MY AMERICAN FAMILY, IN ONE ERA, OUT THE OTHER
"The first duty in life is to be marvellous. What the second duty is no one has yet discovered."
- Oscar Wilde
"The man of intelligence, who will never agree with anyone, should cultivate a pleasure in the conversation of imbeciles and the study of worthless books. From these he will derive a sardonic amusement which will largely repay him for his pains."
"Television, what a wonderful instrument of culture and knowledge it could be! In France, everything would be possible because administration owns television. But infact, what sleaziness sometimes! Where are the creative people? Is there someone anywhere who would have the guts to really use this amazing instrument put at his disposal? Infact, maybe. But he would not have any luck. Television is rules by civil servants without courage, fearing that they might lose their pretty cake. Civil servants without balls."
- Le Corbusier
“I don't know why I want to do these things, other than my desire to escape from Small Town, U.S.A., to dismiss the boundaries, to explore. It isn't a bad place where I grew up, but there was nothing going on but the cornfields. My life experience came from watching movies, watching TV and reading books and looking at magazines. And when your fucking culture comes from watching TV every day, you're bombarded with images of things that seem cool, places that seem interesting, people who have jobs and careers and opportunities. None of that happened where I was. You're almost taught to realize it's not for you.”
—Trent Reznor, Rolling Stone Magazine
“Just why it should have happened, or why it should have happened just when it did, he could not, of course, possibly have said; nor perhaps could it even have occurred to him to ask. The thing was above all a secret, something to be preciously concealed from Mother and Father; and to that very fact it owed an enormous part of its deliciousness. It was like a peculiarly beautiful trinket to be carried unmentioned in one’s trouser-pocket - a rare stamp, an old coin, a few tiny gold links found trodden out of shape on the path in the park, a pebble of carnelian, a sea shell distinguishable from all others by an unusual spot or stripe - and, as if it were any one of these, he carried around with him everywhere a warm and persistent and increasingly beautiful sense of possession - it was also a sense of protection. It was if, in some delightful way, his secret gave him a fortress, a wall behind which he could retreat into heavenly seclusion.”
-Conrad Aiken, 1932
Silent Snow, Secret Snow
And so I have remained, in cruel pursuit of truth and excellence, an inhumane executioner of the bogus, an abomination to all but those few who have overcome their aversion to truth in order to free whatever is good in them.
— Louise Brooks
“The term nostalgia describes a longing for the past, often in idealized form. The word is made up of two Greek roots nostos ‘returning home’ and algos ‘pain’, to refer to ‘the pain a sick person feels because he wishes to return to his native home,and fears never to see it again’. It was described as a medical condition, a form of melancholy, in the Early Modern period, and came to be an important topic in Romanticism.”
-Wikipedia definition for the word “nostalgia”
“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream; past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Methought I was - -man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was - -and methought I had - -man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say.”
-the character Bottom played by James Cagney in the screen adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Mid summer’s Night Dream (1935)
- Endora, witch on "Bewitched,"
TV series, circa 1968
I was born queer. Totally queer. I eventually became Queer. And “Once upon or maybe twice, there was an unearthly paradise called Pepperland....80,000 leagues beneath the sea it lay or lie,... I’m not too sure...” and that is where I grew up though in a parallel universe it was on earth in the 60s. But for sure, I was without any question part of the Victorian Aesthetic Movement. Later, I even further embodied the Decadent-era Oscar Wilde and Des Esseintes sensibilities even though I’d only learn of these things when I was educated. This was after the initial vileness of the Pop-era period of American Dream brainwashing I fell victim to of the same 1960s. I never really had a problem with this central aspect of my being, being entirely queer that is. From the moment I was born, even if I had many other problems such as bonkers, clowns, snapping Turks and de-music missiles, dreadful flying gloves and blueness and though Hollywood always depicted Aesthetic queerness as evil, punishable by tortured death and abject misery, I never felt that at all or was exposed to such awful things. I was never a victim of my queerness. Only dreadful flying gloves and meanies screwed around with me. In this regard I was extremely lucky.
Deep breath. "If you live by your wit, you die by your wit”, that said, sexually I am a dissident and challenge the doctrines of acceptable sexuality. I am a transgender mind what used to be called an androgynous mind. Physical sex, though I had it was infinitely less important to me than the feelings in my mind. I do not adhere to anything that society says you have to do or feel about sex because it strikes me as weird and bad for your mental health, that and the fact straight people are big fat bores when they start preaching their trade. I have no problem with them doing it amongst themselves, but leave me out of it. Straight men have often sucked my dick I may add. I adore women in every way, am very much attracted to them but have had very few who actually I had anything more than a little sexual attraction to, though the ones I have had an attraction to, I was overwhelemed with feelings of desire, all of which has formed a great part of my personality. I am very immature, often quite numbed by confusion and find it best just to be what it is I am than try to be anything else, so I guess what people call “being straight” was out of the question from the literal second I was born. Oh, and for the record, I like babies from afar and like children when they are either immensely well behaved and educated or made of cloth like dolls such as Kamkins by Louise R. Kampes or those by Kathe Kruse.
