Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sisters (Part 5)

     "Oh, I tell ya, this thing is a hoot," said Gladys Krebsbach from behind the wheel.  We were rolling down San Vicente Blvd. towards Fourth St. in Santa Monica.  "The man I bought it from had it set for storage.  Wheels off, fluids and gasoline drained, tarped, and sitting in his garage."  She laughed.  "Heck, he was asking so little for it because he'd stored it correctly, but figured anyone interested wouldn't want the bother of getting it running again.  I wrote him a check then and there, then Fang and I took a good long look at it, then went to Pep Boys and bought a new battery, oil, Dextron, coolant, and a big gas can.  We got everything filled, hooked up the battery, and the darn thing fired up like it had just come off the assembly line!  We got the wheels on and rolled out.  I tell ya, I think that man was mighty disappointed to see this thing leave his garage under its own power."

      "This thing" was a 1970 Chevelle SS, the LS6 package.  A red and white coupe with a massive 454 motor under the hood, cranking out 450 horsepower.  Gladys slightly regretted it had the slush-box transmission, but admitted, "Having to work the bear-trap clutch they always put on good cars back then would have raised Ned with my hip."  She had owned the Chevelle two weeks now, selling her Lincoln Town Car.  Gladys was sixty-eight, another Minnesota transplant, and was just beginning to live her life.
     In fact, Gladys Krebsbach was now Gladys Sims, she'd returned to her maiden name after the divorce from Roy Krebsbach, processed meat king of Minnesota.  Gladys was a lesbian, and always had been.  She'd had a girlfriend for three years while in college.  But after graduation, the two had returned to their respective home towns, leaving Gladys heartbroken.  She was from a small town in upstate Minnesota, it was 1957, and she felt the obvious social pressures.  Relocating to Saint Paul, Gladys had met Roy Krebsbach, a successful man, a solid citizen.  He had proposed, and she accepted.  They had two children, Gladys had fallen into her expected role of wife and mother, living in well-to-do comfort and a position of community respect.  And Gladys hated herself the entire time, for denying who she truly was.  "Over and over, I pretended to enjoy having a penis inside of me, and every time I did, another small piece of my soul died," she had confessed when we first met.
     It was a chance encounter.  Without going into details, Bekka and I were in Minneapolis to meet Mallory for the first time over a long weekend.  On Friday we met Roy Krebsbach in the bar of the hotel we were staying in.  It was not a pleasant interaction.  On Sunday we were having brunch in the hotel restaurant when Gladys spotted "Becky Page" and came over to shake hands  Mallory and Jill were also present.  In her friendly Midwest way, Gladys dropped hints about her orientation, then finally came out and told us who she was, and what her life had been like.  She meant it as a warning to Mallory and Jill: get out of Minnesota, get out of the entire Midwest.  Gladys' story was heartbreaking: she had denied to the world who she was her entire life.  Her husband Roy drifted deeper and deeper into alcoholism over the years.  She went to PTA meetings and volunteered at church and made tuna hotdish for dinner every Wednesday, and hated herself for her cowardice.
     Her children were her saving grace.  They were the source of love in her life, what kept her from descending into addiction or suicide.  Now, obviously, the children --- a boy and a girl --- were now married and raising their own kids.  Roy had done everything but install an IV line into his stomach, to pump in bourbon at a constant rate.  When she met the four of us, we all provided contact information.  Jill and Mallory were the ones who stayed in touch with her, especially after moving to Venice Beach.  Gladys came out to visit (without Roy), and during her stay, made the big decision: out herself, get a divorce, and move to LA, just like Mallory and Jill had.  She may have been a bit past the age for wild romance, but she wasn't too old to finally establish her own identity.
     Her divorce proceeding only took one month.  Settling alimony took over a year.  Gladys knew how much Roy Krebsbach was worth, both as an individual, and as the CEO and part owner of Krebsbach Processed Meats (est. 1922).  She didn't want to screw Roy, but she also felt that the decades of loyalty and support she'd provided him was worth something.  Roy, on the other hand, knew Gladys did have some money of her own, in the forms of inheritance and a trust.  His first "bid" for monthly alimony payments was.... $100.  A month.  Things didn't get any easier from there.
