This is Chapter 50 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Jimmy Hardy, Chuckie Ranger, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: It's showtime! Again. New York, March 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"And now the purple dust of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart.
Now the little stars, the little stars pine,
Always reminding me that we're apart.
You wander down the lane and far away,
Leaving me a love that cannot die.
Love is now the stardust of yesterday,
The music of the years gone by.
Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely nights
Dreaming of a song,
That melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration.
Ah, but that was long ago,
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song..."
I stay in my bed at the Royalton for most of the day, but as tired as I am, I can't sleep. Instead, I smoke cigarette after cigarette until the pack is gone. Smoking and thinking.
Thinking about everything. Going over every fucking mistake I've ever made. Every wrong turn. Every stupid choice. Every careless word. Thought by thought. Ash by ash.
But it isn't just one thing I did or one moment when I fucked up. No single turning point. No obvious place where it all went wrong.
It's everything. My entire fucking life, from beginning to end. Ash by fucking ash.
I could blame my abusive, drunken old man and my cold-hearted bitch of a mother who provided such a wonderful example of a loving and committed relationship for me to emulate. Or I could blame the drugs, the booze, and the sex. Or I could blame Stan. Or Ron. Or Father Tim. Or motherfucking Frank Scanlon, the closet case who almost ruined my college career. Or that even bigger motherfucker, Chet Worth, the fucking freak who almost ruined my advertising career. Yeah, I could blame them all for the walls I've spent years building around myself for protection. Walls that I can't seem to rip down no matter how much I try.
Or I could blame Justin.
No. Never Justin.
He's the only one I can't blame.
He's done the right thing. He left. He's saving himself. It's no longer a question of love, but of self-preservation.
I touch the heart-shaped charm that hangs around my neck. Such a little thing. The enamel feels warm from my hot skin. I should take it off. It's pointless to wear it anymore. My fingers stroke the small, smooth surface.
Justin said that as long as I wore this I would know I had a heart.
Now I'm sorry that I have one. It's something that I've never wanted. I was better off when I didn't have one -- or didn't know I had one. But it's too late now. I can feel the pain of it breaking.
I pull at the charm and the thin gold chain bites into my neck. That hurts, too. I stop pulling and leave it where it is.
I deserve to hurt. I want to hurt. That way I won't forget how I've destroyed everything in my life that I've ever loved.
And I keep thinking. Thinking about the minibar across the room. Thinking about what it's filled with.
I'm thirsty. I know there's juice and water in the minibar. All I have to do is open it. But if I open it I know I won't drink the juice or the water. I'll drink the booze. All of the booze. And when I'm finished with that, I'll go looking for more. The Kinney Method of Pain Management, tried and true.
The phone next to the bed rings and I pick it up.
"Mr. Kinney? This is Emily, the production assistant from 'The Late Show.' We're sending a car for you at 3:00. The taping begins at 5:00 p.m. Is that all right, Mr. Kinney?"
"Sure," I say, glancing at the clock. It's just after 1:00. "That's fine. Mr. Hardy and I should be ready by then."
"Oh," says Emily. "Mr. Hardy is already at the studio. He's been here since 11:00 this morning working with the writers on his monologue and some of the comedy bits he's doing."
"I see." I sit up in bed. "What about my lines? What am I supposed to be doing on the show?"
"The writers will have your material waiting for you when you arrive at the Ed Sullivan Theater. You can read it off the cue cards. But mostly you'll be reacting to things Mr. Hardy says. Is that okay, Mr. Kinney? Mr. Hardy told the producer that you'd be more comfortable with less structured material."
"Yeah," I say. "Less structured. Whatever. Listen, are there any other guests on this show? Or is it just me and Jimmy?"
"Yes," says Emily. "We're doing Stupid Human Tricks and then the other guest will be Chuckie Ranger."
"Chuckie Ranger?" What the fuck? "Did Jimmy know that Ranger was going to be on the show?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Kinney," Emily assures me. "I'm told that Mr. Hardy suggested Mr. Ranger as tonight's guest when he agreed to host the show. They have a film coming out, you know?"
