Also, my head nearly exploded when I saw this:
So, here is the scripted version of the Cheeseheads pilot. It may have a typo or too. I mean two! And I registered it with the Writer's Guild of America West. The last time I did that with a script, there was no internet. You had to mail them a hardcopy. Times, they sure have changed. And yet, stayed the same in so many ways...
Also, my head nearly exploded when I saw this:
Well, Chuck, to answer your direct question from line nine of this card (and I don't know exactly how "evolved" I am): perhaps you could arrive at that peace by not exerting your power over powerless people (e.g. : struggling artists).
Who wore it best?
Or should we ask: Who wore it first?
And ditch the skinny jeans and get yourself a pair of classic Wrangler's. They make every man's ass look good. Even skinny ones. Now there's some power you could claim, with none of the guilt!
So, if you're following along at home, you know that I've mentioned more than once in these blogs that I tired my "hand" at prostitution. (I just realized I wrote "tired" instead of "tried." I bet it can make your hand pretty tired, though). I must clarify that I never went through with it in the traditional sense. I did however get rigged up in my sexiest outfit and made the trek to one of West Hollywood's most notorious "rent boy" bars: Numbers.
Actually, in the above photo, you're seeing Numbers in its second location. I believe it's closed for good now; but the first location was a little more "discreet." Its entrance faced away from the street. In fact, you entered the place through a back alley (no comment). I remember it had this curving staircase going down that was lined with mirrors. Very 70's, Studio 54 wannabe type vibe. This was the mid to late 90's. I was in my very late 20's; which is a little long in the tooth for a male prostitute and certainly a rather unusual age to take up the practice.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, do they not? I was jobless and nothing was on the horizon. I had major problems with inter-office politics; that is, working in office environments. Prostitution seemed like an immediate solution; you know, you've gotta feed yourself. There's no time for a job search. We can't think about things like sexually transmitted diseases. We'll use condoms. I can just close my eyes if my "john" is unattractive.
These were the things that were pinging in my mind as I descended into Numbers. Or maybe madness.
Hmmmm. I don't know how personal I should get here. Should I even be writing about this at all? How willing am I to let my hair down? Do you really need to know this about me? Maybe. Maybe my experience will help you with your decision as to whether or not you want to be a prostitute. I'm being serious. Maybe some of you reading this have been a prostitute. Maybe you currently are a prostitute. This is a no judgement zone. I have zero problem with prostitution. I just had a problem with actually being a prostitute. I'm talking about prostitution as a personal choice. A willful decision on the part of the individual. Sexual slavery and forced prostitution are not what I'm talking about. Those endeavors are evil.
So why get into this subject? Well, it's a subject that fascinates me. Fascinates a lot of us, I think. And as I'm a writer, I think it's my duty to be as truthful as possible with you.
So, before I take you into the bowels of Numbers(?); let's back up a bit and I'll tell you about the other times the occupation of Sex Worker presented itself as an option in my life.
A long, long time ago...well, maybe not so long ago...1988. Is that considered a long time ago now? Probably. But anyways...1988 was the first time I moved out of the house I grew up in. It was my senior year of college. Why I took on that difficult undertaking during an extremely exhaustive time in my life, I have no idea. It was a mistake. But we learn from our mistakes, right? So, I moved into this one bedroom apartment in the nether-regions of Boston's South End. I shared the one bedroom with two other guys. Both friends; now roommates. One of us had the front part. I was in the middle (what was supposed to be the dining room) and my other friend (who I'll call "Peter") was in the actual bedroom.
Looking back, even though it was a mistake, I'm glad I did it. It was a sort of "living on your own, trial by fire." Except, with roommates, which was another crucible and a valuable experience. The Apt. 3G experiment went from about Spring of 1988 to Autumn of 1988 and I'm telling ya, that entire thing was a whole other blog. Maybe a whole other book.
So, Peter, who was what my mother would've referred to as "an odd duck," worked at the Park Plaza Hotel that summer. Keep that in mind. He was a bell-boy. Keep that in mind too. So, my friends and I were into the night-life. We went out a lot. I swear to God that from pretty much Fall of 1984 to Fall of 1991 all I did every night was go out and dance. And despite the copious amounts of beer; I see now that my svelte frame and almost visible abs were due to all that dancing. It was at one of these night clubs that myself and one of my roommates were approached to be "dancers." Except, these weren't your ordinary go-go boys. These guys "danced" with erections. The manager of the club had found some loop-hole in the Puritanical Boston legal system that allowed completely nude guys with hard-ons to strut around a stage to music for the purposes of entertainment. One night this manager pulled me and my friend aside and explained the process and offered us jobs as said "dancers."
"So, you want us to like, dance around the stage with stiffies?" I asked, incredulously.
"But how do you stay erect?" my friend asked.
"Rubber bands." The manager replied. We both passed.
