I get to LAX by mid-afternoon. Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast. I cannot complain. The Wreck stands forlornly alone in the long-term airport parking lot. I remind myself to clean out all the various burger wrappings in the back seat. No one bothered to steal it. I put the top down and drive to the Canterbury. Knocking on Nicky and Alice’s door, there’s no answer. They are probably home in San Pedro or East LA. Walking into my room, the Murphy bed is still out. I plop onto it, to the satisfying squeak of tired springs. I am home. More squeaking and I’m lonely. I run to 7-11 to call Jake, realizing I need to have a telephone installed. Jake is lonely, too. At least he says so. Hollywood empties out for the holidays. I suggest we take a drive and discuss the score for the movie. He is not sure he wants to ride in my ‘Wreck,’ but when he sees that it is a convertible, he is more enthusiastic. He shows me how to get to Mulholland Drive. When I express interest about Deadman’s Curve, he insists that he drive.
I sit snuggled up to him. He slows every time we approach an overview of the LA Basin, seeing all the way to Catalina to the south and the Channel Islands to the west.
“Can we take Mulholland to the Beach?” I ask.
“We can get to Zuma by going all the way to Kanen Dune Road. There’s a nude beach there.”
We laugh. “Don’t worry, my briefs look like Australian Speedos. You can do the displaying. I’m all yours for today.”
It’s a glorious November afternoon, with the sun beginning to turn toward the west. It takes an hour to get to Kanen Road. Once we park across PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) from Zuma Beach, I run down to the shore where gentle two to three-foot waves are breaking about twenty yards off the beach.
Swimming out to the breakers, I dive under a series of waves, each holding me down longer than I expect. Finally getting past the surf zone, I bob in the chilly water, waving to Jake. He anxiously asks if I am okay.
A perfectly formed swell approaches. I swim with it, catching its momentum as it propels me toward the beach. Once it breaks, I tumble over and over. I end up sitting in the water with my briefs full of sand. As I stand up, Jake breaks into hysterics, as my saggy underwear looks like I dumped a load into them. I wave and run back out into the waves. I stay closer to shore and ride smaller waves like I know what I am doing. The speed of the waves exhilarates me. I can never swim this fast, even in my jock days. I ride wave after wave. Once Jake sits down on the shore, I figure he is bored, so I come in. Shivering from the cold water, he rubs me dry.
“You’re glowing,” Jake exclaim.
“That looked like so much fun,” Jake states.
“Ready to dive in?” I grab him.
He hangs onto me, sure I mean to dunk him. I give him a quick kiss, between my shivers. The Pacific is cold, unlike Crandon State Park on Key Biscayne.
“Not here,” Jake orders, keeping a watchful eye on the lifeguard stand. “In the car. You have to be at the nude portion to strip. Have you no shame?”
“I’m shameless,” I proclaim.
We run to the Wreck, where I am blocked from a full frontal display. My briefs look really sad, full of sand and stretched out.
“Next time we’ll bring suits and towels,” Jake suggests.
“Where’s the nude beach?”
“You have to come when the tide is out and climb around the rocks on the south end of Zuma.”
“Next time,” I agree, still shivering.
Jake hugs me once I get dressed, giving me a passionate kiss. I warm up instantly. We sit in the Wreck watching the sun go down over the sparkling water. I do not miss Jack one bit. Jace tells me he is hanging out with Ann again. I am safe while the Church plots the betrothal of their young prince. I love drama enough not to care.
I am famished. Jake knows a place in Santa Monica. I moan from need of pizza or burgers during the long drive from Zuma. We finally pull into a parking lot just off PCH. The sign says Tex Mex restaurant.
“You sure?” I ask Jake. “My body is saying pizza or maybe burgers. We could go to Tommy’s.”
The menu is Greek to me, so we start with guacamole dip and stuffed jalapenos. I need the dip to quench the burning peppers. A beer pitcher appears, no ID requested. While we wait for the next course, I look around. It is a gay bar, as well as a restaurant.
“Now, I understand,” I kid Jake.
“Let’s cruise the locals,” he suggests. He wants to show me off.
“They’ll love you,” he assures me.
In less time than it takes for our meal to appear, we are cruised by twenty- and thirty-something gay men in beachwear that is anything but casual. I see our food being delivered and make a bee-line to the table. Several slips of paper with phone numbers are stuffed in my jeans’ back pockets. That is electric. My shriveled dick revives. After we sit down, Jake asks what I plan to do with all the numbers.
“My friend Jimmy will add them to his collection. They won’t notice the difference.”
“Don’t count on it.”
