Friday, May 6, 2016

Lane and I Track Down the Gay Baron of Eindhoven

West Hollywood, February 1992

Have you ever wondered what happened after Allies liberated the Jews and other prisoners from the concentration camps in 1945?

A few of the prisoners returned to their homes.  But 800,000 had no homes to return to, or refused to go back to the neighbors who wanted to kill them.

 They were put into displaced persons camps or residential facilities for up to two years, until a friend or relative could send for them, or until they could be repatriated

When she was liberated from Auschwitz, Lane's mother Rosa was sent to a residential facility run by some Catholic nuns in Weert, Netherlands, just over the border from Germany.  She spent her first two weeks walking up and down the streets, stopping in every pastry shop, and eating all she could hold.

Then she set about returning to life again.  She was planning to become a journalist before the War, so she found a typewriter and began writing.  She brought articles around to the local newspapers, first in German, then, as she learned the language, in Dutch.  Soon she was making enough money to move into an apartment with a female friend.

But in August 1947, an American cousin found Rosa and offered to bring her to Los Angeles.

Palm trees and movie stars!  She eagerly agreed.

That's all we knew about Rosa's life in the Netherlands until after she died unexpectedly in February 1992, a few days after her 67th birthday.

When Lane and I were sorting through four decades of cards, bills, business papers, old school assignments, clipped magazine and newspaper articles, Jewish society newsletters, playbills, programs, and miscellaneous records, we found a packet of old letters addressed to Rosa at the Zusters Birgittinessen, and then at her apartment in Weert, and finally at her cousin's house in Los Angeles, with the postmark Eindhoven, Netherlands.

It's hard to decipher one side of a conversation in a foreign language after 47 years, but we got the general plot: Rosa was dating a member of the Dutch nobility, a Baron Hein Van Tuyll, who lived about twenty miles away in the Eymerick Castle.

In February 1947, Hein apparently proposed, and Rosa turned him down.  She explains why: Je niet moet trouwen.  We zullen vrienden altijd (You should not marry. We will always be friends).  

He gamely continued to write to her every week through 1947, when the letters suddenly stop.

The Van Tuyll family is important in the Netherlands.  Hein's father was the first president of the Dutch Olympic Committee.  This statue outside the Olympic Stadium was erected in his honor.

This is the family coat of arms: three hounds, a crown, and two half-naked wild men carrying flowers.

"You should not marry," I repeated.  "Maybe Hein wasn't the marrying kind.  Could your Mom have been dating a gay guy?

"We should go to the Netherlands next summer," Lane said, "And look him up."

"Look up your mother's old boyfriend, and ask if he's gay?"

"It wouldn't hurt.  Or...maybe he has a hot gay son who will invite us to live in his castle.  We would be sort of like brothers, after all."

I was hesitant.  We spent last summer looking up Lane's heritage in Poland, and now we had to do it in the Netherlands?  But I could wrangle a side-trip to Amsterdam out of it, and maybe even Paris, so I agreed.

In the days before Google, family research was tough.  We couldn't track down Hein, but we found his son: 41 year old Sammy, the current Baron Van Tuyll.  We made the call, and got an invitation to visit.

Disappointingly, he didn't live in the family castle.  He had a house in Den Haag, where he worked for the Dutch Ministry of Finance.

Den Haag, Netherlands, June 1992

We spend three days in Paris (not nearly enough time), overnight in Brussels to look at the Grand-Place and the Mannekin Pis, and then take the 2 1/2 hour train trip across the border to Den Haag.

We're only going to spend a few hours: in the late afternoon, we'll get on the train to Amsterdam, where the bars and bathhouses of Warmoesstraat await.

But we have time to see the Escher Museum, walk through the Haagse Bos, an ancient forest in the city center, and meet the Dutch deputy minister of finance at the Allard Restaurant.

Sammy is youthful-looking and athletic, surprisingly hip, a rock musician as well as an economist.   But straight -- he shows pictures of his wife and four children.  We show him the letters.

