This is Page 2 of Part 4 of Chapter 114 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "When I Paint My Masterpiece -- Part 4".
The party at the Beverly Hills Hotel is private, which means that Vic has to pull out his official invitation to get all us in the door. But once we are inside it's like a Hollywood Who's Who.
Jimmy and Tess Hardy, of course, are there with Tess' protégé, Cara Restifo. Tess is producing her film and it's going to be a low budget project filming up in Canada and starring its very un-Hollywood-looking creator. Cara Restifo is a little plain and a little chunky and she's as far from being a cute, busty blonde as you can get, which would ordinarily be the kiss of death for a woman in the movie business. But she has a good script -- that's what Ron says -- and Tess is backing her, so the studio is going ahead with it.
I also see Peter Bridges, the sitcom star, who is another old friend of Ron's. Diane Rhys's new show is going to be on the same night as Peter's series, 'All American Dad,' which is apparently slipping in the ratings and needs some bolstering. Bridges is here with his wife, but from what Ron has told me he's just barely in the closet these days. Some other actors from 'The Olympian' are crowding around the bar, but no Sir Kenneth Fielding, unfortunately. He was the one man in the cast I had been hoping to meet.
Glenda Douglas, who Jimmy Hardy made all those romantic comedies with during the '90's, is there with her husband, Garson Brewster. Glenda hasn't had a very successful run of films since she and Jimmy stopped working together, and Garson, who was a popular action star in the late '80's, looks positively out of it. I've heard he's a heavy drinker and he looks it. He hasn't had a hit in ages, either. I notice a lot of other big names who have nothing at all to do with 'The Olympian' -- except that these people smell a hit and they want to jump on the bandwagon. Maybe catch Ron's ear about a new project, or schmooze Jimmy for a part in his next picture, or even talk to Tess, now that she's a producer. This tells me more than any critical reviews or box office figures that 'The Olympian' is already a success in the mind of Hollywood, because everyone wants a piece of it. Yes, even me. With my book dependent greatly on the film's success, I'm here to suck what I can get off the picture just as much as anyone else.
But the person they are all waiting for hasn't yet arrived. Jimmy keeps looking over at the door. And Ron is pacing back and forth. Even Michael is getting nervous, wondering where Brian is. Wondering whether he really will show up. And I'm wondering what will happen to him if he doesn't. Brian apparently already has a reputation as a rebel and someone who isn't always as 'cooperative' as he might be. And then there's the gay issue, which none of the studio executives would ever talk about on the record, but which must be discussed very seriously behind closed doors.
But then there's a flutter at the entrance to the ballroom. I see Diane's glittery silver-blue dress, and then Brian, that mop of brown, sexy-messy hair that is practically his trademark unmistakable as he looms in the doorway. No one asks Brian for his invitation, of course -- no one needs to ask who HE is, because he's the real star of this whole evening. And as Brian comes into the room it's impossible to miss that he's holding hands with Justin.
"Bri! Over HERE!" Jimmy Hardy is gesturing like a fan trying to get his idol's attention. I can see Tess Hardy just barely containing her disgust. She seems about at the end of her patience with her husband and I really don't blame her. I look around to see where Ron is and I catch sight of him by the bar, a double scotch in his hand. That's not like Ron at all. In the 10 years I've known him he's never been a big drinker. But a lot of things have changed lately. That's an understatement.
Jimmy Hardy is waving to Brian frantically, but instead Brian heads for where Michael and I are standing with Debbie and Vic. Deb, of course, drags Brian down into a headlock before he can even open his mouth. And then she lets him breathe and grabs Justin, practically pulling him off his feet. Then Debbie bursts into tears.
"Jesus, Ma!" says Michael. "Get a grip, please!"
"I'm allowed!" she insists. "I'm SO happy! And SO proud of you, Brian!" Her mascara is beginning to run.
Brian reaches into his pocket, pulls out a clean handkerchief, and carefully blots her eyes. Then he hands her the handkerchief. If it were anyone else but Brian Kinney I would almost say he was blushing! "There you go, Deb. You don't want to ruin that expensive Elizabeth Arden make-up job that I paid for!"
