Sunday … endings, beginnnings, waitings, continuings

10:00 a.m.

My final day at this house/pet-sitting adventure. I’ve been up since 4:30. Tess and Gwennie are early risers. I Sunday morning pre-gamed last evening at Dunkin Donuts, and the New York Times – the real one – is here delivered, so the early rise and ensuing hours were akin to Christmas morning.

I’ve also changed the sheets, cleaned and tidied, emptied the trash, loaded my car; there is nothing now but to nap and read and wait for 11pm, when the owners of this warm and welcoming home return from the rodeo (I think).

Last night, while I was crawling into the luxe-comfort of the beautifully wrought, iron-framed bed in which I sleep when here, I was uncharacteristically – and quite briefly – lonely. The thing is, I have never long (or short) term, consistently shared my bed with a lover. My lovers have been – by and large – people for whom I was not the primary concern, first choice, actual spouse, someone about whom they wanted others to know. I was a secret, a diversion, a decision never really made. So, I am quite accustomed to and fond of sleeping alone. I am an introvert and a solitary man, near hermit-like in my habits, usually content to have my secrets, silence and my books, a few very dear friends, and – of late – my Twitter-actions.

But, last night, quite briefly; Lonely. A loneliness brought on by my undressing. Not like that. In the many quick-pick-up-and-get-the-hell-out moves I have made in the last decade, along with all the skins and people I have shed, I’ve let go of many belongings, including clothes, paring my wardrobe to a small collection of a few pair of jeans, black T-shirts, gym clothes, and lounge-wear, that last consisting of souvenir shirts from the few shows I’ve seen so important to me I could not let the Ts go. My favorite, and the one I was taking off last night to get into bed, is from the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia’s genius production of the legendarily-failed, cult musical, Sideshow.

I love Sideshow. The original was an obsession. My aunt, Sissie, was still alive when it opened and I visited her at Record Street – the same assisted living home where my Mom has now ended up – when Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner were on the Rosie O’Donnell Show, performing numbers from the show, and, too, I spent Thanksgiving morning there with Sissie, in her room, and watched them perform in the Macy’s Parade. Too, I tried to see the closing weeks of the show but was thwarted by my involvement as director/producer of a production of Annie, and by someone who did a lot of thwarting of things that meant the world to me. Too, I later produced and directed a version of Sideshow, which marked a very dark period with a group of very ungrateful kids for whom I’d sacrificed a great deal over the years and who treated me like shit during that show, and it was – in retrospect – when I ought to have stopped teaching; alas, I went on another ten years. And then, most recently, I attended the revival pre-Broadway tryout at the Kennedy Center with dear ones, and sort of erased – or, at least, eased the pain of – some of those memories and made new ones.

So, yes. Sideshow means a lot for me. Echoes. Reverberations. And I’ve now lost enough weight that the extra-large T-shirt, in addition to stretching, un-ravelling at seams, and wearing thin and smooth in that way material can come to hug and caress one as it ages, is also rather long on me, almost like a nightshirt. I’m standing by the bed, stripped down to just the shirt, and from nowhere I hear the sentence in my head:

“Wouldn’t it be nice for once in my life to have someone to sleep beside who understood what Sideshow meant and means to me? Someone who would stay?”

And I cried a little. Because that isn’t going to be my life, because that has never been my life, and because I will never know what that is like. And, maybe, I missed something.

And my aunt, Sissie, was the same. She slept alone for all of her nine decades. She died at Record Street. Alone. I was not even called the night it was happening. I still feel guilty. After Sideshow, she became less and less lucid, often thought I was my father, and we didn’t talk about musicals anymore. Now, my Mother lives there. Now, in four days, my Mother is having a risky operation. Now, I have these books and these memories and these T-shirts that hold me, and a life not unlike Sissie’s was, and I am near 75% like she was and 25% like my Mom and 100% elated I have had both of them to love me and shape me and see me and embrace me, warm and aged and worn, both of whom loved me, love me, as I am.

