This is Chapter 24 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Justin Taylor, Dorian Folco, Burr Connor, Lane Harris, John Henry James, Pat Swayze, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Unforeseen complications. Marfa, Texas, June 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
"Find me a primitive man,
Built on a primitive plan,
Someone with vigor and vim,
I don't mean a kind that belongs to a club,
But the kind that has a club that belongs to him.
I could be the personal slave
Of someone just out of a cave.
The only man who'll ever win me
Has gotta wake up the gypsy in me,
Find me a primitive man,
Find me a primitive man."
"Good scene," says Burr Connor as Dorian calls cut.
Connor is playing McLean, the head of a wagon train full of women going west in search of husbands. It's a fairly small part, but it needs someone who projects quiet authority and Burr Connor does that perfectly. We don't have many scenes together -- today's was the longest and that was only a few lines for me and a monologue for him -- but he always comes to the set ready to go; he knows his lines, he's focused, and he doesn't pull any of those old actor's tricks to try to steal the scene away. In other words, the man is a total pro. It's hard to believe he hasn't made a movie in over a decade. What a fucking waste of talent!
"Look," I say as we walk off the set. They're already getting ready for the next set-up. "The other night at dinner -- I'm sorry I was an asshole. I had no right to ask you personal questions or call you out on anything. Because I respect you. I want you to know that."
He's a still man -- no quick or unnecessary movements -- but he's so still that I wonder if he even heard me. Then he nods slowly. "I understand. And I respect you, too, Kinney. But I don't envy you. I was where you are once. Hungry for success. Hungry for fame. Then I became a star. I had everything I'd worked for. I was all about the whole Hollywood scene. Image. Career. Everything. And it almost destroyed me. No, Kinney, I don't envy you at all."
"But now..." I hesitate. I'm so curious to know what's in this guy's head. To have him give me some insight about what he's been through. He's stayed closeted all these years, even though he no longer has to be. Why? "You don't have to prove anything to anyone. Not anymore."
"You mean I can live my life the way I want to?" He gazes across the flat landscape, past the wagons and horses, past the cameras and trailers. In the far distance are some hazy mountains. And all that endless sky. "And so I do. But it's not a life you would recognize, Kinney. You, with your little blond lover, so open, so free, so who-gives-a-damn. That's not me. I lost my chance to have that life. Now..." He shrugs. "This will probably be my final film. I only did it as a favor to Clint. When I leave this set, I'll disappear and no one will care. Only a few Western film fans will remember me. My movies will show up occasionally on cable or at retrospectives. And that's as it should be. It's all illusion. Shadows on a sheet. When you turn on the lights, it's gone."
"But you're still a talented actor," I insist. "You have something to say. You could make a difference... to actors like me. To people... like us."
"There is no 'us,' Kinney," he asserts. "I'm on my own journey, just as you are. And we're all on it alone. Unless..." He pauses for a moment. "Unless we have someone to share it. Someone to walk that path with us. You do. You don't have to be alone. Remember that. I'm alone. But it's because of my own stupidity. It's the path I chose. And I'll walk it until the end."
There's something about the man's eyes -- when I'm this close to him I can see why Burr Connor reminds Justin of Ron. There's an intensity there. A burning honesty. And maybe a little madness, too. Madness and genius.
"There's a project I may be doing next year, if 'The Eastern Front' finishes on schedule. It's a version of 'Sunset Boulevard.' It would star Sir Kenneth Fielding and me in the leads. There's a part you'd be perfect for. The butler. Sir Norman Desmond's ex-lover. The screenplay is still being worked on, but I'd like to send you a copy when it's ready. Would you consider it?"
Connor almost breaks a smile. "You want me to be in a queer version of 'Sunset Boulevard'?"
"I don't think so." He starts walking away.
"I'll send it anyway."
He doesn't answer. He just keeps walking back to his trailer. Walking alone. As always.
