Here’s me and my valentine, back in, well, not quite “the day” but a day—and from the looks of it, a happy one.
He (B) has known me since I was 18. I turned 25 during the first months we lived together. He deserves a Purple Heart, the Medal of Freedom, Medal of Honor, the Legion d’ honneur, and certainly something from the American Psychiatric Association: Patience and Understanding Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.
I asked him just before we moved in together, in 1976, “Are you sure?” He said, “Absolutely.” Since then, the only wise decision I’ve ever made is never to ask him that again.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
For centuries we have repeated and reflected on those words from the Bible, often drawing comparisons to this or that in our own life and time.
But have we ever pondered what it will profit a man who gains the whole world but who has no soul to lose?
Now might be a good time to start that particular pondering. I’m sure some of us have already begun the unhappy process.
Being a writer (of highly dubious sorts, as you all know) it is always an agony to realize one has made an error, allowed a typo to go through, misspelled a name, forgot to cite WHEN or WHERE something has or will be occurring. I’ve been told on several occasions that my own errors are “dyslexic.” I like that because it is so much nicer than the truth–stupidity.
However, this morning all my suffering on this matter evaporated. Because, I don’t make errors. I am presenting “alternative facts.”
I have to give a big shout out to Kelleyanne Conway, who tried to explain it all to Chuck Todd on Meet The Press, but as the lovely Kellyanne noted, Chuck was just getting “too dramatic.” She and the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave might have to re-think their relationship with him–and the press in general, if he continued to carry on about, well, factual facts.
Some people might have thought Conway was being condescending and threatening to Mr. Todd. But she was just a little frustrated—this entire alternative facts thing is new (about 48 hours new). And difficult to explain. Conway furrowed her brow quite a bit, trying awfully hard to make the dramatic Mr. Todd stick to the facts—the alternative facts. She always looks so tired. Well, long nights are mandatory when the Reich is new.
I only speak for myself, but I am deeply relieved to find out about alternative facts. It’s like discovering an alternate universe. Just like it, actually. Sundays are usually a drag. I’m edgy over starting up the work week again. Not today. I am joyfully unbound and relaxed by the guidance of Kellyanne. (I know she won’t mind me referring to her by her first name–we’re simpattico. And if you think I didn’t spell that correctly; big mistake, I DID. It’s all alternative. Get it?)
By the way, Hillary Clinton is the president. Not a lie, an alternative fact.
Talk to Kellyanne about it. She’s sure to agree, yes?
Some of you may have heard about that ridiculous “Urban Legend” British TV series.
Along with other questionable tales, the show regurgitates the flat-out lie that Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando attempted to flee New York Cityafter the 9/11 attacks. (They were in the city for Michael’s concerts, celebrating a coming album and a reunion with his brothers.) One of Jackson’s children, daughter Paris, objected so strenuously to the trailer, that Sky News, which produced the series, junked that episode. For now.
However, it reminded me that I attended the first Jackson concert, in New York, just three days before the New York and Washington terrorism. I had taken a hiatus from my job with Liz Smith (I quit, in a huff, much high dudgeon). But hard feelings had softened in the months I’d been away, and Liz, who was then working for Newsday, suggested that I cover the concert. Or as she put it, “Denis, you do it. I’d rather set myself on fire!” (I had already been providing items for the column again, much as I had back when Liz and I first connected in 1981. I saw this as a failure on my part—I still felt righteous indignation over the events that led to my quitting– but the connection with her was too strong—and it had been my only real job, in my life!)
And so, to prevent Liz from putting herself to the torch, I did it. Newsday wanted 500 words. I gave them considerably more. They printed it, much edited, in the Saturday edition. Miss Smith called to compliment me, and asked if I had “any more?” She said, “I’ll use it in Monday’s column and credit you.” I assured her I had plenty more.
And, good as her word, she used it, and wrote kindly of my talent. Of course, nobody was reading gossip on September 11th. I’d gone to my therapist that morning, on 14th Street and Fifth Ave, happy about the column, the Newsday credit and maybe things were looking up?
That was 8:45. Fifteen minutes later I stepped out onto the street and realized things were not looking up at all.
Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s the original version of that night, which I have never forgotten, because of what it was—nuts!—and what it came to represent, in the aftermath of 9/11.
Within a couple of months I was back in Liz Smith’s office. Like chicken feathers to tar…
September 8th 2001
TO BE honest, Michael Jackson didn’t need to throw himself a party Friday night, after the first of his two Madison Square Garden “Happy 30th Anniversary/I’m Still Here/I’m Coming Back, Don’t Try To Stop Me” concerts. The concert itself was quite enough.
