I slept most of the Amtrak trip to Penn Station in New York City. Jack was insatiable last night, claiming he was saving up fucking memories for our week apart. Okay. But why isn’t he able to share his feelings with me in our linked hearts? I’d get him off psychically while in the City, when phone isn’t sex okay. He’s a needy little nerd. Maybe I’m starting to think like my dad and his holy sense of values. I shouldn’t complain that I have a rich boyfriend. Maybe I punish myself by staying at the Chelsea. I certainly would rather be eating Isabelle’s cordon bleu at the Dakota.
Off to another NYC adventure. I have to act like an adult, seeking employment in the City at the National Lampoon. Should I play the kid card, make them think I’m some rock fanatic? I hope I can just be myself for once. Harvard can be such a drag. Unless you’re Minehan, playing out a high school fantasy.
After checking in, I decided to seek out William Burroughs. He’s so old, everyone’s a kid in his eyes. I knocked on his room door. He must have the smallest room at the Chelsea. From the scuffling I could hear from outside, I knew he was home. After about five minutes he finally answered the door. A scruffy kid my age pushed past me on his way out.
“You old geezer,” I laughed at him. “I don’t want to be causing coitus interruptus.”
“I seldom can get off with tricks. They want to be done and gone as soon as I pay them.”
“’I don’t get me no satisfaction,’” I sung Mick Jagger for him.
I slid onto the bed with him, jerked him a few strokes. He got him some. He looked surprised.
“Naw. My sperm bank’s broke. Jack was relentless last night.”
“Where is your partner in crime?”
“I’m flyin’ solo this trip.”
“Trouble with the idle rich?”
“Naw. He’s all into bein’ a college kid. I’s escaped Harvard fer a week.”
“I was a freshman at Harvard.”
“Didcha leave after seein’ how stupid the courses were?”
“Naw. I got my degree, actually two – English and Anthropology. Then I went to med school in Europe.
“It musta bin better back then.”
“It’s whatcha make of it. Bet yer boyfriend tries to get inta all the fancy social clubs.”
“Ya got that right.”
“That why he ain’t here with ya?”
“Naw. We’re both on the Lampoon. We caused so much shit, the editor has me goin’ to Hollywood to keep us apart.”
“Bein’ gay still taboo in Cambridge?”
“Why’dcha go there in the first place. Sounds like Hollywood beckons.”
“I love the little nerd. It was our chance to be together all the time.”
“How’s that workin’ for ya?”
“Yer typewriter says we’re gonna break up.”
“Well, tomorra I start my latest ad’venture. Wish me luck.”
“I feel sorry for Jack, but life is full of changes. Yer friend Doug Weston is keepin’ me in dope by hawking my books in Hollywood.”
“And teen hustlers.”
“You may have ruined that for me.”
“Sorry, It was just a hand job.”
“Yer pretty lovable, Tim.
“Don’t fire all the rent boys.”
“They find me.”
“Wanna go eat at Max’s Kansas City?”
“Naw. I seldom eat.”
He was all skin and bones, like all junkies.
“Have you been doin’ any writin’?” he asked.
“Just band songs. My Harvard teachers rate me as a C- writer.”
“That’s hopeful. They’re generally clueless.”
After I performed a spoken word ‘False Gods’, Burroughs warned me, “Don’t ask for what you might not want. You end it saying you’ll not be performing again until at least 1996, twenty years or more.”
“How about 2016?”
“I’ll be 102.”
“And still shooting up?”
“Something to live for.”
“What? The drugs or my return?”
We laughed. I left him so he could get high alone. I was not impressed that he was a Harvard grad.
I couldn’t help myself and went alone to Max’s, grabbing a burger and fries in the front room. I wandered upstairs to see if anything was going on. The two gay guys we had chatted up in the Spring were seated by themselves, so I sat down with them.
“Remember me?” I joked.
“False God”, they both exclaimed.
“Monty and Paul,” I remembered their names.
“Yeah, It’s Monte with an ‘e.’”
“Right. Are you two always here on Sunday nights?”
“Yeah, praying that you appear.”
“That’s a bit scary. Don’t you go anywhere else?”
“’ Course. We go to dance clubs, like the Pep and Studio 54 every other night. Sunday’s just to decompress.”
“Where’s your boyfriend, Tim?”
“We’re both in college. He’s in the dorm in Boston. I’m here on a job interview. We are being separated by Harvard.”
“You’re at Harvard?”
“Yeah. Ain’t it a gas gas gas?”
“You’ve lost your country accent.”
“Jack felt it was socially retarded.”
“We love you anyways.”
“Ew. We’ll be in the Post again. It’s just like Studio 54 in here,” Paul complained.
“Let’s get outta heah. I got a skuzzy room at the Chelsea.”
“Slumming. We love it,” they cried as we dashed away from the paparazzi.
“You still wake up like you’re in the country,” Monte sleepily complained when I returned to them wrapped up with each other in my bed.
“Yeah. I should be milkin’ the cows by now.” I plopped down in between them with our breakfasts.
Soon I was out the door for my first day of interviewing with The National Lampoon. The guys went back to sleep. I took the subway to Avenue of Americas in Midtown. Publishing companies were located deep in the heart of Corporate New York. Everyone was in suits and dull colored raincoats. Walking into the Lampoon’s reception area, I was relieved to see it wasn’t as corporate as elsewhere in Midtown. Asking for PJ, I was seated and waited until the busy Managing Editor had time for me. There wasn’t even an assistant to get me water or a coffee. My reputation was strictly as a Harvard freshman with a vague music connection. The receptionist recognized me from the NY Post she was reading.
“Just slumming last night. I always get in the Post when I go to Max’s.”
“We never had someone gay from Harvard.”
“You just didn’t know. When I go out in Boston, they all assume I’m gay just ’cause I’m at Harvard.”
“They have clubs in Boston?”
“I just go to the Rat.”
That confused her, but she still smiled at me. I love New York.
PJ finally took me back to a cubbyhole office. No wasted space at the Lampoon.
“Kurt called me, recommending I send you out to Hollywood as a music consultant. Are you even 18?”
“Why do you want to be in Hollywood. Don’t you like Cambridge?”
