722. Real Men

In the end we hired a trumpet player Mitch knew and liked working with and who Marvelle knew from other gigs, a serious-looking chap with round glasses named Lorne Acevedo. He was from New Orleans and had played with Wynton Marsalis. Fran and Clarice booked to come in for two weeks of full band rehearsal in July, after everyone took a break for the Fourth.

I saw Court a couple of times during that audition and rehearsal period in New York–took her to dinner once, that kind of thing–but once she figured out that she could make it to The Hangar for the last hour (or more if we ran late) of our rehearsals, she was there pretty much every night.

One Friday at the end of June, when she’d come by five nights in a row, I asked her if she shouldn’t be spending more time socializing with people from the company where she was working, i.e. shouldn’t she be going out for drinks to schmooze with people or whatever?

She looked at me funny. “Why would I do that?”

“Isn’t the point of an internship that you’re making connections with people you might get a real job with later?”

She blinked. “You’re kind of an idiot, aren’t you.”

Only someone who loves me could get away with saying something like that, of course. I didn’t actually realize why she was right, though, which only goes to prove it was true. At the very least I figured it meant she liked hanging around with me and Ziggy, and so I asked if she wanted to hang around with us that weekend.

“Sure,” she said. She had an almost suspicious look on her face, though. “What are you guys planning?”

“I dunno. Hey, Zig, what are our plans for the weekend? You guys work it out while I put some stuff away.”

They started talking. I realized as I made sure my guitars were in their cases that I didn’t even know what we were doing that night. Barrett was there and he joined the discussion but I wasn’t actively listening to it.

A lot of guys would leave their guitars in stands overnight. I would do that once in a while but only rarely. To me leaving a guitar out overnight was an invitation to trouble. It’s like in the fairy tale about the boy who drew cats, the one who stayed safe at night by sleeping in a cabinet. Staying out in the open, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. Who knows what might make it fall over or whatever? Things go bump in the night. It’s just safer in the case.

I wasn’t superstitious about it–remember, sometimes I also fell asleep at home with the guitar in bed next to me–but the upshot was I didn’t feel comfortable leaving them in stands in The Hangar overnight. So I didn’t.

I also generally gave a look around for anything that needed to be turned off, etc, before we left, especially since we wouldn’t be back until Monday. By the time I was done with that, the conversation about what we were doing and when was over.

I was informed that our presence was requested that night at a shindig for another WTA client, an actor named Paulson Abellard, that we were all invited but Barrett was passing our names to a guest list. Courtney came with us in the car back to Ziggy’s, and so did Barrett.

Okay. I know I am oblivious to a lot of things and sometimes things really have to be pointed out to me, but did you guys realize before this that Barrett lived in the same building with Ziggy? I certainly had not. When we all got in the elevator together I thought he was tagging along with us like Court, to hang around while Ziggy when through his public appearance prettification process. But he pushed the button for the fourth floor instead of the third and he didn’t get out when we did and Ziggy said he’d call him when we were ready to go.

So. Barrett lived upstairs. Huh. That explained some things.

Ziggy’s prettification process usually took about forty-five minutes. Court upped her makeup game, too, and the two of them stood side-by-side at the bathroom mirror (which was large, fortunately) while I sat on the edge of the tub and kibbitzed.

Note about kibbitizing, or about the word, anyway. Someone told me recently it’s a New York word. I asked them what word they use instead and they said “commenting as a bystander.” Okay, but if you have one word that does the job of four, why wouldn’t you use it?

“Jeez, Ziggy,” Court said. “Your eyelashes are so thick you don’t need mascara. In fact if you used it, it would probably glue your eyes shut.”

Ziggy’s grin was pearly and he batted his lashes. “It’s backwards, isn’t it? Men usually have the thicker eyelashes because we’ve got more hair overall. But it’s women who always want the thick, lush lashes.”

“Because we have to compete with the likes of you,” she said. “I’ve decided to just make my eyeliner thicker to try to create the same focus in the dim restaurant light.”

That was the point where I jumped in. “Okay, explain that. You guys convinced me makeup is necessary when the lights are really bright because otherwise your features get washed out. How can it be then that you need it when the light is dim also?”

