Saturday, October 31, 2015

Get A Smaller Glass

If you can just keep reminding yourself that you're not in control here, you'll probably make it through. Those powerless folks out there, the homeless, the hungry, the disenfranchised- they're the ones. Jesus said to sell everything and give the money to the poor. It seems that the ones who don't want to be reminded of that are, for the most part, the ones who count themselves as Christians.

Oh, I don't mean to pick on them. We all do the best we can.

Play your music for fun, for joy. Yours and theirs. Paint that canvas, write that play. Do it with passion and with love.

Run for office. Run and win. Then end war, feed the hungry, fix the bridges, clean up the planet. Oh, wait! The other guys don't like that, you say? Well, then you're a shoo in, right?

Invent, create, discover. It's all love, see? We're all in it together. Make that your mantra. Well, let's make that our mantra. I really love you. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hey, Hot Rod

My so-called sanity seems to have gone on something of a fireman's schedule. You know, forty eight hours on, forty eight off. Who cares?

Yeah, I've got a joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. All that joy mixes with anxiety and depression like potassium and chlorine, and next thing you know I'm overcome with despair. Bear hunts, dogs and cats with nobody for them. Some days I feel like a receptacle for a broken heart looking for a cause.

The sun will come up and I'll get to go on the radio. I can send messages through music that I love. Does anybody receive my messages?

Who cares?

Keep an eye on me. I'm on a tear.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry?

Patience. If only I had patience. I court drama. I'm not proud of it. Oh, for geography. This muffin, these debates, this malt liquor... whoop, whoop!

Be careful what you wish for, buddy.

Love, love, love.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where, When?

What I wouldn't give to have a little less. How is it that I see every broken soul that I pass on the sidewalk? Every dog limping near a busy street? Sometimes I see it all as a gift, some kind of super power. A sad blessing.

It's not depression, at least not any textbook brand.

It is, in fact, the centerpiece of who I am.

That's me in the snapshot with my cousin, George, and my very first car, a 1931 Ford. I'm fourteen. He's twelve. By the time I was old enough to drive legally I had run through a bunch of them.

There's not a single material thing that I've wanted and not had. Eventually. Oh, I've never been rich. Not very rich. For very long. If it had been money that moved me, though, I might have been.

The rest of the story I'll leave to  your zen interpretation of all that I've written before. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Garbage

It's so funny watching the newscasters politely tiptoeing around the new meat/cancer issue. "Well, of course we can't stop eating meat," they all earnestly plead.

Then they give time to attractive spokeswomen for some group of cattlemen. They roll their eyes and speak from the tobacco playbook. 

Yeah, right.

Well, I'm a grownup. I'm sitting here crying through Supergirl. No more compromise for me. Right is right. Wrong is wrong.

No longer will I politely listen to folks justify war, greed. I won't argue or fight with idiots, either. Hopefully I'll refrain from calling people  idiots, too.

I believe in science and I believe in love. I happen to believe in rock'n'roll, too. That just happens to be my branch of science. I was put here with powers. You were, too. I plan to use mine from here on out. It's love that flows in my veins and it's usually in 4/4 time.

You don't believe me, do you?

That's okay.

I love you.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Put Me Down

Do you suppose that a father figure in my life would have better prepared me for this bear hunt? This immigrant problem? Do I care too much? Shouldn't I
 "buck up?" Times are tough.

Bleeding heart won't do. I seem to lack all filters for sensitivity. Oh, don't misunderstand- I'm happy. I'm satisfied. I just obsess over inequality. Shouldn't aggression be the weak gene? Shouldn't kindness and compassion and empathy be dominant?

Oh, sure- tell me that it's not all black and white. Then explain Donald Trump and Pope Francis to me.

There's always room for more love in your heart.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Promises, Promises

"So is he destined for a life of disappointment and heartbreak?" my friend asked me. We were watching her fifteen year old starting his second set. He plays guitar better than I did when I was fifteen. He plays guitar better than I do today. He's good. Real good. He knows what he wants to do with his life. Some of us don't really get a choice.

"Yeah," I answered.

"Otherwise he wouldn't have anything to write about."

Nobody knows what the business model of the future holds for the rock'n'roll racket. I figure it's a fine time to be fifteen and ready to roll. The music's not going away. He's onboard for the start of something.

If I had been president or a movie star, if I had won Pulitzers or gold medals, it wouldn't stand up to the life that I've had. I may grumble about it. I do grumble about it. I'll tell you this, though- if you don't believe in magic, there isn't any.

Good luck, kid. Keep doing it with love.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hep Cats and Hubcaps, Piss Ants and Pipe Dreams

Grad school and the army; Junior League and your book club- that's just stuff that you do. The mumps and a wildfire in the canyon; senseless crime in the neighborhood and a friend's kid's graduation- that's life. You have a sense that you have some measure of control over what you do and you arrogantly consider that your life. At least while you're young. And if you're white. And if you're not poor.

I've known for quite some time now that I'm Ronny Elliott. That's who I am. That's what I do. My job, really, is to just hold on tight and be good. As good as I can. Grandma taught me that, I suppose. The teachers never much liked it but they liked me okay, I guess. I tried to be good. Good as I could.

