I sleep most of the Amtrak trip to Penn Station in New York City. Jack was insatiable last night, claiming he’s 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’ll get him off psychically while in the City, when phone sex is okay. He’s a needy little nerd. Maybe I’m starting to think like my dad and his holy sense of values. I can’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. Can I play the kid card, making them think I’m some rock genius? 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 decide to seek out William Burroughs. He’s so old, everyone’s a kid in his eyes. I knock on his room door. He must have the smallest room at the Chelsea. From the scuffling I can hear from outside, I know he’s home. After about five minutes he finally answers the door. A scruffy kid my age pushes past me on his way out.
“You old geezer,” I laugh 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 sing Mick Jagger for him.
I slide onto the bed with him, and jack him a few strokes. He gets him some. He looks 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’s all skin and bones, like all junkies.
“Have you been doin’ any writin’?” he asks.
“Just band songs. My Harvard teachers rate me as a C- writer.”
“That’s hopeful. They’re generally clueless.”
After I perform a spoken word ‘False Gods’, Burroughs warns 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 laugh. I left him so he could get high alone. I’m not impressed that he is a Harvard grad.
I couldn’t help myself and go alone to Max’s, grabbing a burger and fries in the front room. I wander upstairs to see if anything is going on. The two gay guys we had chatted up in the Spring are seated by themselves, so I sit down with them.
“Remember me?” I joke.
“False God”, they both exclaim.
“Monty and Paul,” I remember 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 complains.
“Let’s get outta heah. I got a skuzzy room at the Chelsea.”
“Slumming. We love it,” they cry as we dash away from the paparazzi.
“You still wake up like you’re in the country,” Monte sleepily complains when I return to them wrapped up with each other in my bed.
“Yeah. I should be milkin’ the cows by now.” I plop down in between them with our breakfasts.
Soon I’m out the door for my first day of interviewing with The National Lampoon. The guys go back to sleep. I take the subway to Avenue of Americas in Midtown. Publishing companies are located deep in the heart of Corporate New York. Everyone is in suits and dull colored raincoats. Walking into the Lampoon’s reception area, I’m relieved to see it isn’t as corporate as elsewhere in Midtown. Asking for PJ, I wait until the busy Managing Editor has time for me. There isn’t even an assistant to get me water or a coffee. My reputation is strictly as a Harvard freshman with a vague music connection. The receptionist recognizes me from the NY Post she’s 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 confuses her, but she still smiles 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 stare at him. After a pregnant pause when I fail to defend myself, he goes 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 the Hillbilly Brothers, makin’ babies with each another.”
“Come around with me and observe how I do my job.” He gets up and I follow him into the main staff area. It’s all desks with typewriters and constant phone ringing. Just like the Harvard Lampoon, just busier. I keep my mouth shut as he quizzes his staff on the status of their individual projects. At noon, there’s a general staff meeting. I’m introduced as a possible intern from Harvard. The general looks of superiority from the staff makes me want to burst their bubbles. I know to attach myself to PJ in order to avoid unpaid slaving as an intern.
“What do you want for lunch?” I ask him once we return 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 is and get eight additional orders.
“I’ll get you what PJ gets,” I hold them off, barely collecting twenty bucks, hardly enough. Welcome to New York. A hustle here, a hustle there.
When I get back, PJ has 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 go around distributing sandwiches and collecting from each staffer the additional amount I had to pay for myself. Most grudgingly pay up.
“Ya think I’m some rich kid, able to pay fer yer lunch?” is my line to shame them into paying up. Maybe they expect me to be cow into silently accepting their cheap ways. I tell the ones who originally paid properly to check with me each morning before I go to get PJ’s lunch. The next day, several of the chinsters demand I take their orders as well. I’m not there to make friends and refuse. PJ is watching from his office when one jerk starts 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 calls Kurt in Cambridge to complain about how I was poorly trained as an intern . Not all Harvard graduates are gentlemen.
