Saturday, March 26, 2016

Alan and the Kept Boy

West Hollywood, March 1986

When I was growing in the Nazarene church, not only was alcohol forbidden, we couldn't even go into a venue that served or sold alcohol, for any reason.  My Sunday school teacher said, "If a maniac with an axe is chasing you, and the only way to escape is to run into a bar, choose the maniac."

Alan grew up hardcore Pentecostal, with similar restrictions.

So we were never around anyone drinking.  We didn't really understand that people who are drunk behave differently than when they are sober.

Until one night at Mugi.

It was about 10:00 pm, still early.  Alan was chatting up a cute twink from Taiwan, and I had flirted with a few guys, but nothing definite yet.

Then I saw Zack,  sitting at the bar, drinking a green, toxic-looking drink.  I later discovered that it was a Flying Grasshopper, creme-de-menthe, creme-de-cacao, vodka, and mint leaves.  Stunningly out of place amid the coca-colas and beers.

He was a tall, blond twink, wearing a blue suit with a hot pink, frilled shirt unbuttoned half way down  Very tan, smooth chest beneath. Stunningly out of place amid the t-shirts and jeans.

He wasn't actually my type, I thought.  Besides, he wouldn't be interested: white guys came to Mugi only to meet Asian guys.  But I found myself drawn to him anyway -- something about the pink shirt against the tanned chest was extremely erotic.

We talked.  No slurred speech or erratic movements, not obviously drunk.  Zack was from Idaho, came to L.A. three years ago to become an actor.  He had done some modeling, yelled on a roller coaster in a commercial for Knotts Berry Farm, and played a racist high school bully on an episode of Diff'rent Strokes.  I pretended that I had seen it..

I reached inside his shirt to feel his chest.  It was remarkably ripped.  The boy knew his way around a gym.

Zack ordered another Flying Grasshopper, then grabbed my hand and squeezed it hard.  "Can I come back to your place tonight?"

 "I'm....um....with my roommate  right now," I said, shocked.

Warning Sign #1: In West Hollywood in 1986, you didn't bring guys home the first time you met.  You always made a date for later in the week.

"What's he look like?"

"He's over there, tall guy with a beard."

"Yeah -- cute.  Invite him along.  We'll have a three-way."

Warning Sign #2: The custom of "sharing" one's friends and roommates developed in response to the AIDS crisis, under the theory that you should keep your sexual activities within a tight social circle.  But you only shared them with committed partners, not with bar pickups (this rule changed during the 1990s, but in 1986 it was set in stone).

"We don't know each other very well," I said firmly.  "It's a little early to be talking about sharing."

Zack drained his second Flying Grasshopper in a couple of gulps.  "See, the thing is, I had a fight with my boyfriend -- tonight was supposed to be our anniversary -- that's why I'm dressed up.  I'm afraid to go home -- he gets violent sometimes.  So it's your bedroom or the street."

Wile we talked, I had been unbuttoning Zack's shirt, feeling his warm, hard chest and abs, fondling his sizeable package.  I leaned over and kissed him.  I can be a Good Samaritan, I thought.

"I came with my friend," Zack said.  "Just let me tell him that I'm going home with you."

"Wait -- why couldn't you stay with your friend?" I asked.

"Oh, his place is too tiny.  Besides, he's not hot!"

Warning Sign #3: His story didn't check out.

Warning Sign #4: He was willing to get into a car with two guys he didn't know.

Today I would absolutely refuse.  But I was young and naive, and besides, he had an incredible physique..

Alan had just struck out with the Taiwanese guy, so he didn't need much convincing.

When we got to the car, Zack pulled me into the back seat with him, and we began kissing and fondling as Alan drove.

Warning Sign #5: He didn't act like a guy who had just had a fight with his boyfriend, and was afraid to go home.

Warning Sign #6: For all my groping, Zack did not become aroused.

Warning Sign #7: "Let's stop at the liquor store!" he exclaimed.  "Drinks all around."

