year old reader here. He told me his whole story about how much his father railed at him after learning he was gay. He described a two hour session of screaming with the father telling him he was going to hell, and... well, he gave me permission to reprint what he wrote me. Up to this point, he had been hiding his secret:Well.. a year and a half passed, and all that time I had been building up trust in my parents.. for that big day when I would finally come out and tell them about their son, tell them about me. I told my mom first... she gave me the disgusted look, then started to tear my life apart piece by peice with insults and other verbal abuse. Before i could tell my father (who is by the way 100% afraid of us), she went and told him. So, the next day, I sat through 2 straight hours of him yelling and telling me how what I'm doing is wrong, and that I'm going straight to hell for it. So, ya could say that it wasn't the best time in my life... actually, to me, it was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life.This is another one of those moments where I just lost my breath and tried to think of something to say. I thanked him for not killing himself and told him that the lead character in our musical is also suicidal. It takes a lot of courage to not pull that trigger. I've been having a discussion in the Christian newsgroups about this subject. I won't go into it here, since my opinion is elsewhere in this diary, but it's terrible what we do to young gay people in this society. So few places they have to go for answers -- especially when they live in a small town.
After that experience, I was destroyed, hurting, on the verge of life and death. My dad has a few guns in his bed room under the bed, so about 1 and a half weeks after I told them, I found myself sitting on their bed, bullets in one hand, and a gun in the other, with tears rolling down my face. Heck, it would have been fast, it would have been easy, I'd show them, they'd be sorry... but I don't know what stopped me from going through with it. But to make a long story short, I never pulled the trigger.
I never told them about that night, it was the second time I had ever tried to end it all, the first time I failed, and the second time I just didn't go through with it. Well.. after telling them, they never treated me the same again. I still get verbally bashed by my father, but my mother just doesn't show me the love she used to before she found out. My father feels he has the right to be mad at me, since I'm the only male left in our family line to carry on the family name, and frankly.. I just don't want kids.
So, this weekend was eventful in a way. Getting a note like that just set me back on one of the reasons I find our show so vital. Don Kirkpatrick, another reader I've mentioned (who flew here to see the show and who's backing our showcase in New York) said he was supporting this show because he felt the message about Christian behavior and love, and about how the Christian community has completely missed the boat in ministering to gay people, has got to get out and be heard. These are two camps of people who never speak to each other. One calls the other a sinful bunch of demons going to hell while the other accuses the first of being nazis and bigots.
It makes me sick. Especially when I read the kind of e-mail I get from young people like the one quoted above. Good friends, there is a cultural war going on in this country and as long as both of these sides refuse to speak to the other, and frankly, as long as the Christian community continues to treat outsiders with disdain and self-righteousness, it will not end. One of my goals in life is to end this war. Now, should I add that to my list of "things to do?"
What a list! Get bread, make breakfast, end the cultural war, get the laundry...
Monday, September 16, 1996
Birthday Bash Planned.You people make me very proud. After I published James' letter yesterday on this site, I had three instantaneous e-mails from people wanting to know how they could help him. I sent him the notes or info from each of you. It's great to know that we still care about each other. What's cool was that one note was from Washington, one from New Hampshire and one from Texas. Cool! I had no real idea that setting up this page would pay off in these kinds of dividends -- that I would meet the greatest people all over the world.
Today was fun. I mostly ran around taking care of errands; making copies of the flier for the show on October 1st. We've decided to make it a birthday party for yours truly since my birthday is on the 4th. I'm calling this my third birthday in the Bonus Round since it's been 3 1/2 years since I nearly died of pneumonia. I wish I had t-shirts for everyone who comes that say "Living in the Bonus Round!" or "At Least I Know What's Killing Me" on them. I've always given away gifts at my gigs.
Tonight I went to Luna Park in West Hollywood to BODS (Bunch o' Damn Songwriters). They asked me to do two songs, so I did my new one called "One New Hell," which is based on the essay Billy Valentine sent me a few weeks back. I also did Connected. It was great to sing in front of an audience again. I have mentioned that I am the world's biggest ham with an enormous ego, haven't I? Well, it's true. Jimmy says I'm not a ham because hams can be cured.
I do want to tell you all that I enjoy your notes to me and your entries in the guestbook enormously! This is how I find out if you are enjoying this thing or not. Please don't hesitate to write me anytime you just want an ear or a shoulder -- or want to complain.
Today they announced a new protease inhibitor called Viracept. This will be the fourth one, and until it's approved, they're offering for free to people with AIDS. I'm currently doing Crixivan and Saquinavir. Eventually, the virus will mutate and the drugs will become ineffective. It's nice to know another one will be waiting for me then. Nothing I love more than new pills. Also today, Music Connection Magazine did two paragraphs on my upcoming show and mentioned the fact that I nearly died a few months ago until we intervened. They loved the fact that I went straight from the IV to the stage and back to the IV every day. I didn't think much about it then, but I suppose if you've never been hooked up to an IV for 14 hours a day, it must seem like something!
Also, many of you have been curious about how the music sounds. As you've been reading, I've been working on trying to get at least a few of the songs recorded professionally so you can have them to listen to. I promise I'll keep plugging away and you'll be the first to know when tapes become available.
Tuesday, September 17, 1996
Down at the Pier. Dinner with KC.Tonight I went down to the Santa Monica pier to Rusty's Surf Ranch to place some fliers for our gig and to see Hal Cohen, who hosts The Acoustic Edge, the show that's sponsoring our concert. I had a great talk with Matt Kramer, who books the talent there on a regular basis. People have still not "vibed in" on the fact that the pier has become a nightspot. For years it was in a state of disrepair, but now it's been remodeled and refurbished complete with rides and fair. There are several clubs with live music, including the Ash Grove, which, like the Troubadour, was home to many legendary L.A. acts back in the late 60s, early 70s. He said it's a struggle to get people to come back and see what's happening down on the pier. He also said that Cirque de Soleil, the fantastic acrobatic circus which has always pitched its tent out near the pier will be running when we're on, so we're going to have the benfit of lots of foot traffic the night of our show.
Matt and I talked about the acoustic music scene. He, like I, has been "out" of the music biz for a few years. He used to book lots of the clubs in L.A. with songwriter-based artists -- mostly acoustic. He told me how difficult it is to get the music industry to pay attention to this very pure music (as opposed to hopping onto the latest trend). I told him this new acoustic scene is still finding its voice and that soon the whole industry will be signing every act that ever picked up an acoustic guitar. I told him I and my music will just have to lead the way if no one else will do it!
The Pacific Ocean air down on the pier had a slight chill -- I was dressed in my jeans and leather motorcycle jacket -- and was only a bit damp. It felt wonderful after the very hot days we've been having in the valley; a very beautiful night. As we stood outside the club and watched the few people walk by; some joggers, some homeless, a few couples and some teens looking for a party, I reviewed for him the incredible year I've had -- almost losing my life and then starring in a triumphant production of our musical. It felt great to once again taste the joy of being alive and feeling strong. This time of the day last year I'd have been fast asleep. This time of the day two years ago, I'd have been fast asleep since 4pm. This time of the day three years ago, I could barely walk. In fact, I think I was in County UCLA hospital getting three shots a day in my stomach and watching a man die in the next bed.