“No better place to stay than this Bowery flea bag?” I ask.
“We want to go out with you tonight.”
“I thought you always went to discos.”
“Yeah. Let’s go to Studio 54,” Paul enthuses.
I didn’t mind disco, but it isn’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 suggest.
“Andy Warhol? He often is at Studio 54,” Monte notes.
“Well, I need to be more than a face in the crowd. So far, I get no respect at work.”
“You work?” They obviously don’t.
“Yeah. I’m here trying to get promoted to work in Hollywood.”
“And give up all this luxury,” as I point out the shabby hotel room.
“We just want to be with you. We worship you, False God,” they both fall to their knees.
I drag them outside. We walked through Union Square to The Factory.
“How y’all doin’, Blair? Still missin’ yer black Mammy?” I greet Andy’s assistant.
He jumps up and hugs me. “Tim.” He looks 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 throws up his hands, used to my uncontrollable ways. Monte and Paul follow 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 holds up his hands and shakes his head. He introduces John Landis.
Landis begins, “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 knew he was to direct ‘Animal House’ but didn’t worry about it. It is the Dartmouth guy Chris Miller I’m 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” Andy asks.
“Andy, this is Monte and Paul. They live with me at the Chelsea.
Landis gets 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’s a mixed review. Marty said I’d never work in movies again.
“All we did is find the Bernstein song and get Liza to fly to Hollywood and debut it there. The movie will make a profit.”
“Barely,” Landis knows.
“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 scowls, but we shake hands. The business deal is done. I wondered what PJ O’Rourke will say. Best to let him make his own decisions. I have to be an intern slave for at least a week.
I want to celebrate my first real movie job but am embarrassed I have only had fifty bucks to my name. I regret not being quite family without a Stone BankAmericard. I suggest Max’s, hoping someone will pay. Am I really going to suck up to Landis? It’s hard being 18 all the time. I figure they’ll laugh if I offer to pay and just go along with the crowd.
Once we walk in, Andy leading me by the hand, the paparazzi get their nightly shots. A Village Voice reporter comes over and interview Landis and Andy. He ask who I am.
“Tim’s my protégée,” Andy announce. “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 shake hands for the photographers, with Andy smiling in the background, like a don from ‘The Godfather’. The reporter has no clue who I am, so I lie, telling him I’m Tim Matheson, the young star of ‘Animal House.’ I don’t want PJ finding out I’ve gone over his head to get hired for the position he was interviewing me for. Andy has done me a favor by getting Landis to meet me; he must have known I would show up at his offices. I still need PJ to be my NY ally, thinking he has 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 shrug.
“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 has the Post in his hand when I knock 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 doesn’t seem mad that I have 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 is 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 go around and took orders from the guys who didn’t tried to cheat me on Monday. I say goodbye, as my internship is over.
“Did we hire you?”
“It’s still a work in progress.”
“PJ says you’re an illustrator?” I ask 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 laughs. 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 enthuse.
“Tell me about the article.”
I hadn’t really thought it through but figure I can lure John Lennon and Yoko Ono to St Patrick’s for another performance of the Dakota band. It will let me observe how the Jace’s Place project is proceeding without being an outsider. When I explain it to Gorey, his eyes light up.
“You do know who the Beatles are?” I venture 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 lets me in, assuming I’m staying there. He does ask who the elderly guest is, signing him into the visitor log. We immediately go to 407 to recruit Jules and Nina in our plot to do another show. Gorey laughs as Nina let us into the pot smoke-filled single room apartment. Jules is 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’s 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 lays back, blindly searching for his bong, which lays just outside his reach. Nina just observes. I pick up the bong and put it in his hands.
We walk down to the Lennon-Ono apartment on the third floor. I knock and heard, in a North English accent, “Com’n in. Not locked.” John trusts the Dakota staff to keep him safe. He is sitting with Yoko, who has baby Sean on her lap. Familial bliss.
