Welcome to my new blog! The story you are about to read is from my last book "Escape From Houdini Mountain", a memoir collection published by Manic D Press.
|Skate And Destroy!|
A CROSS TO BARE
I had to pick up the phone. Even though I hadn’t spoken to him in ages, his molasses-slow Southern drawl was unmistakable on my answering machine.
“You’ll never even believe what I’m doing now,” he said, obviously delighted with the irony that he was about to unfurl upon me.
I thought about the myriad ways we’d overturned any kind of moral and social decency – not to mention all the laws we’d broken – in our short but intense relationship. The last time I’d seen him, he’d been up for about three days and was about to make an impromptu road map to Alabama to sell the many bags of blow he’d been stashing at my house. He promised to be back within the week and left, brushing his chapped, lipstick- stained lips against mine as I begged not to go. A few months went by, then a year. I heard he’d served time in the pen for drugs, and then married his high school sweetheart. That was at least a couple of decades ago.
“Let’s see,” I guessed, “…you’re a cop?”
“Nope!” he giggled still sounding boyish.
“Uh… you’re getting a sex change?”
He laughed even more uproariously, and then said in la voice with enough matter-of-fact conviction for me to know there’d be no way he was bullshitting,
“I’m a Pentecostal evangelist minister.”
Well you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. I mean, I was absolutely, positively, maybe for the first time in my entire life, at a loss for words.
“No fuckin’ way!” I finally stammered, then realizing my faux pas, I added,
“I’m sorry, did my saying “fuck” just offend you?”
“Well, no…but the Lord kinda changed my vocabulary.”
* * * *
I’d been hearing about him for ages. A skateboard champion wunderkind, he was a member of an elite clique of youthful daredevils, and the risks he took in that milieu were wild enough for him to stand out even in that fast crowd.
I met him on Halloween night in my living room at Disgraceland, and when I first laid eyes on him, he was reclining on my couch, drinking a Bud, attired head-to-toe in my clothes, his face smeared with garish make-up, my favorite pair of rhinestone baubles dangling from his earlobes.
At the time, I was in an outrageous all-girl cow-punk band called the Screaming Sirens. We were a combination of saloon gal Miss Kitty-style sleaze, biker chick badness, and rock’n’roll hooliganism. We valiantly tried to play country and rockabilly music, but it came out sounding more like the Ramones than Kitty Wells. Our stage shows were train wrecks with beer bottles flying through the air, a flurry of ripped fishnets and torn petticoats and broken guitar strings as we plowed through songs, pulling guys up from the audience to make out with them. I mean, I used to bite the buttons off guys’ shirts with my teeth.
The fact that we usually played stoned out of our gourds on alcohol combined with some sort of hallucinogen or speed (we always took the precaution of making sure that if one player was on drugs, we all took the same thing so we’d play as a cohesive unit) just added to the general chaos and sloppy musicianship. Offstage, our antics were even more notorious. People were actually scared of us, and we made quite a name for ourselves causing disturbances on the club scene.
That Halloween night, we’d just done a gig in Santa Barbara with T.S.O.L at an all-ages place called Casa de la Raza. I was bruised, burnt, sweaty, crabby, and tired. Plus, I was infatuated with the singer of T.S.O.L. and even though we’d rendezvoused with before, he was playing hard-to-get and that kina raised my hackles. For a change, I just wanted to go to sleep. Meanwhile, in my absence, my brother Chuckles and a couple of his pals had decided to attend the Halloween festivities at the nearby Club Lingerie. When they discovered there was a costume contest with a $100 first prize and all the free beer you could drink, they immediately left, went back around the corner to Disgraceland, raided my closet, jewelry box and make-up kit, and returned, entering the contest as the Screaming Sirens.
As I stepped into the living room and saw Chuckles and his cronies partying attired in my stage clothes, my lethargy turned to dismay. I was so wiped that something I normally would’ve though was hilarious just annoyed me.
“Isn’t it great?” my brother beamed. “We just won the $100 prize!
“I guess you didn’t know that the costume rental was $99.95!” I snarled.
“Get that shit off and get the fuck out of here!”
