|Sailors Fighting In The Dance Hall: Original Illustration by Tom Of Finland|
If he was a thrill ride, he’d have been more like The Space Shuttle than a roller coaster. Usually, people tell me I change their lives, but this time I felt like I met my match. He came into my life like an earthquake—there was a brief, distant, muffled rumbling that quickly and without warning escalated in intensity to a life-changing string of events. There was no way to anticipate or prepare for this affair. Sometimes you need a milkshake: bland, smooth and easy to swallow, and other times you need an earthquake. This one went off the Richter scale. Spring fever hit and there was no FEMA to clean up the mess. I fell like a ton of bricks, like every chimney that ever toppled, like the Hollywood sign sliding right off the face of Mount Wilson. We took turns leading and following, but it was clear that neither of us really had control of the situation.
This all flashed through my mind as I looked at him lying in the gutter, bleached blonde hair soaked with blood, a large crimson puddle spreading out like a halo from beneath his head.
The events leading up to this emergency had, day by the day, gotten completely out of hand. There were nights full of hallucinogenics and alcohol, spent riding around in other people’s limousines, getting thrown out of swank hotels, crawling on hands and knees through gardens reeking of faded Old Hollywood glamour. There were daybreak scenes in stranger’s apartments, throwing anything that wasn’t nailed down out of twelfth story windows. There were many incidents of unexplained phenomena surrounding us: electrical lights shattering, power outages, appliances melting, cars dying and my television set blowing up with a spectacular boom and clouds of smoke.
Sometimes it seemed as though we existed in a world of our own that was like a private joke, the rest of society around solely for the purpose of our amusement. Other times it was as though we were entertainment for an audience that just watched and lived through us vicariously. We were both loud, excessive, theatrical exhibitionists. Each of us was addicted to make-up and piled it on; lush false eyelashes, cheap bon-bon pink lip-gloss, the works. We invented pet names for each other—he called me “Sugar,” after one of Liz Taylor’s spoiled lap dogs, I called him “Sparkle” because he was shiny and elusive as stardust.
On one particular afternoon, we were planning on attending a benefit for the Tom Of Finland Foundation, a society dedicated to preserving erotic art in general, specializing in the paintings and drawings of Tom Of Finland, whose vintage hunky beefcake renderings of leather boys, construction workers, cops, and sailors canonized an exaggerated queer ideal of masculine beauty. Realizing that the place would be crawling with rough trade, leather daddies and uniform fetishists – a virtual sea of black leather- Sparkle and I decided to be beacons of color—he attired head to toe in burnt orange, my outfit down to my fingernails a neon green.
We started early, watching Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, with pots of rouge scattered all over the floor, swigging Modelo Negro straight from the bottle, doing shots of Cuervo Gold, halving baby pink Mexican Valiums and popping them while our eyeliner dried. While it was still light out, we took a taxi to the gig, which was already in full swing. Upon arrival, we were quite a few sheets to the wind, disobeying Leather Lifestyle Protocol. I got flogged at the mouth of the stage by deadly serious, shorn-skulled black man wielding a cat o’nine tails like a demented, testosterone-infused cheerleader.
“Round your back like an angry cat,” the guy kept instructing me, apparently unused to a slave who wouldn’t cooperate. I quickly tired of the scenario because what was supposed to be a beating felt more like…a tickle. Sparkle attracted quite a crowd, mock screaming and moaning dramatically, the whips snapping in a satisfying way against the vinyl hot pants he’d concealed under his sickening orange outfit. Not only were we the only people sporting colored clothing, I was one of maybe six or seven women (among hundreds of buffed out macho men) and Sparkle in his platform shoes towered a good head above the masses, definitely the only guy in drag, sporting a platinum wig and Audrey Hepburn mink cone hat, defiantly flaunting conservative fetish fashion.
Things only got worse while the band Extra Fancy played, when I offered the lead singer Brian Grillo my shot of tequila. One taste and he spit most of it out, so as to continue singing. The bassist expressed interest though, so I poured it down his throat while he grimaced, trying to swallow it. A guy behind me pressed his face close to my ear and asked with a hint of disbelief in his voice,
“Did you just make those guys drink your piss?”
Sparkle and I barged ahead of a line of leather men in line for the ladies room to fix our lipstick and pee.
“HEY!” railed one disgruntled man in a Harley Davidson jacket, “This is the Ladies Room!”
He shot a withering glance at Sparkle and went on,
“That guy is not a lady!”
Progressing well beyond the point of civilized conduct, I got right in the man’s face and fairly screamed,
“ARE YOU CALLING HIM A WHORE? IF I SAY HE’S A LADY, THEN HE’S A LADY! YOU WANNA FIGHT ABOUT IT?”
At that moment, for some reason Sparkle felt the need to take another Valium, and fished it out of my Lancôme powder compact while we took turns pissing.
What happened after that is a blur.