Sometime that summer, Peter invited us to meet his friend "Dean." Cool, I thought. I always enjoy meeting new people and the prospects of a new friendship. So, we get to Dean's apartment, and I'm expecting to just hang out, have a cocktail, watch a movie or whatever. But after some initial chit-chat, Dean sits us all down on the couch and starts giving a sales pitch. Not just a sales pitch; more of an assumption that we were there as new hires. So, he proceeds to tell us about what being a "Dream Boy" is all about. Apparently, being a "Dream Boy" involved what he called: The Dream Boy Bag...
"So, you will meet the client at the pre-arranged spot and you will have your Dream-Boy bag with you..."
I looked over at Peter. What the hell is this? Is this actually a pitch to be a male prostitute? Peter did not return my gaze. I was confused. What was happening? Why had Peter brought us to meet this person under somewhat duplicitous circumstances? My first impression of Dean hadn't been a good one, and it was rapidly deteriorating. He was morphing into a Dickens character before my eyes.
"So, in your Dream-Boy bag you will have towels, lube, toys, condoms if the client so wants them; and a credit card imprinter in order to facilitate payment..."
You may not be old enough to remember this, but a credit card imprinter was a device that used to be used to make charges. It was a metal tablet with a plate for the credit card. A paper slip with a carbon was laid on top of the card and then a clunky slide-rule type handle was swiped over the form. They were called "knuckle-busters" or "zip-zap" machines.
Needless to say, I was rather shocked and somewhat appalled that Peter had assumed I might want to be a male prostitute. I didn't tell him that. I simply politely declined Dean's offer. Maybe Dean had more sway over Peter than just sales pitches. I didn't know. I still don't know. I didn't press. I never even gave a second thought to Peter's job as a "bell-boy." I had no idea, until several decades later, when I was watching an episode of Mad Men that bell-boys were well known to be male prostitutes. The bell-boy scene starts at the 3.46 mark:
The scene is rather delightfully ambiguous; but I remember when I saw it, it suddenly made the whole Peter was a bell-boy thing make sense. A lot of puzzle pieces started falling into place.
It was Peter, too, who got me a gig as a Production Assistant on a gay porn set. The movie was Invaders from URanus. You really can't make this stuff up.
Pornography is a kind of prostitution, isn't it? It's just structured in a different way.
Being a Production Assistant or "P.A." on a gay porn shoot included but was not limited to: purchasing enemas at Ralph's (Okay, my hair is officially down), photocopying driver's licenses (proof of age, that being 18 to be in a porno) and holding the "C" light. I never knew explicitly what the "C" stood for; but when I found myself holding it several inches from some of the performers nether regions, I was able to make an educated guess. Yes, orifices need lighting too; perhaps more so than other...fices. Oh, and in the case of Invaders from URanus, donning a silver jump suit to play an alien (shot from behind...I mean the rear...I mean from the back. Never mind. My face wasn't on camera). Actually, it was a lot of fun. The boys above the C lights were some of the sweetest, gentlest people I've ever met. I mean, if you're that comfortable with your body and sexuality to the point where you can do it in front of a camera with a bunch of people standing around; you're probably going to be pretty easy going. I recall becoming rather fascinated by one of the performers on the set. His stage name was Kyle McKenna. I remember he was super quiet to the point of introversion. He stayed off to the sides by himself. I remember during a break (we were at some fabulous Hollywood hills house with a deck), Kyle--buck naked--getting into a hammock and getting flipped by it and ending up on his ass on the boards. I was the only one who witnessed this comic moment. He looked around to see if anyone had seen; but didn't see me. I felt bad for him. He seemed lost. He was one of the most handsome men I'd ever seen. Perhaps the handsomest:
He was also incredibly submissive. In his scenes that is. To the point where he was seen as being "freaky" by the other performers, which I guess is some kind of feat. "Kyle has issues..." I recall having overheard one of the boys telling someone else. "He really should talk to someone." Prescient words, it turns out. Kyle committed suicide three years later. His real name was Russell McCoy. Like me, he was from the East. Pennsylvania I believe. I was doing some research on him and I came across an essay about him by a friend that had known him since youth. Apparently, Russ was incredibly smart. I mean like frequent chess player level (most boys in porn do not play chess). His friend was shocked when he found about Russ' porn life. It seems to me that, looking back, Russ got into porn as some kind of way to deal with issues of self-worth. Is being the "M" in S&M some attempt to have the low-self-esteem pummeled out of you; or is it getting pummeled because you have low self-esteem?
So, how is pornography a form of prostitution? Well, if prostitution in its baseline essence is selling sex for money, then it counts. The porn company is paying the performer to have sex, thus becoming the pimp, who then sells it to the john: collecting the money through purchase or rental. Basically. Now that you can find "free" porn on the web, does the paradigm hold? I don't know. I wish that I talked to Russell that day. But I didn't. We probably had a lot in common.