I was miserable only because I felt completely unloved and not at all because I was queer. Being queer infact saved me from a complete and entire misery. Two decades later I was to become happily co-dependant in life on my husband and though sometime in my 20s when society said it wasn’t good to be dependant on someone you love, I didn’t give a toss because it really works for me. My life was a bizarre mix of a television rerun of a Little Audrey Noveltoon (Goofy Goofy Gander for example) and a Shakespearean tragedy. I presume this is the same for everyone so essentially, I had a life so far of variable viccissitudes.
I loathe nostalgia. My mentor Diana Vreeland said this in the opening to her book, D.V and I feel totally the same about that sentimental state of being too but I have really great memories of really great people and experiences. I think also that quotations can be facetiously pedantic and leaden and Art is not a panacea in any way, though as a child I thought so. My story is the discovery that it is not, not by a long shot though Art is essential for living. I would go on a long voyage of Life as Queer Theatre and I was to create Queer Art, something only five decades later would have an meaning and even then, just a spark of it and my mission would not be over even by the half-century marker. So, when I started writing a book about my life in the world of Art, I ended up using all sorts of things to say what I mean avoiding quotes as much as possible because I thought using them was rather easy and a bit démodé. Metaphors, poetry, glib and stylish retort (or should I say réplique?) to unasked questions, sincere or saucy one-liners, schtick and plain speaking I think helped me a lot for a while. I live to read so naturally I write to quote, it defines me more easily. But something changed. They all started being deeply important to me, slowly, more and more and picked up speed. Now they are essential to knowing me a bit. I cannot even begin to imagine writing about my life without quotes now, it’d be much too difficult and I am not that talented. However, in this whole process I realized that sometimes good quotations can express a great deal about what you really feel deep within yourself more than being soi-disant inverted commas original. It’s something someone has said as if it was for you and they may have said it (and often have done so), in a much better way than you possibly could. Usually as well, it was during some other time in history, reinforcing the fact us humans can be quite similar in our feelings regardless of the era or the social station. Therefore I use quotes and specific references to other things and people often when trying to express my feelings about the many various moments I have lived up until now. I concluded that in the right context quotes can say it all. So, I looked in a TV Guide from the day I was born in 1960, March the 10th. There is this dumb TV Guide article as usual, I didn’t expect Shakespeare to be in that guide just because it was the day I was born. When In Doubt - Or Even When You Are Not - Write A Book, page 12 quotes Groucho Marx in regard to his celebrity status autobiography he’d just written called, Groucho and Me. “ I’m no Faulkner, Hemingway, Camus or Perelman...or even Kathleen Winsor. As a matter of fact, I’m not even the same sex as Kathleen. But every word of this stringy, ill-written farrago is being sweated out by me”. There you have it, same here. But he also said, “The trouble about writing a book about yourself...is that you can’t fool around. If you write about someone else, you can stretch the truth from here to Finland. If you write about yourself, the slightest deviation makes you realize instantly that there may be honor among thieves but you are just a dirty liar”. Yep, that’s totally true too.