     Finally, after months of living in a furnished apartment she loathed, Gladys was able to leave Minnesota.  She contacted a property management company we'd recommended and located a place to live, a three bedroom house on the north side of Santa Monica, bordering Pacific Palisades.  She wanted the room for when her children and their families came to visit, plus a garage to hold a couple cars. Gladys drove her Lincoln Town Car from Saint Paul to Los Angeles almost totally unfettered.  She had two suitcases and a milk crate full of stuff.  That was it.  Her life in California would be completely new, even down to clothes.
     Inspired by the gym bunny sense of style Jill had, Gladys dropped her dowdy plain dresses, sensible shoes, and pearls in favor of either biker shorts or sweat pants, t-shirts, running shoes or Doc Martens, and a heavy silver chain around her neck.  She began collecting a few piercings, too.  I won't lie: the first time I saw Gladys in biker shorts, I thought, "Daaang....  I hope and pray Bekka looks even half that good at sixty-eight."  Gladys had a butt that thirty year old women would be jealous of, the result of day-long walks, nearly every day for years.
    In Saint Paul, the news of her outing came as a surprise to all, and reactions were varied.  Gladys' son and daughter were surprisingly cool about it.  Her son's feeling was that if Mama was finally admitting to being a lesbian, good for her.  She had still been a wonderful parent, and he loved her as he always had.  Gladys' daughter went one step further, saying she'd sort of suspected about Mama since the daughter had been in high school.  Nothing she could place a finger on, just.... a feeling....
     The congregation at her Lutheran church was astounded, and not a little appalled.  The Lutherans might be the original Protestants, but they still have the "God hates us all" attitude of the Catholics.  What had happened to Gladys that prompted her to make this announcement?  Mental illness?  A sudden desire to be offensive to Our Lord?  A Satanic spell put on her while in California?  (This last one had a surprisingly strong bit of traction.)  All everyone knew was that dear Gladys Krebsbach, devoted church-goer and volunteer, had declared she was a sexual deviant, and always had been.  She'd never acted on it, but she said that was how she'd always felt.
     Plenty of people from the church, folks she'd known for decades, came to talk to her.  Many of them made the mistake of talking to her like she was a stubborn teenager, essentially saying, "Get that stupid idea out of your head."  Gladys would laugh at them, then say (with some fire in her voice) that this wasn't a whim.  This was not a passing fancy.  She was not nuts.  So please, be a dear and shut your fucking mouth, okay?  Real good, then.  Others asked if something was "wrong" with her relationship with Roy.  "Oh heck, Roy is the same booze-hound he's always been.  If you're hinting at us having trouble in the sack, well, things are actually a bit better these days.  Roy drinks so fucking much these days his dough doesn't rise any more, do ya catch me?  Fine with me.  I have never been sexually attracted to men.  Every time Roy and I fooled around, I was faking it.  I was pretending to be the good wife I'd always been told I should be.  Well, you know what?  To heck with it.  I can't lie to myself for one more day, and I won't lie to others.  If I don't start to have a life of my own, one of my own making, I never will."
     But, you know the church's position on homosexuality.  What you're saying you're interested in is an affront against God, and....
     "Oh, please, do shut the fuck up.  Look, I gotta tell ya something: I'm just as God made me.  He made me so that I was attracted to women, not men.  And here I am, denying God's own design for the past four and a half decades!  Okay, I know what you want to say next, that I'll have to answer to God when I pass on.  You know what?  My suspicion is God will be happy I've finally stopped hiding who I am from the world.  I believe God would be angry with me if I went to my grave still living a lie."
     What about your family?
     "The kids are fine with me.  The grand-kids are fine with me.  My parents and aunts and uncles are all dead.  I was an only child.  That only leaves Roy, and I ran out of patience with Roy a long time ago.  He's been having an affair with a man named Jim Beam for years now, they sleep together every night."
