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Reel Two

Send in the Clones

1

 

Clarinet intro. Then bass and soft piano. “Maybe next time, I’ll be Kander.” Kweenie parodied the blues, doing Liza doing Judy. “Maybe next time, he’ll be Ebb.” In the baby pinpoint spot, she was all bowler hat, big eyelashes, red lipstick, and spit curls pasted on each cheek. “Maybe next time for the best time...” Her red-sequined Judy-jacket reflected darts of spotlight around the supper club. “...he’ll be totally gay.” She blew a kiss to her drummer brushing her beat. “He will do me? Fast! I’ll be homo? At last!” Outing her lust for gay men, she teased the lyrics. “Not a ‘lady’ anymore like the last hag and the hag before.” She picked up the chorus. “Everybody loves a lover.” She expanded. “So everybody loves me.” Her green fingernails clawed the air above her head. “Lady Castro. Lady Folsom. Take a big look at me!” She hit all the right poses to make them love her. “When all you boys are in my corner, I’ll blow you all away!” Channeling Judy’s invincible voice, she became Liza the Conqueror. “Call me Kweenie! Call me Kweenie!” She thrust jazz hands up framing her face. As the audience rose to their feet, she exploded. “Maybe next time, maybe next time, you’ll love me!”

The supper crowd at Fanny’s loved Kweenasheba. She was as good as Ryan at being other people, but she, singing torch usually best sung by divas one scotch-and-soda past their prime, knew when to quit. She finished her set and came to my table. “What movie am I?” she asked.

Before I could say, Cabaret,” she said, Imitation of Life. She affected a certain world-weariness.

“Seen much of Ry?” I asked.

“Not since Kick moved in.” She had an envious look in her eye. “Do you blame either of them?”

“Solly says Ry’s writing some top-secret project.”

“You sound like a reporter for the National Intruder,” she said. “Are you keeping notes?”

“The unexamined lifestyle is not worth living.”

“Magnus, dear Magnus.” She took my hand. “You’re such a bag of horseshit. All I know is Ryan is holed up with Kick. Solly Blue is pissed. He has—how do you say in English?—no love for Kick.”

“Why not?”

“Don’t ask,” Kweenie said. “Solly says he has reasons.” “Such as?”

“He won’t say. At least, he won’t tell me.” She signaled for an orange juice. “I think he’s jealous. Ryan told him that Kick’s the Most Original Thinker he knows.”

“That used to be Solly’s title.”

“Precisely,” Kweenie said. “But these days nobody’s as good as Kick.” She threw her hands up. “Ryan says they discuss stuff. He calls it stuff”

“Stuff? What kind of stuff?”

“Mantalk,” Kweenie said. “Ry told me it was mantalk.” “He means it’s none of your business.”

“And none of yours.” She disliked her brother excluding her with a word like mantalk. She knew if she had been born Ryan’s brother, their relationship would be quite different. They would have made love, which he denied her and himself, not because she was his sibling, but because she was female.

They’re in-love,” I said.

They’re two gifted boys playing grown-ups and getting away with it.” Because of Kick, Ryan’s life, like his erotic writing, had assumed a creamy, dreamy, soft-core porno look: everything slightly more real than real. Kick was one of his fictional superheroes incarnated like Pygmalion’s Galatea and Henry Higgins’ Eliza. Their life together was an enameled dreamtime: clothes by Gentlemen’s Quarterly, sets by Architectural Digest, bodies by Colt Studios out of Iron Man, script by Ryan out of Lewis Car-

roll by de Sade.

“Living off center is a necessity,” Ryan said.

What neither Kweenie nor I knew then was that Ryan was in the last throes of his final draft of his Masculinist Manifesto, which he subtitled A Man’s Man. I think he had some idea of the sensation, but had no idea of the controversy, the long essay would cause when printed with erotic photos and distributed in tabloid format on San Francisco street corners. Not that Kick and Ryan invented everything in the Manifesto. More that Ryan pulled together something growing and mobilizing toward a confrontation in San Francisco: the singular popular front of freshly uncloseted male homosexuals was breaking up into subgroups of politics and attitude fueled by lesbian feminist separatist women.

Ryan intended the Manifesto as the very off-center voice of the most invisible queer of them all: the manly homosexual.

The Manifesto’s opening line read: “The hardest thing to be in America today is a man.”

They’re probably holed up,” Kweenie said, “writing dirty stories and taking dirty pictures.”

Maneuvers keeps them off the streets,” I said. That’s the function of gay porn.”

“Without it what would little boys do?” “Forget it,” I said. They’re in-love”

“I know they’re in-love,” Kweenie said. Her orange juice arrived. “Just like the movies. There’s the smell of popcorn in the air.”

 

2

 

Solomon Bluestein was a movie mogul. He was the Sam Goldwyn of the Tenderloin. He started out in 1969 shooting little porno films on Super 8 and evolved into erotic videotapes he sold mail order. Solid Blue Video, Inc., was a money machine paying quarterly taxes. Solly never hired the expensive, interchangeable blond twits or the coltish modelles who populated gay films. His stars were real trash: runaways, throwaways, street hustlers, excons. He was a grand cross between Fagin and Father Flanagan.

“I’d rather smell the sweat from a straight young wrestler’s dripping armpit than have sex with a gay boy.”

His cinema verite videotapes were legendary on the pudbuster circuit. His technique was high-toned. His material was low-down. His gross was boffo. For thirty bucks, he outhustled his hustlers. He coached from his tough guys the hard-assed Attitude that attracted and frightened people in the street. He understood beauty and terror.

Ignoring his own advice, he warned his customers in his brochures: “Never take these boys to your lovely home.”

His stars were dangerous graduates of the best Youth Authorities from east coast to west and points south. To a trick, they were, so they said, personally straight, professionally mercenary, living in cheap rooms in sleaze-bag hotels, drinking beer and Jack Daniel’s when they could cadge it, smoking cigarettes and dope, shooting up, screwing with tough little teen hookers, proud of their hustling, bragging, “Shit! The old lady’s a working girl. So I work the streets too.”

One after the other the boys stripped for his color-sound camera, posing solo, oiling up naked, running their mouths, flexing, spitting, grinning, flipping the bird, showing their muscles, delighting in abusing fags for money, flipping their dicks, bending over and spreading their assholes, spouting clichés like “Eat it, queer,” finally lying back, pounding their pud, jerking off watching straight porn on video, cuming for the camera, inviting dirty fags, oh yeah, to lick up their big loads from their tight bellies and big balls.

“Ah yes,” Solly Blue said. “I give them a chance to spill their guts. How novel. They’ve always been told to shut up. Nobody ever asked them what they think about anything. I do. I let them be. No censorship, no direction, no nothing. It’s sex. It’s always sex. Does anyone realize I make Andy Warhol movies? All I tell them is their performance is supposed to be jack-off material. They don’t need a government grant for the arts. They’ve hustled enough faggots. They know what faggots want. I know what faggots buy. Faggots don’t buy love and kisses. Faggots buy verbal abuse and physical domination. So that’s what I sell. Supply and demand. They can never get enough. Thank God. I’m the only one selling rough trade.”

Once plugged into the network of San Francisco hustlers, Solly never had to leave his apartment. Word got around about his ten dollar finder’s fee. Every model had a homeboy. “Hey, bro, it’s cool.” The buddy made a videotape and introduced the next guy.

“My boys are not gay,” Solly said, “and they’re not straight. They prefer easy women, but they love easier money. They don’t like to work, so they hustle. As long as they’ve got the bodies for it.”

He poured himself another in his chain-glasses of real Coca-Cola.

With sugar. With caffeine.

“My boys may not know much, but they know sex and violence. My only control over them in this penthouse is to get the violence out of them on videotape, and the sex out of them in bed.”

Solly Blue’s position was no pose. “I’m an existentialist, minimalist realist.” He was bottom-line honest. He hadn’t darkened the door of a synagogue in years, but he was a major patron of the ACLU, which, he said, was the same thing. He had taken his kinky personal obsessions and ingeniously turned them into a commercially successful business. “Terror is my only hard-on,” Solly said. “I’m only happy when a bully roughs me up in the sack. I’ve never liked sex with gay men. I like the danger of these street boys who strip and strut and show me their muscles and tattoos. I like the way they sit on my chest, twist my tits, and spit in my face. I like to see their hard dicks bobbing while they’ve got their hands around my throat tight enough to convince me to cum.”

Ryan called Solly at least twice a day. If he failed to answer, Ryan immediately feared the worst. Guns. Knives. Blood on the mirror. Brains on the carpet. Terminal choke holds. The swollen tongue protruding black from the mouth. Roaches feasting on the undiscovered corpse. The traffic in Solly Blue’s Tenderloin penthouse, where every room was painted the same dark blue, was dangerous.

“Everybody who comes through my door,” Solly said, “is either buying or selling something: bodies, drugs, you name it.”

Solly had been robbed at gunpoint, knifepoint, and fistpoint. He had been roughed up and tied up. He had been burglarized even though he rarely left his apartment. His boys watched his comings and goings from the street. They spied on him. So he stayed put on his couch, connected to his friends over the telephone, and wired to his boys through the network of the streets. In a way, his boys held him hostage for his art.

