Fantasy Faith & A Runaway Train
Volume 1 Book 6 Part 1 of
Living In The Bonus Round
by Steve Schalchlin.

[ Book 5 ] - [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] - [ Book 7 ]
[ Diary Index ]

September 1997. New York.
Getting ready for the 47th Street Production.

During this period I do not know that my 
blood sugar is sky high. So my emotional state is
erratic and my health is slowly deteriorating.

A Timeless Moment, September 1-3, 1997
Canary in a Coalmine.

Part of the reason I'm taking a short break from writing is that Jimmy felt I was looking a bit thin. Also, my big right toe is slightly infected from the new nail growth, so I need to just focus on bodily health and destressing myself a bit. Also, Jimmy and I are taking the time to reexamine TLS from top to bottom, making sure it's everything *we* want it to be.

So much is happening so quickly, I feel caught up in a vortex, and I need some time to process everything so the new book can have its own birth. BTW, I can't seem to get my survey results, so I've screwed something up there. What is really helping me now are your comments about my writing and this diary, either by email or guestbook.

I've gotten letters like:
"...I enjoy reading your web site -- I confess, in some ways it's like a novel or soap opera (an engaging one, which I enjoy following.) I like the coincidences, including the story about the people in the bar who had no idea how true TLS is, and your description of your visit with Grace to the AIDS center.) I've seen TLS twice (and have some friends who want me to take them, so I may see it again.)..."

As you might know, just for the record, I began writing this diary solely for myself and my doctor and family. The medical necessity has passed (for now)... and the story has evolved. But, if you continue reading, then I'll continue writing.

One more thing, someone in my guestbook suggested taking up a collection of some kind to help me get a laptop computer. NO! Please. I beg you. If you want to give money to anything, please give it to a local AIDS Service Organization or to Jarvis's Magical AIDS Ride. I made a commitment to being candid in this diary about my finances but only if did not turn into a fundraising drive. If I accept money, then I would be afraid to say anything ever again. Besides, it won't be too long before I'll finally be drawing a real paycheck, god willing and the creek don't rise. I know the offer comes from your heart, but I have to stand firm on this. I know you understand.

Stevie baby! Just read your diary and it brought back memories of when you interned with me and Vasi [Vangelos, a film music agent two summers ago]. How you looked so thin and I really was scared about what would happen to you. I'm so incredibly proud of what you have accomplished. I know this is only the beginning for you and the play. I plan on giving you a big hug on your 60th Birthday!!! I love ya' kiddo!!! Keep reaching for the stars!!!!

About the only thing left is you being so rich and famous that you're on world-wide television complaining about the paparazzi hounding you and taking "those kind" of pictures through your bedroom window. I'm very happy for you for your success -- several areas of success when one stops to think of it -- and the most wonderful success: you're still here to bug us. Missya, Stevie.

I went by the corner at Times Square last night where the black extremist group that wears little black hats with stars of David normally preaches against white Jesus. They were doing a dance and celebrating Princess Di's death and chanting, "...death to all rich white people." I tried to keep from laughing and I tried to keep from getting angry. It was just so absurd.

MORE tomorrow...

Thursday, September 4, 1997
Peaceful Center of the Wild Vortex.

Picture 12 or 13 young, hungry people scrunched around a little table up in an office on Fifth Ave. Words and statistics and acronyms are flying around like badminton birdies popping off the walls and making me dizzy. Terms like: Wild Posters. Big Blitz. Snipes. Added Value. Psychographic profiles.

It all started to blur together after awhile and I thought back to when *I* was the whole marketing department for TLS. I did get a few interesting tidbits, though, if you want to hear them. For one, the promotional campaign will be focused on the characters in the show, not on some generic logo.


While I had not been what you would call homophobic, let's just say that my thoughts on the subject were unambiguous! Well, thanks to your sharing of your life story in your diary, I have definitely had a change of heart. Perhaps, though, the process began a few weeks ago during a conversation with this...person I know. He's definitely a rabid homophobic and was talking out his butt as usual. I suppose I must have made some comment which he felt betrayed a commitment on my part to sharing his vews. He asked me (in total serious, mind you), "Would you want your sister to marry one?" I just plain busted out laughing right in his face. He was not amused. I think it was then when I began to see that this anti-gay mindset might be laughable at best. I think you have pushed me over the edge. Thanks!
After I wrote to you, I was listening to the song "Beauty and the Beast." Then some lines in there suddenly hit me: "Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong." I busted out bawling! I felt a strange kind of freedom. Can learning to accept other's homosexuality be classified as a type of "coming out"? Why does the decision to allow others to make their own choices make me so happy? Maybe because now I can concentrate on getting my own act together according to the standards I've set for myself, instead of running around trying to get others to meet them first.
My friend, Maggie Heineman quoted what author Wink Powers asks: "One of the most pressing questions facing the world today is, How can we oppose evil without creating new evils and being made evil ourselves?" She said his take on the subject was that individually, like the institutions we deplore, we must reject the Babylonian myth of redemptive violence, stop placing evil outside of ourselves, resist the temptation to control others.

Resist the temptation to control others???? What kind of heresy is that?

Friday - Saturday, September 5-6, 1997
Homework, Floating & Queer Town.

These diary pages are being written in a limbo between Book 5 and Book 6 although they'll be a part of Book 6. I'm allowing my thoughts to just run free rather than trying to force them into some kind of thematic overview. I kinda feel like a runner who has overrun the tape and is still stumbling around trying to catch his breath. Plus, Mother Teresa died on Princess Di weekend.

The Bonus Round doesn't need to be a breathless run for some goal. It's never the goal that satisfies, it's the path or race or ramble or walk to the goal that makes it all worthwhile. We had the good fortune of having a successful production at the Currican, but that wasn't what made it worth doing. It was the people we met, the lives that were affected and the love that was generated.

When Jimmy was producing benefits for Catholic Charities, he was invited to Cardinal Cooke's funeral. At the reception, he and a friend saw Mother Teresa and the friend said, "I gotta get her autograph." Jimmy said, "You're going to ask Mother Teresa for her autograph? "Yes," he said, "it's my only chance." So they zipped across the room to say hello. Jimmy says she had a very firm handshake, made a remark about Jimmy being tall and just as she was about to turn, his friend said, "Can I have your autograph?" She snatched the pen and paper from his hand and in big flowing letters she wrote, "La Teresa."