"Yes, I know."
Jimmy wanted Chuckie fucking Ranger? They hate each other! But that doesn't matter if pushing their film is at stake. Making kiss-ass with Ranger on national television is so typical of Jimmy's hypocritical nature.
And Jimmy thinks he wants to 'come out' to the public. Ha! That's such bullshit! Jimmy is a creature of Hollywood and he'll never do anything to jeopardize his status in that world. And coming out would be a sucker punch right into the gut of Hollywood.
Not to mention that I have no plan to follow Jimmy down his merry path of delusion.
I fucked him during the rehearsals for 'The Olympian' because I was curious to see what fucking him was like. Jimmy seemed so straight, but he was really into it. Back then I was trying to fuck as many 'names' as I could. It was fun nailing movie stars. I thought my time in La La Land was limited and I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity I had.
Then I kept fucking Jimmy because I thought it added to the realism of the scenes between Bobby and Guy. And because it pissed off Ron. Jimmy was an easy and enthusiastic lay, even though he was far from my type in every way.
But power is sexy and Jimmy is power in the movie business. The Most Powerful Actor in Hollywood. That was no lie and it still isn't. If anything, Jimmy is more powerful now than he's ever been. And if this awful picture with Chuckie Ranger makes the money Howie Sheldon thinks it will, then Jimmy will be the consummate Hollywood golden boy. He'll have it all -- two Oscars, a big box office summer hit, the highest salary in the business, and critical acclaim for his 'bravery' at having the balls to play a queer on America's pristine, heterosexual movie screens.
Which could all go to hell if he suddenly announces that he's a faggot.
I'm not even sure that Jimmy really is a queer. And that's from a guy who's fucked him more times than I like to think about.
I'm still not sure exactly what Jimmy Hardy is.
Except a supreme egotist.
And I have to deal with him.
"Bri!" Jimmy cries, jumping up to hug me. "Baby!"
I roll my eyes. "Hey, Jim."
Emily has brought me directly to the upstairs offices for 'The Late Show with David Letterman.' Jimmy is sitting with the writing staff and they are all laughing with him and having a great time. They love Jimmy Hardy. He's everyone's favorite guest star.
"Hello, Mr. Kinney," says the producer, coming forward to shake my hand. I met him when Jimmy and I did the show last fall. "We're so glad that you were able to help Jimmy fill in for Dave while he's recuperating."
"How is he doing?" I ask.
"Dave'll be fine," the producer says. "We're hoping that he'll be back in a few weeks. And until then we're making do with some great guest-hosts."
"Yeah!" hoots Jimmy. "Hear that, Bri? Making do with bums like you and me!"
"I'm told that the other guest is going to be Chuckie Ranger?" I say, looking at Jimmy questioningly. "Is that right?"
"Yes," the producer explains. "Chuckie was very gracious to agree to come in and do the show with only a little notice. He's currently doing a week at Caroline's Comedy Club. He'll be doing two sets later tonight after we tape. He and Jimmy should have some funny stories to tell about filming together."
"Oh, I'm sure that Jimmy and Chuckie will have lots of funny things to say," I dead-pan. But Jimmy only keeps grinning.
"Why don't you guys get going and I'll talk to Bri about some of the ideas we've been kicking around, okay?" Jimmy suggests.
The writers get up and file out of the office. They all pat Jimmy on the back with great affection and also nod to me as they go.
"It'll be a fantastic show, Jimmy," coos the producer before he also leaves.
Jimmy closes the door behind them. "Alone at last, Baby!" he cracks -- and he makes a lunge for me.
"Cut it out!" I say, shoving him away. "I mean it, Jimmy!"
"Don't be like this, Bri," Jimmy pouts. "We're gonna have a lot of fun! The guys wrote a bunch of good jokes and the Stupid Human Tricks segment should be a blast!"
"And Chuckie Ranger?" I ask. "You fucking HATE Chuckie Ranger? Why in hell would you suggest that he be on the show?"
