There is a moment when you know it’s over. That his proximity disgusts you. That no amount of love can disguise what was or what could be. These photographs were taken at the moment, the moment I knew for sure. The fast train to Paris from Cannes. A beautiful boy sat opposite me and I wanted to ravish him. I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to the loved one. Yet, I knew, the moment we parted I would not stop thinking of him. From the moment I woke up to the moment I fell into a fitful sleep. Gone, the door slammed. He was dead to me long before I made it impossible for him to do anything but take drastic measures. It was the worst kind of grief because nobody died…
My days are split between the remarkable and the absurd. Bloated with new experiences, extraordinary adventures and, of course, passion.
Every day unfolds like a new napkin.
From dawn I write and rewrite. I am determined and hungry, inspired by the 75-year-old man who won the Palme D’Or in Cannes this year.
On Thursday I stood in front of the Men’s County Jail with a disparate bunch of men and women denouncing the secure communities protocol, the very same protocol that illegally incarcerated me. A press conference for the Spanish press.
The only Anglo Saxon, the only non spanish speaker.
They hailed me and the other people called to testify. ‘Viva Duncan!’ they shout together. I am moved to tears.
Nobody I know cares about these people. Not least my gay ‘friends’ who savage me publicly for standing shoulder to shoulder with day workers, maids and gardeners who face daily threats of deportation and police harassment.
The writing and photography give my life meaning and hope. The immigrants, of whom I am one, better shape my understanding of the world.
I am not interested in what I wear. I’m sure I look like a hobo. My beautiful tailored shirts are shredded. I have no interest in replacing them.
All the vintage Helmut Lang has been sold.
I can cobble together an ensemble for dinner. I look respectable enough.
Last week a young gay man told me I was lonely and sad. I feel neither. In fact, I have never felt so complete.
Let’s not forget shall we that I was nominated for a BAFTA for my film AKA. However insane you might think me now…there was a time when I could get things done and to a certain extent I still can. I only mention this because some people would like to forget that it ever happened…rendering me and my life utterly useless.
So, I decided to fetch out all of my awards put them on my desk.
Last day of the vile tasting chinese herbal medicine yesterday. No more foul-smelling pee.
There seems to be a small window of creative opportunity that I can mine the first thing in the morning. Just after I have had my coffee. If I am lucky I can spin this into a day of writing. If I fail to act then I tend not to write a thing.
I bought a small publication at The New Museum called For Lonely Adults Only. A pictorial diary by Regis Trigano. It is very beautiful. Documenting this gay artists various hookups.
I feel sad.
Set adrift in an ocean of self-pity. FUCK!
I am often asked where one can buy my version of Dorian Gray. Well, we only really played it at festivals. When the cast becomes more famous (as they are doing) we may very well release it. It is proving nicely. One day it will be released.
I am in LA. At the house. Another huge rattle snake in the garden resting on the step. I hit it with spade but it slithered away. Thankfully the Little Dog didn’t see it. He may very well have chased it.
The twins are a joy. So sweet to me. The house was perfectly well-kept when I got home. The larder well stocked and the fridge full of things I would never eat but hey ho.
Sharon S came by and I made cauliflower cheese and pasta ripiena. The twins need to learn how to cook. I taught them how to make a roux then showed then how to turn that into a delicious cheese sauce. They don’t even know how to boil pasta! Miles makes the most inedible, lumpy, often burned scrambled egg.
I forced them to watch Rachel Maddow. They are self-proclaimed born again christian republicans. Once they understand what is really going on they are amazed at how the world really is.
One of them said, “Obama is trying to cut funding for education.” No, I grimaced, he’s not.
The other said, “Is there a Republican Rachel Maddow?” I balked.
I think that they were anti-abortion. Hmmm. Not for much longer. I feel like Socrates corrupting the youth of Greece. Let’s hope that I don’t end up like him. Oh why not?
This is great! Please listen to this lecture from the good people at TED.
I thought that you might enjoy this picture as much as I enjoyed creating it. Inspired by Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn. My Hasidic Easter Bonnet.
Spent yesterday planning my trip to Cannes. Of course, I love Cannes when everyone is there for the film festival. I am deliberately revisiting all the places that we visited together so that I can expunge him from the memory of the locale.
As NYC becomes less emblematic of those painful days with him and more joyful as I remake this city with the other. The streets are no longer associated with those miserable days of fruitless longing.
The sunshine is mine and mine alone. I love the streets!
Could you imagine anything more ghastly than sitting in an office day after day for thirty years with minimal vacation? Looking forward to retirement? Eww.
My therapist and I are planning my escape. An escape that will include the possibility of a return to what I used to enjoy: peace of mind.
On Saturday morning I saw a young mother drop her baby on its face. The baby was fine. Mainly made of gristle they are more resilient than they look. Sturdy little things. The young mother, more from embarrassment, screamed out “My baby!” The restaurant hushed, her other child started crying, her own mother with whom she was having breakfast, sat immobilized by fear. There was, however, something about her scream that reminded me about the moment the Big Dog was hit by the truck.
The trauma associated with that ghastly moment lives with me, shapes my thinking and holds me hostage to the notion that I must never be hurt like that again.
When we were interviewing old people last month we met an old man who told us that he couldn’t own pets any longer because he fears the depth of emotional pain that comes with a beloved pets death.
I know what he means. The pain felt around the death of anything you love, the loss of anything one cares about (as one gets older) is without parallel.
In many ways I am more numb now than I have ever been. Less able to feel for fear of being badly hurt. How could I have got this far without…and then I thought back. I remembered the excruciating pain of being dropped again and again as a small baby/infant/child. Suck it up Duncan.
Sunday. Birthday party with friends. I ate too much cake. I was wearing a lilac cashmere sweater that garnered some reaction. “That’s risky.” A rather bland looking woman commentated. I smiled and thanked her as if she had just complimented me.
The baby was fine. A little redness on the forehead but after a few moments of crying he/she was smiling and gurgling.
Incidentally, after all my Jay Jopling bashing for not being political there is a show at Mason’s Yard called NEW ORDER that looks very promising. This work looks very impressive though a little austere. Where is Max Beckmann when you need him?
I am desperate to see this. I hope it is as subversive as it looks.
I have included the gallery’s incredibly verbose description below. Who writes this shit? Look at the way they over use/mis-use the word polemical.
Masons Yard 8 Apr—14 May 2011
‘The dream of a suitable political work of art is in fact the dream of disrupting the relationship between the visible, the sayable, and the thinkable without having to use the terms of a message as a vehicle.’
Jacques Rancière, ‘The Aesthetics of Politics’ (2006)
The relationship between aesthetics and politics has been a polemical issue for much of the history of art. In particular, the late twentieth century saw an overt politicisation of critical discourse amidst collapsing colonial hegemonies, global wars and the emergence of civil rights movements across the world. This was coupled with artists questioning the principles of modernism opening up the debate as to what constituted a work of art. A number of key figures emerged on the international art scene, whose practice specifically dealt with issues of power structures, race, injustice, gender and dissent. The works featured in ‘New Order‘ share a focus on the transformation of social or ideological structures that shape experience, and in different ways they explore existing communal, political and physical constructs of the everyday.
The formal geometry and commonplace materials of Miroslaw Balka‘s ‘Kategorie’ (2005) lend the work a pared-down aesthetic generally connected with Minimalist and Conceptual art. A six-metre long, two-metre high tunnel is interrupted by five fine coloured threads, suspended from rotating motors on the ceiling. The work is rich in associative historical and political references, such as the traumatic memory of wartime atrocities in his native Poland which Balka has addressed throughout his practice. The colours of the strands – red, violet, green, pink and black – are the colours assigned to uniforms identifying different categories of prisoner in the concentration camps (red for political prisoners; violet for Jehovah’s Witnesses; green for criminals; pink for homosexual and bisexual men; and black for Romany people, alcoholics and individuals with learning disabilities, among others).
Part of Doris Salcedo‘s ongoing series in which found domestic furniture is used as a vehicle to explore the traumatic political history of her native Colombia, ‘Untitled’ (2008) features tables and wardrobes, conjoined and partially entombed in concrete. The re-assembled components of the hybrid form of the sculpture, each through use embedded with a material history, function as silent witnesses to implied personal and collective narratives.
Rooted in black urban experience, David Hammons‘ practice comments on the iniquities present within social, political and economic systems. Critiquing the relationship between high art and the street, his sculptures often feature found objects laden with cultural association. Hair clippings swept from the floor of a Harlem barbershop are fashioned into a cornrow hairstyle upon a smooth oval rock in ‘Rock Head’ (2000), while in ‘Which Mike Would You Like to Be Like?’ (2001), Hammons takes three vintage microphones that serve as surrogates for three prominent figures in recent popular culture – Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson and Michael Jordan – referencing the limited range of role models for young African-American men.
