I wake up about 5 am. Kissing all three of my lovers, I drive home, waking up Nicky (or, at least Alice), telling him to drive me to the Valley, if he wants to use the Wreck while I am gone. A cup of coffee, and he is ready to go. I worry about my Gibson SG while I am gone. He pretends he is Mr. Responsibility and will guard it. We are at Landis’s house by six. Debbie has breakfast ready, but Nicky just wants to go home to go back to sleep. It is the only time I have ever seen him refuse free food.
“You’re eighteen. Do you want to sit there and sight-see the entire trip. Just be careful.”
I am extra careful, for about five miles. It is rush hour in LA as we head north. I attempt to be polite to the stream of lane-changing, middle finger-pointing, road rage idiots unhappy about going to work. Landis says nothing until I use the breakdown lane to pass on the right. I just grin when he yells at me.
“Enjoying your sightseeing?” I counter when he spews a list of what I am doing wrong. I slow down from 80 to 65.
As soon as we pass Oxnard, the traffic thins out. The sun comes out from behind the morning overcast. I pull over and put the top down on the Roadster convertible. The joy of the open road.
We stop for lunch at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. The coffee shop has the same little pink glass tables and wire chairs that Bailey’s has in Cambridge. I revel in telling John about my Smith girlfriend, who accepts sharing me with Jack. He is shocked that we all have sex together. I claim it is liberating, and we never pressure the girls.
After lunch we debate taking the more scenic Pacific Coast Highway versus the 101 Freeway. John says we can stop at Hearst Castle on PCH where ‘Citizen Kane’ was shot.
“Rosebud. Rosebud,” I mock him and his inexhaustible knowledge of classic film history.
“Do you think ‘Animal House’ will someday be considered a classic?” I disrespect him. It is so ridiculous an idea that we are still laughing as we drive up the long driveway to the castle.
The tour is boring. John knows more than the docent. We split off to wander the grounds. I strip off and swim in the large pool, doing laps. John is impressed by my athletic prowess but worries we may get kicked out. He enjoys watching me swim but is embarrassed that I swim in my briefs and not a real Speedo. Finally the guards chase us, yelling that we are arrested. We hop into the Roadster and leave them in a cloud of film classic dust.
He decides to drive the next leg. To our surprise, PCH is closed due to landslides just south of Big Sur. It is the year before the first El Nino keeps PCH constantly blocked. We check the map and attempt to drive around the blockage on a road into the hills. After encountering more road closures, we finally break down and ask someone if there is detour that is not blocked. The old man we ask, scratches his head, and finally says, “Ya can’t get there from here.”
I burst out laughing, remembering sayingt he same during my good ol’ boy days in Norman NC. The old man gets angry and stomps off. We decide to go back to San Luis Obispo and take the inland 101 Freeway. By this time, the road crews are getting off work. They’re driving around the barriers on PCH to go home.
I have a brain fart. “Let’s go around the signs and see if we can get through.”
John is not sure he wants to drive his classic roadster through a construction zone but I humiliate him into it.
He drives cautiously up PCH. All the workers are gone. The sun is going down, with twilight descending, especially on the bends around the cliffs and canyons as we drive further.
“Hurry up, John,” I warn him. “It’ll be dark soon. You won’t be able to see if a totally washed out section of the road drops off into the ocean.”
He just glares at me for getting his pet car into this situation.
“Well, you wanted to go to the Citizen Kane location, which got us into this mess in the first place.”
We slowly make our way up PCH without encountering any blockage or washout. Around a bend we find a large earth mover blocking the whole road.
“We have to turn back,” John insists.
I jump out impetuously and ran around the earth mover. The road is no longer paved and is washed out on the ocean side, leaving a narrow strip against the cliffs.
“We can make, John,” I yell to him.
He shakes his head, refusing to risk it.
“Com’n,” I encourage him. “This is our adventure. I’ll walk ahead to make sure the road is secure.”
“We made it,” I yell.
“Fuck, no. There’s not enough room to get around that Caterpillar,” John points out.
He is right. We need an extra foot to get around. I jump into the Caterpillar’s seat. The keys are in the ignition. I look at John. He begins to realize what I am about to do, shaking his head. Before he can say no, I turn the key on. I forget you have to push in the clutch. The Caterpillar lurches forward, toward the ocean side cliff. John screams. I jump off. The Caterpillar lurches to a stop. We have enough room to get by it. John yells at me all the way to Monterrey. We decide to stop there for the night. John is not as adventurous as he thought.