The food appears – cheese enchiladas and a chili relleno in red sauce with rice and black beans on the side. I gobble up everything without stopping to chew. Immediately a steaming plate of steak fajitas is put on the table. Jake shows me how to wrap all the ingredients into a corn tortilla, adding salsa and sour cream plus the remnants of our guacamole. Jake has one fajita. I finish the rest. More beer appears. Jake orders flan for dessert. Between Isabelle’s turkey feast and the Tex Mex delights my belly exceeds the limits of my jeans. Jake smiles as I have to unbutton twice.
“There will be a digestive for later,” I warn him.
He turns red. “You are the most unusual teenager I’ve ever met.”
“And fucked,” I burp.
We head back to Hollywood, leaving the locals unfulfilled, yet hopeful for another time.
“You want to come up,” Jake innocently asks.
“You are a total tease. It was fun at the restaurant. You know I’m head over heels for you. Do I have to beg?”
“Well, I’ll come up if we actually talk about the movie score for at least fifteen minutes.”
The second we walk in, Jake attacks me, dragging me to his bedroom. I love it. There’s no holding back. I show him how to keep from climaxing by alternating who’s on top, switching each time the top is about to cum. We trade places for thirty minutes, until we both have have exhausted our sperm banks. We lay side-by-side on our backs in his large bed, panting and giggling.
“So much for working on the score,” I laugh.
“I can’t control myself,” Jake confesses.
“Let’s go up on the roof. I always get inspired under the stars.” I sing the title line to the Drifters song, ‘Up on the roof.’
“When you came shivering out of the ocean, you looked like a Greek god,” Jake is being ridiculous.
‘Like Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus?’” I joke. But it gives me an idea. “The movie’s about Greek frats. There must be an opera whose theme or overture we could use to balance the raucous rock of the party scenes.”
“There’s Strauss’s Ariadne at Naxos where Bacchus claims to be immune to Circe’s powers.”
“Strauss writes waltzes. It may work as a calming background.”
Jake sings the solo
“Perfect. Are 19th Century operas in the public domain?”
“If I compose the arrangement, you have to pay me.”
“We can steal all sorts of themes and wrap them into our Greek frat setting. Just don’t let any one theme go on forever, just an overture with liet motifs popping up at key scenes.”
“How about the overture to Le Circe? It’s an 18th century minuet.”
“But it has horns and is in triple time.”
“Sounds like Punk Rock.”
“Highly unlikely. It is strictly formalized.”
“Well, we plan to dress everyone in togas for a party. A minuet might work, if it isn’t a stupid dance.”
We go on like this until I’m about to fall asleep. I want to tell Jack I am expanding my musical knowledge.
“What are you thinking about?” Jake is reading my thoughts. I cannot lie. Time to tell.
“About telling my boyfriend; how I’m learning about opera.”
“I figured you weren’t a free agent. When were you planning to tell me?”
“He’s my roommate at Harvard.”
“We both date girls. They accept that we are together. I’ve always loved more than one person at a time. I left Harvard because we were drifting apart. He’s trying not to be jealous. I’m working on going back to Cambridge once the movie is shot.”
“So we’re just a fling. No strings attached?”
“Life never works that way. I don’t know what we have, but it’s more than a fling.”
“I know you’re way younger than me. I’m not the one who will get hurt. I don’t want to be the one who causes a breakup.”
“No. The truth is always double-edged. I’ve never felt you were holding back. Let’s not create drama if it’s not necessary.”
I hug him and drive home. No sleeping over. I feel let down. I let Jake down. He let me off easy.
It’s Saturday morning. I go to work anyway. I really do not have paperwork to review or sign. I want to read the current draft of the screenplay. Just to be cautious, I call Landis, figuring I can leave a voice message that I am in the office to review the script. It is early but he answers anyway.
“John, I’m back from Miami, so I came in. Is it okay to look at the current draft? I came up with some ideas for the score with my composer friend. I want to see if they fit in from the writers’ points of view.”
“Damn, Tim. It’s Saturday morning. Can’t you just go to the beach or something.”
“My friends won’t be up for hours. I’ll be here for two, three hours tops.”
“Have you had breakfast?”
“I’m fine, Dad.”
“No. Come out here. We’ll work on the score together. You got me interested. My wife will cook you a real meal. I insist. The script is in my top right-hand drawer.”
“It’ll ruin your day off.”
“I’ve been home since Wednesday. There’s only so many days you can spend lazing about in the Valley. I insist.”
I park the Wreck down the block from his house in Woodland Hills. His wife, Debbie, prepares a protein-rich meal of eggs and bacon with plenty of coffee. I finish it off quickly, to her delight. Teenage eaters clean their plates. I even put mine in the dishwasher.
