This is Chapter 2 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Avi, Patrick Swayze, Rowan Conley, Frank Painted Horse, Paco Romano, Dorian Folco, Charley Bouley, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Just another day in the desert. Arizona, May 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
I hear the alarm, but I ignore it. I was up way too late last night, unpacking and sending out e-mails to my mom, Daphne, Marshall, and Emmett. I need at least four more hours of sleep.
Brian makes some grumbling noises, but he gets up and bangs around the tiny room, bumping into the end of the bed that takes up almost the entire space. It'll take a while for both of us to get used to living in this trailer after the open spaces of the loft and the house in Creekside Canyon. Yes, it's a pretty big RV, but it's still an RV. And Brian is a tall guy who likes a lot of room to maneuver. Add the fact that we brought a lot of stuff with us. Too much, probably.
But I'll think about that later. I hear Brian get into the shower. Ordinarily that would be my cue to join him, but there's only room for one person -- just barely. So another five minutes of sleep. Or maybe ten....
"Hey!" a voice barks in my ear. "Wakey, wakey, Sunshine!"
"Fuck!" And I turn over.
"We don't have time," says Brian, smacking my ass. "And I don't plan to be late the first morning. So if you want to meet the crew and get the lay of the land, then get your voluptuous ass out of bed and get dressed so we can get to the meeting."
Brian's right. I don't want to miss the first day on location. So I roll out of bed and into the shower.
By the time I get out Brian has some coffee brewed and he's pouring his usual barrel of sugar into his favorite extra large ceramic cup, which he brought with him from Pittsburgh.
"I bet you won't get your special blend at the chuckwagon!" I snark as I get a cup for myself. But I only put in a normal human's amount of sugar, plus plenty of cream.
"Think again," Brian sniffs. "Even if the catering food is for shit, there's no reason why they shouldn't at least have some decent coffee on this shoot. We're only playing cowboys, after all, not BEING cowboys!"
"I'd think you'd feel more like the character of Matt Garth if you had to eat and drink the same things he would -- and that doesn't include low-fat lattes!"
"Thank you, Uta Hagan," Brian says, rolling his eyes. He's been reading a biography of Marlon Brando and there's a lot of stuff in there about Method Acting, which makes a big deal about 'living' your role in order to get inside it, so I've been needling him about what he needs to do to play a cowboy. "I think I can get into my character just fine. After all, I have plenty of practice riding your ass."
"Good point," I reply.
There's a knock on the door. "Mr. Kinney? Breakfast is being served at the catering tent."
Brian goes to the door and opens it. A young guy is standing there. He's the assistant to one of the assistant directors. In other words, a glorified go-fer. There are a lot of people on this shoot and they all have a fancy title. Except me, of course.
"Where's that tent?" Brian asks. We both peer out at the trailers and tents crowding the grounds. We got in late last night, so our RV is parked on the outskirts of this makeshift village.
"I'll escort you there, Mr. Kinney," says the go-fer, who introduces himself as Avi.
"Give us two minutes," Brian says. "And call me Brian."
He dumps the rest of his coffee into the sink and turns off the coffeemaker. Then he picks up his leather carry-all and stuffs his script, Palm Pilot, Filoxfax, and a legal pad inside. "Let's go. We can get something to eat before the big meeting with Dorian and the rest of the crew."
We follow Avi through the maze of trailers, vehicles, and equipment until we reach the catering tent. Brian says that the craft services area is always the center of social life on any film set. Breakfast, lunch, dinner -- everyone has to eat and everyone on the set is always hungry. And that's especially true on location, where it's mainly a bunch of men who are far from home with the nearest town miles away.
When we walk into the tent the very first person I see is Clint Eastwood. I've seen movie stars before, but it's still a shock to see a legend standing there with a donut in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. He's with a gray-haired man who looks like a real cowboy -- his face is leathery and deeply tanned -- and they're laughing about something. Eastwood is tall, maybe an inch or two taller than Brian, and he towers over the short, stocky cowboy. He's playing Tom Dunson, the stubborn cattle rancher, while Brian is his rebellious adopted son, Matt. It'll be interesting to see him and Brian going head-to-head in their scenes.
"Brian! Over here!"
