“The Night Elvis Kissed James Dean” is a story of two beautiful boys meeting and falling in love during high school has a gorgeous, poignant, unabashedly L.A., retro feel to it. Set as it is in the last year of the 50s, the story revolves around Billy and Jason. Billy a mirror image of James Dean and Jason equally so of Elvis, the story is told by Billy as he recollects the very beginnings of what would be a lifetime relationship, way back, when being gay in America was still illegal.
Waide Riddle writes with such an evocative style. As we read the boys story we can almost smell the sweat of the hallway lockers, the pungent scent of the brill cream, the sweet ocean night air as the boys swim together, discovering their deep need for each other as they fumble their way into love.
The story is passionate, funny, thrilling and real. Los Angeles in the last year of the 50s, with race and sex and art and power all gloriously heightened, colliding and changing at break neck speed. These two boys, so devoted to each other, so totally of their time pull us into their journey, we care about them, we fall as completely as they do for each other. So young, so tender, so on the edge of everything. It’s a great read and these characters jump off the page, begging to be set in immortal celluloid, images 50 feet high, just as their idols were so many years ago. I love this kind of work. Clear, unencumbered by affectation and totally free of self obsession or triteness. As fresh and sweet and flavourful as the cherry on an ice cream float.
I’d love to read more adventures of these two… Bravo!
“The Night Elvis Kissed James Dean”
A Short Story by Waide Riddle
It was 1958.
The year two 17-year-old boys met and fell in love with each other.
Those two boys were myself, Billy Sanders, and still to this day, the love of my life, Jason Blue.
It had been just over 3 years since Jimmy Dean had died in a car crash. James was my man. It nearly killed me when I heard the news. I loved J.D. He was cool. The coolest. He ruled and still does. Not only did I try to act like him, I dressed like him and cut my hair like him, too . . .
And his lips . . . Wow!
At 17 I was a car lover and fanatic. And that’s exactly what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to be a car mechanic. Yep. Fix cars and own my own garage someday. From a Coupe de Ville to Oldsmobile to a Chevy to a Cadillac . . . I knew cars.
At school I was nicknamed James—for guess who? Yeah. Even the teachers told me I looked like Mr. Cool himself. I liked that.
And then there’s Elvis.
I mean Jason Blue.
He had the blackest hair, the bluest eyes, the most perfect unkempt pompadour you’d ever seen. And when he’d grin… you’d think… you’d swear you were lookin’ right at Elvis.
All the girls would flock to him—sorry ladies, he’s still all mine.
Jason was a dead ringer. The real Elvis was only about 3 years into his music career, but every kid in the nation loved him. He was just as cool as J.D.
Jason loved his attention and I loved mine. He was a physical fitness freak. Wrestling and the weight room were his favorites. He knew he was destined to be a P.E. teacher or own a gym.
In school we were known only as best friends and we stuck together like glue. Nothing more would enter into anybody’s mind for the duration of our junior and senior years at Hollywood High School in Hollywood, California.
1958 was a great year for tunes. “That’ll Be the Day” by Buddy Holly made all the kids jump to their feet. “Party Doll” by Buddy Knox was still a crowd pleaser at the sock hops after 2 years, and of course, I can’t forget “Diana” by Paul Anka and “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” by Frankie Lymon.
They just don’t make music like that anymore . . . do they?
I remember the first time I saw Jason. It was mid-October. L.A. was a comfortable cool. I had just finished gym and wanted to splash my face and hair with some water. The sinks, showers, lockers and urinals were behind the gymnasium.
Yes, I was quite a peeper. I loved to look at all the other guys. They would run around butt naked with those muscles shining and flexing. Some of the boys would wrap towels around their waists to walk to the sinks and urinals. And, yeah, I found that really sexy. I would always notice the bulge and size of their penis. Their fleshy bottoms curved to meet muscular legs and calves…
I went to a sink, turned the water on and started splashing my face. The water was cool and felt great. I ran my fingers through my gelled hair and looked in the mirror. And instead of looking at myself, for some reason I focused my attention to the showers directly behind me.
A few of my class and gym buddies were rinsing. That’s not what caught my attention.
It was to my extreme side and corner…
That’s when I first saw him… Jason Blue. I had never seen any male so beautiful.
I watched as the water glided over his face and black hair. The way he ran his fingers and hands over his nipples, stomach and … well… you know. Soaping those areas gently, and rinsing them thoroughly. He then turned around.
I had a full view in the mirror of his back, bottom and legs. The water cascaded over his back. Over his buns and through that beautiful crevice.
I just stood there staring at this beautiful guy . . .
Suddenly I realized he had already turned around and was staring right back at me in the mirror.
An Elvis grin.
I was not only embarrassed . . . but nervous. I got out of there as fast as I could.
I headed for the cafeteria. Got a lunch tray, then sat down at an empty table near the center of the room.
All I could think of was what a close call I had just had. I was lucky . . . but the showers always made me weak.