“Same reason,” Court said, as she leaned close to the mirror with the eyeliner pencil in one hand and the other against her face. “Instead of washed out your features disappear into the gloom. It’s not that hard to understand.”

“I suppose.” I watched Ziggy line his lips with some kind of crayon or pencil and then fill in the rest with a bruise-colored lipstick.

He looked at me and then at Court. “Somehow I’ve convinced him that eyeliner is okay but lipstick is too much.”

“Yeah? Why’s that, big brother?”

“Easy,” I said. “I like the way the eyeliner looks on me. Lipstick makes me look like Bozo the Clown.”


Ziggy turned toward me with an eyeliner pencil in his hand and I tipped my face upward like a flower turning toward the sun. He was still a lot better at putting it on me than I was at putting it on myself. It was the truth: I liked how I looked with some eyeliner on. I liked being able to catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and to like what that glimpse looked like, as if maybe someone else catching that same glimpse might like what they saw, too.

You know how long it took me to get to that point? You do know. Years. I wasn’t the scrawny kid with badly grown out hair whose clothes made me look like I couldn’t be bothered to find something “nice” to wear. All that time I had been an ugly duckling waiting to join the swans. Now my feathers were fully fledged, I guess, and when I crawled out of bed wearing torn jeans and yesterday’s T-shirt with a mass of tousled hair and yesterday’s eyeliner on–or when I affected that look–it actually looked cool.

That was part of why I was so uncomfortable with all the talk about changing things for the show. It had taken me this long to get to where I liked what I saw in the mirror, but it felt precarious somehow, like I might mess it up and be stuck with something that would mess with my mind.

“Don’t let The Aesthetician do something insane to my hair,” I said to Ziggy as he stepped back to look at whether my two eyes matched.

“I won’t,” he said. “Speaking of which.” He got a brush out of the medicine cabinet and brushed me like he was grooming a horse, then spritzed my head with something and brushed it out again. Whatever the stuff was made my hair as glossy and smooth as something in a Vidal Sasson commercial.

He used gel in his own to give it a wet look, bangs down, and then it was time to go.

Paulson Abellard, it turned out, was a tall part-Haitian actor with a very tawny completely bald-shaved scalp. He was in a periwinkle button down shirt that barely contained his muscles and beige slacks, with expensive looking brown leather dress shoes but no socks. I felt like me and Ziggy were a different species of celebrity from him. The shindig was some kind of fundraiser for a charity Abellard was associated with and he was as suave and smooth as an overnight soft rock deejay.

The presence of us and a few other A-list clients from WTA (I was pretty sure I didn’t count as A-list anymore at that point, but Ziggy did) was supposed to add cachet to the event and make people more likely to open their wallets. There were various autographed items up for silent auction including some I didn’t particularly recall signing, but obviously I must have at some point.

The event was at a fancy restaurant where the chef-owner also had some connection to Haiti, and so there was a huge spread of hot buffet and finger foods. I really didn’t know if it was anything like what food in Haiti was like, but there was some kind of spicy stew, and heaping platters of some kind of meat pie, and lots of tropical fruits used as decoration. I was quite content to eat a lot of meat pies.

At one point Court handed me what looked like a big of fruit juice with a curly straw in it. I’d already had several large gulps before I said, “Wait. Is there rum in this?”

“Yeah, it’s the signature cocktail here. Why?”

“I’m, um, trying to cut down.”

“Oh.” She looked rather dismayed, snatched it out of my hand, and practically ran away with it. When she came back she brought me one that was just pineapple juice with something pink floating on top.

“It’s really okay,” I said, but I felt a good deal looser now. My head was floating above my shoulders and the knot in my chest had disappeared. I hadn’t even realized there was a knot in my chest until it was gone.

Ziggy hadn’t eaten anything because his lipstick was still perfect, but he wafted by beckoning me to follow him. We passed the silent auction table again, and he pointed out what a copy of the “Candlelight” holiday single, signed by all four of us, was going for.

Over two thousand dollars. It was one of the more hotly contested items. Huh.

I mingled with people for a bit. I talked with Barrett for a bit. Posed for some photos. A few speeches were made. I tossed my horse-mane sleek hair out of my face for more photos.