     "Oh, never mind."

     Gladys cut over to Wilshire Blvd. and turned east.  This stretch of Wilshire is wide, two lanes in each direction, but not heavily traveled through this stretch.  Through traffic used either Santa Monica Blvd. or Interstate 10.  At a stoplight, Gladys checked the cross street for Johnny Law, then did a brake stand: she rested her left foot on the brake, hard enough to engage the front brakes but not the rear.  Then she hit the gas with her right foot, doing a massive burnout.  It was an old street racing trick to get the rear tires hot and sticky, better for launching off the line.
     Our light turned green, and Gladys laid into the throttle.  The Chevelle shot forward, the engine winding out.  All that horsepower was being put to good use, I was guessing the 0-60 time was under six seconds.  We were absolutely flying up the boulevard.  A half-block ahead, the stoplight went from green to yellow.  Gladys flat-footed the accelerator, and the Chevelle shot forward with a roar.  We were through the intersection before the light turned red, moving about 85 mph.
     This hot-rodding was not new for Gladys.  She had been born with a lead foot.  For the duration of her marriage, Roy had bought her a new car every other year, anything she wanted.... supposedly.  Roy would veto her choices if he didn't like them, preventing her from ever owning a Mercedes, a Volvo, or an Alfa Romeo.  Gladys learned how to game Roy, though.  She wanted serious muscle in anything she drove, especially when the Muscle Car era kicked in around 1965.  She would know what kind of car she wanted --- say, a Dodge Charger --- and knew Roy would refuse to purchase such a hot rod for his wife.  So, she'd do some research and find another car in the maker's line-up with similar specs.  In the case of the '68 Charger Gladys wanted, the Plymouth Satellite was available with the same choices of motors and transmissions, only the Satellite was more subdued-looking.
     So, in 1968 Gladys went to the local Chrysler (Mopar) dealer, where she showed great enthusiasm for the Dodge Charger.  Oh, heck no, Roy would protest.  No woman should be driving anything that fast, and think about how much gasoline it'll burn through.  Keep looking, wife.  Gladys would then wander over to a Satellite with a base 273 V8 and express mild interest.  Far more sedate in appearance, Roy would give his okay.  They'd go into the showroom and start debating about what features Gladys wanted.  She'd tell Roy she wanted to "sleep on it," she'd return to the dealership in the
1968 Plymouth Satellite, four door.
morning while the kids were at school to mark off her optional equipment.  Roy would always insist she forgo air conditioning, due to the expense, "and it just murders your mileage."  The next morning, Gladys would specify how she wanted her new Satellite to be: four speed manual transmission, the big-ass 425 V8, four doors (she still had to carry the kids, after all)....  And air conditioning, dammit.  On the rare occasions Roy was a passenger in her car, she'd just not use the AC.  What Roy didn't know wouldn't hurt him.  Her new Satellite would arrive two weeks later, and Roy simply assumed it was the same sedate model they'd taken for a test drive.  She'd done this with every car Roy bought her, although on a few she'd have some aftermarket additions put on, like a four-barrel carb and a Thrush exhaust system.  Roy never noticed, and Gladys would have a hot rod.

     We rolled on Wilshire until it crossed Santa Monica Blvd, where we turned left and headed for a place simply named "Girl Bar."  I would be getting the stink-eye while I was there, as I was both a testosterone carrier and very hetero in appearance.  Being accompanied by Becky Page and "Auntie Gladys" would be a mitigating factor.  Girl Bar was a lesbian bar in West Hollywood.  It had been opened in 1990 by Robin and Sandy, two expatriate New Yorkers who saw the need for a dyke-only club in LA.  It had been a hit almost from day one.  Gladys was there about four days a week, arriving in the early evening, while it was still uncrowded and fairly quiet.  That was fine with her, she wanted conversation, not cruising.  She would stay for a few hours, alternating between soda and glasses of burgundy.  She would take her leave once the place started to really fill up, it was just too chaotic of a scene for her, especially on weekend nights.
