This is the Third Story in the "Folk Lore" series.
It is rated "R," mainly for langauge.
Disclaimer: Not Real. Just for Fun. This is MY imagining of what MAY have happened.
Go to the"Folk Lore" main page.
Randy arrived early for the meeting with the Showtime executives. He was nervous and he thought that if he had time to walk around, get used to the situation, and loosen up a little, then he'd feel more comfortable with the whole thing.
That was a trick that he'd learned early in his theater career. Getting relaxed on stage. He always used to arrive long before his call so he could walk around on stage, stand on the set, breathe in the air of the theater where he was about to perform. It was a way of making the place familiar. Making it yours. So that you were completely at ease in your working space. And also with your scene partner.
Except Randy didn't know who his 'scene partner' was. Or, rather, who he would be. He'd read with a bunch of different actors and none had been either suitable or brave enough to take up the challenge of the role of Brian. And most of his scenes as Justin, the seventeen year old gay boy, would be played with this particular character. With this particular actor. Whoever that was going to be.
So it had to be someone he had chemistry with. Someone who looked good next to him. That was important, too, if they were going to be the big 'romantic couple' on the show. And Randy knew they would be. They had to be. He could read it in all their scenes together. The producers, who were also the head writers, were laying the groundwork for a big, dramatic story for these two characters, Brian and Justin. It was obvious to Randy. And he was looking forward to that challenge.
Of course, other people had different perspectives. He'd been talking to the other actors who had been cast up to the end of last week -- and that meant all the main characters except for the key role of Brian -- and they each had their own idea of what would happen and how their characters would play out through the season.
Peter, the only other openly gay actor in a major role, was pretty certain that his character, Emmett, was the obvious 'comic relief.' He was playing a pretty stereotypical 'flaming queen' -- but Peter had told Randy that he was determined to make the most of the role. They wanted him to be over-the-top and he was planning to pull out ALL the stops. And why not? This was a show about gay men, and queeny gay men weren't only a stereotype. They existed -- so why not let Emmett be proudly flaming? Not an embarrassment, but a symbol to be reclaimed. At least, that's what Peter wanted his character to be about.
And Randy had also talked to Scott, who was playing another television stereotype -- the nerdy best friend of one of the leads. But this stereotype had an interesting twist to it -- Ted wasn't just one of the main character's best friend, he was also in love with that character, Michael. And Scott told Randy that it was a part that he might make something of. Because all the details about Ted so far were NOT encouraging -- he was an accountant, a loser at love, and a guy who couldn't exactly compete against the buff and sexy guys who hung out at Babylon, the gay dance club that was the center of the social universe for the group of friends. But Scott was certain that he could make Ted stand out. The character's crush on his best friend, Michael, seemed a ripe area to be explored. And Scott hoped he'd get the chance to explore that facet of Ted, as well as others.
But Randy was a little more dubious about Hal, the actor/comedian who was playing Michael. Hal was pretty vocal about referring to his character as the 'star' of the show. The character around whom everything centered. HIS friends. HIS job. HIS mother. HIS struggles with being in the closet to the outside world. HIS show, it seemed.
But Randy didn't see it that way. No, not at all. In HIS mind, the whole series revolved not around Michael, but around Brian. The character who was his character's lover. Meaning that Brian -- and Justin, also -- were the heart of the show. And that made Randy very excited. And very nervous.
Because it all boiled down to that character of Brian. And who played him. That was vital. Vital to the chemistry between Brian and Justin -- and also to Randy and this actor, whoever he was going to be.
Randy had read early on with one actor who was seriously being considered to play Brian. A guy with short dark hair, a dark complexion, and a cocky, frat-boy kind of attitude. "Call me 'Tre' -- that's short for Trevor," he'd told Randy when they read together. "That's my stage name." Okay, thought Randy, I guess he's all right. The casting director and the two producers seemed to think this guy was a real possibility. And Tre had claimed that he wasn't bothered by the sexual scenes, but Randy wondered about THAT, frankly!
