Rock Hudson smiled at me. That's it. Nothing more. Two ships passing in the night.
It was actually more than just a smile. He looked at me with amused helplessness, as if saying Get me the hell out of here!
I was alone. Hudson was accompanied by a middle-aged gentleman, and he was surrounded by a small group of young, adoring male hangers-on.
It was at the Ahmanson Theater, adjacent to the L.A. Music Center. We were in the lobby, before the performance of a Neil Simon play. California Suite.
Hudson was pushing 50 at that time and staring in the TV show McMillan and Wife. I was still a sweet innocent eighteen-year-old. Well, maybe twenty. And sort of innocent.
Physically, Rock Hudson never appealed to me. He was a tall (6'5") handsome hunk. Hunk is the key word. All hunk and not much else. Kinda like a big inflatable doll. I had heard - from reliable Hollywood sources - that he was gay and I fully believed it. At that time only Tinseltown insiders knew.
I felt sorry for Hudson that night: surrounded by all those shamelessly gushing sycophant queers. Maybe he enjoyed it - - but his Rescue me! look and charmingly helpless smile made me think otherwise.
I was never a pretty boy, never a hunk, but I longed to be.
I used to savor all the mouth-watering photos in GQ and International Male and wished I could be one of those air-brushed, plastic surgeon sculpted Gods of the Model World. I wanted to be desired and drooled over.
I was a pathetically skinny, unpopular nerd in high school, and it didn't help that I was two years younger than everyone in my class.
My ruthlessly-critical father thrived on deflating my ego. I vividly remember the summer when I was twelve. We were planning on taking a trip back east to visit relatives in New Jersey.
My father suddenly lashed out at me, saying I looked so bad that he'd be embarrassed for the relatives to see me. He went into a tirade about how skinny, sickly, and pale I was.
"Why the hell don't you ever get out in the sunlight?" he barked. "You look like a goddamn ghost!"
He cancelled the trip. I doubt if it was solely because of me, but it was a damn good excuse. He probably didn't bother to remember that I had been diagnosed with leukemia when I was six. Or that I was nearly dead from enduring his constant violent rages and temper outbursts.
Screw that son of a bitch! His criticism stifled my ego for years.
In my late teens and early twenties I began a vigorous effort to transform myself into a reasonable facsimile of a Southern California hunk.
I exercised, lifted weights, practiced yoga, ate mega meals to gain weight. I drank daily concoctions (of my own invention) filled with raw eggs, bananas, wheat germ, and other "nutritional" ingredients.
I swam often and occasionally surfed - - until my tan was like brown leather and my hair was bleached yellow from the sun (and lemon juice). I became a life-long sun worshiper, and I've had skin cancer to prove it.
I got contact lenses. I eventually smoked, drank, indulged in the delightful sins of sex. Then I left for Hollywood and wholeheartedly embarked on a reckless downward spiral of debauchery and intense self-destruction. And I savored every moment.
I was neither narcissistic nor brainless (well, I suppose that's a matter of debate). In order to assimilate, I assumed the role of a street-wise hustler and projected an image of something I never was: tough, mysterious, indifferent, unsophisticated.
My aura of raw sexuality was a complete illusion, an elaborate ruse, but it worked.
People were very attracted to me - both men and women - and my burning need to be desired became an addiction. Every sexual encounter fed my paltry ego and temporarily expelled my desperate insecurities. I couldn't have done it without being fueled by copious amounts of alcohol and occasional drugs.
I never did fit in with the Hollywood pretty boy street scene. The hustlers, male prostitutes, wannabe actors. The raunchy models and underground porn "stars". I lived on the perimeter of this world and watched the tawdry scenes unfold. I never wanted to be an actor. I loathed male models. I wasn't into making porn flicks (although I got some legitimate offers, believe it or not).
I knew several porn film producers. I was familiar with the so-called male "model" agencies, where shiftless street kids could bare their asses before a backroom camera and earn a few bucks to buy a hamburger and some more meth.
I had the opportunity to visit the AMG studio in downtown L.A. The Athletic Model Guild was the most notoriously successful gay "physique" photography establishment in Hollywood history and has assumed legendary proportions.
founder of AMG
AMG was founded in 1945 by an eccentric photographer named Bob Mizer who became a Hollywood gay icon. His artfully contrived photos of semi-nude and nude men were incomparable in the genre. During his fifty year career he photographed and filmed thousands of young male "models" - mostly rank amateurs that were recruited from the streets of L.A. and Venice Beach. Some of his models later became famous - such as Victor Mature, Alan Ladd, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Ed Fury, and Joe Dallesandro. Dallesandro was later a model for Calvin Klein.
(just for the record, not all the AMG models were gay....some were bi...some were... sexual enigmas....).
When I met Bob Mizer he was already in his 60's and the golden glory of the AMG studio was just about gone - but it was still an interesting place. Mizer died in 1992.
A typical AMG photo by Mizer.
I think this model is Jack Conant
In retrospect, perhaps I should have been more ambitious - more aggressive. But I was only in it for sex and adventure.....and escape. I was a musician. And a once-in-awhile movie extra. I had pleasurable flings with some actors, some "models". A movie director. I knew big shots.
Am I bragging? Maybe. Hell, why shouldn't I?
Do I have regrets? My life is filled with many deep regrets - but curiously I have very few Hollywood regrets.
The people who truly loved me - - I regret that I seldom took them seriously. I thought I wasn't worthy of love. I craved love, but always got scared shitless when I had it. Insecurity is a funny thing.
This is getting too long.
Am I boring? I write for my own pleasure. If others enjoy coming along for the ride - I'm delighted. Truly.
I left Hollywood when I was 34. Totally burned out. Just in time.
I knew hustlers who were washed up at 30. Models who snuffed themselves out at 35. Has-been actors who had breakdowns at 40 because they thought they were too old.
Being a Hollywood pretty boy can be a piss.
Fortunately, I never thought I was one.