Friday, November 5, 2010


Last night, I had a dee-lightful evening at dinner with a fairly new friend in my orbit along with his equally wonderful boyfriend, whom I had never met before. We had a great evening and the banter was fast and the one-liners were even quicker. One of them is an inveterate reader and actually brought with him the second book I wrote (when the world was young) which he checked out of the library one block away from the restaurant. It's a minor book, to my mind, in my "catalog" of non-fiction titles I've written and not one that I mention or, even more, pick up and read. However, the hardcover edition, which he had, included my author photo on the inside back jacket.
The photo is now 30 years old (and I'm, alas, not). While the bf looked at the picture, my friend opened it further to really look at the photo and he audibly gasped and lurched back for a nano-second in his seat. At least, that's how I remember it 24 hours after the fact :)
Sure, I'm, well, 30 years older than I was in that photo and I have to claim that (where's that vial of Botox, anyway?) and live with it, and accept it (as best as any single gay man can, I suppose), but what really struck me came later when I got home. I gave them a tour of the house, which they seemed to like very much (very gratifying to me, as they both have superb taste), but after they left, curiosity got the better of me and I opened a copy of that same book and looked at my (now-ancient) author photo.
What struck me, and saddened me at the same time, is that I really was OK looking. On a good day, and in that picture at least, nicely attractive. It's hard, even in retrospect, to write that about myself, but I was good looking; perhaps I'm the mature version, still, and fairly adequately appearing on a good day after a couple cups of coffee and never before 11AM.
"My God, the moon is bright!," as Vera Charles said to Mame Dennis...
The part that gave me an empty, sad feeling is that I never, ever felt I was attractive, even at my so-called "peak" or blush of youth. I never had self-confidence, or bravado or held on to any personal currency which I felt had anything to do with how I looked. I knew I was smart, I knew I could write, I knew I had a sense of humor and could make people laugh with a one-liner or two, when I felt comfortable enough and relaxed to do so...but I never felt attractive...certainly, never "hot" or "studly" or "handsome"...I certainly don't feel anything like that now. I hate pictures of myself, maybe liking one out of 30, maybe.
I wish, and I say this to others also struggling with self-image issues, if someone says you're attractive or handsome or pretty or nice-looking, don't question it, take it in, enjoy it, savor it. It doesn't have to define you but it certainly can help make a good day better and a bad day worthwhile, sometimes.
I look back on those days now and think, if only I had reveled in the youth I had, felt that I was gosh-darn handsome or good-looking for a day or a week. Who knows what my world would have been like without always doubting myself in a physical way, especially in the gay world.
It's like having your driver's license photo taken and it's a terrible, terrible picture. You can't bear to look at it. But then, four years later or maybe eight years later when you have to go in and get a new picture taken, you look at that old one and think, 'you know, that photo isn't so bad!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I've been steadfast in avoiding my blog for quite some time -- still, even I was surprised that my last entry was two years and one day ago. I've had friends and blog followers ask me, nudge me, cajole and show abject irritation at my dropping the ball and stopping my blog in mid-flight, as it were. However, I don't suffer illusions of grandeur that my wee blog is read by millions (I'm happy with a robust dozen)...does the world NEED another blog?

I may be delusional when it suits me but I've never had an abundance of self-importance. (Thanks to my bevy of Catholic school nuns for that!) After all, when you're born with the Original Sin (vs. a trip to Walker's Original House of Pancakes, but that's a sweet detour on the road to Hell), there's only one way to go...well, you can either go up or you can go down. I've gone up and, oh yes, I've gone down, but, well, this is a family show :)

Looking back at the blog with a distance of two years, I'm stuck at how much I exposed of myself and how selective (naturally) I was about other things going on in my life and about new and old friends. I can say now the blog was part of my self-created therapy. Between the blog and my home renovations, it was a tidy (although sometimes full of tumult) package of therapy to get me through the very rough patch (that's such an understatement, but it will do) of tending to my terminally ill mom, diagnosed suddenly, moving back to Chicago after 25 years in LA, and adjusting to life without my mom and trying to find my way in a city which was so familiar to me, but yet, suddenly, where I felt like an outsider. How could I feel that in my home town, where I grew up and lived through college? I did, indeed. The adjustment, and the feeling that I was part of Chicago and rooted here was a very long time coming. It's happened, at long last, and I'm very fortunate to have made wonderful, trusted friends and my social life is booming. When I wrote the blog, it was all about adjusting to this old but new metropolis and trying to find my way.