"I don't know where any liquor stores are," Alan protested.

"I do, I do!  Turn here on Van Ness, then go down to Santa Monica. Studio Liquor, right off Highland!"

Alan glared at me, but stopped, and Zack ran in and bought a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps.

Warning Sign #8: He began sipping at it right in the car.

When we got to the apartment, Zack carefully brought the bottle in with him and put it on the coffee table.  Then he yelled "Showers first!  Who's with me?"

"Sorry, I hate showering with other people."

"I'll go!" Alan said.  They took off their clothes and went into the bathroom.  They were in there for a very long time.  First there was giggling, then no sound at all.  Finally they emerged, naked,  Zack's hard, smooth, tanned physique a sharp contrast to Alan's pale, hairy body.  They compared cock sizes.  Zack was significantly smaller.

"Time for Peppermint Schnapps!" he announced, grabbing the bottle again. "It's the best thing in the world, except for a Sloe Gin Fizz."

We took the bottle from him, went into Alan's bedroom, and climbed into the bed.  Zack and I began kissing, and Alan began working on him beneath the belt.

Unsuccessfully.  No matter what he tried, Zack could not rise to the occasion.

"Well, I'm more of a bottom anyway," he said.  He turned over onto his stomach.  "Who wants to be the first?"

Alan volunteered.  Later he told me that it was terrible.  Zack just lay there like a statue.  Soon I could tell that he had fallen asleep.

We ended up falling asleep, too, with Zack between us.

He didn't want to wake up in the morning.  Finally Alan gave up, got dressed, and went to church.

How was I going to get rid of this guy?

 I let him sleep another hour, and then shook him away.

"God, what a hangover!" he moaned.  "Bloody Marys all around.  Got any vodka?"  He grinned at me.  "Hey, you're cute.  Did we do it last night?"

"Um...well, we tried.  Don't you remember?"

"Babe, I was so blasted, I'm lucky I remembered my name.  Did I give you that old saw about a fight with my boyfriend?  That's my favorite."

 Leaning heavily on me, Zack pulled himself out of bed.  "Well, part of it is true.  I'm going to have a fight with my boyfriend as soon as I get home.  I told him I'd be back by midnight, so I didn't turn into a pumpkin. Got any Vodka?"

"No.  We don't keep alcohol in the house.  You bought a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps."

He pushed himself out into the living room and took a sip.  "Well, at least the night was good for something.  Take me home, ok, babe?  We have Vodka and Tequila there"

Grateful to finally be rid of him, I drove Zack to one of those huge apartment complexes on the Miracle Mile, where he lived with a 40-ish film director who promised to get him some acting jobs.  As far as I could tell during our brief conversation, he was more of a kept boy than a boyfriend.  With a major alcohol problem.

I missed all of the warning signs, blinded by his chest.

See also: Sharing the Optometrist's Boyfriend; Alan Cruises a Cop

Lane's Hookup with Batman, Robin, and the Joker

West Hollywood, March 1991

Everybody in West Hollywood had a good celebrity dating story.

Older guys claimed to have dated Marlon Brandon, Cary Grant, or Rock Hudson.

Younger guys claimed hookups with Scott Baio, Johnny Depp, or Keanu Reeves.

Everybody claimed sausage sightins of Rob Lowe, Tom Selleck, and Sylvester Stallone.

Since nearly every actor was closeted in those days, and vehemently denied any "accusations," it was hard to tell which story was real, which an exaggeration of a casual meeting, and which just wishful thinking.

But Lane didn't have any good stories.  Oh, he had dated some actors: a minor cast member of M*A*S*H,  the star of a Saturday morning tv show, a guy who played a Klingon on Star Trek.  But nobody really famous.

For someone who grew up a stone's throw from Paramount Studios, it was downright embarrassing.

"You can have my Celebrity Boyfriend," I told him one day.  "We broke up a while ago, but I'm sure I can arrange some sharing."

