I bought a huge green fur hat from Marc Jacobs. It’s very warm, very green and attracts many, many comments.
The people who comment fall into three distinct groups.
1. The people who comment most are African-American men and women who approach me with huge smiles and open hearts and say wonderful things about the hat.
They tell me how happy it makes them. They ask where they could get one. They love the color. They hold me at the checkout at Trader Joe’s and ask if they can touch it. Black school kids holler across the street.
2. White woman tentatively tell me how much they like it, how warm they imagine it is. They rarely look me in the eye and their diminished confidence allows them only the slightest… but genuine opinion.
3. Gay men. I sighed writing that. Gay men. I sighed again.
When gay white men (strangers) talk to me about my hat it is always with sneering disregard. They go out of their way to say something catty and unpleasant. They look at me witheringly, their comments infused with: who do you think you are wearing that absurd hat? They dress compliments up in such a way that confuses the listener.
If the African-Americans who complement my hat had not done so I would have nothing to compare the responses of the gays. I might think I was going crazy. But I’m not.
We all know what a heartfelt compliment sounds like and the gays seem incapable of giving one… unless (of course) they want to get laid.
Here are more pictures of our brief stay in Malibu and our trip home.
Even though these charming conversations have become legendary within the fashion industry… receiving great reviews from all who attend, there’s very little on-line that proves that they happen at all other than tiny, badly edited clips.
Fern deserves her own YouTube channel and somebody needs to organize this for her tout de suite.
Indomitable Fern is known most notably for her creation of New York Fashion Week but more importantly she is the consummate glass ceiling smasher. A brusk Russian jew prone to surliness, an inability to suffer fools, she also has a huge charisma and charm that softens her incisive questioning.
One feels that if anybody can, Fern can.
Interviews with Donna Karan, Polly Mellen, Tom Ford, Andre Leon Talley, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang charting the genesis of their personal style, describing the homes where they were brought up, relationships with their parents and their personal adventures within the fashion industry have moved and delighted her audiences.
I arrived at her Bruce Weber interview expecting a great deal. In the theatre sat fashion luminaries Grace Coddington and Ralph Lauren.
The lecture series was announced, Fern introduces a short film by Bruce Weber with notable scenes including his own days as a model, numerous famous names and an elephant Bruce likes to take pictures of draped with naked boys.
The problem with Bruce Weber? He’s not that interesting. When all is said and done Bruce is a married man obsessed with the homoerotic. With his wife Nan, sitting in the audience it would have been difficult for any great interviewer to ask pertinent question about the other elephant in the room. The humongous pink elephant in the room. The question I wanted answered… like all the others who sat with bated breath wondering if Fern would go there. The question we wanted answering but was never answered, “Bruce Weber, are you gay?
In 2013 post DOMA this would not be an unusual or impertinent question. He has, after all is said and done, devoted himself to photographing naked, young, super-fit, white boys. He is brilliant at photographing naked white boys because he loves them. He worships them. Everything else he photographs dulls by comparison.
Bruce says that taking a picture of a beautiful boy is like a ‘handshake or a hug’ I would go further… every time he takes a photograph of a beautiful, naked, white boy he is fucking that boy, caressing his ass, sucking on his cock. The photographs and the films of beautiful, naked, white boys ooze sensuality, eroticism and the merest suggestion that we are only one shot away from seeing them hard and proud… shooting jizz all over their perfect white bodies.
Bruce Weber, are you gay?
Bruce Weber, why do you only shoot white boys? Why is there never a black or asian or pacific islander in any of your pictures? Why do people like Grace Coddington or Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren let you get away with this appalling racism?
Bruce Weber, have you (like Terry Richardson) ever used your power and prestige to encourage those boys you photograph to do other more extreme things for your camera?
I had lunch with a friend on Saturday who was also at the interview and (once we had discussed Terry Richardson sexual unmanageability problems) both lamented Weber’s lack of openness. We concluded that if we are truly looking for clues about this maybe closeted, married sixty-five year old man we may look no further than a dull, almost forgettable story he told about a beautiful man carrying an air conditioning unit.
Walking in the street Bruce stops and, risking a ‘punch on the nose’ asks a half-naked man carrying an air-conditioning unit if he can take his picture. If it is his true intention to simply take a picture why would the man want to punch him on the nose? If Bruce’s intention is to seduce the man… then a punch on the nose seems more likely.
I can shamelessly ask to take anyones picture if I only desire to take pictures. But if I am shamed by my desire for you, I want you to open yourself up to me, let me take you to a quiet place and take pictures of you as a means to watch you do things you keep private… then the implicit threat of violence seems more likely.