I laughed under my breath and felt relieved.
It was at that moment that Jason sat down directly across from me with his lunch.
I was in shock—speechless—looking at him.
He began to eat, not even paying any mind to me or the situation. When he did look up, he gave me that grin again.
“Hi” he said.
Then he introduced himself.
“My name’s Jason . . . Jason Blue.”
“I’m Billy Sanders.”
He went straight to the point and told me he had noticed me for several weeks and was too shy to approach me. But then he noticed me staring at him in the locker room.
Man, did that conversation move fast or what?
But that was Jason. Always first to the punch.
He whispered to me across the table how he thought I was handsome and he loved the shape of my lips.
I told him how sexy I thought his grin was… and the grin only got bigger.
We reminded each other how much we looked like Elvis and James Dean; how glad and happy we were that neither one of us were “alone” in our lives anymore.
Jason asked me out. I said, “Yes.”
Saturday night he wanted to take me to a special look-out point on Mulholland Drive. It would be a full moon night and crystal clear.
The very thought of being with him . . . alone . . . a date . . . just the two of us . . . I couldn’t wait. It gave me the butterflies.
He grinned that Elvis grin again.
I followed that up with my J.D. pout and that worked every time.
He wasn’t kidding about the look-out point. It was breathtaking. The moon cast such an ominous glow on L.A. We could see forever . . . .
The car was his parents’. A white with black trim Olds. Great engine. Great sound. Great ride. I complimented him on its upkeep. He was flattered.
Jason kept the tunes up on the car radio. I remember them well, “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets, “Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran and “Breathless” by Jerry Lee Lewis.
I could tell he was as nervous as I was. Simple meaningless chit-chat. An uncomfortable pause that led to…
What do I say next?
We just sat there. Song after song.
Then he turned the radio down and looked at me.
Elvis was my first thought.
“You’re so handsome . . . I wanna kiss you so bad . . .” He said.
I was completely numb from head to toe. No guy had ever said that to me before.
He leaned over towards me and I met him halfway.
Those Elvis lips were so soft. So gentle. His breath was fresh. He may have been watching me for all I know, but my eyes were closed.
Our lips parted together and I felt him ease his tongue into my mouth. My tongue met his. The sensation was . . . powerful. I pressed my mouth firmly against his. I felt his fingers and palms cradle my face.
No man had ever touched me like that before. No boy — or girl — had ever made me feel so good.
That was the night Elvis kissed James Dean.
With no apologies or regrets.
We settled back.
Jason turned the radio up and held my hand. We were both silent but kept looking at each other. Memorizing . . . every curve . . . every detail . . . of our faces.
I remember that night so well.
I remember the breeze that kicked up and gently breathed through the car, chilling us.
I remember Jason holding me and warming me and kissing my neck.
I thanked God at that moment. Yes, God.
I thanked him because I felt so safe for the first time.
The next night, Sunday, Jason came over to meet my folks and have dinner.
They got along great, especially with Dad. They talked about wrestling, firearms and the service.
Was Jason interested in the service?
“If I’m ever called, then it’s my responsibility.”
With that said, my mom was immediately taken with him and invited him over for pop and dessert any night he wanted.
Mom and Dad approved of my new friend.
During the next week, it was my turn. His mom and dad loved to watch “The Honeymooners” and “I Love Lucy.” They had a great sense of humor and they loved their son. Both expressed gratitude that Jason had made up his mind to seek a future in physical education.
“Why, he’s even taught me a few things about my body,” his mother had said proudly.
“He’ll make a fine coach one day,” his father added.
Of course, Elvis Presley finally entered the conversation and “The King” took it over. I was told how Jason had all his records, pictures and whatever else was available.
“Because he’s the coolest . . . along with Jimmy Dean,” Jason said.
This guy was smart.
Then I was invited to go to Jason’s room to see the “Elvis Shrine.”
“Jason is so proud of it. Why don’t you show Billy your collection? Billy, you’ll be amazed. Take him to your room and show him.” His mother said that with such excitement. It was obvious she was also a fan.
Alone with The King, again . . .
Jason’s room was Elvis. From top to bottom. Picture-size posters, singles, movie star magazines and framed portraits of the rocker. The room spoke for itself.
He flipped “Jailhouse Rock” on his turntable and started dancing. Hell, he even had the hips and movements down.
I think people would have laughed at the imitation, but I didn’t. He was serious. I thought it was . . . just sexy. He moved towards me and pressed his pelvis against mine. I moved and shifted with his body with the music.
This guy knew how to dance, too.
Halloween Night. It fell on a Friday. Jason was insistent on taking me out. He said it was a surprise and I would have a great time. I’d have to forego the usual trick or treating with the buddies, parties, costumes or a double horror feature at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. How could I resist? I chose Jason’s night out.
We both dressed in T-shirts, jeans and jeans jacket and wing tips.
