World-famous novelist, LGBTQ trailblazer and my BFF (we've had dinner together, like, twice) Armistead Maupin wrote a memoir. It's hilarious and touching and paints a spectacular portrait of his great big extraordinary existence and, as of last week, is available wherever books are sold.
I'd been chomping at the bit to get my hands on a copy of Logical Family ever since Armistead read a chapter aloud at an event in Provincetown called An Evening with Armistead Maupin two summers ago. On the afternoon before the event Bevan and I ran into he and his husband Chris at the Boatslip during Tea Dance and after sharing several Planter's Punches we made plans to have dinner together that night. At some point during the meal the subject turned to sex, safe sex circle jerks to be specific, and I asked Armistead to explain the appeal. He said that during the height of the AIDS crisis men would get together at someone's house, put a porn movie into the VCR and get down to business, solo. It was, he said, a safe sexual connection during a time of real fear and uncertainty. I thanked him for sharing and filed the gay history lesson away in my brain.
The following evening Bevan and I we were seated in the third or fourth row at the Crown and Anchor, an intimate little theater space in the back of a popular P-Town restaurant of the same name, and Armistead walked out on stage to begin An Evening with Armistead Maupin. “Good evening!” he said to the cheering crowd of giddy queens. "I was explaining safe sex circle jerks to a young friend of mine over dinner last night and it got me thinking that since the house is so intimate tonight it would be great if everyone could please pick up their chairs and arrange them a circle..."
The audience of course lost their minds at Armistead's dirty little joke but my face went white. I turned to Bevan and whispered, "I think he's talking about me." and Bevan smiled and nodded and bumped his shoulder into me as if to say "Yeah, that's pretty darn cool." and for a good long time after that I felt like the luckiest little queer on the planet.
On the same night that the safe sex circle jerk dinner conversation took place the four of us ended up going bar-hopping together and staying out until two o'clock in the morning. The next day Chris asked me if I would film he and Armistead while they "barked" (sold tickets on the street) for that evening's reading because they needed footage for a then-in-progress documentary about Armistead's life. Because of our shenanigans the night before I was totally exhausted, extremely hung over and drained of any personality that I might've otherwise had, but I agreed to do it anyway.
I followed the two of them and Bevan up and down Commercial Street all afternoon, arms shaking from trying to steady the camera (and also from the hangover), worrying all the while that I was ruining their movie with each subsequent out-of-focus frame. At some point it was decided that either enough tickets had been sold or enough footage had been captured and we called it quits. I handed Chris back his camera without seeing a single shot but knowing, in my heart, that none of them were usable.
Almost a year later B and I were sitting at the Castro Theater watching the The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin and again I was shaking and sweating, though this time it wasn't from alcohol withdrawals. This time I was a wreck because I was absolutely certain that there would be an obvious gap in the film where my wobbly, blurry Provincetown barking footage should've been. I sat there waiting for my screw-up to be known to the thousand-plus gay men sitting around me when finally, a good way through the film, I spotted my work, a two-second clip of Armistead and Chris embracing on the corner of Central and Commercial streets. It was at the very end of a "chapter" in the documentary and even though it was easily the worst bit of footage in the entire movie it was a sweet and tender moment between the two of them and I was the one who captured it.
We didn't stay to chat with Armistead and Chris after the screening at the Castro, but months later when they were over at our house for dinner Chris took a good-natured swipe at my camerawork from two summers before and I just smiled, because I, their young friend, felt pretty okay about it.