He Is So Fucked up: A Conversation With Tom Brown*

by Alexander Cheves

Tom Brown* requested an alias because he works at a conservative college in California where he is the chairperson of the theater department. But for a few months in the mid-’80s, he was a young gay man in New York City and working as a stage manager at The Saint, the fabled gay disco in the East Village. He assisted performers like Colm Wilkinson to Twyla Tharp and witnessed some wildly erotic — and uncomfortable — stage acts. I called him up to talk about bug-chasing, drugs, meeting Warhol, and the ghost of a famous singer rumored to haunt The Saint.

You worked on shows for The Saint. Can you tell me about that?

Sure. Brian was apparently looking for people that knew how to build sets and things like that. I had a lot of experience in theater so he hired me for that. All paid under the table. And they would do shows, like one big show every month. They would bring in Broadway artists and have a White Party or a Black Party. And those were interesting. I’d never seen anything like that before. I’d been to gay bars before in West Virginia, Ohio, but nothing like that, that’s for sure.

You were hired by Brian —

Brian LaCoste, yes. L-A-C-O-S-T-E. He was a technical director for the club. 

You were working in theater at that time? 

I had been working in theater and moved to New York from Connecticut and I was going to go back to that same company the next year, but decided not to. I was this young gay man that ended up moving to New York and worked at The Saint and worked at Macy’s. And at Macy’s, after 30 days you had health insurance, so that was amazing. 

Where in New York were you living? 

First I was in Queens — what’s the name of that neighborhood off the E train? 

I’m bad at this. I don’t know anything outside of Manhattan. 

What’s his name, where is his musical set? The guy that wrote Hamilton.

You mean Washington Heights?

Yeah. Washington Heights. I believe that was the area.

I used to live in Washington Heights. That’s upper Manhattan, not Queens. But it’s lovely. And you can get there from the E train. And that makes sense because a lot of theater people are still there. It’s a common place for Broadway people to move. What was the year range for your work at The Saint? It doesn’t have to be specific, I just want to have an idea of when you worked there. 

Maybe 1986? I remember I moved there in August and I was there almost two years. But I only worked at The Saint for about six or seven months, maybe longer. I’m not really sure.

Got any wild stories? 

Well, I danced there like any one of the other hundreds and hundreds of gay men dancing there. I would do it after work. Probably the biggest party they ever had was one of the White Parties where we covered everything in white, and we also set up these carousel projectors that shot photos of young naked men on the wall. And they were probably — I think there were 12 carousel projectors and each carousel projector had a different theme. The guy who took the photos was an artist. I don’t know what his name was. And I remember going with Brian to his apartment to take him the slides, and I was very young then and had bright red curly hair, and he wanted me to pose for him, and I said, ‘Oh, no, no.’ I knew my mom wouldn’t understand. And I remember there was another party where people got really mad because we hired a lot of porn performers. 

Uh-huh?  

Yeah. It was for the stage back where the bar was, we set up the second stage, and I was stage managing it, and these porn performers would go onstage and do some sort of routine. And I remember, I would stay upstairs in one of the green rooms with the guys and then they had to be walked down to get ready to do the next act. And so I would walk people through it, we did a short run-through, you know, just like in regular theater. Like, there’s your mark. And the ones that stood out to me the most, and they may not have stood out for something positive, but just because I’d never seen that before — once there were these two guys that were wrestling, and they were in little tiny underwear. The tiniest underwear I’ve ever seen at that point in my life, and they were wearing black and white makeup, which made a clown effect. They asked me before going on stage if I wanted to help them out and I said sure. They wanted me to put vaseline under their nuts so they could make their makeup smear. And I said, ‘Oh, no, thank you. That’s lovely but you can do that for each other. I’m not doing it.’ So anyway, they were onstage, and they did this thing to make their makeup smear, and then they ended up doing 69, then fucking, and people applauded. Then they went offstage. But they didn’t practice safe sex. Not that it stopped the audience from going wild and applauding. And the next one to go onstage was this beautiful young man. Absolutely chiseled, like a Greek god, and one of the things we’d done, we built on the stage this — what do you call it where someone can hang from it so someone could fuck them or whatever?  

A sling? 

That’s the word. So we put a sling up. It was mainly with chains. 

Yeah

And this gorgeous gym guy, he had to have help getting into the sling. And he was like a tiny gymnast. Beautiful butt, beautiful everything. And I remember his eyes being very, very pink and I realized he is so fucked up. And he was. And that was the first time I saw anyone get fisted. And I was like, holy hell. 