"There's an awful LOT of... you know... sex stuff in here," he said, eyeing Randy.
"I know," Randy replied. Especially sex stuff with ME, he thought. "That's what the character of Brian is about."
"And with a LOT of different guys. In every episode. Does it... make you stop and think? I mean, at all?" Tre had questioned.
"Not really," Randy answered, honestly. "I'm gay -- I have no problem with it."
"Oh," said Tre, suddenly a little more reserved. "I mean, I would do a sex scene with a man in a major motion picture, sure! But this isn't just one scene -- this is almost every other scene, every day, ten different guys, a hundred times a day, seven days a week! You know what I mean? It's a little bit different. Especially since I'm a guy who is straight, heterosexual, and doesn't have any inkling of sexual attraction to a man or anything like that. You understand what I'm saying?"
Yes, thought Randy, I understand what you're saying. You're NOT a queer. I get it. It would be SUCH a chore to kiss me, to fuck me, but you'll grin and bear it for the sake of the job!
So, Tre said he could do the part -- probably. But to Randy's thinking, he still didn't have that edge, that fuck-it-all, go-for-broke attitude that the actor playing Brian needed to have. HAD to have! Yes, he WAS good-looking in a kind of a Middle America, 'actorish' way. But he was also so ordinary. Ordinary face. Ordinary hair. Ordinary height. Ordinary -- everything!
And Tre had no chemistry at all with Randy. All through the reading the guy kept his eyes on the script or else on the producers. Smiling at THEM. Playing to THEM. Randy might as well have been a chair or a cardboard cut-out. The guy barely acknowledged him during their actual scene together. So, Tre wasn't thrilled with having to 'fuck' Randy? Well, the thought of Randy having to kiss HIM, make-out with HIM, practically make love with his guy on camera was not appealing to Randy, either. Not even a little bit.
No, only one actor had made any kind of impression on Randy. Someone who was anything but 'ordinary.' The very last man to read, late on Friday afternoon. Most actors come to an audition 'dressed' as the character -- as they see it. Most of the guys he'd read with clearly had no clue what kind of 'gay' character Brian was. And they came in wearing clothes more suited to playing Emmett than Brian. Or they waved their fucking hands around. Or talked all weird, the way they obviously thought a 'fag' should talk. It was horrible. Those guys were dismissed before they even finished reading the scene with him, and Randy was glad.
But he'd come into the audition just wearing his regular clothes, jeans and a plain shirt, dirty and work-stained as they were, straight from some construction job or something. The smell of real working sweat clung to the guy. Tall and thin, with eyes that seemed to change color with every new angle, Randy had found him interesting the moment he saw the man walk into the rehearsal hall. He was different. Not the usual actor-type, trying to be so smooth and self-confident, with that phony hip manner. He struck Randy in a way that the other guys he'd read with hadn't. And it wasn't just that he was handsome, because he definitely WAS handsome. But what struck Randy was something else. Something inside of him. An honesty that the others hadn't shown.
And this actor had given a cold reading that almost had Randy believing that he'd been studying the script for weeks instead of only minutes. He had the kind of 'I don't give a shit' attitude that was just what Brian was all about. Or at least he pretended to have that attitude, because underneath Randy could sense a deep insecurity, even a shyness, that the bravado masked. Which Randy felt, from reading Brian's part almost as intently as his own, was the true essence of that extremely contradictory character.
But, unfortunately, Randy was also certain that the actor -- Gale something, that's all he'd caught -- would not take the part of Brian. Like Tre, Gale seemed so very straight, but his whole attitude was distinct from the other actors who had auditioned and then balked. He had even seemed intrigued by Randy's direct challenge to him to take the role. He'd leaned over and kissed him, spontaneously, as if to prove that he wasn't afraid of Randy, wasn't even afraid of 'Brian.' And the producers had been watching closely. Dan and Ron had seen just what Randy had seen -- and they had offered him Brian immediately.
