Archive for May, 2010
Protected: 3 LONG POEMS-for password, write firstname.lastname@example.org that you are over 18 and wish to view adult material.May 24, 2010
Protected: PUBLIC RELATIONS – a long one-act play with a musical interlude by Robert Patrick-for password, write email@example.com that you are over 18 and wish to view adult material.May 17, 2010
Protected: 1900s – a one-act play by Robert Patrick-for password, write firstname.lastname@example.org that you are over 18 and wish to view adult material.May 17, 2010
Protected: JULIO AND ROOMMATE a long one-act play by Robert Patrick-for password, write email@example.com that you are over 18 and wish to view adult material.May 17, 2010
SEE and HEAR Robert Patrick explain the play >>HERE<<.
ROBERT PATRICK’S NOTES ON PRODUCING “KENNEDY’S CHILDREN”
A realistic setting has been very effective. Lights can go crazy once the characters start getting into their pasts. There should be isolated areas for each player: Perhaps a corner of the bar for Carla, a booth for Wanda, a table behind potted plants for Mark, a lonely table for Rona, the jukebox area for Sparger.
Rainy-day light and lots of posters help create a claustrophobic atmosphere. The posters can further isolate the characters, those behind each character being predominantly of one appropriate color and bearing images that resonate with the character’s story.
The bar area can be gorgeous, with colored liquids in the bottles and lights behind them, also very valuable for changing from here-and-now into fantasies and memories.
Bar stools that spin are very helpful . If there is sufficient isolation established, the furniture and decor in each character’s area can be chosen to support their mood.
The bars on the single, very narrow little window make it a usable area for Mark’s jail speeches.
All the characters go through the trips they’re on all day, every day. But today is an unusual day for some of them. CARLA, of course, is dying. RONA has had the horrible shock of seeing Robbie’s final dissolution. WANDA has been shocked by the fact that her students don’t remember JFK. SPARGER goes through the first act bitterness and horror whenever he’s idle, but his having the courage to face and recount it all in the second act is rare. Only MARK is on exactly the same track every day. The BARTENDER rolls with the punches.
is sincere. She is not silly. She has seen wonders and miracles and must retell them. She should get pretty drunk for the second act. Her last speech, and the implication that it takes only one person to destroy a dream for the whole world, stuns her, but it stuns her fifty times a day. And then she goes on.
is loose, sloppy except when the flame of truth turns her into an efficient organizer and political philosopher. She enters in rage and terror, and ends in it. In between she dreams through the good times and is soothed into forgetting that they turned into a nightmare. When she is in the past, she is IN the past, living, marching, loving, singing, fighting, screaming, anguished, ashen, dead. No other character’s past is so alive in them. RONA only needs a leader — and she would follow. I have always been sorry I did not write RONA’s lines in a near-hillbilly country accent, like Janis Joplin’s.
means it! She is an intellectual, a philosopher, an artist, a madwoman. She really wanted to be a religious force. She does not need in any way to look like or behave like Marilyn Monroe; she wanted to succeed Marilyn, not to imitate her. She should be dressed in the style that makes HER look fabulous: “Le Style Carla!” The other characters wanted to follow leaders; CARLA wanted to BE one!
(pronounced with a hard “G”) has been through it all, in life and on stage. SPARGER can assume any personality for the sake of a joke or a jeer. He is butch or effeminate, young or old, suave or gross, by turn. You will notice that even when he imagines a pick-up, he imagines failing. Buffo’s death and the collapse of the Buffo was the end of the world for him; perhaps his key line is, “I closed up one night and went looking for Buffo,” meaning that he wasn’t there to save the person he loved most. SPARGER must get ugly, piss~in-your-pants drunk by the end of Act One, so that the gallantry of his courage in facing and telling in Act Two the story he tried to suppress can show through.
is defending himself, paranoically clawing through his diaries and unmailed letters. (See new opening for his first speech, included with these notes). He should start out a real monster, one of the walking dead you see on our big city streets, then quite suddenly become the innocent troubled boy he was when he started the diary, and by the end be once again the grinning rigid ghoul who walked in. I think
MARK must be going to a methadone clinic near the bar. They know he’s harmless and let him come in and cool out after his treatment each day. But he should look very scary.
controls the play. By his behavior we know what is normal and what is unusual . He should have a clear relationship and background with every character. From his reactions, we know he characters are not really talking, not really screaming., not really climbing on tables or under them. Careful timing of when he delivers drinks or coffee, demands money., cleans up a mess, gives a free drink, pulls his trouble-club out, can greatly enrich the picture of real life in the bar ,
The play is about the loss of heroes. It is not a lesson about the Sixties, or even about the Seventies, when it takes place. For instance, it doesn’t matter what the S.D.S. or S.N.C.C. are; some will know and some won’t. The important thing is that Rona loved joining things. It doesn’t matter who Bob Dylan is; only that Rona is proud to have been taken for him. And so on with all the characters. Behavior is everything., information is nothing.
found her hero only after he was gone, and has tried to carry on his work. She falters and despairs, but in the end she is staunch.
was close to his hero and saw him decay. It has left Sparger with no one to be attached to.
had a hundred heroes and they all died, failed, were killed, disappeared, sold out. Her loss is enormous. She is crying for a new hero.
made his hero both God and the Devil, and killed him. He is trapped in that paradox forever.
stood up before the world and was destroyed, like Kennedy, like Dylan, like Chick, like Buffo. With all her intelligence and greatness of soul she can make no more sense of it than any of the others do. She will die rather than be taken captive by a corrupt culture, like Cleopatra dying rather than go in chains as a captive to Rome.
The characters often say things that could be taken to refer to one another. Carla disparages drag queens (Like Sparger) and rebellious kids (Like Rona). Wanda disapproves of star cultists (like Carla) and of underground theater people (like Sparger). Rona would probably include Carla among her middle-class kids and Mark among her staggering junkies. If the actors use one another as a focus on such references, and the actor referred to has some meaningful piece of business, it can help the audience make such connections.
The characters say many lines that each other might say. Whenever such a line occurs, to have the others call brief attention to themselves will again help the audience feel beneath the surface to the thematic core.
STYLE OF PERFORMANCE:
There are many ways to do such a play, everything from five actors sitting still in their seats and droning their lines, to the most elaborate decoration with action, sound, and color. I have seen the play done in many ways, and it has worked in all of its incarnations.
References such as those referred to above under “Theme” can be made to “flicker” throughout the evening. Realistic bar behavior can go on even when someone is talking.
By and large, there should be no pauses. The characters are talking to no one; they are THINKING!!! Their feelings rise up AS they speak, not in long silences between. In general, try not to pause. That doesn’t mean to rush. Just act ON the lines, not between them. The idea is to sound like five channels on a TV set someone is surfing. Speeches should not start small and build and then disappear. We should always feel we’re coming in right in the middle of a vigorous, meaningful chain of thought.
Nothing will kill the play so fast as having the characters come down center, speak, and then retire, with neat pauses in between for appreciation. As one character ends, the other should begin, right on the breath. The character who has stopped speaking does not need to “freeze.” Often the most desirable effect is that the audience’s attention should go only gradually from one speaker to another, like a “cross-fade” in films.
Done in this manner, and without intermission, the play runs about one hour and forty-five minutes, and has a rich, tapestry-like effect. The actors should listen to, and breathe with, one another. Think of each speech that precedes you as your “entrance music.” Regulate your strength and volume and pace of speech with relation to it. For instance, if the person before you is screaming at the end of a speech and you are supposed to come in quietly, remember that COMPARED TO their volume, you don’t have to come in whispering; you will seem quieter BY CONTRAST if you find the right tempo and pitch. The play should seem more like a roller-coaster ride than a straight road, and more like a musical than a straight play. Take deep breaths and get whole lines, whole speeches out in a flow. Let the music possess you.
There can be many degrees of action and interaction. Remember that as long as the other characters do not react, nothing is really happening, so everyone can go ‘way over the top in movement. Sometimes one of the characters might actually embarrass themselves by speaking some line or exclamation aloud, like Mark’s “I wanted to fight!” or Carla’s “What’s wrong with everybody?” or Wanda’s “Right there beside him, closer than anybody in the world!” or Sparger’s “The end – the end -the end of truth is death.” Or many lines of Rona’s. In such a case, each character must react to these sudden, incomprehensible shouts in the middle of a quiet rainy-day bar IN CHARACTER.
Natural actions like getting drinks, drying clothes, looking out the window or examining the jukebox, making pantomimed telephone calls, changing make-up – all these can be terribly meaningful.
With lights, it is possible to transform the stage into the settings discussed: Mark’s beach, jungle, and jail, Rona’s marches and be-ins, Wanda’s turbulent office, street, and Saint Patrick’s cathedral, Carla’s dressing-room, chorus tryouts, and nightclubs, Sparger’s dismal street and joyous Buffo. This can go as far as the director wishes.
Besides incidental realistic moments which “just happen” to relate to one another’s speeches, if you want to go farther, characters can actually take roles in one another’s pasts. Directors Thomas Herod, Jr. in Dallas, John Chapman in Glasgow, and Joyce Cavarozzi in Wichita have used this device to great effect. The characters can “be” in Wanda’s office, Rona’s marches, Mark’s dances and battles, Sparger’s shows, Carla’s orgies and auditions. There is NO LIMIT to how deeply they can go into these roles. I have used the bartender as all their heroes, as Rona’s Robbie, Sparger’s Buffo, Mark’s Chick, Wanda’s Kennedy, and even Carla’s agent, with rewarding results.
For instance, during Wanda’s new speech to open the second act , the cast enacted the assassination, The bartender being JFK, Wanda being Jackie, Carla a cheering onlooker, Mark the assassin, and Sparger the tree whose limbs he shoots between. It was eerie.
I offer all of these items as suggestions and examples. If you have lots of extra actors, for instance, the bar can have an unlimited real life going on which can fade into any dream or memory you like. Characters can even speak lines of people in one another’s pasts.
I have produced the play with yet another character, a waitress, who took part in all the fantasies.
I hope these notes are helpful. My very best wishes, my thanks for selecting my work, and please send me photos, programs, posters, press, reviews, videotapes — whatever is convenient.
1837 N. Alexandria Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90027
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A NOTE ON MUSIC: In the West End and Broadway productions, The Beatles’ “Help” at its loudest portion ended Act One. Act Two began with The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” and ended with the loudest part of “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie.” In several productions, I have added as an overture to Act One a collage of songs, “Eve of Destruction” or “Universal Soldier” for Mark, “Lola” for Sparger, Marilyn Monroe doing “I Wanna Be Loved By you” for Carla, “Camelot” for Wanda, ending in the ebullient and energizing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” for Rona.
