In the morning we called Mallory, telling her she and Jill were our guests for brunch at the hotel, and to hurry up, we were starving. They rang our suite from a lobby courtesy phone twenty minutes later. We met and headed for the restaurant. Mallory and Jill were still both full of energy, they said they'd slept for a couple hours and felt much better than they were expecting. Bekka reminded them that Ecstasy is a methamphetamine product, but to not worry, the wire would wind down over the course of the day.
Jill, a native of Spooner, Wisconsin, Jill was unclear on just what "brunch" was. I explained, "Really, it's a large, multi-course breakfast, served fairly late in the morning. You're getting enough food to cover both breakfast and lunch. We're big fans of brunch on weekends, that way we can sleep in and have a damn good meal when we get up."
"And of course, mimosas," smiled Bekka.
"Uh...." said both Mallory and Jill.
"Booze at breakfast," I said. "Orange juice, champagne, and lightly spiked with vodka. A mimosa will kill any hangover you have from the night before, and generally make the day look a bit brighter."
The well-dressed, fussy little prick at the entry to the restaurant didn't look overjoyed at our arrival. A punk rocker, a sluttily-dressed goth girl, a rather narrow chick wearing a man's dress shirt, Levis, and Birkenstocks, and a tall female built like Mickey Hartigay, still wearing her party dress from the night before. And the punk rocker is saying he just wants the tab to be billed to his room.
"Your room number, sir?" asked the prick.
"1412, Lenny and Bekka Schneider," I said.
The prick locked on Bekka, surprise crossing his face, then collapsing into the expression of a career toady. "You are Becky Page?" he asked.
"Live and in the flesh," answered Bekka. "My legal name is Bekka Schneider, if there is any confusion."
We were led to a table, where I requested four mimosas and an ashtray. These were provided swiftly. Jill and Mallory felt that the mimosa was a dandy invention. We ordered four brunch specials and more mimosas, and relaxed, casually talking over our time at Lush. Mallory asked Bekka how many autographs she had signed.
"Twenty or so," Bekka replied. "The reserve of Minnesotans was definitely in play, I believe. I knew my presence was attracting attention, people would just.... watch me. But I didn't have many work up the nerve to approach me, which feels a bit strange to me. At home, there are only three bars or clubs where we can go where we will be left alone for the most part. One is a snazzy yuppie place near our home called the Seafarer. Another is a punk rock bar in Pacific Beach named the Pink Panther, its patrons are too cool to ask for autographs. The third is a place called the Hi-Lo, in a rough place called National City. The Hi-Lo is essentially the headquarters for the San Diego chapter of the Hell's Angels. Normally, the Angels would be hostile to any random outsiders showing up at 'their' bar. However, a coworker of mine is a member. He invited Lenny, Jane, and myself down as his guest and made introductions, and of course all the Angels were delighted to meet Becky Page. At this point we are viewed as regulars, our presence is totally accepted and welcomed. My basic opinion of the Hell's Angels is that they're good people overall, who have a very, very bad reputation. I have not had a single Angel be anything less than a gentleman with me."
"Oh my God!" I blurted. "I almost forgot, we've been invited on the Labor Day run to Pismo Beach. Spike called and asked us to come along, and Roach confirmed it. We can ride or drive. If we ride, Roach says protocol dictates we stay at the very back of the pack. Personally, I'd rather drive, so we can bring crap like a cooler and food. We'll take the Falcon, that thing gets respect."
"Can we bring Jane? And Terry?" asked Bekka.
"I'll check, but I doubt it'll be a problem. They're gonna have a chuck wagon, so we just need to pay for our meal tickets ahead of time, for all of us."
Both Jill and Mallory were looking at us wide-eyed. "You're going to go hang around with Hell's Angels?" asked Mallory in amazement.
"We already do," said Bekka. "Like I said, we frequent the local chapter's bar, we're usually there a couple times a week. They're friends. The studio employs a couple of them as security, and they are rather proud of their friendly terms with Becky Page. I believe the Labor Day run is a serious blowout, chapters from all over the West showing up. It should be quite an experience."
Jill's expression was one of shock, and Mallory looked horrified. "Oh my God. Bekka.... Are you seriously thinking about doing this? I've read about those biker runs, especially the Hell's Angels ones. Please, you don't have anything to prove, everybody knows you're strong. Doing this Hell's Angel.... Whatever it is.... Would be crazy. Why would you want to be around people like that at all?"
Bekka's smile was patient, but I could tell she was getting irked. She said, "I reiterate, I am on very good terms with the San Diego chapter, and they have invited me and Lenny to join them. I would be traveling with a large group of friends to meet friends of theirs, from all over the place. It's really one big party, and I guess it lasts for three days. What are you afraid of? What do you think will happen to me?"
"You could be killed. You could be gang raped. You and Lenny could be robbed and beaten. Heck, they could assault you for no reason at all. I've read about the Hell's Angels, they're monsters. They don't care about anything they do, they're animals."
