This is Chapter 43 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue -- Part 3", the previous section.
The narrator is Ron Rosenblum, and features Brian Kinney, Jimmy Hardy, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian returns to Los Angeles, but things have changed. June 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.
The drive out to LAX is horrendous and, with all the added security, just maneuvering around the place is a major headache. The weather is stifling and the smog is at dangerous levels.
But there's no way I'm not meeting Brian when he gets off that plane.
IF he gets off that plane.
Someone else answered the phone when I called Thursday morning. Not that I was trying to catch him. And not that he was trying to hide anything. He never hides anything. Well, Jimmy -- but that's different.
But that voice. It sounded like a twinkie. Voice breaking. Jesus. Some fucking KID now! Probably a trick left over from the night before. That actually relieved me. At least the ex and his new boyfriend aren't still living at his place. They probably moved out during his stay. Not that Brian isn't capable of having both of them stay there with him. Or having both of them. At the same time. But I don't think he has.
And the trick proved that he's back to normal. That's the best news of all.
I begin to get nervous as the flight clears out and there's no Brian. But, typically, he's the last one off. Two flight attendants -- male, of course -- are fussing over him as he walks out. Trying for a last minute pick up, presumably. But he brushes them away.
He looks impossibly good. Talk about resilience! I have to admit that two weeks in Pittsburgh have worked on him like a month on a beach somewhere.
He sees me. Well, at least he doesn't turn around and go the other way.
Although I wouldn't blame him if he did.
He walks right up and looks at me, expectantly. I'm not sure what he wants me to say. Or what I want him to say.
"I'm beat. Where's the car?" Is what he actually says, and walks on toward the baggage claim.
His white linen pants are balled up on the floor. I shake them out and they look like they are streaked with blood. "Oh my God -- what happened? What did you do?"
"It's not blood." He comes over and grabs the pants out of my hands. "My shirt got wet and ran all over the pants."
"That scared the shit out of me!"
"What? Did you think I bled all over your favorite pants? I promise you -- when I cut my wrists I'll take off my pants first, okay?"
"Don't be an asshole."
"After you." He tosses the pants back on the floor, with a pile of dirty clothes. "I doubt those are fixable, but what the hell." He finally turns to me. "Listen, Ron -- we have to talk."
This has an ominous tone.
"I called Lew Blackmore and told him that I'd do the thing with Sir Kenneth. I must be crazy -- but I'll do it. They want me in London the second week of July."
"That's great! The best possible news." Which means he is NOT abandoning his career. NOT thinking of returning to Pittsburgh permanently. "I'll check my schedule and see when I can come over. We'll be in the middle of post-production, but I can take off a bit. I'll tell Ivy to reserve a suite at the Dorchester...."
"Ron -- stop."
"I don't think that's a good idea." He turns away from me, pulling more things out of his suitcase.
"What's not a good idea?"
"I think I need to do this by myself. Without you 'directing' me from the sidelines. I need to see if I can really act or if it's all just your Svengali routine." He's not looking at me.
"What fucking Svengali routine? What am I doing? Hypnotising you to perform? Who said that?"
"I've heard it."
"What you really want is distance -- from me, personally. Right?"
He's still not looking at me. "However you want to interpret it, Ron."
It won't help to get angry. Then he'll just dig in like a fucking Irish mule. But I can't stop myself. "Are you planning to take your waiter with you? You know, they have domestic staff in all the best hotels these days."
NOW he looks up. Got you, Brian! You're like glass, I can so see through you!
"Don't go there, Ron. It won't be pretty."
"Pretty? Isn't 'pretty' what it's all about? Isn't 'pretty' the entire fucking point?"
Now he faces me, like a combative cat. "If you want me out of here, just say so. I can get my shit together in a half-hour and be out. Let me know now, before I completely unpack. It'll save time."
He doesn't mean it. Should I call his bluff? But what if it isn't bluff? Brian doesn't play poker. That's not his game. Chess. That's more like it. Moving one piece at a time. So, which piece is this?
