MF 2020
thought-provoking drama and fiction



    Full Length
        The Satyricon
        Volpone a new version

    One Act
        Casanova Dreaming

        Angel (m)
        Ben and Joe's (m)
        Los Feliz (m)
        Now We Are Pope (m)
        Sunset (f)
        Tadzio Speaks . . . (m)

    10 minutes
        The Report


Performing Rights


        The Butterfly's Wing

    Short Stories
        First and Fiftieth
        A Sense of Loss




Ben and Joe's
one-man play
"utterly convincing portraits of love" reviews

Produced: London 2013
Published*: Arbery Books 2016

"How well do you know those closest to you?"

Ben and Joe's began as a short story in my collection First and Fiftieth and was turned into a play for the trilogy Californian Lives. Set in the 1990s, the unnamed narrator remembers one summer when the lives of a group of older gay men were disrupted by the arrival of a newcomer.

Did you ever go to Ben and Joe's?

It was a reasonably popular bar in the Valley at the far end of Van Nuys, beyond the radar of the West Hollywood crowd. Mostly locals, although a few would come from as far away as Pasadena or Silverlake.

Performing rights
2013 poster
It wasn't everyone's idea of a trendy gay bar. I'm sure some people who drove up to the Art Deco front, with a tired flamingo on the door and peeling paint, did a quick u-turn, convinced that it held only a handful of solitary middle-aged men who no longer expected their prince to come.

They were wrong; most evenings the place was full. Twenty- to fifty-year-olds, half of whom had already found their prince and the other half too busy to look for him. Typical Valley men - supermarket managers and haulage contractors, IT technicians and flight attendants, and the inevitable studio wannabees, drinking, laughing, flirting and dancing till the early hours.

It wasn't my scene. I was one of the afternoon shift. We were the older generation who strolled in an hour or so after the daily routine of lunch, shopping or the gym. We'd perch on stools around the crescent-shaped bar, watch old films on the tv and pass judgement on politicians, film stars and anyone else in the day's news. Our favorite game was encouraging Richard, the impossibly handsome twenty-three year old barman, to invent outrageous cocktails. We would stay until the early evening, when we were surrounded by more strangers than acquaintances and the door swinging open showed that the last of the stores across the road had closed. Then by ones or by twos we drained our glasses and returned home to a lover, a pet or a memory.

We seldom saw our hosts: Ben was an antique dealer of the same vintage as ourselves; Joe, fifteen years younger, had been a farm boy in Indiana. The bar was their abandoned child. The counter was chipped, the carpet thin and the restrooms occasionally smelled. Richard and the night manager saw to immediate repairs, but promised improvements never materialized. No money, Joe would tell us on his infrequent visits. We reminded him that money had to be spent if money was to be earned; he nodded absently and nothing changed.

We didn't care. All we asked was air-conditioning, cold beer, ice in our liquor and Richard behind the bar. From Louisiana, six foot, well-proportioned, with an accent that we loved and he could not lose, he flirted routinely with every man. We had each propositioned him once and each been politely rebuffed; we were content thereafter to sit and listen to tales of crazy acting teachers, casting agencies that promised Universal Studios and delivered pornographic films, and muscular twenty-nine year olds who calmly pocketed his affection before climbing into their Jeeps and riding back over the Hollywood Hills. One day, we assured him, he would find love and stardom, but, we privately hoped, not soon.

Then one day, when the sky was gray and the wind was dry, a reminder of a time when the streets outside had once been desert, four or five of us were in the bar when the door opened and Christopher came in alone. Had we seen Jack? he asked. No, we hadn't. Did we know where he might be? No we didn't. The boy was on edge. Jack's cell was switched off and he was not at home or his one-man office. We asked what the urgency was. If Steve had been there, or perhaps Eddie, Christopher might have replied, but confronted by older men who usually treated him with disdain and suspicion, he only shook his head and left. As the door swung to behind him, we saw him standing on the sidewalk, looking left and right as if not knowing where to go, what to do, as if the future scared him.

* Californian Lives, which includes the script of Ben and Joe's, is out of print.
A pdf of the script is available for 1.

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