“Jesus, Jack. Don’t you have class today?” I ask as I hustle him into my boss’s office and lock the door. I don’t expect Landis for several hours.
“Is this what drugs are like, you hate me and am ashamed of me. I love you, Tim.”
“I love you, too, Jack. How can you doubt that?”
“You shut me out of your heart when you’re high. I had the most horrid weekend when you stood me up.”
“You talk with Kurt?”
“That’s why I’m here. Have you had a mental breakdown?”
“I did. I’ve given up music.”
“You can’t do that. It’s Jace’s gift to you. You love to perform.”
“So many sad faces,” Jace observes. “Life not as much fun as you have come to expect.”
I need some of his 15-year-old attitude. Damn the consequences.
“Can’t you go two weeks without me? In two more I’ll be back in Cambridge for finals and Christmas.”
“If you had learned to check my heart, you’d know that’s not true. All the time in New York, I tried to reach you in my heart. You insisted we use the phone. I don’t have time for that here. I’ve been here eight days, working day and night, which I love. This is my passion, Jack. Kurt knew it and separated us, giving me the chance to go for it.”
“Jace said you were on drugs, passed out in some sleazy Hollywood apartment.”
“I told him to tell you that when you were having a meltdown about the football game.”
“Why did you lie?”
“Your first night in New York, you had Burroughs in your heart. I was jealous.”
Jace translates my thoughts to Jack, just as I had done for him when only I saw him.
“Jealousy defeats you, Jack. I was jealous of Maplethorpe but it never threatened our love. You need to grow up and…”
There is a loud knock on the door, interrupting our fight.
“I know you’re in there, Landis. Let me in. Your little faggot’s not at his desk.” It’s Miller.
“Go away Miller. This faggot’s not afraid of you.”
“I’m going to kick your ass, Castle. That’s not your office.” He proceeds to break down the door with his fists and feet, breaking through the flimsy plywood panels.
I call security and tell them to hurry, explaining that Miller is breaking into Landis’s office.
“Stop it, Miller. Don’t be an idiot. Security is on the way.”
Jack is cowering in the corner, while Jace smiles at the adult drama. Miller continues to smash the door apart. I prepare to defend myself. Luckily, Security arrives in force, knocking Miller to the floor and subduing him. They ask what to do with him. I call Landis at home. He tells me to wait until he gets there. I have Miller taken to the Security office by the main gate and held there.
Landis appears in thirty minutes. I introduce Jack, my roommate from Harvard. I explain that Miller became incensed when I wouldn’t let him in his office, becoming increasingly hostile and threatening to harm me.
“What did he say?”
“He did say he would kill me for being a faggot.”
“Did he catch you two having sex in my office?” My loose ways threaten my reputation.
“No. Jack’s mad I didn’t come to Harvard this weekend for the Yale game.”
“Oh, The Game. Is that all?”
“I thought we were breaking up. I came out to confront Tim. I love him,” Jack confesses.
“Enough details. Do you want Miller arrested for assault.”
“No way. Only losers arrest their assailants. Isn’t there some morals clause about killing faggots in his contract so he can be fired?”
“Not specifically, but probably I can fire him. Can’t you forgive him? I don’t really need him for the script. I like that it’s about his experiences at Dartmouth.”
I have a brain fart. “I need to defend my honor. Set up a three-round boxing match. I’ll let him know he can’t easily beat up this faggot.”
Landis looks at me to make sure I’m serious. I nod. He gets on the phone to United Artists which still has the set from the original Rocky on their lot. We walk over to the Security office and confront Miller.
“This faggot is going to give you a choice. Get the ring or be arrested”
“Man up or go to jail.”
Landis adds, “You’ll be through here if you are arrested, Chris. This is your chance. Tim isn’t intimidated by homophobia. I think he deserves the chance to kick your ass for all the insults and disrespect.”
Miller glares at me. He has me by at least fifty pounds, but it’s all flab. My juvenile hall fights will serve me well. My only fear is I’m too cocky for my own good. I believe this is my own Rocky movie. Jack can play Paulie, my cutman, Landis is definitely Mickey, my trainer. I know Joan Jett is my Adrian, as she is missing in action.
Miller agrees to the boxing match, sure he can overwhelm a scrawny gay musician. All I have going for me is misplaced gay pride. Also I know, no matter the outcome, Miller will be put in his place.