He's standing there, waiting.
I have to think.
He could go to a hotel. That wouldn't be so bad. He'd hate it and come back fairly soon. Or to Diane's. That would be the worst. She's like poison in his ear and she encourages all of his bad habits.
There are five -- five! -- fucking messages on the answering machine. All for Brian, of course. ALL from Jimmy. Jimmy doesn't bother to leave messages for me anymore. Tess is still in Palm Springs, hiding out at her mother's place. She's stonewalling. She's making a very big mistake.
If Brian were to go to Jimmy's, then that's IT. That would be the beginning of the biggest scandal in Hollywood since fucking Fatty Arbuckle. Liz leaving Eddie for Dick would look like a walk in the park. Rock Hudson dying of AIDS? Chicken-shit. O.J.? The Manson Family? No fucking way!
America's biggest star. Oscar-winner. Mr. Family Values 2002, with his A-List wife and Iowa-corny image? Screwing his ultra-hot male co-star, on-screen AND off? His wife leaving. Brian sitting next to him at his Tribute. Brian -- being Brian. Unable to resist the opportunity to be the most infamous queer in the Western World! This would be nuclear. And 'The Olympian' would either become the biggest movie since 'E.T.' on residual interest alone -- or else disintegrate entirely in the massive fall-out.
Either way, I'll lose everything that matters.
"Don't go to Jimmy's!" My big fucking mouth!
He whips around. "Now, why would I go there, Ron?" He looks sly.
"Because you CAN! That's why! Because you are the world's champion drama queen! You'd love nothing better than to be right in the middle of the maelstrom, even if you go down in the process. Maybe, especially if you go down in the process! If you see us ALL go down...."
"You really think I'm THAT fucking self-destructive?"
"I don't know!"
"Jimmy. Right. That's just what I need -- another complication in my life! THAT fucking complication!"
"But you won't be able to resist. I know you, Brian. Your EGO won't allow you to resist -- to avoid being the eye of the fucking hurricane!"
"Fuck you, Ron!"
He just drops the clothing he's holding and stalks out.
But he doesn't leave. At least, not yet.
He goes to the poolhouse and sulks out there. Where I can keep an eye on him.
I erase the messages from Jimmy from the answering machine. Then I unplug the fucking thing.
"You are hiding what the film is. I think that is a mistake."
"What did you say?"
The meeting on the marketing of the film has been going on for about a half hour when Brian can't keep his mouth shut any longer.
"I said -- hiding what the film IS is a big mistake."
"And what do you know about it?"
"A handful of Clio Awards, the Altas Advertising Man of the Year for Pittsburgh, the Liberty Air campaign -- that's what I know about it."
"You might want to listen to him," I suggest.
"Why not?" They look at each other and snicker. Yes, snicker at Brian. Like he's some fancy-boy I just brought in to keep me amused during the meeting and now he wants some attention. I think they better sit down and shut up. "You have the floor."
Brian stands up. He slinks to the front of the room like a tiger and faces the marketing team.
"Okay. You have a film that's about sex. Gay sex. Sex that your 'usual target audience' -- males 18 to 34 -- might find -- uncomfortable to watch. Right?"
They shift around in their chairs. This subject is obviously making them as uncomfortable as their 'target audience.' "Correct."
"But that's what the movie IS. If you hide it and market it as -- what did you call it, Ron?"
"A gay 'Brian's Song.'"
"Exactly. A fucking gay 'Brian's Song' -- then every guy who comes to see that and instead is treated to America's Boy Next Door, Jimmy Hardy, getting ass-fucked..."
"Mr. Kinney, please!"
"I'm just telling you what's on the screen! Don't you even watch the fucking films you are supposed to be marketing?"
The 'guys' squirm in their seats.
"Those members of the audience aren't going to like the film no matter HOW you sell it because they are homophobic pricks! So, lying to them is only going to piss them off and contribute to bad word of mouth."
"So what do you suggest?"
