This is Chapter 72 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Ithyphallic", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, featuring Marc Gerasi, Dorian Folco, Justin Taylor, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian sees a ghost in the bar of the Dorchester Hotel -- and it isn't Elvis. London, July 2002.
Author's Note: I heard the party was smashing! Thanks to you ALL for the support!
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Dorian Folco stops by my dressing room after the day's shoot and asks me to meet him for a drink later in the evening. I have no idea what this is all about. He could be wanting to fire me -- or this could be a date. I have no fucking clue.
Plus, he wants me to meet him at the bar in the Dorchester.
The Dorchester. Ron's favorite hotel.
I know it's ridiculous and that Ron is a thousand miles away, but I still don't want to go in there. I suggest someplace else. Any place else. But Dorian has some business nearby in Mayfair and the Dorchester is convenient for him.
What the fuck.
So, I have to call Justin and tell him that I won't be coming back to the hotel until late. Again. That he should eat in the dining room or go up to Notting Hill Gate and get something and that I'll be back as soon as I can. Which means that now I'm wondering what he'll do, where he'll go to eat -- and if he'll be going with good old Rowan.
Shit. That Rowan is always right there whenever I'm not around. For a moment I have the wild idea of calling Pittsburgh and importing Daphne to come over and keep Justin company. I could get her a smaller room in the Chatterton and pay for it myself. Since the suite we have is covered by the studio, I could afford to put her up for a couple of weeks. She and Justin could do things together. Go to some of the museums. See some plays. Take a few day trips out to Windsor or Canterbury. She could keep him occupied so he won't spend so much time with Rowan... Jesus, now I'm really showing my jealousy. I have to be careful of letting this get out of hand.
I keep hearing that spooky Elvis remix that is such a big hit here this summer. "A little less conversation..." the King warbles away in every cab, every lobby, every bar I go into. Ghosts singing and having hits. Ghosts everywhere in this town.
I arrive at the bar right on time. And Dorian is late. What a surprise.
The Dorchester looks like the kind of hotel you'd see Richard Burton and Liz Taylor hanging out in, circa 1965. It's Hollywood's idea of what London should be, straight from a Noel Coward play -- and just as campy and musty. No wonder Ron loves this place. It's HIS idea of glamour and class. And walking in there, I feel the strange sensation that Ron is lurking somewhere nearby. It's my paranoia working overtime, again.
But the vodka martini isn't bad. Not as good as the ones at the bar at the Lanesborough, but okay.
I'm sitting at the bar, wondering how long I should bother to wait for Dorian, when a guy comes in and sits a few places down from me. He looks so familiar that I can't stop looking at him, but fuck me if I can place who he is.
He's in his forties, tall and heavy-set. Olive complexion with wavy black hair shot through with gray. And wearing an expensive, but not very stylish suit. An American, obviously, which is confirmed when I hear him order a beer and a shot from the bartender. An almost cliche New York accent.
The guy turns and looks at me, without recognition. But I continue to stare at him. And I get a major chill up my spine. About where I could know this guy from. And it isn't a very pleasant thought. Not at all. A New Yorker. Would have been in his late twenties or early thirties fourteen years ago. It's possible, yes.
I want to bolt out of there immediately, because this is something I can't deal with now. I don't WANT to deal with now. Or ever. But especially not NOW!
Okay, Kinney -- don't panic. This is probably some advertising client from way back. Or someone I shook hands with on a business trip. But I know in my gut that it isn't.
Then I examine him again and rethink. He's certainly not a fag -- not in those clothes. And he doesn't seem at all like a closet case. I just don't remember any john who looked like that. He looks like he could be a cop -- but I was never arrested and didn't pay enough attention to the individual cops on the Bowery beat to remember one after all these years. Besides, what would a New York cop be doing in the bar of a ritzy hotel in London?
He turns and glances at me again because I'm staring at him so fucking pointedly, but I can't help myself. I'm not cruising you, you moron, I want to yell, I'm just trying to figure out who the fuck you are! Like I'd ever in my life be interested in a forty-something Mafia hit man....