Ya gotta love that.

I don't think Jimmy and I have ever worked so intensely on anything as we have been doing with TLS this past week. We have literally worked through the play beat by beat, moment by moment, examining and reexamining every single word, every single intention and every note and word of every song. I'll give you an illustration: we spent an hour and a half the other day on Save Me A Seat alone. That's a two and half minute song.

Saturday afternoon, we had several meetings with our producers; Carl the Dreamer, Jamie the Calculator Kid, Jay the Romantic and Michael the Problem-solver. They, along with Company Manager "No-Surprises Nancy," have formed this protective cocoon over Jimmy and me allowing us to create in peace and tranquility. The fact is, this new production of TLS will be a completely different show than the Currican production. We have some wonderful surprises up our sleeves.

Jimmy and I have successfully moved into a new apartment. This time we are in Chelsea. (Did I include "travelogue" in the selections on the survey?). You might recall that we've been shuffled all over New York City. First we were up in Ft. Washington (AKA Canada), then the upper east side (Canyon City), then Brooklyn (where it was neighborhoody and full of trees and married couples with babies), then mid-town near Times Square (where water was $2.50 a bottle), and now we're in Chelsea.

How can I describe Chelsea except to say that it is totally Queer Town? There are two gyms within spitting distance, everyone seems to be on steroids, there are rainbow flags everywhere, gay couples openly holding hands and shopping together... it's really nice, to tell you the truth. You know I'm no heterophobe, but sometimes it feels really nice to just get away from feeling like someone is going to give you a dirty look if you forget yourself and just hug your man.

An African American friend of mine once said, "Sometimes you just gotta get away from white people..." And I knew just what he meant. I am reconnected here in Chelsea and have my email back and in working condition, thank God. I have to confess, though, that I don't hate being disconnected from the net now and again.

And now that I'm back online, I need to get into the TLS pages and start updating them, I have to think up a new name to call Book Six. My friend Marty wrote me and told me about a picture he saw of Princess Di at a leper colony. He said the thing that got his attention was that they were laughing, and he said anyone who can make a leper laugh was okay in his book.

So, I thought I could call Book Six "The Laughing Leper," but it just sounds so weird. One of my cynical friends said I should call it the Peter Principle (very funny) but since I don't know what I'm going to call it, I'll just continue to float here in the Free Zone, having deep thoughts. Happy to have you floating along...

Sunday, September 7, 1997
The Emotional Mailbag.

I have had some incredible mail and I wanted to share it with you.

I already told you about Michael, the hetero/Christian/teacher who (before finding this site) had given no thought to "Christian homophobia," but who was now seeing it all around him. I told him that while some Christians think gays are evil, there are also many gays who think all Christians are evil.

...concerning those people who think that Christians are evil. Anymore, I would tend to agree with them a good percentage of the time. In fact, I have pretty much gone "into the closet" as a Christian. I don't want people to think that I'm that hateful and judgmental. So much for "knowing we are Christians by our love." But hey! If Christians were NICE, then that would probably mean that they were gay!
Well, now there's a statement for ya. I wrote him back and said, "Trust me. I know plenty of 'un-nice' gay people, so don't be putting us on a pedestal." But, that someone has now found himself hiding the fact that he is a Christian because he is so mortified by the actions of the Christian community is an issue that should strike every Christian right through the heart. And this is not an issue about being pro- or anti-gay. (This is also why the Bridges Across Site was instituted, so that reasonable people on both sides of the gay/Christian debate could at least establish some dialogue.)

In December of 1996, I wrote about a man whose lover had died, and who announced the death in my gaypoz email list. This past week, I received a couple of notes from "Jim Howe" who had just found a diary entry I wrote about him "unsubscribing" his lover. He also recently ordered one of my CD's. He wrote:

I read your [Dec. 1996] diary entry, and it was about me and "John." I had been browsing through your diary site and was as surprised as a pup catching his own tail when I "turned" to that page and read my e-mail and your comment the following day about the grocery store. P>"John" found so much hope in your story, your strength, and your outlook on life. He adopted your saying of "Living life in the bonus round" as a way of looking at life and an impossible situation. He had so wanted to see your show become a success (which I'm glad to see it has) and had hoped to live to see the show if it ever came to California.

I put [your] CD in, and as the first bars from Connected played I found myself crying for the first time in a long time. I was moved by the lyrics, but it was the shock of hearing music that "John" had so wanted to hear, to hearing it without him, that allowed me to feel some of the pain and frustration I've kept inside for so long. (I was also laughing in between the tears, as I was on my way to my first day at a new job and showing up with a red, puffy face was not on my agenda for the day....)

The ultimate irony to me was the title of the first track, Connected, is so apropos. I was listening to the music and voice of a man my partner corresponded with, with whom I've only exchanged the briefest of email, and yet your lyrics felt as if you'd watched the last few years of my life with "John." The other song that brought those feelings, and the tears, out again was Going It Alone. I could hear "John" in your voice, the fears and thoughts he so rarely expressed, about dying, about leaving me alone, about the separate hell each of us was going through.

I'm pretty much speechless here, folks. This was just so unexpected. Someone said to me this week that I will never in my lifetime truly understand nor know the effects of my work. Tell you the truth, I don't think about it much until I get an email like this. I don't really consider myself anything more than just a guy with a big mouth. All I can hope is that sometimes the big mouth says just the right thing.

Monday, September 8, 1997
I Feel A Name Comin' On...

I'm beginning to love our little cocoon, this cozy apartment Jimmy and I are staying in -- despite the stacks of leather and bondage magazines we keep finding. It's funny to be in someone else's world. (our host is away for two months on a job). I don't like to pry or snoop around (honestly), so when I unexpectedly find an S&M magazine next to a book about Mongol costumes and Indian art, it's kind of startling. There are also books about cars, dance, art, iron maidens and chastity belts (!).

The apartment is a "railroad" apartment. That is, it's one long rectangular place with little divides that make two rooms (with no doors). Jimmy has an ancient portable PC in the living room where he is working on the next draft of TLS while watching his horrible daytime TV shows.

