Please explain what just happened.

We just finished writing, engineering, and producing our third album, Always, Anyway.  Doing everything ourselves, while at times arduous and frustrating, has afforded us the time and creative freedom to present this new material exactly the way we want it to be heard; we are all very excited about this release!

 

What is your earliest memory?

When Taylor (my sister) was born.

I should have known that I was gay a long time before I figured it out. As a young kid I was a fan of Charlie’s Angels, The Bionic Woman, and Wonder Woman. I couldn’t see enough Broadway musicals as a teen and took to wearing argyle socks. My favorite movie in the 10th grade was The Little Mermaid and I dreamed of both getting married and honeymooning in Disneyworld. Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” was, and still is, my favorite song to dance to with “It’s Raining Men” running a not-too-distant second.

It wasn’t clear until later that there were millions of others just like me, that I was a walking cliché growing up with gay clues circling all around me; big ones that were the equivalent of head hitting hammers.

I came out in 1994 when I was 20 years old, seven years after I found a man stunningly beautiful for the very first time, or at least the first time I was cognizant of it. Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride made me desperately want to do anything he wished, if he had asked it of me and not Robin Wright. I don’t remember being particularly disturbed about finding a man attractive; it seemed so natural what with his perfect features and all.

The attractions steamrolled from there one after the denied other. As an unpopular teen on Friday nights, I would join my parents when they went over to my aunt and uncle’s house to play pinochle. I did not go because I was a fan of watching card games. No, I went because they had the Playboy channel. As I stumbled across it by accident (and it was an accident) that first time while alone in their den, I quickly started to realize that I was more interested in the pool boy than the bored housewife trying to seduce him. I was watching Playboy for the men and got annoyed when there were half hour specials on the playmate of the month. My time was limited; pinochle did not revolve around the Playboy channel’s programming.

Yes, this should’ve tipped me off.

Or maybe earlier when I insisted on singing the entire Annie songbook during one of my parents’ dinner parties…from “Maybe” all the way to “I Don’t Need Anything But You”. As I had stage fright, I performed from underneath the table so I was not able to see what had to be looks of bored desperation on people’s faces.

Or maybe this should’ve raised some rainbow flags…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could never get into watching football and only saw it as a hindrance to eating dinner at a reasonable hour on Sundays. I was obsessed with women’s gymnastics during the Summer Olympics and figure skating during the Winter ones. I grew up watching WWF wrestling because it was chock-full of drama and shirtless men, not because I could appreciate a well-executed piledriver.

I taped General Hospital everyday while at school starting in the 7th grade so I could watch it at night and cried when [spoiler alert] Tania Jones died. I spent days with the theme song to Jem and the Holograms stuck in my head.

There was the time I helped my mother and other women clear the table during a big family barbecue. One of the adult men constructively commented, “Don’t be a fag.” I didn’t realize that helping to clean signified being gay. Though, people do insist that Mr. Clean is gay, don’t they?

I excelled in my 12th grade typing class, a trait I inherited from my mother who used to say that Typing was the only class she got an A in. The captain of the basketball team sat beside me looking on in envy of my speed. His best bud one row back reassured him that it was only typing. “Dude, it’s for girls.”

Three bullies in junior high knew that I was gay before I did. They called me a fudge-packer every time they saw me. I thought this term referred to my over-weight and fondness of chocolate. I didn’t realize until later that they were being remarkably homophobic at an early age. But what did they see in me that I hadn’t yet?

They weren’t the only ones. When I was 15, I spent six weeks travelling on a teen tour with 35 other teens. One night, one of my friends revealed that some of the girls thought that I might be gay. “Oh,” I replied out loud. “Maybe I am,” I kept to myself. I cannot say that my friend was as calm as I was. He was truly offended on my behalf; he seemingly wanted to defend my honor. Was I making a tactical error by not defending it myself?

For a talent show performance that same summer, my friend Deena and I were going to reenact a song and dance number from One Life to Live. When I saw the look in some people’s eyes as we rehearsed on the bus, I quickly realized that if I went through with it, people would not just suspect that I was gay. So we found an alternative that did not involve the use of jazz hands.

In high school, I concentrated my attraction to men on one classmate in particular who had a reputation for being a ladies man. I flirted, I touched in passing, I made inappropriate propositions…all in jest, of course, but not really. I thought I had a chance (I’m not sure at what exactly) because he was in the drama club and chorus. Then one day he confided in me with a concerned tone that he thought I was bisexual. I quickly retorted that I was just kidding, whatever I did or said I was never serious. This shut me up for good with him. The secret I was keeping from myself almost got out.

During my junior year, I was caught in a love triangle except that the two other parties involved were not in love with me. Laurie and Jake were both my best friends yet hardly friends with one another. I convinced myself that I had a crush on Laurie so when Jake and she started dating, I didn’t take it well. I took it much worse when it felt like Jake was abandoning me to spend more time with Laurie. It didn’t occur to me until years later that Jake was the one I had a crush on. I somehow missed that minor detail.