I go back to the make-up trailer. I need a touch-up before the next scene.
From the sublime to the ridiculous.
There are a lot of women around. That's different. Up to now this has been such a male-only shoot, a male-only environment, that it feels odd suddenly to have so many females crowding into the trailer. They take up a lot of space. A few of them smile at me. Twitter. Try to catch my eye. I don't see my leading lady, so I assume she's already on set. Or getting her make-up done in her own trailer.
They dust me off and I'm out the door in a couple of minutes.
"Hey, Bri!" It's Pat. He falls into step beside me. "You ready for the big love scene?" He grins fiendishly.
"It's not like it's science fiction, Swayze. I have actually fucked a woman in my life. More than once!"
"Well, fucking is a given," he smirks. "It's the kissing that worries me. Have you kissed a girl recently? I mean, if you need any pointers, I'll be glad to give you a few. I have references, too, if you need proof of my expertise."
"Yeah, I've seen 'Dirty Dancing.'" I don't add that I've seen it about fifty times. I'm so fucking lame!
"Then you know my technique! Feel free to borrow anything you need."
"I don't think I'm going to be lifting Lane Harris," I point out. "Or twirling her. If I need Bossa Nova lessons, I'll give you a call."
"Just close your eyes, Bri," Pat guffaws. "Pretend she's a short blond with a great ass!"
I roll my eyes. "She is -- sort of."
I know he's trying to diffuse the situation by making jokes. And that's what it is -- a situation. But the problem -- for once! -- isn't me. It's not me at all.
Lane Harris has been in a couple of popular films. She's always the 'girlfriend.' Matthew McConaughey's girlfriend. Tobey Maguire's girlfriend. Even Bruce Willis's girlfriend, although she looked more like his daughter. At that she's okay. But she's generic. Blandly blonde. Blandly pretty. Blandly bland.
In 'Red River' she's playing Tess, a widow searching for a new life in an unforgiving country. In other words, a tough, no-nonsense female. And there's no fucking way this feather-brained bleached blonde is believable on a wagon train. They need a woman with some substance to her. A young Sigourney Weaver type. Or even a young Glenn Close. A woman you can believe can drive a wagon into the wilderness and survive, even thrive. A woman who can take a shotgun and shoot it straight. Who can stand up to a Clint Eastwood and make him back down -- which is what Tess is required to do.
That's not Lane Harris. No fucking way!
"Hi!" she squeaks as I walk onto the set. This is a fairly short scene, but if it's anything like the one we did yesterday, it'll take all afternoon. She walks over and gives me a hug, pressing her inflated breasts tightly against me. I guess that works with her other leading men. "You ready for the big kiss?"
"Sure," I say. "Whatever."
Her face changes slightly. She's annoyed, but trying not to let it show. Hey, I don't fuck females, but I do like women. Some women. Lindsay has always been attractive to me. Diane, certainly. Other females have caught my eye, if not my dick. I can appreciate women. I can even do what's required, when it's required. But Lane Harris's usual tricks don't work with me. Her giggling and eye-batting and breast-thrusting -- it's all a no go. To me, she's a big zero. I look at her and it's like looking at Debbie. Or Theodore. My dick says, "Fucking forget it!"
She tries a different tactic. She runs her hands up my arms, squeezing as she goes. "Oh! Have you been working out? These feel so nice!"
"That's what happens when you're wrestling a steer on the end of a rope for weeks. That and wrestling with the weight machines since I was in college." I disentangle myself from her grasp. "Do you want to go over the lines?"
"Oh, I like to be spontaneous!" she says, tossing her head like a filly.
Spontaneous. She learned that fucking word from Eastwood. With him it means he's freshest with the first take. He comes on set, spits it out, and moves to the next scene. The trick is that he's been doing this for fifty years. He's prepared. He's ready to rock and roll. No bullshit, no excuses.