Although, All My Children has a great storyline concerning a gay teenager right now. There's a "reparative therapist" who is trying to change the boy, who is going along with it because of how much stress his parents are laying on him. The boy, himself, was perfectly content being gay until everyone started trying to "fix" him.

I'm continually impressed with mail I get from teens, by the way, both straight and gay. It feels as if they are losing so many of the bonds and prejudices I grew up with. I only "knew" that what "I was" could get me killed or fried in hell, so I stuffed it all inside and hid. This also led to massive amounts of self-hatred and reckless behavior. If I can just keep one kid from going through this, I'll feel as if I've made a difference in this world.

So, with Jimmy pecking away in front of the tube, I'm in the next "room" with my feet up on the desk (completely naked, of course) working at our host's Mac. I have total access to my email at last, so you can all write me again. And I actually have time to answer!

Since Jimmy will be back in the director's chair this time out, the calls from the design and production team stream in, as well as from Nik Venet who is putting the recording session together, and from the PR team checking facts and looking for story ideas they can pitch.

A few moments ago, Jimmy walked up to me and said, "You know, it just dawned on me! We're writing and directing a major off-Broadway production that is scheduled to begin rehearsing in two weeks. " And I reminded him that we did this very thing one year ago in El Lay on Melrose Ave. at the Zephyr Theatre, except back then, he had a rank amateur in the role of Gideon (me). We also had friends lending us pieces of wood for the set, David Robyn's rock and roll PA system, and an out of tune piano from Ronda's living room.

And the show still worked.

This time around we have a fantasy come true: a professional troupe of actors, top-notch designers, a great theatre, a producing team, and investors putting a half million dollars worth of faith in us and in our work.

Sounds like Book 6 finally has a name:

Fantasy & Faith.

Tuesday, September 9, 1997
Best Song In 15 Years?

We're so excited today!! This is from the theatre section of The Village Voice and it just came out today:

Going It Together

Since I have no way of knowing every AIDS-inspired song ever written, there isn't any way to categorically designate the standout. I can only say that the best I've heard in 15 years is Steve Schalchlin's "Going It Alone," which close the first act of THE LAST SESSION (Currican, moving to the 47th Street Theatre). In the ballad, a dying man comes to the realization that while he may feel he's on his own in a losing battle, his longtime companion could very well be experiencing the same isolation. It's a heartbreaking outcry in a heart-mending show.

Gideon, a singer-songwriter who crossed over from gospel to pop and is using old-time Baptist chords to make iconoclastic social statements, has decided he's going to take his life the morning after he finishes recording a final album. To the studio he's invited two feuding female singers he's worked with in the past -- one of them an ex-wife. Seemingly by chance, a third singer turns up, a born-again Christian with a programmed aversion to homosexuality.

The fifth character in this impassioned mix is an engineer, who spends his time issuing asides from the booth. There's not an inordinate amount of suspense generated by the question of Gideon's following through on this plan, and the confrontations that prompt his 11th-hour pro-or-con decision enter on monster feet. But they're ultimately inconsequential distractions in a musical comedy-drama wrenched by Jim Brochu from deep places within himself. Bob Stillman, Dean Bradshaw, Grace Garland, Amy Coleman, and Stephen Bienskie sing like tarnished angels and act like the devil.

--David Finkle, Village Voice.

The review is on page 107 on the far right side in big bold lettering and it runs the length of the page. This review is one that comes from the final weeks of the show, after Jimmy and I both made the big cuts (and changes) we felt focused the show. I love where he said the music uses "old-time Baptist chords to make iconoclastic social statements." For my brother Corky: I was going to look up "iconoclastic" in the dictionary, but there is no dictionary in this apartment. Darn. (But I'm sure it's something good...)

Time for the PULL QUOTE GAME! (theme music):

"I can only say the best [AIDS-inspired song] I've heard in 15 years is Steve Schalchlin's "Going It Alone..." --David Finkle, Village Voice.

"...a heartbreaking outcry in a heart-mending show." -- David Finkle, Village Voice.

"...a musical comedy-drama wrenched by Jim Brochu from deep places within himself." -- David Finkle, Village Voice.

"Bob Stillman, Dean Bradshaw, Grace Garland, Amy Coleman, and Stephen Bienskie sing like tarnished angels and act like the devil." --David Finkle, Village Voice.

Wednesday, September 10, 1997
The Flagcourt Follies.

On Wednesday, Sept. 10, 1959, (38 years ago) at the age of 13, Jimmy Brochu got all the kids in the neighborhood together, wrote and directed a revue, starred in it, choreographed it, and raised $350 for the American Cancer Society.
The inside scoop, though, is that he scandalized all the parents. The end of act one was scheduled to be a big production number with Jimmy as the star singing, "Give My Regards to Broadway" and featuring the little neighborhood girls (ages 10-13) dancing a big kick line in skimpy costumes.

They told him, "The number is cut!" He told them, "No, it's not!" They said, "Yes, it is." And with that, he turned on his heel and walked out, overhearing Mrs. Conroy -- a very "Gladys Cooper"-type lady -- say that she could direct it herself.

Well, the next day, "...they came crawling back to this 13 year old, begging me to return," Jimmy says with a scoff. He responded to them, "Only if we do it my way!"

So, on the night of the big performance, the Flagcourt Theatre (located in Bay Ridge Brooklyn in the basement of Jimmy's apartment complex) was filled to capacity with 350 people.

At the big moment, Jimmy led the junior squad of girls into the big number wearing his daddy's britches -- and just as he hit the big musical climax, he SPLIT the pants right in two.

Jimmy was a very big little boy. (Still is).

By the way, the only person who didn't like the show was Jimmy's grandmother who said it made her realize that Jimmy had forever turned away from the priesthood. Happy anniversary, Jimmy. I'm not really surprised that you've survived 38 years in show biz. What's amazing is that show biz has survived 38 years of you! **howling cackle**

P.S. One more addition to the title of Book Six -- it just sounded a little bit stodgy. Then last night, as I was walking around Manhattan thinking about the amazing speed ofTLS, and it came to me. How does this sound?

Book Six: Fantasy, Faith & A Runaway Train.

Thursday, September 11, 1997
Horror, Absurdity & Another Dead Kid.

