Laying on my bed at the Canterbury, I couldn’t sleep. I replayed the complete sexcapade with Jake, over and over. Each time I shook and shuddered, remembering the sexual vibrations recorded by my brain.
“Fuck it,” I jumped up. It was Tuesday night, 10 pm – punk night at the Starwood was just getting going. I ran to Nicky and Alice’s room, banging on the door.
Alice opened the door. Seeing me wild-eyed and disheveled from the shower, she stepped back. “What’s wrong with you. Are you high on speed or something?”
“No. No. Let’s go to the Starwood.” I ordered. “It’s punk night.”
“Just art fags tonight,” Nicky was not interested. “The Berlin Brats.”
“Who cares. I can’t sleep. We’ll hang out at Oki Dog if it’s lame.”
“Why not. Oki Yoki owes me anyway.”
I had left the top down. Nicky warned me again that I was daring someone to steal the Wreck. I started to cry.
“I’m not on drugs, just tired from work and overwrought from everything else. I have to go back to college this weekend.”
“Why?” Nicky was incredulous. “You already paid for the whole month.”
“I havta pass my finals, and there’s a Christmas pageant at Church.”
“You still in high school?”
“No. I’m 18 and in college.”
We all sang Alice Cooper’s ’18’. I let Nicky drive the Wreck. Running down the road with the top down and shouting the lyrics. It calmed me down some more.
‘Took eighteen years to get this far
Don’t always know what I’m talking about
Feels like I’m in the middle of doubt
Eighteen, I get confused everyday
Eighteen, I just don’t know what to say
Eighteen, I gotta get way’
Songwriters: ALICE COOPER, DENNIS DUNAWAY, GLEN BUXTON, MICHAEL BRUCE, NEAL A SMITH
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
We pulled into the Starwood, leaving the Wreck in the upper corner of the parking lot. Nicky knew how to take charge. We walked past the bouncer, getting in and out stamps from the door dude. As usual we split up; Nicky and Alice going upstairs to hobnob; I went into the disco to find Tony and Jimmy. I also needed to see OC Jim for directions to the Crowd’s backyard party in Newport on Saturday. I figured I have to look for him, as he usually stayed out-of-the-way, hating everything and everyone. I didn’t see Tony or Jimmy in the disco room. Several of Joan Jett’s silent posse approached me.
“Can you get Rodney to play the Runaways?” they begged.
None of them were nubile enough to get Rodney’s attention. I spotted Gerber dancing with some kid at least three years younger than me. She was a hottie in Rodney’s eyes. I dragged her away.
“You should avoid jail bait,” I told her.
I instantly started vibrating again. Oh, No!
Apparently my cat murmurs were a turn-on. She remembered how I left her wanting more after we humped in the corner of the Whiskey on Sunday.
I dragged her up to Rodney’s booth, telling her to get him to play the Runaways. He made her sit on his lap. He was about the same size as she was – sex dwarfs. I escaped to join the Joan groupies. When ‘Cherry Bomb’ came over the speakers, they all danced with me, pointing at me whenever the firecracker reference came up.
Still the Cracker from Alaska. At least I wasn’t turned on by fat girls in leather. My shaking calmed down.
“You’re vibrating,” Jimmy noted after putting a hand on my shoulder.
“Yeah. I can’t stop. It’s the second time it’s happened.”
“Same guy?” Tony asked.
“Yeah,” I confessed.
“I bet it’s that old guy from the Paradise,” Tony and Jimmy discussed my addiction.
We’d finished the joint. I didn’t stop vibrating. My friends kept rubbing up against me and purring. I jumped up and all three of us burst into the band room upstairs. Nicky was showing the Berlin Brats’ drummer some fancy drum rolls. Alice had the faggy members under her thumb. Rick said he was the leader. I told them I wanted to do their introduction.
“Can you play ‘Welkommen’ from Cabaret?” I asked.
“We play rock n roll,” Rick bragged. I wondered.
“Well, just play random chords while I recite the lyrics. It’s in German, French and English.”
“Wow,” Rick was impressed I could speak three languages.
“It’s just a Broadway song.”
“Cool, dude,” Rick didn’t have much to say.
“What’s the name of your first song?”
“The truth is out.”
“Then let’s go,” I ordered them to descend to the stage below. They all had long hair. Nicky had warned me they were arty farts.
We waited backstage. The manager came up and asked who I was.
“I’m going to introduce the band.”
“Should I introduce you?” assuming I needed my moment of punk fame.
“Oh,” thinking he wasn’t one of everyone.
“Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
Fremder, étranger, stranger
Glücklich zu sehen,
Je suis enchanté,
Happy to see you,
Bleibe, reste, stay.
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
I’m Cabaret, Au Cabaret, To Cabaret!
Meine Damen und Herren
Mes dames et Messieurs
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Guten Abend! Bon Soir! Good Evening!
Wie geht’s? Comment sa va?
Do you feel good?
Ich bin eur confrencier!
Je suis votre compère,
I am your host!
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
Leave your troubles outside.
So life is disappointing, forget it!
In here life is beautiful.
The girls are beautiful.
Even the orchestra is beautiful.
“We know,” some wise ass yelled. I threw down the mic and jumped into the pit. My harasser tried to melt into the scattering crowd. I had him by a headlock and whispered, “Thrash around as I pretend to punch you.”
He started squirming as I pulled several punches to his head, lifting his feet off the ground. He was skinny, but his friends jumped in to save him, unaware of our act. I beat a swift retreat out the door. They chased me all the way to the Wreck, where I stood my ground from the open back seat. The skinny guy told his friends to cool it.
“It was all an act.”
I pulled out a joint and shared. My vibrating had stopped. All I needed was to be on stage. My attention addiction had reared its ugly head. All four of us were in the back seat, passing the joint around.
“Where are you guys from?” I asked.
“The beach,” they all answered.
Do you know Jim from The Crowd? He told me they’re playing a party this Saturday. I wanna go.”
“Yeah. In Newport Beach. The owner’s a dick.”
“Everyone in Orange County’s a dick,” I repeated Jim’s assessment. “Can I get directions. I’ll bring my Hollywood friends. Everyone’s cool here.”
“You’re not. You tried to beat up our friend.”
“Are you a fag or something.”
“I’m something alright, something else.”