A fancy fish dinner helps calm him down. When Clint Eastwood walks into the restaurant, John’s movie fanboy gene kicks in. Clint walks by our table. I jump up and introduce myself and Landis, explaining we are on a location scouting trip for our movie, “Animal House.’
“Is it about zoos?” Clint is an animal rights activist then.
“Sort of,” Landis waffles.
“Thanks, Clint,” we are now on a first name basis.
“Sandra’s waiting for me,” he excuses himself to meet his current wife.
“More fun than going to Chassen’s,” John remarks.
“You are so Hollywood,” I know he is glad I stopped Clint to chat.
After eating, we drive to Santa Cruz and get a motel room. We walk through town and end up at the pier with its old fashion fun-zone. I discover I have a joint in my coat and convince John it will be okay to indulge since we will not be driving. After getting stoned, we play all the games. There is a psychedelic art booth where you can make your own mandala by spinning the paper which repeats the patterns in concentric circles. We congratulate ourselves on being so creative. A Ferris wheel is at the end of the pier. We are the only customers, so they stop it once we reached the top. Rocking back and forth, we can see all the way to Monterrey. I claim I can see the Caterpiller hanging over the cliff further down the coast by Big Sur.
“We should have stopped at Arthur Miller’s place,” he regrets.
“So you could chat up Marilyn Monroe?” I joke.
“I’m a big fan,” he admits.
“I love the scene in ‘The Misfits’ where she’s hitting the paddle ball and her ass is jiggling back and forth.”
“You are so perverted.”
“You probably like Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis cross-dressing in ‘Some Like It Hot.’”
“I guess we’re all perverts in some ways.”
“It’s totally normal.”
“Unless you’re Chris Miller.”
“What a jerk.”
Continuing our movie shop talk, “What did you think about Kuprick’s Lolita?” He asks me.
“James Mason is a completely believable pervert.”
“What about Lolita herself?”
“The book goes into those details. The movie is toned down.”
“That makes Humbert Humbert even more of a pervert. The audience is forced to imagine what he does with her.”
“It’s not really a movie for teenagers. It was rated X. I’m surprised you like it.”
“It hits home. I’m falling in love with a 42-year-old.”
“You are so crazy. You almost drove yourself off a cliff this afternoon. And swimming in your underwear at the Hearst Castle. No wonder Debbie is so in love with you.”
“The truth is out. But I know it’s strictly maternal.”
“I’m not jealous. I am a bit worried about San Francisco. Your Hollywood sluttiness may get us into trouble.”
“You’re supposed to be showing me gay Frisco.”
“Some repressed need?”
“Yeah, I need to show gay life as comedic, not tragic.”
“You think I’m heading for tragedy.”
“Only when you do Shakespeare.”
“I already did Shakespeare. I was a mandolin player.”
“You should act.”
“My life is an act.”
“All the world’s a stage..”
“And all the men and women merely players upon it.”
The Ferris wheel jerks and we rotate back to earth.
John buys me cotton candy. I win a teddy bear in a ring tossing game for him to bring to Debbie. We walk back to our motel and go to sleep.
We have breakfast in a vegetarian restaurant in Santa Cruz. I have an omelet with way too many vegetables in it. Raw egg is clumped to the broccoli. John’s whole wheat pancakes are marginal. We both agree that Du-Par’s is far superior. Then we laugh at our superior attitudes. We only eat vegetarian in order to please Debbie, the food Nazi.
Driving into San Francisco from the coast means the first landmark we see is the Golden Gate Bridge, welcome to America for millions of Chinese railroad slaves. We drive past Golden Gate Park on Sutter, stopping at Filmore/Pacific Heights to check into the Hotel Majestic. It is shabby majestic, with marble floors and tacky red velour wallpaper. We walk down to Market Street in Union Square. I want to visit City Lights bookstore in North Beach. The owner is impressed that Bill Burroughs is my jerk-off buddy. We have a long discussion about the magic typewriter; I swear it is an accurate fortune-teller. I buy Landis a copy of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road,’ in recognition of our road trip. He buys me ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ by Tom Wolfe in recognition of my drug use.
