Friday, August 14, 2015

The Bulgarian Bodybuilder

I arrived in Los Angeles on July 3rd, 1985, and stayed with my friend Tom in Van Nuys while looking for an apartment.  Things fell into place very quickly: by July 10th, I was working two days a week a "contributing editor" at Muscle and Fitness.  And I met a guy my first day on the job.

Ivo was a "stringer" for the magazine, reporting on minor and amateur competitions all over the state.  About 30 years old, with short brown hair, a boyish open face, massive shoulders, and slates for abs.

He invited me to lunch at a place near work, and told me his story.  In retrospect, it didn't add up -- like that of the Norwegian hustler who stole my boyfriend a few months later -- but I was new in town, and I believed everything.

1.  His family fled Communist Bulgaria when he was a kid.
2. His father was a professor of economics at Harvard.
3. He graduated from Yale in 1976 and went to work for The Wall Street Journal.
4. In 1982 he returned to Bulgaria to help his cousin get out.
5. He was arrested and imprisoned for six months.
6. His book on the subject was coming out from Random House.

Then he moved to Los Angeles  to break into screenwriting. He had a movie coming out in 1986. He had dated a lot of celebrities, including Rob Lowe, Scott Baio, Ralph Macchio, and Michael J. Fox.

That weekend we went to a movie.  I wanted to see Back to the Future, with his ex-boyfriend Michael J. Fox, but Ivo said "No way, man!  That Mike Fox thinks he's a big deal, but he's terrible in bed.  They should call him Princess Teeny-Tiny!"

I assumed that he was upset over the breakup.

On July 20th, I found a place: a tiny yellow house (green now) attached to a much bigger house -- I think it used to be a shed.  A living room barely big enough for a bed and a desk, a tiny kitchen with a microwave but no stove, and a bathroom with a shower but no tub.

But it was in West Hollywood!  Just off Robertson Boulevard, near the Different Light Bookstore, the Rage, Mrs. Fields Cookies, a celebrity-heavy gym, the gay Safeway, and only three miles from Muscle and Fitness!

When I told Ivo, he said: "Why do you need an apartment?  You should move in with me."

I was shocked.  He hadn't mentioned moving in together before.  "I've only known you for a couple of weeks.  That's not enough time to make a commitment like that."

"Bah!  If it's really love,  you know right away!"

"It's too soon.  I need more time."  
Otherwise things were going great.  Ivo was personable, interesting, a great cook, a good dancer, and very, very, very muscular.

 Then in early August, my friend Marcus offered to introduce me to his old friend from acting class: Michael J. Fox!

I told Ivo about it while he was chopping celery for dinner.  He froze, and his face turned bright red.

"Can't you ever talk about anything but Michael J. Fox?  Day after day, hour after our, nothing but Michael J. Fox!  And now you have a date with him!"

I tried to remember when I had last mentioned him. "No, no, it's just a lunch.  Marcus is coming, too."

"Bah!  If you love him so much, why don't you move in with him?"

"It's just..."

   "F** Mike Fox, always stealing everybody's lovers!  Well, let me tell you what happened to the last guy Mike Fox stole from me -- I cut him good!"  He stabbed the air with his knife.  "And now he moved on to you!"

I was shocked -- and terrified.  Ivo was twice as strong as me, and carrying a knife. "He sounds like a real jerk!" I said.  I'm definitely cancelling that lunch!"

"Are you f*ing him?"  He pointed the knife at me.  "If you're f*ing him behind my back..."

" know what?  I forgot to bring in the dessert -- there's a peach pie in the car.  Let me just go get it."  I clattered out the door and down the stairs.  I heard Ivo yelling "Sure, go ahead -- meet with your lover!" in the distance.

Michael J. Fox
I expected him to follow, or to try to break into my apartment later, or at least call to apologize.  But we never spoke again.  When he came into the editorial office at Muscle and Fitness to drop off a story, he pretended not to know me.

Turns out that Michael J. Fox is heterosexual, has never dated a guy, and has never heard of Ivo.