Today I'm on the radio. Oh, I love that. I get to play songs for friends and strangers, women I love and women I once loved; for the ones from junior high school and the ones who never liked me. It's really stuff I do but it's my life, too. 

Isn't it funny that they let me do it? It's like the music that I write and play onstage. I don't know anything about that, either. It's just more stuff that I do. And my life. I get a chance to tell folks that I love them. I do.

Plans- I have plans, I guess. Mostly, though, that's just for stuff that I'll do. Life? I just try to hold on tight. Well, not too tight in my case. Mostly I'll just try to be good. As good as I can.

I love you. I'll probably tell you again on the radio today. Listen later on the archives and I'll tell you again.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sparks And Dreams

He called on my behalf to vouch for me, to tell her that I'm an okay guy. Can you believe that? The Boss. He doesn't even know me. I may be socially awkward but in my dreams heroes show up to do battle for me.

Is there a lesson? Keep dreaming, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I Like You, I Like You...

My pal, Tonja, is a great bartender. When she decided to quit one job, she walked down a line of patrons, bellied up to the bar. She tagged each one as she walked towards the door and into the future, "I like you. I like you. You. I don't like you."

Today, a few years later, she's pretty sure that there were only one or two "don't likes."

Admirable, in my opinion. You take your wisdom where you find it.

Running through an unofficial inventory of my life, I'm almost bereft of "don't likes." In the melodrama that flourishes in my heart and in my mind I often tussle with some Moriarity or another. Time always reveals that I do most battle with myself.

After more than fifty years in the music business, I can't give you the  name of a single crook who has cheated me.

Four wives in and now I realize that I have no bad feelings towards them or any of the other women that I've been lucky enough to spend time with. You wouldn't know it from my years of ranting and raving and feeling sorry for myself.

Under time's microscope it seems obvious that my major charge against the other side is that they don't love me enough. They don't love me as much as I love them.

Well, sir, thanks to wise friends like Tonja, I finally realize a couple of things:

     1. It ain't no contest.
2. If it were you wouldn't win by loving less.
3. The best lover loves the most.
4. It's the love that matters. That's all.

Scared dogs bite. Hurt people hurt. Sadly, we've all been hurt by some point. You can't do much about any hurt that you've caused but you don't have to cause any more. Let's love. Love hard. It's gentle, don't worry.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Talk About The Weather

So the weather is perfect and I'm not sad. I must be all well, don't you think? Maybe I'll listen to some music. I've never done that living alone. I'll talk to the dog until she leaves the room and then maybe I'll try to make some truth rhyme.

I'll tell anybody anything. Any time.

I suppose I have no mystique.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Make Me Laugh

We've all read that Elvis tried not to smile in photos. Obviously he didn't try all that hard or the cliche of that crooked grin wouldn't be legend. Really, the best art is all loaded with humor. Let me just say here and now that I will decide on this matter. You know, like in those pretentious catalogs from the '70's where they would command, "Please allow us to choose."

Dirty stuff is dirtier when it's funny. Rock'n'roll rocks better when it's silly. Think Work With Me Annie. Picasso knew that it was funny to put both eyes on the same side of the nose.

My pal, Rebekah Pulley, has suddenly flourished as a comedienne. Her art is pure and it's perfect but now she has added that "make 'em wet their pants" element. It might not be a good sign for her that I think it's brilliant.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Live To Play, Play To Live

Playing onstage is as close to heaven as it gets, I suppose. Sometimes I wish I played in a rhythm and blues band that worked seven nights a week, five hours a night. I had this conversation with my pal, Sylvie, on the phone last week. She has just figured it out. She's still coming to grips with the idea that she's a musician after making her living as a journalist for so long. Oh, she's a writer, alright. I mean she's a writer. I'm guessing that she doesn't get nearly the satisfaction hunched over some old Underwood that she does under the stage lights cuddling her little ukulele. On the other hand, checks come in regularly from her publishers and I imagine that brings some little measure of joy, too.

At eighteen I complained about carrying heavy amps, sticky with beer. Now I recognize the privilege. The honor. I must be the luckiest guy in the world. It's the rock'n'roll that has saved a wretch like me.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Once Smokey Was Gone

Okay, here's my story. Opportunities haven't just presented themselves. They've pushed themselves on me. I tend to make light of what I've seen, where I've been. Yeah, I think I'm special. I think everybody's special. I know everybody's special.

Bo Diddley wanted to produce us. I would have been the one to follow up. I didn't. Elvis offered to teach me karate. Was he kidding? Well, of course he was. Would he have spent the time with me if I had asked? We'll never know.

Don Garlits took me to lunch and offers me a job. He wanted to know if I would run a radio station for him if he bought one. I shrugged it off. I doubt he remembers me.

Norman Petty wrote me and invited me to come to Clovis to record. He asked if I knew that it was "country music" that I was playing.

Well, I've got lots and lots of these stories. I've written here about some of them, the ones that I remember. Did I screw up? You tell me. I have no regrets. I really just want to get good at love.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Back- I'm Back

It's all Rimbaud if you only remember the sad parts. It's all Bo Diddley if you only pay attention to the beat. Suddenly it dawns on me that I'm not fragile at all. My mom always told me that I was the smartest kid in the class, the best looking. Great.