We take the Church Street trolley to the Castro, having lunch at a sidewalk café and observing the street scene. It seems self-contained, surrounded by the hills, just off Market Street. We confirm that the Castro movie theater is showing ‘Pink Flamingos’ at midnight. I hope that there will be more of a street scene by then. Walking to Haight-Asbury, I notice that many of the three-story Victorian homes are in the process of gentrification. I finally run into a couple of Deadheads, panhandling on the street. We sing “Touch of Grey’ together: ‘I will get by.’
John amuses himself by taking photos of our exploits, becoming an observer. I ask directions to one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Sister Mary Boom Boom. She lives near our hotel on Sutter. The intercom doesn’t list her drag name. I push all the buttons and finally am told to ring Jack Fertig. He answers in a booming male voice. I prepare to be disappointed. He buzzes us up. When he learns we are from Hollywood, he excuses himself and changes into his nun’s habit, returning as Sister Mary Boom Boom. She turns on the charm for John, referring to me as John’s little pet. He is only a couple of years older than I am. John asks the Sisters to perform, explaining he is making a comedy with John Belushi. Sister Mary claims Belushi is not funny because he is so straight. I doubt John can get Belushi into a dress for Monty Python style comedy.
“We could make the togas more stylish,” I recommend.
“Tell Debbie,” John orders.
“Can we be in the movie,” Mary asks politely.
“Will you audition?” John answers.
“Just a stage performance while we’re here.”
“We don’t need a stage to perform. We’re our own scene wherever we go.”
“How about before tonight’s midnight show of Pink Flamingos?” I suggest.
John refuses to go in drag but I get dragged into the bathroom and reappear as a nun in habit. They had to use mascara to pencil in a mustache over my hairless lips.
“I’ll call Glenn and get him to attend the movie. Those gay boys will go crazy.”
“You’re not gay?” I ask.
“Oh, honey. If I wanted to be gay, I’d dress up as a priest. I am definitely a heterosexual drag queen.”
No one believes her.
After dinner, we visit Glenn Milstead’s apartment in the same building. He’s an overweight thirty-year-old who stars in movies in drag. He also takes a liking to John, dismissing me as John’s boy toy. When Glenn hears that the Sisters are attending the Pink Flamingo’s midnight showing and making a scene, he insists on coming. The girls join him in the bathroom to put on his makeup and drag outfit. We settle back on the couch and wait for what seems forever. The bigger the body the longer it takes to transform it into a woman.
“They don’t seem to like you very much,” John has noticed that I do not get any attention.
“They’re just into themselves. Hollywood is the place for boys. San Fran seems to accept women with mustaches better than teen neophytes.”
“Let go of your sugar daddy, boy. He’s mine tonight,” she latches onto Landis.
We walk out into the night, six nuns in drag followed by a Mae West drag queen hanging onto the embarrassed, straight Landis. I stay with the Sisters. It is too early for the movie, so we hit the bars along the way. Once the patrons learn Divine is attending her movie, we have a crowd as audience. John plays the perfect straight guy, while Divine flirts with him. The nuns warn of the coming apocalypse if he strays. The crowd grows as we continue to troll the Castro bars. Finally, we descend into what I learn is a gay bath house. The men inside stop fucking each other and gather as Divine teases and flirts with them. She tells everyone that her ‘date, Landis,’ is visiting the baths for the first time. The nuns start praying for him on their knees. Several bold bath attendees grab their dicks and approach the kneeling nuns. I know what to tell Father Luke at my next confession. The bath’s manager spots me and rushes us out of the place. The nuns scold me for ruining their opportunity to give blow jobs. I am getting a complex for being blamed for everything and not appreciated for my youth. San Francisco is definitely an older scene.
It’s time for the midnight showing of ‘Pink Flamingos.’ We situate ourselves in front of the theater. The sisters are passing out flyers for places known for indulging, including the bathhouse where I was evicted. Divine is shilling herself and her movie. Our crowd has grown to several hundred. They start bantering with Divine, asking for details on her performance and her sexuality.
When asked if she is a true transexual, she replies, “Honey, my plumbing’s completely intact.”
The main obsession is the dog shit she eats at the conclusion of the film.
“Sugar, that dog had stage fright. We waited around all day for her to produce the goods. We kept feeding her laxatives to no avail. Finally, I stomped my foot and ordered her to shit. She whined a bit but came through in the end. Yes, that is real dog shit.”