This might turn into one of those "Loud Steve" diary pages, so consider yourself warned.

1. I have a reader (female, teenager, straight) who has been writing me saying how badly she wants to be a part of the Gay/Straight Alliance in her school. It's a student group which lets gay teens see that there are straight kids who won't hate them for being gay. But, this girl's mother is a rampant homophobe and my reader is having a crisis about attending the club and disobeying her mother.

2. Michael, the teacher I've been telling you about, approached his district superintendent about a "Safe Schools" policy, which would provide a safe environment for gay kids:

Supt.: Our Safe Schools policy consists of one item--boys may not dress up for Halloween as women, because that is deemed offensive to homosexuals.
Now, before you guffaw yourself to death, check this out: Do you remember a news story last year about a high school in Salt Lake City where a group of students wanted to form a Gay/Straight Alliance? It caused such a furor among the proudly religious leadership of the school, the county and the state legislature, that they tried banning ALL student groups just to keep this one from meeting?
Well, here's an email I got this morning from Maggie Heineman. According to filmmakers Jeff Dupre and Eliza Byard: Yesterday, a young man named Jacob Orozco was to be president of that very Gay-Straight Alliance, took his own life. They continue, "We had the opportunity to meet Jacob last March in Salt Lake City while producing a film, Out of the Past, which documents the Gay Straight Alliance's struggle..."

"Jacob stood out as a dynamic, funny and seemingly confident young man. Our camera was drawn to his energy and charm again and again. He was a accomplished athlete, a talented gymnast and an inspiration to the fellow members of the Alliance.

"Despite the support of the Gay-Straight Alliance at East High, Jacob had to cope with hearing daily reminders of society's loathing and rejection of gays and lesbians. A recent study indicates that high school students hear anti-gay epithets like "faggot" and "dyke" an average of nearly thirty times a day (Massachusetts Department of Education, 1994). According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in six gay and lesbian teenagers is beaten up so badly during high school that they require medical attention.

When you're seventeen and this is the only reality you've ever known, it can be hard to imagine that things will ever get better. It's no wonder that for kids like Jacob, suicide seems an acceptable alternative."

... and then, *BOOM*, I'm right back in Olympia, Washington thinking about Bill Clayton who also thought his whole life would be one of abuse and hate, JUST LIKE HE WAS EXPERIENCING IN SCHOOL.

I'm so angry right now, the blood vessels in my head are pounding. I want to go up to Michael's school superintendent and just slap the shit out of him for being so fucking stupid. But, what good would that do? How do you fight this kind of hate and ignorance when it's so absolutely absurd??? THEIR ENTIRE SAFE SCHOOLS POLICY IS TO DISALLOW BOYS FROM DRESSING LIKE GIRLS ON HALLOWEEN???? (...because it has been deemed "offensive to homosexuals...).

I mean, really. How many levels of absurdity are evident in this statement? Has this guy ever seen Halloween Parade in New York or San Francisco? Does he really think that men dressing like women on Halloween is offensive to gay people??? And does he really think that the definition of a safe school is one where gay people are not offended on Halloween???

I'm in a drop-jawed stupor over the level of ignorance displayed by this educational supervisor. I would love to just laugh out loud, stick my head out the window and scream.

But somewhere in Salt Lake City, a mother and father are looking at a dead body that used to contain a great kid.

jesusgod have mercy on us all.

Friday, September 12, 1997
Silence, Anger & Crying Babies.

After you scream your head off and get all hot under the collar and find yourself in the righteous position of being oh so correct and so much smarter and so much more holy than the rest of the world, the wisest thing to do at that moment is go to sleep and then wake up the next day and keep your mouth shut and go for a walk or read a book or something.

Today was Quiet Steve day.

Even though I only punched at faceless straw dogs yesterday, I know from the email and notes in my guestbook that I managed to stir an emotion or two yesterday with my fiery harangue against the universe. Stirring up emotions is a dangerous proposition, my friends. Mostly because you only make enemies more determined to hate you and you can also make your friends feel impotent because they want to please you as much as they want to please themselves (or save the world or something).

But, before I go on, I do want to let you know that yesterday's diary page was not intended to be a manipulative speech. It was simply the exact way I was feeling at the moment that I wrote it. Accept my apologies if I upset you. One thing, though. Anger is not a terrible thing. It's just a thing.

But I have known since grade school that one cannot function properly if one stays angry. It corrupts your ability to think and to plan effectively. Michael the Teacher felt he had failed me (us, himself) because, in one question to one supervisor he wasn't able to change the whole policy of an entire school system. I told him to relax. It's does not good to try to change the universe. What is more likely is that some lonely gay kid will need a friend and he will be that friend.

Linda George and has adopted the phrase "One heart at a time." That's the speed of changing the universe, in my opinion. Dr. Dorsey told me a Jewish midrash (saying), "Change one heart and you change the world." I believe this because each of us are the centers of our own universes and so each of us are a world unto ourselves. And until that world is changed, nothing changes.

I also got a note from a girl who, like the character in the song The Sad Lady, cuts herself and says that at her school, the gay kids are accepted, but she is shunned and forced from school even though she never "...parades her scars around trying to get other kids to cut themselves, too." (the allusion is to the idea of gays recruiting...). She is right, of course. To get "gaycentric" would be boring and would also destroy the thing we are trying to create. It's not about being gay. It's about creating a climate of safety and acceptance so people can grow and learn on their own.

Gabi Clayton, after feeling anger over the her son's suicide, quietly put up a website, quietly spoke to children and parents about what happened, worked with the local Safe Schools Coalition gathering facts, spoke from her heart as a mother in front of school and state legislatures, and *boom* one year later, kids are getting the help they need. Schoolboards are getting educated.


My diary page from yesterday will stay as it is (because readers have now laid down the law about me changing a single word of anything I write), but no one should see that diary page as a permanent state of my mind. And no one should take that page, tack it up on the wall and use it to feed their own anger, either. It's a moment in time. The three incidents came together all at once and they lit a fuse in my heart and I blew.

The direct contribution I strive for (so that I can be a part of the solution, not the problem) is to use my talents as a writer and speaker. It's all I know how to do since I am the world's worst organizer and have no common sense at all. I put words here. I put them in my songs.

