This is Part 1 of Chapter 111 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Shelter from the Storm -- Part 2", the previous section.
The narrator is Cynthia Llewellyn, and features Brian Kinney, Leslie, Jimmy Hardy, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and his new personal assistant head for New York City. New York, 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.
Once we get settled into our seats on the Liberty Air jet to JFK early on Monday morning, I take out my laptop and bring up Brian's schedule.
"You have a taping of 'Letterman' on Thursday -- Jimmy is scheduled for Friday -- and you're doing 'Conan O'Brien' next Tuesday. The 'Charlie Rose' taping is this Wednesday. Ron is flying in for that one. Will that be a problem?" I ask Brian.
He sighs and looks over at the screen. "I don't see why it should be. I mean, I have to work with him, especially with the premiere coming up soon and all the other publicity I'm expected to do. He's going to be there." Brian shrugs, as if it doesn't matter. But I know him well enough that his body language tells me that it does matter to him. It matters greatly.
I continue on. "'The Today Show,' 'The View,' and 'Regis and Kelly' are all live, as is 'Good Morning America' next Monday. Now these are all solid bookings, with a couple of other things tentative."
"Can't you get me out of that 'Regis and Whatsis' thing? And 'The View'? Please, Cynthia? Doing 'Oprah' was bad enough -- with all those screaming women! I can't even comprehend what 'The View' is going to be like! Those women are so much more... aggressive than Oprah! And a lot raunchier, too. I can just imagine the kinds of questions they'll ask me. And those women in the audience! I don't think I can survive all this fucking torture!"
"Brian, I didn't book these appearances, the studio did. I can't very well cancel any of them!" And Brian makes a little growling sound in his throat.
Justin reminded me before we left that I have to be firm with Brian on this trip. That he's going to be a little difficult. And that the situation in New York is going to be difficult. I know that Brian was injured in England and he's very skittish just now. But Justin forgets that I have been dealing with Brian and his 'difficulty' for a lot longer than Justin has -- and I think I have a handle on things. At least I hope that I do. Because this is a completely new environment for me, with a new set of players. But I'm confident that I'm up to the task.
"How the fuck am I supposed to do all these," Brian points to my laptop. "AND the Woody filming? Are they planning to clone me and send the replicants out to make these appearances?"
"No, Brian -- YOU are going to do them. And do them brilliantly. It's my job to make certain of that."
He groans and holds his head. "I need a Tylenol. Or a bottle of Xanax. Maybe BOTH!"
"Save the theatrics for when you're in front of the cameras, Brian. Because I am NOT impressed." I bring up another screen. "The Woody Allen shoot is scheduled for only three days, with a possible fourth. First at the studio in Astoria, Queens, and then a location shoot at a gallery on Seventh Avenue. All your shoots are scheduled for the early afternoon so as not to conflict with the television appearances, which are all in the morning or late afternoon."
"What about THIS day?" Brian peers at the screen. "Thursday? When am I supposed to breathe or go to the bathroom? I have THREE things scheduled! It's fucking impossible!"
"Brian, I thought you were the master of the impossible?"
"Not like THIS."
"Jimmy's schedule is just as full. In fact he has more appearances on his agenda."
"But no Woody Allen film that he's doing during his coffee breaks!"
"It's two scenes, Brian! You aren't starring in 'Gone With the Wind'!" I say, reasonably, trying to keep things in perspective.
"What about my face? Did Lew Blackmore warn the Woody people that I fucked up my face?"
"Yes, Brian. Someone from your agent's office spoke to them and they don't think it will be a problem. They just want their make-up supervisor to take a look at you when you get to the set."
"What about the suite at the hotel?"
"It's all taken care of, Brian," I say. "The Wyndham Hotel. Two bedrooms, two baths, sitting room. It's on the same floor as Jimmy's suite, but on the opposite side of the building."
Brian grunts. "Justin thinks I should be in a different hotel altogether."
"We could do that, but it will make coordinating things a lot more difficult. Do you really want me to make the switch? Because I will."
Brian sighs. "No. I think we can do this. Jimmy will be a pain in the ass about wanting my attention, though. He's going to be annoyed that I'm not staying with him in his suite. And you'll have to deal with him, Cynthia. So you'll have to be tough. Be a bitch if you have to."