The densely-layered, collaged paintings of Mark Bradford also incorporate materials salvaged from an urban setting, including torn bill posters or newsprint. The abstract compositions reference alternative cartographies that burgeon within cities, such as the spread of an economic underclass, the movement of immigrant communities and race relations. In ‘Strange Fruit’ (2011), fragments of text drawn from the local ‘merchant posters’ Bradford frequently uses echo across the painting, while the title is taken from the protest song about the lynching of African-Americans in the 1930s, sung by Billie Holiday.
In Julie Mehretu’s ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ (2008), a swirling vortex of shapes and marks on a grey ground, overlaid with architectural passages, give the sense of a gathering storm. Made on the occasion of the inaugural New Orleans Biennial in 2008, the painting conveys the destructive power of uncontrollable nature within a stricken cityscape, mired in bureaucratic chaos.
In 1969, Anselm Kiefer photographed himself in a variety of imposing locations (often in settings evocative of German Romantic imagery) making the Nazi salute. The resulting series, entitled ‘Besetzungen’ (‘Occupations’), provocatively confronted the blanking out of history and questioned the collective guilt of an entire post-war generation in Germany. In the works presented in the current exhibition, ‘Heroische Sinnbilder’ (2011), Kiefer revisits the iconography of his own art history, as a means of investigating the resonance of totalitarian symbols across the passage of time.
The final day of my holiday with the mysterious travelling companion. We are staying in Cannes then will make our way home tomorrow. Will update you all on the tone of the past few days when I get some space between the adventure and me.
We arrived in Cannes yesterday afternoon. Last night I ate salad Nicoise in a small brasserie behind the Majestic that I enjoy whenever I have been here for the film festival.
The last time I was here was when Suzanna and I rented that house in Seillans. I had driven to Cannes to take Dicky to the station curtailing his time with us. After a walk around the harbor he decided to stay. Now, THAT vacation was hard. Surly children, love affairs and God knows what. From what I can remember, I seem to have paid for the lions share of that holiday…for eight people!
Cannes, here we are again. We chanced upon Suites Hotel on the Blvd Camot. It’s like a hotel from the future! The bed linen is really crisp and expensive feeling, the room is huge and well laid out and the bathroom and toilet have a pod like quality. It might be described as flexible accommodation. There are Japanese type raffia screens that divide the room if so required and even though the colors and fixtures are not to my taste it is incredibly comfortable and ergonomic. The television moves around on wheels, there are a desk and a daybed.
Our room in Canadel at the Hotel de la Plage looked much nicer than it turned out to be. The bed was uncomfortable, the room was noisy and the breakfast unbelievably expensive and not, as we first thought, included in the price. Consequently, we paid eighteen Euros for a basket of bread. The day before I had spent only twenty Euros in the market feeding us both for the entire day.
I have really enjoyed the last week here in France more than our time in London, mostly because everything, apart from Cannes and St Tropez, was new and unusual. Showing someone around your life can have its drawbacks.
Yesterday, on our way to Cannes from Canadel-sur-mer we spontaneously stopped off at a cliff overlooking a small bay. We scrambled through the brush over hot red stone to a rocky outcrop and swam in crystal clear waters. The little dog watched from a shady ledge. The sea was teaming with tiny, silver fish skimming the surface looking for food.
You know, there were times when I was with JBC, toward the end of our 7 years together, when we would find ourselves in some remote, beautiful place and I would hanker to be with someone I truly loved. That this maybe beautiful but to make it perfect one must share the moment with a man that I loved.
There is something dismal about looking at a wonderful view and not have a lover by your side. I think, during this past week, we may both have felt that. To be with someone familiar, hopeful and in love.
We did not stop for lunch after the swim so by 5ish I was exhausted and desperate for water. At moments like these I feel like I may have become Uncle Monty from Withnail and I. Monty, the tenacious old queen who pursues Withnail with gay gusto. Example: the day before yesterday the car had been laden with food to eat and water to drink. Yesterday, with the companion in charge, the cupboard was bare. Instead of just buying more food I sort of expected my companion to think ahead and do as I do. To no avail. A sticky wicket that one..expecting.
Like leaving your fingers in the car door to prove how selfish someone is when they squish them.
Do you know the film Withnail and I? It used to be a cult film. Uncle Monty arrives in the freezing country cottage where Withnail and his friend have escaped from London. They have no money; unable to light a fire, nothing to eat and both look utterly miserable. Within seconds of Monty’s arrival the table is groaning with food, the fires are roaring in the hearth and the lighting is perfect.
Unlike Monty, and men like him, I have a limited desire to provide and make perfect day after day. I foolishly expect him to think ahead when he just can’t. It is not in his nature. It’s not his fault. You see, I have a fantasy that includes being looked after as well as I look after him or others. It is a fantasy, it is unachievable, and it is my role and my role alone. I have only myself to blame when even the most simple of expectations remain unfulfilled. If I want water in the car then I must buy it, if I want delicious food then I must go to the market.
As vacations draw to a close there is the inescapable dread of going home. We return to very different scenarios. He climbs back into the bosom of his family with yet another vacation and I will peel off elsewhere to make something happen with that extended family of AA men and women who have become my solace.
Luis the decorator and his sidekick Miguel are here in Malibu. They are painting over the mess the last renter made in the house when she failed to open the flu and filled the house full of acrid smoke. That, my friends, is the great disadvantage to opening your home to renters who are less able or practical.
Luis is a great painter and has a great attention to detail. I like having him around. He has two small daughters that he raises single handedly.
The house stinks of wood filler and oil based primer.
I must admit that I am really enjoying living back here in Malibu. It is a perfect time to be here. The weather is everything one would want it to be. The air is chilled. The sea glistens. It was grand to wake up to the oyster hued sky at 5.30 this morning, the sun rising over the mountains.
The little dog, rather foolishly, ran after a little fox that popped out to greet us.
At breakfast with my Wednesday crew we discussed a couple of great film ideas and it occurred to me that I am ready to make another film. It just depends what. I am thinking about my LA film. I really can’t move on until I have made THAT film THAT LA FILM. The one I promised myself I would make when I arrived here all those years ago. We discussed two great film ideas. I just need to attend to business like it were the subject of my great and enduring love.
Joe, my actor friend, popped by yesterday and we discussed his career. There are two different types of actor is LA. The actors who need repping and those who are essentially repping themselves. My friend Karim repps himself. He networks at Sundance, Berlin and Cannes leaving no stone unturned. He chases new directing talent and doing the do. My friend Joe is less proactive and thinks that everything hinges on finding an agent. Which one do you think gets the jobs?
I have my second meeting with Sean the garden/goat/chicken man today and we will go through his bid carving out the essentials, abandoning the non-essentials until later on this year. I am excited that he will start work as quickly as next week.
As for the great NYC love of my life-I am growing a nasty obsession. How quickly my addict climbs into the driving seat and roars off heading at full pelt into the nearest brick wall. My obsession is as real as a carbuncle and just as hard to remove.
Sex addiction transmutes into love addiction as quickly as I can say I love you.
I love talking to you. I love listening to you. I love you when you are not in a darkened room.
Is there no area in my life that can’t be subject to addiction? I am immediately overwhelmed, subjugated, mesmerized, fantasized, living in somebody else’s skin.
October 4, 2006 – Wednesday
‘If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.’
What does an artist do? What does an artist hope to achieve? I can only do what I did yesterday and write. I sat here all day and wrote. After my walk.
This morning, at 6.30am I saw a great big hawk. A beautiful bird of prey intelligently surveying the world around it. The bird watched me pass the Ukrainian peasant people on the corner of the street.
At the gate of Runyon Canyon I noticed a huge yellow sign. If it has always been there I don’t know but today I noticed many things I had not noticed before. It said: CAUTION RATTLE-SNAKES.
I had a miserable/wonderful day yesterday so I was determined to shift what ever it was that was holding me back from my serenity. I used the walk this morning to unwind some of the confusion. Contrary action I decided. Contrary action: that is what is needed. Literally. Instead of climbing the path anti-clock wise I walked in the opposite direction. As a result of this simple alteration I noticed so many different things. My perspective changed. For a start, I didn’t stop to rest: I forged ahead. I noticed that the Russians were wearing their slippers and pajamas. I saw the Canyon differently. I enjoyed it rather than conquering it. I said hello to nearly everyone I passed and had two or three decent conversations. I did not care how many dogs I passed.
