Upon Reaching My Third Birthday in the Bonus Round
by Steve Schalchlin
October 4, 1996

I celebrated my birthday two days early this past Tuesday by booking a club on the Santa Monica Pier (right next to Cirque de Soleil), gathering a rock band and a choir, and selling the place out wall to wall. The best $2 show on the pier. No doubt about it. HA!

Is there a better life than this?

Someone told me recently that when they began reading my site, they felt sorry for me and kept up with me because they felt sympathy. Now they're saying, "Who can feel sorry for you now?" I guess I'm no longer the pitiable figure that wrote Living in the Bonus Round Book One, now, am I? I've changed a bit. I'm a stronger person, now. Or was I always a strong person, but now my body is letting me do more stuff? I don't know.

For My Birthday

For my birthday, I would like a cure and all my friends back, as they say, but if I can't have that right now, all I ask is to be able to play my songs for as long as I can hold my head up. Next year, maybe I'll be celebrating my fourth year in the Bonus Round on TV in some great big network special. Maybe I'll be singing at a hospice playing an out of tune piano. It doesn't matter.

I didn't start out famous and I'm not famous now. So, there's nothing to lose as long as I am singing and playing and writing and keeping my friends close by me. As long as others are touched by the words I write and the music I play, then all is right in my world.

This past year, you've watched Jimmy and me overcome a desperate slide through AIDS Hell, start a musical, stage it, star in it and set the wheels in motion for a move to NYC. You've heard me rant and rave against intolerance, especially against the cultural war that has been declared against gay people by well-meaning Christians, and you told me how much it means to you to be able to peer over the cyberfence into my life (as I have told you how much it means to me to be able to know what's going on with you).

If I'm proud of anything, I'm proud of the letters I get from people telling me that they entered this realm a little bit prejudiced and more than a little bit ignorant about AIDS and gay people, but didn't stay that way. One heart at a time. There is no other speed at which things change.

Yesterday I spoke at Cal State Northridge. The professor told me I was a completely different person. He said, "Last time you were here, you sounded like you were speaking your last words on earth. You were so weak. This month you sounded alive and strong." Next month I'm singing and speaking at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA (just before we go to NY for the workshop of our play). I expect I'll be even stronger (and aliver).

As I plan this next year in the Bonus Round, planning things I never dreamed I'd be able to do even six months ago -- a college tour? an album? an off-Broadway run of The Last Session? a trip around the moon and back? -- I must remember to be thankful for all the great things that I have, and all the great opportunities that have been handed to me.

With The Last Session launching, it's probably going to lead us more than we lead it -- since it is made of magic -- and I hope you realize that I am totally making all of this up as I go along. One thing I will have to do is to get professional and organized to make sure I don't overwork myself -- stress being a major killer of People With AIDS. (But the scoldings I get from you when I start doing too much, will probably keep me in line.)

Also, I'll probably start selling stuff here: a CD soon, some "Living in the Bonus Round" t-shirts maybe, some Steve Schalchlin jello molds and cookie cutters... (just kidding). I know merchandising is crass and idiotic, but I should be thinking about making a living from the "sweat of my brow" as it says in the Bible. I'll do my best to keep it tasteful and not turn this site into a gift shop. (But just imagine trying to explain to someone what "Living in the Bonus Round" means to you.)

To those of you who read this page daily, I want to tell you that you are at least one reason I am still alive. The song Connected tells of why, but it's just the simple fact that you care enough to read this and to write me occasionally. And also, that you write to each other and care for each other. We are "connected to each other," whether we admit it or not.

When I was a kid playing piano in my father's tiny Missionary Baptist Church in Buna Texas, all I wanted was to be Creedence. Last Tuesday I got to be Creedence for one day. (Another wish fulfilled.) I hope all of you are fulfilling all your wishes and I hope as I revel in the Land of Wish Fulfillment, you will remember that the only things in life that matter are the people around us. All else is "things." "Things" is nice but people are better.

Happy Birthday to me. And a great year ahead to us all.