As a frequenter of Broadway, I often passed by certain kinds of unreputable establishments that could be found on 8th Avenue in the theater district. One in particular always caught my attention because its sign above the door read “Cock Around the Clock”. What in denial gay teen didn’t dream about going to a badly pun-named strip club?

One day I had the occasion to be in Manhattan entirely by myself and so decided to take advantage of my solitude and pursue the fantasy. I was ready to see naked men in real life rather than just on pay cable.

I was positively terrified yet excited. I had no idea what to expect once I entered and had no idea what kinds of other men would be inside. I self-consciously opened the door and was confronted by a steep staircase worthy of a Hitchcock film. Once I made my nervous ascent, I quickly bought my entrance ticket and made my way to the “theater”, barely taking in my surroundings.

I was crestfallen when I entered. I suppose that I imagined a beautifully muscular man dancing in a G-string to the hoots and hollers of good-looking men in the audience. It was 11am on a Tuesday. The audience was empty save for the dirty old man up in the corner. The naked performer on stage was sitting on a chair, touching himself with what smelled like Coppertone 8, and he wasn’t the least bit attractive. I had seconds to decide where to sit and so chose the front row, directly in front of him. Anywhere else, I worried, would’ve been insulting.

There I was, an uncomfortable 17 year old wearing a toggle coat from the Gap, khaki pants, with a book in hand watching a stripper at “Cock Around the Clock”. It was not exactly the moment dreams are made of. Shortly after my arrival, the man put on his G-string (there it was), stepped down from the stage and approached me. Oh God, he sat on my lap.

“I’m just here to observe,” I insisted in a panic. It didn’t even occur to me to bring singles.

“That’s ok,” he reassured me without getting up. “Don’t be so nervous.” He gyrated a bit. “How’s your book?”

I ran. I got up in a flurry spitting out apologies, and fiercely made my way to the exit and flew down that hellish stairway back to the safety of daylight. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t be gay. I wouldn’t be gay. I would stop thinking about men. I would make sure of it.

I should have known; it didn’t stick.

I grew up before Ellen came out on prime time and passed the baton to Will & Grace who helped bring homosexuality to the mainstream. This was before Tom Hanks barely kissed Antonio Banderas, before there were Angels in America, before three drag queens Abba’d their way across the Australian Outback and before Rosie O’Donnell pulled the ole bait-and-switch.

I wouldn’t dare suggest that I grew up in a difficult environment. Compared to many, I had it easy. It’s just that homosexuality was not yet discussed openly and if so, it was certainly never done so in a positive manner. My only gay role model growing up was Jack Tripper and so that doesn’t count.

Yes, certainly, somewhere in the midst of all this confusion I realized that I was gay. I just wasn’t ready to accept it yet. If only I knew then what I do now, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time.

All of that being said, one cliché didn’t take; I never cared much for Barbra.


Please explain what just happened.

I just finished making a Thai Butternut Squash Bisque and confirmed that a friend is coming over for dinner to help me eat some of it.

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

The story you are about to read is true. First, some background. A few years ago, I made my living exclusively as a freelance writer. During this time, I wrote for a variety of clients—from Time Warner who owns everything to a printing company in Blue Ridge, Georgia that didn’t even own a telephone (amazingly, they were the only client I’ve ever had that paid in full and on time). Anyway, the hardest part of being a freelance writer—other than trying to cope with the constant soul-destroying anxiety of whether or not you’ll pay your rent that month—is landing an interview for a gig. And that’s where our story begins.

—–

FADE IN.

EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING
It’s February in Philadelphia and this high rise, which looks startlingly like the building from “Good Times,” is blanketed in snow.

INT. APARTMENT
Even more depressing than the outside of the building is this apartment: tiny, cramped, and sterile. The walls of the 500 sq. ft. unit are closing in on ROB, early 30s, unshaven and, as a result of the long Philadelphia winter, pasty white. The phone rings. The caller is male with an incredible Russian accent.

ROB
Hello?

RUSSIAN MAN (Off Screen)
You answered ad. How soon you be here?

ROB
I answered a few ads. Are you from Craig’s List?

RUSSIAN MAN (Off Screen)
You be here in twenty minutes.

INT. BATHROOM – LATER
Desperately trying to make himself presentable, Rob splashes water on his hair and plucks away at a straggly unibrow. Disgusted by his pasty complexion, he takes a bottle of his wife’s Self Tanner, squeezes a comically large glob into his hands, and begins smearing it all over his face.

EXT. CENTER CITY – DAY
Rob, his skin a ridiculous shade of dark orange, stands on the sidewalk, staring at the unmarked building in front of him.

ROB
This can’t be right.

INT. BUILDING – CONTINUOUS
It’s a very long, poorly lit hallway. Ahead, a piece of white paper showing a crudely drawn arrow, hangs on a wall. Rob continues walking and comes to a glass door that’s been blackened out. He opens it and walks inside.