In the end a short (by which I mean my height) guy with gray sideburns who reminded me of Bart’s dad except for the mirror shades perched on his bald head won the auction for the single, and we took a photo with him, and that turned into Ziggy having a short but deep-looking conversation with him, and then the guy telling me everything he knew about guitar tech, which was more than the average person. As I might have said before, there are guys who can enthuse about guitars the same way they do about their sportscars: it’s a shiny, colorful, high tech extension of their male mid-life crisis. And they want to bond with me for at least a few seconds. I didn’t understand why at first, because I didn’t understand that the reason the electric guitar is the thing they’ve gravitated to is the same reason I gravitated to it when I was a kid: searching for my masculinity.

I got an inkling of it that night, though, talking to the guy. It wasn’t even anything he said so much as just thinking about him and why he’d spend the money he did, essentially just to rub shoulders with us.

I asked Court about that while Tony was driving us to Limelight to cap off the night with some dancing. Probably a dozen people were coming along with us in various vehicles. “So this guy has basically the same experience as a fan, I mean a girl fan, except he pays a huge chunk of money for it instead of doing all the things fans do to have the same kind of meet and greet.”

“Enter contests millions of times, wait around outside venues for hours and hours, try to talk their way in, sneak in, et cetera, you mean?”

“Yeah. Like the girls who met us at the radio station in LA. I barely even knew about the gig myself 24 hours in advance–”

“I know,” she said, her eyes flashing in the street lights as we sailed down the avenue. “And here they are, having spent years building up their connections and their networks so that they’d not only find out about it, they’d get there, and they’d have made signs and printed T-shirts for the ocassion.”

“That’s a lot of work.”

“Which do you think was more work,” she asked, “All that, or doing whatever that guy did to earn the thousands of dollars he used to essentially buy the experience he had tonight?”

“Hm, good question.”

“Because I was going to say, the connections to find out about stuff like an unexpected radio gig where security will be low to non-existent? That might be priceless. That might be something you can’t really put a price tag on. But if you were gonna, I guess what that guy paid was the equivalent.” She shrugged. “Speaking of which, I think he ended up in one of the other cars.”

“Nice enough guy.” If he was coming with us to Limelight I wondered if he was going to be disappointed that all we did was dance and lounge around, or if he would be freaked if a drug orgy broke out in a dark corner of the VIP room. Then again people tell me at the height of the disco era people were snorting coke and having orgies right on the dance floor at Studio 54 so maybe this guy had already lived through that. Or maybe people were exaggerating, I don’t know. After all, it was only that one time we had an MDMA-fueled orgy, right?

The crowd at Limelight that night seemed extra-colorful. I attributed it to the tropical rum in my system being the first alcohol I’d had in a couple of weeks at that point. That or everyone actually was more colorful, like maybe I’d missed the memo that dressing like toucans and macaws was the in-thing now. Or maybe having a mundane, middle-aged stockbroker or whatever he was along with the crowd made me look at everything with less jaded eyes.

I kept noticing a blond twink circulating around us. A single stud in one ear, he had that “clone” look that was like an advertisement he was gay. But something about the way he circulated made me think he was dealing drugs.

Then he and Mr. Mid-life Crisis disappeared into the men’s room together. They were in there a long time. Eventually the older guy emerged, face flushed and rolling his eyes a little. He went back to the dance floor and I lost sight of him. I never did find out if what he got in that bathroom was sex or drugs. I guess let’s split the difference and say he got a taste of rock and roll.

Site Update:
We did it! Kickstarter successfully funded at $4,032!

Next week I’ll get back to nagging you all to send your photos or links to images of who you’d “cast” in the parts of a DGC movie–who do you picture in your head for the various characters when you read?



  • s says:

    I’ll have to reread the chapter later. I absorbed nothing. Why? Because now they are saying Prince died because he refused treatment for AIDS on the basis that God would heal him. That makes this so much worse than it already was. I’m done. I’ll be in the corner in a fetal position if anyone needs me…or maybe I’ll join Ziggy in burning everything down.

    • Lenalena says:

      So far that story seems to originate with the National Enquirer. I’ll believe it when it’s on CNN.

    • G says:

      I know that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t accept blood transfusions because of the admonition not to take blood into their bodies, but other than that, they accept medical treatment for ailments. From what I’ve heard, he’s devout (was devout, sigh) so that wouldn’t be part of it – expecting God’s healing – because they don’t believe in faith healing. (This from my co-worker who grew up Jehovah’s Witness, so hopefully it’s right.)

