It is very hard to summarize a relationship into a single posting in a blog. But I did want you to know Donnie.
The thing hardest to get into a summary is his voice. I didn’t even try.
Instead, I will let him speak for himself, by sharing one of the letters he sent me soon after he moved to New York.
At the time, we had a rule: We had to write back the day we received a letter.
It’s July 3, 1983 at 5:15 am, and I’m on a sixth floor fire escape in the big Greenwich Village.
The apartment actually belongs to my cherished friend Cheryl, but my cherished friend Stevie is living here in Cheryl’s absence. Cheryl, you see, is at the present living in Dublin (Ireland, y’know) attending the (sniff) Joan White Theatre School. She’s studying the classics and all that shit (oh that word!).
Stevie and I just finished the latest installment of one of our favorite pastimes, which we call “closing the Duplex.”
The Duplex: one of my (and my friends’—i.e., the aforementioned broads) favorite nightspots. Try almost the only nightspot I’ve ever been to here. No joke. No matter, it’s all (almost all) I need.
It’s a mostly gay club in the Village with two floors: the upstairs where I’ve never been which houses various specialty acts (transvestites, torch singers, etc.); and the downstairs where I’ve always been—a piano bar (sing-along style) with light bulbs (one row) along the walls (a la dressing room chic) and framed theatre posters. It’s kind of in a basement, and we are talking MAJOR small. There’s a jukebox, a cigarette machine, and some video/pinball machines in the back. Nothing lavish here.
Everyone screams Broadway tunes for hours. There’s also a little spotlight and microphone if anyone has the urge to wing it one their own. Usually it’s barmaids and bartenders (who are mostly preciously cute) who sing alone. I think you would like it except for the fact that one can’t help but feel a little left out if one doesn’t know any of the words. (Chide, tease.) (Not really.)
It’s very low pressure (none of that Belle’s shit (!) where you get groped by about twenty people while trying to buy a drink) and usually very warm. In a way. I mean, for all the warmth being passed around the place, there’s still the knowledge that in about an hour or so, you’ll be asked to leave, and everyone with go home. Alone. Unless, of course . . .
Dawn has broken during the course of this narration.
This is beautiful. This time and space, I mean. I wish you could see and feel it. It’s very warm, but not disgusting yet.
The West Village is this tumbledown motley of multi-colored, flaking brownstones and little ancient churches. I can see a clock tower and an old tall building topped with what looks like a Greek temple, and I can see a tiny square of the Hudson River.
I went on the roof first (Cheryl’s on the top floor), and got views of the Empire State and World Trade that not only ought to be postcards, but were postcards in the first light of dawn. (However, there was nowhere to sit.)
This neighborhood is wonderful. Everywhere is Off-Broadway theatres, boutiques (clever to offensive), clubs, restaurants, and everywhere, EVERYWHERE is every handsome man that God ever made.
And they’re ALL GAY!!!
This pen will burn in hell.
Jefferson. Uh, I am so sleepy. I am so sleepy I just dozed off and almost fell off the fire escape.
So . . . could I bend the . . . uh, rules just a tiny bit? I mean, I promise I’ll finish the letter tomorrow, and the mail doesn’t run until Tuesday. And . . . and . . . ohshutup. I’m going to sleep.
(Ouy fo maerd dna.)
Figure it out, You don’t get anything for free.
P.S. Thank you for the letter. Honestly. How I love you.