She never told me that I was fragile, too frail for this world, destined for heartbreak. That's what she thought, though, and I knew it. She was. She was and she projected it on me.

I still fret about that one-legged seagull on Indian Rocks Beach from 1953 or '54. Still mourn that orange cat that I ran over when I was seventeen.

Suddenly at this point in this long life the station is coming in more clearly. No static to speak of. Oh,  I'm not giving up any windmills. That's what I do. The signal, though- man! I'm picking up Mexico, Bulgaria.

I'm finishing up a song about "loving less." Makes it obvious to me that I should have always "loved more." Run up the score. That's how you win. Don't worry about that other team. Love harder.

If I adjust my tower, you know- maintain my antennae, I've still got a show. All the beauty in the world flows through these veins. Gary Cooper was an actor. I'm the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Good thing- I always knew I wasn't the smartest kid in the class. Or the best looking.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Horse Back In The Barn

Chapter Nine

The Horse Back In The Barn

Pickens Klay moved to Vancouver several years ago. Just him and Mutt and Jeff, his mongrel babies. We're not in touch often. Neither of us rolls well on the telephone. To tell you the truth I'm not sure how much I miss him. When I get the blues I tend to look around and think that I've lost something. It's all about he loss then, isn't it?

He's certainly a good friend. I figure that the time I spent listening to Pickens probably kept me out of a lot of trouble.

People are good. I know that. Pickens Klay helped remind me of that.

It's funny, Pickens always wanted me to tell him my stories. One thing that I learned from my pal is that the good stories aren't always about the hotshots. On the other hand, the hotshots tend to really live life so they probably leave us with more.

I suppose I could go on and give you more detail. We all want to hear about movie star sex, especially when it gets weird.

You would probably get more mileage if I started on the Jerry Lee Lewis tales, the ones about extortion, murder, jury tampering and tax evasion. The sex parts make me blush. I usually skip over sections.

The Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Big Bopper case is still active. Every now and then an article will show up about a relative's plans for exhumation or a new review of the inventory of objects found at the crash site including a mystery handgun and cash. Apparently there is something to most of those stories.

You get the idea. If you'll excuse me I'm planning to spend more time living and less on other folks' stories.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Chapter Eight- What Liz Knew

Chapter Eight

What Liz Knew

It's one thing to charm Ronny Elliott. Blow in my ear, show me a shiny coin- I'll follow you anywhere. Except for the fact that she was married twice as many times as I've been, I'm guessing that we might all agree that the enchanting and glamorous Elizabeth Taylor was probably more difficult to beguile.

Without boasting, Pickens Klay assured me that he and Liz were laughing and crying together and telling each other their darkest secrets within half an hour of introducing themselves. He never said  how the meeting was arranged, only that they met at Bistango where they nibbled appetizers and drank Kir Royals. Sometimes you meet someone and you're meant to cut your arms and share blood.

He never mentioned who went first. Apparently he let Elizabeth know right from the start that he was sharing everything that he had.

She told him that there were things that she knew. Some since 1956. Lots of things she had put together since. There were other things that she suspected but had never been able to verify. Or dismiss. There were also scenarios that she feared, many that she had managed to put behind her.

She had signed an oath of renunciation of her American citizenship in 1965 but had been convinced to strike the phrase, "abjure all allegiance and fidelity to the United States of America." She signed another without alteration a year later. She confided in Pickens that she had been terrified for her safety at that time.

Taylor was positive that she was targeted by the FBI and the CIA during this period. He didn't have to confirm these suspicions.

She also knew that there had been Company guys all over the set during the filming of Giant. She knew that things were not like the usual set life. She pretty well knew that Rock was gay. All of his friends knew. Still, that didn't stop her from sleeping with him twice before Phyllis Gates showed up to keep up appearances and to keep Hudson company.

She continued to flirt with and spend time with Rock both on set and with Phyllis during the evenings. By the time that Jimmy and Elizabeth consummated their new friendship, things had gotten weird, even by Hollywood standards.

Elizabeth confirmed for Pickens that Jimmy disliked Rock, but that Rock absolutely abhorred James Dean. Still, she was pretty sure that the two of them slept together before she bedded either one. Dean poured his heart out to Taylor. That's what he did best. Apparently he never told her that he was homosexual but he did tell her that he had made love to more men than women. He would cry himself to sleep in her arms, then ignore her on the set the next day.

Elizabeth had wrapped up her part of production when word came that Jimmy had died in the crash. Devastated, she scrambled to the studio where George Stevens was working around the clock to finish the picture. Stevens offered no comfort and was, in fact, crude and dismissive of James Dean's memory. He still had a movie to finish including scenes that were set for Jimmy to re-do.

By the time that Rock arrived on the set Liz was sedated and helpless. Rock Hudson was in worse shape. Close friends claim that he never got over the loss. Guilt? Maybe. He had wished Jimmy Dean a terrible end and he had been vocal about it.

