My venture out east last week reminded me of another visit to a big city I took six years ago. I’d traveled in order to meet up with one of my best friends, Lawrence. After high school, Lawrence dropped right out of college, moved to Los Angeles, and landed on his feet quickly in the entertainment industry—first as a personal assistant to an actor, and then as a manager to a lot of pretty famous comedians.
Lawrence told me he intended to visit one of his former clients, a gay comic actor of minor-to-moderate fame and recognizability fifteen years ago (no, I won't say his name), in a metropolitan area not too far from where I live. “You should come!” he suggested. “We’ll all hang out together. You’ll love the Comedian! He’ll love you! I’ve already told him all about you! He’s dying to meet!”
Of course, the last time I’d met one of Lawrence’s celebrity ex-clients, who was then holding down a prominent role on an action show, she’d gotten my name wrong all evening and kept asking for my opinions on horses and saddles. All was explained later in the evening when Lawrence took me aside and explained he’d told her I was a good writer, but that apparently she’d misunderstood him to say I was a good rider.
I was hoping this particular weekend celebrity encounter might go better.
I checked into the hotel where Lawrence was staying, and phoned him to let him know I’d arrived. He and the Comedian raced up to my room, where I was brushing my teeth when they knocked. I opened the door and mumbled for them to come in while I made myself presentable in the bathroom.
When I stepped out, my palms covered with sunblock that I was rubbing over my cheeks, I found the celebrity comedian in my hotel shaking onto the table a bag containing a green herb. My first thought was, Gosh, he’s a lot shorter than he looked on TV. It was true. He gave the impression of being five-foot-three and all of a hundred pounds, a wee little gay man I could’ve picked up and put in my shirt pocket.
My second, more rueful thought, was, There isn’t any way that might be oregano? This was no dime bag of weed. Oh no. This was a fucking Ziploc gallon freezer bag of the stuff, bulging to the point of overflowing, that he was dividing on my table, and sending flying in every direction as he breathed heavily.
I am such a Puritan. “Holy shit,” I said, as I tried not to flinch at the sight and run screaming from the room.
“Nice to meet you too!” said the Comedian, apparently used to being greeted in such a way. “Heard so much!” He licked some rolling paper.
Lawrence, however, knew I was in shock. “Maybe you should put your stash away,” he suggested.
“Calm down, mother. It’s only high-grade marijuana,” said the celebrity with a heaved-shoulder sigh, dashing any last hopes I might have had that he was an unorthodox spice trader. He proceeded to roll some joints that he stuffed into his shirt pocket.
“It’s so fantastic to have you both in the same room! Don’t you love each other already?” The Comedian and I eyed each other warily. “So what are we doing, exactly?” Lawrence wanted to know.
The Comedian squinted his eyes and announced. “We’re all going to the Spit.” When neither Lawrence or I showed any comprehension whatsoever, the Comedian explained, “It’s a kind of industrial place out on the lake where in the sixties and seventies, the mob used to dump dead bodies. But don’t worry. We’re just going for the illicit sex in the bushes. It’s the best spot to get hot young dick in the city. Hey,” he added, speaking to me in a crazy echo of the thoughts running through my own head. “Wouldn’t it be insane if the police busted in right now? Can’t you just see the headlines? AMERICAN ARTIST NABBED IN DRUG BUST WITH CANADIAN COMIC!”
“Or maybe GAY SEX DRUG BUST,” I said, imagining the tabloids all too clearly.
The Comedian’s eyes widened, as if contemplating phoning the cops and acting as his own narc, for the free publicity. “That would be fabulous!”
I’d been in the city all of twenty minutes by that point. Ten minutes later, we were in a cab that was ferrying the six of us to the mysterious spot known as the Spit.
“I know, I know, this is crazy,” Lawrence murmured to me in apology, while we watched the Comedian chew out the cab driver for not running a red light. “Sometimes it’s easier to indulge him.”
“You can’t deny it’s interesting, though,” I told him.
