Thursday, June 27, 2019

One, Maybe Two, Degrees of Seperation

I have a quick question for you.

 What does Mark Twain and...

...Patty Duke have in common?

They both knew Helen Keller!

Twain, then 59, first met the 14-year old Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan at a literary gathering at a private home in Manhattan in the 1890s. Impressed by Keller's comic book-superpower sense of touch, her only means of comprehending the world around her, Twain became and remained a close friend of hers for the rest of his life.  When Twain found out Keller was having some trouble getting into the college of her choice--schools of higher learning, being much less interested in diversity than they are today, were reluctant to give a scholarship to a blind and deaf girl, even one with her immense intelligence--he persuaded his friend Henry Rogers, a Standard Oil executive who in his off-hours preferred the company of authors to corporate bigwigs, to fund her education. She graduated from Harvard's Radcliffe College with high marks in 1904 and went on to become a world-famous writer, lecturer, and political activist (without going into particulars, her views were closer to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than to the Koch brothers.)

On to Patty Duke, who came into the world a little more than three-and-a-half decades after Mark Twain left it. As I'm sure many of you already know, Duke played Helen Keller in the stage and film versions of William Gibson's The Miracle Worker (a phrase coined by Twain.) Duke and Keller seem to have met only once, when filming began on Worker, so the photos that emerged from that meeting--I had several to choose from--may have been publicity shots. Nothing wrong with that. The 1962  Arthur Penn-directed movie was more than worthy of the publicity. Duke turned in a superb Oscar-winning performance, convincingly playing not just a blind and deaf girl but a seven-year-old as well, even though she was fifteen at the time!

Without further adieu, and with no sign whatsoever of Mrs. Robinson or the identical twin cousin from Scotland, here's the trailer:

I have nothing particularly profound to say about any of this. I just find it interesting when famous people come into contact with each other.  

I have nothing particularly profound to say about this, either. And besides, Lucy's kid's not as famous as he used to be.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Quips and Quotations (Teflon Celebrity Edition)

 We lived in fear of an expose, or even one small remark, a veiled suggestion that someone was homosexual. Such a remark would have caused an earthquake at the Studio. Every month, when Confidential came out, our stomachs began to turn. Which of us would be in it? The amazing thing is that Rock, as big as he became, was never nailed. It made one speculate Rock had an angel on his shoulder, or that he'd made a pact with the devil, because he seemed under supernatural protection.

--George Nader 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

 Film and opera director Franco Zeffirelli--that's him in the above picture on the left--died the day before yesterday at the age of 96. He's best known to American audiences for the 1968 movie version of Romeo and Juliet, but it wasn't his first attempt at putting the Bard of Avon's work on film. That happened a year earlier with another box office hit, The Taming of the Shrew, starring Elizabeth Taylor and her hubby at the time, Richard Burton (the other two characters in the above picture.) Take a quick look:

According to Eddie Fisher that's exactly how it happened.

Yes, yes, I know, it all looks a tad involuntary on the bride's part. And the subsequent marriage isn't much better as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf gets rebooted in iambic pentameter. But keep in mind this is 400 years before the #MeToo movement. Women didn't even have the right to vote back then (now that I think of it, no one did.) When it comes to the works of William Shakespeare, you occasionally need a grandfather clause.

Let's leave that quickly behind and move on to a romance where there seems to be some mutual respect:

A love story that ends unhappily. No need to grandfather that, I'm afraid. It can happen in any era.   

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Gigi Freeman

 Something  a little different today. I going to show you excerpts from the first chapter (or maybe second, as there's a prologue) of a novel I'm working on.  It takes place half a century ago, and offensive language occasionally can be heard, so if you're the type of person for whom the term TRIGGER ALERT was coined, I suggest you stop reading right now.

Let me set it up. It's June, 1969. Paul Florence, a teenager from Parma, Ohio, has been kicked out of the house by his father, and, through a variety of circumstances, finds himself in an esoteric Greenwich Village nightspot where he's befriended by an attractive young "woman" named Gigi. Unfortunately, just as their nice little chat gets under way, it's interrupted by the arrival of New York City's Finest...

  The lights went on, the music stopped playing, and people stopped dancing. Inspector Leland walked into the room holding up his badge. With him were a couple of other men in suits and ties also holding up badges, along with several uniformed police, as well as a uniformed police woman.

