This is Part 2 of Chapter 115 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "I Threw It All Away -- Part 1", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Jimmy Hardy, Henry Townsend, Diane Rhys, Frederick Atwood, Peggy Doyle, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and Jimmy are interviewed for a British newspaper. 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.
These winds start to blow on Monday. The newspaper says they're the Santa Ana winds. They are whipping up fires in a few areas nearby and some billboards were knocked over in West Hollywood. I know that this kind of weather is normal here in California, but these relentless winds are creeping me out. They shake the apartment building, which doesn't feel too sturdy to begin with. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night, clutching Brian like something is going to blow him away from me.
Tuesday morning Brian and I go down to check on the boat, but everything is okay there.
"It's the wind, Justin," says Brian. "Just the wind."
Then we drive over to the studio because Brian and Jimmy are doing an interview with one of the British papers, 'The Independent.' In two weeks we're all going to London again for 'The Olympian' premiere over there. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone there, but especially Harry and Sir Kenneth and Kenroy Smith. And I think I'll be better prepared to watch the film this time because I know what to expect. It will still be hard, but I think I can sit through 'The Olympian' again. And I'll get to see 'Hammersmith,' too, while we're there!
It seems like old times driving around with Brian in a Jeep. It feels right. Like it used to when Brian and I would drive around Pittsburgh, just laughing and shooting the breeze.
"You'll need a car out here," Brian says. "Especially if you're going to start classes. But it's probably too late for you to begin next semester."
I sit up a little in my seat. Brian talking about school. He says it so casually, but it's serious stuff for us. For our future. "Probably," I reply. "Besides, I still need to look into the best place to go. And I'll need to get my portfolio together."
"There must be someone at the studio, maybe in set design or something, who would know which schools are the best. I'll ask around. No matter where you decide to go, Justin, they'll take you. They aren't stupid, after all," says Brian matter of factly. To him my talent is a foregone conclusion.
"I'm glad you think so, Brian. That you have faith in my talent -- sometimes more than I do!" And Brian sniffs when I say that. "But I will still need a good portfolio and some strong recommendations from my profs at PIFA," I add.
"That should be no problem. But I don't want you to have to drive too far on these fucking freeways," Brian says, as we are driving on one of those fucking freeways. And Brian is right -- the traffic is insane a lot of the time. "And I know you think we need to get out of that apartment...." he sighs.
Yes! I think. He's taking my complaints about the apartment seriously. "It's really not the best place for you, Brian. Face facts."
"I know, Justin. It was a stop-gap measure." He glances around before he changes lanes. "So where you go to school could point to where we should look for a place. Keep that in mind."
"I will," I say, getting excited. House-hunting sounds fun! It also sounds so... permanent. That gives me a shiver of pleasure. I try to picture the kind of place I want to live in. Not an apartment or a condo. A house, definitely, for privacy. With a yard. And a pool! And a studio where I can do my art. Maybe something near the water. Or up in the mountains. Or....
"Do you like those PT Cruisers?" says Brian, breaking into my daydream. "They're kind of fun. I'll have to look into how safe they are, though."
"Yes, I like them!" I say, grinning. "And they have lots of room in the back for my art supplies. I mean, they look like they do." Not that I was hinting or anything, but I did leave part of the Sunday paper on the coffee table with an ad for PT Cruisers. But I was really subtle about it. "The only thing that worries me is that boycott thing."
"Huh?" says Brian. "You've lost me."
"Well, I mentioned that I thought the PT Cruisers were really cool when I went over to take Gus out a few weeks ago and Melanie said that we should boycott all Chrysler products because they won't advertise on the 'Ellen' show."
Brian turns and stares at me like I'm crazy. "Is that fucking show STILL on the air?" Brian prides himself on never watching television.
"Um, no. Not anymore. It hasn't been on in a while. And that boycott was kind of in 1997 -- but Melanie said it was really important to take a strong stand!"
