Every once in a while, Ray and I have to get ourselves out of the house. We love the rural quiet and stunning vistas of Stolen Horseshoe but on occasion, the craving for a day or two (or three) of urban life becomes far too much to ignore. Most of the time, we’ll hop on a plane and visit anyone we know in any major city that has ethnic restaurants with linen napkins and a full bar. This past weekend, there was a bunch of fun stuff going on in Tucson so we jumped at the opportunity to stay with our friends Chuck and Jeff at their fabulous Bed & Breakfast Inn — The Royal Elizabeth.
Ray and I planned to kick off the long weekend by attending some of the festivities for the grand re-opening of the Fourth Avenue Underpass. The underpass provides access between the Fourth Avenue Shopping and Entertainment District and the Congress Street Entertainment District and the rest of Downtown. Unfortunately, we were running a bit late so we missed out on the ribbon cutting however; we were just in time for dinner at Athens on 4th Avenue — my favorite Greek restaurant in Tucson.
As dinner was winding down, Chuck asked if I wanted to join him to go pick up a guest staying at the Royal Elizabeth for the weekend. The guest was John Leguizamo who was in town doing a show. Naturally I said yes.
Now, I have blogged about the freakish assholes I have met during my tenure in the entertainment industry. It’s no secret that, in my humble opinion, most celebrities are psychotic wacknuts suffering from borderline personality disorder. I have learned over the years to set my expectations low in the face of an impending encounter with someone who’s on the radar.
There was one time, while working on The Crucible, I was on the phone with Ray telling him how much of a freak Winona Ryder was. I was bummed because I was a huge fan and had been looking forward to working with her. I mentioned to Ray that she always seemed so normal on Letterman, so sweet in interviews and he blurted out “She’s actress!”
A few years later Ryder was convicted of grand theft and vandalism.
Chuck and I got into the airport just as the plane was landing. In Tucson, there’s a monitor over the stairs that lead into the baggage claim area. You can see people coming from the gate. Chuck had a sign with John’s name on it and was watching the monitor. I watched the stairs.
“Is that him?”
“What about him?”
“How about that guy?”
“No…wait, there he is.”
“I don’t see him on the monitor.”
“That’s because he’s about five feet in front of you. Hold up the sign. ”
Chuck held up the sign just as John approached us. After a quick meet and greet, we were in the car going back into town. It was late and John was on East Coast time. I figured he was tired. I know I was. We all got back to the house and went to bed. Ray needed a ride to the airport the next morning. He was going to LA for a day to look in on his mother.
After getting Ray to the airport, I headed back to the Royal Elizabeth. I wanted to get back in a hurry.
Chuck and Jeff do an incredible job running their establishment. The service is impeccable and the rooms are appointed beautifully however, my favorite is when they do the latter part of B&B — breakfast.
At the table there was a woman with her daughter from Toledo, Ohio; John’s production manager Russ who is from Australia (but lives in New York); another man named John (who I happened to know through a friend in Phoenix) and me. Mr. Leguizamo was out giving a radio interview.
The young daughter was getting ready for her second year at the University of Arizona. She’s studying astronomy. The other John was restoring the old historic church across the street. Russ had never been to Tucson before and was intrigued by the saguaro cactus. He had flown in the day before. Breakfast was delish and, as one would imagine, the conversation was very pleasant. When we were finished, the group dispersed.
I had nothing to do for the rest of the day so I decided to venture out and go shopping. Chuck and Jeff planned to join me but had to wait for a delivery and get a few other things done. They were apologetic about the holdup but I didn’t mind. I’m quite fond of C&J and could chat them up for hours — not to mention the opportunity to converse with other like-minded gay men hardly presents itself living out in the sticks. I was happy.
By the time we were ready to go, I was getting hungry (what a surprise). We headed out to a place called The B Line for lunch. In addition to a glass of crispy cool Pinot Grigio, I had farfalle pesto bow tie pasta tossed with homemade basil pesto, served with toasted pine nuts and garlic toast — foodgasm!