So, dear ones, while I am often here lugubrious in my contemplations, I have a contentment that few people have. I love getting into bed, with my books, with my peace and tranquility, with my knowing – now – that I have taken the bulk and hulk of all that was my life and chiseled and whittled and sculpted it down into something small, and private, and beautiful, and true, and me.

Yes, I sleep alone, have always slept alone, but it was that sleeping alone, that choice, that made me these souvenirs, like the Sideshow shirt, well aged, and worn, and smoothed, and shaped, and now wrapped around me like an embrace – the warm embrace of the life I have lived, the peace I have earned.

Love and Light, dear ones – and wishes for souvenir shirt embraces of your own.

You Should Be Loved … SIDESHOW returns …

In less than 24 hours I will be sitting in the Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center watching the newly revised SIDESHOW.

I have already started weeping.

I never got to see the original Broadway production. I tried, I was close, but I was involved in another production at the time and didn’t have the support to get away, even for a day, either on a professional or personal level, despite the fact the show meant the world to me. The Original Broadway Cast Recording was (and remains) one of my favorite scores.

I cannot imagine anyone equaling Alice Ripley as Violet and Emily Skinner as Daisy.

SIDESHOW 1

However, Erin Davie and Emily Padgett have been getting good reviews.

Sideshow 2

I go with an open mind and heart. I know lots of changes have been made. I made lots of changes when I did the show. My dear Alison (who will be with me tomorrow) and I had to deal with a lot of shit during the production. I should have canceled it. I should have seen the writing on the wall and quit teaching, producing, and directing then. It would have saved me a world of heartache, personal sacrifice and pain, later betrayals, financial ruin, and many wasted years. Alas.

Like the original, real and true conjoined Hiltons —

sideshow 3

– I was caught up in a dangerous Freak Show all my own, and could not separate myself from the parts of me that I ought to have — and by the time I discovered I could, the damage was long past done and too severe for repair.

When I finally removed the parts of me that were weighing me down, so long had the merge been part of me, some vital organs had been vampired dry, the life and will sucked out of me.

Yeah, seeing Sideshow might be tough.

 

Here comes the sun(set) … come look at the freak(show) …

sunset blvdFor the second week in a row this blog has broken visitor AND view records three days (so far) – I don’t know who you are, but I’m glad that this faded, failed, delusional diva’s scabrous scribbling about just this, my life, and nothing else, is entertaining all you wonderful people out there in the dark.

I’m ready for my close-up now, even though I’ve been through de’mill(e). It would be even MORE exciting if you would follow me on Twitter [CLICK HERE: MIRACLECHARLIE on TWITTER] and SHARE me with your friends. I know that my blog entries are rather LONGER than people say they ought to be — but here’s the thing, I come from another time, really. I’m of a different era and zeitgeist and … well, perhaps it is NOT that my BLOGS are BIG, but, rather, that your ATTENTION SPAN is too small! Yes, that’s it. I am big! It’s the attention spans that have gotten small. Oh dear . . . I’m fading more and more into this imaginary world of mine, follow me quickly, I haven’t much time left, you see . . .

gif sunset blvd2. . . because it’s fast approaching my birthday(month). I’ve no intention of discussing the details – although, there’s nothing tragic with being fifty, unless you’re trying to be 25 — but, I heard somewhere that stars are ageless, and I used to be BIG – before going to the gym and staving myself made me smaller – and so I freely exploit the “subtract 10” theory when it comes to age (and weight) (holy crap, I’m feeling awfully parenthetical today) I still LOVE having a ridiculous to-do to-done about and around my birthday. Once upon a time, I would make a solo Manhattan pilgrimage each year and celebrate there. Not alone, but, rather, at the Algonquin Hotel, surrounded by the spirit and energy of all those who had stayed there before, and, my dear aunt, Sissie, who had never gotten to stay there but who had in her decline, immobilized by blindness and illness in a senior-facility, made me promise not to wait until it was too late — as she had — to “visit the Algonquin”.