I'm on the way, well on my way, and I've very grateful and happy about that.

To wrap up this post, I have come upon a peculiar dilemma which I know well other bloggers (and writers) have wrestled with online and in the real world and on the typewriters of yore.
Didn't Truman Capote lose friendships (including Babe Paley) because of his candid recounting of the lives of NY's upper crust, and discounting the importance of privacy between friends? He got the book but lost a lot in the process.

Can one have it both ways? I'm not so sure.

Now that this cycle of the blog (2010!) expands beyond rehabbing my kitchen (faucets don't particularly care what I say about them) and into human relationships and experiences, the quandary is, deciding not only what to write about, but having the proper filter to not reveal the identities of those mentioned (after all, beyond the obvious, they might read my blog!), certain conversations or events might come back to bite me...isn't that me at my most lyrical? :)

To paint with a broad brush, not long ago I had what I consider to be (in retrospect) a funny, illuminating, what-could-go-wrong, went-wrong evening with a gent I fancied. Yet, even if I disguise who it is, I don't want him to necessarily know that I liked him, maybe, in that certain way because I'm on the down low about that...and yet, damn, it would make for a great blog entry. But I don't want to drop my drawers, in a manner of speaking, and make our current state of friendship weird by writing about it for the world (and perhaps him) to see.

Did I mention he has a boyfriend? I didn't know that until the third act curtain, as it were.

In closing, thanks to the hearty bunch who encouraged me to return to the blog. So whatever you read here, remember the Mary Boland line from "The Women" -- can we keep this between the five of us?" -- it's strictly confidential but tell all your friends about the blog. As you can see, I'm conflicted :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Sorry I haven't posted as of keeps getting in the way (no excuse). To break back into the blog routine, I'm indulging myself by posting something I wrote a few days ago for the extraordinary website, The Judy Garland Experience. And I must thank OBF, Daniel, for his encouragement to post my musings on Sid Luft, Judy Garland's third husband, after he privately read an initial draft. The link to the site is below, but if you want to join, it's by invitation only. This is the link to the blog version of the group:

What follows is a slightly modified version of what I posted:

I've been reluctant, until now, to chime in on the subject of Sid Luft, largely because my "take" on him is influenced by a close friendship with him that began in 1979 and then continued unabated when I moved to Los Angeles from Chicago upon graduation from college the following year.

Without reservation, I can say that I loved Sid and I know he felt the same about me. I was with him the morning he died and gave Joe a much-needed respite for an hour or so by watching over Sid, who was gravely ill and barely able to get into a wheelchair. I spent virtually the week after he passed at Sid's home, as the family had asked me to be media spokesperson as calls came infrom all over the world.

While it was an extremely difficult time for all of us close to Sid, I attempted as best I could to help the family and Sid's business associate, John Kimble. I assisted in planning Sid's memorial service at his beloved Rivera Country Club (with hundreds of mourners present), along with helping John assemble video montages celebrating his life.

Because I was friends with Sid – and for a very long time -- I feel compelled to express a somewhat different portrait of Sid than whatis often presented. This isn't being written wearing my usual "hat"of reporter and researcher, but on an admittedly much more personal basis.

When it comes to Sid Luft, I can separate the man from his misdeeds because, for one, he always treated me fairly and honorably, and, most of all, because of his abiding, ever-present love for JudyGarland.

He was a flawed man, to be sure, and made many, many mistakes for which she often the victim; that said, to my mind, Sid Luft lasted the longest than any other heterosexual man in her life and provided her with at least a semblance of constancy, a home life and "family"more than she found in any other such relationship.

Sid proclaimed not long before he died, "Whatever bad things happened, you don't fall out of love with somebody like her. All I know is that if anyone tried to save a woman who was breaking apart, I did. I know that I did the best I could do, and it still wasn't enough."

I know most concede that Sid loved Judy; it was, and is, his sometimes highly questionable (or simply, lousy) business practices (during her life and after) which, rightfully, often came under fire. I am clear-eyed about Sid's failings, bad decisions, lack of financial planning, shoddy products he created or authorized, and his embracing myths he created which became his truth. Yet, for me, his fierce devotion, his passionate love of her, which never wavered, filter the weight of his misdeeds.