"Thanks, hon," she says to Brian. "I'm sorry, but I can't help it! I'm a little emotional, so what the fuck?" Michael and Vic exchange glances and roll their eyes.
"That's okay, Deb," Justin puts in, quietly. "The same thing happened to me."
"Oh, Baby -- are you all right?" she says with concern, dabbing at her eyes.
Justin smiles. "I'm fine now, Deb. Just a little too much... excitement. I'm really fine. Really. Brian took me up to the theater office and calmed me down." Justin looks up at Brian, his eyes starting to tear up again. "I'm better now. But I would like something to drink. If it isn't too much trouble."
"It isn't any trouble at all. I could use one, too," says Brian, his hand brushing Justin's hair softly. "I think we all could." Then Brian gestures to one of the waiters, who immediately finds us a table and takes drink orders. But Brian keeps glancing across the room. "I think I better go over and appease Jimmy before he has a seizure. We'll be back as soon as we can." And Brian gives Justin's arm a pat and leads him over to where Jimmy Hardy is holding court.
"Ben? What will you have?" asks Michael, touching my hand. The waiter is standing there with his order pad.
"Oh, I'll get something from the bar. I want to hit the men's room first," I say. "Excuse me for a minute." I find the bathroom and then afterwards I make my way to the main bar. I order a glass of dry white wine. I have to be careful about what I drink and how much. When you're on as many different meds as I am you have to be aware of everything you put into your body.
I lean against the bar and watch the interaction between Brian and Jimmy Hardy. And between Brian and Tess Hardy. And between Justin and Jimmy. It fascinates me. I am dying to know what they are all thinking and feeling. Tess Hardy must be so relieved to see Brian there with Justin -- assuming that she knows something was going on between Brian and her husband. But she MUST have known. And Jimmy is basking in a wave of envy from all the other actors in this room who recognize just what a success 'The Olympian' is destined to be. But Jimmy still keeps eyeing Brian -- and Justin, too. Is it jealousy? Amusement? Anger? I don't know the man well enough to tell. Jimmy is a wonderful actor, so that's another element. Who knows what he is truly feeling. And I feel like such a voyeur watching this little spectacle, but I can't tear my eyes away.
Brian is standing so casually with his arm draped protectively around his teenage boyfriend, completely aware but also seemingly unconcerned that everyone in the place is watching them and buzzing about this new development. Their relationship is so unmistakable that it needs no explanation. They are not only a couple, but a couple of long-standing. The easy way they stand together, touching slightly. The way they mirror each other's movements. The way their eyes meet, exchanging thoughts without saying a single word. Yes, it's so obvious.
This is a private party, which means no press, but still... it's a big step. If Brian were just here with Ron then that might have caused a little comment from the Old Guard, but their affair is an old story that predates 'The Olympian,' so it isn't exactly big news. Ron took Brian everywhere when he first came out to Los Angeles and made no bones about their relationship. In fact Ron was flaunting his beautiful new boyfriend all over town. Yes, that word got back to even a backwater like Pittsburgh fast enough through the Gay Grapevine. In was only when Ron decided to force Brian into 'The Olympian' that Ron put the brakes on being so open. All that sending Brian out on 'dates' with Diane Rhys and other cooperative starlets. Making sure that he and Brian were never in the same shot when photos were taken. Playing that old game. But this is something very different. Bringing Justin here is pretty much an open and official declaration that Brian and Ron really ARE finished and that everyone in the Business -- gay, straight, or undecided -- should know it without question. The Bitch Stud of Beverly Hills is declaring his independence by parading his Boy Toy on the biggest night of his young career. I have to believe that Brian's next step will be to out himself to the general public. Maybe in that 'Advocate' cover story. Yes, that would be the logical move. And poor Ron must be about ready to explode.
Two men come and stand next to me at the bar, ordering Cosmos, of course. They can't take their eyes off Brian and Justin, who are still standing with Jimmy and Tess, as Brian joins the couple in shaking hands and kissing the cheeks of all the other celebrities who come over to congratulate them.