“I have the only penthouse in the City furnished in early Salvation Army.” He gestured at oddments of recycled blond end tables, pole lamps, and faded chairs and sofas. “The movie set of the damned,” he said. As low-class props, the junk furniture fit the hustlers videotaped upon them. “I can’t have anything here that anybody would want,” he said. “The tape recorder, the tape duplicator, the color TV. They’re temptation enough. To say nothing of all my blank tapes and my master videotapes these boys would erase to record wrestling.” Solly always expected the bottom line of abuse from his boys. “One day one of them will kill me,” he said. “I’ve already lived too long anyway. There’s only one thing to be in life and that’s twenty-one and tough.” Solomon Bluestein saw his boys the way he saw his life: in finite terms. “What is, is.”

Ryan saw his own life as the launchpad to infinity, to transcendence, to spirituality, to purity, to idealism, to life everlasting. Classic, clean, athletic manliness turned Ryan’s head, but he appreciated Solly’s Sartrean pursuit of mean street hustlers whose tattoos, lean hard bodies, and redneck attitudes took no shit. Their penchant for boxing, wrestling, and karate led Solly to a deep-seated respect for their knives, guns, and deadly nunchuks. He courted their danger. He found honest excitement in victimization.

“I pay them money to spit on me,” Solly said.

Ryan understood his friend’s sexual preference, but for his own part he had no intention of being a victim. His sexual preference was not victimization; it was celebration. Solly warned him that the difference between them was semantics.

“What kind of fool am I?” Solly Blue asked. He paused and pointed at Ryan. “A kind no different than you.”

“Then we’re both fools,” Ryan said.

Ryan loved Solly because Solly dared to please himself living out a dimension of sex that Ryan understood but found foreign. “The sex games Kick and I play,” he said, “are different from you and your boys. We may play similar games, but we do it with mutuality, with regard for one another.”

“My boys regard me,” Solly said, “as the source of the cash. How does Kick regard you?”

“He regards me as the person he’s let in closer to him than he’s ever let anyone.”

“How genteel! How aristocratic! How southern-fried!” “How unlike the low-rent ingenues that sit on your face!” Tiger was a case in point.

Tiger was a fresh seventeen when he zoomed on his skateboard past Solly on that block of Market Street in front of the hustler bar called the Old Crow, the oldest operating gay bar in town. Solly’s head turned. This boy was special. He had potential. Solly pulled two twenties from his pocket and rubbed them under his nose across his moustache. His eyes locked straight into Tiger who glided back to a fancy stop.

“Follow me,” Solly said. He was intense. Tiger could not resist. Solly knew immediately what it would take Tiger five years to learn: this boy was the hustler he would take on as his son.

Solly grew more firm in his dick and in his fatherly resolve when he learned that three years before, Tiger had pleaded guilty of attempted murder after he smashed his mother’s skull with a hammer and stabbed her in the chest with a screwdriver as she slept on the sofa in their Daly City home. Then he masturbated, cut his wrists, and drove, bleeding, to the police station. In the hospital he managed to get off a karate kick that broke a policeman’s jaw. His mother survived the attack and visited him twice in the two years he was sentenced to the California Youth Authority. She scolded him for the several prison tattoos etched on his arms. When he was released, he called her from a phone booth. All she said was, “Hello?” And he hung up. He headed for the Tenderloin. In the Youth Authority he had learned the street value of a healthy, muscular, suckable young body. He had the mean good looks. Solomon Bluestein had the bucks.

“He calls me ‘Dear Old Dad,’” Solly said. “We’re made for each other. Maybe more than you and Kick.”

 

 

 

3

 

Ryan’s paradigmatic scene with his father in the woods captured the essence of his male self in relation to all other men. To Ryan, writing retrospectively in his Journal when his father had driven him to the woods to instruct him in sex before he left for Misericordia Seminary, it was the primordial ritual of the older man initiating the younger man into the fraternity of men.

Ryan’s father, trying to reveal the secrets of sex had simply touched his son’s knee, but he set off in Ryan the first realization, the first startling realization, of what Ryan wanted: men, and the company of men. Exclusively.

The last weekend in Peoria confirmed Ryan’s spiritual resolve to go off to Misericordia to live with other males. Ryan knew that as a priest he could not, would not be expected to, associate with women. The priesthood was the perfect closet, the idealized, spiritualized, socially acceptable way of stating a preference for men’s company over women’s.

As a boy, Ryan had wandered equally between the porch where the men talked and the kitchen where the women talked, until the women dismissed him. The men never dismissed him. They acted as if he weren’t around them enough. They included him. They teased him, poked at him, picked him up and played with him, told him jokes—even dirty ones, which they laughed at doubly hard when he did not understand. They wrestled him about, tousled his curly hair. They picked him up in their arms and tossed him sky high.

“When I was a child,” Ry said, “I rarely touched the ground. I thought I could fly. I was always being thrown up in the air.”

Between flights, the women brushed the smudges off his clothes, combed his hair, made him wash his face and hands. The women tried to ground and tame him. The men circled about him with an air of wildness. “Are you your mama’s boy,” his uncle Leslie asked him, “or are you

your daddy’s son?”

Leslie O’Hara was Ryan’s youngest uncle, himself hardly more than a grown boy. He leaned on the porch rail waiting Ryan’s answer. Leslie O’Hara, the uncle he adored most, was a Catholic seminarian, husky for his age, smaller than his older brother, Charley-Pop, and almost ready for ordination to the priesthood. He was twenty-four but he had not given up liking to tease his oldest nephew.

Ryan was seven years old. He was puzzled. He thought he was the child of both his parents, and yet his seminarian uncle broke down that balance in his riddle and made Ryan choose. The circle of men watched him, Charley-Pop especially. His uncle Leslie grinned at him. “Speak up, Ry.”

Ryan thought hard about it: he was his mama’s boy, and he was his daddy’s boy. “I am,” Ryan answered, staring straight at his father’s boots resting on the wood porch floor, “my daddy’s boy.”

His father picked him up and threw him into the air, twirling him around, and landing him in his lap. “Hey, Les,” Charley-Pop said. “How’s that for an answer!”

“You’ll be a man’s man,” his uncle Les said, “more than you’ll be a ladies’ man. I can tell.”

Years later, when Ryan had left Misericordia at the age of twenty-four, his uncle Leslie, who had been an ordained priest for nearly fifteen years, asked him again the same question in a different way.

They stood alone in the privacy of the locked sacristy room off the main altar of Saint Patrick’s Church. Ryan had served as altar boy at Leslie’s mass and was helping him remove and fold his vestments.

“So now you’re out in the world,” Leslie said. “Do you like teaching boys or girls better?”

Ryan was puzzled again. He suspected another trick question. A student was a student, but there was a look in his uncle Leslie’s eye that made him say, “I like teaching boys better.”

His uncle moved toward him, put his anointed hand on the back of Ryan’s neck, and kissed him on the mouth. “I love you, Ryan,” Leslie said. His uncle, a year past forty, was handsome in his roman collar. They stared eye to eye. Leslie smiled. He knew Ryan better than Ryan knew himself. He moved his strong hand to the back of Ryan’s head and pulled his nephew into a close hug. He pressed his hard cock through his black cassock againstRyan’s virginal groin. Ryan felt his own cock hardening. He did not resist what he knew he wanted. He stood passive, feeling his dick straining in his corduroys to be freed, released, liberated by a priest, by his uncle.

“It’s okay,” Leslie said.

His hand unzipped Ryan’s pants and pulled his nephew’s stiffening cock from his white cotton undershorts. His own erect penis stood out at hard attention from his black cassock. He was a grown man, the best kind of man, a priest. He was handsome with the mature athletic look of the jock he had been in the seminary. He checked the locked door to the sacristy and pulled off his cassock. In his black pants and white tee shirt, he was the image of his brother, Charley-Pop.

 

“It’s a...mortal sin of impurity,” Ryan said. The head of his cock glistened with a dear pearl of anticipation. “Isn’t it?”

“Not,” Leslie said, “when it’s done with love.”

Ryan regretted more than ever the lost moment with Dave Fahnhorst, but the muscles of Leslie’s arms and chest felt good to Ryan’s tentative touch. “Hold me,” Ryan said.

“Trust me,” Leslie said. He fell to his knees and put both his big hands on Ryan’s butt. His warm, wet mouth descended slowly down the length of Ryan’s hard shaft.

For the first time, the time he realized he had been waiting for all his life, Ryan was made love to by a man, and more than a man, his uncle, a priest.

 

4

 

From the first, in those early liberated days after Stonewall, as the sixties became the seventies, men slid easily from nights on Folsom to afternoons on Castro looking for ways to kill time till another night South of the Slot. Castro was a street awakening with a certain post-Beat and post-hippie style. Like time-lapse photography, the Castro Cafe, Tommy’s Plants, and Paperback Traffic kick-started the funky revival of the lazy old neighborhood.

