First, I was working on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (what STInfections were called in the 70s) and my MC’s (main character) gay friends going to the Free Clinic every week for medication. These were weekly gatherings where they would go to lunch afterwards to drink gin and tonic or shots of tequila to wash the antibiotics down. Back then, it was so flippant. There was a pill for everything, so it was no big deal to get syphilis or gonorrhea or the other parasitical infections that were common.
That got heavy after about 2000 words so I moved on to drag queens and their clothes and how they taught my MC how to dress and wear makeup properly. Well, like a drag queen, actually. My MC sat in the back of the stage with the queens, watching them get made up and bite each other with words and laugh. Mostly laugh. There were some drugs, too, but that was ancillary. And lots and lots of smoking cigarettes.
It’s tough when the two sections become cause and effect.
I was having a grand time writing about my MC dreaming about dressing in drag and spinning around in chiffon dresses or walking down the runway in bugle bead evening gowns when she had a vision of her favorite queen getting very sick and dying.
My own heart fell knowing this drag queen in real life and knew the circumstances of her death from AIDS, which is where the book is leading. The sadder parts are coming and my heart hurts knowing that.
Sometimes writing is hard, but not in the ways one typically thinks of writing challenges.
I’m working diligently on a memoir about my life in the gay community between 1978 and 1982, the time immediate preceding, then immediately post-AIDS. The writing is going well and I am loving where it is headed and how it’s unfolding.
I have so many stories from that time, I considered naming the book Sex, Drugs & Disco, but there already is one from pre-AIDS San Francisco. Not that books can’t have the same name, it just seemed too easy. The working title is In the Bushes which comes from when I pimped for a gay friend in Lake Eola, looking for sex for him. We were 17-years old.
Then there were my first forays into the gay bar scene, the drag queens, the drugs, the copious amounts of alcohol… and the sex. Lots and lots of sex. One of my girls asked to read some of what I had written and then pushed it away in the first couple hundred words. I knew then I was on the right track. laughing She shan’t be a Beta Reader!
During that time, I lived with several gay men in a few places, including the Parliament House, a gay complex. Lots of naughtiness ensued.
I ran away to New York City, ran out of money in DC on the way home, was present for momentous occasions in our nation’s history and took part in many side trips into the infamy of DC life.
At the time, I had no idea I would write this book in 40 years.
Needing to sleep again. Feeling the jolts of electricity that were not so conducive to sleep. I put on Amazon Prime’s 80’s music to sleep by. About the 3rd song in was Bette Midler’s“The Rose.”
Memories of my days at the Parliament House here in Orlando with all my gay boy friends (& sex-capaders) watching drag shows flooded my brain.
It was 1979. I was 18 years old. And I was a Fag Hag.
Quaaludes. Poppers. Sex with strangers in cars. Amaretto with cream and OJ. Friends taking acid & having bad trips. Walking by rooms with open curtains & open doors, inviting whomever in to be with whomever as whomever watched from not-afar. The Baths. Glory Holes. Gay Porn. Learning to suck dick and get fucked in the ass (with the ever-present can of Crisco) by my 8-gay friends I lived with in various locations, including the “PH.” (When we were with our parents, we called it the “Pancake House.” We were so slick. snort).
Laying on the bed, I sang with Bette, thrice through, crying, missing my friends who have died from AIDS. After “The Rose,” I remembered I had Bette Midler’s Divine Madness on my Kindle, putting it on.
While I first met P (he initially was Miss Pauline, then Miss P, then he dropped the Miss and was “P” for the years I knew him) as a Drag Queen, we became wonderful friends and worked together at the Subway Sandwich shop in Winter Park, by the infamous Sinkhole. During the time I knew him only as P, I, of course, used female pronouns, but when I used “she” at work once, he spun around and told me “HE!”. So that is why I use “he” even as he is P.
Paul and I, while there were 17 years between us, were really compatible. We shared a love for books (we shared books a lot), music, Broadway shows, the theater… and black men.
I loved Paul. I mean. LOVED. I ached to have him take me in his arms. He never did. He did sing “The Rose” to me whenever it came on while we were working. I remember it like it was yesterday.
So, if I couldn’t have Paul, I could have the next best thing. His straight, blue-black boyfriend, Tuna. Long passed is why he was nicknamed Tuna, but that’s how we all knew him. Tuna had a bullet still lodged in his thigh. He taught me the word “Nut” for orgasm. He loved my ample white ass. I used to have sex with Tuna while Paul was on stage. Tuna told Paul years later and when I went to visit him (Paul) with my new son in my arms, he confronted me. I was (rightly) mortified and apologized profusely, claiming stupidity as a child of 17, 18, 19, 20. He barely forgave me, but I am glad our last contact was wonderful and positive.
The Flood Abates
So many waves of memories lick the shore of my mind, but I want to get this out before it grows too long.
So much more to say. I need to share it so those after me can know there really was a completely hedonistic time before AIDS. I lived it. (I do also carry scars, but we’ll share those another time.)