This is Chapter 16 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Rexford Walcott, Dorian Folco, Avi Massarsky, Pat Swayze, Clint Eastwood, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: An unexpected change of scenery. Arizona, June 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
Headlines and photos in 'The Sun' --
Photograph of Clint Eastwood smiling, with a party hat Photoshopped on his head:
"Happy Birthday, Dirty Harry!
Clint Eastwood Birthday Bash in the Desert --
Beloved Star Turns 73 with Cake and Champagne on Set of New Western."
Photographs of Jimmy and Tess Hardy on opposite sides of the page, glowering:
"Jimmy Hardy Divorce Gets Down and Dirty!
Oscar Winning Star Trades Barbs with Wife as Settlement Hits Stalemate."
Photograph of Chuckie Ranger looking surprised, Photoshopped next to a bearded man in a dress:
Chuckie Ranger Pleads 'No Contest' in Tranny Pick-Up Arrest --
Comic Says It's All a Misunderstanding!"
Photograph of Diane Rhys and Dorian Folco attending the Academy Awards together:
"Is It Love? We're Di-ing to Know!
'Here's Diane!' Star and British Director Get Cozy on 'Red River' Shoot --
Friends Say Wedding Bells Will Chime Soon!"
Once principal shooting begins on 'Red River,' everything settles into a routine. You wouldn't think that a movie set could be dull, but if you aren't working on the production, if you're not one of the actors, or the crew, or even one of the dozens of support staff -- drivers, craft services, carpenters, security -- then there isn't a lot to do out in the middle of the desert.
Which is why I have to make my own work. The last thing I want to do is bitch to Brian or get in the way. I have certain things I need to do every day as Brian's personal assistant, like checking his e-mail, going through his snail mail, monitoring his cellphone calls, and either cooking or, more often, arranging with catering for his meals, but that never takes up the whole day.
So I set a schedule for myself. Mondays to go into town to shop. Tuesdays for catching up on laundry and cleaning up the trailer. Wednesdays for taking excursions around the desert to look for interesting scenes. Usually I take both my camera and sketch book. I have this idea of photographing the textures of the desert -- the sand, the dust, the different kinds of cacti and other plants, the rocks -- and then scanning the photos into the computer and working with them. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with these pictures, but I know I'll use them eventually. Maybe as the background to some portraits. Or in collages. Some of them even look pretty cool all by themselves. I'm working with both black and white and color images. I've set aside Thursdays to work at the computer. And Friday is for getting ready for the weekend -- assuming that Brian wants to do more than sleep!
Of course, this schedule is fairly loose, but at least I have one. Brian is gone from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. -- or later, if they're doing a night shoot -- and when he does get back to the trailer he's exhausted. He mainly wants to eat something, soak his aching ass in the Jacuzzi over at the hot tub tent, get a massage, fuck -- I help him with that part -- and then pass out. He's usually out like a light by 9:00. I stay up late, working at the computer or watching a DVD by myself. Occasionally Avi will come over and hang out, but he also gets up early and is tired from go-fer duty all day, so he never stays very late.
I find myself calling people at night when I'm feeling lonely. Daphne. Em. Mom. Deb. And Diane. She's the one who understands best. She knows what it's like on a film set. How isolated you can feel, especially on location.
"You've got to suck it up, Cutie," Diane counsels. "This is Brian's way of life now. If you think it's a problem, just wait until he starts filming 'The Eastern Front.' They'll be shooting all over Europe and it'll take months. It's fun to hang out on the set for a while, but after a few weeks, you only want to go home and sleep in your own bed. That's why I love being on 'Here's Diane!' -- I go home every night, I don't have to travel, and I have time off between seasons. It's great!"
"Brian isn't likely to get on a series -- he's focused on being a movie star." I think about how nice it would be if Brian had an acting job where he came home every night. We could live in the house in the canyon and I could work in the new studio Brian had built for me in the poolhouse. We could lead a regular, boring life -- for a change. That would be nice. But boring. And I don't think I'm ready for boring yet. I know that Brian certainly isn't. "Besides, what show is going to hire an openly gay actor? Maybe on cable, but I don't know if Brian would want to be on that kind of show!"