But with Lane Harris it means she doesn't know her fucking lines. Not that she has all that many. But she has trouble remembering, "I love you"!
Dorian comes up, a worried look on his face. "Brian, Lane -- how are you feeling about this scene?"
"Aren't you going to tell me if you like this dress?" Lane interrupts. She's wearing the same dark blue calico rag she was wearing yesterday. We're all basically wearing the same clothes in every scene and she's no different. It's the fucking Old West, not 'Sex and the City'!
"Yes, my dear. Lovely," Dorian says vaguely.
"They took it in. I thought it looked baggy," she pouts. "I don't want to look dowdy."
"You're on a fucking wagon train," I mumble. "This isn't Rodeo Drive and you're not in 'Pretty Woman.'"
"I want to look good, MISTER Kinney!" she huffs. Then she turns up her unnaturally turned-up nose and pointedly looks away from me.
Great. Now she's even more annoyed. I should have kept my big fucking mouth shut!
"Can we try a take?" Dorian suggests. "Please? We need to get this scene and move on."
"I only want to look good," Lane snaps. "Some people don't care how they look -- apparently!"
"I care," I reply. "It's my character who doesn't give a shit! He's a fucking cowboy on a fucking cattle drive!"
"Brian? Please?" Dorian pleads. "The scene?"
I hear laughter and look over there. Standing behind the camera are Pat, Paco, and John Henry James. They're waiting for the next scene, but we have to finish this one first. So now we have an audience.
We go for a take. She fluffs her lines. Then fluffs them again. Then I miss my fucking line!
Dorian calls for a break and takes me aside. "Brian, just do this."
"I'm sorry, Dorian. But it's hard to concentrate."
"Do you want me to clear the set?" Dorian glances over to where the guys are standing. Pat grins and gives me a thumbs up.
"No. Let's do it."
This time we get through the lines. Dorian has us do it again. And again. Then he goes in for the kiss in a two-shot. It's brief, but okay. The awkwardness we both feel works for the scene. After all, I'm a cowboy who isn't used to being around females and she's a 19th century pioneer woman. It should feel a little uncomfortable.
Now Dorian needs the close-up. They move the camera in while the make-up girl touches us up.
"Remember that this is a love scene. Let me feel that you two are falling in love."
"Sure," I say and Lane shrugs.
We go for the kiss. It's all right. Just all right.
Dorian makes a face. "A little more, please. Let me see what you're feeling."
Again. She's breathing heavily, like Trooper after he's had a hard gallop. Maybe she thinks that's sexy. Her tongue tap-tap-taps against my lips. I open my mouth slightly and she plunges in. I also feel her hand run down the front of my trousers and grab my dick. Then she squeezes it. Hard.
"Shit!" I jump away. And then I do something really stupid. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.
"You son of a bitch!" she spits. She slaps me across the face and marches off the set, smoke blowing out of her ears.
"That's the way to do it, Bri!" Pat whoops. "Show her that famous Kinney Technique! Maybe we should get Justin out here and put him in a wig. We'd get that scene in two seconds!"
"Shut up, Mr. Swayze!" Dorian yells. Then he turns to me. "Not the brightest move, Brian."
I close my eyes. "I know. What the fuck can I say?"
Dorian stomps off to smooth Lane's ruffled feathers.
It's my fault. That wasn't just dumb, it was unprofessional. Yes, she's not the best actress in the world, but I should know better.
I walk over to where the guys are standing. Pat offers me a cigarette. "Thanks."
"The scene wasn't working, Bri," he says, lighting it. "Even before the kiss."
I take a puff. I need this, but I need a joint more. "I know. But what can I do?"
"Dorian has to do something. He's the director."
I think about Ron on the 'Olympian' set. How he was always in charge. How he could berate, cajole, bully, and trick you into giving him what he wanted. Dorian is a decent director, but he needs good actors. It's obvious that he has no fucking clue what to do with Lane Harris to make her better. And neither do I.