"I suggest using some imagination. This is a film about sports? Forget that. Fuck that. It's NOT about sports. It's about 'relationships.'"
"So -- market to WOMEN, ages 18 to 50. I've never met a woman yet who was in her sexual prime who wasn't interested in what gay men did sexually. And they aren't squeamish about the details, especially if hot guys are involved. I'm not trying to stroke my ego here, I'm just being honest -- the scenes are hot. And a tragic 'romance' -- as much as that word makes me cringe -- is what they love to see. THAT is your audience. The gay viewers -- yes -- advertise heavily to them, but I think they are a given here. It's the untapped straight female audience out there that you are going to need."
He continues on in this vein, outlining promotions, both to women and to gay men, including events directed to groups of straight women who have already expressed an interest in gay subjects, contests, and promotional material related to the film and the characters.
"What kind of women do you mean? What straight women are interested in gay men having sex?" The guy practically spits that out.
But Brian just gazes at him. "Are you turned on by watching two women have sex?"
The guy looks on the spot. "Well -- yes. I admit, I find that hot. But...."
"Then why assume that your wife might not be equally excited by watching two good-looking guys fucking?"
"Because it's... gross."
"Well... no offense, fella, but...."
"I'm willing to bet that your wife might feel differently. Especially when she's among her female friends. Do you ever fantasize about your wife -- or girlfriend -- having sex with her best friend while you watch?"
The man looks around at the group. That 'hey, we're all GUYS here' look. "Maybe. Yeah, sure."
"Ever think that your wife might fantasize about watching YOU and your best friend having sex while SHE watches?"
He just gapes at Brian. "Fuck, no!"
"Well, you might consider it, then."
"Forget it! Never!"
"They said women wouldn't be interested in male strippers, either. Or porn. Or other kinds of erotic material. 'They' being very threatened straight males who like to think they control female sexuality." He pauses while they think about that. "Those men were wrong. But I'm right about this."
He consults his little notebook -- the one I've seen him scribbling in recently. "I've been doing some personal research on various online communities." That explains the extra time spent on the computer. And I thought he was cruising the chatrooms for tricks again. "But especially the slash community, both readers and writers. Most are women within our target group. They not only are open to issues of gay sexuality, they enjoy it. They propagate it. They write some stuff as hot as the professional erotica written by men for men. I think THEY are a vast resource for getting out word about the film. They may prove to be a continuing fan base, creating websites, building on the characters for their stories, that kind of thing."
"Why would a bunch of dykes want to read and write about a bunch of fags?"
"Most aren't dykes. Most are straight women, actually. But they aren't homophobes -- unlike some people I could name right in this room."
I have to admit I am floored by Brian's pitch. Because that's what it is. A professional pitch. He's obviously been thinking about this -- from the perspective of an advertising man -- for a while. He has cut to the main 'problem' in marketing the film and offers a solution that is not only original, but -- in my opinion -- the only solution.
But I also have this creeping feeling of guilt. This is an area in which he is gifted. He obviously proved it again and again in his field back in Pittsburgh. And I've not only ignored it, but dismissed it as unimportant. A part of his life that he should just forget about. I feel like a total jerk.
"I think you need a trailer that comes down firmly on these points in the film: the romance, the sex, and the tragedy. That's what will sell women. Make the trailer as hard as possible. An 'R' at least. Show as much as you can show and get away with. Sex sells. Use it."
He continues to outline his plan. Something that he worked up with his old boss while he was back in Pittsburgh. He wants Ryder Associates to handle promotions in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Western New York region as a test case. He wants to launch in the summer with special nights at gay bars for showings of the trailer and 'extended' clips or teasers of the film. Ryder has worked out the logistics. They've thought of every angle. The studio's promotion people are caught completely flat-footed.
After it's over, the promo men file out sheepishly. But Howie, the semi-closeted studio exec, is very impressed. He's the one who basically greenlighted the project and he's been a quiet cheerleader throughout an admittedly difficult shoot. And he's been especially interested in Brian's performance. Interested in Brian. Period. This makes me nervous, I admit. That always makes me nervous.