I think she meant something else, something more. She had spent her life — mostly — doing for others, serving the needs of others, sacrificing her wants for the wants of others, and to the casual and uninformed observer it might have seemed she was living off of the largesse of others, but that was not the case. Without her, many of those “others” would not have been able to have the freedoms and lives they had, and many, like me, would never have come to know themselves without Sissie being there to encourage and see and support us in our quest for self-dom. The only self she got was the one who put herSELF aside so others could thrive and bloom – she never got to be in love, she never got to go all the places she wanted to go, she put away her own scribbling and exploring so as to take care of others, make others happy. She saw what I was doing, recognized how unhappy and unfulfilled and unseen I was, and felt — I think — that I was her greatest project, the work of her life, and if I ended up as miserable as she had become at the end, she would have failed.

sunset blvd gifI promised her I would go. I did. And don’t you know she was right. I should have gone. And too, rather than get that and understand it, the people who claimed to love me didn’t “get it” or see me and celebrate it, rather, they resented that what I needed and wanted and deserved for ME, putting me first once in a while, cracked the crazy-mirror into which they looked each day like Snow White’s wicked queen asking “Who’s the ONLY person who matters at all?”

Trust me, Snow White I am not and never have been, but I also don’t eat any apples proffered. And I am ALWAYS on the lookout for dwarves eager to take me in and party.

Speaking of, Ryan Murphy has announced that the upcoming season of American Horror Story is going to be called FreakShow. I am a HUGE fan of carnivals, sideshows and freaks — as in Come Look at the … from the musical SideShow … which I never got to see on Broadway, the actual non-seeing of which was the event that prompted Sissie to give me the “don’t wait for the Algonquin” lecture and extract my promise. I used to go visit her on Thanksgiving morning and watch the parade — well, I watched, she listened while I described it — and when SideShow was in the parade and I was describing Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner and weeping because I couldn’t see the show — Sissie started in.

I’m expecting big things from Ryan Murphy on this. And given that he is PRACTICALLY my spiritual doppelgänger and has a fondness for musical theatre divas as deeply embedded in his DNA as do I, it would NOT surprise me (feel free to take this idea, Ryan) if he hires the Ripley and Skinner to play the aging Hilton Sisters who were still alive in the 1950’s when the show is rumored to be set. PLEASE!?!?!

Speaking of SideShow, I was informed last night that I am to keep the date of July 6 open as I will be seeing the tour of the revival of the show at the Kennedy Center that night! HUZZAH!

But before then, I’ve a LOT of birthday partying to which I must attend. For example, next Friday BEGINS the Month of fun. I am seeing CHER in concert!  Yes, it’s true. As if that wasn’t enough, I am being taken out to dinner beforehand at Voltaggio’s D.C. restaurant, PROOF. SO EXCITED!

Then, later in the month, making a daytrip to NYC with a group of my nearest and dearest friends for two — yes, TWO Broadway shows in one day! Seeing Jason Robert Brown’s new musical, The Bridges of Madison County, and Terrensunset boulevardce McNally’s new play, Mothers and Sons. YEE-EFFING-HA!

And then, in early May (which- technically – is outside the birthday month, but, OH WELL) I am being taken to see Megan Hilty at the Kennedy Center. I mean, really, could a birthday month be much better for a dilapidated, desiccated diva descending that final staircase, confessing his sins and nearing death?

MAX, WHERE AM I? WHERE THE FUCK AM I, MAX? And when is Joe Gillis coming back? I wish I’d had the good sense to shoot the bastard — but, unlike in the film, he never really had the balls to turn his back on me and walk away. He just sort of snuck out and pretended he wasn’t going. LIGHTS! CAMERAS! STAIR-FUCKING-CASE!

(Do I REALLY have to tell you AGAIN about the time I saw Miss Betty Buckley in SUNSET BOULEVARD – and how kind she was to me in the alley afterward? OR HOW I HAVE TWICE SEEN HER IN CONCERT AND DECIDED – though I do not believe in God or Heaven – that if I DID – it would be an eternity of Miss Buckley singing.)