And then I realize who he is. I should have known him in a minute. Ron's old cameraman, Marc. Marcantonio Gerasi. The big man who was the grandson of one of the nastiest Mafia guys in Little Italy. Ron told me the whole story one night in his apartment. His father spent time in prison for racketeering. And his brothers and cousins are all involved in the New York unions. All big, tough guys. And Marc was a tough one, too. Or seemed to be. But he was really kind of a softie.
I remember him offering me a cigarette while we were standing in the snow and waiting for a set-up to a scene. I wondered if that was a come-on. But it wasn't. He was just being a nice guy. Another time he gave me his lunch and claimed he wasn't hungry. No, I couldn't forget him.
Ron told me that the last he'd heard from Marc was during the Bosnian conflict a few years ago. Fuck, it was a war, let's face it! And Marc had been working for CNN for years, doing all the hot spots. The Balkans. Africa. The Middle East. He's probably been in Afghanistan, too. Running around the Lower East Side with Ron filming a pack of wild chickens was his perfect training ground. And London is the central meeting point for all the news agencies and cable news channels. And all the reporters. And all the cameramen, too. So it isn't so strange to come across him here and now. Not so strange at all -- but completely horrible and freaky.
And I thought I was hearing ghosts with that silly Elvis song. And imagining I was seeing ghosts, what with a specter of Ron lurking around this hotel. And now here is a real one. There's no fucking escaping the past, is there? What did Ron say to me one time when he was screaming at me? That we could probably walk into a remote village up the Amazon and there would be some guy I'd fucked. In a way, this is way worse. Because I forget the guys I fuck two minutes later. But I couldn't forget anyone connected with Ron and his prized documentary.
I ask the bartender the time. He tells me. I've been waiting for fucking Folco for almost an hour. On one of the few nights I don't have to rehearse with the band half the night! On one of the few nights when I could have had dinner with Justin and gotten to bed at a decent hour! Because I need those moments to keep myself balanced. I need to spend that time with Justin to remember who the fuck I am and why I'm doing all this in the first place!
The shoot has only just begun and already I'm running my ass off, filming during the day and rehearsing with the band at night. They have a tighter schedule here in England because they don't have the budgets to extend these shoots -- so everything has to do done yesterday. So, basically, I'm doing two fucking jobs simultaneously -- the movie and the band.
I suppose I could bring Justin along to rehearsals, but I'm not sure the musicians would appreciate it. I'm not certain how cool they are with me yet -- or how cool I am with them. None of them have brought along a girlfriend or anything like that, so I doubt that Justin would be exactly welcome. At least, not yet.
The members of the band, even the infamous punk rocker Charley Weston, are pretty business-like so far. Until they break out the dope, that is -- then they loosen up. But that's to be expected. A few of them were doing lines, but I don't need coke right now to hype me up or increase my paranoia. I did smoke some of their British weed, though. What the fuck. Skunk, they call it. Surprisingly strong. But only AFTER we finished the rehearsal. The last thing I want is to get in the habit of working stoned.
And now I'm completely pissed at Dorian for being so late -- and pissed at myself for not insisting that he come to the point on the set and get whatever he had to say over with so I could get back to the fucking hotel!
I finish my martini and now I notice that Gerasi is looking at ME from down the bar. One of those smug smiles straight guys give you when they want you to know that they 'know' you're a fag. Fuck you, I want to say, I'm sick of that kind of superior smirk. I always liked Marc Gerasi, but now I'm just pissed off.
"Forget it, Marc," I say to him, shocked that I'm saying out loud exactly what I'm thinking. "I wouldn't even fuck you on a dare." So, before I say more and regret it, I get out my wallet to pay for the drinks and then blow the joint.
"You! How the fuck do you know me?" Gerasi has moved over to the seat next to me. "And who the hell are you?" He's looking at me intently now, staring at my face. My eyes.
"You mean you don't remember those nights in Key West, Marc?" I look at the amused bartender and shake my head. "How soon they forget."