“Tim,” I answer. “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 agrees. “Are you some soul saver type.”
Yoko perks up when she hears 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 loves 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 gets up, giving Sean to his father, and leads Gorey to her work space.
John looks at the chubby, whiny baby for a second. He hands him to me, calling for the nanny to fetch Sean. After the nanny takes him away, Ringo appear, happy to have avoided the domestic bliss of a screaming baby.
“Come meet Julian’s guitar teacher,” I’m 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 laugh.
“I’ll play guitar with Jules and we can call it the Beat, half the Beatles,” John jokes.
My plot is 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 look at each other, perhaps remembering how it was when they were teens.
I go for clincher, “How about you get up with Jules and sing ‘Oh, Yoko,’ to her at the end of the show.
Ringo laughs 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 go for the kill.
“We’ll see. You 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 are back. Even if it was just The Beat.
“Let’s go up to 407 and invade pot city,” I suggest. “We can jam. You decide if we’re up to your standards, Starkey.” I use Ringo’s real name.
“Call me Rich, mate.”
“Better than Ring,” I joke.
He gives me a funny look. He’s the oldest Beatle but seems to have retained his youthful exuberance better, even with a beard. Later, I have to call him Sir Richard. Now, I’m having fun.
Edward stays with Yoko, doing sketches for her. She’s amazed how quickly they get done. He’s following her creative ideas. Another collaboration of 60’s artists, the hippie generation. They know how to share.
We walk into the stoner pad, causing a commotion as bongs, pipes, roaches and baggies become hastily invisible. We say nothing.
“Com’n, Jules. We need a little smoke to get us in the mood to jam. You’re being replaced on drums,” I indicated that Ringo is the new drummer. Ringo inspects Jules’ basic Pearl set, smiling like Elton had done upon discovering the standup piano in Hollywood – a trip down memory lane. Ringo rearranges the set-up. Soon we’re ready to go.
“You want me to do a song with you?” John asks his son, whose eyes lost that stoned look generally sports. “What song do you want to do?”
“How about this one, it’s a Ringo hit?” John starts in on ‘Octopus’ Garden.”
Jules isn’t clueless, jumping in at the intro. I play rhythm, happy to be second fiddle, with Nina on bass. John and Julian sings to each other. Ringo keeps the drumming simple. Everyone is smiling.
“I knew you had talent,” John compliments Ringo.
Everyone nod. We jam on some of the Dakota songs. After Ringo agrees he’ll play pro bono for the church group, I suggest we play the hit song Nina has written. It’s been number 1 all summer on the Broadway hit parade.
“It’s not really rock n roll,” Jules explains.
“Yeah, it’s jazz. Maybe there’s a genetic reason Nina wrote it.
I start 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 laugh, but we play it all the way through as a trio.
Ringo sings his cover of ‘You’re 16’, pulling out a kazoo. I have my harmonica to jam together.
We finish with Ringo singing rockabilly to ‘Honey Don’t.’
It’s time to rescue Gorey from the Dragon Lady. It turns out they collaborated on several works. Yoko’s painstaking process gets washed away by the speed of Gorey’s sketching. He promises to return and continue their collaboration.
“That was fun,” he announces 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 laugh. I figured he’s gay since he has no family. Freedom to be what you are 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 is 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 chortle, 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 grimaces but refrains from correcting 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. Then he came back as a ghost. He thinks I made it happen because I coan’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.”
We both laugh.
After our talk, I rejoin Gorey and Father Frank. They are enjoying a glass of wine for lunch. As the two of us walk back to the Lampoon offices, we talk about the upcoming show. With Gorey’s surrealistic black and white drawings, I can write a review of the show that captures its ephemeral nature. Publishing it in the Lampoon will make it more fantasy than reality. The long walk inspires our imaginations.
PJ is incredulous when I describe what is planned. He wanted to pay me a $1500 retainer for exclusive rights. I make him pay it to Gorey and suggest he get a raise, referencing what the Rolling Stone is paying Ralph Stedman for his Gonzo journalism drawings.
