This is Part 1 of Chapter 102 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Bringing It All Back Home -- Part 3", the previous section.
Narrated by Ron Rosenblum, featuring Lilith Rosenblum, Carmel, Brian Kinney.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Ron talks to his mother on the phone -- and is surprised by Brian in a few different ways. Los Angeles, September 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.
It's been a hell of a day and I'm still sitting in my office at 8:30. I'm still not happy with some of the promo material the studio wants to use. It's wimpy, it's a fucking cop-out -- it isn't what 'The Olympian' is about and that pisses me off. We've been over this time and again. The studio STILL wants to promote 'The Olympian' as a 'Sports Movie' -- one of those 'Outsider struggles against the Powers That Be' things, that fucking 'Gay Brian's Song'! But it's NOT that! It's the 'Greatest Gay Love Story Ever Told' -- that's what it IS! And no amount of trying to push press packages on a bunch of idiots over at ESPN is going to change that simple reality. Jesus! I had a hard enough time with these jerks over the trailer and now they are fucking me around over press kits!
I'm writing yet another memo to the Promotions Department when the phone rings. And there's only ONE person who knows I'm still here or who would call me on my private line. Only one.
"What the fuck do you want, Brian?"
"Well, Ronnie, that's a nice way to greet to your mother on one of the High Holy Days."
Fuck! She would have to call me here! I sent my assistant, Ivy, home and she must have forwarded any incoming calls to me instead of the damn machine! And I've warned Ivy about that how many times?
"Mama, I'm at the office and I'm very busy."
"Ronald, don't you even bother to pretend to go to Yom Kippur services anymore? Obviously not, since the day is over now -- even out there."
"No, Mama, I don't. What's the point?" I hate to be abrupt with her, but I'm in no mood for this conversation right now. Because besides the problems with the promotions people -- well, there's always Brian to brighten up my gloomy days!
"What about Rosh Hashanah services? Did you at least go to Temple Beth El last week?" My mother doesn't know much about Hollywood, but she certainly knows where Freddy and Dolly Weinstein and all the studio heads and network execs go to see and be seen at High Holiday Services.
"I was in Venice last week, Mama. You KNOW I was out of the country! I was at the Film Festival there. With Brian."
Right! Brian and I have been back in L.A. less than a week -- after being in London, Venice, and Toronto for the various film festivals -- and he's already catting around in every sleazy bar in town. And bringing guys like that fucking Eugene back to the house. At least when he was tricking last winter he wasn't dragging them home -- he had the decency to fuck them elsewhere and let me save a little face. That is, until he found out about those goddamn poolhouse cameras and decided to 'show off'! Fuck! I should have been monitoring the damn things all along, then I would have known what was going on right away. It's my own stupidity that's to blame for that. But now....
"Ronnie, are you even listening to me?"
"Uh, Jewish Senior Center. Right."
"That's NOT what I was talking about! If you can't take five minutes to even bother listening to me, then we should just end this conversation now!"
"For heaven's sake, Mama! YOU are the one who called ME, remember? So, is there any point to continuing this? Did you call for any purpose other than to quiz me about my religious obligations?"
"I was trying to tell you that I waited until Yom Kippur was over out there before I called you. In case you HAD gone to services. Like you should have." She pauses, but I don't say anything. "I only got back a little while ago from the big 'Break the Fast' party at the Condo Association Clubhouse. I was there with my friend, Sam, from the building? And his daughter and son-in-law from D.C. were there with their three children. THREE adorable children."
What IS she getting at NOW? "Okay, Mama, I'm listening now. Three adorable children. And this impacts me how?"
"I'm trying to make a little conversation here, Ronnie. About my life and my friends. As if you care! Why do I bother to call you if that's the reaction I get with a simple comment?"
"If all you're going to talk about is someone else's grandchildren, Mother, then what IS your point? You HAVE five grandchildren already. Are you trying to give ME a hint about something, because you are barking up the wrong tree there, Mama!" Grandchildren! Fuck!
I can hear her sniffing on the other end, but whether it's tearful sniffs or disgusted ones is hard to tell. "In case you've forgotten, Ronald. I'm supposed to be coming out there next week. I'm flying on Sunday and I wanted to make sure you had all the information."