"So, that's the infamous Boy Toy," says the first man, a sandy-haired, 40-ish guy in an ultra-trendy navy blue tux. "I still can't believe Brian had the balls to bring him here."
"Believe it, Bernie. Brian has NO shame," says the second man, a younger, blond-haired man in a classic tuxedo. "Didn't you see that 'Letterman' show with Jimmy Hardy? That little bit in the Green Room? I mean, it was blatant, honey!"
"I missed the show, but I heard the dish," replies Bernie. "That's ALL anyone was talking about that weekend at Flora's in West Hollywood. Someone had the 'Vanity Fair' and they were passing it around and arguing if it was the same kid in the photos. Obviously, it's the same kid."
"No, there's no doubt. He's a beauty, that's for sure," the other man asserts. "And my friend Stephen in London told me that when Brian was over there filming that picture with Dorian Folco last summer that he and the kid went EVERYWHERE together. He even has a part in that picture! This is no passing fancy for Brian, that's for sure! This kid has been around for a while. Just look at them together! But you tell ME, Bernie -- I think Brian is definitely pushing it in Rosenblum's face."
"To bring that kid here to the premiere of THEIR picture? Yes, that's a REAL kick in Ronnie's balls, definitely," answers Bernie, sipping his Cosmopolitan. "Of course, who could blame Brian? I've been on a couple of projects with him and Ronnie can be a real pain in the ass to work with, so can you imagine what he's like to LIVE with? And Brian is SUCH a slut! But I mean, who wouldn't be with that face and body?"
"Oh, I think Ron is kind of sexy -- in a psycho way. There's no way that Brian would have been with Ron if wasn't awesome in bed. I bet he's a great anger fuck!" And both of the guys laugh. "Still -- that kid is gorgeous. Look at the ass on him. What a couple! How would you like to be in the middle of THAT? In between the two of them?"
"You mean, like a sandwich with Brian and the kid?" asks Bernie. "Hm. A threeway. That's a very pretty picture! Yeah, I'd love to fuck that round little ass while Brian was fucking ME with his nine inch cock!"
The blond man sniffs. "Come on, Bernie! Nine inches? That's just one of those urban legends!"
But Bernie looks smug. "Oh no it's not! It's TRUE! Every INCH of it! I know for certain."
The younger man looks at his friend with awe. "No fucking WAY! You better spill, Bernie! And I mean EVERYTHING!"
"Well, I was at Lagoon, that place out in Santa Monica, one night...." And then Bernie stops. He gives his friend a warning look and they both glance at me -- but then they look beyond me. And they grab their drinks and practically fly away from the bar, disappearing behind some back tables. I've been so involved in eavesdropping on their interesting discussion about Brian that it takes be a minute to figure out what's wrong. That's when I turn around and see Ron standing behind me, his face like a mask. He obviously was listening to most, if not all, of that little dissertation by the two queens.
"Ben," he says, awkwardly. His hand is gripping a large glass of scotch.
"Um... Congratulations, Ron," I say, feeling more than a little embarrassed. But I also mean what I say sincerely. "The picture is... beyond all expectations. The direction is first-rate. And the cinematography -- it just shimmers. And Jimmy is even better than he was in 'Liberty' -- he's sure to get a nomination for playing Guy."
"Thanks, Ben. I appreciate it. Really, I do." He nods at me, but his eyes keep wandering over to Jimmy's table. Brian and Justin are sitting down now, talking to Tess.
"And Brian is a revelation," I babble. "Strong, sexy, vulnerable, tragic -- everything you could hope for in Bobby. The scene where he's killed hits you like a sledgehammer. It's that powerful."
There's a hint of a smile on Ron's lips. "I'm glad you feel that strongly about the film."
"I do. I think everyone who sees it will."
"Thanks," he replies. "You're looking well, Ben."
"I'm doing pretty good, Ron," I reply. "I try to keep myself healthy."
"How's Michael? I saw you come in with him and his family, Deb and Vic."
"He's fine. And we're very happy. I think it's something that's working for both of us."
"That's great. I'm happy for both of you," Ron says, smiling slightly. But his eyes don't look happy for anyone. "Ben, do you think we could... talk for a few minutes? Somewhere a little more private?"