It was two or three weeks before Rock and Elizabeth began putting together pieces of a very abstract puzzle. There were lots of pieces but you had to force any two of them together.

Now, you probably learned in junior high school like I did that the FBI handles domestic issues that cross state lines and that the CIA deals only with international affairs, their paths and jurisdictions clear of one another. Maybe that's true today. Pickens Klay laughs hard at any such notion when we're talking about the '50's, ' 60's and '70's.

If the scientists in the labs were playing Dr. Frankenstein, the agents in the field were playing Roy Rogers. There are no records of any Giant caper. All of the inside information that Pickens was able to share with Ms. Taylor was from stories that he knew from friends in the Company and in the Bureau. It was a lot.

Pickens was able to assure Elizabeth that the spying on the set of the film had been more kinky than sinister. In fact, if J. Edgar Hoover had not maintained such a crush on Rock Hudson for so long, none of the prying would likely have taken place. Hoover was gaga over Rock Hudson and disgusted by the stories of his homosexuality at the same time. He was, in fact, playing a minor role in the scandal that was being planned at the time by Confidential to out him. The same planned scandal that led within a few months to Rock's marriage to Phyllis Gates.

There was a broader agenda, of course, to the caper. Both agencies were extremely concerned about the coming youth movement. Warner Brothers executives were instrumental in helping set up and facilitate the spying. Those guys were pushing this new thing and fearful of it at the same time. All of their eggs were in the James Dean basket.

The CIA was leading the effort to put together an autoimmune disorder that eventually could be tested in control groups. Gay men was one group that the Company was considering. Pickens could find no link to any such program with the Giant project. In fact he found very little justification for the plot at all. The morals in Hollywood. The coming threat of teenage rebellion. Homosexuality in show business. Those vague notions  and a desire to see 8 x 10 glossies of Rock Hudson's wiener. More 8 x 10 glossies.

Dean's death ended the entire affair. It had pretty much run its course by the time that the set in Texas was closed down. 

In 1984 when Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS he and Taylor began spending more time together. Most of their intimacy at this point was by telephone. Both of them were suspicious of the intelligence agencies' role in the spread of the disease but neither of them believed that there was any direct link to Hudson's illness. 

Other than the possibility that the epidemic was more widespread in the gay community in the US because of their "experiments" that was probably the case. Lots of the spooks that Pickens had spent time with over the years had Giant stories. Several of the old-timers that he had known early in his career had actually partied with the stars in Marfa. One of them claimed to have gotten blow jobs from Carrol Baker, Jane Withers and Nick Adams. Liz loved those stories. Pickens loved it that she wanted to know if he had seen any of the pictures of Rock's penis. He had not.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Chapter Seven- Fine, Just Fine

Chapter Seven

Fine, Just Fine

All of the information, gossip really, about spooks and spies and monkeys and public health kept me on the edge of my seat but, honestly, I was mostly just waiting for the next dirty part. The sex. You know.

I never had to wait long. Oh, some days would be taken up with statistics and facts.

Pickens wasn't the only agent who was convinced that the spread of HIV/AIDS came more or less directly from laboratory experiments where scientists mixed various viruses and planted them into human and animal cells.

Which humans? Use your imagination.

Who were the promiscuous ones, conspicuous in our culture?

Movie stars in the '50's. Gay men in the '70's. Was it beneath our intelligence community and our scientific research organizations to intentionally infect individuals with these experimental doodads? The nerdiest of our great big little boys are still making science fair projects.

Our biological warfare program has always been top secret. There is no public record of any of the programs which have studied cancer-causing and immunosuppressive animal viruses adapted for biological warfare and tested on humans. We do know that since the 1950's various branches of the medical, military and public health sectors have been combined for purposes that will remain classified. The U.S. Army has been directly tied to the CIA, the World Health Organization, the CDC and private industry for the better part of five decades. Think smallpox blankets and syphilis experiments in the computer age. Label it "classified" and it all stays secret.

Well, there you go. Now you've got me rambling on about the boring parts.

Without the AIDS angle, though, all we have here is a bunch of narcissistic movie stars fucking each other out in the middle of the desert in Texas. Did J. Edgar Hoover facilitate the party for his own voyeuristic entertainment or as part of scientific endeavor to cure cancer? Maybe it was nothing so lurid or so noble. Maybe it was merely an excuse to keep an eye and a lid on a bad influence on American youth.

Pickens Klay's job had been to determine Elizabeth Taylor's take on these questions before it was too late. Before she croaked. The big fear in the Company was that Ms. Taylor would leave a very embarrassing manuscript with a major publisher.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chapter Six- Oh My Stars

My afternoons with Pickens Klay were getting longer. Longer and better and crazier. Not only were we meeting up earlier in the day, we were staying later. By seven pm or so when the regulars began filtering into Flynn's we had taken to heading up Grand Central to Krispy Kreme.We were usually out of there by nine o'clock, only because I had a dog and a cat to feed.

