This is Chapter 28 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Justin Taylor,
Dorian Folco, Carmel.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: The title says it all. Los Angeles, July 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
"If you're looking for trouble
You came to the right place.
If you're looking for trouble
Just look right in my face.
I was born standing up
And talking back --
My daddy was a green-eyed mountain jack!
Because I'm evil,
My middle name is misery.
Well I'm evil,
So don't you mess around with me!"
"Don't worry, Brian," he keeps saying. "Don't worry! I'm sure it's not as bad as it sounds."
"Stop talking about it," I say, my hands gripping the steering wheel of the Mustang like it's the neck of that bastard Rexford Walcott.
"It'll be fine," he continues almost compulsively. "It's only an article. Just a magazine. Who gives a shit?"
"Justin, please shut the fuck up!"
"Sorry." He slinks down in the passenger seat. "But I'm sure it will be fine."
I glare at him and he's quiet for the rest of the ride.
I only wish my mind was as quiet as he is.
Fucking hell! This is all I need right now. Just when everything seems to be going great -- bang! I get hit in the face with my own stupid past.
Ron. I knew he wasn't finished with me, but I never thought he'd come back to haunt me like this.
Steady, Kinney. This is nothing. A fucking article. Fucking words. They're meaningless.
Magnificent obsession. That's the title of the article.
That certainly describes Ron. Certainly describes whatever it was we had. An obsession. Was it also a relationship? How the hell do I know? Was what my parents had a relationship? Was what Hitler and Eva Braun had a relationship?
What about what Justin and I have?
Yeah, that's a relationship. I guess. But what about what Mikey and I had? When we were speaking, that is. What he and the Doc have. Or what he and the Professor used to have.
Or Mel and Lindz.
Fuck the whole business!
"What did you say, Brian?"
Justin's face is all honest concern.
"Nothing. I'm just angry -- at myself." I stop at the gate and press the button to open it. "I'm a fucking idiot for all the mistakes I've made. All the dumb choices I've made. I keep fucking myself over!"
"Oh," he says. "Does that include me?"
Shit. How many times have I thought he'd be better off somewhere else? Better off with someone else? Someone who can give him all the romantic shit he likes. Someone who isn't guaranteed to fuck around on him and disappoint him and constantly make him feel like two cents.
But I'm a selfish bastard. He's here not because it's good for him, but because it's good for me. And because I want him here. It's always about what I want. I'm an asshole that way.
Until he decides to leave, that is. That's a day I'm not looking forward to, although I know it'll come eventually. Probably sooner rather than later.
But until that day...
"No, twat. That doesn't include you -- and you fucking well know it!"
He smiles smugly. "Good." He crosses his arms defiantly.
"But what if... what if there's shit about you in this article?"
"So what if there is?" he shrugs. "I've had my head bashed in and fucking Hobbs got off with a slap on the wrist -- all covered by the newspapers and 'Six O'Clock Action News.' Not to mention that my ass has been spread all over the tabloids for everyone in the world, including my mother, to see!"
"Those ass shots aren't something to be ashamed of," I point out. "Plenty of guys would kill for an ass like that. And you were with me, who even more guys would kill to be with!"
He rolls his eyes. "I'm glad I kept all those clippings for my scrapbook. We can take them out on our anniversary and look at them fondly."
"Anniversary." I shudder. "Now there's an ugly word."
He looks at me. Stares me down.
"Time to face the music. Now you can add this article to your collection of infamy." I pull the Mustang up to garage. Dorian's Ferrari is already parked by the back door.
"Brian." He touches my arm just as I'm ready to get out of the car.
"What?" I look away.
"There's nothing any magazine can say that will change anything between us."
Crap! "Ah, how soon you forget that an interview in 'The Advocate' sent you running to the arms of Baseball Boy!"
He digs his fingers into my flesh like some kind of blood-sucking sci-fi creature. "I did not go 'running' to Dylan Burke! That was a mistake. Like you, I've made plenty. I'm sorry about flying off the handle over that stupid article, but it's in the past. All of that shit is in the past! It's not like you haven't done dumb things that derailed us, too. Like Ron. Or Jimmy. Or doing drugs in England. Or..."