Shit. I'd almost completely forgotten that she was coming. And in less than a week! What am I going to do with her out here? I have no fucking time to be chauffeuring my mother around! Unless I ask Tess Hardy to do it. But then I'll have to owe HER a shitload of favors! And I've already made a ton of promises to Tess that I can't even hope to keep. Like making Brian stay away from Jimmy. Certainly, Tess. And what about when they go off to Chicago and New York to do all the press junkets and morning shows and assorted gabfests? What am I supposed to do THEN, Tess? What the fuck?
The last time my mother came for a week, last winter, Brian took her everywhere. Of course, he didn't have anything better to do then but take her shopping and out to lunch. I can't imagine he's going to be in the mood to entertain my mother right about now. Maybe she might enjoy getting up and having a breakfast conversation with Brian's Pick Up of the Previous Night. That might be fun for her. She'd probably meet all sorts of interesting types -- if she's into waiters! I can picture it now, Brian trotting out of the poolhouse in the morning with his little entourage -- "Lilith, meet Eugene, and then this is Bill, and this is... what the fuck is your name again?"
"You don't have to be in such a bad mood, Ronald. You should be happy! They were talking about your movie on 'Entertainment Tonight' the other day."
"As we get closer to the premiere they'll be talking about it on more than that, Mama."
"So, this should be a happy time for you!" she tells me. "You used to be in a better mood when you weren't so successful, you know that, Ronnie? You remind me of your father! The better the business was doing, the more depressed he got. I used to pray for the bottom to drop out of the garment business so he'd cheer up once in a while!"
"Very funny, Mama. You should have gone into stand-up comedy." I give up working on that memo to Promotions and save it for tomorrow. I've got to get out of this office. But the last place I really want to go is home. Because Brian won't be there, of course. He'll be out fucking some piece of trash that he picked up at some leather bar or sex club. But where the fuck else do I have to go?
"Ronnie, have you even eaten tonight?" Her voice softens. I knows that she cares about how I'm doing, but I don't know how to deal with caring. Maybe that's the root of my whole fucking trouble.
"I'm going to get something to eat right after I hang up with you. And then I'm heading home. Ivy has your flight schedule and I'll be at LAX to meet you on Sunday, okay? Then if you want to continue spanking me, you can do it in person, all right?"
I hear a heavy, long-suffering sigh. "All right, Ronnie. I'll see you very soon. And say goodnight to Brian for me."
I laugh at that one. "Yeah -- if I ever see him!"
"I don't get what's so funny, Ronnie," she says.
"Just what I said, Mama. IF I ever see him."
"Well, Ronnie, I just talked to Brian a few minutes ago. At the house. We had a nice, long conversation. We always have a nice conversation. He told me that you were here and gave me the number to call directly."
"Gee, thanks for that one, Brian!" I say, under my breath.
"What did you say?"
"I don't understand why you are so mean to that boy," she says. "And he's so beautiful and sweet! You have a problem, Ronald. I think you should see a doctor and get yourself straightened around!"
"I should get MYSELF straightened around, Mother? That's what you think?" I have to count to ten so I don't say anything I'll really regret to a sixty-eight year old woman who also happens to be my mother! But, Jesus! She ALWAYS takes Brian's side! It never fails! Sometimes I believe that she loves Brian more than she loves me.
And she thinks I need to see a doctor, huh? Wait until I tell my psychiatrist THAT one! I hang up the phone and make a note on my calendar for Ivy to check on the airport situation. I may need a studio car -- unless I drive out there myself on Sunday.
I go out and have dinner by myself at Morton's. I hate that. What's the point? A few people stop by the table, but the fact is that I'm still here alone. I guess I could strong-arm Brian into doing his fucking 'duty' and appearing with me at a few places, but it isn't worth the effort to have an argument over going out for a fucking salad. By the time I leave the restaurant and get back to the house, I'm about ready to hit someone.
I drop off a few things in my office and then I look out at the poolhouse. It's dark, which means that Brian is 'out' for the evening. Just as well. I might be tempted to go over there and read him the fucking riot act!