"Because Howie wanted it," Jimmy shrugs. "It's business, Bri. Howie wants that film on Terra Nova's summer release schedule and that means we have to step up the publicity on it. This is the first stop in the media blitz."
"You and Chuckie Ranger acting like pals? What the fuck is that about?" I retort. "That's what they should give you the Oscar for, Jimmy -- acting like you can stand jerks like Chuckie Ranger. Not for what they think was your great acting in 'The Olympian.' Because what you were doing there was simply remembering how much you enjoyed having a hard dick up your ass."
But Jimmy doesn't get angry at me. Instead he smiles fondly, like he's looking at a beloved pet doing something cute. "Now, Bri, I know you're still pissed that you didn't get nominated for 'The Olympian.' And I'm sure you're pissed because I won. But that's Show Biz, baby! You'll get your Oscar one of these days."
I stare at Jimmy in disbelief. "I'm not pissed about your Oscar, Jimmy. The Oscar has nothing to do with my lousy state of mind and you know it!"
"You'll feel better after we have some down time here in the Big Apple," says Jimmy, perching on the edge of the desk. "I thought we could hit a few clubs tonight and I made reservations for the two of us at that Thai place Ron used to love. I know you like Thai food. And this weekend I've got access to a house in the Hamptons. It belongs to a friend of Lew's and he said we could use it. It's a little before the season begins, but that will make the place that much more private."
"Private, huh?" I scoff.
Jimmy stands up and moves closer to me. "Yeah, Bri. We have a lot to talk about. Privately. Me and you."
"There is no 'me and you,' Jimmy," I remind him. "And there isn't going to be a 'me and you,' not tomorrow or next week or next fucking year! Get real!"
"I know you're still upset about Baby Blue walking out on you, Bri," Jimmy purrs in my ear. "But he's only a kid. He's too young for you, anyway. He has a great little ass, sure, but there are a lot of great asses out there on a lot of cute kids. And you know me, Bri -- I'm not the possessive type. I don't mind you fucking as many guys as you want. Go ahead! Have fun! That was Ron's mistake -- getting jealous. Trying to make you into something you aren't. I'll never do that. I LIKE you the way you are. I like that you're hot and that you like to fuck a lot of guys. Because I know you'll always come back where you belong in the end."
"Back where I belong? Back to you?" I can't believe this. "Get a fucking clue, Jimmy! We fucked and that was all it was. A fuck, pure and simple. We never had a relationship and we don't have one now. Listen to me -- go back to your wife. Go to Tess and BEG her to take you back before you make a fucking fool of yourself in public!"
Jimmy presses against me, whispering, wheedling. And rubbing his dick against my thigh. "Give me a chance, Bri. I have it all worked out. We're golden! I'm telling you. It'll be fine!"
Before I have a chance to tell Jimmy to fuck off yet again, the door of the office opens and Chuckie Ranger barges in, taking in the scene before him.
Chuckie Ranger is a skinny black comedian whose public persona is that of the angry black dude who sees all the stupidity of the white, middle class world and speaks out about it to great comedic effect. Of course, in reality Charles Ranger is the son of a professor and a doctor who grew up in an upper middle class New England college town and never saw a ghetto until he was living in New Haven and going to Yale. But that doesn't really matter. It's the image he projects. That's what has made him famous. And Chuckie Ranger is a truly funny guy. He's also a mean, vindictive, and difficult bastard. But then so is almost every fucking person in show business, so Chuckie has a lot of company.
"Greetings, faggots!" Chuckie says with a sneer. "Don't let me interrupt the honeymoon."
"Jesus," I sigh, taking Jimmy's hand off my crotch.
"What do you want, Chuckie?" asks Jimmy, making no attempt to step away from me -- or to hide what he was trying to do. "Because Brian and I are having a conference here."
"Yeah, I see the kind of conference you two crackers are havin'," Chuckie snorts. "And I don't give a fuck long as you don't try that faggot shit with me. I was just lookin' for the producer. They told me this was his fucking office."
"It is," Jimmy says frigidly. "But he's over in the writers' room."