What possibly could have topped such jarring extremes as a painfully skinny, wildly energetic Whitney Houston opening up the show—with help from muscular, fur-vested Usher—followed immediately by a swollen, supine Marlon Brando?
Brando, perversity incarnate, nearly brought the crowd to riot as he rambled on about dead babies, “killed by machetes…” Yeah, he finally got around to the children’s hospital Michael Jackson was financing, but by that time, the audience was ready to machete Marlon. A great moment, folks.
But as nothing succeeds like excess, surely the motto of Michael and his closest friend Elizabeth Taylor, an intimate fete would never do on this night of nights. So under the aegis of David Guest, Tavern On The Green was transformed into a country carnival, complete with candy stalls, games, a lemonade stand (conveniently next to one of the bars, so the innocent lemonade could be spiked with vodka should the revelers so desire.)
There was an innumerable supply of lush stuffed animals to take away, a man penciling, portraits, even “Michael’s Freshen Up” counter. (Everything was titled “Michael’s this or that”—I guess to remind us why we were gathered.) “Freshen Up” was a spot where ladies and gentlemen could, paste themselves back together as the humidity caused coifs to collapse and make-up to slide off siliconed cheeks and into siliconed valleys.
Of course this was a Michael Jackson production, and there was no mistaking his magic touch. For the first hour or so, little people were assigned to welcome the guests, trilling a verse from the famous song performed by the Munckins in “The Wizard of Oz.” You know, the one that ends, “We wish to welcome you to Munchkin Land!” The snippet of song also blasted out of speakers. Over and over. Over and over the little people had to sing along, looking cheery. After some time, the loudspeakers were getting very angry glances. The one verse, repeated endlessly must have been amusing to whoever thought of it. The incoming horde was not amused. Even the cheery little people looked to be getting cranky, not to mention being knocked around as the entrance became increasingly clotted with celebs and looky-loos. Eventually, we were treated to the entire “Wizard of Oz” soundtrack, which wasn’t exactly get up and boogie music, but at least the songs began and ended. (Later a live band performed vigorously but it was getting to close to 2:30, and many guests were carnivaled-out by that point.)
There was also no mistaking Jackson’s hand in the eclectic guest list—a fantastic goulash of stellar lights. Jon Lovitz…David Hasslehoff…Ann Miller… June Haver (Miss Haver a 1950’s Twentieth Century Fox star, appeared to know the lyrics to every Jackson song performed during the show. She also stood and shrieked like a teen-ager at some points!)…Jane Powell…Jane Russell…Margret O’Brien
…Gina Lollobrigida (“loved you in ‘Solomon and Sheba’ said a fan. “You remember that?” replied the Italian icon, who still pouts convincingly. This is no mean feat at 70-plus)…Montel Williams, cheerfully submitting to having a glittery tattoo painted on his neck…Yoko Ono…Caroll Baker, she of the unmistakable honky tonk voice (devotees might want to know that Baker’s sweaty 1963 potboiler “Station Six Sahara” was snapped up by the British film industry and put in a vault. Though the way Baker told it, she didn’t seem to mind that this one might never be screened again)…Cory Feldman and a lady in a formidable hat, under which, it was suggested, hid Cory Haim…Angie Harmon and her new hubby. The handsome couple had nuzzled affectionately at the concert during Billy Gillman’s rendition of Michael’s passionate ode to a rat, “Ben”…Janet Leigh…at least one member of the made-on-TV band, O’Town
…”One Life To Live” soap queen Erika Slezak. “Have you ever wondered how long a soap opera year is?” asked a “OLTL” fan (considering that on soaps, one day can last weeks). Erica replied with a good-natured laugh, “56 days. We figured it out once. But no matter what, the soaps always celebrate the major holidays. After all, we have to stay grounded!
…Liza Minnelli, looking more like herself, having removed the big, poofy, un-Liza-like wig she wore performing at the Garden. While paying tribute to Jackson, Miss Minnelli at the same time offered another one of those up-from the-floor “returns” for which she is now famous. The indestructible star was in strong voice during her two numbers, and, at the end of “Never Never Land” turned to Michael and sang, at last, a few bars of her mother’s “Over The Rainbow.” Spine-tingly stuff!…Aaron Carter, the latest teeny-bopper throb, cuter even than his older BackStreet Boy brother Nick (Aaron was awfully patient with grabbers. He’s at that stage of burgeoning stardom where people think it’s okay to handle you in a familiar manner).