I grab his hand and pull it off my arm. "Thanks, but I need my circulation. And, yes, I just said that I've fucked up more times than I can count. I know that. You know that. By now most of the world knows that! But I'm trying to turn things around. 'Red River' and this new film are a chance for me to be taken seriously as an actor. I know you'll always forgive me..." He raises an eyebrow at that. "At least I hope you will. But everyone else -- especially the people who watch movies and the guys, like Howie Sheldon, who make movies -- they aren't so forgiving."
He leans close to me. "They will be if the movies are good. If you're good."
"I'm still on probation, Justin. I'm still the fag who is trying to be taken seriously as a movie star. Which means I'm a target. It's like Burr Connor said -- you trade your life for fame. This is part of the price."
"Then we'll pay that price and move on." He opens the door. "Let's go. Dorian must be freaking out by now!"
Freaking out is not the word for what Dorian is doing.
"He's been here for an hour, pacing back and forth out on the deck!" says Carmel in disgust. "He's a crazy man, Mr. Brian!"
"I'll handle it," I say, always in charge. "Why don't you go to bed?"
Carmel sniffs. "Loco! He was saying something about Mr. Ron! He didn't even know Mr. Ron!"
"Never mind." I guide her toward her room. "I'll see you in the morning." Then Justin and I go out to face the music.
"Where have you been?" Dorian shouts when he sees us. He's clutching a glass of scotch and it isn't his first.
"Where did you get the booze and did you bring enough for all of us?" I take the glass out of his hand and smell it. It smells good. Smells like oblivion. But it also smells like my old man when he was out of his fucking mind. I put the glass down on the bar.
"Leslie is in the office, trying to do some damage control!" Dorian sinks down onto a chaise. "I do not need this, Brian! I knew everything was going far too well. No major disasters on the 'Red River' shoot -- your accident notwithstanding. Clint was a perfect gentleman. That bitch Lane Harris threatened to sue when I dismissed her, but then she got a role in John Henry James' new film, so that shut her up. Even Burr Connor's part turned out to be a breeze. But now this!" He points to some faxed sheets scattered on another chaise.
"Maybe it will be good publicity for the film?" Justin suggests hopefully.
"Right," I affirm. "Anything that gets your name out in front of the public is good. That's the first rule of P.R."
"Go ahead," says Dorian. "See how you want to spin this!"
I gingerly pick up a random page and start reading.
Then I sit down. Because I need to sit down.
The first thing I read is about Ron's little home movie. The porn we made in his apartment. But it's all twisted around. Like Ron was some kind of creepy child pornographer.
"This is complete bullshit!"
"Is it?" Dorian asks. "Is it true?" He stares at me, challengingly.
Justin glances at me, but I look away quickly. Dorian sees the exchange.
"I asked you if it was true?" he demands. "The studio is going to want to know. The public is going to want to know. And I want to know, Brian. Did Ron do this to you?"
"He didn't do shit to me!" I explode. "I wanted to make a dirty movie. For fun. I was a kid, for fuck sake!"
"You were 16 and he was a grown man! Which is why it was illegal!" Dorian retorts. "And why people are going to read that as a serious crime!"
"He's dead," I state flatly. "It happened. It's over! It was fifteen years ago. Who gives a fuck?"
"Ron may be dead, but he's still in the public consciousness," says Dorian. "He won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay only four months ago. 'Red River' was his project. His screenplay. You're a movie star on the verge of a huge career. And you were his lover, whether you want to admit to or not! That's why people will give a fuck!"
Goddamn it! "I admit it! I've never denied it!
But it's not like our little fuck film ever saw the
light of day. It was private, like dirty pictures you
take of your fucking girlfriend! Everyone does it!
It's not anyone else's business!"
"Read on," says Dorian.
And I do.
Shit. Hell. Jesus.
Because it's all there. Not just the porno film we made, but all the crap about making 'Red Shirt.' All the crap about me running away from home and hustling. Okay, so that was known, but not in such gory detail. Only one person could have told Rexford Walcott all of this shit.
"Ron's girlfriend," I say. "Jane. She has to be Walcott's source. Marc Gerasi would never tell this stuff in a million years. He'd never betray Ron! It had to have been Jane."