Wait, this beautiful young gym guy or the next person after this guy got fisted? 

The gym guy got fisted. 

Hot. 

I had only heard of that. I’m not sure I ever saw that before. I know I’d never seen it in person, but that was something you don’t forget. And he was just super high, coked out. 

Oh, I’m sure. 

And the next guy — well maybe it was the next day — but not long after that was a guy that could sit in the chair and go down on himself. Just like he was having a cup of tea. I mean, it wasn’t that massive, his dick wasn’t huge, it was average, which made it more impressive, and I remember him saying, ‘Oh, I know you want to touch it.’ And I said, ‘Oh, of course I do. But my arm will fall off, turn purple.’ And — 

I’m sorry, I missed that last part — 

I said, ‘I don’t. I’m sure I want to, but my arm will fall off. It’ll turn purple.’ And he knew I was kind of joking, but I was serious. I wasn’t going to touch his dick because all these sex workers —  and that’s what they were — they take pride in making people feel welcome. And they had hundreds of thousands of people going, ‘Yeah I want to do, blah, blah, blah.’ And I just don’t want to be that person that goes, ‘Of course I’ll touch your dick.’ I just didn’t want to because, you know, at that time period — I had just gotten past the gay thing, and yeah, it was all just kind of terrifying, in a lot of ways. I was a healthy man and I like sex just as much as anybody else, not more or less, but I didn’t like mixing work and pleasure, even if it was a job that paid under the table. And also, I just don’t want to seem vulnerable to other people, just exposing my desires like that. I’m like, ‘This is work, buddy.’ There was another thing, I had to go onstage and clean up dog food. Yeah, there was a thing where a domination couple went onstage and one tied the other person to the stage. There were chains and they wore a dog collar and they opened a can of dog food onstage and, um, forced him to eat it, which was gross to watch. But he also took the lid and cut the guy’s chest and there was blood there. But the blood didn’t get on the stage or anything, it just stayed on the person, and the other guy licked the blood off, and I was like, ‘How am I seeing this?’ And they received a lot of complaints from the Health Department following that show. It was strange, I mean, I was like — the first time I went on the stage was because everyone was watching people have sex and after I had to sweep it. And I remember this guy saying, “Good Cinderella.” But it didn’t seem funny then. And I was like, I’m just gonna tuck my head on this — 

Cinderella? I don’t get it, sorry — 

Because I had a broom in my hand. 

Oh, right. 

And I had red curly hair. And I said something to the effect of, that he was no prince. And he could go fuck himself. And everyone clapped. And sometimes I’d run into Broadway singers. That was amazing. I remember when they brought Colm Wilkinson to sing “Bring Him Home.” They practiced that Saturday morning and when he sang it for the mic check, I had never heard the song live. I had heard it on a tape recording, or cassette, actually. And I remember thinking, ‘Well, he’s got a beautiful voice.’ So I sat there listening to “Bring Him Home” and I was the only person on the dance floor and I just started crying. This was Colm Wilksinson, and he had this young black man as his assistant, and had his security bags and sat there patiently waiting for him, and I just cried. I later told him, ‘I apologize, but you have a beautiful voice. Thank you.’ 

You mean from Les Miserables

Yeah. He was the original guy, nominated for a Tony, and should have won, but he was beaten by — oh, what’s his name? Tall dancer guy? I can’t remember the person who won but I remember the musical he won for, it’s a period piece — oh, Tommy Tune, for My One and Only. You know, at that time period and now in my life — I’m 59 years old and I am the chairperson for a theater arts department at a college — but back then, everyone was very ‘make it up as you go along.’ A lot of things were like that then. The show things I can remember. There was the cast of Nunsense. There was Twyla Tharp. There was Sarah Vaughan, who sang “My Funny Valentine,” and I stage-managed that. 

May I ask a dumb question? 

Sure. 

What goes into the role of the stage manager? What are the stage manager’s responsibilities? 

Well, my function with her and some of the others was mainly just to make sure they were comfortable and then to remind them how long they had before their time onstage to perform, and then just make sure that they were okay walking back to wherever they were going after. I didn’t call cues or anything like that, because traditionally, a person stage managing, they would call — they would use sound cues — but all that stuff was done from the booth. They didn’t really change things during the acts besides the people performing it. But it was Sarah Vaughan, see — and she was amazing. I remember going to her door knocking, giving her time, 45 minutes. Then I knock again at 30. Then I knock 15. Then at ten minutes, I open the door, and she put her hand on her chest and she had a gentleman friend with her and she said, ‘Young man, you always knock. I could be naked in here with my friend and you would have seen all of me.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. I apologize.’ And I always knocked after that. And she did an amazing show and she ended with, “My Funny Valentine.” 