    "Police! Police!" Leland yelled. "We're taking the place!"
     "On a Friday night?" The crestfallen Dougie asked. "Nobody told us anything about a raid!"
     "We don't have to tell you in advance!" Leland sternly replied.
     "Well, you have before. This past Tuesday, in fact," Dougie said.

      Leland walked over to Gigi.
     "Can you prove you are a woman and not a man dressed as a woman?"
     "Let me check for a penis," Gigi said, and began lifting her already hip-high hemline above her panties.
     "NO, GIGI!"

     So he knows her name, thought Paul.

     "Darling, I have no other ID with me," Gigi replied. "My driver's license has been suspended. Operating a vehicle while applying rouge. A very serious infraction. I was going ask my friend John in Washington to take care of it for me, but since you're right here, maybe you can help. If you do, I promise you the first tango at the Policeman's Ball. I'll make the dip worth your while."  
     Leland cautiously darted his eyes from right to left, and then, in an even more stringent tone, commanded, "Either admit you’re a man or I'll have a policewoman examine you in the privacy of a bathroom. Which will it be?"
    "That depends. Do you think this policewoman might faint at the sight of electrical tape?"
    "You know, that might constitute an admission of guilt," said a uniformed officer (the same one with the smug expression who a day earlier had made fun of Paul for crying.)
    Gigi smiled and said, "Baby, my Adam's apple might constitute an admission of guilt." 

     Under his breath, Leland pleaded, "Gigi?"
     Leland spit it out. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney during questioning. If you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you."
     "Oh, I just thought the policewoman's name was Miranda, but no matter. You won me over with your Jack Webb imitation. Take me, you cute little copper. I'm yours!"
     "Good," said Dougie. "Take her and leave the rest of us alone."
     "Not yet," Leland said. He picked up the glass in front of Paul, took a sip, and then affected a comical look of distaste.
     "Serving alcohol to a minor! We're going to have to shut the whole place down!"
     "But I gave him a Coke! Tell him, Gigi!"
     Somewhat sheepishly, Gigi replied, “Well, the lad asked me for a sip of my Old Fashioned, and even though I knew it was wrong, how could I resist when he was looking at me with those big brown eyes of his?"
     In the middle of all this, a young uniformed officer walked up to Leland and said, "Inspector, I tried to frisk that deviant over there and he turned the whole thing into a joke! He's pretending I'm doing something sexual to him!"
     "Just ignore it, Gillis."
     As Gillis walked away, Leland said under his breath, "Goddamn rookie."
     Dougie the bartender, meanwhile, was still trying to salvage the situation.
     "Look, officer, we didn't give him that drink, Gigi did. He's with her, right Gigi?"
     "That right. I'm his governess. I'm treating the youngster to a night on the town to celebrate the A-plus he received in finger painting."
     "That's all for a judge to decide," Leland said. "In the meantime, I'm going--Hey, Seymour, what are you doing?"
     One of the plainclothes detectives was trying to open the door Edwardo had gone through. Now that the lights were on, Paul could clearly make out its wording: STORAGE.
     "The door's locked, Frank. I'll have to break it down!" 
     "Seymour, it looks like it's just a closet. All you'll find in there are brooms."

     Gillis made another appearance.

     "Inspector, I just frisked a man who's really a woman!"
     "A transvestite in a parallel universe," Gigi opined.
     "Look, Gillis," Leland said. "You're not going to last long in Vice if you keep being surprised by this stuff." And under his breath, "Goddamn rookie." To Paul and Gigi, "OK, you two, we're taking you both in. Is this your purse?"
     Leland picked the purse off the counter, and when he did, his arm seemed to almost fall out of his socket. 
     "Jesus, Gigi, what the hell's in there?"
     "A comb, lipstick, blush, hedge clippers, some spare change."
     "Well, both of you follow me. Seymour!"
     The plainclothes detective had his ear to the storage room door. "There's someone in there. I swear it!"
     In a much more serious tone than she'd been using up to now, Gigi said, "Francis, dear, we can't have that."

     First name basis, thought Paul. That settles it. She must be a cop!
     Flustered, Leland yelled back to Seymour, "Not now!"
     Leland, Gigi, and Paul began making their way to the bigger of the two rooms. In doing so, they passed a pretty black woman with a flower just above her right ear. As they walked by, she reached over and ran her hand through Paul's hair. It was a rather big hand, and Paul realized, like Gigi, it was a man dressed like a woman--but still very attractive.