Yesterday, I met David at the Chateau Marmont for breakfast. Lindsey L arrived in a hat and dark glasses. Either she had just arrived home from a party or she was up early for a meeting. I wonder. Saw Jeffery Rush eating breakfast. Maria called from London. Very good. Good start to the day. Good walk, good meeting then a great screening at the DGA for buyers. They loved the film-loved it. What more could I want? They understood it, loved the style.
I walked home from the DGA, which is less than half a mile. MISERABLE.
Then I began to read the secret project and it made me so sad. Lost love. Unavailable people. The central character of this film has emotional defects similar to mine-the same as many people. I sat at my desk and let out a yelp like a dog. I sat at my desk crying, an odd mixture of pain and pleasure. Big fat tears dripping all over my desk. I sat and read the last few weeks of my diary. Recognizing the miserable truths. There is no grand declaration I can make that I can honestly stick to. Will I choose inappropriate people to pin my hopes on in the future? Certainly I will. Will I spontaneously fly across the world to see someone I think I can love? Yes. Will I always be the subject of my own mythology? Certainly. This is the way it is.
Yesterday, I was crying because I began to see the same thing happen that happened with AKA. The strange delight that ones work can cause. No longer alone with an idea or a series of dislocated moments but a fully formed work that spoke to the people who saw it.
I was crying, pathetically, because the very person I wanted to call was not there. I am an idiot! I had many people I could have called to share the good news. Friends who love me and who would have been over the moon but none of them were the person I wanted to tell (NO! NOT the man in the suit) not some strange man in a suit. I wanted to call my father. I wanted to call my father and make him proud of me.
It was like when I won all of those awards for AKA. Awards mean nothing if you cannot share them with some one you love or who can love you unconditionally.
So I walked clockwise around the mountain and I saw the Russians wearing their slippers and I looked out for serpents. I felt the autumn chill on my lips and by taking this simple, contrary action I managed to start the day with smile and a spring in my step.
Had dinner at Pace with Marc S after Bonham’s 20th Century sale. Saw Russell Brown AGAIN for the third time in a week. We exchanged numbers. Accidentally kissed Marc on the lips when I got out of the car. THAT was funny.
October 3, 2006 – Tuesday
Go Where The Love Is
22 dogs. I wore a hat. Most everyone said good morning.
I saw the elderly Ukrainian couple who stand on the corner of my street. They greet me politely. They must be 70 years old, no taller than 5′. They have dark, tough, wrinkled skin. They look like the circus performers Diane Arbus used to photograph. They wait there patiently every morning. She wears a heavy coat and carries an old-fashioned handbag. He smokes unfiltered cigarettes, his pants and shirt are beautifully pressed. This morning they were still waiting when I got back from my walk. I asked what they were doing but she said, “Speaky no inglis”.
Yesterday. Went to lunchtime AA meeting. Had lunch with Gil. Shopped at Trader Joes. Wrote nearly all day.
To my profound irritation I could not get hold of any of my closest friends. Tried calling and e-mailing and texting but nobody replied. It felt like I was stalking my friends! Sascha seemed to have just vanished. Maria, who always returns my calls, vanished. Dom, Ian and Peter: vanished. Sent article to Eric-no reply. He’s new so doesn’t realise. By the evening I was exceedingly grumpy and paranoid.
By 7ish most people had replied but by that time the damage was well and truly done.
I was seething.
I decided the best way to deal with my irritation was to walk to Neal Spectre’s house near the Peninsular Hotel in Beverly Hills for his Yom Kippur celebration. I walked all the way down Sunset then turned left near Rodeo. Stepping off of the busy road and into those expensive streets. It is so quiet around there. I passed no one, not one other pedestrian. The hiss of the water sprinklers misting the lawns to keep me company. It took over an hour and a half to walk from where I live in Hollywood to Neal’s house.
The party was in full swing by the time I got there. The entire family were at the party, Lisa’s brothers, sister and Mother and various cousins, Neal’s Mother Lois and Stepfather Alan in all there must have been 40 members of their extended family. I sat with Lois and Alan. Alan is a Scottish, dyed in the wool Republican/Conservative. I was in no mood to have yet another heavy-handed discussion about the relative values of George Bush so I changed the subject and we talked about buying $92,000 Hermes Kelly bags in Cannes. It was easier. I like Alan a great deal. Regardless of his mad cap politics.
Bloody hell, two in one week.
My head is already in Chelsea. I am going back to London at my favourite time of year. The leaves are falling, a bite in the air. Whilst Moffy is at school I can take Phil for delicious lunches and visit galleries and generally pamper her. I am taking cashmere and velvet collared coats and twill trousers. Go where the love is.
October 2, 2006 – Monday
Pink clouds drifting over LA this morning smeared onto the pale blue sky. 26 dogs. Triathlon boy with amazing calves. My troubled morning head crowded with stuff that I could not seem to shift.
Yesterday, after my walk, I had breakfast with Gil Bellows at La Pain Quotidian. I missed the chip giving at the 11.45 Log Cabin meeting so I did not collect a chip anywhere for my tenth year. Instead I ate a delicious ham and cheese omelette. Met architect and his wife from London. He said that he was scared shitless of when, “the tide turns” meaning, I think, when the Muslim world truly retaliates. Do you think that will happen?
On the mountain two ordinary women were discussing Iraq, “Attacks on US servicemen have gone up from 1 to 100 a day”. I put that situation to the back of my mind. The implications are far too much for me to contemplate. I am overwhelmed with waves of that terrible feeling of powerlessness. I should write more about the war. I don’t want to be one of those diarists who looks like he is burying his head in the sand but I have to get on with life. Life here in LA. Virginia Woolf kept a diary and you would never have guessed that a world war was raging around her. Perhaps that was the way she dealt with it. The way she coped with the unimaginable horrors.
After breakfast Gil and I drove to The Hollywood Farmers market to buy flowers for his 12th wedding anniversary.
Spent yesterday afternoon with David the talent manager. We killed time by visiting open houses and dropping in on Bonham’s 20th Century decorative art sale. There is an unusual Lautner kitchen island on sale.
Drove to Sasha’s for tea, biscuits and gossip. Sascha lives in a house that looks like Clough Williams-Ellis might have designed it. Clough Williams-Ellis designed Portmeirion in Wales, which is a madcap mish mash of odd Italianate houses and used as the set of The Prisoner, which was a cult British TV series in the 1960’s.
Had a long conversation with Eric. I was sitting overlooking the valley where Sascha lives off of Woodrow Wilson.
My 10th year AA anniversary was mostly quite dull-no fanfare. Many people called to congratulate me. I suppose that it is some sort of achievement. I suppose.
I was in bed by 12. This time next week I will be in London. Already I have delicious things planned. Must remember to take autumn coats and good shoes.
October 1, 2006 – Sunday
Warren Beatty and Annette Benning
A sluggish start to this Sunday morning. I was up and down the mountain by 8am, which, for me, is really late. It must have been one of those days for a whole heap of the usual walkers as I only counted 27 dogs. Almost everyone said hello. I was wearing red. Everyone says hello when I wear my red hoody.
I took my time, this morning, looking back at the city where I live. The usual traffic roar from the valley was non-existent. I could hear unusual birdcalls. The sun obscured by a thick sea mist. When I got to the top of the hill I sat on the bench next to a mortgage broker called James from New Jersey who within ten seconds was telling me that he made 10k a month if he was lucky. His boss made 30k which he didn’t manage this month because it was so ‘slow’. “Now he knows what it feels like for the rest of us”. James sneered. I had to get away from him just in case some of his stinking thinking got into my head.
On the way down the hill I thought about the seven deadly sins. I thought about James. I thought about dealing with my own worst defects/capital vices: Arrogance, Anger, Lust. One simply has to stay pure of thought to have the best possible relationship with oneself and God. I don’t want to live a life of guilt or shame or unnecessary complication. I really don’t want to live in James’s head.
You know, it was on this day ten years ago that I got sober and stayed sober and did not have another alcoholic drink one day at a time. No wine with dinner nor glass of champagne at New Years. Nothing. On this day ten years ago I made my way from Adam and Eve Mews in Kensington to my first AA meeting. I weighed 50lbs lighter, I was wearing a black Dolce coat, a black polo neck sweater and I was driving a brand new pea green Porsche. Within two years all of those fancy trappings had gone. Before I got sober I could not leave the beautiful house for more than ten paces, black discharge drained out of my nose onto my white shirts, I was desperate, broken and alone.