The movie is great. Divine is the star of the show, mostly stereotypical trailer trash melodrama. My favorite is Edie the Egg Lady and her affair with the postman. The nuns carry on throughout the movie, leading cheers for specific scenes. I remember stopping for breakfast in Baltimore on the band’s roadhouse road trip. Little did I know how exciting rural Maryland is. Divine takes a bow at the end and is besieged by adoring fans. Everyone marches out of the theater together, heading for the bars. Landis needs to escape Divine’s possessive clutches. We take a cab back to the Majestic and sit in the bar recounting our day’s exploits. I am feeling unappreciated in San Francisco. My boyish looks are not a selling point.
The next morning we have a decadent hotel breakfast to make up for the failings at the Santa Cruz vegetarian coffee shop. We plan to drive to Portland that day to check out Reed College, a hippie refuge for the rich that has some sort of festival going on, called Paideia. It is the interregnum period between semesters when students teach each other weird subjects like underwater basket weaving.
“Sounds pretty hippie to me,” I remark.
“Let’s hope they’re celebrating more than studying this weekend.”
It reminds me that Jack is pursuing Harvard’s version, a single intensive subject, completing a full semester’s work in just four weeks.
“They don’t pay much attention to you.”
“It feels like junior high when all the older kids said we had missed it – the Beatles, the summer of love.”
“It appears that the gays are reliving that summer with their own winter of debauchery.”
“Gay life didn’t really start until Stonewall in 1969. These Frisco gays seem to be making up for lost time – middle-aged adolescence.”
“I felt like a prop in a play, the straight guy.”
“At least they liked you.”
“They’re so into their lifestyle, it’s like nothing else is important.”
“They act so entitled, like rich kids.”
“You would know.”
“Naw. I grew up in the military. Everyone was basically the same.”
“I don’t let that change me. Jack hates that I won’t take limos in the City.”
“Such a sacrifice.”
We drive north on I-5. The fields of farms slowly give way to forests and mountains. John wants to stop at a Napa winery. I convince him we need to keep going. I pretty much hate wine. Just a beer guy. I suggest we stop on the way back.
Reed is on the southern edge of Portland. The buildings don’t have the 17th century look of my Ivy League school. It looks more like a summer camp in the tall Sequoias. We sit in a quad and observe the students coming and going. Many seem as old as Landis. I ask several who say they are in their 9th and 10th year of undergraduate study. When asked, I tell them I am a sophomore at Harvard, racing my way through in two years; my major is entertainment business and law. They feel sorry for me. Again I am outside looking in. They assume Landis is a grad student. When asked, he says he never attended college.
I start saying I am in a band, avoiding any mention of Harvard.
Back at the dorm, I decide to play the Sham ‘Kids United’ song. It is not too fast and has a hippie vibe.
The heavy chords get their attention. As always happens, everyone has their arms around each other, bouncing up and down. 30-year-old slackers and actual twenty-year-old kids. My popularity spikes. The other musicians join me. I ask if they know the Kinks’ ‘Apeman.’
I follow it with my monkeyshines’ song
Makes a stand
To take his joy
Going hand to hand
Flying out free
Branch to branch
Through the trees
“Free to be
A monkey like me
Ha ha ha
He he he
Haw haw haw
Chee chee chee
The band has been playing the simple chords of the chorus.
“Com’n back up here,” their leader says. “Do you know the ‘Signs’ song?” – an anthem of ’60’s rebellion.
“Of course,” I nod.
I am standing between long-haired hippies playing bass and guitar.
“I select the next song, Stuck in the Middle with You.”
I bow and walk off, carrying my guitar. The band goes into their Deadhead medley.
“Yeah, I just got back from India.”
“Steve’s got something you’ve gotta see,” Landis is being hustled.
It is a box with a button on the top. It makes a bell tone.
“You use it to pay for long distance calls from a pay phone,” Steve explains.
“Did you make this?” I ask.
“No. Woz did,” he points to a fat, curly-haired hippie, who is unsuccessfully trying to hit on young co-eds. Steve is just the salesman. I leave him to Landis and go to help Woz. The girls perk up when I appear – someone their age. We chat until Woz tries to make his move on one. They all leave, to go ‘study.’
“You made that box in India,” I pointed at Steve and John.
“Naw. We work at Atari. Steve went here before running off to India. He promised me co-eds.”
“You need to work on your sales technique.”
“You’re right. Do you go to school here?”
“Naw. I’m at Harvard.”
“Oh. I went to Berkeley.”
We have determined our academic pecking order.