The “cool” look, you know. Anyway, it turned out to be a club on Sunset Blvd. I wondered if I could get in and he assured me that he knew everyone that worked there. They were all his friends.
OK . . .
He was right. The minute we walked in, it seemed like Jason was only known as Elvis. Everyone did know him.
He took me by my hand and led me further into the club. I was surprised by this action. But, as I looked around, I noticed only men there. No women. Only beautiful, handsome men. Cool looking men. Greasers, jocks, military types; even rock-a-billy.
As I looked more closely, I realized some of these men were holding hands, hugging and kissing each other.
Ah, man . . . I had never been in a club like that before. I had no idea there were so many of us. It was a wonderful feeling. This place was packed and the energy was electric. In the back, I got a glimpse of a dance floor.
He asked me if I was nervous or uncomfortable. I was not. He grinned and continued to lead me to a pool table where we were greeted by four other guys our age.
Tad, David, Greg and Sam.
These guys were cool to the core. Their looks alone defined what the 50’s were all about.
Too cool. Too slick with that rebel-like edge.
Tad. He reminded me a lot of Paul Newman.
David. He had that Montgomery Clift seriousness. And the profile.
Greg. Just like Kirk Douglas, he sported a dimple on his chin and when he smiled, he had the most perfect whites.
As for Sam, he had a quiet look about him. Kinda sad eyes like Ricky Nelson.
Jason introduced me. Each shook my hand and I was then welcomed into this profoundly hot “gang.” They didn’t have a name for it, but then again, a name wasn’t needed. They knew who could belong and they knew who did not.
I was flattered.
Jason asked me if I played pool.
I said “No, I don’t.” He’d have to teach me.
Turned out they all had a few pointers for me.
I loved the attention.
Tad was amazed at my Dean likeness and kept staring at me. Those Newman eyes could melt a candle.
We played pool for quite a while. The jukebox didn’t stop spinning hot tunes. This place ruled. Jason knew I was having a blast. Then it happened. The music roared. “Hound Dog” by Elvis bounced Jason to his feet. He grabbed me.
“Ya gotta dance with me, Billy.”
“Ya know how to jitterbug?”
And then there we were on the dance floor. James and Elvis. We owned it. We worked it. He knew how to lead and I eased into every spin, turn, step and jump.
“Hound Dog” had never been that exciting to dance to before. I don’t even remember the other dancers’ on the floor. I just remember the fascination and attraction I had for Jason.
Was this one of those temporary puppy love phases or was it for real?
Only the first part frightened me.
Elvis stopped singing and immediately the jukebox was playing The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him Is To Love Him.”
We stood there breathless and breathing hard. Then I asked him if he still wanted to dance with me. He pulled me against his chest. I felt his head rest on my shoulder so I rested mine on his. We swayed, yet barely moved.
I confess, I was in heaven. This guy, by the name of Jason Blue, was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
I turned my face towards his neck. I kissed him. I could smell the most subtle hint of musk and spice. He returned the kiss on my neck.
I wanted to feel his lips again on mine. This time I wasn’t so shy.
I kissed him. His lips were so soft. A slight whisker scratch rubbed my face.
I loved that sensation.
The Teddy Bears were over. “Tequila” by The Champs came on and the crowd went crazy.
“Do you know this line dance?” he asked me.
“Watch, it’s really cool.”
I stepped back to the edge of the dance floor and watched it fill up with lines of dudes. Handsome men.
I soon realized this was no ordinary line dance.
The combinations and movements were titillating and visually erotic. It all worked with the music and that made it even more exciting.
High school sock hops were never like this.
The club was full of laughter, clapping and stomping.
And I had wished it wouldn’t end.
All those gyrations, pelvic thrusts and crotch grabs.
Oh Elvis, what would your mother and father say?
After The Champs, “Rebel Rouser” by Duane Eddy came on. Jason, in a sweat and out- of- breath, walked over to me.
“Was that not the coolest line dance you’ve ever seen?”
It was getting late and we both needed to use the boys’ room.
Not only was it also packed, but I was surprised to find that I wasn’t the only guy that stood in front of a mirror with a comb and made sure every hair was in place. “Pleasantly” surprised.
Men are just as vain.
Guy talk is guy talk.
Sam, Greg, David and Tad were also in the john. They wanted me to go cruising with them on the weekends. Jason told me it was a lot of fun, that they had been hanging out together for years.
How could I resist?
I’d love to go.
Meet new people.
Check out cars and paint jobs and listen to hot tunes.
What a life!
So, on weekends, that’s exactly what I did. I spent time with “the gang.” Jason was always there and always protective. We’d go to Santa Monica, Venice, Muscle Beach, Zuma, Malibu and watch all the men. They were fine. Real fine.
Blasting our radios going down Sunset Blvd. “Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper, “Hard Headed Woman” by “The King,” “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis.
Saturday nights we’d hit the Hollywood Bowl, then make our way down to Dolores Restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd. Chocolate milk shakes, ice cream sundaes, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and root beer floats. That was what our menu was like. Wow!