“Well, your weeds cool. Ennis give ‘im a flyer. It has directions,” the leader ordered the kid I had attacked
“Thanks. We’re missing the band,” I observed, wanting to go back inside.
“We’ve seen them before. They suck.”
“What do you like?”
“English punk,” they all agreed.
I started singing the Sham 69 song I’d learned from OC Mark
‘If the kids,,, are united,,, they can never,,, be divided.’
They all knew that one. We kept repeating the chorus. Nobody knew the words to the verses.
“You sing good,” the leader admitted. He was bigger than the rest, an obvious leadership quality.
“I like that you all stick up for each other.”
“We have to. The surfers hate us and beat us up.”
“At least in Hollywood, everyone’s different.”
“The fags are always trying to pick us up.”
“On Santa Monica. We can go there after the show, if you want.”
“Santa Monica’s all fags. You are a fag, huh?”
“It’s a place to hang out and see what it’s like to survive on the streets. You can watch from Astro Burger across the street, if you’re afraid of fags.”
“They just bother me.”
“What’s your name. I’m Tim.”
“Cool. I’m Eddie. We’re all from LaMirada.”
“I heard they got gangs there.”
“Yeah. We call ourselves LMP, LaMirada Punks.”
“You have a band?”
“Naw. Why bother? We just like to go to shows. When we cut our hair, the school freaked out and called us gangsters. The real gangs started attacking us. I got expelled for fighting, so all my friends ditch. Now we just deal weed, so I guess we really are a gang. Your weed’s pretty good. Can we score some.”
“I’ll introduce you to Jimmy. He’s my source.”
“You rich? You’re pretty generous with the bud.”
“Naw. I work. That’s how I can afford this luxury car,” I pointed to the Wreck.”
“Wanna go look for Jimmy?”
“Got another joint?”
I pulled one out and we got totally baked. They were all high schoolers. I felt like Robby turning on the junior high crowd.
We found Jimmy. I left them to discuss their mutual business interests. Alice was sitting upstairs by herself.
“Hola chica. Donde tu novio?”
“Did you see me on stage?”
“Yeah. For ten seconds. Then you jumped into the crowd, beat up a kid younger than you and got chased out the door by his friends. Was this your Hollywood debut?”
“The band wasn’t impressed.”
“How was the band?”
“They droned on and on.”
“I made friends with the kids who chased me. They’re from LaMirada.”
“Hey. Eastside. That’s my turf.”
“They said it was Orange County.”
“Yeah. But it’s Mexicano territory. I wanna meet ‘em.”
We wandered back to the disco, where the LMPs were standing by themselves, hating enemy disco dancing.
“Not into disco?” I kidded.
“This is Alice. She’s in a band and is from East LA.”
“Montebello,” she corrected.
Eddie’s eyes lit up. “You’re Alice Bag.”
“You’ve heard of our band?”
“When will they let you play here?” he asked.
“Can you come and play a party in LaMirada.”
“Sure. But the police will be there in 60 seconds flat.”
“Why don’t we all go to the party in Newport on Saturday,” I suggested.
The boys looked doubtful, always hating anything OC.
Alice was in. “Yeah, the cops won’t be so quick to respond. There’s bigger backyards in Newport.”
I knew she wanted to play anywhere at anytime.
“I know the Crowd’s singer. I’ll get him to let you play.”
I thought how poor kids never have any place to play, to get started. No wonder they didn’t think they could be in a band. Rich kids had garages and backyards for parties. I thought how privileged my band was to have Michael’s music room. I remembered Joe/Jose, the Cuban Peter Frampton-lookalike, who wanted to be in our band but whose parents wouldn’t let him join.
Plans were made at the disco to invade the Beach. Nicky showed up, asking Alice why she was at the disco. After he heard our plans, he promised to get the Weirdos to show up. He insisted they had to get paid. I promised to pay them $100 if they finished their set. I doubted John Denney would lower himself to play a party at the beach. The LMPs were all excited to be included. They promised to start their own band. I suggested they contact OC Mark from Fullerton, the Sham 69 fan, who had sung with us at Oki Dog. It got them even more excited to learn that you could play at Oki Dog.
“But we hate Fullerton,” was the typical response about OC Mark.
We’d missed the final live band and everyone piled into the Wreck or into Tony’s Datsun and headed to Santa Monica Blvd. The LMPs enjoyed riding in the back of the Wreck. When we pulled into Oki Dog, they were intimidated by the street cruising in front. We stayed in the parking lot, with joints to dull their sensitivities to gay prostitution. Oki Yoki told me not to perform that night as it was business as usual and he didn’t want the police returning. He agreed to provide free Oki Dogs to the crew, who were overwhelmed and suspicious from everyone being so nice. Nicky used the pay phone to call John Denney, convincing him to play at the Newport party. My hundred-dollar offer was impossible to refuse. I was the godfather of punk. Nicky’s tight trousers made him the object of several cruisers who stopped and shouted out how much they would pay for his dick. He flashed his middle finger and ignored their pleas. Alice was laughing at him. She called her bassist, Patricia, who promised to line up the other Bags for Saturday. I loved being a promoter. It was 2 am when the action peaked, as the bars closed. By 3 am it was dead. The LMPs said they had to wait for bus service to start-up in order to get home.
“You take the bus to Hollywood?” I’d forgotten my days of using Joey’s bus pass to get around.
“Better than walking.”
“You can crash at my place,” I offered. They looked suspicious again, but my victim, Steve, said, “Why not.” We all piled into the Wreck and headed for the Canterbury. Alice whispered to me that it wasn’t a good idea to encourage suburbanites to stay over, as they might never leave. We laughed. She and Nicky quickly left me alone with the OC haters.
“Not bad,” Eddie complimented my one room residence. I had put away the Murphy bed, creating a sense of unused space where it usually sat. I pulled out a joint, while Steve investigated my fridge. He retrieved the six-pack of Budweiser that Jack had bought when we furnished the place. Knowing that it was too late to buy more beer, we all nursed our single cans. The pot provided a sufficient high. Everyone relaxed knowing there was a plentiful supply. Soon the boys were practically comatose. Eddie related how Steve’s nickname was ‘Battered Housewife.” Steve turned red. I wondered if he was their permanent whipping boy. At least, he had a mouth on him to fend off the insults. I noticed he had applied mascara, making it look like he had two black eyes. He was a wise ass playing the victim.