The Castro merchants who weren’t charmed were alarmed. They remembered how fast Haight Street had declined to a hippie skid row in the three years after the famous Summer of Love in ’67. Some jumped at the chance to escape. Homosexuals in a changing Catholic neighborhood frightened them more than blacks. Gay sex reared its head. The shopkeepers sold cheap and doubled their money. They fled from brisk new businesses like the Jaguar Bookstore. The Jaguar, with its twenty-five cent admission to its backroom rendezvous, made turnstile sex, with In-and-Out privileges, a convenient trysting place for strangers cruising the streets for tricks with no place to go.

Bars blossomed on Castro with trippy acid names like the Midnight Sun, Toad Hall, and Bear Hollow. A gay man could buy a used book at Paperback Traffic to read over eggs and coffee in the Castro Cafe before having sex at the Jaguar, drinking a beer at the Midnight Sun, getting some steam and some more head at the Castro Rocks bath, and heading home with flowers from Tommy’s Plants.

Communes and salons sprang up. The artist Cirby, Robert Kirk, the star bartender at the Midnight Sun, lived above the Owl Cleaners at 19th and Castro with nine roommates. They called their Victorian flat the Hula Palace, so dedicated was its decor to thirties’ and forties’ Deco. From windows draped with flowered fabric, they surveyed the growing phenomenon of the Castro. Once a month, they opened their doors: a poet reading in one room; a photographer exhibiting in another; a dancer pirouetting among the palms in an archway while a scene from a two-character play was read. Sylvester, young, black, and not yet a star, sang for the elite. The infamous performing group, the Cockettes, sat about on white-wicker chairs dreaming up their stage names: Pristine Condition, Filthy Ritz, and Goldie Glitters. Mink Stole and the two-ton actperson, Divine, both East Coast crossovers from filmmaker John Waters’ Baltimore entourage often sat in state, holding the A-Group in hilarious thrall. In 1973, the Hula Palace combined with two other flats full of neighbors to throw a tasteful, gargantuan garage sale. Their corner, that Sunday, was so spontaneously mobbed, Sylvester couldn’t keep himself from singing for pure joy in the middle of the intersection with his two backup singers, the Weather Girls. The Hula Palace’s extempore garage sale blossomed exactly one year later into the first Castro Street Fair.

Everybody was an excited, uncloseted refugee, come from somewhere under the rainbow to Oz aspiring to accomplish something openly gay and grand. Whitman’s all-gender barbaric Yawp was howled in the streets round the clock. The Castro Cafe changed from greasy spoon to a sort of Algonquin Club for writers. Claude Duvall established the Noh Oratorio Society in his communal apartment. Harvey Milk, clerking his own camera shop, developed, besides film, a neighborly interest in politics which early earned him the sobriquet, “The Mayor of Castro Street.” Liberation, as a pop culture movement, was more than sex; it was tea and art, rights and outrage, parties and bars, costume and creativity, the fun and celebration of inventing one’s new self, free, within the group identity.

The good times rolled. Word was out. Cross-country long-distance lines lit up like the telephone scene in Bye Bye Birdie. San Francisco called like Bali Hai. The crowds on the sidewalks doubled. A man was a tourist one summer and a resident by the next. Robert Kirk, walking a block to work from the Hula Palace to the Midnight Sun, purposely, one afternoon, spoke to everyone he knew, stopped and talked, not just waving a passing hello. Ninety minutes and 118 men later, he arrived at the Sun where everyone knew everyone else. The parade of immigrants was wonderful, and the melting pot was hot, but the population explosion meant there were no degrees of separation. Everyone knew everything about everybody. The next day, Robert Kirk, overwhelmed by all the sex refugees, moved to El Lay.

Meanwhile, on Castro, Attitude, the ultimate gay posing routine, was born and found a welcome place to hang out. Attitude was the style. Attitude leaned against lampposts and lounged in doorways on Castro. Attitude was the invited guest at brunch and the meat pursued at the baths. Attitude determined who was hot and who was not. Attitude was an aggressive statement of gay identity and fraternity. Attitude found strength in numbers; and there were more numbers on Castro than any of the immigrants had ever imagined hiding out in their closets in Keokuk, Kokomo, and Kalamazoo. Attitude gave the finger to everything that was past. Attitude was calculated to scare the horses. Attitude saluted the free new lifestyle that each day invented itself at the ground zero of 18th and Castro.

The fragile alliance of gays began to build to a strong sense of community on the Castro strip. When the closet doors opened all across America, the gay men walked out with their bags packed and headed to the Mecca of Sodom-Oz.

Who were all these strange young men and what did they want?

How exactly did Castro happen? I want to know what it was that suddenly summoned such a vast variety of homosexuals to San Francisco. What was the mysterious call they heeded during the very early 1970’s, congregating from all across America into the freewheeling spin of the most permissive City in the nation’s most progressive state? What jungle drums called so many living so singularly to come at the same time to the same place?

“It’s a divine call,” Ryan said. “Gay people have a vocation.” “A vocation?” Solly said. “To what?”

“To finally show the world, once and for all, what homosexuality is really all about.”

“Call Anita Bryant,” Solly said. “Call Jerry Falwell.”

“I came to San Francisco following the same voice that called me to Misericordia and the priesthood.”

“Nu-nu nu-nu,” Solly hummed the Theme from The Twilight Zone. “What movie are you?” I asked.

“I’m not any movie,” Ryan said.

“You’re Close Encounters. You’re Richard Dreyfus piling dirt in his living room. You’re all those characters in the movie trying to get to that mountain where Truffaut played a musical light show for the aliens.”

“Aliens?” Ryan said. “I think we homosexuals are the aliens. The outsiders. The outlaws. The refugees.”

“Give me your tired, your poor, your wrinkled,” Solly said.

“The greatest treason,” Ryan said, “is to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”

“What’s that mean?” Solly said. “Ask T. S. Eliot,” I said.

“Some have come to Mecca for the wrong reasons,” Ryan said. “Give me a wrong reason.” I was making mental notes.

“A professor at Loyola told me that a priest had to be more than a priest to get invited into his house.”

“Can’t say that I blame him,” Solly said.

“I mean a man has to be more than a homosexual to justify his existence.”

Solly smirked. “This sounds like Kick talking.”

“I want to know,” Ryan said. “Who are all these immigrants and sexual refugees and what are they besides homosexual?”

They’re meat.” Solly was direct. “Like you and me. And Kick. Meat.

That’s what. That’s what they are. Meat.” “So why are they all here?” I asked.

“Many are called,” Ryan said, “but few are chosen.”

“Are you chosen?” Solomon Bluestein pointed his finger directly at Ryan.

“Kick chose me,” he said. “That makes me one kind of chosen.” “Personally, I’ve never been chosen,” Solly said. “Never. Not even for

a pickup game when I was a kid. Those boys on the playground ignored me. Except when they beat me up. That’s why I came here. Now I do the choosing. I take my money and I hit the Tenderloin and I point at a hustler and he comes home and does what I choose him to do. That’s why we all came here. To choose what we want to get and what we need.”

Cliff’s Variety and the Star Pharmacy at 18th and Castro understood. The sexual refugees wanted everything. They wanted more. They wanted it now. Cliff’s and the Star gave good Attitude. Money was money and discretionary gay cash was fine U.S. tender. Both businesses catered to the new neighborhood and survived. The pharmacy across 18th street didn’t, and died, and became the upscale Elephant Walk bar. One straight storefront after another fell before the trendy onslaught of gay money.

Bored with renting, the new immigrants started a real estate boom. The tired Victorian flats surrounding Castro changed from straight hands to gay and then changed looks. The gay restoration was in full swing with hammers and paint brushes. Off with the asbestos siding! On with the colorful post-hippie paint jobs! In with the track lights! In with the plants in woven baskets! Up with the Levolor blinds! Fairy dusting, buying a dump and making it pretty, changed the look of the Castro. The Chronicle and Examiner took notice. Remodeling the bourgeois Victorians created homes and laid-back jobs for gay entrepreneurs otherwise unemployed back in those tie-dyed, Day-Glo days when, as Solly said, “Every faggot on Castro claims he’s a carpenter.”

The early gay renaissance saved the classic Castro Theatre from demolition to make way for condos at the crossroads of Market and Castro. At the eleventh hour, the Castro Theatre, long since a second-run grind house, was restored to its movie-palace glory and declared a historic landmark, running repertory cinema, and featuring between the nightly double features a live organ recital that always ended with Jeanette MacDonald’s “San Francisco” to remind the audience that they had arrived where they had always wanted to be: in a City risen from rubble while a dizzy soprano warbled.

The Castro crowds grew. Hippies worked the street shaking donation boxes for the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic. An artist with colored chalk drew huge Sistine Chapel heroic figures of muscular naked men on the sidewalk; his transitory street artistry was erased by thousands of pairs of cowboy boots, combat boots, hiking boots, high-heeled sneakers, and toe shoes. Male belly dancers took up Sunday afternoon residence in front of the Hibernia Bank filling the air with drums and tiny finger cymbals. Street traffic gridlocked at 18th and Castro. Cars and pickup trucks and motorcycles ate up the parking.

Things happened.

