This is Part 2 of Chapter 113 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Deb and Vic's Excellent Adventure -- Part 1", the previous section.
The narrator is Debbie Novotny, and features Vic Grassi, Brian Kinney, Ron Rosenblum, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Debbie and Vic come out to L.A. for the premiere of 'The Olympian.' Los Angeles, November 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"Mrs. Novotny? Mr. Grassi?"
"That's us, honey!" I say. She's a pretty blonde thing in a Trans-Con uniform. Her little metal name tag reads, 'N. Shepherd.' "Are you going to 'shepherd' us around the airport?"
"Sis!" Vic gives me a little poke in the ribs.
But 'N. Shepherd' smiles. "That's exactly what I'm going to do, Mrs. Novotny. I believe your car is waiting for you. If we can retrieve your luggage I'll make certain that it's delivered to your driver."
"That's swell, honey."
"Part of our VIP service. Thank you for flying Trans-Con Airways."
"You'll have to thank Brian Kinney for that, sweetie," I reply. "He's the one who bought our tickets!"
"This way, please."
And we follow 'N. Shepherd' through a crowded maze of corridors and wide open spaces. LAX has got to be about the most confusing fucking place I've ever been in! It looks like some kind of underground city from a bad sci-fi movie -- Michael should really like it when he and Justin and Ben get here next week!
"Are you staying on the Coast very long?" asks N. Shepherd.
"Excuse me, honey, but what's your name? I mean your first name? I have to have a name I can call you."
She laughs. "Natalie, Mrs. Novotny."
"After Natalie Wood, I bet! She was one of my favorite stars! And you can call me Debbie, hon."
"All right, Debbie."
"We're staying for the big premiere next week. For 'The Olympian.' As Brian Kinney's guests."
"I see. Mr. Kinney. He flies with us a lot. Are you family?"
"Damn straight, honey. The best family that he has!" I declare. But I see Vic rolling his eyes behind my back. "Well, it's the truth."
"I'm certain that you'll have a wonderful time in Los Angeles," she says. "There's so much to do here."
"I have everything that I want to do and everything I want to see marked in my guidebook!" I say. "I hope I have time to get it all in!"
"I'm sure you will."
Natalie sees that our suitcases are loaded on a cart and taken out to where a large gray Mercedes is waiting. The skycap puts the bags in the trunk while Natalie confers with the driver. This guy sure doesn't look like a chauffeur. He isn't wearing a uniform or anything, but a nice-looking dark blue suit and a fancy silk tie. Maybe that's the way they do things in Hollywood. The subtle approach. Classy. Just the way Brian would like it.
Natalie shakes our hands and wishes us well and then goes back into the terminal.
"Well, it's just you and us!" I say to the driver.
He stares at us very intently. He looks so familiar, but I know that's impossible. I don't know anyone out in California -- except Brian! "Mrs. Novotny. Mr. Grassi. I've heard so much about you." He takes my hand. He's got a soft, kind of insinuating voice that would be a little creepy if you didn't know better.
"Nothing but good stuff, I hope! Am I right, honey?"
"Of course, Mrs. Novotny. Nothing but good things. Shall we?" he says, holding the door open. "Would you prefer to ride in the front or the back?"
"I think I'd like to sit up front," says Vic. I shrug and get in the back. It's a beautiful car. Real leather seats.
Boy, they weren't kidding about the Los Angeles Freeway and all the traffic. It's nuts! But as we go along our driver has plenty to say about the city and the movie business and the history of Hollywood. He knows everything about fucking everything, it seems. He and Vic especially hit it off. This guy has gossip about every star, living and dead, and he's willing to dish. He has Vic in hysterics with stories about a couple of the old Hollywood Divas that this guy has driven and escorted over the years. He's definitely a fag, too, although he's not real obvious about it. I can tell that Vic is completely taken with him. He's tall and in good shape, handsome, probably in his early 40's, with just a touch of gray in his hair. And he's got -- what do you call it? -- charisma. Yes, and bright blue eyes that stare right through you. He's an intense guy, that's for sure. And I begin to wonder why such an intelligent man is working as a driver at Brian's studio.
Finally he says, "Well, we're in Hollywood -- but soon we'll be in Beverly Hills." And both Vic and I look eagerly out the window. "Don't bother to look now -- you'll see everything up close during your visit."
"I want to see the stars' footprints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater! That's Number One on my list!"