That's Nancy Allen in Dressed to Kill. She played "Liz Blake," a high-class hooker with a heart of gold and a cheeky sense of humor. I loved her in that movie. She made prostitution seem fun (which is perhaps one of the reasons that propelled me down the stairs at Numbers). You know, she glamorized it. The glamorization of prostitution is probably the second oldest profession. But, in her defense, she did point up how dangerous the profession can be. Donna Summer helped glamorize it too. I mean, doesn't the song "Bad Girls" make you want to put on hot pants and strut down Santa Monica Boulevard?
Speaking of Santa Monica Boulevard...let's go back to Numbers.
Where were we? Oh yeah, I just stepped off the staircase in my sexiest outfit to go try to be the world's oldest male prostitute. So, I scan the room. On one side, there was a bar, with barstools. Sitting on those stools were rather non-descript gentlemen, who, I could see, were actually quite a bit older than me. And looked it. Most of them seemed unconcerned with their physiques. Portly? Yes, many of them were rather portly. Or stout.
On the other side of the room was a gaggle of young men...not too much younger than me, so I didn't feel completely ridiculous. The younger men were also "sexily" dressed and better looking than the men on the barstools. I went and stood with them and engaged in an awkward attempt to mix and mingle. Occasionally, one of the younger guys would cross this invisible line and move over to the bar and start talking to one of the "johns." I was just observing, figuring out how to play this little game when one of the "boys" sidled up to me. He was clearly the best looking guy in the room. He was sweet and had a disarming smile. He sort of looked like this guy:
So, he and I started talking. I got the feeling that it was maybe the first time he'd been there and was also figuring out how it worked. "Look at that guy," he said, "the one on the third stool..." There was an impish note of disdain in his voice. "The man with the glasses?" "Yeah," David replied (I'll call him David) "the jerk thinks he owns the place."
The jerk in question was a gentleman somewhere in his forties. Doughy. Glasses. Looked a little like Newman from Seinfeld. There were boys on either side of him, flirting; and he--a would be raconteur--was braying loudly. "Geez," David complained, "is that what we have to work with?" I laughed. He was standing very close. I could feel his body heat. There was an attraction. "Maybe," he smiled, "you and me could have a three-way with one of them..." Was he kidding around? Maybe not. "I wish it could be just you and me..." He smiled again. I blushed. No one ever hit on me like that. Almost never. "Yeah," I sighed, "me too." He said it like there was some set rule that he and I couldn't have just walked out of there and had our own tete-a-tete. Or maybe David just saw me as the "older guy" and he was trying to hustle me. But I don't think that was it. Anyhow...
I laughed to myself and it was all over. I hauled it out of there. Said so long to David and back up those stairs.
When you go to a gay hooker bar and find yourself disappointed because you didn't leave with another aspiring hooker, there's a problem. David was the only thing in the room that I wanted any part of. I realized that there was no way on Earth I was ever going to be a male prostitute; old or otherwise. It simply wasn't in my blood. My make-up. My molecular structure. And I realized that age, as far as male prostitutes go, isn't that big a problem. There's actually a lot of niches in the gay world of erotica for older men.
Remember that male prostitute that "brought down" Ted Haggard. His name was Mike Jones (a name so bland it has to be real):
Mike managed, with a mere five minutes of fame, to write a book and star in a play about the whole thing:
Now that's a play I'm sorry I missed!
I think Mike was 50ish when the Haggard thing went down. Mike is what you call a "Daddy." That's a gay man of a certain age, usually hunky and ruggedly handsome. They get a lot of work. I don't think there's really a corresponding niche in the straight world. I've never heard of "Mommy" prostitutes (what would that even be?). If it is a niche (and its gotta be) I'm guessing it's a niche within a niche.
When I was the P.A. on Invaders from URanus, the director, a delightful and kind man named "Thor Stephens" suggested at one point that perhaps, maybe, I might like to be on the other side of the camera. I laughed and declined. There was no way that was going to happen. That required a certain set of skills I didn't have. Firstly, you must have a certain amount of Exhibitionistic tendencies and be completely and utterly comfortable in being completely naked for long amounts of time in front of anybody. You also need a certain amount of priapism. Nope. Not for me. I'll pass. I'll just sit here and hold the C-light.
Or, how about this:
Yes, that's Eve "Jan Brady" Plumb playing a teen-age runaway-slash-prostitute. This TV movie proved so popular it generated a TV move sequel. Perhaps a first. The sequel was about Alexander, Dawn's male prostitute pal. You can see both on Youtube.