“Kurt wants to show you there’s up and coming talent from the Harvard Lampoon. He needed to separate me from my roommate. We’re both about to be expelled.”
“I’m not into rescuing freshmen. We’re in the real world here.”
I just stared at him. After a pregnant pause when I failed to defend myself, he went on, “Well, it looks like you’ve had some rock success and movie experience. You think you can deal with Hollywood assholes.”
I laughed. “That’s what I’ve been doing the last two years. Dicks and assholes.”
“Jody says you’re in the Post today, kissing two men. So you’re gay.”
“Straight and gay, whoever will pay.”
“This is an interview. You’re supposed to be selling yourself.”
“That’s what everyone does in Hollywood. You want someone who knows what music from the early 60’s will make frat parties rock? I’ve spent a year playing frats at the University of Miami. I know what makes college kids go crazy.”
“You got arrested after opening for Lynyrd Skynnyrd?”
“Yeah. Spent four months in the Everglades hiding out from the State.”
“Doesn’t sound like you learned much music there.”
“I got a band together to play country blues at the local campground. We was call Hillbilly Brothers, makin’ babies with each another.”
“Come around with me and observe how I do my job.” He got up and I followed him into the main staff area. It was all desks with typewriters and constant phone ringing. It was just like the Harvard Lampoon, just busier. I kept my mouth shut as he quizzed his staff on the status of their individual projects. At noon, there was a general staff meeting. I was introduced as a possible intern from Harvard. The general looks of superiority from the staff made me want to burst their bubbles. I knew I’d have to attach myself to PJ in order to avoid unpaid slaving as an intern.
“What do you want for lunch?” I asked him once we returned to his cubbyhole.
“You don’t have to do actual intern duties. I just said that.”
“I’ll be your personal slave to avoid becoming everyone else’s butt boy.”
I wasn’t in the Bronx anymore. I asked staff where the Automat was and got eight additional orders.
“I’ll get you what PJ gets,” I held them off, barely collecting twenty bucks, hardly enough. Welcome to New York. A hustle here, a hustle there.
When I got back, PJ had some advice on handling staff, “Having a bunch of humorists in one place is like having a bunch of cats in a sack. You don’t want to shake that sack too much.”
I went around distributing sandwiches and collecting from each staffer the additional amount I had had to pay for myself. Most grudgingly paid up.
“Ya think I’m some rich kid, able to pay fer yer lunch?” was my line to shame them into paying up. Maybe they expected me to be cowed into silently accepting their cheap ways. The ones who had originally paid properly, I told them I’d check with them each morning when I was going to get PJ’s lunch. The next day, several of the chinsters demanded I take their orders as well. I wasn’t there to make friends and refused. PJ was watching from his office when one jerk started berating me like a runaway slave.
“I had to beg you when I needed to get my money yesterday. Don’t expect me to ever be in that position again.
He actually called Kurt in Cambridge to complain about how poorly trained as an intern I was. Not all Harvard graduates are gentlemen.
“No better place to stay than this Bowery flea bag?” I asked.
“We want to go out with you tonight.”
“I thought you always went to discos.”
“Yeah. Let’s go to Studio 54,” Paul enthused.
I didn’t mind disco, but it wasn’t going to get me on Page Six.
“I need to keep up my public image. Let’s go find out where Andy’s going tonight,” I suggested.
“Andy Warhol? He often is at Studio 54,” Monte noted.
“Well, I need to be more than a face in the crowd. So far, I get no respect at work.”
“You work?” They obviously didn’t.
“Yeah. I’m here trying to get promoted to work in Hollywood.”
“And give up all this luxury,” as I pointed out the shabby hotel room.
“We just want to be with you. We worship you, False God,” they both fell to their knees.
I dragged them outside. We walked through Union Square to The Factory.
“How y’all doin’, Blair? Still missin’ yer black Mammy?” I greeted Andy’s assistant.
He jumped up and hugged me. “Tim.” He looked at my followers with reluctance. “Who are these men, your minders?”
“No. They’re my acolytes, worshiping their False God.”
“What’s Andy up to tonight. Is it time for Max’s?”
“Don’t be wearing him out. He’s got some Hollywood hack, John Landis, in with him now. I’ll tell him you’re here.”
“No way. I’ll go in unannounced.”
Blair threw up his hands, used to my uncontrollable ways. Monte and Paul followed me into Andy’s business office.
“Talking about me? I’m so popular. Let’s go to Max’s so we all can be in the Post tomorrow.”
Andy held up his hands and shook his head. He introduced John Landis.
Landis began, “Andy was telling me how you got my friend Landau fired from Interview.”
“Not undeserved considering his treachery promoting Springsteen over our band.”
“Well, now I understand you want to work for me on my movie. Don’t expect I’ll just go along with you undercutting me?”
I had heard he was going to direct ‘Animal House’ but didn’t worry about it. It was the Dartmouth guy Chris Miller I was supposed to undercut about the soundtrack.
“Jeez. We let Landau hang out, smoke our pot and chase the Jacettes around CBGB’s. Getting Andy to burn up his review seemed on a par with all the other antics.”
“Now he has to live in LA.”
“Well, you’re a big-time director. Maybe you should hire him.
“Who are your friends” he asked.
“Andy, this is Monte and Paul. They live with me at the Chelsea.
Landis got back on the subject at hand. “You expect me to allow your interfering ways on my set?”
“It’s Chris Miller who’s the main obstacle, insisting you use his favorite disco music for the frat parties. I’m on the Lampoon now. They want someone with music connections to rein in Miller. We’ll be allies, not enemies.”
“You’re not my enemy, Tim. It just seems odd that you show up now. I definitely need someone to corral Miller. He’s just a writer but acts like he’s the director.”
That was a mixed review. Marty said I’d never work in movies again.
“All we did was find the Bernstein song and get Liza to fly to Hollywood and debut it there. The movie will make a profit.”
“Barely,” Landis knew.
“If you know the whole story, I think you’d want me to help. What does Miller know about music?”
“Okay. Okay. If you promise me to strictly deal with the music, I’ll hire you. I’m the boss this time. I’ll fire your ass if you undercut me.”
“I’ll come out there if you agree to stop being a control freak.”
Landis scowled, but we shook hands. The business deal was done. I wondered what PJ O’Rourke would say. Best to let him make his own decisions. I would have to be an intern slave for at least a week.
