An Associate Professor’s 111th Dream

I hope that was an empty bottle, George. You can’t afford to waste good liquor.
Not on your salary. Not on an associate professor’s salary.
Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

At midnight on Mick Jagger’s birthday in 1972 I waited for Deene in front of the St. Regis Hotel. We’d been to the Garden to see the Stone’s perform the last concert of their tour. We attended separately so planned to rendezvous afterwards at her hotel.

Deene’s father booked the room for her when she heard the group would stay there. She picked up this tidbit giving Keith a massage in his hotel room after the Indianapolis concert.

Although I’d been to see her a couple of times, that night I could not get past the front door. Not only was the St. Regis hosting the Stones, they were throwing Mick’s birthday bash on their rooftop as well. Security was tight.

Deene ordered room service.

From the sidewalk I watched the swells arrive while waiting for Deene. There was no one interesting until this tiny figure alighted from her limo. She was swathed in a charmeuse cocktail dress void of any adornment. Whatever breeze there was in the July heat caught the fabric and made it billow on her 100 pound frame. A deeply saturated apricot, the dress was exquisite.

Ascending the stairs the woman acknowledged us with a wary half-smile and the attitude of someone who’d seen it all. Being Jackie’s sister, she probably had.

A simple evening at home with the things she loved: her fabrics, antiques, and daughter. In that order.

Lee Radziwill’s death this week marked the end of an era for certain social graces. She exemplified the upper classes love for glamorous cocktails. When the Princess offered, “you’ll have a vodka won’t you,’ it came with layers of codependent enabling. It was tempered by her Forrest Gump-like presence in high society’s perpetual 20th century cocktail party.

When the cocktail fad started in the 20’s and 30’s she would have seen her parents cavorting with the Fred Astaire crowd. With a Moderne background, they pursued the most esoteric liquors and the most elaborate concoctions with the most exotic names. To stay on top of that ever changing scene was to gain true status.

In the 40’s and 50’s when cocktails became more middle class, the elite hung out at their clubs. With their casual attitude towards working they acted as if they could drink anytime, anywhere, without any consequences. Hit and run accident? Burned down the guest house? The attorneys will handle that.

The first few decades of the craze the downside was never mentioned. Like the billion Muslim women who all voluntarily “choose” to wear the hijab, no one ever seemed to have a drinking problem. Then in the 1960’s the perils were discussed openly. And treatment programs were developed.

In the era of recognition, Princess Radziwill could be found floating on her perfumed barge down de Nile. Usually with her bestie, the shit-faced booze hound Truman Capote.

Rumored to have done a couple of stints in rehab, it doesn’t seem she ever stopped. In the clip of her offering the vodka her subtext is clear: “go ahead, one won’t hurt,” and “you’re hip, you know these things.” Her tone is as smooth as that silk dress she wore.

My life with liquor has been checkered. In Dad’s family there was beer when the men went bowling but none was kept in the house. My Grandma, however, always smelled like the essence of Strohs. With a top note of stale Parliaments and Jungle Gardenia. We didn’t talk about any of that.

My other Grandmother led the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union with an unrelenting advocacy. But she neither challenged nor coerced those who disagreed with her. Her example and infinite patience she felt would eventually win out.

My parents were light social drinkers when I was growing up. More urgency was added in my teenage years.

Then there’s my boozing. Sadly, word count prevents me from elaborating on the topic in this piece. I can, however, mention hooch’s role in decorating my kitchen.

The loneliest part of kitchen cabinetry is the cupboard that juts out above the refrigerator. Sometimes it holds liquor but usually it’s just junk. It’s always under appreciated, never decorated. Until now.

Leafing through a box I found one of Jackie’s White House liquor bills. The perfect piece to hang in the lonely corner.

It’s the kind of historical document/perverse curio I cherish. Visitors can now study the fuel that ran Camelot (in addition to the “B12” injections administered by Dr. Feelgood). And schoolchildren passing through are given an important lesson too.

How can they ever hope to understand our nation’s past if they don’t know what our First Ladies drank?

 

 

Prouder Than a Tumescent Pubescent

I once toyed with becoming a Country Music songwriter. Listen to the lyrics, how hard could it be.

It’s the only art form that openly celebrates ignorance. Being the village idiot is worn as a badge of honor. When couched in a down-home, aw-shucks delivery, the singer’s lovability goes through the roof. The perfect country hit would be titled “Gosh, We’re Stupid.”

Another one could be a ballad, “Swallow My Pride.” Couple destined for eternal bliss, she suddenly bolts for another man. Blindsided, he does the manly thing, swallows his pride and gets on with life. She eventually comes back for forgiveness. He says under one condition: it’s now her turn to swallow his pride. Corny gimmickry, petty vengeance coupled with sexually combative undertones–this is what will make America great again.

I’ve had an issue with pride all of my life. I’m uncomfortable with the emotion and distrust others who express it in me. I blame my Calvinist upbringing. It forced me to bury my ego in a reserved and self-effacing manner and to not draw attention to myself. Some lessons were learned better than others.

With Dale in DC 1974. Discussing the Houdin Show at the National Gallery.

The term Gay Pride specifically has caused me problems. Living through its inception I understood the need for being open and unashamed. Which I was. But pride has such a defensive quality. It was a reaction to society’s hatred. The idea was to not buy into it,  feel good about yourself instead. It was a nice starting off point but somehow it stuck.

