The club was only about half full when we arrived, but this wasn't too surprising, since we were there relatively early: around 9:30. Another hour before the place would start to get filled up, according to Mallory. The bar was pretty damn empty, plenty of stools and tables available. Most of the club's occupants were at the dance floor, but not dancing, just sitting around at tables ringing the dance floor. Mallory explained the strategy: a couple people would show up early and stake out a table. When the place was crowded, all the members of the social circle of the original settlers had a place to gather and stash their stuff while they danced. I wondered aloud when the owner of a club would get smart and install rental lockers.
The music getting spun didn't suck, but wasn't exactly cutting edge, either. I popped over to the DJ and requested some Cabaret Voltaire, he could choose the track. At first he looked blank, which frightened me. Any DJ at a queer bar who didn't know Cabaret Voltaire was either an imposter, a new hire who had previously worked at a buesgrass bar, or a time traveler from the Seventies. A gay DJ not knowing Cabaret Voltaire was like a resident of Alabama not knowing who Lynard Skynard was. Thankfully, the light bulb over his head came on, and he nodded. On second glance, he looked a bit hung over. Probably just a brain fart.
The bar would close at two (they had actually installed riot shutters, to be pulled down at the right time) but the club would keep bumping until five in the morning. The three of us wanted to experience the thick of the place, so we were planning to stay until at least three. We were drinking sodas, in anticipation of plenty of real drinks later. No sense in getting going too early. We perched on our stools and watched people start to trickle in.
I had the bag of Ecstasy with me, figuring I could distribute them to friends of Mallory's. We took our own hits with our second round of sodas. Mallory looked apprehensive as she swallowed hers. For the thirty-seventh time, we assured her there was nothing to be afraid of. This is MDMA, not LSD. I was certain people had at least heard of Smiley around here, through friends on the West Coast, and was not going to broadcast my possession of a big bag of happiness sitting in my denim. For her part, Bekka had rolled six joints and put them in her purse. She would either give them away or go have a couple quick tokes in the parking lot with folks Mallory knew.
"The problem with the sales reports Angel gets is they have no demographic information," complained Bekka. "Okay, I know I have lesbian fans. How about gay men? Why have I not signed an autograph for a single black guy? I have no doubt there are regular consumers of porn who hate Inana's movies, they only want loops, no plot or dialogue bullshit getting in the way. For all I know, my most rabid fans in the world are all Latvian cathedral designers in their fifties. Hell, it's another way Inana fucked up the program. Before our features, the demographic for purchasers of porn was white males, eighteen to forty-nine, full stop. If Inana's demographics were broken down, it might scare the snit out of the major porn studios, because it will turn out a measurable percentage of our fans are women. Jesus, could you imagine Hustler trying to sculpt advertising that would appeal to women? The boilerplate text would be lucky to only have the word 'cunt' appear twice."
I laughed. "Wow, that would be a great book title, for a text aimed at advertising executives. 'Marketing to the Cunts.' I'm pretty sure the first book, 'Marketing to the Jackoffs,' is in its sixteenth revision."
"Hey, it's a whole industry niche. It started back in the Thirties, with a training text for car salesmen entitled 'The Honest Shall Starve.' Things really grew as TV became prevalent in the Fifties, the book to read back then was called 'They're All Fucking Zombies.' The book tracked the failure of the Dumont Network to leaked correspondence implicating network executives with a medical scandal. The executives were found to have not had the prefrontal lobotomies legally required in the industry. A big seller in the Sixties was one revolving around marketing to women named 'Make the Bitches Insecure.' It's still considered highly influential, as anyone who has ever been in a Victoria's Secret outlet will tell you."
"Maybe I should write one. I'll call it 'Half-Buzzed, Horny, and Herd-like.' It will explain the secrets behind successfully marketing to fans of NASCAR, the NFL, and anyone who lives in a condo but drives a pickup truck as their personal vehicle. The creators of Spuds Mackenzie will be revered as geniuses. And I will personally run a test project, the goal of which will be to make disc golf look macho."
Mallory was taking in this free-form babbling from us with a confused smile. One of the things that made Bekka and I so close was we had the same sense of humor. Both of us liked surreal, cerebral humor. Monty Python's Flying Circus was a passion of ours, we knew all the sketches, and could yell one line to the other and get an accurate response back. Last Easter, Bekka was assembling a basket as a gift to her brother. She was trying to find a particular chocolate product she remembered from their childhood, but was blanking on the name. She went to a clerk at Thrifty's to see if he could assist. "It's on the tip of my tongue, it's a fairly well-known Easter candy."
"Um, Cadbury eggs?" suggested the clerk.
"No. Ugh, I hate Cadbury eggs. Eating those makes you feel like you just gave a blowjob to Willy Wonka."
A girl named Jill was the first of Mallory's friends to show up. In theory, she was a femme, but this was offset by her six foot four frame and her highly developed muscles, all over her body. She was a bodybuilder. While we chatted, I idly reflected that if I could get this woman in front of Inana's cameras, I could make the most terrifying porn video ever.
Mallory said, "Jill, these are two new friends of mine. Bekka, Lenny, this is Jill." We shook hands.
Jill stared at Bekka in silence, then bent down and whispered in Mallory's ear. Mallory looked up at Jill and simply said, "Yes." Jill turned back to Bekka and let out a squeal normally associated with either ninth grade girls or car alarms.
"Ohmigawd, ohmigawd!" Jill said, jumping from one foot to the other. I'd never known they made size 15 fuck-me pumps. "Your really are Becky Page, aren't you? Um.... What are you doing here? How do you know Mal? Ohmigawd, I love your movies. You are just so.... thrilling. I'll assume Mal brought you to Lush, but why are you in Minneapolis at all?"
Bekka answered, "The answers to both are connected. Mallory wrote me one of the most intelligent pieces of fan mail Id ever received, and included her phone number. I gave her a call, as I was curious about her. I'm too used to fan mail that provides a highly detailed laundry list of sex act the writer wishes to do with me, so her letter was a breath of fresh air. While we were talking on the phone, I decided I wanted to meet her. Lenny and I had no projects active, so we chartered a flight out here Thursday. We'll fly back Monday. So, what's your favorite movie?"