But Randy had been standing next to him when they made the offer. And Randy had seen him shy, just for an instant. Seen the sudden hesitation in the man's demeanor, the slight change in his fuck-it-all stance. And that's when Randy knew that he wouldn't do the part. He wouldn't be Brian. HIS Brian. That had made Randy depressed all weekend. Disappointed in Gale, who he felt he already knew, felt he already understood. But also thinking of that other guy they had considered. Tre. That very ordinary actor playing HIS -- Justin's -- lover. Because Randy was absolutely sure that Justin would never pick anyone ordinary to fall in love with at first sight. No way! It had to be someone with "the face of God" -- or no one. Otherwise his character wouldn't make any sense at all!
Hal was already holding court in the corner with a couple of publicists when Randy walked in. He'd shown up even earlier than Randy had. Shit. Now Randy wouldn't have the opportunity to sit and think for awhile before the others arrived. To get into 'character.'
"Hi!" Hal came over and greeted Randy. "I guess this is the real deal, huh?"
"I guess so," said Randy, warily. Hal was always 'on' -- or seemed to be. He could never relax. Maybe it was just the way that stand-up comics were. They fed off the energy of their audience, whether it was one person or five hundred. And Hal always seemed to be on the verge of going into his act.
"Kind of crazy -- all this stuff," said Hal. "Don't you think?"
"What 'stuff' do you mean?" replied Randy, thinking of Tre and his discomfort with the 'sex stuff' -- meaning, of course, the GAY sex stuff!
"I mean all the hoopla around this show," said Hal. "It's gonna be... pretty intense, don't you think? And all the gay stuff, too," Hal added. He seemed to be feeling Randy out.
"I guess," Randy sighed. It always came down to THAT, it seemed. The sex 'stuff.' The gay 'stuff.' "This will be a controversial series, even for Showtime. I think THAT'S a given right from the start." Randy looked the other actor up and down. This guy was a stand-up comedian, but he'd already starred in a series on cable, hosting a show on the E! Network. So he was the 'star' here -- sort of. But if you were going to use THAT criteria, then Sharon, who played Michael's mother, Debbie, was the only actual star on this show. She WAS an Emmy winner, after all.
But then there was the character of Brian. He was the real wild card. No, it would all depend so much on who was playing Brian. Randy tried to imagine the other guy he'd read with dominating the show. Being the central figure in all the other character's lives -- but he couldn't. He kept thinking of Gale -- that last man he'd read with. Thinking about how HE could really do the job. Thinking about....
"Hi-Hi!" It was Peter, blowing into the room and immediately making his presence known. He saw Randy, standing quietly in the corner, and came up to him.
"Hey, Peter," said Randy. Peter always made him feel more at ease. He cut through all the bullshit every time in a way that Randy couldn't. Randy had felt a bond with Peter from the first day he had met him in the production office. "You nervous?"
"What's there to be nervous about, honey?" said Peter, matter of factly. He had a lot television experience, having been a regular on a couple of series, while Randy's previous work had all been on the stage, much of it in student productions. Randy was the real neophyte in the cast, it seemed. "These are only the network executives -- they aren't reporters, after all. They won't be asking the usual stupid questions, especially those boring 'gay' questions."
Randy felt his heart sink a little. "What kind of 'gay' questions?"
"You know!" said Peter. Then he deepened his voice into a lower, butcher key. "'What's it like kissing a man?' And 'Doesn't it disgust you to do those sex scenes with another guy?' That kind of thing." Peter laughed. "Please! Don't worry, hon -- you'll have to answer your share of those questions before too long, believe me."
"We won't have to deal with those things this morning, will we?" said Randy, starting to worry.
"No, not at all! The Showtime people will just take a good, long look at all of us and someone will take a few pictures. The next thing you know we'll all be up in Toronto and filming -- and that will be THAT!"
"Yes, that will really be the beginning, won't it, Peter?" said Randy.