With that, I stormed off to my room and slammed the door. Moments later, there was a knock. It was the skateboard champion, with a fresh beer and a key full of coke as a wordless peace offering. It took a moment, but I accepted. Solicitous and contrite, he apologized profusely, begged me to come with them to a party, and offered to return my clothes. Always a sucker for a pretty drag queen, I told him he could keep them on, and he whisked me off to the soiree. By this time, it was about three-thirty a.m.
The band Tupelo Chain Sex was hosting the party, and everyone was on acid. There was Slim Gaillard blaring from the stereo in the living room, and people in Halloween costumes practically having sex on the couch. There was a pirate, a ghost, and a corseted witch smoking pot in the kitchen, way stoned and trying to make falafel from scratch. In the bathroom, an old black R&B star, Don “Sugarcane” Harris (one of many Tupelo Chain Sex cultivated) was shooting heroin in the shower stall and scaring the shit out of the New Romantic girls teasing their hair at the sink.
Me and the skateboard champ were in the driveway with a bunch of people, drinking beer and doing more lines off the hood of somebody’s battered up old Dart, watching a fight that was about to get out of control—two guys duking it out over a chick in a teensy weensy scarlet devil costume, her hair dyed a matching red. Luckily, Chuckles stumbled down the porch steps at that exact moment and began hurling, which instantly cut the tension in the air.
“Styley!” he slurred, fondly regarding the massive pile of vomit steaming on the cracked pavement.
They didn’t call him “Chunkles” for nothing.
Soon, we were all back at my house with some boring hippie guy who had a block of cocaine so ridiculously huge that it resembled an unused bar of Ivory soap. He was very generous with it until dawn broke, and then he bailed. That didn’t stop us. Oh, goodness, no. Between the Screaming Sirens impersonators/contest winners and some strays we’d picked up at the party, there were about eight of us who kept at it until we’d depleted all of our drugs, plus whatever beer was left.
I figured this was as good a time as any to go to sleep, my bitchy mood back in place the moment the drugs were gone. It was so bright in my room at that point that I briefly considered wearing my sunglasses to bed. My hands and feet were literally freezing from the coke, and my throat was one big miserable cesspool of post-nasal drip. Presently, there was a knock at the door, and the skateboard champ’s face appeared.
“Hey!” he staged-whispered urgently, “What’re you doing?”
I rolled my eyes in answer, as though it wasn’t perfectly obvious I was trying to sleep.
“Come with me!’ he said,
“Let’s go to Buena Park!”
Buena Park is an absolutely dismal, post-World War II suburb full of shabby little stucco houses, about forty minutes south of downtown L.A. The only two possible points of interest—if you could even call them that—are Knott’s Berry Farm, a cutesy Old West-themed amusement park, and Medieval Times, a horrendous, over-priced white bread establishment where “wenches” (read: perky high school seniors in polyester corsets) serve you non-alcoholic grog while you watch out-of-work movie stuntmen reenact jousts. Buena Park is the kind of place dreary housewives with helmet-shaped poodle perms get addicted to prescription drugs and go max out their credit cards at Target and Home Depot.
“What the fuck are you going to Buena Park for?” I asked, oozing charm.
“To get more!”
“Well, I want to go to sleep,” I said.
Suddenly, he was on my bed on my bed, his breath warm on my neck. We wrestled verbally for a few minutes, his hands roaming tentatively over my legs. He was really cute—snapping blue eyes, jet black dyed pompadour, not to mention the fact that my earrings looked simply stunning on him. But my coke crash and impending hangover plus his persistence were annoying the hell out of me. He just couldn’t take a hint, so I sat up, summoning the last vestiges of the blow, and decided to take charge.
“You want to fuck, is that it?” I sneered.
“Yes, ma’am!” he replied, all puppy-dog enthusiasm, clearly unaware of the sarcasm in my voice.
“Okay, I’ll fuck you, but you have to promise to get out right after!”
His eyes widened like a Japanese cartoon as I stripped my clothes off and lay on the bed.
“Go ahead,” I said, impatiently, not a hint of seduction in my voice. “Fuck me.”
As he climbed aboard and started going through the motions of foreplay, I did everything possible to ignore him, short of grabbing a magazine and reading it over his shoulders while he sucked my nipples. All I wanted to do was go to sleep. I shut my eyes tightly and wished for slumber over and over, barely aware that he’s just entered me.