I wanted to celebrate my first real movie job but was embarrassed I had only had fifty bucks to my name. I regretted I wasn’t quite family without a Stone BankAmericard. I suggested Max’s, hoping someone would pay. Was I really going to suck up to Landis? It was hard being 18 all the time. I figured they’d laugh if I offered to pay and just went along with the crowd.
Once we walked in, Andy leading me by the hand, the paparazzi got their nightly shots. A Village Voice reporter came over and interviewed Landis and Andy. He asked who I was.
“Tim’s my protégée,” Andy announced. “I told John how he’d handled Landau over the hack interview he wrote about their band. He hired him to do the music on his new movie.”
John and I shook hands for the photographers, with Andy smiling in the background, like a don from ‘The Godfather’. The reporter had no clue who I was, so I lied, telling him I was Tim Matheson, the young star of ‘Animal House.’ I didn’t want PJ finding out I had gone over his head to get hired for the position he was interviewing me for. Andy had done me a favor by getting Landis to meet me; he must have known I would show up at his offices. I still needed PJ to be my NY ally, thinking he had placed me on the set. Another lie I’d weave in order to deceive.
My new number one fan.
“Hard to be a celebrity in New York. They must’ve mixed me up with the actor in Animal House with my first name,” I shrugged.
“Well, congratulations. They also have an old photo of you dancing naked at Max’s.”
“That was the high school me. I’m more mature now that I go to Harvard.”
“Still wear those sexy briefs?”
PJ had the Post in his hand when I knocked on his door.
“Com’n in, Mr. Matheson. I see we didn’t work you hard enough yesterday. You needed to work off excess self-promotion on Page Six?” He didn’t seem mad that I had agreed to work with his Director.
“I’m the Post’s only gay teenage idol. Andy’s the celebrity. I’m just eye candy.”
“Explain why you’re negotiating with Landis. I thought I was hiring you.”
“I had Andy fire Jon Landau from Interview two years ago. He was just mending fences for me. Landau and Landis are friends.”
“Well, any publicity is good publicity. How about I fire you from interning and make you a writer? Can you get an interview with Warhol?”
“Music is your primary expertise. I’ll give you the rest of the week to come up with an interview.”
“I’ll get John to play for the runaway kids at St Patrick’s shelter? They let us play at the Cathedral.”
“I thought you were staying at the Chelsea. You sure they’ll let you into the Dakota?”
“My boyfriend’s parents have a place there. I’m a regular guest.”
“Whatever. So what’s your plan?”
“I’ll get the band to write new songs and ask Cardinal Cooke to let us entertain the runaways. Last time John attended and couldn’t help himself from joining in. We don’t do Beatles songs unless he plays with us.”
“The staff will miss you this week.”
I went around and took orders from the guys who hadn’t tried to cheat me on Monday. I said goodbye, as my internship was over.
“Did we hire you?”
“It’s still a work in progress.”
“PJ says you’re an illustrator?” I asked him.
“That plus a writer. I have a play in the works.”
“They would never call a writer a ‘real’ man in my day.”
“Hah. Now that they have women, my boyfriend wants to us call ourselves co-eds.”
He laughed. Harvard must have warped my adolescent sensibilities. My current New York friends consisted of a forty-year-old artist, a seventy-year-old writer, and now a fifty-year-old illustrator.
“Do you really want to help? I have until Friday to complete an article that shows I know something about the music business.”
“Can’t help you much there. Anything I could illustrate for the article?”
“That would be much better than photos,” I enthused.
“Tell me about the article.”
I hadn’t really thought it through but had figured I could lure John Lennon and Yoko Ono to St Patrick’s for another performance of the Dakota band. It would let me observe how the Jace’s Place project was proceeding without being an outsider. When I explained it to Gorey, his eyes lit up.
“You do know who the Beatles are?” I ventured thinking he may have missed the 60’s.
“Well, they’re not so pretty now. I know John’s 13-year-old son. His best friend is Leonard Bernstein’s daughter, Nina”
“Sounds like you are not familiar with my work. I specialize in the decadent decrepit. I’ll let you deal with the kids. I can deal with the parents.”
“Are you ready to start? We need to go to the Dakota and get permission for another benefit at the Cathedral.”
Off we went to the Dakota. The doorman let me in, assuming I was staying there. He did ask who my elderly guest was, signing him into the visitor log. We immediately went to 407 to recruit Jules and Nina in our plot to do another show. Gorey laughed as Nina let us into the pot smoke-filled single room apartment. Jules was collapsed on a couch, the bong laying at his feet.
“This is Edward. He’s going to illustrate a story about Dakota playing for the runaways.”
“Oh. Will Aaron and Paul be in the show?”
“Why not,” I figured it was good he had friends now.
“I’ll come back once we get your parents to approve another show. We can rehearse, maybe write a song or two.”
“Cool,” he lay back, blindly searching for his bong, which lay just outside his reach. Nina just observed. I picked up the bong and put it into his hands.
We walked down to the Lennon-Ono apartment on the third floor. I knocked and heard, in a North English accent, “Com’n in. Not locked.” John trusted the Dakota staff to keep him safe. He was sitting with Yoko, who had baby Sean on her lap. Familial bliss.
“Tim,” I answered. “This is my associate, Edward Gorey. We were just upstairs with Jules and Nina. Can we get permission to do another show at St Patrick’s?”
“Why not?” he agreed. “Are you some soul saver type.”
Yoko had perked up when she heard Gorey’s name. “You’re the pen and ink guy at the New Yorker.”
“National Lampoon now. They pay better.”
“Always black and white. Don’t you like color?” she loved speaking with other artists.
“I sometimes do color, but leaving white where color would go lets the viewer’s imagination fill in the blanks.”
“Let me show you what I’m working on,” as Yoko got up, giving Sean to his father, and led Gorey to her work space.
John looked at the chubby, whiny baby for a second. He handed him to me, calling for the nanny to fetch Sean. After the nanny took him away, Ringo appeared, happy to have avoided the domestic bliss of a screaming baby.
“Come meet Julian’s guitar teacher,” I was introduced.
“He’s a teenager now. Look out. You’ll be drumming for the Beatles, Part 2.”