Justin is also reading some pages. "It sounds like she has the tape, Brian. I mean from the description of it in the article. I thought there was only one copy?"
Yeah, and we have it. Or I should say that Justin has it. In the loft in a bottom drawer. Which probably isn't the most secure place for it.
"Jane edited 'Red Shirt' with Ron. She had access to all of his original footage. She could easily have made a dub of the porn stuff."
"But why?" Justin ponders.
"Who knows? As a weird souvenir. Or to use in the future in case she ever wanted anything from Ron." I take a deep breath. "Or to get back at me for taking Ron away from her all those years ago. Who knows what some female is thinking? I sure don't!"
"And is this true, too?" Dorian looks at me with his dark eyes. "Did you threaten to expose the tape and ruin Ron's career if he didn't cast you in 'The Olympian'?"
"What the fuck?" I jump up. "Where does it say that?"
"Right here." Dorian hands me a sheet.
The faxed print is faint and hard to read, but I scan it as best I can. "No! Of course not! I'd never do that. I didn't even want to be in the fucking movie! It was Jimmy's idea. Ask him!" I hesitate, but surely this isn't news to Dorian. "Jimmy wanted to get into my pants and casting me in 'The Olympian' was a good way to do it." But naturally the article doesn't mention that. Or anything at all about Jimmy Hardy's 'magnificent obsession.' Jimmy is too much of a Hollywood icon to be dragged into this sordid queer mess.
"It also says here that you repeated Ron's abuse by -- quote -- 'Seducing an innocent schoolboy, Justin Taylor, who was the same age as Kinney when he became involved with Ron Rosenblum' -- unquote," Justin reads. "That's not true, either. I was almost 18. And Brian didn't seduce me. I went after him!"
"You think people are going to care about such technicalities?" says Dorian. "It appears the same. And it doesn't help that you look about 16 right now, Justin."
"But I'm not 16, I'm 20!" Justin says. "And 17 is legal in Pennsylvania. I know because my father threatened to have Brian arrested, but he couldn't. We didn't do anything wrong!"
"Brian is a 32-year-old man," Dorian replies. "And you're still not yet 21, Justin. Even if you were a female it would seem perverse to many people."
"This is Hollywood!" I say. "Teenage girls are fucking 60-year-old men all over town!"
"But when they are fucking movie stars, then it's news -- and you know it!" Dorian exclaims. "I don't care what the law says, Brian, it looks bad. And we're talking not only about your career, but about Ron's legacy. Do you want him to go down in the film archives as a man who made porno films with his 16-year-old prostitute boyfriend -- who he later made into a movie star?"
"It wouldn't be the first nasty story to come out about a famous director -- or about even about me," I say wearily. "But what can we do? This article is full of lies, or at least half-truths. But it's the way Walcott is twisting things! Making them seem worse than they were!"
"Is he twisting things?" Dorian asks. "Didn't Ron take advantage of you? In a way?"
"No!" I blast. "I was hustling on the street! I was on drugs! I was dying! Ron saved me." I look at Justin, whose eyes are wide. I know he hated Ron. I know Ron did shitty things to him. Things that were as bad or worse than anything in this article. But that doesn't erase what Ron did for me back then. "He did. It's hard to say and hard to acknowledge, but he saved me. And I..." I swallow. "I fucking loved him. A long time ago. In my screwed-up way. Does it say that in the article?"
"Yes," Justin breaks in. "It does say that. Right here." He holds out a page to show me. "It also says you killed him, Brian. Or that you caused him to kill himself." He reads: "'Kinney was known among the Velvet Mafia of Hollywood by the nickname Gay Kryptonite because of his destructive sexual power. Even some supposedly straight men were caught up in Kinney's seductive allure, let alone members of closely-knit gay community. The would-be actor cut a wide swath through producers and parking attendants, famous stars and backroom pick-ups, driving lover Rosenblum to distraction. Not even the director's promise to make his vain heartthrob famous was enough to stop his promiscuous ways. The Rosenblum/Kinney pairing was the talk of the industry and it seemed only a matter of time until the relationship exploded into tragedy.'"
"Fuck," I say. "Rexford Walcott's purple prose really needs a decent editor! So -- now what?"