“You pull this off and you’ll get a thousand a week,” he tells Gorey.’
I guess I passed the audition. I swear everyone to secrecy. Gorey is ecstatic with his $1500. He goes out and buys a white raincoat to replace the dreary, grimy one he’s worn for too many years.
Feeling flush, I go to Trash & Vaudeville at St Mark’s Place and buy a full-on black outfit, including a black Levi’s jacket, my cowboy roots showing. To top it off, I buy black Beatles boots with heels. I look and feel ten feet tall. The clerk throws in several black tees with T&V on the front. Luckily they don’t carry black underwear. I can’t betray Felix by showing up on Page Six in black briefs. I’ll never understand underwear fetishers.
I call Jack. He wants me to show up for the football in Cambridge that weekend. It seems silly when things are going so well here. I wanted to be on my way to LA by then. He throws a fit. So much for phone sex. Anyway, I really shouldn’t be getting off in the public phone booth at the Chelsea. I decide to show up for football as a surprise. He needs to get over himself and his possessive ways. I fail to mention my new roommates, Monte and Paul. They jump up and greet me when I get to my room. Jealousy sex is great. I pushed any guilt about Jack out of mind. Blair has told me that Andy will be at Studio 54 that night. After group sex, we sleep until it’s time to hit the clubs, sometime after midnight.
Andy is in the VIP section, waving us over. He looks at my all black outfit, noting I look morbid. I tell him that I’m working with Edward Gorey.
“That totally explains it. Isn’t he a bit old for you?”
Figuring that Andy is testing me, I slide next to him and we make out until flashbulbs warn us we’re 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 kiss him to keep everything even. His hard-on tells me I’m out of control again. Well, I’m celebrating my hiring by the National Lampoon.
Monte and Paul takes the brunt of my testosterone driven exuberance with mad crazy fucking back at the Chelsea. I don’t get into the office until noon. Someone else has taken the Automat orders for lunch. I’m famished from not eating for 24 hours. PJ shares his sandwich.
“Your probation period has turned out much differently than I expected,” he summarizes 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 laugh. “I’m still hungry. Let’s go get another sandwich to split,” he suggests.
I grabbed Gorey as we walk out, so we could go to the Dakota rehearsal after lunch. I don’t dare drag PJ,. I knew the chemistry we now had in the Beat/Dakota band was too exceptional to risk upsetting. I do want Gorey to be an unspoken presence, so he can capture the whole atmosphere of Dakota with his Goth sensibility.
Rehearsal is an unending jam. I start on rhythm guitar, channeling my inner George, while Jules and his dad fight it out for leads. Nina’s on bass, easily working with Ringo’s beat and tempo. I explain my populist performance aesthetic: ask for requests. Everyone has to play every pop song from memory. When Julian is better at it than his dad, he explains that he has Jace in his heart to show him the way. John tries as hard as he can to accept Jace without success. Julian is frustrated and pulls out the bong. Father and son reunion. Jace is now an unofficial half-Beatle. Ringo has an unending knowledge of 50’s rock songs. We quickly adapted into a dance/sock-hop cover band.
Finally, I exasperatedly complain, “Can’t we at least play one Beatles song?”
“Those greedy bastards won’t let anyone else play their songs,” John explains how Paul’s new wife’s father has locked up the Beatles legacy.
“How about ‘A Little Help from my Friends?” Julian suggests.
“That’s a Joe Cocker song,” I play smarty pants.
We end 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 is 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 explains.
“Why are they listening to a dead kid?”
“Jesus,” John moans.
“See. Even you listen,” Jules snarks.
“Don’t be putting words inta me mouth,” John shakes his head.
Ringo hits 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 can’t help himself from shaking it. He and Julian end up playing back to back, collapsing into each other’s arms at the ending. I can’t help myself and started into “A Whole Lotta of Shakin’
Arguments about Church and Country are lost in the excitement of old-time rock.
