Hi, friends and readers:
Some guys should never wear shirts, should they? Like the guy in the photo I’ve posted here today. Great torso, eh?
Okay, tomorrow one of my publishers, Noble Romance Publishing, is sponsoring an online Gay Pride celebration event. Here’s the link to the announcement and instructions on how to participate:
As the announcement says, there will be contests with prizes, free fiction posted by NRP authors, including me, and lots of other activities. I hope you’ll all come by.
We had heavy rain early this morning, but now the sun’s out and it’s like a steam bath outside. (Yuck!) I’ll stay inside this morning and write, then I’ll visit the YMCA this afternoon for a three-mile run on the treadmill. It’s just too hot to run outdoors these days.
Did everyone enjoy yesterday’s first excerpt from Dr. Fungo’s Amazing Time Machine? I hope so. Here’s excerpt number two:
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In the days following, I take additional trips. I visit a boys’ camp in North Carolina in 1962. I stayed there a month when I was eleven, and loved it. I go to Titusville in July 1969 when a Saturn rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, taking Neal Armstrong and two other astronauts to the moon (I was there at the time, with two friends, when I was seventeen). I travel to Greenwich Village to witness the Stonewall Riot which occurred in the wee hours of June 28, 1969, and I throw a bottle at a New York City cop who’s trying to shove a drag queen into a paddy wagon.
Through these trips, I’ve learned a few things about Dr. Fungo’s device:
I always arrive at my destination as my present-day self. If I travel to some place from my past, I can see myself as a child or teenager. And wherever I go people can see me. We speak to one another and shake hands. (I even spoke to myself once. I said, “Excuse me,” when I brushed past seventeen year-old Andre in the space-shot crowd at Titusville, thinking, Damn, I was cute back then!)
Whatever clothes I’m wearing when I press the “COMMENCE TRAVEL” button, and whatever personal possessions I carry on my person, arrive with me at my destination: wallet, house keys, pocket knife. Once I carried a backpack and it arrived safely with me.
Sometimes, during these trips, I notice people staring at my haircut or my clothing with puzzled expressions on their faces, and I realize my 1979 wardrobe and shaggy locks are fashions unique to my time. My currency’s worth plenty when I travel to the past. (I bought a hot dog on Christopher Street in the Village for thirty-five cents.)
I go to the public library in my town, searching for books on time travel. All are science fiction stories, of course, written to entertain, but I am pleased to see that certain questions I’ve asked myself are pondered in such books: Could one go back in time and alter the course of history? Might I warn Lincoln of John Wilkes Booth? John Kennedy of Lee Harvey Oswald? Could one get rich by traveling ten years into the future, studying the Wall Street Journal, then returning to the present and making savvy investments?
Now, I sit in my kitchen with the time machine on a Saturday afternoon, pondering where I might take my next trip. The Boston Tea Party? The Battle of Bull Run? The San Francisco earthquake? (I’ve already bought Kit a replacement birthday gift — a Luke Skywalker light saber.) Fetching my atlas, I leaf through its pages when, quite by accident, I come upon the autographed photo of Brandon De Wilde. I look into his eyes and they steal my breath and I feel twelve years old again.
I shake my head and pucker one side of my face, thinking, How sad we never got to meet. What I’d have given for one night with De Wilde. If only …
I swing my gaze to the time machine, then back to De Wilde, then back to the machine. I think, H-m-m-m …, as a smile creeps across my face. My pulse accelerates and it pounds in my temples.
Of course, I think, I’ve got the power to go back in the past, to a time pre-dating De Wilde’s death. I can find him and explain how I felt about him in my youth. I’ll warn him about his motorcycle accident, too. He’ll remain alive and he’ll be so grateful that maybe, just maybe …
My eyes brim with tears of joy and I raise my hands in the air like a supplicant.
