This is Part 4 of Chapter 112 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "My Favorite Mistake -- Part 3", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Jimmy Hardy, The Professor, Cynthia Llewellyn, Peggy Doyle, Leslie Mann, Marty, Glenn, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and Justin spend an eventful Sunday together. New York City, 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.
"Why the fuck did we agree to have brunch with Jimmy?" groans Brian. Jimmy has jumped up for about the tenth time to shake someone's hand or kiss some little old lady or sign another napkin. "He's like a fucking jumping jack -- and it's giving me indigestion!"
"Just relax, Brian," I say, patting his arm. "You know how Jimmy is -- he's always 'on.'"
"Well, I wish he'd be 'off' for just one hour -- then maybe we could eat in peace. It's like Grand Central Station in this place."
And I admit that since the minute we walked into the dining room, it's been a Jimmy Hardy Love Fest. Some people have come over to the table wanting Brian's autograph or just to gush at him, but Brian gives them 'The Look' -- and they pretty much retreat, usually apologizing to him for interrupting his meal. But Jimmy -- if no one approaches him for five minutes at a time he starts talking loudly and calling attention to our table and basically making an ass of himself.
I keep thinking about how Brian told me that Jimmy makes $20 million per movie. Except for 'The Olympian.' Brian said Jimmy did that one for much less as a favor to Ron -- and for a percentage of the profits. "What I got for it is pocket change in Hollywood," Brian laughed. "But it was enough for me to buy my building, put in your studio downstairs, pay off Debbie's mortgage -- and set up a decent trust fund for Gus. And there was still plenty left over for a few fabulous new outfits!"
And even though 'Hammersmith' was a small budget British film, I know Brian made much more than his yearly salary as an ad exec just to work for those few weeks with Sir Ken. And now there's this 'Red River' film -- and Brian's getting $4 million! It fucking boggles my mind! Brian has always had money -- he worked like a dog as at Ryder and was always one of their highest paid executives, but this kind of money staggers me. It's weird, though -- I can't ever see Brian acting any differently because of the money. He still buys the best clothes, the way he always has, and likes fancy restaurants, the way he always has. But he also seems just as pleased eating a hot dog on the street. And he still seems happier wearing his old jeans and wifebeater and no shoes, rather than his Versace suit. And Jimmy -- he must have more money than I can ever imagine. He's been a movie star for twenty years, for godsake! But he still acts like a goof a lot of the time. He still acts like he's trying to impress everyone. But....
But I still feel sorry for him. I think Jimmy is a lonely guy. He NEEDS all these strangers to make a fuss over him because the people he really wants attention from won't give it to him. Tess. Ron. Brian. Especially Brian. Jimmy has been bending over backwards all weekend just to get Brian to take a tiny bit of notice of him -- and the more he does it, the more Brian blows him off. That 'Letterman' bit on Friday was all Jimmy's idea. He wanted Brian to be with him in the Green Room and be with him on the show -- and that was the screwed up way Jimmy went about it. Then he wanted Brian to come and eat breakfast with him yesterday morning -- and he got me instead. I think that's why I got such a strange vibe from Jimmy. That and the fact that I think he'd really like to fuck me. Yes, Jimmy seems well on his way to becoming a real live queer.
So for Sunday Jimmy takes Brian and I out to brunch at another big hotel. It's much larger than the dining room at the Quadrangle in the Pitts, where Brian took me and Gus and Lindz and Mel, but really not as nice. It's full of tourists and the food isn't that great. I never thought that some place in Pittsburgh would be better than anything in New York, but that's just the truth.
As we were driving over here in the limo I mentioned that Cynthia didn't go with us to dinner or the show -- she didn't come back to the room last night, either, by the way, but I certainly wouldn't tell Jimmy that! -- and that we gave our extra ticket to that kid, Marty, in the stand-by line. He's a student at the High School for the Performing Arts, like in 'Fame,' which I think is pretty cool! When Jimmy heard that we gave the ticket away he acted all hurt that we didn't give the ticket to HIM! "I'd like to see 'Cabaret,' too," he pouted. "I sat in my room all evening by myself, watching television. THAT is how the 'Most Powerful Actor in Hollywood' spends a Saturday night in New York!" But Brian just rolled his eyes. Talk about a Drama Queen!