“Cool.” I don’t know what else to say. “Wanna get a drink?” There was some punch on a table.
Soon after having imbibed what I later learned was a psilocybin-laced punch, we are talking gibberish and enjoying what we each think are deep thoughts, totally unrelated to each other. I feel I should meet actual Reed students, so we start to mingle. The ‘shroom punch makes us incomprehensible to non-imbibers. Luckily most of the students were like-wise incoherent. We converse easily. Woz wanders off with three co-eds, thanking me for making him socially acceptable. I keep spacing out on the Craftsman style of architecture. I go and find Landis who is still engrossed in conversation with Woz’s partner, Steve. Apparently, Steve wants to make Landis a distributor of his phone toll-cheating boxes.
I pull John away from the snake-oil salesman, telling Steve where he can stick his boxes. He is unfazed by my lack of appreciation of his genius.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” he claims.
Yeah,” I answered. “To screw Ma Bell.”
Landis laughs and follows me as I try to describe the glories of American Craftsman architecture. He is not listening. He asks a couple of students where the frats are.”
“Fraternities are ruling class oppressors. They sell you on their entitlement by making you bend over for them with hazing rituals.”
I find that image impossibly funny and cannot stop laughing.
“What’s wrong with you,” Landis asks.
“Try some of the punch. It has an unusual after-effect.”
“No. This is hippie-land. Mushrooms. It’s okay. They’re all natural.” At which point I throw up the red punch and the remaining natural ingredients.
“Okay, sonny. Your evening is coming to a close,” as he leads me away from the party.
I do not feel so hot in the morning. Coffee with breakfast helps.
“We can’t use Reed as a location,” Landis informs me.
“Don’t blame Reed for getting me so stoned.”
“No. That was on you. Beware of hippies and weird punch bowls. They don’t have fraternities at Reed.”
I am only concerned if he thinks it is my fault.
“What’s the plan, Stan,” I switch to flippancy.
“We’ll go back to Eugene and check out the university there.”
“Can I drive?”
“Are you seeing double or anything else weird.”
“You’re the navigator, bud.”
Somehow we make it to the University of Oregon. No hippies there. We ask about frats and get a tour of Fraternity Row. They are all too fancy. Landis rejects them as inappropriate by Animal House standards. A student tells us we should check out Oregon College, on the other side of town. It’s more downtrodden. There are several frats that exude shabbiness. We go to Phi Kappa Psi, a three-story rambling boarding house with pillars in the front. The students are enthusiastic. The only problem is where to relocate the residents during the shoot. They suggest we rent the abandoned house next door. It’s a fraternity that failed. The Phi Psi’s will let us use their party room and the cellar’s ‘passion pit.’ They are excited to be extras in our film. Next door is another shabby three-story. Looking in the windows, we note that the place is totally trashed.
“Perfect,” is John’s opinion. We will contact the school’s administration on Monday.
Next we ask the Phi Psi’s where there’s a nightclub for off-campus partying. One of the younger frat boys directs us to a bar on Dexter Lake, outside Eugene city limits. He rides with us, sitting on my lap in the two-seat Roadster. He assumes I am Landis’s boyfriend, being from Hollywood. His butt cheeks cannot help start twitching as he sits on top on my dick. My dick is happy to respond. While Landis negotiates with the bar owner, we find a secluded spot near the lake. I take out my frustrations from being unpopular in San Francisco on his ass. He confides it is his first gay experience. I reassure him that being fucked means he is no longer a virgin. A little splendor in the grass turns into a major feat. He eagerly accepts full penetration as I slowly open him up. He soon has me riding him like bucking bronco. His enthusiasm knows no bounds. His name is Trevor; with that name, he must be a rich kid. We leave him back at his frat. He waves goodbye. It is a relief to be rid of him. Landis knows what went down but says nothing. We are sure to see him during the movie shoot.
Our tasks complete, it is time for pizza. No problem finding a pizza joint in a college town.
“You want to invite Trevor?” John asks.
“I think it best to let that sleeping dog lie.”
“Well, at least, you’re in a better mood.”
“Sex does that. But sticking around to get to know your victim can be depressing.”
“Those old queens had no interest in me. You, on the other hand, were a big hit.”
“Every princess needs a prince.”
“Even princesses with mustaches?”
“They were probably jealous of your girly looks.”
“I’m eighteen. I’m not ‘sposed to look old.”
“You wear it well.”
I sing him the old Rod Stewart ballad.