I laugh. "I think I can do that. In fact, it might be a pleasure to be expected to be a bitch."
"You'll find out. Jimmy can be very, very charming. He counts on being able to sweet-talk anyone. It's part of his persona. He'll try to win you over to the Dark Side."
"I'll do the best I can, Brian. Or should I say, Master Skywalker?"
"Don't joke about it," Brian says. "Jimmy is persistent, like a rash on your balls."
I wince. "That analogy doesn't really work for me, Brian."
"Then use your imagination," he says. Brian leans back in his seat as the attendants come around with coffee and croissants. I ask for black coffee with plenty of sugar for him and I have tea. On Monday morning it's mostly businessmen flying into New York. It's a beautiful morning, clear and sunny, but Brian stares out the window, squirming in his seat and sighing a lot.
"Rough weekend?" I say.
"Huh?" he says, as if shaken out of a daydream. "Oh, no. Not rough at all. It was great, actually." And Brian smiles. "I'm just not looking forward to what's coming up this week. For a lot of reasons."
"That's what I'm here for, Brian. To act as a shield between you and all the 'stuff' out there. That's what I've been doing ever since I started working for you and that's what I'll keep doing as long as you need me to. And I'm damn good at it by now." And I AM good at it.
When Justin contacted me last week about going on this publicity tour with Brian I didn't even hesitate. I'm in charge of the publicity for 'The Olympian' that Ryder Associates is coordinating for Western Pennsylvania, Western New York, and Ohio, so Marty Ryder agreed immediately to let me go and do what I have to do for Brian. Marty knows that Brian's success and the film's success is good for his business. He's already gotten clients who were attracted by Brian's fame and the prospect of meeting him in person. And he's scored a number of new gay-owned accounts from as far away as Atlanta and Chicago because they want to be on the Brian Kinney/'Olympian' bandwagon.
"Did you get to spend any time with your son while you were home?" I ask, sipping my tea.
"Yes, that was one of the best parts of being back in the Pitts," Brian says, his face animated. "Jesus, he's SO fucking BIG! It's amazing how fast they grow. And running all over! Talking, too. Ordering everyone around. Gus is a little dictator! Well, not so little. He's like the tallest kid in his class. Since I'm tall and so is Lindsay, Gus will probably be a fucking basketball player! Just my luck."
"Oh, I wish I'd gotten a chance to see him!" I tell Brian sincerely. "It's too bad you don't have any photos of Gus that I could look at."
"Jesus, Cynthia! Do I look like some obnoxious breeder who whips out pictures of his kids to bore people senseless on airplanes?" Brian sniffs.
"Sorry, Brian. I don't know WHAT I was thinking," I say.
"But since you asked...." he says, reaching down and feeling around inside his leather Gucci carry-on. He pulls out a small photo album. "Justin put this one together this weekend. I have a couple of others, but these are the most recent pictures. See? These are at Gus' second birthday party."
I have to smile. Not only at the pictures, but at Brian's obvious joy in his son. "Looks like it was quite a bash."
"I know. Too bad that I wasn't there," says Brian, wistfully. "I'm never there when it really counts."
"That's not true, Brian! They couldn't have had that party without you. Justin told me all about how you had it catered and had Lindsay's backyard all decorated." I gaze at the photos. It looks like a fairyland for a little kid, with lights everywhere. Gus is smiling broadly in every shot. And he looks so much like Brian that it's comical. "And they couldn't have had Gus, either.
"Lindsay would have just hit up the next fag on her Donor List."
"Brian! You know that isn't true either! Lindsay wanted YOU as the father and not anyone else. Or she wouldn't have gotten pregnant at all."
"Maybe. Maybe not," he broods.
"Or this new baby...."
"Yeah, okay. I get your point, Cynthia." Brian takes the album in his hands and pages through, stopping at a photo of Justin holding Gus. "We picked Gus up at his daycare on Friday afternoon. We were just going to take him for a few hours and then drop him off after dinner." Brian turns another page, stopping at another photo of Justin and his son. He smiles fondly. It's so apparent just how much he loves them both. "But we ended up keeping him until yesterday afternoon."