Diane laughs. "You mean like 'Gay As Blazes'? Come on! That show is kind of fun!"
"Brian hates it! But Emmett loves it. And Mel and Lindz, too."
"What about you?" Diane teases. 'Gay As Blazes' is full of lovey-dovey committed gay couples, living in the suburbs, having babies, and doing volunteer work at all-gay homeless shelters for buff boy hustlers. Brian says it's the way the straight world wants to see queers -- cute and harmless and completely asexual. In other words -- bullshit.
"I think it's bullshit." I have to smile while Diane guffaws. Brian would be so proud!
But as isolated as I often feel out here, there's one thing I can't escape, even in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, and that's reporters. Mainly tabloid reporters.
I have no idea how they got the number of the phone in the trailer, but they did. Luckily, they haven't found out Brian's or my cell number, but I'm sure that's next. Some days the calls come one right after another until I just turn off the fucking phone. Other days there's nothing. Reporters are supposed to make contact with Brian through Leslie, who is Brian's official personal assistant and office manager, but they think if they bypass her and get through to me they have a better chance to actually talk to Brian. They don't, but that doesn't mean they don't keep trying.
One guy is especially annoying. He's from one of the British tabloids, 'The Sun,' which is infamous for digging up dirt about people and printing it in gigantic headlines. They were one of the loudest of the papers during Brian's outing scandal last fall. And now they want an interview. An 'exclusive.' Yeah, sure! After they re-printed those photos of me and Brian on the boat? In their dreams!
"That asshole reporter called again," I tell Brian when he comes back from the set. This is the third day in a row he's has left a message on the machine in the trailer.
"Delete it," Brian says shortly as he heads into the shower. "If you pick up accidentally and it's him, tell the bastard to fuck off. And say that he can quote me!"
Brian seems especially tired tonight. They're doing the stampede scenes this week. He assures me that it's not as dangerous as it sounds. That it'll all be done in the editing. That it will look like the Longhorns are going nuts and trampling everything in sight, but it's really all controlled.
And I would believe him if I hadn't been on the drive at the end of Cowboy Camp. If I hadn't talked to Sam about it while we were on the chuckwagon for all those hours. Yes, I realize that Dorian would never put Brian or Clint or Pat or any of the other actors in any danger if he could help it. But I also know that whenever you're working with cattle and horses and rough terrain, it's going to be risky. A couple of the wranglers have gotten hurt since filming started. Nothing too serious, if you think getting tossed by a bucking horse or kicked by an angry steer isn't serious. If it were me, I'd think it was pretty damn serious. And if I were Brian -- I'd be freaking out!
When he comes out of the shower I notice that he's got a big bruise on his left side.
Brian frowns. He touches himself gently. "Fuck if I know. I think I slammed into Jared. Or maybe it was Pat. It's nothing. Forget about it."
And I try to. But I know a bruise like that is going to be sore in the morning.
When Brian gets up, he's moving a little slowly. I know his side is hurting, but he won't admit it.
"Tell Dorian that you're hurt," I urge.
"It's nothing. I already told you that! There are two more days of this fucking stampede scene left and I just want to get them over with. Then next weekend the location moves to Texas and we have all the scenes with the wagon train and in the town. At this point I only want to grit my teeth and get out of this fucking desert! I few little bumps aren't going to kill me." Brian wrinkles up his nose. "Besides, the wardrobe people will see it when I get dressed and they'll tell Nick. They're a bunch of nosy fuckers, those wardrobe bitches!"
"Good," I say. "Because if they don't say anything, then I will!"
"I'm not made out of porcelain." Brian strikes a campy pose. "I only look like a delicate flower. I'm actually quite rugged!"
"Do tell?" I roll my eyes. "Now I really know what they mean when they say 'drama queen'!"
"Brat." He smacks me before he goes off to the stampede.
I think about what Brian said about moving to the new Texas location. That'll be fun. It's in Marfa, a town where they've filmed a lot of movies. And some new actors are going to be joining the shoot there, including the legendary cowboy star, Burr Connor. Also John Henry James. He's an actor who used to be a football star for the Denver Broncos. Avi is a big football fan and seems much more excited to be meeting John Henry James than he does being around the regular actors. I have to admit that when Avi said his name, I'd never heard of the guy, but what the heck? Football isn't exactly my thing!