"Ohh.... Hard to say, I'll have to think about that." Jill looked a bit pink. "To be honest? The video tape that gets played the most is that collection of shots, 'Young Becky.' It was so exciting to find heavy porn that was actually aimed at us tomcats. It's weird, though, you seem to look.... different.... going back and forth between clips...."
Bekka and I glanced at each other. I raised my hand and said, "You are correct, there are differences, as thee was a five or six year gap between the production of some of those clips. The clips that are almost totally lacking in dialogue, and some of them seem to have been lit using nine hundred glow sticks. If I remember correctly, the loops on that compilation are all from when Becky was twenty and twenty-one. People always express an interest in seeing her when she was still fairly fresh in the industry, so those are the ones we picked. The others were culled from features, and Inana has only been making features for less than three years, so they're all fairly recent. That's a big reason why she looks different, she goes from age twenty-one to twenty-seven in that comp."
Jill looked directly at me. Her expression jumped from curiosity to annoyance to puzzlement in the space of two seconds. She finally said, "Oh, hey, you're, uh, Lenny something."
"Lenny Schneider," I smiled politely.
"Do you always travel with Becky?"
"Almost invariably," said Bekka. "He is my husband."
Jill's face switched back to annoyance. "Your husband?"
"Yes. Together over three years now. He is the man I love, I can't imagine life without him, at least not a pleasant one."
"I heard that whole marriage thing is a sham, that the story was made up by the studio. Okay, this guy is the producer and writer of the movies, but the marriage was just a story concocted to put the damper on guys who think they have a chance with you, and are pests."
I glanced at Bekka. Becky was in the forefront, and the sound of her voice meant she was in mafioso mode. All business, do not fuck with this woman. "I would love to know the source of that story," she said in a cold voice.
Jill puzzled briefly. Then she said, "I think it was reported in On Our Backs. If you don't know, it's a lesbian magazine, sort of like Vanity Fair for dykes. Yeah, they said Becky was struggling with her sexual identity, that her bisexuality wasn't true, she was fully butch. Only the studio knew her sales would go down if the truth was told, so they pushed the whole bisexual thing and made up the marriage. The article said Becky only performs with men for financial reasons, that she really isn't interested in the men she's with."
In a voice that had the same level of threat as Don Vito's, Bekka said, "I will correct you on several points. Yes, this is my fucking husband. He asked me to marry him, and I did, because I was, and still am, madly in love with him. No, I am not a lesbian. I am bisexual, that is the simplest label for my sexual interests. I am attracted to men, I am attracted to women. It has been years since I have been with a woman, but that is mostly because I will not be unfaithful to the man I married. I have noticed a tendency for some women who identify as purely lesbian to be dismissive and denigrating towards bisexuals, saying they are using sexual identity as a fashion statement, or bisexual women feel conflicted due to societal pressures, and we refuse to admit we are lesbians. Anyone who expresses these opinions directly to me will see their evening go to hell, very quickly, as an angry Sicilian bitch will be trying to crush them to a paste.
"I have heard inferences to this 'sham marriage' story before. Horseshit. My marital status would not deflect obsessed fans. A little while back, it took the guns Lenny and I carry as a matter of course to deflect one of them. This is another subject which I will not tolerate anyone running their dumb fucking mouth.
"I will clarify my relationships with the men I work with, as the article got it right, but for the wrong reasons. No, I am not attracted to the men I work with. They are co-workers, not lovers. Of course I perform with men for financial reasons, it's my fucking job. What appears to be passionate sex on a video tape is actually the efforts of skilled performers, actors and actresses who have thespian talents that are very unusual. We are able to convey a sense of closeness and intimacy in our videos. Actually, we are performers going through the mechanics of sexual contact, with no more of the emotional connection for each other than if we were friends at work. Which we are. You may not like to learn this, but when I perform with women, it's the same way. We engage in various sexual acts, scripted out ahead of time, with our energy put into figuring out what would look best on a screen, and running with it. There is zero passion on the sets of a porn studio. The people in front of the cameras have a very objective view of their jobs, their bodies, and their co-workers. All of us will do our damnedest to get some magic on the screen, we take pride in our talents and the features we appear in. My sexual identity has no influence on my decision to walk onto a sound stage, remove my clothes, and essentially pantomime intercourse with men I am on friendly terms with, but have no emotional connection with. We have a level of friendship, and that is it.
"If you cnn remember, how old is that issue of the magazine? Knowing that would help Lenny and I track down the creator of the 'sham marriage' story, it's someone I have wished to speak with. They are saying I am controlled by my studio, and that my husband is at best a non-entity, at worst a puppet. I want to correct them on this point, because they are impugning my honor, and no one does that without exacting a heavy price."
All of us stared at Bekka. Her voice had been as calm as a news announcer's, but the last time I had seen that look in her eyes was when she was kneeling on a man's chest, beating his face to pulp with the butt of a Colt, and screaming that she was going to kill him for shooting her husband. Not just rage, but rage that was very personally felt. She was a very dangerous person at the moment, anyone riling her further was at genuine physical risk. I prayed Jill would keep her mouth shut for the time being, and change subjects.
Jill picked up on the potential menace, and simply said, "Thank you for explaining. I appreciate that. Honest, I have no idea who originally said that."
I said, "On Our Backs may have picked up the rumor the same way we did, off a computer BBS. I've seen variants of the rumor on the Becky Page Fans BBS, but that was months ago. Fuck 'em, what do they want, copies of my birth certificat3e and marriage license?"
"So who else do you think will turn up tonight?" Mallory asked Jill. The two began talking, sharing light bits of gossip about fellow members of their social circle. Bekka announced that it was time for scotch, and I agreed. We picked up Grain Belts for the other two. Bekka was still in mafioso mode.