"I know. I didn't think I could do it, but it was actually pretty easy. We took Gus over to the comic book store and Michael had some toys for him. Then we all went to eat at the diner and Deb made a big fuss over Gus and she stuffed him with Turkey Surprise and lemon squares. Then I called Lindsay and told her that we were keeping Gus overnight. I think she was glad to have a little Mommy Down Time. I guess she's been pretty tired lately."
"When is she due?"
"The middle of March. I forget the exact date." Brian leans over. "This is supposed to a secret, but she's having a girl."
"Oh, Brian! That's great!"
"Well, that's what Lindsay was hoping for -- a girl. But she doesn't want everyone to know until she has it. Mel knows, obviously, and I know. And I told Justin, of course. So don't say anything, okay?"
"Who would I tell, Brian? But, as always in your case, my lips are sealed. So, how did it feel playing 'Dad'?"
"It wasn't bad. I mean, I've spent time around Gus before, but not for so long without Lindsay being there. Even Justin has spent more time with my kid than I have! What does that say about me?"
"It says that you are a very busy man who lives out of town and does the best he can for his son, Brian," I reply. "And since when you started on your 'Adventure in Fatherhood' you told me that you were just being a 'donor' and would have nothing whatsoever to do with the baby once it was born...."
"Well, that was before I saw Gus. And held him. Then everything sort of... changed."
"Yes, and YOU'VE changed, Brian. I've seen it. Everyone who really KNOWS you sees it, too. And your relationship with Gus is just beginning. I think it's admirable that you want to spend time with him."
"It wasn't really hard. Justin does most of it, actually. He's so good with Gus. He knows what food Gus likes and his favorite videos. That's what we did Friday night -- watched 'Yellow Submarine' and other kid shows all evening. If people saw me sitting in the loft, eating popcorn and watching cartoons they would probably think I'd lost my mind."
"Why, Brian? It's perfectly normal behavior -- for parents."
"I know that. It's just that I never thought I'd do 'normal' -- it seems so peculiar to me." Brian shakes his head. "Justin bought an air mattress because he's had Gus stay overnight a couple of other times. We slept on them on the boat this summer and they are surprisingly comfortable. So, we pumped the thing up and set it in the bedroom with a sleeping bag. Gus thinks he's camping."
"That is SO cute, Brian!"
"I know. It IS cute. The kid has already got me wrapped around his little finger. Justin, believe it or not, is the hard man in this scenario. He does all the disciplining. And Gus listens to him -- and does what Justin tells him to do! I tell him to do something and Gus just laughs. He knows I won't do a thing. And with a little girl... it'll be impossible, Cynth! I'll never be able to say 'no' to either of them."
"Is that so bad, Brian?"
"I don't want my kids to be horrible brats, that's the main thing. I don't want them to turn out like my sister Claire's kids. They're monsters and I don't want people to cringe when I bring Gus or the baby into a room because they are so spoiled."
"I don't think Lindsay or Melanie will let that happen, Brian. Especially not Melanie!"
"Maybe you're right. I hope you're right." Brian drains his cup and then points to it and I signal the attendant for a refill. "But it was fun doing stuff with Gus. Justin told you about the Halloween party at his daycare center?"
"With the leprechaun costume? Too perfect, Brian."
"It was. Then on Saturday we made the rounds of the malls. I was supposed to be shopping for a new leather jacket, but it ended up another Gus-athon. I bought him everything that wasn't nailed down. Toys, clothes, candy. It was ridiculous. And Justin got some new things, too. I want him to replace all those damned sweatshirts with some decent clothes. And new luggage to bring with him next weekend when he comes down to the City. I don't want him dragging an old duffle bag into the lobby of the Wyndham Hotel!"
"Don't be a snob, Brian. I'm sure the last thing Justin cares about is the kind of luggage he's carrying."
"I know. But he should care. People notice shit like that. And anyway, he needed some better bags. That battered bag he brought to England last weekend was held together with duct tape and I'm not kidding. So, he picked out what he liked -- and I ordered the full set. He'll use them when he comes out to L.A. for the premiere, too. And I ended up not getting anything for myself. It was more fun to get stuff for my guys."