Finally, I turned the Murphy wall and lowered the bed. They were amazed at 1930’s technology. Jack had purchased multiple blankets at Sears when he had furnished my place. I tossed them out so each one had something with which to create a nest. I stripped down and jumped into bed. Steve gave me a look which could mean anything. He was an anything goes kind of guy, but I wasn’t going to encourage him. I also was afraid I’d start vibrating again. I went quickly to sleep. Waking up at dawn, I tiptoed to the bathroom and got ready for work. I left them all asleep in separate little piles of blankets.
“You’re not your chipper self today,” Landis noted when he finally appeared at eleven.
“Tuesday night is punk night at the Starwood.”
“How late did you get in?”
“4 am. Not in bed ‘til 5.”
After my morning chores were done, I drove back to my apartment, finding the LMPs awake, smoking my pot and drinking coffee.
“The bus service not working today?”
“We’re about to leave,” Eddie explained. Steve ran around, in housewife mode, cleaning up and looking embarrassed. “We can stay, if you want.”
“I’m just on my lunch break. Wanna go to church group tonight?” I knew how get rid of sloths.
“No thanks,” they all said. Steve had folded all the blankets. We all exited the Canterbury. I gave them a ride to Sunset and the 101 Freeway where they knew the OC bus would take them home.
“Can you give us a ride to the party on Saturday?” Eddie asked.
“I promised Alice I’d pick up her band and bring their equipment.”
“That’s cool. Steve’s dad will give us a ride.”
I left them standing at the bus stop. The future of rock n roll. Once back at work, Landis laughed at my confused state. I didn’t explain how I’d had my brains fucked out of me and let five gangsters spend the night. I needed church group to get back on track. It was like I was writing my own screenplay. I needed a Belushi character to make it funny.
“You seem to have cheered up,” Landis observed as I was whistling the Sham song while I worked.
“Yeah. I kicked out my new friends over lunch hour.”
“Worse. East LA gangsters.”
“Oh, my. You may need a cleaning service.”
“One of the gangster is an abused housewife. They left the place spotless.”
“Can you answer these calls for me. Someone forgot my lunch.”
I was mortified.
“I’ll run and get something now.”
“No. I need to get out of here myself. Let’s go to Du-Par’s. Did you eat?”
“Not yet, I guess,” I laughed. Nice that my straight boss didn’t make me vibrate. I realized I had been lusting after the abused housewife, Steve. I needed to do confession before group that night. As we waited for our pancakes, I was thinking about what to say at the Dignity group.
“Are you still out of it,” Landis asked.
“Just thinking about what to say at Church tonight.”
“Seriously, you’re leading a Catholic service tonight?”
“It’s group of lost gay souls. I don’t know what to say.”
“Just sit there and let them tell you why they want to be your boyfriend.”
“My reputation has proceeded me. They think I’m Teen Jesus.”
Landis laughed into his coffee which went all over his shirt.
“Shit,” he exclaimed. “Teen Jesus? That’s a perfect title for my next movie.”
“Seriously, we have the Franciscans setting up homeless shelters for teens in New York.”
“That’s a recipe for disaster.”
“Yeah. We’ve run into some conflicts of interest. The wrong kind of interest.”
“Sounds like every pedophile priest’s wet dream.”
“At least in West Hollywood, the kids fend for themselves. If you have no place to go, there’s always Santa Monica Boulevard. There’s safety in numbers.”
“Yeah. I heard about a club called Numbers. It’s private membership and all the waiters are underage.”
“Now I know where to go when you fire me.”
“Why would I fire you? You’re the perfect PA.”
“Martin Scorsese fired both Jack and me last summer when we hijacked Liza and De Niro to come out here and perform with Elton John in the middle of shooting ‘New York New York.’”
“That wasn’t in your resume.”
I didn’t explain.
“What are you planning for the gay Catholics?”
“Something about getting over Catholic guilt complex?”
“Have you heard about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?”
“San Francisco is way ahead of West Hollywood in political satire. They’re queer nuns, drag queens in habits. You need to check out the Castro District. Teen Jesus may be shocked. There’s a guy there who calls himself ‘Jesus Christ Satan.’
“Let’s go after the holidays.”
“I doubt Debbie’s going to let me loose for a gay weekend.”
“She can come, too. It’ll broaden her costume design horizons.”
“I’m not going to try to convince her, but we are going to Portland in early January to do a location check of a small college for the frat set.”
Our pancakes came, ending our semi-serious discussion.
No one at Doug’s would accompany me to St Viktor’s Dignity meeting. I felt I was back at CCD class in Alaska when I walked into the downstairs classroom. I knew I wasn’t in Kansas when I was besieged by flirty twenty-somethings. I clicked my heels but nothing happened. Father Luke took me under his wing. He was so pleased to rescue me.
“Let’s not overwhelm Tim tonight. He somehow found mass on Sunday and promised to join us. Let him speak before you boys chase him away. Remember we’re here to support each other, not find new boyfriends.”
There was an audible moan from the crowd of about twenty young gays.
“Y’all know what a gaggle is?” I reverted to my country persona.
“A flock of geese,” someone answered.
My lame country joke went over their heads.
“Seriously, I need this group to screw my head back on after yesterday’s events, which I know will require deep penance when I say confession.”
“You still go to confession?” a voice in the back called out.
“Yeah. I have Father Frank, a Franciscan who believes the love between my boyfriend and me is natural, which makes it pure and innocent even when we tell him how we go at each other.”
Several were shocked. Others started laughing. Father Luke looked perturbed. I realized he expected a lecture about Jace’s Place.
“Enough about me. You guys want to hear about Teen Jesus, right?”
I saw the open-hearted glow appear above many of the attendees, as well as Father Luke. If this were a kids group, I’d invoke the ‘Jesus in your heart’ routine. With young adults I felt I should try to bamboozle them into implicitly trusting me right away. Jace looked disappointed. My heart told him to be patient.
“How many of you feel Jesus was in your heart after your first communion?”
No one raised their hand, but many nodded.
“Anyone not feel that way anymore?”
A lot of nods.
“My complaint with the Church is that the innocent love you knew when you were a child gets lost due the strict rules and dogma the Church insists we live by.”