A PLAY IN TWO ACTS
Dedicated to Don Parker.
Revised by the author
is entirely the property of
Samuel French, Inc.
45 West 25th Street – Dept.W
New York, NY 10010
Phone (212) 206-8990
Fax (212) 206-1429
All inquiries concerning, readings, performances, or any other use of this script must be addressed to Samuel French, Inc., and all royalties and fees paid to them. They may require that a certain number of copies of the script as published by them be purchased.
(In Order of Appearance)
The action of the play takes place in Phebe’s, a bar on the Lower East Side of New York, on a rainy February afternoon in 1974.
In the darkness, we hear a RADIO ANNOUNCER’S voice.
I think the Presidential motorcade must be approaching now, because the cheers are growing nearer. It’s a beautiful day here in Dallas, despite a light rain, and the people have turned out by the thousands to welcome their leader. President Kennedy’s political enemies warned that there would be hostilities and riots, but listen to those cheers! Yes, here is the motorcade, and there’s the President’s car; we can tell because you can see Mrs. Kennedy’s pink dress. They’ve left the bubbletop off the limousine in spite of the rain, so they can see the people, and the people can see them, and they love them!
(CROWD noises are suddenly drowned out by two sharp gunshots. Silence. The lights come up on the interior of an American Bar. It is afternoon. Through the barred window we can see that it is raining. The street outside is empty and grim. We see a dilapidated warehouse and a filling station. The bar itself is clean, modern, neither very lush nor very low. Theatrical people and their audiences come here at night, so the walls are littered with gaudy posters and handbills for experimental plays: bright, strong images suggesting Pop-art, protest against war and pollution, transvestitism, drugs, sado-masochism, and sex. The posters are in layers; one should be reminded by this of how many plays there are, how few make it, how many people try to get their images of life across. There is a long bar, several stools, a few isolated tables, a door bearing the sign “Ladies Left, Gents Right,” another leading to the street. There is a jukebox which is not turned on until evening, a great, dark, inert machine. There should be a pay-phone on the wall. Huge racks filled with bottles of wine and whiskey fill the wall behind the bar; the afternoon light slanting through them gives an unreal, shrine-like feeling to the stage.)
For me, it was the most important day of my life. I measure everything as happening before it, or after it. I remember every detail, every instant, every little bit of information as it came in. I was—at my desk. It was— lunchtime. The executives had gone out. I was in a hurry to finish page— 44!—of the—May-June issue of Salon Hair Styles. Oh, not that I wrote it or edited it or anything. I just pasted the captions to the photos before they sent it out to the press. It was an exacting job though; I had to be very neat. One time I smeared some glue, and when we got the covers back for the January-February issue, the model on the cover looked like she had a runny nose. But, anyway, I was pasting up these photos, and the Fashions Editor kept interrupting me to show me her real Chanel suit from Paris—and I had to pretend to be interested because she drank something awful—I didn’t drink in those days—and she was lifting up her skirt to show me how the hemline was kept in place with little chains sewn into the hem—and all I was really thinking about was my raspberry yogurt in the cooler section of the water fountain—and I had just had this horrible affair with this fellow who worked in the stockroom—and he hadn’t shown up for four days—I was feeling really awful. (She looks out the window at the rain.) And I remember, it was a grey, grey day here in New York. And then—all of a sudden—all of a sudden Mr. Kanowsky, the Advertising Sales Manager, came bursting in! He was a little cross-eyed and always looked crazy. Anyway, he came bursting in, red-faced and excited, and he said, “Quick! Turn the radio on! The President’s been shot in Dallas!”
I don’t know why I come in here afternoons. All my underground theatrical friends come in at night. Oh, right; that’s why I come in the afternoons. I hate bars. I get sexy in bars. At least I think so. Alcohol is otherwise a down. Let’s see—I could play a record, but after a while they all look alike. If I were bi-sexual, I could go out onto the street and buy sex. But look, it’s raining! I don’t suppose since the creation of the world, it’s rained at this particular spot more than a couple of trillion times. And to think that after all those Puritans and pioneers and astronauts, I’m here to witness the trillion-and-first! (The BARTENDER sets SPARGER’S drink down noisily. Uninterrupted.) What, me? An award? (Picks up the drink and pretends to read an inscription from it.) ‘For being the trillion-and-first mortal to pass over the bridge from boredom to schizophrenia?’ (Suddenly turning mock-bitch.) I hate bars! Especially on windows! Take those goddamned bars off the window, you creeps. Otherwise we’ll never lure any fresh victims in here!
Well, none of us believed it. I mean, none of us could conceive it. We just sat looking at him, and I guess we thought he was drunk or having palpitations—he was awful fat—and he said, “Did you hear me? Turn on the radio!” So Carrie, the Accounts Payable lady, said, “Now cool it, Mr. Kanowsky, I’ll turn the radio on,” and he got a little frantic and said terrible things to her, and the Fashions Editor said a couple of unpleasant things to him, and they were squabbling with each other right across me, and then Carrie’s radio started up and the newscaster was saying—oh, I want to get this just right—saying, “…reported that three Negroes were seen running from the overpass and two rifles have been confiscated in the immediate area,” and how the President was going to be all right because they got him right to the hospital, and the Dallas Police were throwing a cordon around the entire area. And then suddenly we couldn’t hear any more, because outside it seemed that every auto horn in the city had started blowing, and there was even a crash like somebody had driven right off the street onto the sidewalk, and the phones in the office began to ring—every one of them, all at once, instantly, began to ring!
I’m doing these things with Siamese dancing now, over at the Dada. You know the Dada? It’s a rather well-known underground theatre. It’s the most famous one, as a matter of fact. Of course, that doesn’t make it one-millionth as famous as any chick with her tits and clit spread out in the centerfold of a fuck-book. But, in this tiny little shriveling, shrinking, curdling clot of snot called “theatre,” II Dada is the most famous of the four hundred and twelve underground theatres listed in the Village Voice this week. Which means that if you’re lucky enough to work there for a week, you might pull out with a fast five dollars and play to a house of twelve. Twelve: that’s the number of people, their average age, and the total of their I.Q.’s.
I hate this bar. I wish there was somewhere else to go. I come here day after day and I sit here, drinking for Christ’s sake. I don’t know what else to do. I went ten years without being in a bar, the whole sixties. I mean, I was active then. Now I really don’t know what I’m doing. I have these terrible fights with my husband—Robbie—and I wind up here. We’re both working, when he isn’t shooting up, and we’re trying to save enough money to get a commune trip together. But people are so scared. He’s scared. I come in here and I spend all our money and I can’t even seem to get drunk. And half the time I wind up going home with some black boy. I don’t want you to misunderstand that; I don’t think that black boys are sexier than white men or anything like that. But there are so few straight white boys anymore—and they can mostly take their pick of the younger girls… I’m twenty nine.
Your honor. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Persons of the international media and press. Members of the world court. Officers of the court martial. I will conduct my own defense. I hereby submit my only exhibit: my secret war diary from Viet Nam. (Reading from letter in diary.) Dear Mom, believe it or not, I’m writing to you on pot, Marijuana, what they call pot. “Whew.” I can’t believe it. Everybody here smokes it. The M.P.’s even stand guard on it, and my buddy, Chick, says he even goes into combat high. I don’t see how they do it. I can hardly even write. But they do it. All the time. I keep falling down and they all keep laughing at me and I got very scared at first I thought they were all members of some secret society. I thought the Viet Cong turned them on. Chick says a lot of people get ideas like that at first, but he says he—and a lot of the others—have been pot-smokers, or “heads” as they call it, for a long, long time. I’m scared of being caught. But the weird thing is, I’m even more scared of my buddies. They have been trained to fight and kill. So have I, of course—but they’re giggling and dancing and carrying on. I’m more scared of them than I ever am in action. I’m more scared of them than I am of the Cong. I don’t know what I’m thinking about; I can’t send you this.
(Answers phone.) Hello. Phebe’s. Rehearsal was cancelled tonight? (Hangs up.) I was afraid of that. I should always take roles in several things at once; then you’re covered. I’m an actor. I’m used to acting out other people’s fantasies. Got any fantasies? Are they completely cast? Oh. You’re waiting for a friend. Has he got a friend? Only you. (Sigh.) Look, let’s be modern about this. It’s nineteen seventy four. Valentine’s Day, nineteen hundred, seventy and four. Look, could I come home with the two of you? I’ve always wanted to have sex between two consenting adults! Valentine’s Day? Maybe that’s why the bums on the street are cutting each other’s hearts out!
(Reads from his diary.) Mom. Dear Mom. I’m writing this diary for you of things mat I can’t say in letters. Chick says that writing it all down will be helpful in straightening out my head. I’m down at the beach with Chick and all the other fellas, dancing. You should see us, dozens of us in our underwear, dancing on the beach, making little fires to cook our fish. I’m having experiences I never would have had back home. Your little boy is growing up, Mom. In many ways, this war is a wonderful experience. Oh, I don’t mean that I enjoy it; I think one would have to be a sadist or a masochist to enjoy war. Although I suppose in a way those qualities would be very useful in actual time of war. If there was some way to turn them off. Although if we could turn them off, I suppose there wouldn’t be any war. If we could turn them off in everyone at once. But I mean that I seem to be becoming aware, to be recognizing some of the influences in my life, to understand myself. Chick—Chick is a writer, Mom, a kind of person I always, would you believe it?, used to distrust—Chick says I’m ‘getting my head.’ He says it’s very important not to ‘get your head in a bad place.’ And I said— and this is my first pot joke, Mom; it’s a special kind of humor—I said, “Isn’t Viet Nam a bad place to get your head?”