If he made it all up, why did he get so angry?

It's still a mystery.

See also: My Date with Richard Dreyfuss; My Date with Michael J. Fox.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Joy of Playing Outside

Rock Island, June 1970

When I was a kid, I hated bright, sunny days.  I much preferred dark, cloudy, and rainy.

I know, it made me weird.  In People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck states that people who prefer cloudy days are evil, probably demon-possessed.

But I had a good reason for it:

Dark, cloudy days meant that I could stay inside and read, watch tv, or play with my toys.  But the moment the sun came out, my parents would demand "It's a nice day!  Go play outside!"

"But there's nothing to do out there!"

"Nonsense!  Use your imagination!"

They then deposited me on the doorstep with the demand that I not return.

One day in the summer of 1970, Mom deposited me outside at exactly 2:00 pm, and demanded that I not return until 4:00: "Two hours in the sun will do you good."

2:00: Usually I sought refuge with a friend whose parents weren't so unreasonable, but my boyfriend Bill was off visiting his grandmother and Greg (who gave me my first kiss) was sick. I knocked on Joel's door, but he wasn't home. I was stuck "playing outside."

2:10: I walked around, admiring the architecture of the houses, trying to distinguish between types of trees, examining ant hills and dandelions.

That took about 5 minutes.

2:15: I walked to Dewey's Candy Store on 22nd Avenue, avoided Dick the Mean Boy, browsed the aisles carefully, and selected a Mars Bar.  About 15 minutes.

2: 30: I walked to Schneider's Drug Store on 38th Avenue, across from the National Supermarket (now an Aldi's).  I   immersed myself in Donald Duck, Casper, and Little Lulu until the clerk yelled "Buy something or get out!."

2:45.  An hour and 15 minutes to go!

I saw a boy I knew from school, and asked "Want to play?"

Ok, but play what?  All of my games are inside.

Um...when my parents were kids, they divided into groups called "Cowboys" and "Indians" and tried to kill each other.

Sounds gross! I'm a pacifist!

We could race down 41st Street.  Whoever gets to 18th Avenue first wins!

Discussion, walking to the starting line, race, congratulations: 15 minutes total.

3:00.  A whole hour to go.  Would this torture never end?

Then I started noticing things.

A teenage boy mowing his lawn. A short-sleeved shirt open to reveal a patch of his tanned hairless chest, his biceps brown and hard.

Two guys repairing a roof, one older guy, one younger, maybe his son.  Their shirts tucked into their pants pockets.  Rippling muscles in their backs and shoulders.

My neighbor from down the block washing his car, naked except for plaid shorts and tennis shoes, husky, hairy, pale.

Three teenagers playing basketball in the schoolyard, their shirts off, their muscles gleaming in the sun.

Two guys hanging out in their backyard, wearing only swimsuits, probably getting ready to go to Longview Park Pool. One massive and solid, the other slim, with a tight chest and abs.

After that, I loved playing outside, especially during the hot days of midsummer.  It gave me lots of opportunities to use my imagination.

See also: Cruising at the Bookmobile

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

3 Boyfriends Who Turned Ex-Gay

The problem with having a fetish for religious boys is, sometimes it doesn't take.

Chances are they grew up hearing that they are innately evil, condemned by God and the Bible, going to hell.  But now they've overcome all that hatred, they know that God is fine with gay people.

Or so you think.

Then suddenly you get an email: "How could I have been so blind?  You can't serve God and Satan!  I am praying for you to find deliverance from the homosexual demons that possess you!"

Followed by an avalanche of emails, letters, gospel tracts, and facebook posts about how much they are praying for you to "see the light" and "reject your sinful lifestyle."

In the Nazarene Church, gay people were never mentioned at all, not until my senior year in high school.  So I never learned any self-hatred, and I've had no lapses into "God hates gays!" gibberish.