I went back into Rusty's Surf Ranch (I still laugh at the name of this place) with its surf boards mounted on the walls and tall ceiling with the words "Good Eats" written in neon. I looked over at a sample of a Baywatch swimming suit mounted behind glass like an original piece of the constitution, and listened to the young man standing there playing his songs with is guitar. To my left was a group of German tourists who talked through the songs but applauded. To my delight I saw my old friend, actor Ronnie Cox. He was there because the "kid" on the stage was his son. I told him all about my gig there and he told me he'd be in Canada doing a movie but (after his son finished his set) "ordered" the boy to attend.
On the drive home, I turned the radio up and listened to the new recordings, totally blissing out on myself and on Ginger Freer's singing. She sings my songs just about better than anyone, myself included.
Earlier today I was running like mad. First to Bob-A-Lew Publishing to return some microphones. Then to a copy store to print up fliers and mailers for the show on October 1st. Then I drove over the hill to APLA to visit Paul Serchia, the Editor of their monthly newsletter, Positive Living, and to see the ever-lovely Leslie Glick to give her some of the fliers and tell her about the reading in New York.
It was getting to be 12:30 p.m., so I went to eat before it was too late (drug schedule says eat before 1 p.m. at the very latest). I gobbled down some tacos at Pollo Loco and raced down to Redondo Beach to practice with David Robyn and his band -- the songs are sounding very, very nice now that they know them a little better. After that, Kathleen Capper and I went to dinner at another Mexican restaurant -- I guess I'm on a Mexican food kick these days.
I told her that sometimes I worry that David thinks too highly of my opinion about songs. What if I'm leading him totally in the wrong direction? She said that all I have done is to get him to open his heart and to tell the truth in his music. She said there's no way that can be a wrong thing. Still, who knows what makes record companies sit up and take notice? We both agreed that he is the hardest working, most focused musician we have ever known. She also said he was the kindest person she knows and that he would sacrifice all for a friend in need.
I have gotten even more notes from readers wanting to make sure their notes get to James, whose story I told a few days ago -- he was the one who almost committed suicide after his father reamed him out over being gay. Thanks so much. I know your concern and your love will mean a lot to him. I worry about young gay kids. There are more stories about suicides and self-destructive behavior due to the intolerance of family and church than any of us actually realize because it is so hushed up. Until the kids themselves tell us about it, it doesn't get told. I think back at how scared and "dirty" I felt as a teenager until I could get into a healthy relationship with people who cared and who knew what I was feeling.
I've been having a very strong debate on the one of the Christian newsgroups (again) with a young man who seems to be very sincere but is absolutely dead set on believing the old interpretations of the Bible which condemn gay people. I think (and hope) that one day we'll look back and realize how barbaric this is -- just as we now look back and remember how the Bible was used to defend slavery. He said he didn't mind that someone was gay as long as they didn't get intimate with each other. I said that's like saying you don't mind African Americans as long as they aren't black.
But back to Kathleen Capper. We sat in my car and I played her the new version of Connected. She told me she thought it was something very special and she encouraged me to continue dreaming about my "group," Civilization. I told her how frustrating it was to feel like I was onto something and to watch others kind of shrug or "not see it." She reminded me that since the recording is not "all there" yet, I'm thinking with my "what it will sound like when it's finished" brain. Most people cannot listen for "what's not there." (Those weren't her exact words but it was something like that). She also said creative people always think five or six steps ahead of the game and are always pulling others behind them. It's just the way things happen. I thought back on what Tim Goodwin told me, that The Last Session has happened in record time because of my energy and will to make it happen. Think about it; this time last year I had only begun writing the very first song for the show, and in eight weeks we will be debuting the entire musical in New York. I don't think any show has happened this fast. Ever.
Fast. For me, it feels like we're swimming in mud with weights attached to our ankles but I suppose she is right. She also said she'd check up on prices for getting t-shirts printed up (the "Living in the Bonus Round" t-shirts I want to give away at my birthday bash at the Santa Monica pier).
All in all it was a great day (the only kind of day I will permit to happen here in the second bonus round). Every single day is precious and my body seems to be getting stronger and stronger. Weight-wise, I seem to be holding onto and hovering around 165. I've been there for about two weeks, I think, so maybe this is the weight I'm going to stay at. I still eat like a pig and constantly try to gain more, but it seems to want to stay at this level. I'm not complaining. It's almost 30 pounds over what I was in April. I think I'm doing just fine.
Wednesday, September 18, 1996
Meeting Up With An Old Friend. Saving A Life.I didn't sleep that well last night. My upper back was hurting a bit and I woke up too early. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't. Then I heard this quick staccato "meow meow meow." Sounded like Thurber the Cat when he's caught outside. Sure enough, he'd been left outside on the balcony all night long. Luckily, the weather is very mild, and he gave me such a tongue lashing when I let him in! I gave him some food and held him and stroked him (and apologized to him).
It was barely 5 a.m. but I was up so I worked on the computer a bit and waited for Jim to arise. I felt achy all day long and later this everning I fell asleep on the couch. Jim woke me about 8:30 so I could take my meds and that's when I felt awful. My head was pounding and stomach felt nauseous and I couldn't go back to sleep. By the time I took my 11:00 meds, I felt like I was going to throw up and I was in pain (upper back and neck again) lying there in bed. Finally, I searched the medicine cabinet and found an old Tylenol 4 with codeine, which I used to take for diarrhea, and it helped me finally drop off. And all of this was because I just couldn't sleep last night and because I have to take medications five times a day, which prevents me from ever having a long, long nap.
However, the day wasn't all bad. I felt better this morning after eating breakfast, so I went to the office and spoke with Ronda about putting together a five-song cassette that we could sell. I've been getting a few requests lately and I told her that with the new tracks I cut two weeks ago and some that were done a few months ago, I felt like we might, with some clean-up and mixing, have something "sale-worthy." Some of you reading this have more or less hinted that you might like some of the music, but you also know that I've been endlessly bemoaning the fact that the demos we have had are not professional enough to give out as a representation of the show. Well, we might now have at least a good sample. If you are interested in obtaining a five-song cassette, send me a note and I'll show the requests to Ronda. It will definitely help move us in that direction. She seemed to like the idea very much. It's just, as I've endlessly mentioned before, a bit expensive to do this.
I also got to spend the afternoon with one of my favorite L.A. songwriter singers, Michael Kline of Michael Kline & The Gypsys. They don't have a big record deal but he released a custom CD and went on a tour of the U.S. to support it getting a lot of airplay and a special award from ASCAP for his efforts. His sound is very clean and joyful, very L.A. with Eagles-ish harmonies and stuff. He's also a very good songwriter. I met him at his house with his one year old son, Austin, and we had a great time reminiscing (and playing with the baby). When I played him songs from my show, he was just blown away and said if I decide to put together a compilation album of artist in L.A. singing songs -- another PR idea I've been floating -- from The Last Session, he would love to do it. He even mentioned he might be able to secure some free studio time for the project. Imagine how that tickled my ears! (When I told Jimmy this, he laughed and said, "Your three favorite word: Free Studio Time.")