"The guy who starred in one tv show that nobody watched?  I'd rather stick to my M*A*S*H story."

"How about Michael J. Fox?"

"I don't want a getting-coffee story.  If I'm going to do this, I want at least a sausage sighting out of it!"

Then I had an inspiration:  "How about Cesar Romero?"

Lane frowned.  "The guy who played the Joker in the old Batman show?"

"You mean Sophia's boyfriend on The Golden Girls," I corrected him.  "And also the Cisco Kid.  And a Latin lover in about a hundred movies.  He was a big heartthrob, back in the day."

"How do you know the Joker?"

"You know that love seat in my room that's impossible to sit on?  I got it from him."

A couple of years ago, I answered an ad in Frontiers and bought a gold-and-white loveseat from Cesar Romero.  It turned out to be horribly uncomfortable, hard and scratchy -- I used it to throw clothes on that I was too lazy to put in the hamper.  But I kept in contact with the barely-closeted Hollywood legend.

"Isn't Cesar Romero like a hundred by now?"

"He's a distinguished older gentleman," I answered, "But still in good shape -- I've seen him at the gym, walking on the treadmill or cruising in the steamroom.  Besides, when you tell the story, you can push it back a few years.  You can be a naive teenager asking for his autograph on the set of Batman in 1968.

"Um...in 1968 I was twelve.  But ok, I like Daddies.  We can go out, and if something happens, I'll tweak it a little into a celebrity dating story."


I arranged for us to have lunch at the Greenery, an al fresco restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Cesar was taller than me, white haired, and heavily tanned, an affluent retiree wearing a pink shirt unbuttoned a few buttons, and white shorts that displayed a considerable old-guy bulge.

We prepped by renting two of his old movies, Lost Continent (1951) and The Castillian (1964), assuming that he wouldn't want to talk about Batman, but he said the Joker was his favorite role.

"I had a blast!  I played the Joker 20 times, and every time I got to 'accidentally' fondle Adam West (Batman) and Burt Ward (Robin).  Not that they minded -- we all became good friends.  I think Burt looked up to me as a role model."

After dinner we drove back to Cesar's apartment in Brentwood, on the other side of UCLA.  It didn't look like an old person's apartment -- all black leather and ultra-modern chrome.  He must have remodeled (that's why he sold the loveseat, I concluded).

Cesar sat between us on the couch with glasses of lemonade and, getting a little frisky, told us about the guys he had been with:

A long-term relationship with Tyrone Power.  Dating Cary Grant.  Hookups with Walter Pidgeon, Tony Perkins, and William Holden.

"Usually I went down on them.  That was the main thing gay guys did in those days.  And the guys receiving, they didn't think of themselves as gay.  It was just a friendly gesture.  Desi told me, 'Come on, Cesar, let's just get it over with, and then we can be friends."

"Desi Arnaz?"  I asked.  "Junior or Senior?"

Desi Arnaz (1917-1986) was the star of I Love Lucy in the 1950s.  His son, Desi Arnaz Jr. (1953-) was a former teen idol, with a band and some movie roles.

Cesar grinned.  "Why, both of them, of course."

This was so interesting that I was forgetting to cruise.  Then I saw Lane's hand rubbing against Cesar's bare thigh.  Cesar smiled and moved it to his crotch.

"So, anyone recent?" Lane asked.

"Tony Randall.  Raymond Burr.  Joe Penny.  And..."

Suddenly the doorbell rang.  Cesar brushed Lane away and stood, tenting, to ring in...Burt Ward!

He was in his 40s, chubby and squinty, but still recognizable as Robin the Boy Wonder from the Batman series.  Later we found out that he was still acting, appearing mostly in low-budget sexploitation movies like Cyber Chic and Beach Babes from Beyond. 

"Hey, I just wanted to return the book," Burt said, staring at us with surprise.  "I see you're busy."

"Not at all," Cesar said.  "Just entertaining some friends.  Care for some lemonade?"