I held her around the shoulders. "C'mon, it's a dumb rumor that has somehow gotten a bit viral. Try to find an excuse to clarify things in your next interview. Anyone who meets us tonight will be corrected. And if you don't stop making that face, I will take away your Colt until the morning."
Bekka said, "Yes, I am --- or was --- highly conscious of the Colt being on my waist. In my head, I was trying to channel the Don, you know? Who knows how many people Vito has had killed over the years, and killed personally. But I sincerely doubt anyone died because of temper. I don't think Vito was a screamer and yeller, he'd have considered that the histrionics of peasants and shrewish women. And he'd never kill the messenger. That's why I was working to control my temper so much, that girl Jill wasn't trying to get under my skin on purpose, she was just repeating something she had read. I've gotta wonder about this magazine, On Our Backs. A lesbian Vanity Fair? Do the publishers believe dykes really have a common sense of style? And what was being reported about me sounded like it had all the credence of barroom gossip. And they printed it anyway. Hopefully they're not trying to smear me, that will piss me off, and I'll smear right the fuck back. Maybe they're in the category of lesbians who are suspicious and hostile to bisexuals, and as probably the most famous bisexual since Nero, Becky should not look good to the public."
We had grabbed the last booth in the bar. More friends came in and drifted by to say hello. The reaction to Bekka's presence varied widely. Some of the Sisters squealed like twelve year old girls and asked for autographs. Several greeted Bekka with mannerly reserve, then began trying to start a conversation about the more technical aspects of making a movie.... Stuff a performer would never learn. Bekka confessed her ignorance, which was accepted politely. Several told Bekka they wanted to dance with her later, which she accepted. And a few were very nonplussed. She was asked again about what was written in On Our Backs, and refuted the article (and kept her temper). She would stress: Becky is bisexual. it is not a phase, it is not indecision, it is not an affectation to look hip. And she would forcefully reject the idea that you had to take sides in sexuality. "It's sex, not soccer," she said.
A wiry girl with a Roman nose and a jock-hawk wanted to poke at the sore for a little longer. "Have you ever tried just immersing yourself in the scene? I think you would be much more comprehending of yourself, and find that your breeder instincts are lying to you."
Bekka gave the girl a Don Vito glare, it must be an Italian/Sicilian thing. I know Don Vito could probably get an entire chapter of Hell''s Angels to look at the ground and shuffle away if he pointed it at them. It might not have been a death sentence, but your live was going to take a turn for the worse. With this glare focused on the girl with the jock-hawk, Bekka said levelly, "You are misguided. First, what scene there is in San Diego, where I have always lived, is going to be tiny. And why would I want to do that anyway? I don't like being in a homogeneous group, if I did, I would have joined the Marines. Cultural immersion is a good way to learn a foreign language, but not for having serious reflection on who you are. And I''ve already said it in your presence, I am bisexual. Yes, we are real. No, we are not posers, cowards, sluts, or indecisive. I did make a decision, which was to accept the fact that I am sexually and romantically attracted to both genders, I did not need to feel conflicted."
"You must be," sneered the girl. "I mean, you screw men as a career, you're married, and don't get me started on the makeup thing. Or the skirts. Your public facade shouts to the world, 'I am straight!' You hide your real feelings."
"Horseshit," said Bekka. "I can't think of a single interview I've done in over a year where the subject of my bisexuality has not been aired by me. I do have a public facade, but it's one I installed on purpose, and it has nothing to do with my sexual identity. I keep a front up in public, for the most part, because being mobbed by fans is a terrifying experience. Yes, I'm married, what of it? I was lucky enough to be in love with a person who was also in love with me, and who proposed. As much as I loved and cared about the women I've dated, none of the feeling was of the 'now and forever' intensity. It is with Lenny, and he's the same with me. I never waver in my feelings about him. Do not suggest that deep down I am ambivalent about my marriage, or who I married, I will become very angry, and you will know it.
"So far as my appearance being straight, I'm a little confused. If bisexuals have their own style of appearance, I've never heard about it. I wish there was, it would have cut down on the number of awkward conversations I've had in my life. My fashion sense isn't inspired by the concept of heterosexuality, it was inspired by the goths. And this may bother you, but some goths are rather dismissive of sexuality being a political banner. It's not homophobia, its because those particular goths are dismissive of sex to begin with, they consider sex a toy for the dim and bourgeois. Basically, sex is fun without having an intellectual challenge to it, any idiot can play. The only option that would leave, so far as I can tell, is to get a flannel shirt and one red glove and ride a Yamaha, look like a butch dyke. What the fuck would I do that for? I'm not butch, and I'm not a dyke, I'm fucking bisexual. The dyke look does not announce to the world a person is not straight, but has firmly landed in a particular camp and put on the uniform.
"Oh, and don't like my makeup? Go cry me a fucking river, toots. I more or less created this style, and I'll goddamn wear it because I want to wear it. Nobody makes me, nobody dictates anything about how I look when I'm not in front of a camera. I'll just have to adjust to the fact that there are a few daggers in the world who think Becky Page is closeted, or self-repressed, or --- God forbid --- girly-girl. I'll reflect on that hostility when I have the time, probably just after our sun collapses.
"Oh, and I don't get paid for sex with men. I get paid for performance, I'm an actress, not a whore. Put that in your pipe and smoke it."
When Bruce Banner became angry, he turned into The Hulk. When Bekka got angry, she turned Sicilian. I could tell she wasn't too far from the stage where she would begin making fairly long statements in Italian. The people she was speaking to probably didn't understand Italian, but her tone, inflection, and volume made it clear she was not a happy person. The stage after that involved brandishing her butterfly knife and a facial expression which would have terrified an entire crew of Viking raiders, and very loud, fast Italian, the word "cazzo" (fucking) being used liberally.
Jock-hawk had picked up on the animosity she was building in Bekka, but doubled down anyway. "So you've had women in your life? Who? Name one! I'll bet you can't name a single woman you've actually slept with."