I also got an e-mail today from a man with AIDS I met on the internet. A couple of months ago, he was dying of wasting, like I was. When I wrote about the IV nutrition therapy I was on, he became interested but was afraid of it because he didn't know anyone on it and thought it might be painful or too difficult to maintain. Well, after reading how I adapted to it so easily, he finally decided to try it. The mail today said that he had fully recovered and had gained a lot of weight. He said his doctor had previously expressed doubts that he would last past 1996. But that now with this miraculous turn-around, he and his loved one were actually doing some long-term planning, including traveling abroad. He thanked me for helping him get over his fears and said he was grateful to me for the information I had supplied. He said I helped save his life.
Could I have actually helped save a life? Who knows? Chances are he would have tried the procedure anyway, but with wasting, if you wait too long or let your body get too depleted, there is a point of no return. Most people with AIDS who die, die because their bodies have gotten too thin to fight off disease and infection. At the very least, I know that I helped him make the choice early enough to make a difference. No news ever delivered to me about anything has meant more to me that that one note. I have learned the value of life, and to think I might have had a part in helping someone keep theirs, is the highest compliment of all.
We sometimes lose sight of how important every single life is because so many PWAs are simply statistics -- or, as some would see it, a dead faggot is a dead faggot. But I can look around me and see what the impact would be if I were to lose Jim. My whole world would collapse and I would be forced to start over again alone, something I'm not sure I could bear. In my "debate" with the fundamentalist on the the usenet group last week, he made the statement that he did not believe a gay person could actually have a "healthy" relationship. I told him Jimmy and I had been together 12 years, longer than any of my hetero brothers or cousins or friends my age. Earlier, this guy had gone out of his way to say that he did not "hate" gays. But isn't this subtle bigotry even worse? It makes the words to my song, At Least I Know What's Killing Me so vivid. It's much easier to spot a loud bigot wearing a hood, and it's easier to look him in the eye and know that he is wrong. But this quiet "I don't hate you but you're not a really person because you can't love like I can love" shit is a phantom demon unknown to the person who is possessed by such evil.
And I'll tell you something else. I know gay people who have just as much malice toward straight people and who think all straight people are not worth the clay their bodies are made up of. I might understand where their anger comes from, but they are just as bad as the fellow I mentioned in the paragraph above. Some of the more radical gays felt we were too soft on the character of "Buddy" in our musical. They wanted us to rake him over the coals for his bigotry. But The Last Session is not about retribution or casting judgment. It's about examining how BOTH sides have their own kinds of judgmentalism and that BOTH sides are wrong if they can't see each other as human beings.
But to get back to what I was saying earlier, a life is not just about that one life. We're all Connected to each other and until we realize how precious life is, until we really reach down into our souls and care about other human beings -- straight and gay , then our society will continue to lumber along like a cripple with rocks in both shoes.
Sorry for the sermon. I know wiser people have stated this much more articulately than I have, but this is a message that is too easily forgotten and it's one I have to keep reminding myself about. Thanks for your patience. Thanks for your love.
Thursday, September 19, 1996
A Birthday Party. New Readers in Battle Creek.I woke up feeling much better this morning. I got some good sleep and I remembered to let Thurber the Cat in for the night.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that my brother, Scott, in Lubbock, Texas thinks you should all donate to his education (This is a reference to someone who wanted to help raise money for our show). He's trying to become a lawyer. I just feel reticent about helping someone become something he's going to be ashamed of. Maybe he could just tell his kids he plays piano in a whorehouse or something. That way they won't be embarrassed when they go to school and the teacher asks what their father does for a living. :)
I got another wonderful e-mail today from a guy named "Vanyel." Here's what he wrote:I just wanted to send you a quick note to let you know how much I appreciate your on-line diary. As a gay man who has lost a lot of friends to AIDS, it is touching to see how you deal with the disease process on a daily basis. My best friend tested HIV positive 2 years ago, and I thought at that time, my life would end right along with his. The anger that I felt was a driving force for me, and I found a way to fight back. I founded the first HIV/AIDS service agency in Battle Creek, Michigan. It is called A Friend's House and is just now actually starting to get to a point where we can actually provide some services. We are doing educational stuff in our little red-neck/blue-collar town. I am also the moderator of the gay/lesbian area of our local "Free-Net", and (I hope you don't mind!), I have created a sub-conference called "AIDS Diary", in which I am putting your daily postings. I have had a lot of positive feedback so far (has only been on-line for 3 days!), and I am hoping you will hear some of the same feed-back from our readers.Well, I hope he doesn't mind that I put his letter here. My favorite cereal come from Battle Creek so I feel very honored.
Thanks for the response regarding ordering cassette tapes of The Last Session. Please don't send money or anything until we know we have a tape and I am sure it's "listenable." Just having your requests for copies is enough for now.
Today was quiet, mostly. Tonight I went to a birthday party down in Santa Monica at my sometimes songwriting partner, Christine's. She and Pat have a beautiful house and they had friend who barbequed for them. (I wish our friends would do all the work when they come over here!) I met up with some of my old friends who were amazed at how good I looked. One of the told me the when she hadn't heard from me in a awhile, she had been afraid to call because she didn't want to hear bad news (just in case I was either really sick or dead). It is really fun to be able to give people good news.
I also met up with my friend, Toni, a woman who also has AIDS. We were both marveling at how much the Crixivan has saved our lives. She lost her husband to AIDS a few years ago and has become a living bolt of energy who inspires everyone she meets. We both laughed at how much people call us "brave" or "heroic." We decided we like it, but we also acknowledged that there are so many people in this world who have it so much worse than we do. (But we still like all the attention.)
I also got to meet an actor I've admired for years. Jimmy is having a reading this Saturday of one of his most performed plays, The Lucky O'Learys. He has noted character actors Kathleen Freeman (recently starred as the mob mother in Police Squad 3 & Darlene Conley (who plays a loud buxom woman in The Bold and the Beautiful in the lead roles. The actor I got to meet was William Schallert who starred as the father on The Patty Duke Show, among other things. I delivered his script to him on the way to the birthday party.
(The reading will be at the Zephyr Theatre on Saturday morning at 10:30 and if you are in the L.A. area and want to come, just show up or call 818-760-7760 for more information.)
So, all is well. Thanks again for the great e-mails I've been getting. I do love the correspondence and a welcome to all the new readers online in Battle Creek.
Friday, September 20, 1996
A Huge Disappoinment. A Deal Is Set.[I had a huge disappointment today. The place that hosts my guestbook lost all my guestbook entries. I can't tell you how much that breaks my heart. I learned a lot from those entries (and also from your e-mails) and they also help new visitors to understand the content of this site. Now I'm going to beg all of you to go back and write on it again -- not that you have to, of course, but it would mean a great deal to me if you would. Thanks.]
However, the good news is I had a great meeting with Barry Fasman today. Barry is an award-winning record producer. He had helped me earlier this year by giving me free studio time and a free orchestral arrangement of Going It Alone when I was still begging all my friends for help compiling the demos for the show. I'm proud to say that a friend (Rob Momper) has donated some money to help us get the recording off the ground, and Barry has once again offered to help me finish the entire recording for a single lump sum which we can afford. It means I won't have to run around trying to piecemeal this thing together. Thanks, Barry. And thanks, Rob, for the financial help.
It means all of you who want one will get a quality CD -- Kim (one half of my management) says we can actually manufacture CDs for less money than cassettes.