Beneath the chubby, bandana wearing kindly old grandfather facade lurks a self loathing homosexual, terrified of clearly and truthfully expressing his desires.
The interview was not as great as it could have been because we all colluded with Bruce Weber’s charade. If we could have gotten past the crust of self-hatred then a perfectly brilliant interview might have happened. No such luck.
Finally, Bruce expressed his frustration… hatred even for the democratization of photography, for Instagram, for Facebook postings. In Bruce’s perfect, elite white world manned by an army of assistants, he advised us that we should take our most treasured digital images and have them printed on expensive paper and make books as perfect keepsakes. Bruce lives in a world of perfect keepsakes, of platinum blonde golden retrievers bred by east coast breeders. Bruce lives by the sea, in the mountains, in the city keeping his eyes peeled for perfect boys who may or may not become stars in a world where naked Russian dancers come on seven month adventures around the world.
“Sergei, come travel with us.”
A faux commune of beautiful, young, white men, strumming guitars in the moon light. Warmed by flickering log fires, sitting on Navajo blankets and always naked, their abs and lats and still wet hair glistening from skinny dipping in crystal clear water and always ready for another perfect photograph.
Hush now, the girls have gone to sleep. Let me lay beside you and enjoy you for a little while.
The narrative is always the same in the cult of Bruce. The gently spoken, self loathing homosexual who needs his wife’s permission to buy another dog….
Is everything hunky dory?
It better be.
Fern asked how I spent my days and I was hard pressed for an answer. I didn’t have an answer for her.
I collect coupons. I should have said that I collect coupons and write yelp reviews about coffee shop loyalty. I should have said that I tinker with my script and have long conversations with my expensive, world-renowned lawyers about THE LAWSUIT.
I should have told her about the house I want to buy upstate. I should have told her that I dream most of the day and that’s ok.
That my day is full of dreaming and dreaming and dreaming and that’s okay.
I should have replied that I have long lunches with beautiful men that I meet in AA.
I should have told her that I found this piece by Robert Indiana.
I should have said that I go stay in The Hamptons with show girls and equity trading billionaires. Billionaires who say things like, “I saw them at Frieze and I bought all of them.” Showgirls who, knowing someone else is paying, fills up the super market cart with pies and cream and cookies. Knowing that someone else is paying.
I should have told Fern that for the past month I have been seeing this man/boy who makes me laugh so hard I nearly pee myself. That we dress up and take pictures of each other.
We have been hanging out in bars with models and freaks and transsexuals. We have been exploring Williamsburg. We have been to book launches and fancy lunches.
Michael Costiff had a book signing at the Marc Jacobs book store on Bleecker St. There was an after party at the Soho Grand.
Diego arrived from Paris and we ate lunch with Hamish in The Gramercy Park Hotel.
I should have told her that I met Orlando Soria who is a dream and has a huge, winning smile and writes a fantastic blog that you can read here.
My friends from New Jersey supported a young artist so I took Ryan. Ryan comes everywhere. Like a sweet puppy.
Philomena, starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench, is the story of a teenage girl who gets pregnant, is sent away to a convent to have her baby. The baby is consequently sold to rich Americans. It is a gut wrenching film. I cried nearly all the way through. Fern stayed dry-eyed throughout. I thought about my own mother and remembered that this was her story too. Teenage pregnancy, sent away to a local convent to scrub floors until I was born into a pool of blood and shame.
After the film we sat 30 floors above Manhattan in a bar called The Skylark. I met Sophie Kennedy Clark the girl who plays the young Philomena Lee. We smoked rolled cigarettes on the terrace and she explained that Vivienne Westwood had dressed her. That Vivienne had told her to take a pair of scissors to the dress if she needed or wanted to.
I met Philomena Lee and told her about my mother. She held my hand.
Firstly, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Robby who never missed a visiting day, who sat behind the bullet proof glass and smiled hopefully and never gave up. He tirelessly searched through many, many boxes for essential documents. He put money on my ‘books’ so I could eat decent food. He called friends, wrote emails, paid bills, drove between far-flung offices in different parts of Los Angeles in his windowless Miata delivering those essential documents to essential lawyers.
He answered my calls on a Friday night when most beautiful 21-year-old boys should be out chasing equally beautiful people, places and things.
He never gave up. He never let go. He told me he loved me when I felt unloved. He proved, once and for all, that God exists.
I want to thank Dee and Nicola for their extraordinary generosity by paying my lawyers bills. I want to thank Jason, Jennifer, Anna, Dan, Zelcho and Joan for picking up the phone, for listening, for laughing and caring.
I want to thank Mel for paying the mortgage.