When he began thrusting, I opened my eyes and took in the entire scene. His angelic baby face, smeared with running mascara now looked more like Alice Cooper after a tough gig than an ‘80’s Glam chic, with huge earrings, rhinestone necklaces, my favorite black slip amateurishly stuffed with falsies, his round little ass pumping away framed by my pink leopard garter belt and some trashed Danskin fishnet hose… and I started to laugh.Then he did, too… For a second before he came I actually joined in the festivities, and then it was over.
Back to business, I ordered him out. He started removing my clothes and pulling on his Thrasher t-shirt and worn blue jeans and stared at me forlornly.
“You sure y’all don’t wanna go to Buena Park?”
“BYE!” I said, watching him shuffle towards the door, all hangdog and sad.
No sooner had he exited, he was back popping his head into the room again.
“WHAT?!?” I yelled, at the end of my rope.
“Can Ah see you again?” he asked hopefully.
“As a boy or as a girl?” I asked, praying that this final dis would get my point across.
He smiled coyly, revealing deep dimples and said,
“Whatever yew want!”
Hmmm, I thought to myself, this could be fun.
A day or two later he showed up around twilight, with his battered skateboard, a case of beer, and a blond kid in tow. They were up in Hollywood from Orange County to skate the ditches in Bronson Canyon, and were all sweaty and grimy, having just come from Pacific Palisades where they’d been ripping the banks at Revere Junior High. The minute the surfer kid went into the bathroom, my boy toy was pulling down his trashed Levi’s to proudly reveal a red satin garter belt and black stockings. He stayed over that night, and after a few days it was pretty clear that he’d moved in.
We began an affair that lasted a couple of months. He was fun and crazy and would do anything, with an aura of twisted innocence and sincerity about him. It was kind of like Huckleberry Finn Meets Divine. I got him more and more into drag, and with my make-up expertise, he looked so good that straight frat boys would try to pick up on him. He was muscular but slightly built, and all my midriff angora sweaters and little satin 1930’s bed jackets fit him perfectly. His hair took teasing and Aqua-Net well and looked especially nice with a big pink chiffon pussycat bow a la Cyndi Lauper tied into it. Hookers on Hollywood Boulevard were among the most appreciative of his fashion statement. He looked better than any of the Hispanic queens on duty there.
We’d stop at Book City and flip through Hollywood Babylon looking at our favorite vintage stars, and I’d repeat old Tinseltown scandals to him in detail.
“Pleasant,” he’d sigh adoringly, “You’re the smartest gal I’ve ever been with!”
“That’s not saying much,” I’d snap. “You’ve only been with teenage white trash girls!”
We fell into a kind of debauched domesticity. He got a job delivering pizza and would come home and tell me about the complimentary blowjobs he’d gotten from ho’s in alleys off the Boulevard, while he put away records and dusted in nothing but stockings, garters and pumps. He knew I was still kinda carrying a torch for the guy from T.S.O.L., but it didn’t matter.
“Ah know you’re in love with someone else, but Ah love yew,” he’s day, throwing his arms around me, smudging his pink Stagelite lip gloss passionately onto my throat.
“That’s nice,” I’d say. “Will you make me a drink?”
One day he came over with another pal from Buena Park and a big duffel bag covered in skateboard stickers. My roommate Iris and I watched in amazement as they emptied its contents—an amount of coke that would’ve make “Scarface” Tony Montana sick with jealousy.
The four of us spent the next few days chopping, weighing, bagging, and of course, snorting mass amounts of the coke, laid out on this avocado green vinyl card table that I’d done arts and crafts on as a little kid. We listened to Johnny Thunders over and over, talked incessantly on the phone, and used up every shred of toilet paper in the house.
Christmas came—and it was white, of course. Christmas Eve we went to the Frolic Room out of our minds on what my brother Chuckles was now calling “goon.” I stole Christmas balls from the bar and made earrings for the boy toy, then he bought a condom from the bathroom, and we went home and fucked with it, laughing at the novelty—neither one of us had ever used one, it being the early 80’s.
Shortly after New Year’s (we were up for three days doing “bed checks,” calling every soul we knew, wired out of our minds and billing it all on a hot credit card), his partners in crime from the Deep South showed up and talked him into taking a short trip to sell the stuff—heck, he’d be back “within the week.”
