When I was 16 I graduated high school and hit the road. I moved to San Francisco and raised hell, doing everything illegal under the sun. At 18 I moved back to L. A. and went legit, attending UCLA during the day and working as a bartender at a gay bar at night. I was 6' 6" and bearded, so nobody thought to ask if I was 21.
The bar owner had a finger in every money-making scheme ever invented, but primarily he produced gay porn. (My past is clean, though if they'd offered me a little more money or snappier dialogue everything would be different now.) One night he brought in his latest discovery: a Swedish porn star called Eric. Eric had been around the block a few times -- okay, he'd worn a groove in the cement -- but he was still totally naive and very sweet. That's not a combination you found very often, let alone in the San Fernando Valley.
Eric knew everything there was to know about men and sex, and he immediately realized that I needed help. This wasn't hands-on help, since we both enjoyed the same thing in bed, but more like teacher and student. It was like "The Apprentice," if Donald Trump was 25, bleached blonde, and had biceps that could crack pecans. Eric taught me sex secrets that wouldn't just drive a man wild: they'd hypnotize him, enslave him, make him add you to his will. Though I could barely understand a word Eric was saying, we quickly became fast friends.
At UCLA, one of the tenured professors -- I'll call him R. -- also took an interest in me. Older, distinguished and rich as a Rockefeller, he also knew a few things that could come in handy, should I ever take a job that required a shirt. He invited me to a "Musicale" at his house, and naturally I jumped at the chance. I didn't have a clue what a Musicale was, but I was sure of one thing: if I was going to a party for old intellectuals, I'd want another young idiot to keep me company. I asked R. if I could bring a date and he said yes.
The house was spectacular, starting at the bottom of a Brentwood hill and meandering all the way to the top. There were candles on every step and Christmas lights in every tree, and when I rang the bell it played Chopin. R. nearly lost his Gucci bifocals when he opened the door and saw my date. I guess most professors assume their students don't hang with porn stars, especially when they're going for their bachelor's degree in math. Or maybe he recognized Eric, I thought. "Florist Hump" had gotten a nationwide release.
As we wandered around the palatial estate, the meaning of "Musicale" became clear. In every room of the house, gray-haired gay men in tuxedos were clustered in various musical configurations. A quartet in the library played Schubert, a string section on the patio played Scriabin, and two guys with bassoons rattled a closet with early Lizst. Everyone was transfixed with ecstasy until they spotted Eric. He had a veritable glow around him, not just from the Lady Clairol, and instantly all eyes went his way.
Instruments went flying as the seniors clustered around him, giddy as teenagers. The muscle-bound god must have been hit on by every septuagenarian in the city, turning up their noses at the ordinarily-built me. At some point Eric shyly admitted that he could play the piano, so the nearest real pianist was unceremoniously shoved off his stool. Eric's specialty was show tunes, plunked slowly with two fingers, but that didn't keep the crowds from coming. They fought their way to the piano like bargain hunters at a fire sale, staring starry-eyed at Eric and energetically singing along. They sang that they enjoyed being girls, that they were girls who couldn't say no, and that the sun would come out tomorrow. Considering these were eighty-year-old men, the first two seemed more likely than the last.
Though Eric's talent was limited, his repertoire was not. When I finally pried him out of those gnarled old mitts at three-thirty in the morning, there was still a crowd four-deep around him, and he was pounding out "All Night Long." His pockets were so stuffed with phone numbers -- on business cards, on calling cards, on blank checks -- he could barely fit in the car.
I lost touch with Eric for a while, eventually hearing that he'd taken up with an older, cultured man. The next time I saw him I discovered it was true. The transformation was incredible. He was impeccably dressed, beautifully coiffed, and quoting Rilke in perfect English.
As for what the older partner learned from the relationship, I won't even hazard a guess. But if you find yourself in Los Angeles being cruised by a distinguished senior, go for it. Sure, muscles will cramp, blood pressures will skyrocket, absolute exhaustion will set in.
But you're resilient. You'll bounce back.
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