“So what’s your idea?” John spreads out the script on the coffee table inside his home office.
“Since the movie is about Greek fraternities, we can use the leitmotifs from various Greek operas, assigned to specific characters – Bacchus from Ariadne at Naxos by Strauss can be the waltz tempo at the toga party; Le Circe is a minuet for the College President’s wife. There are so many Greek figures in opera, we can draw on them. Operas are so old, they’re all in the public domain. My composer friend can wrap these light themes into a score. It’ll be real classy.”
“It’s just a score, except each character has their own theme music – nothing too loud or overbearing, just in the background.”
“So Belushi walks into the frat party to the music of Strauss’s Ariadne?” he laughs.
“Yeah, except he waltzes in because it’s Strauss.”
“And college kids will get this joke?’
“That’s not the point. The music will fit the mood without having to draw attention to it.”
“So we cut from Belushi waltzing in to the party, to him singing ‘Louie Louie.’ You’ve got to be kidding.”
“No way. It’ll be great.”
“You just thought this up?”
We laugh and laugh.
“And we won’t have to pay for these operas?”
“Just to the composer for arranging the score.”
“He’s some kid you go to the beach with?”
“No, he’s a real composer.”
“So this will be a rock opera like that mess The Who’s ‘Tommy,’ with your friend Elton John?”
“It’s just background music. The rock will sound even better in contrast.”
“So how much will this kid charge me for background music?”
“He’s not a kid. He’s 42, older than you. Jay will negotiate a fair fee.”
“Who’s Jay? And why are you hanging out with old people?”
“Jay’s our entertainment lawyer in Miami. Jake’s interesting and teaches me about classical music. I’m an ex-jock, not a band nerd.”
We are laughing again.
Debbie comes in with more coffee, asking why we are so jolly. John explains about the opera score we were writing. Debbie is a costume designer. Soon she is dying to get involved with outfits to match the operatic actors.
“This is out of control,” Landis complains. “We plan on using bed sheets for the toga party.”
Debbie makes a sour face.
“Okay. We are way ahead of ourselves here. At least, all these ideas are funny. The writers have been under Miller’s thumb for so long that they are creating a literal representation of his life at Dartmouth. It’s a boring documentary. Belushi coming here makes me realize this film can be really funny.”
“Tell Miller we’re making an allegory from Wagner’s Ring Trilogy. That’ll keep his literal ass busy.”
“You must really hate him,” Landis jokes.
“We were best buddies when I took him around to meet bands. Maybe he feels guilty for getting stoned and blames me for leading him astray, some weird religious guilt trip.”
Again all three of us are in stitches. We spend the next couple of hours identifying roles that would get operatic themes. By lunch time I am hungry again. I tell them about my feast at the Tex Mex restaurant the night before. The four of us drive down to Ventura Blvd. to Jack in the Box and order Taco Supremes. I have three. It’s eleven dollars for all three of us. We ride in the Wreck with the top down. We are reliving the 50’s.
I have accomplished my goals for the weekend. With finals and Christmas coming up, I know I have to get all the music lined up before I can leave Hollywood for the remainder of December. The main project to complete is putting together DeWayne Jesse’s band. After leaving the Valley, I drive to Doug’s. I hope he can help me line up musicians to back up DeWayne.
“What’s wrong with the musicians he used at the audition?” Doug asks.
“Otis said they were just helping him out. They all have other projects.”
“I meant DeWayne.”
“It does sound better. I’ll have him come over. Maybe he can convince the guys to put together a permanent band.”
“Have him meet us at Larrabee Studios with his buddies who want to be in.”
“Who’s paying the studio time?”
“Bill the movie studio.”
“You are quite the wheeler-dealer.”
“Yup. I’ll call my boss to make sure it’s okay.”
After calling Landis, I call Jake and ask him to attend the rehearsal.
“I’m too old for rock n roll,” he complains.
“Just bring earplugs.”
DeWayne is all hopped up when Doug and I arrive at Larrabee. When Jake shows up, even Doug is impressed – a classical composer.
“Very classy,” Doug jokes.
“Wait until you hear what we’re planning for the soundtrack,” Jake brags. “Each character will have their own theme from Greek operas.”
“Jesus,” Doug laughs “Classical and opera in a rock n roll movie. It’ll be a mess. Where do you get these ideas?”
“When I was bodysurfing at Zuma Beach yesterday.”
Doug just shakes his head. He and Jake go into the sound booth to work with Larrabee Jimmy. Jake is playing it cool, being professional and not acting like a spurned lover. I am relieved but sorry it became complicated.