We turn around and there's Patrick Swayze. He's playing Cherry Valance, Brian's character's friend and rival on the cattle drive. He's also got a donut in his hand. He waves us over.
"Hey, Pat," says Brian, shaking his hand. "You remember Justin? From the racetrack?"
"Sure," he nods. He looks a lot older than he did in 'Dirty Dancing,' but he's still handsome in a craggy, iron-jawed way. "Hiya, Justin." He gives me the typical straight boy glance -- a quick once-over, but without the kind of appraising gaze that I'd usually get from a gay man. People talk about gaydar, but it's really all in the eyes. There's a connection that you can recognize in a moment. And it's not there. Regardless of all Brian's adolescent fantasies, Pat is as straight as they come. "Did you guys ever buy that horse you were thinking of?"
Brian snorts. "Not me! Ron and Jimmy. Yes, they bought it, but it never actually got into a race. I think it's sitting on a farm somewhere out in the San Fernando Valley, eating up Jimmy's money."
"Those are the breaks of horse racing," Pat confides. "You know, Brian, I have to thank you. Dorian told me that you really pushed for me to get this part. It'll be sort of a comeback for me in a major picture. And I want you to know how much I appreciate it."
Brian holds up his hand. The only thing that makes him more uncomfortable than too much sentimental mush is someone trying to thank him. "Ron thought you'd be perfect for this role. I only reminded Dorian about it. You got the job on your own merit. Besides the fact that you can ride a horse like a son of a bitch!"
"That I can do!" Pat admits. He has his own ranch up in Woodland Hills where he raises Arabians. "And we're going to be riding the polish off our asses in the next month!"
"That's what I'm afraid of," Brian groans. "I'm aching all over just thinking about it!"
"Don't sweat it," says Pat. "They've got a tent with a hot tub and a Jacuzzi over by the make-up trailers. And you can get a massage, too, if you need one. They'll rub out all the kinks after a hard day in the saddle."
"Well, that's something, at least," says Brian. "I'll definitely take advantage of that hot tub. The shower in my trailer is more suited to a midget than a full-grown man."
Brian and Pat start talking about the filming schedule, which gives me the opportunity to go over and grab a donut.
Catering will be providing three meals a day for the cast and crew, but it looks like typical cafeteria stuff. I brought some food with us, but I wasn't really planning on doing a lot of cooking on the little stove in the RV. Whit, our driver, showed me on the map where the nearest town is -- a 40 minute drive away. That's not too bad, but it's not exactly within take-out distance. I'll have to check it out over the weekend while Brian is at Cowboy Camp. See what kind of food is available there. I know Brian won't want to eat at the catering tent every day -- he says it's nothing but starch, fat, and sugar. And as I look over the selection for breakfast, I can see he's right. Donuts and fried food -- eggs, bacon, sausages. There's also some fresh fruit, so I pick up a plate and pile some on for Brian. Then I reach for a couple of sausages for myself.
"Excuse me," I say, bumping elbows with another guy.
"These sausages have nothing on the bangers at the Chatterton, eh?" he says with a smirk.
"Shit!" I say, doing a classic double-take. "Rowan Conley! What the fuck are you doing here?"
"Working," he replies calmly, like it's not the world's biggest WTF moment that he's standing here in the middle of the Arizona desert, thousands of miles from London. "I'm acting in this picture. I'm playing one of the cowboys. Laredo."
I think back on the script, which I've read through a dozen times while helping Brian prepare for his part. Laredo is the youngest cowboy on the cattle drive. Not too many lines, as I recall. But it's definitely a real part.
"I... I mean...." I'm at a fucking loss for words.
"I did a commercial in London last month," Rowan says casually. "And I have a small walk-on in the film Dorian just finished up in Vancouver. You know, 'Charisma' with Jude Law? Nick was the AD on that shoot, too. He's been working with Dorian for a few years, but next fall he's directing his own project for the BBC. I might have a part in that, too."
"Nick?" I say. "You mean Nick Parr?" He was Dorian's AD on 'Hammersmith' and now he's here on 'Red River.' He's also the one who worked with me and Rowan on our bit parts during Brian's concert scenes at the Roundhouse.