But boy, was it good!
Arlene was always our waitress. What a character she was. She reminded me of a Mrs. Potato Head with her diamond studded, cat-eye glasses, big red painted lips and her hair was swept in a bun atop her head. Arlene was an angel and she loved us. We were her boys.
After Dolores’s, we’d all drive up the Boulevard to Beverly Hills and then slowly end up back in Hollywood.
Those were the good ole days.
The best times of our lives.
We’d go to the movies, too. Liz Taylor and Paul Newman in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” revivals of “Baby Doll” with Carroll Baker and “Blackboard Jungle” with Glenn Ford.
Those were some serious men in that picture. Ha!
Mom, Dad and I went to a special church service that morning. We all dressed our best. Dad and I in our black suits and hats. Mom in a blue and black velvet blouse and skirt, hat and heels to match.
I have to admit, we looked great.
During the service, all I could think of was the turkey for dinner … and Jason. Mother specially invited him over after dinner for dessert. She had made her famous pumpkin pie.
Her pumpkin pie was the best!
After the service, a couple of girls walked up to me to let me know they were both available to go get sodas and burgers on the weekends.
Sorry girls, I have no interest.
Maybe. Sometime. If. Someday. Whatever . . . They meant well.
Thanksgiving dinner was a feast. Turkey, dressing, corn on the cob, black-eyed peas, string beans and red wine. And that was just for starters . . . We were all stuffed and there were plenty of leftovers.
Jason arrived at 6 p.m. He was a knockout. Black dress slacks, blue suede shoes, white dress shirt with a black bow tie and a navy blue smoke jacket with black lapels, cuffs and buttons. His hair was slicked back and parted on the side with a perfect wave over the forehead.
“Hope I’m not overdressed. I didn’t have a chance to change,” he said.
Gosh, he was handsome.
Pumpkin pie was served with whipped cream and root beer. Delicious!
Jason and I had two pieces each . . . as if one wasn’t enough.
Afterwards, while Mom washed the dishes and Dad watched TV, I took Jason to my room and we sat on my bed side by side. There was a lot of silence at first. He kept staring at me and grinning.
“You’re very special to me, Billy. I feel something serious is happening between you and I . . . I don’t know if you feel the same way towards me . . .”
I held his hand and gently kissed his fingers one by one.
“No one will ever come between us. Ever.” I assured him.
I kissed his hand. He closed his eyes. He looked as if he was in complete peace.
Then I closed my eyes.
Silver Bells . . . Gold . . . Silver… Copper . . .
I helped Jason and his family decorate and he helped mine. Both of our trees were medium size pines. Lots of tinsel. Lots of bulbs. Lots of lights. Lots of Christmas music.
Collections of Doris Day, Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and so many more, and we’d gotten so drunk on eggnog.
Our mothers together baked the most incredible Christmas cookies and treats.
Our dads traded ideas about decoration circuits and what would last longest.
Our parents never once said anything—or for that matter asked questions—about their son’s relationship with each other. I believe, when I look back at that time, they knew. Maybe it was obvious. Maybe they saw our happiness together. The bond between us that made every day beautiful . . . everything right.
Our folks were apprehensive—to say the least—New Year’s Eve, when everyone got together and “the gang” showed up . . . on Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Jason and I quickly calmed them.
“They’re cool. Really.”
“But they drive motorcycles . . . and they’ve got tattoos on their arms.”
“Really. Trust us. They’re the good guys.”
It took only a few minutes and our parents were having a blast with the boys.
As the evening wore on, the moms and dads wanted to turn in and do their own thing.
It was time for the gang to celebrate the arrival of 1959.
Greg shared Sam’s Harley so Jason and I could share one together. He drove and I held firmly to his waist.
We cruised the Boulevard, headed towards the club.
If I’m not mistaken, the song to close 1958 was “Splish Splash” by Bobby Darin. What a night . . . what a year ’58 was . . . I wondered what ’59 would hold for me. For Jason.
January 1959 — Dear Journal —
. . . I had a dream. And in this dream Jason and I were wrestling. Like in a school match. We even had on wrestling uniforms. The gym class sat in a circle around us not making a sound. Staring. Even Coach Houlihan was there.
I could tell Jason was having fun. So was I. I wanted him to overtake me. To pin me down. And he did just that. He flipped me over on my back, straddled me, pinning my arms down with two strong grips. We were both smiling at each other and laughing. We were both sweaty and dripping.
“I love you, Billy,” he said.
“I love you, too.”
Then I realized everyone around us was wearing white blindfolds. Not saying anything . . . something was wrong.
Then Jason looked up, as if someone was distracting him . . .
His face suddenly became angry and flushed.
“No,” he yelled.
I couldn’t see who—or what—he was angry with. He leapt off me and sprang towards his rage. I couldn’t see him. I was frightened and stood up. All the blindfolds closed in around me.
“No . . .” he yelled again. It echoed around me.