“Hey, DeWayne,” I call him over from working with his musicians. “What do you think the band’s name should be?”
“Since it’s a movie, how about creating a stage name?”
He thinks a second. “What do you think I should use?”
“How about Otis Day?”
“Cool, but Otis Day and the Knights is cooler.”
“Like Gladys Knight and the Pips.”
“Yeah,” he goes over to the other musicians and asks them. They all complain that he is on an ego trip.
“No way. I’m not Otis. It’s just a band name, like Pink Floyd.”
“Then it’s cool?”
They agree, sort of. Like all musicians, they insist on their own opinions.
“Let’s hear how you sound,” I take charge, me the uppity white boy.
“What do you wanna hear?”
“How about Sam Cooke?”
“Okay. How about ‘Cupid?’
“Too slow. We want dance tunes.”
“Then, it’s the twist,” DeWayne decides, “’Twistin’ the Night Away.’”
The drummer jumps up. “I ain’t doin’ that song. ‘where all the people are so gay.’ I know that Sam Cooke guy was gay.”
“It’s a late 50’s movie. Gay meant happy then. And, Sam Cooke is dead.”
“I don’t cares ‘bout smokin’ heroin.”
“So ya gonna ruin it fer ever’one ‘cause y’all don’t likes one word in a song. Don’t even means what ya think.”
Everyone else just stares at the drummer.”
“Shit. Long as we’s getting’ paid, I’ll play. Just sayin’…”
“Ya gots another song, Tim?’
“How ‘bouts ‘Shout’ by the Easley Brothers?”
One of the guitarists looks confused.
“You play it, Tim,” Dewayne suggests. Jace takes over and shows him the chord changes.
We take a break. Doug calls a drummer he knows who does session work. DeWayne is reluctant to try him out with his friend the recalcitrant drummer still there.
“It’s an audition, DeWayne. All these guy know they can be replaced. Once the movie’s done, you can put together the band you want.”
“We gonna be stars, right?” DeWayne is always the optimist.
“It’s a B movie about white frat boys in the 50’s. Don’t be getting’ your hopes up too high.”
“How much we bein’ paid?”
“My friend Jay in Miami is negotiating the contracts. You have an agent?”
“Hell, no. And pay him 25% right off the top.”
“Well, Jay won’t screw you over. If you don’t like what he offers, I’ll pay everyone SAG minimum, but as a band, you should do better. I’ll call Jay.”
“Sorry to bother you at home on Saturday,” I apologize once I reach him by phone.
“You lost in the Everglades again?”
“No. I’m in a music studio in Hollywood putting together a band for the National Lampoon movie. They want to know what they’ll get paid.”
“Depends on what rights they want. Are they playing their own songs?”
“No. All covers from the late 50’s. It’s a frat movie. The budget’s pretty minimal.”
“The cheapest way is to pay them SAG minimum.”
“That’s what I told them but I hoped we could pay them more as a band.”
“Will there be a soundtrack album?
“Doubtful, but maybe.”
“Well, let me talk with the leader. Maybe we can go with the minimum plus residuals if there is an album. That’s where it gets tricky, especially since it is all cover songs.”
I get DeWayne, who is now calling himself Otis. After they negotiate, Jay tells me what each player gets as SAG minimum. I call Landis who is okay with the cost.
I go into the engineer’s booth and join Doug and Jake.
“You’re pretty good on guitar,” Jake compliments me.
“It’s just rock n roll. I grew up with all these songs. They’re forever in my heart.”
“I wish kids felt that way about classical.”
“Classical was popular music in its day. Kids didn’t have records and radio. With so many choices, rock evolved quicker than classical.”
“Yeah. Classical stopped evolving when it no longer was the only genre of music. Now it’s really just classic classical music that’s popular,” I know I’m stepping in it with him, a modern composer. “Let me show you how to get your own sound out of my guitar.” Jace instantly appears to lend support.
Jake looked dubious. “I didn’t grow up with rock n roll.”
“Don’t try to play what you don’t feel. Let your own music come through. The guitar sound will make it modern.”
I start singing my Harvard band’s ‘Sunday Afternoon/Tuesday’ rip-off.
Jace leads Jake’s fingers to the correct chords. The tempo is slow enough to make him feel comfortable. No punk rock yet.
“Whoa. Why do I feel my fingers being moved without my telling them?”
“It’s the psychic connection we have. I thought you’d like this song. Let’s go through a couple of songs of mine. Then you can play your own music from your heart. Just don’t over-think it. Let it flow,” I sound like such a hippie.
Playing my songs makes him confident. Once he is playing his own heart-felt music, it has a fuller and richer sound. He really smiles.