Now Gerasi isn't smiling. He's glaring at me. I stand up to go. But he puts his hand out to stop me. "I DO know you, don't I? Where do I know you from? New York? Somewhere in New York?"
"Why not guess? You're still wielding the camera, aren't you, Marc? Is Afghanistan in July as crummy as New York in February? Tell me that."
And the look on his face is priceless, really priceless. Because now he knows exactly who I am. Or who I was. Or who he thought I was. Whatever the fuck. And after fourteen years, I'm impressed with his ability to remember. I guess I haven't changed as much as I thought. You clean me up, give me a new suit, but the slut still shines right through.
"It's not fucking possible," he says, never taking his eyes off my face. "What the... I mean, JACK -- what are you doing HERE?" He's griping my arm now.
"You might want to watch the suit," I say. "It's a new Versace and I'd hate to have your greasy fingerprints become a permanent part of the fabric." Marc drops his hand away. He's still staring at my eyes. "Go ahead. Gawk. They aren't bad at all. Ron always thought they were my best feature. I mean, after my ass."
"Jesus Christ! Jack. I mean...." He's at a loss, completely.
But I'm enjoying this too much. I have to get out of here. Right now.
"But you're dead," he says, simply.
A long, cold crawl moves up my back. What is it they say about someone walking on your grave? "I'll inform my people of that fact. Now, if you'll excuse me...." I try to move around him, but Marc is blocking my way.
Of course, Dorian picks this exact moment to sweep into the fucking bar like some drama queen making an entrance. I know that Dorian Folco is supposed to be straight -- yeah, right -- but he could give Gerry Milton some lessons in over-the-top, campy attitude. Hell, he could give Bette Midler lessons!
"I'm SO sorry, Brian, but I was held up at my other meeting. It was just dreadful, but I...."
"Dorian, do you think we could do this somewhere else?" Marc is still standing there, looking at me like one of my rejected tricks, his mouth open.
"But we're already HERE! And I need a bloody drink before I scream!"
Go ahead and scream, then, I want to say. Maybe they'll kick us all out of here. "Then let's sit at a table." I push him toward an empty booth on the other side of the room.
"Trying to get away from an admirer?" Dorian, like all movie and theater people, is an incurable snoop and gossip.
"Not quite. I knew him in New York. He's with CNN."
"You certainly have the most wide-ranging circle of friends, Brian!"
"Just the usual, Dorian, for someone who hasn't spent his whole life locked in a tight little box. I DO get beyond the confines of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood occasionally."
"Oh, quite, Brian. Quite."
Yeah, quite. Let's invite Marc Gerasi over here and you'll get quite a new take on just how wide my circle of friends really is. And another interesting take on my life, Dorian. You'll be fascinated.
"So, what's the big mystery, Dorian? What is it that you couldn't tell me on the fucking set?"
"Brian, I wanted to ask you... Actually, it started with Kenny -- but, as the director of this film, I thought that I should broach the subject with YOU first. I mean before I approached HIM about it."
Right, Dorian. You're the director, but you're also a fucking wimp! "Him WHO? What IS this all about? What's your point, Dorian? Are you firing me?"
"Firing you? Good God, no! Whatever gave you that idea?"
I sigh. "Well, since practically the first thing you told me when I got here was that you didn't want me for this role and were only doing it because Sir Ken insisted. And since we haven't been filming very long and there's still time to replace me -- I just assumed."
"Oh, Brian -- No! I'm not firing you. I think it's going wonderfully well. And Charley Weston says that rehearsals are right on target, too. And Sir Ken is very, very pleased with your look for the film and... Lord, no! I'm not firing you."
"Then what the fuck is this about?"
"I wanted to know if you'd allow your young friend -- Justin -- to take a small bit during the club gig scene. Hughie is doing a small role and he said he would be more comfortable playing the part with someone he knows, so Kenny suggested Justin."
"Justin. You want him to be in the film? Doing what?" This is the last thing I expected. I have been fucking ready to go back to the hotel and pack my bags!
