As the rehearsal period progressed I learned more about Jack than I ever wanted to know. Yes he was indeed straight. That alone sent me into a funk, because I was the guy that lectured to all my Gay brethren who had crushes on straight guys to get over it and move on because it was NEVER going to happen. I was even kind of militant about it. It was these sort of situations that lead to much danger. Sometimes it meant harm to one’s self in the form of a bashing or the bigger picture was harm to the Gay Community as a whole painting us as recruiters.( Please remember I was in my 20s.) I believed that there were self-actualized heterosexual men out there who were comfortable enough with other men on a physical level without it being sexually stimulating. As much as I hated to accept it- I believe Jack was one of those men.
Jack was also a recovering alcoholic. Back then I knew very little about addiction and how it worked but I DID know I had no patience with drunks. A few months earlier that year, I had figured out a very sexy muscle-bound construction worker who I had asked to move in with me on the second date, was consuming all my hard earned booze at an alarming rate. So I threw his belongings onto the sidewalk and changed the locks. The night before I did that, he and I gone to bed and I woke up at 2AM to find him MIA. He was tricking AND left my favorite cream colored Henley neck all cotton L&L Bean sweater at the trick’s house. As he walked through the door around 4 AM and greeted me with an intoxicated,” Hey Princess” I hurled my bedside lamp at him narrowly missing his temple. So no …I wasn’t an enabler. Hell I didn’t even give choices.
Jack used to be anesthetized by alcohol 24/7. He was now facing and embracing as much real life stimuli as he could. I often felt that I was spending time with a space alien in human clothing showing him how the world works. He wondered and marveled at the texture of my sweater, or the taste of noodle broth at the Chinese Store next door and the smell of urine on 16th Street like a toddler. He was just as exhausting too. He talked a mile a minute divulging other people’s recovery stories and seeming to forget that AA meetings were supposed to be kept confidential. He informed me his girlfriend was a porn star. I met her after rehearsal and her second rate vaguely tired Pam Anderson look confirmed this. I asked him how he felt about having sex with a woman who did it for a living. He was very appreciative because her knowledge allowed him to experience carnal pleasure in ways he never thought he could-or would for that matter. He said there were sooooo many things he wanted to try now as he leaned into me… breathing noodle broth in my face. He planned on hiring a black lady hooker, (he was specific) and having sex with her. It was next on his list. “Gee. That sounds like fun.” I would say limply
In between this edifying conversation, we actually rehearsed the play with a very qualified director. He was not too hard on the eyes either. As for the rest of the cast, I could see we were ALL going to be great. One of them was purported to be a San Francisco Legend of sorts on stage. He was very sweet and lovable. Unbeknownst to the rest of us he was suffering from the very, very early stages of Alzheimer’s. It seemed when he forgot a line that there was more going on then we knew. None of us would see it or know about his diagnosis until well after the play closed. We simply assumed that it was the rigors of memorizing lines with a brain that was nearly 70. He played Ollie and his name is Robert.
The gent playing his husband I knew from my days of singing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of San Francisco. His name was Robert too but we called him Bob to prevent confusion. Both of them seemed perfectly suited to their roles. Robert was the vaguely prissy house-wifely type and Robert was the tall gravel-voiced Daddy. Another man in the cast played an older lecherous guest at the bed and breakfast. He was my character’s foil and we had great fun in a scene near the end of the play where he slapped my much sunburned back. It would send the audience into gales of laughter every night. He helped me paint my sunburn on every night after intermission. The make-up was a type of pancake style actually called, “Sunburn” and was applied all over my face arms and legs.
My director had a strong grasp of the script and I felt safe with him at the helm. He was communicating by telephone with the playwright in South Carolina regularly. Jack and I were beginning to flounder a bit with trying to make the couple seem like two men who genuinely once cared about each other while trying to stay true to the script. Unfortunately, the script didn’t necessarily support that choice. Jack and I both desperately wanted the audience crushed that Austin and Ralph never worked things out. In my love-sick haze, I had forgotten it was a comedy and neglected to see in the script that Ralph was an A number one high riding BITCH! Once I learned that - A star was born. The story really was about what a schmuck Austin was for not realizing it sooner. At the same time my yearning for Jack was beginning to override what was best for the show and I fought the urge to be the self-involved bitch that Ralph was clearly destined to be. I kvetched to anyone who would listen to me about what a boring choice Mr. Rawls (the playwright) had made in my character’s one dimensionality. “After all,” I would lament, “the whole reason we love Cheers is that we WANT Sam and Diane to realize they are perfect for each other, right? I didn’t sign on to be Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest!”
Jack was hardcore in his pursuit of the character of Austin. He worked slavishly on a personal history for Austin..and Ralph…Lucky me. He would hand me pages detailing our intense romance-including the type of love making they did. It turned out that Austin was a bottom. You would think this would make me don my devil horns and make him fall off the wagon, so I could get some of his lovin. I couldn’t. If he became a full blown alcoholic then it might’ve jeopardized the whole production. Hey I had some common sense! (grin) Still I was nervous about being completely alone with him and frequently declined personal time to work with Jack on our scenes. He was insistent that we rehearse outside of rehearsal. One night I had no choice.