This is Chapter 31 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney,
Carmel, Dorian Folco, Diane Rhys, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Outfest. Los Angeles, July 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
"I've got something to say
That might cause you pain,
But if I catch you talking
To that boy again
I'm gonna let you down
And leave you flat,
Because I told you before --
Oh, you can't do that!
Well it's the second time
I caught you talking to him
Do I have to tell you one more time
I think it's a sin?
I think I'll let you down
And leave you flat,
Because I told you before --
Oh, you can't do that!
Or double oops.
I admit it. I don't always make the best choices. Ask my mother. She'll tell you that I act first and think second. Or ask Deb. She'll tell you that I'm a little shit who thinks he can get away with murder.
Except when I don't get away with it. Ask Chris Hobbs about that.
After leaving the coffeeshop I hustle my ass back to the PT Cruiser and peel out of there. Or as well as you can peel out on Santa Monica Boulevard in the middle of the afternoon. I keep looking over my shoulder to see if Rexford Walcott is coming after me.
Or the cops.
But there's no one.
I'm sweating. In retrospect. It's like when I confronted that jerk Howard Bellweather. I walked right up to him and told him what a fucking piece of shit he was. It was only later, when I was back at the loft, that I started shaking. That my fucking hand cramped up. Or that night, when I had another nightmare.
That's when Brian put his arms around me in the dark and told me what an idiot I was. A brave idiot, yes, but he stressed the idiot part.
He's always warning me about leaping into things. About not thinking things through. But sometimes a man has to do what a man has to do. A gay man, especially. You can't let the assholes win. Brian taught me that much. Little victories. One step at a time. All those cliches. But they're true. It's the only way.
I couldn't let Walcott get off scot free, like Hobbs did. Like Bellweather did. Like the guys who attacked Brian in London got away with it. Sometimes it makes me so angry I just want to take a gun and blow them all away.
Right. Me with a gun. I'd probably shoot myself!
But I understand people who snap. People who get pushed so far that they can't be stand it and have to do something, anything. Instead of doing nothing.
If I couldn't fight back for myself, then I have to fight back for Brian. For us, really. Walcott's attack on Brian is an attack on me, too, and on our relationship. I couldn't let him get away with that.
The fucker! The look on his face when I clocked him was priceless! I wish I had a picture of it, but it's a good thing I don't. Can you imagine that photo on the cover of the 'National Enquirer'? Or the cover of 'Vanity Fair'? That would be even better!
"Where have you been, chico?" asks Carmel when I come into the kitchen. She's taking dishes out of the dishwasher and putting them back in the cupboard.
"Shopping," I tell her.
She frowns. Carmel has some kind of sixth sense for when things aren't right. "Miss Leslie was looking for you. You need to go for your fitting tomorrow for your suit. She wanted to remind you before she went home."
"I know." I'm getting a new tux for the 'Hammersmith' premiere at Outfest on Saturday. A Zac Posen. Brian, of course, will be wearing vintage Armani. "I won't forget."
"See you don't," she huffs. "Why are you sweating?" She reaches out and feels my forehead. "You're hot, chico! Is it that hot out? Or you got a fever?"
I shake her off. "I don't have a fever! I'm fine. Jesus, it's L.A.! It's hot here!"
"Don't you get sick and get Mr. Brian sick, too! He has important things to do and he needs to be well." She opens the fridge and pours me a glass of orange juice. "You drink this! It's good for you."
I laugh, but I also take the glass. "You know, Carmel, you're not my mother."
"All the more reason you should listen to me! If your mama was here she'd say the same thing. Drink that -- all of it!" she orders.
"Yes, ma'am." And I drink it.
She's right. I need to take care of myself and so does Brian. I eat a lot of junk and Brian doesn't eat enough of anything. And he smokes too much.
