Oh, the 1970s & ’80s! What fun we had!!
How I wish I could roll back the time and re-experience those amazing fun-filled years!
My TRUE account is not about the bad or negative, but only the good, fun & funnier.
Let’s go back in time, shall we?
Before any social media.
Before #metoo, #timesup, gun rights activists, hard-line militias, religious freedom advocates, LGBT-endless abbreviations, cell phones & all other social and technical distractions and radicalisms, we had simple one-on-one human communication.
What a concept, eh?
My story begins in 1976 when Elton John, Diana Ross, Wild Cherry & the Bee Gees were ruling the radio waves.
Charlie’s Angels had just premiered, and America fell in love with Farrah Fawcett. At the same time, her red-hot poster in a red one-piece swimsuit with the golden blonde bouncy messy hair and erect nipples had captured the nation.
What was not to love?!
I was a young 16-year-old gay boy obsessed with the ‘Farrah phenomenon’ and many other celebrities of the time.
I typically used my weekends to write fan letters to movie stars.
Even the local postman would make inquiries, “Who’d you hear from today, Waide?”
I had a reputation and there was always a new letter or picture addressed to me from a celebrity that I had written.
Except for Farrah. I didn’t have an ‘in’ with her.
One day, out of the blue, my grandmother handed me a piece of paper. “This is Farrah’s parent’s address. It’s the best I could do. Write her mother and see what happens.”
I was overjoyed! She never told me how she happened upon it. She always kept it a secret.
I immediately sat down to write a letter to Pauline Fawcett. I told her my love for her daughter and how absolutely beautiful I thought she was. I explained my interest in films, TV, Charlie’s Angels and how it would mean the world to actually talk to her. I included my phone number.
I knew, more than likely, I’d never get a reply. I mailed it and forgot about it.
Two weeks later, I got a phone call. It was Pauline! And, she told me how sweet my letter was and how she wanted to meet me. Days later, with my mother accompanying me, we met at Houston’s high-end department store, Sakowitz.
It was a match made in Heaven!
All three of us hit it off perfectly and became instant friends.
Weeks passed. I spoke to Pauline by phone on a regular basis. She told me how Farrah would be calling me the next time she was in town for a visit.
That day came!
(It was Farrah, and yes, she called me Waidy!)
“This is Farrah…”
The conversation was short. But she explained that if I had time, and my mother was OK with it, she’d love to have me as her guest on her next film shoot. She just didn’t know when. Time would tell. I told her I loved her and I looked forward to meeting her…
I got a call from Pauline. She was in Acapulco, Mexico with Farrah shooting the film “Sunburn” and wanted to know if I’d like to be their guest for the week. Of course, my mother granted permission, and the next thing I know, I was on a plane to Acapulco.
When I got off the plane, a studio driver was there to meet me and ushered me into a limousine. I had no idea what to do or what was going to happen. I was simply there, along for the ride!
Within minutes, I was escorted to a trailer and entered…
Farrah was sitting on a couch in a large oversized T-shirt blow-drying her hair.
“Hi, Waidy, I’m Farrah.”
It was that simple!
“Go ahead and find a seat while I finish my hair. I saved you some press clippings to read when you get bored.”
She pointed to a stack of papers on a shelf.
She started the conversation about her mother and how she was so excited about having a ‘new’ friend, and we would be friends, too.
Everywhere she went, I went, and always with a bodyguard.
She introduced me to her co-stars Charles Grodin, Alejandro Rey and Jorge Luke. All three were handsome, dapper, dashing and all treated her like the perfect gentleman.
Amusingly, she placed me between these leading men while traveling in the limousine. She knew I would enjoy the ride!
Later that day, we went shopping, with the bodyguard right there on top of us, she walked into a jewelry shop and chose a beautiful stone embedded in gold on a gold chain.
The price was $10,000.00.
She wrote a check right there on the spot. The sales lady wrapped it carefully in its box, handed it to Farrah, who handed it her bodyguard.
It was as simple as that!
Saturday night came and I was alone with Farrah in her bungalow. We were getting ready for an evening of dinner, music and dance. She chose skin-tight black leggings, similar to those worn by Olivia Newton-John in the end portion of “Grease.”
But, she couldn’t decide on what top to wear. That’s where I came in!
She tried a white satin button-down.
We both shook out heads no at the same time. She removed it, flashing me her breasts and those famous erect nipples.