"It's Mann's Chinese Theater now, but the footprints are still there." He pauses. "You and Ethel aren't planning to steal any of them, are you, Lucy?"
"You're bad!" I laugh. "It's like you can read my fucking mind! Oops. Excuse my language."
"No problem, Mrs. Novotny."
"Debbie, honey! Call me Debbie! And this is Vic."
"I know," he says. "Deb and Vic. I know. And I know you'll have a very good time while you're here. I'll see to it personally."
"Well, you are just a doll, kiddo. And I mean that. You should be a lot more than just a driver, right Vic?"
And Vic turns around, frowning. He's looking at the guy next to him and then looking back at me. "Sis, I don't think that...."
"Is there a problem, Mr. Grassi?" the driver asks.
"Nothing. I was just curious about...."
"About me. I'm sure," the guy says. "Well, you're right, Debbie. I'm not a regular studio driver. In fact, I'm not a driver at all. At least not officially. But I'm at your personal service on this trip. So you remember that."
"What's your regular gig, hon? I mean, when you aren't dragging Vic and I around and dishing all the Hollywood scandal?"
"Deb," says Vic, turning around. "I think that...."
"I think that Vic has already figured it out. I know he's a big movie fan, so he would have eventually. Yes, I'm not a regular driver. My gig is a lot less prestigious. You're out here to attend the premiere of my film, Debbie. I'm Ron Rosenblum."
"Oh," I say, sitting back in the leather seat. "No shit?"
I have to admit, the house Ron takes us to is beautiful. Ron's own house. Or Ron's and Brian's, I should say. It's a little plain for my taste, but you can tell that everything in it is top-of-the-line. And there are two maids in white uniforms to get you anything you want, whenever you want it. And my room and Vic's room -- both overlooking a swimming pool and a poolhouse and a huge backyard -- are just gorgeous. I mean, it's just like I pictured a Hollywood movie star's house. Or movie director's house. Whatever it is. Not some big mansion, but just a really beautiful place. And the little fluffy dog is cute as a button, too.
And the inside of the house is so cool and comfortable -- which is important because it's fucking HOT in this town. I mean, it's November and it's in the 80's!
"I don't know about this, Sis. What about our reservations at the Beverly Palms Hotel?" says Vic, as we are loafing around the pool, sipping martinis. There is a wooden table with a big umbrella stuck in it and a couple of smaller round tables. I set my drink on one of them next to my lounge chair. Ah! I really COULD get used to this life! No wonder Brian was in no big hurry to come back to the Pitts last Winter!
"Your reservations at the Beverly Palms are secure," says Ron, refilling my martini. "Two olives, Deb?" The little dog romps around the deck, following Ron.
"How about three, hon? As long as you're offering!"
"Certainly." And he plops three big ones in my glass -- which is also the large economy size. "I thought you'd want to retain the suite downtown to use as a base for shopping and then for freshening up before the premiere. I checked you in before I drove to the airport to get you. Here are your key cards." And he hands over these plastic credit cards to me and Vic.
"What the fuck is this thing?" I say, turning it over in my hands.
"They use them instead of a regular key, Sis. For better security."
"Oh," I say, sticking the thing in my purse. I'll probably lose it, but what the hell? Vic won't lose his.
We finish up our drinks and then the maids set up the table for dinner. "I thought we'd be a little informal tonight -- if you don't mind. It's nice and cool out here by the pool," says Ron. "And Maria has made a Mexican dinner. Let me know how spicy you like it."
"The spicier the better for me," says Vic.
Ron cocks his head. "I can tell that you're a man who likes a lot of spice in his life."
Vic laughs. "I used to."
"That's for sure, kiddo! Vic got around in his day!"
"You'll have to tell me all about it. I hear you were at the first Gay Pride Parade in New York City? And you knew a lot of the leaders of the movement? Or are those just some of Brian's tall tales?"
"Oh," brags Vic. "I could tell you some stories about the early days of Gay Liberation. The REAL lowdown on what went on in those days. I was a regular at the Stonewall -- among other places."
"I'd like to video tape some of your recollections," says Ron. "If you don't mind, Vic? For a possible documentary. It's important gay history that could be lost if it isn't recorded. You could make an important contribution to preserving that past."
"I'd be glad to." Vic smiles and puffs up with importance. I hope Ronnie has plenty of tape, because once Vic starts talking there will be no stopping him. Especially if he's got a good-looking man to talk to.