Oh, thank you, Professor Fungo. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The time trip will be easy, but finding De Wilde and actually meeting him could prove difficult. In the early and mid-sixties he was a star at the peak of his career, likely reclusive. His number would be unlisted, he’d work behind a studio gate, and in public he’d wear dark glasses so no one could recognize him. A visit to 1963, say, would likely prove fruitless. I might wander around Los Angeles for a month and never find him.
At the time of his death, however, De Wilde’s star had descended. He hadn’t done a major film or television production in several years, so he might be easier to locate if I sought him in, say, 1970.
I visit our public library, searching New York Times microfiche and, sure enough, I come upon a July 8, 1972 article reporting De Wilde’s demise and describing circumstances of his death. It’s a sad story, really. De Wilde was performing in a stage production of Butterflies Are Free in Colorado. His touring company appeared at the Stage Theatre in Denver’s performing arts complex. On the night of his death, July sixth, De Wilde rode his motorcycle to the theater for an evening performance. He swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle and collided with a construction trailer. He lay beneath the wreckage of his bike for quite some time before someone discovered the situation and called an ambulance. He was taken to Denver General Hospital where he died four hours later, survived by a wife (his second) and a young son.
I think to myself, H-m-m-m, he was married; maybe he wasn’t homosexual. But in the sixties most gay men were closeted, right? Especially in Hollywood. Come on, Andre, take a chance.
I arrive in downtown Denver, at the corner of Fourteenth Street and Arapahoe Street, on July 1, 1972, a Friday, at five-thirty P.M. I carry an overnight bag containing clothes and toiletries and my Brandon De Wilde autographed photo. I’ve got three hundred dollars in cash in my wallet. I wear a dress shirt, slacks, a light jacket, and leather slip-ons.
The temperature’s warm in Denver tonight. The sun has already descended behind office towers to the west, and they cast long shadows. Traffic clogs the streets; there is much honking of horns. Gears grind and taxis swerve here and there. A bus wheezes to a stop at the corner and office workers throng at the bi-fold door, men digging for pocket change, women pawing contents of their purses.
I giggle when a group of hippies passes me, the girls in peasant dresses and barefoot, their hair grown past their shoulders and not styled, no makeup on their faces, legs unshaved. The boys are pony-tailed, bearded, also barefoot, wearing bell-bottom jeans and denim work shirts. I smell marijuana and incense.
I cross the street and visit the box office at Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, an impressive collection of contemporary buildings with much glass and steel. I buy a ticket for this evening’s performance of Butterflies Are Free, curtain time eight o’clock. Beside the box office is a sandwich board displaying still photographs of the play, and De Wilde appears in several. He looks much the same as he did in All Fall Down. His hair’s darker and he wears it longer, but he’s still handsome and slender. And those eyes…
For fifty-two dollars a night I take a sixth-floor room at Hotel Teatro, a building catty corner from the Stage Theater, one with lots of sandstone and marble in the lobby. The fellow behind the desk is friendly and he gladly provides directions to the theater’s garage. It is one block from the hotel, he says.
I go to my room and wash my face and unpack my bag. The unit’s air conditioned and nicely appointed, but I laugh when I see the dial telephone with the little red light on it. The television’s a black and white and I chuckle as I leaf through pages of a TV Guide. Aside from All In The Family and M. A. S. H., none of the shows listed are still on television in 1979.
I visit the theater’s parking garage, a multi-level, concrete behemoth, and I think, Oh, yes. This is perfect …
There’s a section on the first floor reserved for motorcycles.
The play, Butterflies Are Free, turns out to be pretty good. De Wilde plays the part of a young man who’s blind. His mother’s a bully and she controls every aspect of his life. Against her wishes, he rents an apartment in Manhattan. He befriends his next-door neighbor, a sexy gal who’s a hairdresser and a free spirit, and she encourages his struggle for independence. Of course, the two become lovers.
In one scene, when the girl trims De Wilde’s hair, he appears on stage wearing nothing but boxer shorts and I can’t help myself; I spring a boner, a la the drive-in, circa 1963. De Wilde’s got a smooth, defined chest, a flat belly, and his buttocks are rounded. He’s slender, but his shoulders and arms have a bit of muscle to them.
