It's my 28th birthday, near the end of my "twink" years, and my friends are pranking me with oldster gifts: a VHS tape of Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), a record of Andy Williams' greatest hits, a cane, a fedora hat. Then we settle in for a regular West Hollywood party, with dinner and discussions of enormous penises, dates from hell, and celebrity hookups.
One of the guests is Marcus, the first gay person I met in West Hollywood in July 1985: he was working in the film library at Paramount, when I went there to apply for a job. We went out on one date, until he revealed that he was planning to be celibate until there was a cure for AIDS (he abandoned that vow sometime in 1986).
He's 32 years old, shorter than me, muscular but a little chunky, African-American with very light skin, freckles, a hairy chest, and a very thick Bratwurst with a huge head.
Well connected in Hollywood, with a lot of celebrity friends, some gay, some closeted, some straight. Just paging through his address book is an adventure: Peter Barton, Kevin Costner, Michael J. Fox, C. Thomas Howell, Tom Hulce, Ralph Macchio, Dean Paul Martin, Robin Williams. You'd expect him to have some great celebrity dating stories, but he never tells any.
"Oh, I don't have anybody interesting. Let someone else go."
But tonight, he came prepared: "Ok, I'm going to tell you my best celebrity hookup story. I'll give you some choices, and you have to decide who it was. Whoever gets the right answer gets to go into the bedroom with me for ten minutes. But -- whoever gets the wrong answer, I get to go down on them, right here."
That's not much of a penalty, but ok...
Fresh from his theater arts degree at the University of Montana, Marcus was working at NBC as a "production assistant." His actual job was to look up questions and answers for the game show Hollywood Squares. (Celebrities sit in a giant tic-tac-toe board, and contestants play by asking them questions: x or a correct answer, 0 for an incorrect one. The fun comes from the "zingers," humorous answers they give before the "real" ones.)
Peter Marshall, the host, took Marcus under his wing, inviting him to lunch, introducing him to people.
"No, we never made it," Marcus announces. "He's straight, but not homophobic. But you'd be surprised how many of the guests were gay, and openly cruised the production assistants."
So it came as no surprise when Peter took Marcus aside and said "One of the celebrity guests thinks you're smokin', and wants to have dinner with you tonight. But it has to be very hush-hush. No one suspects that he is gay."
Actually, Marcus had always suspected the Celebrity. And he was very hot -- tall, goodlooking, sophisticated -- and, most important in Hollywood, well connected. He agreed to the date.
They had dinner at the Formosa Cafe, the red-tinted, rather old-fashioned hangout for has-been stars. The Celebrity told Marcus that he had always been attracted to guys, especially guys with extra-large equipment, but he liked women, too, and for the sake of his career he had to keep closeted.
Then they went to the Beverly Hills Hotel, where the Celebrity got them a room -- not a bungalow -- while Marcus waited in the car. He had to wait 20 minutes, then go in and announce that he had a script for the Celebrity to read.
When he got to the room, the Celebrity was lying naked on the bed -- nice tight physique, hairy chest, very well hung. Marcus immediately knelt and went down on him, while he stroked Marcus' hair, and said "Good boy, good boy," as if he was a puppy dog -- gross!
After awhile, the Celebrity pulled Marcus out of his clothes, went down on him for a few moments, and then turned him over onto his stomach, lubed up, and pushed into him. Marcus had only bottomed a few times before, and never with an extra-large guy. It hurt! But the Celebrity held his hand as he thrust in and out, murmuring "Good boy. That's it. You like that, don't you."
When the Celebrity finished, he pulled out, went into the bathroom to wash up, and returned to the bed. He refused to kiss.
"You can spend the night, if you want, but I have to be going." He pressed a telephone number into Marcus' hand. "This is my private number. Call me if you would like to get together again. Maybe we can become regular sex buddies."
Marcus didn't want a sex buddy, especially not a married, closeted one, so he didn't call.
West Hollywood, November 1988
In the Hollywood Squares game, there are nine celebrities arranged on a tic-tac-toe board. Marcus has their names written on pieces of paper, and arranged them like this:
First row: Patrick Wayne, woman, Tony Randall
Second row: woman, Tom Posten, woman
Third row: Scott Baio, woman, George Gobel
Tony Randall played the gay-vague Felix Ungar on The Odd Couple (1970-1975), one of the hip sitcoms of my childhood, and a depressed, self-loathing gay-but-we-can't-say-it character in Love, Sidney (1981-83).
Tom Posten is currently playing sardonic handyman George Utley on Newhart (1982-1990), and also played a homophobic stereotype, a lisping, mincing pedophile named Sisson in Up the Academy (1980),
Scott Baio, star of Charles in Charge, is the subject of countless gay rumors, but he is always rumored to be a bottom.
George Gobel, known as "Lonesome George," had a tv comedy show during the 1950s, which, according to Heinz, was full of gay jokes.
As the birthday boy, I get to guess first. "I'm going to go with Patrick Wayne."
"No, it wasn't Patrick Wayne. He never even looked at me." Marcus kneels, unzips me, and goes down on me until I am close to finishing. Then he jumps up.
"Nope, not George Gobel, although he did a lot of cruising."
Marcus kneels in front of Heinz, pulls out his penis, and goes down on him. He quickly becomes aroused. Then Marcus moves on to Raul.
"Scott Baio?" he suggests. His penis is already out.
"You guys are getting wrong answers on purpose," Marcus says. "Everybody knows Scott Baio is a bottom."
After going down on Raul for a few minutes, Marcus moves from the couch to the chair. "You said sophisticated, so that means older," Fred reasons. "And I'm gonna bet that the handyman on Newhart can't afford a room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Definitely Tony Randall."
"That's the one!" Marcus exclaims. "You're the winner!" He pulls Fred to his feet and leads him toward the bedroom. "We'll be back in ten minutes."
"Make it fifteen," Fred says.
Was Marcus telling the truth?
But: he was married to his first wife, Florence Gibbs from 1938 to her death in 1992. There's no rumors of him being with anyone else. People assumed he was gay because of his fey mannerisms, not because of any same-sex romances.
In the 1960s, he gave a scathingly homophobic interview (even for the 1960s), in which he said he saw a gay porn movie: "Disgusting! Absolutely disgusting!" He continued: "There's no such thing as homosexuality. It was invented by faggots."
He became a gay ally later, but still, he doesn't sound like someone who would go out of his way for a same-sex liaison.
But why would Marcus, who knew a dozen gay celebrities, make up a story about a straight one?
See also: Marcus's Beneath the Belt Mystery; My Date with Robin Williams