"Oh...thanks, but I have to be going.  Nice meeting you, though."  He vanished.

"I have to apologize for Burt," Cesar said, returning to his place between us.  "He's very nice, really, but not really comfortable with my lifestyle."

"But you've been with him?"  Lane asked.

"Just once."

"How big is he?  I mean, he had a huge bulge on the show.  I can't believe it got past the censors."

"He's quite the Boy Wonder. Kielbasa+."

"I can do better than that,"  Lane said, unzipping and pulling it out (I'm not allowed to reveal his size).

Cesar got on his knees and went down on him.

Soon they were on the floor in the 69 position.  Cesar had a Bratwurst+, very thick.

I didn't participate -- I wanted this to be Lance's story, not mine.

Lane finished very quickly -- Cesar brought sixty years of experience to the task.  But Cesar took awhile.  Finally Lane tired of using his mouth and switched to his hand.

When he finished, Cesar said "Thanks" rather brusquely and pulled his shorts back on. "More lemonade, anyone?  I always drink lemonade or something acidic after sex.  It kills the germs."

When Lane told the story later, he started with "I'm going to tell you about my date with Batman, Robin, and the Joker," even though Burt Ward was just there for a moment, and Adam West, not at all.

As if Cesar Romero wasn't impressive enough.

See also: Batman and Robin; The Satyr's Hookup with Sylvester Stallone.

16 Naked New Yorkers

I lived in New York from 1997 to 2001, while in graduate school at Long Island University: a year in a graduate student apartment on campus, and three years in the East Village, sharing an apartment with Edward the Art Appraiser.  It never felt like home, in the way that West Hollywood was home; I always felt like a visitor, dropping in on other people's lives.

But the hookup opportunities were enormous.  Maybe we knew so much about safe sex that anonymous encounters no longer seemed risky, or maybe  the East Village never developed the "date first, bedroom later" culture of West Hollywood, but cruising was constant, and intense.

Here are my top "bedroom first, dating later" stories from four years in New York.






Year 1

1. Conrad, who came to my room to fix my computer.

2. Dustin, who invited me to an all-nighter after a meeting of the New York Bondage Club.

3. The fireman who came by when my crazy roommate left an open can of tuna in his room during Christmas break.  We thought something died in there.

4. The Lebanese guy I met online, who asked "do you want to hang out?" by which he meant come to my room for oral.






Year 2

5. The older bear who lived only a few blocks from my parents' house in Indianapolis.  I dropped in for a "quickie" on the way to the bars.

6. The unhung hippie who Yuri and I shared after a conversation of about five minutes.

7. I was conducting a research project that required me to interview gay men.  Carl refused to be interviews, but agreed to show me his Kielbasa+.

8. Prasert, the chef in a Thai restaurant in Paris.  I ate there almost every night.  One night he invited me into the kitchen to show me a "new recipe."  In the stock room.





Year 3

9. Barry, on the night we exorcised the homophobic demon.

10. The Man in Black who cruised me on Christopher Street.

11. When Yuri came to Manhattan for the weekend, we went cruising at the Eagle, and he was approached by a Korean gym rat.  He was reluctant, having heard that Asians are small beneath the belt, but I talked him into it.

12. When I was visiting Zack in Providence, we went to a bar that had a little enclosed patio, the equivalent of dark rooms in European bars.  I went down on a guy while he was staring straight ahead, pretending to not even know I was there.  You can't get more anonymous than that!






Year 4

13. I broke every rule of cruising, and followed Jorge out into the cold, dark night with only an exchange of first names.

14. Shen the Chinese history major.  We spent the whole evening in his room, watching tv.

15. Carey, the Football Player Who Got Unstuck in Time.

16. The NYU undergrad who came to my apartment in the rain and refused to leave until the sun was out.  The next afternoon.