Oh, lovely.

Yeah. I was, like, ten feet away from where she was singing. She had this voice — she was covered in sweat, but her voice was all over the place. And not all over the place like she’s out of control of it, but she just grabbed every note. And Colm Wilkinson, before he started his song he was kind of a bitchy queen, but then you hear that song, “Bring Him Home,” and then everybody was crying. And I always heard that — well, I remember the name of the singer that supposedly haunted The Saint because it was the last place she played at, Janis Joplin. I never saw her but I heard some people say that. 

There’s no way — 

Well, that’s what I thought. I never really thought about it as a lie. I just thought it was one of those things some gay people say. 

Now I have to learn where Janis Joplin’s last performance was. 

[Editor’s Note: Janis Joplins’s last performance was on Aug. 12, 1970 at Harvard Stadium, but she did play at the Fillmore East, the rock venue that would later become The Saint, on February 12, 1969.] 

Let me know when you do. I’ve always wondered about that. Oh, and there was a young lady that worked on set and who managed everything, all the acts. And she always wore rubber. It wasn’t leather. It was black rubber, a very tight, form-fitting dress. And she had beautiful blonde hair. 

Do you remember her name?

Oh, my God. No, I didn’t really know it then. I’ve never been great at names.

No worries, just curious. 

Yeah, we built a lot of the set for the White Party. We painted everything in the basement. We spray-painted it and the exhaust was terrible. We were wearing masks, but even wearing masks, even for a couple of hours afterwards, I was coughing up white paint. I was like, I don’t know if I just took years off my life for this.  

Oh my God. 

It was definitely an interesting place to work for a short time period. I was amazed. I never really went there as a patron. I only went there because I worked there. And I was friends with Brian, him and his partner, whose name was George, who I believe was from Michigan, but they broke up sometime after I left. It wasn’t anything to do with me, but they’d been having some issues.

Did you stay in touch with them? 

I tried but they just went in different directions, and then my calls weren’t returned. I’ve had a crush on Brian, and I really liked George, but oh well. It was fascinating. There were some guys at the bar who worked as bartenders that were straight, but they knew they could make bank and tips, so they would do their routine, get whatever tip they could. And it was really pretty at times. It was also very ugly. There were a lot of places that were dark. It wasn’t a lot of light. Where guys would get to know each other for whatever length of time, you know, that stuff happens, but it was fucking insane, especially at that time period. 

Yeah

And because all that stuff was coming down. People are dying. Just don’t. The people still were going crazy, I remember. When I first moved to New York, I called a really good friend of mine who lived there, and the first thing he said was, don’t have sex with anyone, everyone has AIDS. Well, I said, I’m pretty sure everyone doesn’t have AIDS, but a lot of people do. In fact I was texting him today about what he was during this epidemic, he and his wife and family. And I don’t know whatever happened to Brian. I always wanted to know. 

Mailman had a sort of core group of members that he was personally connected to, whose opinions about the club and about the DJs — they reportedly had his ear. So there was this idea of an inner sanctum of members that were particularly catered to, that were wealthy, who spent a lot of time on Fire Island, and it’s been hard finding perspectives from those guys. I don’t think many of them survived. Most of the accounts I have been able to find about The Saint are from people who weren’t necessarily regular attendees. 

I was never a partier. I didn’t really do drugs. I mean, I’ve done a couple of things, but nothing like some of those guys did. Certainly nothing with needles. And now I’m a 59 year old gay man who — I don’t mean to sound like a whore, but that’s just a middle name for some people — but I couldn’t even tell you the number of sex partners I’ve had. Not that my life is like that in any way, shape, or form now. I can’t tell you the last time I had sex. But it’s so weird to look back on that and think, ‘Wow, okay.’ And they had a party for Swatch watches. At the time a lot of people were wearing these watches. 

Yeah. They still do. 

Really? I haven’t seen one in a long time. I used to. But the thing they did — I don’t know if the piece was commissioned or what, but they had Andy Warhol paint a Swatch watch on, you know, canvas. And I got to meet him because they wanted someone to hang the painting. They had a place for it to hang. And so I was standing on a ladder with it. And because where I was putting it, on this nail head to hang it, the nail head was touching the canvas and they were afraid it was gonna come through the canvas. But it was interesting because I saw and talked to him. 