“Stop,” John yells. “We’ll save this for tomorrow’s show for the angels with dirty faces.”
Gorey had gone to find Yoko. We find them in her work space, collaborating on more Gothic prints. Edward sketches a scary scene and Yoko uses paint to add depth and color. The scene they depict is a young girl falling down a steep staircase. Nina loves it.
I use 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 know all about the performance, Jace having told their hearts what was up. I could feel their yearning to be with me.
“Tomorrow,” I answer their unspoken question. “We’ll make time to catch up.”
I shiver thinking they were the same age as Tommy. Would I feel sexual from their trusting love? Also, I need them as ambassadors to the youth groups. At 18, I really am an adult now, in college and everything.
Gorey is reveling in the freedom to roam about the Cathedral. It is so Gothic. I want his illustrations to catch the whole atmosphere. Everything is set for the next day’s youth group performance. Father Frank promises to include the Black kids from Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist. I remembered how cavernous St Patrick’s is with seating for 3,000. I tell 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 this performance. The ‘word’ will get out about a half-Beatles reunion. Ringo has been showing up on McCartney’s Wings tour, jumping on stage for their encores. Getting back together with John is special. We have to make sure the music is special. It’s The Beat; it has to be special.
Gorey asks me to come by his studio in the East Village. He is a big guy, roly poly, with a mustache. Lennon referred to him as the ‘walrus. He and I do an impromptu version for Yoko when she and Edward are working in her studio space.
“’You are the eggman’,” John tells her when we’re done. Edward is oblivious. I feel ridiculous that my only adult friends in the City are so old. I don’t consider Monte and Paul adults. Maybe I really am 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 states he has been there since after World War II. I insist he show me all the prints and actual canvases he is working on. He’s more than an illustrator, with a complete artistic aesthetic and sensibility. He glows from my praise. He’s a successful artist but suffers from the critics’ label of being ‘middlebrow.’ There is a sketch of a slug reclining on a couch that strikes me as the perfect metaphor for Julian’s pothead attitude.
I start laughing and hug Edward. It surprises him at first. He relaxes and allowed me to show my affection. In WASP pose, he remains aloof.
“You know I’m gay, right?” I give him permission.
“Everyone knows, Tim.”
“You don’t mind me being physical?”
“It’s quite nice,” he admits but made no moves of his own.
“Let’s go out and eat,” he suggests.
“Um, I really can’t afford it.” I’m 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’m in teen heaven, finishing off a large pepperoni and onion while Edward has a Reuben sandwich, half of which I eat att his suggestion, the New York favorite. He just orders another Reuben as takeout for later.
The Reuben is pretty good. I’d never had corned beef before. The sauerkraut is really sour, perfect for German Nazis, I joke.
He doesn’t find that funny, a World War II vet. I don’t tell him my Armand Hammer story.
Back at his apartment I perform the whole ‘Cabaret’ set we had done with Liza and Elton. He has an old standup piano. Jace show 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 drink sherry which I find way too sweet. It creeps up on you. I wake up tucked next to him on his couch. He has blanket on me. He’s been a perfect gentleman. Maybe he’s 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 has done better than Burroughs, escaping SRO hell as a senior citizen.
I excuse myself and race back to the Chelsea, knowing Monte and Paul will be going out clubbing soon. They aren’t surprised I had fallen asleep after performing.
Off we goto Studio 54. I’ve only been there once but already have VIP status. The three of us go to the head of the line at the door. We sit at Andy’s table behind the velvet chain, even though Andy is not there. Soon Monte and Paul’s friends join us. I tell the bar waitress that Andy is paying. I promised myself to pay him back.
