"So what's the boyfriend like? Did he say?"
"Yeah — he said he's a doll."
"Now you've got me curious," Carl said. "What time's the boyfriend supposed to be here?"
"I don't know — he just said in the afternoon. Man, this is getting spooky."
"Well, maybe the boyfriend is worried about you. Maybe he's coming to check you out."
"Very funny," I replied. But I wasn't laughing.
So Carl, who was attending classes at the California Television Institute, made it a point to be home early the following afternoon. His room was at the very front of Mrs. Glasser's house, and his window provided a broad view of the street. The two of us were sitting there, looking out the window, not really sure of what we were looking for.
"How's he getting here — is he driving?" Carl asked. "And where's Bruce right now?"
"Bruce is in our room," I said, although I was now finding it hard to use the phrase "our room."
"Anyway, I don't know how he's getting here."
Before I could say anything else, Carl's eyes widened as he grabbed my elbow and said, "Whoa — do you see what I see?"
He was staring out the window with that same look of shock I must have had when I first saw the title of Bruce's magazine. It had to be Teddy.
The young man coming up the street was looking at a piece of paper. He stopped and looked at our house, then looked at the paper again. He looked back in our direction and tore the paper in half as he headed up our walkway.
Carl and I looked at each other, then looked out the window again, with our mouths hanging open. Neither of us had ever seen anything quite like this before — and we grew up in Hollywood.
Teddy not only looked gay, he was an absolute caricature of what a swishy drag queen should look like. The only thing missing was a dress and some pearls. We could smell his perfume while he was still 40 feet from the house.
His hair was long (by 1952 standards) and blond and curly. I'm sure he'd recently had a perm. And the eyelashes had to be false. Even girls didn't have lashes that long and so heavily laden with mascara. He had several rings on each hand — but no earrings. My guess was that he saved the earrings for special occasions. And he had a walk that I'd only seen done by female models in a fashion show. He also looked more than a little annoyed, as he glanced at his torn note.
As I began to regain my composure, I realized I had to go tell Bruce that Teddy was here.
Bruce just smiled and said, "Thank you," as he headed for the front door.
"Teddy, do come in," said Bruce with a smile that was now even broader than ever.
Teddy just sniffed as he came through the door, still wearing that look of annoyance. He stopped and looked quickly around.
"So this is the place," he said curtly.
"Yes, yes, this is the place. And such wonderful people live here. Here are two of them now. Teddy, I want you to meet Carl and Don."
"Charmed," he said, still not smiling. As he held out his hand I wasn't sure if he wanted to shake, or if he expected us to kiss it. We shook.
Then he looked at me. His eyes narrowed as he said, "You must be Don."
"Well, yeah, the last time I looked," I said, trying to lighten things up a little.
Teddy didn't think this was funny. But he smiled at Carl.
"Yes, of course," he said pleasantly, "you're the one who has his own room here. How nice." He never looked at me again.
But he did look at Bruce, who by now appeared to be feeling as uneasy as I did.
"Where can we talk?" Teddy demanded.
Bruce smiled weakly, and said, "Excuse us." Then they went back to "our room."
Carl looked like he was the only who was enjoying all this. "What did I tell you?" he said, as he gave me a knowing elbow in the ribs.
About an hour later Teddy came out of the room and headed quickly for the front door. He still looked annoyed — no, he looked angry. Carl and I watched from the window as Teddy quickly disappeared down the street, heading toward Santa Monica Blvd. I found myself wondering how he managed to walk like he was wearing high heels — when he actually wasn't? It must take practice.
I was naturally curious to go back to my room and ask Bruce what was going on, but was almost afraid to. Well, I thought, I'd better get it over with. I told Carl I'd see him later and headed down the hallway. Bruce met me in the doorway. He gave me a strained smile and stepped back into the room.
With the door closed behind us, Bruce began. "I'm sorry about that," he said. "I guess you can tell we've been having a little tiff."
"Yeah, I gathered that. I also get the feeling it's got something to do with me."
"Well, yes and no. You see, Teddy and I used to have a place together. But we had some problems. So I moved out. That's when I came here."
"Well, Teddy's been writing to me — I wouldn't give him the phone number — and he's been saying we should get back together. I told him I didn't think so and that I was quite happy where I am. But he said he just wanted to talk — so I finally said okay. Naturally he wanted to know if I had a roommate. I said yes, but told him that you're straight."
"Straight?" Well, I'd just learned another new word.
"Then what?" I asked.
"Well, I told him I still thought it would be better if we stayed apart for a while — you know — to sort of think things over. So, if it's okay with you, I'll just stay on here. And Teddy won't be coming around anymore. I mean, you know, no more embarrassing encounters."
What could I say? As I mentioned earlier, Bruce in many ways was an ideal roommate. He was neat — a lot neater than I was, in fact — he laughed at my jokes — he didn't smoke or snore — and he didn't complain about my snoring. What more could I ask for? I really had nothing to complain about — just as long as the others in the house understood that roommates was all that we were. I believe they did.
In fact, Bruce and I got to be pretty good friends. He was an outgoing, personable fellow who was fond of things like classical music, ballet, and other artistic endeavors — many of the same things that Carl and I also had in common. So I didn't feel awkward about going to lunch with him or stopping for coffee somewhere.
Carl, on the other hand, didn't mind living in the same house with Bruce, but going to lunch — that would be carrying things a little too far.
However, there was something about Bruce that fascinated me. Here was an intelligent, good looking fellow who, in my opinion, could easily make points with just about any girl he'd want to. So why didn't he want to? In fact, why would any guy prefer another guy?
Well, I'm certainly not here to settle the age — old argument about whether it's environment or genes or whatever, (although over the years I've become pretty much convinced it's the genes). In any case, I can think of few things more personally distasteful than a guy being intimate with another guy. But, having said that, I still can't help wondering why a guy would even want to.Invited to a Gay Party
This must have been what was in the back of my mind when Bruce asked me one day if Carl and I would like to go with him to a gay party. Before I could say anything, Bruce hastened to assure me, "It'll be all right — everyone will know you're straight, and nobody will bother you. Think about it. It could be an educational experience."
"Well, I'll ask Carl," I said.
"Yeah, sure!" was Carl's response. "I'd love to go to a gay party. And right after that I'd like to go to a lynching. What, are you crazy?"
"Well, look," I said, "We can leave any time we want — and Bruce promised that nobody would bother us. It might be interesting. Maybe we'll learn something about those people."
"What's to learn? They like other guys. What else do you need to know?"
"Well, they're still people. And I'm kind of curious. And I wouldn't even consider it if we weren't going with Bruce. I trust him."
"Hmm," Carl said. "We could leave at any time? In fact we could walk in and turn around and walk right out. Is that the idea?"
"Well," Carl said, "maybe if I had a few drinks before we went. That's probably the only way I could manage it."
"Okay. So I'll tell Bruce we're going, but that we may turn around and walk right out. Okay?"
Carl just grunted.
So we went to the party.
1952 - Cornet Stores
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