"I can name seven. One of them currently lives with me, and I still sleep with her. Just not exclusively. Her name is Jane Osborne, if that pleases you. Why, did you want a notarized letter from them saying, 'Becky Page and I have, on multiple occasions in the past, used our mouths and fingers to make the other person achieve orgasm'? A critique of my dinner conversation? Or testimony that I was more than capable of being a naughty, nasty, horny little pussy eater? As far as that last one goes, you can watch some of my movies to have that proven. In 'Bewitched,' I made Rio come so hard she saw stars, and that was in front of running cameras. I save my 'A' game for when I'm in private, and sweetie, I could probably wreck your fucking brain in thirty minutes of being alone with me. Is there anything else, cazzo cagna?"
"Huh?" queried jock-hawk.
I stepped over to the girl and leaned down to her ear. I said, "She just called you a fucking bitch in Italian. When Becky lapses into Italian, this is a bad sign. I suggest you go find somewhere else to be."
Bekka and jock-hawk were more or less the same size, but I had no doubt about who would come out on top in a brawl. When Bekka's adrenaline kicked in during a situation like that, she was like those PCP users who snap handcuffs and throw manhole covers, incapable of physical pain and far beyond the reach of reason. Jock-hawk could punch Bekka in the head, and Bekka wouldn't even tilt her neck a bit. Instead,she would break her own hand punching jock-hawk as hard as she could, and not know it. Jock-hawk got a face like a fussy five year old and stomped off, yelling "Fucking breeder!" over her shoulder.
Bekka's voice was back to normal, but she still had a look in her eyes which could be used to cut a Jeep into quarters. She said, "Mark my words, Lenny, if I have to contend with that fucking cunt again, or any of her friends acting as foils, she's gonna get fucking cut. I won't use the Colt, okay, but I'm using the knife, and I'm gonna take pieces off of her."
"I'll pass the word along to Mallory, she'll get that chick to not press her luck. I was waiting for you to lapse into Italian, but then I'd have bulldogged you. So who was, and is, at the controls? Bekka or Becky?"
"They're co-piloting, they're both up front and on equal footing. And both are very angry. Did you want to talk to either of them alone?"
I waved my hand. "Naw, I don't now nothing that they don't, either. Damn, I can't believe that shit. When did one's sexual identity become as partisan as being a member of the John Birch Society? Haven't people like her ever read Kinsey? The Kinsey report found out, decades ago, that damn few people in the world are all straight or all queer. Maybe a primarily straight dude will have two or three sexual contacts with other men in his life. Another guy will happily split time between both genders. A gay dude may still have stuck it in some pussy on a few occasions. But human sexual behavior is a very fluid thing."
Bekka chuckled. "And then there's Mickey, who claims pussies gross him out. I'm glad he's able to overcome his nausea with a minimum of discomfort after a day's work at Inana."
Mallory came up, with three girls in tow. One looked like she'd just left her job as a paralegal for the Catholic Church, while the other two seemed to have some contradiction going on. They had short hair and muscle shirts.... But both had Becky Page makeup on, with the widely-painted eyes. And they were wearing tight jeans like a rocker chick, with pumps. They were simultaneously butch and femme. One was carrying a Hello Kitty lunchbox instead of a purse. And a closer look at the paralegal found she had a button on her blazer that read, "Muff Diving Dyke Bitch."
Mallory said, "Bekka, I'd like to introduce you to Helen, Maura, and Willow." (Willow and Maura were the two walking contradictions.)
All three were happy to meet Becky Page, the contradictions were on the verge of orgasm, or at least for a native Minnesotan. Those two simply stood there with huge eyes and open-mouthed smiles, nearly shaking like chihuahuas with excitement. Maura finally fount her tongue and shrilled, "Oh.... Oh.... Ms. Page, I love you. You are beautiful, in everything you do."
Bekka and I stole a quick glance at each other. I knew we were both thinking the same thing: oh no, this shit again. Bekka smiled and said, "Thank you. I'm always happy to meet fans. Tell me, how did you become familiar with Becky Page, and what is her appeal for you, as a fan?"
Before they could answer, Mallory said, "Um, Bekka... Was there some sort of confrontation with Julia?
"If Julia is the politically correct pile of dogshit with the jock-hawk, yes. She was insulting me, my work, my husband, my fortitude, and my honor. After talking to the person who the article is about, the bitch still believes the article is true. And while she never directly stated it, I believe she's one who hates bisexuals. She was getting close to a wop porn slut stomping on her neck and punching her kidneys."
Willow rolled her eyes and said, "Wait, did Julia just walk up to Becky Page and start insulting her? God, stupid Queer Nation zombie. What was she saying?"
Bekka explained about the article in On Our Backs, then expanded, "So Julia essentially said large chunks of my life are being lived as lies. And I only think I'm bisexual, apparently if I was surrounded by lesbian culture 24/7, I would have an epiphany that, I dunno, penises are kind of dumb looking, and how can I have one inside my pussy? Of course, my clothes, career, and makeup are just my way of staying closeted. Especially the makeup. Whatever, fuck her, she's in my past."
"Did she talk shit about your clothes, too?" asked Willow.
"She mentioned them in passing," answered Bekka. "I tried to prod her out of a fallacy she has. I get the impression she feels if a chick isn't straight, they should put on the stereotype butch dyke uniform, so it's obvious to all observers the chick is a lesbian. And I should be doing the same thing, even though I'm one of those wishy-washy bisexuals. But that's the thing, I'm not a lesbian. I'm not straight, either. I'm bisexual. If I put on the flannel shirt and trucker cap, I'd look like something I'm not, which would be much more dishonest than me dressing how I damn well fucking please. Why should one's sexual identity be announced to the world in the form of a uniform? Why not have people wear signs around their necks, stating which type of genitalia they prefer to be intimate with? It shouldn't matter if you're into boys, girls, or both, because your sexuality does not affect your worth as a person. People shouldn't hide their sexuality, but at the same time, you don't need to walk up to strangers and announce, 'Women make me hot.' You meet somebody new, you can let them know in the natural course of communication."