"You must not marry.  We should be friends," he translates.  "I can't imagine what your mother meant.  Papa married in 1947.  There were never any problems between him and my mother, none that I could see."

Remembering the evidence that my grandfather was gay, I ask "Did he have a lot of male friends?  Maybe Rosa didn't want to compete."

"Oh, yes, Papa was very sociable.  He had a passion for sports.  He was always bringing home athletes: football players, rowers, bodybuilders...."

Lane and I exchange glances.  "Was he into bodybuilding?" I ask.  "I used to work for Muscle and Fitness."

"He didn't lift weights himself, but he loved bodybuilding as an art form.  I remember when Reg and Marian Park came to dinner -- a former Mr. Universe -- he was as excited as a schoolgirl with a crush on a pop star.  And this in a man who is the godfather of Queen Beatrix!"

A crush on Reg Park?  Shouldn't marry?  Was Hein gay or bi?

We keep our suspicions to ourselves.

Lane offers Sammy some of the letters. He takes four, including the last, written to Rosa in Los Angeles.

It ends with "After all, my dear Rosa, vriendschap is het enige dat telt."

Friendship is all that matters.

See also: A Beefcake Tour of Amsterdam

Thursday, May 5, 2016

How to Host a Real West Hollywood Party

In West Hollywood our main form of entertainment was the Dinner Party. We hosted them, or were invited to them, at least once a week. They were a good way to catch up in those days before text messaging, meet your friends' new boyfriends, and of course, do a little sharing.

But you don't need to live in West Hollywood to host a real West Hollywood Party.  You can do it anywhere, even in small towns on the Plains.

The Datae and Time:

Saturday night is best.  Ask everyone to arrive by 6:00, so they'll be there by 6:30.  You sit down to eat at 7:00, have the entertainment at 8:00, and the bedroom or bars by 10:00.

The Guest List:

The most that can sit comfortably in your living room, at least four, as many as eight plus you, your partner, and your housemates.

Only gay men, of course, and always an even number.

About half single and half partnered (romantic couples or best-friend pairs).  Try for a mix of races and ages, and be sure to include:

1, A celebrity.  Someone who is famous, at least locally. Actors are best, but musicians, politicians, and porn stars will work, too.

2. A newcomer, someone who has just come out.  A Cute Young Thing preferred, but not required.

The Pre-Dinner Refreshments:

Most of my friends didn't drink, so there was just an assortment of soft drinks, juices, and coffee and tea.  I suppose you could have alcohol, but not a lot.  Some of the guys will be heading to the bars later.

For appetizers, something simple, cheese and crackers, a veggie platter, or hummus with pita pieces.

The Background Music:

Either classical or a selection of gay-positive pop songs.  If you want to do the 1980s, I suggest:
1. "I'm Coming Out"
2. "It's Raining Men"
3. "Time Warp"
4. "Like a Virgin"

Never jazz, country-western, or show tunes!

The Conversation:

Before dinner, about half the conversation should involve gym routines, and the other half the latest movies and tv programs with gay subtexts or hunky stars.

Afterwards, it will be about sex, coming out, or homophobia.

If there's a lull in the conversation, ask guys to share one of the following:
1. Your coming out story.
2. The biggest penis you ever had.
3. A date from hell.
4. A celebrity date or hookup.

The Dinner:

We eat healthy all week, so the Dinner Party is a time to show your skill.  Fatty meats, cheeses, cream sauce, rich desserts, bring them all out. Make sure it's colorful and festive-looking.

 But don't prepare too much: half of your guests will just have a salad.

The Entertainment:

Usually a movie: fast, easy, and visual. But nothing serious or hard to follow: you will be chatting constantly throughout.  A gay classic, or an action/adventure movie with a lot of beefcake.

You can substitute a gay-themed version of Trivial Pursuit or another party game, or, if you have some willing volunteers and the group is cool with it, an erotic dance or a sex show.

The Bedroom:

After the entertainment, your guests have the choice of going out to the bars together, or "sharing."