Now, I'm not sure exactly what the intentions of these two films were. Were they supposed to be sort of Public Service warnings? "Hey America, this is what might happen to your kids. Don't let it! And, wanna watch?" For the kids watching it made this lifestyle rather desirous. Hey, if Jan Brady can go live the wild life, so can I! So yeah, these "expose" TV movies had a decided amount of prurience. And these two in particular did little to deglamorize prostitution; underage or otherwise. "Wow, doesn't Jan look hot in that halter dress and rabbit fur coat!?"
Of course, Pretty Woman made an entire generation of girls want to be prostitutes. Boys too. Who wouldn't want to spend the week-end giving Richard Gere head at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in a Turnbull and Asser robe for $3000 bucks? Richard G. Another actor who totally helped to glamorize prostitution:
But haven't we all engaged in some form of prostitution? Engage, present tense? How many of us have "slept" with someone to get ahead at a job? To procure a couple of lines of coke? Or the drug of your choice? Isn't going out for dinner and a movie and expecting the person who asked you to pick up the tab just that? And the tab-picker-upper generally expects a little something-something after a certain amount of tabs have been picked up (I guess that's the lay-away plan!). Or how about people who marry other people with lots of money and zero "personality." There's are entire websites devoted to being someone's "sugar-baby." Apparently they're very popular with college girls. Sites like "RichMeetBeautiful." Don't tell me that's not prostitution. My husband told me about certain ladies he knew back in college who were not exactly "10s" They were mostly under 5. But in order to land the cute frat boys, they would lure them with free recreational drugs; for nookie, that is.
Let's face it: sex is a bartering tool in our society. Prostitution just puts it up front. Actually makes it honest. So, why don't we just legalize the undertaking? That way it can be more controlled. Perhaps it would keep a lot of people out of danger. I mean, The Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Arizona seems to be working out for all parties involved; particularly for the ladies, who are relatively protected. What, would officially sanctioning the profession be some kind of moral downward spiral? Please. It exists. It always has. It's not going anywhere. Take off your Pilgrim hat and get with it, America.
I mean America loves hookers. Whores. Prostitutes. Streetwalkers ad infinitum. We can't get enough of them!
Unfortunately, America is a rather hypocritical place. We love hookers; but if we find out someone was a hooker in their past, we tend to excoriate them.
I mean, what if I'd come through (so to speak) at Numbers? What if I had become the worlds oldest male prostitute? What if I'd retired from it and you found out about it?
Would it change the way you think about me?
Would you think less of me?
What would you think?
Photo by Phillip-Lorca di Corcia
So, there's a theory, popularized by The DaVinci Code, I believe, that posits that Mary Magdalene, history's most famous hooker, was actually Christ's wife. Or at least his live-in-lady-love. But the Catholic church couldn't have a sexually active Christ; so they attempted to besmirch her by branding her a whore who was little more than a groupie. Only men would think that up. Stupid men. Like, having Christ hang around with a prostitute doesn't beg the question as to whether or not she was performing her talents for him? That he would hang with a hooker is even more Christian. Did they not realize that? Men are such dicks.
But Jesus being friends with a hooker? Isn't that rather radical? It's totally cool. And kinda hot.
Well, it's close enough to Thanksgiving, so I'm back.
Since I was a child, I've dreamed of living in New York City. As an artistically inclined, same-sex attracted individual, Manhattan was the ne plus ultra of living destinations. I lived Boston adjacent and went into that hub as often as I could. And Boston is a very cool city; but it was no New York. Ironically, Boston is rapidly turning into a kind of New England New York: with outrageously exorbitant prices to match. The cost of living in both cities has priced out the very people who flock there and give those places their character. Artists, performers, writers etc.
But New York was never very financially kind to the artistic types who were drawn there. When I graduated college, New York still beckoned; and if I'd been actively pursuing acting, I may very well have tried my hand at living there; despite the gut-churning reputation the city had of being entirely unaffordable; unless you were willing to live in squalor with rats, roaches and seedy strangers. You had to wait tables for people who had a global reputation of being mean. Maybe you could be a bell-boy at a hotel; doing more for the male lodgers then just hauling their luggage...Prostitution is a big step for most people. It's a line I couldn't cross (I tried once: more on that in another blog for another day). But it's a line that's easy to cross for some people. It's all about survival, right?
So, when I left the halls of higher academia, I got a job at a gay bar in Cambridge and worked there for three years while I dragged my feet about my future. Actually, it was more or less a three-year party, since not only did I work at the Paradise bar, I hung out there when I wasn't working. It and the people in it became my world. But then, I had friends who were moving to Los Angeles to pursue the dreams that we had all gone to college for. I knew I had to take action or that I would end up at that bar for the rest of my life.
I'd visited. There was no there, there, as someone once said. It was patently fake to me. The city nearly indistinguishable from the sets on the studio backlots that had built the town. Sunbaked in shadowless light at a constant low broil. Even in the winter, when it rained, there was never any thunder or lightning. Not once in the entire time I ended up living there did I hear the rumble of thunder. Have you ever read The Day of the Locust? It is an entirely accurate depiction of Los Angeles for someone who has moved there from the East. Of course, for some people (the British for example) L.A. is IT. They get there and they've arrived. That mechanical sunlight is just right. Who cares if it's fake. It's paradise.