"Yeah." Rowan piles a few more sausages on his plate and also takes two glazed donuts. "He's my boyfriend."
"Oh," I say, feeling like a dope. "I didn't know that."
"Didn't the Big Fella tell you, then?" says Rowan. "He saw us at the 'Hammersmith' premiere in London last fall. We've been together ever since last summer. Must have slipped his mind."
"Must have." That's when Brian was attacked. Right after the 'Hammersmith' premiere. He certainly had other things on his mind besides Rowan Conley's confused sexuality.
"I'll see you around then, Justin," says Rowan. "Obviously! It's going to be hard not to bump into each other on this shoot, what with being out here in the middle of fuckin' nowhere. Nick says you fellas have one of the biggest trailers on the site. Maybe I could come over and hang out?"
Jesus! The last thing I want to do is hang out with Rowan. But he's right about one thing -- we're all going to be stuck together here and then at the location in Texas for the next month -- or longer if there are any delays.
"I don't know," I hedge. "You know how Brian likes his privacy."
Rowan guffaws. "There's no fuckin' privacy on a film set! That's the first thing you learn. Everybody knows everybody else's business. You'll find out. Ta for now."
Rowan strides away confidently. I watch him go over and sit down at a table where Nick Parr is eating with some other people from the crew. Nick smiles at him and touches his arm. Yes, they are definitely together. It's not just Rowan's wishful thinking.
I take the food back to where Brian is standing with Pat. They've been joined by a couple of new guys. One is a hot-looking Hispanic and the other is a thin, wiry man who looks Native American.
"I got you some fruit," I tell Brian, handing him his plate.
"Thanks," he replies. "Justin, this is Paco Romano. He's playing Mendez. And this is Frank Painted Horse. He's playing Quo."
"Hey," says Paco, taking my hand. He holds itfor an extra second, giving it a squeeze while looking directly into my eyes. Yup, definitely gay! And did I mention that he's hot?
The other guy just nods at me. He has deep-set eyes and one of those weather-beaten faces that makes it impossible to tell his age. A lot of the men standing around have that look. Too many years of working outdoors in the harsh sun. I know Brian brought tons of his most expensive sun-screen and French moisturizer. He's certainly going to be using it after seeing these guys!
"Frank's one of the best stuntmen in the business," Pat explains. "His father was one, too. Worked in all the John Ford pictures. He was in 'The Searchers.'"
"'The Searchers'? Wow!" Brian is clearly impressed. I can tell he has a million questions to ask this guy.
"Yeah," Pat continues. "Frank grew up on Western sets and could ride before he could walk. I know a lot about horses, but Frank makes me look like a city dude!"
Frank shrugs. "My old man was Comanche. The horse was everything to them. But I do okay. It's nice to have a real role in a film like this instead of just stunts and stand-in work. Have you met your stand-in yet, Brian?"
"No. We only got in late last night, so I haven't even spoken to Dorian yet." Brian shoves a piece of melon into his mouth nervously. I remember how anxious Brian was when he started filming 'Hammersmith.' But things will be different on this shoot. I know they will.
"Jared Brooks," says Frank. "I've worked with him before. On a couple of Burr Connor films back in the 1980's. He was just starting out then. You'll get on good with him."
"I heard that Burr Connor might be doing a small part later in the shoot," says Pat. There's excitement in his voice. "He hasn't made a picture in over 10 years. It would really be fantastic if he was in this picture. Like a round-up of all the great cowboy stars who are still alive. Maybe Dorian can get James Garner, Robert Duvall, and James Arness to do walk-ons!"
"Burr Connor, huh?" Brian frowns. "Isn't he kind of a recluse these days?"
"Westerns been out of style for a long time," says Frank. "I know I've had some lean years lately. Must be the same for Burr. But he's a strange duck. Always was a hard guy to get to know. Kept to himself on the set."
While the other guys are talking about Burr Connor, I notice that Paco is watching Brian with a slight smile on his face. If I wasn't already certain that he's gay, this would clinch it. He catches my eye. He grins at me as if to say, "Don't worry, kid. I'm only admiring the scenery."
Then he turns and walks over toward the coffee set-up. And he gestures for me to follow him.