A gay man who had a bit part in Chinatown went berserk inside his giant-tired Ford F150 in the middle of the intersection of 18th and Castro, rubbing Oil of Olay all over his face, screaming in three languages how moist he was. At the same corner, a woman, early one morning, aided only by gay bartenders with white towels, gave birth to a baby on an 8 Market/Ferry Muni bus. A robber was shot to death by a cop in front of the Hibernia Bank, right in the street in the middle of the crowd, during the first Castro Street Fair. The Chronicle the next morning printed a photo of the street scene with Ryan caught standing near the dead body. A runaway roofing truck aflame with hot tar slammed into a car on 19th Street and burned two young women to Death.

Castro was a cruising ground. Everyone was young and in heat. Castronauts jammed the sidewalks. Dopers and drinkers weaved in and out of the bars. Small-time dealers, loitering in the doorways up and down Castro, brazenly hawked joints and speed and Quaaludes. Men hung out to see and be seen. They congregated around the Harleys, Kawasakis, and Mopeds parked side by side in front of the All American Boy clothiers and the Nothing Special bar.

“Vehicles are an extension of gay sexlife,” Maneuvers said. “You are what you drive.”

Burnt out on Castro? Cruise over to Polk. Bored by Polk? Head down to Folsom. Tired of Folsom? Try Land’s End. There’s always a blow job waiting out on the wooded trails winding down to the ocean rocks. The best gay sex is always public sex. With the sex, especially on the rocky outcroppings of Land’s End, there’s always danger, the kind delivered by the fag-bashing hoods up from Daly City driving the parking lot at Land’s End and cruising the dark back streets of the Castro. The gay community united against violence. Referee whistles became de rigueur first for safety then for dancing.

Castro characters emerged. On Sundays, when the Star Pharmacy was closed and aspirin was most needed, where was the lacquered Jackie, the bouffanted white-wigged cashier and sweetheart of the Castro?

Every morning, at the kiosk in front of the Star, an ancient peg-legged newsboy cackled out the single, grating, raw word, Chronicle,” until one morning, he didn’t, and no one asked his whereabouts.

On Castro, most people existed only when you saw them; not seeing them, you did not even think of them. On Castro, most people existed only when you cruised them; once you had them they were rarely thought of again. So many men. So little time.

Kweenie was quick to study the eccentricities around her. San Francisco had a tradition for tolerating the odd. Castro was pushing the City’s limits. Gay women became feminists parsing themselves as radical lesbians, growing hair in their armpits and letting their bodies bloat and sag in parodies of male truck drivers gone to pot and seed. Leather jackets and feathered boas came out of men’s closets. Both sexes took advantage of San Francisco’s tolerance and Castro’s encouragement to find new ways to express themselves so long repressed by the folks back home.

“This planet in its variety,” Maneuvers said, “suggests so many others.” The street became a district. Castro Street became “The Castro.” Things divided, mixed, changed, grew, and blossomed with the new gay pride grown heady with its strength in numbers. Evidence was every-

where. Canny straights went along for the ride.

Mena’s Norse Cove Deli was the town pump.

The only thing Swedish about the Norse Cove was the name on the blue awning. The inimitable Mena was, so legend had it, an Egyptian Jew who had lost everything when her husband and family were run by anti-Semites out of Cairo. They fled to Paris where they took refuge before landing finally on Castro with all the other immigrants.

Maybe that common immigrant experience gave Mena her empathy for homosexuals. Mena was a legend herself on a street of legends. She was, in fact, practically the only woman many gay men encountered almost daily. She saw to it that they were well fed. She was a businesswoman. The value of the volume of foot traffic on Castro was not lost on her. She had an uncanny head for figures. No Norse Cove customer ever received a written check. Mena knew, absolutely to the penny, what each one owed. For two years, Ryan ordered various breakfasts: cheese omelet, French toast, corned beef hash and eggs. For two years, when he approached Mena leaning on her cash register, she said, “$2.82” or “$3.12 or “$2.16.”

Always perfect, correct, exact.

One morning Ryan walked in and reversed the ritual. He said to her, reversing her code, “$2.82.”

Mena gave the slightest sliver of a smile, as much as she ever gave anyone, and within minutes that particular breakfast was brought to him.

Every morning Mena’s Norse Cove Deli roared with as much chatter as any dining hall on any campus. On Annie Laurie’s first visit to San Francisco, she looked around the Norse Cove, saying in all innocence, “Is there a boys’ school nearby?”

Small fraternities emerged. Lions and tigers and bears. Some were organized like the California Motor Club with its annual CMC carnival, and the Pacific Drill Patrol with its members strutting about town in police and military uniforms. Others were looser, sicker, and more elite like the hyper-exclusive Rainbow Motorcycle Club whose members were chosen because they were sex maniacs with public style.

Acid, and poppers particularly, caused more serious gay mutations. Some gays, overdosed on Brut cologne, turned into twinkies. After assassin Dan White’s Twinkie Defense,” they mutated further into clones living on Crisco and disco in San Francisco.

Twinkies and clones live in the Castro,” Maneuvers said. “They are always twenty-four and always no taller than five-foot-six. They sport clipped black moustaches and short black hair, often with a gratuitous bleached-blond lock left at the nape of the neck. Who can figure the source of the breed? They are born to be gay waiters. They walk too fast from here to there. They smoke Kents. They snort poppers while they dance shirtless at discos. They wear size-small Lacoste crocodile shirts and size 28-28 pressed jeans from All American Boy. They tuck red hankies in their rear pockets. They prefer cleat-soled black logging boots to gain an inch or two in height. They are so petite they can run under tables in restaurants and scrape gum without bending over, because the only time they bend over is for Mr. Fist.”

If the Castro was Oz, everyone—man, woman, or in between—could be any fantasy desired. Anything could happen. And often did. In those early days, Ryan ran with the circus. If he was analytical, he wanted only to find the answer to San Francisco’s most asked question, “How do I get over the rainbow?”

He sent up the Castro in the Bicentennial issue of Maneuvers. Within six weeks, the satire became a best-selling poster.

 

DESIDERATA OF GAY DETERIORATA

 

Go placidly amid the boys and taste, and remember what Southern Comfort there may be in grabbing a piece thereof. Avoid quiet and passive men unless you are in need of Quaaludes. Keep your act together. Speak glowingly of those hotter than yourself, and heed well their color-coded hankies. Know what to suck and when. Consider that two lovers do not a three-way make. Wherever possible, write your number on toilet walls. Be comforted that in the jaded face of all serial fucking and despite the changing fortunes of time, somewhere in Iowa a chicken is coming out. Remember to clip your nails. Strive at all times to fist, suck, fuck, snort, and stand erect. Douche yourself. If you need help, call the fire department. Exercise caution in your affairettes, especially with those closest to you: that dildo you live with, for instance. Be assured that a walk through a backroom bar will wet your feet. Fall not in the urinal therefore; you will chip your caps. Gracefully surrender the things of youth: constant hard-ons, size 28 Levi’s, tight ass, new tattoos, boot-camp fantasies, and wet dreams. Let not your popper spill down your nose. Hire models from ads. For a good time, sit on your own face. Take heart amid the deepening gloom that your stretch marks do not show in the red lights at the baths. Reflect that whatever misfortune is your lot, it could only be worse in Dade County. You are a jerk off of the Universe. You have no right to be here, especially in full leather on a bus at 3 AM. Remember that behind the cosmos, there is no great mystery—only a couple of joke books. Therefore, make peace with your master, whatever you consider him to be: Hell’s Angel biker or Sugar Plum fairy. With all its talk of gyms, real estate, and rising consciousness, the world continues to fuck up. You may as well fiddle as Rome burns. Be happy. Do what you must and call it by the best name possible. Fist yourself, jack-off, and try not to drool. And, above all, remember that if wrinkles hurt, you’d be screaming. Be thankful you were ever laid in the first place. (This inscription was found in the 8th century carved on the wall of the first gay bar at Stonehenge.)

 

5

 

Once upon a time, when Kick was graduating college in 1967, he broke off his engagement to Catharine Holly, the Third Runner-Up in the Miss Alabama contest. He was straight arrow. He leveled with her about his preference for men.

“But we make love,” Catharine Holly said. “We’ve made love since we were juniors in high school.” She stared at him incredulously. “How could you do that? How could you do that if it were true?”

“Yes,” Ryan said. “How could you?”

“She liked my body. I got off because she dug my body. The same as I get off because you like my body.”

Miss Third Runner-Up had been riding in Kick’s red Mustang convertible when he told her his secret truth.

“How could you?” Catharine had repeated. She had been in no mood to understand that his truth was no personal rejection of her as a woman. Hysterical, she had opened the door of his car and thrown herself into the road. She had skidded on her beautiful face across the gravel on the shoulder of the highway.

When Kick’s parents, to whom she had long been the daughter they never had, came to visit her, Catharine had wasted no time, crying her truth from behind her bandages that it wasn’t Kick’s fault, it was her fault and she was so sorry.

At first Kick’s parents had thought Catharine Holly meant the accident. Then, finally, through the girl’s sobs, they heard what parents hope they will never hear.

Kick’s mother confronted him in the hospital corridor. His father hung back, sheepish, as if he had heard nothing, but had heard too much to even find his voice. His mother’s only visions of homosexuality were the prancing sisterboys she had seen in downtown Birmingham.