"Quite... good." From Howie that's a fucking rave. He shakes Brian's hand. Shakes it a long time. "We need some original thinking to get this film off the ground. I'm going to study your proposal and get back to this man...?"
"Marty Ryder. Ryder Associates. In Pittsburgh."
"Yes. I'll have my people get the information from you. I'll be in touch. We'll do lunch." He starts to walk out. "Oh -- you, too, Ron."
Brian and I are alone in the conference room. "That was fucking brilliant! YOU were fucking brilliant!"
"I know," he says. And goes out.
Retakes. Always a pain, but sometimes necessary.
I want to retake the bar scene. Bobby takes Guy to a gay bar for the first time. There's the first kiss in the alley. Guy isn't expecting it. He doesn't know what to do. How to feel. Important scene. Hell, they are ALL important scenes, but I want this one to have special meaning.
The first version was good, but Brian looked tired, thin. He was under a lot of stress.
But now he looks great. Rested. I want to re-shoot because I want him to look beautiful in this scene. Irresistible -- to Guy and to the audience.
Everything is going fine -- until the alley.
"Jimmy. You are anticipating."
In the first version he was recoiling, reacting the way an unsure man would. A scared man. That's not the way Jimmy is acting now.
He's leaning in. Waiting for it.
"Jimmy -- you're not supposed to know what's coming."
"Come on, Ron -- how could he NOT know? It makes my character look stupid."
"He's not stupid, he's naive. It has to be a surprise or it loses the impact. Like in the first version."
"Well, I don't agree."
"Don't agree -- or don't want to agree?"
"I'm making choices as an actor here, Ron."
"Jimmy, play the scene as written, for fucksake."
Meanwhile, Brian is watching all this. He's standing there, smoking, as the script indicates. I haven't seen a cigarette in his hand since he got back. Suddenly, it looks odd.
They run it through a few more times. Every time Jimmy is into it, rather than horrified.
"If I have to go with the first version -- I will."
Brian shrugs, but Jimmy stops me. He's seen the takes and knows that Brian doesn't look his best in them.
"Let's talk a minute." He pulls Brian over to the side and they have an intense conversation. A conversation that makes me fucking nervous. I don't like to see their heads together, whispering. Others on the set are looking at each, smirking. I HATE that! Word is out, unofficially, that Tess is hiding in Palm Springs. That the Super Couple is Super Split. That's what they are saying. I say it's bullshit! A temporary glitch, that's ALL! Nothing to fucking fear.
"Okay, maestro." Jimmy's ready.
This time, instead of the quiet little kiss, Brian gets more physical with Jimmy. I mean, Bobby gets more physical with Guy. He presses him against the brick wall, gently, like the first version. Jimmy acts all tentative, but definitely not surprised, as before. But then Brian lifts him up by the front of his shirt and really kisses him. Slams him against the wall with a force that even shocks Jimmy. That's the surprise I'm looking for. Brian grinds him into the wall, hard. After I yell cut, he doesn't stop. Doesn't back off. The whole set is holding its breath. I'm fucking holding my breath.
Finally, Brian lets him go, pushes Jimmy away. Jimmy isn't smiling at all, anymore. He's flustered. Brian leans in on him again. "Go get your wife, Jimmy. Do it today. Do it NOW. But do it."
Brian turns and walks off the set. Jimmy follows him and I follow Jimmy. It's like a dog parade.
"Brian. Come back here."
He stops and faces Jimmy. "You heard what I said, Jimmy. Go get Tess. Or face the consequences. Because THAT you'll never be able to take back. Ever." He walks away and keeps walking. "Think about it hard, Jimmy."
Jimmy wheels around and goes the other way. He passes by without looking at me or saying anything.
"I'm going home, people."
And I walk out, too.
And so ends the filming of 'The Olympian.'
Continue on to "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, July 2002
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated July 8, 2002