But for anyone who came from a place where the weather changed, something wasn't right. That huge metropolis should not be there. It is not organic. It was grafted onto a dry, deserty landscape. It was built on sand. I remember that even the act of sex was somehow not enjoyable there. Sex is sort of a performance, isn't it? It's theatrical. You need to have it somewhere where there's like inclement weather. Cold and rainy. So that there's at least a little subtext in the undertaking: yeah, we're having sex; but we're also providing body heat for one another. Having sex in L.A.; where the ambient temperature generally hovered in the mid-70's; where the air had an unnerving stillness; where the quality of the light was flat and harsh...Having sex in L.A. was like having sex on a stage. It's no wonder it's the porn capital of the world.
However, because of its mind-boggling sprawl, Los Angeles had one thing going for it that other major metropolises didn't. Relative affordability. You could realistically afford to live there and enjoy a modest "lifestyle" without having to become a slave to the place (remember Slaves of New York?). I mean, just think of all the apartments in Los Angeles. If you couldn't find your own, you could easily find room-mates. The idea of "room-mates" was somehow more palatable in Los Angeles. I mean, we all grew up with Three's Company, right? Who wouldn't want to live with a bubbly, blonde California girl and a cute straight guy pretending to be gay? Split the rent and then have enough left over to have a drink or two at The Regal Beagle. By the way, didn't Jack Tripper seem pretty gay anyways? I never got that whole "pretending" thing.
"I just got a new roommate (wink, wink)..."
Perhaps the stupidest commercial ever made. No, wait, this one was even dumber:
Is this supposed to be double entendre? Is the air-freshener supposed to look like a marital aid? I mean, what were they going for here? Who were they pitching this to (and who was catching?).
But, back to metropolitan living.
When one is in New York City, the most immediate impression one gets is the sheer number of human beings on the street. It's to the point of creepiness: you're nearly almost always within a half a foot of someone. Not so in Los Angeles. The streets are bereft of people. I mean, yeah, certain thoroughfares are crowded: Hollywood Blvd., Rodeo Drive, parts of Melrose, a few blocks of Sunset; but most other places you could fire a cannon and hit nothing but air. It's like the exact opposite of New York City. It's just as creepy to have no people as it is to have too many. I prefer too many people, as I'm a people watcher--however, only if you can get away from the throng when you've had enough.
My husband and I have taken up going on little jaunts to the Big Apple. Him for me, more so than vice-versa. He knows I love the place. He, however, does not. I mean, I can't say I blame him. The place is an absolute zoo. I don't think I've ever been to a place where more people have full volume conversations with themselves. Or, are they on Bluetooth calls? And umbrella etiquette is non-existent. You have to be on constant vigil for umbrella spokes to the face when it rains. I do think that NYC is starting to grow on him a bit. He's into maps and geography and the city is basically one giant map grid. For me, it's a wonderland of new experiences: at this point in my life, actually getting to know the city I always dreamed about. Definitely a case of everything old is new again: both for the city, and for my person. Who knows, maybe I'll be getting up close and personal with Paris in my 70's. You gotta stay interested in life for as long as you can, while you still have use of your legs. This last trip we went to see Hadestown. I was blown away by it. Take that Disney (what will they be giving us next, The Apple Dumpling Gang! The Musical?)
This last trip to NYC was garbage. Literally. The trip was fun but there were piles of garbage everywhere. I mean, like, people were dining al fresco (Who's Al Fresco? -- rimshot) next to two story high piles of see through garbage bags. Thankfully, we dined indoors. I mean, it would be all I could do to try and enjoy my meal and not examine the garbage and wonder about it. Like, hmmmm, I wonder who had lunch at Subway. What did they have? Did they eat at their desk? Are they a commuter? Where do they commute from? Weehawken? Wappingers Falls? Poughkeepsie?
Was it a he or a she? Did they get the tuna fish? Did they wonder if it was actually tuna fish? Did they care? Is that a toupee...oh, dear God, it's a SCALP!!!
My mind wanders like that. And don't even get me started on my wonderment about the volume of trash New York City generates in a single day. Where does it all go? (New Jersey!--rim shot). I mean, when I start thinking about that my head could explode. It was raining in NYC too. And there was like a creamy-white, gravy-like substance running in most of the gutters. What was that? Manhattan-milk? Would I drink it if someone offered me money? How much money would it take for me to drink Manhattan-milk?