In life’s third act I’ve had to let go of many issues from my youth. Like this one. I doubt the name “Accepted Gay Parade” will ever catch on anyway.

Given Dale’s disdain for pets we were all praying for that cat. Provincetown, 1972.

With this reservoir of conflicted feelings, I digested the announcement this week that my friend Dale will be Grand Marshal of Boston’s 2019 Gay Pride Parade. We attended Indiana University together where he was active in student politics and participated in founding the national Gay Liberation Movement. He then moved to Boston and has spent his life working on LGBT issues. In recent years he’s gained recognition for raising the visibility of older LGBT adults.

Dale was at my first Gay Lib meeting in 1971. It was a dreary, procedural affair until this cute blonde hippie in tank top and denim cutoffs appeared enveloped by his entourage and a cloying cloud of patchouli oil. He spoke about feminism and how we should be allied with their movement. Of writers we should read and the destructive role of sexual stereotypes in our patriarchal society. Convincing and articulate, I felt this gay thing was going to be easy: they all think like me.

I soon discovered our ideas were in the minority. But Dale and a few other kindred spirits became good friends then and have remained so throughout my life.

In solidarity with Jackie at the eternal flame.

People from that era don’t buy the softer, wiser version of me I peddle today. They want in your face,  kill ’em if they don’t fight back attitudes from the Bloomington years.

When I called to congratulate Dale yesterday he was uneasy with my sincerity. Sometimes it’s just better to give the audience what they want. So I let the other penny drop with a profound thunder.

Since this honor was the result of an election, I seriously questioned its validity. Dale hung out with some radical people in college, this title reeks of his Russian Commie friends doing a “Hillary” on Gay Boston’s ass.

We talked of updating his look for the parade and bringing leftist imagery into the 21st Century. Obviously his model should be Kim Jong-un. What could be hotter than a shirtless 70 year-old in a cheap, bowl cut-gone-wrong toupee?

Then I got down to brass tacks. I wasn’t hearing “me” in any of this, what’s my role? Dale was not forthcoming. I volunteered if there was a building along the parade route resembling the Texas School Book Depository, I’d do a piece of performance art the town will never forget. He was reticent until I assured him I won’t use live ammo. (As if I could tell the difference.)

Dale laughed at our exchange and knows I’m happy for him. And proud of him too. If we add the Prince of Wales qualifier, whatever “proud”  means.

In Provincetown, later that same decade.

A Note on SBLIII

Showing solidarity with the thugs who jumped Jussie Smollett.

Of all the entitled billionaire owners in the NFL, you’d be hard pressed to find one more stupid and undeserving than San Francisco’s Jed York. He got where he is today just by plopping out of the right vagina onto this planet. When asked what his toughest decision in life has been he replied, “whether to go to grad school or assume the Presidency of the 49ers.” The Niners have been league doormats ever since.

That is with the exception of the Harbaugh years, 2011-2014. During that era they staged a miraculous turn-around going to three consecutive NFL title games and one Super Bowl. In 2014 Little Jed incongruously started dismantling the winning program, fired Harbaugh, reduced payroll expenses significantly and once again wore the mud from the league’s cleats.

What happened?

In June 2010, after decades of futility trying to build a new San Francisco stadium, Santa Clara voted to authorize use of their land to construct one. The quest to pull together private construction money wasn’t easy because it was right after the Bush Crash of aught eight.  Finally, coinciding with the groundswell of enthusiasm for Harbaugh’s successful first year, funds were secured in December 2011.

There was still wide-scale fan resentment for moving the team 50 miles away. But the euphoria of title games and a Super Bowl helped gloss over the transition. When Levi Stadium opened in 2014, the 49ers went 8-8 and began the rapid decline back to Little Jed’s natural habitat, loserville.

The relationship between Commissioner Goodell and Pat’s Owner Kraft requires a closer examination.

Would the NFL really go to that much trouble to fix things just to build a stadium and maintain a fan base? They would if it’s one of the nation’s most affluent regions and the 6th largest TV market in the country (back then, it’s now 8th).

Which brings us to the second largest TV market, Los Angeles. After two decades with no team but plenty of Southern California apathy, the Rams returned for the 2016 season. The fans’ response was lukewarm. Concerns rose when there was a precipitous decline in attendance in 2017. Then a sudden, unexplained upswing in regular season fortunes, a blown last minute call that gets them into the Super Bowl, and it’s now hoped Ram Fever will once again sweep the Southland.

This view is usually dismissed as that of a paranoid conspiracy nut. One who probably also believes the mega-bucks owners at the behest of a wealth-preservationist President would collude to keep a star quarterback out of work. Just because he won’t tow the MAGA line.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for MAGA. As long as it means Make the AFC Great Again so we can go back to two competitive conferences.

Of the top 17 media markets in the country, the AFC has numbers 7, 10, 16, and 17. All the rest are NFC. (They share number 1, New York). It explains why the National Conference sends a variety of teams to the Super Bowl each year and the American Conference seems to be stuck on the number 10 market, Boston. (Throw in the “New England” moniker and you get the 37 (CT) and 52 (RI) markets as well.)

With ratings the name of the game, we’ll probably never see the dream matchup of New Orleans (51) versus Buffalo (53) in a Roman Numeral showdown.

Multi-billion dollar businesses rarely just leave things to chance.

Let’s bring sexy back. The NFL’s true MVP.