He's also running himself ragged. That worries me. Tomorrow is the last day of filming for 'Red River,' Saturday is the premiere of 'Hammersmith,' and Monday he begins pre-production on 'The Eastern Front' -- costume fittings, camera and make-up tests, read-throughs and rehearsals with Simone Merle and the rest of the main cast. This is a huge film with a lot of locations, a big cast, and tons of special effects. I know Brian is nervous about it and that fucking article coming out isn't helping his mood. Last night he came home after midnight and fell into bed, dead tired, but he still had to get up at 5:00 a.m. and be on the set at 8:00. It's not going to be any easier for 'The Eastern Front.'
I tried to talk to Brian about what would happen when he goes on location. I think we should talk about it -- this is our relationship, after all. But, as is usual when Brian doesn't want to deal with something, he blew me off. But I think he needs to decide a few things.
First, I'm going back to school in the fall; that's a given. I need to finish my degree and get that over with. But Brian is going to be away for a long time. When are we going to see each other? And when we're apart, what are the rules?
I know -- Brian detests 'The Rules.' Yes, rules suck. They don't work. At least they didn't in the past. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about certain issues. Like whether the minute I'm back in the Pitts and he's in London or Prague or Berlin or wherever, is he going to go back to tricking? To drinking and drugging because he's bored out of his mind, or exhausted, or just because he can?
And what about me? Are we both free to do anything we want to? Not that I want to. Thinking about the fiasco with Dylan makes me cringe. But I still think we should talk about it. We need to talk about these things. It's not lesbianic to discuss your relationship. And this is a relationship, whether Brian wants to admit it or not.
I go into the poolhouse and change into my Speedo. I mean my studio. It's finally finished. No leaks. I've already started on a new project, a big oil canvas. I'm using some of the photos and sketches I did in Arizona for inspiration. I want an abstract that reflects the openness, the infinity of the desert, so I have a really wide canvas. I've got a dark gold base down, like the color of the ground, and I'm layering really thick areas of color for the sky, the cacti, the brush, and the animals. I especially want to suggest the lizards. The Arizona iguanas and I had a very special relationship, so I want to feature them. But because the oil is so thick, it takes a long time to dry, so I'm doing it a little at a time. I want that kind of deep texture. I want people to look at it and practically feel the desert. The grit. The sharpness. The dry, heavy heat.
I go out and dive into the pool. That feels good. I really was sweating. I swim a few laps, then I pull myself up onto the float and relax. Brian will ream me out if he sees that I forgot to put on any sunscreen. Fuck it. It feels too good here. Quiet. Here in our house. Our pool.
We're safe here.
Yes, it feels good.
I close my eyes.
"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"
"Brian, what's wrong?"
"This bowtie. I've fucked it up five times!" He yanks the tie from his neck and tosses it on the bed. "Fuck it! I won't wear a tie!"
Brian never messes up a tie. He's the one who taught me how to do a bowtie. And a perfect Windsor knot. He must really be nervous.
"Here. Let me do it." I pick up the tie and smooth the material between my fingers. It's rich and shimmering, with iridescent threads woven in among the midnight blue silk.
"Sunshine the Valet?" He smiles.
"No, Justin Taylor, Personal Assistant Extraordinaire." I tie the bow carefully. Perfectly.
Brian checks himself in the mirror and adjusts my perfect bow. "It's okay... I guess."
"It's fine," I reassure him. "You look great. You always look great. But you already know that."
"I feel like shit." He touches his hair, tousling it in front. "The first thing they're going to do on Monday is cut my hair, 1940's-style. That means short."
"Crew cut?" I try to picture Brian with really short hair. I don't think I'd like that.
"No, think Cary Grant. Clark Gable. Errol Flynn. Short. Clean. Well-combed on top."
"That's hot," I say. "I love the old movie stars."
"They certainly knew what they were doing," he says, staring at himself in the mirror. "Their attitude was: Fuck the world! Get out of my way! I'm a star! Yeah, they had balls. They didn't give a shit what anyone else thought of them."
I know he's thinking about Rexford Walcott and that stupid 'Vanity Fair' article. It hit the newsstands yesterday and that's all anyone is talking about. 'Magnificent Obsession' -- that's the title, but it's the press that's obsessed. All the television shows want an interview with Brian and a camera crew from 'Access Hollywood' has been sitting outside the gate since yesterday morning, waiting to get some kind of statement. And there's no way we're going to be able to avoid them tonight.