Willow said, "Yeah, Julia is a serous partisan. She's really hostile to straights, people she's never met, which is pretty fucked up. Really, she's acting like some dumb queer-basher, automatically hating on people because of who they are."
Maura continued, "Me and Willow don't get along with Julia and those of her ilk. That's why, if you noticed, we look like this, half butch and half femme. And, uh, yeah, we did steal your eye shadow look. We just thought it was awesome, and hey, if I'm gonna give a tell that I'm a femme, why shouldn't I use a whole shitload of makeup at once?"
"In fact, we owe a lot of our current appearance and attitude to you, Becky. Her and me have been together since we were nineteen. We were both.... It's like, we were tom boys, but not butch. And we like wearing makeup and skirts, you know? We were sitting around bitching about the sorry state of affairs the queer scene is in, but didn't know how to express our own voice. Then we watched 'Succubus.' Becky, your character leads a whole band of pirates, you were tough as hell, but you still had a sensitive side. And you ended up following your heart at the end.
"We figured, if Becky Page can display two sides at once, why can't we? Willow said, 'Let's figure out how to simultaneously look stereotype dyke and stereotype femme at the same time.' So we analyzed the major markers of each group, and started dressing like we are now, basically. I've thought about having one half of my head have long flowing hair, and buzz the other half down to about an inch long. Am I a dagger or am I a lipstick bitch? Well shit, which side of me are you standing on? Fuck you, yeah, I'm a a lez, but I'm me. You know?"
Bekka smiled widely and said, "I think it's awesome. You two are reminders that even members of a repressed minority can still be assholes, and should be called out on it. Yeah, you two are just screaming contradictions. So, do people ever ask you about it, like when you're out tonight? To people get the joke? Or are Queer Nation members getting in your faces, telling you you're fucked up for making fun of your own people, or whatever?"
"All depends on who it is," said Willow. "I mean, like, straights may or may not get that we're even telling a joke at all, it depends on their exposure to a scene, or being friends with someone who is in the scene. I've had younger girls come up to me and say, 'I love what you're doing! You guys are hilarious!' Older and more staid activist types tell us we're being damaging influences, we are causing interior conflict in the gay and lesbian scenes. Their feeling is a certain level of unity is needed throughout the queer community in order to have major political change finally happen, and us pointing out and making fun of the rifts that exist will only weaken the cause. The older ones really hate the change in language. I call myself a dyke, and so what. But 'dyke' is a slur. So is 'fag,' and 'queer.' The older activists absolutely hate that the word queer is used as a common descriptor in the scene, it's like if the NAACP announced they wanted to ensure equality for niggers everywhere. See what I'm saying?"
Maura picked it up. "We've had bull dykes threaten to kick the shit out of us. They were highly un-amused, the poor dears. We would piss them off even more by saying we were just keeping all our options open, you know? After the first time we were threatened, since we are who we are, we immediately began trying to figure out how to make a Harley-Davidson look femme, just so we could buy a motorcycle and give it that look, and ride the fucking thing in the Pride Parade! How do you make a big hog of a bike announce to the world, 'Hello, I'm a lesbian, and I collect Hello Kitty ephemera. My girlfriend likes to needlepoint.' Oh! Another epiphany we had, more recently, was that we needed to find a queer boy who had the same attitude and opinions as us, a general annoyance with the scene and its attitudes. It's like, the daggers dipping Copenhagen and trying to sound like Sylvester Stallone when they talk are 'my people?' Really? Yeah, well, fuck my people, and that includes the little Tootsie Pops sitting at the bar in nylons and Chanel, hoping one of the daggers gives her a ride on their motorcycle later. Me and her may be femme, but we ain't that fuckin' femme.
"Anyway, yeah. If we had a male counterpart, we could create a look for him that was half leather daddy and half dance floor faggot. He'd have to be either very tough or a fast runner, because I know guys would go after him when they realized he was taking the piss in a big way. 'You can't make fun of your fellow homosexuals like that.' Too late, we already did. Stupidity is like a dead rat at the bottom of the laundry basket. To get rid of it, you must dig and expose it first. Like I said, it's really nice some people get the joke, and get why we're telling it. They all seem to be, like, under twenty-three. A lot more people get the joke, and are appalled we would be so unfeeling towards 'the gay community' we would even think it up. Some get the joke, don't think it's funny at all, and want to beat the shit out of us. And a few don't get the joke, but when we try to explain it to them, they're more interested in finding out if we'd like to go into a bathroom stall and get eaten out, no strings attached. I swear, is being a slut and being a short bus refugee intertwined? I don't think they always were, a person used to be able to have being a slut an advantage in life. Look at Catherine the Great."
Bekka nudged me and said, "Lenny, should we....?"
I read her mind and said, "Fuck yes we're getting them high. Hell, I've half a mind to just give them the whole bag, as a token of appreciation. Excuse me, ladies, but would you like to get high?"
"Hell yes and what on?" said Willow.
"A version of MDMA called Smiley. Comes from California, we get it at wholesale, and we've got enough money that we can pull stunts like giving way free Ecstasy to anyone we feel like. Here you go."
Maura looked at it and froze up. "Wait, I've heard of this stuff. A friend in California, in a town called Palo Alto, told me about it, he says it's, like, a genuinely unique experience, it compares to nothing else. So it's Ecstasy, but it's somehow been improved?"
I said, "Yes, exactly. It's still gonna make you want to stay out alll night dancing, it's still gonna make yu horny, you'll still realize your face hurts from smiling constantly, but this shit has a whole different level. This stuff makes you feel like you have a much deeper comprehension of everything around you, it's a feeling that can be a bit intimidating. Don't worry, though, it's not like LSD, the high can't go bad on you and fuck with your head."
I collected drink requests. Maura and Willow said they wanted anything with a fucking umbrella in it. I asked them to elaborate, and they said don't worry. Couch the phrase to the bartender in exactly those words, and he'll know who the drinks are for. I was glad I had a pocket notebook in my denim, because Mallory's little clique kept getting bigger and bigger. I was buying twelve drinks at once, so I matched drinks to names and went from there.
