Eviction Countdown: Day 4

Meet me at Henry's. With my newest best friend who I've known for 50 years.
Meet me at Henry’s. With my newest best friend who I’ve known for 50 years.

I spent the day visiting my brother who had just completed a brutal round of chemotherapy and then the evening with my best friend in Fort Wayne, Billy.

Billy owned the Corner House Salon where my Mother had her hair done every week of her life from the 1960’s until she died six years ago. She always called him Steve because that was how he was introduced to her. And she wasn’t one for playing games.

Billy’s first job in the 1950’s was at the city’s leading department store, Wolf & Dessauer, where the salon manager decided they already had one Billy and that his name would be Steve. It was like Upstairs Downstairs when Lady Marjorie named the new maid Sarah because she didn’t like the name Clemence.

Mother may have referred to him by his professional name but their friendship soon became anything but. Her visits to the Corner House were always at the end of the day so after closing she would go out for drinks or dinner with a  group from the shop led by Billy. Or sometimes it would just be the two of them There was a whole network of Rat Pack like cocktail lounges and restaurants around town and they knew them all.

For my Mother their excursions represented liberation from 18 years of living the nuclear family life. In this rock red conservative “City of Churches” they would do or say anything for a good time. When the first major porn movie came out, Behind the Green Door or I am Curious Yellow maybe, he took my Mother to see it. They laughed through the whole thing but snuck out a side door afterwards so they wouldn’t be seen.

When I became of age, I would occasionally go with them on their night club rounds. By then I was in living in Bloomington or San Francisco, however, and would only see him once or twice a year when I was home. If our schedules didn’t coincide we could go a couple of years without seeing each other. But I would hear about Billy every week when I called home.

Billy is the Andy Warhol of Fort Wayne, he knows everyone in town and never misses an event. And being of Warhol’s generation, both he and my Mother were somewhat starstruck. I think the movie star system was kind of the internet of their age, an innovation that marked them for life. But Billy took the obsession to the next level.

His house is full of memorabilia like his collection of autographed Oscar programs from the ceremonies he attended. Or his correspondence with Joan Fontaine and Lisa Gay (who, as everyone knows, was Debra Paget’s sister.) He’s always dropping interesting nuggets into the conversation, having dinner with George Cukor or being roommates with Mickey Hargitay when they were in art school. And he knows every B movie star of the 40’s and 50’s. His tidbits are always fascinating but I swear if I hear one more Sonja Henie story…

When my Mother died in 2009 Billy Steve said we should get together while I was still here. We had dinner the next week. Since then I’ve spent several months a year in Fort Wayne and speak to or see him every day I’m in town.

We share many interests and he’s always fun to hang out with. When we’re not laughing he’s someone I can confide in and tell anything to. He could care less. All he ever wants to talk about is himself.

 

At Zesto, our favorite ice cream place. Billy's mind is sharp as a tack although lately I've noticed some confusion with the concept of "seasons."
At Zesto, our favorite ice cream place. Billy’s mind is sharp as a tack although lately I’ve noticed some confusion with the concept of “seasons.”

Next: Eviction Countdown Day 3, The Whole World is Watching
Previous: Eviction Countdown Day 5, Je Suis Nobody
The Complete Countdown
The complete saga, From the Beginning

Eviction Countdown: Day 12

I mentioned yesterday the bay windows. What I didn’t tell you was they had a western exposure and just how intense that sun was.

The first year I lived here alone I went for a spartan, fish bowl look in the front room. No window treatments. I had a white lacquered desk in one of the bays with a small stack of books on the corner. After about six months I moved the books for a routine dusting. They left an outline of pristine white on a larger field of dingy, yellow-white.  I realized I had to get something up in the windows.

My friend Bob worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art back in the 1970’s. The museum was just starting to blossom then and it was an exciting time for him. Once I was there and he introduced me to Chris Burden who was still relatively unknown. Other times he would tell me about dating Robin William’s secretary or how he picked up Joel Gray on Santa Monica Boulevard.

On another visit he showed me a Warhol Marilyn and several Irving Blum posters someone had given him. I ended up with the Jasper Johns poster. Even though I tried to protect it in the front room, just having the blinds open for a couple hours a day was enough to fade it. It’s damaged but still treasured.

About the same time Rags gave me a Red Grooms Doughnut Girl poster. I wanted to hang it in the kitchen so, to protect it, I had it laminated which severally affected its value. Who knew?