It was on this day ten years ago that everything began to make sense. I knew that there was more to life than drinking and drugging. It was on this day 10 years ago that my priorities changed. Every day since that day, whatever happened, good or bad has been a good day for me as it is one more day alive. During the past ten years I learned and came to trust in this one important truth: As long as I stay sober, what ever happens, everything is going to be OK. It always is.
Today is also my stepfather’s birthday; a hideous coincidence.
I left San Francisco on Friday. Randy, very sweetly, walked me to the BART and I took the train to the airport $5. We had spent the morning drinking more chai. Yet again I saw that the more open and kind I was with Randy the more I allowed my long-suffering friends to love me. I have been of late so less irritable, impatient or angry. When the photographs arrived from my six weeks in Whitstable I scarcely recognised myself I looked so at ease. I am capable of being at peace with myself. I am capable of loving and being loved. The first flush of something like love began to take hold of me in San Francisco. I began to wonder again what it might feel like to be in love.
I took a cab from LAX directly to Neal and Lisa’s Shabbat dinner. It is always so great to spend time with their kids. I love Neal’s mother Lois who is very funny (and a terrible fag hag) dressed in Issey Miyaki. Neal had just installed a HUGE Gilbert and George in the Dining room. G&G painted gold and performing ‘Underneath The Arches’. It is a spectacular piece and very bold. Neal was a bit grumpy as he was fighting with one of his children. They live in the heart of Beverly Hills in a huge, sprawling mid-century bungalow with a tennis court and pool and toys everywhere, the house is groaning with art. They also own a really lovely Baldessari.
That night I could not wait to get into my bed.
No walk on Saturday. Will picks me up at 7am for 8am AA meeting. After meeting I drive with new sponsor (who is a fucking DREAM) on impromptu trip up PCH.
In the afternoon Corey and I meet to take the modernist house tour of Silverlake. We had a very jolly time made all the better by our meeting Anne L who instantly reminded me of Margaret Matheson or Ann Skinner or any number of the very strong, intelligent, independent women I have been attracted to all my life. Ann is a 50 something teacher at a progressive school in Pasadena she lives in a Shindler house. Of course we talked all about Monkton Wyld. We didn’t stop talking. We saw Shindler, Neutre etc but best of all was the Gregory Aine communal living apartments that were SPECTACULAR. Apparently communists lived there when they were built.
Communists like John Reed and Louise Bryant?
I met my friend Sharon at the DGA later that night to see a special screening of Reds, Warren Beatty’s epic tale of love set against the backdrop of the USA’s entry into the First World War and the tail end of the Russian Revolution. You know, I was living next to the producer of Reds when it was being made in London. I was living in Islington on Furlong Road next to Simon Relph. I met Warren with Simon Relph and his wife Amanda. Isn’t that odd. It was 25 years ago. Warren and I talked about that briefly last night. I think that it is fair to say that Simon pretty much directed that film with Warren. I remember, one day, popping around to see Simon and Amanda and found them in that huge house separating Diane Keaton and Warren (who were an item) at the top and the bottom of the house still unable to stop them screaming at each other.
Annette Benning was in the audience with their children. I wondered what it must have felt like for her to have watched this very graphic portrait of Warren’s relationship with Diane played out for all to see. For some totally obscure reason they asked the foetus Bennett Miller to interview Warren after the film. Bennett is really enjoying his fifteen minutes; he arrived with Courtney Love and spent a good ten minutes glowering at me. Courtney, since I last saw her a month ago, had had some kind of radical facial over haul. Her lips are huge; she has cheekbones and seems to have new teeth although I could not be certain. Her hair was now ballooned into Blonde Mountain of curls.
Bennett just gushed incoherently over Warren for an hour after the film ended. A more sycophantic interview I could not have imagined. This was a totally wasted opportunity.
Met Craig Emmanuelle. Met the guy who directed Fly Boys and his wife who produced North Country.
Had long, constructive chat with Sharon on the way home.
In bed by 1.30am.
September 29, 2006 – Friday
San Francisco Day 3
Friday, San Francisco 2006.
I am on my way back to LA today. I used to say, on my way ‘home’ but of late I do not feel like LA is home. Whitstable is home. Whitstable is my home where I live and I will die. I keep dreaming about what I will take back to London with me when I go. The art, that’s all. I will take that wonderful collection I have amassed so quickly.
Yesterday, Randle was in the gym by 7am so I just lay in bed until it was time to meet him off of the Castro in a small café called the Spike which sold delicious chai latte, my new favorite, anytime hot drink. Randle and I looked at a house to buy on Sanchez which was a rickety old shack selling for $800k. The house next door had been covered with marble free form mosaic. There were banana trees in the back yard. The house is on a friendly street in a neighborhood with shops and cafes. You can walk and say hello to friendly faces that you may or may not know. Totally unlike LA, which is a scummy shit, hole with no friendly faces and stinks of rotting avocado, which smells like semen. I over reacted. I love LA. No I don’t. I am there to finish my film. If that’s the case I may be there a few more years.
To prove my point there was a very cute boy draped over his Harley Davidson watching us. Randle asked him what he was doing and he said, “I haven’t showered for two days, I sprained my foot and lost my job”. Within ten minutes he was drinking more Chai with us in Samovar, which is a cool little teashop opposite where I used to buy wool for knitting. Within ten minutes we were discouraging him from becoming a rent boy. I became bored with him after this and sat playing with my Blackberry. He was cute but obvious. How can any intelligent young man seriously consider being a rent boy?
After lunch with Eric the previous day whilst trying on flip flops I saw, to my disgust, that my toenails were less than attractive. So yesterday afternoon Randle and I had pedicures and manicures and I scarcely recognized my feet after the sweet Vietnamese woman had finished with them.
Foolishly, had a nap in the afternoon that ended with me waking up grumpily and making phone calls which is always a fucking disaster. Had to call my new sponsor who was very helpful and made everything calm again. Seriously, I have to make some hefty decisions about my film situation.
At 7.30pm Eric and I met at the sushi place on Sanchez and he was surprised, I think, by how delicious the food was. I was worried that my choice of restaurant might not be good enough, that this basic sushi place that I love would not send the right ‘message’.
Eric, what do I think of you?
I rarely meet anyone who inspires, challenges, and infuriates me quite so immediately. His naive republican politics aside he is a cultured, warm, elegant man. He dresses like an Italian aristocrat and drives a Vesper. If he did not have a boy friend I may very well have made a terrible fool of myself. As I sat there opposite him the conference of insecure voices chattering away told me that I wasn..t as witty, intelligent or worthy of him as I thought. Thank God he has a boyfriend. Than God he is 31. Thank God he is so far out of the picture that I do not have to give that romance thing a second thought. I did think about it when he said that he wanted to work a farm he owned. When he mentioned it he seemed to come alive. Long before Brokeback Mountain my fantasy was to do the same. How can a man be possibly fulfilled by writing contacts in a law firm? A man like that? Or am I just projecting my own prejudiced views of lawyers onto him?
It is always a bit of a test to mention that I have been in prison but he seemed to take it in his stride although what he might say to his friends later is another thing entirely.
We will see if this has legs, if we can be friends. He has the most beautiful eyes.
Randle joined us after dinner with the potential rent boy and made a few quips that had me laughing like a drain. Thank God. After discovering that Eric was a Republican, Randle quickly morphed into Martha Stuart and disingenuously complimented Eric’s Gucci shoes. Realising that this was not going my way I dragged Randle with rent boy in tow toward the Castro.
Eric drove off on his Vesper.
You know, I am so happy when I am with Randle Mann in San Francisco. We are always laughing yet our humor can be quite cruel. Nobody is spared our treachery, least of all ourselves. Every defect of each others character exploited for our own humorous ends. Over his beef burger Randle ribbed me mercilessly about Eric. Boy with rent boy aspirations sat there looking dumb. Randle does not like Republicans. Are we more than our politics?
Eric is more than his Barbour his finely made hands and his questionable past with Mitt Romney. I really like him.
Read Andrea Dworkin’s Right Wing Women.
In bed by 11.
September 28, 2006 – Thursday
6.51am Hancock Street, San Francisco. I arrived here two days ago. The weather is perfect. Grey and cool. I am staying with my poet friend Randall Mann in his swinging 70s apartment up here in the Castro. A few days away from LA, I left Daniel to deal with Angela the Spanish-speaking maid.
The morning I left LA I had breakfast with Neal Specter. We discussed our Dorian ideas and he was more than helpful. It is true to say that the people who GET IT really get it and are inspired to help. He realizes that my excitement and enthusiasm need to be tamed, managed. He very gently talked me through the way this opening needs to be handled.