I’m not really into shopping so I can’t really say much about the mall experience — other than the fact that I cannot for the life of me understand the whole Abercrombie & Fitch thing. Tight teeny-tiny clothes all bearing the A&F branding intentionally made to look distressed for way too much money. If I’m going to wear ugly-assed shit covered with branding, A&F should pay me. There was one shirt that I thought was kind of funny. In big letters across the chest it said, “Buck Fuddy”. I would have bought it except directly underneath the “Buck Fuddy” was the word Abercrombie. Fail.
Determined to make a purchase on my shopping excursion, I went to Old Navy and got a t-shirt for $5.00. The gal at the checkout informed me that the next day, the shirts would be on sale for $3.00 each. (Yes, I did go back and get one in each color to the tune of $18.00 — about a third of the “Buck Fuddy” shirt.)
Naturally, a trip to the mall isn’t complete without something from the food court. I was floored when we found an Orange Julius. Hadn’t had one in years. When we got back to the Royal Elizabeth, I snagged a disco nap so I would be fresh for G2H2.
G2H2 — Gay Guys Happy Hour — takes place the third Friday of every month in a new location around town providing Tucson’s gay professionals a different venue to meet, network or just hang out. A big room in a fab location with a bunch of handsome gay men (with cocktails) was the perfect remedy for my be-anywhere-but-the-middle-of-nowhere break. I felt sorry for Ray. He was sitting at home with is 92 year old mother while I was reveling in a sea of testosterone.
On the way home, we stopped for some takeout Thai food. I had been cocktailing it so I don’t remember the name of the place. C&J knew the owner (They know everyone!) and the food was good. After chowing down, I retired to my room and passed out.
Breakfast was to be served a little later that morning. C&J and I planned to take an early morning hike but Tucson got some good rain that night and I actually slept in.
This time the guests had changed. The other John returned to Phoenix and in his place was a couple from Simi Valley, CA — the neighboring town where I grew up. They were also dropping their daughter off at the U of A. Mr. Leguizamo was there as well.
Again, the chatter was casual. Both John and Russ were totally cool and great conversationalist. The couple from Simi Valley were fun. I sorta slipped into my “on” mode (what a surprise).
Look, I refuse to deny it, I’m a recovering actor.
I started to act at a very young age. I couldn’t help myself. Sometimes when alone, I would make up dialog in my head and then say it out loud with feeling. I didn’t really know what I was doing — or why I was doing it for that matter. Over time, I started to get sloppy. On several occasions, my mother caught me in the act of acting. What an embarrasment having her walk in right when I was in the middle of a heated argument scene or a dance number. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
Once, in third grade, our class decided to do a play based on the Prodigal Son. I got the role of the father. Arthur Frontzak got the role of the son. We rehearsed a few times and then something strange happened, Mrs. Lawton switched Arthur and me. I was playing the Prodigal Son.
From what I recall, the play went well. My first applause was like heroin. The obsession to act soon was joined by a new passion — directing.
That same year Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album came out. I would listen to Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding over and over again. The instrumental part used to conjure up images and a storyline in my head. I’d lay there imagining I was directing an epic movie to go along with the song — right down to the closing credits! I was eight.
By the time I got out of high school, I was ready to take on the film industry. I did community theater, made little films with my dad’s Bell & Howell 8mm camera and had some black & white headshots taken. I remember my excitement the first time I got an appointment with a modeling agency.
“We’re looking for people who are perfect — you’re not.”
Something inside of me died when I heard that. I was surprised how a few words that took a split second to say, hurt for the rest of my life. Even though constant rejection and my lack of self esteem eroded away at me like cancer, I still kept trying to get in the biz and eventually squeezed my way into production accounting. I stayed there for years paralyzed by my apparent lack of perfection while settling into the notion that I would never be anyone. After ten years being a sucky accounting clerk who was always told he was on the wrong side of the camera, I burned out and left the biz.
So here I am years later chatting over a meal with someone who’s doing what I’ve always wanted to do — and he’s cool. It would be easier if he was a dick. Then I could dismiss him and “that business” all over again and forget about it.
Again, breakfast was the highlight of the morning. We all mingled for a while and then went our separate ways. I had to pick Ray up and wanted to run some errands. When we got back, it was pool time. Ray made drinks and we lounged around the pool for a couple of hours. I flirted with the idea of catching another disco nap but the evening was approaching quickly and I was excited about two things; dinner at Cafe Poca Cosa and front row tickets to John’s show.