I go upstairs. The light is on in the bedroom and Armani runs out into the hall, yipping and wagging his tail. I go in and Brian is sitting up in bed, reading a script. He's frowning and turning the pages, the manuscript propped up on his bare chest.
"What the fuck do you think you are doing?" I say, pulling off my tie and tossing it on the dresser.
He looks up. "Reading this thing Lew sent me," he says, evenly. "I don't know. They asked if I can ride, but I don't see myself in a Western."
"What?" I'm just staring at him. Not believing that Brian is being halfway civil to be, let alone that he's here at all. In my fucking bed!
"A Western. And a straight drama, too," he continues. "I don't know if that will fly these days. I mean, can anyone really take Westerns seriously after 'Blazing Saddles'?"
"With Eastwood, maybe," I say, walking around the room. I hang up my jacket. I also look to see if there's anyone else in here. Like hiding in the bathroom. Or the closet. I resist the urge to check under the bed. Although I want to.
"Well, this IS the Eastwood project, Ron."
I stop in my tracks. "The Eastwood project? You mean the Eastwood Western? CLINT Eastwood!" I'm yelling now!
"No, Harvey Eastwood! Calm down, Ron. Of course, Clint Eastwood. Who else?" And Brian turns another page. Calmly.
"Let me see that fucking thing!" I snatch it out of his hand to see whose name is on it. But there's no director listed. "You say Lew Blackmore gave you this?" I toss it back to him.
"Yes. He IS my agent. But I still don't know...."
"I was supposed to direct that fucking thing! In the spring!"
Brian just shrugs. "Maybe you still are."
"Then why would Lew Blackmore give it to YOU?"
"I don't know, I didn't quiz him on it. He just gave it to me... and these other things, too... this afternoon." Brian points to a small pile of scripts on the carpet next to the bed.
"What were you doing over there today?" I knew he had some sort of appointment this morning because I saw him leave early all dressed up in one of the new suits he got in England. He looked wonderful driving out in the Mustang with the top down. Like a real fucking movie star.
"Finalizing the Woody film. They won't give me a script in advance because apparently he never gives you the whole thing, only your own role. So, it looks like it's actually only three or four days work."
Thank God, I think. It's a fucking tiny part, although it will mean a LOT of exposure for Brian. But this Eastwood movie -- that's a huge role. Second only to Clint himself. And if I'm not directing the fucking thing -- then who IS? I look at the clock and wonder if I should get Freddy out of his fucking Monday night poker game to scream at him about this. But what's the use, really. He'll just play dumb and I'll read all about the deal in the fucking 'Hollywood Reporter' over breakfast next week. Probably with that goddamn Dorian Folco's name attached to the project! Isn't HIS name on everything these days? You'd think he was the second coming of Fellini or some damn thing!
I walk over and pick up a few of the scripts from the pile. A couple of unknown things, but also one biggie, at least. The Alexander the Great project. That's been kicking around forever, but it's huge, it's expensive, it's massive location work -- and fucking impossible to cast. Unless you have someone with a profile that looks like he just came to life off of a fucking ancient Greek coin. A profile that I'm looking at this very minute. Fuck.
"I suppose DORIAN is up to direct THIS thing, too?"
"What? The Alexander thing? I've heard everyone from Spielberg to Baz Luhrmann stuck on that one. And Dorian, too, I admit. It was his production company that sent it over to me."
"It figures. He'd love nothing better than to be stranded with YOU in some remote location, far away from the bars and the baths! Then the only option would be HIM or some Afghani tribesman!"
"Could be hot. I don't mind a little facial hair -- but no goats, please," Brian says, laughing.
"Very funny, Brian." And he IS kind of funny. If you're in a humorous mood. Which I'm not at this moment.
"Well, I'll tell him when I see him, Ron. In October."
I close the Alexander script. "In October? You mean in December, don't you?"
Brian looks up at me with those fawn eyes, those fucking impossibly long lashes. "No, Ron. Dorian called to tell me that the premiere had been moved up to October. That British studio decided they didn't want to compete with the big Christmas releases."