Patty Duke, far cheerier in real life than in many of her recent TV roles (always the tragic, bitter, intense mother of a dead or missing child) is excited about auditioning for a coming production of “Oklahoma” playing, as she puts it, “the old lady.” In truth, Duke looks more like she could tackle Ado Annie, the gal who cain’t say no!
I don’t know if any of the N’Sync’s or Britney made the party, because all the boys looked N’Sync-y, and every girl tries to look like Miss Spears. Blessedly nobody has had time to incorporate the now-famous snake into their Britney costuming. There were also hundreds of just plain folks and families; people who managed to ante up the ducats to attend the concert and party. Michael Jackson fans really seemed to be enjoying the circus-y atmosphere. What’s not to like about a man on stilts and fortune tellers?
Dinner was served late, but the entire evening was running at least an hour past schedule. Nobody seemed to mind. Much. This was, after all, one of those once in a lifetime events, yes? It was a tasty fish entree, but few ate, because only moments after the plates began to hover precariously over the heads of the hungry mass, the idol himself arrived. And now we witness the ritual of The Star Entrance: the room tilts, almost literally. Breathing intensifies or stops. Common sense and good manners go right out the window. Elbows become lethal weapons (“That’s okay lady, I was going in for a vasectomy anyway!”) feet—in loafers, dress shoe, stiletto heel– press into the embroidered chairs, as the bedazzled try to stand above the crowd and crane for a better look, tiny cameras appear, perfectly normal looking people burst into tears. I’ve seen this before, from Julia Roberts to Madonna to Tom Cruise. The power of illusion, the lure of celebrity never ebbs. In Jackson’s case, there is an extra element of hunger and curiosity—does he really look so odd? Alas, yes.
Jackson, in glittery white, received the crushing tribute in his usual soft-spoken manner. The ego so blatantly displayed during the Garden tribute is muted—I thought I would go mad if I had to sit through one more “He’s so wonderful” film clip. Now, at the party, Michael is a pale, mink-lashed Bambi, caught forever in the burning headlights of fame. Comforted by the familiar, yet wary of the cost, he is the cynical cynosure of every eye. The heat and light bear down and it seems impossible that the star can get enough oxygen. But of course for better or worse, this adulation is his oxygen.
Time will tell—and very shortly too—if Jackson can recover his wounded career in America. But judging by his wildly enthusiastic concert audience and the party-goers who would have sold their mothers on the spot to speak, touch, be photographed with Jackson, the word “comeback” might now be used confidently.
He has for so long been a bird with a wing down, it is surely past due to mend that wing. Michael was, and perhaps still is, considered “weird.” How else would you describe a man who refutes [never proved] child molestation charges tarted-up with inch-long false eyelashes?! But this is 2001, readers. Is Michael any weirder these days than, say, Anne Heche or Gary Condit or that hand puppet at the MTV Awards who earned the undying enmity of Jennifer Lopez? I think not. And at least Michael has talent. And that talent is still worshipped by his peers and by those who have risen since his fall. When the ravishing Beyonce of Destiny’s Child shyly approached Jackson’s table, the room went into spasms. Someone smart should team these two up for something. If that “Phantom of The Opera” project ever materialized… (Yeah, I know, she’s part of a group. But how long do you think that’s gonna last? Beyonce, like Diana Ross, is the engine than revs Destiny’s Child. She’s a lovely, gracious girl. But her destiny screams “solo career!”)
Not on hand for the party part of Jackson’s night, his loyal friend Elizabeth Taylor. But this rodent-copulation wouldn’t have suited La Liz. The crush would have endangered her fragile back, the hour was late. The heat was oppressive. And then there was presence of so many contemporaries—the MGM gals.
Not that ET has anything but the fondest feelings for her sisters in celluloid. But at no point would she have enjoyed being captured in some “nostalgia” photo op. It is Taylor, after all, who is Michael’s “best” friend. It is she who sat on his right, a baudy blonde queen, at the concert itself. And it is she—surprisingly refreshed, focused and pretty again, working that feather boa like a burlesque cutie—who introduced from the stage, the re-united Jacksons.
Just as Michael is a universe apart from most other pop stars, Taylor inhabits another plane in her world. Like an oil well (or a diamond mine) Taylor is a great natural resource—inevitably depleted by time, but still rare, useful, a substance to be reckoned with. But even Taylor knows for whom the bell tolls. It is significant that she now insists on being introduced as “Dame Elizabeth Taylor.” Just as her friend Michael must always be called “The King of Pop.” Who are they trying to convince?
