6:01 a.m. - 2023-09-30
I should mention, as a merciful concession to the reader's imagination, that this was a younger and fitter version of myself. Younger and fitter too were the other party-goers, all of us in our twenties and thirties then...eating crudité and guacamole and birthday cake in the buff. I would also contend that, given the mise-en-scène, this dress-code was as appropriate as it was inevitable.
The fête was held at a compact but enviable crib tucked into a hillside along the Cahuenga Pass, between Studio City and Hollywood. A white stucco rectangle with a red butterfly roof, punctuated by a few small street-facing windows. The rear of the house was, in contrast, all window...glass walls and doors that slid open onto a kidney shaped pool and a hot tub set in a modest yard paved but for the margins, which were landscaped w/ocotillo cactus and palms. Sandwiched between those walls was an open-space floor plan, decorated w/tastefully curated mid-century modern furniture. It was the kind of house out-of-towners would've called “very LA”; but one that those of us who were very LA would've correctly identified as “totally Palm Springs”.
I'm assuming the hot tub was ground zero for the nudity that ensued? They tend to be. I personally eschew bathing costume when easing my tackle down into the communal soak, and view those who would boil in their beach britches w/side-eyed suspicion; but I don't think I was the instigator in this case. Because, as I would learn later, our birthday girl that evening preferred the breezy comfort of her birthday suit regardless of calendar-date. And she wore it well. As did all of the ladies in attendance, who needed little prodding to strip in-kind (one of the ironies of womanhood: so keen to collect clothes, so quick to shed them). Angela was there, as I remember, w/her brown skin and her art-deco-model shoulders glistening under the patio lights (this was before we started dating...before that Erté-sculpted sweetheart would find herself waking up next to my boney, awkward, Egon Shiele-sketch of a self); so too were many other folk who would go on to become lifelong friends. For I was on the cusp of a new scene...
One of those lifelong friends still brings up a blush-worthy anecdote (or two) from that evening; stories involving a rather tipsy yours-truly. I was also gifted a Polaroid afterwords from our hostess/honoree. She was dating my drummer at the time, and the image of him fishing my underwear out of a neighbor's avocado tree with a pool net, in the bright light of the morning-after, totally captures the spirit of that summer.
It was my ensuing friendship with the birthday girl that would find me back at that house a few months later. A friendship that endures I guess? Insomuch as Facebook contact counts? As much as my “likes” of her pictures with her son and husband (who, judging from appearances, is an investment banker/Lands End model?) smiling in front of their estate on Long Island, can convey. These feel like staticky missives from another planet now...somehow blurrier than my memory of that drunken evening twenty something years ago.
~ ~ ~I've never mentioned any celebrities in this journal. This despite the fact that, when I started blogging here, they were around. Part the scenery really, like deer in Central Texas (and both, when they run out onto the highway at night, can totally fuck up the front-end of your truck). This was mostly due to my LA family's professional lives, which involve decades (generations, now) in television, and to Tahireh's glam magnetism and involvement in the same field. Also due to Angela's work as a DGA member and the fact that her celeb co-workers loved her and would reach out socially. Plus I'd started doing upscale renovation work around the same time, and screen-stars need kitchens and bathrooms and pantry shelving just like us less-conspicuous folk.
But there is something gauche and embarrassing about dropping a name; more so when you live in Hollywood. And besides, I was the star of my own fun, free, online diary, right? Why let some stupid actor or famous musician upstage me here? I've realized since that there is some narrative merit to the cachet of a household name, that it functions as a touchstone for association, and that the tabloid business flourishes for that very reason...so I might share an anecdote or two. The geriatric Marlon Brando encounters maybe? Seeing as they speak less to either of us than to the general weirdness of life in The Valley....and I've actually had a reader request(!) to recount my unlikely introduction to a less-famous but equally-deceased male lead, someone I've already mentioned here. But today's recollection involves someone who's still with us, thankfully.