But I understand the feeling.  The church did a very good job of pounding into my head the evils of movies, dancing, playing cards, reading the Sunday newspaper, and going out to eat on Sunday, so I still feel an occasional twinge of guilt when engaging in these activities.

And I won't leave the house between 9:30 and 11:30 Sunday morning.   I have an irrational fear of being arrested for the "crime" of skipping church.

But three guys I've dated have suddenly decided that they, or I, or our relationship is sinful, and announced that they were "ex-gay."

1. Alan, the Pentecostal Porn Star.  In West Hollywood, my friend/ex-boyfriend Alan jumped back and forth from "God hates gays" to "God loves gays" like a boomerang.

When we met, he was student clergy at the gay-positive Metropolitan Community Church, proud of his background in gay porn, but just a few months before, he had belonged to a group called Homosexuals Anonymous.  Before that, he was starring in porn movies, and before that, he was in college, studying theology and playing football to "become more manly."

He boomeranged back to "God hates gays" twice more while I knew him.  The first time,  I cured him with a trip to Pattaya.  The second time, he cut off all contact for awhile, but soon he was back.

2. Josh the Fireman.  When I moved to New York in 1997, I met Josh at St. Thomas of Canterbury, a gay-friendly Episcopal church in Smithtown: in his 30s, tall, redhead, hairy chest, rather buffed, with a nice Bratwurst+.  Not really my type, but religious!

He grew up in the Abundant Harvest Church of God in Farmingdale, Long Island, where he constantly heard that he was innately evil, condemned by God and the Bible, going to hell.  But now he was an Episcopalian, and he had a library of pro-gay religious books.  He had overcome his early brainwashing, right?

We dated once, and then settled into a friendship.  We went to brunch after church, talked about cute guys, cruised together.  One night we "shared" Yuri.

A few days later, out of nowhere, Josh sent me an email about how he had seen the light, gay people were evil, God had turned him straight, etc., etc.

I called him and asked "What, exactly, do gay people do that's so evil?"

"Fornication!"  he exclaimed.  "Dozens of partners a night!  Cruising in t-rooms, bath houses, group orgies!  It's disgusting, just like in the days of Noah, and you know what God did to the world then!"

"Do you do any of those things?"

"We had sex on our first date!  And then I was with you and Yuri both, and we weren't even dating! That's decadent!  Sinful!"

"But some straight people do those things, and some gay people don't.  So maybe God just disapproves of sex outside of a committed relationship, regardless of whether you're gay or straight?"


"God doesn't care who you're attracted to -- the soul doesn't have a gender, anyway.  He just wants you to stick with one partner for your whole life."

Personally, I don't think God cares how many people we share our sex organs with, as long as it's consensual and non-exploitative.  But the strategy worked -- Josh agreed that maybe it was promiscuity, not being attracted to men, that got God riled up.

We lost contact after I moved to Manhattan.  I assume that he's "still" gay.

3. Dave the Lutheran.  Dave, a 21-year old undergrad at the conservative Lutheran college up the hill, said that he wanted to come to my M4M Parties, but he was worried that his ample belly and beneath-the-belt nub would be ridiculed:   "When I tell guys on Grindr my size, they aren't interested any more."

So I had him over for a one-on-one session.  He was not only chubby and small beneath the belt, he was rather ugly.  But he was religious, and that's always attractive.

I tried my best to make him feel desired, including an extensive make-out sessions after the activity.  Plus I listened patiently to his long, boring coming out story.

He left with my private phone number in his pocket and an invitation to "come back anytime."

A week later, he emailed me with a request to be taken off the M4M Party mailing list.  "I can't do this anymore.  I should have known that you can't serve God and Satan.  I have to worry about the fate of my soul."

I let him have it: "I was as nice to you as I could be.  I did everything I could to bolster your self-confidence.  What did I do that was so evil?"

He never responded.

I should have taken him to Pattaya.