Brian snorts. "Then I better pull over and let you WALK back to Venice Beach, because guess what company makes this Jeep?" He raises his eyebrow at me. "I wouldn't want you to soil your political purity by letting your ass ride around in a politically incorrect vehicle, after all!"
"I was just repeating what Mel told me, Brian!" I insist. "I really LOVE those cars. And I LOVE the Jeep, too! Honestly!"
And then I see that he's smirking at me. And then he laughs. "Okay, then. I'll check with the Car Guy at the studio and see what he says. He might be able to steer us to the best place."
"Who's the Car Guy, Brian?"
Brian tilts his head. "The guy at the studio who gets cars for all the films, of course. And for all the execs," Brian replies. "He got my Mustang. And Jimmy's Ferrari. They say he can find any car you can think of. So a PT Cruiser shouldn't be too much of a stretch."
We pull up to the front of the studio and the guard at the gate sees Brian and waves him through. We drive around to a row of cement buildings that look like part of an old motel. I guess they put all the money into what the audience sees and not in the offices.
"Will you have an office here, like Jimmy?"
"Fuck no!" laughs Brian. "I'm going to have an office as far away from Jimmy and Ron and the studio as possible. Leslie is making plans to move out here just before Christmas. Once she gets settled I'll let her set things up. She knows what she's doing. But I don't want her over here in the Glitter Ghetto with all the other professional personal assistants."
And speaking of personal assistants, the first person we see when we walk into Jimmy's office is Peggy. And she glares at us even as she says, "Good morning, gentlemen" through her gritted teeth.
"Fuck you, too, Peg," says Brian, cheerily. "Is your Lord and Master at home?"
But before Peggy can even announce us, Jimmy hears Brian through the partly opened door and he comes dashing out like a rabid Saint Bernard. "Hiya, Bri! And Baby Blue, too! Entré!"
Jimmy Hardy's office is packed with memorabilia from the Life of Jimmy Hardy. Posters of Jimmy's films. Photos of Jimmy with famous people. Props from movies like 'Castles in the Air,' 'Liberty,' 'Gemini Rescue,' 'Brent and Brenda,' 'Party Girl,' 'Laugh in the Dark,' and, of course, 'The Olympian.' Lots of pictures of him with Glenda Douglas. And also of Jimmy with Tess and Annie. And what is obviously a whole new section of the wall for photos of Jimmy and Brian.
"What do you think of my little shrine?" Jimmy says, completely without irony.
"I don't think there are enough pictures of you, Jim," Brian deadpans.
"Did you see this one? Isn't it great?" We walk over and look at what Jimmy is pointing at. It's a photo of the two of them on 'Larry King Live.' Jimmy looks gleeful and Brian looks stoned. It actually looks like that awful moment when Jimmy whispered 'I love you' to Brian. I wanted to jump up out of my seat and onto the set and strangle Jimmy right then! Jimmy thinks he's so cute, but he's really a creep sometimes.
"Jimmy, what the fuck do you have THAT up there for?" says Brian.
"It's a classic moment in television, Bri!" says Jimmy. "I also have the videotape of us on the show. I watch it all the time. And one of the 'Letterman' bit. That one is fantastic!"
It freaks me out to think that Jimmy sits and watches a videotape of Brian and I making out. That reminds me too much of Ron sitting around watching videotapes. Videotapes of... things I'd rather not think too much about.
Brian turns to me. "Now you know why I'll never be a movie star, Justin. I'm about as fucking vain as any man can get, but even I am not THAT much of a total egomaniac! And that's what it takes to be a real star."
Jimmy sniffs. "It's too late, Bri. You already ARE a movie star! You read those reviews! And I read you the numbers for the weekend!" Jimmy called Brian on Sunday to give him the box office figures for Friday and Saturday. 'The Olympian' wasn't number one because it's only opened in selected cities and not in every town in the country, but the per theater figures were very good. At least Brian said they were good.