I put on my own patient smile and said, "Look, the Hell's Angels are some damn tough motherfuckers. They will not back down from a fight, and they will give no quarter when challenged. They are social outcasts, as individuals, they feel alienated and abused by 'normal' society. That's why they stick together, they understand each other, and will always back up their fellow Angels. But they are not Vikings or Visigoths, they don't mindlessly destroy and brutalize for no reason. They are obsessive motorcycle fanatics who have a much stronger feeling of disconnection from society than most everyone else, and have gotten used to fighting to protect themselves and each other. Work with them on their terms, meet them halfway, and they are some of the greatest guys in the world. They protect what they care about. Well, the San Diego chapter cares about Becky Page, and will protect her, no matter what."
"So you're saying the Hell's Angels are actually harmless?" asked Jill.
"Oh, shit no," I laughed. "They are tough, mean, brawling,ass-kicking bastards. And you can set them off pretty easily, with the right combination of poor manners, lack of respect, and a big mouth. The Angels aren't stupid, they can tell when they're being patronized or looked down upon."
With a chuckle, Bekka said, "Oh brother. About a month ago, we were at the Hi-Lo on a Friday with our friend Terry. She needs a bit of explanation. Terry is our friend, and she is also my part-time personal bodyguard. She's with me about four days a week, while I'm out and about and Lenny isn't around. Terry is about five foot six, smart, tough as nails, and is utterly fearless, absolutely nothing intimidates her. She is also a solid gold biker bitch, and has been since she was thirteen.
"Anyway, these three guys show up, they're like overgrown frat boys. It didn't take twenty minutes before they got dragged out to their car and told to start driving, and never even think about coming back. They were big-mouthed condescending jackasses. First they started bugging people at the bar, saying they wanted to score some dope. Well shit, nobody knows them, nobody's about to do any business with total strangers. And it was obvious these guys weren't just a few dimwitted locals. National City is a rough neighborhood, primarily Mexican, and these idiots were obviously from someplace like La Jolla or Del Mar. It was pretty clear they'd shown up on purpose, you know?
They drift over to the pool tables, which are both in use. Terry is playing nine ball with an Angel named Fatso, who is rail thin and in his mid-forties. a career outlaw. Actually, Fatso is probably the brainiest of the Dago Angels, as well as one of the most unflappable. So the three frat boys stand there watching their game, and calling out advice for shots, being pests. After a couple minutes, while Terry is lining up a shot, one of them leans over the table and tells Terry he'll pay her twenty dollars to suck his dick. Terry straightened up, looked at him, and jabbed him in the gut with her cue. Obviously Fatso had heard the guy, and he says, 'It's time for you boys to leave, and quickly.'
"One of the other frat boys decides he's gonna take a swing at Terry. Big mistake. Terry isn't bulked like you, Jill, but she has a lot of strength. She also knows a lot of fairly random martial arts moves, an old boyfriend had taught her these moves so she could clear out anyone in her way when a brawl broke out in a bar. Terry threw the frat boy all the way over the pool table, he never touched the felt. Then she looks at Romeo and says, 'Motherfucker, I ain't no whore. Get the fuck out of here.'
All the other Angels present had now gathered around, and the frat boys realized they were surrounded and outnumbered. An Angel named Whistle, who is the chapter's sergeant at arms, asked Terry what happened. Terry just shrugged and said, 'This guy thinks I'm a whore, and his friend took a poke at me.' The rest of the Angels began to close in tighter. While a woman becoming a full member of the Hell's Angels is about as likely as a Padres World Series win, if anyone wold make it, Terry would. She's as tough as any of them, she's smart, she's good with a wrench, and she can assess a situation correctly in a split second. Heh, I think some of the Dago Angels are actually a little afraid of her. They once watched her drop a visiting Fresno Angel who had six inches and sixty pounds on her. The guy was drunk and was getting crude with me, and when Terry told him to fuck off, he called her a mama. Terry didn't even take the cigarette out of her mouth to put him on the ground.
"But anyway, yeah, the Dago Angels hold Terry in very high regard. While Hell's Angels aren't famous for their chivalry, they also won't put up with anyone insulting an Angel woman, not even a mama. So one of the frat boys...."
Jill interrupted, "Um, what's a mama? You've said that a couple times now."
I explained, "In outlaw culture, a mama is a woman who is attached to a club, and is, uh, physically available to anyone wearing that club's colors, at any time. Essentially, they're concubines. Every club will have a couple, the Dago chapter has three. Mamas don't rank high in the self-esteem department, or in the court of good looks. They decided to attach their egos to an outlaw club, and decided they would literally do anything in order to hang around. Most mamas stick around for a couple years, then drift off to do something else, usually where they spend less time giving head to some guy between two cars in a parking lot."