Friday, March 25, 2016

The Bedroom without Socializing in West Hollywood

West Hollywood, April 1990

Lane and I have been dating for almost a year.  Almost every night, he stays over in my house near Sunset and San Vicente, or I stay over in his apartment on Hacienda, about five blocks away.

But we still cruise.  On Friday and Saturday nights, if we don't have a dinner or party to go to, we go to Mugi or to the Faultline.

On Sunday afternoons we go to the beer/soda bust at the Faultline.

Of course, we never bring anyone home directly from the bar.  Only disgusting sleazoids stoop to hooking up, or what we call "tricking.  When we meet someone, we make a date with him for 3-4 days later, then go out to dinner or to a movie, and finally, bring him home to "share."

Tonight I have a sore shoulder, and I don't feel like cruising.  After dinner I tell Lane that I just want to stay in  and watch tv.

"Do you mind if I go out by myself?" Lane asks. "I'll come over afterwards to spend the night."

"Only if you bring me something," I say.  "Or somebody," I add as a joke.

He drives off at 9:30 pm, after the Golden Girls.   I watch tv, read a book.

11:00 pm.  We usually arrive at the bar by 10:00, and leave by 11:00.  Who can cruise longer than that?  Unless there's a special show or contest or something.

12:00 am.  Sometimes we stop at the French Quarter or the Hamburger Hamlet afterwards, but we're always home by midnight.  We're not night owls.

1:00 am.  We're absolutely always home by 1:00 am.  Did he forget about me, and go home to bed?

I walk the five blocks to Lane's apartment.  No light in the window.

I knock.  No answer.  I let myself in, and sit on the couch and turn on the tv.



1:36 am

I hear a car pull up, and go out to the balcony to look.  It's Lane!  With a rough-looking sleazoid!

He's tricking?  And without me?

Fuming, I wait for them to get up the stairs.  I pull the door open before Lane has a chance to put his key in the lock.

"Who's the sleazoid?" I snarl.

"Here you are!" Lane exclaims.  "We stopped by the house, but you weren't there.  You asked me to bring you something.  Well, here he is!"

"I'm your birthday present," the Sleazoid says with a laugh.  He hands me a paper bag. "Plus zucchini sticks and ranch dressing from the French Quarter."

"It's not my birthday."

"Ok, your St. Patrick's Day present. Erin go bragh!"

I look the Sleazoid over.  Tall, a bit chubby, a short beard, wearing leather chaps and a white t-shirt that reveals a hairy chest.  A tattoo of Hot Stuff the Little Devil on his skinny arm.

"Is this a trick?" I ask coolly.

"Oh, no.  We stopped at the French Quarter on the way home.  Dinner first makes this a date, right?."

"I'm Mal," the Sleazoid says, loping over to the couch and sitting with his legs spread.  Very nice basket, probably sock-augmented  "Short for Malachi.  I was raised ultra fundamentalist.  Then I was Episcopal, Wiccan, Shinto, Sufi, Baha'i, Zen Buddhist...."

"Let's put these zucchini sticks in a bowl," I say, grabbing Lane and dragging him into the kitchen.

"What gives?  You bring home a trick..."

"A date!" Lane corrects me.

"Technically, I guess.  But obviously not to share!"

"We went to your house to surprise you!" Lane exclaims.  "You can ask Derek if you don't believe me.  I thought you would like Mal.  He's into all those weird religions, like you are."

"Who cares about weird religions?  He's not at all my type, it's 1:36 am, and there's a half-drunk sleazoid with a tattoo of Hot Stuff the Little Devil on the couch!"

"That Sleazoid, as you call him, is about twice the size of Alan."

Huh?

Lane knows what I find attractive. #5, Gifted beneath the belt, trumps everything else.

We take the Sleazoid -- Mal -- into the bedroom and take turns going down on his Kielbasa (actually not quite as big as Alan, but still impressive).  Then Lane goes down on me while Mal and I kiss (he's surprisingly passionate).  Mal finishes by lying atop me and thrusting between my legs.

