This is Page 2 of Part 3 of Chapter 114 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "When I Paint My Masterpiece -- Part 3".
Brian and Justin arrive at Deb and Vic's suite at the Beverly Palms Hotel mid-afternoon -- just in time for Justin to get the finishing touches put on his tux. The two men from Armani have been fixing up Michael and Vic for an hour already. I brought my own tuxedo with me from Pittsburgh and now I'm afraid that I'm going to look hopelessly passé.
"Mr. Kinney, so nice to see you again," says the man in charge as Brian walks in. He has brought his own tux with him in a suitbag. This fitter apparently knows Brian very well, because while he and his assistant were very cordial to Michael and Vic, with Brian they turn on the full star treatment.
They also whip Justin's clothes off and begin dressing him for the premiere. "Nice work if you can get it, huh?" says Brian, as we watch the two men strip the kid and begin rebuilding him from the underwear up.
"Weren't you two supposed to be here an hour ago?" asks Michael, raising his eyebrows.
"There was a lot of... traffic," Brian replies, glancing at Justin, who is practically radioactive with that well-fucked glow.
"Yeah," sniffs Michael. "Between the bed and the shower and then back again! You guys are so predictable."
Brian snorts. "Don't tell me that you and Ben haven't given that queen-size bed in your hotel room a work-out since you checked in last night? If you haven't I'll send a doctor over here to take your pulses to make sure you're both still alive!"
"Very funny!" replies Michael.
"Come on, Mikey!" says Brian. "Ben isn't exactly Dr. Dave. HE was so old that I know you had to massage the Good Doctor's prostate to get him going every night. I'm certain you don't have to do that with Ben to make sure everything is still working, right Ben?"
"I'm staying out of this argument!" I insist. But Brian bites his lip and gives me a slight wink over Michael's head.
I wish he wouldn't do that. It only reminds me that Michael doesn't know about me and Brian -- a fact that Justin so blatantly pointed out yesterday. This is something that Michael and I should have discussed a long time ago, but I have to admit that I was so afraid of what his reaction would be that I never had the nerve to bring it up. Michael has such a strong fixation on Brian, even now, that it's a difficult subject to broach. And I have no idea how hard he'll take the knowledge that the best friend who he spent so many years mooning over and his own boyfriend -- me -- had an intense weekend together at the White Party in Miami a few years back. And it won't matter one iota to Michael that we didn't know each other then. All he'll be able to think of is that Brian and I did it. And that even though Brian has had every gay man within a 100 mile radius of Pittsburgh -- and quite a few 'straight' guys, as well! -- that Brian has still never slept with HIM. And never will, as far as I can see. And that's why I can't bring myself to tell him.
"How does your tux fit, Michael?"
"It seems fine. But I'm no fashion expert," Michael shrugs.
"Make sure that it fits right," Brian says, firmly. "That's what these guys are here for. Because the tux is yours. I don't want you going back to the Pitts with a baggy Armani."
Michael just stares at Brian. "You can't do that, Brian! This is an expensive suit."
"It's only fucking clothes, Mikey," Brian says, putting his feet up on the coffee table. "I bought tuxes for Vic and Justin, too. I don't expect you to wear clothes you aren't keeping. I wouldn't. I would have bought Ben a new tux, too, but he's got to play the big shot and bring his own!"
"Now he tells me!" I moan, melodramatically.
Brian watches like a hawk as the two Armani men fit out Justin. Brian frowns and goes over to them. They have a full-length mirror that they brought and set up in the sitting room of the suite and they have poor Justin standing in front of it like a mannequin. Now Brian begins to bark orders at the two men, pointing to a sleeve that's too long and an uneven cuff and something that he doesn't think is hanging correctly. And they jump to fix each problem while Justin stands and sighs.
"You'll look beautiful when they finish with you, honey," comforts Vic from the sidelines.
"If you say so," Justin replies, grimacing. "I just keep thinking about what happened to me the last time I wore a tuxedo."
And Brian's face goes white. He pushes one of the fitters out of the way and grabs Justin around the waist. For a moment I think that he's angry with the kid -- but then I realize that he looks scared. Like Justin said something that has really spooked him. He looks Justin directly in the eye and pleads with him,"Take that back! I mean it, Justin. Nothing is going to happen tonight, okay? Say it!" And Brian really does mean it! You can see it in his face.
