My Life As A Gay Man – The Series: 1969, My Days in L.A. and Jordan, Part 1
They say you never forget your first but I had many guys before I met Jordan, hairy and otherwise. But he was the first furry man who stuck in my mind. It was also a time that witnessed the seeds of future behaviors that have lasted or haunted me my entire existence as a gay man.
Most people look back on their high school years with grand nostalgia; mine, spent in suburban blue collar North Jersey, were a horror show. It was not that I was branded the class queer, but I was nerdy, self-conscious about my short stature, bewildered about that fur starting to sprout up all over me, and depressed about being unathletic in an era when all most schools had were competitive sports, not gymnastics or wrestling where I probably would have excelled. If I wasn’t picked on, I was ignored. Today, I would have Columbined or Carried my whole fucken class and have a twisted affinity to kids who blow their bullies away with a shotgun.
I didn’t have a label for it yet, and I wasn’t like the effeminate boys the jocks made fun of, but I knew my disinterest in girls and attraction to good looking guys and male teen pop idols set me apart from everyone else.
My days as an undergraduate at a state commuter college (I was accepted to Rutgers University but didn’t go to save my folks money) weren’t much better. Coming from a family of factory workers, and the first in my family to go to college, the only professionals I had ever been exposed to were my teachers, so I op-ed to become a high school English teacher. As an English major, I was surrounded by a lot of artsy-craftsy types who I just knew had to be like me, queer I mean, or what my college psych textbook labeled as “homosexual.” But when I approached one of them, Robbie, who at the time I had a crush on but today I wouldn’t look at twice, and confided in him one night late when we’re working on a joint class project and were both slightly drunk on Buds that I was gay, he snickered, then apologized, but made it a point to deny he was anything like that.
His moving in with the class queen two months later told me differently, but by then, my boss at the department store I worked at part-time, a double for Jackie Gleason, a Jackie Gleason with a fem bend that is, who apparently knew how to read a fellow fag, had taken me to my first gay bar in the City’s West Village, the Stonewall a year before the Riots. For the first time I was accepted, yes, desired by what guys saw. In fact, that first night in a gay bar, I met an older guy – probably all of 25 – who took me back to his place in the Village for an hour of fun. When he whipped out his tool, I said to myself, “What do I do with that?”
But I’ve always been a quick study.
Being a good Lutheran boy and former Sunday school teacher, I had no hang-ups like a lot of my later Catholic gay acquaintances had about being a homo, and once I knew there was a life out there, I jumped in feet first. But I lived at home and the West Village scene didn’t get going til after midnight, a big problem when you have two hyper-active, overly protective parents So when it was time to go for my master’s degree and try to save my ass from being drafted – Vietnam was raging – I decided to apply, and got accepted to a college as far from Wallington, New Jersey as I could. I didn’t even realize that the University of Southern California was a rich kid’s private school, not part of the California state university system. But it didn’t matter. I was determined to have fun while finishing my degree and LA was the place for me. My graduate pursuits would be a socially accepted reason for an X-rated movie.
A Dustin Hoffman wanna be, I had decided to enroll in the Drama School. I would have some academic courses, some lit, but there would also be a chance to act. Plus I figured there was a greater likelihood I’d meet some brothers. But that theory was shot down the first week of classes. Everyone seemed old – at least older than me. Many were already working, in the studios, in TV, or local theater or in jobs that had no connection at all with show biz. No bedroom material to be found here.
That is, except for one guy, tall and railly, I figured just a bit older than me, who hobbled in every morning to Aesthetics Theater class a few minutes late on crutches and left a few minutes before the lecture ended, I assumed, so he could make it to his next class. He had a long face, etched features, a neatly trimmed goatee and jet black hair that was almost shoulder length, and even in the warm LA fall weather when the rest of us were in shorts he wore 501’s. And he was always with a pretty young girl with a cheerleader smile and blonde Shirley Temple curls.
At that time, USC was not the sprawling mega-campus it is today. Then it was surrounded by a lower class Mexican neighborhood like Main Street Disneyland in the middle of a ghetto, and I, tight on bucks, took a room in a local boarding house near the campus for forty five bucks a week. But that didn’t prevent me from exploring the hinterlands of Hollywood – Hollyweird – Home of the Queers.
Equipped with a copy of Damon’s gay bar guide I had picked up in a Christopher Street sex shop in NYC’s West Village, I grabbed a City bus one Saturday afternoon for Hollywood Boulevard. Grauman’s and the Walk of the Stars were exciting for a movie buff like me, but the rest of the Boulevard resembled a real bad D movie. Shaved headed Jesus freaks, petition-pushing peaceniks with hair down to their assholes, bleached boys with tight, tight T’s and sewn-on levis, and big busted mini-skirted ladies excremented over the streets like Circus performers or extras from Olivia DeHavilland’s “Snake Pit” out on release for good behavior. The sidewalks even smelled of them.
After all, before there was today’s glitzy, pretty boy, overpriced West Hollywood, there was Hollywood, not the mythical Hollywood perpetuated by entertainment pundits, but a seedier version of the town that by the time I arrived in the late ‘60’s was still pretty with its blocks of pastel colored garden apartments, but pretty like a still kinda-in-shape seventy year old whore with a good Max Factor make-up job. I found it ironic that Hollywood as a municipality technically didn’t even exist, and was just a section of the City of Los Angeles.
I was about to pull out those bar addresses I had scribbled down from Damon’s when I spied the newspaper vending machine on the corner selling a pseudo-Commie, Super Left rag, “The Free Press,” where in the back pages were these want ads, “Guys Seeking Guys” listings, all there in their 8 point Times Roman glory. Remember, these were the days when web was a word still associated with spiders.
That night, I spent a hard-on hour crafting my three line ad, molding it like Michelangelo did David til it was just right:
“5’ 6, 22 years old, boyish good looks, straight acting, hairy, wrestler’s build, looking for same for some fun, etc.”
About a week later, I got my first sealed envelope from the Press with three responses to the paper’s anonymous drop box. The first one went on and on and on about his life, the guy had to be at least 40 – Christ. The second, with his “walks on the beach” sounded all bullshit. Ah, but #3 was short and sweet:
“Hey guy, saw your ad. You sound HOT. I’m 5 11, 25, moderately hairy, hippie type, long brown hair, into wrestling – AND LOTS MORE. Live and work in Hollywood. If you like, let’s meet at Grauman’s – write me and let me know when. F.P. Box 432D.”
We rendezvoused by Bette Davis’ footprints a week later. His name was John, (yea, sure) and he was tall and well built, with a mop of hippie hair, a scrawny beard, and on the cute side.
We had coffee at Arthur J’s, the diner not far off Hollywood Boulevard which even on weekday afternoons was a heavy gay mecca. John had left his family back in Omaha, and was just breezing along, working at a local record store. Sure, he had gotten his draft notice and had used it for toilet paper. Then we walked over to his apartment house off Western and, well, played. It was the first time I had been able to suck cock without watching the clock, and the first time I found a guy really dug my fur. John had just a bit on his chest and abs but nothing like me. We exchanged numbers and promised to meet the next week.
It was about the middle of the week when I noticed I was real itchy around the crotch. Then, as I was taking a shit, I saw the little critter crawl cross my thigh. First, I hit the medical books at the university library, then the pharmacy on the corner where I felt like a leper buying Rid.
“You got what?’ John shouted on the phone. Then he hung up. I never saw John again, though he probably had been the source of my infestation, but Rid for this furry boy who liked to mess around became an awkward but essential friend for life.
Jordan, my bittersweet LA love was in the wings…
Jordan: Part II Wednesday