“Good idea. They gave me the boot from Part 1.”
“We need to do another show. How about you try out. Jules will never be a real drummer. He smokes too much pot and can’t pay attention long enough to finish a song.”
They both laughed.
“I’ll play guitar with Jules and we can call it the Beat, half the Beatles,” John joked.
My plot was falling into place.
“Jules won’t admit it, but he really wants to play with you. All that music is just bubbling up inside his heart.”
“Yeah, but he does have his own music. That’s why his playing has improved. He’s playing from the heart. It’s real rock n roll.”
John and Ringo looked at each other, perhaps remembering how it was when they were teens.
I went for clincher, “How about you get up with Jules and sing ‘Oh, Yoko,’ to her at the end of the show.
Ringo laughed at my manipulation.
“I’m not sure he’ll play that. He still takes Cynthia’s side in the divorce.”
“He yearns for your approval, Dad,” I went for the kill.
“We’ll see. You just want permission for him to perform. That’s fine, as long as it’s for charity. What do you charge nowadays, Rich, for guest appearances?”
“Too much. I’ll have to see how well these kids play. I may be perfect for a gig like this.”
My Beatles days were back. Even if it was just The Beat.
“Let’s go up to 407 and invade pot city,” I suggested. “We can jam. You decide if we’re up to your standards, Starkey.” I used Ringo’s real name.
“Call me Rich, mate.”
“Better than Ring,” I joked.
He gave me a funny look. He was the oldest Beatle but seemed to have retained his youthful exuberance better, even with a beard. Later, I’d have to call him Sir Richard. I was having fun.
Edward stayed with Yoko, doing sketches for her. She was amazed how quickly they got done. He was following her creative ideas. Another collaboration of 60’s artists, the hippie generation. They knew how to share.
We walked into the stoner pad, causing a commotion as bongs, pipes, roaches and baggies were hastily hidden. We said nothing.
“Com’n, Jules. We need a little smoke to get us in the mood to jam. You’re being replaced on drums,” as I indicated that Ringo was the new drummer. Ringo inspected Jules’ basic Pearl set, smiling like Elton had done upon discovering the standup piano in Hollywood – a trip down memory lane. Ringo rearranged the set-up and was soon ready to go.
“You want me to do a song with you?” John asked his son, whose eyes had lost that stoned look he had been sporting. “What song do you want to do?”
“How about this one, it’s a Ringo hit?” John started in on ‘Octopus’ Garden.”
Jules wasn’t clueless, jumping in at the intro. I played rhythm, happy to be second fiddle, with Nina on bass. John and Julian sang to each other. Ringo kept the drumming simple. Everyone was smiling.
“I knew you had talent,” John complimented Ringo.
Everyone nodded. We jammed on some of the Dakota songs. After Ringo agreed he’d play pro bono for the church group, I told them we’d play the hit song Nina had written.
“It’s not really rock n roll,” Jules explained.
“Yeah, it’s jazz. Maybe there’s a genetic reason Nina wrote it.
I started singing,
“Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leaving today I want to be a part of it: New York, New York…”
The two Beatles just laughed, but we played it all the way through as a trio.
Ringo sang his cover of ‘You’re 16’, pulling out a kazoo. I had my harmonica to jam together.
We finished with Ringo singing rockabilly to ‘Honey Don’t.’
It was time to rescue Gorey from the Dragon Lady. It turned out they had collaborated on several works. Yoko’s painstaking process got washed away by the speed of Gorey’s sketching. He promised to return and continue their collaboration.
“That was fun,” he announced as we walked to across Central Park. “Much better than sitting in that dreary midtown office, waiting for the kids to give me an idea.”
“Wait ‘til you come to our band rehearsal. You’ll be inspired by music. It’s is totally ephemeral.”
“Art needs to be fun, not serious. Those Harvard grads at the National Lampoon aren’t kids. They’re playing at being actual adults. No one in their twenties has a clue. They’re too serious. It’s supposed to be a humor magazine”
“Wait until they have families. They’ll realize they wasted their youth pretending to be adults.”
We both laughed. I figured he was gay since he had no family. Freedom to be what you were meant to be.
“Feel like checking in with the Church’s program for runaways? They’re always fun.”
“You have quite a bag of tricks for an out-of-towner.”
“I love the City. Somehow I ended up in Iowa last year.”
“Life’s endless bag of tricks.”
Father Frank was in his office, now a permanent fixture in Cardinal Cooke’s administration.
“Tim. Where’s your partner in crime?”
“Still living up to his family name at Harvard. Meet Edward Gorey. He’s helping me on a Jace’s Place project.”
“Something I don’t know about yet.”
“How about another Beatles reunion performance for Youth Group on Thursday?” I chortled, unable to suppress my glee at instigating history. “It’s just John and Ringo. They’re calling themselves The Beat, half of the Beatles.”
“They’re going play for free to kids when promoters are offering a million bucks for a concert?”
“Ringo’s staying at the Dakota, so we’ve been jamming. They have so much fun, they want to put on a show. The lawyers won’t let them play for money.”
“Who am I to stand in the way of the Beatles. But you need to speak to Cardinal Cooke. I promised I’d deliver you, if you showed up.”
“He really likes you, Tim. Why do you always avoid him.”
“He wants me to be a saint. Jace is Teen Jesus. I’m just the sidekick. Locking Jack up in a Swiss seminary didn’t go so well, did it?”
“Save me the problem of explaining why you won’t speak with him by at least saying hello.”
“Okay. Please show Edward the Cathedral. He’ll be documenting the show with his illustrations.”
“Of course, you’re Gorey, the cartoonist at the New Yorker.”
Edward grimaced but didn’t correct the priest.
“How’s Jace doing. Still ever-present in your life?”
“That’s changed. He remains a 15-year-old while I’m now 18. And, I’m at Harvard. He thinks I’m old and boring. He disrupted my Religion class when Professor Reinhold stated that the spirit world does not exist. The professor teaches the Bible as literature.”
“Good for Jace.”
“His heart is pure but he’s still a kid with a need to show off. He fears we will be separated when we are both dead.”
“You know what I think.”
“Of course. We’ll be at the right hand of God.”
“That isn’t comforting to him?”