"I take it back, Brian. I didn't say it. Nothing is going to happen tonight. Nothing!" And Justin says it seriously, never taking his eyes off Brian's face.
"All right then." Brian steps back. He looks at the two fitters, who can't figure out what is going on. "Finish up and then get the fuck out," he tells them. And they do.
Deb and Vic, along with me and Michael, are going to ride in the first limousine, while Brian will be in the second car with Justin and Diane Rhys, the actress who is there as his good friend, but also as the studio's idea of Brian's 'date.'
"Fuck THAT," says Brian. "We're all here TOGETHER. Howie Sheldon warned me about taking Justin in the same car -- I know Ron's put a bug in his ear about my fucking 'image' -- but Justin IS going with me."
Brian is adamant -- but he's also taking Diane just to cushion things a bit. And I can understand the studio's point. If Brian WERE to show up at the premiere hand-in-hand with a teenage boy then that's ALL anyone would see. 'The Olympian' -- the film we have all put so much of our stock into -- would get lost in the shuffle. I believe that Brian is trying to select the correct 'moment' to do things right. To set things 'straight,' so to speak. Ron told me that 'The Advocate' is planning a major interview with both Brian and Jimmy Hardy to run around Christmas -- that may be what Brian is thinking of. A gorgeous and sexy photo of Brian on the cover of 'The Advocate,' looking confident, handsome, and secure in his sexuality, may be the 'moment' to make it official. But I know Brian doesn't want to be pushed by anyone, but especially not by Terra Nova Studio. However, now that Justin is out here and is staying out here, it seems only a matter of time before the word reaches the general public, whether Brian likes it or not.
"Brian, please just relax. Or try to," Justin says as we wait for Diane to arrive at the hotel.
"I'm trying. I really am," he replies. But he's pacing, practically wearing out a path in the carpet.
Justin stands in front of him, forcing Brian to stop for a moment. He takes something out of the pocket of his new tux. "I brought these -- just in case."
Brian looks at Justin's hands. "No fucking way!"
"It's your choice, Brian. Always your choice." Justin holds out both of his hands, as if weighing what he's holding in them. "You can have ONE Xanax or you can have the joint. But you have to do it NOW -- before we get in the car. Well?"
Brian's mouth moves around, his tongue poking at his cheek. "The joint," he says, finally. And Justin shoves the pill back into his pocket and hands Brian the joint. He also takes out a book of matches and lights it.
"I cannot believe that you two are getting high!" says Debbie, coming out of her room. She's patting her new hairdo and smoothing down her gown. She really looks beautiful -- very elegant in a long brocade dress.
"Want some, Deb?" says Brian, passing the joint to Justin, who takes a very short toke.
"You're hopeless!" Deb groans.
"I'll have some of that," Michael exclaims. And he goes over and takes a hit off the joint. Michael glances over at me, but I shake my head. As Brian takes another deep draw on the joint I can see him visibly relax. Justin is pretty smart, I'd say. Because now it isn't about Brian having to sedate himself to face this ordeal, now it's about the Boys getting a little high together before the party. Brian hands the joint back to Michael and takes a deep, deep breath -- and then lets out all that air. Like he's expelling the bad spirits. Chasing them away. And then Brian starts to giggle slightly. And then Michael starts. And Justin.
Vic comes out of his room, adjusting his box tie. "Okay you guys! Let's get it together!"
"What?" says Michael, defensively. "We aren't doing anything!"
But before Vic can answer, Diane Rhys arrives. And then they call to say that the limos are waiting downstairs. And we all head for the 'Olympian' premiere.
"Those lights are so bright!" says Deb. "I hope I don't fucking fall down!" She peers out the window of the limousine as it pulls up in front of the theater.
"Hang on to me, Sis," Vic insists. "I won't let you fall on your ass in front of all those people!"
"Shut up, Vic!"
A uniformed doorman opens the door and Vic gets out first, then he helps Deb out onto the Red Carpet. Michael and I climb out behind them.
"Now what?" Michael squeaks. His voice is all constricted with the combination of nerves and the joint they just smoked.
"We just walk into the theater," I say.
"I think we should wait for Brian," says Deb, watching our limo drive away and Brian's pull up. We walk up the Red Carpet both to get out of the way and to observe Brian's arrival. There are a lot of people lining the entry up to the theater, held back by police barricades. More people than I had expected, frankly. I also see the entertainment reporters and cameras waiting in front of a bank of cameras and lights at the top of the Red Carpet. People from 'Access Hollywood' and 'Extra' and 'E!' and 'Entertainment Tonight.' "Shit," Deb gulps. "There's Bill Brenner! And Bob Goen, too! Where's Mary Hart?"