"Jim, will you SIT down. NOW!" Brian orders. And Jimmy does it. Then Brian calls over the hostess and asks her to please keep people away from the table until we finish eating. The poor woman apologizes profusely, but it isn't her fault, really. It's because Jimmy is an egomaniac.
"So, what are we going to do today, guys?" says Jimmy, brightly.
"WE are going to a museum, Jimmy," says Brian, sternly. "YOU are going back to the hotel and do whatever it is you do when you don't have to make a movie or sign autographs. I'm sure Peggy has plenty of stuff for you to go over." Peggy is conspicuously absent from brunch. Brian mentioned that seeing her grumpy face first thing in the morning puts him off his food -- and Jimmy ordered her to stay at the hotel. So it's just the three of us. 'The Guys,' as Jimmy says. All we need is Ron to complete the picture. And maybe Dorian and Michael. Then we could really have a meeting of the Brian Kinney Fan Club.
"I like museums," says Jimmy. He just can't take his eyes off Brian. He doesn't seem at all concerned about people seeing HIM out in public with Brian, the way he was when Brian and I went out last night. But then HE is 'Jimmy Hardy,' after all, and who would ever gossip about HIM? Sure, Jimmy. Not much!
"You'll hate this one," says Brian, flatly. "But it doesn't matter since you aren't going with us."
"Justy doesn't mind if I go -- do you, kid?" Jimmy looks over at me and turns up the charm. It's really hard to resist Jimmy. I guess that's why he's so successful. He's got charisma, just like Brian. Only Jimmy's is a different kind that isn't the least bit sexual. He's more like a big, needy dog that wants you to love and take care of him, while Brian is some kind of dangerous predator, a panther or a wolf, that dares you to try and resist him. And I'm in the middle of them.
"Well, I...." I look from one to the other, trying to figure out what to say.
But Brian stops me. "It isn't Justin's decision, Jimmy, so don't put him on the spot. This is his last day in town and I have plans. For the whole day AND the evening."
Jimmy leans over the table to whisper in Brian's ear, but I can still hear every word. Jimmy isn't the most subtle guy in the world. "Bri, you've been blowing me off all week! First it was... Ron...." And Jimmy glances over at me. "And now the kid. Come ON! We're going back to L.A. on Wednesday. When are we going to do some stuff -- together?"
Brian frowns. "Justin isn't a kid, Jimmy, so cut it out. He's more of a man than a lot of older guys I could mention." Brian pauses pointedly. "And as for you and I doing stuff together, we're here on business. That's the ONLY reason I'm in this city. To do business for the film. I'm not here to play with you or go to lunch with you or hold your fucking hand! Call Tess and tell her to get her ass to New York if you want a playmate. Because that's not my job. That's your WIFE'S job, Jimmy. Remember her?"
Now I really feel bad for Jimmy, because his face kind of crunches all up. "She won't even take my fucking calls, Bri. She hates me. And now YOU hate me, too!"
"Jesus, Jimmy," says Brian. He glances around, all too aware that we are in the middle of a crowded dining room, with everyone in the place looking right at us. And listening to every word they are saying! I can just see the blind item on 'Page Six' of the 'New York Post' on Monday morning -- 'Which Oscar-winning star was spotted spatting with current co-star and on-again, off-again lover about said co-star's young Boy-toy over Sunday brunch? These boys love to show off in public so much -- but do they think no one is wise?' If Brian sees something like THAT in the paper he'll flip -- and so will the studio! And Ron! Brian leans over to Jimmy and says, "Can we discuss this some other time? Please, Jim?"
"Admit it, Bri! You hate me! And you only brought HIM in for the weekend," Jimmy's eyes dart over at me. "To rub my nose in it! That's why you took another suite. You don't even want to be in the same room with me. No one does!"
"For fucksake, Jimmy," breathes Brian. "Justin's being here has nothing to do with YOU! Not everything in the world is about YOU, Jimmy! He's here because I asked him to be here -- because I want him to be here! Now, if you don't shut up I'll drag you out of here and put you on the first plane back to Los Angeles. And I mean it. So don't pull any shit with me."
Jimmy sits in silence and pokes at his crepes with his fork. He's looking at ME with those hound-like eyes. Like I'm going to do something. Like I would WANT to do something... I mean, Brian stuck up for me and Jimmy looks so... pitiful that....