Also coming on the picture is Lane Harris. She's playing Tess, Matt Garth's love interest. Which means love scenes. With a female.
Brian's played love scenes before, mainly with Jimmy. And there were some kissing and making out scenes with the groupies in 'Hammersmith.' But this is different. At least I think it's different. It's a serious love story that's a major part of the plot.
"You know I have kissed a girl before, Sunshine," Brian said to me when we got the word that Lane Harris had been cast. "And I kissed Lindsay when we were dating. And a couple of girls in high school. And I've kissed Diane, although not in a romantic way. So I know how all that plumbing works. That's why they call it acting!"
"What about that trashy actress in London? The one who told the tabloids you were getting married?"
"That ratty blonde?" Brian winced. "I can't even remember her fucking name! Did I kiss her?"
"I think you did more than that, Brian."
"I was high," he dismissed. "End of story. You can't hold any of that against me!"
It's Thursday, which means the day I work on the computer. I have a bunch of images I took with the digital camera out in the desert yesterday and now I want to look them over and see what I want to keep. I'm looking for something that really stands out. A shape or texture that 'pops,' as Brian would say.
I'm in the middle of re-sizing a close-up of a Saguaro cactus when the trailer phone rings. Not thinking, I pick it up and say hello.
"Justin Taylor?" says the English-accented voice. "This is Rexford Walcott. I'm a journalist with a prominent London newspaper and I would like to arrange to interview Brian Kinney for a serious overview we are doing on his film career."
Oh, shit! It's that asshole from 'The Sun.'
I try to keep my voice bland and professional. That's what Leslie taught me to do. To distance myself and Brian from the outside world. That's what a good personal assistant does -- insulates the star from annoying distractions. And tabloid hacks are definitely an annoying distraction -- and then some!
"I'm sorry, Mr. Walcott, but Mr. Kinney is very busy with his shooting schedule. He won't be giving any interviews at this time. I'm sure that when 'Red River' is ready to be released, he'll be very happy to speak with you."
The guy laughs. It's a harsh, nasty-sounding laugh. "You mean I'll get five minutes on a junket along with a hundred other ladies and gentlemen of the press, all wanting the same bloody quote? Not on your bleeding life!"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Walcott, but I can't help you." I'm about to hang up.
"Wait a min, Justin." Walcott's voice turns more insinuating. "Hear me out. My paper has a story that we've been sitting on for months now. A story that your Brian might not want brought to light. But we'd be willing to set that information aside if he would give us an exclusive. A one-on-one interview, with photographs. I promise we'll put a positive spin on the piece. It'll be good P.R. for your boyfriend and for the film, as well."
This guy is unbelievable! These tabloid reporters all have the same line and all want the same thing. They clam they've got a big story. A lot of dirt. Something scandalous. But they'll kill the trash if Brian will talk to them. Smile for their cameras and give them an 'exclusive.' Only he won't. Especially not to a sleazy rag like 'The Sun.' No way in hell!
"Brian's life is an open book!" I state truthfully. "He doesn't give a damn what you print about him. I know who you are -- you're with 'The Sun.' You think Brian is going to talk to you or any of the tabs after the way he was treated over those photos on his boat? Or over Ron Rosenblum's death? You've got to be kidding!"
"And you were also in those photos, weren't you, Justin?" Walcott sneers. "Embarrassing situation, wasn't it? Quite cringe-worthy. Perhaps we have something equally as embarrassing on our shelf. Embarrassing to Brian and to you, too. Meet with me and we'll discuss it. I can be on the set within 24 hours. You say the word."
"This is a closed set, Mr. Walcott. If you come anywhere near it, Security will have your ass on a platter!" I warn.
"Then how about we meet off the set? You name the time and the place. I'm at your disposal."
This guy never gives up!
"Goodbye, Mr. Walcott. And don't call back!" I slam down the receiver and count to ten. Sure enough, the phone starts ringing again. But I don't make the same mistake twice. I let it go to the machine. Walcott doesn't leave a message. I know he's going to try to catch me again, but I'm onto him now. He's no different from the other journalists who try to get through to Brian -- but he's much more aggressive. So I'll need to be on my toes.