     We went in and sat at Gladys' "usual" table, in an alcove near one end of the bar.  The table afforded a good view of the bar and the dance floor.  The bar was very long, Gladys told us they would have four bartenders working on busy nights.  It was only about 6:30 on a Friday.  The DJ wouldn't be there until nine, and the cage dancers were also absent.  Maybe fifteen women were occupying space at the bar, in groups.  Dice cups banged on the bar.  As we walked past the bar, several girls called, "Heya, Auntie!" at Gladys, then gave Bekka and I looks of confusion.
     We sat, and a waitress drifted up.  She gave Gladys a squeeze on a shoulder and a cheek kiss, saying, "Glass of burgundy to start off, Gladys?"  Then her eyes focused on me, and they weren't amused.  She pointedly said, "Good evening, sir.  You are aware this is a predominantly lesbian venue?"
     I wasn't in the mood to be patronized.  With an expression of cartoonish shock, I said sarcastically, "Really!  Do tell!  Golly, I never would have guessed such a thing existed, especially in West Hollywood.  Did you need to get special permits from the city to open?"  The waitress's eyes narrowed.  I dropped the sarcasm and said, "The fact that I'm here with my friend Gladys --- this young lady here, wearing the Lambda Defense Foundation t-shirt, --- was a bit of a tip-off.  So was the name, the decor, and the Ani DiFranco album playing.  Any chance you've got the latest Chromewagon release sitting around?  I'm in the mood for some rock and roll."
     The waitress said in a cold voice, "Sometimes men come here, and have.... inaccurate and nonconstructive ideas ideas about our clientele."
     I shrugged and said, "Yeah, well, one of the hallmarks of our species is the ability to be willfully ignorant.  Fuck 'em."
     Her own voice dripping with freezer frost, Bekka said, "Tell me, honey, will an openly bisexual woman get belittled here?  Or does your clientele have more class than that?"
     The waitress seemed to have not realized that Becky Page was sitting next to me.  She literally jolted and said, "Oh, no, that's fine, Ms. Page, you are welcome here.  No one will judge you based on your orientation, queer, straight, or bi, everyone is welcome at Girl Bar."
     The frost still in her voice, Bekka continued, "Really?  You seemed to be a bit judgmental with my husband."
     Now the waitress looked at me with a smile that betrayed surprise and embarrassment.  She asked, "You're Leonard Schneider?"
    "Someone had to be, and I drew the short straw," I replied.
     "Oh!  Um, I apologize, I didn't mean to, uh....  I wasn't trying to be hostile, uh...."
     I gave a genuine smile and said, "No worries.  Here...."  I handed her my bank card.  "A burgundy for Gladys, a bottle of Tecate for my wife, and I'd like a double Johnnie Walker over ice.  Hold on to the card, we'll let you know when we're ready to cash out."
     "So, you two are friends with Gladys?" asked the waitress.
     In her Minnesota drawl, Gladys chuckled and said, "Oh, heck.  If it weren't for these two, I'd still be in the closet, and living in Saint Paul.  Lenny and Bekka are a hoot, don't cha know."  She went on to briefly encapsulate how we'd met, our mutual friends Mallory, Jill, Erica, and Fang, and her hope of somehow meeting and networking with other elderly lesbians.  "I love coming here, I love the camaraderie, but....  Oh honey, I'll warn ya now, menopause can be the dickens.  It's called 'the change' for a lot of reasons, you bettcha.  There's things I'd like to talk about with another queer woman my age, they'd understand what I was saying better....  It's also a generational thing,, too.  How old are you, dear?"
     "I turn twenty-four in January," answered the waitress.
     Gladys gave her a sad smile and said, "Okay then.  See, you and I sat and talked about anything we wanted, you'd probably write me off as a rambling old biddie.  I first voted in 1952, I pulled the handle for Adlai Stevenson.  That election started Eisenhower's first term.  It was a very different world back then, the South had the Jim Crow laws, everyone was worried about Communists infiltrating the government....  Homosexuality was considered a mental illness....  I'd talk about things I went through back then with you, but a young woman wouldn't understand what life was like back then."
