Tag Archives: Lou Reed

Variations on a Most Lovely Theme

Do you notice how sometimes when you’re sick, you wake up and think, Hey I feel lots better today, and so you try to do a million things only to make yourself 10 times sicker than you were even the day before?

That was me yesterday. But because of that, I spent a lot of really spacey, sort of drug-induced dreaminess in bed this morning because I was incapable of doing anything else but just lie there for 5 hours, trying to drink coffee.

And I was thinking about my Lou Reed birthday post from yesterday, and thinking about that song Walk on the Wild Side and how much it meant to me when I was growing up, and how songs like that literally  helped get me to NYC – helped me find my way there.

I moved there when I was 20, in 1980, thinking I would stay one year and then move to L.A. But once I got to New York, it was like everything I ever dreamed life was supposed to be, and also a whole lot worse. So I stayed there for nearly 30 years.

I think of those years in NYC as “my life” and everything that came afterwards as basically just the stuff I need to do before I die. Well, I did fall in love recently and that might change things, change my take on the world. It’s too soon to know for sure but I guess we’ll see.

Anyway.  Loyal readers of this lofty blog know that pretty much the very instant I moved to NYC, I fell in love with an older man who turned out to be a hitman for the Mob and then I launched myself headlong into a pregnancy with him that devastated me. And in the middle of all that, John Lennon was killed, and he was truly one of my girlhood heroes.  All of this was, literally, within a month of my moving to NYC. Once you get NYC into your veins like that — and it was so easy to do back then; it was a whole other world then — you just can’t get it out of your system, really. I became a New Yorker, like, overnight.

In the mid-1980s, I joined the Visiting Nurse Services of NY as a volunteer, because of the AIDS crisis going on back then. I went into the homes of people in the last stages of AIDS and tried to help make their lives easier in anyway they needed until they died, which was usually right away. By the time they sent someone like me into someone’s home, it was sort of the death knell.

THEM: “You’re not a nurse.”

ME: “No, I’m not.”

THEM: “Who are you?”

ME: “I’m just here to help you with whatever you need from now on.”

One of my patients was an aging black pimp up in Harlem, who had this amazing apartment straight out of the 1920s, and a wife who was still working as a prostitute, who was part black and part Chinese, who looked & dressed like an aging dragon lady. (Yes, folks, from that slice of my reality, my now classic erotic novella Neptune & Surf was born.) That particular patient – a pimp who kept his wife turning tricks until the final moment – only wanted me to read to him from the Bible, which I did, until he died.

Another patient of mine lasted for quite a few months when they assigned me to him.  I was 27 at the time. You know, this kind of work is very confidential.  However, not only was this over 30 years ago, the patient’s Significant Other mentioned me at the funeral, so that was public, and so now I feel I want to go public, too.

That particular patient was the photographer, Peter Hujar. A gentle, warm, lovely man. A very talented photographer who documented so much of the NYC I lived in — and had gone to NYC to experience in the first place.  He had some truly famous, and infamous, photos framed and mounted on the walls of his modest apartment.

I bring all this up in connection to Lou Reed’s song, Walk on the Wild Side, because Peter Hujar took some iconic photos of men and drag queens from that era, including the men Lou sang about in that song.

When Peter first let me into his apartment that first day, I looked at all those photos hanging there on the walls and was stunned. I said, “Did you take all of these? I know these photos.” They were truly part of my life.

He was already so fragile by then, even though he would live a couple more months. But that day, he said to me, “You’re just perfect, you know that? I apologize for being so sick.”  In the early days of the AIDS crisis, the patients were basically treated like they were radioactive, because the disease was not understood yet but it was killing everybody. Most people back then would not get near anyone who was known to have AIDS. It was hard for the nurses to find enough volunteers. For some reason, I never had a fear of being around them. I saw them as people who needed help while they were dying and that fear was never going to be the right response when anyone needed help while they were dying.

Below are a couple photos Peter Hujar took. Click on them and they get larger. I’m guessing he also took photos of Holly Woodlawn, Joe Dallesandro, and the Sugar Plum Fairy (Joe Campbell), but you’d have to google all that.

Candy Darling on her deathbed. I saw this photo in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Random Notes when I was 14. At the time, I simply could not believe that she was a man. I never forgot this photo and I was stunned to learn that Peter was the photographer who had taken it.
Jackie Curtis at his own funeral in 1985. Another photo I saw long before I met Peter Hujar.
One of Peter Hujar’s self-portraits. This one is from 1976, 4 years before I moved to NYC. He looked pretty much exactly like this when I met him 11 years later, although he was painfully thin by then.

Yesterday, when I posted about how the song Walk on the Wild Side helped shape my life, making me who I am, I meant it on so many levels. Even though I’m almost 60 now, those very early days of mine in NYC seem like they truly happened just yesterday.

