Thursday, January 7, 2010

Well Behind Warren, But Without Regret (Not)

If his biographer’s computations are accurate, I’m very far behind Warren Beatty in terms of beauties bedded, but I have few regrets. My having had over 12,700 fewer lovers than Peter Biskind thinks Warren’s had owes in large part to very long stretches of monogamy, during which I, as a one-gal guy, was pretty content.

Who am I kidding? I’ve probably got as many regrets as Warren’s had redheads. I regret having gotten off to a very late start (19!) because of debilitating shyness. I regret having been rough the first time with the first major girlfriend of my adulthood, because I was an idiot and thought women equated roughness with virility. I regret having allowed cowardice (I couldn’t bear the thought of the look in her eyes when I said we were done) to keep me in the second major relationship of my adulthood long after I’d realized it would come to nothing. And God knows I shudder with embarrassment recalling a few of the partners into whose arms loneliness has shoved me at various points in my life.

The best sex I’ve ever had? In first place, miles ahead of all else: extended (and we’re talking kisses that lasted 45 minutes here) petting with my first girlfriend in the back seat of my Dad’s Volkswagen Variant in the hills high above northernmost Malibu. Forgive me, but: OMG. Tied (with riding bicycles one particularly glorious spring day in Golden Gate Park with my nine-year-old daughter, and sitting with Claire on a mountaintop in Monchique, Portugal) for the purest joy I’ve ever experienced, that.

My second-best sex? An umpteen-way tie between the first (or subsequent best) times with a lot of girlfriends. “Making love with you,” my late friend Mike Hazlewood wrote in The Hollies’ The Air That I Breathe, “has left me peaceful, warm, and tired.” I’ve experienced that exact pleasure thousands of times — and likewise that of feeling as though shot out of cannon or dropped out from an airplane. But I will not deny one-night stands their due. There was an extended stretch when I would go to the Starwood or Rainbow in Hollywood two or three evenings a week with the express purpose of inducing impressionable maidens to commune with Little Elvis. A lot of those trysts did indeed leave me feeling lonelier, just as it says in all the books and magazines, but there’s no denying the exhilarating pleasure of that first moment of capitulation.

My worst sex ever? I’d been flown to a film festival in Spain by a British PR firm desperate for warm bodies, and become friendly with one of the firm’s junior publicists. We hit it off a treat, but going to bed with her was a dreadful miscalculation, as no part of the attraction was physical. Did I learn from my mistake? I did not. Eight years later, while working as a word processor jockey for San Francisco’s biggest fascist law firm, I allowed an attorney who didn’t hugely appeal to me to lure me into her bed, largely because I liked the idea of impaling one of the tormentor class on Little Elvis. She had lipstick of a most unbecoming shade on her front teeth, and I remember the experience with revulsion.

Oddly, it was during the period when the world seemed to be mistaking me for Warren Beatty that I got laid least. I’d show up for medical or dental appointments in those days and every female member of the staff, if not the building, would find reason to come out to the waiting area for a gawk at me. At work, an endless succession of female fellow employees slinked into my office and offered themselves to me. But they were invariably the wrong women. Ms. Tomasina Lewis, the one in whom I was most interested, didn’t seem to know I was alive, and others, who’d have sufficed handsomely, seemed to think the only way to the heart of one as brazenly sought-after as I was to feign disdain.

I’ve never had sex with another guy. There was a night in 1978, at the Hotel Clyde in north London, when I was horrified to find myself greatly attracted to one of the Australian cameramen with whom I was working on a music special for sale to American TV, but I didn’t let on. There was another night, ten years later, when my best friend at the time — a strikingly handsome fine artist who, with his incongruously plain and censorious wife, had provided refuge for me in the face of my first marriage’s collapse — made very clear that he thought we should go into the darkroom and see what developed. I am very proud to report — he said self-mockingly — that I was able to demur.

[Hear my life-changing new album Sorry We're Open here! Facebookers: Read more All In Tents and Porpoises essays and subscribe here.]

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