I'm not sure what this is all about, but I'm curious. Plus, I could use a cup of coffee. I never got to finish the one I started in the trailer.
"So you're the famous Justin," says Paco.
"I'm Justin, but I'm hardly famous," I say warily.
"Sure you are," Paco grins. "Brian Kinney's twink. Cover of 'The National Enquirer.' Red Carpet at the Oscars. That's famous in La La Land!"
"Fuck you!" I tell him, turning away. "I don't need to listen to this shit."
"Whoa!" says Paco. "I'm not insulting you. It's a compliment. I mean that you're famous in West Hollywood. Envied. I imagine Brian Kinney isn't an easy guy to keep interested for more than a little while. And you guys have been together for a couple of years, right?"
"Three years in September." And he's correct -- for Brian that's a long, long time to stay interested in anyone. But I aim to make it a hell of a lot longer!
"See what I mean?" Paco bites his bottom lip, thinking. "I can see he doesn't remember me. But then he had no reason to. I must have been just another faceless guy to him. Not like you."
So, Paco was one of Brian's tricks. I'm not really surprised. He's totally Brian's type. Handsome. Dark. Well-built. Like I said -- hot.
"When did you meet him?" I ask. Strangely enough, I don't feel threatened by Paco.
"Between acting gigs I tend bar for a catering company in Beverly Hills. It was over a year ago at some party at Charles and Donnie's, the two gay producers. You know them?"
"I've heard of them," I say. They're a couple of older men who've been together for over twenty years. They mainly produce pictures for the Lifetime Network -- chick flicks.
"I think Brian was filming 'The Olympian' then -- or else he'd just finished it," says Paco. "Anyway, I blew him in the bathroom and then he took me back to his place. We fucked in the poolhouse. Then he drove me home. Jesus, he was a great fuck! I wanted him to call me again, but he told me that he didn't do repeats. I knew that wasn't strictly true -- I'd heard a little about him on the gay grapevine -- but I understood him. It was a one time thing. I don't think he even asked me my name."
Paco sounds almost wistful as he tells me this. It's really weird hearing about Brian from a trick's perspective. But it makes me realize that I never truly saw Brian from that particular point of view. Because he never really treated me like a trick. From the first night there was something different going on between us. We both felt it. And here we are -- still together.
"Listen, Paco," I tell him. "Everywhere we go we run into guys who Brian's fucked. It's a fact of life. And it's even worse back in Pittsburgh, where we're from. As long as you're not going to be a pain in the ass and try to put any moves on Brian, I can deal with it. Okay?"
Paco sizes me up. I think he can respect what Brian and I have going. "Okay, Justin. I wasn't planning anything, believe me. I was just letting you know the score. But if you guys are ever into a threeway, give me a call. I think you're hot, too. And I'm versatile. Very versatile."
"I'll file that away for future reference."
We get our coffee and Paco points out some of the other people he knows in the cast and crew. "It's funny that Burr Connor might be doing this picture. But maybe not so surprising that he'd want to work with Dorian Folco -- and with Brian Kinney!"
"Wait -- what are you suggesting?" I ask. "About Burr Connor?"
Paco snorts. "If you think I'm suggesting he's a big old queen who poses as a straight, macho cowboy -- well, you didn't hear it from me."
"Burr Connor? No way!"
"Why do you think he's such a hermit these days?" says Paco. "Why do you think he hasn't made a movie in ten years? He just sits in a big house out in Malibu and broods. He's so fucking afraid that his precious image will be tarnished if people find out he's a fag. It's pathetic."
"Did you ever work on one of his pictures?"
"Naw," says Paco. "That was before my time. But I know guys who know him. And I mean KNOW him intimately. Burr is careful, but nobody can be that careful! I feel kind of sorry for the guy, but not all that much. I hate closet cases. Unfortunately, Hollywood is full of 'em."
At that point Dorian walks into the tent. I go over and stand next to Brian. This is when Dorian will do all the introductions of the cast and crew. I don't belong in either of those categories, but I'm here anyway. Here with Brian.
"Please? If you will all find a seat we can proceed," Dorian calls out in his drawling British accent. Brian and I squeeze onto a bench next to Pat.