Every layer of story was making it crazier. I never doubted a word of it. Now I don't claim to know much about Hollywood. Movie stars. I know a good deal less about government and public health. Oh, I did work for the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission for about ten years before they got rid of me for trying to protect the environment and I did see an awful lot of movies as a kid, including all three of James Dean's pictures eight or nine times. I had a vasectomy in a free clinic run by the health department for poor folks in the early 1970's, too. Nevertheless I wouldn't be the lifeline you'd call for any expert advice if your topics were motion pictures, civics or disease control.

Pickens' words all rang true, though. I never caught him in any contradiction and the stories just flowed. I mean, here we were connecting J. Edgar Hoover and Liz Taylor; the CIA, the CDC and Sal Mineo; the Grateful Dead and Rock Hudson's talleywhacker. Every time that Pickens rattled off a date or a statistic that I knew a little something about, and it didn't happen often, it was always right on the money.

He never seemed to be making the story about him. I'm telling you that if I ever had dinner with Elizabeth Taylor, you would never hear the end of it. You'd see it on my Twitter feed and you would read about it on the banner behind the Goodyear blimp.

He never seemed to come up for air. Usually we would stop rather abruptly because we were spending more time back and forth to the bathroom than talking across the table. Beer and coffee.

So, what did Elizabeth Taylor know?

Well, here's one of the parts of this tale that surprises me more than I can explain. Pickens Klay met Ms. Taylor for dinner on a balmy California evening in late 2002 or early 2003. Her fragile health had been slipping for some time. Pickens introduced himself to her as an employee of the CIA and answered every question that she asked. At a crazy level, well above Klay, the decision had been made that either the legendary star would be silenced or that a dialogue with her would be established.

Pickens Klay doesn't kill people. As nearly as I can tell he doesn't lie. Not by government standards. I guess you could describe him as a special agent.

Taylor had co-founded the American Foundation For AIDS Research in 1985 and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991.

When Hudson died in 1985 Elizabeth was devastated. She had visited him earlier that summer at the UCLA Medical Center. They both understood that they would not see each other again. She organized the first major fundraiser for AIDS later that year, Commitment To Life, and put together a beautiful memorial service at his home following his passing.

Of course Klay knew all of this. Hey- he knew everything about Elizabeth Taylor at this point. Everything but what she kept in her head, in her heart.

The government had messed with them, all of them, during the filming of Giant. Funny thing is only Jimmy Dean believed that at the time of his death. George Stevens, the director may have known. In fact he may have been a source for the feds.

Hudson and Dean shared a small house with Chill Wills during the production. Jimmy suspected that Chill was keeping unusual tabs on the two of them. At first he was suspicious that Warner Brothers was protecting their property, keeping an eye on their two loose canons. Then he became convinced that it was George Stevens. Stevens never liked Dean and didn't think that Hudson could act. By the time that the picture was wrapping up Jimmy confided in Elizabeth that he was absolutely certain that the FBI was keeping records of all the comings and goings in the odd household.

Her only concern was her marriage to Wilding. It was sputtering but she had a reputation to uphold. She had bragged in the press frequently that she never went to bed with a man that she didn't marry. Jimmy and Liz were never going to be married.

Gentleman that he is, I gotta tell you- Pickens interrupted himself regularly with, "Man, those eyes, those tits. Man." I don't think he ever got over "Leslie Benedict."

Friday, October 9, 2015

Chapter Five- Monkey, Si and Monkey, Deux

Chapter Five

Monkey, Si and Monkey, Deux

If you've never heard the howl and scream of wild monkeys in the jungle, I'm certainly not the one who can properly describe it. That person doesn't live. You can listen to Elvis sing Don't Be Cruel when the needle wiggles in the groove but if you never saw the King of Rock'n'Roll in live performance, you never heard Elvis.

A history of HIV and the AIDS virus is a tangle of facts, lies, superstitions and disagreements. First of all the AIDS epidemic began, as far as we know, in the US in 1979. Even that would be a shaky guess since viral infections in much of the world was undocumented before that time. Still is, in fact.

The virus, itself, is thought to go back much further. Most of what you heard on the NBC News in 1990 has been disproven and discredited. It's just not news so much these day. God gave up trying to teach gay heathens a lesson in this country and moved his efforts to darker continents.To date some twenty million people are thought to have perished from the virus and another forty million are currently infected.

There came a point when the science just got a little too raunchy for the six o'clock news. Chopping up monkey meat is questionable. Sex with monkeys is just plain taboo. Hillbillies aren't called hillbillies in some parts of the world. Nevertheless, when a young man's fancy turns to spring...

Well, if Pickens Klay is to be believed, and God, I want to, this stuff didn't just happen. This is the country that lied to African American men between 1932 and 1947 in order to "study" untreated syphilis and gonorrhea. Not only did we mislead the original three hundred and ninety nine men who came into the program already infected, we deliberately exposed and infected another two hundred and one innocent victims. Maybe I should reserve use of the term, innocent, for the forty wives infected and the nineteen babies born with congenital syphilis. These numbers are merely the ones documented.

So, we've got smallpox blankets and surprise LSD. We've got syphilis and we've got whatever malady that the intelligence boys think might come in handy some day.

With a really broad brush Pickens painted a completely amoral industry and gave me the briefest of updates on the structure of the beast.