"Brian?" I hear myself saying. "Maybe Jimmy could... go to dinner with us tonight? I wouldn't mind."
Brian throws me a furious look. "We have plans. For TWO. Only."
But Jimmy starts to brighten up a little.
"You said that we might try out that dance club later tonight. Maybe Jimmy might like to go there with us," I say. And Jimmy nods. He's game for anything.
Brian tosses his head like a stallion. "Sure! You want me to bring Jimmy Hardy with us to..." Brian lowers his voice. "To a gay club? Are you out of your fucking mind, Justin?"
"Well, we're going, Brian," I point out. "And Jimmy might find it... interesting."
"Sounds like fun!" Jimmy pipes up. "I've been to gay bars before, you know, Bri. With Ron. We were 'researching' for 'Liberty.' And then that place in Maui we all went to last Christmas. And I saw 'La Cage aux Folles' twice! I HAVE been around!"
"Oh, you're a regular Disco Queen, Jimmy," sighs Brian. "If you promise NOT to follow us around all day or butt in on our dinner, then I promise to take you to the club tonight, all right?"
"All right!" crows Jimmy -- and he immediately stands up and begins trolling for celebrity seekers to give autographs to.
"I feel bad for him, Brian," I say, as Jimmy works his way across the dining room, greeting people like a politician looking for votes. "That's my only excuse."
"I know, Justin," says Brian, rubbing his forehead. 'So do I -- but that isn't going to shake him off this annoying fixation he has on me. I thought it would fade away once 'The Olympian' wrapped, but it hasn't. I have fucking had enough of Jimmy wanting my attention all the time. And now Tess has had enough, too, apparently. She's ready to give 'America's Boy Next Door' a boot OUT the door."
I lick my lips and take a large swallow of orange juice before I say what I have to say. But it needs to be said. And Brian needs to hear it. "Then maybe you shouldn't have fucked him when you made the movie, Brian," I say quietly. "Or when you went back out to California after the summer. Or on your boat. Or in Chicago...."
"Okay, okay," says Brian. "I get your point. It's my fucking problem and I made it worse. But what do I do NOW?"
"Let him down easy?" I suggest.
But Brian just shakes his head dismally.
Jimmy takes the limo back to the Wyndham, while we get a cab over to the Museum. Brian has it drop us off on Fifth Avenue. It's breezy and in the 60's, more like Spring than Fall, and the big 'MOMA' banner is flapping in the warm wind. We walk around to West 53rd Street and go inside the building.
I don't know which direction to run in first, whether to start with the Impressionists or go directly to the Abstract Expressionists. Brian just follows me around as I refer to a little guidebook I bought in the gift shop and move from room to room, pointing at things. I begin to realize that I sound like an idiot repeating all kinds of crap from my Art History courses and making 'profound' statements about Abstraction versus Realism and all that shit. But Brian never laughs. He lets me go on and on. And he smiles when we walk into a room and I gasp as we practically slam up against Picasso's 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' or one of the big Jackson Pollocks -- paintings I've only seen in my textbooks.
I realize that I could literally spend hours in this place, just staring, but also getting ideas. Lots of ideas. I take my sketch-pad out of my leather bag and make some visual notes. There's just so fucking much! I wish I had a week in here. And this is only one of the museums in New York City -- there's no time to go to the Metropolitan or the Frick or Guggenheim or... I can't even begin to think about it.
After a while I can tell that Brian is getting a little bored. Not that he says anything, because he doesn't. But I can tell. He's shuffling along behind me, sighing and brushing up against my ass when he thinks no one is looking. He has a paperback copy of 'The Persian Boy' that he's been reading on and off all weekend -- mainly off, because I keep interrupting him -- that he has shoved in the pocket of his light wool Armani sport coat. He told me that he was reading it for 'research' so I think it has something to do with a film. But Brian wouldn't go into detail. "Why don't you go and sit somewhere and read, Brian -- and I'll catch up with you in a little while?"
He shrugs. "Maybe. There's the Sculpture Garden. What if I meet you down there in an hour?"
"Okay," I say. In the past I know that leaving Brian alone anywhere for an hour would be a guarantee that he would pick someone up and fuck him in the bathroom before we met up again. But... things are different now. I watch him walk away and I FEEL that it's different. I hope I'm right.
