Tuesday, January 28, 2014

51) Kissing With Bile.

  Arthur had come out as a homo to his teenage friends when he was seventeen in 1967 but on becoming a yogi he went back into the closet again for a few years. When he thought back over his life he realized it was at the “Up the Earth Confest” in 1977 in Canberra that he really came into his own. He’d noticed the Gay Liberation tent and met the two brave fellows extolling the virtues of an open homosexual life and thought, “If they can do it, so can I!” 

   At twenty-seven years of age, after all the sexual escapades he had toiled through, Arthur was still hesitant to come out and admit he was a homosexual. The general antipathy to ‘poofters’ was so great, the shame, the freakishness, the guilt, the pain, all of it an awful burden to carry, his mind was an ongoing hurricane of confusion and horror. But he was tired of all the hiding, lying, rutting in the dark and dirt, he wanted a chance at an open relationship, to find his one true love, maybe even get married and stop all this skulking around. He shyly stuttered to the gay freedom fighters that he thought he might be bi-sexual to which they giggled and said, “That just means you’ll end up buying it”. They encouraged him to relax and accept himself, to be courageous and enjoy what came naturally, and beaming open smiles, sent him on his way with some ray of hope shining on his future.

He gradually came out to all his friends and acquaintances, giving the “So what?” shrug to anyone’s raised eyebrows, he was what he was, like it or leave it, it even gave him ‘hard done by’ credentials amongst his fellow politicos for he was one of the oppressed minorities fighting for emancipation. Confirmed, elated, resigned to his homosexuality, Arthur declared it to the whole wide world and in 1978 he and three hundred others did the brazen thing and marched up Oxford Street chanting Gay Liberation slogans, for at that time homosexuality was still illegal, with blackmail, violence and jail sentences always threatening in the background. They marched in bellicose fashion to Taylor Square and Darlinghurst Police Station where a posse of cops baton charged and beat the shit out of them for their audacity, arresting many for public disorder. For once Arthur missed out on a punch in the ear-hole because he got trampled in the melee at the back of the crowd while he fiddled with a broken-down video camera.

Some years later, as the ‘Nineties loomed on the horizon, when gays and lesbians had finally won a safe zone for themselves in Darlinghurst, the progenitor of all things reactionary and regressive in Sydney, the wonderful Reverend Bile, the demagogic leader of the Festival of Darkness, led his own counter-liberation march up that same Oxford Street to Taylor’s Square, only they were protected by an army of cops. He storm-trooped at the head of a thousand zealous Christians and one-eyed nuns praying with hysterical fervor, waving bibles and lighted candles to keep Satan’s imps at bay. They were hell-bent on exorcizing the evil, decadent spirits of homosexuality and paganism from the Darlinghurst environs and all of them marched righteously in a militant phalanx, chins pushed forward in defiance, fists thrust out holding their flaming candles as if to torch the witches. 

The drone of mumbled hyms coming up the street was like the buzz of hornets swarming from a crushed nest, ominous back-beat to the collective shrieks of the vast gay crowd come to cheer the zealots off the stage. Poofs and dykes of all persuasions lined the gutters of Oxford Street screaming, “Bring on the lions!”and “Fuck off Satanists!” while the fanatical Christians winced and slogged on, as if through the muck of Hell, looking like they expected to be clawed by wildcats and sodomized by baboons at any moment.

As the Reverend Bile dragged his cross of righteousness up the Golden Mile, the mob of gays screamed pink-murder from the sidelines and became so riotous the ‘Gay Committee’ wheeled out a platoon of robotic Gay Marshals who ran about in a tizzy with red arm-bands like tourniquets on their upper arms cutting off the blood to their brains, trying to quell the hysteria and control their fellow fags. Arthur had stood grumbling and screeching amidst the tumultuous crowd for an hour and was growing bored and restless. He wandered out onto the road to catch a glimpse of the approaching cavalcade of black and white sour-pusses. An overweight, effeminate man, who in less polite circles would be called a fat queen, dressed in tight denim jeans and check-flannel shirt with requisite red arm-band of petty authority, rushed up to him and breathlessly squealed for him to get back on the footpath.

Arthur blew marijuana smoke in his face and told him to “Fuck-off” and the poor, plump fairy, swelling fit to burst his torn denims, lisped dire consequences if Arthur didn’t comply with an authorized Gay Marshal’s directives. Arthur tugged the red arm-band off the spluttering queen and tied it around his head, guerrilla warrior fashion and the terrified Marshal ran off to squeal his lament of humiliation to some black-leather-clad superiors who stood in a huddle outside the Oxford Hotel. Arthur saw their faces screw up in distaste and then peruse the crowd with narrow, piggy eyes looking for the culprit and he thought it prudent to melt back into the flailing morass of outraged poofs and dykes.