The reporters look us over and let us pass after deciding that we aren't anyone. But then they alert, like hounds on the scent, when Brian emerges from the car. He helps Diane out -- she's wearing a long and glittery gown that's also cut very low on her ample breasts. When she walked into the hotel room in that dress I thought Brian was going to make her put on a tee shirt over it! And then Justin gets out of the limo and the three of them stand there on the Red Carpet, smiling as the screams of the crowd and all the flashing lights from the cameras wash over them.
Brian moves forward and Diane takes Justin's arm and they follow him up the carpet. Some of the photographers on one side are yelling and Brian stops and turns, posing. He looks serene and confident and completely gorgeous. Movie star gorgeous. You'd never know that an hour ago in the hotel room he was ready to freak out. The he turns and poses for the cameras on the other side of the carpet. Like a real pro. Ron would be proud. Which makes me wonder where Ron is.
"Brian! Brian!" They are shouting. And he strolls up to the line of cameras. All of the reporters are jockeying to speak to him, but Brian stands back and picks his target. 'Entertainment Tonight' first, then 'Access Hollywood.' But the others are pushing to get their microphones up front, as well. It's all chitchat. Who is your tuxedo by? Armani, of course. Who are you here with? My family, Brian says, glancing over to where we are standing. Deb and Vic wave.
One microphone is pointed at Diane. "Are you and Brian dating again?" But Diane just smiles and mentions her new television show. Justin cracks up and Diane puts her arm around him, also laughing. Bob Goen, the 'Entertainment' reporter, looks a bit confused, but Bill Brenner, the 'Access Hollywood' correspondent, slides his eyes at Justin and then at Brian. Brenner is gay and he certainly knows the score. But he plays the game. He turns and asks Brian how it feels to be starring in a film.
Brian smiles. "Like it's all happening to someone else," he says.
And that's when Jimmy and Tess Hardy arrive and the crowd goes nuts once again. Brian moves out of the way a bit, but he doesn't leave the main Red Carpet. He knows that they will want him to interact with Jimmy. Diane guides Justin up to where we are standing near the door, her hand on his arm. "Now the show REALLY starts," Diane comments to us. "The Big Gun is here."
"The Big Asshole, you mean," snipes Deb.
"Debbie, you are a woman after my own freaking heart!" Diane grins. Apparently she and Jimmy Hardy aren't the best of friends, although Justin says Diane is very tight with his wife, Tess.
Both of the Hardys look sleek and perfectly groomed -- the quintessential Hollywood Couple. Jimmy is grinning and waving like the Pope. Tess is smiling, too, but it looks forced. A strained, practiced smile. She's wearing a deep blue gown that contrasts dramatically with her dark hair and olive skin. But her eyes look sad. And Jimmy -- he bounds up the Red Carpet like a Labrador Retriever who sees a downed duck. And he's heading directly towards Brian.
"Jimmy! Jimmy!" They all yell.
He pauses and waves. Tess is trailing in his wake. He doesn't even look around at her. Instead, he almost knocks Brian over trying to hug him. And then he wrestles Brian around to face the cheering crowd and then the entertainment reporters. Brian and Tess exchange glances. I'm not certain how to read what they are communicating to each other, but it seems like some kind of understanding. Some kind of empathy. Like they are locked together -- no matter what -- in some drama that has yet to play out completely. But it's a drama that they can't bow out of. No, they are in for the duration.
There's only one character still missing from this little charade. And he makes his entrance right on schedule. There's only a slight murmur in the crowd as Ron, alone, gets out of his limousine. I'm a little shocked at his appearance. When I last saw him -- in Hawaii last June -- Ron was his usual hyper and intense self, but he looked extremely good. Too good, I'm afraid -- remembering how attracted I was to him and the huge mistake I made by acting on it. Thank God no one knows about THAT little indiscretion. I know that's going to make it more than slightly awkward when Ron and I have to speak to each other tonight, especially with Michael standing right there.