“As adults we realize the Church is keeping kids safe and good with all its rules, but it only absolves children who sin and repent if they ‘go and sin no more.’ Then creed says they are cursed by original sin. Priests tell children that Jesus hates them when they sin. It destroys their love of Jesus, believing they have betrayed Him.”
I wondered what degree of heresy I was espousing, but Father Luke looked more approving.
“Paul wasn’t even an original apostle. When he converted on the road to Damascus, he started a long list of rules to keep everyone in line.”
Father Luke couldn’t believe I was attacking a saint.
“Anyone here a convert?” No one raised a hand. “If you know one, you know how dogmatic and fanatical converts become, trying to ‘catch up’ for the years they weren’t Catholic.”
Even Father Luke laughed.
“Learn to trust your heart, the place that Jesus remains, no matter what anyone has told you. Your heart knows right from wrong. Even your conscience, which sits in your head, only knows what it has been told – ideas. Ideas are easily changed. Your heart feels what is right from wrong. Feelings take a long time to change. It is not always clear what your heart wants. That is when you trust Jesus to tell you. Also, those friends and family that you really trust are in your heart and can tell you what to do. Just ask them. If it is someone you’ve lost or has died, your heart will tell you what they would do. Even if your head rationalizes that it is okay to do something wrong, those in your heart will not lie.”
“What if someone you love is leading you astray?”
“Jesus and all the other people in your heart will tell you the truth. Your heart knows who the haters and deceivers are. If you are open and trusting, there will be a whole chorus in there to tell you who to trust.”
“Yeah, the Gay Men’s Chorus is so innocent.”
“Don’t be sex-negative,” I advised.
Jace was discouraged that I hadn’t used his personal magic. It was time to take a break.
“Let’s take a break. I trust that Father Luke has some refreshments.”
“Maybe you’re too trusting,” the good father responded. But there was coffee and donuts in the back.
I was instantly surrounded, trying to avoid answering personal question:
Yes, I had a boyfriend.
Yes, I do fool around, but not right now.
No, my boyfriend is not a sugar daddy; I explained the same age rule.
Yes, I sometimes break my own rules.
Yes, my dog was more famous than me.
No, I wasn’t going to be a saint. Too many years living a sin-free life was impossible for me.
That answer stopped the questions. Everyone wanted to see Teen Jesus.
It was time to do the trust exercise.
“I can see a specific glow surrounding those who believe me and are trusting enough to accept Jace into their hearts. Those of you who are more skeptical can still learn to trust. All you need is to believe your friends who already accept him. Trust is what you share with each other.
I looked around and realized there were a few who feared the closeness and trust needed to accept Jace into their hearts.
“Now comes what I call the Baptist Revival Meeting part of my talk, the part that the priests find most objectionable. All I can say is Baptists and Catholics are little different from each. We all love Jesus, just in different ways. It’s the same Jesus.’
I went around and chose the six guys who already glowed to come up front.
“Jace is going to touch you. Let us know if you feel him.”
Jace hovered above the group, touching each one on the head. Each one acknowledged what they felt. One youngster got kissed on the cheek.
“He kissed me,” the boy was shocked.
“It’s okay,” the boy admitted. “I liked it.”
I chose another group of six who seemed less accepting or who’s glow was faint. I had them stand in front of the original six. There was some jostling as some guys were more popular than the others.
“If you want to have Jace in your heart, be open-hearted to the person in front of you. Remember that we all have Jesus in our heart. Don’t keep him alone in there.”
I told the original group to touch the one opposite, just as Jace had touched them. All of the new group smiled as Jace’s spirit was passed between them. I had forgotten about the youngest boy who had been kissed. Once he kissed an older guy opposite him, they both turned red, and then hugged each other. Catholic boys are more innocent than Catholic girls
I repeated the exercise with the next group of six, the least accepting. It all went well, except several guys wanted to be kissed.
“It’s not a rule set in stone. Does anyone want to kiss these two who are hoping for a kiss?”
Finally, there were the last two. They admitted they doubted Jesus was in their hearts still. One confessed he was raised Jewish.
“Well, Jesus was Jewish,” I argued.
The other said he didn’t mind being a sinner and didn’t believe in Hell.
“Do you want to trust other people?”
“When Jace and I first became friends, it took a while before he would get undressed when he slept over. One night we fell asleep listening to Pink Floyd. In the morning he kissed me because we had held hands all night. It got much better after that. It’s natural not to trust but you can’t go around not trusting anyone. Jesus is easy to trust because he’s been dead almost two thousand years.”
They all laughed. The last two were surrounded and admitted they wanted to be trusted. That was the end of the trust exercise. They all wanted to know details about why Jace was sleeping over and what else beside the first kiss happened.
“Come back after Christmas and we’ll talk. I have to go back east next week. Go out and find who you can trust. I want stories, too.”
I stayed to be interrogated by Father Luke. Actually he was disappointed not to have Jace in his trusting heart. It took about five seconds and no kiss was necessary. Now he was really smiling.
“I may get excommunicated for allowing your Baptist ways to be worked on me and my boys, but you definitely raised the bar here. I heard what you said about not wanting to be a saint. I know the Church wants to put you into seminary. Do you think I’m a fool for being jealous that you could be canonized?”
“Well, don’t give up on yourself. Jace is an ally that you can call on anytime you need spiritual help. In my freshman religion class, the old prof was spouting his contention that the Bible is merely literature. Jace tore up the professor notes in front of the whole class while we sang our version of the Cars’ ‘Just What I Needed.’ We were almost expelled. We claimed the he was ‘Not What We Needed.’
“I thought Harvard has a divinity school.”
“They’re confused. They separated Jack and me. That’s why I’m here but still getting credit for the whole freshman year.”
“You’re a trip, Tim. I’m so glad you chose our parish. Where are those other boys? And how did you get Doug Weston to come to mass?”
“Let’s get something to eat,” he suggested. Going out to eat was a Hollywood religious ritual.
“We can go to Astro Burger and watch the boys turn tricks across the street at Oki Dog. I sense you’re not gay.”
“I really am a priest. I couldn’t minister to these boys’ spiritual needs if I wanted them sexually.”