     The waitress didn't verbally respond, she stood frowning and slowly nodding her head, her eyes fixed on the middle distance.  She suddenly seemed to snap back into reality and said, "I'll be right back, let me get your drinks."  She strode off, frown of concentration still in place.
     The frown was gone when she returned.  She smiled at Gladys and said, "If I arranged you to meet two women your age, both lesbians, would you be cool with that?  They don't know each other, I don't believe.  But I'll bet the three of you would hit it off.  One is sixty-seven, the other is seventy.  I met them when I was doing some volunteer work for Equality California downtown.  I thought it was really cool that dykes that age were not only out, but politically active."
     "I would love to meet them," Gladys beamed.  "What do you know about them?"
     "I believe they were both in the same boat as you, they were married and hated it.  I got the impression they both left their husbands when they were younger than you, though, like in their forties.  Um, they'er political progressives --- big surprise --- one lives in Culver City, the other is right here in West Hollywood.  Um, what I can do is call them both and ask if they'd like to come here tomorrow afternoon, so they can meet someone.  I'll tell them a bit about you....  You're not a Republican, right?"
     "Oh, goodness no!" Gladys laughed.
    "Would that be cool?  Meet them here at, like, four tomorrow?"
     Gladys looked at me and Bekka.  I responded, "Go for it.  We'll go and watch Jill lift at Muscle Beach with Mallory."
     "Maybe all of us can meet for dinner around seven," said Bekka.  "We could go to 5110 for lasagna, some Italian soul food."
     Gladys gave the waitress her okay.  The waitress practically danced away to the bar, so she could use the phone.  We settled into general conversation for a while.  After fifteen minutes, the waitress returned and announced the two women, Denise and Abby, would be at Girl Bar come four o'clock.  Bekka said to her with a grin, "You enjoy being a matchmaker, don't you?"
     She actually turned a bit pink and replied, "Yeah....  I know enough people that I can always find a good match for someone....  But I'm not trying to help Auntie hook up with someone right now.  If that does happen, hey, great.  But she said she wanted to make some dyke friends her age, so I'm doing what I can."
     "And it's lovely of you, dear," Gladys said warmly.  "I don't know how to repay you."
     "Don't be a stranger.  I always feel better when I walk in and see you sitting here.  You give me hope, you know?  I see you and think, Auntie Gladys has had to deal with a lot of shit in her life.  But now she's out, she's happy, she's here, she's doing okay."
     Gladys tried to look exasperated as she said, "Oh, go on with ya.  I spent forty-five years lying to the world, pretending I was a good suburban housewife.  I was a coward."
     "Oh, please!  It was the Fifties, and you were in one of the rectangle states!  Of course you were closeted.  That's not cowardice, that's fucking survival, you know?  Don't talk shit about yourself, Auntie.  You always knew who you were, deep down.  You didn't try to lie to yourself by saying it's just a phase, or God will hate you, or whatever.  You survived, you escaped, and now you're partying in LA all the time.  Now, are you all ready for a fresh round?"
     We sat and talked, slowly consuming our drinks.   After about an hour, I went across the street to a taqueria and got us some dinner, which we ate at our table.  The club was slowly but steadily filling up, almost all the tables around us were occupied.  Over the sound system, the music changed from pop to dance floor fodder, and was cranked up a bit higher.  And it seemed like every girl in the place came over to say hi to "Auntie Gladys."
     Gladys seemed to be aware that I'd be treated with muted hostility if my presence wasn't explained, so she would immediately tell new arrivals that these were her dear friends, Bekka and Lenny, people who were very important in her life these days.  "If it weren't for these two, I'd still be back in Saint Paul living a lie," she'd state.  "They're the ones who first got me down the path out of the closet."