"That's cool," says Chuckie. "I'll leave you two BOYS to your preparations for the show. But you ought to lock that door. You don't want to be givin' nobody a heart attack walking in on some faggot shit like that."
"Why don't you mind your own fucking business?" Jimmy snaps. He detests Chuckie Ranger, so why the hell did he want the guy on the show in the first place? Jimmy points to the door and motions Chuckie out of it. "We'll see you on the air."
Chuckie turns to leave, but then he smiles slowly. He can't resist a parting shot. "I forgot to congratulate you on your big Academy Award. But I thought they gave it to you for ACTING like a faggot, not for playin' yourself. They gonna make you give it back, Jimbo?"
"One more crack and you're off this show, Ranger," Jimmy warns. And he's not kidding.
Chuckie hesitates. He knows that one word from Jimmy will get him booted from 'The Late Show.' And he knows that Jimmy has the power to screw around with the film they just finished. If Jimmy wants a cut that makes Chuckie look bad, then it could happen, no matter how funny or popular Chuckie Ranger is. Because Jimmy Hardy really is the Most Powerful Actor in Hollywood. And Chuckie knows it.
He leaves without another word.
"Piece of cake!" Jimmy laughs. "That bastard!"
"You really are an idiot, aren't you, Jimmy?" I tell him. "That guy's an asshole, but he's also got a big fucking mouth. And threatening him isn't going to help."
"What's he gonna do, Bri?" says, Jimmy, raising his eyebrow. "Out me? I'm planning to do that myself!"
"At this rate you won't have to." And that's when I head for the door. "I'll see you on the air."
I walk out, leaving Jimmy to his grand delusions.
'The Late Show' goes pretty smoothly. As promised, I don't have all that much to do. Jimmy delivers the monologue like the pro he is, getting in plenty of jabs about the Oscars. That's Jimmy's persona -- self-deprecating and ironic. And the audience eats him up.
He banters with Paul Shaffer and the guys in the band about having no musical guest tonight. Jimmy jokes that he is actually the surprise musical guest -- and then breaks into a song the writers prepared for him about winning the Best Actor Oscar and being on top of the world. Jimmy's voice is hideous, but that's part of what makes it work. Making fun of himself. Not giving a shit. Knowing that everyone loves Jimmy Hardy.
Like he said to me -- Jimmy is golden.
Then Jimmy brings me out. There is some mild screaming from the females in the audience and I wave and smile, but my main function is to sit on the couch, looking pretty and making double entendre asides to Jimmy's remarks. I simply read them off the cue cards and don't pretend that I'm not. I guess that's what they call 'less structured.' Jimmy goes on and on about having me there as "eye candy for the ladies -- and others who appreciate the male form!" Then he makes me stand up and show off my Armani suit -- and also my ass. The women in the audience -- and some of the guys -- hoot and applaud. Whatever the fuck. It's all part of the game, even if it is humiliating. But I don't care anymore. What does it matter now? I'm just another fucking cog in the fucking machine.
Stupid Human Tricks lives up to the name. A dumb jock smashes beer cans against his forehead. A sleazily dressed blonde woman balances a chihuahua on her head. The poor dog is trembling and his big eyes are bugging out, he's so terrified, but it doesn't matter because everyone cheers and Jimmy makes a lot of jokes because the woman has really large tits and isn't afraid to show them off.
Then a college kid comes out who can fit two cans of tennis balls into his mouth at once. That's six fucking tennis balls! Now THAT is a talent to admire -- and I say so, leading to the biggest laugh of the evening. Jimmy pats me on the back, he's so pleased with my ad lib, while the guy turns bright red. But really -- SIX fucking tennis balls! This kid has no idea how popular he'd be in the back room of Babylon with an ability like that.