We all stayed at the office for the whole rest of the day, right into evening, with nobody working—except Carrie, who didn’t have any relatives. The minute you’d hang a phone up, it would ring again, and everybody who called was listening to a different station, and getting a different version, and people from other offices would pop in and tell us what they’d just heard, and one man, a middle-aged, respectable man who ran the yachting magazine in the next office, came in bawling, just crying like a baby, crying, “Oh, my God, it’s a Communist plot, it’s the end of the world!” And the news kept coming in, and you’d get one picture of the whole situation straight in your mind, and then all of a sudden there would be this new piece of information and it would all change, and somebody would break down crying, and they couldn’t find the Vice-President—they thought all the politicians were going to be assassinated and I don’t know what all. And then, at last, very quickly afterwards, not an hour, I think, although it seemed so much longer, they said the President was out of danger and everything was okay. And then the bells started ringing, every church bell in New York started ringing, and we knew that he was dead. (She rises, goes to bar for a refill. After a pause.) I was the first one to say it. I was washing Lena, the Accounts Receivable girl’s face, because she was crying and had smudged ink all over her face, so I was right by her phone when it rang, and I picked her phone up, and it was my mother, saying, “Wanda, come home! He’s going to be all right! They just said so!” And the Fashions Editor fell out of her office with this big drunken smile on her face and a bottle in one hand, yelling, “J.F.K.’s gonna pull through!” And that’s when the bells started ringing. And none of them were Catholic, so they didn’t know what it meant, and they were all smiling and grinning like fools, and I said, “He’s dead. The President is dead. God rest his soul.” (Returns to her table.)
I’m from a little nothing town called Niles, not far from San Francisco? I grew up going to these incredible “Blackboard Jungle” type schools where like ten or twenty percent of the students were on parole? I hated it My parents fought all the time over money and religion. I had a little brother and sister, but 7 was the reader in the family. When I was just a little kid, I was reading Ginsberg and following Martin Luther King in the South and Castro’s revolution in Cuba, and I even lied about my age to join the Students’ Peace Union. It was in—1960—when I was fifteen, when they started the black student sit-in’s in the South, and I thought, “Now it’s starting! Now is the time!” And it was. We marched against Caryl Chessman’s execution—I read a poem I wrote—and we marched against the House UnAmerican Activities, and I was practically a charter member of the SNCC and the SDS. And we all got thrown into jail for trying to organize cafeteria sit-in’s in Niles and Oakland, but we got out, and we went, right off the bat we went, all of us who’d been jailed, right down to Cuba!
I’m not interested in the sixties. I’m not interested in any of these nostalgic eras they’re reviving, to tell you the truth. I mean, what are they really all about? I keep hearing the faggots I know saying, “Oh, but New York now is really Berlin in the thirties again,” or, “Carla, darling, buy some ballerina pumps; if the market takes an upward swing we’re going to be back in the fifties!” But we’re not, you know. That’s just people trying, so desperately, to find some— (Laughs lightly.) “meaning for their own time.” Well! I don’t want to get into anything heavy. This isn’t really the place and that isn’t really what I came for. Besides, I’ve learned—if I’ve learned anything— and I think sometimes I have, I think sometimes that I’ve learned everything—I’ve learned that people don’t want to hear me talk about ideas. People don’t want to hear me talk at all. (Turns to face audience. She is breathtaking.) People want to look at me. (Takes paper flower out of afresh drink.) I hate the goddamned sixties! I hate everything that happened in them and everything that didn’t happen, and I hate what happened to me and what happened to other people! Does that take care of it? Can we agree about the sixties? Okay, let’s just get that clear. They were rotten. They started out rotten and they got worse. I mean! They started out with Marilyn Monroe dying; how good could they get? Well. That’s when they started for me. And look at it out there… raining. I don’t think the seventies are going to be any kind of overwhelming heaven, either, if you want to know what I think. In fact, if you want to know what I think—and I know you don’t— but even if you don’t want to know—because even if you don’t want to know what people think, the sad fact is they’re going to go right on thinking it anyway—what I, me, Carla, me Carla, what I personally, deep down in my own unsubdivided, living, pulsing, throbbing, bloody, real, unknown, unknowable, uncared-for, and utterly unimportant consciousness think—is that the seventies are just the garbage of the sixties!
(To imaginary boy.) My name’s Sparger! What’s yours? Oh, have you? Why, yes, I’ve done a number of things this year. Maybe you’ve seen my name on the wall back there, on some of those stunningly mimeographed flyers for underground theatrical events of interest to the discriminating theatergoer. Let us see— (Looking for the various flyers on the -walls.) I started out the year playing the fixed star Regulus in an astrological Halloween pageant in an abandoned garage, and then I—what’s that? Oh, I always start the year with Halloween; I’m a realist—and then I did a really well-received improvised symphony concert underwater at the YWHA, and then I had a really busy week. At eight o’clock I was the left thumb in a group sensitivity demonstration called “Hands Off” at the Merrymount Episcopal Community Center, and then at ten I played a movie projector with a twinkle-bulb in my mouth in a drag production of “Bonnie and Clyde” at the Mass Dramatists’ Experimental Tavern, and then at the stroke of midnight I was the cathectic focus of a rather tedious telepathic theatre event in the basement of the Yoga Institute. (Cannot find flyer.) Oh, right, that one wasn’t advertised. We all just sat together and tried to draw Clive Barnes to us with the power of prayer. I try to keep busy.
We—that’s Robbie and me— We— That’s always Robbie and me __ we met in Cuba. We spent most of 1961 in Alabama, doing Freedom Rides and voter registration, and we had to learn about passive resistance, believe me. It was hard for Robbie, him being middle-class and all; he wanted to fight back. When the Southern pigs would come at us, we’d curl up in the passive resistance position and—it was hard for him. When they’d hit me, he’d start to uncurl, and I’d yell, “No, Robbie! Remember what Gandhi said!” Because we read all the Indian Philosophy together. We got beat for protesting the Bay of Pigs, and Patrice Lamumba’s assassination—we got thrown out of the U.N. for that one, and they beat us—right up against that wall with the quote from Isaiah about “Beating your swords into plowshares?”—They beat us. We were right in front; you can see us in photographs in the Times, and we stayed in New York for the protest against bomb shelters. For that, they mostly photographed Norman Mailer—but we were there.
Within a few hours—do you remember this?—within a few hours one of the major magazines had a special edition out on the newsstands, and of course, within a few days they all did. Mr. Kanowsky ran around and bought everything, every paper, ever magazine, he tape-recorded the radio stations, he even ran down—as soon as they announced the President was dead—he ran down and bought a color TV set—just ran down and came right back up carrying it. Puffing and red-faced. And we all watched—but it was all just chaos. Mr. Kanowsky has it all in scrapbooks, everything, all the rumors and confusions, and then all the—you know—Oswald stuff— and all the conflicting reports—and he was even taping from the TV later— he didn’t go home for three days—he was even taping the TV soundtrack— when Ruby—did that awful tiling. When he sealed the truth off from us forever by firing a single shot—the lips of the one man who might have told us all about it, closed forever by one single little bullet shot.. .or was it two?
I wanted to be a sex goddess. And you can laugh all you want to. The joke is on me, whether you laugh or not. I wanted to be one—one of them. They used to laugh at Marilyn when she said she didn’t want to be a sex-goddess, she wanted to be a human being. And now they laugh at me when I say, “I don’t want to be a human being; I want to be a sex-goddess.” That shows you right there that something has changed, doesn’t it? Rita, Ava, Lana, Marlene, Marilyn—I wanted to be one of them. I remember the morning my friend came in and told us all that Marilyn had died. And all the boys were stunned, rigid, literally, as they realized what had left us. I mean, if the world couldn’t support Marilyn Monroe, then wasn’t something desperately wrong? And we spent the rest of the goddamned sixties finding out what it was. We were all living together, me and these three gay boys that adopted me when I ran away, in this loft on East Fifth Street, before it became dropout heaven—before anyone even said “dropout”—way back when “commune” was still a verb? We were all—old-movie buffs, sex-mad—you know, the early sixties. And then my friend, this sweet little queen, he came in and he passed out tranquilizers to everyone, and told us all to sit down, and we thought he was just going to tell us there was a Mae West double feature on somewhere—and he said—he said—he said—”Marilyn Monroe died last night”—and all the boys were stunned—but I—I felt something sudden and cold in my solar plexus, and I knew then what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be the next one. I wanted to be the next one to stand radiant and perfected before the race of man, to shed the luminosity of my beloved countenance over the struggles and aspirations of my pitiful subjects. I wanted to give meaning to my own time, to be the unattainable luring love that drives men on, the angel of light, the golden flower, the best of the universe made womankind, the living sacrifice, the end! Shit!
(To imaginary boy.) When this Siamese dancing thing is over—if it doesn’t make Broadway—I’m supposed to tour fourteen widely-distributed colleges with an all-male musical of “Lysistrata”—in Lebanese dialect. Unless I get cast in the Amphetamine Theatre’s new production of the Third World War. It might be smart to get into that; I think the Third World War is coming back. According to my friends in the Third World. The only thing is, they don’t want us to be in anything else for the entire rehearsal period of two years. Still, it would be something to do, and that’s the important thing. If I don’t get into something really time-consuming pretty soon, my liver is going to wind up inflammable—like a plum pudding. Alcohol is supposed to kill brain-cells. The trouble is, it’s not selective enough. It doesn’t necessarily get the right ones.
By 1962, people were beginning to say the word “student” with fear? European visitors told us how students had always been a political force in Europe—but we were the first like that in America. We were something terrifically exciting and frightening. We were America’s big chance for change—everybody’s chance for change. On the national level, you’d have things happening like the Cuban missile crisis, when for the first time, Americans ran through their big cities with the skies full of police helicopters, afraid of real:—not science-fiction—but real, possible, immediate attack. It seemed they had to wake up. And for me—us—personally, it was the time when Robbie and I went to Harvard and learned about L.S.D. For the first time, Robbie saw clearly how society is just a structured game that sucks the individual up for its own uses. I think until then he’d been just doing things for me, y’know? But acid freed him, and allowed him to enlist himself fully for the cause. We were married—really married—by Leary himself, and we went, we’d go, the two of us, down by the riverside in Boston, and we’d sleep with, fuck with, anybody, soldiers, salesmen, if they’d take L.S.D. with us. Oh, that was the great time of drugs, the time when they were breaking the chains of lies and prejudice and television over Robbie’s mind—over both our minds—over everybody’s minds. Hallucinogens showed us how we contained the seed of all things, good and evil, within ourselves, and helped us to decide to make ourselves forces for good!
:Mom! If I’m going to write these things I really should be writing them in the sand for the sea to wash away, because I’m very, very afraid of this diary being found. But I want to have it for later, the changes in my head are happening so fast that I want to keep track of them. But words don’t seem to go fast enough. That letter I mailed you today was full of lies—no, not lies, it just can’t tell you what it’s like! That TV news you saw me on—that was a little village, one of dozens we’ve—liberated—and you should see the natives getting all their possessions into a bundle in just minutes, and then pile the bundle on their heads and run through the streets whenever we—or the Cong—start closing in. They should be pretty good at evacuating by now, I guess, because it is important to remember—It is! Very important to remember!—that this little country—arbitrary division on the map—has been the battleground for ten thousand years for every culture that has ever arisen to dominate the world. That is why it is absolutely vital-istically essential that all the United Nations bring all their troops together face-to-face here! So we can put an end to war!