A handsome young man had witnessed the whole exchange and he clapped Arthur on the back and laughed whole-heartedly at the Marshal’s discomfort, whisking the red bandanna off Arthur’s head and waving it about in the air, hooting, “How I love a rebel!” The guy’s rugged good-looks, jovial nature and muscular build caught Arthur’s attention and he distracted himself with the adoration of masculine youth for awhile until the real action got abreast of them. They blathered on to each other about liberty and equality, rebellion and population control and Arthur couldn’t help but get sucked into the spunky guy’s bright mien. They both boiled with fury and contempt at the rotten guts of the Rev. Bile to insult and damn them on their home turf while Gay Marshals manipulated the oppressed masses into compliance. He swore at the Gay Marshals barking orders of restraint, then declared to his new mate that he’d like to do something really outrageous to put the wind up the medieval moral minority and the young man agreed it would be a thrill to somehow stick the finger to the uptight anti-fun brigade that was fast marching upon them.

Arthur flipped through his wish-list of fancied heroic acts and quickly lit upon his much dreamed of desire to kiss a young man in public, at that time an audacious, homo-erotic ‘no-no’, the denial of which freedom had always irked him and he knew that it made the strait-laced bigots cringe in nauseous disgust.

“Let’s jump in front of the bad Reverend’s posse and have a wicked pash, you know, like a kiss-in. That’ll shit them!” suggested Arthur in a mad moment of mischievous glee, only half seriously. But the young rascal took him at his foolhardy word and punched his fist into the air, “Yeah, let’s do it! A kiss-in, right in their face, too much, I’m with you!” He gave Arthur another of his cheerful slaps on the back, only this time it was more like a shove and it propelled him through the crowd towards the open road. Arthur thought himself quite the daring outsider with the incisive political critique and thus was willing to indulge in his fantasy of the gay rebel and go along with any hair-brained happening for the fun of it, especially if there was a good-looking guy to impress in the process. 

The Rev. Bile’s army of paranoid repressives stomped through the roaring gay melee with two cops on horses and a police car in the lead, the raving Reverend with the messianic complex marching directly behind the cruising car like a Nazi general protected behind his tank. Arthur and new-found compatriot hovered on the edge of the gutter as the Christians' perverse parade bulldozed its menacing way into their immediate foreground.

As the Pigs on horseback seemed about to trample upon them, not quite thinking clearly about what he was doing, Arthur clutched his mate in a locked embrace and fell between the horses to stumble in front of the oncoming police car. As the crowd reached a crescendo of shrieking and roaring, the two gay men kissed passionately, deliriously, blindly, the cop car continuing its slow stalk, nudging the gay rebels till they fell upon the bonnet still grappling in their fervent kiss. While the crowd screamed like a burning choir in Hell the two police horses reared up in dismay, one on either side of the ardent couple as they wriggled in symbolic lust on the front of the cop car that relentlessly trundled on. Photographer’s light-bulbs flashed and TV camera lights frazzled the twilight air, lighting up the mad, baroque tableau in sharp, vivid color and Arthur felt the diamond-white burst of exultation that he’d long been addicted to fountain out of the top of his head. The nonplussed Reverend cowered behind the police car wondering what all the fuss was about and, deciding he was missing out on the action, the news reporters scrambled in and pushed the jaw-locked Arthur and friend off the car’s bonnet and down into the irate Christian monsters' maw.

The newshounds smelled blood and, getting more carried away than Arthur, tried to shove him right up against the glowering Reverend, Arthur’s elbow actually giving the old curmudgeon’s belly a poke. The reporters went into a feeding frenzy, hurling the nasty smoochers about, using them like a bowling ball to knock over the Christian skittles, the black-robed Reverend as the kingpin copping most of the battering as the Gay multitude bawled bloodcurdling encouragement.

Almost oblivious of the grand tussle ensuing, Arthur finally opened one eye to peep at what was going on and all he could see was the scowling mug of the much-crucified Reverend, square-set jaw dropped in consternation, beady eyes stabbing daggers into Arthur’s heart. He then took in the rest of the maelstrom, the ugly sneering faces of the reporters, the seething, shrieking Gay throng, the murderous intent of the Cops, the mortified, trembling nuns, the television cameras drinking it in, and reality dawned, he realized what a “real fucking idiot” he was making of himself. Throughout the stunt he’d been waiting for the police to manhandle him off to the torture chambers but seconds turned to infinity, nobody wanted a martyr, and the cops just glared in hatred from a distance. 

