This is Part 2 of Chapter 28 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "The Olympian -- Part 1", the previous section.
The ocean and the sky look beautiful. The same aquamarine color. So deep it hurts your eyes.
And the sand is white and pure. This isn't a spot that has been too covered over with tourists and commercial ventures. It still looks new and unblemished, just like the image you have of paradise. Especially when you can pay for the best. And this place is the best of the best.
Brian is wearing his tight, white linen pants, slung low on his slender hips. No shirt -- his chest is bare and golden like honey. His arms are slightly burned from the sun and his skin is starting to freckle on the back of his shoulders. There's a tiny spot on his neck where the razor missed, but otherwise his skin is smooth and moist-looking. A huge lei of brilliant red flowers hangs around his neck.
His face is beautiful in the morning sun, his long lashes blinking, his golden-green eyes mirroring the colors of the lush vegetation. The skin on his nose is peeling just a bit
But his pupils are pinned. Tiny black dots in a green sea. And the silly smile on his face is a half-euphoric, half-nodding smile that feels nothing on the outside, only on the inside.
Well, why not? We have the money for it. As long as it doesn't get out of hand and he can function on a day-to-day basis. He's happy and dreamy and that makes me happy and dreamy. And I don't even have to use anything myself.
Diane is wearing a white dress embroidered with tiny violet and blue flowers and she wears a circlet of the same kind of violet and blue flowers on her head. She holds a bouquet and smiles slightly. Her bare feet are dug deeply into the white sand.
Jimmy is in cut-off jeans and a loud Hawaiian shirt. Typically Jimmy. He also has a lei around his neck, of white and blue flowers. Tess, also in a white sun-dress, has a lei that mirrors Jimmy's. Their daughter, Annie, wears a dress like her mother's and carries a large basket of flower petals to throw on the white sand.
There are other people standing back farther. My mother, in a blue dress and white lei. She refuses to take her shoes off, even in this deep sand, so she stands, tilting somewhat.
Ben Bruckner and his ex-boyfriend, Michael stand together. They act friendly to each other still. Ben looks healthy enough, but I know it is deceptive. Even so, he is smiling a very Zen kind of smile. The ex-boyfriend is not smiling. He hates me and is in love with Brian. Well, stand in line, fella. Fuck him.
And speaking of standing in line, Michael's current boyfriend is not in evidence. And he won't be -- not here, not ever. Not if I can help it. They must have some interesting conversations, united, as they are, by the same unfulfilled desire for Brian. He's still a faceless, nameless presence in my life. And that's the way I want him to stay.
Jerry Baxter, the shark, watches Diane. He is completely out of place in this natural setting, like huge lump of plastic lying on the pristine sand. And Freddy Weinstein and his wife, Dolly, she looking like the Wicked Stepmother. Carmel and Maria, holding a large box of tissues, hoping for a big cry. The photographer.
And the minister. A short woman with glasses who looks a little Hawaiian, a little Chinese, maybe a little Filipino. She's wearing a black and purple robe and a white lei, with a large red hibiscus flower stuck behind her right ear. She's the expert, she's the director here. She's waiting for the sun to rise to the correct point over the ocean before beginning.
And then there's me. I'm the nervous one. I keep looking around, expecting something to go wrong. I dread that part where they say, "If anyone here knows a reason why these two may not be joined together" -- that's when I might expect something bad to happen. Michael to get hysterical. Or Dolly to make some remark. Or even Diane, who has been so cooperative and good at getting Brian ready and able to make it to this day, to pull something suddenly.
But nothing is going to happen. I've made certain of that.
I'm wearing a green Hawaiian shirt -- not as loud as Jimmy's, but still pretty bright for my usual tastes. Plain tan pants and a tan jacket. I admit it -- I'm not a fashion plate. So, who is looking at me? No one. As it should be.
Instead, they are all looking at Brian. He is still smiling, his eyes rolled back just a little. Swaying slightly in the morning breeze. Diane steadies him with her hand.
The minister begins. Everything is going as planned. Everyone plays his or her role. Brian has to be prompted a bit by Diane, but he says what he needs to say.
And now, the important part. Jimmy, as the Best Man, steps forward with a gold-foil-covered box. He opens it. The cuff and chain inside have been specially made, strong but light-weight. Made so that once the cuff is put on, it can only be cut off. Permanent. The way I mean for it to be.
