ME & JOE
This is about my bizarre life. It is possible you might
not find my life bizarre at all, but you will need to
decide that for yourself. Like my life, my story is presented
in an unusual format full of twists and turns
and unexpected detours. My mind tends to jump
around in time, as most minds do, and I have allowed
it to follow its path. It may seem erratic at times, but
like a jigsaw puzzle all the pieces fit together and
when it is finished you will see the whole picture.
From as far back as I can remember I have always
been considered different. I have heard the phrase
“You’re very different,” over and over again and felt
it in the instant wary distance from strangers. Sometimes
I would ask, “Why do you think I’m different?
What do you mean?” and they would answer “I don’t
know. You’re just different.” Truth be told, I would
have to admit that I felt the difference too. I knew I
was separate from them, but I did not know why. I
still feel a separation from people while being completely
comfortable with animals. As a child, when
people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up
my immediate answer was always, “I want to be a
hermit.” That reply usually surprised people and
stopped the conversation in its tracks. The idea of living
in a cabin in the woods far from people with only
animals as friends still seems so appealing, but life
had other ideas which led me to have a great affinity
for the unwanted outcasts of world, perhaps because
I am one.
Do you wonder who I am? Do you want to know
what happened to me? Then let’s get started....
The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen was a guy
named Joe. We met in a musical theater production of
Affair Exchange at the Playhouse Theater in San Francisco
which was located next door to the Buena Vista
Bar, the birthplace of Irish Coffee. Joe played a Mod
and I played a hooker with a heart of gold. You know
the old story. I was often cast as a hooker, the plight of
a female blessed with a good figure. Still, it was a job
and far better than my previous job of scanning the
obituaries for people who had donated their eyes to
Joe and I quickly became fast friends. He had just
arrived in San Francisco from his family home in Mt.
Diablo. He was new to the city and excited by its possibilities
and at having finally reached the age where
he could leave home without running away. When I
say he was gorgeous, I am not exaggerating. He was
tall, slim and had natural platinum blonde hair, turquoise
eyes and amazing skin. I think I envied his
skin more than anything because I had battled terminal
acne since I was nine. We had been given strict
instructions by AJ, the play’s director, not to leave
the theater when we were in costume, but Joe and I
found a little known back door so we could sneak out
and go to the Buena Vista for the famous Irish Coffee
minus whiskey, and a whopping plate of their crispy
french fries, always managing to sneak back in time
for our cues. AJ and the play’s writer, whose name
escapes me, had taken two years meeting in parking
lots to write Affair Exchange. Some wealthy and possibly
misguided angels had put up the cash to produce
it. Amazingly, it ran for several months, during which
time Joe’s and my friendship grew. The play only ran
on weekends which gave us both an opportunity to
work on other projects.
I worked as a band singer at several different clubs.
Joe got a gig as a female impersonator at the Fantasy.
He invited me to see him on my lone night off and
he was amazing. He did Jean Harlow and you would
swear you were looking at a reincarnation. He was
also perfecting Marilyn Monroe. He did not lip synch.
He was talented enough to sing, dance and act well so
the illusion was complete. Basically, he blew the other
drag queens out of the water in his white satin 1930s
gown with his natural blonde hair styled to match the
The days passed with both of us working, rehearsing,
performing and running to auditions. Still we found
time to meet for lunch, or take a walk at one of my favorite
places, eerie and desolate Fort Point at the base
of the Golden Gate Bridge.
We were at a cast party where Joe was trying to teach
me to do the Temptation Walk, when he told me he
had met a man who was very nice to him, an older
guy but very handsome. Joe had moved into his lavish
home which had spectacular views. One morning
as I was vacuuming, the Beatles came on the radio doing
Day in the Life. It was the first time I heard it and I
was riveted. I had never heard anything like it before.
It totally blew me away so much so that I barely heard
the phone ringing. I grabbed the receiver. It was Joe.
He was happily jabbering away about how much his
life had changed since leaving Mt. Diablo and how his
parents had warned him about coming to the City but
he was so glad he hadn’t listened to them. I was still
distracted by the music so I was only half listening,
but we agreed to meet for lunch in a couple of days so
we could have a good talk.
I went to meet him but he didn’t show up. That was
very unlike him. He always kept his word and I was a
little worried. I would have phoned him but he hadn’t
given me his new address so I had no way of contacting
him as this was long before cell phones became
everyone’s obsession. Two days passed and still no
word. Then I saw it in the morning newspaper, not a
headline, but discreetly tucked away on page three.
The body of a young man dressed as a woman had
been found in the men’s room at Golden Gate Park.
Witnesses said he had been beaten to death by several
men dressed in army camouflage. The news was
shocking yet somehow expected. Joe was nineteen.
The police never found his murderers. They never