The bartender was an older queen, one of those world-weary John Waters types. Apparently heterosexuality has a pheromone, as he sniffed me out as straight before I'd even opened my mouth, or was all the way at the bar. His look was not one of hostility, but of vague confusion and amusement. There was no obvious reason for my presence at Lush. As mentioned before, Minneapolis did not have clubs or bars with both queer and straight patrons. In San Francisco, a lot of the clubs that were mixed become so by attrition. A club would have a genius of a DJ and awesome tracks playing. Word would get out of this place among the straight club kids, who would show up. They would initially be treated with hostility, and would respond with "Fuck you, we could give less of a shit if other people here are gay or straight. We came to dance, and this place has the best DJ around right now." The queer locals would realize this was not some power play, but really was a subset of people who were serious about the music they danced to, and were completely accepting of men making out with each other on the dance floor (or blowing each other in bathroom stalls).
He greeted me, and I began to read off my shopping list. As I said drink six to him, he held up his hand and said, "This seems to be a lot of drinks. Apparently you have them written down already, so why don't we cut to the chase and you give me the list, darling?"
"A capital idea, Toots. I just need the list back when you're done, since it has the nemes of who gets what on there, too."
As he worked, the bartender casually said to me, "And what brings you by on this lovely evening, sir?"
"An invitation from a friend," I answered. "A girl named Mallory. She wanted me and my wife to see where she goes for fun on weekends. We've had a bit of miscommunication here, but nothing insurmountable. Right now we're meeting the friends of our friend."
"Did you know you were being dragged to a gay bar beforehand?"
"Sure did. Didn't care that much, either. My only complaint about the place is the music is on a really pedestrian level, it's all mainstream. I like clubs where the DJ will be spinning obscure new releases from no-name artists, or mixes that were only available for sale at a single record store in Oslo."
"Do you go clubbing much, sir? You don't look the type."
I explained, "I do go to clubs in San Francisco, when we're up there. We're from San Diego, so we'll fly up on Friday afternoon and come home Monday morning. When you're trying to cram a lot of living into a time span that small, you don't really concern yourself if your fashion sense doesn't meld with the people at the club you're at. Heh, with my fashion sense, I blended in better at the Stud than I did at the EndUp."
The bartender froze in place. He said, "You.... have been to the Stud. In San Francisco."
"Yeah. Cool place. They weren't blasting disco, drink prices are pretty reasonable for the City, and the locals are good people."
A slightly chilly look. "And what prompted you to visit that establishment?"
"We were invited. A few of the daddies tried to hustle me, but I'd just tell them they were barking up the wrong breeder, and buy them a drink. It was all good. Haw. a few of them recognized my wife, and went into total fanboy mode. You know, if you're six foot three, wearing a leather vest and assless chaps, you really shouldn't squeal like a junior high girl. Not in public, anyway."
The bartender's look went from chilly to surprise and confusion. "Um.... Who is your wife, sir?"
"The world knows her as Becky Page. In fact, the whole reason we're in Minneapolis is she decided to provide the ultimate fan service. This girl Mallory wrote her, and Becky said it was the most intelligent piece of fan mail she'd ever received. Mallory put her phone number in the letter, so Becky called her and talked. Becky decided she wanted to meet Mallory, just because, so here we are. Mallory has been our tour guide for the area."
"I'm a bit surprised. Given what she does for a living, I assumed Becky Page was straight. Are her and Mallory, um, interested in each other?"
I briefly pondered that, and said, "Well, I know Mallory thinks Becky is really hot. I mean, Becky's whole career is based on making videos for people to watch while they masturbate. It's kind of a given how someone feels about Becky when they send her fan mail. Becky is bisexual, but with the exception of one person, is faithful to me... And before you ask, no, what happens on a sound stage doesn't count as sex, at least not to the people in front of the cameras. It's only performance. Anyway, I doubt anything would happen between the two of them. Mallory thinks Becky is hot, sure, but has been so awestruck at us being here I think she's a little afraid to broach the subject. And Becky thinks Mallory is a sweetheart, but Becky likes girls with some curves to them, and Mallory resembles a two by four, not an hourglass."
The bartender leaned in a little closer and said, "Um, don't let it get around she's bisexual. Some of the diesel bitches in here will give her grief."
I started laughing. "Too late! The word is out. And we've already had trouble along those lines, some dyke did give her a hard time, which was a big mistake. The dyke was about ten seconds from getting shanked when I told her it was time to find someplace else to be. Becky was pissed, and going off at the bitch. Remember, Becky Page is full-blooded Sicilian, and it shows. It takes a bit for her to lose her temper, but when she does.... Becky has a backbone like a steel rod, and if she's pissed off enough, she'd deck a police horse, if she thought the horse had it in for her. Don't worry, Becky can hold her own, and then some."
Placing the drinks on a round serving tray, the bartender said, "If it's not too much trouble, I'd like to get her autograph. She doesn't appeal to me, wrong equipment, but I love her style."
Hefting the tray, I said, "I'll send her over, she loves meeting fans. She may want to ask you a few questions. We've been curious about how gay men feel about her. Obviously, they're not exactly going to be running out and buying her videos, but we were just wondering."
"Oh, I can give you the Cliff Notes answer right now," said the bartender, smiling and rolling his eyes. "About three quarters of fags are indifferent to her. But that other one quarter, oh honey, she is to them what Judy Garland was to older queens. I don't follow the drag scene, and there really isn't one around here, but I guarantee there are drag queens in the world who could fool Becky's parents."
I chuckled and said I'd send Becky over, and she would bring back the tray. Back at "our" booth, it was even more crowded. More friends, just standing around talking, catching up on each other's weeks. There were a few guys, too. Drinks were dispersed, and I spoke to Bekka. She smiled at me, took the tray, and headed towards the bar. I'd noticed Bekka wasn't getting mobbed like we would be back home, but everyone kept glancing in her direction, to make sure she hadn't vanished in a puff of smoke. Word of why she was there had been passed around, so her presence wasn't seen as intrusive, but surprising. Wow, a big celebrity type really did that? No guile or ulterior motive? People seemed a bit shocked Bekka read her fan mail at all, instead of hiring an assistant to do it.