At lunch time I wander down to the catering tent and get some salad and a lemonade. It's hot. And I mean HOT! I've never been in a place where the weather was regularly in the upper 90's and low 100's. I'm not a huge fan of Pittsburgh winters, but a nice, clean snowfall would be a welcome relief. I sit in the tent and eat my salad, thinking about how out on the range Brian and the other actors and wranglers are chasing the Longhorns around under the blazing sun.
As I walk back to the trailer, my cell sounds. It's Avi. I let it go to voicemail. He often calls me in the afternoon to meet for lunch or to arrange to watch a DVD in the evening. But I'm not in the mood to talk to him right now, especially after my conversation with the reporter. Back at the trailer, I take a shower to cool off. I'm about to sit back down at the computer when my cell goes off again. It's Avi. I let it go to voicemail. But two minutes later Avi calls once again. And this time I pick it up.
"Justin! I've been trying to get a hold of you!"
"Hey, Avi. I just got out of the shower. But I'm trying to get some work done on my photos, so could you make it short?"
"Justin!" I realize that Avi sounds frantic. "Can you get down to the corral? I mean right now!"
"What's wrong?" Suddenly I'm scared.
"Brian's been injured! They're taking him to the hospital! I knew you'd want to go with him, but you better get here, like, NOW! Or else they'll leave without you!"
Oh my God! "I'll be right there! Don't let them take Brian anywhere until I get there!"
"Then you better move your ass!" Avi is practically screaming into the cell.
I snap the phone shut and shove it into my pocket. I'm only wearing a pair of thin jogging shorts, so I grab the first shirt that comes to my hand, a dirty tee from the laundry basket, push my feet into a pair of flip-flops, and fly out the door.
It's chaos down at the corral. People with clipboards are shouting and running around. Men on horseback are circling nervously, while others are standing next to the fence, waiting to see what is going to happen. A large SUV charges down the road behind me and pulls up. A motorcycle revs its engine. I look for Avi, but I don't see him. I have no idea where I'm supposed to go.
Then I see the ambulance, parked next to the corral. A cold shiver of terror runs down my back.
And there's Dorian. His face is pale and he's screaming into his cellphone.
"Dorian! Where's Brian? Is he okay?"
"Just a moment!" he snaps at me. "Yes! We're sending him immediately!" he shouts into the phone. "It's vital that you have a doctor waiting to attend him personally. Yes, I know. Yes. He's leaving now. All right. Thank you." Dorian closes the phone. His face looks strained.
"Dorian? Please! Is he okay?" I plead. "Tell me!"
"The situation is under control," Dorian says as if he's trying to convince himself. "We were filming the stampede down the gully. Brian's horse stumbled and he was thrown. The paramedics are seeing to him now, but we're sending him to Tucson as soon as possible."
"Where the fuck is he?" I yell.
"In the shed. We wanted to get him out of the hot sun." Dorian points to the makeshift building where they keep the tack for the horses.
I race over there. Some wranglers and crew members are milling around, smoking and talking. They move out of the way when they see me coming.
I don't know what to expect inside the shed. Brian's body trampled and smashed by a herd of thundering Longhorns. Brian unconscious. Brian bloody. Brian dead.
But what I see is Brian sitting on a bale of hay, his left leg propped up on another bale. He's dirty and sweaty and bleeding from a gash on his chin. One medical tech is kneeling next to him, taking his blood pressure, while another is tending to his bare foot. They both look very focused and very somber.
But Brian doesn't seem in pain. He's bitching and complaining, which means he's in his normal state. And Pat is standing next to him, shaking his head and trying not to laugh.
"Brian! Are you all right? Avi told me you were hurt! He scared the shit out of me!"
"Stop the presses!" Brian says, holding up his hands. "Here's the ball-and-chain."
"Hey there, Justin!" Pat cries. "You missed the rodeo! You should have seen your boy take a header off that big red mule he rides! He really made a dent in the desert! And he was right in the middle of the herd. I thought he was a goner, for sure!"