 

 

 

… reading … Hilton Als’ “White Girls” … “we can not see things on purpose for just so long…”

Hilton Als, White Girls, 340pp, hardback, McSweeney’s (CLICK HERE)

When Junot Diaz calls your writing “utterly extraordinary” and “the read of the year”, you hardly need me to say anything more about it. But when have I ever let a little thing like enough having already been said stop me from saying more? And, making it about me?

whitegirls_coverI am ashamed to confess that prior to a number of book-sites “best of 2013” lists, Hilton Als existed only on the periphery of my literary-awareness. I could probably have told you – if pressed – that he wrote for The New Yorker and New York Review of Books, but I could not have said with certainty what of his I had read.

I can tell you now. Only, I can’t.

I can’t because Hilton Als (GO TO HIS WEBSITE – CLICK HERE) has a voice like no other. You have not read anything like White Girls before. It does not fit into a niche or genre. It is not easy. It demands of you that you think, that you feel, that you question and process and allow yourself to be moved.

White Girls is like a lover you didn’t expect to have, doing things to you that you have never had done before, taking you to that place at the edge, the limit of your nerve endings, past the hum and thrum to the scream and the shake and sensations so strong that what is left when Als has finished with you is an exhausted numbness, a pleading for time, a moment in which to catch your breath and rest your weary mind. And then you pick up White Girls and start again from the beginning.

And as it is with that unexpected lover, the experience is personal. Als is inside your head and buttons are pushed, but those buttons are private. I cannot in the allotted space explain to you how Als’ recounting of particular kinds of love – love affairs of mis-matched soul-mates – brought me to tears, both in the opening piece, Tristes Tropiques, and in the next to last piece, You and Whose Army?. Listen:

Lucien: Baldwin’s Swiss piece carried over from Paris, where they met in the early nineteen fifties, in the days of cafes and such. And as is the case with most relationships in which queens fall in love with someone so pointedly different – which is to say someone who is essentially straight – Lucien loved Jimmy but didn’t want him.

… and …

We can not see things on purpose for just so long. Later, Cancer Bitch asked Lucien how he could put his body in a situation that wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, meaning how could he separate his body from his mind, what people laughingly refer to as their desire – how could he put his body, which eventually became her body, in the way of Jimmy’s cock? After all, she didn’t have a cock, or much of one to speak of. And Lucien said, What makes you think any of those things are separate? Jimmy loved me.

Oh god. Oh fuck. That first sentence ALONE is worth a lifetime, “We can not see things on purpose for just so long.” It is genius. Pure truth so true it hurts stabs like something too cold but so delicious I can’t stop ouch fuck me brain freeze genius. Like Joan Didion’s first sentence in Play It As It Lays genius. (And, by the way, Als quotes Didion in his New Yorker review of Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie latest Broadway revival – you see where I am going with this – Hilton and I, we are – wait – back to HIM) Oh he gets me. By getting Jimmy and Lucien. Oh my truth writ large. And unwritten. Unsaid, still. My Lucien(s) not so agile of tongue. Well, wait. I mean – you see? I can’t SAY what I mean. But, Mr. Als, he can. He has. He did. And that it happened to James Baldwin. And that Hilton Als has written with such clarity about it. And what is even more clear is that he, too, has been there. Not done that doing that done for so not that why can’t it be that I am done. Well. Yes. Truth.

He knows truth. listen:

Since the root function of language is to control the world through describing it and most Americans are embarrassed by their will to do so, language is made palpable by being nice.

From a piece about Louise Brooks. Yes. I know. And how to tell you what it meant to me that he made reference to Daisy and Violet Hilton. Montgomery Clift. Flannery o’Connor. Truman Capote. Lily Tomlin. LouLou de la Falaise, the Gaiety Theatre … and so much more.

But, not the point that he takes note of the same cultural markers that make up my emotional and autobiographical frame of reference – no. The point is that he makes me think about them and see them in new and different ways. No. The point is that the “new and different” ways in which he makes me see and think about them have been nascent – germinating but unable to emerge.

Hilton Als writes truths you’ve always known but never knew you knew; he exposes, uncovers, reveals, like magic, with words, syllable by syllable, weaving spells of syntactical brilliance that open sesame your mind in entirely new ways and show you who you are; who we are, why it is what it is.

Genius. Read it. NOW.