     The presence of Becky Page brought universal joy to the club.  Everyone seemed to be a fan.  Of course they all thought Becky Page was totally hot and edible, but she also was viewed as a sexual liberator.  Becky Page was open about her bisexuality (which nobody seemed to mind) and was also a proponent of polyamory.  Becky Page encouraged open and honest discourse about sexuality, espousing the idea that sex should be part of ordinary discourse, in public.  Humans were driven by sex, we should be able to talk about it with anyone, in a casual way: hi, my name is Bob, I can't wait until I'm with my significant other this evening because I'm feeling horny as shit.  Jerked off at work twice today, and I'm still going crazy, you know?  (So when you jerk off at work, do you go in the bathroom or just do it at your desk, keeping subtle?  I do it at my desk, hey, so long as I'm not disturbing others, what's the difference?)
     About half the girls recognized me without an introduction, thanks to different appearances in the glossy magazines.  I wasn't a big fan of what had been written about me.  In every article, the tenor seemed to be, "Can you believe THIS is the guy who revolutionized the way the world thinks about hardcore pornography, and movies in general?  Look at him!"  Lenny Schneider was a street thug who seemed to have a savant-like gift for writing and producing movies with huge amounts of hardcore sex in them, Schneider is the creator of the "smart porn" genre, he's the husband of Becky Page, he rose up from nothing....  And we suspect he might be rabid, or at least still feral.
     The vast majority of girls were totally copacetic with my presence.  It was mostly just an association thing: if Auntie Gladys says I'm okay, I must be okay.  And wow, I'm married to Becky Page but have no problem with polyamory, with Becky having a female lover.  Did I have any male lovers?  "Nope."  Why not?  "I know from personal experience it's just not me.  I've had a couple dicks in my mouth when I was younger, and the physical aspect was nice enough, but....  I felt no real connection to the guys I got together with.  It was me and a couple different friends fooling around with each other.  Sure, we were bi-curious, but mostly we were just horny as shit, and it was nice having someone you could call up and tell, 'I'm ready to blow a gasket, would you blow me?'  And the other person would say sure, come on over in about a half hour.  It was release, not romance."
     "How old were you?" asked several girls.
     "Nineteen, twenty.  The perfect age for sexual pragmatism if you're a guy."
     One girl, a couple years younger than me, sat down with us and asked, "If you hadn't had your friends back then, would you have hired a prostitute?"
     I started laughing.  "No.  No, I wouldn't."
     She seemed confused, and even a bit annoyed.  "Why not?"
     "Just.... my own personal feelings," I shrugged. "Paying money for sexual interaction has always felt a little weird to me.  Sexual activity feels like it's being reduced to a humdrum, meaningless function, like getting your hair cut.  I'm hardly a prude, I don't think there has to be some sort of massive emotional bond between two people for them to fool around, but....  I want to know someone's name, you know?  I want to have had a couple minutes of regular conversation with them, just enough so that the person.... is a person, not an object."
     After a moment or eyeing me suspiciously, the girl said, "So, a double standard for you, then."
     I gave her the same look back and replied, "You wanna unpack that for me?"
     "Look at what you do for a living.  It's really precious you like the women you fuck to be people, but when it comes to your career, you could care less.  You objectify and exploit women to make money."
      I was beginning to get mad.  "Is that so?" I asked the girl sitting across from me.
     With a sneer, the girl said, "Yeah.  Basically, you're a pimp."
     Bekka tapped the girl on the shoulder.  When the girl swiveled her direction, Bekka said, "Look at my thumb," holding her left thumb out at eye level to one side.  When the girl did, Bekka punched her in the face hard enough to make the girl's chair rock backwards.  Bekka turned back towards the table, shaking her right hand and commenting, "Dizzy bitch."
     The girl keened and shrieked loud enough to attract the attention of others, including a large woman with a flat top and a black t-shirt which read "SECURITY." across the front and back.  She looked a bit confused as she stopped at the table saying, "Hiya, Auntie G.  Um, is there a problem here?"
     "She hit me!"the girl cried, gesturing at Bekka.
     The realization that "she" was Becky Page sank in with the bouncer.  Bekka was calmly sitting, puffing a cigarette and holding her beer.  The bouncer said, "Is this true, uh, Ms. Page?"