And dinner is tasty. Really tasty. Of course, I like Mexican food, but this is nothing like we get in Pittsburgh at Taco Bell. This is the real thing! That chicken in the spicy chocolate sauce -- I have to get the recipe for that! I keep trying to tell the old Mexican lady what a great cook she is, but she doesn't seem to understand a word. Her daughter translates and the old lady blushes. "Mama will cook for you any time, she says!" the daughter, Carmel, tells me.
"And I'll eat anything she cooks, too, sweetie!"
"What do you think, Vic?" asks Ron. "You were a chef, I'm told."
"I thought the meal was superb, Ron. I enjoy authentic Mexican food. Do you understand, Maria? Muy bueno!" Maria smiles and nods at Vic as she and her daughter clear the table. "And, yes, I was a chef. Mainly pastries. But I worked in a few top restaurants in New York and San Francisco. Before I got... ill."
"And Cleveland!" I add.
"And Cleveland, too. Thanks, Sis," Vic chuckles.
"I'll make reservations at a few of the more interesting places in town," says Ron. "You'll want to try some of the more innovative chefs, perhaps -- as a professional yourself, Vic. Not the usual tourist stuff."
"Anything you select will be just wonderful, I'm sure," Vic gushes.
"And how is your health holding up, Vic?"
Vic raps on the small wooden table where he's set his drink -- just a little sangria. "Holding up, knock wood. Thanks to Brian. I could never have afforded to start some of the experimental meds when I did if he hadn't been supplementing my coverage for years. I owe him a lot. And speaking of Brian -- where is he?"
"Oh," says Ron. "I'm sure he'll show up -- eventually. He's very busy with the film publicity and things at the studio. It's really crunch time. He had a photo shoot all this afternoon."
"I thought Brian was going to be the one meeting us at the airport. But I guess he couldn't make it, huh?" I say.
"You don't mind ME doing the honors, do you, Deb?" Ron asks.
"Of course not, honey!" I insist. "Not with this kind of reception."
Ron stares into his glass. He's drinking some kind of fancy scotch. "I thought maybe for tomorrow -- Sunday Brunch at the Polo Lounge."
"That would be fabulous!" Vic enthuses.
"Is that a good place?" I ask. Vic and Ron laugh. What do I know about Hollywood?
"The best!" says Vic. And he can't stop grinning. Even without Brian, we're having a swell time so far.
And I begin to understand a lot of why Brian took off with Ron last December. I mean, yes it was a stupid move, but Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! This whole set-up is just first rate. And Ronnie. Well... I mean what I've heard about him mainly has been through Sunshine's eyes -- and he's not exactly an unbiased player in this game! And now that I've met him, I don't think any of things that Justin told me are true at all. Ron is about the nicest guy you'd ever want to hang out with! And I know that Lindsay had nothing but good things to say about Ron and her stay out here last summer. She said that Ron was the perfect host and that he did everything he could to make her visit the best. And he had everything geared to Gus' comfort, too. I remember her telling me that those maids -- Carmel and her mom, Maria -- just pampered Gus like anything.
And I can even see how this Ron is a way better partner for Brian in a lot of ways than poor little Sunshine.
I mean, I know Justin is full of all kinds of romantic notions and everything, but that's all they are -- romantic notions and not reality. I told Jennifer as much a long time ago -- and I've said it to Justin, too. He and Brian -- I know there are big, big problems there. Brian is an asshole and as stubborn as they come. He's always been a loose cannon -- you know, a guy who is just one step from being completely out of control. And Sunshine is so fucking young! He just doesn't have the experience and the sophistication to deal with that kind of shit -- but a guy like Ron does have it. Ron seems just the right type to be able to handle someone as flighty as Brian. He's real down-to-earth and practical. And so knowledgeable. And -- let's face it -- he and Brian are already a successful team, with this big movie coming out and everything. It just makes sense!
Between Brian and Sunshine it's all about sex. That's important, sure, but for a long-term relationship? With Ron there seems something a lot more substantial, you know what I mean? He's already an important guy in Hollywood, which is just what Brian needs if he's really going to be a big movie star. He needs someone who can help him out -- like Ron. And it doesn't hurt that the guy is good-looking, too. And sexy. That's one thing I never really heard about him. But Vic sure thinks so -- I get THAT vibe loud and clear! But I should have figured. Brian would never go for a dead-dick for a lover -- no matter HOW important a big shot he was!
"And this is the car I've ordered for Brian," says Ron, showing Vic some photos he's taken out of an envelope. "It's the new Jaguar XKR. I'm having it customized especially for him. But don't say anything. It's a Christmas present."