"I didn't read any of the reviews," Brian says, truthfully. He refused to read them because he said he'd throw up if he did. But I read them. I clipped them for my scrapbook. Because I know that one day Brian IS going to want to read what the critics had to say about his performance -- which was that he was great. So fucking great! Roger Ebert said that it was a "star-making turn" in a movie that was "an event not to be missed." And 'The New York Times' made it the featured review of the week with a large photo of Brian -- NOT Jimmy! And 'Time.' 'USA Today.' 'Newsweek.' 'The Los Angeles Times.' ALL of the major papers and magazines. But Brian doesn't want to hear any of that now.
"You ARE a nut, Bri!" Jimmy laughs. "You act like you don't even CARE about your reviews!"
"I don't," says Brian, flatly. "Ron already gave me my 'review' back when we were filming. He told me that my ass does all the acting and that I should remember not to get in its way. That is the beginning AND the end -- literally -- of me listening to anyone's opinion of my work."
"Come ON, Bri! You know that is just Ron's bullshit. It isn't true and never was true!" Jimmy glances over at me and I know he's thinking of that conversation about Brian's talent that we had at breakfast in New York. "Ron wouldn't want you for 'Red River' if he didn't think you were good! Ron KNOWS you're a good actor -- and so do I!"
"Right, Jim," Brian replies, not smiling. "You and Ron BOTH say that because of one thing -- you still want to fuck me. It's as simple as that. And I STILL think that Ron is right and that I definitely do my best work -- acting or otherwise -- with my ass. Case closed."
Jimmy shakes his head. "Well, for heaven's sake don't tell the guy from that limey newspaper that! He'll make that quote the headline!" Jimmy instructs.
"I promise I won't say anything that has any real meaning, Jimmy," Brian sighs. "So don't worry."
Peggy comes in with a tray of cups and a pot of coffee. "The front gate says the man from 'The Independent' is on his way in," she says, setting the tray down on the desk. And she begins to arrange some chairs in front of Jimmy's desk. Jimmy sits down behind his desk and Brian takes one of the chairs in front, while I kind of hover behind Brian, not certain where I should be.
"Thanks, Peg," Jimmy says, adjusting his shirt. He's dressed casually in his usual Perry Ellis trousers and a Polo shirt. Brian is wearing his usual black 501's and a white gauze shirt over his black wifebeater and he looks totally hot. But then Brian always looks totally hot. "So," Jimmy continues. "What is Justy going to do while the guy is interviewing us?"
Brian frowns. "What's he going to do? He's going to sit here and be my moral support until we finish this shit. Then we're going to meet Diane for lunch at Flora's." And Brian reaches over and pulls another chair up next to him and motions me into it.
Now Jimmy is frowning. "Brian, listen to me -- I don't think it's a good idea to have the kid in the office while that reporter is here. I mean, it might look... funny."
"Funny?" says Brian. I can see that he's getting steamed. "Stop condescending to Justin, Jim. He's NOT a kid! And I promise that I won't ask Justin to suck my cock while the interviewer is here -- although if I have to send him out of the room and then I get an uncontrollable urge, I might have to ask YOU to do it. But then you might like that, huh, Jimmy?"
"I don't think that's very amusing, Brian," says Jimmy, all his peppy humor gone. He comes around to the front of the desk and leans against it.
"Neither do I," says Brian, bristling.
He leans over to Brian and puts his hand on Brian's knee, a little too intimately for my comfort. "Come on, Bri -- work with me here. You know how to play the game, so do it for me, huh?"
"Yeah, Jimmy, I know how to play the game. But the real question is whether I WANT to play the game anymore," Brian replies. "And get your hands off me, Jimmy. It doesn't go with your 'image'!"
Jimmy huffs a little bit and then goes back and sits down behind his desk, shaking his head at Brian. And that's when the reporter is ushered in by Peggy.