     "It is," Bekka calmly confirmed.  "She insulted my husband, and in a way that is particularly egregious to the both of us.  The little darling here should be glad she's not male, Lenny would still be working away if she was."
     "What did she say?"
     "She called him a pimp.  Maybe she doesn't mind throwing around the word, but in the adult entertainment industry, it's a lot like using the word "nigger" in Compton, or insinuating all queers are child molesters.  Understand?  It's not merely insulting, it's offensive and a challenge to my husband's honor.  No one questions my husband's honor."
     The bouncer considered the girl (who had stopped sniveling), then me, and finally looked at Gladys, asking, "Auntie G., what happened?"
     With her warm Minnesota voice, Gladys replied, "This girl here stopped to say hello, and the course of conversation somehow turned to Lenny's sexual history.  When Lenny said he had never hired a.... lady of the evening, she told him he was a hypocrite, given his career.  Are you familiar with who Lenny Schneider is?"
     After frowning at me briefly, the bouncer's eyebrows went up in recognition.  "Yes, he runs Inana Productions."
     "You betcha.  Well, gosh, she seems to have a low view of Lenny's career, and believes Lenny abuses and degrades the girls he hires.  That's silly, I tell ya, Lenny is salt of the earth.  She called Lenny, uh, a very mean word, and Bekka hit her."
     Looking at me, the bouncer said, "What did she call you, sir?"
     "She called me a pimp," I answered.  "And Bekka is somewhat mistaken.  If a man had said that to me, I'd have pulled him outside first, then hit him.  More room to work, and you don't bug the other customers."
     "I know all about how women are treated in porn!" the girl stated loudly.  "You exploit women, you're no better than some sleazy street pimp!"
     The bouncer immediately moved to get between Bekka and the girl.  Bekka didn't pivot, but looked at her and said, "I....  am going to correct you.  I doubt you would pay any attention to Lenny, if he responded, but you will listen to me....."
     "Ms. Page...." the bouncer said in a warning tone.
     "I'm not going to throw any insults back, I'm simply going to point out where she is wrong, and why I feel insulted too.  First, by calling Lenny a pimp, the implication is that I'm a whore.  I'm a performer, not a prostitute.  Next, Inana has had some of the same performers for years now.  If they were being abused, would they stick around?"  The girl started to open her mouth, and Bekka said, "And any conspiracy theories about white slavery, drugs, or mind control are baseless, don't waste your breath.
     "You don't have to look too hard to find a studio that treats performers poorly, fair enough.  But Inana treats everyone with respect and dignity, by design.  We ask a lot of our performers, that's why Inana came to be so well known.  Inana Girls are fantastic actresses and performers, do you really think they'd be if they were being abused?  Have you ever seen one of our films?"
     With a pouty voice, the girl said, "Yes....  Both 'Bewitched' movies.  And 'Succubus.'... But I only watched them for the girl-on-girl scenes."
     "Okay, then you've seen the quality of performance we get...."
     "Yeah, with women working together!  I'll bet they have to be bullied into doing those straight scenes!"
     Gladys looked amazed.  She said, "Why the heck would you think that?"
     The girl exclaimed, "All hetero intercourse is rape, just like Andrea Dworkin says!"
     The rest of us, including the bouncer, groaned at this.  I rubbed my face with my hand and said, "Oh, honey.  You're gonna make me do something that really hurts, which is defend Andrea Dworkin.  That line is bullshit, Andrea Dworkin never said it.  Neither did Catharine MacKinnon, or Robin Morgan, or Kathleen Berry.  Believe me, I've got plenty of issues with the radical feminists, but I won't misquote them."  I sighed and said, "I'm gonna guess you picked up your views of porn from MacKinnon and Dworkin, right?  I would love to have them visit the Inana studios and meet our performers, and watch us work.  That would blow a lot of their hypotheses out of the water.
     "So far as how porn affects society, well....  Shit.  I hear the same things from the religious right.  And besides, if Inana's movies are so exploitative, why do Women's Studies groups keep watching the damn things?  Why has Bekka done three keynote speeches on college campuses in the last year?"
