Friday, March 27, 2009

An Actor remembers

As I got more deeply engrossed on FaceBook my past kind of crept up on me. I have like "360" friends and everytime I try to reduce that to a more believeable number, I learn I actually KNOW all these people. The "friends" whose requests I consistently ignored were people from the town I grew up in. I was not comfortable sharing the life that I had made here in San Francisco with folks and former classmates from my hometown. Growing up Gay in Northfield Vermont for a teenager in the 70s and 80s was not a picnic. I was probably the most well known homosexual at Northfield Jr-Sr High School before I was even clear on what a homosexual was. I rarely had guy friends, except the infrequent theater geek, but I was surrounded by many many many pretty and popular girls. I really really wanted to be uber popular but because of my masculinity deficiency my career as a popular kid never really took off.

As the character Veronica from the movie Heathers said, "Being popular (in highschool) is like having a job" I felt very much like gay teen Veronica and I had my Heathers. I worked very hard at my job but never got the promotion I did because of my oh-so-girly ways. Life was pretty sweet whenever I had a lead role in a play but after the play it was back to being a B-Lister.I was quite close with many girls who were indeed quite popular. I was also friends with the bad kids and the kids who were definitely D-List in the high school food chain. When I went to college I set about creating Paul-Andrew Cooley. Paul-Andrew was far more interesting than Paul. I of course got the idea from watching Ann-Margaret in the old Elvis movies. When Paul-Andrew came to the University of Vermont in 1982, my high school pals started to drift to the periphery of my life. When I graduated Paul-Andrew had morphed into P.A. -with a brief spell of Plandrew in the middle of all that. Sounded a bit like a character from Star Trek. BUT I DIGRESS!!!! Quelle surprise.

When I moved to San Francisco in 1989 -having committed to being Gay because -hell, I was moving to The Mecca for cryin out loud-almost every childhood and high school friend had been eradicated from my memory. (With the exception of two but more on them later) I very carefully crafted out the new me. During these years however I would be minding my own business in the Mission District or downtown San Francisco and some young lady would say, "Paul ! Paul Cooley! Wow it's so good to see you! Remember me? " I never did. It typically was a younger sister of a classmate or worse, someone who was a seventh grader when I had been a High School Senior. I tried to be polite but I usually was mute and nodded a lot. I wondered if I looked too Gay that day or would they yell "faggot" and punch me in the shoulder and run off. They never did. I would say I was in a hurry and dash off as fast as my legs would carry me. The nice young lady would stand there looking bewildered as if she had maybe said something wrong. Then the anger would settle around me like a dust cloud. I would be mad at myself and wonder why I had come to the Gayest city in America only to feel ashamed and fearful? What the hell was wrong with me?

My Senior year was the big Senior play. It was something that was a big rite of passage for Seniors at Northfield Jr-Sr High School and for the guy who was the big actor of the class (guess who? ) it usually mean't getting the lead role. Unfortunately not in 1981. Now you should know up front that the class of 1982 at Northfield Junior Senior High School boasted quite a few talented actors and actresses. We had placed in the finals of some state One Act Competitions and garnered some high praise. I don't think we ever won but I wouldn't trust my memory. We did win the Northfield High School One Act competitions quite often. There were some REALLY good performers in our class and I was lucky to always have a teacher and principal who cared about implementing the arts into a high school that was so sports oriented you could've hung a jock strap on the front door. The Drama teacher at the time was a spunky gal by the name of Mary Corrigan. She had cast me in a coupla of things and I knew she was the lady who would make it all right for me. It was evident that Mary was the one who decided who played what in all the plays so of course ....I was extra attentive and whether she wanted to be or not-she became my favorite teacher. Poor woman !

Gotta run kids
More on Northfield later

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