But tonight Ron looks like hell. That's all I can say. He looks like he hasn't slept in days, his eyes are red and his hair isn't cut. Even his usually impeccable clothes seem skewed and disheveled, more the way he dressed when I first knew him and he was a struggling documentarian and not a Hollywood powerhouse-to-be. It must be all the final touches of getting the premiere in order. I think of Brian's earlier bad case of nerves -- not to mention the little run-ins the two of them seem to have had recently. And yet tonight Brian looks like a million dollars. He's so polished he sparkles. But Ron just looks beaten down. Like a whipped dog. It gives me a creepy feeling to see it. I've known Ron for almost ten years and I've never seen him quite like this.
I glance over at Brian and his face is impassive. His eyes sweep quickly over Ron and then he looks away. Back at Jimmy. Over at Tess. Then Brian turns and catches Justin's eye. Anything to avoid looking directly at the man who has made him a movie star.
"How do you feel tonight, Jimmy?" asks Bob Goen of 'Entertainment Tonight.' Yes, it's an inane question, but all the questions are inane. The whole business of the premiere is inane, let's be truthful. It's just a parade of Fame. Another reason to hype to film. But for me, it's my first chance to see the entire film that is the real centerpiece of my book. The manuscript is finished except for this -- 'The Olympian' and its reception. So this is a vital moment for me and my career. A vital moment for all of us -- Ron and Jimmy and Brian. And for Justin, too, I imagine. His life is going to change radically along with Brian's. He looks calm on the surface, but I see his hand clutching Diane Rhys' tightly. Justin is hanging on. And he never takes his eyes off Brian.
"This is a great night! Just great!" babbles Jimmy. "And this is a great picture! We are all VERY excited about it."
"Are you going to have a hit, Jim? Another Oscar contender?"
"Well, Bob, that's for the public to decide," Jimmy says, so humbly. "And they get to see my man, here!" Jimmy pulls Brian over to him so that he's in the same camera shot. "Brian is going to be a big star! Very big!"
"And your director, Ron Rosenblum is here, too."
"Yes -- Ronnie is right here!" And Jimmy Hardy pulls Ron into the frame as well. The three of them all together. But Ron isn't smiling. In fact, on what should be the greatest night of his career he looks as if he'd rather be anywhere else. "Ron is a fantastic director and he has some wonderful projects coming up. He's working with ME on a new picture we want to do next fall. And he's working with Brian again this summer -- and Clint Eastwood! On a Western! You can't get much better than that, Bob!"
"Sounds very interesting. Ron, how do YOU feel tonight?" The reporter pushes a microphone in Ron's face.
"Nervous," is all Ron says. But no one really cares about the director, unless he's Steven Spielberg, so Bob Goen turns back to Jimmy immediately. Meanwhile Ron just stands there like the forgotten man, trying not to stare at Brian, who is trying not even to glance at Ron. But Brian is doing a bad job. His eyes keep creeping over to look at him. I can't even imagine what they are thinking tonight.
Bill Brenner, the 'Access Hollywood' correspondent, is noting all of this with great interest. Like I say, he's gay and knows all the dirt. He must have been following every in-and-out of Ron and Brian's tempestuous affair by way of the Hollywood Gay Grapevine ever since Brian came out here a year ago. And he MUST be aware of the rumors about Brian and Jimmy -- which Ron pretty much confirmed to me back in Hawaii. He's probably even aware of Justin -- those 'Vanity Fair' photos aren't exactly inconspicuous. So the dynamics of this evening, of all of these relationships coming together here tonight must be so delicious to this reporter. And yet -- Brenner can't talk about any of it. He can't ask the questions he MUST be dying to ask. Because he's not a 'real' reporter -- he's an entertainment 'personality' and as such can only ask the scripted questions and then observe what happens, silently. As a writer myself, I'm dying to pick his brains on this topic, but I don't dare, either. I don't dare. No one does when all the major players are gay and no one is allowed to mention that simple fact.
Now the Big Moment comes. One of the studio functionaries is gesturing. Jimmy makes one final innocuous remark, waves to the crowd, and moves into the theater, arm-in-arm with his wife, Tess. Ron trudges along behind them. Brian comes up to us and nods. "Is it too late to run away?" he asks.
Diane slaps his arm. "Get in there and be a freaking MOVIE STAR, Bridie!" she orders. "Now!"
And Brian takes a deep breath, puts his arm around Justin's shoulders, and leads us all into the theater to see 'The Olympian.'
Continue on to "When I Paint My Masterpiece -- Part 4".
©Gaedhal, May 2003.
Updated May 18, 2003.