Bekka added, "Because of the inherent degradation in the way they live, mamas are fairly harsh people. I'm sure they have hearts of gold, but the gold is buried very deep. Uh, they also aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, we've flummoxed them just by using big words when we talk. Mama Bev in Dago had a copy of People magazine one night. She was still reading it a week later. I asked her about it, and she said, 'I haven't finished it yet, it's a long magazine.' Over the course of the night, she would come up to us off and on to ask for definitions of words in an article. I''d write it off to just a lack of education, but Terry left school in the middle of eighth grade, and she's a damn savant when it comes to crossword puzzles. Terry used to spend her days in the nearest library, because she was broke and bored, and libraries are free.
"But back to where I was. One of the frat boys grabs a pool cue and swings it, hoping to clear a path. People stepped out of the way of his swing, then just stepped forward and grabbed the cue. Whistle said, 'Drag these assholes out of here, and keep them quiet.' Imagine being dragged backwards by the arms by two Hell's Angels. with a third Angel walking alongside you and punching you in the face every time you start to open your mouth. The car they were in was obvious, it was a late model Mercedes. People in National City can't even afford Mercedes sales literature. They got the frat boys to the car, stood them up, and told them they had ten seconds to be out of the lot and onto the street.
"And one of these idiots wanted to double down. He said, 'I'm gonna call the cops.' Whistle smiled at him and said, 'What, you're gonna tell the cops how the nasty men in the bar were mean to you, precious? If you want, I'll give you a valid reason to phone the law, would you like that? Of course, I'll have been out of jail weeks before you're able to eat solid food again, asshole. Shut your cake hole and get the fuck out.' The other two frat boys pretty much yanked the one dude into the car and took off.
"That whole scene showed to me that while Hell's Angels will not hospitalize people for the slightest provocation, they also won't put up with any shit, either. There's not an Angel riding who doesn't have a whole lot of scar tissue on his knuckles. Our friend Roach is damn young for an Angel, he's only nineteen, but he's still got some battle scars. Some of them were put there by his father. Angels are tough, and in their universe, things like bar fights and brawls between clubs are as natural as crabgrass. And I think a big reason why the Angels don't bother me is because I know when I'm around them, I accept their reality, and behave accordingly. I'm sure Lenny and I have both developed the Hell's Angels habit of following strangers with our eyes, when they walk into our turf. In Hell's Angels reality, a stranger may not necessarily be an enemy or a threat, but he sure as hell isn't a friend, either. Me, Lenny, Jane, and Terry are anomalies, we're not wearing the colors, but we can walk into the Hi-Lo at night when there's twenty bikes out front and not be treated as intruders."
"So what it comes down to is the Hell's Angels are incredibly insular, and don't really trust anyone who isn't another Hell's Angel," said Mallory.
"Bingo," I said. "If we weren't friends with Roach, there's no way we'd have ever crossed paths with the Angels. If for some strange reason we'd wandered into the Hi-Lo one day, not knowing anyone, we'd have stayed long enough for one very quick beer and got the hell out again. But Roach introduced us, assured the brothers we were good people, and we were open and accepting with everyone we met. It was still about six weeks before we were sort of given permission to go to the Hi-Lo on our own, without Roach as our chaperone. I guess we'd passed some sort of test, we'd demonstrated we were there because we liked to drink beer and Jack Daniels, play nine ball, talk motorcycles, and engage in the same rough humor as the Angels. It helped that the Dago Angels have a collective crush on Becky Page.... Although everyone in the Dago chapter have always been total gentlemen around her. When Terry dropped that Fresno Angel, the whole bar was laughing their asses off at him. If some random citizen had dropped a fellow Angel, that citizen would have been rat-packed and thrown into the street. But it was Terry the Terror, protecting Becky from a dude who was acting like an asshole, and no Dago Angel will hear a single negative word directed at Becky Page."
Bekka said, "I'll admit, I was a bit worried at first. Very few people understand my career, and how I can do such things for a living. I was afraid the Angels would think I was a nymphomaniac, or some kind of high-end prostitute. But between me and Roach, we explained what our jobs were like, how things were done, and the attitudes adult performers have towards their jobs. The Angels got it much quicker than most people do. I wasn't a whore or a sex maniac, I was an actress who played highly unusual roles. They love my movies, but understand that what appears on the screen in no way reflects on reality, or what kind of person I am."
"Although I know every Dago Angel harbors just a little bit of jealousy for Roach," I laughed. By way of explanation, I continued, "Okay, the youngest and newest member of the Dago chapter is just some kid they drafted, right? Yeah, well, that kid makes his living as a porn stud, he gets paid to have sex with gorgeous women all week. A lot of the Angels thought that was bad enough. But Roach is also a professional, he's not getting any great thrill from performance. He has a job to do, and he does it well, but it's still a job, and big deal. Shit, other Angels would ask him how his day had gone, and he'd just shrug and say, 'Oh, this afternoon was a three-way plus anal with Missy Liscio and Tawny Smith, with Missy taking the money shot. No big deal.' What the other Angels are hearing is, 'I just spent three hours having really hot sex with two women at once, and I could care less.' Other Angels think Roach's life is just long series of wild sexual experiences, and he acts like it's drudgery, no more thrilling than giving a car a tune-up. We've tried to explain that what happens on a sound stage doesn't really resemble what appears on video, but I still think there are guys who feel that Roach won the Pussy Powerball, and is totally unappreciative of it."