Taylor’s charismatic, cheerful hairdresser, the eternally cowboy-hatted Jose Eber attended the party, along with other member’s of ET’s entourage. “Wasn’t she great? She’s in peak form again” he said. When somebody began to wax mystical about Taylor’s legendary qualities, her enduring stardom, Eber, smiled patiently, “She’s really a very normal woman you know.” Just a Dame, right Jose? And Eber is the average back-comber at any neighborhood salon.
Around her neck and dangling from her ears, Miss Taylor wore a set of famous rubies, gifts from third hubby Mike Todd.
Before filmmaker/showman Todd perished in a 1957 plane crash, he had hosted an overblown, riotous event at the old Madison Square Garden to celebrate himself and the little woman, and 1,000 close friends. Also it was promotion for his movie, “Around The World In Eighty Days.” On that that night in 1957, La Liz sported the same set of rubies.
Could she possibly have remembered that long ago gala at the Garden, and chosen them specifically, for sentiment’s sake? A good luck talisman, as she once again tried to help an important man in her life by her singular presence? I like to think so.
The party went on and on. It was Friday night, after all. Then Jackson left. And as if he was the air that filled a balloon, the celebration slowly deflated. Michael’s departure was as dramatic as his entrance, he exited murmuring soft “thank yous,” waving, blowing little kisses, a sphinx behind the eyeliner and lip gloss, a star not ready to fade.
He has morphed before our eyes into something, well—a little unexpected. Certainly he has changed physically. But twice married, twice divorced, a father of two, press-bruised, and scandal-braised, his tentative off-stage posture seems to suggest—not invincibility (“Invincible” is the all-to-obvious title of his coming album),
but a more vulnerable offering, “Take a closer look. I’m still the boy I was. And I’m waiting here for you.”
“I THINK this looks like gout, sir.”
“Gout? Haha! Like Henry VIII?”
“People still get gout, sir. It hasn’t been magically cured.”
So that was a pleasant little exchange I had early this year in Hoboken’s emergency room. The doctor INSISTED on calling me “sir” which I do not look upon as a sign of respect. (As Ruth Chatterton said to Walter Huston in “Dodsworth”—“But I’m still young, Sam!”)
He was not amused by my amusement that the incredibly painful swelling of my toe and foot—which I thought I’d injured by over-exercising—was gout. “Well, I guess it’s not just the disease of kings, anymore!” I said, with a saucy toss of my graying tresses. The doctor gave me a distinct “I am not amused by your gay humor” side-eye and left me to my IV drip of pain medication.
That’s how the year began. Less than two weeks ago I was back at the Hoboken emergency room with B. who was suffering some pretty drastic stomach problems. It had come from nowhere. He had to endure a horrible procedure with a tube down his nose and into his stomach, and then was hospitalized for three days. He’s home now, still weak, on a bland diet. It was an infection that they can’t indentify—how or why, which is troubling. How to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
I tried to be an adult, and behave responsibly and intelligently, at the hospital, with the doctors, at home alone. (I was not compelled to have a Shirley MacLaine “Give my daughter the shot!!!” moment, although it came kinda close in the emergency room, around the seventh hour, which was two hours after they’d said, “his room is ready.”) I didn’t like being alone in the house. I didn’t like to visit the inevitabilities. I’ve never, in my entire life, lived alone. So…the house better blow up, dispensing with the two of us, at once. (Notice I’m just ignoring whether or not B. would be okay without me, or if he’s on board with going together in a gas leak. I generally get my way.)
So, in between February and mid-December, the rest of 2016 happened. And it’s still happening (Carrie Fisher, George Michael. And, Kellyanne Conway–Donald Trump’s Leni Riefenstahl.) Helen Mirren’s sum-up was more than accurate: “a shit storm.” Aside from the gout—I’m going to make you feel bad for my toe, no matter what!—I had some considerable alterations to my work. I’m doing that voodoo that I don’t do so well, from home now, which is odd and isolating. But I carry on, as does my boss, who is 93 and will most assuredly outlive me. (She will probably set off the gas leak, actually—if she thinks I’m about to pen my memoirs!)
I’m not recapping all the losses or the election. Enough. I just wish I was younger, so I could actually devote myself to protests and consistent organized watchfulness as to what’s coming. It’s all fine and well for Michael Moore (who, like me, basically predicted Clinton’s loss) to make up lists of things to do as Trumplandia falls upon us, but most people don’t have the time—they’re working. He’s working too, but I don’t think he’s worrying over his rent.