"That's for certain, hon!" Peter paused, looking around. Scott had arrived, and a few other production people. They were all waiting for the producers, Dan and Ron, and the Showtime executives. Sharon came in and Hal went over to her right away, shaking her hand and introducing himself as her son. She was giggling.
"She seems really nice and down to earth," said Randy, watching Sharon. He felt a good vibe from her. He wondered if they would be doing a lot of scenes together.
"She is, from what I've heard. With the way we all are going to working so closely together up in Canada it won't do to have any prima donnas on this set!"
"You're right, Peter." Randy paused. "I guess we're the only gay actors in the cast, huh?"
"Well," said Peter. "There's the man playing the uncle. I think he's out. But he's up in Toronto. He won't be here today. And he's not in the main cast, either." Peter stopped, looking towards the door where the two producers were just entering. "And then there's Brian. We don't know about him yet. Have they even cast that part? Because if they haven't, they better get cracking!"
Randy shook his head, adjusting his glasses. Now he was really feeling ill at ease. "I don't know, Peter. None of the guys I read with were gay -- or at least they sure weren't out. But...."
"But what, hon?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all." Randy couldn't explain what he was feeling to Peter. Or thinking. Especially about the reservations he was starting to have.
"Well, you two are going to be THE queer 'super couple' on this show, so Brian better be a total hunk AND a fabulous actor -- or else we are in some deep shit trouble, that's all I have to say!" Peter said, directly.
"I know, Peter. Hey, I'm the one who has to... to play all those explicit scenes with the guy!" Randy laughed nervously. "'Super couple' -- sure! He BETTER be great -- or I'm going to look like an idiot!"
"I doubt that, Rand. You are too adorable to ever look like an idiot."
"Maybe," said Randy. He was uncomfortable whenever people focused on his innocent, youthful looks. "But I'd rather be just a good actor -- and not some teenybopper wannabe."
"Sometimes it comes with the territory, baby," said Peter, seriously. "That's just the truth."
"I know -- but it makes me self-conscious."
"Could be worse things than being a gay pin-up boy! But it's those young girls who will be after YOU!" Peter arched his eyebrows suggestively at the younger man.
"Young girls? I doubt that, Peter!" Randy protested. "I've made it very clear that I'm gay and I'll say so to anyone who asks me -- even those reporters! I've been out since I was sixteen, but I've never made a big issue of it."
"That'll make NO difference, believe me. It will be the girls, trust me." Peter smiled. "Or would you rather have a bunch of dirty old men lining up outside your dressing room door?"
"Neither, actually," said Randy, somberly. "I don't think my boyfriend would like it very much."
Peter looked at the younger actor with concern. "Is he okay with all this? And with you having to be up in Toronto?"
Randy shrugged. "I guess so. We haven't talked about it really...." His voice trailed off. They hadn't talked about it all, in fact. Randy was afraid to talk about it. Things were shaky enough with his boyfriend as it was....
A murmur went through the room and Randy looked up. A tall, slender man walked in, wearing a retro-looking, but very elegant suit. Probably one of the Showtime executives....
Then Randy looked again. "Gale," he said.
"What, hon?" said Peter.
"Gale. The guy who read for Brian with me. He just came in. He must have accepted the part!" Randy felt strangely excited.
"He's certainly handsome enough to be Brian," Peter replied. "Sexy, too. And he probably has an ego bigger than this whole building."
"No," said Randy. "Not at all. He's very self-effacing. Even a little shy."
"Well, he certainly can't be shy and play Brian! And neither can YOU, baby! Those scenes between the two of you don't allow for 'shy'!" Peter grinned his charming, gap-toothed grin.
"I know!" answered Randy, watching the newcomer as he paused in the doorway. "But he's not shy that way. About himself, maybe, but not about acting. I think he's... brave enough to do what we have to do. And enough of an actor not to make a big deal of it. He's certainly up to my challenge. He just proved that to me."
"What challenge are you talking about, Rand?"
"Just something between the two of us. Just... never mind," Randy said, blushing.
"Oh," said Peter. "The two of you have secrets already, huh? Getting into your characters a little early? I thought you said he wasn't gay?"