As John Bettis told me (after I told him our show was going to Off-Broadway): "That's good news and that's bad news. The good news is you got a show going to off-Broadway."

"The bad news is: Now you're a writer."

After reading David Finkle's Village Voice review calling Going It Alone "...the best [AIDS-inspired] song in the last 15 years," (a phrase that keeps rolling around in my head over and over), I suddenly remembered something and I was surprised some of you "regulars" didn't remember it for me. Remember the night the baby cried during one of the Currican performances? (He cried all the way through Going It Alone?

I turned to a man near me at intermission and apologized for the song "getting ruined." He said to me, "A fire engine couldn't ruin that song." Well, I'm sure it was this guy. I remember Andrew or someone told me he was a critic! It's has to be a testament to professionalism that he could put the baby out of the room in his mind and stay focused on the song.

(...or do we need to incorporate a crying baby during every performance? And what do you pay a crying baby anyway?)

Saturday, September 13, 1997
Derek In Wonderland.

His name is Derek. Derek Scally. He's an Irish boy; a tall, rather gawky, red-headed student of musical theatre who is on leave from Ireland enjoying a summer in New York. Today, he walked into the "living novel" that is this diary and suddenly the figures of fantasy became flesh and blood.

It was less than a month ago that two seemingly unrelated events caused this uproar in his life. First, he found the website of one A HREF=>Gabi Clayton, where he happened upon a link to one Steve Schalchlin, internet diarist and cultural iconoclast. Simultaneously, a friend of his on the Sondheim email list took him to a small off-off-Broadway production of a little-known musical called The Last Session (TLS), where he was promptly blown away.

After putting two and two together, he then wrote an email to this Mr. Schalchlin, who wrote him back and invited him to a little gathering last Thursday night where he met Carl D. White, producer of TLS, and where he heard a cassette tape of the full version of "Shades of Blue." He was astounded and could barely speak all night long. "I'm a part of history," he kept saying to one and all.

Then they told him the entire NuBiHeOnBiHe gang (NuBiHeOnBiHe stands for Numerous Big Hearts & One Big Head and consists of Steve's online family) would soon be gathering in New York because both Luke Chipperfield, legendary thinblooded Aussie positoid, and Shawn Decker's lovely Brazilian bride-to-be Mariana would be coming to America at the same time.

The next day, he found himself invited to a Circle Line Cruise around the island of Manhattan. Then, at the Dramatists Guild's Frederick Loewe Suite surrounded by Gabi from Olympia Washington, Lindafrom New Hampshire, Luke the Rebek, Shawn "My Pet Virus" Decker, Tracey from Virginia, First Angel Don Kirkpatick, internet activist Barb (Horsemom2) and her son Greg, TLS Crusaders Shaun, Chris & Dawn, the first reunion of the entire cast of TLS, and 40 other friends and fans from the internet.

Steve Schalchlin began by playing a few songs on the old Steinway in the room. Then he proceeded to tell the story of how he met his internet friends. First there was Tracey in Virginia, who invited him to Old Dominion University, then there was Shawn Decker who was just letting the world know about his HIV, Gabi Clayton who was still coming to terms with the death of her son, Linda who was in the process of unprejudicing herself when her daughter came out to her, Don Kirkpatrick who was just finding a new life on the internet after years of feeling isolated in West Texas. Luke, the young straight boy hemophiliac who Shawn and Steve took under their collective wings (wth Steve becoming Luke's erstwhile webmaster)... and on and on.

Then Binky (Stephen Bienskie) and Steve S. sang Going It Alone together. Soon, Bob Stillman arrived and played two of his own original songs, as well as Steve Schalchlin's Connected.

All the while, Derek watched all this with disbelieving eyes. "No one is going to believe me, but I'm telling everyone I know about this." He remembered to bring his camera and he shot pic after pic of the assembled bunch.

Soon, Grace Garland and Amy Coleman arrived, so the combined troupe sang Preacher & The Nurse, Singer & The Song, and (with Steve back on piano), When You Care. Pictures were taken, toasts were offered to missing NubiHeOnBiHe's and everyone hugged each other in peace and caring.

Derek told Steve because of TLS, he has finally found himself able to come out of the closet (and put behind him a life of fear). He also found a huge circle of new friends, all of whom care for and take care of each other. And he saw Luke Chipperfield, who only knew these cyberfriends long distance, brought to tears with the love and affection that covered him and surrounded him.

The young Mr. Derek can be seen in the photograph below at the top in the center next to the "elderly gentleman" (a Mr. Jim Brochu) with the white hair and the dark sunglasses.

Sunday, September 14, 1997
Heroes On Wheels.

Sunday was a day of rest. But one very cool thing that happened was the Boston to NY AIDS Ride landed on the Avenue just below our apartment. About 5pm, over 3000 riders in blazing red, blue, yellow and green jerseys swept up the streets to cheering throngs gathered on both sides. We were scheduled to meet our fave rider and fellow NuBiHeOnBiHe, Jarvis. We missed him, darn it, but we did yell, "JARVIS! JARVIS!" about a thousand times while the rainbow of riders streamed in.

It was breathtaking.

Monday, September 15, 1997
Back to Work: New Auditions.

Today was a day of auditioning again. We (Jimmy, Jamie the Producer, and I) were looking for understudies for the roles in TLS. Once agan we were up at Charles Rosen's casting office, and once again, a steady stream of equity actors came in to sing and read for us.

Jimmy and I both know what it's like to audition for someone. It's scary and it can be even demeaning, but it's great to watch Jimmy in action. When he gets a resume, the first thing he does is check the credits to see if the actors have anyone listed that Jimmy might know, so that he can hopefully put them at ease with some conversation.

Charlie escorts each actor in, we are all introduced with a handshake, Jimmy speaks to them about any mutual acquaintances, and then we let them sing. If their singing is up to the standard and style we need, then they get "sides" to read. Sides are just pages from the script. They take the sides out into the lobby, go over them until they are ready, and then come back in and "act."

We try desperately to pay attention and give each actor respect. Sometimes, if there is something particularly interesting about the performer, Jimmy will lean over and whisper something. But most of the time, our eyes are on the actor.