I’m just going to bring you my photo tale of capturing a Christmas tree—the youngest, smallest one yet. Still, it struggled! Coy, but eventually convinced. (I remember playing that game.) And of course, what happened to it, and the rest of the place. I make small changes every year, but as you all know, it’s basically the same over-ornate, bordello-esque Christmas adored by hookers, men of a certain persuasion and the very sentimental.
I love each and every one of you. I hope I adjust more to my new-ish work situation and make a real effort to stay in touch. I’ll try not to rant on politics. We all need escape from that.
I hope your holiday was reasonably healthy, happy and graced by the presence family, friends, a cherished pet, or enough good thoughts from years past to lighten the load, if you are alone. You can write to me any time, unload, rant, reminisce—just as I have so often, and you’ve always listened and responded with such support.
All good things, all this year, and for many more to come.
Deep love and appreciation,
Denis and Bruce (Mr. Wow and B.)
“THE HARDEST thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are actually unworthy to win.”
So said Adlai Stevenson.
AND SO here we are. Tomorrow the nation votes for our 45th president.
I have never been so depressed and fraught. Nothing in my personal life—deaths of family members and friends, professional set-backs, illness, romantic disappointment—has afflicted me so darkly. (And the romantic issues were fairly apocalyptic, let me tell you!)
Nope, it’s all small potatoes as we stare down the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two of the most disliked and distrusted public figures on the planet.
If Mrs. Clinton wins, Donald Trump, a majority of Republicans and members of the FBI, are assuring America that she will never have a moment’s peace in the White House—as if being president is ever “peaceful.” (The FBI is back to saying, “nothing there!” But who can believe them now?)
She will be tormented, threatened with impeachment, indictment, prison. Worse, her opponents gleefully promise she’ll never get anything done for the people of the United States.
We will suffer because after eight years of an African American as president, a woman Commander in Chief is just too much too bear. She has stood up to decades and decades of battering, “scandals,” conspiracy theories and lack of respect. There’s been so much of it, that she puts a guard up and over-protects herself. (The simplest, truest explanation of her calamitous email errors. If you become president, Hillary Clinton, please, in the words of Ronald Reagan—“Tear down that wall!”)
But battering hasn’t been enough. Hillary Clinton’s steely resiliency has driven Republicans nearly insane. Just as Barack Obama’s two terms and smooth, calm demeanor deranged them. (Perhaps in retrospect, Obama was too calm, too dedicated to the concept of civilized negotiation–to civility in general. In the end, did his foes deserve such respect?)
As for Clinton, they want to humble this woman, to drag her—perhaps literally—into the town square, and stone her. If she is not perfect, she is also no “criminal.” And let any politician, on either side of the aisle, who has achieved success, cast the first ethical stone at Hillary Clinton.
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
IF DONALD Trump wins, the United States will be in hands of a man whose sole aim in life has been to see his name in newspapers, on the covers of magazines, on the sides of buildings. He doesn’t give to charity. He doesn’t respect other human beings because they don’t deserve respect. His very words! Women are objects. Other men are weak. (Unless they are dictators.)
Trump prides himself on speaking his mind, as if we should cheer when sewers overflow. He has a hair trigger temper and gossamer-thin skin. He doesn’t pay taxes. He is joyfully supported by racists, misogynists, anti-Semites, homophobes. He is infantile emotionally. He speaks as if he barely passed the fifth grade. Most who know him well, don’t believe he has read a book in thirty years.
But we are a young country, one which has never functioned under a dictator—maybe that would be “interesting” some wonder? We are restless, agitated, disappointed in D.C. gridlock. Some of us want to go way back in time—a time when people of color knew their place, where homosexuals hid in the shadows, and no woman dared to dream of being president. Donald Trump has struck these notes and played his terrible, discordant siren song.
Many of Trump’s “reasonable” supporters will say: “But I’m not like that! I just want a better job, more pay.” We say:
“You’re not like that yet. And good luck on jobs and fair pay from a man hasn’t known a hard day’s work, or a moment of want, in his entire life.”
The Supreme Court? Who needs it to be balanced? Who needs it at all, some Republicans hint. Laws, rights? Nah, we’ve had enough of all that.
And do not forget Trump’s choice as Veep, Mike Pence. The man who said in summing himself up: “I am a Christian, a conservative and a Republican.” Oddly, the word “American” wasn’t included. Imagine if Barack Obama had omitted his fealty to America in any public statement.
Being a “Christian first” implies theocracy. Trump’s fans who worry about their jobs, should think twice about a guy who is a heartbeat away from the presidency, whispering in Trump’s ear, “Let’s get them to pray for a job.”
“Ya think they’ll like me if I say that?”
