Bosom Buddies

Soulful staredown of two pretty sharp dressers.

I’m not sure when Time Magazine begins the nominating process for its Person of the Year. If the vote were held today, Stormy Daniels would have to be the pick.

When she first gained prominence last Spring she was pigeonholed as a publicity seeking bimbo. But in her published comments and the way she handled herself in live interviews, it was apparent she was an intelligent woman who knew exactly what she was doing. Making porn was not her most defining quality. It was just the way she happened to earn a living.

Recently she’s objected to the constant prefix of “porn star” to her name. “They’d never refer to me as librarian Stormy Daniels.” As a former one I can say the two professions easily intermingle.

One fault I do find with the librarian’s judgement was in accepting the original settlement of 130K. After lawyers fees and taxes there’s barely enough for a week’s stay at a thrice bankrupt luxury hotel.  Like the now-defunct Trump Taj Mahal in loser-ville, Atlantic City. A true deal artist would demand seven figures.

The steamroller Stormy created continues to gain momentum today. As seen in last week’s capitulation of National Enquirer Chairman, David Pecker. Getting the Peckers of the world to cooperate is no small feat.

If not Person of the Year at least Miss Congeniality in the Trump International Miss Universe Contest.

As Stormy emerges to become the paradigm for the new librarian, we say farewell to a landmark of porn’s past. Last Sunday I attended a barbecue celebrating The Nob Hill Theater’s final day. The home of gay porn and famous All Male Review closed its doors on Bush Street after 50 years. For 30 of those years I passed it daily on my walk to work.

It was the solitary gay establishment in a neighborhood of Chinatown tourists, cable car riders, Union Square shoppers, Tenderloin overflow and residential apartment dwellers. Laid out as a small theater with proscenium and large screen, it later added strippers, a back room, and a video arcade to help patrons meet  “new friends.”

I lived three blocks away for four decades and occasionally dropped in. Friendships did, indeed, spring up.

One buddy was a kid in his early 20’s from Hillsborough. He had an elaborate story about being an Ivy League graduate who worked as a lawyer for the CIA. I saw him on the sly and at his bidding. There were always time limitations and he never gave me his number. Even though I had caller id, the sex was good so I played along.

I saw him several times and started sharing details with friends. When one pointed out Princeton didn’t have a law school I realized I looked foolish pursuing this folly. I gently called his bluff and never heard from him again.

His lying was not malicious nor was he a scammer. He was just another insecure closet case who resorted to fantasy because he had trouble accepting his homosexuality. Practicing it, however, was never a problem.

Another affair that began over art films at the Nob was with an aspiring interior decorator. His fetish was the definition creating properties of lycra, which carbon dates the fling as mid to late 80’s.  We had regular conjugal visits at his place, languishing in steaming hot baths over deadly gin martinis.

I tried not to mix my personal and professional lives. Sometimes it was unavoidable. Like the night in the Nob Hill lobby when I saw an attorney from work browbeating the porn star Rick Donavon into an assignation. Members of prestigious international law firms who have graduated from top flight law schools aren’t used to taking “no” for an answer. And they have the cash to close their arguments.

Compartmentalization also failed me one day walking to work. I looked up at the marquee to see the week’s featured performer was J.D. Powers.

Besides honorary librarian Stormy, Time might also give serious consideration to George W. Bush this year.  His legacy ranks him with Metternich, Wilson, and Acheson as one of the most influential statesmen ever. When he took a break from clearing non-existent, photo-op brush off his Texas ranch, he gazed into Vlad’s baby blues and saw the Impaler’s soul. GOP diplomacy was changed forever.

Look ’em in the eye, give ’em a nickname, go with your gut, then quickly end the meeting to win the daily news cycle–that was W’s style of statesmanship. And it’s provided a road map for subsequent Republican Presidencies as evidenced in Singapore and Helsinki this summer.

The technique requires a level of intelligence rarely seen in the White House.

Don Jong Trump had difficulty seeing Seoul.

Pressed Flesh

I volunteered for Eugene McCarthy’s Presidential Campaign when I was a senior in high school. I organized papers, worked phones and canvassed neighborhoods. Most people would not come to their doors so I just left the flyer. Those who did answer wanted to keep the exchange as brief as possible. I handed them the leaflet and asked for their vote.

There was one right-wing zealot though who wanted to engage. He badgered me with questions without shutting-up long enough for me to answer. I tried to interject a “the domino theory is bogus ” or “too many kids are being killed.” But my rhetorical skills were not nearly as rehearsed nor as deeply entrenched as this Rush Limbaugh-wannabe.

Another targeted voter was a frail, 80 year-old woman. She couldn’t have weighed more than the gossamer, navy voile dress she wore with handkerchief tucked into its cuff. She seemed baffled as to why this child would be ringing the doorbell of her Hansel & Gretel brick home. I gave the McCarthy spiel then handed her the literature. She smiled, “Oh honey I haven’t voted in years, not since the Mister died.”

That senior year my family occasionally attended church. It was a pro-forma, social type of participation rather than one motivated by deeply held beliefs. We never handled the snakes. I sat through the sermons bored out of my mind, fighting off one unpredictable adolescent erection after another.

After the service we stood in line to shake the minister’s hand. He looked like Earl Warren and appeared to be going through the motions as much as we were. To spice things up, I distracted him with a broad smile while extending a hand that was as limp as a dead fish. Awakened from oblivion, he’d shoot me a look like,  “Are you okay?” It worked every time.

Ready to worship with my parents and youngest brother.

With the exception of 1888 when native son Benjamin Harrison became President, Indiana never played a more critical political role than the May 1968 Primary. It was the first head-to-head contest between McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. McCarthy had been the more valiant one coming out of nowhere the previous Autumn to confront the establishment. His courageous act solidified the Anti-War Movement.