Cafe Poca Cosa is fucking awesome. Hands down, it’s one of my favoirte restaurants in Tucson. Great service, drinks, ambiance and most importantly — food. The menu changes a couple of times a day to reflect what chilies, spices, vegetables, and ingredients are fresh in the kitchen. The first time I ate there, I had the Plato Poca Cosa. Each plate contains three items from the menu and every plate is different so if two people get it, both plates are unique and no, you can’t choose what you want. The chef does it for you.
After dinner, we headed to the theater for the show. I’d first heard of John Leguizamo years ago from his early stage shows, Mambo Mouth and Spic-O-Rama. When “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar” came out, the movie did nothing for me, but I noticed John did the drag queen thing way better than Wesley Snipes (too muscular) and Patrick Swayze (too bland). That’s probably why he snagged a Golden Globe nod for best actor in a supporting role. Swayze got nominated for best actor which still surprises me but hey, Madonna got a Golden Globe for acting — I rest my case.
The show was about John’s career (Speaking of Madonna, I had no idea he was in her Borderline video.) He was brutally honest about his experience working in the business and spoke frankly regarding exchanges with other well-known actors — which of course had me in stitches (John does a great De Niro). As the show went on, I became inspired and was reminded of what every writer I have ever known has said to me. . .
Be honest and just fucking say it.
My tens of readers know that I try to live by that. No matter what the story is, honesty will make it engaging. Don’t write what you think people want to read, write what you know and don’t hold back.
The show was lengthy. I’m assuming that’s because it’s in development. By the time it gets to full release, it’ll probably be tapered down a bit. While I enjoyed it, I was heartsick at the end. It all reminded me of how badly I wanted to see my name in lights.
The subject matter was familiar. I could relate to it. My mind was flooded with memories of trying to be an entertainer and how I let my lack of confidence get the best of me. If only I was as confident then as I was now. Deep breath. Exhale. Forget about it. Really Cobban, forget about it.
Chuck and I collected John and Russ at the Royal Elizabeth after the show and headed for the Hotel Congress to join the rest of the gang. As we walked through Tucson that night, random people recognized John and were calling out his name. I realized how much that would suck if you just finished two shows in a town you didn’t know and just wanted to get some dinner.
We sat down at the table and immediately some busty starfucker chick plopped herself right down between John and Russ. I tried to ignore her as she launched into some sort of pitch. John was polite. I have no idea if he found her annoying or not. She was annoying to me. At one point she said, “You wanna know how I spell my last name? It has an umlaut in it.” I said, “Like Mötley Crüe?” She whipped her head around at me and snapped, “No!” Then she got up and left.
Yet another reminder of the perils of celebrity. People in restaurants just sitting down right next to you pitching their ideas as if you were interested in collaborating with them while you’re trying to eat. They treat you like you’re some sort of commodity. Like they got a piece of your real estate. (Of course, knowing my luck, her people have talked with John’s people and she’s just secured a development deal with HBO and she’s going to do a skit about some shithead who poked fun at her umlauts.)
We all had a good time eating and drinking. I got to chat a bit more with Russ who was really very nice. Early the next morning as Chuck dropped them off at the airport, Russ said, “Check your fridge mate.” When Chuck got home, there was a bottle of Champagne and a thank you card signed by Russ and John. OK, OK, maybe not all actors are assholes.
Ray and I headed back home. I pondered the events of the weekend. What would it be like if I could do a show? Hell, what would it be like to have a production manager?? Is it too late to try? I don’t live in LA anymore. How does one pitch to HBO? Maybe I should add an umlaut to my name. Cöbban? Or perhaps, I should get a video camera and make my own little shows…start small. Post them to YouTube…
While we were gone, I’d received an email from Bisbee’s Obscure Productions. I have done a few shows with them in the past to keep my theater muscles flexible. They are putting on their 6th (Almost) Annual Comedy Show entitled, “No Shenanigans!” and wanted to know if I would be interested in doing an original monologue…
Hey, why not, right? What the hell have I got to lose?