Very erotic, except for singing "Happy birthday to you" between thrusts.

By 1993, we were cruising separately on Fridays and Saturdays.







See also: Sharing the Eskimo; Victor and His Sleazoid Daddy



Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cruising East of Alvarado

West Hollywood, September 1993

"Where are all the Hispanic guys?' I asked Lane one day. "The population of Los Angeles is about 50% Hispanic, but you never see any here.  We don't even have a Mexican restaurant."

"I can buy some Old El Paso at the Safeway if you want," Lane said, "And make tacos tonight."

"I'm serious.  We bring home lots of Asian guys, and lots of Anglo leather bears, but no Hispanics, except for that waiter that we met by accident."

"What do you expect, when you cruise at Mugi, and I cruise at the Faultline?  If you want to meet Hispanic guys, you have to go where they are."

He was right.  The Hispanic gay population of L.A. had its own distinct culture, predating the white-middle class-male "gay" culture of West Hollywood.  If I wanted to meet them, I had to head east of Alvarado.

So on Saturday night, I dropped Lane off at the Faultline for his weekly cruise, and drove a mile farther to the corner of Sunset and Hollywood, and a bar called Basgo's.

It was not like the semi-darkness of Mugi: it was loud and gaudy, the walls painted an effervescent pink.  There were murals of naked Aztecs, plastic palm trees, stuffed parrots.

Pumped-up bartenders in their underwear gyrated to salsa music:

En la vida hay amores
que nunca pueden olvidarse
imborrables momentos
que siempre guarda el corazón

Drag queens made the rounds, flirting and kvetching with their huge brandy snifters sloshing with ruby-red margaritas.

Rent boys slouched by the pool table, displaying sock-enhanced mega-bulges.

The cruising protocol was closer to Catch One than Mugi.  Few Anglos, no English being spoken, few people by themselves except for rent boys and drag queens.  You saw someone you liked and drew him away from his rowdy group of friends to the dance floor, where the pre-hookup conversation occurred.

Con los anos que me quedan
Yo vivire por darte amor
Borrando cada dolor
Con besos llenos de pasion
Como te ame por vez primera

I was drawn to a very handsome young guy with an impish grin, talking nonstop with his friends.   Shorter than me, dark skin, a round face, and black curly hair.  Frayed jeans with an enormous bulge and an yellow shirt with most of the buttons undone, revealing a hard smooth chest.

I approached and asked -- or rather yelled -- "Quires bailar?"  He grinned and nodded.  I took his hand and led him to the dance floor.

We spoke -- or rather yelled -- in  clipped Spanish.  His name was Dario.  He was 23 years old, from Peru.  He came to L.A. last year with his brother and two cousins.  He worked in a warehouse.



Nice background story.  Time to seal the deal.  I led him to the bar and ordered two tamarind-flavored Mexican sodas.   He grinned.

"Que quieres hacer en la cama?" I asked.  What do you like to do in bed?

"Oh, me gustaria que tu me maman!" Dario said, eyes gleaming.  "Y otras cosas, por supuesto.  Y cojerte..." 

Getting oral, topping, and "other things," not bad.

I knew that closeted guys were sometimes only into the act itself, not the preliminaries, so I specified:  "Pero, mi amigo y yo, nos gustan besando y abrazando, tambien."  Kissing and hugging, full body contact, making out.

He nodded.  "A mi me gustan muchas cosas."

And one more thing: "Y es absolutamente necessario que tu duermas con nosotros."  No grab-and-go.  You have to spend the night, or no deal.

He nodded.  "Si, si.  Dormiremos."

Dario didn't have a car, so he drove with me to pick up Lane at the Faultline, then to the French Quarter, and then to our apartment in West Hollywood. 

We sat in the living room.  I ran my hand over his chest, cupped his crotch, tried to kiss him.

No besando.

WTF?

Well, maybe he was shy.

We brought Dario into the bedroom, stripped off his clothes, and put him down on the bed.  He had a beautifully curved, uncut Bratwurst.  I went down on him while Lane fondled his chest.