So, in any event, I guess the point of this essay is that I wouldn't live in New York City now. I mean, if I could live the way I always fantasized, like Lois Lane in Superman, with a little Alfa Romeo Spider in the garage and on someone else's dime, sure, I'd live there. But that only happens in movies like Superman. Her penthouse was at 1 Gracie Terrace on the East Side, by the way. It was recently up for sale for a mere 3.27 million.
We took the tram over to Roosevelt Island and I have to say, I was utterly shocked at how quiet it was. I was even more shocked when my husband said: "I could live here." Apparently, in the last twenty years or so it's become quite residential. A little city within the city. It used to be where they had the mental asylum and the smallpox hospital. I guess the diseases have returned to the mainland. Everything old is new again. I remember the first time I visited NYC as a child. The World Trade towers were still going up. I remember they had bright yellow tarps around the floors they were working on. We were waiting for the boat to Liberty Island. That memory is as vivid as yesterday. Maybe more so.
I remember the day they fell. All too vividly. ...The powers that be; that force us to live like we do...they'll fall to ruin one day, for making us part.
On our way to the Roosevelt Island tram, we walked right by the door to The Chrysler Building. My husband has an incredible knack for walking right up to landmarks without even knowing it. It's like he's psychically drawn to these places. I was like, "Oh...it's The Chrysler Building. Right here. Here's the door to the lobby." So we went in. A rather imperious young attendant stopped us in our tracks. "This isn't open to the public." WTF? It's a lobby. They're called "Public Lobbies" for a reason. I barely had time to glance at the stonework before he was giving us the bum's rush. "Well," I said, good naturedly, "what if I had a dental appointment?" (There is actually a dentist up in the spire! Or there used to be).
"Well," he said, a little less imperiously but not quite good-naturedly, "we'd check you in." Needless to say, I didn't have a dentist's appointment. But I know what dentist I'm going to if I ever do live in Manhattan, if he's still there, that is...
So, like, what's up Chrysler Building? Why so snobby? You're arguably twice as gorgeous as The Empire State Building and yet, you close down The Cloud Club and observatory and kick people out of your lobby who just want to admire your beauty. Do you know how much The Empire State Building pulls in, in a year? About 38 million dollars. And that's just the observatory. Why are you turning your nose up at that kind of money and publicity. People just want to admire you. Ever hear of a little something called "good will"? How about "noblesse oblige"? Bring back your observatory, bitch.
I just called the Chrysler Building a bitch.
Oops. I just read that there are plans to open a new observation deck at the Chrysler Building. Sorry Chrysler Building. But if you brought back The Cloud Club then you'd have something the other buildings don't. A sweet-ass restaurant that people would pay through the nose (even by NYC standards) to dine at. Go big or go home Chrysler Building.
I also got to finally visit 601 Lexington a.k.a "The Hugh" (formerly The Citicorp Building). I've been fascinated by that skyscraper since it first hit the skyline. It has a nice plaza and a great food court area; but would it kill them to put in an observatory? Any building over thirty stories should have an observatory and a restaurant. It should be a law. And how about this: you know how like, these elevated glass walkways and slides and terraces and so forth are so popular nowadays? Like that glass balcony over The Grand Canyon? 601 Lexington should install a slide/ride on its slanted roof! Can you imagine? I get chills just thinking about it! I also get chills when I think about how that building could've toppled over in a strong wind when it was first built. BTW, why has there never been a scene in an action movie with someone sliding down that roof? I mean, I'd build an entire movie around that scene just to see that scene.
About that slide. Maybe not. I mean, I was just really trying to imagine that experience and I thought, "Hmmm. You might never be right again."
I mean would you do it? Maybe? Imagine the coin it would generate for the city. Or would you rather just take your chances dining next to a mountain of trash: just as thrilling and only slightly less dangerous.
In any event. If you're planning on seeing a show on the reopening Broadway and one of those shows is The Lion King or Aladdin; go see Hadestown instead. Support something original. And I'm telling you it will change your life.
I know I said I wouldn't be back 'til after Thanksgiving; but I wrote this so I'm posting it. Then I'll be back after Thanksgiving. Oh, and, Happy Thanksgiving y'all!
Isn't it strange to think that Tom Hanks actually used to pose for head shots, just like every other struggling actor? That there was a time when he wasn't famous; just another good-looking young man wanting to break in to show business? Having to go and have those head-shots taken at some studio somewhere--to go through the embarrassment of having to get pictures taken of yourself so that you can try to sell yourself? Like, yourself. Turning your person into a product and then trying to market YOU. Most actors, even the most vain, I think, find the whole undertaking of headshots if not an embarrassment, then at least a nuisance. What should I wear? Should I get a hair-cut? Do I want to smile or be more serious or strike a pose somewhere between (like Tom in the above shot). Which one should I pick? Is that really the best I can do? Do I really look like this? Who is that person? Who do I think I am? Who the fuck is going to hire me? Will I make it? Is this stupid? I'm not funny. I can't act. Where's the nearest cliff so I can just go get it over with.