I need to calm down at these meetings. I could feel myself tripping as the ideas flew. I could feel myself sinking in my own thinking juice as my brain ruptured and the ideas spewed out of me, drowning me in notions. Neal just waited for me to stop rambling then he let me know how simple it all could be. We ate prime rib hash. It was delicious. The meeting was delicious. All any artist wants to feel is connected to others of like minds.
After breakfast I cleaned the inside of the freezer that had not been touched since the melt down they had had whilst I was away. It was disgusting. Cleaning, however, is a great antidote to any intellectual maelstrom that one may be experiencing. After I finished cleaning the freezer I scrubbed the kitchen floor. Marlene Dietrich would clean the entire theatre with her bare hands before she performed a show anywhere. It is a great opportunity to collect ones thoughts and have an instant feeling of gratification.
On Tuesday afternoon I went back to Bonhams to buy the rug I really wanted. It was cheap, really cheap. The auction room was crammed with dealers so I knew that I was getting a bargain. Thankfully the auction had a very slow beginning so I did really well. I am going back to London on the 8th October so I will lug it back with me then. I am going back to London. That will be fun. I am staying with Phil. I can’t wait.
The flight to San Fran was not at all bumpy-those flights along the coast can be very turbulent. I had Russian cab drivers at both ends. Randall and I immediately jumped into our double act that has me literally doubled up in laughter. Ate dinner at Diamaru, which is my favorite sushi place here. We discussed the Americas Next Top Model poster, which is a gruesome affair, all drag queens and emaciation. One of them looks like she only just had her Adams apple removed.
The following morning my whole body was desperate to spring out of bed and climb a mountain. I waited for Randall to get back from Yoga and we walked to a great lesbian run diner where we sat in a booth next to Tracey Chapman. We then walked to my favorite furniture store stopping on the way at a thrift shop which had a wonderful moss colored velvet, deep sofa that had just come in for only $175. I urged Randall to buy it. Took the sub way shamelessly down town to the Embarcadero for lunch with Eric. I ate sausage, quite a Freudian choice, as Eric is very handsome.
After lunch Randall and I saw The Science of Sleep that I really, really wanted to love but I could not. I met the director M Gondry some time ago. Gondry is not an enigmatic man, in fact he is a bit of a charmless nerd and one realized very quickly that he simply got Gael to be him, that the preoccupation with the troubled genius unable to get a girl was HIM. Oddly, I met Gael the day he met M Gondry for the first time in New York at the Mercer Hotel. So here was the film. Some directors need to be reigned in. There was a great deal of showing off. There were many, many great ideas but they some how got lost in all of the genius. For a start he obviously had too much money. I like not having any money at all because it makes me THINK. There were a glut of ideas expensively executed but who ultimately cared about the sulky, self obsessed central character?
I wanted to love this film so much. I occasionally loved the imagery, the bedroom in the cave reminded me if The Singing Ringing Tree. I liked the eastern European filmic references but ultimately I was never given what I needed which was the perfect union between the man and the woman. Gondry needs either another great Kaufman script to tame his worst excesses or he needs to embrace the more obscure thoughts in his artists head and make an art film and show it in a gallery. I would have been far more interested to see this film in that context.
AA meeting followed by chicken and salad.
In bed by 11.
September 26, 2006 – Tuesday
Good Day/Bad Day
The phone rang twice last night as I slept. Twice. Then the bloody phone fell under my bed and the bed is so big I fell off it trying to fish it out from underneath. To make matters worse I had a call that I had to take early this morning so I ended up lugging the phone up the mountain with me on my walk. I am very grumpy about this. It was a total waste of time taking a BLACKBERRY up the mountain. No meditation, no serene thoughts. I may as well have just sat here at my desk.
So, there were 34 dogs. The entire mountain was cloaked in a huge cloud that has enveloped LA this morning. The entire character of Runyon Canyon changed. The cicadas chirruping through the grey soup, I past the tangled remains of the old OUTPOST sign that was once bigger that the HOLLYWOOD sign and lit with neon. There’s a notice explaining the history of the sign up there but some vile person has graffiti marked it with black aerosol. I stopped for a moment to look at what was left of it and wondered what it must have looked like. If the Outpost sign had outlived the Hollywood sign: “Mother, I’m going to the USA to make a film, I’m going to OUTPOST!”
Breakfast with Neal S, sat next to Billy Connolly.
Yesterday was good.
Had lunch in Benedict Canyon with Sacha.
His glamorous friend Clare who manages Paul McKenna drove me home.
Calls from people who want to buy Dorian,
Had drinks with Jon King from Focus. Discussed Rocco etc.
Went to bed at 10.30.
Yesterday was bad.
My house in Silverlake went into escrow with some body else. Shit happens.
September 25, 2006 – Monday
“You Must be Very Excited”
6am. The sun rising over LA. I saw: 15 Dogs, The Chinese Man running backwards. Dressage Man. I met and walked with Denny the interior designer and Regina his 8-month-old puppy with topaz eyes. We both admitted to praying on our walk on the mountain. Today I prayed for serenity and a moderate disposition.
Many folk acknowledged us.
I am so excited about The Secret Film Project I can hardly remember a thing that happened yesterday. I spent the morning re-reading the Secret Script and then at 12 I called the writer of The Secret Project and we had a most energetic and satisfactory chat. We are meeting in NYC on the 24th October to discuss with interested parties. She said, “Everyone has tried to warn me off of you Duncan but I have rather taken to you.” We agreed to be utterly truthful and transparent with each other and be true to our vision of the film. I refuse to let the wreckage of my past destroy this wonderful opportunity.
I appreciated her honesty, her candour.
In one bold sentence she totally defined our relationship so that it might work and bear fruit. She did not, as so often happens, hold onto the fear of what rumours there are and cause me to behave thus. As I have said before and I will say again: Let me be the person I am rather than the person you have heard I am.
Even better than all of that: I can shoot the film in England if we so wish.
Keeping a secret is so bloody difficult; this week I have drawn blood biting my tongue.
Needless to say, yesterday the sun was shining. It was Sunday. I had a very jolly lunch with Ian in Larchmont. He told me that he thought DP (Paramount Number Cruncher) looks like ‘Seal in drag.’ We couldn’t stop laughing. Had the chicken parramigano. $15. Dan G collected me after lunch and we went for one final trip to the house in Silverlake before I make my offer today. Strangely, the door was wide open as if the woman who used to live there expected us.
I had an hour-long chat with Phil. I miss her so much. I think that in large part it is her confidence in me that makes me able to face the difficult days. It is she that makes firm and resolute decisions when I am disabled by self-doubt. Some times I can feel myself falling in love with her all over again. I had to physically stop myself the last time I saw her. Will see her next week when I pop back to London to fetch last of essential things.
I had a nap at 5.30, which, was a huge mistake because when Vic came to collect me for dinner I felt sluggish and bad-tempered. It took me a good two hours to regain my earlier positive mood. Vic stayed over but we just slept in the same bed.
People tell me that I must be excited about buying the house. “You must be so EXCITED.” Well, I am not excited about BUYING anything. Only art and the process of making art excites me. How lucky I was to be inducted into the world of The History of Ideas when I was so young. I remember with great affection the amazing woman who taught me everything I know, Vera Brumby my History of Art teacher at Medway College of Art. She said, “The history of art is the history of civilization.” She showed me how I could chart the route from those first Stone Age marks on a cave wall to Giotto to Gericault to Jeff Koons and everything in between. I had other inspired teachers, there was Judith, at school, who taught me the History of Music, she made me listen to Palestrina and John Cage. Goddamn it, how lucky was I?
They said, “Never be frightened to ask. If you don’t know-ask. Keep asking.”
As a result of these marvellous teachers I came to believe that if a human made it I could understand it. That is why I knit, cook a great Cassoulet, make films, and build houses. This also leads to terrible disappointment when I see that the person I have employed to do a better job than I, rarely does. God is in the detail! Thank God for Joel Plotch who edited Dorian and did a better job than I could ever do!
Before she died Vera called me and she said with unusual pessimism, “Duncan, I think that we are living in an increasingly evil world.” I hoped that she was wrong about that but look around you.
Look at what the corporation is doing to our lives.
September 24, 2006 – Sunday
The Roughs Are Coming
7.45am Runyon Canyon, September 2006. 45 dogs, 1 screaming Chinese infant. Happy Russians. Many isolated, miserable looking ‘attractive’ 30 something white folk. Squirrels noisily harvesting what ever they can find in the palm trees. The sun is shining. LA looking marvellous.