If they opt for sharing, they get to mingle and decide who will be going with who.

A committed couple or pair of friends can go with any single guy, but single guys can't hook up with each other.  No more than three per room. .  And the activity must occur in private.

You should have at least two rooms prepared for sharing.  If more than six guys are interested, they will have to wait their turn.

Spending the night is optional.

Don't be surprised if you're invited to three or four West Hollywood Parties thrown by your friends next weekend.

See also: Jimmy the Boy Toy's West Hollywood Party

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Boy Who Refused to Leave My Room in the Rain

Long Island, October  1999

I met Ozzie at one of Ravi's Bear Parties on Long Island: a 21 year old NYU undergrad, tall, muscular, with smooth dark skin and an enormous Kovbasa beneath the belt.

He was Moroccan, from in Tangiers, on the Strait of Gibraltar, where his father worked at the Continental Hotel, He spoke Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, English, French, and Spanish.

Obviously I wanted to do more than go down on him!

There was only one problem: I had (and still have) an inviolable rule, drummed into me through ten years in West Hollywood: you must end the evening with the same people you began the evening with.  No abandoning them halfway through for a trick.

I always came to the Bear Parties with Yuri, who lived in a graduate student apartment at Setauket University, about thirty miles in the wrong direction from NYU.

The Bear Parties were on Wednesday nights, and I had class on Wednesday and Thursday both, so it made sensee to drive with Yuri and spent the night in his room afterwards, rather than taking the train all the way into Manhattan, and back again.

Besides, there were distinct advantages to spending the night in Yuri's room.

I wasn't going to abandon him tonight to escort a Cute Young Thing back to Manhattan, and I wasn't going to suggest sharing: Ozzie wasn't Yuri's type.  He liked older men with bodybuilder physiques.

But Yuri, always easy-going, said "Not a problem.  If you like him, I don't care.  We will share him."

But what about the sleeping logistics: "Are you sure there's enough room for three?"

Graduate student apartments were nicely appointed, but the bedrooms were quite small.  Yuri had a single bed, a desk, a dresser, and a bookcase, with a single window looking out onto the parking lot.   When I spent the night, we did a lot of cuddling.

He thought for a moment.  "Ok, we will put blankets on the floor."

It was raining when we left Ravi's house.  I thought it odd that Ozzie wouldn't run out to the car with us; we had to drive up to the front door and fetch him.

"I don't like the rain," he said, bursting into the back seat.  "It doesn't rain much in Tangiers."

On the way back to Setauket University, he told us his coming out story.

Tangiers was once a gay mecca, home to William Burroughs, Alan Ginsberg, and an army of less well known gay men.  When King Hassan II took the throne in 1961, he instituted a crackdown on "decadence" and "Western immorality," but there were still lots of sex tourists from Europe and America.  They would pick up local boys for afternoon trysts in exchange for gifts or a few dirham.

"I never did anything like that.  I was a good Muslim boy, not a prostitute.  But there was a hot British guy who used to drive past the bus stop every day and smiled at me.  And one day it was raining, so he stopped and asked if I wanted a ride."

He got more than a ride.

Except his mother happened to be out shopping, and saw him getting into a car with a foreign man twice his age.

There were questions, accusations, and Ozzie was outed.  A week later, he was at a private school in upstate New York, exiled as a "disgrace" to the family.

His parents sent him a check every month, and sometimes he telephoned his older sister, but he hadn't been back to Morocco for five years.

"I hate the rain!" Ozzie murmured, staring out the car window.  "The first time I picked up a guy in the rain, I got kicked out of Morocco.  The second time, it was a ghost."

Yuri and I glanced at each other.  Rather a depressing turn to the conversation!

But Ozzie warmed up when we got back to Yuri's room and spread blankets on the floor.  He was too big to swallow all the way, but Yuri and I both went down on him at the same time, and then he turned Yuri onto his stomach to finish with interfemeral.  Then he went down on both of us simultaneously while we kissed.

