Pride Before the Human Hair-like Fall

Boston’s Grand Marsha, 2019

I was in New England last week to see my college chum Dale assume his position as Grand Marshal of the Boston Gay Pride Parade.

I’ve visited Boston frequently through the decades and have found it to be just the right combination of erudite and profane. The vast student population with attendant cultural activities provide adequate stimulation for intellectual masturbation. Other forms of self abuse are easily available in the anonymous back alleys and areas of urban decay that made the 20th Century so lovely.

At one point I even considered doing post graduate work at Boston’s great upholstery school, Tufts University. But there was confusion over which degree program I was pursuing and my application was rejected.

The first part of the week was spent with Marilyn in Providence. She and her husband Ron have just completed work on their new home with spectacular views of Narragansett Bay.

During the days, she and I hit the trail of summer ice cream stands that dot the area. I had many delicious flavors while she kept ordering the same one, Not Good Either.

Upon visiting one of Rhode Island’s ye olde gift shops I was overcome with the vapors from their cloying scented candles. Reeling, I thought I saw a picture of Oprah with skin that was completely non-descript. It reminded me of how Elizabeth Taylor made more money with her perfumes than she did in her entire movie career.  I decided I should come out with a line of beauty products to supplement my welfare checks.

Inspired by the Big O, my cosmetics will be called Air Brush with the tagline: They’ll never know it’s you. The first two shades that have made it out of focus groups are Beyond Recognition and, for the Autumns out there, Embalmer’s Best Friend.

As the week progressed Marilyn and I were also inspired to update Joan Crawford’s signature Come Fuck Me Pumps. Air Brush will soon be offering an exclusive line of human-like hair Fuck Me Falls and Pound Me Postiches.

There’s a goofball quality I share with my Bloomington friends over this B thing. When we need a diversion we riff on things B might do. The scary thing for them is if one of these fantasies is even remotely possible I may attempt it.

In the early 90’s I was on a work assignment in DC. Dale came down from Boston for a weekend to hang out with me.

After a taxing day of museum-hopping we sat down for a cocktail. Gaultier had just come out with his Classique perfume in the torso shaped flacon. Staring at his magazine ad we decided B should have a signature fragrance too.

Our ad campaign was to be a velvety matte black background surrounding the glistening amber-colored potion. The glass bottle would be in the shape of male genitalia.

I can’t remember the name we came up with. Possibly Golden or Alchemy or B’s Gold.

But I do remember our tagline: Let it flow.

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 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 amongst the Fred Astaire crowd. With a Moderne backdrop, they pursued the most esoteric liquors and the most elaborate concoctions with the most exotic names. To stay atop this ever-changing scene was a mark of 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 to drinking was never mentioned. Like the billion Muslim women who all voluntarily “choose” to wear the hijab, no one ever seemed to have a problem with alcohol. Then in the 1960’s the perils were discussed openly. And treatment programs were developed.

In the era of recognizing alcoholism, 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 drinking. In the clip of her offering the vodka her subtext is clear: “go ahead, one won’t hurt. 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, though, 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. While being an unrelenting advocate. 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.

I cherish these kinds of historical documents/perverse curios. 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?

 

 

Said the Joker to the Thief

The hour is getting late
The hour is getting late

Finally, an exit strategy evolves. My attorney has negotiated a settlement with the landlord. It involves money and I get to stay in the apartment until the end of the year.

Like so many other things in this process I’m not free to discuss all the details. Which has diluted my original vision for this blog. I thought there would be all kinds of Perry Mason histrionics to report on. Then it would culminate with me in the witness stand, pointing my finger and yelling “you lying bitch!” I even died my hair platinum in solidarity with Lana Turner.

In reality, the things I could have written about were pretty boring. Ellis Act evictions are procedural matters, the courts never came close to trying the facts of my desperate but heartrending story. Instead attorneys argued over whether the 15 days started tolling on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Or whether I should have been served a copy of a notice that had been served to my neighbor. Who wants to read those dry arguments when there are tales of assassination drag to tell.

If I had prevailed in any of those procedural matters my Ellis Eviction would have been invalidated and the landlord would need to start over at square one. Which means I would have been given another year’s notice. At that point he could have dropped the whole thing or might have been motivated to pursue a more generous buy-out option. The former seems highly unlikely although it was the result I hoped for. I wanted to stay in San Francisco. Realistic goals are not my forte.

Since I can no longer afford to live in the City I’ve set my sights on Southern California. I’ve spent a lot of time there and I do enjoy it. My biggest fear is the adjustment it will take from the urban anonymity I love to the suburban nosy neighbor-ness I loathe. I hope I’m wrong about that.

Most of my childhood was spent in Indiana but for five years my family lived in the San Fernando Valley. I started kindergarten in Reseda and it was there I would later learn to read the local newspaper. In my case, the LA Times. I focused mainly on the comics. And pictures of Debbie Reynolds getting off the plane still wearing Eddie’s ring. Maybe that evil Liz didn’t break up their marriage after all.

But nothing topped the imagery of the Cheryl Crane murder trial. The depth of my understanding was limited to the photos but I was convinced Cheryl was just a poor girl trying to protect her mother. And the picture of a distraught Lana showing up at court made an indelible impression on my 8-year-old mind.

To honor the solemnity of the occasion Miss Turner dressed down in a simple black sheath and pearls. She topped it off, however, with the shortest, whitest platinum hair I’d ever seen. And sunglasses so black they looked opaque. Being a star, I’m sure she would have been happy to have worn opaque ones if it produced the right effect.

What that woman wouldn’t do in the pursuit of justice…

Come as you are. Lana was caught unawares and didn't have time to prepare for her day in court.
Come as you are. Lana was caught unawares and didn’t have time to prepare for her day in court.

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The Eviction Story

Contact: ellistoellis@gmail.com