I must interrupt this unending tale of 1960’s and 70’s nostalgia to bring you exclusive news of nostalgia from the 1970’s alone.
I received a phone call this afternoon that had no caller id, a number I didn’t recognize, from a town I’d never heard of. All the markings of a call I don’t take. The clincher was when I answered there was a delay in the other voice coming on the line. I lit into them immediately
“You motherfucking bill collectors are never going to get a cent out of me! You can take this bogus bill collection process and shove it up your fucking ass!”
The caller was taken aback but persistent. He said it was Henry. He actually enjoyed hearing my tone because it reminded him of the days when I was his supervisor.
I realized who it was and he talked me down. We had a nice chat then he informed me the reason he was calling was because my name popped out of a book he was reading.
The Man Who Ate Too Much is a new biography of James Beard by John Birdsall. The author interviewed me a couple years ago then I forgot about it. I didn’t think I was helpful to him because he was pursuing information that I knew nothing about: an extortion plot by a male hustler involving Mr. Beard. As the escort soon found out, you can’t blackmail the shameless. “If you’re going to publish those nude photos of me in the orgy, can I get copies?”
Apparently Mr. Birdsall did like some of my anecdotes and included them in his book. And it’s fitting I should interrupt my story of Billy with a shout out to Beard. They were cut from the same cloth.
In an era when there were laws making their personal existence illegal, both of them took individual stances that did not back down from who they were. Neither had a desire to be public crusaders leading marches with hollow chants as they clapped their hands to mundane rhythms. In the continuum of the struggle for rights, however, their courageous acts were as important as any others.
Although James Beard may never take a place next to Rosa Parks, he’ll always be the rolling mincer to me.