At a wedding reception tonight the singer started doing these ancient showtunes, many of which were songs I used to sing for auditions in my late teens/early twenties. I hadn’t heard these tunes in years. I sorta figured they were dead and gone. Like my singing career.
I had a really promising career when I was young. I was the leading performer at the best high school in LA, had the voice teacher to the stars on Mulholland Blvd, was signed to the best talent agency in the country, was making money from TV work, was one of a very few selected to train at an exclusive program at the LA Music Center. Casting directors told me I was gonna ‘be big.’ It was all so promising.
Except I was gay, and in the 80’s there was a lot of bigotry against fags in the entertainment industry. Gays couldn’t be leading men, gays had to portray perverts and psychopaths, gays weren’t good enough. And I wasn’t tough enough, raised with enough love and self confidence, man enough to face down the prejudice.
So I ran away. I got a boyfriend and disappeared.
Twenty-five years later I’m in New York where nobody seems to care. I mean, really, they don’t.
But I spent 7 years battling the corporate office when I worked for an airline to get them to extend flight benefits to my partner. I spent three years when I worked at a railroad convincing my-coworkers I didn’t want to molest them and didn’t have AIDS. I spent six years making movies about gay men and struggled to find actors who would be in the film, locations that would allow us to film, and an audience to watch a movie that wasn’t about sex. I petitioned the United Methodist Church to ordain gay ministers, and I bullied a minister into performing my gay wedding ceremony in the church with our families as witness when such action threatened to lose the pastor her job. I lost a job as a teacher because the school principal was a deacon at the Baptist Church. I opened a theater that the locals called the ‘gay theater’ and refused to attend for an entire year even though we weren’t doing plays about gay people. I lived and fought for equality in the most unaccepting places in this country.
And now here I am in the MOST accepting place, and I have nothing to show for it. I stopped singing 25 years ago, so I won’t be doing a musical on Broadway. I have been out of the mainstream entertainment industry so long that I don’t have contacts to get me back into the right circles or with the right agents. I don’t have the credits on my resume they want to see, and I don’t have the work history they require.
To attain that promising career means starting over. A do-over. That first one didn’t count.
I’m a lot tougher now, and much wiser. I still have the determination, and the ‘presence’ needed for the camera and for the stage. I just can’t seem to get over this deep sadness over what I gave up long ago.
Until I moved here I always said I have no regrets in my life. Coming here has made me realize I so bitterly regret running away from the bigotry at the age of 23. Hearing those old audition standards tonight tore my heart to shreds.
Paul, your are one of the strongest people I know. What you did was not a mistake. You wouldn’t have done all the things you accomplished if you would have stayed in your “safe” place. You can say that you have not lived a lie. You taught me a lot in the short time we worked together and I am so greatful for our friendship. Remember what I once told you, That life is a game and if we knew how to play it we wouldn’t want to live it. I am not a really religious person but I do believe that God never gives us more then we can bear even though at times it might seem like it. I believe in you! You are an inspirational person. I love to read what you write and I will be your biggest cheerleader! I love you with all my heart! OK, I have used up all my platitudes for the evening. Don’t be hard on yourself!!!
I am sorry you’re hurting. However, if you had perservered and had a great career in stage and screen, I would never have met you. I wouldn’t have such a smart, funny, opinionated, talented, creative, brusk, sweet, sneaky, cute, balding friend. I am so glad I know you. So, start over, already!
I love you.
I’m gettin’ over my pity party. And I’m starting over. Thanks for your love and cantankerosity. xxx