In the nearly thirty years I knew him, I never heard him say a harsh or demeaning word about her; instead, he would invariably blame himself, not her, or pinpoint others in her life (which he would derisively call "pop-ups," the ones who would appear and disappear after they extracted what they wanted from her) or, inevitably, her subsequent managers, Freddie Fields and David Begelman.

I don't excuse Sid Luft for his failings, particularly those for which Judy was victim. But rightfully so or not, I filter them witht he belief (biased or not) that he felt himself to be her protector and champion. Did he sometimes -- or often -- fail at the task? Of course.

One of Sid's great failings, I suppose, is that he simply was unable or unwilling, to move on after Judy died, or even, when she was alive and he was out of the picture – both professionally and personally.

Sid briefly acted as manager for his daughter, Lorna Luft, in the early 1970's until she thought better of it, quipping, "You won't be satisfied until you put me in a brunette wing and have me sit on the edge of the stage and sing, `Over the Rainbow'!"

As a result, Sid was dependent upon Judy's earnings; and when he no longer acted as her producer-manager, he took short cuts, sued with abandon (and, in turn, was often sued himself), made bad deals, rushed inferior merchandise to the marketplace and developed the kind of reputation which repelled many top-drawer investors and thus greatly curtained the production and release of legitimate, prestigious ventures. Yet, he loved her, deeply, passionately, his emotion when speaking of her (and their life together) was always real, immediate and powerful.

He was a terrific raconteur, had a great sense of humor and couldrival the political experts on CNBC and CNN with his knowledge on national and global issues, it's equally true that one could not havea conversation with him where the topic didn't come back to Judy Garland, his love for her, his sadness at not being able to do more for her. He could not let go. It was something that helped to undermine his professional standing and also interfered with his personal life; his last wife, Camille, often said (bemusedly), "I know Sid loves me but Judy always comes first and she always will. He is still in love with her…in a way he will never be with me."

From one perspective, that's echoed in a statement I gave to the press when he died: "Judy and Sid had a great love affair. She was the love of his life. He never got over her and he was still in love with her until the day she died."

As someone here recently noted,"Like many women of her generation, Judy expected her partners to handle her business affairs." To that end, Sid did not spare himself on that subject. As he stated a few years before his death:"I didn't want to be her pimp. I got a call from the head of theMorris office, who said, "Sid, what are you doing, interfering with Judy's career? You may be the boyfriend, but don't try to interfere with our management." But she wanted to announce I was her personal manager. And I was not ready for that, because I didn't want to be criticized for invading that portion of her life as a manager. That's a hell of a lot of responsibility. A) We are not married, B) I am traveling with this big star and C) I look like maybe I'm a hanger-on. It sure was a big decision to make. I remember we had an emotional misunderstanding and she was crying. She says, "I know you can do it." It was late in the afternoon, the sun was practically down, and I was looking at the big black cast on the top of the hill, and she was sobbing. She almost wanted to buy me in some form. I said, "I am not a manager. I have been an agent; I'm trying to produce a picture, Judy." She said, "You've got to stay with me, Sid. I cannot do this without you. I want you to be my manager. I want to put you on salary. I want to pay you for being known as my mentor." It was kind of overwhelming. Judy was, what the word, possessive, and she wanted to indulge me. I knew what I was going to run into for myself – a nobody who had produced two crappy pictures and a woman who had a reputation for suicides. Christ, who was going to take a chance with these two?"

Yes, Sid gambled and frittered away lots of (her) money, as well as his salary as her producer-manager. His fondness for the track is legendary. Investments were not made. Taxes were not paid. On the other side of the coin, their expenses were formidable: "We had a cook and a butler, a secretary, two nurses for the children, a secretary, a cook, and a houseman, as well. I rememberone time counting up the people who were on the staff. There were twelve. "

His devotion and protectiveness for her raged on until the end. I was touched at his remark he made not long before his passing: "When she was at Doctor's Hospital [with hepatitis], I was living there, too, because a relativecan rent a room to live in the hospital, and I had a small room that was just like a cell. There was nothing in there. Just a bed and dresser, a mirror and a bathroom. I lived in that small room the endof December '59, January, February of '60, ten or eleven weeks, as long as Judy was in the hospital."

Judy was certainly victim to Sid's excess and sometimes poor business decisions. Yet one might ask how long she would have lived if he hadn't been around -- or had the endurance or personal strength --to "stitch her up," as he would refer to her life-threatening medication-induced incidents.

