The following is a letter I wrote to my friend Michael Ausiello dated February 19, 1998. Mike graduated USC one year earlier than me in 1995. We were good friends in Journalism school since I met him when we were both reporters for the USC student newspaper the Daily Trojan and I kept in touch with him for the years immediately following our graduation.
2-19-1998Oh my God! I am so sorry I missed acknowledging your birthday on time. I was actually talking about you today to one of my coworkers. I was comparing your success as a Soap Opera News editor to my failings as a depressed, drugged out former drag queen.
I realized it's been ages since we've connected so I'm writing to fill you in. By the way, how old are you now. 26?
I've been riding an emotional roller coaster for the past few months. I'm about ready to puke over the side of my cart, (so to speak)
My film, the one that actually saw the light of day screened a few weeks ago at the San Jose Independent Film Festival. Since I missed all of the previous screenings, due to my convalescence and near death experiences, I went and saw it. The director, producer and lead actor showed up in San Jose for it, so I hung around with them and stayed in their hotel room. Being around Hollywood types again made me extremely homesick. "I had forgotten how powerful the aesthetic pressures of LA could be for someone with my insecurities."
Now that I've been out of that scene for some some time, I had the advantage of observing the playful bantering of these Weho types from on objective viewpoint.
"I lost count on the number of times they compared waist sizes, body fat percentages and hair volume. I was out of the running in this race as their quips and witticism were largely the result of sexually charged motives."
They all wanted to bed Daniel, the lead actor who played Griff, the studly closet case frat boy in protagonist of Defying Gravity. I hadn't seen him since we filmed
Defying Gravity-- me (left) and Daniel Chisholmin June of 1996, one short month after my glory days at graduation.
Anyway, since he's been roaming the country being a festival whore with the fag film makers has adopted a rather fey exterior. He dresses better and sings the praises of Paul Mitchell Waxworks.
I saw myself on screen for the first time, surrounded by my family and the filmmakers who I saw as a fragile link to my former coveted self. My character was a two dimensional composite of the stereotypical Fag with a capital F, career club kid. I wore my own clothes for the shoot which consisted of Pepto pink second skin disco pants, beads and an array of other pink and baby yellow garments. I chose those hues because they represent Spring which brings up
images of new life and evolution. Since the theme of the film was about coming out, I thought my subtle contribution to the mise-en-scene would be the perfect touch.
Talk about a surreal experience. When I saw my character sashay through the Six Gallery Cafe or the Daily Grind or the Weho Lounge or whatever the fuck the cafe next to Mickey's is, I get chills up my spine. I was immediately transported back in time to my days of youth and coming of age as a a glamour boy. I saw myself as others see me. I honestly couldn't believe how much I pushed the envelope. I'm such a fag. That explains a lot.
The filmmakers told me my scenes got a lot of laughs when it showed at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. I'm pissed that I missed that screening.
The cinematographer told me he used a harsh light in all of my scenes to bring out my features in a cartoonish manner to suggest an over the top, camp exterior. My character was not meant to be taken seriously. The director juxtaposed my screaming, activist frivolity with the solid, all-American teenage struggles of Griff played by Daniel.
After the film, we had to get up in front of the theater and stand there for a Q & A session. The director recited a monologue about his hopes that the this film be viewed as the after school special of coming out gay cinema. It's being screened in Sydney, Australia next month. A few queens raised their hands and asked Daniel to take his shirt off, which was funny because this poor 27 year-old boy still doesn't identify as a homo. He called his girlfriend before he got into bed. We shared a hotel room. I was the only one with a rollaway bed.
Anyway, when I returned to dreary, provincial San Francisco the next day, I started this bizarre series of spontaneous sobbing fits. I felt so miserable about my current lot in life, I would burst into tears without warning. I decided to return to LA as soon as possible. Even though the image conscious landmines landed me in the hospital. at least I was living. When I went to school there, few days passed that I didn't want to kiss the ground and praise the heavens that I was at last alive and finally living in the dream city of my youth. I took the wayward path after graduation because I became extremely disenchanted and insecure with myself as the result of continuous rejections both in job interviews and auditions. I was naive about drugs and their effects. I fell victim to the lifestyle in such a short time because I was unaware of the dangers, having never experienced anything remotely like that.
The rush I got from being Tawdry Wilcox was matched only by the attention afforded to me as the premiere androgynous super-model of Santa Monica Blvd.
Since the operation, I've been going through some weird version of a post-traumatic stress syndrome. I lack the motivation and will to shower or get out of bed in the morning. I just got a day job a couple of weeks ago. I interviewed at the Bay Area Reporter. I'm sure you're familiar. It's the oldest gay newspaper in the Bay area started over 25 years ago during the days of the Mattachine Society. I met with the associate publisher and interviewed to be the receptionist which was really just the term for an $12 an hour entry level position that would have given me full medical coverage and the opportunity to submit articles on a semi regular basis. For the first few hours after the interview, I actually felt optimistic and hopeful. I imagined what my life had the potential to be as a promising young journalist in a Disney-esque urban environment.
As things go he hired someone else. I'll scratch his eyes out.
I took a job with the only other company that called me back for an interview, a non-profit mortgage company in the Financial District, Embarcadero area of San Francisco. From 8-5, I answer the phones and stare at the wall. In defense of the position, I I must point out the few perks. I get to greet the dreamy bike messengers that come in to deliver packages about five times an hour. They're definitely their own alternative subculture, slacker Generation X, baby boomer backlash rebels.
Then from 6 to 10 PM I take the bus to upper Polk in Armistead Maupin's Russian Hill and man the delivery phones and dining tables in a trendy, healthy Mexican restaurant. On weekends, I work at the restaurant. Basically, I'm working 14 hour
days during the week and 8 on Saturday and Sunday.
This leaves me virtually no time to socialize which is fine because I'm in no mood to make friends here. Besides, who wants to hang around with a bitch like me and her excess baggage?
I spend a lot of time extolling the revisionist virtues of my former life. My parents are at the end of their rope. Since I arrived here last October, I have been staying with my stepfather, as you know. He finally kicked me out. Since I don't plan to stay here for very long, I'm refraining from taking my stuff out of storage. Instead, I'm subletting half of an apartment for the next month. When that's up in mid March, I'll find another short term situation.
Oh Mike, sorry to bore you with all of this dramatic drivel. I just miss the way it was.
Addendum: I spent the next month in an out of the mental hospital before being sent away to the Redwood Center for an indeterminate period of time. I was discharged from there after comingling with one of the residents."We don't take kindly to boys with sparkly nail polish," said the director.
I had been in the habit of passing off my chores to a line of willing suitors in the center. They were all largely from the penitentiary stock and I was in way over my head bouncing and flouncing around as a cute little gender queer.
.Michael Ausiello You need to round up ALL your letters and publish them; they're like a work of art, my friend. Thank you for sharing. I miss you!