Jill frowned, then a light bulb went on over her head. "Okay, now I remember who this guy is," she said. "He was in 'Succubus,' he was the Lone Scavenger, the kid with the mohawk and the Mustang. Just nineteen? Wow." She paused. "Is he really as.... uh.... big as he appears to be in the movie? His thing looks huge."
"Oh, Roach is a big boy," grinned Bekka. "Eight and a quarter inches, and thick. It was the primary reason Lenny offered him the job."
Both Jill and Mallory stared at Bekka with wide eyes. "Good lord, girl, how did you handle that?" asked Mallory. "You must have been sore for days, after you two, you know...."
"Actually, no. Roach is a gentleman. Before shooting a scene, Roach and the girl he'll be working with will take a couple minutes and sort of.... rehearse. Roach tells us girls, 'Show me where your limits are, so I'm not hurting you while we shoot this scene.' And he'll stick with those limits, he's very good.
"How did you come to hire a Hell's Angel to begin with?" asked Jill.
"Roach is an interesting specimen. First off, he wasn't an Angel when we hired him. He'd been around the Angels for a couple years, he worked at a wrecking yard that was owned by a Dago Angel. They drafted him while we were making 'Succubus.' He's a second generation outlaw, so it's a culture he's been around his entire life. It was hilarious, he'd start stripping down in the sound stage we'd be working in on any given day. He'd always just kick his clothes into a wrinkled pile on the floor. After he got his colors, he'd still leave his clothes in a pile.... except for his denim vest with his colors on it, that carefully went on a hanger, then hung from a peg in the wall. No way was he letting those colors get mussed up.
"If you met Roach, and he didn't have his colors on, you'd just assume he was some punk rock kid. After about three minutes of conversation, you would be struck by just how well-mannered, engaging, and friendly he is. And after a few more minutes, you'd realize he was genuinely pleased to meet you. Roach really, truly loves women, I honestly believe he prefers the company of women over men. Every Inana girl loves working with him, because of his good manners and gallant attitude. He feels that he and the girl he's with on any given day are partners, a team, and they should work together and communicate, not just go through the motions. When they're finished shooting a scene, Roach will hug the girl, and mean it.
"Yeah, the Dago Angels do harbor some jealousy for Roach. He has sex with the hottest porn stars in the world for a living, his live-in girlfriend is a cutie.... Jesus, him and a few other Angels will go hit a strip bar sometimes. The strippers are giving Roach their phone numbers, and buying him drinks! There's something about the kid that really draws women in. He's confident without being egotistical, friendly without being fawning, he's respectful, he really pays attention to what you're saying.... He's got a lot of acne scarring, but he has beautiful eyes and a fantastic smile. I think it's the smile. It seems to say to women, 'I am genuinely honored by your presence.' If Roach met Andrea Dworkin, within two hours Andrea would be trying to talk Roach into going to her car, so she could give him a blowjob. And Roach, the honorable little bastard, would just grin at Andrea and say no, he's very flattered, but he has a girlfriend who he's in love with. Thank you though."
I added, "To be a male performer in porn, you need a few things. First is the obvious equipment. You also need incredible stamina and control, your dick has to obey commands like a doberman. You also need incredible self-confidence. You're going to be spending a few hours having sex with a woman you've known for five minutes, and who gives the impression she would rather be in a Soviet gulag than on that sound stage with your happy ass. Very few men can successfully have a three hour sex session with a woman who acts like he ran over her dog in the driveway that morning, you need self-confidence by the bucket.
"The problem is, that amount of self-confidence easily morphs into narcissism and hubris. Men in porn turn into total bitches. They act as if the girls are little more than ventriloquist dummies with genitals, and will initially treat crew like servants. That doesn't last long, the crew will offer to shove a 5K floodlight up his ass. But the fact that they manage to earn a living with their dicks, having intercourse with hot babes, makes them develop superiority complexes. Okay, they're doing work very few men can do, but so what? No one at the Human Genome Project has ever said, 'To solve this problem, we need a man with an eight inch penis who can ejaculate on command.' For the most part, porn studs are pretty disposable.
"Roach is a fucking dream to work with, for everyone. That massive crank he has is better trained than most children, he can act, he's smart, and the girls love him. He's been with us long enough that if he was going to develop attitude, he would have started. Nope, he's still this friendly guy who jokes around with the girls and the crew, never blows his lines, and says thank you to the fluffer when she's done working on him. His brains are very appreciated. With one other exception, all my studs at Inana are nice guys, but, well.... Let's just say they're amazed every night, watching the incredible intellectual feats accomplished on 'Wheel of Fortune,' you know? They don't watch 'Jeopardy,' Alex Trebek always uses too many big words when he talks."