From way up there in the mountain I can see how green LA really is. Who planted so many trees? The Jacaranda that, in springtime, blooms so as all of its branches are covered with mauve flowers. Now those thick trunked, spiky trees have huge, succulent, pink orchid-like blooms all over them.
Yesterday I met Dom at the Grove. The Grove is a themed Mall with dancing fountains tacked onto the Farmers Market which is no longer a farmers market in the sense that we understand it. We saw the film Hollywoodland. Ben Affleck was really very good. Diane Lane superb. I loved the way they all laughed at their own and the various quips of others, just like they did in the films of the 1940s. The film had such style. I got a bit lost at the beginning of the third act but it did not impair my enjoyment. Glenn Williamson, who also produced American Beauty, produced Hollywoodland. Glenn makes very elegant choices. He is a very calm, intelligent man. A real filmmaker. I was honoured that he said very complimentary things about AKA.
As I sat in the cinema I knew even more keenly that the path I had taken with Dorian was the right one. Cinematically the great reveal in Dorian Gray really works.
I feel unencumbered today, like I used to when I first got sober. I don’t think that it is truly possible to explain the feeling of being in ones own body after having such a profound sense of being emotionally AWOL. After years of what can only be described as an out-of-body experience re-entering ones own skin, inhabiting ones own head is such a RELIEF. Of course I still have the occasional, odd moments when I desire not to be me. To run away and hide, lost in the tsunami, surfacing twenty years from now in a white Panama hat in some obscure fishing village in South America. I think about what it felt like not be me when I had that other name. I thought about it there on the mountain this morning.
At the movie theatre Dom pointed out a man he thought looked just like me. The man was 45ish, very tall; he had a very fierce presence. He said, “You nearly ran into your doppelganger.” Do I look like that? Again, I got a surprising sense of how people perceived me. I do not and have never had any idea of what it feels like to be in my own company. “People are scared of you.” They say that. I am dismayed when they say that. How could that possibly be? Is that the sum of me?
In the evening I met Internet Date man and Ian Drew and we saw a rather odd performance by David Leddimont (?) in Santa Monica of a sort of homage to Quentin Crisp. Quentin was, in the 1970s, a rather grand old tranny who wrote a best-selling book called The Naked Civil Servant. London Weekend Television subsequently made it into a film. I watch it often with Gary Davy and we scream with laughter. We use many of the lines from the film to amuse ourselves, for instance if either of us ever got laid the other would say, “It must have been foggy down the ‘Dilly tonight, dear.” Or, just because it was so funny in the film, “The roughs are coming!” Which will mean nothing to anyone unless you watch the darn thing.
Anyway, I have to tell you that I thought the show we saw last night was very poorly conceived but happily it reminded me of Quentin who was brave and clever and suffered, it seemed to others, unnecessarily for his art but that was what he was compelled to do. His friends in public for fear of association shunned him and he learned to exist on the out side of society and make the best of it until he was invited into the establishment fold at the age of 70.
I first saw The Naked Civil Servant on TV when I was 14. Moved to tears I immediately wrote to Quentin from my boarding school in Shropshire. During the next few years I received many letters from him and I would meet him occasionally in coffee shops in Fitzrovia. I saw him last in New York a few months before he died. I am ashamed to tell you that earlier this year I threw out all of the letters that I had kept from my school years. A great big box of letters. I knew as I was doing it that I was making a big mistake by not sorting through them. I couldn’t bear looking at all of those letters from my Mother. It made my feel sick. For 6 years I received two letters a week from my mother, grandmother, and various other members of my family. There were also, sadly thrown into the recycle bin, letters from Quentin Crisp and many other media types who bothered to write back to me during those years when I had nothing better to do on a Saturday morning in the school library than hunt celebrity.
Melvyn Bragg always replied to my adolescent questions and encouraged me to write explaining that he often suffered from, ‘Multiple contractions of apprehension.’ whenever he wrote anything.
In bed by 1am. I don’t like going to bed so late-it upsets my routine.
September 23, 2006 – Saturday
I went to an AA meeting instead of taking my walk. I will go walk the Canyon tomorrow. I feel great. I can’t tell you just how much better going to a good AA meeting makes me feel.
You know, believe it or not, I did not get sober to make films, buy more stuff, get a better job, make friends, have more sex, get a partner or a bigger house. I stopped drinking and taking drugs 9 years ago so that I could sleep easy at night. All I wanted was a life without fear. I got sober for one reason: I wanted Peace of Mind.
Yesterday, Peter YBH collected me for Breakfast. We went to Dough Boys on 3rd. We ate the blueberry pancakes that were covered in seeds. Dunno what kind of seeds. Shiny seeds like beetles. The poached eggs came on the side in a small white dish. This ‘side dish’ remains, to me, one of the great unexplained American mysteries. Why isn’t the poached egg just on the plate like everything else?
Whilst I was at Dough Boys I heard via e-mail that my house in Whitstable had been broken into. I knew immediately who had done it. I just knew. I am sure that it was the young man I met on the train from Sittingbourne to Faversham. Kass had seen him skulking around the house before I left for LA. Anyway, he must have made a hell of a noise breaking into the house because he didn’t get further than the kitchen. Perhaps he didn’t want to steal anything. Perhaps all he wanted was to see me? You never know. The house was fine. I just felt sorry for the poor people who were renting it-they were terrified.
On the table beside us a young woman was wearing a tee-shirt that said in bold black letters: ‘I’M NOT INTERESTED’ over her huge nip tuck tits. I went up to her and said, “Oh, I’ve got a tee-shirt like that, it says, ‘I HATE EVERYONE'”. She laughed, “I like that, where can I get one of those?”
I should have said that I had a tee-shirt that said ‘I suck black cock’.
I don’t have either of those tee shirts.
After breakfast, Peter and I went looking at galleries; we went to M+B and Regan Projects LA. There was nothing in either of them to write home about. Then we went to the rug sale at Bonham’s where there was plenty to write home about. I ticked off a few rugs then Peter and I hung out at mine looking at the David LaChapelle mega book.
Finally, after WEEKS of waiting, the rest of the black leather dining room chairs arrived. They look great.
Dan G popped by at 5ish and we walked to the Italian Saint’s Day street festival that the Grandsons of Italy in America were having behind the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. We ate all sorts of delicious Italian food, meatballs, sausage, doughnut and thick black coffee. On the way there we saw that yet another transformer had blown the man-hole cover off and into the middle of Hollywood Blvd. Plumes of smoke pouring out of the road. The police standing by. Traffic snarled up as far as Highland Ave.
Michael invited me to party at The Cabana Club but I did not go. Stayed at home writing and reading and watching makeover reality TV.
My regular favourite makeover TV moment used to be when Ricky Lake took a cool teenage goth/punk/emo and ‘transformed’ him/her into a ‘regular’ kid which, at the moment of revelation would always cause the parents of the poor goth/punk/emo to burst into tears. Fat Goth girls stripped of their black make up/cob web clothing and face jewellery and forced into cheap, badly designed skirts and blouses forsaking their individuality. It was proof, if I ever needed it, that most Americans distrust ‘individuality’.
I was in bed by midnight. Daniel the room-mate, by the way, has disappeared.
September 22, 2006 – Friday
Are You Still Working on That?
The mountain was so fresh and breezy this morning. I saw, at least, six blue jays. 54 dogs. All of the Russians said good morning. Unusually a couple kept pace with me through out my walk. They discussed James Blunt, he told her about his job as a writer on some TV show and she told him with a rather embarrassed laugh that all of the guys she dated in college were now gay. She couldn’t understand her ‘super power’. It was nearly at that point on the walk where we would peel off from one another so I turned and I said, “Perhaps gay men know how to listen. Perhaps they want to hear what you have to say.” She looked at me askance for a moment. A stranger was talking to her. Then she replied, “Yes, perhaps that is true.”
Years ago I wanted to make a documentary about Fag Hags, when the Queen Mother was still alive, she was a notorious fag-hag. After a great deal of research I saw that all being a fag hag really boiled down to was this: Some women need a man to listen. They don’t care what kind of man. Just any man will do. Finding a straight man with no agenda is obviously, judging by the women I have spoken to, very hard. Lonely, rich older woman are want to find a similarly aged gay man to dote on, shop with, ask for opinions and get brutally honest replies. “Darling, you look GHASTLY.” Truman Capote had his ‘Swans’ but he let them all down by writing about them. It is a mistake I often make-getting too attached to some women that I can only be gay with. Phil was different. She had ‘super power’. I wanted to be her lover. Is that so unusual?