But just before I snap it on Brian's left wrist, there's an interruption. Michael cranes his head around, dismayed. Someone is running from far down the beach. His blond hair looks white in the rising sunlight. Brian blinks and stares out, his eyes trying to focus on the figure coming toward us, yelling, "Briiiiaaan! Stop! No! Don't!"
Fuck! I motion for a couple of large Hawaiian guys hired for this purpose to stop him. I can never see his face clearly. Ever. Only the blond hair. We hear the yells as the two big guys stop him and drag him away.
I observe Brian watching, passively, as he disappears. Then he looks at me. His eyes are transparent. He is transparent. The chain suddenly feels like an anchor in my hand, dragging me down, both of us down -- down -- down....
"What the fuck was that?"
"What? What?" I try to sit up, my arms tangled in the sheets.
"I'm supposed to be the one having the nightmares, remember? What were you yelling about?"
Brian is awake and sitting up, reading a copy of 'The New Yorker.'
I shake my head, trying to clear out that final image from my dream. "Why are you still awake at this hour? We still have a whole day left to shoot. You should be sleeping!" Especially after he passed out on set the day before and spent all this day resting and focusing on the final scene he has to do tomorrow.
"It's too late to take a pill. It doesn't matter that much. I'll sleep when the shoot is over."
"Oh, my head." I get up and stagger into the bathroom. That fucking dream was the worse one yet.
"Eating Maria's Mexican cooking is going to kill you, Ron."
I lean out of the bathroom. "And eating nothing is going to kill YOU, Brian."
He shrugs. "I bet you have an ulcer. I'd get it checked out next week."
"So, you are interested in my so-called ulcer? That's funny -- you won't be here to find out if I'm all right. You'll be in...," The name tastes like something bitter. "Pittsburgh."
"I'll call you and find out how things are going."
"What if I need to call you?"
"I'll give you the number of the loft. You already have my cell number."
"Sure -- IF you answer it."
"Then leave a message."
The loft. I know what THAT means. "IF your 'tenant' takes the message and bothers to give it to you."
Brian puts down the magazine. "Why are we having this conversation at...," he looks at the clock. "At 3:16 a.m. Is there a point?"
"Now or never, Brian. Now or never."
"Give me a fucking break, Ron." He picks up his magazine and continues reading.
"What's so engrossing there at 3:16 a.m.?"
"It's 3:18 now. Article about Larry Kramer. The Mad Faggot Prophet and his jeremiad on the state of Queers in America. Fascinating."
"He's a fucking loony." I take a couple of Advils and try to get them down with water from the tap. The water has an acrid taste. This fucking drought!
"Ron, anyone who would chase after Ronald Reagan with a bullhorn, screaming, 'Your son is gay!' has got to be someone to admire. At least on the theoretical level."
"I thought that had been well established. I guess it takes one to know one." I'm not certain if he means Larry Kramer is also nuts -- or me. Not that it matters. He puts the magazine on the bedside table. "Don't worry -- I'm not planning to fuck Larry Kramer any time soon."
"Very funny." I come back into the bedroom and try to straighten the sheets I've messed up.
"I'm not planning on fucking anyone, Ron, so don't worry around it. Even if I could. Which is also pretty much theoretical at this point in time."
I get into bed. "It's all in your mind, Brian. You're fine."
"Get a good night's sleep and eat a complete meal for once and you'll be surprised the positive effect it will have on your cock."
"Thank you, Dr. Ruth." He turns off the reading lamp and lays back on the pillow.
I think of the dream I just had. Or was it a nightmare? "The sun and the sand could do wonders for your... problem." I lean near him. His skin feels warm. Maybe too warm.
"I've made my plans and I'm not going to change them. We've gone over this a million times."
"We've never fucked like we did in Hawaii. You'll be inspired there," I whisper. The images from my dream -- the good parts at the beginning -- keep coming back into my mind. Brian, all honey-golden on the sand. Maybe even....
"There was nothing else to do there." He rolls over -- away from me.
"I give up."
And I do give up. For now. But just for now.
Because I am never giving this up. Ever.
And speaking of bad dreams, this final day of filming has 'nightmare' written all over it.
It's suddenly turned cloudy, so we have to wait out most of the morning for them to clear. And once they do, the sun is hotter and nastier than ever, relentlessly beating down on that stadium.
Brian, already exhausted from lack of sleep, is functioning on pure anxiety and shots of caffeine. I told the ADs to keep the bottles of Jolt off the set, but I see him downing it between cups of Gatorade anyway. At this point he'll be flying rather than running.