As [Hollywood historian and friend of Garland] Robert Osborne observed in my book, "Desilu" re Lucille Ball andher marriage to Gary Morton: "It's very hard for a woman in that star category – like it was for Judy Garland and Bette Davis – to find acceptable men to be with, because they need someone around them all the time. If it's somebody equal in stature in business or career, those men don't have the time to be with them all the time. They need keepers, in a certain sense."

I shall never forget one of my last memories of Sid. Although his health had severely declined and he was restricted to a wheelchair, he was determined (and delighted) to attend a special screening of "A Star Is Born" [which he produced] at The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. With Joe at his side (providing exemplary 24 hour care without complaint), Sid invited me and a few other close friends to be with him. It was clear that he was in enormous pain, but he refused to acknowledge, or give in, to it.

Joe sat next to Sid, and I was a few seats down the aisle. The audience gave him a standing ovation when it was announced that he was the special guest of the event.

The image of Sid and Joe taking in the film remains vivid. I remember looking over at Joe and seeing his obvious delight. He shared his father's pride in the film, reveled in seeing his mother's performance and was as captivated as the rest of us. I still can see him beaming, the joy in seeing his mother in full bloom.

Most of all, the memory of Sid is indelible. I couldn't help myself but look over at him throughout the screening. The light of the projection lit up his face. He held a Kleenex throughout the picture. For those minutes, it seemed the ravages of old age and frail health disappeared. Perhaps he was aware he would not see the film again. There were moments where his beaming face, his unabashed joy, his great bursts of laughter, belied the reality of the present.

Mostly, what will stay with me always is the image of seeing Sid, atcertain moments of the film, openly sobbing, tears streaming down his face, shaking his head back and forth, putting his face in his hands when the emotion was too much for him. He was so overcome that he remained positioned in his wheelchair next to the aisle for quite some time after the movie ended to regain his composure.

The evening ended on a high note, as dozens of people in the audience came over to Sid in homage, asking him questions about the picture, about Judy, and asking for autographs. The evening was all the more special because it was Sid's last public appearance. I was honored to be part of it and, above all, I am honored to have been his friend and comrade.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Since it's been about six (gulp) weeks since I've posted anything here, I am sheepishly back, contrite, as I am fending off writer's block, fatigue and the sense that so much has happened in the last several weeks, of interest perhaps to no one but myself, I haven't faced the virtual page until now...with the fear, "Have I lost my audience?" Of course, since I only have an audience of eight (a generous count), I truly might be writing for only myself at this if nothing else should cure me of the dreaded writer's block, THAT should...maybe.

MS laid down the gauntlet yesterday and said, bub, if you're not gonna blog then end it, already...with an invite to be her friend on Facebook or Facelift or some such website...sure, I'm in. But I can't let this blog die...especially a slow, quiet here I am.

Last I wrote here, I was in Los Angeles..I'm going back in two weeks for five days to shop bathroom fixtures, the last frontier of the rehabbing of my house. I'll also visit with old friends and attend yet another Judy reunion...the original reason for my trip! This will be an informal gathering of some old-guard Garland devotees who attended her TV series and concerts, along with relative newbies (such as myself) and some special guests.

CB and I are sort of taking a break this month, but of course she's still on the case, wanting to bop me upside the head sometimes for not always being plugged in at full wattage -- this is my first rodeo, she's a first-rate, top-shelf, highly in demand designer, so her experience coupled with my resounding lack of experience in this arena translates into that she's saved the day on several occasions.

The house is really coming together and it's the little things, as it were, that is making it seem like I'm really in my home instead of living day to day out of a box, or boxes. When the area rugs in the living and dining room came in, that added such warmth and richness to the place...and the chalk board in the kitchen (another ingenious CB touch) was another inspired is the gorgeous stained glass lamp in the many big 'n small touches which are making the house come alive.

The window treatments arrive in ten days and THAT will really add so much to the coziness to the house...did I mention a boyfriend in my life would add even MORE coziness to the house...oh, where was I?

CB and I have lately coined a phrase, "Happy Mistake!" when something didn't happen we wanted or was expected...and invariably, something better, much better, came along...hence, what was a liability became an asset.

When I returned from L.A., I had three days back in Chicago before I flew to Grand Rapids, Minn. for the annual Judy Garland are on the right to give you some idea of the four-day event, plus the fifth day, which was spent on the glorious, spectacularly clear Great Lakes speed boating with Michael S. (an A-Lister in the Garland orbit and a fellow presenter at this year -- and in year's past), MS, along with the JG Museum's director and was the perfect way to wind down after the confab and relax before heading home.