INT. OFFICE – CONTINUOUS
There is clearly some type of business going on here, but exactly what type is unknown. A black leather sofa is pressed against a mirrored wall. A SECRETARY, Russian, not a day over 18, her curvaceous body stuffed in a tight, plastic dress, sits behind a metallic silver desk.

ROB
Hi, I’m Rob Bloom.

SECRETARY
We’ve been expecting you. Sit.

Rob sits on the couch. Meanwhile, an attractive, muscular man who towers over six feet tall, struts in the office and down a hallway. Shortly thereafter, two gorgeous women with big hair, big lips and big breasts, both well over six feet, walk down the same hallway. Suddenly KURT, 35, tall, muscular, his black hair pulled into a ponytail, walks up. He speaks in a thick Russian accent.

KURT
We spoke on phone. I am Kurt. Come.

Rob follows Kurt down a long hallway filled with many doors. As they walk, Rob tries to glimpse into some of the rooms along the way. In one, he sees an attractive woman, wearing only a trench coat and spiked high heels, lying on a couch and talking into a video camera.

KURT
Through here.

Rob enters a room with floor to ceiling mirrors and a ceiling covered in soundproof foam. Kurt sits in a tall chair and motions for Rob to take the couch. He does and sinks like a stone into the cushions.

KURT
Drink?

ROB
No, I’m fine. Thanks.

Kurt says nothing and continues staring at Rob. Suddenly, he begins shouting instructions in Russian. Moments later, the Secretary enters carrying a tray with a coffee pot and two empty cups. She places the tray on a table beside Kurt who has yet to take his eyes off Rob. She leaves, closing the door behind her. Kurt takes the pot and fills both cups to the top.

KURT

Drink.

ROB
What is it?

KURT
Like coffee.

KURT (raising his glass)
To your future.

They drink. Rob takes a sip and begins coughing furiously.

KURT
Problem?

Rob, tears streaming down his cheeks, shakes his head no.

KURT
Good.

Taking the pot, Kurt pours more “coffee” into Rob’s cup.

KURT
We drink.

Rob, now sweating, takes another sip and again, goes into a coughing fit. He places the cup down on the table beside him and wipes his dripping brow.

ROB
Whew, it’s a bit hot in here, huh?

Kurt says nothing. Rob laughs nervously as sweat—and self tanner—run down his face.

KURT
Enough games. Why you want job?

ROB
Well, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what this job is.

Rob’s sweating is now out of control. Also out of control is the self tanner, which continues to ooze and has begun to absorb through Rob’s shirt. (WRITER’S NOTE: Yes, I applied the tanner to my neck, chest, and arms. I wanted it to look natural, okay? Who are you to judge me?!?)

The combination of tanner and sweat has caused large orange/brown patches to appear everywhere—Rob’s armpits, stomach, and, of course, in the form of two dinner plate-sized circles around his nipples. Kurt remains stone faced. Suddenly, he begins shouting in Russian. Moments later, TIFFANY, Russian, mid 40s, blonde, busty, and also well over six feet, enters the room. Dressed in a skintight leopard-print leotard, Tiffany is equal parts James Bond villain and animatronic figure.

TIFFANY
I am Tiffany.

Rob stands up to greet Tiffany who dwarfs him. They shake hands and Rob winces at her strength.

KURT
Sit.

Tiffany and Kurt stare at Rob who’s a mess with streaks of orange and brown running down his cheeks. Slowly, they raise their coffee cups and begin to drink. Slowly. The temperature in the room seems to have gone up ten degrees and the mirrored walls are starting to fog. Kurt removes a cigarette from his front shirt pocket and places it, slowly, between his lips. He hands a lighter to Tiffany who leans over—way over—to light the cigarette. When she does, Rob gets a long look at her plastic surgeon’s handiwork. Still, no one speaks. Rob, who is now drenched in sweat and tanner, fidgets nervously in his chair. He wipes his soaked forehead, making gigantic discolored streaks across his face. Kurt passes the cigarette to Tiffany who takes a long drag. Meanwhile, the silence continues.

ROB
So…what exactly do you do here?

Like a volcano erupting, Kurt and Tiffany explode into a tirade of Russian, literally screaming at one another. Tiffany is screaming and waving her arms in the air while Kurt, his face beet red with anger, does the same. The look on Rob’s face says it all: he’s wondering a) how in the hell he’s going to get out of here and b) how he can possibly convey this story in writing. Then, as quickly as the volcano erupted, it stops. Silence. Kurt and Tiffany stand from their chairs and stare down at Rob. Finally, Kurt smiles.

KURT
We let you know.

FADE OUT.

—–

In case you’re wondering:

No, I didn’t get the job (or find out what the job was, for that matter).

No, I haven’t used self tanner since.

No, I didn’t respond when Kurt e-mailed me six months ago, asking if I was available to meet about an emergency project.