Barry said he was making the deal with me because he really wanted to support The Last Session. But also, he loved the idea of the group, Civilization, which I have mentioned here before. He would like to be in on the ground floor of that project and this is his way of doing so. (I'm really excited! This is how dreams come true.) He said if we get a good tape, he would help shop the tape to labels for consideration.
Also today, I had another great talk today with Ronda (the other half of my management). It happened after I mentioned to her that Nancy Gibbs, the new General Manager of The Last Session (our show going to New York), told Carl the Producer that she is working on our show mainly because she believed in the message of the show. She felt the world needed to hear this show and the things it has to say. Ronda just wanted to remind me that as I try and try to bring commercial sounds and access to our show, that I shouldn't forget that everyone involved is involved because they love this show, they love the way in which I brought my whole life into it, and that it is truly a labor of love on everyone's part. She said in her entire life, she has never seen anything come to life like this project and she said if anything in the world could be called blessed, this show was blessed. She went on to say she wasn't trying to imply that I had lost sight of this fact, but she wanted to make sure I knew that no one was doing it just for the money; that were doing it as a labor of love. (Never in history has a music publisher ever uttered these words, by the way.)
I know it was a labor of love for me to write it, and I know how incredible the response has been from people; but to continue to hear this really moves me and touches my heart. I told Ronda that while all this may be true, I just feel like the best way to honor the show and its message is to get the music out to as many people as possible. That's why I've been fighting hard to find new ways to play the songs, new ways to arrange them. This is why I am doing the rock show at the pier on the first and going to Virginia in November. I want everyone to hear this music. It's honest. It's real stuff in a music industry full of phoneys, fakes, drug addicts, and negative crap.
Barry and I talked about the music. He mentioned how the lyrics are not pie in the sky happy stuff. The lyrics are gritty and dark and full of reality. But there is a light at the end of each one. They don't just describe the darkness, they show you how to endure the darkness. And counterbalanced with the very bright and melodic music I've written for them, which you will hear very soon, it's something quite out of the ordinary.
You know, the Beatles were great at doing this. They would write a dark lyric (like "Hard Days Night") and then put a very happy melody to it. It provides irony and depth. And isn't that the best way to deal with troubles? Face them head-on but with a good attitude that belies the heaviness?
I have tried to emphasize that AIDS might be bad, but everyone has stuff to deal with and as far as I'm concerned, it's all equal. You folks who have read this diary from the days when I was really, really sick -- you felt what I felt because all our feelings are the same. You could relate to things you did not experience because we share the same emotions of dread, heartbreak and fear.
Last April when I looked in the mirror and saw that skeleton looking back at me -- when I spent endless hours with diarrhea, nausea and vomiting -- was my pain any deeper than a child who loses his favorite toy? Is his cry not blood curdling and real? As we grow we put this pain into perspective, but we have all felt it. I do not consider what I've been through any worse than what any of you have been through. Living with AIDS may be more intense at times, but as in my song At Least I Know What's Killing Me, the point I make is that "the devil you know" can sometimes be easier to face than a devil which you cannot identify. At least I knew what was killing me and I finally found a way out of that particular corner by identifying the enemy and attacking it head-on. Not everyone has the luxury of finding the enemy.
A good way to illustrate this is, I've gotten several e-mails from readers who are, or who have loved ones who are, dealing with depression. What they describe is a nightmare I cannot even begin to imagine because the origin is cloudy and the symptems creep up without warning; and the cure? What cure? How do you shoot such a moving target that is so insidious? I've had my days where I scream and pout and whine and complain, but all it takes to move out of that silliness is the realization that no matter how bad I might feel, there will always be someone dealing with things much worse than I have to deal with. This is how we maintain sanity and perspective: by feeling compassion and love for those who have to cope with nightmare realities we cannot even begin to imagine.
Just before I went to bed tonight, I got a phone call from someone at APLA. They asked me if I'd appear on KROQ radio here in Los Angeles on a radio talk show to talk about myself and about APLA. They said I could promote my show on the pier, too! So, Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. -- a time when all the rock and rollers are wide awake and wanting to listen to show about AIDS, no doubt -- I shall be on rock and roll radio talking about my favorite subject. Me.
Saturday, September 21, 1996
Steve The Hero! The Play Is Saved.Jimmy kept saying all week, "I don't know why we're doing this!"
The "this" was a reading of his play, The Lucky O'Learys, which is a very cute comedy he wrote a few years ago set in Brookyn, New York, about two Irish old lady sisters in a constant battle for oneupsmanship on each other. It's very cute and this past week, Jimmy and our friend, Anthony Barnao, who did casting for The Last Session -- and who was to direct this reading, have been pulling their hair out, trying to pull it together. The reading was set some time ago, but everything was kind of left until the last minute because Jimmy's mind is really on The Last Session. (I told you about delivering a script to William Schallert on Thursday night.)
Jimmy and I were a half hour away from the time the cast was to meet when suddenly Jimmy realized that he had sent them all the wrong version of the script! It was not the latest rewrite. Well, he looked like he was going to commit suicide, so I told him to calm down. Los Angeles is the Land of 24 Hour Copy Stores, so I told him to take the good car, and I'd take the junk car and make copies while he stalled the cast.
He took off for the theatre and I raced up to Kinko's in Studio City. I couldn't believe there was a line at 9:30 on a Saturday morning. Luckily, I was calm and collected, and I waited patiently. I threw the script down on the counter and told they guy I needed eight copies for a reading that was to begin in half an hour on the other side of the hill. He calmly took the script and wrote up the order. (I paced like the house was on fire and I was waiting on the next available fire hose!)
I flew over the hill to Hollywood and made it just in time -- Jimmy and Anthony and the others were pacing out in front of the theatre. The cast did a superb job but since it was their first time to lay eyes on these words and the first time to say these words, it was not the best reading in the world.
Didn't matter. Gary Guidinger called afterward and said he and Linda (Toliver) wanted to produce if for the Christmas season at the Zephyr, which is becoming our home away from home, I guess.
Jimmy and I remarked that if we had planned on doing this wrong in every possible way , we couldn't have screwed this up any worse than we did -- casting at the last minute, handing out the wrong scripts, no readthrough beforehand, no invitations to the reading, etc. And it's going to be produced anyway! Who'd a thunk it?
Then Anthony came over and we played Mexican Train (our favorite domino game). I went to bed early so I could get up early for the interview at KROQ tomorrow morning.
Sunday, September 22, 1996
KROQ, Pizza, 3rd Rock, Vids.Got up really early to make the radio show at KROQ. Printed out bio stuff and flier for the show on the pier. Found another guy waiting outside the building. It was locked. A young girl came down and let us in eventually. The building in Burbank is one I've been in before. Famous Music used to be there and Jim Latham used to take me to the restaurant in that building back in my hideously broke days when he had a job and I -- hmm -- I worked at National Academy of Songwriters. (They didn't pay me very well.)
It's a very sleek, modern building, all green marble and shiny floors. So, stepping into the radio officeswas like going into an alternate universe. The walls were covered with bumper stickers and rock band posters and JUNK! I gave my stuff to the girl who took it into Doc Somethingorother's studio where he was already on the air.
The interview went pretty well. We talked about AIDS and about the AIDS WALK that APLA has scheduled for next Sunday. Then they got a couple of loonies on the line. One was a woman who was so afraid of AIDS that when her friend got it, she stopped talking to her. "I know it's okay and I really want to see her and hug her, but what if she sneezes or something?"