As for Art, as glorious as it seems when you are on the surface of it, riding the waves with it’s many pleasures, it has been both my enemy and friend so far throughout my life. Art is what you can get away with, to paraphrase MuCluhan (for which can practically be my credo, it’s such an evident thing). Art can be heavy and pedantic as well and it seems I have never been able to escape it, even when I have really tried. It has always been there in everything it seems, right there in my face, both taunting and discouraging me and at the same time making me feel complete and quite good. When I started to write about my life and all the Art in all of it’s forms which I have experienced these fifty some odd years, I saw that it could read at times like a long jeremiad. I felt at some moments as if I was lost like the child I had been. Ortega y Gasset, the philosopher, hit it on the head when he said, “We are all lost creatures. It is only when we admit this that we have a chance of finding ourselves”. When I wrote about all those many moments with the slow build up of words which form sentences and sometimes complete thoughts, if I did not make an effort at moments it seemed like a big, fat and tiring diatribe of intellectual contradictions. Like in my repetitive dreams, I was lost in a big city, trying to get somewhere. In saying that though, in my confusion and disappointment I started to see a bit more clearly, it seemed like something else, something very positive, was emerging in my life and in writing about it. I think looking back on the relatively immediate past has given me an amazing entry and some insight into my own soul which in a way I am sharing with you the reader if of course, you the reader believes in such a thing. Or, if you the reader do not believe in the soul, perhaps my writing about my life may simply make you question not only my own belief in the existance of a soul but perhaps your belief in it as well. I have a very special sense of humour too and this book may possibly give you a look into the rather ironic humour I have about life and all it’s intense and vivid sensations and hopefully, make you laugh a bit. I certainly laughed when writing this. Since I am a middle-aged man now and I have many metaphysical and often, moreso than not, rather contrite and rudimentary questions about life and Art, this book helped me answer a few of them. It did also bring up many more questions about everything though. The result, this book, finally is not a jeremiad but a homage to the absurdity and beauty of human error and attempt to make beauty out of chaos. When you boil it all down, when you look at any life and when I look and recount my own, I find it all quite funny in the end. Happily, joyously funny and tragically funny despite the fact it was a form of suburban gothique, Desperate Housewives before it’s time. The 60s and 70s were all about appearances and in the world I lived in, everyone had some terrible dark secret hidden by lovely patio furniture, clean modern houses, haute couture and Ivy League clothes and Littlechap doll family lifestyles.
I decided to also write this book, compiled also from years and years worth of diaries, letters and articles because I thought, “why not?”. I’ve got the time. I’ve got the computer. I really enjoy to make fun out of myself because I find myself to be the most curious and silly of creatures. If you are familiar with the camp best-seller written by Patrick Dennis called Little Me and it’s heroine Belle Poitrine, this book may sound a bit like it, the only difference is that my life is real and all these things took place, with a big scoop of doolally thrown in. At times, this book may also seem like a very screwed up Kinsey case study, my private life and especially my sex life would seem to most people quite doolally indeed. It’s a homage to my friends and those I’ve known in some way or another, a book of experiences and feelings, not necessarily flowingly related. It’s a synopsis of some parts of the eras I have lived through and what it felt like. I have come to, begrudingly, realize that my youth is now behind me and so many of the great people of my era are gone. Some I knew. Some very closely, others lightly and superficially. I can tell only so much, but I can say I do have a few anecdotes or two to submit to the world.
Also; The pre-conceived image people can have of a somehow public person often is very wrong and even unfair and writing some things about my life may put a few of my own myths to rest. I’m not Madonna or Michael Jackson, clearly, but I have been in the media all my life and so much crap has been written about me, I thought, those who have followed my career and work, might like to read the real me, for a change though I love and do believe somehow what Cocteau said is very true; “Whatever the public blames you for, cultivate it - it is yourself”. Maybe the crap and the glory, the myth and the rumour was a sort of truth but I think there is a big part of me which I have not shared with the world so far. For better or for worse, I have had some colourful experiences, made tons of mistakes and had many successes. This is how I experienced it. Some may think I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but this is far from true. Sometimes what people may think of me is flattering but not true at all either. I just want to, in my now middle age, tell some stories about what was happening behind the scenes of what appeared to be an easy camelot of a career. My life was never easy, never really light or calm.
I am not sure if I can actually call some people cocksuckers, sons-of-bitches, perverts and faggots. I had to deal with a closet case lawyer once, in Switzerland with a loud-mouth bitch female partner (though she is more manly than most men and wears cheap démodé pointy heels from shoe outlets in Milan). In court he tried to slap me! On his pasty pimply face, that automatic gesture to slap which he did despite all good reason, showed what a real scumbag lowlife he was and still is. So, there are people like my psychiatrist said to me later that day, who are just fucked up and total shit. “GROW UP!” he said and he is right. One of the first and only people I have ever hated, a sanctimonious cunt bourgeoise neighbour, I had to sue her fat (literally so) ass. SO, I try to grow up and understand why such people exist. Cecil Beaton told me when I was a teen I was like someone called Stephen Tennant, someone I had almost no knowledge of at the time. When Jesse Kornbluth and his wife Annette gave me Peter Hoare’s book Stephen Tennant, Serious Pleasures in 1991 for my birthday, I finally understood why he may have thought so, though I did find out who the brightest of all the Bright Young Things of London pre-war era was years before when Christopher Isherwood and Quentin Crisp said the same thing to me. Tennant was notoriously eccentric and known for having never grown up. When I read the book, a shudder chilled me to the bone, I didn’t want to be a Peter Pan kind of person like Tennant. Yes, perhaps his childish ways were cute when he was 20 years old, but as an adult it seemed so ugly. I saw the similarities in his and my own personality. So, I have made every attempt to be as adult as possible. I call people what I believe they are when necessary. When provoked. When I have to.