“Jason, where are you?” I yelled back.
“Mom, Dad . . . No.” He was guttural and in agony.
And then I awoke.
January was the usual boring month of the year. School seemed to drag on and the 31st was a hundred years away.
And . . . OK . . . Jason and I, by mere fluke, wound up in two classes together. Science and English. Admissions office said it was an accident caused by a secretarial error.
Jason was given the opportunity to go back to his old schedule, but he declined.
February 3, 1959.
That day struck a terrible blow to so much of the youth across the nation at the time. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were all three killed in a plane crash. We just couldn’t believe it was for real . . .
February 14th. Valentine’s Day.
Jason and I went to Bob’s Big Boy for dinner in Burbank. Both of us had Coca-Cola and a big steak dinner. The diner jukebox played “Donna” by Ritchie Valens. It was fitting, at that moment, a song about genuine love and innocence. Boyfriends and girlfriends surrounding, but the words held true for us, too.
Jason wanted to take me to the same look-out point on Mulholland Drive that we went to on our first date. He wanted to give me something . . .
The view was just as beautiful as the first time. Patti Page and Peggy Lee and Patsy Cline all three played back to back on the radio.
We sat there holding hands, looking at each other in the night.
I wished him Happy Valentine’s Day and kissed him. We gave each other Valentine-shaped boxes full of chocolates.
I gave him blue—no pun intended—he gave me red. Then to my surprise, he held out a small ring box to me. When I opened it, I found a men’s gold band. He put it on my finger and held my hand. I was speechless.
“I love you, Billy . . . I love you so much. I don’t know what I’d do without you now . . . you don’t gotta tell me you love me back. Maybe you don’t . . .”
I was moved. I was touched by his sincerity. His honesty. The way his eyes became glassy when he said my name.
I squeezed his hand firmly.
“I love you, too.”
Jason had told me about a hidden swimming hole he knew of just up the coast off the Pacific Coast Highway. Not many people knew of it. He wanted to take me there for my birthday, which fell on the second Tuesday of March, so we decided to go on the following Saturday. (Eighteen years old and would be a Senior before long. Jason’s birthday is April 19, about a month after mine.)
Anyway, it was the middle of the rainy season in L.A. and that Saturday was overcast with a 50% chance of rain.
We took the chance, hoping Mother Nature would give us a downpour, discouraging anyone to swim at the hole.
We dressed simple. T-shirts, sneakers and cut-offs.
Leaving about ten in the morning, PCH was an awe-inspiring drive. The clouds were a murky blue-gray and the ocean was a torrent, deep rich blue.
The radio played loud—just the way we liked it—”Do You Wanna Dance” by Bobby Freeman, “Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper, “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens and “Tears on My Pillow” by Little Anthony and the Imperials.
We drove past Santa Barbara about 25 miles north and then took a dirt road off to the right. It wound us through a maze of trees and canyon. Jason stopped the car in front of a cluster of shrub and rock.
“It’s just up a little ways. We’ll have to walk from here,” he said.
We grabbed our towels and bags and disappeared into the green.
There was a narrow dirt path that we followed. I couldn’t get over the silence around us. A quiet that I hadn’t heard in years. A wonderful natural peace.
We walked a few hundred yards before I saw the swimming hole. It wasn’t big. Much smaller than I expected. Surrounded by rock. The water was fresh and clear. I could actually see the bottom.
“It’s beautiful,” I said.
“Isn’t it? . . and it’s not as cold as you might think. C’mon.”
We put our bags down, spread our towels out and stripped off our shirts. (Our cut-offs stayed on.)
Jason didn’t hesitate. He ran for the water and dived in. When he came to the surface, he just looked at me.
“C’mere . . . it’s not that cold . . . really . . .”
I ran for it. I dived. The water wasn’t that cold. In fact, it was quite comfortable. When I came up, the water was at shoulder height.
He slowly treaded towards me.
“It’s great. Not cold at all,” I said.
“I love to swim here. Follow me to the bottom, OK? C’mon,” he said, and he took my hand.
The bottom was about 12 to 14 feet deep. I don’t know how many times we dove in . . . touching the pool floor, then coming back up for air. I was breathless. Over and over. It became a game between the two of us.
Finally we stopped in the chest level water to catch our breaths.
No sound. Just us.
I watched the water dripping from his hair. Over his face. Down his neck. Down his chest . . . across his shoulders. I moved in closer to him. He put his arms around me and held me gently.
It was so quiet.
I held him . . . just as gently.
Moments. Minutes . . . Later . . .
Jason whispered in my ear, “Look.”
I looked over my shoulder and saw a thick wall of mist-fog cascading through the green and brush, rolling over the pool, enveloping and surrounding us in a thick grayness.
The feeling of wetness encompassed us . . . it began to sprinkle . . . then rain.
We didn’t move. The drops felt good. The smell of water was everywhere . . . fresh.
I kissed his lips. Tasting the rainwater.