“He feels he was bound for Hell before he actually died, but he came back as a ghost. He thinks I made it happen because I couldn’t let him go.”
“Sounds like a 15-year-old. The simple solution seems best.”
“Nothing’s more important than the saving of a soul, especially a child’s.”
“Thank you for caring and sponsoring the Jace’s Place project.”
“Anything we can do?”
“Well, we want to play for the youth group on Thursday night.”
“In the Cathedral, like last time? Will the Beatle show up again?”
“Two of them. Ringo’s staying at the Dakota. We invited him to be our drummer. Please let it be a surprise, as Beatle reunions are in legal limbo.”
After our talk, I rejoined Gorey and Father Frank. They were enjoying a glass of wine for lunch. As the two of us walked back to the Lampoon offices, we talked about the upcoming show. With Gorey’s surrealistic black and white drawings, I could write a review of the show that captures its ephemeral nature. Publishing it in the Lampoon would make it more of a fantasy than reality. The long walk just inspired our imaginations.
PJ was incredulous when I described what we planned. He wanted to pay me a $1500 retainer for exclusive rights. I made him pay it to Gorey and suggested he get a raise, referencing what the Rolling Stone was paying Ralph Stedman for his Gonzo journalism drawings.
“You pull this off and you’ll get a thousand a week on ‘Animal House.’
I guess I had passed the audition. I swore everyone to secrecy. Gorey was ecstatic with his $1500. He went out and bought a white raincoat to replace the dreary, grimy one he had worn for too many years.
Feeling flush, I went to Trash & Vaudeville at St Mark’s Place and bought a full-on black outfit, including a black Levi’s jacket, my cowboy roots showing. To top it off, I bought black Beatles boots with heels. I looked and felt ten feet tall. The clerk threw in several black tees with T&V on the front. Luckily they didn’t carry black underwear. Felix would have felt betrayed if I showed up on Page Six in black briefs. I’ll never understand underwear fetishers.
I called Jack. He wanted me to show up for the football in Cambridge that weekend. It seemed silly when things were going so well here. I hoped to be on my way to LA by then. He threw a fit. So much for phone sex. Anyway, I really shouldn’t be getting off in the public phone booth at the Chelsea. I decided to show up for football as a surprise. He needed to get over himself and his possessive ways. I failed to mention my new roommates, Monte and Paul. They jumped up and greeted me when I got to my room. Jealousy sex was good and pushed any guilt about Jack out of mind. Blair had told me that Andy would be at Studio 54 that night. After group sex, we slept until it was time to hit the clubs, sometime after midnight.
Andy was in the VIP section, waving us over. He looked at my all black outfit, noting I was looking morbid. I told him that I was working with Edward Gorey.
“That totally explains it. Isn’t he a bit old for you?”
Figuring that Andy was testing me, I slid next to him and we made out until flashbulbs warned us we were being stalked.
“You may have given Andy a heart attack. He didn’t expect you to turn him on.”
“It was strictly spontaneous. I love Andy and wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings. Sometimes I get carried away. I would never threaten our friendship.”
“So, just friends still?”
“Jesus, Blair. Don’t be managing his feelings or mine,” and I kissed him to keep everything even. His hard-on told me I was out of control again. Well, I was celebrating my hiring by the National Lampoon.
Monte and Paul took the brunt of my testosterone driven exuberance with mad crazy fucking back at the Chelsea. I didn’t get into the office until noon. Someone else had taken the Automat orders for lunch. I was famished from not eating for 24 hours. PJ shared his sandwich.
“Your probation period has turned out much differently than I expected,” he summarized my interview process.
“So, I’m on probation?”
“No. In three days, you’ve recruited my oldest staff member to promote a reunion of the biggest rock band of the century. You shut down the assholes who treated you like a lowly freshman intern. Then you got your future boss to hire you before I, your current boss, had decided to have him do so, And now you’ve convinced me, without you even asking, to pay you more than most of these jerks make here in the City to work in the lowest cost of living city in the country. I assume you’ll want my job next.”
We both laughed. “I’m still hungry. Let’s go get another sandwich to split,” he suggested.
I grabbed Gorey as we walked out, so we could go to the Dakota rehearsal after lunch. I would drag PJ, except I knew the chemistry we now had in the Beat/Dakota band was too exceptional to risk upsetting. I did want Gorey to be an unspoken presence, so he could capture the whole atmosphere of Dakota with his Gothic sensibility.
Rehearsal was an unending jam. I started on rhythm guitar, channeling my inner George, while Jules and his dad fought it out for leads. Nina was on bass, easily working with Ringo’s beat and tempo. I explained my populist performance aesthetic: ask for requests. Everyone had to play any pop song from memory. When Julian was better at it than his dad, he explained that he had Jace in his heart to show him the way. John tried as hard as he could to accept Jace without success. Julian was frustrated and pulled out the bong. Father and son reunion. Jace was now an unofficial half-Beatle. Ringo had an unending knowledge of 50’s rock songs. We quickly adapted into a dance/sock-hop cover band.
Finally, I exasperatedly complained, “Can’t we at least play one Beatles song?”
“Those greedy bastards won’t let anyone else play their songs,” John explained how Paul’s new wife’s father had locked up the Beatles legacy.
“How about ‘A Little Help from my Friends?” Julian suggested.
“That’s a Joe Cocker song,” I played smarty pants.
We ended the jam with that classic, agreeing to use it at the Youth Group concert.
“Explain to me why we’re playing for runaway kids?” John was always the cynic.
“They’re my friends, Da. Tim’s best mate was abused and killed by his older brother. The Church believes Jace wants it to shelter kids like him,” Julian explained.
“Why are they listening to a dead kid?”
“Jesus,” John moaned.
“See. Even you listen,” Jules snarked.
“Don’t be putting words inta me mouth,” John shook his head.
Ringo hit the drum set with an introductory roll. I recognized it was ‘Great Balls O’Fire,’ by Jerry Lee Lewis.
We all joined in and John couldn’t help himself from shaking it. He and Julian ended up playing back to back, collapsing into each other’s arms at the ending. I couldn’t help myself and started into “A Whole Lotta of Shakin’
Arguments about Church and Country were lost in the excitement of old-time rock.
“Stop,” John yelled. “We’ll save this for tomorrow’s show for the angels with dirty faces.”