From 1924 until 1972 almost all dirty work in this country was under the watchful eye of J. Edgar Hoover. His FBI had to begin sharing some small portion of official shenanigans with the CIA when it was formed in 1947.

By the early '40's Hoover had managed to transform his agency into his private secret police outfit.
He was probably gay. He was definitely weird. He may have been the original homophobic homosexual in our government. They would seem to be a dime a dozen now. Hoover used his little unit, pun intended, to smear and scare.

Now all of these great big little boys want to play in the other great big little boys' sandboxes. The turf wars in the intelligence community are legendary.

Pickens thinks that ol' J. Ed himself began the Hep Cat scare. By 1960 Hoover spoke at the Republican convention and called the "beatniks" one of the three menaces to this great nation, the other two being intellectuals and communists.

His infiltration of the Hollywood set had begun, in earnest, in 1955. He had real trouble trying to focus on targets who seemed to pose any kind of threat to White America. The Wild One had come out the previous year and Hoover was torn between lust and fear for his version of Marlon Brando.

You didn't need your own secret police department to have heard rumors about Rock Hudson. Confidential Magazine was threatening to expose his ways at the beginning of '55 when Rock suddenly married his manager's secretary.

Jimmy Dean was certainly no movie star at this point. His only starring role was in East Of Eden, hardly a teenage frolic. Warner Brothers was preparing his second release at this point, Rebel Without A Cause, however. There was already a buzz in tinseltown about the studio's plan to capitalize on the new youth movement brought on by the commercial rise of rock'n'roll. The suits at Warners worried themselves sick about Jimmy's motorcycle. They weren't thrilled about stories of fifteen year old boys hanging out with their future heartthrob, either. They managed to have him photographed with one screen beauty after another out on the town. They had big plans for their share of discretionary income suddenly in the grubby paws of America's teenagers. Jimmy was to be their boy.

Pickens never told me that James Dean slept with Liz Taylor during the filming of Giant. It was pretty clear that he believed it, though. Taylor and Hudson were drinking buddies for the most part. Except for the shooting schedule the three didn't spend much time together as a trio.

Sal Mineo, who had developed a crush on Jimmy while filming Rebel was in the cast and spent quite a bit of time with James and Elizabeth. He considered himself bisexual at this point and, even though there were rumors regarding his sexuality, he continued to be marketed to teenage girls as a dreamboat.

Dennis Hopper was another pal of Dean's from Rebel who was prominent as Taylor and Hudson's son in the movie. The nineteen year old actor was establishing himself as a hipster-hanger-on and was frequently tagging along with Jimmy and Liz.

It would be almost a quarter of a century before Elizabeth Taylor, or any of the rest of us for that matter, would hear of AIDS. Known for her extreme intelligence in addition to her wild beauty, it didn't take much for Elizabeth to worry about her friends and her own safety. Hoover had been gone for nearly a decade but those ridiculous secrets were still considered a matter of national security.

Of course I was never going to get Pickens to tell me that the CIA spread AIDS across a swath of a gay culture in this country like we did with syphilis in the '40's among Black southern men. I don't think he even believes that.

He did tell me that he was sent to find out just exactly what Elizabeth Taylor knew and what she thought she knew about the Company, the monkeys and her friends.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Chapter Four- Ooh La La

Chapter Four

Ooh La La

By the time that Pickens found himself across the small round table at Bistango the only part of Elizabeth Taylor's grand beauty that remained intact was the stunning violet eyes. He had grown up part of a generation of young males who groveled at the altar of the American/British starlet.

The charm and innocence of the dreamy young lass from National Velvet in 1944 set many a young heart aflutter and supplied many a wet dream. By the time that she began shooting Giant with Rock Hudson and James Dean in 1955 she was a movie star. She was a grown woman.

Elizabeth grabbed the role of the beautiful socialite, Leslie Benedict, when her pal, Rock Hudson, convinced director, George Stevens, that she would be a better match for him than Grace Kelly. Taylor and Hudson palled around onset and off throughout shooting. 

The real fireworks were between Elizabeth Taylor and Jimmy Dean. She was married to Michael Wilding but the heat had been gone from that union for some time. If there's one thing that Liz is known for as much as those lavender eyes, it's her inclination to change men.

Jimmy and Rock were suspicious, more or less, of each other and their own relationship. Rock Hudson was homosexual and the movie industry had long been aware of his real life clash with his reel life reputation.

James, on the other hand, was a much more complicated guy. He loved a good romp with a pretty, tough boy with a great big dick as much as he enjoyed cuddling under the covers, postcoital, with some Warner Brothers beauty, crying over his tragic upbringing. To refer to him as bisexual is to over- simplify a disputed lifestyle.

More than one man has written and spoken of his "great love of my life" relationship with Jimmy Dean. It's hard to compile all the stories from various girls and women who make claim to being his "true love." Stir in the whispers of his interest in several young boys in those Hollywood days and it's  pretty clear that we're never going to have a definitive Dean.