The people on the outside, those good and honorable people complimented those I shared the majority of time inside the Men’s County Jail. The men who convinced me that everything would work out. The men who taught me how to play Cribbage, Spades and Feral (my brain REFUSED to learn Pinocle) and made me join in when all I really want to do was sleep away the day. Every day.
I want to thank my convicted friends Ivan and Steve, two men my age who sat with me daily (like the council of elders) laughing gently at the antics of the young.
So it began…
The day I was arrested in early November 2011 heralded the beginning of the end of possibly the worst two years of my life.
The end of the mid-life crisis that had well exceeded its sell by date. It was the end of the madness that had determined far too many bad choices.
A series of catastrophic decisions made after the The Big Dog was torn up in front of me: a relationship with a man who could not possibly give me what I needed and from whom I should have run as fast as I was able…as soon as he revealed the truth about himself. An appearance on a TV show that merely underpinned the rancid thoughts I had brewing about my self.
Finally the reason, that reason…the reason I cannot explain at this particular moment because the lawyers have told me to keep my big mouth shut and on this occasion I have agreed.
This morning at 3am, after a 6 hour wait, I pulled on the musty clothes I had stowed in a clear plastic bag nearly three months before, from a different year.
For the first time in 3 months my arms were covered. My legs felt warm. My feet enclosed in fur-lined Marc Jacobs boots rather than flopping around in Chinese, black cotton pumps.
The glass door behind which I had been escorted and left, changed out of my baby blue smock and elasticated pants. On that door the deputy had written in clumsy, black letters K6G.
I was on my own. On my own for the first time in 3 months. I could take a shit on my own. I didn’t.
I pulled on the black knitted Ralph Lauren cardigan. It smelt as it looked.
Opposite me, a similar room crammed mostly with Mexican immigrants. Pulling on their terrible street wear. Their grinning, greasy, fat faces pressed up against the glass. They knew what I was, they had seen me in the distinctive costume, they knew what K6G meant. I stared back at them. I wasn’t afraid.
I had not expected to be released. The narrative I had long accepted included: 4 more months in Men’s County Jail, a further 6 months at a Santa Ana Immigration center and a lengthy deportation. I had long given up on ever seeing my home, my dog, my view…ever again.
This was the judgement of my expensive but woefully inadequate immigration attorney. Imminent catastrophe. God, as it turns out, had other plans.
Frustrated by their miserable prognosis I set about firing them and contacted the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project. A Catholic organization run by two super smart, compassionate women and paid for by the Mexican Government.
I had my first meeting with them two weeks ago. They made representation last Friday. Today I was released from the immigration hold that had polaxed me these past three months.
Of course there were people who were very happy that I had been arrested. Thrown into jail. I was told that some were gleeful when I was arrested. “He’s going down!” they screamed.
I have no idea when this will end. No release in sight. No plea deal. No, no, no.
Perhaps I will never see the Ocean from my mountain ever again? The abrupt loss of life, like a suicide, coming here is like committing suicide. I cannot imagine, dare not imagine returning to that glittering life.
The dream of some future is dashed.
I was arrested on the PCH. I can’t tell you why. You’ll have to find out for yourself. All in good time…more will be revealed.
All I can tell you is this: I was arrested and charged, when I attempted to bail out I was told that due to an ‘immigration hold’ I was to be kept in custody. Sent to jail. I made frantic phone calls, I cried until my face was wet.
At that very moment the line would be drawn between those friends who were able to help and those who turned their back.
After being processed like a bad meat pie out of The Hidden Hills Police Station they drove us to the jail. They took the scenic route. They drove along the PCH, past Tom’s house, David’s mansion, The Malibu Inn where I had watched Pink perform a few nights after I met her.
They drove the same route I had driven many, many times since I had moved to Malibu in 2007. I was in the back of the police bus looking at the hazy dawn, the rising sun over the ocean. The greasy waves flopping lazily over the sand.
They picked up other newly arrested men from an assortment of locations all over Los Angeles.
Those first few days away from home were unpleasant but, thankfully, I remained teachable. I knew that the harder I struggled the deeper the hook. I sat behind my eyes, doing as I was told. Finally, after hours in the bus, we were processed into the jail. A theatrical experience designed to frighted and malign.
“Look at the floor.” they screamed. I looked briefly into the blue eyes of the startlingly handsome officer. He growled, “Don’t look at me.” It was hard not to eroticize his demand.
Flipping from aggressor to victim.
We were given sandwiches and told to sit on metal benches. Nothing you can do will hurt me. You cannot hurt me.
We were interviewed. “Are you gay or suicidal?” He asked. I knew that I hadn’t lied about my gayness, not now or ever. The moment I told him I was gay I was torn from the line, the general population. My name called out. “Roy 066!” A huge black deputy cut off my wrist band, looking spitefully at me. “Gay?” he spat. I nodded. He attached another band to my wrist.