Mallory said, "Over the last few days you two have explained a lot about how things are accomplished in your business, a lot of which I've found very surprising. I've always had a basic grasp of how a movie is made, all the technical aspects, but for some reason I never thought porn had to have the same processes happen. I know that sounds silly, but.... It just seems very strange that two people will be having sex, then someone yells 'Cut!' and they just stop, and wait for lights and cameras to be moved around. Then they start up again. When they yell 'Cut!' while making a 'normal' movie, they're just interrupting some dialogue, not an act of physical intimacy."
"But like we've tried to explain, it's not intimacy at all," smiled Bekka. "The action between two performers on a porn set is about as intimate as thumb wrestling, and with the same level of emotional involvement. I always tell people that you truly know how to love to perform well in porn. On a set, you have to pretend you're involved with the other person. If you don't know how to love, you can't fake it in front of the cameras."
"That's really kind of sad," said Jill. "Porn people do the most personal thing two people can do together, but for them it's a totally vacant experience. Do people in porn have boyfriends and girlfriends, or does the work leave you totally numb emotionally?"
"At least around Inana, our performers have love lives, they have relationships. In porn, while we're working, we are incredibly objective about our bodies and the acts we engage in. We have to be to get the job done. Intellectually and emotionally, there is a huge amount of separation between our work and our private lives. People are always asking me and Lenny how our marriage can possibly work. After all, I spend my days having sex with other men, and from what they see on video, enjoying the hell out of it. No, that's acting. Yes, I engage in the physical acts of sex while on a sound stage, but in my head, no sex has taken place at all. It's like a pantomime, or lip-syncing. Just because I'm interlocking my genitals with someone else's doesn't make it sex to me. There is zero emotional or romantic connection going on, and those are where humans separate from animals. Humans feel sex is an act of sharing, connecting with another person both physically and mentally. I love and cherish fucking my husband for exactly those reasons. On a sound stage, we're going through the motions, and relying on what acting talents we have to make it appear we're actually involved. If performers in porn actually looked as involved as we are on a sound stage, pornography would be as exciting as a medical textbook."
We were suddenly aware of someone standing above us. We looked up to see a somewhat dowdy woman in her sixties smiling down at us. Her hair was marcelled, her dress plain and crisp, and her only decoration was a wedding band and a simple string of pearls around her neck. She looked as if she would feel most at home handing out hymnals in the narthex of a church, not approaching two lesbians, a punk, and a goth porn queen. But she seemed happy to see us.
"Good morning!" she beamed. "I don't mean to interrupt, please pardon me, but I must ask, are you Becky Page?"
"Live and in the flesh," replied Bekka.
The woman's smile got even wider. "Oh! Ms. Page! I am so pleased to meet you! I am probably one of your biggest darn fans anywhere in Minnesota. Gosh, I'd heard about you in the magazines, but it was only a couple months ago that I actually saw one of your movies, and boy howdy, it was great. I've seen a bunch more since, and I think they're all the most gosh-darn fun I've ever had watching movies. I can't lie, when I first read about you, I thought you were just some sort of hussy. But then a friend of mine loaned me one of your video tapes, and I swear, I think you're the best darn actress since Catherine Hepburn." The woman turned pink as cotton candy. "And, well, all your naughty scenes add to the fun, too."
Bekka smiled and reached out to shake the woman's hand. She said, "Becky Page is my stage name, my real name is Bekka Schneider. Pleased to meet you. And you are?"
"I am Gladys Krebsbach," the woman said, shaking hands.
Bekka and I gave each other slightly startled looks. I turned in my chair some and scanned around, and god damn if Roy Krebsbach, of Krebsbach Processed Meats, isn't standing ten feet away glowering at us, his mouth pinched. Gladys continued to gush at Bekka about how much gosh-darn talent she had. I realized I'd heard women's voices like hers before. They were usually coming out of the mouths of women who were employed as elementary school nurses, secretaries for Presbyterian churches, or biddies who sold Avon "just to raise a bit of pin money, dontcha know." Her accent betrayed that she was definitely a Minnesota native.
Bekka gestured at the end of the table and said, "We have an extra chair. Please, have a seat."
"Oh gosh, I won't be interrupting you kids?" asked Gladys. All four of us smiled and made welcoming noises. Gladys sat down, looking like her name had just been called on The Price Is Right.
Seeing this, Roy Krebsbach strode up to our table and said, "What are you doing? We need to go back to our table, I don't want you around these people, not one bit. Let's go."
Gladys smiled at Roy and replied, "I just want to talk with Ms. Page for a few ticks, she has kindly invited me to join her briefly. I'll be back in a bit. Order me a mushroom omelette and an English muffin."