James and Rock were friendly but never close. The story goes that Jimmy didn't respect Rock. They had worked together on Universal's Has Anybody Seen My Gal? a couple of years earlier.He was introduced to Rock again, poolside, at a party at Hudson's rented mansion in Bel Air some six or seven months before Dean was signed for the picture. Rock was the only one naked, cavorting around the turquoise pool with his genitals tucked between his legs. James' sexuality was big and it was kinky but it was never without dignity, at least in his eyes. He frequently dismissed the limp-wrist fop image of the gay man in the arts.

In his eyes, Rock Hudson was convinced that Jimmy's dalliance with bullfighting, motorcycles, promising young starlets and race cars was nothing but an attempt to compensate his manliness.

Was James Dean madly in love with Elizabeth Taylor by the time Giant was wrapping up? We'll never know. What we can pretty well figure out is that Elizabeth was head over heels for him. She had found the ultimate "wounded bird."Dean had a well-deserved reputation by now of convenient romance. With men and women.

Now, Pickens was here with Elizabeth Taylor to find out what she knew. How much she remembered. What she planned to leave behind. The tabloids had been waiting years for her demise by this time.

Jimmy was long gone. Rock Hudson- gone; Sal Mineo- gone; J. Edgar Hoover- gone; George Stevens- gone; Nick Adams- gone; Dennis Hopper- gone.

The only real source left, at least the only famous one, was the fading beauty with the purple eyes and the big diamonds.

How this bunch ever became entwined with the CIA and the FBI is shaky when it comes to facts. Let's just say that there were never any file folders, photos or tapes to destroy. I'm being kind describing the average agent for either agency as a great big little kid. Kind and accurate.

When war and conflict are subtle, intelligence agencies dream up threats. They invent weapons. They develop convoluted schemes and plans. The Korean conflict and the cold war led to some doozies for lots of those great big little kids.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Chapter Three- What Consumes You?

Chapter Three

What Consumes You?

Everybody is pretty much okay with me. No, everyone is good with me. Really good. The fact that I stay to myself has more to do with the difficulty that I have in approaching people than it does with my opinion of them. I'm really talking individuals here. There are entire religions that I'm not comfortable with. Sports teams. Professions. Yeah, when you bunch them together you'll see the worst of folks. Turn on cable news and cue up a national anthem and you can count me out. Those chants of "USA, USA," bring to mind those old photographs of lynching scenes for me.

Still, I don't really consider myself a loner. I certainly don't enjoy drinking alone.

Pickens seemed to be the same sort. When we met I hadn't begun to worry about my age. He obviously had a decade or more on me. He also had class. I don't. He had a sense of style and if I notice, it must be extreme. He wore Jack Purcells and I do, too. The fashion similarity ended there.

At the risk of sounding hokey I will tell you that I am somehow aware of auras. Not that I see them very often, but Pickens Klay had a definite glow. Now, I'm sure that there are negative auras but I don't know anything about that. If it were my job to recruit a guy to infiltrate the Hollywood hip set, Pickens would get the nod.

At the end of his LSD adventures the Company had my friend negotiating with garbage men to poke through Santo Trafficante's trash and Frank Ragano's refuse. He knew, of course, that he was looking for any scrap that might shed any light at all on the Kennedy assassination or Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance. He never found anything more interesting than old fudgesicle sticks and a few dirty pictures of girls and donkeys. I begged him to tell me more about the pictures, trying to sound like I had an interest in Cuban history.

Well, sir, the story gets good when Pickens is sent to Los Angeles to finish the cleanup of a mess that is colossal, even by government standards. We're talking stupidity and ineptness at the level of the Castro exploding cigars. Francis Gary Powers. Bay Of Pigs.

This time, though, we're talking about millions of lives lost and millions more shattered. Late in 1980 gay men all across the United States started getting sick. Really sick. At first most of the population tried to avoid an unseemly, uncomfortable statistic. We had legislators and evangelists at every level hinting that Jesus was out to teach a lesson. Then practical problems- the public blood supply, Key West real estate values and here we go- Rock Hudson's death.

Now the stories all become this jumble of history. Some of it is factual. Every anecdote from Pickens Klay's own portfolio, well, you can take that stuff to the bank. I don't talk like that but then, I'm not used to telling stories like these.

The rest of this stuff comes second hand from gangsters and whores, drug dealers and worse- the CIA. Pickens Klay moved to Hollywood to piece together facts and lies from lots of folks with a lot to hide and more to lose. It started with a trip to the monkey island at the Los Angeles Zoo and a dinner that evening with Liz Taylor.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Chapter Two- Have You Heard The One?

Chapter Two

Have You Heard The One?

Well, I'm one of those people who will tell anybody anything. I mean I can keep a secret but you'll have to remember to tell me that it's a secret. By the time that Pickens and I had been hanging around swapping tales for a couple of weeks he knew every story of debauchery that I have. There aren't that many. Oh, I wish there were. I've always had bad intentions.

I'm a writer because there comes a point where you can't call yourself a rock'n'roll musician. It's not that I outgrew rock'n'roll. I never outgrew anything, fercrissakes! I just outlived it I'm sad to say. Of course I went into the rock'n'roll racket to pick up girls. That's the only reason anybody ever went into that line of work and yes, I use the term loosely. Really loosely.