“You’re not one of them,” she declared, as only southern women can declare. “You’re not one of them, are you?”

“No,” Kick said, and he said it truthfully. He knew even then he was the stuff of a different breed. “I’m not one of those...people...you see downtown.”

“I’d rather be dead,” his mother drawled, “then evah, evAH, EVAH to think you were like them.”

Kick met his mother’s searching gaze. “Me too,” he said. “I’d rather be dead than ever be like that.”

Holding her in his muscular arms, he hugged the accusation from her eyes. His father smiled in relief. He was their golden boy. He was their big, handsome, athletic son, and his hug around his mother’s small body answered all their questions.

“Too bad, too bad,” his father said, “about young Miss Catharine.” “I can understand,” his mother said, “if you never see her again. I

pity mean-spirited girls who lie with a vengeance when they lose their gentleman caller.”

 

6

 

The mind of a writer is a wild country. Anything can happen there. Maybe that’s what made Ryan an aggressive success with his Maneuvers readers. They wrote him obscene fan mail. They sent him sweaty, piss-soaked jockstraps, used rubbers, and cigars they asked him to shove up his ass and return to them. Ryan never wrote back.

“I don’t want fans,” he said. “You gotta have friends.” He was a magazine writer, not a letter writer.

“My writing to readers is my published stuff. Anything personal I have to say I say in print. My private self is not much different from my public self, but never try to read anything I write as actual autobiography. I always twist the slant on anything that might be true. You have to juice it up to give them what they want, or at least what they think they want.”

Over Ryan’s desk Kick hung a handlettered sign: “You have to live it up to write it down.”

Ryan’s stories and articles, and his Masculinist Movement tract, are a matter of public record. The Masculinist Manifesto was startling because it was not his usual erotic fiction. It was an essay, a broadside, that upset what the Chronicle and Examiner both called “the gay community.”

“Whatever that is,” Ryan said. “Bars and baths and bedrooms and brunch do not a community make.” He held out for something, something cohesive, with a larger sense of purpose.

Something indefinable was happening on Castro. Everything changes. In the years after the first flush of gay liberation, more than one voice was asking where do we go from here.

Ryan, more than ever, wanted that over-the-rainbow answer. Kick was the key to their future.

Kick was not gay. He was beyond gay. He was post-gay. He was a masculine man who preferred masculine men.

Kick had first said to Ryan, “The hardest thing to be in the world today is a man.”

Ryan cut from whole cloth the distinction between radical manly homosexuality and gay popular culture. Looking at Kick, he knew one thing for sure: not all gay men are sissies. He wanted young men coming out into the gay world to know they had more options than screaming effeminacy.

Ryan, the former seminarian and almost priest, played devil’s advocate. The Manifesto questioned gay style: why pronouns like he changed to she in gaytalk; why gay men carried their cigarette packs in their hands instead of their shirt pockets; why gay smokers gestured dramatically with their cigarettes like a bar filled with a thousand Bette Davis’s in a trash compactor; why gay clothes fit tighter than straight clothes; why gay men had their hair styled like mommy instead of getting their hair cut like daddy, all the while looking for older men, but not too much older, for godsake, to play dominant daddy in bed; and where did those gay boys learn those mincing, sibilant S sounds that betrayed them faster than wearing a sweater while walking a poodle?

Seventy percent of Castro was doing “Their Mother’s Act.” The Manifesto suggested that some entrepreneur could make a fortune by opening the Castro Village Academy of Movement and Speech, with beginning and advanced seminars titled “Your Father’s Act.” It would be a Butch Academy where students could dance in and walk out. But, of course, the Divine Androgynes would bitch. The queens would say, “But, my dear! Who needs it?” Probably the only takers with any sense would be dykes. Ryan shook out a grain of salt, placed it on his tongue, and put his tongue firmly in his cheek. He aimed the outraging barbs of the Manifesto to catch the hearts and minds of those wondering if being terminally outrageous was their only way to be. After all, outrageous exaggeration was the Castro vernacular and the Castro style. To meet and match it,

Ryan wrote the immodest proposal of the Manifesto with a large brush on a large page.

Reaction he wanted. Reaction he got. Not everyone caught the joke. He wanted to give manly homosexuals some space on Castro. He wanted masculinism to balance the feminism that had overly converted many gay men into fellow travelers siding with women at the expense of abandoning their own masculine gender to labels of absolute chauvinism. Masculinism threatened the sacred cows of militant feminism and radical separatist lesbianism. Some women thought he wanted masculine gay men to be like macho redneck straight men. He never pushed macho. He suggested that masculine gay men, if it was true to their nature, be like the best of masculine straight men. He never said straight was better than gay. A good man is a good man. He said only that straight and gay were different, and that masculine homosexuality was closer to the decent attitudes of straight men, who were humane, than to the Attitude of effeminate gay men who were sissies out of reaction and not choice. “The person who reacts is not free. The person who acts is truly liberated. If straights can categorize us as women, they know they can oppress us the way they oppress women.”

In Chapter One, “Our Fathers, Our Selves,” he sounded to some like he was siding with the enemy.

In fact, he was attempting a delicate balancing act that defied sexual gravity.

The Manifesto was, in many ways, a useful examination of gay conscience. Ryan never said one species of homosexuality was better than another. He simply articulated the quiet voice of manly queers wanting to come finally out of the last homosexual closet. For the rest, he hoped they all could be the best they could be according to whatever lights were right for them.

He could not divine the effeminate homosexual prejudice against masculine homosexuals.

He had his sui generis rationale.

If homosexuals were called to be the best, they should be the best. Much of the Manifesto was tongue-in-chic. It was a joke. A send-up. It was a broadside of seventies’ Attitude. Ryan wanted to sharpen the cutting edge of homosexuality. “Who are we all really? What are we besides gay?” Putting on Attitude, he questioned Attitude. It figured. Kick made Ryan question everything in his life. But not everyone who bought a copy of the Manifesto thought it was food for thought, much less funny.

I hardly agreed with everything Ryan wrote in the Manifesto; but agreement was not the point. Satire was. The Manifesto was Ryan in outrageous masculinist drag. Kick encouraged him. The Manifesto was a reductio ad absurdum argument against the excesses of the effeminate gay and feminist lesbian sexual revolution.

Not everyone saw the joke.

The moustached men who wrapped wimples tight around their heads, and called themselves “The Little Sisters of the Pinched Face of Jesus,” were all atwitter. At the Women’s Abuse Building on 19th Street, above Castro, lesbians planned poetry readings to expose persecution of women by, of all people, a gay man who should know better than to assert his caveman prerogative against feminism. They hated the author’s guts. Hearing-impaired lesbians, demanding sign at women’s music concerts, shook their fists at the mention of his name.

Kweenasheba sent him a dead bouquet of a dozen wilted red roses. “We’ll not be pretty maids sitting in a row.”

“This is not what I meant,” Ryan said to Solly. “Joke ’em if they can’t take a fuck.”

“The last thing any movement has,” Solly said, “is a sense of humor.” He shook his finger at Ryan. “Try and keep yours.”

Ryan, truth be known, did not exactly invent the Manifesto. Its street-smart guts came from the cafes, the bars, and the baths. He interviewed men. He harvested, then gave voice to, their varied opinions, jacked up with his and Kick’s, caring less than a Russian dissident how unpopular his opinions were with what politically correct gay and lesbian liberation dictated. There was more than one way to be non-heterosexual and Ryan spoke up for the strong silent minority of manly homosexuals. The Manifesto warned the rising homomasculinist movement to avoid the mistakes of the established feminist movement. His warning to men seemed to defensive feminists to be a criticism of women. He had intended no slight to organized women when he repeated Kick’s line, “The hardest thing to be in America today is a man.”

He had cracked that small pun long before he had thought of the Manifesto. The remark slipped out when Kweenie had wangled him an invitation as a men’s erotic writer to facilitate a lesbian women’s erotic writing workshop. The women had laughed politely, but during the discussion they chided his erotic writing. They searched to create a more meaningful erotic literature for themselves. They challenged him to write something to socially redeem what they called his pornography. They thought to enlist him in their feminist cause.

Feminists recruit in ways homosexuals never dream of.

If Ryan refused to join forces with them, he had at least heard their message. Those well-intentioned women had ironically inspired the writing of the Masculinist Manifesto itself.

“You’re not,” Kweenie kicked him in the shins, “politically correct.” “I’m not a separatist,” Ryan said. “I’m not a chauvinist.”

“You’re an intellectual bully the way Thom is a physical bully.”

“I’m a sexual pluralist. Don’t knock a manly idea and masculinist ideal whose time has come.”

“You’re a fascist.”

“And you’re a fag hag,” Ryan said. “My own sister.” He took her hand.

He was sixteen the summer she was born. “You’re too young...” “I hate it when you say ageist things like that!”

“...to remember how things were before Stonewall.” “Don’t condescend to me, Ry.”