What was Andy like? 

Well, this was him much older, and he just had a lot of people who were, like, around him, and they kind of guarded him. Like when his people were fussing with the canvas and the nail head possibly coming through, he was just very — what’s the word? — I think the word is “nonplussed.” 

Perhaps, “stoic”? 

“Stoic” to me is a little more, uh, stronger. This guy was — not saying he wasn’t strong, but he was almost like he wasn’t there. It was like he was hiding in full view of everyone. 

And that happened during your few months that you were working there? 

Yeah. 

A few weeks ago I found a list of employee names for a season, a massive list, along with an employee handbook guide. It was surprisingly stringent. There was a strict dress code and code of behavior for, like, when you could take meals, and stuff like that. Did you feel like it was strict? 

There was a definite feeling of haves and have-nots. And I was a have-not. 

How do you mean? 

Well, Mailman never really spoke to me. Maybe once. But I never really saw him that much. And when I did it was always in the distance. But he would keep away from people a lot, and he had other people that made sure that things got done. And I think one of the reasons why they didn’t keep diligent records is because they didn’t want to be, like — where’s the money from this? And where’s the money from that? Because it was much easier to hide the money that was coming in and out of there. Because there was a ton of it. 

I think you could say the same about most of the clubs at the time. You know, The Saint never had a liquor license. 

Oh, my gosh. 

Yeah. I mean, there were so many clubs back then. I suppose they later cracked down on this, but I think in the early ‘80s — the reality is, a lot of the clubs ran on, or at least depended on, a steady supply of drugs. And I think a lot of them supported, to various extents, that business. Or people would go in and conduct business there and they wouldn’t know about it. But either way you define it, The Saint is notorious for drugs and consumption. 

I knew that people were doing a lot of drugs. But you never really saw it. You didn’t see it out in the open. If they were doing drugs, they did it in the bathroom or one of the private areas. There were security people that would come around and, you know, stop people if they were getting too sexual. But there was one party that I remember where they didn’t have any lights on. And that was just scary and creepy.

Did you work it? 

Yes but I don’t remember what I did. I was just in one area. But I mean, it was so dark. It was almost like no life. And, you know, you could smell sex.

Yeah, of course.  

And poppers. 

Definitely. 

I’m glad that I had that experience, that it gave me the money that it did, and that I survived it, because I have a lot of friends from that time period that didn’t survive, or that are in various stages of hell at this point in their lives. Oh, did you know the management, the guy who did the flowers for the club? I think the guy was named Paul. Very, very small, black gentleman. He was very much like a peacock. And he had a partner, but he also had a tendency to go down to the docks and stay spread eagle at the back and just welcome everyone to come there. And then what happened was, his partner ended up becoming HIV-positive. And, um, Paul had hidden his status from his partner. And they said Paul took his partner to the hospital — they had been together for two years — and he took his partner to the hospital, then came home and changed the locks on their apartment and never saw him again. 

Jesus. 

And he still went to the bar, and he was this, you know, a person that people, that some people like. And from what I understand, after that he just continued, and a majority of his encounters were at the docks and stuff.

I think a lot of people — I think those stories are somewhat common. I’ve heard many stories of abandonment, just because people were terrified. I mean, they simply did not know how to react to this. And I think that is a way of responding to trauma. 

Well, it’s that whole “I will survive” song sung in a horrible key. I mean, he just discarded him. And they’ve been together for years, but also because, from what I heard — Brian told me all this — his partner was faithful and never had sex with anybody else. And the truth of the matter was he most likely got it down at the docks, brought it home, and gave it to his partner, then abandoned him. And this was way before the bug-chasing thing came to fruition, which I still find appalling. I just don’t understand it. 

It’s still active. I’m HIV-positive and I probably get a message from somebody once a week asking about it.

Well, I’m sorry. I mean, thank you for sharing. I’m negative. My best friends are positive and we’ve talked about it, and I think the awful thing is that there are people who are bug-chasers who feel it’s something they’ve missed out. Like it’s a rite of passage. And I’m just like, oh my god, no, no, no. 