The Comedian kept up a cheerful monologue about all the men who’d fucked him in the last six months while the cab driver stared at him in the rear mirror and Lawrence and I kept our eyes on the road and the near-accidents we kept having, thanks to the driver’s fascination with the Comedian’s sex life. “It’s just a little bit down this way,” said the Comedian, leading us in an eastward direction, when we reached a marshy park near the waterfront and exited the taxi.
A little bit turned out to be closer to a mile. As we trotted single-file down a deserted, weed-fringed road that seemed straight out of a movie set where a bit playing actor’s single tone-setting line would be, “Here Rover . . . c’mon, Rover. Hey, what’re you digging up there, boy? Is that an arm?”
“Here we are!” caroled the Comedian. I looked around, bewildered. Had we actually arrived at a destination? An actual point of arrival? Where we stood didn’t really seem any different from the wilderness we’d been walking through for the previous half hour. There were vague paths through the nipple-high weeds with no real organization to them. Everything that wasn’t obviously a cattail looked like poison ivy. “So what should we do? All hunt for fun? Split up and meet back here in a half hour after we’ve all had our fill of the men? I tell you, if I don’t get my hole wet in the next ten minutes, I am going to crack like the surface of the Mojave.”
“Sounds great,” Lawrence told him amiably, the way someone might tell a six-year old that sure, he could leave out cookies for Santa. “Let’s do that!”
The Comedian scampered off, presumably to look for nookie among the bushes. Lawrence and I ended up wandering along the paths until we found some rocks on the lake where we sat and looked at the boats, and talked. It was the one relaxing part of the afternoon.
A half hour passed before we went looking for the Comedian. A harder task than it looked, quite frankly. After getting lost in the trails, Lawrence finally resorted to calling out the Comedian’s first name, over and over. At long last, and not very far away, we finally received a reply. “Can you keep it down?” The Comedian asked. “I’m trying to get fucked here. Ow.”
“Are you getting fucked now, buddy?” Lawrence called out, trying not to laugh. “Right now?”
The Comedian’s retort was world-weary and annoyed. “Yes!”
“Is he making it up?” I asked quietly. It was a reasonable question. I’d not seen a single soul out in the benighted wilderness since we’d arrived.
“Are you making it up?” Lawrence called out. “There’s really someone with you?”
From the bushes came a furious, “Jesus Christ on a stick, Lawrence. I’m trying to get my business done and you keep talking.”
“Sorry, buddy!” said Lawrence, not at all offended.
“Oh no, that’s all right. Go ahead. Get a bullhorn.” Now that I listened closely, over the Comedian’s rant, I could kind of hear someone grunting and huffing away in the background. I idly wondered if I’d had an accident on the freeway, and was in a coma, dreaming myself into one of the Comedian’s old sketches. “Walk around the Spit with a bullhorn and tell everyone, Attention, please! The world-famous comedian ____ ______, star of the ____ network show ____________ is being banged by a Mexican in the bushes!”
"I didn't use your last name," Lawrence pointed out.
“Hey,” said an aggrieved fourth voice we hadn’t heard before. “I’m Puerto Rican.”
“So sorry, honey,” said the Comedian. “Whatever. Jesus. Are you even close?”
"I'm a little distracted?"
Lawrence and I chose that moment to tiptoe away.
It was a long afternoon, made even longer when we had to call a cab to meet us in front of what looked like a nuclear power plant out in the middle of nowhere. Apparently it was the custom of most of the men who cruised the Spit to drive themselves. Who knew? In front of the hotel, Lawrence and I brushed grass and weeds from the back of the Comedian’s shirt and the bottom of his jeans while he was being plied for handshakes from a tour bus of adoring Japanese fans.
And then he was off, donning a pair of notice-me/don’t-notice-me celebrity sunglasses and raising his collar to remain incognito, in a very un-incognito sort of way. “Oh my god,” I said, in my normal voice for the first time all afternoon, once he was gone. “He is a fucking nightmare.”
“I know, right?” said Lawrence, obviously delighted. “Wait until he comes to visit you later.” I raised my eyebrows. “I told him he’d have to leave his bag of pot in your hotel room,” he explained. “He’ll definitely be back for it.”
“Thanks, Lawrence,” I said, pulling my lips thin. “Thanks a lot.”