Versailles Days, Beluga Nights

At the first Castro Street Fair, drunk. Me anyway.
At the first Castro Street Fair, drunk. Me anyway.

The happiest days are those when babies come. Second is when UPS delivers new wall covering. My Evans & Brown paper came today, I’m thrilled.

Mark is the E of E&B and one of my best friends since college. In the nomad lifestyle of the 1970’s we ended up as roommates several times.

He hired me and was my supervisor at Williams-Sonoma’s nascent mail-order business in 1975. Mark alone saw my potential. If anyone could wrap a corn dolly, put it in a box then tape it shut, it was me.

I was with him the night he met his partner Charlie, New Years Eve 1977. We were at a pot-luck, carry-in supper in the church basement. Or maybe it was the sleazy backroom of the first White Party. One of those.

I feel close to Mark because of an unspoken affinity we’ve shared since the beginning. With all the craziness about, most of it created by us, he could remain grounded.

Like with politics. While we were as radical as anyone, neither of us could embrace the entire gestalt of the movement. We don’t have the same parents. You are not my brother. You are not my sister.

You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change the world. 1976.

Another bond was a fascination for the absurdity of excessive wealth and fame. The lifestyle, the trappings. And its heroines: Judy, Zelda, Jackie, Wallis, Babe, Tallulah, Doris Duke, Marie de Medici. So intriguing yet so silly.

Mark’s nickname for me is The Begum. For emphasis, The Holy Begum. She was the wife of the Aga Khan, an object of adoration to millions of followers. We imagined religious ceremonies where the faithful carried her on a perfumed palanquin then honored her with her weight in precious stones.

All she had to do was look pretty, be remote and exude serenity. If she ever opened her mouth the illusion would be destroyed. She probably sounded like a bowling alley shoe attendant. Mark thought my skills fit the Begum job description as well as they did the mail order one.

Photo-booth with Dale, 1974.

His counsel through the years has helped shape my persona.  Once in Bloomington we were getting stoned and watching The Price is Right. Televisions were rare in our hippie days. When we had one we watched whatever was on. We only got three channels.

Mark teased me for being blasé. “You’re so lackadaisical, no one’s going to like you if you don’t show more enthusiasm. Why can’t you be like these contestants?”

Never one to shrink from a challenge,  I silently stewed over his comments through a couple of commercials. Then I correctly guessed the price on the Samsonite luggage.

It’s tough for me to get above middle C so my shriek was unconvincing. The faux jubilation was more believable. I flailed my arms and legs in the air causing the chair to flip over backwards. Rolling on my neck into a reverse somersault, I bounced to my feet, jumped up and down screaming, “I won! I won! Can you believe it? I won!”

Mark sat and laughed. He has never asked to see that side of me again.

The blue of French royalty meets the black of the Caspian Sea.

I am not a designer and was once threatened with jail time for decorating without a license. I have unorthodox ideas. Some work, some don’t, but I’m always willing to throw out the mistakes. The point of contention, however, is over which ideas are the mistakes.

My bedroom is small, 11’x12′, so I’m getting flak for using a king size mattress. It was the best mattress I had so I kept it. That’s it. No bureaus, desks or overstuffed chairs are needed to complete the look. Just the posturpedic. Putting the bed back in bedroom.

It’s not in a frame so it’s less bulky. And, like Hugh Hefner, it’s the center of my universe. All business is conducted from there. Minus the pipe and slippers.

The task is to make the surroundings visually interesting. That’s where the Versailles wall paper from the Treasure line comes in. It’s mesmerizing. A medium blue with a touch of green and glitz, it’s the perfect backdrop for my huge, fake Grandma Moses.

Keeping the focus on Grandma, the other three walls are black. A camera obscura effect using Tiburon Ray Beluga.  It has a seductive quality that is subdued, rich.

It will be a couple of weeks before I finish. But thanks to Mark, this place will soon start feeling like home.

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