But they do wear fleece to protect them from the beast

We scurried beneath the legs of the Eiffel Tower toward the Bateaux Parisiens. The sanitary woman behind the counter made a few decidedly French comments about our blue jeans and their dress code, so we offered to buy the most expensive seats on the boat. Eventually they took our euros and let us on. In every culture, money is always the ultimate arbiter of what we may and may not do.

As the glass-walled boat slid down the Seine, we ate smoked salmon, pate fois gras, steak with red wine sauce, four cheeses, and warm chocolate cake with mousse. Paris!

White wine, red wine, mimosas, Jack Daniels, Cointreau. Two hours into this three-hour tour, everybody on the boat was pretty well anaesthetized. Normally staid Japanese tourists were clapping in rhythm to the Russian violin. Then the keyboardist hit a switch, a canned rock drum kicked in, and I’ll be baised if they didn’t play “It’s Raining Men.”

Mr. Fantastic, you were right. Everywhere is like everywhere else.

My four walls follow me through my past

The girl, no more than seven, grins idly and bites her fingernail. She turns toward the windows, each one two stories high, and gazes out at the garden below: a rich geometric pattern of marble statues, tulips, and lilacs. She realizes, subliminally, that she should be holding the hand of her friend. But her partner’s hand has already found hers, and they whisper a few low syllables to one another about the reflecting pools below.

“Julie!” says the teacher, sternly. The teacher puts her hand on the girl’s head and turns it, as if opening a large jar of peanut butter.

She says, in French: “So if you are talking, I suppose you already know everything I am saying, so can you can tell me about this picture?”

The girl gazes up past Marie Antoinette’s jewel boxes, under the grand and awful trompe l’oeil, to the dark figure of Louis XIV glowering down on us. I have been dead for hundreds of years, little girl, thought the painting of Louis XIV. And I do not appreciate your inattention.

The teacher sniffed, “No, I didn’t think so,” and the girl sighed.

We left the school tour in the palace and spent the afternoon walking through the fairyland gardens of Versailles. The bruised, blotchy clouds threatened us through our walk through the Hameau de la Reine, Marie Antoinette’s life-size doll house. But they only exploded into rain after we had boarded the RER into Paris.

You think you’re mad, too unstable, kicking in chairs and knocking down tables

Hyde Park, five minutes from the Underground, Saturday afternoon. The swans nip and chase one another on the reflecting pool. The shirtless guys underhand rugby balls at one another, grinning, leaning, swaggering. The downtown girls have traded their rain slickers for bikini tops. They ensconce themselves on tablecloths and beach towels, their skin so white in the warm sun as to almost appear blue.

London has on her freshest face for me today. Airplane to hotel to downtown in three hours flat. I blink, dazzled by the high-noon sun. My body thinks it’s four a.m.

Only shooting stars break the mold

Dear Keith,

Read your script and all I can say is, wow! Wow! I say Wow repeatedly, in that thrilling low voice that I reserve for unusually exuberant situations!

I was so overcome with raw emotion that I could do only one thing, which is to read the script again. After careful consideration, then, I can surely say, without fear of contradiction: Wow!

I catch my breath, fan myself briefly with the printout to recover some equilibrium, and dedicate myself to a more academic analysis of your oeuvre.

Wow! Sorry, that just slipped out, there. I will refocus.

Now, regarding the elements of your script. It is well-typed, with very bold spacing choices. And your command of spelling is immaculate. I note with pleasure that you have elected to spell the word “bologna” with the requisite g. The secondary spelling, “baloney,” is frowned upon in modern literary circles.

Now, regarding your characters. Your protagonist is Bruce, a brilliant actor, misunderstood, underappreciated for the artistic genius that he is. Immediately the character leaps off the page to me. He talks exactly to my own personal situation in life. Here is an actor, struggling against the appalling difficulties of black-box theatre, ultimately to be truly admired and respected for the talent he is. A classic story!

However, one concern. Bruce, unfortunately enough, is a name that lesser writers have chosen as a cliche to represent homosexual characters. Do you think, perhaps, that people might mistakenly think that Bruce is homosexual due to his name? I wonder if the fact that he comes on stage wearing a dress and wig might wrongly suggest this idea? I see Bruce as a manly character, one generically dashing and charming after he effects his transformation. Perhaps we can provide him with a more masculine name, in order to avoid this line of analysis altogether. I leave the correct choice of name to you, the creator. Suggestions? I don’t know, perhaps Spike? Horatio? Doctor Z?

Here I must thank you for the extremely kind dedication that you wrote at the beginning of the play. I wonder, though. Do you think that the general audience will get the “Dedicated to the Great and Incomparable John Byrd” business at the beginning? If it’s not spoken in the actual play, how will the theatregoers understand and appreciate it? I can try to incorporate it into my interpretation of Bruce, but it would be challenging. Will it be printed in the program? Or perhaps there could be a small sign on an easel, to the right of the proscenium, with the inscription “Dedicated to the Great and Incomparable John Byrd.”

Now that I consider the matter, I think the small-sign idea might be most appropriate. A small sign does not take up valuable space in the program, where the other actors will surely want to list their biographies. We can post a small spotlight on the sign as well, so that it does not become a tripping hazard during blackouts and during intermision.

Now, the next character, Laura. I love the bit with the kiss between Laura and Bruce at the end. “You are so fucking beautiful” and a big smoocheroo. I am all about smoocheroos in the theater, especially when they involve me. But I think the moment would have to be authentic to play. Do you think we could get a blonde to play the part? I know a few blondes who currently refuse to have anything to do with me. With such a powerful role as Laura to offer, I could possibly get an exception from the court order and maybe make a phone call or two.