Aptitude tests from the eighth grade on all indicated that I was destined to be a preacher. There's only one reason that anybody ever went into that line of work for the most part and that's the same reason. Well, that and the good hours. An hour a week, that's my kind of profession.

Turns out, to my surprise, that I've used most of my time in the rock'n'roll industry preaching. It took me the first twenty or thirty years to notice.

Never picked up any girls, either. To say that I have failed in my chosen career is to grossly understate the situation. I've pretty much ended up with some stories, some memories, a bunch of songs and a permanently broken heart. Could have been worse.

Pickens, now- there's a different story. I can't tell you that he's my hero because I'm trying to give up heroes. He does serve as something of an inspiration and source of fascination for an aging hippie with a Peter Pan complex.

All of my stories are from the sidelines, Forrest Gump-like. I held up Jimi Hendrix's Marshall cabinets in case he whacked them. Elvis offered to teach me karate. I watched Janis change clothes and Jackie Wilson showed me his scars. My only role in my stories is that I was there. I exist. Not really much of a legacy. They're never gonna put up any statue of me in any hall of fame, much less squabble over whether or not I deserve to be there.

But our man-he's the star of his stories and, great god almighty, what stories they are. Pickens has memories, too, not to mention a fine government pension.

We can probably agree that most CIA tales are meant to be kept secret but he never actually told me that I shouldn't talk about any of this stuff.

Apparently Pickens Klay started his career with the Company right after graduation from Florida State University in the early '60's. He had actually been recruited by the FBI during his senior year in high school at a private Catholic boy's school in Miami. He never really said that the government paid for his college but that's my impression.

His first real assignment consisted of destroying Company files that showed that LSD studies were being widely conducted in loony attempts at mind control and memory erasure. What sexually transmitted diseases had been for the Company in the '30's and '40's, acid became in the '50's and '60's. Pickens got to meet and party with Kesey. He was able to get to dance to the Dead in the park while picking up a healthy paycheck. Uncle Sam didn't invent the hippie but he was on the Development Committee.

The real stories, the real stories are the ones that fit in between. Anticipating a youth culture that might eventually destabilize the culture of Eisenhower's America, the CIA went to work heading off peace and love at the pass. We're talking now about race music, marijuana, disposable income in the hands of kids and s-e-x. Of course the Negro is the worrisome ingredient here. The Negro and the queer. Is "queer" supposed to be capitalized here? I'll check later.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Me and Pickens and the Conspiracy

Chapter One

Don't Let Them Catch Your Gaze

Maybe the best thing about drinking with Pickens is that he won't stop as long as you don't. It's like those wrestling bears that you used to run across at those weird little rest stops along the smaller highways in northern California. You would always hear that the bear would only squeeze you about as hard as he thought you were squeezing him. I don't know if that's true. I never did and never will wrestle a bear. There were always the stories, though, of the tough guys who would come along from time to time with the idea of teaching a bear a lesson.

Let me say here and now that I was never going to teach Pickens Klay any lesson about drinking. I've been called lots of things, "lightweight" among them.

"Socially awkward" is another one. I'm pretty sure that I'm just shy.

Well, I would usually head up to Flynn's around four in the afternoon so that I wouldn't have to struggle with small talk. Most weekdays would be empty enough so that I didn't have to sit right next to anybody and there would be enough folks so that I didn't have to make awkward chitchat with the bartender. Usually it was a pretty, young girl and I hated the idea of making them feel obligated to entertain me. Most of the time I would have a major crush on them by my second or third visit on their watch. The really pretty ones didn't usually last for more than a month or two.

Flynn's advertised as a restaurant, a grille. It was a dive bar that served a little bit from a menu to keep their liquor license legal. I've never understood how that works. I've never really been interested. Smoking had been prohibited for several years but you still left Flynn's reeking of tobacco after a minute or two in the place. There were four or five little round tables and an L-shaped bar with seven or eight stools, usually with at least one or two of them broken.

The first time that I made eye contact with Pickens was when I looked up to see who had played Clarence "Frogman" Henry on the jukebox. He might have been testing me. Within a month I knew his name and I knew that he drank rum. Well drinks, usually rum and coke. I'm pretty sure that he usually had a crush on most of the pretty bartenders, too. Of course I found it admirable that he didn't seem to flirt with them. Maybe it's just that he didn't make me jealous.

By the time that we actually spoke to each other he seemed like one of my closer friends. I think we talked about hot rods. Either that or Donald O' Connor movies. Pretty soon I was getting there by three or three thirty. I wasn't really drinking much more, I was just having fun.

It was probably close to a year before I had any idea about just exactly who Pickens Klay really was. Neither us was at all the type to ask, "What do you do?"

It could be that I'm not comfortable telling strangers that I'm a writer, knowing that their next questions are all going to be about what I write and how I manage to support myself. I don't much think so. I'm pretty sure that if I practiced law and wore suspenders and drove a new Audi that I still wouldn't go for the "What do you do?" stuff.

Pickens? I suppose that he had official reasons not to lay all his cards on the table. Practical ones, too. This story that I'm warming up to tell you could get a fellow shot or locked up. Or both.

By the time that he mentioned the CIA I had already figured out that my pal had been around several blocks. I mean he knew stuff.