“Sure they will, Mr. President. We can get you on the covers of all the religious magazines. It’ll be huge. But, sir, the gays, and those women who want to have control of their bodies, and helping all the lazy poor people. Sign these papers.”
“The covers, Mr. President, the covers.”
TODAY I will cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. I hope she wins. And not simply because she is a woman. We are way past symbolism and breaking glass ceilings. We are fighting for the soul of the United States. I have faith in her abilities, and in this country I love. Is she a figure for stained glass? No. Has she been less than rousing and more than infuriating in her efforts to protect herself? You bet. I still prefer her to the alternative.
Let Mr. Trump, if he loses, live and thrive in his bottomless well of self-worship. He will fume and foment and never go away. Good luck and good health to him and his family. He has become an historical figure whether all of us like it or not.
If Trump wins? He will be our president and we will have to accept it, and accept our own part in allowing him to flower so luxuriously. We who don’t approve will work hard to beat him in 2020. We will fight for our rights as human beings. We will survive.
So, I will vote, and then I will read. Perhaps try to lose myself in David McCullough’s great book on John Adams, or Doris Kearns Goodwin’s marvelous work on Lincoln, “Team of Rivals.” ( Those masterpieces will also remind me that the ugliness of this recent campaign is as American as apple pie! I mean none of the candidates fought a duel, with pistols, or beat one another about the head and shoulders with sticks. Then again, that might have been preferable to what both of 2016’s nominees offered us.)
Good luck, America. Let’s try not to be fearful or too angry or act out, no matter the result.
Remember, we don’t need to make America great again. We need to make America better; living up to ideals of democracy, fairness, inclusion and compassion that even our founders couldn’t fathom. Although politicians like to divide us, we are actually all in this together.
We need to look forward, always. And tomorrow, to those on either side, it won’t be a bad thing to be a bit British; keep calm and carry on.
P.S. Hopefully, once we are past this–more or less–I shall return with more amusing fare! (It’s been a hell of a year.)
“I don’t really want to take pictures this year.”
“Oh, come on.
“No, really, I can’t.”
“You didn’t want to put up the decorations and the tree, but you did.”
“Sure. What was that you said? ‘Decorate or die?’”
“That’s an exaggeration. I just said, ‘You don’t do anything else for me.”
“I offered to start cooking again.”
“I would like to live out the new year, thank you. Be good, Wow, the tree looks great.”
“It’s the smallest we’ve ever had.”
“It’s looks adorable.”
“I don’t want ‘adorable.’ I want impressive, massive. Overpowering.”
“Fine, after I take your picture, we’ll sign you up on Grinder. Now, stand by the tree.”
“I am bigger than that the tree!”
“It doesn’t seem right.”
“Neither does Donald Trump, but people still take his picture.”
“Is there a filter on that lens?”
“The linoleum store was closed.”
“I haven’t shaved. I have a bit of a scruff.”
“They’ll love it on Grinder. You can call yourself Daddy Wow.”
“Thank. You. Very. Much.”
“Now, just go over by the tree. That’s right. You look great.”
“I look like shit.”
“Whatever you say. Just shut up.”
“I might look better by the window.”
“What—having a face lift between the tree and window? Come back, come back. We’ll do you by the window.”
“Stop, B.! Are you insane? Not that angle. Have we not discussed my neck?”
“Every fucking day, Wow.”
“Well, raise the camera. More. More.”
“I can’t raise it anymore. I won’t be able to see through the lens.”
“Pretend you’re a paparazzi. That’s how they do it. They raise the camera and hope for the best.”
“I’m not a paparazzi and film is expensive.”
“Okay—shoot. No, No! My head was raised. You got my neck.”
“It’s attached to your body. Shall we cut it off? The idea is now very tempting.”
“Look, this is very simple. Think of me as Elizabeth Taylor during the John Warner years. The higher the camera the better she looked.”
“So, let me get this straight. You want me to imagine you as a forty-ish, overweight, female movie star?”
“B., the operative words are ‘forty-ish and ‘movie-star.’ Now, get the ladder.”
And that, dear friends, was how it went before B. managed to get me to pose for our annual posting here. It’s been for reasons not major, but persistent, a depressing year. I wasn’t feeling the spirit—at all. I deliberately waited till the very last minute and did choose a tree not taller than five-seven. I wasn’t up to struggling with a big, recalcitrant fir.
But, in the larger scheme of things—sometimes I get my head out of my ass and remember that—my issues are not terribly incapacitating. My health is good. My job persists. B. remains fond of me. And a lot of my mood has been affected by something I really can’t change—the inevitable election of Ted Cruz or Donald Trump as president.
