Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There's a time where the Ham needs to be cooked

I did -at one time-want to be a famous successful superstar. I cannot say that is the case currently. I have a job at a skilled nursing facility for very frail elders. I greatly enjoy my job now and feel I have discovered a new purpose. I have a loving supportive boyfriend and terrific best friend. -All that's missing is the lovely home to entertain in and the two beautiful dogs. PTBD (Pedigree to be determined). I have, however, dropped all my dreams of having a hit TV show or winning an Oscar. Acting for me these days is now something I have to do every once in a while because well ...I have to. This is why...

Despite the rumors, I was never a child star. In fact I was the furthest thing from it. I used to hide behind my mother's skirt-literally! I can still remember clinging terrified to her slightly unshaved leg as some strange looking loud person asked, "How old are you sweetheart?" Yep I was shy! No kidding! I had big brothers and cousins always explaining to their curious friends why I looked down at my feet, "He's shy but it's okay because that means we don't have to play with him" I played with my trolls (the little pygmy looking dolls with the wild colored hair) quietly in a corner for hours on end while they rode off on their bikes ready to burn or blow up something. I was good with it.

"Paul the Actor" was created in junior high actually. I was cast at the age of 13 in a high school musical of Man of La Mancha. Sancho Panza was the role and it got the whole shebang going.
(There were earlier plays, There was a performance at age 8 as the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland that my mother loves to bring up every so often but that didn't reveal the performer I was soon to become. It had nothing to do with my talent that made that performance memorable, it was the costume- a brightly multicolored afghan and a hockey helmet with Chenille antennae but Sancho was the one that created “the hunger)

It was so intense and it wound up becoming a drug that was like no other. At the time I wasn’t even aware of its existence. All that was on my mind at that moment was the fear of making an ass of myself. I wasn't even sure I could sing at that point.( I have a lovely voice btw) I was utterly terrified of getting up on stage and having ALL those people look at me! I was sure that being in the chorus was the best place for me. I was even surer I would die if I were forced to do it. The leggy and perky musical director had a gleam in her eye when she wanted to confirm I was auditioning. Yes –of course I was auditioning but I wanted to be clear. I ONLY WANTED TO BE IN THE CHORUS! She had other ideas. You should know now that I wasn’t always a chubby man but I was a fat boy too. Not hugely obese but definitely a little chubbo. Sancho Panza was described as a fat little bag stuffed with proverbs. I wound up playing that fat little bag. You expected her to cast a little chubby latin guy? Hey this was Northfield, Vermont in 1978. Be real. The only slightly Latin thing in town was the Ortega foods section at the Super Duper.

Back to that hunger I was telling you about. Man of La Mancha wound up being the show where I got bit by the acting bug When you hear an actor or other performer talk about being "bit by the acting bug", they are referring to getting applause or making the audience react vocally in some way. If the actor/actress tells you that they are talking about the divine experience of inhabiting the character, I can assure you that they are bullshitting you. Actors are real good bullshitters. Actors obviously are ONLY attention whores, but every so often one gets jazzed on the artistry associated with it and they end up becoming artistic directors when they grow up. It was clear after opening night of this little high school musical that I was an attention whore. Little did I know…I was an attention whore waaaay back when.

Since I was the baby in the family I was used to getting all my family's attention. I was a real Momma's boy and was very accustomed to her affection. My elder brothers are very good at reminding me that I got MANY more privileges then they did. (Baked Alaska on my 13th Birthday for one-oh did I mention I was Gay?) It's when it all went away that truly appreciated all this fussing over me. There was actually period where all my attention from my parents evaporated. Don't judge them because I assure you that they had a very good reason. Between the ages of 9 and 12 of my childhood was overshadowed by my brother Matthew and the attention he required. Matthew had developed a brain tumor, and he died at age 15. He was 5 years my senior. My mother became a shell of her bubbly expressive self and my father who was typically emotionally unavailable became even more so after Matthew's death. We became kind of a sad little trio Mom, Dad and myself. My two older brothers were significantly older than I so they were not privy to that sadness so up close. Danny got married right out of Harvard and wasn't around that much and Peter...well Peter had a rough time of adjusting from the 60s to the 70s. He refers to it as the years he amused and abused himself. He was definitely a part of my life on and off -because he lived with us from time to time- but I didn't pay that much attention to him. I ended up not paying attention to my parents either. I immersed myself in my imagination by holing up in the tiniest spaces of the house and creating these nests with pillows and blankets and sleeping bags. Hello? Can we say womb? I dreamed of becoming rich and living in the Beverly Hillbillies mansion. I didn't dream of performing though. That came AFTER I had actually done it. It came post Sancho Panza. At any rate –I had gone from living All about Paul Andrew to depressed little family all lost in their own worlds. Sancho would become sort of salvation of sorts.