"These are not people you will ever want to be associated with," seethed Roy. "I have spoken with them, a few nights ago, and they live lives of moral degeneracy. This woman is just a high-paid harlot, and her husband is---"
Gladys cut him off. When she spoke, she had the same smile and tone of voice, but her eyes gained a steely quality that was a bit frightening. And she said, "Oh, Roy honey, do fuck off, please. I want to speak with Ms. Page, I'd hate to hear your interruptions while I do. Go back to our table and have a fucking bourbon, dear."
Roy Krebsbach's mouth pinched even further, until his lips were no longer visible. Then he turned on his heel and stalked away.
"Please pardon my husband," smiled Gladys. "The poor man has been awake for nearly two hours now and is still sober, so he's feeling all out of sorts."
I said, "Yes.... Bekka and I met him a few nights ago, upstairs in the bar. To be honest, it wasn't the most pleasant conversation. Without getting into details, I will simply say, we have differing opinions from your husband regarding the nature of God."
Rolling her eyes in an apologetic way, Gladys said, "Oh gosh, I do apologize. He does like to climb up in the pulpit and sermonize when he's got a skinful. Yes, he told me about meeting you, how he had stared into the face of evil, that he'd met the living cohorts of Satan. Usually when he talks like that, it's because he's got the D.T.s again. But he mentioned having met you, Becky, and wouldn't let the subject go. Yes, according to Roy, Becky Page will destroy America single-handed. What hooey. Roy could find the devil's work in a darn Billy Graham sermon. I learned to tune him out quite a while ago."
Bekka said, "I must say, your husband's views of the world seem a bit paranoid, and his spiritual faith is the stuff of emotional masochists. I could not go through life constantly berating myself for my own thoughts, believing that God will find fault with my life no matter what I do...."
Gladys shook her head. "Oh, I know, I know. We're all sinners, everything we do is somehow an offense to God, who will cast us into hell when we are judged. Mankind will pay, individually, for all the ways we sin and blaspheme. I've heard it and heard it. It's a lot of hooey being spouted off by a wealthy old drunk from Saint Paul, don't let it getcha down, you know?" She paused briefly. Then she continued, "He wasn't always like that. Roy was just another gosh-darn Lutheran who went to church on Christmas, Easter, and when there was both nice weather and no sports games on the TV. Then five years ago he got in a real bad car wreck. He'd been drinking. The driver of the other car was killed.
"Anybody else would have said, 'Well, gosh, it was my drinking that got me into this mess. Maybe I need to stop going through so much darn alcohol.' No, Roy had a massive guilt complex about being responsible for the death, but refused to admit it was because of his drinking. Instead, out of the blue, he decided God had put him in his position to show him how easily life can be taken away. From there, he extrapolated God was demonstrating His penchant for vengeance, that God will kill sinners on a whim. The other driver must have been a sinner, that's why he was killed. It wasn't because of a drunken fool of a meat salesman from Minnesota. So, Roy began going to tent revivals and hearing about how we're all just horrible in God's eyes, and we'll never measure up to what God expects from us. A bunch of hooey."
"Wow," commented Bekka. "I've sometimes wondered how people get into that Old Testament mindframe. Now I know how it happened in at least one case."
I decided it was time to change gears in the conversation and asked Gladys which was her favorite Becky Page movie. "Temporary Pleasures," she told me. Gladys loved the humor and the satire. Then she said something that made my brain flip around in my skull like a epileptic gymnast.
"But to be honest?" Gladys got a bit pink again. "It was the naughty scene with Becky and the blonde girl, Skye Tyler, that I loved. Becky, you and her together just made my heart skip a beat! The two of you just looked so beautiful."
Looking a bit pink herself, Bekka said, "Well, thank you. Skye and I did enjoy ourselves when we shot that scene."
"Oh, I could tell. It was obvious you weren't faking, no sirree Bob." Gladys paused. "Sometimes I think I was born a couple decades too early. You, Becky, you're bisexual in real life, not just in your movies, and these days you can tell that to the world and people can either like it or lump it. Heck, when I was your age, a woman announcing that in public would have been vilified. Some places, she might have even gone to jail. No, be glad you're living when you are. You can be open about yourself, without fear."
Several moments passed in silence. I finally said, "Gladys, if I may be so bold, I get the feeling the subject is something you have some strong personal feelings about. Am I correct?"
Her smile suddenly gained a sad tone. She said, "Oh, you betcha. I...." She blinked a few times. "I guess I'm lucky, in a way. I have had love in my life, real love, the kind of love I always wanted. Back when I was in college. Heh, there's a lot of hanky-panky going on an all-girl's dorm, but most of them were just playing around at it. I'd already known what I wanted, and I was lucky enough to meet a girl who also felt that way. We had to be careful, but we were together all through school. But when we graduated, she went back to Green Bay. I went home to Brainerd, and sat in my parents' house, doing nothing, for four monthst straight. My heart was broken, but I couldn't admit it to myself.