“We were all better off when all queers were outlaws,” Ryan said. “Now we’ve all got Attitude. At the top, there’s the very-A-Group of millionaire gays, the Delta Nu guys, with their mondo exclusive fly-ins they plan once a month strategically around the country. Kick told me. They hire bodybuilders for weekend bondage and muscle worship. When in Rome,” Ryan shrugged, “hustle a gladiator and watch the empire fall. There’s rich gays and poor gays and political gays and rainbow lesbians. Folsom gays think Castro gays are twits and clones. Castro gays can’t stand Polk Street gays who are of no use to Pacific Heights gays except as cheap hustlers. There are designer gays born under the sign of Lacoste. I kid you not. There’s even a gay cemetery in New York state. The designer caskets have little crocodiles on the lids. There’s landlord gays and tenant gays and gay Jews for Jesus. There’s chubby gays and chubby chasers and gays who hate fat guys. There’s even hot, hairy old gays! If Castro were a neighborhood, people would speak to one another. But no! Hello on Castro means ‘Wanna fuck?’ Even Randy Shilts says so. The fact is, you can have a wonderful time at the baths with a guy on Saturday night, and by Sunday brunch, neither of you acknowledges the other’s existence. How gay can men get?”

How gay can men get?

There’s the ironic thousand-dollar rainbow question.

One of Solly’s street hustlers watched some drag queens’ bitch fight, and commented: “How gay!”

Out of the mouths of babes. How gay!

Ryan flashed on the straight boy’s razor-sharp slam. “What’s the difference,” he wrote, “between straight people and gays? Straights don’t stand you up for supper.” He wondered why the Castro Theatre featured festivals called “Great Women of the Silver Screen.” It was three years before “Great Men” hit the marquee of the Castro. He wondered why gay men loved movie mad scenes written for ageing actresses. He questioned the camp fascination with Mildred Pierce and Baby Jane. What strange gay twist caused good-looking men to dress up in outrageous drag that no tasteful woman would be caught dead in? He wondered why boys like Kweenie’s twit-blond roommate, Evan-Eddie, preferred doing their Mother’s Act rather than their father’s.

He was positive the essence of homosexuality was not a man’s wanting to be a woman. Men, who wanted to be women, might bed men, but they were something other than purely homosexual. He meant simply to undo the popular stereotype that when two men are in bed, one of them plays the woman; that when two women make love, one of them plays the man. He wrote: “When a man and a woman are in bed, among other things they’re doing, they’re celebrating their sexual otherness. When two men make love, among other things they are doing, they celebrate their common masculinity in a union and bonding that only a same-sex couple can do. Neither thinks of women or of women’s roles. That’s a straight myth. The same goes for two women getting off together by celebrating everything between them that is essentially female. Same-sex unitive sexuality is as important as mixed-sex procreational sexuality. Besides that, there’s more. Everyone should be able to have recreational sex without personal involvement and without the purpose of conception. How outlaw can we

get?”

In a City with annual coronations of emperors and empresses, he asked lesbians why they as women never ran for Empress leaving gay men to run for Emperor. Royalty never likes revolution. The question seemed like a stake driven in the heart of gay and lesbian sexual poses.

“You think,” Kweenie said, “you’re Tom Paine. But you’re not, Blanche. You’re not. I know what movie you are.”

“I’m not playing our game. And don’t call me Blanche.”

“You think you’re a romantic radical like Streisand in The Way We Were.

“I suppose Kick is the golden Redford.”

“Ta-DA! Kweenie spread her hands. “Be careful,” she warned. There’s always a last reel.”

Ryan, I think, genuinely empathized with the upward aspirations of the oppressed. The priest in him genuinely tried to respect everyone. He wanted them all to keep carefully their trips’ equality. He mistrusted superficial coalitions of alienated movements that muddied one another’s causes.

Ryan loved to ruffle feathers.

In San Francisco, it was never individual people seeking their individual rights who dismayed him. It was more the crazy-quilt mix of too many politically correct movements all stampeding together down Market Street to City Hall every time there was a left-field anniversary of Harvey Milk’s birth, Harvey Milk’s Death, Harvey Milk’s circumcision, Harvey Milk’s bar mitzvah, Harvey Milk’s coming out, Harvey Milk’s election, Harvey Milk’s last brunch, Harvey Milk’s last zit, Harvey Milk’s last orgasm.

How many indignant parades could attach themselves to Harvey Milk without trivializing the assassinated supervisor? Every politically correct group in town dragged Harvey out as its champion. “Harvey Marches” from Castro to City Hall became a ritual act of public necrophilia. Ryan thought the marchers’ signs would be more accurate if, instead of “Harvey Milk,” they read, “Milk Harvey.” Harvey, politicized in Death, was more of a media star than he had been in life. Women idolized Harvey; he was a safe man; he could not betray them and fuck them over; he was dead. Gay men pumped their pecs behind Harvey’s face silk screened on tee shirts sold in the Castro. When gay shops sell your image, you know you’re dead, you’re a saint, and you’re commercial.

Ryan would have objected to none of the hoopla if only the blind hadn’t tried to consolidate the blind under one unified banner. Finding Harvey had become as trendy as born-again politicians and convicted murderers finding Jesus. The milk train, that Tennessee Williams said doesn’t stop here anymore, was parked on a rail siding at 18th and Castro. “Whatever happened to George Moscone?” Ryan asked. No one marched in the name of the mayor who was gunned down at the same time as Harvey Milk. Was Moscone too much of a straight white male to

be reverenced by gay men and lesbian women?

The Manifesto proclaimed it was time for men to be interested in men’s masculine rights. “God knows, no one else champions men anymore. We’re out of fashion. One imbalance has replaced the other.”

He questioned the wisdom of outrageous drag queens, transpersons, El Salvadoran refugees, and feminists hitching their causes to the bandwagon of male homosexuality, which they disrespected. They could have their empress coronations, their expensive gender operations, their Sandinista banners, and their Constitutional amendment, but they couldn’t sully the purity of homosexual masculinity that the priest in him, encouraged by the bodybuilder at his side, had begun, right or wrong, to champion in words in the press, the way Kick was its model in the flesh on Castro.

Even so, he was more satirist than misogynist, but Kweenie called him an asshole when he blamed the women he dubbed “The Auntie Porn and Violence Battalion” for pouring glue into the coin slots on the street racks selling Maneuvers that had nothing to do with his Masculinist Manifesto, that had nothing to do, really, with women, violence, or pornography.

“How dare you,” Kweenie said, “write about women!” “I don’t write about women. I write about men.”

“I’m an offended feminist,” Kweenie said. “Don’t be redundant,” Ryan said.

“Don’t be a prick” “Don’t be a cunt.” “I’m a woman.”

“I’m a man.” “I’m a feminist.”

“I’m a masculinist,” Ryan said. “Your rampant feminism makes me a masculinist. Isn’t that reactionary? I’m heading toward the new homosexuality: homomasculinity!”

“Yuck!”

“Until you chauvinist sows stop bushwhacking every man in the world as a chauvinist pig, a masculinist I’ll remain, until we can all become what we should be humanists.”

Kweenie threw her autographed copy of the Masculinist Manifesto in her brother’s face. His inscription to her read: “From the bastard to the bitch.”

Ryan felt as hurt as Jonathan Swift would have felt if the Irish had not understood his Modest Proposal.

Which they didn’t.

 

7

 

During Thom’s two divorces from Sandy, Ryan more than once had taken care of his brother’s sexual needs. Thom always comes to live with me when he can’t take Sandy and the triplets anymore. He comes to me for custodial care. She gets his head all twisted up in his underwear. He acts crazy. Not insane. Just crazy. Patsy Cline crazy. Having sex with him is the one way, really the only way I know, to get him down off the wall. For a few days after, he’s not so hyper. We don’t make love. We have sex, but we never mention it. Like it never happened. Between brothers, what’s to talk about?” Ryan hesitated. “Funny, isn’t it. Except for Thom, I don’t do mercy-fucks. Do you think my father thought I’d have to do this when he asked me to take care of Thom? Jeez!”

Thom was not the head of his family; he was the victim of it. Sandy and the triplets held him hostage. With all the leadership the Marines had drilled into him, Thom was never able to hold his family in control. I had heard Ryan’s jokes about Sandy’s Annual Christmas Tree Toss. In one of their monumental fights, she had picked up the tree and thrown it, lights and ornaments and, all, across the heads of her playing children, at her husband sitting behind dark glasses and wearing stereo headphones. Three times Thom had convinced her to commit herself to a sanitarium. Three times she talked her way out. I think she was not truly mad or cruel. I think she was desperate, dim in most things, but sly in her whining way of negotiating her life with Thom. She knew if she bore his children, she could have him forever.

“I think Sandy got a little too intense,” Ryan said. “She had three kids at once. Clever girl. Once is maybe all he plugged her. Thom swears he prefers sex in the dark. Maybe he means with Sandy. Maybe he lies. When I have him in my bed, I leave the lights on low. He never shuts his eyes. Not even when he cums. He stares like a killer directly into my face.”

To make a long story short, let me put it this way, in sort of a flashback to the early sixties when Jack and Jackie’s romantic comedy was not yet a tragedy, when there was no war, back before Monroe and Clift and Gable all made their last movie together and died, long before Kerouac and Cassady and Ginsberg in North Beach had ever heard of Grace Slick, when women wore gloves and hats and men wore suits, the summer Merman played Gypsy in San Francisco near the movie theater premiering La Dolce Vita, one of those last innocent summers before things fell apart.