BUT—I won’t get into it now. What I want to say is that I think of all you quite often. Sometimes when I’m most depressed. I want to post, but I think—please, I KNOW some of my Mr. Wow friends are going through shit that really matters. Don’t dump your clinical blues on them right now. Maybe I should, but I feel guilty doing it.
So, my darlings—I hope your holidays were healthy (most of all) Happy (as much as individual circumstances permit) And I wish everything good for you.
With true affection, I remain a great big pain in the ass,
My New Year’s resolution is to write to you more!
P.S. Of course, B. couldn’t avoid my neck, and despite all the photoshop applications on my computer, I decided to present it un-retouched. After all, I am 63 years-old next week. I have to stop expecting to summon up my ancient boyishness. It is what it is. (Although I took some selfies last week, avoided the neck and looked surprisingly fresh. Ah, but I also made sure I was facing the full, mid-afternoon sunlight–”fill light” it’s called. Nature’s erasure.)
However, since he offered it. I’m checking out Grinder. Daddy Wow. Why not?
P.S.S. (Or is it P.P.S?) The photo of the photo of me and B. is from back when we both—had dark hair. You do the math. It’s waiting for a frame.
And they said it wouldn’t last! Mr. Wow on Marriage, and Other Matters.
On August 5th last year, B. made an honest woman of me, at Hoboken’s City Hall. After 38 years of covering my head in shame, being pelted by rocks, and wearing that damn scarlet letter, I am free to be me. Just like Bruce Jenner–aka a rich, entitled, not terribly bright drag queen. (Sorry, can’t get on board the Caitlyn bandwagon. )
People have asked “Is it different, now that you’re married?” Maybe B. would answer differently, but I’d say, No. After we passed the 15-year mark I pretty much considered us married. By the time we got to 30 years, I’d put B. through so much I felt he was entitled to divorce me, although we weren’t legal. I’d never been the marrying type. As I got older, and actually thought about things, I felt overturning the discrimination laws that still exist was a far more important issue. But I realize that the idea and the ideal of marriage is hard-wired into people in love. And aside from love, soft as an easy chair (as Babs would sing) marriage does protect long-term partners. So, even though I didn’t wear orange blossoms or cry—and I am resistant to referring to B. as “my husband”– I’m glad we did the deed. I honestly couldn’t love B. any more than I have for 39 years. (I generally feel B. thinks: “What happened?! I wake up now, right?!)
Also, I’m wary. Marriage is legal now, the law of the land. But if we have an eight year stretch of Republicans after next year’s election, which I believe we will, who is to say how long that law of the land will stand?
But I shouldn’t worry over things like that. What—me worry?
My life is as good as I allow it to be. As I allow it to be. The general angst and anxiety I insist on wearing, seems permanent, a tiresome load on me, B. and the few friends I have. The anxiety issues lead to panicking over the simplest plans, inability to shop (having to deal with my body or my face—getting new glasses—leads to bad choices. Ill-fitting clothes or a fortune spent on glasses that I’m still not sure I like.) Yeah, I know. But none of those medications ever worked. Really.
As I write this, I’m preparing to go to dinner with B. and my friends Mike, Scott and Liz R. They were at the wedding and I just wanted to take them out to celebrate and thank them. A rare moment of planned thoughtfulness–but naturally I’m now sweating, even tho this is nothing but a casual dinner with old non-judgmental friends.
Although I’m polite and always say please and thank-you, and I am extremely sentimental in matters of getting weepy over books or movies, as a friend (and a partner) I am not always thoughtful. I don’t intend to be otherwise, but I often am. I don’t think, I don’t pay attention, I’m too much in my own head. I can be impulsively generous, sporadically thoughtful, but it’s not truly a part of my nature. The particulars of my childhood made me focus on how to adjust to each new situation, separation, unexplained departure. I learned how to be a good boy, charming and agreeable, but being a good boy didn’t help much. (Charm did, later.) But the focus on myself–on preservation and attempting to understand what was happening around me–left my focus on myself. I want to be loved and appreciated, but I don’t give back as much as I get. Not out of meanness. And I don’t expect people to go out of their way for me. But in the end I always feel alone, outside of “real” life. And placing myself outside, it’s often a struggle to connect. I’m better with strangers or very casual acquaintances. I feel safe, and I never disappoint them. I can be that charming boy again. Friends, even if they love you, notice the disconnect. When I notice they notice, it hurts. All around. This big diss on myself leads to B. I can’t explain B.–why he’s hung in! Not being a great one to talk about “feelings” all I have to go on is an explanation he gave me many years ago, when I was trying to figure out what he saw in me. “I love you, that’s all.” As far as I’m concerned, that served as his wedding vow to me, long before we stood before the judge in scenic Hoboken.