Tess is not on set today, but I see Diane skulking around the parameter. She's been hiding out in the trailer -- Jimmy told me she's in there -- and avoiding me. Fuck it -- I can't be bothered to have her ejected at this late date. Besides if she's a calming influence on Brian, I can deal with it.
After three days of pretending that he didn't know me, Jimmy is speaking to me again. Of course, it's because Tess if not there. I try to imagine the kind of scene they had between them that so put the fucking fear of God into one of the most powerful guys in the Industry.
"Rip you a new one, huh, Jimmy?"
"It must show on my face. You know what they say about 'hurts so good'?"
"Well, not when TESS does it." Leaving open the question of who does make it hurt so good for Jimmy. The answer comes on the set in the skimpiest pair of running shorts on record.
"Tell me, are those shorts really period?"
"They didn't wear those baggy clothes back in the 1970's. Just look at the photos. Runners. Basketball players. Even baseball players. Everything on the men was skin-tight and balls-to-the breeze."
"Shit! If Brian's going to do a lot more falling down I hope his jockstrap holds out."
"I just hope HE holds out."
"Fuck -- I'm glad all I have to do is stand around and look concerned and horrified. It's too hot even to do THAT comfortably." Jimmy gestures for his assistant to hand him a towel. He dabs at his forehead, trying to wipe away the sweat without smearing his make-up.
Then he leans in to me, his voice low. "When he passed out on Thursday I thought that was the fucking end of the picture. I didn't think he was going to get up."
"How do you think I felt? But it was dehydration -- mostly."
"That's not just nothing, Ron."
"I know! I know... If we can nail this is a couple more takes, we can get the fuck out of here."
This is the key scene. We've already done the moves up to the final run. Scenes between Bobby and Guy. Between Guy and the Officials. Guy and his father. Bobby and one of the other athletes. The background stuff and as much as we could do with the stand-in yesterday when Brian was out. The stuff with the stand-in is going to have to be repeated, I know it. It doesn't match, doesn't look like Brian. I confer with my ADs, with Jimmy, and -- finally -- Brian.
"I'll do it. Let's just get it fucking OVER with!"
As indolent as he can be when he's in a sulking mood, when he's hyped up to go, Brian wants to go and go and go. I know that his stamina at sex is legendary -- but when he channels that into other areas, he goes until he literally drops. My only concern is to pace him. If we have to do three, five, even ten takes, then he has to be able to do it. And all in this gut-wrenching heat.
The two trainer-consultants, John and Albie, help set up for the start of the race, getting Brian and the other runners into the blocks and ready. We film for a while. There are some false starts, some stumbles, and also a couple of decent takes.
Brian has to be hot off the blocks. He has to look like he can compete with these other guys, who are all actual runners from local colleges, plus some guys here for the actual meet who we've kitted up in 1970's gear. But he looks good next to them. Taller, which makes him a bit slower to start, but once they get into the actual running scenes he always holds his own.
I want one more really explosive-looking start, so I tell Brian to truly dig in and give it everything. He does, and when the runners come to a stop, just off camera, he's gasping.
"Shit. I really felt that one."
Suddenly Diane is there with the bottle. "Albie says to drink this. It's his special mixture."
I walk away to get ready for the next set-up.
This is more of the climax of the film. This is what we were trying to finish on Thursday when Brian finally hit the wall. The fall. We have enough of the race up until that point that we got on Wednesday and Thursday morning, but we need the shot, the hit, and the fall.
This is going to be the hardest part.
We did a couple of takes Thursday, but they aren't good enough. These have to be good. Convincing. The make-up people have already covered up an assortment of scrapes, bruises, and cuts, but there will be more before we've finished. There's no other way on this surface. No other way to fall, headlong, while you're running at full speed.
Brian looks at the tape of the run, the falls of the stand-in. Only in extreme long-shot are they usable. I have a steadicam that will get right into the action -- but that means he has to be there and take the falls.
"Let's do it before we lose the light," he says, playing director. Then he turns to me. "Because I have a plane to catch tomorrow -- and I'm going to be on it, footage or no fucking footage."
And I know he means it.
And we film it. The run. The shot. The fall. In one continuous take. Divided up into segments. Long shots. Medium shots. Close-ups. Every one has to be at a point of high intensity for the maximum impact. The shock. The whole fucking point to this whole fucking movie.