"Can we leave now, Mr. Kinney?" the first paramedic says impatiently. He stands and brushes himself off. "We have the ambulance ready for you."
"I told you that I'm not riding in any fucking ambulance!" Brian shudders. "I don't need an ambulance. Get a car. Or a van. That'll be fine."
"The ambulance is waiting," the paramedic urges. "We need to get you to the hospital in Tucson." He looks at me, pleadingly. "Your friend can ride with you."
"I'm Mr. Kinney's personal assistant," I assert. "Of course I'll ride with him!"
"That's a fancy term for boyfriend," Brian drawls. Pat guffaws and slaps him on the back. "They all know who you are, Sunshine. Why do you think we've been waiting? I wouldn't leave until you got here. But I want a regular car."
I touch his arm. "Brian, this is an emergency. I think you should go in the ambulance." I know he has bad associations with ambulances. Well, so do I. But this is important. "Please?"
"Oh, shit!" he grumbles. "Okay. But no fucking sirens!"
"That won't be necessary, Mr. Kinney," says the paramedic. He nods his thanks to me.
The two techs reach for Brian to lift him, but he shakes them off. "I can walk! Jesus! I fell off a fucking horse and everyone thinks it's the end of the world! One of the wranglers, Lee, broke his hand last week and he's still working!"
But Pat's face turns serious. "Let the guys do their job, cowboy. If Lee gets hurt, it's just part of the risk he takes. But if you get hurt -- this whole picture could shut down. Think about that."
"Yeah, I guess," he admits. The paramedics help Brian up. He can stand, but he can't walk. He can't put any weight on his left foot. "It hurts like a motherfucker."
"Lean on me," I say. He slings his arm around my shoulder and we hobble out of the shed.
Dorian and Clint are standing by the ambulance, with Avi hovering nearby, clutching his ubiquitous clipboard. I also see the rest of the cast at a distance, waiting to see what's going to happen. Pat is right. This entire shoot could come to a standstill if Brian is badly injured -- and all of their jobs could be on the line.
"I knew you wanted the weekend off, Bri, but this is ridiculous!" Clint snarks.
"I'll be back tomorrow," Brian insists. "To get back on that horse and finish the fucking stampede!"
"You'll be back when the doctors say you'll be back!" Dorian huffs.
"I think we can manage the stampede," Clint adds. "We already have a lot of footage. If you miss a day, don't worry about it." And then he smiles that 'Dirty Harry' smile. "Take care of yourself."
They open the back door of the ambulance and Brian turns pale. I feel him flinch. "Where's my hat? Did someone find my hat? It fell off when I hit the fucking ground!"
"I've got it!" Paco steps forward with the hat Clint gave Brian in his hand. "I'll keep an eye on it for you." Then he gives Brian a sly wink. Fucking Paco. I know Brian isn't interested in him, but he still bugs the shit out of me.
They load Brian into the ambulance. I climb in next to him and perch on the jumpseat.
Dorian leans inside. "I'm sending Avi with a driver to follow behind you. If you need anything, let him handle it." I can see by Dorian's anxious face that he's still scared. And if I ever doubted how much he really cares about Brian, seeing that face erases that doubt. "Call me the minute you reach the hospital, Justin. I'll be waiting to hear."
"I will, Dorian. I promise!"
Then they slam the door shut and we're off.
Headlines and photos in 'The Sun' --
Publicity photograph of Brian costumed as Matt Garth:
"Disaster on 'Red River' Set!
Brian Kinney Faces Death in Stampede!
Eastwood Production Shut Down as Co-Star Rushed to Hospital!"
Photograph of Justin Taylor walking into a building:
"Kinney Gay Boy Toy Deals with Film Tragedy!
Races To Lover's Side!"
Photograph of Jimmy Hardy and Chuckie Ranger, with co-star Cammie Logan, at the premiere of 'Crash Course' in Hollywood:
"Stars Are All Smiles at Glittering Premiere of New Action Hit!
'Life Is Great!' Says Oscar-Winner Jimmy Hardy. 'I've Never Been Happier!'"
©Gaedhal, January 2008.
Continue on to "Night and Day".
Posted January 30, 2008.