The Voodoo Ray
I find it painful to wake up early. I have never been a morning person. I never quite knew what to do with myself in the morning. All those shiny happy people bopping around. Night time always seemed so much cooler. For as long as I can remember, and definitely since I was very small, I have been a night owl. I very rarely saw Saturday morning cartoons as a child, maybe ten times. I was far more interested in the late night programming on a Friday night. It was ok though, because when I woke up on a Saturday, usually mid day, all of the weird live action shows like Land Of The Lost and Space 1999 were just coming on.
As I started to follow the club kid cavalcade around every night, it became an increasingly difficult task to wake up for my clerical job at Kumagai Gumi, but I would drag myself in there, hung over and bleary eyed. It’s not easy to understand a Japanese person who speaks no English, even when you’re not hungover. The kids were at one club this night, another club the next. I kept seeing the curious girl from The World around. One night I finally mustered the courage to sit down next to her. I introduced myself. She was very shy. She said her name was Jerry Hall. After a few moments of talking to her, I realized that she was a transvestite(her actual name was David). I was always very secure about my sexuality. I mean, I was way into girls. I had plenty of opportunities to seize the moment if I were gay, and I certainly would have seized it. I always thought it would have made life so much easier in some ways, and way more complicated in others. I was always envious of how cavalier it was for my gay friends to hook up. A nod. A wink. An unspoken language. They just got down to it. Wherever they happened to be when the connection was made. But there were other aspects to their lifestyle that seemed always to cause them pain. Especially in those days. I had a great affinity for their world. The humor, the flamboyance, the camaraderie. But I just wasn’t into it physically. This creature, however, was compelling and I couldn’t explain it, even to myself. This weird, distorted, dark taboo. She was somehow MORE feminine than a true female. It was exaggerated. Amplified. I was intrigued by it. We became friends. But I couldn’t pull the trigger physically. I was torn. She was my entree into the center of the club world, and she introduced me to everyone: Armen Ra, Kenny Kenny, Sticky Vicky(Victoria Bartlett), Bella Bolski, Julie Jewels. Goldyloxx and Janet Planet. Fuchsia and Harlequin. Ru Paul and Lahoma Van Zandt. John Black Beauty. I was making exciting, colorful, exotic new friends, and every night was an incredible improvisation. We were having a great time. I was going deeper into the subculture every day. And eventually, one night, she suggested that we take ecstasy together. By this time, I was feeling left out that I wasn’t doing it. And so we did it. I will never forget being on the dance floor and hearing A Guy Called Gerald’s “Voodoo Ray” as the drug hit me. To this day, that song has a very specific sensory recall for me. It transports me back to that moment, when I was hearing music, seeing light, feeling my space in the universe in a whole new way. I fell in love with this magical substance immediately and I used it at every opportunity.
Most of the other kids lived in a series of various pseudo-squats throughout downtown. The routine went like this: you got enough money together to get a lease, and maybe paid rent for the first few months, and then simply stopped paying until the landlord was able to legally evict you. There was a reckless, care-free, communal feeling to it all. We shared everything: food, drugs, and most certainly, the all important wardrobe. In those days, only a very few people made money off of the party business, so mostly everyone was broke. And those who did work invested their money exclusively into partying, so they were broke too. There was a lot of DIY fashion. A lot of kids who went to F.I.T.(Fashion Institute of Technology) would make clothes for themselves and others. Or you could shoplift. And of course there was vintage. The clothes by the designers that we celebrated were highly coveted. I was still holding onto my day job, so I was able to contribute a lot to the situation. Soon I had a diverse new wardrobe of Stephen Sprouse, Vivienne Westwood, and the like. You might take your new jacket off at someone’s after-hours house party, put on a different one, and subsequently watch yours rotate through the scene on different people for a couple of months. And maybe you got it back. Maybe not.
I wasn’t really getting any acting work. I kept coming close, but was just missing the mark. I was a little weird. A little left of center. A little intense. They couldn’t find a place where I fit in. As I started to feel like I DID fit in to this new, immediately gratifying night culture, my focus fell less and less on acting. One casting director, Howard Feuer, had really taken a liking to me. He was bringing me in for things, and I kept showing up. Among them was “Dead Poet’s Society”. The audition went really well, and I got called back twice. It came down to myself and another kid for the role, but they ended up going with the other guy.
I had been living on the upper west side in a giant apartment share with 3 very sensible young upwardly mobile roommates. I was spending more and more time crashing downtown, returning uptown only to retrieve clothes here and there. In the weeks after the Dead Poet’s audition, I had spent a long stretch downtown partying. Upon returning to the upper west side, I found that the community message board at the apartment was jammed with urgent messages from my agent, who had called repeatedly over the weekend, which was very unusual. I finally called her back, but it was too late. Apparently the kid who they had hired for the role I was up for had been fired a few days into shooting. They had frantically tried to reach me to go immediately to Pennsylvania to replace him. Another actor whom my agent represented, Al Ruggiero, ended up playing the role. He answered his phone. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to watch that film. Had I gotten that message, so many things might be different today. I don’t know if I consciously thought about it at the time, but this whole event seemed to fuel my desire to escape reality, to go deeper into the night.
And so I went…