My heart begins to pound when Chuckie Ranger comes out, wondering what the fuck he's going to spill. But he's a professional, too, just like Jimmy. He knows that his career depends on how he plays the game. So he and Jimmy schmooze and joke around like old college buddies, hyping their stupid cop movie, which apparently is called 'Crash Course.' Chuckie tosses me a couple of glances like he's afraid I'm going to make a move on him right there on the air, but otherwise he snubs me and talks to Jimmy. In the film Chuckie plays a hip, jive-talking undercover cop and Jimmy is an uptight, by-the-book detective who becomes his partner. Duh -- that's original. But they chat on. Toronto was SO cold! They did SO many crazy stunts. SO many car crashes! And that's all that matters -- car crashes and a jiving Chuckie Ranger. The film will probably make a fucking mint this summer.
The hour is over before I realize it. Jimmy is clapping and shaking Chuckie's hand and waving goodbye to the audience. Then he comes around the desk and gives me a hug just before the cameras cut away to the credits. "That was painless, wasn't it, Bri?" he whispers.
"Yeah, painless," I repeat. In truth I'm full of nothing but pain and have been since Justin walked out the door.
Jimmy is up and raring to go now that the show is over. He gathers up the producer and a bunch of the writers -- and Chuckie Ranger, too -- to go with us to dinner at that Thai place that Ron liked. It's elegant and the food is great. At least the little bit I can make myself swallow is great. Chuckie and Jimmy have the rest of the party in stitches with more stories about the shoot in Toronto. From some of the sly insinuations Chuckie makes it seems that while he was in Canada Jimmy was indulging his queer side much more than I had thought he ever would. There are some hot clubs up on Church Street and evidently Jimmy was no stranger to them. I guess mine is no longer the only cock that Jimmy likes up his ass.
After dinner Chuckie Ranger heads over to Caroline's to do his set and the producer and writers go with him. Jimmy says that we'll be along shortly. But when we get into the cab Jimmy grins at me and gives the driver a different address. An address in Chelsea.
"Where are we going?" I ask. But I already have a good idea.
"You'll love it, Bri." Jimmy makes a face that I suppose he thinks is cute. Or seductive. "I've been there before. It's hot. And very discrete." Meaning that closet cases can go there and not get their names in heavy black type on Page Six of 'The New York Post' the next day.
The club is exclusive, crowded, and anything goes. Jimmy and I walk in and are immediately surrounded by a bevy of hot, shirtless guys. This place seems to be where all the male models and high-class hustlers in Manhattan spend their off-hours. Drinks, bumps, sucks -- all are offered. It's so tempting. And so easy.
This was my fucking life for so long. It feels natural. It feels like my element. Where I truly belong.
Jimmy hits the dance floor and the guys are all over him. I see him take a hit of coke from one of the guys, a 20-ish trick with dark hair and a cut torso. He's hot. Jimmy keeps gesturing for me to come over and join them, but I'm leaning against the bar. Waiting. Two pretty boys are talking to me. They're offering me all kinds of delights. There's no back room here -- Rudy's Vice Squad is too vigilant -- but there are parties all over this city, even on a Wednesday night. And a private party is always available. One of the pretty boys has a loft not too far away.
I watch all the guys dancing. All the beautiful guys. I could fuck any one of them. Literally. All I would have to do is point. I could have one -- or ten. If I wanted them, I could have them all. I'm Brian Fucking Kinney. I'm a queer superstar. And they all know it.
And Jimmy -- he's an even bigger star than I am. Bigger than I'll ever be. Whether he comes out or stays in the closet makes no real difference. He'll always be Jimmy Hardy. I could have an easy life hooking up with Jimmy. He's got more money than God and he's generous with it. And he's under no illusions that I love him or any of that shit. He sees me as a partner, in business and in pleasure, like Tess was. But Jimmy isn't like Ron. He's not capable of really loving anyone other than himself, so he's not capable of obsessing over anyone except himself. He means it when he says that I could do anything and fuck anyone I wanted, as long as I make room for him and his 'plans.' His big coming out statement and all his publicity and his queer romance movies. All of Jimmy's ridiculous, fucked up plans.
Yes, it would be so easy. So why not do it?