Yeah, right. I knew already at that point I’d probably never see him again, but he left anyway.
* * * *
So his voice sounds exactly the same on the phone while he’s telling me that the Lord has changed his vocabulary, and I’m having all these warped fantasies—does Pentecostal mean he’s a snake handling, battery acid swilling guy in some tiny rural wooden church with people rolling on the floor, speaking in tongues, screaming and shit? Maybe he’d still let me tie a big bow in his hair, if we could make it look more religious, like with big Madonna crucifix earrings. Or is he more like Jerry Falwell, kind of fat and balding, but with women’s lingerie under his monkey suit and clerical collar? Do Pentecostal ministers take confession?
We promise to keep in touch and he tells me it’s one of his dreams to rent a huge building out here, maybe even Frederick’s of Hollywood, and turn it into a giant church for a day invite all his old skating and rock’n’roll buddies to hear him preach. He tells me he gives sermons in Haiti to thousands of people, builds new churches there, and tours all over the southern U.S.
A few days later, I get a pamphlet from his ministry and there’s an old photo of him in a police hat and ripped up jeans with a skate, sitting in the back of a vintage Caddy. I think it was an old ad for surf and sportswear. Under it are a few paragraphs about his was a drug addict that hung out with prostitutes and lived a decadent Hollywood lifestyle, so he really knows about the despair of inner-city sinners. I’m thinking, I’ll say!
There’s a recent photo of him with his wife and two kids, and God, oops… I mean, gosh, he looks good, all lean and tan—you’d never guess he’d been in jail. He looks really happy, too.
A few months later he calls excitedly and tells me he’s going to be in California for some services, and he comes to visit. I take him to Aimee Semple McPherson’s Four Square Gospel Temple in Echo Park and he can’t believe that I know who she was.
“She’s one of the most famous evangelists ever!” he said, obviously thrilled.
“She faked drowning in Santa Monica Bay and was discovered in Santa Barbara shacked up in a bungalow having an affair with her radio operator.” I answer.
Feeling guilty over this outburst, I press my cleavage up against the plate glass doors of the church and con the handyman into letting us in, even though it’s closed. We somehow connect with the minister and he takes us around, pointing out all the temple’s amenities.
“After earthquake reparations, our balcony can now seat three hundred,” says the minister, excitedly.
“Three hundred? Praise the God!” answers my man of the cloth.
I’m beginning to feel like I’m in an Altman movie or something, this is so strange. I mean, I can remember being totally shitfaced at skateboard contests and rolling on the floors of clubs with this guy, putting on matching bustiers to go to the movies on acid, stuff like that. As we drive home, he puts on one of Sister Aimee’s inspirational tapes.
We stop to shop for vintage clothes—he wants to look cool for the kids of his congregation. He seems so simple and carefree; I’m wondering if it’s being born again or whatever, then I recall that he’s always been this way. One time I made him go out and get me Tampax, and when he came back with the wrong brand, I screamed at him and threw the box at his head, and he didn’t even bat an eyelash. He went back to the store and got the right kind.
We wind up back at my house, where suddenly I’m very conscious of my paintings, all naked women, martini glasses afloat with plump olives, occult symbolism, and horned devils. We sit on the couch drinking lemonade, I tell him about a recent car wreck I had, and he offers to heal me.
“Sure,” I say, kinda skeptical but willing to try anything to get rid of my back pain.
“What do we have to do?”
He tells me to concentrate and shut my eyes, as he takes my hand and starts praying. His voice is even yet powerful, with a resonate tone I hadn’t noticed before. It sounds kind of official, like a radio announcer or a news anchorman. Every so often he’ll go, “Oh, Lord,” in a conversational way, or maybe it’s that corporate technique where you say the name of the person you’re talking to so they’ll feel more at ease and pay more attention to what you’re saying.
I can’t resist taking a peek, and he’s sitting there with his eyes all squinched shut, really into it. I’m thinking, he’s really, really good at this, and with his looks, why, he could be on television! I mean, forget about those jowly old farts like Jim Bakker and Ernest Angeley—this guy could make letting Jesus into your heart sexy!
He finishes up, and pats my hand, saying he hopes I’ll feel better. He gives me a peck on the cheek, a pristine hug and then he’s gone.
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