Gorey had gone to find Yoko. We found them in her work space, collaborating on more Gothic prints. Edward sketched a scary scene and Yoko used paint to add depth and color. The scene they depicted was a young girl falling down a steep staircase. Nina loved it.
I used the phone to reach Aaron and Paul, making sure they would bring the Temple el-Emanuel Jace’s Place group to St Patrick’s on Thursday night. They knew all about the performance, Jace having told their hearts what was up. I could feel their yearning to be with me.
“Tomorrow,” I answered their unspoken question. “We’ll make time to catch up.”
I shivered thinking they were the same age as Tommy. Would I feel sexual from their trusting love? Also, I needed them as ambassadors to the youth groups. At 18, I really was an adult now, in college and everything.
Gorey was reveling in the freedom to roam about the Cathedral. It was so Gothic. I wanted his illustrations to catch the whole atmosphere. Everything was set for the next day’s youth group performance. Father Frank promised to include the Black kids from Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist. I remembered how cavernous St Patrick’s was with seating for 3,000. I told Father Frank to reserve the front row pews for the 300 Jace’s Places kids, leaving the remaining 2500 seats open to those ‘in the know.’ No need to publicize the performance. The ‘word’ would get out about a half-Beatles reunion. Ringo had been showing up on McCartney’s Wings tour, jumping on stage for their encores. Getting back together with John was special. We just had to make sure the music was special. It was The Beat; it had to be special.
Gorey asked me to come by his studio in the East Village. He was a big guy, roly poly, with a mustache. Lennon referred to him as the ‘walrus. He and I did an impromptu version for Yoko when she and Edward were working in her studio space.
“’You are the eggman’,” John told her when we were done. Edward was oblivious. I felt ridiculous that my only adult friends in the City were so old. I didn’t consider Monte and Paul adults. Maybe I really was an adult. Oh, the horror.
Gorey’s studio was actually a separate work space in a large walk-up apartment in an old building. It was not Alphabet City. He stated he had been there since after World War II. I insisted he show me all the prints and actual canvases he had been working on. He was more than an illustrator, with a complete artistic aesthetic and sensibility. He glowed from my praise. He was a successful artist but suffered from the critics’ label of being ‘middlebrow.’ There was a sketch of a slug reclining on a couch that struck me as a perfect metaphor for Julian’s pothead attitude.
I started laughing and hugged Edward. It surprised him at first. He relaxed and allowed me to show my affection. In WASP pose, he remained aloof.
“You know I’m gay, right?” I gave him permission.
“Everyone knows, Tim.”
“You don’t mind me being physical?”
“It’s quite nice,” he admitted but made no moves on me.
“Let’s go out and eat,” he suggested.
“Um, I really can’t afford it.” I was down to about twenty bucks of my expense money.
“Heavens, Tim. You got PJ to pay me a $1500 advance for tomorrow’s show. I can at least celebrate with you. Let’s go to the Stage Door Deli on Vesey Street.”
“Do they have pizza?”
“Yes. It’s what makes them special compared to a hundred other New York deli’s.”
I was in teen heaven, finishing off a large pepperoni and onion while Edward had a Reuben sandwich, half of which I ate after he suggested I try the New York favorite. He just ordered another Reuben as takeout for later.
It was pretty good. I had never had corned beef before. The sauerkraut was really sour, perfect for German Nazis, I joked.
He didn’t find that funny, a World War II vet. I didn’t tell him my Armand Hammer story.
Back at his apartment I performed the whole ‘Cabaret’ set we had done with Liza and Elton. He had an old standup piano. Jace showed up in time to help me tinkle the keys properly. Nice to have a musical genius on call in times of a command performance. We drank sherry which I found way too sweet. It crept up on me. I woke up tucked next to him on his couch. He had blanket on me. He had been a perfect gentleman. Maybe he was not gay, just old and alone. Perusing his library, I found several Tony awards as well as published books he had written. As a Harvard graduate, he had done better than Burroughs, escaping SRO hell as a senior citizen.
I excused myself and raced back to the Chelsea, knowing Monte and Paul would be going out clubbing soon. They weren’t surprised I had fallen asleep after performing.
Off we went to Studio 54. I’d only been there once but already had VIP status. The three of us went to the head of the line at the door. We sat at Andy’s table behind the velvet chain, even though Andy was not there. Soon Monte and Paul’s friends joined us. I told the bar waitress that Andy was paying. I promised myself I’d pay him back.
Soon I regaled our group about the Beat’s performance the next night. Most feigned fear of attending Church. The hint of a Beatles reunion created a frenzy of gossip. I knew we’d have no trouble filling the empty Cathedral’s pews. I was sure PJ would have his own entourage. The three of us drank champagne and danced the night away. I fell asleep once we were back at the Chelsea. It didn’t slow Monte and Paul down. I’m not sure that I participated or it was just another teenager’s wet dream. There was hot water for the shower in the morning, not an everyday occurrence. My country ways were fading as I didn’t wake up until 10 am. Arriving at the Lampoon offices at noon was not considered decadent in the City where the clubs stayed busy until 4 am or later. I briefed PJ on the plans for the evening performance. He let me know to expect him and his friends. I promised reserved seating for my boss. Edward laughed when I explained how the latter hours of my evening had gone. He considered clubbing a lost phase of his youth. He showed me the drawings he had already done from his visits to the Cathedral and the Dakota. He had captured the atmosphere of our setting. It would be my job to capture the narrative. PJ expected a scoop on a Beatles reunion. I wanted to highlight the Jace’s Place kids’ plight. Thinking how we had explained writing exposition papers to Minehan (CAST – character, action, setting and theme), I had to establish a theme for the night. Looking at Gorey’s drawings, I saw a cross between Greek tragedy (Julian’s oedipus conflict) and medieval Goth horror (in the drawings). I felt so complex.
After a lunch run to the Automat for PJ and my favorite staffers, Edward and I planned to proceed to the Dakota for a final rehearsal of The Beat band. The name struck me as a perfect chance to involve my favorite Beat writer, Bill Burroughs. It was early, so we made a detour to the Chelsea. After banging on his door for five minutes, Burroughs appeared, disheveled and grumpy. He and Gorey hit it off right away, confirming my Goth theme for the night.