It’s harder, now that I’m older. Even when I was young, the lure of a cozy room filled with books and magazines, music, TV, my fantasies, was super-appealing. Slipping into a solitary life never frightened me, although it should. And while it’s not a solitary life now, I’ve made it much smaller over the past ten years or so. One of the reasons I’ve hung on to my job, despite challenges, is that it gives me a structure and a reason to leave my cozy room. Also, after thirtysomething years with milady I don’t see myself forging a grand new career. I might as well stick with what I know.
So you see, marriage hasn’t changed me. I didn’t expect it to, but I toyed with the possibility that a less worried, anxious person might emerge as Mrs. B. Not so much for myself, as I am resigned to me. But for others, especially those who knew me prior to depression, it would be welcome, pleasant, a revelation. Divorce, however, is not in cards. We are “madly mated” in the words of Shakespeare.
Other Matters: Who could have possibly imagined that we would be so grimly amused by the run for president? That the carnival would really come to town?
For over a year I’ve saying that Mrs. Clinton didn’t appear to want to be president for any reason other than “making history” which simply isn’t good enough for me. Her campaign, even aside from the pesky e-mail issue, has been lumbering, boring, without energy or feeling. She will not be president. Nor will Bernie Sanders, although his rise has at least given Clinton something to think about, other than trotting out tired references to her grandmother-hood.
Joe Biden? He’s a an okay guy, and would at least try to carry on the best of what Obama leaves behind, but the NYTimes “leak” of his late son, Beau Biden, urging Joe to run, just before Beau’s death—with intimate dialogue included—could have come from nobody except Biden himself. I think less of him for using his tragedy in such a typical manner. If I want my heartstrings plucked I’ll watch “The Yearling.” He will not be president.
Enter Donald Trump, a very smart, but not particularly intelligent bullfrog of a man, who literally expands unappealingly when talking about his favorite subject—himself. (His big fan, Bill O’Reilly is of a similar nature. When they gab on FOX News, the combined expansions fill the screen.) From the moment he announced, I knew he’d be hanging around for a long time. Maybe a very long time. He is perfect for these times, this era. Broad strokes, comic simplicity, fantastically coarse, utterly ego-driven. He is not just the anti-Obama politically (or he says he is for his purposes) but optics-wise, the polar opposite. I long ago wearied of Obama’s measured, pause-filled, lawyerly responses. Of course I’m glad he’s not a maniac or theatrical for no purpose, but given the ego needed to even think one can be the most powerful man in the world, one should also know how to command the podium and have an eye on the less sincere, but vitally important matter of presentation. Sometimes he has it, but often, in my opinion, not. (This—presentation– is why Jeb Bush can’t win. Utterly ineffectual speaker, with lousy posture, to boot.)
Trump is all presentation, what you see is what you get. What you see is trash, what you get is trash. And what has American culture fed off obsessively? He’s real reality TV. Alec Baldwin, who is on the right side but often an asshole, put it best recently, if Trump becomes president, he’ll be what America deserves.
Oh, yes, now you’re saying it could never happen. Didn’t you say he’d never run, wouldn’t last, that his comments about Mexicans and John McCain would end him? Like the old actress in “Follies” raucously belted out, he’s still here.
There’s enough fatalism in me (in case you haven’t noticed!) that I almost feel I could appreciate Trump as president. The End of Times would come swiftly, after that. Or he’d resign, when he realized being president is not the same as being The Red Queen in “Alice In Wonderland”—“off with their heads, or “you’re fired” won’t do. Of course, we’d have to contend, then, with whomever he’d chosen as VP. Can you imagine? Sarah Palin wants back in. Or Ted Cruz, with his frying bacon-on-a gun ads. Hmmm…I don’t know if I’m quite that fatalistic after all.
Who will I vote for 13 months from now? Mrs. Clinton, of course. Or Bernie Sanders if that’s the way it turns out. I’m prepared for a Republican because politics is cyclical and we’ve had two terms with a Democrat. I’m even prepared for Trump, if for no other reason to see if he’ll put his name on the front of The White House.
Still, as long as Justin Bieber continues to post nude photos of himself… Lenny Kravitz wear pants that split up the front…my iPod works…I can read at my leisure… B. continues to love me…and Turner Classic Movies is always available!—what, me worry?
Love to all you, from me and B., that new/old married couple.