Between takes Diane is hovering around like a mother hen. Or a pain-the-ass. Make-up is covering up new abrasions, some of which look nasty.
"Shit. I hope my tetanus shot is still good," Brian says, looking at his leg.
John and Albie check him out. They also look at his eyes, feel his skin. "Am I ready for auction, boys?" At least he can still kid around. But the jokes are getting more edged with hysteria as we move to the end.
"Is the blood thing really necessary?"
"Yes. We're using a color effect on the film for the actual hit. But when you're on the ground -- Brian, we have to." I put my hand on his arm. "I know it makes you queasy...."
He turns. "It doesn't 'make me queasy,' Ron. I'm not some pussy boy who faints at the sight of blood." His eyes get strange. "I've seen people covered in blood before."
Diane puts her worthless two cents in at this point. "Can't you just SUGGEST the blood?'
"And how do you want me to do that? What, are you a director now, Diane?
"I'm trying to help here."
"I've said it before, Diane -- butt OUT! Or I'll throw you off the set!"
Meanwhile, I have an entire crew and a couple thousand extras watching me have an argument with my lover's fake girlfriend. I should have become a fucking accountant like my mother wanted -- I'd be living in Westchester and mowing my fucking lawn right at this moment instead of dealing with this horseshit!
This should be the easiest take in the film. All he has to do is lay down on the ground. But this is freaking Brian out more than all the other scenes in the film put together. I think he has some kind of pathological fear of blood. I should have had him work this out with his analyst. Not that I trust that bastard anymore, but maybe he could have helped Brian deal with this phobia. But it's too late now.
The make-up guys argue as to how much blood and where it should go. How much to spread around. It's ghoulish, I admit. The blood mixture is red dye and cornsyrup. It's thick and sticks to everything. It looks too real. Diane turns away, grimacing. Brian cringes as they touch his neck and face with the stuff.
But now this is Jimmy's big moment. And he isn't going to do a single take and go home. Like I've said before, Jimmy smells Oscar Number Two in the role of Guy and he's going to milk these takes for every ounce of bathos.
Of course, what I do with Jimmy's emoting in the final cut is all up to me.
But Jimmy is good. I will admit it. He knows what he's doing. But at this point I can see that Brian is ready to lose it and that Jimmy is oblivious to anything but his own performance. Of course, Brian's 'acting' at this point is all being dead, but still -- it's harder than it looks.
"One more, Ron. One more take."
Brian hears this. "Why? Don't we have enough NOW? Do we have to do this again?" All he wants to do is wipe the blood off of himself and escape from this place. I can't say I blame him.
"One. Just one. I want to try something."
"At this moment you're going to 'try something'? How many different ways can you say someone is fucking DEAD?"
"Good ahead, Jimmy." He's the star. He's the producer, Let's face it -- Jimmy calls the shots.
He and Brian stare at each other for a long minute, a battle of nerves. Finally, Brian takes his place, the actors playing the officials and athletes take their places. Doug Drake, who is playing Jimmy's father, takes his place. Even Diane stands back and away, waiting for everything to end.
Jimmy does his thing. He wants to run a continuous take from his entrance on the field after he sees Bobby shot. Emotional high. Emotional speech. The sweat is dripping down him as he reams out the officials, the athletes, the whole homophobic establishment that has just murdered his whole reason for existing. Brian seems pole-axed on the ground, motionless and very dead-looking, flies beginning to buzz around the sweet cornsyrup blood.
Finally, Jimmy kneels for the two shot and does his lines over the supine 'body' -- but then he goes off script and lays down on top of Brian, grinding himself into him on the gravel track, kissing him until he is covered with the thick, fake blood.
After Jimmy has indulged himself enough, I cut the scene.
"What the FUCK was that?"
"I just did what the character felt, Ron."
"Showboating, Jimmy." You wouldn't have fucking DARED to do that if Tess was on the set, I think.
"You'll see, Ron. You'll see." He smiles smugly. He's thinking awards. Headlines. Groundbreaking performance. Jimmy Hardy's brave gamble. "Brian didn't protest. I'm sure he agrees with my choices there. Right, Brian?"
We both look around. The spot where Brian was is just trampled gravel and cornsyrup blood.
In the distance I see him walking with Diane. Toward the stadium exit and the car that will take him away from this shoot and, eventually, to the airplane out of this city. And all I can do is watch them go.
Continue on to "Fast Food", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, June 2002
Picture of Gale Harold from Showtime.
Updated June 16, 2002