"I don't know, Brian," Dorian admits. "The article isn't even out yet, but word is already all over the internet, according to Leslie. When the actual issue hits the stands, then the shit will hit the fan, as they say. The entertainment shows will be all over it. The tabloids will have a field day. You'll have to make a statement of some kind."
"Wouldn't it be better not to say anything?" Justin says. "Just wait for the story to die down?"
"I don't think Brian can dodge this bullet," Dorian cautions. "The question is how much damage will be done. And I have my film to think of. 'Red River' is my main concern and I don't want to jeopardize it. But Brian's future projects may be on the line as well. Contrary to that old axiom, bad publicity is not a good thing. It can ruin careers."
I sit, turning the pages, taking it all in. Every word makes me wince. The lies are bad, but the truth is even worse. There are details about my stay in the Spencer Pavilion. About being out of control on the 'Hammersmith' set. And about being raped -- yes, they fucking use that word! -- in London. Even information about my stints in rehab, both at Haven of Hope and Springhurst. Man, if you throw around enough cash, you can get access to any file, any secret. Nothing is out of bounds. Nothing.
And Ron's death. A lot of speculation, but it all comes down to me. I was with him the night he died. And I can't deny that. I was there and then he was dead. The cops were suspicious. That's all it takes to make the leap that I was responsible for his death, either directly by giving him drugs, or by my rotten behavior, which made Ron off himself.
And how can I deny that when it's true?
Because I believe it's true. And I was there. I saw him. I heard him. We fucked. That was the end. Ron may have wanted to kill me, but he wanted to kill himself more. And he did.
Leslie walks out of the house. She looks exhausted. "Howie Sheldon just called. Someone sent him an advance copy of 'Vanity Fair.'"
"And?" I ask. "What did he say?"
"What do you think?" Leslie snorts. "He's not a happy camper."
"No shit! Well, neither am I!"
"Can't we sue?" Justin suggests. "With so many inaccuracies, isn't there a good case? Isn't that bad journalism?"
Leslie shakes her head. "Howie has the studio lawyers looking the article over. But it's hard to prove libel. And a lawsuit may be worse in the end because it keeps the story alive. I don't know." Leslie walks over and touches my shoulder. "Buck up, Bri. I'm going home now and get some sleep. I have a brand new condo and I'm hardly ever there! I'll see you in the morning, guys."
"Good night, Leslie."
Justin walks with her, seeing her out.
Dorian stands up. "I'm going, too. We have some interior shooting tomorrow and I need to be on the set early. So do you, Brian. Get some rest for those close-ups. Our first priority is to finish this picture. Oh, and don't forget that Outfest opens on Thursday. 'Hammersmith' is having its official U.S. premiere Saturday night. And you're going to be there."
Leave it to Dorian. In the end all directors are alike -- their only interest in their picture. But I have other concerns. "You want me to go to a premiere? With all this shit happening? No fucking way!"
"Yes, you will be there, Brian." Dorian is deadly serious. "To face the press and the fans. And to face the industry, too. To show them that you don't have anything to hide. You are the star of 'Hammersmith.' Sir Ken is coming in from London for the premiere and to do press to promote it. He's not going alone. We'll all be there. And that means you, too. You and Justin, as a normal, committed couple, walking the red carpet and smiling broadly. Do you hear me?"
Fucking Dorian. He picks right now to become a hard guy.
"Yes, I hear you."
I look up and Justin is in the doorway. Dorian passes him on the way out.
"Oh, Brian -- I knew you were trouble the moment I saw you coming after me while I stood under that fucking streetlight," says Justin. He kneels next to me, putting his arms around me. "You looked like a wolf who had just seen a tasty little lamb."
"Then why didn't you run like hell?"
"I like trouble," he says.
"Then get ready for plenty," I tell him.
"I've never looked for trouble
But I never ran.
I don't take no orders
From no kind of man.
I'm only made out
Of flesh, blood and bone --
But if you're gonna start a rumble
Don't you try it on alone!
Because I'm evil,
My middle name is misery
Well, I'm evil,
So don't you mess around with me!"
©Gaedhal, December 2008.
Posted December 30, 2008.