I couldn’t go on working in that kind of job any more, after it happened. I remember the next night, walking along Broadway, and how weird it was to see the theatres all closed—and all these hundreds of color photographs of J.F.K. in the store windows. Somebody must have made a fortune selling those photographs because they were everywhere instantly—or maybe people had had them all along and you just didn’t notice them. It was like— like the sun had begun to eclipse. People were staggering around the city, really, like people after an atomic attack in the movies. Everyone was scared of a chain of assassinations, or a war, but by the next day, nobody was afraid any more. That had passed, and it had become just—disbelief. In Saint Patrick’s cathedral—or outside it, I never got in, the crowds were so big—hundreds of thousands of people were saying prayers for him. The whole world had loved him, you see, so much. The entire human race went into mourning. Kings and queens came to his funeral. All the TV channels had the same things on for four whole days. They even gave us the day off to watch.
I wanted to be beautiful. I was. I am. I wanted to be kind. I don’t think I’ve ever been anything less. I wanted to be fun. You tell me. I dress well. I have a good figure. I have a witty little line of polite chat that nevertheless never fails to reveal a terrible vulnerability underneath. And I’m smart. I had before me the whole chart of Marilyn’s mistakes. I could guide myself by her and avoid the pitfalls that befell her. I had it knocked. I could even act I knew writers, painters, photographers. I was liberated. I liked men. I liked a couple of them a lot. I knew how to—manipulate them. I set out with a ruthless plan to do men good. There was only one thing I failed to take into account I think. If you want to know what I think. And that was that, what with the various film journals, movie magazines, news-wire services, television documentaries, re-release facilities, celebrity postcards, calendars, and endorsement ads, memorabilia shops, movie still collectors, fan clubs, scrapbook keepers, pin-up enthusiasts, gossip columnists, biographers, and original soundtrack recordings, there were about fifty million people exactly like me. Fifty million little media-manufactured racial subconsciousnesses that had systematically, for at least my fifteen years of earthly existence, been subjected, as nearly as conglomerate marketing practices could swing it, to precisely the same arrogant, idealistic input as I. And the day after Marilyn died, fifty million little boys and girls rose up with one overweening, overwhelming, irresistible, indefatigable ambition: to be the next Marilyn Monroe. And every dirty old man, cross-eyed agent, horny hairdresser, fingerfucking photographer, plastic playwright, demented director, urgent acting teacher, many-handed manager, oral office boy, anal choreographer, phallic vocal coach, orgiastic dress designer, and every other form of unlaid, opportunistic, scaly, slimy, sleazy son of a bitch in this nation’s great metropolitan casting centers, suddenly found him—or her—or themselves deluged under ten million tons of automated, undulating, available, eager MEAT!
(To imaginary boy.) Fucking rain. I knew a boy once who could count raindrops. He said. Nobody could refute him on that. He was a director. He had the audience enter one show crawling on all fours and when they got into the pitch-black theatre, they were hit in the face with a big sack full of., .but you probably saw it. Yes, I was in it. I think. I’m not sure. I don’t know. I can’t remember. I’ve been in so many shows now where the audience crawled in on all fours and got hit in the face with a big sack of— something. He inspired confidence, though—this boy. The raindrop watcher. Of course, anyone can nowadays. People are so ready to believe anything you tell them. For instance, if I were to tell you I wasn’t always like this, you’d probably believe me, wouldn’t you? My God, you would? But only on condition that I’m willing to believe that you weren’t always the way you are? Okay, it’s a deal. I believe you were different once. I believe everything was different once. I believe it was all the same once too. That’s all I know to believe in now: that everything happens again and yet again, in great logarithmic cycles—like psychedelic swallows returning to corporeal Capistranos—or like water sloshing back and forth, back and forth, for all eternity, in some celestial bathtub. After all, you’ve got to believe in something, now that the underground is just an echo chamber and the flower children have all turned into fruits.
Down South, in nineteen sixty-three, we didn’t feel alone anymore because we could hear our own music, Dylan and all the blessed others, starting to happen. We were, all the young, reaching out to each other through wild, crazy, means like that: the top ten charts, and our hair, and the way we dressed. I got taken for Dylan once. And the other side knew something was happening, but they couldn’t figure out what. They fired Leary from Harvard, and they killed Kennedy, sure, but they couldn’t stop what’d started. The same week as the Kennedy assassination—the first one—that very same week, The Beatles released “I Wanna Hold Your Hand!” Boys began evading the draft, a lot, and we all became aware of that mindless horror going on under our name in Viet Nam! And we marched! For peace and civil rights and everything we marched. I don’t know how many marches we were on. We’d hitchhike or take busses and trucks and travel anywhere to march. In blazing summer cities, blinded by flashbulbs, we’d walk, chilled by a wind we made by walking, a river of long-haired heads rippling down all the avenues, and between the flashbulbs we’d see blue! policemen and black! policedogs and green! soldiers and grey, grey faces. And we’d wave at the faces with the free hand that wasn’t helping hold a banner. And we’d read the slogans on the banners backwards from the sun shining through: “WAR MORE NO!” “PEOPLE THE TO POWER!” and “ONE ALL ARE WE!” And we’d ripple and roll that river into the centers of tremendous towns, and there, in blinking lights around the tops of famous towers, letters of flashbulb fire said: “MILLIONS MARCH!”
Mom! I want to tell you about war, things nobody ever says about it. I understand war, now. I have to do it in this diary because they read our mail, and besides, I think the beach may be bugged. See, we have these men hiding in the jungle waiting to kill us. Well, so have they, of course, they have us waiting to kill them. Because we have invaded their country. But we were only trying to get earlier invaders out. But they were only trying to get still earlier invaders out. I don’t know where it started. I don’t know where it ends. I—I got mad tonight and kicked over the little temple one of the fellas was building out of seashells in the sand. I said, “You killed a man today, Buster, I saw you. You ran him through with your bayonet and kicked him under the philodendron like my mother has back home. You can’t kill a man in the morning and then spend the evening building little seashell temples in the sand. And I wanted to fight I wanted to fight! I WANTED TO FIGHT!… But then I couldn’t. Fighting is so awful. Chick! Chick gave me a Librium and talked to me until I calmed down. Chick is— wow!—wonderful, Mom. He laughs when I say it, but he is my spiritual advisor. I’m getting very spiritual, Mom. Chick is turning me on to Oriental religion.
(To imaginary boy.) Naw, I don’t get confused rehearsing for a lot of things at once. When I get confused is when I don’t have any rehearsals to go to—like now. I start drinking, looking around for somebody to get into —as it were. Naw, I can work twenty-four hours a day if I have to, and still come out looking good. I always come out looking good, no matter what piece of shit I’m in. Yeh, they’re all shit. You liked it? You liked the one last week, the one with the big ^pitting scene? You liked that, huh? Tell me, did you read the review be; re you saw it? The one that said it was “symbolic of things that couldn’t be expressed any other way?” I figured you had. Look, would you mind moving away? If I’m going to talk to a brick wall I’d rather talk to a real one. I’m phony enough for two. I said fuck off, freak! You think because you buy me a drink you can bore me? You could have bored me just as much without buying me the drink! More, in fact! Move on! I’d rather sleep with myself. I’d rather not sleep at all than sleep with you. I’d rather talk to myself, anyway. (Looks around. Boy has disappeared. Sheepishly.) Oh, right; I am.
It’s ridiculous to talk about an event like that from the point of view of somebody like me. I mean, what difference does it make in the long run how I felt about it? I used my savings to finish another year at CCNY— that’s City College of New York—enough so that now I have my temporary teaching certificate and can work as a substitute teacher. I just thought—if all of us who believed in him don’t go out and try to do some good, then his death was completely^-completely in vain. Oh, of course I’m not comparing my little contribution to what he might have done if he had lived. If he had lived, he would have stopped the war. If he had lived, he would have solved the race problem. If he had lived, he would have found some way to bring us all together. I know that there are people who are cynical who say he didn’t accomplish much in those—”Thousand Days”—but I always say to people like that, I say (With mounting anger.) “Oh, yes? Yes? Yes? Oh, yes? And exactly what have you accomplished?”
I threw myself, at fifteen, with a sense of mission so strong it would have made Joan of Arc’s look like a whim, I threw myself into Manhattan’s lap —head first. I bought a subscription to Show Business and a subscription to Backstage and I borrowed fifteen cents for the subway and I went to all the casting calls. There were an awful lot of pretty girls in New York then. At least then they were all girls. We’d all line up, all pert and prettified, and do whatever we were told to do, like good bad little girls. “Smile!” “Stand up straight.” “Smile!” “Swell your chests.” “Smile!” “Look left/’ “Smile!” “Look right.” And I’d look left and I’d see the backs of the heads of a lot of pretty girls looking left. And I’d look right and see the backs of the heads of a lot of pretty girls looking right. So, I got a job as a go-go girl at the Metropole. We still wore bras then. I had resume photographs made and sent them out to all the important agents. I met an awful lot of important agents. I went out with several of them—once. I sent out more photos. I met a lot of unimportant agents. I met a big columnist. He said he wanted to put my face in his column—and vice versa. I.. .ran out of pictures. But—I found a guy who’d do my photos for free—//I’d do a number with him in the back of his shop. Only, we weren’t yet calling it “doing a number,” then; we called it “pussycatting.” We were—what was that word? Oh, yes: “swingers.” He was young and cute. I was young and cute. It was an exchange of favors. It was also an exchange of favors with the guy who did my hair. And the guy who gave me hats. And—why not admit it?—with the woman who supplied me with jewelry. Costume jewelry. We were young professionals helping each other. Those people were getting an awful lot of that kind of help from girls like me. And we were getting very professional. Well! I never walked the streets. And I never worked a bar. And I never rode around Times Square in a taxicab wearing nothing but a mink coat. Although they’d probably welcome that as a return to good breeding, compared with the junkies who are doing the Times Square whoring nowadays. Because that’s what we were—rolled-up copy of Backstage or not— whores! How do you think I got that job at the Metropole? Through character references? Get real, girl.