The one that were the most impressive were the ones who had their music in a binder, so they could quickly find songs that might be appropriate. Explaining to them the style of music in this show is not easy. We said we wanted "rock" vocalists, so we might get anything from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR to TOMMY to "When A Man Loves A Woman."

Yesterday, we narrowed our choices down, then came home and collapsed in exhaustion.

Tuesday, September 16, 1997
Busy Day.

This morning, we finished up the auditions for understudies and then had a meeting with Stage Manager Tom Clewell. (I'll be introducing all the new people who've been added to our little mixture as we go along. Unlike the little "family" group at the Currican where we all pitched in answering phones or sending out our own press releases, this time we have a small army handling these things. This will end my "run" as TicketBoy...*sigh*).

I'm still astonished that one year ago we were trying to find a place to do a staged reading and this year we're opening on 47th Street. Is this real?  I spoke with John Bettis last night (lyricist for When You Care and updated him on all the "doin's." He said, "This play is just surrounded by white light. There's something really going on here." John's one of the busiest men in show business and was calling me from a phone booth in Washington DC. It was fun to just recount to him all the great news of the past few weeks.

After we got home, Carl D. came over and we talked about Friendly Fire and how we might stage it in the new theatre. It's the one chance for something that resembles a production number, but our actors don't really dance, and anyway, we don't want to disturb the intelligibility of Marie Cain's incredible lyrics. They really don't need embellishing.

Now, Jimmy's and my biggest problem is clothing. All our winter clothes (what there is) are back in El Lay. Guess we're going to have to go to JCPenney and see if they'll loan us a coat or two! Or maybe, when I finally draw that first paycheck, Uncle Sam will allot me a clothing allowance...!

(Shawn Decker is going to be on MTV with Mariana and maybe even Luke! Check out Shawn's journal for the latest update. I think his airdate is Oct. 7th.) ***it's actually on the 5th***

Wed.-Sat., September 17-20, 1997
An Apology & An Explanation.

Forgive me, my friend, for not updating the diary in three days, but I've not had very much to say. Sounds kind of eerie, doesn't it?

Next week, I am making a quick trip back to El Lay to see Thurber and get new blood tests (you're supposed to use the same lab so the tests come out accurately). A very intense time is ahead and it's best that I take care of these things now. Next week, we start back rehearsing.

The last few days, in the creative meetings as the production team comes together, I realize I'm hearing new words and new terms for jobs I didn't know even existed, so, in order to keep from looking totally stupid, I've trying to adhere to the old rule that if you don't say much, people will assume you know more than you do. (...of course, since I'm the authority on everything, this is a difficult task.)

I am listening a lot and learning a lot and trying to be as helpful as I can be. I am also reading the newspaper so that I don't fall completely out of touch with the rest of the world, and I've been exchanging emails with friends who need help and reading the now hilarious but serious guestbook.

Oh, and I have made use of a scanner. Here are some snapshots Jimmy made of our trip around Manhattan. It's not comprehensive, these are just the shots that turned out good.

The date for Shawn Decker's appearance on MTV is Oct. 5th, not October 7th. Like Margo Channing, he is a great star. A true star.

Back in El Lay, there was an old couple -- probably in their 80s -- who we used to see at the theatre all the time. The reason is that they did volunteer ushering for every theatre in town in exchange for getting to see the plays. Well, one night Jimmy and I saw them at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and Jimmy said, "Hi! We remember you from the Colony Theatre! (Jimmy acted at the Colony at one point).

The wife said (remember they're in their 80s) to her husband, "Oh, yes, the elderly gentleman..."

And he's been the elderly gentleman ever since.

I've also been checking out in the newsgroups because some fans of TLS, are putting together a theatre party to go to one of the early previews at the 47th Street Theatre. The group sales people that groups of ten or more can get a special discount.

They want me to go out with them afterwards and have dinner or something. I told them if they wanted to talk about the play and give their opinions and stuff, I'd be cool with that. (What have I done???)

I hope they don't try to play, "Stump the composer."

I got a surprise for you for tomorrow. I'm going to post the NEW TLS LOGO!! It was designed by Michael Yuen at MKA Advertising. He slipped me a disc this week and I thought Sunday would be a good day for an unveiling.

Oh, and thanks for putting up with me. I don't deserve you.

Sunday, September 21, 1997
Unintended Consequences in Pleasant Valley on a Sunday.

In the new movie, In & Out, the lead character is a schoolteacher who lives in a small town who gets "outed". (Kevin Kline). The script by Paul Rudnick is a hilarious two hours of sheer joy. What's fun about it is that it pokes fun at Hollywood's own pro-gay crowd as much as it pokes fun at homophobia.

In real life, one needn't be a gay teacher to become the object of suspicion and scorn. All you have to do is consider the idea of safe schools to be a good one. And if you speak out, discover:

The Laws of Unintended Consequences of Enlightenment.

I'm getting mail from teachers who, the day before, were beloved characters and who, because they raised the subject of Safe Schools, became suddenly viewed with fear and suspicions. Their entire world seems to dissolve around them.

(is he or she gay? is this some kind of evil gay political movement? eyes avert. conversations get shorter. students become more distant. how is it i'm getting punished for doing the right thing?)

What does it feel like when a child is suddenly afraid to give you a hug? What have they been told? Why are they afraid?

And what are the gay kids learning from this experience? That if a person even LIKES gay people, he will suffer. If I really love my friends, I should separate myself from them because I'm a danger to them.

LOUD STEVE: I have to tell you that the straight world is a bitch, no two ways about it. And I try to not bitch and complain too much, but at least if you're going to put someone through hell about being gay, for God's sake make sure they're gay. How scary is this? How 50's is this? It's so The Crucible. *smack gum*
A reader of mine said she said she was going to go to the Gay/Straight Alliance meeting in her high school and suddenly everyone. especially her mom, was "wondering" if she was *spookymusic* GAY! Wholesale panic in Barbie Land.

Look at the position it puts her in. If she stands up and yells, "I'm not GAY!" that's also stupid. It's like being in a stupid box and the only exit is by being more stupid.

Well, I hate being stupid.

Monday, September 22, 1997
Suddenly Crashing.

This morning I was on the way to a meeting with John Kroner, the musical director, when I noticed that the stairs leading out of the subway seemed especially hard on me. We were fine during the meeting, although I was tired. When I finally got home to Jimmy, he could see that I was on the verge of passing out, so I just layed down on the futon couch and went to sleep.