For a full minute I can't move. Like I'm fucking NAILED into place. "Son of bitches! That means that... that Dorian's stupid, lousy piece of SHIT is premiering BEFORE 'The Olympian'? Is that what you're telling me?"
"I'm only repeating what Dorian told me, Ron. I didn't set the date."
"I know! I KNOW!" I'm yelling again. "I'm not angry at you, Brian -- it's... that... Dorian! He's done this on purpose! So his fucking picture will be your debut! That was his plan, you know? He probably orchestrated it all from the beginning!"
"I don't think so, Ron," Brian replies. "Dorian was very apologetic about it, because it screws up my schedule somewhat. But I told him I'll be there for the premiere."
I slam the Alexander script down on the dresser. "You should have told him to fucking stick the thing where the fucking monkey hides the fucking nuts, Brian! Jesus! I can't believe that!"
Brian sighs. "What difference does it make, Ron? Technically, neither of these films is my 'debut.' Technically."
I look at him closely. "That's different, Brian. Completely different."
"Whatever," he says. He seems so passive and so... A creeping feeling walks its way across the back of my neck. Like a warning. Or... What the fuck is he doing up here, anyway? Trying to drive me crazy? "Um, Brian...."
"Oh, Ron? Did you talk to Lilith? She called here earlier looking for you. I guess I should have told her you were at Temple Beth El, doing your religious duty." He pauses. "But that wouldn't have been true, Ron," he says innocently. How can anyone LOOK so fucking innocent and BE so corrupt?
"Of course. But instead, you told her exactly where I was! Thanks a fucking bunch!"
"She IS your mother, after all, Ron." Brian flips the script pages serenely. What IS Brian's game? And it's always a game with Brian. That much I DO know! He is up to something. He's always playing me for a fool these days. Keeping me fucking off-balance, not knowing what he's going to do or how he's going to act from day to day, or even hour by hour. But whatever he's up to, I'm not falling for it. I'm not THAT weak! "What time is she coming in on Sunday?"
"You mean you didn't get that information out of her already?"
"Of course I did." He looks up at me. "I just wondered if YOU did, Ron." He's SOOO smug!
Brian is a bastard! He really is. I should fucking grab him and toss him the fuck out of this room -- out of this house! -- right now! So why don't I? Why can't I? Shit....
"Well," he says, dropping the script on the floor. "Are you coming to bed or not?"
I could always toss him out of here tomorrow.
Brian leaves early the next morning -- Tuesday morning -- and doesn't come back home until dinner time. I'm in a decent mood because... well, for a number of reasons. But also that the Promotions Department is going out of their way to appease me today. Apparently they are finally getting the buzz on this film. And it's going to be fucking huge!
"I bought a boat," Brian says, offhandedly, as he suspiciously eyes the food Carmel puts down in front of him. It's some sort of chicken with mole sauce. It's good, but Brian doesn't trust the girls anymore. At all.
"You did what?" I say, only half listening as I glance over some new promo material.
"A boat. I bought it today." He pushes away Maria's 'main course' and starts to eat the salad.
I look up. "What the fuck did you do that for?"
"Because I wanted a boat," he says. "When I was up on the lake with Lindsay and Gus this summer I enjoyed it. So, I went down to the marina and looked at some boats the other day -- and I drove down today and bought one. I checked with my accountant. It's okay."
"Oh." I'm not sure what to say.
"It's not a very big boat. But it's not too old and it's in good condition." Brian eats a little bit of salad. He's fucking losing weight again. And no wonder -- he doesn't eat enough to keep a fucking chipmunk alive. Wait until my mother sees him -- all she'll do the whole time she's here is try to feed him. Which might not be a bad thing.
"That's fine -- I guess." I'm on completely alien ground here. "A sailboat?"
"No. That takes too much expertise. It's a power boat. A cabin cruiser."
"Well, sounds like fun."
Brian doesn't say anything more about it and I don't pursue it. Until Friday rolls around. I come into the bedroom and he's stuffing some clothes in a duffle bag. Yes, Brian with a duffle bag!
"Going to Boy Scout Camp this weekend?"