She tried a nude-tone sweater.
Too warm for an Acapulco night.
Again, she took the sweater off, flashing me those breasts.
She knew I was a gay teen in heat… just not for her!
“Let’s try something shear.”
It was a very jaw-dropping see-through-pull-over blouse. A perfect fit! And, it enabled everyone to see it all!
We both nodded our heads an affirmative yes.
She topped it all off with a pair of high heels and that $10,000.00 necklace!
That Saturday night we went disco dancing.
At the discotheque, it was fun to watch how the general public reacted to her. When we went out onto the dance floor, with a portion of the crew, (and, the bodyguard), she was like a human magnet. She exuded sex appeal and she knew how to turn on the SEX.
The rest of the week was about staying at Farrah’s side and ‘enjoying the ride.’
I met so many wonderful people in Acapulco and I appreciate the time I was allowed to spend on set learning the ABCs of filmmaking. It was my first bonafide introduction to Hollywood!
“When you move to L.A., Waidy, look me up. You have my phone number now. We’ll have fun!” She said as she hugged me good-bye.
It was back to Houston to live a normal life.
I officially became ‘legal’ on August 15, 1981. At exactly midnight, I turned 18 and was allowed to walk into my first gay club. In this case, it was The Copa at Richmond & Kirby. The Copa was known as the club with the best music and drag shows. The Sunday Night performances boasted some of the best drag talent in America. The Copa took ‘illusion’ very seriously. It was a business and craft. You just didn’t perform there for fun. You had to earn a booking through national competitions.
And, the term Diva was NOT handed out to just anyone. It was a term that was sacred and earned through major hard work.
*Even to this day, I have yet to see drag shows that eclipse those at The Copa of the 80s.
They were known as The Fabulous Five: The Ultra Hot Chocolate/Larry Edwards, Donna Day/Donald Shelton, Tasha Cole/Jery F. Kohl Faulkner, Naomi Simms/Newman Braud & Tiffany Jones/Ken Whitehead.
These amazing performers/illusion artists reined in drag throughout the 1980s. People from all over the world came to see this music and dance show that was packed with magical and colorful numbers that always finished with the audience in a standing ovation and cheering for more!
Other high-profile Houston dance clubs I frequented in those early stages of coming out, and that were also a dominate force in Pop/Rock/Punk/R&B music, were the Loading Dock, Different Drum, Parade, Numbers, JRs & the Mining Company, Escape & the mother-lode of all gay dance clubs RICH’S! in the heart of downtown.
Vinyl dance mixes and long versions were a huge market for the music industry in the early 80s. Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Chaka Khan, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Culture Club, Olivia Newton-John, Billy Idol, ABBA were all major sales draws. In Houston, there was only one place to go for the most current and hot club mixes:
THE RECORD RACK owned by Bruce Godwin.
DJs, club owners, celebrities and promoters were constantly shopping there. It was the place for vinyl!
August 1, 1981, MTV bowed and introduced itself to the world, and everything in music, dance and fashion changed overnight.
Madonna was shocking and Michael Jackson was thrilling!
In 1982 I went to beauty school and got my Certificate and Licensing in Cosmetology.
By 1984, the greatest year of music, according to Billboard Magazine, I was ready to embark on my journey to Hollywood. It was September, and with a packed suitcase, I moved.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that Hollywood was a tough business town.
You’re either made for it, or you’re not.
There’s always someone prettier… or, uglier around the corner vying for the same job that you’re after.
It also took me several months to get enough courage to and go to the world-famous Jose Eber Salon in Beverly Hills. Jose was the hairstylist to the biggest stars and celebrities in Hollywood, if not the world. Anyone who was anyone went there to have their make-overs done. He was the definition of a true ‘celebrity stylist.’
It was the summer of 1985 and I was pretty wasted from the days heat. I wore a white t-shirt and faded blue jeans and sneakers. I was ready to face my challenge.
I walked into the salon and the first person to approach me was Jose!
I was terrified!
“May I help you?”
“Yes. I want to work for you.”
“Are you licensed Cosmetologist?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Why do you want to work for me?”
“Because you’re the best in the business.”
“When can you start?”
“When do you want me?”
“Tomorrow morning. The Ladies at the front desk will help you with the paperwork.”
He turned and walked away.
It was that simple.
A young woman approached me. “He likes you. He never does that.”