      "Oh, Gigi, who's your boyfriend?"
     "Dick Grayson, and no touching, Marsha! You go find yourself your own teenage sidekick."
     Leland at first chuckled, and then in a stern voice said to Marsha, "You shouldn't be wearing woman's clothing either. Go turn yourself in."
     The three of them were now in the bigger room and almost to the front exit when Gillis' voice rang out.
     "Perverts! Perverts! You're all perverts!"
     "Goddamn rookie," Leland said, and not even under his breath this time.
     But it wasn't just the goddamn rookie.
     "Aw, what's the matter, Tinkerbell? Are you upset Judy Garland died?"
     Paul thought, the same line he used on me!
     Another policeman had his hand on a man's--no, Paul realized, a woman's--chest.
     "Don't get all upset, miss. I just thought you might have a weapon stored in there."
     "I bet they're fornicating in there," Seymour said. "Let's break down the door and surprise the fuck out of them!"
     The Tinkerbell-obsessed cop with the smug look on his face now noticed Paul. 

     "Aren't you the kid we picked up the other night?"

     For the first time that night since Paul had met her, Gigi looked irritated. "Inspector Leland, are you able to control your people?"
     In a low, nervous, wholly unconvincing tone, Leland replied, "I am in control!" Then, for the benefit of everyone else in the room, he shouted, "OK, you two, they'll be a policeman waiting for you on the other side of this door!"
     Paul and Gigi walked through the door...

Looks like Paul and Gigi are headed to the hoosegow, huh? Not to worry. They both manage to give the NYPD the slip. Now, you'd think at that point they might want to get as far away from the Stonewall Inn as possible. But no, there's still a bit of business to be taken care of.

      "Well, the way I see it, you have three options. Option number one. You're still technically in police custody, so you can just hang out here until Francis--Inspector Leland--takes notice of you again. Option number two. You can make a run for it. Just don't go back to that park. Homosexual entrepreneurship doesn't seem to be your long suit. The last time you tried making a commercial transaction of yourself, all it got you was option number one. Finally, there's option number three. You can stick with me. I promise I'll take good care of you."
     "Are you going to send me back to Parma?"
     "Not if you don't want to go, cupcake."
     "I'll stick with you," Paul said. Gigi could be scary at times, but he still felt safer with her than without her. And, scariness aside, he enjoyed her company.
     "Good! I was hoping you'd say that. OK, sweetie, here's Plan B, and listen carefully. I'm going to throw that brick through the back window of that police car. Afterwards, you and I are going to not run but walk very quickly over to that alley-see it?--then just wait. Meanwhile, Timmy, that man at the door who I was just talking to--he is going to go inside the Stonewall and tell any cop who will listen that their vehicle was damaged. He's also going to tell that cop he saw the perpetrators run in that direction," Gigi pointed ahead. "And that the perpetrators turned onto Waverly Plaza. Of course, that's not where the perpetrators--me and you--are going to be at all. Instead, we'll be running up that alley, and once we get to the end, we'll take a left, then take another left to another alley. A cab will be waiting for us. It's going to take us to RC's East 68th Street townhouse, what we like to call the Bat Cave. You can stay as long as you'd like. I insisted. Did you get all that?"
     Now all pumped up, Paul asked, "Can I throw the brick?!"
     "Oh! Um...sure, why not? Here."
     Gigi handed Paul the brick. He threw it. The brick bounced off the trunk of the police car.
     Timmy shook his head.
     "You throw like a girl," said Gigi. "And I should know because I am a girl."
     Paul scurried over to where the brick had landed, picked it up, and then scurried back to Gigi.
     "Let me try again."
     "Sorry, toots, but time is of the essence."
     Gigi pulled the brick out of Paul's hand, and threw it at the cop car herself. It sailed right through the back window, scattering glass as it did. Timmy smiled, gave the thumbs up, and walked inside the Stonewall. Despite the sound of glass breaking, nobody else standing in front of the club seemed to notice what had just happened. They all were more interested, more curious, about just what was going on inside the building.
     Gigi herself smiled and said, "Not bad for a sister who once got a D in gym class, the only class I ever got a D in. Now, sugar, do like I said and walk quickly over to that alley." 