"We need two boys for a short scene during the Roundhouse gig. Kenny always intended Hughie to do it, but now he's balking. Kenny thought it would be easier for him with his friend, Justin, in it."
"I don't know, Dorian. Justin isn't an actor." Look who's talking! "And he and Hughie aren't really that friendly." Right -- like Justin really can't stand Hughie!
"It's just one day's filming. I was planning to ask you if he wanted to come and be in the audience during the Roundhouse sequence anyway. We need boys of a certain age to fill the venue. But if you don't want him to do it, that's that."
"No, It's not that I don't want him to do it. I'll ask him. He'll probably say 'Yes.' What kid wouldn't want to be in a movie, after all? Unless it's something dangerous."
"Oh, bloody hell, no! It's just some reaction shots -- to counterpoint Kenny's reactions at the same time. You know -- the juxtaposition of the older, obsessed man, Jonathan Ash, with the boys. That sort of thing."
"I don't remember THAT in the script, Dorian."
"It's a new bit. Kenny's suggestion, actually. Purely visual. No lines at all. He had this image of two beautiful young boys in the crowd, gazing up at you. Reaching for each other. Discovering their latent sexuality in the music and the moment. Their own lives only beginning, just as Ash's life is winding to a tragic close."
I'm just not sure about all this. Justin and Hughie making out on camera. It doesn't sound hot to me in the least. But maybe it's just me. Or maybe it's Sir Ken's little fantasy -- he DID comment on what a beautiful boy Justin was.
But the way Dorian continues to describe it, it begins to sound interesting. Possibly striking. Because Dorian, for all his bullshit, has a great eye. He started as a set designer and his films are full of gorgeous imagery and stunning moments. No wonder Luchino Visconti is his directing idol! And this film, too, is all about the visual, anyway. I have very few lines, myself. Like I say, once again my ass will carry the weight of my so-called acting.
Plus, it's a way for Sir Ken to get his boyfriend on screen. And mine, too. I can't argue with that.
"Okay, I'll ask Justin. I'm sure he'll want to do it. You'll have to give me a schedule for him for the shoot."
"Certainly. Would you like another drink?"
"Not really. I haven't had dinner yet and I've already had two. If I have another drink then...."
"Just ONE more. A martini?" Dorian is already hailing the barmaid and ordering.
Marc Gerasi is still sitting at the bar. He's moved around to the end, so he can watch me. Now I REALLY expect Ron to come strolling in any minute. And Jane -- I can't fucking recall her last name. And Stan. Then maybe someone will yell, "This is YOUR Life, Brian Kinney!" And that's the last thing I need when I'm trying to create some kind of new life with Justin -- finally. I don't need these hideous reminders of old failures. Or old ghosts.
"Are you quite all right, Brian?" Dorian is leaning over at me.
"What?" I say, recalling that he's even there. "Oh, right. Another vodka martini."
And I proceed to get nicely fucked up.
While I drink, Dorian chatters on. I don't even know what he's talking about anymore. A bunch of projects he's working on. Films he's done in the past. People he knows -- name-dropping. How he's trying to get his foot in the door in Hollywood. His wife, Maria Montgomery. She's got to be at least twenty years older than Dorian. It's just like if Ron had married that old battleaxe of a starlet from the 1950's he was always escorting around. Right. Maria Montgomery was a minor star in the Swinging London era of the 1960's, along with Julie Christie and Rita Tushingham and those women. She still makes pictures now and then, but Sir Ken says she's always away in the South of France or Rome or somewhere. That's what leads me to be pretty sure that Dorian isn't exactly the straight arrow he's alleged to be. No shit.
Which gives this whole meeting more and more the feel of a date. And that's just what I need right now. I'm having enough problems with Marc Gerasi gaping at me, Ron hovering over me somewhere, and now Dorian breathing down my neck. Am I EVER going to meet ANY straight directors? Where the fuck are Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg when you need them?