I’m not sure why so many gay men, drag queens, heroin addicts, gay alcoholic poets and painters, had such an enormous influence on who I was and who I became as a writer and as a woman, but they really did. A song like Walk on the Wild Side is part of my DNA now.

And I think that when people in Toronto (and sooner or later NYC), finally see the one-woman show I’ve been working on for 5 years now with Sandra Caldwell about her own life (The Guide to Being Fabulous), you’ll agree that the two of us meeting at all was pure destiny from the word go.

I was totally born to do this, to help bring her incredible story to the stage.  My play, Tell My Bones, about the painter Helen LaFrance that I wrote for Sandra, is a beautiful piece of theater that I want to share with the world. But being part of a play like The Guide to Being Fabulous is why I was born.

Better than Yesterday

And sometimes that’s all I can ask for, right? That today is better than yesterday.

I’m still sick but nowhere near as bad as I felt before.  (Plus, it’s good to know that you’re never too old to throw up! That’s sure some good news!)

I’m struggling to at least get my voice back because I have a conference call with someone in L.A. in 3 hours. As of right now, I cannot talk. So we”ll see how that goes.

It would have been Lou Reed’s birthday today, had he remained alive, which he did not. But, hence, the photo at the top there.

I really loved Lou Reed so much. What a songwriter. When I think of all the later songs he did that were just so good, I tend to forget absolute gems like Walk on the Wild Side. I do not want to forget gems like Walk on the Wild Side. I don’t want to be in a world where a song like that doesn’t exist anymore. It helped shape the person I became. And as difficult as that can be for me to digest on some days, most of the time, I really like the person I became.

My daddy cat is feeling lots better today, too. He’s frisky and back to being his naughty self.  So I guess that’s good.

I had better dreams last night, too. And I awoke feeling like I was able to forgive just about everybody. There’s a few key people that I don’t forgive so much as I just sigh and say, whatever, and move on because the degree to which they need to be perpetually forgiven astounds me.

Oh, and I forgave myself. Mostly for being too trusting, and for being too quick to always blame myself.  You know, sometimes other people are wrong. It may seem like a no-brainer for you to figure out, but it’s taken me a lifetime to understand that.  That sometimes the other person is just genuinely up to no good and they know it and I need to just accept that I can be too gullible.

I mentioned this guy back in December – JosephJames.  He’s a professional reader in London and he is just so good. He really helped me again last evening, on Instagram.  He pulled the worst card in the tarot deck: the 10 of swords. I hate that card. But his take on it was so  cool. “It’s time to take the knife out of your own back and put on your wings.”

Image result for 10 of swords

He said this based on the sunrise in the background.  That 10 swords in the back is just overkill already;  get up and start a new day.  He said to put on your angel wings and just be your own angel, and accept the apology for yourself that you were never given.

So early this morning, around 5am, I was finally able to forgive certain people because I decided to accept their apology — the ones they never actually gave me. Just forgive and move on. And I’m gonna try like hell to look at all of this in a different light that somehow sublimates me and takes away my victimhood.

(I’m being alerted that “victimhood” is not an actual word, gang, but whatever. On we go.)

Okay, I need to go back to bed until my conference call. So I’m outta here. Have a terrific Saturday, folks, wherever it takes you.  Thanks for being here. I love you!! See ya.

Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.
Candy came from out on the island,
In the backroom she was everybody’s darling,
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She sayes, hey baby, take a walk on the wild side
Said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
And the colored girls go,
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City is the place where they said:
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side
Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
Lookin’ for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo
You should have seen him go, go, go
They said, hey Sugar, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side, alright, huh
Jackie is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
Valium would have helped that bash
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side
And the colored girls say
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Songwriters: Lou Reed
Walk on the Wild Side lyrics © 1972 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Another one from Hell’s Kitchen!

You mean there are more??!!

Why yes, there are more! Plenty more! All I used to do back then (in Hell’s Kitchen in NYC) was write songs. (If you’re viewing this on your phone, you have to turn your phone sideways to view this.)

Sadly, this song featured today, LOU, is one of my favorites but this is the worst demo ever of this song! However, it’s the only demo of it that I have in a digital format.

Lou Reed was one of my heroes and I wrote this song about Lou Reed. Back when I wrote this song, in 1984, I was taking a songwriting class taught by another one of my heroes, Jim Carroll. The two men were extremely close friends, and so Lou actually got to hear this song. I have no idea if he liked it or not. All I know is that the demo Lou Reed got to hear of this song was one million times better than this one, and so for that I am grateful!

The one he got to hear was of course made on the 4-track in my bedroom. It was me, my guitar, a bass player and some percussion, which was how I performed it live.

This awful demo posted here was actually made in a huge 24-track studio, wherein my opinion mattered not one iota. Oh, those heady days!! I don’t miss them at all…

Anyway, at least enjoy the lyrics, gang! Thanks for visiting. I love you!! See ya!!!

Lou Reed 1978
Jim Carroll, late 1970s