The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t always like this. Maybe people just weren’t meant to live in the present. Meant? By whom? Who cares? Sure, I used to live in the present. According to science we all used to live underwater, too. But we adapted! We just haven’t adapted to the present yet. Not till we grow asbestos filters in our nostrils. And learn to live on mono-sodium glutamate. And survive six inches of steel shoved up us in every other doorway. And ignore the pangs of dread and empathy and guilt that paralyze us whenever we see some human being, reduced to a lump of mucus, come wobbling towards us with his ragged, flaking hand held out, muttering and blubbering and slobbering, “Help me! Help me! Help me! For God’s sake, somebody please help me!” Uh-oh. I’m thinking about things I don’t want to think about. I’m too drunk too early. I’m trying to stay off drugs. I haven’t got anything left to stop up the back of my brain and I’m having a memory hemorrhage! I’m remembering it all again! I’m remembering! I’m having an attack of the truth! It’s coming at me, and it is me, the truth, I’m sitting here in a public place, seeping and sopping and soaking and reeking with truth. And the end—the end–the end of truth—is death! (He runs off urgently to the gents’.)
:Dear Buddha. The Cong I killed today had in his pockets—which I searched, for nothing must be wasted, right? The Cong—the man I killed today had in his pockets a tiny little red lacquered capsule, looking like a shotgun cartridge from my country, Buddha—and in it, what do you think he had? You whom they call the All-Knowing One, what do you think he had in his pocket, Buddha? What do you think he also rolls into a little paper cylinder or sifts into a pipe and burns and inhales into his lungs before he can work up the courage to come into battle against me, All-Seeing, All-Forgiving, Omnipotent, Omniscient Buddha? Which I should have known, which I should have seen but in order to find out which, I had to propel a ragged atom of burning metal into his irreplaceable heart. And kill him? And loot his body? Isn’t that a little extreme? Buddha! Must men die so that other men can see that all men are truly the same? Must each man kill a man before he can see that other men are only men like him and no man must kill? Wasn’t Christ enough? Huh? If everybody has to kill a man before he can see that all men are one, then finally all men will be one, because there’ll only be one man left! And then will that man be saved? Do we for God’s sake all have to be tortured and robbed and exploited and die so that one last man can finally be saved?
The Black Rebellion, of course, was all that really seemed to matter in 1964. There were the riots in Harlem and Robbie called his mother in Wisconsin and said could we come there because New York looked dangerous. And she said, sure—if he’d cut his hair. I mean, by her he could die if his hair was the wrong length. So we went to my family in Niles, and my little sister took one look at us and ran screaming into a corner of their mobile home, and I said, “What’s wrong?” and she said, “You’re hippies, you’ll hurt me,” and I said, “Hippies—” (I hate that word!) “Hippies don’t hurt people,” and she said, “Yes, they do; I see them on the television all the time fighting with the police!” I mean! It didn’t seem possible, but the same thing was happening to millions of us. Our own parents were saying to us, “Knuckle under or die. In the streets. Alone.” And we started to learn what love really meant. It meant caring for one another, literally, feeding and clothing and sheltering one another. People were living together wherever they could, in tenements and lofts and basements. There started being soup kitchens in some cities, and free stores. Robbie was very upset, he got sort of obsessed with the Kennedy assassination—the first one—and he read every word of the Warren Report and all the books that followed, and there were dozens. He even took a trip to the spot where it happened in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, just so he could see the place on acid. He got into this really male, paranoid, militaristic thing about how the underground was being infiltrated by FBI and CIA men.. .but I—I was into making music to go with my poetry, a good vibrations trip. I started spending a lot of my time on my clothes and jewelry, lots of people were, it was a movement, things like that, fads and signals would just happen cross country. It was as if a wave of love and beauty was everywhere, growing and becoming strong. They tried to make them halt political activity altogether on the campus at Berkeley. I mean, imagine, Berkeley! Where the first atom was split! But we were used to that sort of opposition by now. The Free Speech Movement arose—I marched—and life itself was like a march to the new music that was sweeping the world now, not just from America but from England, too, the young of the world were uniting under the flag of individual freedom. And they were going to tell us what to do with our lives? Sell us to a system? Tell us what we could take into our bodies, even? We showed them! Robbie and I were pushing speed on the streets at the lowest possible prices —and working part-time in a People’s Drug Rehabilitation Center, too. We were building our own counter-culture. It looked as if, maybe, at last, right here on this planet, and right in our own lifetime—civilization had finally begun!
END OF ACT ONE
I have a dream—well, I used to have it—I don’t have it anymore—it’s a silly dream. It takes place in Dallas, on that day, and we see Jack .and Jackie getting off the plane—it’s like a movie. And they get in the car, and they’ve left the top off in spite of the rain. And you can hear cheers and music, and they wave at the crowd. And as she turns her head back and forth you see first her smiling face, and then her little pink hat And now the car pulls in to Dealey Plaza, in front of the Texas School Book Depository, and then it cuts, just like a movie, it cuts to a window in the Book Depository and you see this shadowy figure looking through a rifle—and then you see through the rifle, you see J.F.K.’s head—and then you cut to a tree full of birds and you hear two shots—and all the birds flutter up out of the tree—and you hear Governor Connelly in the car say “Speed up the car, driver!” And then this big hand, Jack’s hand, reaches out and pats the Governor on the shoulder and his voice, Jack’s voice, says, “No need to speed up the car, Governor Connelly; I got the poor deluded Commie dupe.” And you see this figure with the rifle falling from the window. And you see Jack blowing into a pistol like in the movies, and Jackie hugs him, she hugs the President, and she says, “Oh, Jack!” And bands play and people cheer— It’s just a dream I have—used to have. I told you it was silly.
(SPARGER re-enters from the gents’, shaken and pale. He takes his coat, throws some money on the bar. The BARTENDER takes the money, totals SPARGER’S tab, rings it up, hands SPARGER his change. SPARGER starts toward the exit. Suddenly he turns and speaks defiantly.)
The truth is I used to know a place that was better. It was a little hole-in-the-wall West Village coffeehouse called the Opera Buffo. We did plays. We made a living by peddling coffee and pastries and greasy sandwiches, and twice a night we did plays. We. I was one of us. Them. There. Then. The Buffo! It was the first place that did that, the first place where we got together and did plays without worrying about whether we were going to be a hit, or get a review, or become a star, or take it to Broadway, or get a grant, or anything else in God’s forsaken gonorrhea-green underworld except whether we wanted to do it. We got away with it by calling it a coffeehouse, but what it was—was a temple. I was sixteen—and I was bleeding. I was naked from the waist down. Three sailors had picked me up on the New Jersey Turnpike and when they found out I wasn’t a real girl, they got tough. I was a mixed-up kid. They mixed me up a little more. They tore off my skirt and worked me over with my Scarlett O’Hara cork-sole wedgies and left me face down on a Greenwich Village side-street—on a set of rusty mattress springs. I started at the bottom. So had the sailors. I don’t think I could ever have gotten up if I hadn’t heard this music. Some dippy music, classical music—opera! Opera, it was. I was shaken and sick and my lower lip was torn by the mattress springs, and I was covered with blood and shit and come, and I thought I’d lost my left eye and at first I thought I was hearing offstage death music like some Tennessee Williams character, and I wanted to get up and run for it, but first I had to get up, and then I was up, and I could blurrily see cars and people passing at both ends of this one-block long side-street—and the only thing I could think of was this old gay bum that used to hang out behind a diner where I come from in Jersey, and how, if we kids would give him a cigarette butt he’d cackle and tell us about his shock therapy at Bellevue, only he couldn’t pronounce the “B” and the “V” and it would come out “Wellewue,” and I realized that that’s what they’d do to me if they caught me staggering around half-naked and I saw this cop’s silhouette at one end of the street like a penguin piggy-bank, and I started dragging myself along the street like an alligator, groveling toward that music—some soprano cracking the top of her skull with high notes and pretty soon I reached a dreary doorway where I could stand, and I was by then, believe me, in no shape for the senior prom. I couldn’t breathe, for instance, and I thought it was all over until I discovered that the sailors had left two poppers shoved up my nose, which was where most of the blood was coming from, and I sneezed those out so I could breathe a little, and, well, what the hell, death was better than Wellewue any way I figured it, so I took a parody of a deep breath and then I kept on crawling down the colorful West Village walls toward that looping, soaring sound, and I wasn’t helped any by the fact that the place the sounds were coming from had a lot of blinking colored lights out front —I could hardly focus—and I heard this funny sound which was, as it turned out, me, whimpering like a sick kitten. So I put a stop to that right quick and kept on crawling the walls toward Disneyland or whatever it was, because now I had a goal in life: to reach that joint and stop that infernal screeching. So! Half-stripped! And bleeding at the ass like Dylan Thomas! In my taupe turban with the wooden grapes raiding! I trailed gore right up that ditzy damned street until I stood, wavering, in front of this—unlikely!—place with the name “Opera Buffo” across the front doors hi green-and-gold glitter. And I fell against the doors, and the doors fell open, and I would have fallen, too, if my turban hadn’t got caught in a mobile hanging over the entrance. So there I was, clawing at my hair and yelping, and then these shadowy figures at the rear of this empty, insane coffeehouse stood up and started towards me—and there were these little flickering little ice-cream lights everywhere, and the walls were layers deep in magazine pages and movie posters and classical reproduction—and the people were dressed like a circus clown, and one like something out of the Hitler Youth Movement, with this glittering necklace of swastikas, and another like a Romany Gypsy—and on this little stage in the middle a blonde girl like Botticelli’^ Venus was doing a dance with a quadruple amputee—and I thought I had flipped. But then the circus clown, Buffo, came into the light—and he had this little bristly beard and the biggest eyes you ever saw—and he said, in this atrociously phony Italian accent, “Start-a da show again, Bambini; we hooked-a customer!” And I screamed “Stop the goddamned music! Stop it!” And he saw what I looked like and he yelled, “Stop-a da Casta Diva? Dat’s-a not a lady-like-a way to talk!” By then the Hitler Youth started freeing my hair from the mobile. And I shrieked at him, “Listen, lay off the lasagna, gimme some pants!/” And then my hair was free and I ran, God knows with what strength I ran the length of that incredible place right across the stage I ran, right between the blonde and the amputee to the record player, and I took that record, and I smashed it, and I smashed the pieces, and I danced on them, and then I fell backwards, right into the arms of the Nazi and the Gypsy and the Corsican Clown, and on the crumbling ceiling was the James Montgomery Flagg poster saying, “Uncle Sam Wants You!” And the clown—Buffo—said, “Mama Mia, here’s another one, and us not making enough to feed ourselves.” Because you see, right then, immediately, he knew, for certain, that I was always—always—going to stay.