And so on.
Like, why did Tom pick that shirt? It's kind of a busy choice. A Native American print? Why baby blue when he has green eyes? A color head shot? Another bold choice. Why didn't he give himself a closer shave? Is that a scar on his right eyebrow? Why does this untouched picture exist? Is it a head shot or a publicity still? He has a boyish neck. A nice neck. It appears tactile: there's no Hollywood gloss. What is he thinking? I don't know; but he seems so human. Vulnerable. I'm worried about him here. But I needn't. Things worked out pretty well for Tom; and subsequently, for us.
My mother, who is in her mid-80's now, used to say this to me, quite a bit, when I was toiling away in Hollywood: "You should write a letter to Tom." "Tom who?" I would reply. "Tom Hanks. I'm sure Tom would write back to you!" She would call him "Tom" like she knew him personally. "You're right mom," I would say, "I should write to him..." But I never did, of course. I mean, if a letter had been written, I probably could've got it as close to Tom as maybe his agent. The agent would probably toss it into a bin with all the other fan letters to Tom. The letters praising him or wanting something from him. I can't imagine any of it could've been hate mail. No, wait, he used to wear a dress on national television.
What would I "want" from Tom Hanks? A personal assistant gig? Career advice? I already knew what that advice would be. "Get a good head shot. Go on auditions. Get into The Groundlings or some acting class and do a showcase. Then cross your fingers." What about friendship? Yes, that would've been nice; but that's not how friendship works. People don't befriend you, generally, because you write them a letter. Movie stars in particular. Even the nice ones.
I wonder how many people in the above photo "made it?"
I must've had aspirations (albeit submerged ones) of acting stardom when I first moved to Hollywood because I actually had some head shots taken at some point. I had gone to film school with the idea of being a movie director. I learned pretty fast that they don't just hand you a camera in Hollywood and tell you to go shoot something. You have to pay your "dues" first. Oh, if I had a friggin' nickel for every time I heard that word! So, at some point during my Tinseltown tenure, I was in Boston and I had a photographer friend take my first official head shot. Oops, I gotta go find it. So here is a publicity still from my junior year of high school. A production of The Private Ear:
My first job was in the agenting world. I quickly realized that that was not what I wanted to do. I mean, talking on the phone for nine hours in the service of someone else (even though you get 10 percent)? Most of the people at Robinson, Weintraub and Gross were really great. Two weren't. One agent in particular and the office manager. They were like two characters out of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. They screwed with me because they were bored and they could. I ended up getting fired. But they both ended up getting fired themselves later on. I had the advantage of not being invested in the job. They didn't. I hope tonight they dine in Hell. No; I take that back. They did me a favor.
Eventually I started working at Paramount Studios and got a much better idea of how the Hollywood hierarchy worked within that realm. I started to understand why some people slept with higher-ups to get better "positioning." It was just easier; you could get those dues out of the way quicker. (No, the opportunity never presented itself to me). I have this great story about a gal who kept a diary of her evening exploits with the CEO of So and So Productions. The diary was stolen and its highly personal contents were leaked; but that's a story for another day. But I will say, she had great taste. She wore Chanel and that CEO was one smokin' hot piece of executive man-candy. I would've gladly positioned myself for him.
It was on the Paramount lot that I actually laid eyes on Tom Hanks. I happened to walk by a make-up trailer on the backlot and he happened to be leaning out the door for a breath of air. He was jocularly talking back over his shoulder to someone in the trailer. I was a page; so stopping to chat with a Star was strictly verboten. Not that I would've. My mother certainly would've! He was filming Forrest Gump at the time. I was actually on the Oval Office set from that movie. Tom's a Pepper too!
My mother chatted up more celebrities in the three or four times she visited L.A. then I did in fifteen years. We used to go to the El Conquistador restaurant in Silver Lake; back when Silver Lake was still kind of unhip. It was a great place. Delicious food. Fun/campy atmosphere. And there were always showbiz people there. You know, like, every-day, mid-line showbiz people. Let's see...she chatted up Leah Remini (I mean, she walked over to these people's tables while they were eating), the lady who played the mother on Six Feet Under and Ian Buchanan, whose face she actually took in her hands. My mother's a charmer. I don't know what she said to him but he was all smiles.
Hmmm. Apparently Ian has married another man and there's almost no information about it on the web. Well good on yah Ian! Mazel tov!
But back to Tom.
When I saw Tom in the make-up trailer I was about 28 years old. Tom is ten years older than me. I'm now 55, soon to turn 56 (there's no point in lying about our age anymore, is there? In this day and age; it's stupid anyways). Tom is in his mid-60's. How did this happen? That day on the backlot seems like yesterday to me. Or maybe, like, ten years ago. As Farah Fawcett said in the TV movie Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story: "Life is just a drag-race to the grave."