Today, I am listening to Jimmy Scott and today I am very happy. Today I am really happy. Pray for a dream to come true and it usually will. I can’t tell you the best bits of what happened yesterday because if I do they will go away. Needless to say part of my good feeling is about Dorian Gray, the screening the other day yielded very good results. The plan for Dorian’s birth are beginning to make sense. The Big Idea began to happen before my very eyes. I desperately want to say but I JUST CAN’T!
Something wonderful happened whilst I was writing about being Persian. As I wrote it down something shifted deep inside of me: it was a revelation. It made me feel strong. Being understood or understanding ones self, what more could you really want from life?
Everyone here is talking about The Queen, Steven Frear’s new film about how the Royal Family dealt with the death of Princess Diana.
Of course I remember when Princess Diana died. I still think about it. I was in bed with Jamie P at Adam and Eve Mews in Kensington. JBC called in the middle of the night. I think that I was one of the first people down at the gates of Kensington Palace. During the next few days after they pulled the wreckage out of that tunnel I remember with disgust the vitriol poured over her memory by the establishment. Old cavalier politicians like Lord Norman St John Stevas telling us all that we should not grieve. It was very sad and strangely chaotic. When you get to see the great and the good with their knickers down by their Royal ankles your opinion of them changes. I remember two things about that time very clearly. After she was killed I drove down to Whitstable and you know, no one on the roads was driving faster than the speed limit. Not one person. We became our polite and considerate best. We had a great deal on our minds.
The other thing I remember very clearly thinking was: The Royal Family don’t understand this, they underestimate just how ‘powerful’ they really are. They’ve worked tirelessly to create one of the best-loved soap operas in the world yet they didn’t understand that any well-loved character in a popular soap has to have a conclusion that is made with the tacit agreement of us, the viewer, the subjects.
Of course ‘the people’ thought that she was murdered what else could they think? She was a rebel, a soap opera rebel. That’s what happens to a rebel in any good drama they die in a hail of bullets or they are taken out by the secret service. Regardless of whether she was pushed or not we knew that she could not survive. She had a big mouth, she told it as it was and they hated her for it. I was shocked when she talked on Panorama about her marriage. I was delighted and terrified and despaired for her. She was signing her own death warrant. I wrote to her to say as much. I stood in the crowd as the hearse passed by. I cried when her brother spoke. Later that night I went to a party with my friends Rachel and Sebastian. They did crack. I watched Rachel vomit out of a black cab.
Yesterday I had lunch with Bram, fried chicken special at the 101. Tony popped by in the afternoon we drank coffee. John collected me for dinner and we went to the 101 and ate fried chicken again. I’ve told you once but I’ll tell you again: Thursday is Fried Chicken Special at the 101 café on Franklin. I love it.
I’ll tell you why I go to the 101 and the Chateau so often: these people know me. Not in a grand way but in such a way that the staff know how to respect your dining experience. For instance, a familiar server will know that I do not drink alcohol, they know that I don’t like being interrupted mid flow with inane questions and most of all they understand when one has finished eating. In England we are used to setting our knives and forks at half past six on the plate so as a server can SEE that we have finished and take our plates without having to ask, as they do constantly here, “Are you still working on that?” Am I? Do you mean, have I finished? Can’t you see that the plate is still covered in food? Leave me alone until I indicate that I have finished by placing my knife and fork just so.
Am I still working on this?
Went to bed at 10 so I could be up at 5 for my walk.
September 21, 2006 – Thursday
On What it is to be Persian
There is nothing simple about me or Iran; the country of half my origin. I have been struggling with this problem since my Mother told me that my Father was Iranian when I was 13 years old. It was this fact alone that upset me most about my mother’s confession. I did not care that the man I had been calling my father was an impostor: I was relieved. I knew instinctively at that moment of revelation that the reason I thought and acted the way I do is because I am Iranian.
Even though I was brought up in England with everything that is quintessentially English (I am sitting here in LA listening to The Archers) my ways were different, my thinking was different and no matter how hard I tried to fit in with those around me I could not.
My mother did not want me to have anything to do with my real father, she lied about his name, she refused further information that would have helped me find him. For years I honoured her decision then one day I demanded to know who he was. Once I had his correct name I posted a ‘I am looking for..’ notice on the internet and within a week a lawyer contacted me from Canada. He said, “There are three thing that you need to know about you father, 1. I’m sorry to have to tell you that he’s been dead for seven years. (He died of pancreatic cancer). 2. You have seven brothers and sisters who really want to meet you and 3. If you’re looking for the inheritance there is none.”
I met my dead Father’s 7 children in my mid thirties. My sister Jess is the most sensible. My brother Dominic arrived in a Ferrari. Rebecca brought a huge box of photographs for me to look at. My brother James did not want anything to do with me when he heard that I was a homosexualist. MK is addicted to crack. MK told me that our father was an opium addict but this may very well be the myth of my father rather than the reality. I began to hear all sorts about him; what kind of man he was. I realised that it was imperative to understand not just the character of my Father but also the character of Iran for me to make sense of my own complexity.
Who was he? My Father. Who was that man? My Father was married 3 times, yet did he ever get a divorce? My Father was rich yet where is the money? Is it true that on his deathbed he impregnated his best friend’s wife? Is it true that he threw a gold lighter at his young son’s head scarring him for life?
I am appalled by these stories but I am also secretly in awe.
I am certainly British and I am delighted to be so, but my nature is unswervingly Persian. I am proud, arrogant, and I have one hell of a superiority complex. Of course, unsurprisingly, this makes me very awkward to handle. Like Iran I want to be taken seriously but I love challenging the status quo. I am declared anti-establishment.
As a descendant of the great Persian Empire I apologise for being so when I am calm and British but I can never say sorry, never make amends for what I am when I am in the grip of my Persian, explosive self. Persians have a rich cultural heritage, nearly 3000 years of written history. My Father, who only married British women, told his best friend that when his wife’s ancient ancestors were collecting berries on an English moor his forbears had hospitals for their pets.
You may find me difficult to understand but you find Iran difficult to understand. I am a Persian, not an Arab. Arabs invaded Iran. I am an equal mix of Persian and British; the Iranians have always respected the wily British.
Because of my terrible yet wholly Iranian arrogance, I suffer on occasions from a glut of confidence. Sadly, that does me more harm than good. I often over reach myself and when I fail, as I do on occasions, I feel victimized yet I never feel beaten, I never give in. I get up, brush myself down and I start again.
Of course you find me intolerable, flashy, charming, obnoxious. That’s what we are.
It is too dark to go for my walk. Ten minutes to six. Silence. The fridge groaning and shuddering in the kitchen. Waking before sun rise with a clear head. Lucky Jesus on my desk peering at me with his one good eye. He is made of mercury glass, he has a painted white face and red lips. Lucky Jesus is holding a chalice in the folds of his robes. I bought him in Romania in a tiny antiques store, I think I paid a dollar for him.
At his feet, propped up on my new desk, are the only two photographs of my Father that I own. In one of these black and white photographs my Father is leaning against the railings overlooking Margate beach. This photograph was taken in the summer of 1959. My Father is looking directly at the camera; he has a wry smile on his tanned face. On what is obviously a baking hot, high summer holiday the beach is packed with British sunbathers.
I recognise the buildings in the distance quite well, they looked very fine in 1959. Margate is not like this now. It is a sad, empty place. Even though they say that Margate is regenerating it seems that there has been too much damage to the integrity of the town. Too many beautiful houses carved up into tiny bedsits. Too many abandoned shops. The large hotels accommodate a fragrant immigrant population made unwelcome by fearful locals.
The other photograph of my father is very odd. He is holding a gun, perhaps it is only a toy, but he is pointing it at a boy’s back. The boy has his hands up in surrender. This, I think, was taken on the Downs by the King’s Hall in Herne Bay. In both pictures my father is exquisitely groomed and perfectly dressed. He is wearing well cut trousers, a crisp white shirt and in the first he is wearing a plain, straight tie. In both he looks very Persian, he must have been quite exotic for the North Kent coast in 1959. I bet he knew how to look after himself. I wish that I had met him just once. Even though he was, by all accounts, a difficult man.
Yesterday was not a great day. After my walk in the Canyon Dan G came over and took me to the Coffee Bean. I was not really present for that. I was far away. In the afternoon I had a few annoying e-mails, a couple of disruptive phone calls. One of THOSE days but I was largely on top of it.