“That’s all I need, a saint in love with me. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”
We enjoyed just watching the action from Astro Burger. Father Luke explained how difficult seminary was for him in San Antonio TX. He was besieged by gay priests in training. Finally, as a graduate, he was sent to St Viktor’s because he had so adamantly rejected so many advances. The Cardinal knew he’d be able to remain sin-free in West Hollywood. At first, Father Luke believed it was further punishment for being so straight, until he grew to realize how impossible it would be if he had been attracted to his gay parishioners.
“You think the Church hierarchy is finally responding to gay Catholics?”
“Your friend Father Frank may not be the only understanding priest. It’s hard to minister to anyone gay or straight if you insist on celibacy. I’ve never wrestled with it, unlike many priests. I just figured I was asexual.”
He totally got me.
“How did Church go last night?” Landis asked as he walked in at eleven.
“Gay Catholics are an endangered species. At least the priest didn’t try to hit on me. I eventually had twenty converts to Teen Jesus. It explains everything to them.”
“My next movie?”
“Except Belushi can’t be the star. Maybe Scott Baio.”
Belushi could be Arnold from Happy Days.
It all made sense except I knew that Hollywood was the dumping ground of all good ideas. We could always recycle it later.
Jack had sent me a care package of all the class notes he’d taken since I’d left Harvard, plus sample test questions to prepare me for finals. I knew he hated how I dismissed anything the professors professed. I was tempted to blow off any preparation for tests, but it wasn’t fair that I would blow up his dreams of rooming in college for four years. It wasn’t fair to saddle him with Minehan as his new best friend for life. I knew David had greater plans. I told Landis I needed to study during work hours. I still answered the phone, took his lunch orders, and kept Miller at bay.
I quickly organized the notes around the sample questions. It was the liberal 70’s and Harvard allowed ‘open-book’ testing. I could use all the notes Jack had prepared. I just needed to answer in my own way, so it didn’t seem like Jack was taking the test for me. The only exception was Religion, as Professor Rhinehart claimed the Bible wasn’t an open book. I decided that Teen Jesus should flunk Religion at Harvard on principle. I’d have to do a good job on the Business School case study to make up for the flunked course.
Once I organized the notes, I set them aside and started on the case study. I had no clue where to start. It was not enough to discuss the challenges, failures and successes we encountered in producing a Hollywood movie. My role in corralling the head writer’s interference with the director’s ability to supervise the script was my prime focus. A more inclusive report would describe how the director managed the challenges presented by the studio executives, their legal department, the budget restriction imposed upon the hiring of cast and crew, plus the need to support and control the creative talent. External factors would be the politics between the Harvard and National Lampoon, as well as the pending acquisition of the National Lampoon by a large multi-media company. I set aside these external factors until I was back in Cambridge, as I didn’t want anyone in Hollywood to know I had ulterior motives beyond my role as Landis’s Production Assistant. I needed to concentrate on Landis’s role while I could pick his brain at the office.
I began by writing up the turmoil of dealing with Chris Miller. I knew Landis would see what I was doing and want to put his spin on our under-mining of his head writer. I typed up a short synopsis of Miller’s obnoxious behavior leading up to his breaking down Landis’ office door. Sure enough, John was soon reading over my shoulder and making corrections and suggestions. This soon led to a joint analysis of his overall management style. I explained that a case study needed teaching moments for business school students to generalize specific strategies into a comprehensive management style. Landis loved the complexity, which he instantly got. He also loved that his high school knowledge and common sense would be taught to grad students. He was smug that two high school grads would be teaching MBA candidates. We were so subversive. I chalked it up to our belief that we were so smart because we didn’t know anything. By glorifying our exploits, I got into Landis’ head, figuring I could tone down the gloating and be more analytical when I prepared the final draft. I called Jay in Miami for advice. At least, he had a doctorate in jurist prudence. He related what he had been taught about business school studies: ‘it is a concise comprehensive introduction to concepts and processes required for analyzing/interpreting business challenges and goals.’ I had a handle on the actual processes, but concepts were beyond me. I decided to find actual B School students in Cambridge who could tell me what concepts I needed to explain in my case study. Charm and my newly acquired Hollywood sluttiness would find willing grad students to make my case study accurate and valuable. Jay told me that there were few entertainment industry case studies. How music, movies, books etc. were created was beyond text-book analysis. Maybe I’d get my doctorate and never have to attend classes again. I doubted that Professor Feldstein could be so easily bamboozled. I just needed to get credit to make up for my failing grade in religion. My self-righteousness knew no end after a night of preaching at St Viktor’s.
After work on Friday, Landis invited our staff to his house for a holiday party to celebrate my return to Harvard and the upcoming location visit to Portland in early January. Jesus’s birthday was verboten in Jewish Hollywood. Debbie outdid herself in providing every type of teen comfort food I craved – burgers & fries, Mexican food, Chinese take-out, and pancakes. She knew how to satisfy teen needs. She also had sushi, fondue, and shell-fish platters for the adults. John announced that the final draft of the script had been approved by the studio and everyone was getting a $1000 bonus for Christmas. He passed out checks, telling them individually that they needed to take time off for the holidays. Once January came, we’d be working seven days a week. I found an acoustic guitar and sang the Beatles’ Eight Days a Week,’ just to annoy him.
Everyone smiled at me, the team teen jester.
“That’s great, Tim. But I hope we’ll all enjoy my surprise entertainment,” as Debbie ushered in Tom & the Heartbreakers. They played all old style rock n roll so the adults could dance and reminisce.
It was a great party. I stayed until it was so late, we needed to make a run to Tommy’s Burgers in Echo Park. The Wreck was full of drunken movie staff. I had to drive all the way back to the Valley, so they could get their cars. The greasy food soaked up excess alcohol and nobody got arrested for DUI.
Saturday morning and again I was up too early. Blueberry pancakes at Doug’s was expected, as was joining the three of them in bed to satisfy our host. With my own place, I could go for what I wanted, rather than having to please Doug and his ‘houseboys.’ Jimmy was surprised when what I wanted was him, while Tony pleased Doug. Jimmy squealed as I rode his ass, making Tony and Doug pause their coupling and become my audience – another manifestation of my performance/attention addiction. Once finished with Jimmy sprawled in front of me, I jumped into the shower before preparing our pancake breakfast. I had gotten Du-Par’s at the Fairfax Farmer’s market to sell me their unique pancake batter. With added blueberries, it made for a gourmet breakfast. While standing in the shower, I had a momentary guilt trip for all the times I had violated the sex pact with Jace. I felt him shrug in my heart and tell me, ‘you don’t want to know all the times I’ve violated it with Tommy.” It had been good while it lasted, but sex pacts should have an expiration date. We both shed a tear. He promised to show up for the Newport backyard show later that day. We knew how to party.