I frown. "I guess so, Ron. Is this about my book?"
"It is... sort of. Come with me." And Ron takes my arm and guides me across the ballroom and out the door. He drags me through the aggressively pink lobby, past the Polo Lounge, and up some stairs to a balcony area overlooking the grounds and the bungalows. Whatever Ron wants to say to me, he doesn't want any eavesdroppers like Bernie and his blond friend. And in the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is packed tonight with the elite of Hollywood, that's a hard order.
"Ron, I wanted to add that I hope my book does the picture justice," I say. "And your whole career, too. Because you are going to be an important director. Very, very important."
"Yeah, well I don't feel too fucking important tonight," he answers, bleakly.
I shake my head. "This should be the greatest night of your life! This is everything you've worked for. Everything you've said you dreamed of. From the day I met you you've been telling me that 'The Olympian' is your Dream Project -- and now it's all come true! You have it ALL, Ron!"
"Not all, Ben. Not everything." He leans against the railing and looks down. It's a warm and beautiful evening and the entire hotel is lit up and shining.
I have to wonder at all this angst. "Grow up, Ron! You've accomplished so much! Enjoy it for five minutes at least."
"I'm sorry, Ben, but I can't." And his face tells me that he isn't kidding. He's miserable.
"You know, Ron, this isn't about Brian. This is about YOU. It's like you don't want to be happy. Whatever you have, it is never enough." I touch his arm. "Ron, listen to me. Accept that it's over between you and Brian. Move on. Go to the next project. Focus on your work. You'll see. Time heals. It really does."
"Thanks for the Zen advice, Ben," he snorts. "But it isn't over. It's never over between me and Brian! Never."
I really want to shake this guy. "Brian has moved on. Bringing Justin here tonight was a message to YOU, Ron. You must realize that! Brian is telling you -- and everyone else in this town -- that HE is moving on. You should too."
"It isn't over, Ben!" Ron answers, an edge like hysteria to his voice. "We are making 'Red River' together next year. And after that... I have lots of ideas. All featuring Brian. All of them. He's going to star in ALL of my movies. You'll see. Justin is only a little bump in the road. Brian will get sick of him -- and I'll be waiting."
I take a deep breath. "Ron, try to be objective. They've been through a lot of things together -- and they only get stronger. Brian was with Justin for over a year before he left Pittsburgh with you. And you know that they were never out of contact, even after he came out here. He couldn't stay away from Justin. Brian has real feelings for that kid -- and Justin loves Brian. That's something you can't discount. I know that Brian still has strong feelings for you, Ron, but it's not the kind of feeling you want. Can't you two be friends? You could still work together. I know what it's like to have a painful breakup, but you are making it much worse for yourself by obsessing about it!"
"I'm NOT obsessing, Ben! This is NOT an obsession! Brian and I were meant to be together -- always. It's like... Fate, you know what I mean?" Ron insists, but I only stare back at him. "You just don't understand, Ben!" I can see that Ron's hands are trembling. "Which brings me to what I wanted to talk to you about. Your book. You know I've tried to do everything I could to help you with your book. Given you unlimited access to pre-production memos and material, interviews, film clips, and information on my other films that no one else has."
"Yes, and I can't thank you enough, Ron. I'm dedicating the book to you, by the way. I've finished correcting the galley proofs -- all except the final chapter on the premiere of 'The Olympian.' I'll write that as soon as I get back to Pittsburgh and then send it on to the publisher. They want the book in the stores in time for the Oscars."
"That's wonderful, Ben," Ron replies. "And since I've done so much for you -- there's one little thing I want you to do for me."
"Anything," I tell him.
"I want you to help me get Brian back," he says, simply.
I take another deep breath. Ron is beginning to sound like a broken record. "Come on, Ron!"
"I'm serious, Ben."
"Ron, I can't listen to you. You need to talk to your psychiatrist about this, not me!" I turn to leave.
"Ben, don't you dare walk out on me!" Ron warns. "I mean it. I'm NOT joking here. I want you to help me get Brian back. There are certain things I want you to do for me back in Pittsburgh. And I want you to work on your boyfriend, too. I can tell that he already resents Justin because it's very obvious that Michael is in love with Brian. Deep down he MUST hate that kid, as much as he tries to hide it."