"I finally moved to Saint Paul and got a job. I met Roy. He was everything I'd always been told I should want. He was successful, good looking back then, a real solid citizen. After a few months, he proposed, and I accepted. I didn't love him. I never have."
Her eyes suddenly looking wet, Gladys swiveled towards Jill and Mallory. She said, "You two, you're together, aren't you? And it's a new development?"
Jill swallowed and said, "Yeah. Me and Mallory have been friends for a long while, and I've always had a crush on her, but didn't want to spoil our friendship. I finally worked up the courage, thanks to this guy here, just last night."
Mallory continued, "We spent the night together, and it was wonderful. I've always thought Jill was gorgeous, but figured she'd never be interested in a mousy little dyke like me. Her telling me how she felt gave me a feeling of such joy.... Yeah, we've been friends, and we haven't actually been together a full day, but I think we both want it tow work. Just looking at her makes me smile." Jill bent down and kissed Mallory's cheek.
Gladys reached over and placed a hand on each girl's arm. With a sudden intensity in her voice, she said, "Girls, you must do something, you will need to so you can be happy together. This is very important. Girls, for your own sake, get the fuck out of Minnesota. Go to California, or New York, or Boston, or Miami, or.... somewhere. An area where you two can walk down the street holding hands, and no one says anything. Get the fuck out of Minnesota, get the fuck out of the entire Midwest. If you stay, the best you can hope for is a constant feeling of repression, being afraid to show your love to the world. And at worst, you'll make decisions that will destroy your souls, like I did.
"I have never been interested in men, I am attracted to women. But I married a man, and have remained with him all these years. I betrayed myself. I chose to have a comfortable life in a nice house with a respected man, and drive a new car every other year, at the expense of my own identity, my sense of self, and ever having anything resembling love in my life. I hate looking in a mirror, because when I do, a coward stares back at me. I denied to myself who I was, and did what I'd always been told I should do, and every year I hate myself just a little bit more for it.
"Girls, please, get out of Minnesota, get out of this fucking shithole state. Run like heck, and don't look back. I beg you. I should have gone to San Francisco or Los Angeles, I could have met a woman I loved, and we would have been together, and I would have had peace, instead of self-loathing and deception. Instead I sold my soul in exchange for a comfortable and respectable life, one my parents could brag to their friends about. I raised two children, and cooked dinner every night, and volunteered to organize fucking goddamn shit-eating church rummage sales and attend PTA meetings. I pretended I enjoyed having a penis inside me, over and over, and every time I did, another small chunk of my soul died.
"I will pray for you girls. I will pray that you find long-lasting love together, that you are meant to be, and will be until the end. And I will pray you take my advice, and get the fuck out of Minnesota, and the whole fucking Midwest. I wish you to be somewhere you two can kiss on a street corner without a care or worry, where you don't have to lie to your neighbors about who you are. If you stay, you will find you have to lie to people just to protect your own safety, and you will still hate yourself for it. I stayed, at the expense of my soul and a sense of self-worth, and of any hope of feeling love. Please don't make my mistake. To say you will regret it is the biggest understatement in the world."
I wiped at the tears that were running down my face. I looked at Bekka and the girls, all three were dripping tears onto the tablecloth. Jil and Mallory were holding hands, Jill clutching Mallory's so hard it was white. I drained an almost-full mimosa in three seconds.
Bekka was still wiping her eyes, but her voice was clear. She reached in her purse and grabbed a pocket notebook and pen, and an Inana business card. She said, "Gladys, I want to give you my home phone number and address. I would like to stay in communication with you, we can talk about anything you want. May I have your information?"
"Yeah, us too," Mallory sniffled. "Gladys, I"m so sorry.... I can't imagine...." And Mallory was too choked up to speak again.
With wet eyes but a forceful look, Jill said, "We'll take your advice. We will go to California, possibly Los Angeles." She chuckled briefly. "We'll live near the beach, and have lots of cats."
Bekka finished writing, and passed on the notebook and pen. Mallory provided her information, then Gladys wrote down her phone and address twice, handing one to Mallory and one to Bekka. She cleared her throat and smiled directly at me. "So what do you think of all this, young man?" she asked.
With a rough voice, I said, "I can't even imagine what it's been like for you. I'm a San Diego native, and I always criticize the town for being rather provincial and conservative, but apparently it's a bastion of progressive thinking, compared to around here."
"Well, you've seen Minneapolis isn't completely crap," grinned Mallory. "But at some point, if you and Bekka are feeling incredibly brave, come back here, rent a car, and start cruising around the north half of the state. Small town Minnesota isn't like 'Deliverance,' but in a way it's just as scary. From my own observations of you, Lenny, you will strike fear and rage in the hearts of everyone you speak more than ten words to. Bekka will be recognized, she's been in enough magazines, and will also spark terror. The assumption will be that Becky Page has arrived with the specific goal of turning the children into sexual degenerates, and the adults into drug addicts. It's a sad state of affairs when people try to be friendly with you by offering you some lutefisk."