He broke off his fierce clinch, the two of them bouncing apart like newly-born anti-particles and soon lost to each other in the explosive void. As the vulpine news-whores jostled him and the nuns into a tumult, Arthur caught a glimpse of his ephemeral paramour disappearing back into the turbulent sea of excitable homosexuals, giving one last glance and cryptic smile over his shoulder, waving a fond farewell with the red bandanna as he did so.

Arthur got pushed aside by the flow as the dogged Christian army advanced onto Taylor Square where the Reverend Bile shouted a hasty prayer of exorcism above the collective wail of seven thousand banshees, banishing Satan to his nether regions. Before the troubled gay mob could tear them to pieces the god-struck Reverend, face glowing like Moses, wrapped up his black mass and disbursed his humorless followers, the smug Christian soldiers traipsing off in protective groups down side-streets, the unhappy gays left to gape at each other in frustration.

Just as Arthur was coming to his senses a reporter inserted his churlish mug into his field of view, growling, “What was that all about?”
“What did it fucking look like, dipstick? It was the kiss of life!” snarled Arthur, the bad-arse punk.
“Looked pretty bloody stupid to me”, retorted the cynical hack.
“You just got nothing to fight for”, sneered Arthur as he shoved his way into the swarming gay horde, leaving the bemused media to wrestle it out with the remaining Christians and gays.

Walking away from the scene of his devilish prank, while many faces were grinning and admiring, there were also grimaces of displeasure and tight, razor smiles, as if a few uptight queens were fuming, “Who does this upstart little fag think he is, Cherie Guevera?” He spotted a clutch of Gay Marshals clucking and tut-tutting, throwing him poisonous looks of indignation at his grandstanding, scene-stealing, disobedient histrionics. He crept warily past the Oxford Hotel with its complimentary gang of Gay VIPs in black leather out front who, on spotting him tip-toeing in and out of the generic gay crowd, branded him a “trouble-making nobody” with their pinched and narrowed laser eyes, then turning away to scheme about which committee to take-over and how much money there was up for  grabs.

He soon became just another amorphous poof amongst many and he thought he’d gotten away with it, no cops were following, no gay critics crunched him under foot and his tomfooleries seemed forgotten. But ice along his spine told him he’d made some unforgiving enemies out there in the restless, hungry human swamp that swirled thick as quicksand down the golden mile of Oxford Street.

He hurried home and in his squat that night just happened to be watching the news when an item about the afternoon’s debacle flashed on. There, in noxious well-lit color, was his ugly, craggy bald head mashed fiercely into the handsome face of the young stranger, tossed about while sucking face in a sea of yowling, threshing bodies, the scowl of the Reverend Bile glowering down at them from the background like a bilious bad moon rising, police horses rearing on either side as if it was a Randolph Scott Western. Arthur cringed at the hideous disparity of old debauching young captured on live television for the world to see, including his uptight mother. At the same time he and his friends had a good laugh over the absurd melodrama and refreshing, frightful bad taste the prank presented. Arthur giggled with embarrassed titillation every time he thought of the “magic kiss” that scourged the compassionate Reverend Bile and his thousand vigilante nuns, but the image chased him down the years in imitation of the curse of Dracula, for every time Gay Lib got a mention on the idiot box they flashed up as illustration ‘Nosferatu’ Arthur sucking the life out of a nubile youth in broad daylight, and it gave him the willies.  

For seven years after the first Gay Pride march in 1978 Arthur’s deranged art was proudly displayed in the Mardi Gras Arts Festivals and he thought himself a contributing member of a flourishing, caring community. Yet as time wore on he knew he’d put his foot in the wrong orifices, naively and on purpose, for he started getting rebuffed from the commercializing “gay scene”, and he fantasized that somewhere in the future certain dark powers would surely try to destroy him. He imagined that from the Reverend Bile’s exorcism on he had become Public Enemy Number 7 for he got knocked back from the few Gay cultural events he dared apply for and harassed by cops whenever he came into their purview.

The final severing of blood-ties came when his much slaved over opus “Virgin Beasts”, that madcap attempt at making a cheap, camp movie, was rejected from the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 1992. At the test screening he’d taken his lead actor with him, Simon Reptile, who, being ill with AIDS, might not get another chance to see the only feature film he’d ever starred in. They had to cow-tow to a black-suited straight called Gerry Handbag who’d snaffled the job of Grand Film Inquisitor and unbeknownst to Arthur hated Simon’s guts, them having had a bitch-fight in a nightclub way back when. He was fucked before he begun, five minutes into the first reel she pronounced the film wasn’t good enough, then jumped up and marched out, Arthur and Simon could go die in the gutter. He flashed that there was now a vast amount of money and power up for grabs at the Gay Mardi Gras gravy train and many Machiavellian careerists had pushed their way to the trough, including heterosexuals like her.