One of the requirements to work at the salon was that everyone had to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). NDAs were taken very seriously back then. Even today, I take them seriously. Your word and actions are everything to your employer. Don’t betray or break trust.
The only exception to breaching an NDA is if you honestly witness illegal activity.
My first week at Jose’s found me meeting and greeting the rich and famous. I had a natural knack for carrying on conversation with high-profile clients. I was hired as an assistant, so my job was to shampoo, condition, prep the client and babysit.
Elizabeth Taylor preferred to come to the salon after hours, as did her friend Michael Jackson. Lisa Hartman-Black, Stevie Nicks, Pia Zadora, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Blakely, Bo Derek, Priscilla Presley, Patricia Hearst, The Pulitzer Family, Ed McMahon and his wife Victoria Valentine, Cher, Linda Gray, Victoria Principle, Harry Glassman, Bianca Jagger, Tatum O’Neal, Corey Hart, Kenny Ortega and George Hamilton would drop in on a weekly.
That was the new normal for me.
During my first week, Farrah had her appointment. I had kept my employment there a secret because I wanted to surprise her. When she came in, she sat in Jose’s chair and they discussed her hair. When I approached, he stepped between us.
“What do you want?”
Farrah saw me.
“Oh, Jose, it’s Waidy! He’s my friend. Let him stay by me.”
She held my hand and I stayed by her side the whole time.
After her appointment, and she had left, Jose pulled me aside to give me a direct order:
“So, you’re Farrah’s friend? That’s good. For now on, when she comes in, you are the only one to deal with her. Many of the stylists here don’t like to deal with her because she can get too particular about her hair when I’m not here. She’ll need you to calm her. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir. I’m happy to.”
“Good. You may sometimes have to go to her home to do an errand or two. You will be paid to do that. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir. Happy to do it.”
That was my introduction to Personal Assistant work for celebrities and the rich.
Tipping was a science in the 1980s. The clients made a game out of who could tip the assistants and stylists the most. Everyone wanted that title of most generous. Yes, there were the ultra-bad tippers, cheap, … but, I won’t mention them.
The most ultra-gracious of tippers were Cher, Lisa Hartman-Black, Linda Gray, Victoria Principle, Ed McMahon and Jose, himself.
In fact, Jose made it a point to have an all-expense paid Christmas party for all of his employees and give each of the assistants a $100.00 bill in their Christmas card.
*A little-known fact about Jose is he was also one of the TOP donors and philanthropists to AIDS organizations and LGBT charities during the HIV epidemic of the 80s and 90s. He gave millions.
He was never content with basic or simple Beauty. He took the subject very seriously. He expected the best from his Artists. Period. But, he would also reward you well when you did well.
Enter, Victoria Principle: Smart. Sexy. Strong. Filthy Rich.
And, a wonderful flirt!
It seemed every time I shaved my face, it would always be the same day she had her appointment. We would talk shop and she never failed to reach over and gently stroke my cheek… not once… not twice… but, three times. Twice with her palm and once with her fingertips.
I was in gay-boy Heaven!!!!!
“Oh, Waide, your face is soooo soft. How do you do it?”
“Soap and water.”
“No way! Can I touch you again?”
And, she did.
The 1980s beauty industry was very different from what it is now.
Gays pretty much ruled the salon world. Very, very few straight men were attracted to the industry.
When a straight male hairdresser joined the Team, the female clientele pounced!
It was amusing to watch these women, most of them married, do anything and everything possible to bang the guy.
Even if it meant cornering him in the Coloring Department and begging him to let them go down on him.
Which did happen on occasion…
Like my mother always used to tell me, “Women lie just as much as men do. And, usually, it’s about sex.”
I spent approximately five years at the Jose Eber Salon. This included one year at the Beverly Center branch when it occupied the ground floor on La Cienega Blvd.
I had great times there.
I enjoyed my party romps and social events with Farrah and other stars.
Assisting the rich and famous came with its perks. And, it is what you make it.
I miss the freedoms of the 1980s. We really were better off without cell phones, iPhones, social media platforms and everything else that now assaults our lives and distracts us from being human.
Our tech world has destroyed the intimacy in our lives.
By 1992, Farrah had gone her way and I had gone mine. A natural parting of ways; only to look back and have wonderful memories that last a lifetime.
I’m so grateful I was a part of the 80s. We had fun! Simple fun!
If you were born during that time, or after, and missed it … well… I can leave you with this…
BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU’VE HEARD!