Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Worst of The Beatles

To the casual observer, it probably appears as though I have gone from triumph to triumph. God knows that I’ve had more than my share of good fortune, but in every life, a little rain must fall, and I have had my share of business failures along with the many glittering successes. Take, for instance, the drive-in theatre in which I invested the $9,000 I’d earned dealing peyote my last two years at the University of California. It seemed to me that the business’s profits would surely soar if it began offering matinee screenings, but nothing of the sort turned out to be the case. Many of our customers — it was not yet fashionable to refer to customers as guests — complained about the difficulty of seeing what was happening on screen in daylight. Snack bar staff, a ticket-taker, and a projectionist all demanded to be paid regardless, and within three months I had no choice but to allow my partners to buy me out for dimes on the dollar. 

My next venture was inspired by the burgeoning popularity of musical so-called tribute acts. I had long been a fan of the English singing foursome The Beatles, but southern California already had dozens of Beatles tribute acts. I hit on the idea of not performing the familiar hits such groups as The Red Sullivans and The Across the Universes were already performing to great acclaim, but instead to call my show The Worst of The Beatles, with a repertoire that included Mr. Moonlight, You Like Me Too Much, Drive My Car, Yer Blues, and my own least-favourite Beatles track, the lugubrious Blue Jay Way. When audiences seemed not to love the concept, I scrapped the existing set list, fired the musicians, and instead hired John and Yoko lookalikes to lie side by side in a bed onstage, mumbling messianic nonsense about peace and art and whatever else popped into their heads. Audiences enjoyed this even less than they had Mr. Moonlight, though, and I accepted a job selling ladies’ shoes at an elegant Beverly Hills department store. 

I am very suave, and was good-looking at the time, in a sort of saturnine Semitic way, and the ladies loved the way I looked at them soulfully and gave their feet a little massage after removing the various shoes they tried on, or had arrived in. Within a month of beginning my job, I was regularly…visiting half a dozen of the richest women in southern California., who passed me back and forth like the latest Danielle Steele novel. 

The husband of one of them, an avid cuckold and even avider voyeur, had made his fortune in gay pornography. Noting that I have an unusually deep, resonant, and sexy voice, he encouraged me to look into gay phone sex, at which I turned out to be even more successful than at selling shoes.

One of my most avid clients, Cal, who’d made his own fortune with alkyl nitrite poppers of the sort he enjoyed inhaling during our little chats, owned the radio station that broadcast the games of one of Los Angeles’s most prominent professional sports teams. He suggested that if I were to serve as his main broadcaster’s on-air sidekick, his station’s female and gay listenership would probably increase geometrically. I had enjoyed sports as a child and teenager, and agreed to give it a try, only to discover that many of the foreign players had names I doubted they themselves could pronounce. Cal laughed and said that since the retirement of St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Braves infielder “Red” Schoendienst, broadcasters had had it soft, and that if I found the job too difficult, I could decline it and spend the rest of my life titillating lonely gay men on the phone, or selling $800 Ferragamo pumps to women with walk-in closets more capacious than the hovels in which the world’s poorest lived lives of unspeakable deprivation. 

“Point taken,” I said, hating myself for it.