But soon as they turned around they found standing in their way a very pretty girl, Latino-looking in spite of her blond hair, obviously a wig.
     "Gigi! You threw a brick at that police car!"
     She looked even more like a girl than Gigi, but Paul could tell by the raspy sound of her voice that she was a man dressed as a girl. Still very good-looking.
     "Very Nancy Drew of you, Sylvia," Gigi replied. "Now, if you're truly my friend, you'll keep quiet about this."
     "I think it's great! They've been treating us like shit for years. Now it's our turn!"
     Sylvia walked closer to the police car, pulled off a high heel shoe from her right foot and threw it at the vehicle's front side window, cracking it.
     "Sylvia!" Gigi yelled.
     Sylvia then pulled off the shoe from her left foot and threw it at the vehicle's back side window, cracking that one, too.
     "Well, now that you're barefoot, Sylvia, try not cut yourself."
     Sylvia tiptoed to where one of her shoes had landed.
     Gigi turned her attention back to Paul. "Now, darling, let's you and me--oh, dear, now what?"
     The black transvestite that had put her hand through Paul's hair was now running towards them. 
     "Sylvia! Gigi! It's insane in there!  A cop just hit Stormé on the head with a billy club! And now the fuzz is giving Timmy a hard time."
     "Oh, my goodness," said Gigi. "Is Stormé all right?"
     "Her right hook is. The cop landed on his ass."
     "That's my Stormé," Gigi said proudly.

     Excited, Sylvia said, "Marsha, Gigi threw a brick through the back of that police car, and I cracked two of its windows!" 
     "Well, why didn't I think of that?!" Marsha exclaimed as she jumped on the hood of the vehicle and kicked the rear-view mirror, knocking it completely off the car. She then raised her fist and shouted, "Power to the people!"
     "Let the revolution begin!" Sylvia screamed.
     "Well, you girls just hold on to those thoughts," Gigi said. "Me and my charge have to be going now. It's past his bedtime."
     Gigi grabbed Paul's left arm, and pulled him, at first gently, and then more forcefully, toward the alley. As he was being led away, he couldn't help but look at what was going on around him. A good portion of the crowd had followed Marsha over to the police car. Following her lead--following Sylvia's lead following Gigi's lead--the crowd began jumping up on, and punching, and kicking, and slashing the tires of, the police car, complaining as they did so about the times they'd been arrested in bars, in the park, in rest rooms, and even in the hallways of their own apartments after some nosy neighbors called to complain about open displays of affection. And the complaints didn't stop with the police, with one word coming up again and again: queer. The parents that had kicked them out of the house for being queer, the teachers that had flunked them for being queer, the employers who had fired them for being queer, the businesses that had refused them service for being queer, the banks that had refused them loans for being queer. Vengeance for all the sins committed against queerness was now being visited upon the rapidly deteriorating NYPD patrol car. And what was left of the car wasn't the end of it. The crowd that had remained in front of the Stonewall was now similarly attempting its destruction as well. Bricks, rocks, bottles, and garbage can lids went flying through the club's windows, sending shards of glass everywhere. Someone had even wrenched a parking meter out of the pavement and, with several others, was now using it as a battering ram against the bar's doors.
     Paul and Gigi made it to the alley. Watching the pandemonium unfolding before them, Paul asked, "Is this Plan B?"
     "Not particularly," Gigi replied. "I mean, you can't just plan a riot like you can a bridal shower. Oh, sure, a girl can dream, but--This is hardly Hough or Chicago, is it?  Those people are going to be in so much trouble. Of course, it's not like they haven't been in trouble before. You hear what they're saying. So I suppose it's trouble of their own volition this time around. At least the phones aren't working. That buys them some time. Not to change the subject, but where is Timmy? He should have gotten the police by now."
     "Your friend said the cops were giving him a hard time," Paul replied, wondering what she meant about the phones. 
     "Francis was supposed to make sure that didn't happen. But then nothing is going as it should today, is it? All this unpleasantness could have been avoided if my employer had only let me break into the Stonewall after hours. It would have been so easy. But, no, RC just had to turn it into an episode of Mission: Impossible so we would all know what a mastermind he is. As his secretary, I really should disavow any knowledge of his actions."

     Gigi was at it again, pretending she worked for some rich and famous lawyer, while the rocks, bricks, bottles, garbage can lids, and remains of the police car flew all about them. Though at a later date he would boast and even proselytize about having been an eyewitness to history, at the present moment Paul felt very afraid. Maybe he should have picked option number one after all. Surely the cops could have protected him from harm far better than this self-deluded black transvestite who now had her compact out and was applying yet another coat of lipstick to her face.