But the old movie stars had scandals, too. They had their fears, their doubts. And reporters were always trying to get dirt on them. Stars with secrets they didn't want anyone to know. Stars cheating on their spouses. Stars hiding in the closet. Things haven't really changed.
"They can't touch you," I assert. "You're Brian Kinney, goddammit!"
"You mean Goddamn Brian Kinney, don't you?" He turns around. "One Xanax would do me some good, don't you think?"
I bite my lip. "Would it?" I wait. Does he have one squirreled away somewhere? Probably. He probably has a hundred. Somewhere. But I haven't found them. Yet. And if I did find them, what would I do about it? Flush them? Confront him? Or walk away? After all, Brian isn't a child; he's a grown man and he has to make his own choices.
He reaches into his inner coat pocket and takes out a joint. "Or..."
I swallow. "Where did you get that, Brian?"
He rolls the joint between his long fingers, considering it. "When I went to get my tux this morning Jimmy was there. He was picking up some suits he'd ordered. He gave me this. A little present on the occasion of my premiere, he said."
Fucking Jimmy Hardy! It figures.
Brian brings out his Zippo and lights the joint. Takes a toke. Then another. He closes his eyes, holding the smoke in his lungs. Then he passes the joint to me. I hesitate for a moment, but I take it. Toke it. I feel the smoke swirl into my head. What's the harm? It's better than having him take the Xanax.
"Yeah. That's good," Brian says, blowing out the smoke. "I feel better already."
He takes another strong pull on the joint.
"Brian... maybe you should..."
"Don't fucking start on me," he says, cutting me off.
"No," I backtrack. "I only wanted to ask -- how's Jimmy?"
Brian shrugs. "The same. Jimmy's always the same. His wife and kid left him and he's facing a nasty divorce settlement, but as long as he has a hit movie, Jimmy's as happy as a clam. America's Fucking Boy Next Door, as always."
I make a face. "But that movie with Chuckie Ranger -- it's horrible!" Jimmy's film, 'Crash Course,' opened at the top of the Box Office over the Fourth of July weekend. It's nothing but car crashes, guns, large-breasted women, and stupid jokes, most at Jimmy's expense. In other words, a crowd pleaser -- if you're a horny 15-year-old straight boy. I guess Chuckie's arrest with the tranny hooker didn't deter his core group of fans.
"Doesn't matter. It's making a shitload of money." Brian glowers at the mirror and makes another adjustment of his tie.
"Stop fooling with that." I grab his hand. "Or I'll have to mess you up for real."
Brian rolls his eyes. "Promises, promises."
"Brian! Justin!" Leslie is calling from downstairs. "The car's here!"
"Move that big, sweet ass, twat," he says, smacking me on it. "Time to rock and roll!"
The windows of the limo are tinted, so all the paparazzi get are photos of the car as we pull out.
One hurdle down. A million more to go.
We stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel where Dorian and Diane are staying for the premiere. Diane says Dorian is looking for a house -- for the two of them! That just wrecks me. I can't get my head around Dorian and Diane as a couple, especially when I know Dorian is totally in love with Brian. I know Dorian was married to a woman -- that older actress Maria Montgomery -- but come on! It's too weird.
But when they get into the limo, they're all lovey-dovey. It's kind of creepy watching straight people make out. Especially Diane and Dorian. It's like catching your parents groping each other.
"Lay off, you two," says Brian. "You'll scar the boy for life."
"You should talk, Bridie," Diane smirks. "Especially since pictures of the two of you are all over the internet. In fact, there are websites devoted to you and Cutie-pie, featuring the infamous boat pictures!"
"Don't remind me," Brian sulks. "Shit. There's no way to avoid all this, is there?"