Forty-five minutes later, after getting some really good sketches, I find my way down to the Sculpture Garden. Brian is sitting there on a wire chair at a little round table, talking to some older, bearded man. He's definitely NOT a trick. The man is talking in a very animated manner and Brian is listening politely. I walk up, very tentatively, like I'm afraid to interrupt.
"Oh, here he is now," says Brian, standing up. He seems relieved to see me. "Well, Professor, it's been nice talking to you."
"Is this the young art student?" The older man grins at me. Maybe it's more like a leer.
"Yes. Justin Taylor." Brian pushes me forward and I shake the guy's hand.
"I've been hearing all about your work. You're a student in Pittsburgh?" The man looks me up and down. But his eyes keep returning to Brian. Of course! The guy is old, but he isn't dead!
"I'm at the Institute of Fine Art," I say. "In my second year there."
"Splendid! Why don't you sit down? I've been telling Brian about some of the new galleries in Tribeca. Perhaps you two would like to go and see them tomorrow? I could introduce you to some friends of mine. They are always looking for new talent."
"I have to work tomorrow, Professor," Brian says. "And Justin is going back to Pittsburgh. You wouldn't want him to miss any more classes, would you?"
The professor nods. "Of course not. Perhaps next time. Let me give you my card. And I'll write the name of my friend's gallery on it, for the next time the young man is in town." The guy scribbles an awful lot on that card -- and then he hands it to Brian, who shoves it into the pocket of his black wool trousers.
"It was nice meeting you, but we really have to get going. We... have another engagement... and we're late. Thanks again." Brian shakes the guy's hand. Then Brian practically carries me out of the Sculpture Garden and out of the Museum!
"Geez, Brian! What was THAT about?" I say when we are standing on the sidewalk. "I wanted to get some more postcards!"
"And I wanted to get the fuck out of there! That old man was CRUISING me! Can you believe it?" Brian sounds so outraged -- it's really funny.
"Did I arrive in the nick of time to save your virtue?" I laugh.
"Shit!" says Brian, shaking his head. "I sat down, opened my fucking book, and -- wham! -- this character was practically in my lap!"
"Seems that you are attracting the distinguished elderly gentlemen these days, Brian," I snark, thinking of Ron and Jimmy and Dorian -- and even Sir Ken! "At least they are easier to fight off than those aggressive young studs!" And I can't help but laugh.
"You and your fucking museums!" Brian huffs.
"YOUR museum, Brian! You suggested we come here. And you told me that you'd been to the MOMA a couple of times before. Are you telling me that you never got hit on there by any hot young guys?"
"Of course! What do you think?" he asserts. Like I've insulted him. "But 'hot' is the requisite word. And 'young.' Not some horny old man!" Brian shudders. "Thank God you came back early."
"How do you know I was early?" Because as usual Brian doesn't have on a watch.
"I was counting the seconds in my head, you little Fiend!"
"So, you're saying that you missed me, Brian?" I ask. And I'm smiling like crazy. "So, what did the professor write on that card, Brian? His Social Security Number or his dick size?"
"Probably his Viagra prescription." Brian pulls the card out of his pocket and looks at it, shaking his head. I take it out of his hand. Sure enough, the professor has put down the address of his friend's gallery in Tribeca -- and an invitation to some place on Fire Island for the upcoming weekend.
"Brian, didn't you tell this guy who you were? I'm sure he's not in the habit of inviting movie stars to parties on Fire Island!" Or maybe the professor gets around more than we think!
"Why should I tell him my life story? He was clueless. I told him my name, Justin, but there's no reason he should know it. He probably hasn't been to a movie since Judy Garland died." Brian grimaces. "This sounds like an invitation to an orgy for retired homos. He probably thinks I'm in the 'take-out' business -- still! Jesus!"
"Now who's being a Drama Queen?" I tell him. But that also makes me think of something else. Something that we still need to do while we are in the city.
"Aren't you going to rip up that card?" Brian asks, watching me put in my carry-all.
"No," I say. "I might need an 'in' at a New York gallery some day. Maybe if YOU put out for the old goat I could get a show there!"
"You little twat!" he says, smacking me on the bottom right on Fifth Avenue. "Well, where to next? Statue of Liberty? Top of the Empire State Building? Staring at the hole in the ground where the World Trade Center used to be?"
I shudder. "I don't think so," I reply. Now is the time. If I have the nerve to say it. "But... Brian -- I was thinking -- I'd like to... go down to the Bowery."