De Wilde’s voice charms me. It has deepened, of course, since he made All Fall Down. Now it’s a smooth baritone, and when he speaks it’s like he’s caressing the audience with his words. He seems utterly at ease on stage and his movements are fluid and graceful.
At the end, when cast members take their bows and the audience claps, I scoot for the door, and in a few minutes I’m in the parking garage. Three motorcycles are parked there: two Hondas with Colorado tags and a Harley Davidson Sportster with a California plate.
I glance at my watch, it’s ten-fifteen. Leaning against a wall, I put my hands in my pockets. My jaw works from side to side while I think of what I’ll say to De Wilde if we meet. (We’re the same age. Do I call him Mister De Wilde or Brandon?)
Clumps of people drift into the garage, smoking cigarettes and chattering away, the men in suits and ties, the women in dresses and heels, their jewelry reflecting light from the fixtures in the garage. There’s a bank of elevators and people punch buttons. Doors open and folks climb on board, then the doors close and more people arrive and punch buttons.
There is much chatter about the play. Someone says a film version of Butterflies Are Free will soon be released, starring Goldie Hawn as the hairdresser. There’s also discussion about Hawn’s refusal to renew her contract with Laugh-In, a television comedy show popular at the time.
Fifteen minutes pass and the size of the crowd in the garage swells. A steady line of cars exits the garage, headlights on, windshields and bumpers reflecting light, engines rumbling. A guy approaches. Carrying a motorcycle helmet, he is dressed in an usher’s uniform. He climbs aboard one of the Hondas, then places the helmet on his head and fastens the chinstrap. He starts his engine and it sputters and growls. He steers in into the line of departing vehicles and his taillight glows like a cigar ash.
Another fifteen minutes pass and the crowd thins. Few people wait at the elevators and there are gaps in the procession of cars leaving the garage. I shift my weight from one leg to the other, glancing at my watch. Now it’s quarter till eleven. Where is De Wilde? Maybe he didn’t ride his motorcycle this evening? Or maybe he parks it elsewhere to avoid the crowds? Does the cast go out for drinks after the show? Shit, I think, I could wait here for hours before he appears, if he ever does.
I step closer to the Harley and study its sleek lines. The mudguards are curvy, there is much chrome and the green paint gleams as if the bike’s just been polished. The gas tank has two fill caps and the wheels are wire-spoke.
“Want to buy it?” a voice behind me says, a velvet baritone.
I turn and there is De Wilde, looking at me with an amused expression. I feel blood rush to my cheeks and my scalp prickles. It’s him. Those eyes…
He wears a t-shirt, blue jeans, motorcycle boots and a leather bomber jacket. His pants are tight fitting and I see his cock snaking down his thigh.
I say, “Is this yours?”
He nods. “I bought it two months ago, rode it here from L. A. It’s a great highway bike.”
I introduce myself and we shake hands.
“I saw the play tonight. You were great.”
“Thanks,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck, looking away.
“I’m a big fan of yours. Ever since I saw All Fall Down.”
He looks at me with a puzzled expression. “That was ten years ago. I’m surprised anyone remembers.”
I reach inside my jacket and produce the eight-by-ten glossy. I’ve got it rolled up and I remove the rubber band and pass it to De Wilde. He studies it a second and smiles, shaking his head. “I was nineteen when they took this photo.” He looks up at me, pointing to the autograph. “That’s not a real signature, you know. It’s a replica.”
“I figured as much. It’s why I was wondering …”
“Would you sign it for me?”
He says, “Sure, got a pen?”
I shake my head. “But I’m staying across the street at the Teatro. They’ll have one at the desk.”
He points his chin at my watch. “What time have you got?”
I raise my wrist, “Five till eleven.”