Not that I've followed his career closely over the years, as his star has ascended. I'd heard his disco novelty hit at the time we met, and knew that he'd parlayed it into a cable talk vehicle; two genres in which I have little interest...but he's crossed my mind often of late. Do primarily to this cycle of hateful political turmoil that's consumed the US, especially in backward states like my own...
~ ~ ~I'm piecing this history together w/recalled bits of conversation from years ago, but I believe that J_ (our excellent naked birthday-princess) met Ru when she was a club kid in NYC. This would have been at The Pyramid Club...a spot I've mentioned before; a fabulously filthy petri dish for a burgeoning underground culture, for a ferocious mélange of art, music and fashion that would prove influential in the years that followed. Their friendship would evolve into a professional relationship, where she worked as his personal assistant/management liaison, basically.
It was Ru's house where the party was thrown that night, but he wasn't in attendance. Due ostensibly to a new-found sobriety...although I doubt it would have been his scene regardless; slouchy indie-rockers and the earnestly beautiful career-gals who supported them? Nah, he'd left her in charge instead, with the keys and his blessing (and instructions to fish all the underwear out of the neighbor's trees in the morning). I wouldn't meet our absentee host until a few months later, when J_ called me about some work over at said house. This wasn't for repairs or renovations though...
My original gig in LA was as a television music editor, and for a few years after quitting I would pick up trade-adjacent freelance work. This included helping people put together digital home recording rigs and tutoring them in the software required, which is what Ru was looking for. Presumably because he had a new record in mind? And wanted to flesh some songs out before going into the studio? As it turned out, this tutoring assignment would encompass more than Pro-Tools, because the dude had never touched a computer before...
(What an alien concept this must seem to younger generations! But even when I was growing up, a decade after Ru, computers were still the domain of scientists and technicians; of the pen-pocketed and thickly bespectacled set...awkwardly introduced to the general public via the beige boxes that bank tellers and DMV clerks would curse out when their low-res screens inevitably froze. Even in college, if I wanted to use a word processor I'd have to book time in the “computer lab”; a basement room under the business building that I'd often find empty. That's because, while computers were “a thing”, they'd yet to become “the thing”; and certainly less-so in the streets and clubs where Ru was schooled.)
His trepidation became apparent on the first day...when, after running through some basics, I told him to go ahead and shut the computer down.
“Wait, could you walk me through that again please? And write it down?”
I should emphasize that I wasn't working with RuPaul, the diva in the towering wig-hat, but with Ru; an affable, soft-spoken gay dude w/freckles and a salt-and-pepper goatee, invariably dressed in sweatpants and shower-shoes. Anyway, for someone w/zero experience he proved a quick study, and we had some basic recording techniques under his belt/drawstring after a few sessions...but it was his introduction to the internet that would truly accelerate the learning curve. I'd equipped him w/a dial-up modem and log-on instructions, and J_ had set up a Yahoo e-mail account; after that it was off to the races. He discovered online porn first, as boys will, and this lead to chat-rooms. He was describing these to me during a lesson when I mentioned this new internet trend I'd discovered: blogging.
I'm not saying I created a monster then, but I did steer one towards LiveJounal. Or maybe it was Blogger or Wordpress? I can't tell you, because every trace of RuPaul's blog seems to be erased from the 'net now, scrubbed. This despite the fact that it attracted an unprecedented at-the-time global following within months of its inception...due in part to the stories, which were shared in candid and spicy detail, but also because he had a gift for observation and insight. Vanished too, according to my google-search, are RuPaul's Instagram and Twitter accounts? I can think of several reasons for this, both professional and personal, but it's neither my place nor desire to speculate. But this is a place, perhaps, to put my recollections on hold for a minute, and mention why Ru crossed my mind lately:
It's because of the f*cking drag show bans, man...
~ ~ ~
(With all the political pedantry that follows this break...plus the anecdote that I'd originally set out to share, I hit six pages on this one. Which is just too long for this format. So I'm splitting 'er up, and we'll resume right here w/a rant when I post the conclusion. Thanks for reading.)