     The girl swung her head at Bekka.  "Are you serious?  What were you talking about?  What schools?"
     "San Diego State, UC San Diego, and UCLA," Bekka answered.  "At all three schools, the Women's Studies programs asked me to speak, and I covered a wide-ranging variety of topics.  Everything from performance to Inana's scripts, to how production works, to my marriage, and my sex life in general.  I tried to dispel as many myths as possible."
     The bouncer cut in and said, "Look, are you two going to to after each other again?  Tell you what, why don't you...."  she indicated the girl.  "... come sit at the bar for a while."
     Gladys averred, "It's getting late, up towards my bedtime, so we'll be taking off.  We didn't mean to cause a fuss."
     Addressing the girl, Bekka said, "Really honey....  Insulting someone's significant other, no matter who they are, can be unhealthy.  Tell you what.  I know for a fact that the Women's Studies program at UCLA videotaped my speech, and my Q&A session.  Go see if they'll let you watch it.  I don't claim to represent the whole industry, but you'll understand Inana Productions better."
     I added, "Something else to keep in mind?  Right now, we have a writing staff of three.  Me, Mallory Ollafsen, and Erica Larsen.  Um, and as a tiny bit of trivia, both Mallory and Erica are full-bore dykes.  There is no questioning what side of the fence they're on."
     Bekka got a bright look on her face.  Looking over my shoulder, she said, "Speaking of...."
     Looking behind me, I saw Mallory and Jill approaching.  Bekka, Gladys, and myself stood to disperse hugs.  The girl took in this scene in amazement and confusion....  And then added some worry while looking at Jill.  We briefed Mallory and Jill on what was new (leaving out the recent assault), telling them we'd be eating at Angel's trattoria the next night, if that was all right.  Gladys would hopefully have a couple new friends with her.
     Mallory and Jill noticed the girl sitting there, and their smiles faded some.  Jill said, "Are you friends with this chick?"
     "We just met a little while ago," I answered.  "We've....  had a bit of conflict."
     The bouncer stepped up to Jill, our six foot four body "sculptor," to say hello.  Jill was the world's only Minnesota Amazon.  She was a bodybuilder in theory, she was well-muscled, but didn't have the massive bulk a lot of lifters develop.  Her body was still feminine.  The bouncer's heft was still sort of a work-in-progress.  She explained to Jill that a minor fracas was being diffused between Bekka and the girl.  "You know her?" asked the bouncer.
     "Yes...." Jill responded with frost in her voice.  "After seven or eight drinks, she has some trouble with personal boundaries.  Also with determining when there's an attachment between two people."
     Mallory added, "I'm very flattered the little darling thinks Jill is hot, but she expresses her attraction a bit too directly on the dance floor....  and does not react well to being rebuffed."
     Bekka chirped, "Well!  It would seem being presumptuous is a rather involving hobby for her."  She went on to encapsulate the conflict which had taken place, then said, "Perhaps you two could briefly sit with her and explain a bit about Inana Productions, and Lenny.  She is under a lot of inaccurate conclusions about both."
     "I'll buy you a pitcher of Miller, to chat over," I offered.
     Mallory and Jill glanced at each other, then Mallory said, "That would be lovely, Lenny."  They sat down across from the girl, who looked like she had just been shoved in a lion's cage.  We said our goodbyes and stepped over to the bar to pay off the tab and have the beer sent over.
     The waitress processed my card and handed me the slip to sign.  While I did, she asked, "Do you three know that babe you were sitting with?"
     Gladys responded, "I've said hello to her, but have never spoken with her before tonight.  She was.... a bit of a handful, don'tcha know."
     "I believe it," said the waitress with an eye-roll and a smirk.  "When she's sober, she likes to get on the soapbox and preach about 'patriarchy' and 'rape culture,' total early Seventies feminist invective.  Then after an hour or so of solid drinking, she's got her hand on every ass on the dance floor, like a horny teenage boy."
     "Boy howdy," observed Bekka.

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