Are people really that ignorant (I started to write "stupid" but they're not stupid, just uninformed)? It just floors me that there is so much ignorance out there. As she babbled on and on about her fears, I just kept saying, "Hug her." She'd ramble on. I'd interject, "Hug her." I guess I was in a bad mood or something, but it just pissed me off for some reason. I know it shouldn't but can people really be so, so very ignorant? Or, rather, have we failed to communicate to the wider population that there is nothing to be afraid of? My friends, male and female, kiss me on the lips (Platonicly) more often than not -- if they're the "lip-kissing" kind, that is. I guess I'm just used to people knowing that it's no big deal.
I didn't plug the show on the pier, by the way. Didn't seem appropriate since the show was not about me, but I did manage to say something about this website.
What if she sneezes or something. Sheesh.
Is there anyone reading this who has these fears? If so, please forgive me for my rudeness. I want you to write me immediately and feel free to ask me absolutely anything at all. I promise I won't make fun of you or think less of you. There's only one time to learn and that's right now. I welcome anyone who wants to learn. Please. Do it.
Spent the afternoon with Producer/Composer Jim Latham catching up on our friendship and listening to music. Jim and I met when both of us were newbies in L.A. He was begging for work at Theta Sounds Studios while I was the volunteer receptionist at National Academy of Songwriters. Now he composes music for television and has a very gorgeous house and car. I, of course, have become the toast of the literati with a book, a website, and a musical on its way to Broadway. (In other words, he knew me when I was a nuthin, and I knew him when he was a nuthin, and even though there are plenty who would still think we are nuthin, we're a lot less nuthin than we were seven years ago.) You always need to be in contact with people who "knew you when." We knew each other "when."
I played him the recordings I've been making and told him about my concept for the group, Civilization. He played me some music he's been producing for some artists here in Los Angeles. He kinda considers writing for TV his "day job," as opposed to his "final destination." It's just that it's more fun that working at Burger King. He even has two, count them, two assistants. Wish I had an assistant -- except I'm such a control freak, I'd never give them anything to do!
This evening Jimmy and I did one of our favorite things: We ordered pizza and waited for our favorite show, 3rd Rock From the Sun, to come on. This week the "evil Dick" story reached its conclusion. Before that happened, though, NBC had stories on the Pope and Lucy (two of Jim's favorite subjects, seeing as how he grew up Catholic and wrote a book about Lucille Ball). Apparently, the Pope and Reagan together brought down communism by passing secret information between them to the Polish underground.
Then 3rd Rock came on. Then we watched shows Jim had taped for us: Roseanne & Murphy Brown. I went to sleep on the couch early. Jimmy woke me up at 11 for my Crixivan and I stumbled off to bed. Ah, the life of a rock star.
[Some of you have noticed that I've done a little cleaning up of this site. It's just that it felt like it was getting out of control. I don't have the proper time to really "design," so it's probably more honest to say I "maintain" these home pages -- and Jimmy never touches his! I basically just keep adding stuff until I get overwhelmed and then try to reorganize in some way. Also, I was invited to join a "webring." It's on the first page of this site at the bottom, and when it's fully linked up, it will take you to other people's diaries online, in case you like reading about other people's lives. I feel kind of honored to have been asked.]
Monday, September 23, 1996
Steve Goes Mad.I'm trying to "name" how I feel today. Maybe I'm tired. Maybe I'm lost. Maybe I'm just in a transition. All weekend I've been thinking about change and about how much has changed in my life in the last six months. Honestly. I've gone from absolutely unknown to suddenly "respected." (What a laugh!) Six months ago, I never even heard the term, "html." Now I'm on the net with over 10,000 hits and we've turned part of it into a book. Six months ago, The Last Session was just a dream. Now it's soon to debut in New York.
Six months ago, I was dying and I was so sick, I could barely maintain my own sanity. Today... well, today it's like God touched me and gave me a new chance at a new life.
(I also feel bad because I've been on the newsgroups and I got mad in one of the exchanges with some guy who's a big Bible-thumping homophobe. I let it all get out of hand until we sounded like two idiots. How do I let this happen? I think the letter I got from the James last week, the teenager who nearly committed suicide because of "Christian homophobia," must have really gotten under my skin. Still, it's no excuse, because all I've done is add to the noise and the confusion.)
I was down at National Academy of Songwriters using their computer trying to design a poster for my appearance in Viriginia. I was using words like "Author, Composer," etc. You know, very la di da, and I was feeling so "cultural." I called Jimmy at home. told him I was calling myself a "Author, Composer" and the first thing he said was, "Why don't you just tell them you're Steve Allen?" Then he said I sounded pretentious.
I tried to laugh, but it felt like he was just making fun of me and not trying to help me at all. I told him this was serious. I said, "Look, I'm the guest of the International English Honor Society, for god's sake. They don't know me and I have to tell them who I am in this poster! I have a book. I have a musical. What else is there to call myself?" He questioned whether my diary could actually be called a book. He said, "A book is something you set out to write. You don't just... suddenly have a book! I mean, you could be called a diarist like Samuel Pepys, I suppose." I retorted, "Oh, and none of his diaries are books?" (I got what he was trying to say, but it was just making me angry. Now he was attacking my "Art," for christsake.)
"Well, I suppose you could..." He stopped for a moment. "You're just Steve!" he said. "Author/composer sounds so [and here came that word again] pretentious!"
I said back to him, "Oh, that'll make a great poster. Appearing tonight: Just Steve. I know that'll really wow them in Virginia." Well, I got all mad and stormed around defending myself. "I have to put something down here! What the hell am I??" Finally, I just shut off the computer and drove back over the hill to Bob-A-Lew Music for some comfort and kind words.
I was thinking to myself, "He's got no imagination. He hates to see someone grow. He's jealous that I'm doing so much. It's like a small town person who does something great, but the town still sees you as the kid who threw up at the ball game or something. "You can't be anything. You're just a kid from Buna..." "Gettin' all high and mighty..." "Thinks he's something..."
When I got to Bob-A-Lew, they were no in a position to listen to me. They're trying to finish doing the royalties for the quarter and everyone is focused on getting it all done. Ronda, my rock of Gibralter, looked like she'd been attacked by a dozen cats. Her eyes were red from staring at the computer screen and she could barely speak, much less listen to the idiotic rantings and ravings of an "arteest" whose off his rocker, who's precious ego has been deflated. I sat in the tape copy room and just made copies of our demos and fumed at all these "people who don't get it."
Now I know why actors and musicians go nuts. It's a state of constant evolution. Writing is hard. It's a self-examination and re-evaluation that constantly changes you and makes you think. How many people do you know actually think? How many people do you know actually grow and evolve and mutate and move constantly on to new things, redefining themselves, etc. etc. etc.
So here I am all in a tizz, fuming and feeling so persecuted, no one to talk to. Doug, a younger guy on staff who goes out looking for rock bands to sign to the company, came in and played some music for me. That was nice, but it didn't really help and soon it was time to go home. I was still mad and I felt if I went home, Jimmy and I would have a fight. I was all knotted up inside.