Dorian comes back to the set. "We're moving on to the next set-up. Gentleman, please get ready."
"But what about the love scene?"
"We'll try it again tomorrow. Ms. Harris is indisposed."
Dorian gives me a look that says he'd like to murder me. And I don't blame him. Thank God Eastwood isn't here today to see this mess, but I'm sure he'll hear about it before the day is through. Fuck!
There are two short scenes with Pat and the guys and we shoot them with no problems. That finishes me for the day. John Henry James also leaves quickly, like he's got a hot date. Dorian does a couple of pick-up shots with Pat and Paco in front of the wagons, but he asks me to stay and wait for him. I know what that means -- detention!
As Pat and Paco walk off the set, they both give me sympathetic looks. Paco pauses to tell me that if I want to come over to the Thunderbird, the invitation is always open. "Always for you, amigo."
"Move on, hombre," says Pat, nudging Paco. "The poor guy has enough on his plate! Besides, that little Justin is a spitfire. I wouldn't put it past him to come after you if he hears you're putting the moves on his man!"
"No harm in trying," Paco shrugs. "Another time, then."
"Yeah," I say. Paco is hot, but this isn't the time or place to test that issue. And Pat is right -- I have other, more pressing matters to think about. Like this fucking film.
"Brian," says Dorian. "I want you to come to dailies tonight. 8:00 at the editing trailer."
Dailies. Double fuck. "Dorian, you know I never go to dailies!"
"You will tonight." Dorian is putting his foot down. "No excuses. I'll send a car to take you over and bring you back afterwards."
Some actors love to go to dailies. They want to see what they look like, how they're doing. I hate dailies. Detest dailies. For the first week of 'The Olympian' Ron made me go to dailies with him every night and look at the footage from the day before. It completely freaked me out! I saw every little imperfection. I looked stiff, bumbling, and totally ridiculous. Ron realized that looking at myself was making me worse, not better, so he told me not to go anymore and suggested that I avoid them in the future. And I have. Usually the first look I have of myself on film is in the rough cut or the previews. For 'Hammersmith' it was at the premiere and that was bad enough! On this shoot Dorian has closed the dailies to everyone but Eastwood and I think Clint has only gone a couple of times. He doesn't need to see himself -- he knows exactly what he's doing without having to watch it.
But Dorian is putting the gun to my head. That's what it feels like. And having to watch myself stone sober is like pulling the fucking trigger!
"Well, what do you think?" Dorian asks as the lights in the editing trailer go on. "What do you suggest I do about this situation?"
I rub my eyes. It's getting late, I'm exhausted, and Justin's ass is waiting impatiently back at the hotel.
"How should I know? I'm not the director!"
"She's terrible," says Dorian. "I wanted you to see this so you would know how bad it is."
"So, I see it. But what do you want me to do about it? Have you shown these dailies to Eastwood?"
"Yes," Dorian nods. "He thinks I should use my own judgment."
"In other words, Clint thinks you should can her ass."
Dorian squirms in his seat. "In short, yes."
I think about what Ron would have done. She'd already be on her way back to L.A. Of course, Ron never would have cast Lane Harris in the first place. Or allowed himself to be forced to cast her by the studio, which looks like the case here. It happens all the time -- the studio wants you to use someone they're promoting or have a stake in and you do it, sometimes as a trade-off for something else you want. That's how John Henry James came on the picture. I suspect he or Lane Harris was part of the trade-off for using Burr Connor. Or maybe even for using Pat, whose career had been on the skids for a while. But the difference is that James actually has a good screen presence. He's no De Niro, but he can say his lines and stay in character, which is more than you can say about Lane Harris.
"I was wondering if you could... work with her?" Dorian says hopefully. "I mean off-set."
"Work with her? I don't even know if she's talking to me!"