See also: Alan Turns Ex-Gay; My Top Religious Dates and Hookups

Don't Call Bruce "Gay"

Rock Island, December 1979

My best friend at Augustana College, Bruce, didn't realize that we were friends.  He thought I was just another member of the Bookstore Gang, the group of comic book-science fiction-Monte Python fans who hung out at the Student Union Bookstore, but never had real conversations and never saw each other socially.  A casual acquaintance, a "school friend" at best.

Bruce also didn't realize that he was my connection to the daylit world, an interpreter of all those alien heterosexual folkways and mores.   In fact, he often tried to fix me up with girls, or assumed that I was hot for whatever girl I happened to be chatting with.

I chose him because:
1. He was an English/drama major

2. He didn't date much, so I didn't have to hear the play-by-play of nights of heterosexual excess.

3.. He was not cute, tall and skinny, with a mop of unruly hair and a sharp, angular face.  So there would be no weird sublimated attraction.  (This guy will give you an idea.)

4. He was pro-gay, at least in theory, though he roiled when someone insinuated that he might be gay.

He flew into a rage when you called him "Brucie" or anything that sounded similar.

The Fratboys soon got wise, and took to saying:
“Are you busy?”
“Do you bruise easy?”
“Do you think Diana Ross is too bluesy?”
Or my favorite, “I bought a new record, Strange Brew -- see?” They never tired of seeing Bruce redden with rage.

So all hell broke loose that December night with Leanne.

Leanne was a junior drama major, plump and aggressive with thin sandy hair.  In December of our sophomore year, she invited me to a new Chinese restaurant in Moline, the next town over, and I invited Bruce.  I didn't realize that they were old enemies, but they sniped at each other constantly.

Later I heard that last year Bruce won the role of Algernon in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest over Leanne’s best friend, a senior who would be auditioning professionally soon. Was she still angry about that?  Or maybe she thought this was a date, and resented Bruce's intrusion.

After kung pao chicken and sniping, we drove through downtown on the way back to Augustana.  As we neared JR's, Rock Island's gay bar, Leanne said "Shall we stop?  You in the mood for a slow dance, Bruce?"

"What are you talking about?"  Bruce asked from the back seat.

"That's your bar coming up, isn't it? Wanna duck inside for a quickie?"

““It’s not my bar! I’m not even old enough to drink yet!”

He didn't realize that  it was a gay bar!  Leanne slowed down. “I didn't mean that you owned it, dear,  I thought you were the entertainment for the evening."  She flashed a limp wrist.

I saw Bruce's face reddening in the rear view mirror. Now he got it. "Eat me!", he yelled.

"Better ask one of your friends to do that, dearie."

Bar next to JR
“That’s it! Stop the car!” Bruce shouted.  He snapped off his seat belt and opened the car door while we were still moving. Leanne skidded to a stop in front of a sandwich shop on the next corner (it seems to be an Irish bar now).

“You can’t get out here,” I told Bruce. “We’re two miles from the school. It’s cold out.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

"I've got a better idea.  We can both get out, and call my brother to pick us up.  I'm getting kind of carsick."   I got out of the car and slammed the door.  Leanne sputtered for a moment, then zoomed off.

I went inside the sandwich shop and asked to use the phone, while Bruce stood on the corner, sputtering a bit himself.  "Where'd she get the idea that I was gay?" he asked when I returned.

"I don't know," I said.  "What's the big deal?  I thought you were in favor of gay rights."

"Well, sure, gay rights.  But...but...what if word gets around?"

I remembered Rocky High, where hanging out with a guy with muscles was a sure sign of heterosexual identity.  "Just find a jock to hang out with, and no one will suspect you."

The "accusation," oddly, served to strengthen our friendship.  We began talking on the telephone almost every night, first talking about how ludicrous it was for Leanne to think that he was gay, and then moving on to other things.  Like Fred -- Bruce became the only Augustana friend to meet my ministerial-student boyfriend.

But he never figured it out.  When we invited him over for dinner at Fred's apartment, he said: "Cool pad! Does Fred ever let you bring girls over?"