Were they kissing?  I looked up.  No.
  
I gave Lane a turn and tried to kiss him. No.

Well, could I at least fondle his balls?  Ok.

 He pushed Lane's head down on his crotch, jerked his hips, and finished with a groan. 

Ok, so how about mamando us?  No.

I wasn't particularly into anal, but he said cojerte, so I turned over onto my stomach and asked "Hay condones?"  Do you have condoms?

Dario was pulling his shorts on.  "Hey, I thought you were spending the night!"  I exclaimed.  "Dormiremos juntos!"

Nope.  "Tengo que venir a mi casa.  Necessito levantarme temprano."  I have to get up early.

So we left Lane in bed and got dressed, and I drove Dario home -- to Silverlake, eight miles away.

"Why did you tell me that you are into besando y mamando?" I asked in frustration.

He stared out the car window at the glittering lights of Santa Monica Boulevard.  "I told you I like many things," he said.

"And spending the night.  You said voy a dormir contigo."

"Dormir...tener sexo, si?"

I smelled a rat.  Dario had played me, agreeing to anything just to get into my bed.


Then we arrived at the address he gave me -- a glass-and-steel building on Hyperion, in the heart of Silverlake's gay neighborhood.

This was the tiny, rundown apartment that Dario shared with his brothers and cousins?

"Could I come in to use the bathroom?" I asked.

It was a beautifully furnished one-bedroom, with hardwood floors and antique furniture.  A framed print of a bullfighter.

A coffee table book about painter Joan Miro.

"Porque me dices que eres pobre?" I asked.  Why did you tell me that you were poor?

"I didn't say I was poor," Dario answered -- in respectable English!  "You heard what you wanted to hear."

The brothers and cousins came to the U.S. with him -- they didn't live with him.

And his job in the warehouse?  He was the general manager, with a salary double what Lane made.

"You wanted a poor little Latino boy who says 'si, señor' and agrees to whatever you say, and I wanted a hot, built Anglo to go down on me.  We both got what we wanted, right?"


The next weekend I returned to Basgo's and met Manuel, from Nicaragua, who spoke almost no English -- I checked.

And I made sure we were besando and abrazando before we left the bar.

See also: The Waiter in the Mexican Restaurant; I Bring Home a Teen Hustler.














Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Do Levis Show Bulges Better than Armani Wool Slacks?

Wolcottville, Indiana, July 1983

When I was a kid, my family was distinctly working class.  Dad worked in the factory, and Mom worked at the mall.

Our house was about the size of small apartment.

90% of dinners consisted of spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, tuna casserole, fried eggs, or -- shudder -- chipped beef on toast.

My parents' friends and relatives were distinctly working class, too.  Not a college graduate among them.  A lot of pick up trucks, country-western music, and Goodwill t-shirts and jeans.

Fundamentalism.

Right wing politics.

Country western music!

So it came as a shock to discover that I am related to one of the wealthiest families in the world.

In 1982, when I was in grad school in Bloomington, I found out that Dad was adopted.  His biological father was the "black sheep" son of a wealthy northern Indiana businessman.

More research revealed a connection with the McCormicks of Chicago.

You know, Interntional Harvester, the Chicago Tribune, McCormick Place, McCormick School of Engineering, McCormick Theological Seminary, the Art Institute of Chicago, Villa Turicum, the House-in-the-Woods?

A vast dynasty of industrialists, publishers, politicians, and philanthropists descended from the eight children of Virginia inventor Robert McCormick (1780-1846)?

It's a complicated genealogy: I can give you the details if you're interested.  But it turns out that I had a 3rd cousin named Justine McCormick Grossman, 73 years old, daughter of a senator, granddaughter of the U.S. ambassador to Russia and France, living on a farm near Wolcottville, Indiana.