“I’m performing tonight,” I told him. “Please come and read something as an invocation. It’s at St Patrick’s.”
“The Catholics rejected me a long time ago. I doubt they want me spewing my ideas at church.”
“We got John Lennon to join our band. He once said he was more important than Jesus.”
“This is a coup? the takeover of a world religion?”
“Just the Cathedral. The Church has opened up since you were ex-communicated.”
I promised to have a limo pick him up at 6:30. The Youth Group started at 7:30, an ungodly time for NYC scenesters.
Rehearsal went well. We played mostly early 60’s dance songs, like ‘Twist and Shout,’ which was a song the early Beatles covered. Also, ‘Roll over Beethoven’, ‘Long Tall Sally,’ ‘Rock and Roll Music,’ and ‘Kansas City.’ We also did Elvis’s ‘I got a Woman’ to be ready for an encore. John insisted we not do songs he had written with Paul McCartney to avoid problems with Paul’s new wife Linda’s father, the music lawyer. I pleaded for ‘Hey, Jude,’ changing it to the original ‘Hey, Jules,’ as a mood setting introduction for all the Jace’s Place’s kids who had been abandoned. Father and son had a long conversation about their issues, finally agreeing this was John’s attempt to bridge the gap after his divorce from Julian’s mother. Jules was a bit teary-eyed once it was agreed to start the set with his song. I explained why Burroughs would open the concert with a poem. John instantly got the Beat connection. Ringo laughed when John explained who Burroughs was. Jace signed ‘serendipity’ to me. Our spirits were up-beat while the mood descended into Dark Ages Gothic.
Yoko had prepared a special noodles dinner for us. I went down to the Dakota Concierge desk and arranged for a limo to transport our equipment and instruments to St Patrick’s and to collect Burroughs from the Chelsea. Feeling unnaturally friendly toward Jack’s cousins, I went to the Stone apartment and revealed the surprise Beatles reunion we were organizing. Having fallen off the A-list at Collegiate, they were inspired to let all their social-climbing friends know about the event. I didn’t promise Page Six but they were hopeful. I now called them Trent and Bent.
At the Cathedral I was in full-on performance mode, taking care of the equipment set-up and sound check. I asked Father Frank to orchestrate the seating, making sure the kids were up front and center; I asked that the Jewish kids be in the first pews. The youth group kids would host the Jace’s Places kids. I got to briefly say hello to Aaron and Paul.
Cardinal Cooke would have his own section where we could put PJ and his hipster friends. The Studio 54 crowd would be on the opposite side of the aisle. Trent and Bent’s friends were to be banished to the back pews. I was so happy that Father Frank was in charge now.
Bill Burroughs was sitting in the ready room with John and Ringo, regaling them with tales of drug escapades with Paul Bowles in 1950s Morocco .
“You should meet the Maharishi,” John told him, adult talk.
“Good evening. My name’s Tim Castle. Cardinal Cooke wants to welcome you to his Cathedral. He’ll speak about the Jace’s Place program for homeless youth. Jace was my best friend and his last words were “Protect the Kids.” The Cardinal will tell you how we’re doing. Cardinal Cooke.”
As the Cardinal spoke, I noticed for the first time that the Cathedral was filled. The word had gotten out. Jace was holding hands with the Cardinal, who didn’t really notice him, as he spoke about him. Once he finished, I introduced Burroughs.
“I know many of you are here for a semi Beatles reunion. We’re calling the band, The Beat, half of The Beatles. So, in the spirit of the Beat Generation, William Burroughs will introduce us to his latest poem, ‘Fear and the Monkey.’
Burroughs shuffled out, surprised by the 3000 strong audience. He expected a poetry reading to 20 or so. He cleared his throat and read his work.
‘Fear and the Monkey’
‘Turgid itch and the perfume of death
On a whispering south wind
A smell of abyss and of nothingness
Dark Angel of the wanderers howls through the loft
With sick smelling sleep Morning dream of a lost monkey
Born and muffled under old whimsies
With rose leaves in closed jars
Fear and the monkey
Sour taste of green fruit in the dawn
The air milky and spiced with the trade winds
White flesh was showing
His jeans were so old
Leg shadows by the sea
On the sky light of a little shop
On the odor of cheap wine in the sailors’ quarter
On the fountain sobbing in the police courtyards
On the statue of moldy stone
On the little boy whistling to stray dogs.
Wanderers cling to their fading home
A lost train whistle wan and muffled
In the loft night taste of water
Morning light on milky flesh
Turgid itch ghost hand
Sad as the death of monkeys
Thy father a falling star
Crystal bone into thin air
Dispersal and emptiness. ‘
Originally published as William S. Burroughs, “Fear and the Monkey,” Pearl 6 (Odense, Denmark: Fall/Winter 1978). Collected in The Burroughs File, City Lights, 1984. Republished by RealityStudio in August 2010.
Poetry hardly excites a rock n roll crowd, but I was going for mood. Time to bring out the band.
“Can’t get much more serious than poetry,” I joked. “Y’all ready fer some rock n roll? Let me introduce to you, the one and only Billy Shears. Oops, wrong band. We’re the Beat, Nina Bernstein on bass, ready to rock her father Leonard; Julian Lennon, lead guitarist, His dad, John, second lead guitar, Ringo Starr, on drums, and I’m just Tim, doing rhythm. You expect some Beatles, so here we go. For all those who have found a home at Jace’s Place, here’s a song John wrote for Jules when he felt he had been abandoned, ‘Hey Jules.’”
As we planned, I took the Paul role and sang the lyrics, while John and Julian traded licks on lead guitar. Once the chorus started, Julian started to slump under the emotion. Nina immediately came over and sang the ‘dah dah da dah’s’ with him, holding him on one side, while John held him the other side. The Baptist kids had been on their feet right from the start of the song, waving their arms in the air, hoping God was really watching. The song does go on for a long time. I knew to stop before Julian was a complete mess.
“Well, Julian knows he’s safe now. We want Jace’s Place to be a safe place for anyone, regardless of their parents, famous or not. So it’s time to party,” I screamed. “’Twist and Shout.’ John and Julian took the mic and sang the lyrics together.