"What the fuck is an XYZ?" I say.
"A car," say Vic, as he hands me the photos. Yeah, it's a car all right. I hand them back. "Very nice."
"Not a connoisseur of automobiles, Deb?" asks Ron, smiling.
"I wouldn't know a Toyota from a Chevy, hon. A car is a car to me. But I'm sure that's a nice one."
"It is," says Vic. "It's a beauty. Brian will be thrilled."
"I hope so. He's... rather difficult to buy for," says Ron, staring at the photos of the car. "Difficult to keep happy."
"That's an understatement!" I say. "I have a little present for him, too. But I didn't buy it -- I made it for him. Worked my ass off to get it finished before we came out here. It's a quilt."
"A quilt? I'd love to see it later," says Ron.
"I'll show it to you -- if Brian ever gets here!" I reply. "So, Ronnie -- how much does a set of wheels like that run you? A little bit more than a greeting card, I bet!"
"Debbie!" Vic exclaims. "What a question!"
"I don't mind, Vic. It's only money, after all," he shrugs. "Base price is something like $82, but with the extras I've ordered -- quite a bit more."
"$82? As in thousand? For a fucking car?" I say, practically spitting out my sangria. "Jesus. Is any car worth that? Or any guy?"
"Oh, it's worth every penny," says Ron. "And Brian is worth every penny. And more. It's really just a trifle." He pauses for a long time, thinking. "Now -- how about some coffee, Deb? It's a special blend that I get from Hawaii."
"Oh, that sounds real good," I say. I'm finished with my sangria. And Vic takes some coffee, too. We sit there, talking about the premiere, while it gets later. Ron is telling us about all the stars who are already down solid to attend the thing. Some really big names, too.
"They all want to be there for Jimmy Hardy's big moment," Ron explains. "And Brian's, too -- although they don't know that yet. But they will. Everyone will -- very soon."
"Is Brian that good?" asks Vic.
"Better," says Ron, his eyes shining. "He mops up the floor with Jimmy -- and Jimmy knows it. Of course, Jimmy will get all the award attention and Brian will be lucky to get a couple of Best Supporting Actor nominations. And the irony is that Brian has much more screen time than Jimmy. He's in almost every scene and dominates every shot. Jimmy is really the supporting player -- but the Hollywood establishment won't see it that way. They'll all talk about how 'brave' Jimmy is for playing a fag and about what a chance he's taking and all that horseshit. While it's really Brian taking all the chances. Jimmy couldn't have done this role at all if Brian hadn't led him through the entire thing. And I mean in every way."
"Jesus," I say. "That's fucking deep!"
"It is," says Ron. "It's fucking deep."
A few minutes later Carmel comes trotting out from the kitchen and leans over to Ron. "A car is here," she says.
Ron looks up. "The Mustang?" And she nods.
"What's up, Ronnie?" asks Vic.
"I think our wayward host is about to make an appearance."
"You mean Brian?" I reply. "Where the hell has he been all evening? I've been wondering when he was going to bother to turn up," I say.
"I told you he's been quite busy, Deb," says Ron, covering for his boyfriend.
And just then Brian comes bursting out onto the deck. The little dog, Armani, runs out from under Ron's chair and begins yipping and jumping up and down with excitement.
"Well, it's about time, sweetie," I say.
"What the FUCK is going on here?" Brian sputters. "What are you two doing HERE?"
I raise my eyebrows. "Having some coffee, hon. Take a load off."
"Yes, Brian. Take a load off," Ron repeats. "Why don't you?"
"Deb, Vic -- get your shit. We're leaving!" Brian is practically screaming. "Now!"
"Brian Kinney! WHAT is your problem?" I say, standing up.
"What is MY problem?" he says, glaring at me and then at Ron. "My problem is that I've been chasing around this whole fucking CITY looking for you two. Thinking that you'd fallen off the face of the Earth when the studio driver couldn't find you! So I left a fucking photo shoot with 'Movieline Magazine' to race out to the airport and track you down. Then I went to the Beverly Palms to see if you'd found your way over there. And they said you'd been checked in, but you hadn't arrived there yet! So I went back to the studio to ream out the driver who was supposed to pick you up but didn't. Then back to explain to the fucking 'Movieline' people why I'd walked out in the middle of their fucking SHOOT! And THEN back to the airport where I FINALLY got a hold of that woman from Trans-Con Airways, who described to a tee just WHO had been so fucking KIND as to pick the two of you up and bring you back to his web -- I mean his house!" Brian runs his hand through his hair. It looks all messy. But he still looks very cute. Brian always looks cute, even when he's screaming. "And THAT is my fucking problem!"