Although my video presentation was beset with audio and video glitches, it mattered little to the SRO audience, because, once again, Judy (on video) saved the day...and I tried to get out of the way as much as possible. The audience cheered and applauded each clip...Judy does it to 'em every time. As I mentioned on a live radio interview from Grand Rapids, there is something special when you see Judy in performance (whether from her movies, TV series or television appearances, etc.) in a becomes a shared experience and exponential in its effect.

Garland's sheer joy in communicating, coupled with her sublime talent, unmistakable voice (shall I go on?) create an indelible experience always, but when more than two people get together to watch her on tape or ain't like nothin' else...and, once again, she triumphed in her birthplace of Grand Rapids, Minnesota from the start of the festival until the close...and this phenomenon has been repeated for more than a decade and shows no sign of stopping, attracting hundreds of Judy fans and "Oz" devotees from 'coast to coast' (as they used to say) and from around the world.

As was the case during my first jaunt there in '06, I had a wonderful time and met new friends and reconnected with old pals. Like '06, this year's fest brought some indelible of them was on the way from the airport in the Twin Cities in the rental car, a four or five hour drive to tiny Grand Rapids...a great guy, a 'local' named Brian, picked us up...and what a cargo!

Compressed together in the wee car was the driver, Margaret Pellgrini, one of the Munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz" (!), her fortright ten year old granddaughter, and for several hours, watching bugs splat on the windshield, we took in the beautiful countryside of Minnesota...jammed in the backseat of the tiny rental car as a Munchkin and twelve of Judy's original costumes from her classic movies...thank goodness we were in the boonies...if it had been West Hollywood or New York or SF or some such urban arena, the car would surely have been hijacked and I would have been tossed out without a thought...what was expendable? ME!

I got back to L.A. and a week later, flew back East....a friend of a friend invited me as his guest to his amazing, expansive home for a four-day was the first time in over a year I had seen one of my best friends, which allowed me the chance to see a part of the country I haven't seen before. It was an ever-so-gay four days of watching vintage movie clips, Merman blasting away on records and video, Judy on tape (but of course) and lots of great conversation, quips, movie references and incredble food. And, the host of the gala, who didn't know me, but knew OF me, and sent me a cuffo (that means 'comped' in Variety lingo...!) r/t air ticket..what a guy.

A few of us went antique shopping in the small town on a Saturday afternoon. A caravan of two cars packed with gay men shopping for antiques -- did they see us coming, or WHAT? One eagle-eyed obsever in our posse found an original "Oz" book from 1902 for only 25 cents! It was an amazing find and though it wasn't in the best shape, it was quite the find, and the richly detailed color plates were intact and stunning (if only I could say the same amount myself - !)

This weekend gathering brought us together with the elder statesmen of the group, a wonderful older gentleman who introduced the two of us back in was amazing to hear our older friend speak of being gay in a small town in the 1940's...having few outlets...feeling completely alone...the spectre of being arrested for the most innocent of encounters (and not so innocent)...being a regular at director George Cukor's house on Sunday for the all-male pool parties and so on...for someone to speak off-the-cuff about being gay in America in 1946 and how far we've come (even when sometimes we think we haven't...and, in some ways, to be sure, we haven't), it's a lesson indeed to hear from an elder statesman to give perspective and to remind us younger folk what others before us did in defiance to bring us the freedom we take for granted today.

More later (and soon!) but thanks for coming back to read...I promise to not be tardy again...or at least, so tardy! Next time, I'll write about some personal stuff and not just make this an ever-so-gay travelogue...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

the same, but different

I'm in Los Angeles as I write this; actually, I'm West Hollywood-adjacent...paying by the minute at the Kinko's on Sunset Blvd. I've been in SoCal since Sunday and I return to Chicago on June 22nd..the anniversary of Judy Garland's death in '69 (faggotini factoid, as a dearly departed friend would call it), and then I jaunt to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the site of the annual Judy Garland Festival. I was an invited participant two years ago there and I've been asked again this year to present another video seminar/Q&A this year.

It's a wonderful, off-the-beaten-track three days in the small town, full of Munchkins (yep, the surviving ones from the 1939 movie!), fans, a few peculiar, fervent fans, Judy's son, Joe Luft, and, in years past, Lorna Luft; Lorna is abroad performing at the moment so she won't be there this year. It's a wonderful time and I've never seen water and sky so blue. Last year, we spent the Monday after the festival ended to go speed boating on the water and visit the town's mogul. It was glorious and a glimpse in an era gone by but still alive in a pocket of a very small town in Minnesota.