He looks up. "No, I'm going out to the boat."
"Oh. The boat." I'd completely forgotten about it since he mentioned it earlier in the week.
"I've had this guy down there this week working on it. Cleaning it up and doing some work on the engine. So, I'm going down there and see what's up." He stuffs a few more things into the duffle bag, tee shirts and another pair of jeans.
"Brian -- where exactly IS this boat, anyway?"
"Marina del Rey. Do you know it?"
"Sure. Near Venice Beach."
"That's where it is. Lots of boats down there. There's a huge marina. I'd never heard of it until I started looking around for a boat."
I often forget that Brian has only been in this town less than a year and still has trouble finding his way around sometimes. "Marina del Rey isn't exactly the trendiest place in town."
He shrugs. "I didn't think it was. But they don't have boat slips in Beverly Hills, Ron. Or West Hollywood."
"This guy who's working on your boat...?"
"Is about fifty-five years old and looks a little like Popeye. Only fatter. But he's supposedly an expert on boats."
"All right, then. I guess."
And he takes the Mustang and I don't see him again until Sunday morning. He comes in with the duffle bag full of dirty laundry and a pile of boat magazines, which he will proceed to study avidly all through the week. But first he goes into the poolhouse and comes out about a half-hour later, dressed casually, but nicely. Not his usually off-duty grunge-wear. Tight white canvas pants, and a green silk shirt over a white tank top. He looks like he just stepped out of a 'GQ' layout for yacht-wear.
"Got a date?" I say sarcastically.
"Yes. Isn't it almost time to pick up Lilith at the airport?"
I stare at him. "You're fucking joking! You're coming with me?"
"Of course, Ron. You know I love your mother. We better get going." And he walks out to the garage. And gets into the Mercedes. And waits. While I just stand there. Brian opens the door. "Unless you want to take the Mustang and put Lilith in the backseat. I can put the top down."
I get into the Mercedes and pull out of the garage. I'm still trying to figure out what the fuck is going on with Brian. He's up and down and in and out so much that it makes my head spin. I never know from one day to the next what he's going to say or what he's going to do. You'd think that either Brian is on something or that he's having some kind of fucking breakdown. Or that he's just a textbook Irish schizophrenic and multiple addict.
Except... he seems fine. Just fine. He's not on anything that I can detect -- at least when he's home. And he's not drinking much at all. He's... different. I can't explain it, but he's sitting, thinking all the time. Like he'd rather be somewhere else. But except for the two nights he spent down at the boat, he's also been here every night since I found him up in my bedroom with the scripts. And he's busy at the studio during the day, doing promo photos and pre-recorded interviews and all that other necessary shit, so I know he's not out tricking then. And he went to the Landmine Charity with me without even complaining about it. And he was fucking charming everyone in sight! He's being so cooperative that I'm getting paranoid. It's all too good to be true. Too good.
And now this. Going with me to pick up my mother at the airport. I cringe when I think about picking HIM up at LAX a month ago. When I hardly recognized him! And now I look over and see him looking so calm and beautiful. Remarkable. And knowing that it could change in two seconds if he got into some weird mood.
LAX is a bitch as usual. I start cursing when the lot attendants direct me to fucking hell and back -- I might as well be parking in San Diego! I know I should have called for a studio car!
"Will you calm down. It's not a big deal," says Brian.
"Since when are YOU Mr. Serene? Do you see how fucking far we'll have to walk now?"
"We'll live. If it's too far for Lilith to walk, I'll go back and get the car and drive it up as close as I can. I know the security is a bitch, but it's nothing to get worked up about, Ron."
"Is this all a part of your new 'Zen' attitude, Brian? Like you were spouting when you came back to L.A.? Is this all about the 'Military Industrial Complex' or some such shit?"
"No," he says. And he looks at me. Those eyes will glow in the dark, like a fucking cat's. "It's about surviving with your sanity. What I'm trying to do. What you SHOULD be trying to do, too, Ron. Finding a way not to let it all get to you. And it starts with the little things. But those ARE the important things -- in the long run."
"Who the fuck says?"