I was also getting looks. It was also known who I was, but I was still setting off the Straight Male alarms in peoples' heads. I sidled back up to Maura and Willow, who were talking to a couple girls who'd seemed to take their fashion cues from Thrasher magazine. Maura was saying, "No, if we were gonna do something like that, we'd get as much hardcore lesbian porn together as possible along with, like, a six by eight foot piece of plywood, and make a giant collage. Then we'd rent a U-Haul truck, bolt the collage to the right side, and just slowly drive around all day, especially downtown. Park it at Lake Calhoun, where all the cyclists and rollerbladers congregate."
"What mischief are you planning now?" I asked.
Willow grumbled and said, "Oh, there's an AM radio preacher whose favorite subject is 'the sodomites.' In his last broadcast, he spent a lot of time elaborating on how dykes are not left out of his little hate-fest, and I guess he kept repeating, 'It is physically impossible for two women to have sex together!' We thought we'd create a visual display showing how wrong he is."
"Shit, that's simple," I grinned. "Mail him a strap-on and a note saying, 'Here's your answer.' And make sure it's the biggest, most intimidating fake dick you can find."
"I like that, I like that," Willow grinned back. "We briefly considered a direct action, where we'd know from the outset we'd be going to jail that day. Pull up in front of his station, throw a blanket on the sidewalk, strip down, and start having at it right there. And not stop until we are physically separated by the police."
"Two bits of advice. Find out what you'd be charged with, and how much bail would be. Also, find the business office for the station, not the station itself. The actual radio station is probably out in the boonies somewhere. You'd realize the only people watching are a couple of voyeuristic cows."
"Personally, I'm glad he took the time to attack lesbians," said Maura. "People monitor his broadcasts, to see what sort of inflammatory things he's saying, waiting for him to go a bit too far. Like reading off a list of every queer bar in the Twin Cities, then telling people that Big Five has ammunition on sale this week. Well, at least now I don't feel so left out."
With an evil smile, I commented, "And the big thing is, he's wrong. "Okay, I'm gonna guess this is one of the clowns who spouts off about how 'AIDS is God's punishment for homosexual promiscuity' or whatever. Okay, following that logic, dykes are God's chosen people. Statistically, lesbians have the lowest rates of HIV infection, fluid exchange is very minimal. So yeah, God likes him some dykes."
Maura's eyes lit up. "Ooh, that could be our next flyer!" she said.
Catching my look of confusion, Willow explained, "We have fun making flyers, we'll go downtown or to the Mall of America and pass them out, and put them on car windshields. They're total satire, sarcastic bullshit. One was explaining about how to keep your daughter from becoming a lesbian, with pieces of advice like putting a poster in her room saying, 'Penises Are Beautiful,' so she'd have that idea planted at an early age. No way should you let her join Girl Scouts or a girl's soccer team, and if she starts talking about playing softball, get her to a therapist immediately! If she's pubescent, allow her to have boys in her room with the door locked, provide her with whiskey and Quaaludes, and make sure she's not leaving the house in too long of a skirt. Encourage her to start hanging around any local biker clubs after school. Never let her own an Indigo Girls or Michelle Shocked record. Explain that performing cunnilingus causes lockjaw, acne, and fat thighs with lots of cellulose. We decorated the flyer with pictures of girls kissing with a slash through them, We closed with a picture of Jane Addams and captioned it, 'Is this the woman you want your daughter to be?' Jane Addams was a Nobel Peace Prize winner."
"I wonder if there are any good Bible quotes that could somehow be construed or twisted to look like they support dyke sex?" asked Willow.
"Ask Bekka," I answered. "Bekka knows her Bible back and forth. She once pointed out that Christianity started with thirteen guys and a hooker, and the hooker wasn't even making any money. That's not the start of a world religion, that's a Tuesday afternoon in any bar on Polk Street in San Francisco."
Maura had a cunning grin on her face. "Yeah.... That's the next flyer. 'Lesbians: God's Chosen People!' Tell people when they buy a new house, they need to have a lesbian come over and bless it. Yes, muff diving is the ultimate sacrament. Lesbian religious party tricks are even better than Jesus's. He could only turn water into wine, while lesbians can turn water into scotch, Ouzo, and egg nog."
"You two are provocateurs, aren't you?" I asked.
"Yeah, well.... I think one of the reasons we fell in love with each other is we both have an urge to fuck with people. Minneapolis may not be a hick town, but it's still the Midwest, and culturally conservative. Shit, you should have heard the uproar when the city decided to have its own Pride Parade. People were calling in bomb threats to city hall, and of course every queer bar in town was also threatened. The Bible goons picket on the sidewalks.
"Me and Willow enjoy jolting people out of their stupor. And there are plenty of people in Minnesota who need jolting, personally. Flyering helps us get our satiric jollies. We had a hobby for quite a while, harassing the city of Edina. Okay, the Gay Pride Parade is now a thing. Every dickhead in the state began demanding on talk radio and in letters to the editor there should be a straight pride parade too, dammit. So we figured, what's another marginal sexual group who should start demanding a parade? We settled on the hebephiles, people who are sexually attracted to youth who are just barely pubescent, like age twelve to fourteen. We researched them a bit, and not only is the attraction hetero, a much larger percentage of hebephiles are women, much higher numbers than with pedophilia.