Back at the Canterbury, Alice was very business-like as she prepared for a performance that evening in Newport. Nicky had been pressed into service as the Bags’ temporary drummer. He refused to wear a bag over his head after difficulty breathing at our Oki Dog performance.
“You aren’t going to start crying on us again?” Alice needled me, but also checking me for nervous breakdown. I hated to think I had reverted to my Ames persona.
“Naw, I was working on your sympathy,” I professed. I broke into the Stones’ ‘19th Nervous Breakdown,”
‘You better stop, look around,
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes.
Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown’
Songwriters: KEITH RICHARDS, MICK JAGGER
© Abkco Music, Inc.
“You always sing away the blues?” Nicky asked.
“Can’t have the blues when you’re just a teen. Maybe when I hit 20, I can be a bluesman.”
I had stopped at Tower Record and bought the Sham 45. I played it for them. Nicky instantly picked up the English pub/football chanting rhythm.
“If the cops don’t shut us down, we can end the show with all the Beach and LMP kids singing along,” I was planning ahead. We didn’t know if we were even going to get the Bags and Weirdos to play. I looked at the flyer that Steve had given me. It had a crude map and a phone number for directions. My phone had been installed. I called the number on the flyer. An adult answered, probably a parent who may not know that their home was going to be invaded.
“Hi. Is your son home?”
“Who’s calling,” I got the second degree.
“My name’s Tim. I’m Jim’s friend from the band.”
“Kurt,” I heard the dad yelled. “One of your weirdo friends is on the phone.”
“Hey, Kurt. The Crowd’s Jim told me about your party. We wanna come.”
“It’s only a few people. Do you live in Newport?”
“Naw. Hollywood. We got a flyer at the Starwood. That how we got your number.”
“You’d come all the way to Orange County? Hollywood people hate us.”
“But we like parties. I got the Weirdos and the Bags coming. Can we all play with the Crowd?”
“What did Jim say?”
“He just told me to come hear The Crowd but the other bands wanna play, too.”
“When are you starting?”
“We have to stop playing when it gets dark. So, 4 o’clock?” He gave me directions.
“We’ll be there. We’re all excited. Can we bring a keg?”
“We’ll just buy a couple a cases of Brew 102. Everyone will be under age. I ain’t goin’ to jail.” Alice was my age, 18. She made a few calls and arrangements were made to pick up the Bags’ guitarists, Craig and Rob, and bassist, Patricia. I called Jack on the Mower House’s public phone to let him know I was flying in the next evening. I suddenly realized that this was my last day in sunny, warm California. I shivered thinking about Boston and cold, dreary New England.
“Let’s go to the beach before the party,” I suggested. My tan-less friends were aghast.
“We don’t do beach,” Nicky explained. “It’s where you get cancer.”
“I gotta go to Boston tomorrow. It’s so far north, I don’t think the sun even comes up this time of year.”
“We don’t go out during the day due to the LA smog,” was the next excuse. They only went out at night. Their rule was if you didn’t see it, it didn’t exist.
“Com’n. You like riding in the Wreck. I just wanna feel warm for one last day.”
They gave in and we packed up the drums and went to find Craig and Rob in downtown LA and Pat on the eastside. Pat was extremely tall with jet black hair. She reminded me of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Craig was older and a graduate of Cal Arts in Valencia. I could tell he was quite taken with me. I already had broken the same age rule but was prepared to invoke it if need be. He was nice but a bit solicitous. Since he was Jewish, I couldn’t refer him to St Viktor’s. Rob was my age, tall and quiet, a perfect rhythm guitarist. No one but me was excited about hitting the beach.
“You’re all vampires,” I accused them. Patricia took it as a compliment.
We took PCH from Long Beach and parked on the street in Huntington Beach, a dumpy surf town with a pier. Everyone refused to join me on the sand, claiming they’d watch me surf from the pier. I did a quick beach change into my old Speedo. As I walked toward the water, several girls giggled and pointed at me. Naturally I flexed, which made everyone laugh. I noticed that only middle-age men wore Speedos. Maybe they had been to Europe and thought it was cool to have their expansive bellies hang over the skimpy nylon that held their manhood. One gave me a thumbs up.
Checking the waves, I realized they were bigger and steeper than the ones at Zuma Beach. I swam out, diving under the white water rolling toward the beach. I quickly learned to lay flat on the bottom as the waves passed over me. I came up each time and took as many strokes as possible before the next wave of white water reached me. It took time, but eventually I was out far enough in the ocean that the waves were still forming. I thought about Safety and Gerber. Maybe it was rapture of the deep. I was pretty winded. I waved to the punks on the pier. Then I noticed I was swimming with a group of surfers on boards. I recognized the OC hater looks they gave me.
“Don’t get in my way,” One of them said.
“Okay. But don’t run me over,” I answered.
“That’s your look-out,” he said.
OC was so welcoming. I rolled over and swam parallel to the beach to another spot where the waves were cresting. As luck would have it, I approached the perfect take-off spot. As I quickened my stroke to ‘catch’ the wave, I heard behind me, “ My wave. Look out.” A board surfer was overtaking me. I put my head down, dug in and popped out into the break just as the surfer came up next to me. Still laying on his board, he reached over and hit me on the head. I rolled sideways and pushed him off his board. The six-foot wedge of plastic flipped up into the air as the detached rider’s leash jerked it backwards. I rolled back on my stomach and was caught by the wave’s lip as it crashed several feet below me. I turned to the right and rode it for a couple of seconds before tumbling into the white water. When I came up, my friends hooted and hollered, excited that I had bested the board surfer who tried to ‘steal’ my wave. The vanquished surfer was not about to let me get away. He had righted himself on his board and was paddling furiously in my direction. He was oblivious to the oncoming wave. Just before he reached me, I dove to the bottom and pushed off the sand directly beneath his board. Again he was knocked off his board and went tumbling with the breaking wave. The loose board dragged him down the beach. I swam in the other direction.
“Yer a swim team kid, ain’tcha.” One of the surfers who had observed the confrontation said.