The hunger was born on opening night of Man of La Mancha at Northfield Junior High School. I was positive when I set foot on stage that I would die of a heart attack. I played the fat little bag stuffed with proverbs and Mike Osbourne played the Lunatic Knight Don Quixote. I should mention that Mike was Captain of the Gymnastics team and well...I was COMPLETELY in love with him. Art imitated life as I played his oh-so-loyal manservant. I even had to sing in front of the entire town of Northfield about it! Aldonza/Dulcinea (played by the awe inspiring Mary Fifield) asks Sancho why he puts up with his nutty friend. (Since this was a high school production Aldonza was just a messy lazy girl and not a prostitute). Sancho sings a song titled " I like him"

"I Like him. I really Like him. Don't ask me why or wherefore I Liiiiike him"

My fate was sealed in more ways then one with that song. Not only did I make the audience laugh, I outed myself in the process. Making the audience laugh. Now I am sure if they did a test on comedians and comedic actors that they would find that their serotonin levels sky rocket when they get a good, loud, long, laugh from a huge crowd. I was deliriously high as the show stopped because we had to wait for the audience to compose themselves. What was I doing that was making them do that? I had no idea but I DID know I liked it and....I wanted MORE! That wasn't the only rush I would experience. Then came the hard stuff; APPLAUSE! My God -I thought my chunky little 13-year-old body was going to float up to the Gymnasium ceiling! As I was back stage preparing to bow I heard the audience cheer and clap harder for specific actors. I gotta say -to this day-It struck me as a really world class cast! It became my turn to bow and the roar of approval from the over packed gymnasium felt deafening and I am quite sure that's what heroin feels like. It was all over after that night.

I got a little grand and strutted around the Northfield Jr-Sr High like my shit didn't stink. My classmates accused me of being stuck up but I didn’t care -After all I was friends with all these popular upper classmen. THE CAPTAIN OF THE GYMNASTICS TEAM WOULD SAY HI TO ME IN THE HALLWAY. (Did I mention he was really hot?) My worldview became one colored with the thought that I was destined for greatness.

So 27 flash-forward years later. I am 40. I had attempted to set the world on fire and tried to feed the beast that was born in Man of La Mancha. All I had managed to do was become a name in the Gay San Francisco Theater Community. It's really no different than becoming the local actor or actress that is used over and over again in the Community playhouse. The Gay and Lesbian Community of San Francisco are like a small town within a town. Not quite what I had envisioned, but there were certainly some exciting times. It was odd but I was calm when it occurred to me to let go of aspirations of fame through theater. I was terrified of what it would feel like IF it happened and now I was thinking about it. I had a cousin who moved to New York to become an actress and came back a few years later (I think) and cried when she told us she wasn't going to be an actress. Her pain was so palpable. I stuck my jaw out and I thought "I WILL NEVER GIVE UP" I would NEVER let that happen to me. -but it did. I calmly let my dream die. I thought, "Oh what a sweet relief, I don't have to do this anymore I can make strudel and design Christmas Tree Decorations. “My other self had other ideas. Paul the Actor grew into P.A. Cooley -an irreverent little Gay scamp that always played every funny, bitchy best friend. "She" (who looks like a "he") wasnt going to go quietly. So I ended up letting her out twice a year, but I try to make her do different things. Like drama instead of comedy and playing not so lovable characters. She's a hungry bitch and she loves her public. Luckily like weaning yourself from any drug -the laughter and applause were needed less and less. I think she has resigned herself that she may end up turning into a writer or a director and get her praise (hopefully) in written form. Who knows how often I will let her have her time in the sun. I have other plans and I'm afraid I am in charge so she'll learn to live with it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We all need a Hero....

So Orlando came over this weekend and we rehashed what went on. Friday night, my best friend gal pal Good New England Girl 'Drew threw a Smallville party on Friday night. I am not a huge fan of the series but I enjoyed watching the episodes none-the-less. For those of you not in the know, Smallville is a series about a very young and extremely good looking Superman. Although for reasons I didn't want them to go into, he is called The Blue Blur in this current incarnation. In attendance were my ex-roomate , a theater cronie/co-worker, and Orlando and myself. 'Drew goes all out for these gatherings. He designed a cocktail called "Black Magic" in honor of one of the characters we were watching and he made a sage, savory, delicious Chicken and Biscuits. Cooked perfectly I might add- and the biscuits were shaped in little moons and stars> Like I said -He goes all out. His cooking is good and his specialty his baking. He is Alton Brown and I am mix of Rachael Ray and The Barefoot Contessa. I made a Mango, carrot and spinach salad and my non-vegetable eating boyfriend deemed it edible. My most sincere hope is that someday I prepare a meal that Oly actually says. "WOW" to -and even better -some night asks if I can make it AGAIN for him. Only time will tell because I have a vast repertoire of Home style cooking books at my fingertips and a fair amount of genetic talent in that area. Mom excelled at the delicious home cooked meal.

