Thursday, August 23, 2007


Suddenly the fall of 1967 was gone, and I woke up one morning to find myself in the winter of 1968. I was still leaving my portfolio off now and again with ad agencies, but my heart was not in it, and I was determined to devote my life to being an artist. I was still unsure of what to do, and I still really didn’t understand the idea of what art is. I would get it soon enough. I just knew that I was born to be an artist. Dennis was encouraging but he would tell me that I wasn’t yet an artist because “I wasn’t saying anything really new or original and there was no me there”. “You haven’t found your voice yet, Ira,” Still I plugged away, making drawings and collages and hoping that I would eventually hit upon my one big idea, an idea that would allow me to be as original as I felt I was. That early winter Peter had joined up with a children’s theatre group called Gingerbread Players and Jack, which was run by two male lovers Jack and John. John, middle age and overweight was a bit of a letch, and would hit on me all the time. “John leave Ira alone, he’s not gay, and even if he was, he’s too young for you and you’re not his type.” The troupe was comprised of Peter who played many different roles, Michael a dye blonde aging male ingénue number who wore as much make-off stage as he did on, and a character actress who did a million TV commercials and had played in shows both on and off Broadway for years. Never a beauty even when young she had hit rock bottom and was now forced to make her living playing the spinster aunt, friend or cousin in children’s theatre. I really liked her in the shows but she always had a sour look on her face that said ‘help get me out of here.” The big production for the troupe was a musical about Pecos Bill with Michael cast as Pecos Bill. Peter was the sexy villain of the piece and I can’t tell you how many times I sat through this epic production. I took any friend who wanted to see it but I was also there to give Peter support and encouragement. “You were really terrific Peter, I would tell him.” “Really you think so?” And he was good, thank God, as was the entire cast. Peter could sing, and had a nice baritone voice and the rest of the cast was very professional. Peter would return to the apartment still in his makeup and cowboy drag and bitch and complain about the production as if he was doing Shakespeare in the Park for Joe Papp. Michael lived in some sort of arrangement with 3 of his friends all of whom came east from Ohio determined to make their mark in something. I thought (as did everyone) that Michael was a gay man, but he like everyone else I was meeting he seemed to go at least both ways. He was having some sort of a thing with Marianne who was a stylish mod looking young woman with short black black hair who wore mini-skirts, lots of eye make- up and lots of plastic jewelry. No hippie was she. I thought she was swell. The other two members of their household was a very straight looking plain, thin as a rail lovely young woman named Nancy who was a secretary at Seventeen Magazine. She looked like a spinster aunt, but she was the biggest head I had yet met. The final member was Parker, a tall lanky gay man who was also lovely and fun to be around. So we added them to our mulligan stew of friends and I spent many stoned evenings with them either at our apartment or sometimes at their Upper East Side place that looked like it was furnished by Takashimaya the Japanese department store. Lots of bamboo furniture and Room dividers that clanged when you went through them and all sorts of Psychedelic things that were slightly off good taste by way of Cleveland. Dennis was getting stranger and stranger. He was still picking up stray hippies and bringing them home. He once brought home a homeless hippie family, mother father, and some kids, and told them they could spend the night. Peter looked at me with a “what the fuck” look, and I looked right back with my “fuck this shit, I am not giving up my bedroom Dennis look.” But I did, and this would not be the first or last time that I would be asked to vacant my bedroom. Dennis could be very generous at times. He took me to the Fillmore East for the first time to see Jim Morrison and The Doors; he treated Peter and me to two nights in a row at the Met to see Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dance. We dressed up in all our hippy finery and got stared at like we had just come from Mars. And he took Peter and me to Allan Block Sandals on W. 4th. Street where he bought us custom made sandals by the man many said was the greatest sandal maker in the world. But at the same time he could be nasty, difficult to deal with and vindictive. His manic period was yet to come. He told Peter that he thought it best if I move out, because I was too immature and was not doing any chores around the apartment. “Dennis I won’t allow you to do that.” I won’t let you ask him to move out, hell where would he go? And besides he’s part of this household and I love having him here. You will not be able to live with yourself Dennis if you do such a shitty thing.” “Hell he’s only 20 years old, and if you want him to take out the garbage just ask him, I’m sure he will.” So one day soon after that Dennis sat me down, and told me all that was wrong with me and all the things I was doing wrong. “Dennis listen why don’t you just ask me to take down the garbage and I will what’s the big deal. “You’re very immature Ira.” “I’m immature! What about your two hippie dippy friends Gary and Leslie, she acts like a thirteen-year-old. “Don’t confuse exuberance with immaturity Ira.” Oh really. Was it exuberance when Leslie painted her face blue, wore one of the lampshades on her head, and sang “Light My Fire” while standing on the couch.” I asked Dennis. Fine I thought whatever, and besides Gary and Leslie had become sort of friends of mine, which I don’t think Dennis was too pleased with. Gary was a straight good-natured but dense (some would say stupid) young man who Dennis “picked up” at the 2nd hand record shop that Gary worked in over on 16th street and 8th ave. It took me a while to get use to Gary as he was at the apartment every single night of the week and I had to share my bed with him more than once. It turned out that he was a deserter from the army and little by little I took a liking to him and his scatterbrain young girlfriend Leslie and we became friends. Suddenly the weather was cold, and Peter was getting cabin fever and horny all the time, so he started to go out to the one or two gay bars in the village. I was getting curiouser and curiouser so one day when we were alone I started to ask Peter some questions. “So Peter” I said “I’ve noticed lately that some of the people we know have been looking at me in a strange way. “Oh really like who.” He asked. “Well for one the whole Gingerbread Players troop and Jack I might add.” Well sweetie when was the last time you looked in a mirror? “Well this morning of course” And what did you see?” He asked “Just me silly”. Well Ira I should tell that you are turning into one luscious Jewish boy”. “I’m not being anti-Semitic you know, but among some gay men and I’m sure also among some straight women pretty Jewish boys and young men are highly sought after and not all that common, if you know what I mean, and please you know I’m not being anti Semitic, so the looks you’ve been getting coming at you from across our living room my love are looks of yummy lust” “Really that’s amazing. My nose is too big.” “Don’t worry about it, your face will grow to fit it. I’ve never thought of myself as good-looking let alone luscious. Well you are and in the meantime just enjoy being lusted after, no matter by who because it doesn’t last. “So you mean to tell me that Maryanne, Michael, John, and all the rest want to make yummy with me. “Yes sweetie yummy.” “Well what about Dick? “Forget Dick, or at least that dick, he’s into pussy specifically Kathy’s. “Well what about Bob”? “You know he offered to take off his clothes for me, to be in the nude when I went over to his place last week to take some pictures. I of course said “no that’s ok. Clothes will be fine, so who knows what would have happened. Unfortunately none of the pictures came out” “I always thought Bob was into daddies, but who knows” Peter said as he got up from the couch and stretched out making a loud moaning sound. “Oh God I better get my act together I’m making dinner Saturday night for 8 friends + you and Dennis. I’m doing PR cuisine, for appetizers I think I’ll make bacalaitos & surullitos, and maybe arroz con pollo or carne quisada puertorrique.” “Come with me to the A&P and help me shop. I was still yakking on our way to the grimy small A&P around the corner from our apartment. “Well what’s the difference between being a luscious Jewish boy” and a pretty Jewish boy, or a luscious Jewish man.” Am I a boy or a man.” “I don’t want to be a Jewish prince though, you always hear about Jewish princesses, but what about the Jewish princes, are there any? There must be. Are all Jewish princes luscious yummy? “. So you mean all the looks I get on the street from guys and girls is because I’m a luscious Jewish boy? “And they all want to make yummy with me?” “Do you have to use that word? Why can’t you say fucking, or sex, or making love, why yummy.” Oh I could never say those words Peter.” “I like yummy.” “Ok fine he said, as we pushed our cart through the narrow aisles, “I would love to be a fly on the wall when you ask someone if they want to make yummy with you.” “Pretty Jewish indeed.” He said. Just as we came around the corner we nearly ran our wagon into Geraldine Page who was also doing her shopping. Dressed in dungarees and a sweatshirt, her hair in curlers, with a bandana neatly covering her famous head. There she was one of the great actresses of the theatre pushing her wagon through the A&P, which was full of beer and nothing else. Hi Geri, the clerks called out as though Geri was one of the girls. “Hi kids, what’s new” Ms. Page called out. “Peter look there’s Geraldine Page.” Yes I know, she’s in here all the time, her and Rip Torn own the townhouse a few doors up from the apartment.” “Gee I didn’t know that.” “Yeah and its true that the bell is labeled “Torn Page.” Suddenly Ms. Page was right in front of me, and I had the dopiest grin on my face. “Hi cutie pie” she said to me, as she made her way to the checkout. On our way back to our apartment I couldn’t stop gushing as we made our way up the 6 flights of stairs with our heavy bags of groceries “Wow Peter that was amazing, far out.” “Did you notice she called me cutie pie, why didn’t she say Hi luscious Jewish boy, or Hi pretty Jew boy, is cutie pie as good as Luscious? Does cutie pie carry the same weight as pretty Jewish, or what? ‘Do you think my friend Howard wants to make yummy with me? “Ira for Christ’s sake he’s straight.” So what does that have to do with anything?” “Dennis” I called out. "We just ran into Geraldine Page in the A&P” “Big fucking deal, he yelled out from the office, I see her all the time, and she’s sold herself out doing all those crap movies she should be ashamed“ I need a nap” Peter said a long nap why don’t you go for a walk and on the way out take the garbage with you. “ TO BE CONTINUED.

Images used in this post: My Allan Block sandals Peter and Michael in Pecos Bill and one of my favorite photos of myself in 1968


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