photo of the day 12/5/2011 photo © Mark I Chester
photograph of Andrew Charles, child psychiatrist, future owner of Drummer Magazine and partner of Tony DeBlase, 9/1980.
I know when this photograph was taken. Well, not the exact day, but the month and the year. I know it because it was September 1980 in front of my apartment on Brush Place, the same apartment that burned during the Folsom St. Fair less than a year later. It was my 30th birthday and Andy was my 30th birthday present. I had met Andy some months before in the apartment of Alexis Sorel when he and his partner Tony DeBlase were visiting San Francisco. That night resulted in an amazing story all its own, but it will have to wait for its time "upon the stage."
Andy, who was living in Chicago at that time, came out for my 30th birthday, for whatever I wanted to do. So first, I covered all the windows to block out the sun because I wanted to create a Las Vegas type environment, in the sense that there is no time, only non-stop gambling. Except in this case it was a non-stop leathery fantasy.
So what is Andy doing in a wheelchair? Well, I knew Andy. And while we lived in different socio-economic worlds, I knew that eating and eating out were as important to Andy as sex. So I created this scene, although Andy had no idea what we were doing. I put a rope harness on him, and I had him put on the three piece suit that I asked him to bring for the long weekend. I rented a wheelchair and called Trader Vics, then a popular upscale SF restaurant, and told them that it was a friend of mine's birthday and he had been in an accident. As a result of the accident, my friend had his head bandaged and was in a wheelchair. I wanted them to be forewarned so that it wouldn't be a surprise when we showed up. I then bandaged Andy's head so that his eyes were covered and walked him down the stairs of my building and out front. I got the wheelchair and we waited. A cab finally came to pick us up.
When we got to the restaurant, I got out and alerted the staff that we were there. It turns out that Trader Vics had a staircase out front and there was no way for anyone in a wheelchair to get into the restaurant. So they took Andy and his wheelchair and rolled him in the back way, past stacks of garbage, and then into the kitchen itself with multi-national cooks cooking up a storm, including flashes of fire exploding from cooks flambeing food items. The kitchen was narrow and hot, it seemed like the cooks were speaking in tongues and I got this flash of something burning being flipped into Andy's lap at which point, of course, he would bolt out of the wheelchair. I was prepared to say: "Milagro! (miracle in Spanish) He can walk! He has been healed!" which of course would start a religious fanatic cult who believed that they saw Jesus in the grease that dripped down the side of a stove in the kitchen. Luckily, none of that happened.
We got to our table and first I had to read Andy the menu, which was fine. But he made me read every item in the menu of a multi page menu. And then out of all of that, he chose something that had to be cut off the bone and then dipped in a sauce. Andy was no sexual wallflower. He gave as good as he got. He figured that if I was going to feed him, then I was going to damn well feed him. And I did. At the end of the meal, because I had told Trader Vics that it was his birthday, they brought out a cupcake with a single candle in it and placed it in front of him. A couple of the staff sang one of those horrible restaurant Happy Birthday songs while everyone in the restaurant stared at us. They had looked before this, but this time they had a legitimate reason to stare. Now this was bizarre and I could barely stop from laughing. I mean his head was bandaged, he was sitting in a wheelchair and couldn't see the rather sad looking cupcake with its single candle and strips of too old coconut and stale jimmies on top. Plus, it was my birthday!
Let's just say that it was a memorable scene. We finally got home, including the entire arrival scene in reverse, going thru the kitchen again, past garbage and finally back to a cab. When the cab dropped us off, we just couldn't stop laughing. I had wanted to do something that tapped into his personal interests, but to flip it around so that he was forced to experience it from a totally new angle. Andy said that he had even learned something from the experience, but I knew that I had twisted his head. Took him out of his comfort zone and gave him a totally new experience, one worthy of an intelligent, kinky mind.
It was after that trip that I started to call Andy, forever friend. Later I discovered that we meant different things by it, but at that moment in time, we felt very close. It was painful to uncover the windows and take Andy to the airport and send him back to his *real* life. It took us both some time to come back to reality. It was a wonderful birthday gift. My last moment of youthful indiscretion and innocence. In retrospect, how simple, how easy, how effortless this seemed compared with the firestorm to come.