"What? Huh?" I'm getting too fuzzy. I really have to get out of here and back to the Chatterton. I should arranged to have Justin page me after I was here for a certain time. That was one of Ron's tricks to get out of a meeting that went on too long -- he'd have me call with some fake emergency so he could leave and still save face.
"Brian -- Your friend seems to be wanting to speak to you."
"My friend?" I say, confused. I've been thinking of Justin and assume that's who Dorian means. "Where's Justin? How did he get over here?" I look around.
"No, Brian. The burly fellow. At the bar. I say, how well do you know him?" He narrows his eyes at me.
"He's a friend of Ron's."
"Oh," says Dorian. "That explains it, then...." As if that explains anything! Explains this hulking guy trying to get my attention? Or why I'm trying just as hard to ignore him? Or where the hell RON figures into anything? But to Dorian, it all makes sense! I wish he'd explain it to me.
And then Dorian launches off on Ron and his new-found success and how he'd LOVE to make a film with Jimmy Hardy. Blah blah blah. That he'd LOVE to make another picture with me. That he has an idea he's putting together for a new production company. And I'm not even that surprised when he puts his hand on my thigh under the table as he says this, as if that somehow cements the deal! How I would be PERFECT for this project! Right -- and last week you didn't even want to know me, Dorian. And now your fucking hand is moving towards my fucking dick!
I can feel a peach of a headache starting right along the sides of my head as Dorian goes on and on and on. He also orders me another martini.
"Listen, I think I need some coffee right now, Dorian. A little coffee."
"Excuse me." Great. It's Marc Gerasi, standing next to the booth. He looks at Dorian and then at me. Buzz off, Marc, I think. I've had enough of ghosts for now.
"Dorian Folco." Of course, he stands up and pumps Gerasi's hand like a fucking politician. "And you are?" Dorian's greatest success is his ability to be both a dismissive asshole AND ingratiating suck-up at the same time. It's such an English trait.
"Dorian -- this is Marc Gerasi. With CNN," I say, saving the introductions. "Okay, then? Right?" Marc gawks at me when I say "CNN" -- like how the fuck would a ghost know THAT?
"Right. I AM with CNN." Marc looks over Dorian, then he turns back to me. "Jack -- I really need to talk to you. Please talk to me! For five fucking minutes?"
"Jack?" questions Dorian, immediately interested. "What's THAT all about, Brian?"
"Nothing at all, Dorian. Forget it. Listen, Marc, we're trying to do a little business here."
But that's the wrong thing to say, of course. Because there's only one business Marc can picture me in. Now his eyes gleam at me, accusingly. "Still in the same racket, huh, Jack? Aren't you a little old for that?"
"Never too old if you have a real talent for something," I answer, bolting down the martini Dorian has put in front of me.
"Brian, huh?" He's almost yelling at me now. "Where did that one come from, Jack? Special for these limeys?" I can almost hear myself in 'Red Shirt' saying 'My name? What do you want my name to be?' and I cringe inside.
But now I'm really drunk, so instead I play the expected part. "I aim to please, after all, Marc. As usual."
"Where the fuck have you BEEN? And what about Ron, Jack? He was fucking looking for you for TWO YEARS!"
"What about him?" I say. "He's in Los Angeles, finishing post-production on his new film with Jimmy Hardy. Don't you read the trade papers, Marc? 'Variety'? 'The Hollywood Reporter'? THAT'S what's up with Ron, Marc! Now give ME a break."
Dorian keeps glancing gleefully back and forth between me and Marc, trying to comprehend what is going on here. I'm trying to comprehend it, too, but my mind is as foggy as the pea soupers that cover London in February.
"I think I have to get the fuck out of here," I say, trying to stand up.
"I wouldn't want to interrupt your little party, Jack," says Marc. "I'm staying at this hotel -- if you want to talk."
"About what, Marc?" I say, ready to give up. "Talk about WHAT? What do WE possibly have to TALK about?" I'm fucking rambling now. I don't even know what I'm doing or saying. "Dorian -- I have to get out of here. Could you get me a cab?"