Under any criteria, wee Grand Rapids isn't bustling, ain't crowded and the pace is lanquid. I remember when I was there last time, the Festival director and I were waiting for the light to change to cross the town's 'busiest intersection' (I think there are only four roads in the entire town...) and he said, with a straight face, 'my gosh, look at all those cars on the road.' There were only EIGHT. "It's rush hour now. It's going to take me fifteen minutes to get home."

In 2006, the Festival arranged for a huge Hummer stretch limo to pick us up: Joe, The Munchkins, and me. The Hummer was so TALL, a box had to be placed under the car door when they jumped out so they had something to land on. It was like a Japanese clown car -- with little people. Dozens of 'em jumping out of the yellow pimp Hummer and bouncing on the crate box before hitting the red carpet which was unfurled to lead them from the limo into the hotel. I had a grand time that weekend, as they used to say, and I bet this year's festival will be just as fabu, if not more so.

The four-day Festival attracts hundreds of people from the States and abroad, young, old, gay, straight and those occasional in-betweens. I remember after giving my video seminar in '06, one lumberjack type (picture the original "Brawny" man from the vintage paper towel commercials) shuffled up to the desk where Iwas signing books and DVD's and he he said, haltingly, "My wife dragged me here. I don't know much about Judy Garland but there's nobody like her. She's the greatest."

A real-life lumberjack at a Judy Garland Festival? Talk about Dream Date...!

It's funny. After living in L.A. for over 25 years, it's odd to return as a visitor. I'm staying with a great, dear friend who generously is putting me up, and putting up with me, for the week that I'm in town. He's the friend I gave my furniture, bedding, kitchen stuff et al to when I moved; so it's comforting and yet odd at the same time, to see my old furniture and the rest in HIS place, and I'm surrounded by it all. One more visual to show me where my life was and where it is now. Everything in L.A. is the same as it was in January when I left but yet, everything is different. Of course, what's different is me. I spent too much time drifing in L.A. -- there's none of that in Chicago. A friend here astutely remarked, "People live in Chicago because they want to be in Chicago. People live in L.A. because they have an agenda for something else." He painted with a broad brush in that remark, pointedly, but I got what he said.

I don't feel that I belong in L.A. any longer; a few nights ago, I was in my rental car and I thought, I really am missing being home -- home, being Chicago. Maybe it's the fact that I own a home and I'm anchored in Chicago but it's more than that...I feel that L.A. wasn't good for me the last year or so and I probably wasn't much good for it, either. After my breakup with my ex, I was adrift and sad and unsettled and memories were everywhere. I do have sentiments about him as I drive all over town, remembering things we did and places we enjoyed. I actually thought about calling him, but I won't. I admitted to CB (when she asked, intuitive soul that she is) that I had been thinking about him and she wasn't surprised. It was after the 2006 Judy confab that my ex told me he was in love with me, so being in L.A. and the upcoming Judy event both contribute to this, I am sure. The good thing is that I can admit those feelings but I don't have to act upon them.

I have changed a great deal in the last eight months, since my mom got sick. I feel that I lived in sort of a suspended, protracted gay male adolescence that only went away when I had to face the mortality of my only surviving parent (and, thus, my own). You will either rise to the occassion or crumble under the emotion, pressure and newfoundr responsibilities. Even at the most difficult moments in Chicago, I have never once thought that I made a mistake by moving there or keeping the house, fixing it up and not selling it. I have a place where I belong and it has changed me at my core.

I have spent this week seeing old friends, seeing my cardiologist, etc....and it's been great. I miss them all very much but online communication really makes it far less than it would be otherwise. CB is somehow taking time out of her enormously busy schedule (during a high-profile, high-budget production) to shop with me and save me from myself when it comes to me not picking the right thing or the right color; when I got the gay DNA, the design-clothes-color strains were absent. In that sense, I am a gay man trapped in a straight man's psyche..I know what I like when I see it but I could pick it out or coordinate if my life depended upon it.

While I'm here, the painters are at the house and the carpenter is there too (more or less) doing work and supervising. I have a lot to do here but not soooo much that I'm overloaded. My friend, DA -- whom I met in 1980 when I put an ad in The Advocate for a roommate -- is being very generous in putting together a video presentation for the Judy Festival, which involves multiple nights and a lot of clips and editing.