“Used ta be, yeah,” I answered.
“Ya just can’t come out here and steal waves,” he believed he was being helpful.
“I was in the wave and he hit me on the head to steal it. He didn’t expect me to object.”
My new friend rolled off his board, showing me the skag on the bottom. “You don’t wanna be run over by this at 25 miles per hour.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“Take a hint, kid. The other side of the pier is black-balled for swimmers and boogie boards only. You’re in the way here.”
To confirm his opinion, the lifeguard tower came alive with a personal announcement, “Attention, swimmer in the water. This area is reserved for surfing only. Exit the water and walk to the south side of the pier. If you do not exit immediately, you are subject to arrest.”
I wasn’t about to repeat the long swim out through breaking surf. I turned and swam toward the pier, twenty yards away.
“Attention, swimmer. Do not. I repeat. Do not swim through the pier. You will be subject to arrest if you do.”
My, surfing had its own police and its own laws. I swam back to the break where four or five guys in their twenties were sitting on their boards, with their hands on their hips, glaring at me. I took a small wave that they were too far outside to catch. I went straight ahead, getting my upper body fully out of the water, I kept my hands at my sides for balance. I came almost all the way to the shore. As I walked out of the water a life guard ran up and upbraided me for breaking all the rules.
“There’s a code,” he explained when I professed my ignorance of their rules. “And board surfers are the top of the food chain. Swimmers are subject to arrest for flaunting the rules. That’s why there’s a black ball area south of the pier.”
“Oh, separate but equal,” I laughed.
His blank look indicated he hadn’t heard of civil rights or just didn’t care.
“Sorry,” I apologized for having too much fun.
My fans ran down from the pier as I approached the boardwalk, drying off and getting dressed..
We all laughed. I looked around and saw a sign for Wimpy’s under the pier. Hamburgers! I was back in teen heaven after the journey to surfer hell.
Nicky and I had a contest to see who could eat the most. Nicky won hands down. He had more experience. They all wanted an explanation of how I dominated the poor surfer on his board. As I explained and everyone laughed, the unhappy surfer came upon us, instantly recognizing me as the enemy. He was about 25 and buff. He started yelling at me across the open eating area.
“What do we do?” Nicky was my only reliable defender.
“Run,” I yelled. We all hightailed it out of there. Being chased was even more fun than fighting. The five of us dove into the Wreck and we tore out of HB. Looking back, the surfer had recruited another five of his ‘brahs’ to thrash us. I drove slowly enough that they kept chasing us on foot. The girls were in a panic as the hot-footing surfers were gaining on us. I floored the Wreck. We were soon in Newport.
It was Kurt who was having the party. His dad was rich and their house enormous. No inside music room, but the backyard had a pool and a pagoda. The patio had ample room for the band to set up. Kurt was about 16 and his eyes, already wide-set, popped open when the five of us arrived. We were early due to the quick exit from the beach. He claimed to be a surfer and thought he knew my enemy.
“Why didn’t you fight him at the pier?”
“No shame in running when you have nothing to prove.”
He smiled. I was learning ‘brah’ hood.
“Why don’t you say ‘bro?’ I asked.
“All the Malibu surfers have these fake English accents. You havta make everything sound like you’re upper class. So ‘bro’ becomes ‘brah.”
“For shur, for shur,” I quipped.
“Where’s the keg you promised?” Kurt knew how to get a party started.
“Nicky’s the only one who’s 21. He’s afraid he’ll get busted for buying alcohol for minors. We’ll go get a couple of cases and just put them out. No one needs to know where they came from. It’ll be your folks responsibility. It’s their house.”
Kurt gave us directions to the liquor store. Just Nicky and I went. He was still amused by my show in the surf.
“You totally dissed that surfer. How did you up-end him on his board. He got dragged a hundred yards away.”
I was in such a good mood that I bought three cases of PBR. “Brew 102 sucks,” I told Nicky.
“It’s your money. Oh, and I told Craig that you’re paying the Weirdos. He wants you to pay the Bags.”
“Tell him you’re playing for twenty bucks.”
When we got back and had put the beer on ice beside the house, I saw that Jim and his band had arrived. He was pleased that the Bags were there, he believed, to hear his band. When he saw Nicky, he got concerned. I ran over and assured him we had all come to make their party a success.
“Nicky’s filling in on drums for the Bags. The Weirdos said they might come, too.”
“I thought they hated the beach.”
“Hate works to make a party spectacular. All energy is good.”
“Alice says you beat up a surfer at the beach,” his eyes glowed with admiration.
“Not really. I just stole his waves and when he confronted us at Wimpy’s, we all ran.”
“Oh. What if he shows up here?”
“It is our party,” he contended. “We should go on last.”
“The Bags are so thankful they can play. I’m sure they’ll be happy to open for the Crowd. If the Weirdos don’t show, I’ve got a couple of English songs I can do with the Bags. Then you’ll be the headliner. Is it okay that we use your amps. All we brought were guitars and drums.”
Nicky and I brought the drums and equipment in and started to set up. The kids had discovered the beer and lost some of their shyness with us Hollywood types. Nicky started doing the drum intro to Sham’s ‘If the Kids are United…’ I showed a kid how the guitar part went, getting him to sing the one line chorus over and over. Some of the kids knew about Sham 69 and joined in singing. I let the kid use my SG and he played while his friends sang. They actually appeared to like one another. They’d never be surfers. By 4 o’clock there were about thirty people there. The LMPs showed up. Kurt instantly recognized interlopers. I interrupted his door bouncer routine, giving Eddie twenty dollars to go purchase 3 more cases of PBR. As they left, I explained to Kurt that they were the ones who put out the word at the Starwood about the party, showing him the flyer Steve had given me.
“I guess they’re okay,” Kurt was hedging his bets on the survival of his parent’s home.
“Also, they’ll back me up if that surfer dude shows up.”
We waited for the LMPs to return with the beer. When they appeared, everyone cheered and there was a rush to grab a 16-ouncer. Alice tapped the mic and thanked everyone (about 40 people) for coming. She really beamed at getting to play.
Maybe it was the beer. More likely it was the witchy/twitchy Mexicana gyrating on stage. The crowd of beach kids responded in kind, throwing themselves around. Anyone who pogo’d got their feet cut out from under them.