"Certainly, Brian. Are you all right?"
"Do I LOOK fucking all right to you? Christ! Just call a taxi!"
I can feel Marc Gerasi's eyes following me as I get the fuck out of the bar. Out of the Dorchester. Out, period. "Jack!" he calls after me. But I keep walking. "JACK!"
The doorman gestures for a cab out of the rank.
"Brian, will you really be all right?" says Dorian, all concern now. After he's succeeded in getting me loaded. "Do you want me to come along with you? To make certain that you get back to your hotel?" He's practically climbing in with me.
"I'm okay. Okay, fine." Okay, fuck you, Dorian. "Justin will handle it when I get home. He's done it before."
"Oh, well. Super, then." Maybe Dorian's gotten the message now. But maybe not. "I'll see you tomorrow, bright and early."
"Or early and bright. What-fucking-ever."
"Certainly." Dorian slams the door of the cab and off we go.
I walk up the stairs and into the Chatterton. It's always quiet in the lobby here. Unlike that zoo at the Dorchester. You never know who is lying in wait for you there. Ghosts everywhere. The old elevator creaks along to the third floor.
"Brian." Justin is lying on the fainting couch, reading 'Maurice.'
"Wha's the matter, Sunshine? Finish 'The Fountainhead' already?" I pull off my jacket and toss it over onto the desk. It misses by about a mile and I have to retrieve it.
"I stopped into Waterstone's before I ate dinner. I picked this up. I like it better than 'Howards End' so far."
"'Howards bleeding End,' right?" I say, quoting 'Educating Rita.' Michael Caine. I'd like to make a flick with him. That would be cool. I should ask Dorian about that.
"And some magazines. I didn't know when you'd get back." He looks at me. "Brian...."
"Just a friendly drink with my esteemed director."
"Brian, you're drunk now. And you were high at the club on Monday night. When you picked me up." Now Justin's eyes are accusing me.
"Just a little E to get me into the right frame of mind," I say, defensively. Then I look around the room. "Where's Rowan? I thought he'd be right here to keep you company."
"I told you -- he works at the pub on weeknights. Besides, Brian, you are changing the subject."
"I'm just interested in the whereabouts of your good, good friend." I flop down next to him on the couch, nuzzling his neck. Nothing like falling back on sex to avoid the obvious.
"He's not my good friend. He's only someone to hang out with while I'm waiting here for you."
"Sorry, Sunshine, I'm a very, very bad kind of boyfriend." See? I DID say that word again and I didn't spontaneously combust. "You know, Justin, I don't know the boyfriend drill very well. Call Ron and ask HIM for some advice on that score."
Justin strokes my hair, not rising to that bait, but he looks pained. "And you were stoned when you came back from rehearsal with the band last night," he says, so quietly.
"Just a little skunk. A little of their home-grown herb. One of the guys brought it. It was stronger than I was expecting. But, hey! That's rock and roll, Justin! 'And I liiiike it....'"
"But you promised," he says, simply, pulling away a little. But only a little.
"Give me a break! I haven't had a Xanax since the first day on the set! That's it. I'm trying, really trying, Justin. And I won't need a sleeping pill tonight, either."
"No, because you'll pass out before you need one," says Justin. He sounds so sad. "That's not the way it works, Brian. It's NOT just the Xanax. Or the sleeping pills. It's the Ecstacy. The weed, too. It's also the booze. ALL that shit. It's all the SAME thing!"
"I told you I'm fucking TRYING!" Hey, Justin -- 'A Little Less Conversation,' says Elvis, that other ghost who refuses to die. What good does it do to go around this subject again and again. Especially when I'm fucked up? "I don't know what you want from me, Justin? I just don't know!"
"But I want everything, Brian," he says in a small voice. "Everything. Is that too much to ask?"
"I don't know. I really don't know," I say.
And I don't.
Because I want everything, too. And I know that is fucking impossible. And I'm afraid I'll end up with nothing.
Continue on to "Life in Hammersmith", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, August 2002
Updated August 20, 2002