I do remember wandering in and out of various fetish rooms, watching a well-preserved and tanned fiftyish man getting his balls shaved; pinching the ass of a wanna-be Highway Patrolman who was giving a sailor a shoe-shine, accidentally knocking a drink out of the hand of a man who was wearing a black PVC hood.
At one point I lost Sparkle in the crowd, but he wasn’t hard to find: simply follow the tall orange streak weaving dangerously through the masses, or head in the direction of his deranged, banshee-wail laughter. When I caught up with him, he was disrupting an ultra-serious session between a meekly submissive models tied to a chair while a brutal-looking artist sketched him. A quietly respectful crowd watched while Sparkle, oblivious to almost everything at this point, blundered right in and began talking in a slurred voice to the model (who may or may not have been gagged—memory doesn’t’ serve me well) while he fumbled for a cigarette.
Shortly after this, Sparkle sashayed into the hallway and quick as lightning grabbed a nightstick from a dress-up cop who wasn’t even on the ball enough to notice he’d been robbed. Seizing the opportunity, I raced up to the “officer” and told him I saw who stole his billy club and would be willing to track down the culprit and make a citizen’s arrest… for the price of a beer. The cop quickly complied—his nightstick in all probability being worth more than a bottle of brew. After a long and drawn out goose-chase, I simultaneously played stool pigeon and ratted out my lover for a Corona with lime while trying to convince the cop to give me his L.A.P.D. K-9 Division pins. No dice.
Next thing I knew, Sparkle and I were getting a pair of matching Tom of Finland temporary tattoos on our asses. Pants around his ankles, Sparkle once again delighted the more than appreciative crowd by falling onto all fours while the tattoo was being applied. I promptly dropped the beer the kind officer had bought me, causing foam to spray everywhere, while Sparkle made it onto a couch, sinking all-too-comfortably into fetal position.
Ever practical, I began to make transportation arrangements to get to Club Sucker which, judging from the appearance of those who were going, would probably prove to be more of a mess than this event was rapidly becoming. Somehow, I’m not sure exactly how, we wound up outside.
As the bands loaded their amps out and crowds milled on the sidewalk, Sparkle sat in the gutter as though he owned it, and without any kind of warning, began an inspired, impromptu impersonation of Linda Blair in The Exorcist, only instead of pea soup, the stuff he was projectile vomiting was nothing but bile, closely resembling radiator fluid. In fact, it matched my outfit perfectly. Oh yeah… we’d forgotten to eat!
No one seems to have seen exactly what happened, but suddenly Sparkle was face down in the gutter, lying in a puddle of his own blood that was so vividly red it looked like cheap poster paint. I was jolted back into reality by a voice screaming for an ambulance.
I began a quiet freak out of my own until I heard him mumble something to the effect of, “Noooo ambulance…. Noooo insurance…”
Barking orders and no doubt impressing the leather boys with my sudden dominatrix demeanor, I sobered up enough to demand towels and water and promptly got them, pressing them to Sparkle’s head to stop the flow of blood, which was quickly covering the entire right side of his face. Apparently, as he’d fallen over, he’d gashed himself on the tailpipe of a motorcycle, a nasty wound but thankfully not too big or deep. We got a ride back to my house with a guy neither of us knew really at all, a good Samaritan who didn’t seem to mind a huge, shit-faced, recently retching drag queen bleeding all over his truck. After we began driving over the curbs and onto the sidewalks, I realized why- the driver was more fucked up than we were!
At my place, I lurched around like a Frankenstein’s Monster version of Florence Nightingale, looking for peroxide and cotton balls to clean the gash. Thinking I was completely sober and efficient, I walked smack into a doorframe and gave myself a huge bruise right in the middle of my forehead.
Around five in the morning, Sparkle woke me out of a sound sleep, his former cheerful and frighteningly sober personality magically restored.
“You’ve got to fill me in on details!” he said, all chipper, as I fought my way up through the depths of my own drug-addled unconscious.
As I retold the afternoon’s events, sparkle laughed and laughed.
You know that Earthquake Weather, where all of L.A. is arid and still except for those intense Santa Ana winds? Devil Winds, some people call them, they say the Santa Ana winds can dive you crazy. They’ve been blowing like mad this year; it’s been a strange and unusually warm spring. Meteorologists and geologists say there’s no such thing as Earthquake Weather, that it doesn’t exist, but I can’t agree. It’s like the calm before the storm, a deadly still, arid silence before everything gets shook up.
You can’t just dance recklessly around the city without losing your balance sometimes. Standing in a doorway wasn’t going to save my ass this time. Even though FEMA won’t be here to survey the wreckage when it’s over, this has been a beautiful disaster, and I had to give myself over completely.
After all, it wasn’t my fault.
The story you’ve just read is from my memoir, Escape From Houdini Mountain (Manic D Press, 2000) available in paperback and Kindle here:
My latest memoir, Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road (Punk Hostage Press, 2013) is available here: http://www.princessfarhana.com/shop.htm