Next Craig came up and played what seemed like a Journey song, until Alice jumped back to the mic: ‘Survivor’
In the middle of the song, Craig again went into stadium rock. Alice looked disgusted, taking over again. Once she ended, Craig reasserted his classic rock roots. I was confused if this was an actual difference of opinion. She let Craig finish ‘Survivor’.
Next came ‘Babylonian Gorgon’. This time Craig ripped what sounded like rockabilly guitar on speed
The kids were going crazy. There were two dog piles of writhing boys. The few girls there looked terrified from a corner of the patio. Inside the patio doors, Kurt’s horrified parents looked on as the boys thrashed about. Luckily there had been no damage. One kid grabbed an unopened beer, shook it and sprayed the band with 16 ounces of PBR. I feared that the parents were about to panic and call the cops. I ran over to Alice after they finished ‘Gorogon,’ and were watching the chaos they had inspired.
“Way to go Alice. I think they like you.”
“They love me.”
“Let me do the English Oi song to get everyone back in harmony.”
“Fuck the English,” she shouted, breaking into ‘We don’t Need the English’
“I can understand you feeling that way, Alice,” I grabbed the mic. “But some of us feel differently.”
I motioned to the boy who had learned the Sham chords to come up as I sang the opening verse to ‘If the Kids are United’
‘ For once in my life I’ve got something to say,
I wanna say it now for now is today.
A love has been given so why not enjoy,
So let’s all grab and let’s all enjoy!’
I motioned for Craig to give his guitar to the kid. He shook his head but complied. The two of us played and sang together
‘If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.
If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.’
‘Just take a look around you,
What do you see?
Kids with feelings,
Like you and me.
Understand him, he’ll understand you;
For you are him, and he is you.’
Again we all sang the chorus, exhorting all the kids to join in with us. Jim joined me on stage, feeling left out at his own show.
‘‘If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.
If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.’
‘I don’t want to be rejected,
I don’t want to be denied.
Then its not my misfortune,
That I’ve opened up your eyes.
Freedom is given,
Speak how you feel.
I have no freedom,
How do you feel?
They can lie to my face,
But not to my heart.
If we all stand together,
It will just be the start…’
Everyone sang the final chorus
‘‘If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.
If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.’
ALEXANDER WILKE, D. PARSONS, J. PURSEY
Lyrics © CACOPHONY LIMITED
Everyone was bouncing up and down. The two of us kept playing, Patricia held her own on the bass, with Alice singing next to her. We finally got everyone to calm down.
“Still don’t need the English?” I kidded Alice.
Jim took the mic, “kay. Time for a break. The Crowd will be up next.”
In walked John and Dix Denney, stunned to find complete chaos going on.
“Get up here, if you’re ready to play. Where’s Cliff?” I shouted into the mic.
The kids started jumping around again, knowing who the Weirdos were.
“You better get paid twice,” he asserted.
Jim looked concerned. “This is a party. No one’s getting paid.”
I whispered to Jim that I had promised to pay them twenty dollars to get them to come.
“I really thought they wouldn’t show up.”
Jim glared at me. He had to decide when or if the Weirdos would play. His vanity was conflicted by reality.
“Let them go on now,” he decided.
“Get up here, John. You’ll get paid, like I promised,” I announced to everyone.
We huddled around Nicky.
“Look. I told them you’re only getting twenty. I promised a hundred but you have to finish your set. Just tell anyone who asks that you’re just getting twenty.”
“Okay. Say what you want. I will pay a hundred bucks but I’m saying it’s only twenty.
“Jesus. You’re an asshole.”
Nicky piped up. “This is better than any show in Hollywood. The Bags were spectacular. Don’t let these kids down and get shown up by my girlfriend’s band.”
John grabbed the mic. Pat gave me her bass and I gave Dix my SG. I worried that he’d abuse it. Jace appeared, promising to protect his guitar.
Someone threw an open can at him. It went all over us.
“Fuck you,” John shouted. The beer came raining down on us.
“You know what I think of all you beach punks?” he launched into ‘Neutron Bomb’
“The police are on the way. Get your band up there if you wanna play.”
He ran to gather them. I grabbed John and stuffed five twenties into his hand.
“You’re done; the cops are at the door.
“Cool,” he pocketed the pay and walked off. I grabbed my SG and ran out to the Wreck, locking it in the trunk.
I walked back in. Jim was at the mic.
“Okay. I hear the cops are here but I want my friends to hear what we can do. Thanks to the Bags and the Weirdos for supporting us today. Here’s ‘Right Place, Right Time.’ I think that’s appropriate. There’ll be other parties. We love our fans.
It was more like pop than the eclectic Weirdos. The kids started jitter-bugging. They were supporting their local band. The energy dropped but the vibe was fun not violence. Two uniformed Newport officers walked in, listening to the music and nodding their heads. Kurt’s parents rushed out to inform the police that they had missed the violent gangsters.
The Crowd started a second song, upping the sound with ‘Modern Machine’
The cops told the parents that the party needed to stop by ten o’clock and left. I patted Jim on the back for rescuing the party. He just shook his head.
“You hijacked my party. No one will remember us. The Bags and Weirdos are too extreme for OC.”
“We need to make another beer run. The Weirdos wiped out the supply.”
“You gonna pay us?”
“Sure,” as I gave him a twenty. Everyone was happy.
The Crowd played on. It was only 8 o’clock. Partying is a daytime activity in the OC.
Nicky and I made a third beer run. My twenties were running out. We hit the ATM on the way.
“You are a rich bitch, ain’tcha?”
“I work, Nicky. Anyone can live on the cheap in LA.”
“Don’t I know it.”
He was covered with sweat. He had played with every band and would be happy with just his twenty. I knew John would stiff him for his share of the hundred. Show business ain’t for kids, in music either.
After the party ended at ten, I insisted we drive to In n Out in West Covina. Punks require calories. Sitting there with a double-double, I reminisced about my night there with Belushi, and at the Pomona College sorority. I had never followed up with those girls who appreciated my hetero side. I wondered if Nicky would be shocked if we paid them a visit. But I didn’t want to piss Alice off and doubted that Craig and Pat would come along. I was leaving the next day for Boston. How did I ever end up there? Who knows, but I did know I wanted another burger, animal style, with grilled onions this time. ‘It’s the right time’ – The Crowd.