The kids moved into the aisle and were doing their version of the Twist, the girls shaking it as the boys rotated themselves. We did a string of dance songs, ending with the Joe Cocker song that the Beatles had taken as their own, ‘A Little Help from My Friends.’ Ringo and I exchanged places as he sang with John, while I maintained a simple, steady beat on drums. We encouraged everyone to sing along, even if they ‘sang out of key.’
It was the song we ended with the last time. John ran over to where Yoko was sitting, bringing her to her feet and bowing to the audience. Julian was having none of it.
“But Da, we have a final song to do,” motioning him to come back to the band. Yoko looked confused, until Julian motioned for her to come up, too.
“What song are you talking about, son,” John pretended he was in the dark.
Julian played the leads to ‘Oh, Yoko,” singing to the Dragon Lady. John acted surprised but quickly joined him on the upbeat intro.
Not everyone understood the family dynamic. I picked up my guitar and Ringo went back to the drums after I whispered, ‘Gimme Shelter.’ He laughed that we were ending with their arch rivals, the Stones. I stepped up to the mic.
“Okay, not everyone can solve their family issues. That’s why there’s Jace’s Place, to keep the kids safe.
‘Oh, a storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Songwriters: KEITH RICHARDS, MICK JAGGER
© Abkco Music, Inc.
“That’s it folks. Thanks to Cardinal Cooke and all his assistants, not only for this concert, but for all the kids who now have a place off the mean streets.”
Father Frank and Cardinal Cooke greeted everyone as they left. I was observing my handiwork at the top of the steps. I was stunned to see my ex-boss Marty Scorsese approach me. I was at a loss for words.
“I thought you never wanted to see me again. The movie isn’t terrible”
“Yeah, well, my fate is in the hands of the studios, while you keep redeeming yourself. Now, the Beatles? I shoulda done a movie about them, not your teenage cover band.”
“I totally agree.”
“I see my underage interns are doing well.”
“Julian needed something to break the ice with his dad. Nina remains the chosen one.”
“What are we doing about my Jace movie?”
“Andy’s lined up the LA County Museum to sponsor a tour of his portraits. Can we hope that you’ll include our movie?”
“It’s my movie. Whether you understand that seems irrelevant. I’ll get together with Warhol and re-edit the original. Teenage faggots are not a selling point. You may not like what I do to clean it up.”
“You’re the genius. I trust you to sell the project. I’m off to Hollywood as a musical coordinator on a National Lampoon movie. I have no interest in being an actor.”
“Great. As long as you’re out there, I won’t worry about you sabotaging my work. How did you get the LA art crowd’s support?”
“Jack and I put on a little demonstration for those Jewish fascists.”
“I can see you ‘Sieg Heiling’ for them.”
“Just about,” I laughed.
While everyone else went out to eat, Gorey and I went back to his studio and composed the article with all his gothic drawings to go with my description of the concert. The Cathedral looked like a World War II bombed-out ruin, with the kids depicted as Dickens-era orphans being abused at a workhouse. Jules looked like Tiny Tim and his dad resembled Scrooge. Yoko came off as beatific, a guardian angel to her step-children. I liked the theme but felt we had to do some drawings of the band’s playing. Gorey relented, but what he did looked more like Christmas carolers than rockers. It was Victorian-era industrial revolution squalor, not American Disney utopia. He made me look like a gnome. Ringo had a bit of Dr Seuss’s Grinch to him. All in all, it was perfect for the coming Christmas season.
I slept at Gorey’s and we presented the article to PJ on Friday morning. He was conflicted on whether to publish it immediately or wait for the actual Christmas season. He started getting calls from other publications and the press. His hipster guests had spread the word of a Beatles reunion. I was ordered to do a journalistic article to accompany what Gorey and I had done, which PJ called fantasy. It would be published in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. He promised to edit my writing, thinking I wasn’t up to the Times’ standards. I felt slighted as he dismissed us in order to sell the exclusive to the newspapers.
“I’m splitting the commission between the two of you,” as he handed us each a check for $2500. “When I told the Times that the Post wanted the exclusives, they upped their offer.”
“I guess the Beatles still sell,” I joked.
“It’s better than if they had died. Don’t sell yourself short. You made it happen. The family human interest factor was killer.”
My only regret was I had planned to surprise Jack and the gang at Harvard for the football weekend. My Times deadline meant I would show up on Saturday, not Friday night at the Ritz. What a sacrifice. PJ had a lot of editing to do on the flowery article I gave to him as a first draft. I went along with all his edits, just to get out of there. It still meant working late into Friday night. Once it had been couriered to the Times, he took me to dinner. We went to Elaine’s, where I saw Woody Allen eating with Mia Farrow. Thinking about ‘Annie Hall’ excited me that I’d soon be back in Hollywood.
“Well, you passed the audition, Tim. The movie will pay you $200 a week to coordinate the sound track. Call the office tomorrow and arrange for an airline reservation. I hear you’re down to your last five dollars from what Kurt gave you for expenses.” He handed me several twenties.
“I don’t even have a bank account. I’ll use the check to open one in LA.”
“Somehow I’m not worried that you’ll make it out there.”
I almost sang our New York New York song but kept my mouth shut.
“I hope you’ll give me reports on how the shoot is going. They plan on starting after New Year’s.” PJ was sounding like Kurt, wanting me to be his spy.
“I already have my Miami lawyer to do the rights and contracts for the music. Kurt says the Chris Miller guy is demanding control over everything, including the music. I’ll have to get him to listen to me. I’m glad to chat with you regularly but I can’t be a spy on the production company’s set.”
PJ gave me a funny look and paused before responding. “Who gives you all this advice. You’re barely 18 and act like a movie mogul.”
“Jack’s dad treats me like his own son.”
“Yeah, he set me up with Milton Feldstein at Harvard. I have to write a business school case study on the production.”
“He told you to get a lawyer?”
“He said I may need one. The band already had Mike Antonio as our manager. His assistant Jay is a specialist on entertainment law. He agreed to do the legal work.”
“If you’re worried that Chris Miller or anyone in LA thinks you’re a spy, I wouldn’t mention you have a law firm on retainer. They think you’re just a kid with rock and roll experience.”
“Okay. Keep me in the loop.”
We went back to the food in front of us. I think he felt intimidated. I had a college football game to get ready for.