The best part of the day came when I went to the DGA and watched, for the first time, The Picture of Dorian Gray on the big screen. I saw, for the first time, that it really worked. Oh thank GOD. It really looks and feels exactly as it should. I invited a couple of friends of mine to come see it with me. Joel Mikely and his friend Cameron, Neal Spector and Alex Spendore. I was aware, as usual, of every fidget they made. Excruciating. Thankfully they are a tough, honest crowd. It’s a very sexy film on the big screen. David looks great! Better than great! Joel said that he was scared, he was worried that it was going to be bad. Thankfully he really liked it. What will happen to Dorian Gray now? Now we can put it back into a box until all of the financial problems are resolved. From now on I am going to concentrate on the property I want to buy.
After the fantastic screening I had some very nasty phone calls from a deranged english man I know who has substance abuse problems. He said that he wanted to kill me. So, I had to spend time talking to the police and lawyers and I will, unfortunately, have to deal with this today. Thankfully, after the first mad call, I had the foresight to record the second abusive, threatening rant. This second homo-phobic, racist, violent, death-threatening call lasted for over 17 minutes. My father would carry a small recording device everywhere he went for just such an occurrence.
My third date with Sunday Internet Man was spent at Cobras and Matadors which is by far my favourite tapas restaurant in town (avoid the lentils) then we explored The Grove and finally we just sat in his Mercedes and cruised the hills, exploring the tiny, winding roads around Beachwood Canyon. It was very romantic. We stopped in at mine for an hour and he rubbed my back and shoulders with his strong hands until I slept.
8.30 am I just got back from the most wonderful walk. Beautiful morning. I saw 56 dogs, 1 chameleon, 1 Blue Jay, 2 men covered in tattoos and a 50-year-old Russian woman taking her tee-shirt off revealing a huge flesh coloured bra. I saw one cute man. No top models. Took the left had route. On the bench at the crest of the hill there was a lady with a branch tucked into her belt at the FRONT. She sat quietly peering through twigs at the view of LA.
September 20, 2006 – Wednesday
76 dogs. A great deal of unchecked poo. Dogs’ pooing behind unsuspecting owners. I took the less steep route. There is indeed a strong, unusual smell in the Canyon but it isn’t dog piss-it’s the smell of vegetation, damp straw, exotic bark and animals other than dogs. It is the smell of nature at its pungent best.
I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog that from the tallest mountain Corey and I climbed we could see below us, for the first time, the 101 freeway carving through the other canyons. It was almost beautiful. We were surprised that we had never before noticed the shimmering 101. There was very little haze and for a brief moment the sun lit the tarmac and the tiny, glinting cars. I thought to myself that in 20 years time silent, electric cars would choke these huge LA roads. I thought about the public transport system that used to exist here and how it will undoubtedly return. As hostile nations hold onto their oil reserves our transport will, thankfully, adapt into something less noisy or smelly.
The house on Langton Street in Chelsea where Phil lives in London has three coal-holes. Every house along that street burnt so much coal. Where the bricks have not been scoured at the back of Phil’s house you can see how sooty black London must have been. I have a distant memory of a steam train roaring into Whitstable. I remember the smell, the acrid smell of burning coal. The diesel trains that ran between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury stank so badly even on the coldest day we kept the windows open. I thought we were lucky not to live in the age of coal smoke but we live in the age of exhaust fumes and the sound of the 101 the 405 the M2. How could they live like that? My children’s children will scoff at the memory of us. “How could they live with those smells?” When would it have been good to live on earth without fear or fumes or disease? Never I suppose.
Yesterday Steve the beautiful actor came with his huge car and we drove to Bonham’s to collect my new desk. When I got it home I was so excited because I had to rearrange my sitting room to accommodate it. I LOVE rearranging; it is and has always been my greatest pleasure. I filled the draws and set out my lucky desk creatures: my lucky bird, my lucky cow, my lucky Jesus, my lucky saint. It is, I am certain, the gay gene that determines that I know how to scatter cushions and place ornaments in such a way that when Greg Yeardye popped over last night he said: “You have such great taste.” Thanks GY. Darling Phil used to berate me for talking about home décor rather than deal with any problem we might have. Even when I was in prison my cell was perfectly clean and rearranged and the other prisoners would stop by and hang out.
Had long chat with Lawyer, with mortgage broker and then Sunday Internet Date came over and we drove to Silverlake to look at the house and then we ate lunch at American Rag. I had the smoked chicken Quiche that was so delicious it must have been very, very bad for me. Need a project-not a film. Need to rearrange massively. Internet Date is very distinguished and kind. He is realistic. Getting to know him slowly is delightful.
Had dinner with Greg Yeardye. I am very fond of Greg but after 6 months of him just disappearing do I want to be his friend again? Greg is a big, straight man. He is very competitive which I find unnecessary, he calls me on my shit-I like that, he is a terrible old gossip which is endearing and he is grandiose in the most vulgar, gold Rolex kind of way. He loves to let everyone know how rich he is-but is he? He is the brother of Tamara Mellon who my friend Oscar Humphries had a well-publicised affair with. Tamara owns Jimmy Choo. Tamara is rich. Greg’s mother wears Chanel and lives in a huge house in Beverly Hills. HUGE!!! I love how utterly indiscreet Greg is. Within minutes of getting together he was booming information that would be worth MONEY to unscrupulous gossip hounds. What I love most about Giant Greg is how he wears the most ghastly shoes and does not give a toss. We will see how this pans out.
Before I went to bed I thought about a friend of mine who had started drinking again after a good few years of abstinence. I had the weirdest reaction: I was jealous. Even though he only drank a couple of glasses of cheap red wine I was jealous that he could start the whole sobriety thing again from the very beginning that he could wipe his slate clean. I was jealous that the path for him now seems to me so simple once again. Staying sober by the grace of God one day at a time, a daily emergency (no doubt) but all the same, think of the ATTENTION, the support, think of the unconditional love.
September 19, 2006 – Tuesday
I only have thirty mins to write my blog. I wanted to write about kissing. I wanted to write about the best kissers I ever had. I was expecting some kissing last night.
Today is jammed packed. I started my walk at 8.30 up Runyon Canyon. Took the vicious left hand route and consequently I am sitting here my thighs on fire. We beat that fuckin mountain in 18 minutes. I went with Tom Cruise look-a-like Corey the Realtor. He is the sweetest man. We saw 17 dogs and a top model on our walk. Nobody really said hello to us. It was a different crowd today: housewives with tiny dogs.
Yesterday was mostly spent at home doing home things and e-mails and writing. I washed dark clothing and drank black coffee. I spent time on the phone with Clare Swinburn and we discussed Christmas plans. I really want her to come out here for pilot season-whatever that is. Can some one please explain what Pilot Season is?
Had God-awful row with team about money that did not get resolved until I spoke to my lawyer today. Losing interest in everything connected with Dorian.
Dinner at Chateau with Chris my Mormon friend. The Chateau is such a performance! Will Carter starring as the maitre de with attendant non-speaking assistants. Nicole Richie hugging everyone. We are the family that is the Chateau Marmont. We sat on best table for two at the back. I had the Caesar Salad with shrimp. Mormon Chris had the steak. Then, to my left, the Dupont twins arrived whom I said a fleeting hello. In front of me Stellan Skarsgaad who I am frightened of sat speaking Scandinavian. On my right Jeffery Rush and family were eating a late dinner, the children went to bed then they had to put up with a woman just joining their table and introducing herself.
Rush might make a great lead for our secret project. Saweeda and her friend pitched up with no news of Richard Squire. On the table behind the hedge were Nick Jones and my friends from Soho House New York. I said to Mark, “I’ll see you at the Oscars when I crash the Soho House party this year.” We laughed. He gave me a huge hug.
Mormon boy found that we were unable to have a conversation because we were sitting next to the screeching Duponts and their motley crew so I had us moved into the lobby for coffee and cheese and there, sitting on the couch, was the scrumptious Jake Gyllenhaal. We waved, I kind of know him as we had long conversation waiting for broken elevator in Mercer Hotel in New York years ago and now we bump into each other periodically. I loved that he won the BAFTA. Like so many STARS he is becoming a kind of caricature of himself. The arched eyebrow, the strong jaw. Does he look in the mirror and think about how he photographs? I wonder. Like that freak Conan the red-haired chat show host.
When he left the girl at his table stroked the seat where he was sitting and said, “He’s adorable.”
Mormon dropped me off at home then Steve popped over to run lines-that’s what we do in Hollywood, we go home at 11.30pm and run lines with actors.
Slept fitfully thinking about THE WORLD.