I leave the two pretty boys and move out onto the dance floor to where Jimmy is. The dark-haired trick immediately begins moving against me, too. He's hot. And he's hard. I close my eyes and feel myself letting go. Someone -- Jimmy or the trick -- holds a vial up to my nose and I inhale deeply. The rush of the amyl nitrate goes directly to my cock. It feels good. The heat enveloping me. I can lose myself in these sensations. Like I always do. Always.
"Let's go back to the Royalton," Jimmy says in my ear over the din of techno music. "Let's take this guy back with us. What do you say, Bri?"
The guy is hot. I nod to Jimmy. Why the fuck not?
In the cab Jimmy is all over the trick. And the trick is excited as hell. He can't believe his luck. Jimmy Hardy and Brian Kinney! And he can't wait. I watch him blowing Jimmy in the back of the cab. I stroke my own cock. Jimmy reaches over and fumbles at my fly. "I'll suck you off while he does me," Jimmy whispers hoarsely. "That'll be fucking hot!"
"Yeah," I agree. "Fucking hot."
Jimmy takes out my dick. But I lose my erection. He sucks and sucks, but I won't get hard. The trick reaches over and tries to jerk me off, but the taxi comes to a halt. We're at the hotel. The two of them head for Jimmy's room. I tell them I'll join them in a few minutes. That I have to make a call first.
I go to my room and phone the front desk. I ask for an early wake-up call and a car to take me to the airport. I have my Trans-Con ticket to Los Angeles in my carry-on. Now alI I need to do is change it to tomorrow morning's flight. That takes me five more minutes on the phone.
Then I lock my door, get into bed, and lie there staring at the ceiling until the front desk calls at 6:00 a.m.
The limo picks me up at the Royalton at 7:00 and takes me out to JFK to catch my plane for the West Coast. I've already alerted Leslie and Dorian that I'm coming back right away and won't be spending the weekend in New York or in the Hamptons with Jimmy.
The city speeds by.
I think about my first glimpse of this town, coming in on the bus from Pittsburgh that freezing January of 1988, with Mole, the fucking freak who got me hooked on smack and then sold me to Stan. Good times, good times.
I think about walking around in the snow in my sneakers and thin leather jacket, trying to keep warm. Sitting in the pizza place, reading a discarded newspaper, waiting for the next trick. And my first sight of Ron with his pathetic camera crew of two. In his long black overcoat and his red knit scarf.
Just like in that fucking dream I had the other night. Ron. And Jack. Together at last. Happy at last. How can I ever be happy? How the fuck?
"You know how, Brian," Ron said to me. "You just refuse to believe how easy it is. You think there's some trick to happiness. But there isn't. All you have to do is live and let it happen. And do what you need to do."
What I need to do. What I really need to make me happy. And who I need.
But it's too late for me and Justin. Too fucking late. That ship has finally sailed and left me standing on the dock with a stunned expression on my face, waving goodbye.
But maybe I can still salvage something of my lousy life. Something.
And I know where I have to go to be able to find the answers for myself. The right place. The only place.
I remember that old joke about the traveler who stops and asks a farmer for directions. "Sorry," says the farmer. "You can't get there from here."
You can't get there from here. The story of my fucking life.
I put the ticket to Los Angeles back into my pocket and ask the driver to take me to the Liberty Air Terminal instead of to Trans-Con. When I get there the porter takes my bags and I wait in line at the counter. A few people stare at me, recognition dawning.
"Aren't you Brian Kinney?" a woman finally asks. "I saw you on the 'Letterman' show last night! And I LOVED 'The Olympian'! Can I have your autograph?"
"Sure." I sign my scrawl on the back of her ticket envelope. Then I have to sign a couple more for other people before I reach the front of the line. "One ticket to Buffalo," I tell the agent.
When I get there I can either rent a car or hire a taxi to take me the rest of the way.
It's not that far to Springhurst.
And I CAN get there from here.
Or I can at least try.
"Beside a garden wall
Where stars are bright,
You are in my arms.
That nightingale tells its fairy tale
of paradise where roses grew,
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love's refrain.
Ah, but that was long ago!
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song."
Continue on to "Lullaby Requiem".
©Gaedhal, June 2005.
Posted June 5, 2005.