Dorian looks very serious. "This is the movie business, Brian. This is the way it is. You know that. You can go off and hide somewhere, like Burr Connor, but then you're admitting that they've won. That you don't have the balls to take it. You can walk away, Brian, and give it all up. But that would mean turning down 'The Eastern Front.' And we can cancel 'Red Shirt,' too. Or you can go to Britain and try your luck there. But the truth is that the press is everywhere. You're a movie star. And you'll be a story until they the day you die."
"Lucky me," Brian mumbles.
"Yes, lucky you," Dorian says sharply. "Don't be an ass! You have good-looks, money, talent, and friends who care about you -- not to mention a lover who sticks with you even when he should probably run away like the wind!"
"Hey!" I protest.
"You know what I mean, Justin," Dorian replies. "This will pass, Brian. It's a bump in the road. Tell me -- is this worse than Ron's death? Or having your naked arse on the cover of every tabloid from Berlin to West Hollywood? Put it all into perspective."
"I'm trying," Brian sighs. "I guess I'm just so fucking tired. And there's no break before 'The Eastern Front' begins. On Monday I have to rev myself up again. At this moment all I want to do is get in the boat and sail until I can't see land -- and then keep sailing!"
"You'll have plenty of time for that in the future," Dorian points out. "But now you have a film to promote. We both do." He peers out the window. "We're coming near to the theater. Diane and I will get out first."
"Knock yourself out." Brian pulls at his tie again. "Fucking thing!"
"Don't mess with that!" I grab his hand. "I had it perfect!"
"By the way," says Diane. "Since no one seems to have noticed..." She holds up her left hand and wiggles her fingers.
"Holy shit!" I exclaim. On her ring finger is a diamond the size of a large grape. "Is that an engagement ring?"
"It's not a friendship ring, Cutie," she giggles. "Well, Bridie? Aren't you going to congratulate me?"
"You're supposed to congratulate the man, not the woman," Brian deadpans. "Assuming you think there's anything to celebrate."
"Congratulations, Diane," I say. But I'm stunned, I have to admit. "You too, Dorian."
"Thank you, Justin." She kisses me. Then she leans over and pretends to smack Brian. "I'll deal with you later, dickhead!"
"Promises, promises! That's all I get these days from everyone." Brian runs his fingers through his head, messing it up again. "Seriously, guys, I'm happy for you. Really. I mean it."
Dorian looks dubious, but Diane grins happily. In fact, I've never seen her so happy. "We'll celebrate at the party after the screening. Okay, Bridie? The champagne will flow like Niagara Falls!"
Brian nods, but he's not smiling. "Sure, Di. Now get out! We'll meet you inside."
The door opens and Dorian steps out, turning to help Diane. She really looks glamorous in a hot pink gown. I can see the lights flashing as Diane and Dorian pause to let everyone take pictures.
"We're next," I tell Brian. "How's your tie?"
"It's fine," he grumbles. "Let's get this over with."
"Come on, Brian! People are going to love 'Hammersmith' -- it's the big event of Outfest."
"And we still don't have distribution deal in the U.S.," he says. "Dorian is hoping a flashy premiere will get us picked up by one of the big studios."
"I bet Jimmy could persuade Howie Sheldon and Terra Nova to do it."
Brian gives me a look that says he'd rather drop dead. "The last thing I want is Jimmy Hardy's fingerprints all over 'Hammersmith'! Hey, it's our turn."
I get out of the limo first. The intensity of the lights always stuns me. They feel hot and my eyes burn for a second, blinding me. Then I feel Brian's hand in mine. This is it. We're here. We're a couple. We're on the Red Carpet again. It's fucking amazing!
"I keep forgetting that I'm in this picture, too!" I whisper to Brian as we walk halfway down the Red Carpet and then stop for the photographers. Yeah, me and Rowan Conley.
"Don't start signing any autographs until after the screening, Sunshine," Brian says, squeezing my arm. "And keep smiling. That's what Ron always used to say: 'Whatever you do -- smile'!"
"I can do that." We start walking again. I hear voices screaming, "Brian! Look over here! Brian, this way!" I also hear a few calls of "Justin! Justin!" And I keep smiling. Smiling until my mouth hurts.