I drove home and as I opened the door and peeked it, Jimmy looked at me and asked if the "author, composer" was home. (I think he said something like that.) Well, I started to laugh but I held it in. Clearly, he had caught how upset I had been back at NAS and decided to play with me a little -- something I love. I decided to let some of my anger out, but in sarcastic terms, "Oh, yes, we mustn't let anyone grow up around here, no no no! God forbid anyone should think too highly of themselves, huh?"
He laughed a little and we did a bit more sarcastic comedy back and forth. I think he was amused at how upset I was. Then he said, "I've been thinking about what you said, about how to define yourself. Here's what I wrote: You're a singer, a storyteller and a survivor."
I stopped immediately and started rolling the words around in my head. A singer, a storyteller, a survivor. (Ah, Ricky, couldn't I be an Author, Composer, too?). Naturally, as always, he hit the nail right on the head. That's exactly what I am. I sing. I tell stories. I survive.
Singer. Storyteller. Survivor.
And that's why we've been together 12 years. He knows me and I know him. I think he's funny when he gets mad and he thinks I'm funny when I get mad. Is it possible to amuse someone for 12 years? I think the day we take each other too seriously and stop laughing at each other's foibles is the day we die. (By the way, my brother, Corky, wanted me to make sure you all know that he's been married for 15 years, so I don't have the longest "marriage" in the family.) But Jimmy called it right and I feel much better.
(Forgive the length of this. I just went back and reread it and it was embarrassing, frankly. It takes you into my most pretentious and humiliating thoughts and actions.) I considered deleting it and just cutting to the chase, but what kind of diary keeps all the bad stuff out and only shows the good? (A boring one.) Those of you who read this on a regular basis -- and god only knows why you do -- know that I rarely hold things back. In the guestbook that got deleted by lpage, the one comment that kept coming up over and over again was a appreciation for "openness." But I'm the one who gains by laying it all out there. It helps me keep my feet on the ground. After all, when you're an Author/Composer, all the acclaim can go to your head. David Robyn said we needed to bring in a flatbed trailer to contain my ego. Well, it got punctured just a bit today and, frankly, I needed it. It felt really, really good. So be gentle with me this week. I'm wounded, but I've kept my head and I'm a much better man for it. (oops, there goes the ego again....)
Tuesday, September 24, 1996
Steve Gets Over Himself, But Then...The first thing Jimmy did this morning was apologize for the phone call to NAS yesterday. He said, "I felt awful because I felt like I was destroying your dreams. However, just after I hung up, I called two people -- who's names I'm not going to tell you -- and asked them if they would define the word, 'author.' They both said they considered an author to be a person who has written a book you can buy in the stores." Then he went to the bookcase and looked it up in the dictionary. He said the dictionary defined "author" as someone who makes a living writing books.
Well! (Just because he has one published book and five published plays...). "Yeah, well," I started to say, "my book can be downloaded for free off the internet. That should count for something!" After all this dictionary was written before there even was an internet. (All of this in good humor, by the way. I like being called a "storyteller" better, anyway.)
More happened yesterday. The first thing was that a young filmmaker named Blair Murphy read my homepage and contacted me about interviewing me for a documentary he is making about AIDS and religion. He said the thing he liked the most about what I have written is its "openness" -- there's that word, again. (Head beginning to swell back to its normal flatbed trailer size.)
Then Tracey Thornton called me from Virginia regarding the appearance there. She told me she spoke to a guy who was in charge of the AIDSWALK there -- which, coincidentally, is happening the day after our show there. She told him "Steve Schalchlin" was appearing at Old Dominion University the night before. His reaction was something on the order of, "Not THE Steve Schalchlin! You mean he's coming here??" Then he asked her if I would perform at the AIDSWALK in the opening ceremonies the next day. She told him that she would ask me first, but that she didn't think it would be a problem.
I stopped her as she related this story just so I could bathe in the full import of what she was telling me. Someone in Virginia knew who the hell I was? (She said he was the first given the fact that I am not exactly a household name). BOOM! The walls exploded as my head blew out the windows and blocked traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. I couldn't believe it. And she was really happy that her work in getting me there would contribute to the AIDSWALK! What a great conversation we had. They might even be able to get my songs played on the radio out there. Goodness gracious.
I was joking with friends the other day. I was telling them that I only had about six months of anonymity left. I told them, "I'm trying to hold off fame for as long as I can, but I think it's out of my control at this point." I mean, I was just kidding around. But someone I never met who doesn't read this website knew who I was! (I'm laughing my butt off at this. It's so fun!)
Serious statement time: I made the decision, after I "came back to life" this past July that I would dedicate myself to having fun and to just doing everyting in life I ever wanted to do, most of which is making music, singing songs and helping other people when there's a chance to do so. Little did I know that alongside the doing would come the fulfillment of every fantasy and dream I ever had as a kid growing up. It startles me that anyone, and I mean anyone knows who I am. I had another startling moment yesterday too.
It happened during a movie. Jimmy and I went to see "First Wives Club." It's cute enough to be entertaining, but mostly because Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton are so great, they could do just about anything and make it funny. Goldie Hawn is hysterical in this movie. Anyway, I was sitting there watching and enjoying the movie when they suddenly cut to a scene in a Broadway Theatre. The camera is on the stage looking out toward the audience but the curtain is down.
When the curtain rose on the beautiful house with all those people applauding, I suddenly felt icy fingers reach deep into my heart. Just the sight of a full Broadway house seen from the stage threw a thrill into me because I knew that soon it might be me up there taking a bow. And it's not just an idle dream. It really and truly might happen. (I guess we'll find out after we do the showcase in November.) But it was such a surprise to feel those icy fingers taking my breath away and thrilling me down to my toes.
Other business: Thanks to all of you who wrote me to tell me you absolutely did understand what I've been through lately. One reader said she frequently thinks her husband does not "get" what she's going through, but that once they get together, she sees that he really does understand her. She begged me to continue posting the bad with the good. Kathleen Capper told me to keep on and not worry about anything anyone says.
I also got a beautiful letter from "Diane," who told me she'd been reading my site for months but never wrote until today. Here's what she wrote:I've been reading your Web page every day for a few months now, and now it's time to write to you. I think you are a truly extraordinary man, gifted in so many ways (and I don't detect any of the "big ego" you occasionally lament). Early on in your diary when you were feeling so horrible, I grieved for you and admired your fortitude. I never thought you were complaining at all, just describing the particulars of your life. And lately I have been thrilled to the point of tears to read of your renewed health.I know it's a bit vain to include this letter, but it touched me deeply and it made me wonder how many more "secret" readers might be out there. I'm still getting a couple of hundred hits a day and I swear I'm not sitting there hitting "reload" all day long. But just to comment on one thing. I get mail but I love every single piece of e-mail that arrives and, no, I'm not inundated with it. So, please feel free to write me and please tell me a bit about yourself. Again, as I mentioned earlier, I learn from you, dear reader. It amazes that anyone would read this in the first place, but if I can be of help or service to you, I'll do what I can.
You will never know the astounding effect of everything that you write--how much people all over the world are learning about AIDS, songwriting, dialogue between Christians who disagree, etc. And you do it all with such a big heart. I live in Los Angeles and it even changes how I feel about this city just knowing you live here too.
It did not surprise me to learn that your birthday is October 4--perhaps you already knew that October 4 is the feast day of St. Francis? You certainly share that saint's reputation for being a peacemaker and a gentle and joyful person.