I guess I've been going too hard. I keep forgetting I'm infected by a virus, I guess. It just seems so much more fun to be running around acting like Mighty Mouse.

So, I took (am taking) the rest of the day off. Tomorrow is our first rehearsal, but all I have to do is sit and listen. It will be glorious to have the cast back together again. For all the squabbles a group of high strung creative types can go through, these people are about as lovely and about as beautiful as you can get.

Anyway, I'm headed back to bed. Love you all. Oh, and if I'm behind on my emails, don't sweat it. I'll get to ya.

Tuesday, September 23, 1997
Christmas Morning.

I could barely sleep last night because I was so excited about today being the first day of rehearsal. It felt like Christmas Eve. "AndBob" Stillman brought Tyler the Dog along and Diva Grace had already signed four autographs (for some workers) by the time we stepped into the studio to rehearse. There were endless rounds of hugs and kisses with all the producers and the actors and everybody else, and then we settled in for an informal readthrough of the new script.

Also, it felt really good to have Jimmy back in the director's chair. (It was never easy for him having to communicate through a third person.) He made the first announcement: "We have one main goal here in these rehearsals -- and that is to find every way possible to keep Binky from breaking up on stage."

And with some of the new dialogue Jimmy as added, that won't be at all easy.

Everyone was taking the reading very loosely, laughing at each other's mistakes (and at their own) and trying to remember lyrics and harmonies they haven't sung in three weeks. The big change, music-wise, was the assignment of the song Somebody's Friend to Amy Coleman as a solo. Previously, we had done the song as a "group," passing the solo around, but something about it never seemed quite effective to me, and since "Vicki" didn't have a solo, we decided to give this a try.

She knocked us out of the room, of course. And then later on, we added a new ending with some very cool harmonies by Bob and Grace -- and it was like having a completely new song. Very powerful.

By the time rehearsal was over, everyone was charged up and ready to rock. But I could feel that same fatigue I had yesterday overtaking me, so I made an executive decision. I decided I will *NOT* go to El Lay. I will, instead, stay home tomorrow and just take a full day off and rest.

Now, just in case you're worried about me: I am not sick. This is not some big ominous cloud. I have been running myself ragged and because I listen to those around me, including you, reader o' mine, telling me to take it easy, I have decided to obey faithfully and just stay home like very good boy. Long ago, I made the promise that I would not overdo it and that I would listen to those who love me, and that's precisely what I'm doing.

We have much to do before we open -- including a trip I'm taking down to Virginia Beach soon, so STEVE IS ON VACATION. For a day or two, anyway. Oh, and thanks for caring. But what's going on here? Trying to keep me alive or something?

And as your "reward" for being so cool, here's a sneak peek at one of the new posters/cards.

Wednesday, September 24, 1997
Resting & Ricki Lake.

Today I did exactly what I said I would do. I took the day off and I stayed in, although I did clean up the apartment a little.

I also got a phone call from the irresistible Gabi Clayton who announced that she was not only in town today, but had been flown here by the Ricki Lake Show!! Yes, our Gabi is going to be a guest on an edition of Ricki Lake where they talk about the pressures being put on gay kids and their parents.


Naturally, I told her to tell them that when they put that little on screen "label" beneath her name, it should say:

Co-President of the Steve Schalchlin Fan Club
But these TV people are so shortsighted, I bet it never happens. hehe


Thursday-Saturday, September 25-27, 1997
Victory In The Heartland.

I am overflowing with joy this morning. It's Saturday as I write this and I have just received one of the most incredible pieces of mail I ever remember getting. (hint: It's from Teacher Michael).

[When last we heard from our dear Teacher, he -- a straight, single Christian -- had, by bringing up the subject of how to make his public school safe for gay kids -- became suddenly the talk of his town. Suddenly, everyone whispered behind his back and wondered if he was gay. Like the movie "In & Out," the kids and faculty were all avoiding him him...]

Yesterday, the School Supt. who had been gone for a week came home and was made aware of all the gossip and innuendo being hurled at Michael. Apparently, the Supt., contrary to all expectations, began letting everyone know that there would be no discrimination in his school system, especially among the faculty. And that, Michael was a great teacher who, gay or NOT gay, deserved respect and standing in the community.

THEN, finding Teacher Michael in the hallway, he came up to him, threw his arms around him and said, "You like you could use a great big hug. Kids? Doesn't Mr. .... deserve a great big hug?" And suddenly all the kids, realizing it was okay -- because they were being led by example -- ran up to Teacher Michael and began hugging him and loving him.

He said at the local football game, parents (PARENTS!) came up to him and hugged him and told them how much they appreciated him. Students openly showed their affection and love. (...and he wondered, How far had this gone??)

But it doesn't exactly end there because, unlike movies, life does not end in two hour chunks. For one thing, Teacher Michael has to sit down and think about what all this has meant. This whole episode happened in something like a three week period. He saw a small town in America go from being a normal "happy" community into a community of lies and whispers. He had seen his beloved students begin to look at him as if he were a stranger they did not know. He found himself exposed and out there "going it alone."

What's really devastated him, though, is how these events have "changed" his feelings for his beloved students. He told me he cannot bring himself to just start hugging them all back right now. He cannot dredge up "love" for them and this is breaking his heart. He feels a terrible guilt about it because he firmly believes a teacher cannot teach if he or she does not love his or her students.

This puzzled me for a moment and then it hit me: He's a lover betrayed. Of course he's going to put up walls. You'd have to be heartless and hopeless not to. These are not the actions of a man who does not love, but rather one who loves "too deeply" -- a condition I strive for, by the way, because I consider "loving too deeply" to be humanity at its most evolved.

I wrote back to him and said I have never seen such love between a teacher and a group of students. He can protest all he want, but his actions are not the actions of a man who does not love. These are the actions of a man who loves with all his heart.

The lessons here are overwhelming. The power of one. The power of leadership by example. The power of faith and personal integrity. The power of doing right. Listen to me: there will be lives saved from this incident. Children learn what they experience. And now they have seen, firsthand, how easily "civilization" can get out of control, but just as easily how a person can make the difference if he stands up for what he believes.