At seventeen, Thom joined the Marine Corps Reserves. That’s stupid,” Ryan said.

“It’s no more stupid than you going off to the seminary when you were fourteen.”

“I have a vocation.” “So do I.”

“To get yourself killed?” “We’re not at war.”

“To kill people?” “What people?”

“We’ll think of someone. Enemies are easy to find.” “Get off my case.”

“You’re only seventeen. Wait till you graduate. Maybe you’ll have more sense.”

“If I join the Reserves first, I can take basic where I want when I go regular. This way I get Pendleton instead of Lejeune. This way I don’t have to stay in the Midwest. This way I get to go to California.”

“This way you get to kill the dirty Gerries, or the dirty Commies, or whoever’s dirty the next time.”

Thom’s face flushed. “In basic, asshole, they’ll teach me thirteen ways to kill a man above the neck.” Thom reached out and twisted Ryan into a wrestling hold. “Thirteen ways,” Thom said, “and I’ll start with you.”

“Guess again, asshole!” Ryan reached out and grasped, barely at first with his fingers, and then with his whole hand their father’s heavy wooden ashtray stand.

“Seminarians shouldn’t talk dirty,” Thom said. He was trying to drop Ryan to the wall-to-wall carpeting.

“When I’m with dirt, I talk dirt.” Ryan spun free. He swung the ashtray stand up into a high arc. He slammed it down onto Thom’s neck, whacking his trapezius muscle as hard as he could. Thom hit the family-room floor. “I always,” Ryan said, fight dirty.” Thom lay sprawled out on the rug, holding his upper shoulder, boo-hooing the way teenagers cry. “You never learn, do you?” Ryan said. “Catch on, stupid! I’ve never started a fight with you; but every fight you’ve started with me, I’ve won. And I always will! So screw you, asshole. The only reason you’re joining the Marines is so you think you can come back and beat the shit out of me.” Ryan kicked Thom in the rump. “Try again, Cain, when you’re able—which you and the Marines’ll never be.”

“You’re about as funny,” Thom said, standing up and dusting himself off, “as a wicker bedpan in a diarrhea ward.”

“You’re so original I could puke.”

“You’re a phony, a fake! There’s something wrong with you,” Thom screamed. “You’re some kind of freak! Like uncle Les! You holy-holy types! You’re all freaks!”

Ryan was three years from knowing about uncle Les, but Thom knew a freak when he saw one. The month after he finished boot camp at Pendleton, he married, much against his parents’ wishes, a fifteen-year-old San Fernando Valley girl named Sandy.

“She wasn’t even baptized with a saint’s name,” Ryan said.

“I have to marry her.” Thom telephoned his parents long distance. He was almost eighteen and he needed their permission as much as he wanted their approval.

“Don’t give it,” Ryan said.

Ryan and Annie Laurie hovered near the receiver in Charley-Pop’s big hand.

“Have to?” Charley-Pop demanded. “What do you mean have to marry her.”

“It’s not what you think,” Thom said. “Her father beats her. She had to quit high school. But she’s got almost two years and she’s real smart.”

“Tell them,” Ryan coached his father, “they’re both too young.” “They haven’t known each other long enough,” Annie Laurie said. “If you don’t give me your permission so I can marry her in the Church, we’ll drive to Las Vegas.” Thom at an early age exhibited a distinct talent for emotional blackmail. “Besides,” Thom added the kicker, putting his fiancée behind him in his dealing, “Sandy doesn’t care whether we get married by a priest or not.”

“Oh, my God!” Annie Laurie put her hand over the telephone receiver in her husband’s hand.

“Don’t give in,” Ryan warned. “If they get married in a non-Catholic ceremony, it’ll make it all that easier to get it annulled when it falls apart.” “But they might have children,” Annie Laurie whispered. “What about children?”

“No child of mine who gets married outside the Church will ever be welcome here again,” Charley-Pop said.

“Don’t say that.” Annie Laurie was intense. “Never say anything like no child of mine.

Charley-Pop put his hand over the phone. “Then we’ll have to give them permission.”

Ryan threw up his hands and walked away from the huddle. “I’ll never be the one to say I told you so,” he said. “After all, this is 1961,” and something in him rose up, “and people can do what they want.”

The whole family took the California Zephyr to the West Coast. For the first time, Ryan was to see California.

“We might as well make a vacation out of it,” Charley-Pop said.

Ryan spent most of the trip in the observation car writing in his Journal. He was nineteen. He held his three-year-old sister on his lap. During the evening, with the constant roar of the train far beneath them, they lay awake together in a reclining lounge chair, watching the desert, lit only by the light of the stars and the full moon. Ryan pointed out shadows of cactus whizzing by. Margaret Mary was delighted with the scary thrills of Ryan’s imagination. That night they slept in the dome car tucked together in one reclining seat. In the morning, with his baby sister’s warm body curled into his side under his arm, Ryan watched the mountains ahead of him turn red with the sunrise behind him. A dust devil, spinning wild and harmless, pulled sand and sagebrush up into its spout. Ryan woke Margaret Mary. She looked at the little tornado curiously.

“I’m afraid,” she said.

“No, you’re not,” Ryan said. There’s nothing to be afraid of. This is how things are out West.”

At the train station in Los Angeles they all threw their arms around Thom, hugging him, stealing glances at the silent stranger standing shy and withdrawn ten feet behind him. Ryan took a hard gander. He wasn’t at all sure at first that the young girl he suspected was the bride-to-be was the real Sandy.

But she was.

“I thought a California girl named Sandy would look like Sandra Dee,” Ryan said. “I love her chartreuse pedal pushers.”

Thom blanched. He hated Ryan’s sharp tongue. He pivoted like a snappy new Marine and called the awkward girl hanging back from the family group. “This is my girl,” he said. He looked straight at Ryan. “This is Sandy Gully.”

Ryan could hardly keep a straight face. She was as much a washout as her name. All she needed was toilet tissue on her heel.

“I hope you’ll like her and learn to love her as much as I do,” Thom said.

Annie Laurie generously kissed Sandy on the cheek. Their father shook her hand. Margaret Mary climbed up into Ryan’s arms. “Don’t let her kiss me,” Margaret Mary whispered to Ryan. “She’s awfully ugly.” Ryan pulled Margaret Mary’s face close into the crook of his neck.  “I’d kiss you hello,” he said, astounded by the size of Sandy Gully’s nose coming out from between her deep-set eyes, “but my little sister has my

hands full.”

“You can’t kiss girls anyway,” Sandy Gully said. Thom told me all about you being in the seminary and all that. I think it’s, like, wonderful to have a brother-in-law who’s going to be a priest.”

In the rental car, heading for the motel, Annie Laurie asked Sandy. “You’ve such a lovely, dark complexion. What nationality are you, dear?”

“Protestant,” she said.

“We’re all in big trouble,” Ryan said.

“Shut up, Ry,” Thom said. “She’s nervous. You’re the one making her nervous.” He turned to his fiancée. “Tell him you’re just nervous.”

“I’m nervous really. Just nervous. Thom told me how smart you are and everything, and that kind of makes me nervous. You’ve got so much school and you read books and everything. I only made it into the beginning of my sophomore year. Then there was all the trouble with the pictures in the shower. I mean there was nothing wrong. I tried to explain what was going on, but I’ve never been good at explanations, so they expelled me and the boy who had the camera. Thom wants to help me study for the GED.”

Their parents exchanged glances. “You didn’t tell us Sandy was non-Catholic,” Annie Laurie said.

“I told you,” Thom said. “When I told you Sandy didn’t care whether a priest married us or not.”

“That didn’t mean she was non-Catholic,” Ryan said. “Just that she wasn’t a very good Catholic. To us, I mean.” He was learning how one thing can mean two things.

That’s what we presumed,” Annie Laurie said. She turned a hard stare at her younger son. Thom, like their father, had nothing to say, and Ryan knew better than to say anything. He knew he shouldn’t ask questions like how many years in a row Sandy Gully had won hands down the World’s Ugliest Woman Contest. The poor girl wasn’t a worthy opponent. His brother was. Ryan couldn’t hold back. His brother in three insistent weeks had turned their dedicated model of a Catholic family into a situation comedy. This was not the way it was supposed to be. The family that prays together stays together. Until in-laws appear on the horizon.

Their life inside that car on that freeway on their first night in California had become very Ricky and Lucy and Fred and Ethel. Ryan looked directly into his mother’s face and repeated her very own words to her: “Just think. They might have children. Isn’t that wonderful?” He looked down into Margaret Mary’s face.

“Isn’t that wonderful,” he said to her. “You and I are going to have little nieces and nephews. Little itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie, little polka-dot nieces and nephews...”

“...with,” Margaret Mary blurted out, “great big noses and skinny legs.”

Sandy Gully turned on Margaret Mary. “You might be an aunt before you’re five years old.” She pronounced aunt as ant.

“I don’t want to be an ant!” Margaret Mary screamed.

“We plan to start a family right away.” Sandy pulled both guns from her holster. She was not going to back down from the fray. She had ovaries.

“You’re good,” Ryan said. “You’re real good.” “So are you,” Sandy said.