Soon I regale our group about the Beat’s performance the next night. Most feigned fear of attending Church. The hint of a Beatles reunion creates a frenzy of gossip. I know we’ll have no trouble filling the empty Cathedral’s pews. I’m sure PJ will have his own entourage. The three of us drink champagne and dance the night away. I fall asleep once we’re back at the Chelsea. That’s twice in one night. It doesn’t slow Monte and Paul down. I’m not sure that I participated or it was just another teenager’s wet dream. There is hot water for the shower in the morning, not an everyday occurrence. My country ways are fading fast as I don’t wake up until 10 am. Arriving at the Lampoon offices at noon is not considered decadent in the City where the clubs stay busy until 4 am or later. I brief PJ on the plans for the evening performance. He lets me know to expect him and his friends. I promise reserved seating for my boss. Edward laughs when I explain how the later hours of my evening had gone. He considers clubbing a lost phase of his youth. He shows me the drawings he’s already done from his visits to the Cathedral and the Dakota. It captures the atmosphere of our setting. It will be my job to capture the narrative. PJ expects a scoop on a Beatles reunion. I want to highlight the Jace’s Place kids’ plight. Thinking how we explained writing exposition papers to Minehan (CAST – character, action, setting and theme), I need to establish a theme for the night. Looking at Gorey’s drawings, I see a cross between Greek tragedy (Julian’s oedipus conflict) and medieval Goth horror (in the drawings). I feel so complex.
After a lunch run to the Automat for PJ and my favorite staffers, Edward and I plan to proceed to the Dakota for a final rehearsal of The Beat band. The name strikes me as a perfect chance to involve my favorite Beat writer, Bill Burroughs. It’s early, so we make a detour to the Chelsea. After banging on his door for five minutes, Burroughs appears, disheveled and grumpy. He and Gorey hit it off right away, confirming my Goth theme for the night.
“I’m performing tonight,” I tell 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 promise to have a limo pick him up at 6:30. The Youth Group starts at 7:30, an ungodly time for NYC scenesters.
Rehearsal goes well. We play mostly early 60’s dance songs, like ‘Twist and Shout,’ which is a song the early Beatles covered. Also, ‘Roll over Beethoven’, ‘Long Tall Sally,’ ‘Rock and Roll Music,’ and ‘Kansas City.’ We also do Elvis’s ‘I got a Woman’ to be ready for an encore. John insists 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 have 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 is a bit teary-eyed once it’s agreed to start the set with his song. I explain why Burroughs will open the concert with a poem. John instantly gets the Beat connection. Ringo laughs when John explains who Burroughs is. Jace signed ‘serendipity’ to me. Our spirits are up-beat while the mood descended into Dark Ages Goth.
Yoko prepares a special noodles dinner for us. I go down to the Dakota Concierge desk and arrange 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 go to the Stone apartment and reveal the surprise Beatles reunion we’re organizing. Having fallen off the A-list at Collegiate, they are inspired to let all their social-climbing friends know about the event. I don’t promise Page Six but they’re hopeful. I now called them Trent and Bent.
At the Cathedral I’m in full-on performance mode, taking care of the equipment set-up and sound check. I ask Father Frank to orchestrate the seating, making sure the kids are up front and center; I ask that the Jewish kids be in the first pews. The youth group kids can host the Jace’s Places kids. I get to briefly say hello to Aaron and Paul.
Cardinal Cooke will have his own section where we could put PJ and his hipster friends. The Studio 54 crowd will be on the opposite side of the aisle. Trent and Bent’s friends are to be banished to the back pews. I’m so happy that Father Frank is in charge now.
Bill Burroughs is 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 tells 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 speaks, I noticed for the first time that the Cathedral is filled. The word has gotten out. Jace is holding hands with the Cardinal, who doesn’t notice him, as he spoke about him. Once he finishes, I introduce 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 shuffles out, surprised by the 3000 strong audience. He expected a poetry reading to 20 or so. He clears his throat and reads 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’m going for effect. Time to bring out the band.