Orlando watched Smallville regularly and was excited about the party. He didn't share something in common with our host and guests I -admittedly was apprehensive about hanging out with the comic book geeks. There. I said it. Yes Drew and my other friends are full on comic book geeks. Each one has a very large library. They attend the conventions and everything They can give you detailed descriptions of each and every Super Hero AND it is IMPERATIVE that you know the difference between DC and Marvel -whatever THAT means. I look at my friends and try to figure out what makes them continue this fascination from age 13? Good Lord. These men are all in their 40s! ( Drew is older btw) They are single and all have careers in types of administration with lots of paperwork. Beyond that -I don't see what it is that makes a little boy obsess about comic books. I don't get it. Sure the heroes are sexy as hell with their amazing muscles and baskets but THEY ARE CARTOONS! I have figured it is a hold over from the straight gene. While each of these boys is a big ole cock suckin fag -the comic book thing is a distinctly "straight" teenage boy thing that has found a way into our Gay culture because well...the guys are hot. I'll even admit having a thing for Batman but it's gotten to the point that my eyes glaze over when they start babbling about Saturn Girl and Cosmo Boy and COMPLETELY unheard of superheroes that only the true geek would know about. I keep my knowledge BASIC. Batman, Superman and The Hulk and a slight fondness for Peter Parker. Spider man to the uninitiated. Also it is important to note that MY superhero lust only comes from the movies and TV. My comic books of choice were Casper, Audrey and Little Dot and Richie Rich! OMG I dreamed endlessly about being Richie Rich and having my lunch box made of Gold and playing with my dog, "Dollar" and having that cool Butler get me out of these narrow mishaps!!! Yeah...I still dream of being Richie Rich...and gold and big big houses that i could throw parties in and invite all 396 of my Facebook friends to....sigh...oh...wait -no comic books are no longer a part of my life. I swear! -Damn gotta go mix a pomotini

Saturday, April 11, 2009

An Actor is in love

So I am dating again. Yep -never thought I could relax and let it happen but there are a several reasons it is going so well. (Knock wood).
Reason 1) He is hella hot
Reason 2) He is calm and isn't easily ruffled.
Reason 3) He is very practical and good with money
Reason 4) He owns a car
Reason 5) He lives 3 hours away from me
Reason 6) We "discuss" everything in a thoughtful manner and treat each other for respect
Reason 7) The sex is amazing

So Reason one works out for a number of reasons. He is bigger and stronger and 300 times more masculine than I. I need a man. I guess it's that internalized phobia rearing it's ugly head but I never could develop a romantic relationship with another queen. As my best friend 'Drew says, "kay kay taboo" (spell check) That means it is somehow against some natural law for two drag queens to be lovers. While I am a competent drag performer I don't think I have the chops that I have seen the experts pull off. Or should I say pull down and tuck away-OUCH!! I think a really good drag queen is into cock and ball torture -but hey I digress AGAIN!! The point is I am a HUUUUGE queen and he doesn't come close to behaving like a big girly girl the way I do. Oh and this a key element here-HE DOESN'T CARE ABOUT ME BEING A BIG QUEEN. I also like walking down the street and showing him off cuz he is so damned handsome. It's a remnant from a behavior in my 20s where I would casually wrap around whoever I was interested in and pull them in the vicinity of a large mirror. If we looked complimentary then that boded well. If I was overshadowed or he disappeared in the magnificence of my own beauty -that was a bad omen. The new man and I make a pretty cute couple if I do say so myself.

2) He is a simple guy by his own admission. I don't mean that pejoratively. He likes his pizza with cheese and pepperoni.I like sun dried tomatoes and Fontina D'Aosta (spell check) with organic Italian Sausage. He likes his steak medium well and I prefer Medium rare with a drizzle of Gorgonzola butter...I could go on but I am sure you get the picture. ALSO he is fabulously easy with his emotions. No hidden meanings that I have to use my psychic vampire skills to interpret. When he is mad he is mad and says so right away and he doesn't sit and sulk. I love that. While I actually am part Betazoid and can read people well, it's exhausting and I love that i don't have to do it with him.I also enjoy the fact that he is intelligent and can talk on a number of subjects. I glaze over a bit when he starts talking about cars or basket ball but he is okay with that.

3) He is a budget analyst! Helloooooo? I scored because my finances ARE A MESS! He actually stops me from getting that $125 facial. This is a good thing.

4)Um didn't I mention I don't drive? (JUST WAIT WEN I ATTEMPT TO GET MY LICENSE-YOU GUYS WILL LOVE THAT STORY) When he visits I can go to the grocery store and actually BRING HOME 3 BAGS OF GROCERIES!!! Hallelujah!!!

5) CLICHE HERE but sorry it's totally true. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. He and I have worked out a schedule that allows us to see each other almost every weekend with few exceptions. It will be tough these next few months because i have rehearsal every weekend but time will tell..right? The time apart allows us to reflect on the weekend before and figure out what kind of investment we really want to put into this relationship. The other days of the week WE TALK ON THE PHONE! I mean we discuss our lives and get to know each other, our days, our families, our jobs, our friends, our avocations-it's really a good thing to know all this stuff about each other.

6) Being with him has truly made me understand that unconditional love can happen with me. He is innately good and honest. I have even discussed this blog with him before posting it. Lines of communication are wide open. This should come as a surprise to some who "think" they know P.A. Cooley. I chalk it up to 45 years of age and heck...this man is worth the right compromises.

7) Hell YEAH!! (well did you honestly THINK I was going to go into detail about that on the internet?? Come on!)