Of course, I am doing some gay things while I'm in L.A. I'm seeing Liza at The Hollywood Bowl on Friday night with the boys and I'm seeing Dr. Harvey tomorrow for a splash of Botox and laser skin peeling on my face; how else can I be on the doorstep of 40 and not go over that cliff?

The other day, I visited an old friend who had way too much work done and not good work. His attractive gray hair was now a montone Just For Men shoepolish black and his rugged face was now so full of facial filler that he looked like a peeled, overripe apple. He had some lip injection too which makes him look like he is perpetually about to sneeze. His handsome late 40's mug is now looking like a pie crust with eyes. I wanna go back to Chicago...!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

posting the last moments of May!

I've been horrible at this blogging thing this month...obviously. My friends have complained, nudged and barked that I dropped the ball here.  And it's true.  I take the licks. I'm sorry for not being constant...and just disappearing. I also am sorry that friends have worried about me, taking my silence here as an indicator that something is amiss, or I'm under the weather..nope, just under the gun.
To summarize (details to come later), Handyman is gone. I had to let him go. His single success was the tile floor in the kitchen, but not much else got done (well) or, most of all, completed. I didn't know this (I was sort of snowballed by my so-called 'Polish brother') but CB keyed into what was really going on not ten minutes after she walked in the door here. She came to Chicago two weeks earlier than we expected, to address a critical time...the installation of the kitchen cabinets. She found that the plumbing wasn't correct, the electric was iffy and Handyman had become my personal Elden. Unfortunately for me, he seemed to have adroitly tapped into a very real, still powerful need in have a brother figure, a mentor, a male figure (non-sexual) in my life to pay me attention, to bond with, to learn from...things I never got from an absentee alcoholic father (whom my mom divorced when I was six) or as an only child.
CB realized, at the moment she closed the door behind her here and assessed the situation (aka the damage), that very little had gotten done (much less completed) and Handyman seems to have milked the situation (and targeted my blind spot) to his advantage. I was duped; I felt more than a little sheepish and taken, but such is life. CB, once again, saved the day, saved the project and saved the kitchen.
Shotcut to the present: the hardwood floors were done three days ago; they look great. The plumbing was fixed (Handyman did it all wrong), the electric work was corrected (at considerable expense) and the painters are next to invade my home. I'm leaving for LA in a couple of weeks for one week to see friends, take care of business on the West Coast, etc.  And to see sorely-missed friends. I've also been invited to speak at a convention at the end of the month; a repeat visit from two years ago. I had a great time in this small town hours from nowhere, and I'm looking forward to the respite again.
The house needs to be painted, much still needs to be done, I need furniture, and a ton more stuff I can't even begin to think about (it's almost midnight). MS has been a dear, dear friend and she is my joy and my life raft when the road gets rougher (it IS, lonelier and tougher...).  
Yet, even at the most difficult times through all of this, I've never regretted moving from LA and taking on this town, this house and this new life in Chicago.
I'm having stirrings about wanting a boyfriend, but, that's something I'm not ready to tackle yet! However, I have had feelings, random or not, of wanting to mate...look out, boys :)

Monday, April 28, 2008


So much has happened in the last week or so that I've hit 'overload' more than a few times.  Thank my higher power (and yours, just in case we have the same one) that CB is on the way here from L.A. tomorrow morning; she's doing the 911 thang and helping me through this hot mess aka home rehab. 

She moved heaven and earth aka her jam-packed schedule so she could be here this week, instead of two weeks from now. I said, with a wail in my voice the other day, "If only you were here now..." and, amazing best friend that she is, CB will be at my side...taking over, geting this house in order, ship-shaping the troops, and creating (and maintaining) the schedule calendar so things happen, when they are supposed to happen..or sooner.

This has been a critical week. Crates and crates of kitchen cabinets arrived last week.  I wasn't told by the delivery men until they rang my doorbell that, for insurance reasons, thy would not bring the boxes inside the house. They would drop 'em at the door or bring them into a garage, but that's it. If Handyman hadn't been there...and with his dolly...I would still be sitting outside of a rapidly bowing porch, day after day, with a toilet plunger masquerading as a shotgun, guarding the cardboard boxes. 

Thankfully, Handyman spoke his charming fluent Spanish and ingratiated himself into their hearts and got them to help move the bigger boxes into the house (with his help). He moved the rest himself with the dolly into the living room. 