Gladys laughed out loud at this comment. She said, "Oh, goodness! Yes, that is one thing I am grateful for in my life, lutefisk is not prevalent in the Twin Cities. Had I stayed in Brainerd, I am sure that bit of Lutheran suffering would have crossed my path constantly." She waited a few beats. "Oh heck, I sat here and ran my mouth so long, I never really got to talk with you, Becky. I'm sorry, you probably didn't want to hear some old woman natter on."
Bekka put her hand on Gladys' shoulder and said, "What I heard was a woman who had hidden her thoughts and feelings for a long time, possibly decades, keeping them bottled up. She finally felt safe enough to let them out, and probably feels much better for it. I'm very flattered you felt you could share yourself with me, you could tell me who you really are. I am very happy I met you, the real you, and I want to spend time on the phone with you on a regular basis. If you need to vent, I will listen, and will provide what insight I can. And before you head back to your table, I want to give you a hug. Is that all right?"
"I think that would be wonderful," Gladys said. "And I promise to not succumb to temptation and grab your hinder."
"I'll allow a quick squeeze," laughed Bekka.
All of us hugged Gladys. I was last, and naturally Roy Krebsbach came dawdling up while I was in the middle of it. He deepened his scowl and flexed his jaw, his wife was in an embrace with one of Satan's spin doctors. When Gladys and I broke apart, I said, "Whassup, Lumpy. Your wife is a real peach."
"She's a very special woman," said Bekka. "I'm glad to have met her."
"Gladys has a lot of wisdom," smiled Mallory.
Roy took us all in with a put-out look and asked in a four bourbon voice, "So what all did you talk about, all this time?"
"Absolutely nothing that would interest you, dear," Gladys responded. "Heck, it was just nice to be around some young people, ya know? Two couples in love."
"Two couples?" exclaimed Roy.
Mallory and Jill looked at each other, then at Roy, then kissed deeply, Mallory's hands sliding down to grab Jill's ass. When they broke apart, they looked to see what Roy's opinion was. His eyes were bulging like he'd hooked his head up to a compressor, and his mouth was open. He raised an accusing finger and said, "Female sodomites! Tribadists! You mock both God and nature!"
Gladys smiled sweetly at her husband and said, "Gosh, I think they're a couple of darlings, you betcha. Now shut the fuck up, Roy, and let's go order." She began walking into the depths of the restaurant, Roy tagging along after one more quick scowl at us.
Jill had a thoughtful look on her face. She said, "Somewhere in this area, there has to be another deeply closeted, post-menopausal lesbian who is just as lonely as Gladys. There has got to be a way to find her, so we could introduce them. While they may be past the age for constant hot sex, I'll bet they would both enjoy having the company."
"Run a personal ad in the local alt weekly," I suggested.
Mallory rolled her eyes. "To heck with them. They'll reject ads that are even slightly risque, and you can only use the word 'gay' as a descriptive. Not 'lesbian,' not 'dyke,' not 'queer,' just 'gay.' And even if you stick with the word 'gay,' you'd better not hint at being interested in any hotter action than stamp collecting and Bible study. They rejected an ad I submitted, because I said I was looking for another woman for some 'intimate passion.' Jeez."
I started laughing. "Hey, I just thought of another little project for your friends Willow and Maura. They should start flooding the paper with dozens of ads weekly, all as raunchy as possible. You know, 'Craven, unrepentant dyke slut seeks same. I'll lick your box until you come so hard your ears bleed. Please, no Baptists.'"
With a grin, Jill said, "'Mincing stereotype faggot seeks loggers and truck drivers for fulfillment of prison rape fantasies and antique hunting. Ignorant, linear-thinking homophobes with poor hygiene will be moved to the front of the line. Please, help me hate myself! Packers fans need not apply.'"
"I've got one," said Bekka. "'Married? Closeted? Horny? Me too! We'll start off with discreet hook-ups, but our ever-increasing drug use will cause us to act more and more recklessly, until we're both arrested at two a.m. in the parking lot of an elementary school, you fucking me on the hood of my car, and a quarter ounce of crystal meth sitting on the dashboard. Don't worry, after our divorces we'll hit the televangelist confessional circuit and get rich. Republicans preferred.'"
Mallory intoned, "Recent transplant from Sauk Rapids seeks some of that hot city pussy I've heard so much about. I have a small penis, I have no stamina, I put on more Old Spice instead of bathing, and I consider the phrase 'Suck it, bitch' to be a valid romantic overture. My comprehension of sexual interaction is derived entirely from porn, and birth control is your problem, not mine. Blackout alcoholics preferred.'"
Jill said, "And the sad thing is that except for Lenny's, we've pretty much summed up the sexual behaviors of half the state."
Mallory told her, "I'm a little out of practice. Give me a few more days, and I'll have your ears bleeding, sweetie."
"I'm holding you to that." The two kissed.