Actually a brunette would do as well, I suppose. The color of the hair, it’s one of those mutable actress qualities, one of those female properties that change with the latest fashions, with the checkout-stand magazine covers. We mustn’t put too much stock in it.

Perhaps a little experimentation with wigs and a number of actresses would be in order.

There are definitely a number of other parts in the play, which I can’t remember very clearly. It would be useful to have a list of characters at the beginning, so that I can keep them all straight. I am quite confident that we should be able to find other actors to play these parts. Most of them are quite easy, I think: no more than a few lines to memorize. There are plenty of actors in the greater Bay Area who excel at memorizing lines, and I think that many of them would appreciate the chance to play a part without the line-memorization burden of Hamlet or Macbeth.

Given a script of this caliber, I’m sure that we should have no problem finding a theater to produce it. We all know that TheatreWorks has a “new works” program intended to support the production of recent scripts, but we all also know that “new works” is basically a euphemism for “crap.” Might I convince you to tell a small white lie regarding the production of this script? Namely, that you wrote it about forty years ago? That way, it can’t be truly classified as a “new work” and thus it stands a better choice of production. The existence of an interesting backstory always assists in the production of a script. Perhaps I’m the first actor in forty years you’ve met who can manage the demands of the role?

There may be some confusion as to why you dedicated the script to John Byrd before he was born. We’ll deal with that as it comes.

Ah well. I suppose the Hillbarn will pick it up in any case.

A note regarding the costuming. I can supply the wig, beard and dress that my character requires. Perhaps I should bring my complete collection of women’s clothing to some rehearsal, so that we can determine the costume elements that best support the character.

Thanks so much for writing the script. It’s got potential. I can smell the potential. And I bet you can, too. We’re going places, you and me, kiddo. Just you wait.

The joint was jumping and the band began to swing

“You shoulda heard those knocked-out jailbirds sing, let’s rock!” I shook the electric guitar and laid down power chords. “Everybawwdy, let’s rock! Everybawwdy in the whole cell blawk! They was dancin’ to the jail! house! rock!”

I finished the chorus and stopped abruptly. George Furth sat, grinning thinly before me. He’s seventy-three years old, an elfin mug laced with a drizzle of white hair. A white monogrammed scarf hangs loosely around his black turtleneck. I idly wonder why he’s wearing a scarf on a warm sunny day.

“Well, we got another Elvis here,” says George. I smile politely.

Doug Katsaros sits down at the piano and starts banging out the Eagles. I grab an edge of the piano and hang on. “On a dark desert highway!” I scream. “Cool wind in my hair! Warm smell of colitas…”

George pounds the table. “I can’t hear him! Doug, play quieter!”

“What?” shouts Doug.

QUIETER!” screams George.

“Sorry,” says Doug.

I try again. “Welcome to the Hotel Caaalifornia! Such a lovely place, such a lovely place…”

We peter out at the end of the chorus. Again, George’s nondescript smirk. “Your mother must be proud of you.”

I think. “She’s my mom. She doesn’t have a choice.” The audition’s over, somehow.

So I’m getting off Adam’s Cardinal when the call comes. George is writing, Doug is musicking, and they want me to play and sing it. The showcase is called “The End” and it goes up at the end of May. They want to tour the show.

These guys all had their turn on Broadway, and they want to get back to where they once belonged.

First rehearsal was last night. We’re still working out the arrangements, but Doug has me singing (four songs, one solo), playing bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and — dear sweet God — the banjo. Are banjos legal on Broadway?

You don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on

Wednesday night, ten p.m, South First. The jukebox drones and the waitresses dawdle. Valerie drops her glass of red wine on the table with a thonk and scratches her nose. She’s in lecture mode.

“Now. About kissing in film scenes. There is a protocol to be followed. I was doing this sci-fi film once and I was gonna get kissed by this bad-ass biker dude. And the cameras rolled and he gave me this little teeny kiss. So I tell him, whatsa matter, ya fuckin’ pussy? Kiss me, goddamn it! And the cameras rolled again and he stuck his tongue in my mouth, so I slapped him up-side the head and said Don’t you ever do that to me again in your life! So the third time he got the kiss vaguely sorta right. Protocol.”

Valerie killed the rest of her wine. “Wanted to tell you. Saw that kissing scene with you in that video I asked you to do. Gotta tell you to keep that tongue in your mouth. It’s a safety issue, you know. You don’t know what germs the other actor is carrying. Basic rule of stage and screen: never kiss with tongues. So in the future, don’t you stick your tongue in anyone’s mouth either.”

I blinked. “You going to slug me?”

“I need another glass of wine,” Valerie said, flagging a waitress. “Hey!”

Let the sun and light come streaming into my life

An hour ago I auditioned for Doug Katsaros’s new musical. Katsaros wrote this B-flat. It’s late, I’m hungry, I’m waiting in line for a sandwich. To my left is a woman: five-foot-four, possibly Filipino or Korean. She has a thick pair of wire rims on her stubby nose. She carries about fifty pounds of unflattering weight, mostly around her belly. Her thick fingers, devoid of any rings, sift through her wallet. As they do so, I catch a glimpse of a neatly stacked wad of orange Super Lotto tickets.

And in that instant she becomes very real to me, a life of the same recipe as yours and mine, a creature of mud and dreams.