“We better get back to the car,” I said.
We took our time getting to the embankment. Toweling the best we could. Putting our shirts and shoes on . . .
That’s when I saw him behind Jason. It was George—from school. He sat next to me in Science . . .
He was soaking wet.
I didn’t know what to say. I was in shock.
“Jason . . . George is here.”
Jason turned around. We all three stood frozen. George looked at us as though he’d seen a ghost. As if terrified.
“. . . I always knew there was something strange about the two of you. But I didn’t know what it was. I do now. I was watching you two in the water over there. I know what you are. You’re a couple of homosexuals. I know what you are. My church has told me all about it. You’re sick. You’re . . . you’re queers . . . you deserve death . . . and God hates you. It’s in the Bible. Don’t you know. My pastor’s told me all about your filth . . . I’m telling . . . I’m gonna tell everybody . . .”
George took off running down the path.
Jason yelled, “No!”
Then he ran after him.
I was right behind Jason.
It didn’t take much for Jason to overtake and tackle George to the muddy ground. George was screaming hysterically, “I’m tellin’ . . . I’m tellin’!”
“Shut up!” Jason yelled back.
I didn’t know what to do or say. Jason grabbed George by the throat and began choking him.
“You’re not telling anyone. Are you? Are you? I’ll kill you if you tell a soul. Do you hear me?”
I could tell he was choking George too hard and Jason wasn’t kidding around.
“Stop it!” I yelled.
George was crying and turning red. Jason raised his fist over him.
“I could kill you now. You want me to? I could kill you right now.”
I went by my first instinct. With a swift kick to the shoulder, I lunge kicked Jason off.
“Stop it. You are gonna kill him.”
George leapt to his feet and disappeared down the pathway.
The rain came down harder. Jason began to cry. He turned toward me and approached . . . I thought . . . I thought he was going to smash me. Instead, he held my face in his hands. I could see pain in his eyes.
“I love you, Billy. No one will come between us. I won’t let them. I will never back down, ever.”
He kissed me.
“I’m not gonna back down. I won’t be made a fool. I’ll kill before that happens.”
I don’t know how long we stood there, but it felt like an eternity. The rain kept falling. I held his head against me as he wept.
We drove back to L.A. in silence.
All three of us, Jason, George and I stayed away from each other. Science class had never been so uncomfortable . . .
We were lucky. George didn’t have any bruising from the choking. If he did, he covered them up with button-up shirts throughout that following week.
Nothing was ever mentioned or hinted upon again.
April 19, 1959.
Jason Blue’s 18th Birthday.
I took him to see “Vertigo.” Then I took him to the Beverly Hills Hotel Restaurant for dinner and cake. German chocolate cake, that is. It came with a candle on top and the waitress and I sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
That Elvis grin is so handsome.
Afterwards, I drove us up to our look-out point on Mulholland. We sat on the hood of the car, my head on his shoulder.
The night was crystal clear. No moon. No cloud. A couple of shooting stars . . .
May was a quiet month. It always was. The kids were waiting patiently for June and the last day of school.
I guess the most exciting thing in May of that year was giving the family car a tune-up. Big deal! But it was a good excuse to be with Jason.
He had gotten himself a pair of new Levi’s and folded up his cuffs. Didn’t wear a shirt . . . I remember how his skin glistened from the sweat. He’d wiped his face off with a rag . . . I wondered if Levi Strauss knew just how good a new pair of jeans looked on the American man. Wow!
I helped him repaint his family’s car. Even the gang came over to pitch in. We were all a sight. A bunch of guys with their shirts off working on cars and listening to the jams.
All the girls would come out and make chit-chat with us. They’d stand around and we’d all be flirtatious with ’em.
As I look back, I know it wasn’t right, but it was the best way we could think of to find a future prom date. God knows we had the girls of the neighborhood lined up waiting to be asked out.
If they only knew.
June. School’s End. 1959.
The guys and I shot spit wads at the teachers—when they weren’t looking—we laughed when we nailed ’em in the hair and they stuck. They didn’t even know what hit’em.
The girls rolled their gum up and threw them at the chalkboard. Splat. Stick. You got the picture?
It’s a blast being a teenager.
July and August. 1959.
Hot. Neither one of our families is taking a vacation this year. Mom and Dad have decided on taking a trip next summer after my graduation. They’re considering maybe New York City or the Grand Canyon.
I’ve put my vote in for NYC.
They’re not surprised.
Summer of ’59.
There were a lot of hours at the beach with the gang. Late nights at the club. Dancing and partying.
It wasn’t all just fun and games, though. I got a part time mechanic’s job at a garage on Melrose Ave. My boss was very impressed with my knowledge of cars and within a few weeks, bumped me up to senior mechanic. That was cool!
After closing hours, it was a great place to hang with Jason and watch the sunset. The guys would also come by and chill out. I’d have to keep the soda machine stocked full of Coke. Man, we went through so many bottles . . .