For good, bitchy measure the one film print he owned got badly scratched at the test screening and she didn’t even bother to ring him with a “thanks but no thanks”, leaving him to collect his nasty film in ignominy at the back door of the Academy Twin Cinema. There seemed no place for funky home-grown, homo Art in the supposed locally inspired festival, and the Australian gay artists that made up the cast and crew of  “Virgin Beasts” could melt back into the trash-bin of history because the film wasn’t sanctioned by a Mafia-like ‘Committee’ or had millions of dollars in production costs to make it slick.

Maybe he was simply too gauche, Aussie Z-grade and cartoon iconoclastic to swallow for the upper-class culture-vultures that always settle greedily upon any happening event, gay or straight. His movie did not have gays moaning about being treated less than zero, there were enough such films, his effort was about world issues that he thought gays should be concerned about, racism, pollution, nuclear war, corruption, a homo’s ironic sensibility underlying its trashiness. Whatever his flaws and failures, he wrote the Gay Mardi Gras Committee a heart-rending letter of disappointment over his film’s rejection, and announced that, “Henceforth I’m handing in my “Gay” badge, I want no longer to be considered a member of your precious fraternity. Money, power and elitism are obviously the real ethos fueling your grand bowel movement and you can all go fuck each others' narcissistic faces!”

(Years later in 1996, after his film had won the “Trashiest Film in the World” award in France, he was invited to the Gay Film Festival but only because the festival director, Gayle, was a fair-minded, progressive lesbian and an old acquaintance of his, connections being everything in this world. They put it on at ten o’clock of a Monday morning and no one came except for seven of his friends but it was better than nothing and he loved Gayle forever after for doing it for him. Oh yeah, the animated artwork in VB represented an Atlantis-like under-sea fallen civilization with mermaids, dolphins and variegated sea-life. A year after its showing at the GLBT Film Fest the Sleaze Ball had as its theme, "Atlantis", the artwork very similar to Arthur's, but it wasn't him who got the lucrative job.)

He was particularly sad about “Virgin Beasts” rejection because it was the swan-song of Simon Reptile who soon lay dying from AIDS in St. Vincents Hospice and it meant a lot for his artistic reputation to have his last performance seen by the community he adored. One of the Mardi Gras Committee leaders even sat by his bed to commiserate with his imminent mortality but didn’t have the guts to tell him that his artistic endeavors, what he’d lived for, had been repudiated from the festival. Arthur now considered “Gay Community” to be a bullshit term, gays could be as competitive, as ruthless, as elitist, power-mad and money-hungry as any conservative, bigoted heterosexual. It’s true the “community” did much for homo human rights and the care of AIDS sufferers, but if you were nobody, ugly, unfuckable, unconnected, poor, you got trampled in the big rush to celebrity paradise.

The long, long travail that led to the backdoor of the cinema seems to have always involved Arthur getting trounced, ripped, raped and rejected and he had no excuse except to say, "That’s the human race as I found it, flawed and unfair, fame and fortune worshiped beyond any god or altruism. People will kill to get ahead then lie to say it isn’t so, it’s an old, old story: everyone wants the lead CREDITS."

Somehow Arthur stayed alive throughout the ongoing holocausts visited upon homosexuals in the ‘Eighties and ‘Nineties, slogging on with his art, orgasmic and playing the fool. He avoided contracting AIDS by safe-sex practices, and he worked as a nurse in the AIDS ward of St. Vincents Hospice for several months and saw up close the horror and pain such a death incurred and, combing the hair of the corpses of young men to make them presentable to their wailing devastated families, he felt sick at heart, the life of a “gay” was hedged in by so many prejudices and dangers.
Yet he hoped to avoid becoming the classic unhappy Gay with suicide at the end of the rope waiting for him. He preferred to be an eternally laughing Zoofy, Zippie the Pinhead’s poofter brother, a fountain of mindless hilarity pouring out of his head, ever the libertarian, absurdist and mystified trickster. He saw the world as topsy-turvy, the baddies often turned out to be angels and the respected scions of society heinous villains; he was proud of his difference, it was good to be Queer.

And the Reverend Bile, voted into a State Parliament seat by a throng of reactionary bigots, would go on to be a partner in death with the Shooters’ Party and a good friend to casino moguls ripping off the hordes of gambling addicts. He also got to enjoy life with a young wife like some Biblical patriarch of old, a marriage of bliss he denied to gays, who could haunt the dark parks forever searching for love and acceptance, he didn't care about their suffering, the good Christian that he was. And Arthur, as one of the damned, had gone further in his sinning and dared challenge the gods, and a dark shadow spread its Satanic wings over his immediate future. How could a little man such as he escape the wrath of the gods?

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.