"Anyway, we figured the city of Edina, which is just outside of Minneapolis, needed an event to help put it on the map. Nobody gives a shit about Edina, really, it's just a suburb of Minneapolis. So we got a P.O. box, made some stationary, and started the Hebephilia Empowerment Coalition of Minnesota. We sent the city of Edina a letter explaining who we were, in very circumspect terms. We kept on talking about 'the liberation of youth/adult partners,' and what wonderful relationships our members had. We were actually creeping each other out when we were batting around ideas. I know I was creeping myself out, it was like, 'Eww, I can't believe I just thought that up!' So we sent off the letter, along with a request they send us information about how to put on a parade in Edina. They sent us back some information, boilerplate stuff, So, we requested the forms we'd need, which included a petition to the Edina police. Keep in mind, in all our correspondence we've only been putting first names when signing things. It's really damn illegal to fuck a twelve year old, regardless of consent. We sent back all the forms, but we did them wrong. Of course they ask for your full name, so we put a note in that space saying, 'Due to legal reasons, we cannot provide this information.' And we kept using that line in different places. Contact phone number? Nope, sorry. Insurance? Uh, we have it, but you don't get to know who with.
"Of course they rejected us, so we appealed, and began sending fake letters from the imaginary Coalition members, asking how the city of Edina could institutionalize bigotry against a repressed minority. Our coup de grace was when we made a flyer explaining and advocating for the Hebephile Empowerment Coalition, explaining how such relationships are natural and healthy, how the youth have a better understanding of the world around them, and how statutory rape laws are as bad as Jim Crow laws were in the South. We got a letter back from Edian PD demanding we provide our full names, home addresses, places of work, and license plate numbers off our cars. They wanted to know who we were. Apparently there's a group as bad as NAMBLA, and they're based in Minneapolis.
"We just let it die after a while. We realized that sooner or later, someone in Edina would have their brain roll back in place and they'd remember, 'Hey, to rent a P.O. box, you have to provide them with ID!' So we let it drop, and cancelled the box. Still, it was a nice hobby for about eight months."
I realized my mouth was slightly open, and I had a stunned smile on my face. I said, "My God. You two have turned fucking with peoples' heads into an art form. You're not doing lame shit like spray painting pentagrams on churches, you plant your knives deep. And apparently, your targets are whoever you feel like fucking with, not just one group. So why did you decide to fuck with the city of Edina?"
Willow answered, "Because Edina is shit, it's hell on earth. It's a fair sized town, and right next to Minneapolis, but it may as well be some fucking village up North. Socially, it's so regressive I'm surprised they don't have cross burnings. People in Edina think like should be like a rerun of 'Leave It To Beaver,' or something, that sort of wholesome white-bread fever dream. I know how to find the bravest man in America, just get a black dude who's willing to walk through town all day. Or just be there and be poor. Or have blue hair. Or drive a Japanese car. It's the sort of suburban hellhole where you know there's plenty of wife beaters and molested kids and alcoholism among housewives, but there's no way they'd admit to having any problems. In Edina, you fucking better not be home on Sunday morning, your ass better be in a pew at either the closest Catholic or Lutheran church. Don't you dare skip a week of mowing your lawn, the neighbors will call and ask what your problem is. You would never admit to your closest friends that you and your wife are into kink, within two weeks CPS would be hauling off your kids. Edina epitomizes everything repressive, narrow-minded, bigoted, hypocritical, and superficial about the American middle class. Oh, and don't bother trying to buy rolling papers anywhere in Edina, the liquor store clerk will just give you a dirty look and say they don't carry them. The rest of his statement, 'You fucking drug addict,' is implied."
Maura expanded, "Our little project with Edina was mostly because we both think the place sucks, but we realized we were probably reinforcing their view of the outside world, which is that it's a horrible place full of perverts and weirdos. Not to mention all the non-whites running around, too. And here's a group of organized borderline child molesters demanding the city of Edina close down the main street of town for a few hours, so they can have a parade? And it was perfect we had a Minneapolis P.O. box, too. Edina hates Minneapolis, it's even worse than Sodom, because Sodom didn't have sex toys and lube and drugs. They wonder how anything gets done in Minneapolis, since we're all too busy having unnatural sex, getting high, and, I dunno, burning lots of American flags. Worshiping Satan. And teaching evolutionary theory to young children, that's a big one right there."
Willow said, "Really? Anyone who needs a smack in the head to roll their brain back into position is our target. Our pro-dyke flyers are just satire, but hopefully people can tell when they're being made fun of. Okay, it's not like Minneapolis has a lot of queer-bashing or overt hate, but too much of the general populace thinks queers are sinners and perverts, people who wallow in sexual depravity. They need a smack in the head, is what they need. Literally doing that to people would lead to both arrest and carpal tunnel syndrome, since there's a lot of heads that need smacking. We keep things over the top enough that you'd have to be pretty damn dense to not tell we're yanking peoples' chains, that we're making fun of you. It's weird, how something can mean a lot to some people, and nothing to others. Most straights would see how we look and think we just have an odd fashion sense. Bull dykes see us, and steam comes out their ears. So you have to think about who it is you're trying to communicate with."
"Minnesotans are pretty damn sexually repressed," said Maura. "I doubt one in six men will go down on their wives or girlfriends. So I want to stand at an entrance of the Mall of America with a big bin of dental dams, handing them out all day. Shit, nobody will know what they are, so they'll ask us. We'll tell them, 'It's a dental dam, sir. It's so you can perform oral sex on a woman safely.' This will shock and confuse vast swaths of people. We'll just keep pushing. 'You don't go down on women? Why not?' And enjoy the responses we get back from that question. Just the implication that we think guys should be muff diving on women all the time, with women they've just met, should cause a few misfiring synapses."
"Enough of this," said Willow. "The Ecstasy is starting to kick in, it's time to hit the dance floor."
"Going to request any music?" I asked.
"We can't. The DJ hates us. We spent three weeks requesting he play Lynard Skynard, Molly Hatchet, Atlanta Rhythm Section, and Merle Haggard, and being pissy with him when he said he didn't have any of those. We found a couple Hank Williams records in a thrift store, then brought them here and demanded he play them. He got really unamused with us. If we're dancing close to his booth, we'll look up and see him scowling at us. Not our fault his musical interests are so limited."
I said, "You know what? Somehow, there has to be a way to make money from the way you two think and act. And when I figure it out, I'm gonna make you fucking millionaires."
"You think you can do that?" asked Willow.
"I'm a millionaire because I make videos of people fucking. I'll come up with something."