Looking back to the first time I heard about him—and her—I remember that they had found a way of life that seemed.. .possible, a way of life we could all imitate. He worked so hard. He was inspiring, encouraging, and of course, so handsome and young—young for a President. And she… Well, I was always very fond of her, too. I don’t look well, dressed the way she dressed, and I think maybe she let their publicity people—they had their own publicity people, you know—I think maybe she did let those advisors talk her into looking, well, maybe a little less distinguished than she might have looked. The Fashions Editor used to say, before it happened—and even afterwards—she’d look at pictures of Jackie and she’d day, “She looks like a collage of Doris Day’s wardrobe, Elizabeth Taylor’s makeup, and Natalie Wood’s hairdo.” I don’t think that was kind. I’m sure if she had been a private person, Jackie would have dressed with more restraint and taste. But after all, she was our ambassadrix to the world and I suppose she had to dress in a way that would appeal to people in the mass.
Mom—I want you to give this to the newspapers in case I am killed. This is what I really feel. The world must be one world, Mom. Take my word for it That is why I continue the war. If I did not, the Viet Cong would overrun the world. I am afraid of their leaders. I am afraid of our leaders, too, but at least I know what their aims are—I think. Chick is helping me. He says, “We can’t not fight because then we would be killed and die for the sake of others’ causes.” But we are killing men for the sake of ours! Chick says, “We must not think of it that way.” He says, “We must only fight to save our own individual lives and not for any cause.” But doesn’t that mean making your own life your cause? Chick says, “Don’t get caught up in verbal definition games; just stay alive and don’t lay anything on anybody else.” He says, “It is beyond our control.” But I am deceiving Chick, Mom. I am fighting for a cause—I am fighting to make the world one. But isn’t that what the other side wants? Isn’t that what every one of the other sides wants? Maybe it doesn’t matter what people believe as long as they all believe the same thing. But what thing? I must finalize which of the available mutually exclusive alternative one worlds I want to make. But in the meantime, I must love everybody, and I must kill the men that come at me every day and night out of the jungle. That is what you say. That is what Chick says. That is what Buddha says when I let him give me a vision. And that is what I say. I don’t understand it I’ll do it. I’ve been doing it. I did it today. I’ll keep on doing it. But I don’t understand… Chick understands.
(Fast, aggressive, like an organizer.) In 1964 the blacks were standing on street corners saying that if Goldwater was elected, there’d be riots? Well, he wasn’t, and there were riots, anyway, more than you know. In 1965 I saw cops and blacks killing each other on my block in New York, and there wasn’t a word about it in the papers. It was up to us to see that people knew what was going down. Robbie and I were on the Selma-to-Montgomery march; I have pictures of us with Dick Gregory and Martin Luther King. Watts blew up, they started the bombing in Viet Nam, people had to know! We were living our lives in front of television cameras. It was all you read about. I don’t know how we lived or ate. I slept on the floor of this mud hut in Alabama beside Shirley MacLaine—it was incredible. But Robbie got deep into political reading, and he and a lot of the cats, and a lot of the chicks, too, were for a violent revolution. But American kids weren’t raised for that; they’d start bomb factories and half the time they’d blow themselves up! Besides, killing and violence were in direct opposition to the basic message of the Beatles and Donovan and Dylan and the Doors and the Dead! Like I finally had to say to Robbie: Look. If you really believe in reincarnation, you want to make the world a better place—for the next time you come back.
:We were dancing on the beach when they came at us out of the dark. We were all on mescaline and I thought it was the Cong, but it was the M.P.’s. They flashed lights in our eyes, and beat us, and took us in. I saw them grab Chick, but I didn’t interfere. I knew it was wrong to interfere. I should not fight for others. He wasn’t fighting for me. Why should he? Or is he a coward? Am I? Has he made me a coward? But we both killed today! Why didn’t we kill the M.P.’s and run off into the woods and join the runaway Cong? Because you can’t take sides, right? Right. But then—what are we still killing Cong in the morning for?
There was this other thing happening, this “now” generation, “flower children,” “youth rebellion” bit. I was down here where it was happening, but I had sort of started this other riff going, you know, the uptown career bit, and, well, once you start the little dominoes toppling, it’s kind of hard to stop them; you feel not unlike an idiot. My friends downtown were doing peace marches and amphetamines—you know—and I was nightclubbing and first-nighting and—sleeping around. I knew an awful lot of people. I really did. I really do. I can pick up the phone and spend the night with any number of famous people from the forties and fifties—if I want to. I never went to bed with anybody for a role—that’s true. I never got any roles, either. I don’t say I didn’t mink of it. In fact, well, I did, sort of, once. There was this agent. He wasn’t too bad. Well, he was, but I had been doing this bit in this crummy nightclub, dressed in a sequined corset, introducing the acts on amateur night—there were a lot of them, too—and this agent had started wining and dining me. He was—nice. He kept saying he wanted to help me, but he couldn’t cast me unless I slept with him, because he’d feel I was taking advantage of his tender feelings for me. So one night I decided—well—I had a few drinks to work myself up to it—then a few more, and then we got back to my place and we had a few more, and then we got into bed, and I got on top of him, and I leaned over, and he breathed in my face, and—I—threw—up. (She goes politely, if a little unsteadily, off to the ladies’.)
When they were alive—I mean when she was alive—when he was alive, you could never resist reading about them. He could read a half-dozen books a day, and he had been a war hero, too. They even made a movie about it with that actor, Clifford Robertson, who later won an Oscar! And, you know, it was him that popularized the James Bond Books. It’s true. They weren’t that popular at all until he mentioned to a reporter that he liked them and then, well, do you remember how suddenly everyone was reading James Bond? And even today those movies are making millions of dollars. And she was very responsible for starting a certain “look” among young women. Politician’s wives since her have all tried to dress nicely. And, oh, do you remember that record, “The First Family?” That was so popular. It had all sorts of jokes—good-natured jokes, really—about him and her and his brothers and just everybody. Drugstores and supermarkets had stacks of it beside their cash-registers. And he wrote books, too, and one of them won the Pulitzer Prize, really, when he was still just a Senator. It even made it into paperback! And she, when she was still just a student, she won the Vogue Magazine Prix de Paris for her article on “My Favorite Artists I Would Most Like To Have Known From The Past.” They were remarkable people! Everything they touched turned to gold!
:They released us. I don’t know why. I don’t know why they arrested us. I don’t know “why” anything. But I can answer the question that I asked before. The reason it is all right to kill in battle but not to resist authority like all those misguided pacifists are doing back home is that it is all right to protect yourself but not all right to take sides. I know this is what Chick has been trying to tell me all along, although he is too smart to talk about it any more, because now they are onto us. But I have found that I now know what Chick is thinking at all times. I know that he is thinking that we will have to be very quiet when we go back to the beach. Because we are going back. Because we have to. To stay sane. Right? Right, Mom? Right, Buddha? Right, Chick? Right.
By 1966, we were more or less settled on the Lowest East Side here, studying Mao, and the streets were starting to be pretty full of these—well, sort of, insincere kids. I mean, they were television addicts, they were middle-class kids, they read about the revolution in color pages in Time magazine, they were just after fun and dope and sex and funny clothes, or astrology and the 7 Ching—it was a vacation for them. And the marches here would start out as marches for something and just wind up as hate-rallies: hate Johnson, hate soldiers, hate whites, hate grape-growers! We left here and went to San Francisco, where it was physically better to live. Dope and acid had made us sensitive to the environment, and an awful lot of kids who weren’t used to slums and ghettos were overdoing hard drugs. We crossed the country by car—thousands did! And along the way we’d stop at universities where they were—God!—starting on acid and burning draft cards and armories, getting heavy into civil rights. A new web of communication had grown up everywhere now, through our music. The Beatles were openly putting hidden political messages in their songs. We’d made mistakes in New York, sure—but California was a second chance. When we hit San Francisco again it was like a new world! The streets—the streets of Haight-Ashbury were a carnival: it was Oz and Hollywood and Mars! Incredibly young people, tripping and digging each other and dying to live! The big Be-In—the first Be-In they called a Be-In, in 1967— That was the peak!
Buffo was a ballet dancer who got too fat. So he opened a coffeehouse with the idea that his dance friends could use a place to congregate. Well, he picked such a dumb location that nobody came. He couldn’t go home— you’re not supposed to be a Sicilian and a ballerina—so his Family kept the place going to keep him out of sight. Anyway, after I made my ungainly entrance, Buffo found a Red Cross Nurse outfit and made the Hitler Youth number wear it to take care of me. Except Corso, the Hitler Youth, changed the Red Cross to a swastika, and pasted tear-shaped jewels under his eyes when he changed my bandages. Well, nothing that I needed very badly was broken, so I was on my feet in a week, and Buffo swore that I’d be “tap-a dancing” again, which was a joke, because his favorite people were the Rockettes. But I secretly studied tap from a twenty-five cent Fred Astaire secondhand paperback, and one night, before the nine o’clock show, I announced to three N.Y.U. students and a Caribbean astrologer that there would be a brief prologue that evening, and I signaled Corso to put on “Mack the Knife,” and then I proceeded to do my two time-steps alternately for fifteen minutes. Biting my tongue. Well, the audience was understandably transfixed, but Buffo, when he came out of shock, ran on stage and announced that next week I would do the “full-a four-hour version.” Then he hit me in the face with a pie. I poured ketchup over his head. He slapped me in the face with a raw fish. I tap-danced on his toes. He went on point and pirouetted. The blonde and the amputee got tired of waiting and came onstage and went into their dance. We weren’t about to stop, so Buffo let me have it with every insult in the “operatic-a-reper-a-tory,” and I countered with every wisecrack I remembered from four million 1930’s Glenda Farrell musicals. And, as fate would have it, a critic from the Village Voice was there that night—looking for deaf-mute boys—and he wrote us up that week as the latest thing in Dray-mah. And the next thing we knew, we had to hire a waiter! The reviewers came back and then we had to hire a dish-washer, who had to be a frustrated set-designer, and a host, who had revolutionary ideas in costuming, lighting, and menu layout And somewhere in there the middle sixties must have passed, because I think it was in nineteen sixty-six when I had a day off—in the hospital—that I realized there were one hundred and twenty-five underground theatres listed in the papers, that three of our playwrights had books coming out, and one was on Broadway, and one had a TV show, and another had bleeding ulcers—that was me—and that was the only time I had off in all those years, because right about then, the vultures—not, not vultures. Vultures eat dead things. Something that eats living things. Hyenas? No. Piranhas? Yes, piranhas. Right about then, the piranhas moved in.