Well I also think many people live in debilitating fear of HIV. I mean, I certainly did when I was younger, before I became positive. And I think that sometimes that fear and panic, just from the stories you hear and the images you see about HIV, and the ideas and misconceptions everybody generally associate with HIV — sometimes it makes people so scared that the only way to live and cope with it is to just face it, because otherwise they’re going to spend their lives in fear and terror. So to alleviate the suffering and fear, they reach a point where they’re just, like, I have to have it because otherwise I’m going to spend the rest of my life miserable. I might as well have something I can’t be afraid of rather than live afraid. I think so many people reach that point because we teach fear. Every modern-day young gay man grows up terrified of HIV, and it’s such a different illness now, so livable. Yet people are still absolutely terrified. 

Yeah. On a side note, just out of curiosity, what is your age? Because I’m 59. I’ll be 60 in December. I’m just curious.

I’m 28. 

Alright. Wow. 

I normally write about sex for a few LGBT magazines. But I think these conversations need to survive, and the sad reality is that we’re — there’s not a lot of people who can tell them. So I’m trying to get as many interviews as possible. History is important. 

I totally agree with what you said there. I also wanna go back to when you were explaining the bug-chasing thing, why people do it out of fear. I thought your explanation is probably my favorite. I’ve never heard anyone say that, because from what I understand from what you said, what it does is it gives people a sense of completion and identity in the face of fear. It’s like a sense of security? 

Well, take my own life, for instance. I wasn’t bug-chasing, I didn’t even know what bug-chasing was until after I became positive, but I’ll be totally honest: I was terrified of HIV, and then I got it, and now I never think about it. It’s one major worry that always hung over my shoulder and made me scared every time I had sex that I truly have not thought about for like — gosh, I’ve been positive for seven years. I don’t worry about it anymore. And incidentally it has made sex so much more enjoyable, so much more free, because I don’t have to be scared. It freed up my sex life and unburdened this massive fear. Now, I don’t think everybody should go and try to get HIV, because the reality is that long-term HIV is hard on the body. You have a permanent illness. But in terms of the psychological panic, I don’t have that anymore. So I completely understand why someone would want it and why they simply can’t cope. Because our culture enforces sexual terror, which fuels HIV stigma, which only hurts positive and negative people and exacerbates this situation. It’s a vicious feedback loop. Anyway, sorry about the sermon. 

Oh, no, no, no. You don’t have to apologize for anything. Because you’re speaking from your truth and your experience. And so anyone should feel thankful to hear that because it’s not a sermon. It makes total sense to me. As you were talking about that, I thought, he’s gonna write about this. 

I have. 

And not just what you are addressing, but all the things that have happened in this epidemic. There are people out there trying to get whatever it was. You know, a party?

It’s people who are like, fuck it. I might as well just get it and face it than be afraid for the next two years.

It’s bizarre. 

It’s bizarre but it’s actually a very predictable response to terror.

Yeah. 

You’re on the West Coast now? 

I live a little south of *********** and work at a very small college. I’m the chairperson for the theater department. How long have you lived in New York?

Only about three years. Before that, I was in Atlanta. I’ve kind of hopped all over.

What do you like best so far?

Well, I lived in West London for a bit when I was growing up, and I still love visiting. I really love London. I think I’m probably gonna try to live there at some point just because I love it so much. But in the U.S., certainly New York. 

I’ve had a tough time in all this. I have pneumonia and congestive heart failure. I’m just getting some things in order because I’ve just worked so hard for so long and never taken a break. And now I’m like, I’m going to do this because we’re in a weird state of teaching right now, and we can’t offer every class, but I was able to not teach and still get paid for my time. There are people that are part-time teachers who take my classes. Otherwise, they might not have a job. 

Are they making you teach online now? 

It’s all online. We started online in March. I love teaching public speaking, but I had students who weren’t in their homes. They were in their cars, they were in a store, they were sitting outside somewhere on the phone, on the laptop. Their kids are around them, so I would just talk to the kids too. 

I was talking to the owner of The Saint at Large yesterday about the fact that some interviews I’ve had are a bit heavy. For some people, The Saint conjures up dark memories associated with it. I was talking to one person recently who thought that its decadence later got reprimanded by AIDS because it was just too much. It was too far. You describe that even after AIDS was known, people were still going crazy there. 

You know, it’s kind of like that one book, I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can. Everybody was dancing. And then the minute another person was diagnosed, they were not on the dance floor because people just ostracized them. And there were some people who lived blind, thinking it doesn’t matter. Actually, I felt guilty at times that I am negative, because I know many people who got it who didn’t have a lot of sex. I mean, I had a lot of sex, but nothing crazy. 