“Wrong,” Ryan said. “I’m better than real good.”

“Sandy doesn’t believe in birth control,” Thom said.

“Too bad,” Ryan said. “I’m beginning to. Also mercy killing.”

“And I don’t believe,” Sandy planted her hooks in forever, “in divorce.” “But divorce believes in you,” Ryan said. I’m sorry, God, he prayed,

but I can’t at this moment help myself I promise to confess at least ten venial sins of speaking uncharitably. Then he burst out laughing.

The joke of this marriage had begun.

Thom gave Ryan the look of Death. He had scores to settle, not the least of which was that Ryan had the audacity to be born first. Ryan, and Thom hated himself for it, had been Thom’s hero from childhood. “If your grades are as good as Ry’s,” their parents had promised, “we’ll buy you a transistor radio too.” They sincerely tried to treat both their boys the same; but their boys were not the same. Ryan was the curly headed altar boy who walked in an aura of goodness. Everyone loved Ryan. Even Thom. But Thom was the only one who suspected Ryan was a shit and maybe a fag. Falling asleep together in their big double bed, they were parochial schoolboys cuddling close, their two voices whispering their night prayers in unison: “God bless mommy and daddy, nannies and grandpas, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Make us good boys and keep us healthy and safe.” But Ryan always added a last line: “And make Thommy be better.”

He said it for Thom’s ears only because Thom was his brother and of your brother you always expect more. Thom knew from the start he’d never be good enough for Ryan. Nobody would ever be good enough for Ryan. But goodness was the only game in town. Thom hated himself for even wanting to be like Ryan. He could only try to compete with the best little boy in the whole wide world. If Ryan would be a priest, Thom would be a soldier. One son for the church, one son for the state. His high-school revenge was to smoke early, drive fast, and marry young.

“Maybe we should say the rosary on the way to the motel,” Annie Laurie said.

“I hate the rosary,” Margaret Mary said.

“I think we should talk,” Ryan said. “Conversation’s fun, isn’t it?” He turned his attention to Thom. “Congratulations.”

“For what?”

“Graduating from boot camp. That makes you a man, doesn’t it?” “I’m so proud of him,” Sandy Gully said. “I’m going to convert to be

a Catholic.”

That’s nice, dear.” Annie Laurie sounded relieved. “I’m going to throw up!” Ryan said.

“Watch it!” Thom’s voice imitated the authority of a drill instructor.

“I can hardly look at it!” Ryan said.

“I really mean watch it, Ry. Shut your trap or I’ll shut it for you.” “Now boys,” Charley-Pop said.

“You and what army?”

“The United States Marine Corps.” “I’m wetting my pants.”

“Now boys,” their father said for the benefit of Sandy Gully, “let’s not let a little friendly rivalry between brothers embarrass the ladies in the car. Let’s not spoil our vacation.”

“Especially one we hadn’t planned on.” Annie Laurie held her purse tight in her lap.

“I’ll beat the shit out of you,” Thom said.

Thom,” their mother said, “you’ve never used profanity before.” “Profanity becomes him,” Ryan said. “Think of it as enlarging his

vocabulary. I’m committed to the sacred. He’s committed to the profane.” “I’ll wale your shit,” Thom said.

Ryan looked Thom straight in the eye. “My shit?” he said. Then he began singing: “From the curse of Montezu-oo-ma,” and he shocked them all by putting his pure seminarian’s hand on Sandy Gully’s knee, “to the whores of Tripoli.” He stopped singing. “Isn’t the Tripoli a B-girl bar in the San Fernando Valley?”

“I’m from the Valley,” Sandy said. “I like singing like with Hootenanny

on TV.”

“That’ll be enough,” Charley-Pop ordered.

“Wait a minute,” Ryan said. “Who’s being phony here? Neither you or mom is acting normal. What is this? A road show for Thom’s benefit?” “You’re all so much fun,” Sandy Gully said. “Just like Thom told me.”

Thom’s a great judge of character,” Ryan said.

“And you’re so pretty,” Sandy Gully said to Margaret Mary. “Just think. You and I are going to be sister-in-laws.”

“Sisters-in-law,” Ryan corrected her.

“And you’ll be my brother-in-law,” Sandy said. She slyly pressed her thigh against Ryan’s leg.

“I’m going to be sick,” Ryan said.

“Have you ever noticed,” Sandy Gully said, tucking Margaret Mary under her pert little chin, “how really pretty little girls hardly ever grow up to be beautiful?”

Margaret Mary burst into tears. War was declared. From that day she hated the girl who was to become her brother’s wife.

“My daughter,” Annie Laurie said, “will always be lovely.”

“You,” Ryan said to Sandy Gully, “must have been gorgeous when you were hatched.” He pulled his leg away from her. “When’s your birthday? Halloween?”

Margaret Mary’s tears turned to laughter.

“I wasn’t hatched,” Sandy Gully said. She hadn’t appreciated Ryan pulling his leg away from her. “I can tell right off, Thommy, that Ry’s a real kidder.”

“The way Thom’s a real killer,” Ryan said.

“You were hatched!” Margaret Mary screamed. “You were hatched!” “I wasn’t hatched, honey,” Sandy Gully said.

Ryan could no longer contain himself. Sandy had not yet even married his brother, and already she had pressed her thigh against his leg. If women’s temptations to impurity were so thin, Ryan could hardly understand the fuss about their sinfulness.

“Yes, you were hatched!” Margaret Mary was jumping up and down in the crowded back seat.

“I wasn’t hatched!”

“You look like,” Margaret Mary said, “the flying purple people eater!” “Oh, my God,” Charley-Pop said, “not her too.”

That’s my girl!” Ryan tickled Margaret Mary’s ribs till she screamed.

He whispered in her ear.

“If you weren’t hatched...,” Margaret Mary repeated Ryan’s whisper. “What else?” she asked.

He whispered again.

“...why do you look like someone sat on your face?”

“If I ever talked that way in front of my parents,” Annie Laurie said. “You better bag it, Ry,” Thom said. “And you too, Margaret Mary.

Enough is enough.”

“We’re going to say the rosary.” Annie Laurie pulled her beads from her purse.

“You better double bag it.” Ryan was daring to see how far he could push the new Marine Corps grunt. “One bag for her head and one bag for yourself in case hers comes off.”

Annie Laurie screamed as Thom tried to climb from the crowded front seat to the back. She grabbed Charley-Pop’s arm. As fast as the rental car careened out of the freeway lane, it swerved back knocking Thom down into his seat. Ryan had been ready to sock his brother in the jaw.

“Everybody settle down.” Charley-Pop was furious.

“Asshole,” Thom said over his shoulder. “I know thirteen ways to kill you above the neck.”

“Aw, jeez,” Ryan said. “Like, kill me already; but, please, not the face. We’ve just arrived in Hollywood, California, and I’ve got to be ready for my close-up.”

“I don’t understand what’s between you boys,” their father said.

“In the name of the Father,” Annie Laurie said, crossing herself with the rosary beads blessed during the 1950 Holy Year by Pope Pius XXII, “and the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” She intoned the Apostles’ Creed, and they all, everyone but Sandy, who sat dumbfound by the way their unison recitation had stopped their conversation dead, began to pray. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord, who was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried....”

“Can you believe,” Ryan asked me, “what growing up Catholic in the fifties, early sixties was like?”

I could and I couldn’t.

“I was different then,” Ryan said. “We were all different then. Those were the last days before Jack Kennedy was shot and the world changed forever.”

Sandy’s was not the first knee, female or male, pushed into Ryan’s; but her knee was, faster than all the others, pushed away. Ryan’s sins in those days were all the sins of a tongue sharpened by the stress of enforced Catholic purity. I believed him when he told me I should call the Guinness Brothers because he had kept himself from masturbating until he was twenty-four years old. Physically and spiritually. Ryan fought to cling to the modesty and sexual purity Monsignor Linotti taught him were absolutely necessary for a boy to become a priest.

“My sins of speaking uncharitably were venial enough,” Ryan said, “not to worry me. In those days, I lived in terror of only one sin. Impurity. All I ever wanted, because that’s all the ideal I ever heard, was to be pure. I felt pure behind the walls of Misericordia. Later, here in San Francisco, I lost it. I purposely tried to lose it. I didn’t care anymore about sexual purity. I wanted to be sexy. But when I met Kick, I realized that purity isn’t only sexual.

“Kick made me realize a grander manly purity, far more important than the narrow sexual purity the priests taught. That’s why I love him. He brought me through his body and his ideals to a purity far greater than the slender sexual purity I agonized over and tried to protect every day and every tempting night of my adolescence. Sometimes I was physically sick I was so afraid of committing a mortal sin of impurity. I was terrified of spending an eternity in the fires of hell.

“The priests made me crazy.

“You try not jerking off for twenty-four years and see if you’re not weird. I feel like filing a class-action suit against the Catholic Church for every boy who was terrorized into a seminary in the fifties.”

 

8

 

In the early days when hippies were in flower, Ryan and Teddy joined the soldiers grouping in the South of Market arena. Three years after the 1967 Summer of Love, the smell of incense and pot drifted quietly from the Haight-Ashbury, through