"It's just the truth. The simple truth."
"The truth is NEVER simple, Brian! You ought to know that!"
He shrugs. "You need a hobby, Ron." I just snort at that! "No, I mean it. Something you can do -- someplace you can go to get away for five minutes. Like the boat. I just sat on it all weekend and looked at the water. I didn't have to think. I didn't have to talk to anyone. It was just me." He looks at me. "I know you don't believe it, Ron. But except for Joe, who came by to check on a couple of things -- he's the guy fixing up the boat, you know, Popeye? -- I was all alone. It was nice. No one asking me questions or fitting me for clothes, or taking pictures of me from every embarrassing angle. Just myself."
"Well, I don't like to be alone. It's fucking depressing!"
"Then don't do everything you can to push people away, Ron!"
I laugh, bitterly. "You're one to talk, Brian! Mr. Successful Relationship!"
But he doesn't smile. He just gazes at me. Those fucking eyes! "But that doesn't mean I can't see the truth occasionally. You ruin things by having to control everyone and everything! No wonder you're a wreck. No wonder you can't relax. Can't sleep. If you had something else to focus on -- or something to take your mind off yourself and your 'projects' for two minutes, maybe you could get a new perspective. So you'll stop obsessing over... those things you can't control. Those people you can't control." Meaning HIM mostly! I understand that well enough! "Because you'll never be able to control it all. Even if you're the most powerful man in Hollywood -- which you aren't. And I don't know who would want to be, frankly."
"You do know that Jimmy is being named the 'Most Powerful Actor' in the Industry, don't you? By 'Entertainment Weekly'? Do you know what that will mean to 'The Olympian'?"
"Does everything have to come down to the picture, Ron?" Brian sighs. "Does Jimmy know about this 'honor'?"
"Of course. I heard about it from Freddy. They're keeping it quiet, but Jimmy caught wind of it. He finds out everything. That is what it means to have real power in this town -- you know everything! You can find out anything! That issue of 'Entertainment Weekly' will be out in about three weeks. That's what Promo told me. In fact, it should come out the same day as your 'Vanity Fair' piece." I pause. "It IS the cover, you know?"
"Yeah, Eugene told me," Brian says. "It's all his layout. He showed me the mock-up of the cover. The picture is great. Typical Eugene -- cutting edge stuff. And you'll love the headline, Ron. Your favorite line from the film." Now he smiles slyly.
"They aren't...." I say. "They can't! Can they? They can't put that on the COVER!"
"'I run like I fuck' -- Yes, that's what Eugene says, Ron. On the cover."
"Jesus," I say. I'm thinking of what is going to happen when that issue hits the stands. It'll be like a fucking time bomb! "Well, Brian?"
"Well, what?" He glances at me. Brian doesn't even blink. Like he's on the cover of a major magazine every fucking week!
"Everything is going to change, you know. That fucking cover will only be the start of it."
"I know. But everything already HAS changed, Ron. Nothing is like what it was. The past is the past. That's just the reality. And it's too late to turn back. I knew that a long time ago. I can only go forward. Which is what I'm trying to do." And he looks straight ahead as we go into LAX.
My mother seems happy to see me. But she's even more delighted to see Brian here. She's really crazy about him. Loves him, even. It makes me jealous, I think. Maybe I've put her off so much over the years that she doesn't expect much from me anymore. I mean, affection-wise. She kisses my cheek, but Brian -- him, she hugs and kisses and hugs again. And he's genuinely happy to see her, too. He gives her a small bouquet of flowers that he bought at a shop just off the concourse. You'd think that she was just crowned Miss America, she's so happy with that little bunch of daisies and carnations.
Yes, Brian's own mother is a cold bitch who barely speaks to him since she walked in on him with some guy in his loft one day. That was about a year ago, I think. But even before that, they weren't close. And the old man was a lousy drunk who beat him up as a kid. Which is how he ended up in New York in the first place. No wonder Brian is so screwed up emotionally that he doesn't know whether he's coming or going. But, then, look who's talking?
Right. Look who the fuck is talking!
Continue on to "'La Diva' -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, November 2002
Updated November 23, 2002