Kennedy on the other hand seemed more opportunistic. He vacillated until he saw McCarthy’s success in the early primaries. Then he announced his candidacy. I was conflicted between fulfilling my commitment and the seduction of charisma. I worked for Gene but my heart belonged to Bobby.

When Kennedy visited Fort Wayne I was part of the pandemonium in the Concordia College Gymnasium. A band played as we awaited his late arrival and the Concordia High School Jazz Choir sang. I didn’t know her yet but Marilyn’s voice was part of that ensemble. Undoubtedly making a significant contribution to the chaotic atmosphere.

The gym erupted when RFK finally entered through the doorway nearest me. Amidst the pushing and shoving, he looked disoriented swimming up an aisle of extended palms. He concentrated on pressing as many as he could without actually acknowledging anyone. As he approached mine I thought of the Pastor’s Secret Handshake. It worked again. Bobby’s head snapped back in a double take and I made direct eye contact with history.

My friend Marilyn, 1974. One of Northeastern Indiana’s most unnerving coloraturas and hitchhiker extraordinaire.

Save for my work at the polls this June, I haven’t done much electioneering since high school. Until I was approached to become part of a phone tree to recruit poll observers for the upcoming Nevada elections. Phoning is not my cup of tea even when I’m told exactly what to say. But there are some friends I just can’t deny.

Carl was my boss for two decades and can play me like a violin. He makes me feel like I’m the one in charge as he gets me to do everything he wants.

He’s also aware of my limitations. When asked to stick to a script my manner can be as stiff as, well, sitting through one of those childhood sermons. He won’t be too surprised to hear that I made the case without relying on the words precisely as written.

I think I helped the cause although I’m not really sure what I said to those people. I do know, however, that on the Saturday before the election I’ve somehow organized a party bus leaving from Elko and headed up to the Pocatello Race Track. Should be fun.

Would you answer the door if you saw this clown? 1968

Splash

Anthropomorphism is not encouraged on farms where livestock is the livelihood. How cuddly a lamb is doesn’t pay the mortgage or feed the family.

Considering most farm species would be extinct if they weren’t bred for consumption, slaughtering the herd isn’t that cruel. That will change the day they learn to domesticate Herefords.

This harsh agrarian outlook once skewed my view of pets. As a kid, the care of our dogs was left to my brothers. It drove them crazy when I’d walk through the yard oblivious to the frisky critter bouncing at my feet. They’d yell, “just pet him!” or “all he wants is a little attention!” I kept my emotional distance fearing another harsh winter and the dreaded Pepper Pot Stew, Laotian Style.

My cat Sheena in Bloomington was the only pet I’ve had as an adult. Named after the Queen of the Jungle TV Series (later a Ramones’ song too), Susan misunderstood me and called it “Cheena.” That sounded more exotic, so Cheena it was.

Raising a cat was not without its challenges. Especially after she started hanging out with Tom down the alley. She became laden with kitty. We prayed and read the scriptures together then sought counseling from our pastor. In the end, Cheena chose life and was delivered of three adorable kittens.

Hitchhiking was the way we handled long distance travel back then. When I hitched the 150 miles between home and campus, rarely would one lift go all the way. It usually took 2 or 3 rides and about 3 hours.

I often hitchhiked with friends who kept me entertained.  Marilyn was very aggressive and stood nearly on the edge of the asphalt. When she saw a vehicle wasn’t stopping she’d abruptly pull in her arm then turn her head in the opposite direction as if to say, “Me? In a Dodge Dart? Keep moving.”

Dale focused more on the truckers.  Once the driver could spot him he’d suck his thumb. As the rig drew closer he languidly slid it over his lower lip, slowly unfurled his arm until it was outstretched, and then gave the digit a wiggle. Subtle.

Me with Jim and the enigmatic hitchhiker. 1975.

The last kitten in Cheena’s litter was to go to my Mother. The only way to get it home was to hitch. I made a leash of rat-tail satin that had a purring white fluff ball at its end, then assumed my place by the interstate. That trip took 5 hours. Not from a lack of rides but because so many wondered what I was up to. I had 9 short hauls that day.

The weirdest was a salesman who picked me up near Anderson. He wore his thinning hair in an unconvincing comb over and a cheap polyester shirt that barely contained his paunch. His plastic pocket protector proudly displayed an impressive array of ball points. With a lecherous smile he said he never picked up hitchhikers. But he was curious about me. “I just wanted to see your pussy.”

That was too creepy even for me. I asked to be left off at the next exit. We’ll never know for sure but I have a feeling if I’d been more compliant I might have ended up a major shareholder in Miramax.

I didn’t live with a pet again until I moved here two years ago. My roommate’s 17-year-old bichon frise was defying all longevity records and still going strong. I had known Mr. Puppy for a few years and dog-sat him a couple of times. But I don’t think he was particularly fond of me until he realized what a sloppy cook I was.

I’d like to think everyone gets excited when I decide to make something  But nobody’s enthusiasm rivaled Mr. Puppy’s when he heard me go into the kitchen. I was the best dietary supplement he ever had.

His last morning I took him out first thing. The surroundings were still new to him and his sight was failing so we’d carry him downstairs to the front door then place him on the sidewalk. That was his signal he was en plein air. Otherwise, like many seniors residing here, he confused being out of the apartment in the hallway with being outside the building where he could do his business.

There was no indication at the start of that day it would be different from any other. When his paws hit the pavement he squared his haunches, threw back his head, then launched his Westminster prance. A champion until the end.

Today he is remembered in his favorite room on the back splash. With apologies to Ethel Scull, here is Mr. Puppy Dog 15 Times.