That's one way to look at it. You can also look at from a hair-dye company's point of view: "You're not getting older; you're getting better!"
So, here is a letter to Tom (at the past behest of my mom) in the form of "Thank You Notes": a bit I am going to blatantly steal from Jimmy Fallon. I am going to thank Tom for the moments from his life that touched my life. I mean, I love Tom, but I'm not a Tom completist. Like, I didn't see The Circle and I probably won't any time soon. But I do want to read Uncommon Type; I just haven't had a chance yet.
Thank you for doing the movie Philadelphia.
Okay, wait a minute...
I have a side note about this movie. I'll get back to the thank yous in a minute.
I didn't see Philadelphia at the movies when it first came out. I don't know why. It was the kind of thing I usually went to see. But it was 1993 and I had just landed a job at Paramount and I was super busy and extremely broke. I just didn't see it at the cinema. I did see it later on, on VIDEOTAPE. It was a wonderful movie. An important movie. It really helped to open up the national dialogue about AIDS and put a very human face on a disease that was killing a lot of young men. Thank you. But thinking back on it...your amazing scenes with Antonio Banderas (what a fantastic casting choice!)--I have to ask...Why didn't you guys kiss? That movie so needed a passionate kiss between the two men. Not having that kiss really put the film into genteel-land. It's kind of left the movie, historically, in the lurch. I mean, when was the last time someone said, "Hey, let's watch Philidelphia"? I mean, have you ever seen Law of Desire? Antonio would've totally gone there with you. Not just a kiss but...you name it.
I went to see that movie three times when it played Boston.
I think I can understand why there was no hot kiss. It was 1993. It was a major studio release. It was a taboo subject. We were lucky it got made at all. Maybe you and Antonio could reunite, if not in a movie, then maybe a little promo for National Coming Out Day where the two of you give the world that kiss that so many of us felt we were denied. Who cares how old you are? It would still be smoldering.
Back to the "thank yous."
Thank you Tom, for doing this scene, which has provided fodder for I don't know how many fantasies (not just mine)...
Thank you Tom, for giving us skin in the opening credits of Bosom Buddies. You and Peter Scolari both. I don't think you probably have any idea the effect that had on gay boys across the United States in the early 80's.
Also, thank you for being in Bosom Buddies. That show was revolutionary in its own way. Its gay subtext was possibly just text. Cross dressing? Gender fluidity? Dudes in the creative realm? The more I think about it, the gayer it gets...and that's a great thing. You broke ground. Bosom Buddies has a special place in my heart because it reminds me of my friend Scott. For whatever reason, even though the show only had 37 episodes, it went into syndicated re-runs. They were on every day after school and we would watch and laugh together. Whenever I hear Billy Joel's "My Life" I think of him and when we were young men; when we were "bosom buddies." I know he feels the same too. I too had fantasies of moving to New York and being in advertising. To say the show resonated with my fourteen year- old self would be an understatement.
Thank you Tom, for doing a semi-nude scene in Forrest Gump:
You're hotter than you know. Or maybe you do know...
Thank you Tom, for hosting Saturday Night Live as often as you do. You still so bring the funny. I mean, David S. Pumpkins? Tom, that shouldn't be funny. But it's hilarious. Do you have a pact with the Devil? No, you're just willing to try new things and they pay off: because you're open minded. Clearly, you like to have fun. You're willing to look like a fool. We need fools.
Thank you Tom for dealing with Covid with such level-headedness. You were like the first celebrity to get it. You were the first famous person we saw deal with it. You didn't panic. You kept the public calm.
Tom, thank you for being Tom Hanks. I'm not saying you're perfect; or that you're a saint. But you've proven yourself to be a real stand-up person. And now you've reached a sort of living legend status and have managed to remain humble. Tom...I think maybe you should run for President of the United States. You've got my vote.
And Tom, in all seriousness (because I seriously crushed on him), my condolences to you on the loss of Peter Scolari. You guys were like brothers. That really came through on Bosom Buddies. Kip may have been head over heels for Sonny...but I think Henry was really head over heels for Kip. And maybe, just maybe, Peter was head over heels for Tom.
I wouldn't doubt it.
And my mom thanks you!
Christopher Reidy is from the Boston area. He attended Boston University where he studied TV and film which eventually led him to Los Angeles. There he did the Hollywood thing (which he wasn’t particularly good at) and eventually met his partner Joseph. He was one of the co-founders of the short lived Off Hollywood Theatre Company which staged several of his original plays. 83 In the Shade is his first novel. He also dabbles in screenplays, toys with short stories, and flirts with poetry. Life brought him to bucolic Southwest Virginia where he now resides and is very active in community theatre. It may interest you to know Chris is officially an Irish citizen as well as an American. He also enjoys drawing and painting and looking after a passel of
housecats and two turtles.