It was only a few miles from Rome City, but Aunt Nora didn't know her.  I guess when you're adopted, you have enough trouble keeping up with your biological father, no time to worry about second cousins.

A relative who was wealthy, sophisticated, a world traveler, who listened to Mozart instead of Willie Nelson, who went to the opera instead of Nazarene revival meetings, who served beef bourguignon instead of chipped beef on toast!  And who, I assumed, was gay-friendly.  After all, weren't rich people tolerant of eccentricities?

So I called.  It took a few minutes to impress upon her who I was, but then she began to reminisce about life in the 1930s:

"Your grandfather was quite a scandal in our family!" she told me in a scratchy voice.  "He ran off to become a singer in a music hall, of all things!  And then he married his...his housekeeper, who was young enough to be his daughter!  My, how tongues wagged!"

"So -- when his wife died, and he wasn't able to take care of his kids by himself, why didn't...um...someone in the family adopt them?"

That is, why didn't you take in my Dad and his sisters, and raise them in luxury, and send me to Harvard?

"Oh, he wanted nothing to do with us.  He preferred to spend his time with riff-raff, actors and artists and music-hall singers.  Like that Lloyd Davis."

My Grandpa Davis?  Hey, I thought rich people were accepting of eccentricities and foibles!

I was starting to rile up a bit, but I calmed down when Justine began describing her two children and four grandchildren.  Her grandson Cyrus, named after the original Cyrus, was a theater arts major at Indiana University.  He went by his middle name, Michael.

My cousin, the scion of the ultra-wealthy McCormick family, was walking on the same campus as me?

He was probably more liberal.

Maybe we would become friends.  We would hang out in House-in-the-Woods or Cavigny, sail on his yacht, fly over to London and Paris, chat about caviar...

Or we would become lovers.  He no doubt had a handsome, aristocratic face, dark hair, a gym-toned physique, and an enormous Mortadella beneath the belt.  I knew from my doomed pursuit of Richie Rich that virgin wool slacks show baskets a lot more effectively than our working-class Levis.

I fantasized about going down on him as we lay on the silk sheets in the gild-and-wood bedroom where he once prepared for polo matches and studied his Latin lessons.

Cousin Justine was mistaken -- there was no one named Cyrus Michael McCormick Grossman Hawthorne on campus.

"Oh, maybe he graduated already," she said.  "You know how time flies when you get older.  I think he's in Philadelphia now.  Let me look up the address for you."

The address was around the corner from a Philadelphia gay bar listed in my Gayellow Pages.  Michael was obviously gay!

Still, too far to go for a rich relative, gay or not, so I forgot about it until the summer of 1983, when Cousin Justine died.  Her daughter found my name in her address book, and had her assistant call me.

It was an odd prospect, going to the funeral of someone I'd never met and only spoke to twice. But, I figured, it would be a chance to meet other McCormicks, including my fifth cousin, the gay Philadelphia theater arts major named Cyrus Michael.

In July 1983, I drove from Bloomington up to an Episcopal Church in Elkhart, Indiana for the funeral.  The reception was held at the home of Justine's daughter and son-in-law: an English Tudor with sculpted grounds.

As I mingled among the McCormcks, Grossmans, Hawthornes, Dressers, Jacksons, and Bialis, I heard the same right-wing politics as among my working-class relatives.  Maybe worse.

But at least Cousin Michael was gay.  Tall, lithe, rather feminine, with glasses and a short beard.

We didn't hook up -- you don't really cruise a guy at his grandmother's funeral -- but we talked about growing up gay in our respective households.

"I grew up on stories of your grandpa's dirty tricks," Cousin Michael told me.  "I always thought it was so cool to be able to do your own thing, without all the obligations that come with being a McCormick.  In fact, I think that's what gave me the motivation to become an actor."

"Besides," he added with a grin, "Hanging out with the working class has some advantages. That manual labor builds biceps, and those Levis show baskets a lot better than Armani wool slacks."

The grass is always greener....

See also: Was My Grandfather Gay?