“I win, Miller, and I own you. If somehow you win, I’ll take off this safety-pin in my ear that upsets you so.”
Miller just snorts. Jack cowers. Landis calls Bronfman Jr and gets him to be the ring referee. He’s Canadian. He’ll be fair to both sides. All of us, including five of my ‘fans’ from the office pile into the Wreck heading for United Artists. Miller is alone in his Beamer. He has no one in his corner, self-righteous prig. The ‘Rocky’ ring is first class. It’s number one at the box office this year. They know there will be sequels. There’s even fake blood on the canvas footing. I bounce into the ring, stripping off my shirt and flexing my miniscule muscles. Miller can’t understand why no one is cheering for him. Jack has been mostly silent since our fight was interrupted. He runs over to the studio canteen, recruiting a posse of young women to cheer me on. He tells them it’s a grudge match between a bully and me. It’s right out of a Hollywood play book. Landis mans the bell, ringing it repeatedly to make the ringside introductions.
“Good afternoon, fight fans. Live from the Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Palace, the main event today is a three round championship bout for the All-Hollywood Ivy League lightweight title. In the white corner, hailing from Miami FLA and representing Harvard University, we have Tim ‘the Fly’ Castleman, weighing shy of 135 pounds, trained by the Universal Studios music department, with a degree from the rock school of hard knocks. And in the blue corner, from Brooklyn NY, and representing Dartmouth College, is Chris ‘Pinto’ Miller, weighing slightly more than 135 pounds and training at the National Lampoon writers guild of irrelevant details. Refereeing this afternoon, from Montreal Quebec in the English colony of Canada, is Edgar Bronfman Jr. Boxers approach the referee for your instructions.”
Bronfman tells us to “keep your guard up at all time, no low blows, and there is a standing eight-count for all knockdowns. Hitting after the bell at the end of each round will be cause for disqualification. Any questions?”
I put my gloves out to touch Miller’s. He takes it as a threatening gesture and swings at me. I duck and dance away from him. He looks confused. We’re wearing the original ‘Rocky’ gloves, which are huge and protect both of us from real injury. It is not going to be a street fight with bare knuckles which can do real damage, as well as end the fight with a knockout punch. I know I’d need to wear my opponent down before my knockout punch will be effective. Enough thinking, it’s time to fight.
Landis rings the bell to start round one. Miller charges out to smother me and end it quickly. I go into a defensive stance but at the last moment slip sideways once he is in range. Sticking out my foot, Miller trips as he rushes by me and goes down. Edgar glares at me for my illegal tactic. He gives Miller a standing 8-count, time to recover from his trip. Enraged he attacks again, which I fend it off in a crouching position with raised gloves deflecting the pummeling. Once he tires from the assault, I unleash a flurry of jabs, backing him up with stinging blows that only annoy him more. In the middle of the ring, I dance around him, taunting him and making fun of his ineffectiveness. Every time I sense he’s about to attack, I unleash more jabs, keeping him off-balance. Landis rings the bell to end round one.
My corner team is ready with water and towels to wipe off my sweat. Jack doesn’t know what to tell me, so he kisses me as I leave my corner at round two’s opening bell. The crowd gasps. Miller is in a full rage. He sat on his stool with no one to encourage him.
Time for me to attack. I rush him from the bell, pushing him back into his corner, with jabs and overhand rights. He’s stunned and doesn’t raise his gloves to protect himself. My jabs are relentless. Five straight left jabs spins him around, at which point I aim a right hook to his temple. He collapses like a bag of potatoes. He lays there moaning that he’s gone blind. Edgar calls the bout a TKO, technical knock out, as Miller is unable to defend himself. I skip the victory ceremony and get down on my knees and hold Miller’s head, to keep him from furthering injuring himself. His eyes are wildly looking about, seeing nothing. I speak to him, “calm down and look at me.” Slowly his eyes return to normal and he recognizes me staring at him a foot away. We get him to his feet and sit him on his stool. The crowd has been silent after the knockout. With my opponent okay, they cheer and clap. Most leave as soon as possible, not wanting to be part of someone being injured. Jack brings over water for Miller.
Edgar recognizes Jack from our ‘New York New York’ days. “What are you doing here, Jack? How’s your grandfather?”