The Otis Days are listening and slowly come in, with the horns first and finally the drums. Larrabee Jimmy turns on the recording machine. At the end, Jake has over an hour of spontaneous music on tape. It isn’t jazz or rock. The drums and other rhythm instruments aren’t driving the tempo, just filling in.
Jake is brimming with musical ideas. The experience is finally overwhelming, and we stop. When Jimmy presents him with the tape, he is stunned.
“I have to go home and listen to this,” he decides.
“How about Anna’s. You can have a drink and calm down,” I suggest.
“Okay. But let’s go to Musso & Frank’s. I want to celebrate. I feel like I created an entire symphony. It’s incredible. I need to have some perspective.”
“Okay, Mozart. Calm down. It’s a jam. We do this all the time. You play so well, Jimmy recorded it. Just don’t over-think it. The music comes from your heart, not your brain.”
Jace is looking extremely smug. It is the first time he shared his music with a real musician. He needs to celebrate too. I tell Jace he’s welcome to share Jake’s bed with me. He suggests we get Jake stoned, as well. I feel we should go one step at a time. He’s been hanging around Tommy too much. How do I keep up with these wild lovers?
We go to the Canterbury so I can change for our celebration. Jake smiles at my modest one room apartment. He says the Murphy bed brings back old memories. He makes no move to get me into old Murphy. C’est la vie.
Musso & Frank’s is old Hollywood, with individual red banquettes for privacy during deal making. The walls are covered with signed star photos. We park in the back, walking into the restaurant through the kitchen. Our meal is traditional steak and potatoes, Delmonico though.
“You really know your way around a music studio,” Jake compliments me. “You jumped in and showed the guitarist how he should play that song. There was no ego issue for him to learn from you.”
“Well, the drummer had his issues with the word gay.”
“The leader, Otis, handled it fine.”
“Doug had another drummer available, if needed.”
“It’s like you’re half a musician and half a manager. How many instruments do you play?”
“I’m just a guitarist. Sometimes I have to play bass or drums. As singer, I have to tell jokes and sometimes swing through the rafters of clubs when the crowd gets too rowdy.”
“What’s the secret? You’re just 18.”
“It wouldn’t be a secret if I told.”
“Okay. How’s your steak?”
“Perfect,” I look at him. “I wish we could go back to dating.”
“What do you call this?”
“A business meal?”
“True. I can’t help but be amazed by you. Just because you have a boyfriend doesn’t mean my feelings are any different. I just know I can’t have you all to myself. When did we think we were exclusive?”
“Sounds like he needs to grow up some more.”
“That’s why he’s in college. I felt stifled there. I’m ready for this life now. When I first came to Hollywood, Doug asked me to stay and be his boyfriend. I wasn’t ready to give up being a kid. I was 15. Now we’re friends. I had to get my own place; staying with him was like going back to being 15.”
“You’re so much more than an 18-year-old.”
“Thank you. And you’re still wide-eyed like a kid. You trusted me when I said to let your heart show you how to play the guitar.”
“I do play the cello. I figure it is pretty much the same.”
“You did feel the spirit guiding your fingers?”
“I just let go and my hands did it for me. I wasn’t thinking, just letting the music come out.”
“We trust each other. It makes it so easy, whatever we do together. I thought you felt deceived when I told you I had a boyfriend. My thoughts became an obstacle between us.”
“I worry more that you’ll get tired of me, not whether you have other relationships.”
“I can get distracted but trust me, I find you completely interesting.”
“How about dessert? Sorry, they don’t serve tiramisu here.”
“I can think up something better. Let’s go to your place.”
Jake smiles and pays the bill. Musso and Frank’s is expensive. Jake gets his money’s worth on the roof garden of his building. Then again in his bedroom. He is insatiable. As I am about to leave, he pushes me against the sliding glass door to his balcony. We fuck looking out at the vista of downtown LA. We finish with my face squeezed against the glass. My body is vibrating to the words of Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘Breathless.”
‘Now, if you love me,
let’s please don’t tease
If I can hold you then
let me squeeze
My heart goes ’round and ’round
My love comes tumblin’ down
You leave me Breathless
Oh, I shake all over and
you know why
I’m sure it’s love and
that’s no lie
’cause when you call my name
I burn like wood inflamed
You leave me Breathless
Oh, baby! Mm-mm. Crazy!
You’re much too much
I can’t love you enough
Now it’s all right to hold me tight,
but when you love me
love me right
Now, come on, baby
Don’t be shy
’cause love was meant for you and I
Wind, rain, sleet or snow
I will be wherever you go
You leave me Breathless’
Songwriters: OTIS BLACKWELL
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.