He approaches and seizes my forearm, eyeing my watch, a Texas Instruments LCD model I’ve owned three years. He says, “Where’d you get this? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Uh-oh, I think. Nobody owned LCD watches in 1972, did they?
My knees feel weak from De Wilde’s touch. My voice trembles when I say, “My uncle works where these are made. They won’t be on the market till Christmas.”
“I like it,” De Wilde says, letting go. “I’ll have to get one.”
He’s still holding the glossy and I touch one corner with a finger. “Would you mind? It won’t take a minute.”
He hands me the photo. “Okay,” he says, “let’s go.”
He walks with his hands in his back pockets, taking long strides on the sidewalk, and a street lamp’s glow reflects in his hair, in his teeth when he smiles, in his brown eyes. While we wait for a light to change, he asks where I’m from and I tell him Florida.
“What brings you to Denver?”
Lie, Andre. I say I’ve got relatives in Boulder.
In the hotel lobby we borrow a pen from the deskman and De Wilde scribbles on the glossy, “Andre, glad you enjoyed the show in Denver. Brandon. 7/1/72.”
I jerk a thumb toward the hotel lounge. “Can I buy you a drink?”
De Wilde shrugs. “Why not? I’ve got nothing but an empty room waiting.”
In the lounge, we sit across from each other in a booth. The place is nearly empty and the light’s dim, coming mostly from fluorescent tubes illuminating liquor bottles on glass shelves behind the bar. A barmaid in a short skirt approaches and De Wilde orders bourbon and water while I ask for gin and tonic.
De Wilde says, “I still can’t believe you remember All Fall Down. It wasn’t a box office success, you know.”
I shrug. “I guess your character reminded me of myself.”
He raises his eyebrows. “Innocent and confused?”
I drop my gaze. “At the time, yeah.”
The girl brings our drinks and I hand her a ten. She gives me back seven and I tip her a buck and she smiles and says thank you.
De Wilde takes a sip from his drink, he swallows and rubs his lips together, wetting them. They reflect light and I feel an urge to kiss him.
I ask, “How’d you end up in this play?”
He raises a shoulder. “I need the work. My last film was a spaghetti western and they don’t pay well.”
I nod and keep quiet.
He says, “Don’t tell me you drove all the way from Boulder just to see my play.”
“It’s true,” I say. “I’ve always wanted to meet you in person.”
He gets a puzzled expression on his face. “Why?”
Blood rushes to my cheeks and I drop my gaze. I think, Andre, go on; this is your only chance. Tell him.
I raise my chin and look at De Wilde. I say, “You’re the best-looking guy I’ve ever seen. I was hoping we might … you know.”
De Wilde holds my gaze but his eyebrows gather. He says, “What makes you think I’d do something like that? Did someone tell you I–”
“Nobody told me anything. I was just hoping.”
He looks away, glancing here and there, then he looks back at me. “You’re not the first guy who’s asked. Ever since I was twelve, men have been after me.”
I say, “I hope you’re not offended.”
He works his jaw, looking into his glass. “I’ll be honest,” he says, “I’ve had sex with men before,” (Oh, goody; I knew it.) “but I’m married now; I have a child and I can’t jeopardize my career. If people in Hollywood think you’re gay, you can’t get work.”
I twirl the ice cubes in my glass. Come on Andre, don’t give up.
“I’m discreet,” I say. “I won’t tell anyone.”
He looks into my face a moment, then drops his gaze.
“I’ve got a room upstairs,” I tell De Wilde. “No one will know.”
He glances here and there, fidgeting with his wedding band, his jaw working from side to side.
I say, “It would mean a lot to me; you can’t imagine.”
He looks at me and moistens his lips, his eyes blinking. “You really want this, don’t you?”
I nod. “Just this once. Please?”
He swallows the remainder of his drink. Resting his forearms upon the table, he looks at me and says, “All right, Andre. But first buy us another round.”
Copyright Martin Delacroix 2009
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Enjoy your Saturday, everyone.