“Can’t get much more serious than poetry,” I joke. “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 take the Paul role and sing the lyrics, while John and Julian trade licks on lead guitar. Once the chorus starts, Julian starts to slump under the emotion. Nina immediately comes over and sings the ‘dah dah da dah’s’ with him, holding him on one side, while John holds him the other side. The Baptist kids are on their feet right from the start of the song, waving their arms in the air, hoping God is really watching. The song does go on for a long time. I know to stop before Julian is 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 scream. “’Twist and Shout.’ John and Julian take the mic and sing the lyrics together.
The kids move into the aisle and are doing their version of the Twist, the girls shaking it as the boys rotate themselves. We do a string of dance songs, ending with the Joe Cocker song that the Beatles took as their own, ‘A Little Help from My Friends.’ Ringo and I exchange places as he sings with John, while I maintain a simple, steady beat on drums. We encourage everyone to sing along, even if they ‘sang out of key.’
It’s the song we ended with the last time. John runs over to where Yoko is sitting, bringing her to her feet and bowing to the audience. Julian is having none of it.
“But Da, we have a final song to do,” motioning him to come back to the band. Yoko looks confused, until Julian motions for her to come up, too.
“What song are you talking about, son,” John pretends he was in the dark.
Julian plays the leads to ‘Oh, Yoko,” singing to the Dragon Lady. John acts surprised but quickly joins him on the upbeat intro.
Not everyone understands the family dynamic. I pick up my guitar and Ringo gets back on the drums after I whisper, ‘Gimme Shelter.’ He laughs that we’re ending with their arch rivals, the Stones. I step 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 greet everyone as they left. I’m observing my handiwork at the top of the steps. I’m shocked to see my ex-boss Marty Scorsese approach me. I’m 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 laugh.
While everyone else goes out to eat, Gorey and I go back to his studio and compose the article with all his gothic drawings to go with my description of the concert. The Cathedral looks like a World War II bombed-out ruin, with the kids depicted as Dickens-era orphans being abused at a workhouse. Jules looks like Tiny Tim and his dad resembled Scrooge. Yoko came off as beatific, a guardian angel to her step-children. I like the theme but feel we have to do some drawings of the band playing. Gorey relents, but what he does looks more like Christmas carolers than rockers. It is Victorian-era industrial revolution squalor, not American Disney utopia. He makes me look like a gnome. Ringo has a bit of Dr Seuss’s Grinch to him. All in all, it is perfect for the coming Christmas season.
I sleep at Gorey’s and we present the article to PJ on Friday morning. He is conflicted on whether to publish it immediately or wait for the actual Christmas season. He starts getting calls from other publications and the press. His hipster guests spread the word of a Beatles reunion. I’m ordered to do a journalistic article to accompany what Gorey and I have done, which PJ calls fantasy. It will be published in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. He promises to edit my writing, thinking I’m not up to the Times’ standards. I feel slighted as he dismisses us in order to sell the exclusive to the newspapers.
“I’m splitting the commission between the two of you,” as he hands us each a check for $2500. “When I told the Times that the Post wants the exclusives, they upped their offer.”
“I guess the Beatles still sell,” I joke.
“It’s better than if they died. Don’t sell yourself short. You made it happen. The family human interest factor is killer.”
My only regret is I had planned to surprise Jack and the gang at Harvard for the football weekend. My Times deadline meant I’ll show up on Saturday, not Friday night at the Ritz. What a sacrifice. PJ has a lot of editing to do on the flowery article I give to him as a first draft. I go along with all his edits, just to get out of there. It still means working late into Friday night. Once it had been couriered to the Times, he takes me to dinner. We go to Elaine’s, where I saw Woody Allen eating with either Mia Farrow or a real young asian girl. Thinking about ‘Annie Hall’ excites me knowing I’ll 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 hands 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 sing our New York New York song but keep 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 is 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 gives me a funny look and pauses 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.”
“That’s me, just a kid in a band.”
“Okay. Keep me in the loop.”