7:00 am.  Yuri's alarm clock goes off.  Enough time for a brief session, mostly handling Ozzie's morning wood, then breakfast: Cheerios.

7:40 am. Yuri packs up his stuff.  He has a class at 8:00 am, and I want to do some work in my office, so it is time to say goodbye.

"If you walk down that street for about five blocks," I tell Ozzie, "You'll hit the train station.  Take the Long Island Railroad to Jamaica Station, then transfer to Penn."

Ozzie looks out the window.  "It's raining pretty hard.  Could I stay here awhile, until it lets up?"

I glance at Yuri.  He shrugs  "I guess ok."

7:45 am.  Yuri leaves.  Ozzie and I go back into his room and make out.

8:30 am.  Ok,  It's still raining, but I have things to do.  Ozzie turns on the tv.

9:00 am.  I really have to get to the office to prepare for my 11:00 class.  It's still raining.

"You can take an umbrella to the train station," I suggest.

"I'd rather wait until it stops raining, if you don't mind."  He kisses me on the cheek.  "We can find something to do, right?"

Sighing, I go down on him again.  This is becoming less erotic and more like a chore

9:30 am.  I have class soon, and I want to go to the gym, but I can't leave Ozzie alone in Yuri's apartment.   He could steal something, or do some damage, or call his friends for a wild party.

I knock on the doors of Yuri's roommates, hoping that they'll chaperon.  But they're not in.

10:00 am.   I shove an umbrella into Ozzie's hand.  "Ok, you're going to either go to the library and wait for me, or go home, but you can't stay here.  Your choice.

No twist ending.  It was just really annoying that I couldn't get Ozzie to leave, Kovbasa or not."

See also: Ozzie Hooks Up with John F. Kennedy Jr.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lane and the Cute Young Thing of Tel Aviv

West Hollywood, December 1991

I'm back in West Hollywood after a failed semester studying Biblical Hebrew at Vanderbilt Divinity School.  Lane has invited some friends over for a welcome home party.  

I get some ribbing on the folly of leaving the gay world for any reason, which leads to a conversation about the craziest things we have ever done:

Randall drove 36 hours nonstop crosscountry with a hitchhiker, who wouldn't even have sex afterwards.

Will flew across the world to be with a "trick."

Raul's boyfriend is afraid of the water, yet he agreed to sail to Catalina on a first date.

Then Lane says: "I can top all of those stories, even Boomer's trip to Country Music U.S.A.   Right after high school, I spent a terrible year on a kibbutz on Israel."

"Well -- at least you had a religious motive," I said.

"No.  I was following a boy."

Ramat Gan, Israel,  Summer 1973

When Lane was in high school in the early 1970s, he hadn't yet heard of Beth Chaim Chadashim, or of gay Jews.  He thought he had to choose between his gay and Jewish identities.

The decision was made for him when Ari, an older guy at the synagogue, decided to make aliyah  (move to Israel, where Jews get immediate citizenship).  He would go to work on a kibbutz, work with his hands, reject capitalist society.

"What did this Ari look like?"  Will asks.

Lane smiles.  "In his 20s, tall, bearded, dark eyes, hairy chest, big!  We're talking Kielbasa+!  Not that I ever got to do anything with him."

Lane had a crush on Ari for years, but never got the nerve to approach him.  But surely on a kibbutz, living in the unmarried men's dormitory, there would be ample opportunity for erotic exploration.  If not with Ari, then with dozens of other hot Israeli guys.

Besides, his parents and cousins were all thrilled that he was embracing his Jewish identity.

He flew to Israel a week after his high school graduation, made aliyah, adopted the Hebrew name Aryeh, "Lion," and moved onto Ari's kibbutz.

There were 400 residents, plus summer guest workers.  They grew sorghum, peppers, melons, and zucchini.  There was an arts center, a school, a nursing home, and a small museum.  Tel Aviv was only twenty minutes away by car.

At first it seemed like Paradise.  Every year at Passover, Jews say "Next year in Jerusalem."  Lane was finally home.