He was from a wealthy family, of course, but they had made their money themselves, and they were still, you know, rough, charming, brawling Irishmen, whereas she was from very “old money” as they call it, and she would have been a career girl, a photographer, if they hadn’t met. They were so happy. They loved that musical “Camelot,” the story of a distant, beautiful, forgotten kingdom where there was always sunshine and justice. Camelot. “Don’t let it be forgot, That once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, That was known as Camelot.” Camelot. I think maybe we all had a glimpse of Camelot—once—just once—in our own lifetime—before it crumbled.
Two Cong came out of the sea onto our beach tonight, Buddha, or Chick, or Mom, or whoever you are. They came out of the darkness in little wet loincloths. They gave me pot in those little lacquered capsules. We gave them some of ours. We smiled at one another and walked arm in arm along the beach. We showed them our great seashell temple. Not a word was said. We will kill them in the morning if we must. And they will us. I do not hate them nor, I feel, do they hate me, but Chick says I must remember that you cannot tell another’s feelings. There is no way to know. They slipped back into the sea. And they disappeared.
I get 1967 and 1968 confused. They jailed Huey Newton, they shot Martin and Bobby, they murdered those three black students, Columbia blew up, and the cops cut the boy’s long hair on the streets in Paris—France. But there was the Pentagon March, somewhere in there. It wasn’t like the news-reels. I mean, there were a lot more people there than they said, and the percentage of violence was a lot smaller. It just seemed like some of our boys were into running at the steps again and again and getting beaten. And of course that’s where they kept the television cameras. And some of the soldiers—young boys—were into running around among our tents, grabbing pretty little girls and clubbing them. Robbie spent a whole month afterwards just sitting in a corner, gibbering to himself: “Stick flowers in their rifles. All you need is love.” And there were some pretty scary things about San Francisco. There really were C.I.A. and F.B.I, all around San Francisco— well, around everywhere, I guess. And there were ugly things too. Speed was heavy, people were getting sick and going crazy. And some kids shouldn’t take acid, I guess, not young kids, anyway, in a bad environment. And drugs were turning into big business, too. They were… Some people killed each other in San Francisco. I mean, young, turned-on people, killing each other over drug money! And we heard in New York there were what they called the “Speed Wars,” where speed-freaks would turn paranoid and literally shoot each other from windows over speed. And all these cults grew up, Jesus and Allah and gurus and prophets—people arguing just like my parents, over religion and money!—and rumors of glue-sniffers doing human sacrifice….! didn’t like the way the social structure was building up. People fought over whether the Beatles were still leading the revolution, or just recording drug gibberish themselves. San Francisco got to be just awful, just a junkie slum, after the Summer of Peace and Love. So we left San Francisco and came to New York to get ready for the Democratic Convention in Chicago! Only now, everywhere you went there were these famous writers: Mailer and Ginsberg and William Burroughs, who I thought was God—and Jean Genet, and all of them, all of them writing about everything like it was some kind of goddamn romantic epic! I mean! People died in Chicago, baby, people you never heard about! They herded us around with guns and billy-clubs and mace—I think the mace was in Chicago. Jesus, I went through a plate-glass window.. .but I was all right…But Robbie took one look at me, lying there among the broken glass.. .and this awful look came over his face.. .and I yelled, “No, Robbie, remember Gandhi!” … But he and his gang uncurled and they grabbed the policemen’s billy clubs and they fought back! They fought back! THEY FOUGHT BACK!!! … And they really hurt him—them. No! I would never call a cop again for anything, anything, ever! Not that they did anything if you did call them! Not in the neighborhoods we lived in. Nothing! Nothing! Nothing, except beat up girls and steal dope!
(Re-entering, a little vague.) What kept me sane all this time was something I’d do when I was alone. I’d bathe, slowly, in bath-oil—scented bath-oil. Then I’d wash and condition and dry my hair and get it all fluffy and lovely. And I’d dust myself dry with a perfumed dusting powder. And I’d do my nails, hand and foot, with a clear—a lovely, subtle, clear nail-polish. And then I’d dress myself, slowly, in these things I never, ever, wore anywhere else. Underwear—no, lingerie—that was all pink and black lace—and stockings of silk—not nylon at all, but silk, dark and seamless, very expensive. And a gown that looked heavy with glitter but actually was lovely and light and clinging. And then this boa that I’d gone crazy for and worked extra shifts at the Metropole to get, a huge downy soft white number that enfolded me like a cloud. And I’d stand before the mirror and remind myself of just what it was I wanted to do: the heart as big as the known world; the moon glowing to fullness within me; my great liquid eyes like the great south-western skies; my flesh delicious as the petals of tender little flowers; my lips dark, precious, unique, the black rose… People were complaining that you couldn’t tell one of the girls in the movies from another one, they all looked alike. Ursula Andress warmed-over. And then you started hearing talk that the studios were doing it deliberately, that after the troubles they’d had with Kim Novak and Marilyn and Elizabeth Taylor and all of them, that they didn’t .want any more movie stars, no more crazy actresses to demand huge salaries, that they didn’t care which woman they used, that nobody cared, because all the audiences wanted was just one supergirl after another, that the mini-skirt mattered more than the girl, that James Bond didn’t care who he fucked, because they were all alike! And I guess, if they felt like that about them, then they all were.
They made Camelot into a movie, but it wasn’t really very—I mean, it was just a medieval pageant, it didn’t have the tenderness and the beauty and the sense of—you know—something that could really happen. And it was— you know—very sexy—really dirty, for a musical. I didn’t watch the second half at all. People don’t seem to—I would have thought there would have been a lot of letters in the newspapers about it—about them messing up the President’s favorite musical. But there weren’t. I guess people had forgotten little things like that. In fact—when you walk down on Orchard Street, the pushcart street down in the Village where you can buy a lot of things cheap? Well, one time I was down there after some movie actress died—I don’t even remember her name, although my mother was quite broken up about it—and they had replaced all the pictures of him with pictures of her. It was—horrible. You know how stores have the pictures in the frames they’re trying to sell? I mean it’s the frames they’re trying to sell, not the pictures? Well, instead of having him in the frames, or even him and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King—they had these pin-up photos of the girl who had just died. Just because—well, not for any reason! Just because she had died! I mean people seem to remember, they seem to care, but they seem to have gotten things all mixed up.
The Buffo had been started by rejects, nomads, exiles, rebels, outcasts. So now that the establishment critics had started selling the place on that basis, we started drawing the real rot: the junkies and the psychopaths. We never needed critics before—we sold sandwiches! And now more and more we attracted not the real rebels, or the real dropouts, but failures and phonies from uptown who just wanted to do whatever had been original and daring the year before. The new phony audience read the reviews and loved us! But for us, the sanctity, the privacy, was gone. There was no other reward; the amount of work was unspeakable. Oh, and then I found out that Buffo and the others, who I’d worshipped for their energy and originality and brilliance and verve, had just been on speed all those years, while I’d worn myself out learning to keep up with them. But Buffo started getting into heavier drugs, letting his junkie friends put on that kind of show—at the Buffo. He was so tired. We all were exhausted, like sea creatures swept up on the beach by the tide, cut off from the element of their life. No. More like sea creatures helpless to leave their element, while it’s slowly being poisoned by settling grime and muck!
You hear stories now—and I don’t mean just the stories about how it wasn’t really Oswald who killed him, but it was really Johnson, or it was really Nixon, or Cubans, or oil millionaires, or Communists, or Ruby, or all of them together—or how avant-garde theatre people put on all those awful parodies of Shakespeare—or how the sincere Shakespeare people in the park revived anything that had the killing of a king in it. Or how they rereleased that Frank Sinatra movie he loved so much: “A Hole in the Head?” I think some of those people mean well, but it sure is funny how they all do seem to be making a buck out of it—isn’t it? No, I mean that you hear stories that make you wonder just how well people remember. I mean stories like—that Jackie was paid a million dollars to stay with him because they really hated each other. Or that they were both homosexual. Or that he had a movie-actress mistress. Or that he was in the pay of big industry, or— things that nobody could know, anyway, even if they were true. And you wonder: why do people even want to speculate about such things? When there’s so much good to remember? When, above all, the beauty that never even got to happen is still there, waiting for us all to build! What right have they got to talk against her? How can they blame her for getting married again? My God, just to get away from all the people that try to make her into some kind of pin-up girl, or clown! When she was there! Right there beside him! Closer than anybody in the world!
:I think Chick is in league with the Viet Cong. It all came to me last night It is a very subtle plan. All that pot, all that talk, getting everyone down to the beach? A time will come when we will be attacked by groups of false M.P.’s who are under Chick’s command and we will all be driven down into the sea where we will be picked up by giant Viet Cong submarines and transformed by plastic surgery into indistinguishable Cong soldiers! That is where they get their unending supply of troops! That is the truth behind the treasonable rumors of desertion from our own forces! Chick, and a few more like him, are in the pay of the Viet Cong!… I could be wrong; they may be in the pay of the Soviet Russians. I even think I have some evidence that our own government may be behind the whole war. Yes, the M.P. attacks were to blind us to the fact that it is our own government that is selling us drugs—perhaps—but—it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that I am beginning to see some pattern in it all. Wait. No. Chick is not in league with anyone. That is insane of me to think so. I have been—innocently—falling prey to the over-rationalistic Western tendency to try to connect everything into one great pattern. Which is wrong, because that is what makes men totalitarianistic: I have also been mistaking my own feelings and fantasies for objective facts. Plus my own natural aggressive tendencies—which I cannot help—have misled me into projecting these territorial power fantasies onto other people. I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are basically good. They do the evil things they do for the same reason that I have these delusions. Because I am evil? But then so are they. But they are not. And I am not either. But someone must be… someone… someone.