Some are superkalafragalisticespealidosiously challenged. Readers should try to read through the lines. My humour can be heavy-handed and a bit vulgar at times as well but that’s because I have always felt sometimes it’s the only way to say the truth. Diana believed in vulgarity to, she wrote about it and how it’s like the paprika of life. I am a bizarre mixture of utter passion and total indifference, being the astrological signs of double pisces that I am and something the reader will get more than a whiff of in this book, sometimes it flip flops back and forth so much you really have to read things twice. I also tend to be a bit mean when I don’t like something or someone. I am the kind of person you either love or hate, rarely are people indifferent. I am also probably different people to different people, to some I am dreadful and others delightful. Some people just get annoyed at me because I am very mercurial in society, I can play the game up to a point, with great polite manners and then I crack and either go numb or say something really out of place. For some people, I am a very faithful and devoted person. For these people I can put up with their worst character traits. It really all depends. I guess this book will clearly illustrate that.
A lot of the people I have known, and perhaps even still know, are quite lovely and I have enjoyed or still enjoy their company for loads of different reasons. These people I have had a great pleasure in writing about. However, there are those who have been the opposite of lovely or interesting, some have been total scumbags and salauds, even though “scumbags and salauds” sounds like some sort of delightful bill of fare at the Paris Ritz. I’ve known many people who have been total fuck ups, nasty pieces of work with no morals whatsoever and of course, many regular people who are just a mixture of yin and yang-ish behaviour. These we call “normal” people. Sometimes also, I have behaved not very nicely, speaking my mind, usually too hastily due to my impatience, usually with someone’s stupidity or vanity. Sometimes just because I was being stupid or vain myself. Sometimes it was only “Will Monsieur have some wine with his scumbags and salauds?”.
Some of these people I have encountered and maybe write about, thank God, are dead, so you’ll kind of know what I am talking about and what I really mean to say when you read about them here. Some are still alive and I cannot outwardly say what fucking bastards they are...but try to read through my sometimes deliberately neutral and legal-schmegal words. I wish I could totally say the unsayable, but I don’t feel like being sued by already fucked up people or relatives of dead celebrities. Some of them I fucked and others fucked me, both literally and figuratively but I cannot say, sometimes, here in this book. This is for various reasons, including my own desire for quand meme, a bit of discretion and also because I’m not really ready to talk about it. Try to figure it out yourself a bit, I wish I could say a teeny amount more of the actual things which I experienced but hélas, I cannot, and I am sure you will understand. Nonetheless, you’ll get some very vivid ideas of what really happened anyway. This book is very politically-incorrect, so those with sensitive whatevers, (minds, souls, bodies, whatever makes people over-react to someone’s, in this case my, brutal reality or over-react to the what I think is banality of opinions which are not homogenized) just stop here and don’t read this book, go buy a Martha Stewart cookbook or join the Oprah Winfrey bookclub instead. This is my disclaimer.
I wrote this book also very much in the way I speak. I do not have Coprolalia or Tourette’s Syndrome. I just want to point that out now though for in a few places it may appear that I do (though I am not sure this illness actually shows up when one is writing). I added these occasional expletives only because I, during the years I wrote this book and edited it over and over, I slowly had the impression I was such a sissy that I needed to make it more gritty the way my life has actually been so far. Since I was also striving a bit to get away from my reputation during the early years of my professional career as an artist who was a goody-two-shoes, it needed a few fuck yous here and there. Deal with it.
However, to be serious and use a good quote, here is a favourite of mine; Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend (Albert Camus). At the end of the day, when people are insane or gross, freaks and fuck ups et al I feel sorry for them and it makes me somewhat sad. I have never really adapted well to the negative side of people and it always makes me feel terribly disappointed. I would much prefer friends then people I dislike though I can get angry, I hate it, it’s a big fat bore to not like people. I also have to admit I have the ability to be indifferent to people, so when I don’t like someone, in the end, I turn very indifferent, after of course I chop them! My indifference also has caused me problems and made me enemies once in a while.
As Evelyn Waugh wrote in one of his diaries and I wholly agree is the following: “I...don’t want to influence opinions or events, or expose humbug or anything like that kind. I don’t want to be of service to anyone or anything. I simply want to do my work as an artist” . I may have imbued ideas into some of my work, but my point was not to change anyone’s minds.
So, now, I will start the actual book part, enjoy!
copyright 2010 BillyBoy*