Dorian and Diane are standing at the end of the Red Carpet with Sir Ken and his boyfriend, Billy Phillips-Smythe. Billy's sister, Adele, who plays Brian's girlfriend in 'Red River,' is here, too. I also see Rowan and Nick Parr off to the side. Diane is chirping away to Bill Brenner from 'Access Hollywood,' while Dorian looks at her fondly. I wonder if she's announcing her engagement? That gigantic rock on her finger is pretty hard to miss!
"Brian Kinney!" Brenner calls. "The man of the hour! Come here and speak to me."
Brian moves forward, but he looks at the microphone like it's a live cobra, ready to bite. "Happy to be here," he says shortly, nodding into the camera.
"Is this your first time at Outfest?" asks Brenner. He's gay, but he's quiet about it. Everyone in the know is aware, but I doubt most of the people watching 'Access Hollywood' understand why Brenner is covering a gay film festival. Dorian told me that Bill Brenner goes out of his way to put a positive spin on gay actors and gay films. Ordinarily Outfest would be a fairly low profile event, but with all the publicity surrounding Brian and the 'Vanity Fair' article, it's the hot place to be in L.A. tonight. I look around and see camera crews from 'Entertainment Tonight,' the E Network, CNN, 'The Insider,' and even the BBC.
"Yes, my first time," Brian replies. I remember that we were in England last year during Outfest, filming 'Hammersmith.' "I hope everyone enjoys the film. Sir Kenneth Fielding gives a fantastic performance."
"You had a hit song in England, 'Baby Blue,' from the soundtrack of this film, Brian," says Brenner. "Are you planning a recording career on top of acting?"
Brian does a double take -- and then he laughs. "No way! That was a fluke. From now on my singing will be confined to the shower, where it belongs!"
"And you, Justin Taylor," says Brenner. "You have a small part in 'Hammersmith.' Are you planning an acting career?"
"No," I answer. "I'm working on some art projects. I'm here to support the film -- Brian and Sir Ken and Dorian."
Brenner smiles encouragingly. "You just came back from location shooting with Brian and Clint Eastwood. How was that experience?"
"It was wonderful! The desert was beautiful. But it was very hot!"
"I imagine it was. Do you have a part in 'Red River' as well?"
I'm just about to respond when there's a commotion just off the Red Carpet. I crane my neck to see what's going on, but the lights are too bright.
Then there's a cop. And another cop. And another. They come up the Red Carpet. They're heading right towards us. Towards Brian!
"Brian!" I cry, grabbing his arm.
"What the fuck?" Brian says.
But the first cop pushes Brian out of the way and takes hold of me. "Are you Justin Taylor? You're under arrest for assault and battery!"
"Oh my God!" My heart sinks. "Brian!"
"Get your hands off him!" Brian shouts. "He hasn't done anything!"
"Please move out of the way, Mr. Kinney," says the cop. "Your friend has a warrant sworn out against him. He assaulted a Mr. Rexford Walcott in West Hollywood yesterday afternoon."
"Rexford Walcott?" Brian spits. "That scumbag? Anything he says is a lie!" Brian turns to me. "Isn't it?"
"I'm sorry," I say. The cop is putting handcuffs on me. It's fucking surreal! "Please don't arrest me!"
"You have the right to remain silent," the cop begins, reading me my rights.
Dorian puts his hand on Brian's arm. "We'll straighten it out. I'm sure it's a misunderstanding!"
"This can't be happening!" Brian whispers. "Justin -- What the fuck did you do?"
"Sorry!" I repeat. "I'm so sorry!"
The last thing I see is Brian, standing forlornly on the Red Carpet, camera flashes exploding around him like bombs going off, as they hustle me into the police car and drive me away.
'Cause I'm the one who won your love.
But if they've seen
You talking that way
They'll laugh in my face!
So please listen to me
If you wanna stay mine,
I can't help my feelings,
I go out of my mind!
I think I'll let you down
And leave you flat,
Because I told you before --
Oh, you can't do that!"
Continue on to "Instinct".
©Gaedhal, January 2009.
Posted January 27, 2009.