Brian just stares at me. "Why the fuck do you want to go there?"
"Because I want to see it. It's part of your life and I want to know what it's like. To walk around there. Look at the streets, the buildings." I take a deep breath. "And I think YOU should go there, too, Brian."
"Why? I've seen it," he says flatly as we walk, heading downtown.
"Yes -- and that's why you can show it to me."
"Justin," he says, running his hand through his unruly hair. "What's the point?"
"What was the point of taking me to that parking garage?" I reply. "What is the point of remembering anything about the past? To prove that you aren't afraid anymore. You said it wouldn't bother you if they re-released 'Red Shirt.' That you watched it -- and it was all right. YOU are all right, Brian." I snake my arm around him and hug him against my side as we walk.
"I...." He stops and looks down at me. And then he looks up at the city that surrounds us. That towers over us. It reminds me of the drawings of Gotham City and Metropolis in Michael's comic books. He's been force-feeding me those images in a crash course in comic culture with the hope that I'll be able to duplicate the look in the comic book he's writing. It's Michael's big dream, even more so than his store. And following Brian's eyes up, I can see that vision in the vast skyline.
Brian suddenly steps to the curb and hails a cab. We get in and it rockets down the avenue. We really are going so fast that I clutch Brian's hand, figuring that if this is the last thing I'm going to do on this Earth, I might as well go out holding Brian's hand! But we come to a screaming stop still in one piece. Brian pushes me out and tosses the driver his money.
"There you go, Sunshine," he says, glancing around nervously. "What you wanted to see."
We are standing in front of CBGB's, the old punk club. It looks even more grungy and worn than I'd imagined. But the rest of the street is also not as bad as I'd thought it would be. There are some scuzzy looking places, but also some not too bad places. The Bouwerie Lane Theatre. Some Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants. Coffeehouses. Some funky clothing stores. Brian looks around with a bit more interest as he scans up and down the street.
"Which way?" I say.
"Hm," Brian grunts. And he takes my arm and leads me along, peering down sidestreets and into windows. We stop in front of a pizza place. It looks a little shabbier than the trendy coffeehouse next door to it, but it's not bad. Brian hesitates a moment -- and then pushes the door open, letting me go in first.
There are two punky kids sitting in one booth and a hetero couple in another. An older woman behind the counter looks at us curiously.
"Was this place here before, Brian?" I look around. And then I remember. The pizza parlor in 'Red Shirt.' Ron filmed a bunch of the scenes in this place.
"Yeah, but...." He looks around again. "I don't know -- it's the SAME. But it's fucking different. All different." He glances at an empty side booth.
"Maybe it isn't the same place you remember," I say. But I know it is. Even I recognize it now.
"No," he says. "It's...." He glances around once more and then pulls me out the door. He hurries away from the place and I almost have to run to keep up with him.
"Are you okay, Brian?" I say as we head back up towards CBGB's.
"Yeah. I...." he hesitates. "I didn't really feel anything. I thought being in there would freak me out. But... I didn't feel a thing."
"That's good then. See?" But I look at his face and know he's lying. It's all right there -- in his eyes.
"I guess so." He reaches into his pocket, like he's looking for a cigarette, but then he stops. He doesn't have any cigarettes. He's stopped smoking. He's stopped doing a lot of things he used to do. That's just life. Things change. People change. He takes out two pieces of gum instead. He puts one in his mouth and the other in mine.
We walk along and suddenly Brian takes a detour down a sidestreet. I don't know what we will find down this alley-like street, but I'm expecting something creepy. Something horrible. But what we find are a lot of old warehouses either being torn down or gutted for renovation.
Brian stares at one of them. "In a year these will probably be condos selling for a million each."
"Want to buy one, Brian?" I say, watching his face.
"You must be fucking kidding!" he declares. And then he laughs, bitterly. "When I lived there it cost a lot more than a million dollars. It cost your whole fucking soul!" He leans over and puts his face against my hair, inhaling the smell of me. I feel like he's sucking something from me. My life force. My hope. My belief in him. Something. "Let's go, Justin. There's nothing to see here -- and nothing worth remembering."
We walk up to the main drag and Brian flags down a cab to take us back to the hotel.
Continue on to Page 2 of "My Favorite Mistake -- Part 4".