"Please, Brian!" Dorian implores. "If you could go over tonight and speak with her. You don't have to run lines or put any pressure on her. Just... make an effort to be civil. Or more than civil. She likes you. I know she does. And she responds to male attention."
I stare back, flummoxed. "Jesus Christ, Dorian! You want me to fuck this female for the sake of the picture?"
"No!" says Dorian adamantly. "I didn't mean that! I only want you to... flirt with her a bit. Make her feel at ease. There's no reason you two have to be at odds. You can charm the birds out of the trees, Brian -- when you want to."
"And I should make myself want to, right?"
Dorian flinches. "It would help me, but more than that it would help the picture. When we get back to Los Angeles we can do some retakes. And I can... try to work on things behind the scenes."
"You think you're going to fix this woman's performance in the edit?" I shake my head. "I don't think so."
"I can only try," he says. "But please, Brian, make nice, as they say."
"Okay." I stand up and stretch. It's been a long fucking day and it's about to get longer. "But you're going to owe me one -- big time!"
"I already owe you, Brian. Big time."
The car takes me back to the hotel. I walk into the lobby. The restaurant and bar are full of cast and crew, drinking. There isn't much else to do on location but work all day and then party and fuck all night. That's why so many hook-ups happen on film shoots. People are bored. They're away from home. Shit happens.
On the 'Eastern Front' shoot I'm going to be away for weeks at a time. Months at a time. Justin and I... we're going to have to talk about this. There's no fucking way I can go for the better part of a year without getting my dick sucked. But I also don't want to hurt Justin. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be thinking about what someone else thought or wanted. I guess that's what it means to be in a 'relationship.' Weird. Crazy. Uncomfortable. Not like me.
But I love the little shit. I can't deny that. And I don't want to lose him. I want to do the right thing, but what that is... I have no fucking clue!
I want to go back to our room and fuck Justin into the mattress, with the ghost of James Dean watching. He'd be jealous, I'm sure. Anyone would be jealous if they saw us fuck full out. There's nothing better. And no one better -- at least for me -- than Justin. I've fucked a lot of hot guys in my life and I've known guys who had the moves and the technique to blow my head off. But only a few times have I felt anything beyond the physical. Only... with Ron. Maybe with Tim. And now Justin, of course. But I don't want to think about the past. Justin and I -- we're partners now. But what that really means is something we still need to work out.
I pass the door of our room, but I walk by quickly. I need to talk to Lane Harris and, as Dorian said, 'make nice.' Jesus!
Her room is at the end of the hallway. It's quiet upstairs, but I can hear laughter and music coming from the patio below. Most of the rooms overlook the patio, where there's a big fountain and tables. It's cool down there. A good place to kick back and have a few shots of the local tequila. Maybe with a chaser of Mexican beer. And a joint. A big, fat joint.
I knock on the door. Wait. Knock again.
"Who is it?" The voice sounds aggravated.
"Brian Kinney. I thought we might talk about a few things."
There's a long pause. "Just a minute!"
After a while she opens the door. She's pulling a robe around her and her hair is all messy. Looks like I woke her up. "Well, Mr. Kinney! I'm surprised to see you here."
"Can I come in?" She shrugs and opens the door. The room is a little bigger than ours, but not much. The queen-sized bed is tumbled, so I definitely got her out of bed. "I probably should have called first, but I thought I'd take the chance and stop by. I wanted to apologize for my behavior this afternoon. There's no excuse for it. It was unprofessional. I hope we can get things right and make our scenes work. I just wanted you to know that if you want to rehearse or run lines or talk about anything, I'm willing to do whatever it takes. I mean that."
"Well!" she says. "I never expected Brian Kinney to offer an apology. I heard you were a hard-ass about admitting you were wrong."
"I am. But if I fuck up, then I say so. This film is too important to me to let a momentary blow-up derail it. We're supposed to be playing two people in love. We don't have to be 'in love' to play those roles, but I believe we should at least be on good terms. I'm willing if you are. So -- what do you say? You want to work on the scene?"