"He's not. And it's nothing like THAT, Peter!" Randy insisted. "But I think we do have a chemistry. I could feel it while we were reading together. I think Ron and Dan could feel it, too." Randy craned his neck, watching the tall actor walk over and shake hands with the two producers. They were smiling broadly, obviously delighted that he'd agreed to do the role. "Excuse me for a sec, Peter."
Randy made his way across the room. Gale looked up and saw him coming. He turned away from the producers and nodded his shaggy head at his new co-star. "Hey."
"Hey yourself," replied Randy. "So -- you're here."
"Yup, I'm here." The tall man smiled slightly. It was very tentative, like casual smiling wasn't something he did easily. Randy felt he was getting a little gift and returned it with one of his own full-power grins. "Didn't think I'd make it, did you?" Gale said.
"Of course I did. I never doubted it," said Randy. He was aware that he was staring at the other man intently. He wanted to look away, but he felt as if he were looking for something. Randy wasn't sure what. But something.
"Sure! You're a cute liar, you know that?"
"Cute? That's getting awfully personal," Randy replied, laughing.
Gale snorted. "Personal my Aunt Fanny! Wait until we start filming and I have my tongue in your ass. Then we'll talk about personal."
"Right," said Randy, trying to read the other man. To see whether he was serious or joking. But his face was inscrutable. Even serene.
"Man, I need a cigarette," Gale breathed. "Or something stronger. This isn't exactly my favorite time of the day. It's a little early to get dressed up so fucking fancy!"
"You look great. When you came in I almost didn't recognize you in that suit," said Randy.
"I thought I better make a good impression on these Showtime guys. You know -- wear a suit to impress a suit?" Gale replied. "This suit is old -- I got it at one of those vintage places up in San Francisco, but it still looks good. And it fits me okay."
"It does," said Randy, suddenly aware that he was wearing a very plain pair of khaki pants and a shirt like a high school kid might wear, while Gale was dressed like a very stylish, well-to-do, gay executive. They were already unconsciously getting into their parts. Or maybe not so unconsciously. "When did you decide? I mean about doing the part?"
Gale cocked his head, looking over the other actors who he'd be working with. Sizing them up. "Oh, I'd decided before I left the rehearsal space. Maybe not intellectually -- that I had to rationalize to myself. But I talked to a friend about it that night and he basically said that if I was an actor and had the opportunity to act... well, then there was no question. But emotionally, I'd already decided."
"Emotionally? What do you mean?"
"That gut feeling you get when you need to do something. To prove something to yourself. That's purely an emotional decision. But that's the one I usually go for. It's what made me decide to be an actor in the first place -- that certainly wasn't a rational decision! But, is it ever?"
Randy laughed. "I wouldn't know. I've never thought of doing anything else but acting. Or even tried to."
"Well, I've done everything else! Everything from waiting tables to carpentry to fixing motorcycles. Playing soccer. Being an artist. Being a bum. The usual. But acting is the biggest gamble -- especially at my age."
"Your age? Come on!" said Randy. "What are you, like twenty-six? Twenty-seven?"
Gale smiled that sphinx-like smile. "That's a question that Brian would never answer. He likes to keep the illusion of youth."
"But you aren't Brian."
"I'm not? That's funny -- I told the producers I was. When the one guy answered the phone when I called there on Saturday, that's what I said -- 'This is Brian Kinney.' So, I guess I am. At least until the suits cancel the show! Which might be sooner than we think, considering some of the scenes they are planning to film."
"You think they'll wimp out?"
Gale shrugged. "I don't know. I hope not. But my friend -- the one who told me to go out and act -- says that I'm dreaming if I think they'll let some of this stuff on television."
"It IS cable," Randy reminded the other man. But Gale just shrugged again.
At that moment Hal came up. As usual, he was bouncing up and down. The guy couldn't stand still -- he was a bundle of restless energy. "Hi! What's up? I'm Hal and I'm playing Michael. You must be playing Brian. I heard they cast you at the very last minute. Pretty lucky for you, huh?"