I made Robbie go to Woodstock. After they sprayed the tear gas on us in the People’s Park in Berkeley, I had to make him go. He wanted to leave for Mexico, he wanted to run away, but when we started getting the vibes about Woodstock, I made him go. Half a million people stood up together to defy what was going down. Robbie just looked at it and said, “Kids. Standing out in the open. They don’t know what’s happening. They’re gonna drop an atom bomb on us.” But they didn’t. Sure, the media and the press ripped it off for movies and albums, but that’s how you work within the system; ya make ’em see what you are. Robbie just said, “Let them fight for it now. I’ve had enough.” He was—into heroin. Oh, we’d hear stories about—wonderful things, the priests burning the draft records, the G.I.’s themselves resisting the war! And he’d just say, “Yeah? Yeah? Yeah? Look at the streets.” And it was true, it was true, the streets here on the Lower East Side had turned into the same thing as Berkeley, just kids, streaming, hungry, diseased, drugged, stealing, hustling, crazy, marks chalked all over their faces, muttering psychedelic, superstitious, pseudoreligious shit! Or black beggars, shivering and snarling. People would come from other countries, saying, “We want to be American; you’re where it’s at.” And how could we tell them we were licked, we were through? We weren’t! We aren’t… When Robbie got better, he campaigned for Nixon; he said it was the quickest way to tear the country down. Every day Robbie was into something new: Hare Krishna or a Catholic monastery—or he was going to be a movie-maker, or weave beads—and then he decided for some reason that Vanessa Redgrave was living next to us disguised as a Puerto Rican and taking tapes of our conversations, and that John Lennon was God, and Mick Jagger was the Devil and Donovan was Christ… CHRIST!… That was the winter of sixty-eight, sixty-nine. That was the winter that produced “Bridge Over Troubled Water?” and “Let It Be?” That was how the sixties ended.
:Whoever it is, is trying to gain power over the whole world—and that is not the same thing as wanting the world to be one, as I do. Perhaps, when the time comes, I will go willingly to be plastic-surgeried. Yes, I will go. I must. To find out. Even if I wind up being shot in broad daylight by my own ignorant buddies, it would be worth anything, anything now, to know the truth.
I guess James Bond really didn’t care, because at about this time all the men I knew turned gay, or were revealed to have been gay all the time, or maybe they just came out. It was certainly better than sleeping with Raquel Welch and cutting yourself on her… I don’t mean to down her. She did a terribly difficult thing at a time when it just didn’t pay to be a girl at all. She actually made people think about her. But it hasn’t lasted—apparently. I mean, no body is that beautiful. And to be that beautiful takes all one’s time, there’s no time left to be beautiful inside, to be human, to be warm or fulfilling. Besides, all the reviewers prefer the drag queens. It’s amazing. Esquire, last month, this young boy who reviews for them? He just flipped, he freaked, over these three famous drag queens, who—get this!—are the fellows I roomed with in nineteen sixty-two! It’s so funny. If you’d told me at the start of the sixties that the competition would be drag queens! Wasn’t there supposed to have been a sexual revolution in there somewhere? Weren’t all the disguises and masks supposed to have been dropped? I mean! When Raquel Welch and a bunch of drag queens are the current sex-symbols, isn’t something wrong? What made them hate women? And men? What made them hate men? Is it just because there are so many people and the media and all have made them so much alike? Is that why everyone keeps harking back to another era, any other era, any freak, any monster, anything different? Why don’t we want anything beautiful? Why don’t we want anything beautiful to be, to exist, to live? Is it over-population or what? Are we just instinctually avoiding reproduction? Stimulation, involvement, reproduction? Everybody’s drunk! Everybody’s drugged! Everybody’s making TV commercials! There are no stars! What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with me?
But there are some of us who still try—who still try to go on. My work— I’m going to have a full teaching license in just another three years—I’m working with subnormal—what .they call subnormal children, out in Jersey. It’s very hard to try to help them into the world. They are of minorities, children whom the culture has forgotten, children of twelve who can’t speak because they have never been spoken to in their homes, children who are afraid of things they can’t even name, children without love or hope. Some of them may never be able to join the human race. But I can try. Today I mentioned to them something—something about him—and not one of them, not a single one of them, even knew who he was. It was, for a moment, as if he had never been. I tried to show them that famous Life magazine with the color photos of the—assassination—but it excited one of them too much, and two of the .others just went crazy at the pictures of the blood— so, I wound up instead just telling them about Camelot. Without the sex stuff between Guinevere and Lancelot, of course. It’s almost the same story. If I’d wanted to, I suppose I could even have told them the story of Christ, and it would have been almost the same story.
Chick is a traitor. I have evidence now. Today we entered a bombed-out village where all the people were dead—except that a single Cong soldier jumped at me from behind a pile of bodies and knocked me down and raised his bayonet over me, prepared to bring it down onto my head—or possibly my neck. And Chick, my teacher, Chick, who was relieving his bladder and should have continued to do so—Chick, groovy Chick, turned and shot the Cong in the head and sent him flying away. I got up and I thanked Chick, but he knew, I could tell by the expression on his face and by certain vibrations, that he knew, that I knew, that he has betrayed everything we believed in. Because he took sides! At a time when there was no danger to his own individual life, Chick took sides and killed to save mine. Chick is a traitor, Mom.. .and he knows about you.
Buffo was away sick or drugged or crazy a lot of the time now, and the new kind of people wouldn’t show up to do their shows. Corso, who was Buffo’s lover, couldn’t stand it and split. Buffo didn’t know who to blame for what was happening. Word came that Corso had been killed in a motorcycle accident Corso’s family wouldn’t even let Buffo come to the funeral. So Buffo would vanish. The place was illegal, anyway. We didn’t know who to pay off, the way Buffo did. They started laying summonses on the place, ridiculous amounts, a thousand, two thousand dollars a week on a place that couldn’t clear a hundred. And all these awful vegetable people hanging around! The Buffo, you see, had been like a tiny island world of health and they came, these people came staggering in like refugees from a blasted, sterile, plague planet—the way I came. The way I came. The way I came. More and more people left. Sometimes we’d spend all day, two or three of us, getting the place together, scrubbing, shopping, wait tables, wash dishes, improvise a show if one didn’t show up, and then we’d sleep on the stage, unpaid, waiting for Buffo. And he’d come in, if at all, blubbering and screaming, “Help me! Help me! Help me! For God’s sake, somebody please help me!” And then he’d throw chairs at us, tell us all to go away, he’d swear that he was moving to a church, that he was building a church, that he was raising an Atlantean temple! Finally, they all went away. 7 closed up one night and went, looking for Buffo. Buffo came back to the Buffo, alone. He put on the “Casta Diva” and locked the gates. He took a hatchet and cut off his hand and tried to cut off his foot. He hacked away at his neck and face, broke two ribs, and then succeeded in cutting his stomach open with forty-four strokes. His guts fell out onto the stage. He had enough strength left to chop up his guts. I got the job of mopping up the blood. The hospital reported they had more blood donors for him than they’d had on any day since the Second World War. He lived for four days and died on Corso’s birthday. Their parents wouldn’t let them be buried together. The critics named an award after him the next year. This is a recording. Wait sixty seconds and leave your message.
I won’t do what those people do on television, smile and pucker and have an orgasm over floor-wax. I won’t be dehumanized and robotized and dance around Dean Martin. I won’t pose for the pomy magazines. I won’t go dyke be . -use I don’t want to. I won’t sleep with any more second assistant stage managers to get an audition as a replacement in a role after some movie star’s niece has already gotten the reviews! And I won’t traipse around in the court of a famous drag queen, hoping for a bit-part in one of their vehicles. Marilyn wouldn’t have. I know that much. She started late, but she was smart. She knew when to get out. She started—I mean, really started—when she was twenty-six. I was twenty-six. Today. I took seventy-four sleeping pills a little while ago in my apartment. I just came in here to wash them down.
The last big march was against the mining of the harbor at Hanoi, and besides the old chant of “One-two-three-four, We don’t want your fucking war,” my friends were muttering, “Why are we here? We’ve been marching since we were babies and all we did was make Jane Fonda famous.” Some people will tell you it ended when they murdered the students at Kent State, and everybody got all their possessions into bundles on their heads in just minutes and ran through the streets and deserted the Village forever. Or when the papers played up the drug-cult murders and people got scared of each other. Or when the pot famine hit and all the kids got hooked on alcohol. Or when they revoked the draft and so many of the men left the movement. Or when Hair opened on Broadway with all those happy hippies. Or when Abbie Hoffman became a TV talk-show guest-star. Or when Leary got brainburned and ran away. Or when the Beatles sued each other. And Donovan retired to his private island, and Dylan to his million-dollar farm. Or when Janis and Jimi and Jim died—so young!—and those were our heroes, the models for our lives! The men don’t understand Women’s Lib and the women can’t dig Gay Power. The blacks don’t need us and the Indians don’t want us. And the new kids are no use—my sister lives on downers. And my little brother is a nineteen-fifties fascist! He wrote me, “Fuck the Revolution! I don’t want anything collapsing on me! I want fifty thousand a year, and when I lose my looks I’ll overdose!” They’re selling sixties nostalgia albums already. The nearest thing to a political cause is bi-sexuality. And the streets between-here and the house are just junkies and black bums and rapists. But we did some good. We did. They didn’t stop the war, but they reduced it. Pornography is legal almost everywhere. They’ve slowed down their stupid space program. The corruption at the top is blown wide open. And, sure, the people are hungry and tired and weak and disillusioned, but isn’t that a sure sign that something’s crumbling? I try to tell Robbie that this is the time for action of some kind, the time when leaders are needed, but he just backs! into a corner of this dump! we’re living in on welfare fraud! and waves his fix! at me, and he says, “Sure! Let’s fight for peace! Let’s fight for freedom! I’m all for it! What do you want me to do? Where do you want me to start? Who do you want me to kill? What do you want me to be: Lee Harvey Oswald?”
We are safe, Mom. Chick is physically dead. They do not check every little battlefield casualty for autopsies. And besides, I used a Cong rifle. My tour of duty is over, Mom. Whoever is actually in charge has decreed that I am to be sent to what they call a Methadon clinic in New York City. What it actually is, I do not know. I must spend some time there being further indoctrinated. But then I will be coming home again, to make the world a better place to live in. Now I know how.
And yet, even after they understood the story, it was hard to make them see why it had all been so wonderful. There’s no one like that now, they can’t even imagine anyone like that, they’re used to the idea that the world is just a swamp of violence and crooked politics and unexpected death and ugliness everywhere. They can’t understand that there was a time, a space of several years, when everyone loved someone, someone bigger and better than other people. They can’t understand that all the people—everyone in the world—loved him. All. But one.
(The BARTENDER looks at his watch, sighs, comes from behind the bar, turns on the jukebox, deposits a coin, makes a selection, turns on the neon sign “Bar” in the window, then hits a light switch and simultaneously the lights blaze, the jukebox blares. SPARGER sits staring into space, WANDA returns to grading her papers, RONA hands her glass to the BARTENDER for another drink, CARLA lies slumped over the bar, completely ignored. Slowly the curtain falls.)
THE END OF “KENNEDY’S CHILDREN”
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