Dorian is dressed the same way he was on the 'Hammersmith' set -- neatly pressed powder blue linen Marc Jacobs trousers, a pristine white dress shirt, and Prada boots. Brian comments that Dorian always wears Prada boots, no matter what the occasion. In other words, he looks totally out of place on this rough and tumble set in the middle of the desert, surrounded by cowboys and would-be cowboys in denim and flannel! But Dorian is the boss. On a film set the director's word is law, so everyone pays close attention to his speech.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," Dorian begins. "It's nice to see you all wide awake and ready to work! In case you are unable to recognize me because you are still hungover, I'm Dorian Folco -- your director!"
There's laughter all around because quite a number of the cast and crew look a little worse for wear. Apparently there was a lot of partying going on last night until pretty late.
"This is Tom Packard, our location coordinator," Dorian continues. A burly man with a shaggy beard steps up and nods. "If you need anything here on set or have a logistics problem, he's the man to find. Also if there's trouble with your trailer or you need a driver. He also has maps of the area for those who have time to explore. We don't want anyone getting lost in the desert!"
Then he introduces the ADs. There are four of them -- this is a complicated shoot, after all. I know Nick Parr, but Brian also recognizes one of the others, Phil Hoyt. He's an older man who's worked on a number of Eastwood films. I look over and see Clint giving the guy a thumbs up. Dorian then has the heads of the various departments stand up -- make-up, costuming, set-dressing, the stunt coordinator, and, most importantly, the cinematographer, a tall, thin, grim-looking Czech.
"That guy's a fucking genius," Brian whispers. "Karel Jandl. Ron tried to get him for 'The Olympian,' but he was doing a film in Europe at the time. He's supposedly temperamental as shit."
I stifle a laugh. "Unlike other people I can think of who are never temperamental!"
"Can it, twerp," Brian breathes into my ear. "Or I'll tie your balls in a knot!"
"Kinky," I reply.
"Quiet," Brian orders. "Here's the part I've been waiting for."
Dorian calls up the grizzled man who was talking to Eastwood earlier. He's Charley Bouley, the head wrangler -- and the man who is going to be running Cowboy Camp.
"That's the guy I'm going to be cursing my ass off at during the next week," Brian states.
"You got that right!" Pat laughs. "He'll have us eating, sleeping, and pissing in the saddle. But when he's finished with us, we'll at least LOOK like cowboys!"
Charley grumbles his thanks and adds, "Soon as we're finished up here I wanna see all the men who'll be ridin' down at the corral. Gotta see what I got to work with. And wear boots, for Christ's sake! None of them sneakers. Don't wanna have any broken toes the first goddamn day. If you don't got a decent pair of work boots, talk to somebody in the costume trailer to get you fitted out proper." Then he spits out a long trail of tobacco juice onto the ground right next to Dorian's shiny Prada boots.
Dorian tries not to flinch, but I can see he's only beginning to realize what he's gotten himself into. This is like nothing he's ever done before. A cast and crew made up of macho cowboys. A shoot in a rugged, hot location. A superstar who is also an Academy Award-winning director in his own right. And Brian. Dorian is going to have his hands full.
I can't help but think about how Ron would have handled all of this. And I'm sure Brian is wondering the same thing. In many ways this is still Ron's picture. His script. His vision. His cast. I can imagine Ron standing up there next to Charley Bouley. Giving him that icy blue glare. No need for Ron to tell everyone that he's the boss. Because it would be obvious.
The meeting breaks up and everyone heads out for wherever they belong. Except me. I still have to figure that out.
"Well, Sunshine," says Brian, draping his arm over my shoulders. "Time for this midnight cowboy to mosey on down to the corral. What are you going to do with the rest of the day?"
"Oh, I have lots of things planned," I exaggerate. "Don't worry about me." I look at his face and I can see the anxiety beginning to creep in. "Hey! It's all going to be great, Brian! This part was written for you. You're going to be amazing!"
Brian takes a deep breath. "From your lips to God's fucking ear, as Deb would say. Keep your fingers crossed. Because I'm going to need all the help I can get!"
Continue on to "Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other".
©Gaedhal, September 2006.
Posted September 30, 2006.