For my part, I paced and sweated on his behalf and made a pitcher of iced tea. I know my limitations. I, uh, had just gone to the gym earlier that day, anyway; I was all about the Feng Shui. I had to make sure those 108 cardboard boxes were in JUST the right place for the friggin' WEEK it would take before the cabinet installers are here (this Wednesday through Friday).

Kitchen appliances are arriving this weekend. Gone are the Harvest Gold stove, the Avocado Green refrigerator and ancient, probably radiation-emitting microwave circa 1968 from Sears; I'm only slightly exaggerating. I'm still using the Black & Decker under-cabinet coffeemaker that Mom bought in '83...not kidding, she saved everything, including the sales ticket. After it leaves here post-renovation, it's heading to The Smithsonian. (Me, not long after.)

In prepping for the new-fangled kitchen appliances (with three-prong cords!), I accidentally, but most thankfully before the house might have burned down or some such imagined disaster, discovered that the a/c company improperly installed an electric box that wasn't grounded or bonded. Not only is it against code, it could have fried me and burned the house down. Of course, I'm now in a tussle with the company about that while, at the same time, I've had to bring in an electrical contractor to save the day (at $$, of course).  

I feel like I've been suckerpunched...I've lost a sizable amount of money on the bad electrical work, and now I have to spend double that to fix, prep this old place for new-fangled appliances. My mom barely used one wall a/c, the TV and a lamp on at the same time.  Me, you know I'm gonna have on the computer, four TV, eighteen lights, the microwave, the washer and dryer, four clocks all at I gotta bring the house up to date.

Handyman & ViceGrip have been working uber-hard and (it seems) round the clock to keep on schedule...laying the tile (that's all that's getting laid, alas), grouting, plastering the walls, you name it...the last of the grout is going on tonight and the kitchen drywall will be covered with Magic Marker slashes with diagrams of the cabinets and about-to-arrive appliances so the electricians have caveman-like drawings to guide them at 8AM tomorrow.  And that means, I have to get up at 7:45AM...that's really the worst part of it.

Despite the housebound drama ("I Am a Shut-In!"), I did have escape this weekend.  MS invited me for an encore at The Art Institute to take the Hopper exhibit.  As I've posted earlier, Edward Hopper is my fave American artist (save for CB), and I savored his work on my last jaunt there with MS; however, there is so much to see (and, frankly, MS and I talk so much) that we had the urge, the drive, the need, to see more than the six paintings (kidding!) we saw the first time. The second visit was as powerful as the first, if not more so, and I came away more of a Hopper man than I had even been before...I am now compelled to learn more about the man who creates such moody, introspective, haunting images of solitary, isolated, lonely, perhaps tragic people...or, sunny landscapes which still seem...morose and foreboding. I said to MS during our tour, I bet he is the kind of guy who jumps out of Japanese clown cars and wears a Whoopie cushion...he must be a life-of-the-party guy who spills his sadness and feelings of separateness into his, am I talking about him or myself...?

My elderly neighbors, Catherine and her husband, invited me to their nearby Lutheran church for Mass. It was "Bring a Heathen" -- actually, "Bring a Friend" -- to Church Day, and so they invited me and I was tickled that they asked.  I had never been to a Lutheran service, and I really enjoyed it. I loved the fact that the pastor was married and had a wife and three kids...they were all in the front row, uh, pew, and beamed at Pastor Daddy. It was wonderful to see the connection of church, family and members of the church together. 85-year old hubby-to-Catherine slammed his fist on the table after service during get-acquainted-breakfast after, and said, "We had a lady Pastor and she was a pistol -- but she died in her sleep, and that was that."  As a Catholic, it was wonderful to see a Pastor with a family and so connected with his congregation and his family together; it would be spectacular, IMO, if the Catholic Church followed suit.

This from a staunchly Catholic family (I'm reformed) with an uncle who is a practicing priest and a deceased great uncle who reigned as a cardinal. My uncle had a female "housekeeper" who traveled with him, including holidays at our house, when I was a kid, and when the first one died, my uncle got himself a younger babe, a gal who cooked, cleaned and...whatever...he was a licensed pilot in the air, a hellion on Earth with his souped-up Cadillac that never seemed to go less than 80 MPH...

End of Catholic Church rant...

Phase warp speed...starts tomorrow with CB's arrival...hang on - !