He's in his thirties and has that worn look that some English guys get even when they aren't really very old. Gerry Milton has it. Like they are already all tired out from life. It's funny that a lot of the older guys that Brian and I met in England, like Sir Kenneth and Harry Collins, seem a lot more vital than guys in their twenties and thirties. Brian says it has something to do with the British Empire and having to run the world for so many years and that men like Sir Ken and Harry don't give a damn about that anymore and it frees them up! And I'm not sure just how facetious Brian was being when he said that.
"You MUST be Henry Townsend," says Jimmy, playing host. He jumps up and pumps the reporter's hand. Jimmy gives me a look and I stand up and move back so that the reporter can have my chair next to Brian.
"Mr. Hardy -- so pleased to meet you again. Remember? I interviewed you when you came to London in support of 'Castles in the Air'? But that was a number of years back," says Townsend, nodding to Jimmy. Something else about Mr. Townsend strikes me -- my gaydar gives out a very loud "ping" and I glance at Brian. He raises an eyebrow so I know that he feels it, too.
"Of course I remember!" lies Jimmy. But then Jimmy must have been interviewed a thousand times by a thousand different people over the years and expecting him to remember some reporter is like expecting Brian to remember some trick from seven years ago! "And this is my co-star -- whom I'm sure you recognize -- Brian Kinney."
"Yes," says Henry Townsend. "Mr. Kinney." And the guy dives for Brian's hand before he can even extend it, clutching it and squeezing it. Oh, yeah, there's no mistaking this guy. He's practically drooling over Brian -- what else is new? And I don't know whether to laugh or go over and slap the guy. Then Townsend slips into the chair I just vacated and moves it even closer to Brian's chair.
"And this is my personal assistant, Ms. Doyle," says Jimmy, as Peggy, with her phony forced smile, moves forward and begins pouring cups of coffee.
"How do you do?" says the reporter to Peg, very politely shaking her hand. But he still hasn't taken his eyes off Brian.
"Yes, and this is MY personal assistant, Mr. Taylor," says Brian, grabbing me by the hand and pulling me back over next to him.
"Brian," warns Jimmy. "I don't think that...."
"He's my VERY personal assistant, Henry -- if I may call you Henry?" asks Brian, his flashing eyes making Jimmy back down. "And you can call me Brian."
"Oh, of course! Brian!" This guy is putty in Brian's hands. I've always heard people use that phrase, but now I see it demonstrated.
"Because I read 'The Independent' when I'm in London," Brian continues. "And I know that your paper is not a tabloid or a gossip rag, am I right?"
"Of course not... Brian," the reporter agrees. And he's smiling at all the attention Brian is giving him, while Jimmy steams in the background.
"They sent you on this story because you're gay, am I right about that, Henry?" Brian isn't asking -- he's stating fact.
"Well, yes, that's true, Brian. 'The Olympian' is a gay themed film, so they felt that my perspective would be valuable." Henry nods at Brian like Brian is the interviewer, which is almost true, seeing as how he's taken complete charge of the proceedings.
"So I'm sure that you will also agree that unless I answer a direct question about my own personal life, then any personal stuff that you see will be strictly 'off the record' -- correct?"
Now Townsend is a little uneasy. But Brian is giving him the Full Kinney Stare. You usually don't see that unless Brian is in cruising mode. And then the reporter smiles sheepishly. "Yes, 'off the record,' certainly. I'm not here to out anyone. That is not our paper's policy. I'm here to write an in-depth story about the film -- not to gather material for an exposé. You can trust me, Brian."
"Good," says Brian, leaning back in his chair. "Then you won't mind if my boyfriend waits here while we talk, do you? Because if I have to send him out of the room and then pontificate about how this picture is such a fucking 'groundbreaking' moment for gay people and their fucking 'struggle' -- then I may have to puke? Do you understand me, Henry?"