"Michael can work on those other people, too. Deb and Vic. I know that Justin MUST have a few skeletons in his closet. I know it! And I want you to do a little digging for me. I want you to...."
"Ron, stop!" I grab his shoulders and try to shake some sense into him. "I will NOT! And neither will Michael! You don't know what the hell you are talking about! Justin is 19 years old. His life is an open book. He's completely devoted to Brian and always has been. There are no 'skeletons' in that kid's closet! He doesn't even HAVE a fucking closet! And even if he did I would NEVER do anything to undermine his relationship with Brian! I think they're good for each other and that's the truth."
"It's bullshit!" he replies, pulling out of my grasp.
"It isn't, Ron! You are starting to scare me with this kind of talk! Haven't you been listening to what Brian is trying to tell you? He's with Justin now. It's over!"
Ron's eyes look at me coldly. "Like I told you, Ben, it's never over. And as far as you helping me with Brian, you'll do what I fucking tell you to, Ben. And I mean that."
I have to stand back and stare at him. "Are you threatening me?"
"No," he says. "Laying it on the line to you, Ben. Reminding you of a few things you may have forgotten. Such as how horrible little Michael would feel if he ever found out that you and Brian -- his own boyfriend and the guy HE has been in love with forever -- have fucked. More than once. Had quite a torrid affair down in Miami. Yes, considering the way Michael feels about Brian just imagine what knowing that might do to him. Picturing the two of YOU together. That's something he won't be able to get out of his head, no matter how you try to spin it, Ben."
"Ron, I can't believe that you would... that... that...." I'm at a loss for words.
"Yes, picturing Brian's long, beautiful cock inside you -- something little Michael will certainly never feel. All of those fantasies he must have had for all those years. To wonder what that FEELS like. And to know that you DO know what it feels like! And you've stolen that away from him."
"For godsake, Ron! That was before I even KNEW Michael!"
"Oh, well, in THAT case I won't want to mention to Michael the fact that WE fucked in Hawaii, then. Yes, you two had been together quite a few months by then. A happy little couple. Except when you were out of town and had the opportunity to be with me. And you're a good fuck, too. Of course, you're no Brian. But you already know that! We BOTH know that, Ben."
My mouth is dry. "Ron, we've been friends for almost ten years! Why are you doing this? Why are you threatening me like this?"
"Who is threatening?" he answers calmly. "Did I EVER say anything about threatening you? I'm just mentioning a little bit of our shared history. I'm just reminding you of it -- in case you had forgotten." Ron leans back against the railing, his face grim. "But I can forget all those things -- if you help me. If you do a few little things for me. And I'll continue to promote and sanction your book, instead of deciding to remove my authorization from it. Because then all that material I gave you will have to be taken out. And if you use it anyway, I'll have the studio slap a lawsuit on your publisher if they try to go ahead with it. Your book will be fucked, Ben. YOU will be fucked. I'll have you tied up in court for years."
"Jesus, Ron! I've worked on that book for a year!"
"So fucking what! I worked 10 years on 'The Olympian.' And I've waited longer than that to get Brian back! Almost 15 years!"
"What do I really care about your stupid book, Ben?" Ron spits at me. "Or your dumb, comic book reading boyfriend? You're both meaningless! Because you two just don't matter in the larger scheme of things, Ben. Nothing matters but Brian! The two of US! You'll have to realize that. Everyone will have to realize that. And especially that fucking Justin!" Ron turns and starts to walk away, back towards the stairs.
"Ron!" I cry. "Please think about this! About what you are saying! Because it's crazy!"
Ron pauses and looks at me with pity. "YOU think about it, Ben. But make it quick. I don't have forever to fuck around here." And he goes down the stairs and back to the ballroom and the fancy after party for his film, leaving me standing there, unable to move. Unable to think. Unable to do anything.
Continue on to "When I Paint My Masterpiece -- Part 5".
©Gaedhal, May 2003.
Updated May 23, 2003.