"And nothing at all for YOU? The queen of the mall? You really have changed, Brian! Not buying anything!"
"Oh, I bought plenty -- just not for myself. And then on Saturday night we took Gus over to Deb's house for dinner. Vic made a cake. And Michael was there with Ben. I talked to Ben about the film and about his book -- he's just finishing correcting the galley proofs and it should be out in January or February, just in time for the Oscar hype."
Now this is exciting. Thinking about Brian at the Academy Awards, maybe even nominated! "Do you think the film has a chance, Brian?"
"Ron and Jimmy think so. They are counting on it, in fact. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I mean, isn't that what this whole press junket is all about? The Big Hype?" Brian glances out the window and sighs again. "Of course, Deb made enough food for an army and I ate like a fucking pig."
"THAT I'd like to see, Brian! YOU eating like a pig!"
"It's true! And then Gus started to droop from all the excitement and Justin and I took him home and put him to bed. Just a quiet, normal evening. But I liked it -- that was the strangest part of it. I didn't feel any anxiety and no one was pressuring me at dinner. I think Justin laid down the law to everyone before we got to Deb's that they should just back off on any questions. I didn't even get weird when Tim Reilly showed up to take Vic to the movies."
Brian rubs his eyes and frowns. "A very, very, very old lover of mine. I don't mean Tim is old -- not THAT old. Just from a long time ago. I mean, from WAY back. The two of us still have some issues. A lot of issues, actually."
"Is he the one who used to be a priest?" Brian nods. "I met him at Papagano's! Blondish hair and a big smile? He's handsome, Brian. And he dates Vic now?"
"Yup," says Brian. "They're both HIV positive and they are old friends from school. Deb thinks it's a good thing for Vic and I guess she would know better than I would. Tim means well, but he's like Deb and Lindsay -- always trying to fix things or arrange things. Especially trying to fix or arrange ME and my life. But I was okay with him. I think I was okay." Brian stares out the window again for a while, thinking.
"You will be all right in New York, Brian. Really."
"If you say so, Cynthia. I only wish I didn't have to do this whole publicity thing." He glances back at me. "It was so nice being back in Pittsburgh with Justin. On Sunday we picked up the Mommies and I took everyone out to The Quadrangle for brunch."
"Oh, fancy! A lot of our clients stay at The Quadrangle -- and those champagne brunches are famous!"
"The Quadrangle reminds me of one of those places in Beverly Hills where all the movers and shakers go on Sunday afternoon. We all dressed up for it. Justin wore a Hugo Boss sweater I bought him on Saturday and he looked better than anything on the menu. Even Melanie looked really nice -- and she wore those earrings I bought her out in Beverly Hills. And Lindsay always looks good, of course. Gus attracted a lot of attention, too. The waitresses kept bringing him things like he was the Emperor. And the more they fussed over him, the more Gus expected it. That worries me."
"Gus better get used to it -- if he grows up to take after YOU, Brian."
He snorts. "Every pretentious A-Gay in Pittsburgh was there, showing off. Until WE walked in, of course. I'm not kidding when I tell you that the whole fucking place stopped when we entered the dining room."
"Brian, the place ALWAYS stops dead when YOU walk in."
Brian looks sideways at me. "Flattery, Cynthia. You don't need to boost MY fucking ego -- even if it IS nice when you do. And it wasn't just me. It was all of us -- MY family -- that looked great and attracted the attention. And I was proud. Really proud. Funny, isn't it?"
"I think it's wonderful, Brian." And it IS wonderful. I know that Brian never felt he had much to be proud of with his family, the Kinneys. With his father always drunk and making scenes, and his mother so rigid and judgmental, and his sister a REAL drama queen! But this family -- his partner, and his son, and his son's mothers -- he's truly delighted to be proud of them.
"And afterwards, Lindsay and Mel took Gus home and Justin and I went back to the loft. And later he helped me pack for this week of Hell on Earth."
I touch his arm to reassure him. "It won't be THAT bad, Brian. I'll do everything I can to make it as painless as possible for you."
"I know you will." He pauses. "I only hope it'll be enough to get me through it."
Continue on to Page 2 of "The Junketeer -- Part 1".