Jimmy is practically hiding his head under his armpit, moaning. "Brian! What the FUCK are you DOING?"
"Shut up, Jimmy. This is MY life," says Brian.
Now Peggy is even more sour and superior than usual as she plays with her coffee cups. She's giving Jimmy one of those 'I told you so' looks and shaking her head. I just want to take Peggy by the shoulders and shake HER, but I just stand and clench my fists. I look at the Englishman from where I'm standing behind Brian's chair.
And he looks up at me, right into my eyes. "Yes, I understand you, Brian. I understand you perfectly." Henry Townsend gives me a crooked little grin. "Only one request, if I may?"
Brian blinks. "Which is?"
"That after all this silly business is finished and you want to talk -- really talk -- that you'll speak to me first." Now I see that Mr. Townsend may be a fellow queer, but he really IS a reporter, too. And probably a very good reporter.
Brian extends his hand again and takes Townsend's, shaking it firmly. "It's a fucking deal."
And then they get down to the interview.
Two hours later Brian and I are sitting on the outside terrace at Flora's in West Hollywood having lunch with Diane -- and Henry Townsend.
Brian invited the reporter to come along after they finished talking in Jimmy's office and the guy jumped at the chance. Brian is pretty smart, I'd say. Now this guy is an ally instead of one of the 'enemy,' which is the way Brian looks at most reporters. I know Townsend is going to write a good story about the film and not any gossip about our personal lives. From what Brian told this reporter I also know that Brian is seriously thinking about 'coming out' officially to the public. And that will have a big impact on our relationship, that's for sure. Yes, the understatement of the century!
As usual whenever we go anywhere with Diane, she does most of the talking. Which is fine with Brian, because then he doesn't have to talk about himself at all. Diane is doing a fine PR job --she is really laying it on thick with Henry Townsend. Telling him what a great actor Brian is and how everyone is talking about 'The Olympian' and how it's going to be up for a lot of awards. And also about her new television series so the Englishman will know that Diane isn't just some groupie or fag hag -- she's a star in her own right. At least I hope she will be a big star after her show premieres in January.
Brian is smiling as he listens to her. Sometimes Diane sounds like a cheerleader when she talks about Brian. And I understand why. She's totally in love with him, that's obvious. I'm an expert on people who are in love with Brian. But it's not like Lindsay, who is in love with Brian and secretly wants to keep him for herself. Diane knows the score and she knows that she and Brian will never be more than friends. But she's like the sister that Brian's own sister, Claire, has never been to him -- a good friend, a constant supporter, and -- when needed -- a cheerleader. So I'm glad that Diane is there for Brian and that she has been most of the time he's been out here in L.A. Because Brian has a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of real friends. And Diane is one of those real friends.
Just as we are finishing our lunch Diane leans over to Brian and says, "There's Frederick Atwood and his boyfriend." And we all turn to look over at the famous television star. At one time he was like THE biggest star on television. He's got to be in his late sixties now, but he still looks pretty handsome, whether due to taking really good care of himself -- or else a really good plastic surgeon. And his boyfriend -- Diane says they've been together for over thirty years! That's even longer than Harry Collins and Gerry Milton have been a couple! It's hard for me to think about having a relationship for that long, but it also makes me hopeful that it's possible.
I guess everybody in Hollywood has always known that Frederick Atwood is gay, even when he was starring in his television show and all those epic mini-series, but he's not out to the public. Diane says the two men have an estate with a big vineyard somewhere north of Los Angeles and they make their own wine and live a nice life together. Yes, Diane knows all the dish on everyone! Atwood hasn't acted in years and he's kind of a recluse these days. Maybe I would be, too, if I'd had to live a fucking lie for most of my life.
I try to picture what it must have been like thirty years ago when these two guys started living together and NOBODY was out at all. And I mean nobody! When it really WAS a huge and horrible secret. And I can't even imagine living that way. Or still living that way now, after all these years together.