You got lucky. 

Yeah. I feel that way. And I don’t I’m not trying to — I’m not patting myself on the back. 

Going back to your fisting recollection. I collect porn magazines like Drummer and Blue Boy and Honcho. And there was a moment right after it started making headlines when a lot of people believed it had something to do with fisting, or that AIDS came from fisting, because it was seen as so extreme, and you can find articles in some of those magazines about that. But now we know fisting has a low transmission risk for HIV. It’s even considered a safer-sex option. 

Wow. I’ve never heard that. 

And, you know, poppers were blamed for a long time for — 

Yeah, I heard about poppers. It’s called the poppers disease. 

Which has been totally debunked. Poppers are one of the most harmless drugs in the world. There’s almost no side effects. 

Aren’t there effects with high blood pressure? 

So if you’re taking blood pressure medication or even taking Viagra, you should not do poppers. But that’s pretty well-documented. In terms of the side effects of the drug itself, not the other conditions that can make it dangerous — just on its own, poppers are innocuous. But the fact that they’re illegal makes them more dangerous because it’s an unregulated compound, which means anybody can come along and produce a version of poppers that has a harmful chemical in it, and they do. If it was legalized and regulated, it would be totally safe. 

That’s fascinating because if they were to legalize it and find a way to tax it, then the taxes can be used in a way to promote and support — and that way it would make them healthier.

The same could be said of any drug. 

That’s true. But the minute they do that, there’s this whole moral thing like, what happens next? Now we’ve done this, if we want to believe we’re this Christian nation. There’s only so much they can say in that respect. If they really wanted people to be safer they would change their stance towards alcohol. 

I think more people die from alcohol than any other drug in the United States. Yet it’s legal. 

And the reason it’s legal is because they figured out a way to normalize it. We’ve made it socially acceptable and, of course, we tax it.

Well, I have to wrap this up. And we talked so much longer than I intended. I’m sorry it went on so long. 

Oh no, believe me, I enjoyed it. I didn’t know what was going to be like.

I just wanted to have a conversation. I’ve done many interviews where I have a list of questions and they’re always very predictable and they follow a structured cadence and assume certain amounts of information. You have a rough idea of what you want out of somebody and make sure that you get that. But with this, I didn’t want to lead you in any way. I wanted you to be able to share whatever came to your mind. Because I don’t think you can isolate history. You know, it’s a conversation, not a diatribe. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And you can’t isolate The Saint. So many creative people like yourself moved to New York at the same time and were involved in this musical revolution that we’re still seeing the effects of. The Saint could not have existed without the other clubs and the climate of New York at that time. And it created the modern day club. Modern circuit parties and dance clubs, even straight ones, modeled themselves after The Saint. 

That’s great to hear you say that. With this conversation, I thought about writing up some things, like, okay, we’ll talk about this. Talk about that. But I didn’t.

You gave great stories. If you ever recollect another story, shoot me a message. I’d love to hear it. And it doesn’t just have to be about The Saint. You lived in New York during a massive creative burst. I mean, punk music, theater — so if you ever want to share anything from that history, shoot me a message. I’m always here. 

And if you ever want to just talk through an idea or just talk, you know, please feel free. Give me a call. You’re a good talker. Even better listener.

Well, thank you. I feel like I’m not the best listener. I talked way too much during this phone call. 

I never thought that. I felt bad talking about things that weren’t necessarily Saint related. But you went along with me on it, and I was like, okay, that’s cool. Also, one time I stayed in the lower village — it was basically a hotel for homeless people. 

Do you remember the name of it?

It’s a place that took the Titanic survivors. I just know that there was a theater attached to it because the guy who did — what’s the name of the musical? It’s a show. Six inches forward. One inch back. 

Hedwig?

Yeah. Amazing show. Amazing. I remember when I watched the movie, I just cried. It was just like, oh, my gosh. I remember the gentleman who did that show, and they did it first in the theater attached to where I lived. In the movie, there are scenes where they talk about that place, which was called, I believe — the James Street Hotel? The James Street Hotel. 

I’ll look that up.

I was only there for two weeks. 

You lived all over New York. You were in Manhattan and Queens. How long did you stay? 

Not quite two years. But the thing was, I probably felt more comfortable there than any place I’ve ever lived in my life.

Why do you think that is?

This will sound strange, but people didn’t care. They just had too much to worry about.

This discussion has been very lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s