Cut me some slack, I was only 25.

12b

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POST SCRIPT

  Mark and Charley were watching Laura the other evening and they noticed my Eve Harrington lamp in the background. Both films were made by 20th Century Fox and the story I wanted to spread was that, because Liz bankrupted the studio with Cleopatra, they were forced to recycle props. Alas, both films were made years before Cleo so all we can conclude is they were really cheap.

 

Next: Eviction Countdown Day 11, VD
Previous: Eviction Countdown Day 13, The World As I See it
The Complete Countdown
The complete saga, From the Beginningv

Life at Sterling Cooper

 

"What's the date? 1968" was the mantra the choruses repeated over and over
“What’s the date? 1968” was the mantra the choruses repeated over and over

We sold ads for the 1968 program and somehow I ended up being featured in all of them. Except one, I threw a bone to my co-star for her make-up business.

We were in the last vestiges of the Zine era. This was an homage to one of our favorites, Egozine.

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The Story of Jim

Alone With Art

ad7The 1968 program that became the focal point of our discord was the most polished thing Jim and I ever did. It also turned out to be the last thing we collaborated on.

35 years later it still makes me laugh.

What the Critics Say (pdf)
Well received if only in our heads

Synopsis (pdf)
The Cliff Notes

Behind 1968: The Celebrants (pdf)
Cast bios

Beyond 1968: Eros and Civilization (pdf)
An interview with J. Jordan and B

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The Story of Jim

What’s the Date? 1968

“What’s the date? 1968” was the mantra the choruses repeated over and over

Jim moved to California in 1978. He’d liked the area down by Santa Cruz so he rented a place in Capitola.  To get away from White Arms and up the ante a bit he started writing a play that would star me and be produced in San Francisco.

It was called 1968 and it was about the attempted assassination of Andy Warhol. I was to play Valerie Solanas, he would play Andy. He wanted it to be called an opera even though there was no music. It was written in verse and both Andy and Valerie were backed by a Greek chorus.  The only real musical element was the drummer who pounded out a rhythm which we tried to keep up with and project over.

We heavily researched every assassination detail and stuck to the facts. To a point. The verse was broken when Valerie delivered her SCUM Manifesto to the adoring masses. And after her trial she was given electric shock treatments to set her straight. The play ended with me lip synching “Chain of Fools.”

As things started to come together and it looked like we were going to pull it off, Jim moved up to the City into a rooming house across the street from me. A few months later he moved in with me so we could save money and share expenses.

We lived 1968 night and day and constantly bickered. He wanted Valerie to be true to life, scruffy and plain. I knew if my followers were coming they would want to see glam. I fought for something more mod and, even though it ended up a modest mod, it was not the realism he wanted.

Bette Davis Eyes. We weren't on until June but they used my image anyways
Bette Davis Eyes. We weren’t on until June but they used my image anyways

Jim took on the roles of producing, directing and acting. He had no experience in any of them. It didn’t help that he was also so indecisive. Sometimes we’d gather for rehearsals and he’d have no plans on what we were to work on, still mulling it over in his head. Most of the cast were friends of mine and I felt guilty we were wasting everyone’s time.

As the opening approached we fought over everything; graphics, staging, mailing lists. He would not delegate, I would not compromise.

His biggest accomplishment was securing the The Fab Mab. It was the hippest venue in town and the home of San Francisco’s punk scene. He talked the owner Dirk Dirksen into giving us early evenings on the weekends in June, 1980. At one rehearsal some English group was unloading their equipment and I heard one guy say, “ah, it’s just some fluff doing a play.”

Things finally came to a head over the program. I arrived home one night after he had been to the printers. He told me my cover design was technically not feasible. He seemed pleased about it because he hadn’t liked it in the first place. I said something catty like I’m sure he’d worked really hard to find a solution.

He snapped. He started yelling I always had to have my way, I was impossible to work with, I never supported him, etc., etc.  For emphasis, he put his fist through the plaster with such force the fountain pen he held splattered all over the ceiling.

I’d seen his violent side before but it had never been directed towards me. I shut down and started to phase him out. During the month-long run of 1968 communication between us was terse and only when necessary.

Mercifully, the play ended but our relationship was destroyed. We could barely stand to be together.

Deadly. My slightly modish version of Valerie.
Deadly. My slightly modish version of Valerie.

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The Story of Jim