Then Frederick Atwood stands up and comes right over to our table.
"Mr. Kinney," he says, extending his hand in greeting. Brian stands up and shakes it. The actor is almost as tall as Brian, but standing next to Brian's beauty you can see that Atwood looks so much older than he did from across the restaurant. "I saw your film the other night and I have to tell you how it moved me."
"Thank you, Mr. Atwood," Brian says, basically at a loss for words. Diane and Henry Townsend are gaping at the exchange. "I... I'm happy that you liked the film."
"Not only the picture, but your performance especially," the older man says. He's still straight and resolute, like all the heroic historical characters he used to play on television. "I remember when the book of 'The Olympian' came out back in the 1970's and it was such a revelation in the literary world. But as good a book as it was, and as much interest as everyone had in it, no one in this town had the guts to make it into a film. Not back then. And not for so many years. But now you fellows have done it and I commend you for your bravery. Bobby is a fabulous part and I can't imagine anyone doing it better than you have done."
"Thanks, Mr. Atwood. That's a huge compliment coming from you, but I don't really deserve it. I don't think I was brave at all. I was only playing a role. It was the men who lived through that period who were brave. I'm just a dumb actor," says Brian. And he's not being humble. Brian doesn't DO humble. That's actually what he believes.
"Think again, Mr. Kinney -- Brian -- but you ARE brave. You'll find out. You're still young and have many years yet before your illusions will be shattered," Frederick Atwood says, without any irony.
"Would you and your friend like to join us?" asks Brian.
"No, thank you, I can see that you are just finishing your meal. But I hope we can meet again someday. Perhaps you and your friends...." and he looks at Diane and Henry Townsend -- and then he looks directly at me and he smiles. "All of you might come out to the vineyard and try some of our wine? As my guests."
"Certainly," says Brian. "My agent is Lewis Blackmore. You can contact me through him any time."
"Yes, I know Lew Blackmore very well. I will certainly call you with an invitation, Brian," Frederick Atwood says. "Good day to you all." And then he goes back to his own table.
"Shit!" says Brian, looking around. "I can't believe I was just talking to Frederick Atwood! I used to think he was so fucking HOT in all those old television shows. All those tight military costumes he used to wear. And he said he liked my work!" And then Brian cringes and rubs his forehead. "But I'm sorry I never introduced you guys to him. I... I just forgot myself, I guess."
"That's okay, Brian," says Diane. "The fact that HE came over here is BIG! He and Jake, his lover, never do the Hollywood thing and haven't for years! If he came over to talk to you it must mean he really liked the picture. And getting an invitation to his place -- that's a real coup, Brian. It is! Wait until Ron hears about this! I heard that he's been trying to get Atwood to do one of his scripts for years and Atwood wouldn't even return his calls!" Diane giggles.
"So, now how does it feel to be a movie star, Brian?" says Henry Townsend, grinning. The Englishman was joking around earlier about Brian putting up a 'shrine' to his own career like the one Jimmy has in his office.
"I don't know," says Brian, truthfully. I look around Flora's and see that everyone in the place is looking at our table. At Brian. The way they look at Jimmy. The way that they are no longer looking at Frederick Atwood and his boyfriend -- just two old queers having lunch together. Most of the guys at Flora's probably don't even remember Frederick Atwood or his television shows. But they ALL know 'The Olympian.' And they ALL know Brian. Yes, now everyone knows Brian Kinney.
And I get that little sick, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Like I feel that Brian and I are losing something. Like our privacy. Like our personal life together. And I hope that doesn't mean that I am losing something, too -- like Brian. Like US. Just the two of us, alone and together.
Because even with the Fame and the big money and all of the attention, I'd rather it was still just the two of us again. Us, and no one else. But that's already been thrown away and it's too late ever to get it back. Way too late.
Continue on to "I Threw It All Away -- Part 3", the next section.
©Gaedhal, June 2003.
Updated June 16, 2003.