      • s says:

        I’m really, really not someone who believes everything they read/hear, this one just hit- no HAMMERED- my buttons and I flipped my shit. Combine that with the fact that I’m really not handling his death well at all (if you think I have Ziggy on a pedestal…it’s nothing compared to my life-long love of Prince), and the fact that I’ve already wanted to throat-punch a couple of people today (and still haven’t ruled it out as a possibility). Sorry for the whole Chicken Little bit. I’ll read the chapter later when my brain decides to play along. Maybe I’ll have something useful and intelligent to say then.

        • daron says:

          It’s so button-hammering that is what makes me doubt it. Lotta people feel weird about Prince’s sexuality–quick, tie in an AIDS angle. People feel weird about him being a Jehovah’s Witness–quick, tie in a wacky religion angle. I’ve also seen a variation that he overdosed on pain meds he was taking bc of AIDS–trying to tie in the whole rock and rollers abusing drugs to death angle.

          Rest in peace, man, since there’s no peace here on Earth right now.

          • s says:

            Alright, I’m significantly calmer after dinner (read: wine straight from the bottle). No one got throat-punched, though a few came close.

            The weird thing is I know all that, Daron. There’s been so many rumors I’ve successfully said, “that’s bullshit” about, but this one…idk man, it hit all the wrong buttons for me.

  • G says:

    Good for you finally liking what you see; so many people never find that peace within themselves. You’ve come so far with yourself and with your relationship with Ziggy. It looks good on you.

    And, by the way, hot picture of you in my head from this part: “Now my feathers were fully fledged, I guess, and when I crawled out of bed wearing torn jeans and yesterday’s T-shirt with a mass of tousled hair and yesterday’s eyeliner on–or when I affected that look–it actually looked cool.” Oh, yaaasss, Daron!

  • Bill Heath says:

    I need to re-read this post. I strongly suspect it is far deeper than it appears on the surface.

    How many times have we stepped into a ctan rain puddle and found ourselves at the bottom of the Marianas Trench? I’m waiting.

  • Bcynic says:

    On the last note, I was just on a plane, watching the end of Purple Rain on MTV like I was in a time warp, and I thought of someone from that era I suddenly could see as Daron or a basis for him. However, I now can’t remember who it was. maybe it will come back to me later…

    • ctan says:

      I just went to see if actor Josh Richman was in Purple Rain. He wasn’t. He *was* in both River’s Edge and Heathers and for a while I had him in my head as a good Daron casting, but River’s Edge didn’t come until a year or two after Daron’s arrival. Just another case of the media mysteriously picking my brain…?

  • daron says:

    I know neither ctan or I has been able to get a full liner notes post together for a while, but on the subject of Prince, did you see this article on Little Richard from this past December?


  • Bcynic says:

    Ah, I just remembered, it was later watching VH1 Classic. Duncan Sheik.

    • ctan says:

      LOL. What you probably don’t remember is that Duncan Sheik was a student in the music department at Brown when I was running the electronic music lab there and he was in the music composition class that I TA’d. We used to hang out. It was very obvious to all that he had far and away more talent than anyone in the department but he really had to decide what to *do* with all that talent. Did he want to start a band? Get a record deal? Be a songwriter? The result was he had that massive massive hit with “Barely Breathing” (I still hear it in the grocery store and in airports all the time) and then dropped off everyone’s radar until recently. (If I’m reading the newsmedia right, after having had this huge success a combination of drug addiction and “now what?” set in and he floundered for a long time, eventually got his head and spiritual self together, and not only started releasing music again, he just did all the music for the new American Psycho musical on Broadway.)

      • J B says:

        Duncan Sheik also did the music for Spring Awakening, which had a big revival last year on Broadway but was produced originally 10 years ago. There have been 2 or 3 other stage projects with his name attached since that time, too.

    • ctan says:

      But you’re right. There’s a lot of similarity between Duncan’s singing style and Daron’s.

  • Bcynic says:

    I only remembered him coming up in discussions in music you liked, but did not remember the actual connection til u mentioned. Didn’t know full arc of his career either. Barely Breathing was the video I was watching. Josh Richman I haven’t thought of in a while. I could see that.

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