See also: Bruce Travels Forward in Time to Bring Me Guys

Monday, August 10, 2015

Alan, the Pentecostal Porn Star

West Hollywood, October 1985

When I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I began to attend the All Saints Metropolitan Community Church, a gay-specific church.  It wasn't very big.  The MCC tends to thrive in communities where mainstream churches are homophobic, but in West Hollywood you had many other gay-friendly congregations.

So every Sunday only 30 or so people gathered in a sort of chapel on the second floor of a building on the corner of Santa Monica and Fairfax, down the street from the French Quarter Restaurant, for a service that borrowed heavily from Roman Catholic liturgy, with robes and incense and chants of "Peace be with you," but old-fashioned Methodist hymns and a conservative evangelical-style sermon.

(Most members of MCC were raised in homophobic denominations, usually either Protestant fundamentalist or Roman Catholic, so the church tried to accommodate both.)

Many newcomers believed that the Bible disapproved of gay people, or that AIDS was God's punishment for being gay.  The pastor had to minister to them, so every sermon was about how God is not homophobic, the Bible is gay-friendly, you can be gay and Christian.

For those who attended every Sunday, it got a little redundant.

There was a pastor and two student clergy, quite a lot for such a small congregation, but the positions were highly prestigious -- ministering in the heart of the Gay World!  -- and therefore sought-after:

I have a thing for clergy.  The pastor was in a long-term monogamous relationship, and one of the student clergy was a bit too old for me (a Baptist minister, married with children, before he came out).

That left Alan, a tall, husky former Pentecostal who had trained to become a missionary.

He had a boyfriend, too, but by mid-October, they had broken up, and I saw my chance to move in.  I wrangled an invitation to his house for dinner on the Saturday after Halloween.

Alan and his two roommates lived in the bottom half of a brown stucco duplex, about 10 blocks from the church, near Plummer Park where all of the male hustlers hung out, and the Formosa Cafe, where Hollywood celebrities used to hang out.

He turned out to be a former theology student and English major who almost went to grad school in Medieval poetry.  He had been in West Hollywood for six years; in his early days he acted in gay porn, alongside such greats as Kip Noll and Jeff Stryker.

So you'd think that we would have a lot to talk about.  Still, the date didn't go well.

1. He served canned ravioli, with no salad or vegetables in sight.  This is what you serve to impress a date?

2. Instead of The Golden Girls, the West Hollywood staple, he wanted to watch The Love Boat.  Geez, my grandmother watched that!

3. An hour of mind-numbing boredom later, I said, "Are you ready to go out?"  Nearly all dates in West Hollywood included an hour or so at the bars, mainly because being in a gay-friendly public place was so new and novel for most of us.

"Ok.  We can go to the baths."

A bath house!  On a date?  Unheard of!  And, for that matter, weren't clergy supposed to be into monogamous relationships, not hookups?

4. "Never mind, we'll just stay here," I said.

"Ok.  Go in the bedroom and take off your clothes.  I'm going to take a shower first."


I just sat there, speechless, infuriated.  The student clergy was treating me like a hustler!  I heard the shower run, then go off.  Alan came out in a towel.

"I thought you would be naked in my bed by now."

"You didn't pick me up at Plummer Park" I yelled.  "This is supposed to be a date, not a sales contract!  And you call yourself student clergy!"

"Hold it-- I didn't mean to offend you," Alan said, perplexed.  "I was just trying to speed things up. I'm nervous -- I like you a lot. you still want to go in the bedroom?"

"No, I want to go to the bars, and find someone who acts like a gentleman.  Like about a thousand other guys in West Hollywood!"

I stood and moved toward the door.

"Come on, I said I was sorry..."  He rushed toward me.  His towel fell off.  A gigantic Kielbasa+.

Whoa, what do you call that thing?  I stared.  He smiled.  "Did I mention that I used to do porn movies?"

I forgave him.  Turns out that being gifted beneath the belt (see my Sausage List) got Alan out of a lot of faux pas.

We dated for about six weeks, until I went home for Christmas, and a Norwegian con artist moved in.


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