We laugh. “He’s still my dad. How’s your’s?”
“Still refusing to sell the liquor business. I work at Universal now.”
I walk away from their inane conversation. I lead Miller around the ring, until he’s back to his normal senses.
“Don’t be embarrassed. I’ve been fighting for years. It’s quite fun. I’m the fighting faggot. When I went to juvie I was in three fights my first night. I never threw a punch. All three opponents were fucked up.”
“Do you always win?”
“Naw.” I decided not to tell about the guard who gave me the blanket party, on whom I turned the tables by fucking him in front of the other guards.
I go over to Landis’s mic and tell all the girls to come back to the ring, “I’ll sing my latest cover song, ‘Won’t back down.’”
Jack suddenly gets his mojo back, grabs the mic and sings Petty’s “Yer So Bad” to me from the center of the ring.
“When’dcha learn that song?”
“Jace taught it to me, when I was so sad on Sunday, saying it was your new theme song.”
Landis watches us perform and again just shakes his head. All the canteen girls return when we start singing. I’m a singer, not a fighter.
“Com’n, we’ve got a movie to make,” Landis rounds up his troops. We leave Miller with all the girls, sitting on his stool, holding my safety-pin in a hand.
Edgar asks if those are our songs. He’s ready to sign us, ‘The Fighting Faggots.’”
“No. I told you to buy Tom Petty’s contract from Shelter. The boys are dying out there in the Valley. His songs are perfect for movies. They’re like three-minute stories.”
I give him Tom’s number and promise to get Tony to book them. He assures me that I will get great props for beating down my fag-baiting nemesis.
Back at the office, Landis shuts the remains of his door and asks us what caused the ruckus.
“No,” I refute his initial impression. “This is Jack, by the way, my boyfriend. We were arguing about our problems. I was supposed to be at Harvard vs Yale, The Game, this weekend. Instead, I worked for you on the auditions and driving Belushi around.”
“You blaming me for your relationship problems.”
“I chose to work. We were separated by the Lampoon because I was always getting us into trouble with the administration. Anderson thought I’d get us both kicked out. I have no respect for arbitrary authority. Jack loves Harvard. I love Hollywood. We were about to break up when Miller thought you were in here and broke down the door.”
“That’s why we were in here behind a closed-door. Jack has no clue about homophobia in the office. At least we’ve got Miller under control now.”
“Jesus, welcome to the Twilight Zone. Do you need my office to work out your problems?”
“I think we’ll go to lunch and celebrate my All-Hollywood Ivy League boxing championship. Wanna come.”
“No. You take care of your personal business. Bring me back a Tommy’s and cheese fries.”
“Your boss is cool,” is Jack’s first comment.
“Yeah. He’s already given me two $10 raises.
Driving the Wreck south on 101, Jack asks me, “Are we really breaking up?”
“Can’t you just enjoy the California sun in an open convertible cruising the Hollywood Freeway?”
Other cars are abruptly changing lanes or weaving within or slightly outside their lanes, making me actually concentrate on my driving. East Hollywood is becoming Little Armenia, with Little Korea just to the south. What better place for me and immigrants to learn how to drive.
“That’s why I skipped class to come here. I need to fight for you.”
“Then why have you locked me out of your heart? You don’t trust we’ll always love each other.”
“I get jealous,” he admits after thinking about it.
‘About Burroughs?’ I laugh, forgetting about all my other slutting around since I left Harvard. “Come here,”
I reach and pull him next to me. With my arm around him, I feel like a farm boy from Iowa in a pickup with his girl, as we cruise Hollywood with the top down. Jack snuggles into me. For the first time in ages, I can feel him in my heart. We beat rapidly in synch together. No more talk about breaking up. Damn Burroughs and his magic typewriter. Before Tommy’s, we have our tryst in Jimmy’s favorite spot on the roof of the Wilshire office building.
Landis complains he had been waiting for his lunch for too long. Seeing our disheveled clothing, he knows why lunch is delayed. Afternoon delight is a Hollywood tradition.
“You didn’t get to work until eleven. You snooze, you lose.” We all laugh. He takes all his calls himself and tells me I’m relieved of PA duties for the day.
“Go back to school, Jack,” he orders. “I need Tim’s full attention here.”
“Hey, Champ,” one of my staffers yells.