"Then I think you should sit down and have one of Ron's martinis," I say, settling back down in my chair. "Because I think you've already had too much caffeine, kiddo."
"I don't WANT a fucking martini!" Brian shouts. "I'm supposed to be on the fucking wagon! Is everyone in this fucking world except Justin in a conspiracy to fucking KILL me? Is that it?" Brian's face is bright red.
"Brian, you're over-reacting," says Ron, calmly. His voice is soothing -- like the tone you'd use on a frightened animal or a child. "As usual. Why don't you sit down? Debbie and Vic had a cocktail or two and then we all had a nice dinner and a little wine and now we're having some coffee. We've been talking about the premiere and about Hollywood and what they should see while they're here. I don't see what the fuss is all about."
"Oh, you don't? YOU don't see? Jesus Christ!" Brian is now pacing like a caged animal. I mean it -- that guy is going to have a nervous breakdown any minute. I told Vic and Tim as much when I saw him over at the loft after he got hurt in England. He's just about to go hysterical. Frankly, I can't stand to think of poor little Sunshine having to deal with this shit all the time when he should be enjoying his young life! Brian really is out of control!
But Ron -- he's like the eye of the hurricane. He's cool and collected. Maybe he has some idea of what has set Brian off -- because I don't have a clue what it is. But he's like Mr. Reason trying to stand up to Mr. Drama Queen. 'La Diva' -- that's what Emmett and Ted call Brian -- among other things. And it fits. Especially right now.
"No, I don't see, Brian!" I say to him. "We're sitting here having a very nice time -- until YOU come busting in here with smoke coming out of your fucking nose! What's your damage, anyway?"
"Debbie -- you just don't understand what's going on here," Brian says. "Please -- just come with me. Get your stuff and come. I have my car outside and we can go now."
"Sis," says Vic, looking uncomfortable. "We better go with Brian. After all, he's the one who brought us out here."
"So?" I reply. "I don't get it. Isn't THIS where Brian lives?" I look around. "Isn't this where he's been living for almost a fucking year? Ron was nice enough to pick us up at the airport and bring us here and get us settled. And now something weird is going on and Brian wants to drag us out in the middle of the fucking night...."
"It's only 9:00, Deb," Vic points out.
Ron stands up and clears his throat. "I think it's ME that Brian has an issue with, not you and Vic, Debbie. I'm the one he is having a problem with. Isn't that it, Brian?" He stares at Brian.
"You have fucking got THAT right!" Brian storms. "And I DON'T fucking live here!"
But Ron seems unrattled by Brian's big hissy fit. "Maybe you had better go with him. I'll have Carmel bring your bags down to the Mustang," Ron says, a little sadly.
"Don't bother! I'll get them!" And Brian stomps back into the house.
"I'll go and help him. Sorry about all this," says Vic, following Brian.
So I stand up, too. "I guess we're being kidnapped, hon. But we'll be seeing you, right?"
"Of course, Debbie," says Ron, taking my hand and kissing it. "You can hardly miss seeing me. It's my film that's being premiered."
"Of course. What am I thinking?" I say, tapping the side of my head. "I hope we get to go out to that chef's place or whatever you were talking to Vic about."
"I'll do what I can," he sighs. "I'm afraid Brian isn't very happy with me at the moment. He isn't happy with a lot of things -- I mean, since he returned from England. He's been... he has...." Ron pauses. "I'm sure you understand what I mean?" He looks pained. "Ever since...."
"I understand, honey," I say. "It... it must be difficult for him to have something awful like that happen to him. Especially when Brian has always prided himself on being able to take care of himself and handle anything that came his way. But the way he was beaten up and... violated like that...." Ron winces and takes a step back. "I'm sorry, hon -- I shouldn't have mentioned it. I know how hard it's been for Justin back in Pittsburgh. So it must be hard for you, too, Ronnie. Terribly hard to deal with... Brian and his problems."
"You have no fucking idea, Debbie," he says, evenly. But his eyes are glittering. They look like hard, blue gems. "No fucking idea at all." Then he turns and walks back into his house without looking back.
Continue on to "Deb and Vic's Excellent Adventure -- Part 3", the next section.
©Gaedhal, April 2003.
Updated April 21, 2003.