It must be so mind-boggling to compare how you felt just six months ago and how you feel now. The difference is wonderful, but I would imagine that it is very stressful in its own way to experience such enormous shifts in perspective and circumstances. (I had a serious health problem two years ago that took a year to heal--it caused enormous pain but was never life threatening--and I am still musing on it all a year later.) You are so generous to write about all of this but feel free to rest a while from the diary if you need some "private" space for it too.
You must get so much e-mail every day that I feel badly to write such a long note. I just wanted you to know that yet another soul out there in cyberspace is grateful for your Web site and your life.
Last bit of stuff: David Robyn and the boys and me had a great rehearsal last night. They're doing two songs from the show with me and also we're debuting a brand new song together called, One New Hell, based on the essay Billy Valentine sent me a few weeks ago about his own life. He's even flying down here to hear the song live.
Wednesday, September 25, 1996
A Little Lesson In Humility.Today I sat in front of a video camera run by my friend, Jim Matlosz (who is usually off in the wilds of Alaska shooting Imax movies) and just talked. He wanted to get my whole story of the past few years on videotape. We talked about when I used to produce the Acoustic Underground shows here in L.A., when I discovered I had AIDS, what my life was like, how I began writing songs about it, putting together the musical, setting up this home page (why I'm doing all this), etc. It was fun to just get it all out. Jim is an extraordinarily beautiful man with a equally beautiful girlfriend and is the classic definition of a "man's man." He loves to be in the wild on a mountain or a glacier far away from civilization; and yet as we talked, I could see his eyes tear up several times as we talked. He said I was a great inspiration to him. I told him he was a great inspiration to me.
A year ago, we began producing a documentary about the acoustic music scene here in Los Angeles -- that was partly why we were "doing me" with this -- but a lot happened between then and now. Tomorrow I'm meeting with the filmmaker and am doing yet another interview.
I also had a great talk today with a close friend who wanted to just give me some [welcome] advice. She said that six months ago when NAS put together the first reading of The Last Session, many people in the music community were happy to help out. They knew I had been horribly sick for a couple years and they remembered that I had "helped" many of them. Sometimes I was the only "music industry" person they could come to who would spend time and not criticize their music with a cold industry hand.
She went on to say that now that so much has happened that I should be careful about letting my excitement sound like boasting. Everyone in the music biz is insecure and they are all trying to make a living. I don't know how the biz looks to others, but for the most part, songwriters are like actors. They work a day job and then spend time trying to figure out how to make a living with what they do. It's hard. It's ego-destroying and some people become very frustrated and depressed about it because it's not always about how "good" you are, but how well you make connections and do the political thing. She said it won't be long before people see me as "competition" rather than "poor ol' Steve." (Not her words.)
She also pointed out that though much of my "boasting" is very tongue in cheek and that I'm just having fun with my career, unless people know me really well, they may not understand it. She also said that what people are most interested in is my health and how I'm doing personally, not how big the play getting or when am I going into the studio next.
You see, my friend, I have been hinting here in the pages that even I could tell that perhaps my enthusiasm and "loudness" was getting out of hand, tempered by my sense of humor, of course; but still, when someone is not doing well in their career, the last thing they want to hear is all my "good" news -- especially since it seems as if I came out of the clear blue sky, suddenly doing things many people have spent years trying to do. Perhaps this is a matter of just having a little respect and learning to step back and be thankful in a more quiet way.
Much of what I'm going through is also about the fact that I'm like a newborn child. My friend pointed out that I'm going through stages similar to what a child goes through. First is all "me me me." Then there is the stage where you just want everything there is. Then there's the petulant, tantrum stage. (You've seen it all here, I think). All of this is being done in a most speeded up fashion, of course, and she made the point that she was proud that I was enjoying life so much, but she said at some point, the child has to look around and begin to fit into the wider world; to take into consideration the effect he or she is having on others.
I mean, here in private in this diary I've spoken candidly and stated my feelings and excitement at fever pitch. (My friend said I should still do that here -- that's it's a different communication and one that I've already established). But, realistically speaking, with regard to the music and the show and *fame*, we're just another project in the great morass of show biz.
Think of the thousands upon thousands of writers who are trying desperately to make a success. And to be even more candid, the truth is that we've pitched these songs to record companies, all of whom told us they're not "commercial" enough for radio. And the reading in NY is only a staged reading. Perhaps no one will want to back the show there. Lots and lots of shows get pitched every year and you know the saying about there being a broken heart for every light on Broadway. Perhaps we're no different than a thousand other writers out there whose shows are being pitched. Maybe you will never see me except in connection with this website and we will all simply grow together in obscurity.
That wouldn't be the worst thing that ever happened. After what I've been through, just being here to write is more than a embarrassment of riches for me. Just being alive and relatively healthy means more to me than a thousand Tonys or a million Grammys. It's all a matter of perspective. I think the reason I get so excited about my little successes is because I'm actually here to see them and a year ago none of this was even on the radar screen.
Don't get me wrong. I honestly believe that we'll do well in New York and beyond. I think we'll have a dozen hits in the top 10 all at the same time, but a lot of other people deserve it much more than I do. I told someone this morning on the IRC that I am the luckiest man alive, and I meant it. I'm lucky because I have health (at least for now), a great family that loves me, a relationship that has lasted for 12 years, a great cat and more friends than anyone can possibly count. Friends who genuinely care about me and who don't mind taking me aside and making sure my feet are on solid ground as I go through this new growth period.
I trust my friends and I know they will take me down when I get too full of myself, and build me up when I get too down. It can happen to anyone. They tell me I'm doing well. They tell me that getting mad and petulant -- like I did a few days ago -- is a part of the growth period. They tell me that they love me and want only the best for me. Best of all, I want only the best for them (and for you), especially when they calmly endure me at my worst.
People who care. Music that means something. Life and health. What on earth could be better than that?
Thursday, September 26, 1996
Fastest Doctor Visit Ever. Random Bits.Dr. Ellie was late getting to me today. But in the waiting room, I met a stylishly dressed woman who's husband is living with AIDS and it seemed like she really could use a friend. She worries for her husband because, it's so hard for straight men who have to live with AIDS. The stigma attached to this disease is frighteningly real. I still get people who are amazed that I have gone online with this. I just never thought truth was something to be ashamed of.
Still, there's an amazing amount of ignorance out there, as you all know. Here's a little tidbit I picked up off the daily CDC AIDS Summary.They were afraid that PWAs would contaminate the water supply. Yeah, by sneezing, no doubt.
HIV Home Set AfireHouston Chronicle (09/25/96) P. 15A
A home for people with HIV in rural Paicol, Colombia was set on fire by arsonists Monday night as a father and son slept inside. They were unhurt. The house is operated by a Roman Catholic group that provides shelter to poor people with HIV in Colombia. The community had threatened to force the residents out for months, fearing that people with HIV could contaminate the water supply and crops by bathing in a stream that flows into the town.
I just realized that the first place outside of Los Angeles where I'm going to be making a personal appearance and doing my songs is Viriginia, home of the Christian Coalition. Should I be worried? Will they burn down the college?
Spent three hours today out on the Santa Monica pier talking to a new friend, Blair. He's a young, indy filmmaker and he's coming over to the house on Friday to interview me for a documentary. This is "Steve talk to camera" week, I guess. Got a nice haircut this morning, too.