I reach out my hand for her to shake, but instead she launches herself on me. Okay, maybe 'launches' is too strong. She puts her arms around me and hugs me like a boa constrictor. Then she kisses me. Not a friendly fag hag-type kiss, but a big, wet smacker. With plenty of tongue.
"How's that?" she coos, squeezing my biceps. "Nice and hard! I like you, Brian! I don't care if you're gay. In fact, I like a challenge. And I'm willing to work all night -- if we have to!"
Shit. Fuck. Piss. "I... um... can we slow it down a little?"
"Yeah," says another voice. An angry voice. "Slow the fuck down!"
I look up and see John Henry James barrel out of the bathroom. He is very pissed and very naked. He's also as well-hung as I suspected. Very impressive. Very, VERY impressive!
"Brian just stopped by," says Lane to James. She's not the least bit embarrassed by this more than awkward situation. I thought queers were nonchalant about fucking, but this is just insane! "He wants to work on our scene. Wanna watch, baby?"
"You're one fucking crazy-ass bitch!" James barks. "You think I wanna watch you make-out with a fag? What do you think I am?"
"I don't know," she replies calmly. "But we can find out."
"Fuck that!" John Henry James roars back.
"I'll be leaving now," I say, backing towards the door. "Um... have a great night."
I flee down the hall, back to the safety of our room. Justin finds the whole story hysterical.
"You wouldn't be laughing if you'd been there!" I huff. "It was like a bad French movie!"
"Brian Kinney -- in the middle of a straight love triangle!" he guffaws. "Admit it -- that's really funny!"
"Not in the middle," I maintain. "On the edge of a straight booty call!" I pick up my cell. "I better tell Dorian how our talk went. Or didn't go."
"Are you going to tell him about... the booty call?" Justin raises his eyebrows.
"If they're not fucking me, it's none of my business. Remember that, Sunshine."
I call Dorian and tell him I talked to Lane Harris, but that nothing was resolved. I leave out the part about John Henry James and his massive cock. Hey, I can't really blame the woman, can I? I'd be a hypocrite if I did, since I'd certainly think twice when faced by something like that, gay, straight, or undecided!
I hang up and Justin helps me to relax. And I need a good, hard relaxing. A couple of them.
When I get to the set in the morning everyone is buzzing about something, but they clam up when they see me. Something's up.
I find out what it is when I get to the wagon train set to try yesterday's scene once again.
Standing there is an attractive dark-haired girl wearing Lane Harris's blue calico dress. I realize it's Adele Phillips-Smythe, Gerry Milton's favorite co-star and beard, and the sister of Billy Phillips-Smythe, Sir Ken's current boyfriend. I met her in England, at Harry Collins's house party at Firelands. I think she was at the London premiere of 'Hammersmith,' too, but I'm kind of fuzzy on things that happened around that time.
She smiles at me and extends her hand. "Mr. Kinney, I don't know if you remember me. I'm..."
"Yes, I know. Adele. Please call me Brian." I take her offered hand. "But what are you doing here?"
That's when Dorian appears. He looks cool, collected, and in charge. "Brian, I see you've met your new co-star. Adele was in L.A. for an audition, but she was good enough to fly here on short notice. Shall we try the scene? Adele is a very quick study, so we'll try to get as many re-takes as we can today. Are you prepared, my dear?"
"Of course, Dori," she says in a perfect American accent. This woman is young, but she's an actress. A real actress with substance. She's done Shakespeare and Shaw. She's held her own on stage with Gerry Milton and Harry Collins and Neville Douglas-Gore and that's good enough for me. "I'm ready if you are, Brian."
I don't know how Dorian got rid of Lane Harris and I don't really give a fuck. But she's gone.
"And so am I," I say. "So let's do it."
Continue on to "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry".
©Gaedhal, September 2008.
Posted September 2, 2008.