"Yeah," said Gale, coolly. "Actually, I was just holding back to make a grand entrance." Even without a cigarette, Gale breathed like he was blowing smoke rings.
"Yeah," said Randy, leaning lightly against his new co-star. "Pretty lucky for the show, I think."
Hal looked confused for a moment. "Right. Of course. Can't exactly start filming without a Brian, can we? He's sort of... you know... the catalyst for stuff to happen."
"That's for sure," murmured Randy. And he saw Hal shoot him a dirty look. But that was okay -- Michael and Justin weren't exactly supposed to be good friends. Not when they were both in love with the same guy. They were rivals, in fact, for Brian's ultimate affections. But Randy had no doubt who was going to be the winner in THAT competition. And he wasn't planning to play Justin any other way than as a kid who would do anything to win his man. Anything -- no matter how prideless and painful it was.
Randy glanced up at Gale. He was standing back, watching the exchange between the other two men with amusement. Exactly the way Brian would. Yes -- the catalyst for everything that would happen on the show. That was the truth.
Hal backed off and went to stand with one of the Showtime publicists he'd gotten friendly with. Randy guessed that was a smart thing -- getting friendly with the people who arranged the interviews and planted items in the columns and arranged personal appearances for the cast. But Randy couldn't see himself chasing after that kind of Fame. And he certainly couldn't see Gale doing it. But then, looking at the man, so beautiful and mysterious and individualistic, Randy could see Fame coming after HIM in a huge way, whether he sought it or not. And coming in a hurry. Maybe even coming after them all -- and so swiftly and so subtly that they wouldn't even know what hit them.
Randy felt a little chill of apprehension up the back of his neck. This show was going to change his life, no doubt about that. It was going to change ALL of their lives. Maybe in ways they could not even imagine. He looked up at the taller, older actor for reassurance. And Gale gave him a slight smile. A look that said 'I'll protect you. Just stick with me, kid. And fuck all the others.'
One of the producers -- Dan -- came to the center of the room and spoke. "I'm so happy that all of you could make it here this morning. It looks like we've got a fabulous cast -- and I know we are going to have a fabulous show. But also an important show. And I know that you all understand that. We're all going into the other room now and meet the Showtime people. Their motto is 'No Limits' -- and we are going to see if that's true, because we are going to test a few of those limits right in the very first episode."
And Randy could feel all eyes in the room turning to gaze at him and Gale. Because THEY were going to be the ones testing those limits. And in only a few days. Then the two of them would be on a soundstage somewhere in Canada, stark naked, doing things most straight people didn't even realize that queers did. That's what Dan and Ron really meant by testing the limits. And he and Gale were going to be the guinea pigs for it all. The whole thing was going to play out on THEIR bodies, in front of the camera. Now THAT was scary.
Randy felt a hand touching his back. Very gently, but supportively. Felt Gale give him a slight nudge. Because everyone was looking at the two of them. But especially looking at Gale. Already taking their cues from him. The catalyst. Waiting for him to make the first move to follow the producers into the next room and meet the network executives.
The tall actor moved forward towards the door, his hand on his young co-star's waist, so that they moved together. Which was the way they were going to have to do things from now on. Working together. Trusting each other. Yes -- even protecting each other. If they were going to survive all of this. If they were going to try and make this television series their new reality.
"You know what the man says, kid?" Gale leaned down and whispered into Randy's ear, confidentially. A few of the other actors and production people looked at the two of them with interest. Their 'super couple'!
"No excuses, no apologies, no regrets." breathed Gale. "I think that's going to have to be our motto from now on. Is that okay with you?"
"Fuck yes!" he answered. "Fuck YES!" And then Randy laughed. And he didn't care who was looking at them.
© Gaedhal, December 2002.
Go on to "No Rehearsal Necessary", the fourth "Folk Lore" story.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions. I welcome all of your feedback!
Posted January 2, 2003.