September came and summer was over. It never lasts long enough . . . does it?
When school started, I had to cut hours at the garage to just Saturdays.
Jason and I were now Seniors. Our last year at Hollywood High.
George was in a couple of classes with me—Science and English again—he was always cold and never said a word to me. I always tried to be friendly . . . I didn’t want him as an enemy. I really didn’t. Chance had it that Jason was also in these classes. He wasn’t as friendly as I was. Those two had a different way of looking at things . . . they both held tight silent grounds. One wrong move and they’d both go off like firecrackers.
Tony Curtis, Jayne Mansfield and Julie London were lighting up the screens of America. Marilyn Monroe and Tony starred together in “Some Like It Hot.” Now that was a funny movie. I’ve got to give it to Ms. Monroe, she knew how to walk and talk and wrap a man around her finger all in one movement.
And Mr. Curtis . . . your lips . . . oh boy . . .
There were some great pictures out in ’59 that Jason and I saw. “Ben Hur,” “Hercules,” “Gidget” and “Pillow Talk.” Those were true family pictures at that time.
Troy Donahue and Steve Reeves got mine and Jason’s attention. Just how far would the movie business go to show the actor’s body? . . . Mind you, I’m not complaining.
Tragedy and sadness came to my Jason today. (This is the very week that marks our first year together.) We were in the middle of English class, taking a spelling test, and the principal’s secretary walks in. She quietly escorts Jason out of the room. He glances at me . . . the look in his eyes.
We both knew something was wrong . . .
I haven’t seen or heard from him all day . . .
Yesterday, Jason’s mother and father were killed in a car accident on a stretch of the Pasadena freeway.
The front tire (driver’s side) blew and the car was flipped several times. They were killed instantly. I am in shock . . . I am sad . . . and I grieve with my Jason.
On the day of the funeral, I had cried. I cried because of the pain I knew Jason was in. He loved his mother and father so much.
During the funeral, he just stood and kept his head bowed. I was by his side and Mom and Dad stood behind me.
Afterwards, I drove Jason home to pick up some clothes and personals. Mom and Dad had caught a ride from a neighbor.
Jason would be staying with us temporarily till he found his own place and was able to “settle in” from all the changes.
I owe my parents so much for opening their hearts and home to him. So much . . . thank you . . .
When we got to his place, I walked into the house behind him. We were both silent. I closed the front door. He disappeared into the living room. I wanted him to have his privacy and peace. I didn’t move from the entry hall. It was then I heard Jason breaking down into an aching weep.
I slowly approached the living room. He was sitting on the sofa. His head down. His body was shaking.
I sat down beside him . . . he looked up at me. Those beautiful eyes were red and full of tears.
I wiped away a tear that was running down his cheek.
“I guess I should pack some clothes. It won’t take long,” he said.
He got up and went to his room. I followed.
I watched him remove his suit coat and loosen his tie.
I felt a bit odd so I stepped to the side, giving him his needed space.
He just kept looking at me . . .
“Do you need me to help you?” I said.
“My suitcase is under the bed.”
“OK. I’ll help you.”
He pulled his tie off. Then unbuttoned his shirt.
Butterflies in my stomach.
He stepped towards me.
My face flushed with sensation.
He caressed my neck . . . then slid my suit coat off of my shoulders. It fell to the floor.
He whispered, “Can I take your tie off?”
Gently . . . Jason removed my tie.
He kissed my neck.
His lips were close to my ear.
“Would you like to make love to me? I’d like to make love to you.”
All I could do was nod.
My heart was beating so fast.
He kissed my lips . . . and lingered. Then he closed the bedroom door.
That was the first time we had made love.
. . . I’m sorry you’re having to go through this, Jason. I know how much you loved your parents. How much you cared for them. This shouldn’t have happened.
It’s not fair.
But I love you, Jason. A lot. I’m here for you. Like a friend. Like a brother. I want to hold you. Cry on my shoulder anytime. I’ll always be here for you. The two of us.
We had prayed together, me and Jason, one night in early November. On my bedside. A silent prayer . . . then a verbal prayer. He asked God to look after his mother and father and to tell them he loved and missed them . . .
I thanked God for two wonderful parents and the love they had given me, and for taking Jason under their wing.
Jason took me to a Sunset Blvd. tattoo parlor.
“What are we doing here?”
“Tattoos are cool. Besides, it’s time to get one.”
Cool, eh? . . .
He went first, having the word “Elvis” tattooed on his shoulder. I sat there grimacing. He kept a straight face and smiled at me.
There was a small radio on the counter next to me. The volume was low, but I could hear Nat King Cole singing “Too Young.” The tattoo artist turned it up. Said he liked the song. It reminded him of a special girl . . .
“Once upon a time . . .”
I listened to the words and how Nat was so magical and emotional as he told the story.
They try to tell us we’re too young.
Too young to really be in love.
They say that love, the word, the word, the only word . . .
But can’t begin to know the meaning of.