A yellow wrist band, it said: K 6 G.
My life in jail would now be as different as my life on the streets.
Another few days of being ‘processed’. Peered at, prodded, questioned. Many men opted for the gay dorm, straight men, but few achieved their aim.
The straight men want to fuck the convincing trans boys. The straight men didn’t want the ‘politics’. The ‘politics’ in the California jail and prison system means living in the racially divided dorm. If you are black you speak only with the blacks, if you are white or latino you do the same. If you are caught fraternizing with a black, latino or white (or those who have chosen with whom they will run) you’ll get beaten, stabbed or worse.
Even if you know people on the streets…your best friend even…your affiliations mean nothing, could be deadly. You keep to your own.
Sadly, this racial divide is perfectly mirrored on the ghetto streets of Los Angeles. If you weren’t a racist before you went to jail or prison you’ll be one when you leave. Lessons learned, not easily unlearned. Tattoos on face and neck. Tattooed collars, graphic letters…numbers on sculls and forearms. Boys become men when they hold a gun, shoot a stranger, murder their enemies…BK=Black Killer.
I didn’t experienced the ‘straight’ dorm so I can’t tell you what it feels like to make others invisible because of the colour of the skin. I can tell you however, that the majority of the white men I met in the gay dorm were despicable, homeless freaks. Consequently, I hung with my new black buddies. Most of whom, incidentally, had been co-opted into gangs as young children.
When I arrived they were suspicious, when I left the dorm yesterday evening they surrounded me and held me and cried.
When it was time to settle down and open my bunk to another man it wasn’t a white man I chose.
In the observation tank I met my first latino ‘green lighter’. He was hiding. In organized crime, gang and prison slang to green-light a person is to authorize his assassination. Jose. We talked for hours. I found him very desirable. He told me that someone had once paid him 3o bucks for a blow job.
After a harrowing day or so in the vilest of cells waiting to be officially classified as gay they take me to a small office and a distinguished senior officer interviews me. The officer tries to determine how gay I really am. “Which gay bars do you go to?” He looks at me suspiciously when I tell him that I don’t drink. I tell him that I make gay films. “Porn?” he chuckles. Finally, I am determined as a convincing homosexual. My dark blue ‘straight’ uniform removed, exchanged for a pale blue ‘gay’ uniform…I am sent to the relative safety of the gay dorm. Dorm 5300.
Nowhere where there are deputies is anyone gay…safe. I have abandoned my cloak of invisibility. They can see exactly what I am. The deputy whispers threateningly, “You gays have a sick life style.” He can’t say it loudly. They can’t beat us, not like they used to…not since the controversial undercover FBI sting that lead to the end of ritual beatings and institutionalized homophobia.
The night I arrived I watched the flat screen TV Robert Downey Junior had bought the gay dorms after his stint at The County Jail. The inmates watch Law and Order. CSI. Anything by Tyler Perry. By the time I left 5300 I had watched everything Tyler Perry had ever made. He makes really bad films.
Dorm 5300 was like an insane and exotic freak show.
There are four gay dormitories, each holding 90 men.
80% pre-op transsexual, 90% HIV+, 50% homeless, 90% meth related crime, 80% parole violators.
The gay white boys had Supreme White Power written on their alabaster bodies. They had badly drawn pictures of Norse Gods. Claiming their white supremacist, Odinist heritage whilst fucking chocolate coloured trannies.
The tranny hookers, the homeless white boys, the squabbling couples who indulged nightly in domestic violence.
I watched in awe as a young man, caught by his fierce tranny wife fucking another ‘girl’, throw a chair through the flat screen TV bought by Robert Downey Junior.
I knew that I had to keep my mouth shut. I had to learn quickly. I listened. I learned.
Statistically, there is more violence in the gay population (inmate against inmate) than in the rest of the 6000 plus general population.
When they finally slept I walked between the serried bunks.
If I stroll between the bunks at dawn I remember what it is like to be at home in England. I can smell the sea, the shingle on the beach crunching under foot, wrapped up warm against the bitter easterly winds, just me and The Little Dog. We don’t need anyone else. Did I tell you how much he loves the snow? Leaping carelessly into the great drifts.
One day I will see you again England. I will walk gratefully in the rain, on the London streets and country lanes. If I am able (if I can get back to you) they will drop us at the edge of the valley and we will walk to the house, past the stream where we would play, the pasture, the forest of rhododendrons, along the drive flanked by ancient Douglas Fir.
The door will open and they will be pleased to see me, hug me, feed me. They will let me sleep until I am recovered.