Anyway, Dr. Ellie said my skin looked good. My toe infection is clearing up. He gave me my new prescriptions and off I went. Fastest appt. I've ever had, so the Bonus Round will be extended awhile longer, I suppose. I'll get new blood tests next month to see how the drug cocktail is holding up. Drug cocktail. Sounds like it should be served with an olive.
Pretty much just vegged out the rest of the day. I did get some mail about all the stuff I've been talking about this week. One reader was very much opposed to me "moderating" the way I talk about myself and the music. She said the energy I have naturally should never be restrained and that she likes my ego; thinks I'm funny. I told her I wouldn't change what I write here in these pages, mostly because I'm having too much fun just being myself.
But I appreciate the comment. Life is about learning and evolving and growing, etc., and sometimes it's for acting like a baby, being a bit spoiled and petulant (along with all the loving everything and everyone, and all that). But it's also about having respect for others and what they're into. Nothing uglier than a person who's so totally self-centered, they don't know anyone else is in the room.
I'm looking forward to Tuesday on the pier and am getting very, very excited about Virginia on November 2. (If you are from ODU -- Old Dominion University -- and have just started reading this page, please write me and tell me more about things on the campus. I'm anxious to correspond with some of you before I make the trip.)
Friday, September 27, 1996
Choir Rehearsal With A Touch of Magic."Could we please sing When You Care one more time?" This is what Karl the Man Who Drew Louie--who I don't presently need right now--said at the end of the choir rehearsal tonight down just off of Ventura Blvd. at the Sherman Oaks Presbyterian Church. (You see, normally at the end of a rehearsal, the only thing anyone wants to do is go home. When the choir wants to do just one more for the simple enjoyment of doing it, great magical things happen.) We had four minutes of absolute bliss. Alan Satchwell's choir arrangement raises the hair on the back of my arms.
I spent most of the day working on this website and trying to get it better organized. There's a new opening paragraph at the top. And below, you'll see the logo and links for "Open Pages." They are a bunch of internet diarists (I wasn't ever aware that it was an artform when I started mine, so it has been fun to see what others write. I am endlessly fascinated by people.)
How can anyone not be?
Saturday & Sunday, September 28 & 29, 1996
Bill's Story and the Line that Connects us All.Before you read this, please read Bill's Story.
I have a song in The Last Session called The Faces in the Music. It's a portrait of people I've seen during my entire life as viewed from the piano bench. You should look at that lyric and find yourself. Or not. Now I have new faces. They have heads that look like a box and a faces consisting of words.
True Story: Linda sends me a note from New Hampshire. She was confused about what her church was teaching her about many things and one of them was about gay people She stopped going to church. Linda told me that finding my site helped her think it all through because she could look past all the "gay" stuff and just see me as a person. Too many straight people in small towns only know the naked guys at gay parades clowning around for the cameras. They never have a chance to just see someone living an ordinary life.
After she got cool with the gay thing -- she asked some very pointed questions and wanted to know everything , and just after she and I began to become real cyber friends, she sent me an urgent message. Her daughter had just told her that she was a lesbian! Her college age daughter. All she could think about was the wedding that would never be, the son-in-law she would never have, the faces of the old lady aunts in the family who will think she's not a good role model as a mother.
The women in the grocery store.
The first thing I did was to put her in touch with another new friend, Gabi Clayton, who I found by searching PFLAG. As they became friends, I began corresponding with Linda's daughter. I basically just told her that there was no way on earth her Catholic mother was not going to go through all that disapointment. I told her, in a way, she was grieving because the image of her daughter that she carried, had to be put away and buried. I told her that her mother loved her and that she was gonna be fine. Mostly, I just told her to give her mother some time.
I told Linda that it was okay for her to experience all these things, but that she should also realize how hard it was for her daughter to tell her the truth. She's been living with this "difference" for a long time and the stress you feel when you know you have to tell is horrendous. I told her of Gabi's son, Bill, who committed suicide at the age of 17 because of stress brought about by knowing he was bisexual or gay. Dead at 17.
Forgive me if I'm a bit dramatic. But I realize now what Ronda has been trying to tell me. The music of The Last Session and the truth in the words and characters have meaning. And that meaning is connected to this home page. But it travels through Gabi's house where she has devoted her life to saving young gay people's lives. It moves through that home in New Hampshire where a mother and daughter (and rest of the family) are now a family where everyone loves each other for just exactly who they are.
It moves through Shawn Decker's home, where lives a 20 year old boy who's had HIV since he was eleven after already spending his whole life with hemophilia. Our line winds its way through Australia and New Zealand, France and Spain, England and Holland. A housewife in Detroit, a graphics artist in C.D., a composer in Oklahoma, a longterm AIDS survivor in Atlanta, and then there's Don in El Paso, finding new life through the internet in ways he had never done before. And there are more.
I knew when I began this, it would mostly be about myself and my own struggle, but what a wonderful thing when I realized how many lives would be touched and moved, and changed by the message of survival, tolerance and love. No preaching (much). Just life.
Monday, September 30, 1996
Making Copies. Rehearsing at S.I.R.The first thing I did this morning, after taking my beloved Crixivan pills and then my "nukes" (as we call the AZT-like reverse transcriptase pills) an hour later, was to run down to a copy store and use their computers to do a laser printout of the flier for my show in Virginia in November. It was flawless (which made me very happy indeed since this is the first time to try doing it this way).
I also made five copies of my book which I'm going to give out to five "lucky" people who come to the show tomorrow night on the pier. I wish I could give one to everyone.
Tonight we had a rehearsal with the band, Chip, Jim and the choir down at S.I.R. Studios. Per (pronounced "Pair"), the Swedish lead guitarist for David Robyn's band, had forgotten a piece of software for the keyboard I borrowing from them so I didn't have a good piano sound for the rehearsal. That was okay, though, because we still managed to get through the night.
S.I.R. has been in Hollywood for as long as anyone can remember. But these new studios are located in a rather dark section of Hollywood Blvd. near Wilcox and it seems like they took over a huge warehouse. The room we rehearsed in was gigantic, like a ballroom with a huge, huge stage on one end. It is quite spectacular. But outside on the street... well, the first store down the street sells liquor in little pocket size bottles. All kinds of booze I don't think I've ever seen before. You know, stuff like Night Train.
Little Kathleen Capper, who reminds us of Ruth Gordon, was running around spreading food and drink. She dumped a bag on the table in front of Jimmy and it was full of little Milky Way bars and Life Savers. The Milky Ways did not last long -- of course, I'm not gonna say who at them. David and the band sounded great. The choir came at 9pm and sounded equally wonderful and Chip Esten was as excellent as I remembered him being when he was in our show here in L.A.. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow night.
I got home late, but just in time for my late night Crixivan. I also sent Shawn Decker a new picture of himself from his homesite with Ross Perot's name blocked out and my name written in. Who says I have a big ego?
And in four days, it'll be my third birthday of living in the Bonus Round. I'll be 43 years old, looking like a teenager of course.
A teenager with gray hair, lines on his face, and enough miles on him to fill three lifetimes. I say let's shoot for four.
END OF PART 2.
© 1996 - 2002 by Steve Schalchlin