     Paul suddenly found himself being grabbed and wrenched violently into Gigi's fake boobs as a loud, metallic THUD rang through his ears. A license plate had landed right on the spot where just a moment earlier he had been standing. Gigi had pulled him out of harm's way!

     Shaken, Paul asked, "How did you see that coming?!'

     "The light on the street lamp was reflected off the plate as it sailed through the air, in turn casting a rectangular ray of light on the dark alley wall behind us, which was then played back to me on my compact mirror. It's like they used to say at the Karamu, you can never wear too much makeup."
     Gigi could be scary at times, but Paul still felt safer with her than without her. 

     "Oh, look at that!" Gigi exclaimed

     Paul cast his eyes upward, to see if another license plate was about to fall on him.

     "No, dear, look at the Stonewall."

      The cop who had taunted Paul about Judy Garland was poking his head though a broken window, and the crowd in front of the building was looking right back at him

     "Oppressor!" someone yelled out.



     Instead of smug, the cop looked terrified, and retreated back inside the Stonewall.

     It had been what Gigi was waiting for. "Darling, it's time for us to go. We've got a taxi to catch..." 
Paul and Gigi do make it to that second alley, but instead of a taxi there's a limousine! How's that for fleeing a riot in style? And it's inside this limo that Paul finally comes face to face with Gigi's mysterious employer...

     "What about Timmy?"

     "I imagine he's in police custody. Or soon will be. I'll go get him tomorrow. I'll represent him, too. Pro boner free of charge. We were going to take the limo around front and pick him up, but we couldn't get through. The crowd's too big. All the gay bars up and down Christopher Street are emptying out so everyone can be part of the ruckus. I'll be surprised if the Stonewall is still standing by daybreak. Poor Leland. Oh, well, he's a cop. He should have known what he was getting into when he graduated from the police academy. Speaking of cops, they're going to need a whole fleet of paddy wagons before this night is through."
     "It's pro bono, not boner." Gigi's mood had suddenly changed. She sounded upset.

     Mr. Cohn, however, kept right on talking.

     "Pro bono. That's right. Of course. Wow, Gigi, you've been with me for, what, five years now and you already got this lawyer stuff down pat. That's why you're my secretary. My personal secretary. My private secretary. My don't-let-this-get-out-it's-just-between-you-and-me secretary. Except that Bill here now knows. We may have to make him disappear. Ha, ha, just kidding, Bill. And we're still going to that restaurant. You'll like it. The food's great. It's what we here in Manhattan call a five-star restaurant."

     "Paul, not Bill! Since you're the one that got him into this mess--your mess--you can at least get his name right!"

     "OK, Gigi, that does it!" snapped Mr. Cohn. "I am your employer and if you're going to use that tone of voice with me then I demand to know why you're using that tone of voice with me! We'll go from there."
     "RC, you said the only people going to jail would be Jeckelli and his thugs, not the Stonewall's clientele. You promised!"
     "Well, that's before I knew there was going to be an insurrection. But, hey, I'm not complaining. Those faggots really showed some balls tonight. Let's see how long it takes for those balls to fall right back off again."
     "Oh, RC, listen to you talk! ‘Those faggots', as if you weren't one yourself."
     Mr. Cohn's face turned red with anger. "I am not now and have never been a faggot, and don't you forget it! A faggot is a subversive, a security risk, a threat to the state. Me? For God's sake, I know the President!"
     "He may want to issue a denial. RC, you said the photo wasn't in the safe. You could still be blackmailed."
     Mr. Cohn laughed and said, "Let 'em blackmail! I'll pay off the Mob--with their own money!"
     He then cast a sidelong, heavy-lidded glance at Paul.
     "Let that be a lesson, kiddo. Be very careful who you piss off."

And that's how the first chapter ends. I know there were some stray elements (Edwardo, the Karamu, Jeckelli and his thugs) that probably had you scratching your head, and it would have all made more sense if I had just posted the entire chapter, but at over 8,000 words, it might have tried your patience (as well as the patience of the hard disc drive that keeps Blogger up and running.) I hope at least that you have some idea of the flavor of the subsequent novel. And, despite some farcical moments, some idea of what life was like for LGBTQ+ folks back in 1969.

Now I just have to finish the novel. Only 20 more chapters to go. Out of 21. With any luck I'll be done by 2069.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Experienced Mamas

Jimi Hendrix, Michelle Phillips, and Cass Elliot, sometime is the late 1960s. Just imagining what this scene must have looked like in color has caused my pupils to dilate.