This past Thursday, I went with my dear Gabi Clayton to the Ricki Lake Show (where I sat in the front row, by the way). They had two high school kids who were being verbally harassed at school. Next to them, they had the school bully who was doing much of the harassing.

(A Baptist boy, he told us the Bible "did not agree" with homosexuality. I wanted to say to him, " you're abusing them because you're a good Christian??")
They also featured Carolyn and Willie, a mother and son from Arkansas. Willie is a 15 year old who was beaten up unmercifully after months of verbal harassment (and Carolyn is his Christian mother who refuses to allow the school and the church to look the other way). Next was Gabi, whose son, Bill, committed suicide after being physically attacked. And Lyn Duffy -- an intellectually gifted 20 year old -- who, at age 14, was imprisoned in a mental institution and given shock treatments and aversion therapy to make her straight.

They illustrated how easily hate and fear can escalate from words to violence to death.

Teacher Michael is not a hero or a big star or a man covered with ribbons. He is a quiet teacher in a small town in the midwest who simply decided to do the right thing. I would give just about anything to have been one of his students. They are the luckiest kids on the planet.

Sunday, September 28, 1997
Sunday in the Room with TLS.

Poor Jimmy has a cold. He has just been miserable with a runny nose and sneezing and feeling terrible. Naturally, we are doing everything we can to keep me from picking it up. So, last night Carl and I went down to the pharmacy and picked up NyQuil, which knocked Jimmy out before 60 Minutes was even over.

Yesterday, though, I got my first sneak peek at what Jimmy and the cast have been doing in rehearsal. For one thing, he's been dividing them up into little groups of two or three, and working with them individually. Just before the run-through, he said to them, "Now, there might be some surprises coming, so everyone just react in character..."

What's happened is that the dramatic tension and subtext have burst forth in ways I never expected. I literally sat there stunned at what was happening in front of me. More than a few reviewers commented on the characters and the actors in the showcase production at the Currican, but this is a whole new level. The play has become more real, if that's possible.

Carl told Jimmy this production was going to get him so much work as a director, he's never going to have time to write anything else. I totally agree. He might be one of the best directors working in theatre -- (and yes, I'm prejudiced, so you'll just have to see for yourself). But, Jimmy grew up on Broadway, witnessing hundreds of Broadway performances (in the back of the theatre while selling orange drink at intermission!).

Jimmy was also great friends with Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, David Burns, and a hundred other great Broadway stars. He really knows his stuff. What's funny, though, is how much doing this "big" production is just like doing any small production. You still have to rehearse, you never have enough money, and ultimately, nothing matters but what's up there on the stage.

Best of all, the cast can feel that they are being given the chance to make a extraordinary impact on audiences. Each of them are astonishing performers. Particularly interesting today were Bob Stillman and Grace Garland. Today, when Grace went into the new speech convincing "Gideon" not to kill himself, I found myself with tears streaming down my face.

And Bob was like a new person, bringing levels of feistiness and anger and tension to an almost impossibly difficult role. I cannot WAIT until audiences see this cast. People will simply not believe their eyes and ears. Amy Coleman on Somebody's Friend backed by Bob and Grace's new harmony parts (which they kinda made up themselves) -- it's like a whole new song.

(Am I running on too much? Probably).

After the rehearsal, I brought Jimmy home and put him to bed.

Monday-Tuesday, September 29-30, 1997
Surreptitiously Scanning Out Of Control.

Geocities Broadway neighborhood was down yesterday. That's why you couldn't access my website.

Last night, one of the producers came here and showed us the material which is one step away from being approved. So, while Jimmy kept him distracted, I sneaked to the scanner and scanned it all in. It was just like Mission: Impossible.

"nothing. just my mail..."
First, I put the proposed new flier as the main graphic for the new "temporary" homepage. (They're supposed to get getting a fancy new webmaster soon so that I don't have to deal with it, but until then, I'm going to just keep sneaking you some really cool stuff like the new ad campaign which is still being approved). Look at this beautiful cast. They look like movie stars.

Well, my big toe on my right foot has almost grown in, but my toe takes a slight turn to the right towards the end and the nail is slightly infected at both "corners." I am treating it and with the new shoes Linda George gave me, which are very wide, I am walking comfortably.

Jimmy, by the way, is a thousand percent better. Tuesday was day off for all of us (except the producers who work endlessly) so we lounged and rested and ate chicken soup and rented the movie, "Scream," which was Shawn Decker'd favorite movie of the year last year. (Don't forget he's going to be on MTV Unfiltered on Oct. 5. (is it Oct. 5th? I forgot...)

On Wednesday, the setbuilders will be loading everything into the 47th Street Theatre, the cast will be cutting some radio spots for the show and on Thursday I fly to Norfolk, VA for the anti-drug conference. I'll get to visit Tracey and Shawn D. and sing and talk. Four of my favorite activities!

I think it will be good to get away, too, from the stress of production so that I can just spend a few days reading and decompressing. I mean essentially my job is over here. I wrote the songs and supervised the final arrangements and now they have to drill it and get it right. (What could be more fun???)

I will take this time to be fed and pampered a little -- they usually do that for "special" guests. Then, when I come back, I'll be ready to see a run-through at the theatre (so I can run around shouting, "Hey! THAT'LL NEVER DO!! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???? You know, lots of fun stuff like that.

I got a note from a new reader who told me I wasn't talking enough about my health these days and that it was important that I don't forget. First of all, please forgive me. I didn't mean to be neglectful. The best I can say is that I'm doing really well. Feeling very strong. I do have a tendency to overdo -- and since everyone knows this, it's fun to watch them all try to keep from giving me jobs and responsibilities to keep from "stressing me out." For this reason, I try to be very blunt about how I feel so they won't feel like I'm covering up something.

In fact, a reporter mentioned the other day that she was surprised that I was so forthcoming about using diapers last year when I was so sick. I told her I had learned, not only every adult diaper, but every "feminine" pad ever used by modern women.

"HOW DO YOU DO IT?" I asked her. She just laughed and said, "Unh huh..." And suddenly we had a common bond.

Well, I'm going back to the TV where Jimmy is vegging out. It's nice to just be "home" and together. I do miss Thurber the Cat, though.

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