And yet we’re not too young to know
This love will last though years may go
And then some day they may recall
We were not too young at all . . .
I had the word “Rebel” tattooed on my shoulder.
Don’t let anyone tell you that getting a tattoo “tickles.” It hurts. But it sure did look mighty fine, and still does, if I do say so myself.
Marvin Brown and his brother Earl owned a barber shop off of Highland Ave., near Hollywood High. Marvin cut hair, while Earl shined everybody’s shoes. They were the funniest black guys . . . two of the funniest men you’d ever meet. They could make even the most unhappy person laugh and forget their troubles.
Marvin was fat. Very fat. Earl was skinny. He kept the nicest orange-colored cat next to his shine station. A girl cat, Earl named her ‘Shiny.’ She would just sit across from you and stare at you the whole time. Never blink an eye.
Those two guys . . . I’d say were in their forties at the time. Their business was the Brown Brothers Barber Shop. The three Bs I’d call it.
I took Jason with me on a Saturday. The “3 Bs” was packed every Saturday. But the crowd was fun and when there was an overflow inside, you could hang out with the men outside and get a soda next door at the five and dime.
Marvin and Jason and Earl hit it off great.
Marvin knew how to cut the perfect “Elvis” and “J.D.” haircuts. Earl used the spit and chamois method on our wing tips and loafers. We were lookin’ good.
It was nice to see Jason truly smiling again and carrying on. Thanks Marv. Thanks Earl.
Thanksgiving Dinner 1959.
We all tried. Mom, Dad and I tried hard to fill the void for Jason. We could all see he was distant and we knew why.
There was no replacing . . . we just wanted to make it easier.
Mom and Dad have taken to him and treat him like their own son.
I heard “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers, “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors and “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis on the radio today. Music like that makes me want to get up and dance.
Jason sure is good with swing. I caught him and Mother in the living room dancing. He was teaching her.
I’m good with the waltz.
Dick Clark and American Bandstand is becoming the weekly family time for us. I love watching those singers do their thing. You can’t even peel Jason away.
December 12, 1959 — Saturday
Today, with money in hand, I went to a Hollywood jeweler and bought Jason a gold band. A very handsome men’s gold band. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough for a Cartier. Ha!
I sure hope he likes it.
You have no idea how scared I was buying Jason’s band. Walking into the jewelry store, telling the front desk guy I wanted to get a ring for a “gentleman friend.” He didn’t even bat an eye. He knew exactly what to suggest, and I went with the first choice.
Instinct had told me so.
Getting a Christmas tree is a family thing. So we all went down together and chose a fir tree.
At home, Mom trimmed it and Jason balanced it and I pulled the decorations from the attic.
Mom played Christmas records, including two of her favorites, Patsy Cline and Judy Garland.
All of us pitched in decorating. Dad was a fan of candles, so, you guessed it, lots of candles. Jason loved silver and gold tinsel. Lots of tinsel. We let Mom put the star on top of the tree. She always liked that. Afterwards, when all the candles were lit and each of us had a mug of eggnog, we relaxed around the shimmering Christmas tree. In the background, we listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the turntable . . .
I wish that moment could have lasted forever . . .
Late that night, after Mom and Dad had gone to sleep and Jason and I were in the living room, quiet by the glow of the tree, I took him by the hand and pulled him away.
I led him to the attic . . .
I had a candle in my free hand which created just enough firelight to see each other and turn everything else into shadow and silhouette.
Alone . . . with the door closed . . .
“I have an early Christmas for you,” I said.
I handed him the ring box. He opened it, and as I put the ring on his finger, he held my hand and caressed me.
“I love you,” he said in a whisper.
“I love you, too.”
“Merry Christmas . . .”
“Merry Christmas . . .”
His face was so beautiful in the candlelight. The way his eyes sparkled and glinted. The tuft of hair that fell forward over his forehead. His Elvis lips that curved to a grin . . .
We kissed. And kissed. And kissed.
December 31, 1959. Thursday Night. New Year’s Eve.
It was the last night of the year. And what a year it had been . . .
Jason and I were very much in love, just as we are today.
We had dressed in tuxes with tails and white gloves. Man, we looked like a million bucks as we drove to the club.
Jason and I danced and partied with our friends Tad, Greg, David and Sam. Our whole “gang” was there. They were all great dance partners.
All great friends.
It was New Year’s Eve. The troubles and pains were forgotten.
I was even able to do “Tequila” when it was played.
And as the crowd cheered and rang in 1960, I took a look around.
Sam, Greg, David and Tad were such beautiful men. They had shared so much with me. What did life have in store for them? For me? For Jason?
Would it include the two of us together?
All those young men . . . what was ahead for each of them? I hoped only good.
Champagne was poured.
And in the midst of that roaring crowd, I looked at my Jason—he looked at me—and with a grin, mouthed the word.
“Forever . . .”
“Forever . . .”
With the stroke of midnight, it was 1960.