But problems arose immediately for the gay city boy.

1. Ari wasn't interested.  He lived in a different dorm, had his own set of friends.

2. There was no dorm-room exploration.  At least, none that Lane could see.  Some under-the-covers masturbation, some sausage sightings in the shower, and that was it.

3. Most Israeli Jews are not religious.  They kept kosher, and celebrated a few holidays for their cultural heritage, but belief in God was low.  Belief that there was a real, historical Moses who led the Children of Israel out of Egypt and handed down the Tablets of the Law at Sinai -- even lower.

4. The kibbutz was agricultural.  Lane had never seen a farm before, and now he was working on one.  Working on the land sounds romantic, but you're all sweaty and dirty and sunburned, and there are mosquitoes and snakes.

5. It was communal.  You didn't even have your own clothes -- you got a uniform from the communal shop, and when it got dirty, you turned it in for a new one.  If your mother sent you a box of cookies, it went into the common store.

Everyone got a small allowance to to use on snacks and toiletries at the commissary.  Anything more, you asked the kibbutz council for the money.

6. It was homophobic.  In 1973, gay rights were beginning to blossom in Los Angeles.  The mayor and police chief were very homophobic, of course, but there were bars, bath houses, community organizations, even a newspaper.  Israel had nothing.  Guys met in t-rooms and public parks, where the police were ever-vigilant and eager to make arrests.

Lane was expecting a homoerotic Paradise.  He got the wilderness.

"That's why I don't take vacations,"  Will says.  "Why should I go anywhere?  I'm already here.'"

There were cute guys everywhere, but you couldn't touch.  You couldn't say anything.

He went down on a few guys in t-rooms, but otherwise had no contact with the gay world.

He started drinking.  Heavily.

Tel Aviv, March 1974

One Sunday near Passover, Lane hitchhiked into Tel Aviv, looking for gay people.  He wandered into the Tango Bar on Allenby Street.

It looked like a gay bar -- motorcycles parked outside, mostly men inside, a lot of black t-shirts and leather jackets. The dance floor was all male-female couples, but what did you expect in the closeted 1970s?

Lane sidled up to the bar and ordered a scotch and soda and checked out the action.  None of the guys cruised him.

Maybe he wasn't hot enough.  He ordered another scotch and soda.

And another.

Eventually someone approached him: a Cute Young Thing: northern European, short, slim, androgynous, with with shoulder-length brown hair, brown eyes, and pale skin.  Wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt for a music festival in Rome.

Lane didn't care much for Cute Young Things, but this was the first time anyone cruised him in almost a year.

He didn't catch the guy's name, but he was from Denmark, a college student visiting Israel with a tour group.  He didn't speak Hebrew, but his English was good.

Soon they were dancing.

A slow number came up.  Lane held the Cute Young Thing to his chest.  Not much muscle.

He reached down to grab his crotch.

He felt...nothing.

He squeezed both sides and the front.

The Cute Young Thing broke away and looked at him quizzically.  "What are you doing?"  he asked.

Slowly it dawned on Lane....

He felt like he was going to throw up.  "You're a girl!"

"Well, what..."

"You're a girl!"

Everyone was staring.

Lane ran from the bar, yelling "You're a girl!  You're a girl!"  all the way down the street.  Finally, he collapsed, sobbing, in an alley, where a police officer found him and arrested him for public intoxication.

Three days later he was on a flight back to Los Angeles.

We glance at each other.  In West Hollywood, cruising a woman, even by accident, is a big faux pas.

"Um...did they kick you out of the kibbutz because of the arrest, or because you outed yourself?" Will asks.

"Neither.  I left on my own.  I was sick and tired of being around guys I couldn't touch."

"And girls you could," Raul's boyfriend adds.

Lane glares at him.

Back home, Lane enrolled at L.A. City College (later Cal State L.A.), moved into one of his parents' rental properties, and didn't leave West Hollywood again for nearly twenty years.

Oh, and he stopped drinking.

See also: Remembrance and Penises in Poland


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