Halloween On Polk Street
by Glenda Glayzer
It was Halloween on Polk Street in San Francisco. In the late 70s it was the most fun people who pretended to be grown up could have anywhere in the world. I'm sure of it. There were gay boys impersonating nuns on roller-skates, and more of them wearing leather chaps and nothing else except matching leather motorcycle hats. It was a mob scene with wine and beer and whiskey drunk from brown paper bags by straight couples walking arm in arm up and down the clogged famous street to see the freaks. (That would be us.)
I was a celebrity in a small town (you know, The City is only three some-odd square miles in area); working in the still-running and monstrously successful musical revue called Beach Blanket Babylon. People I met always wanted to know if I, too, were gay, and every gay woman I knew told me, "You just haven't found the right woman."
Sadly, I was straight. I say "sadly" because finding a straight unmarried man in San Francisco at that period in history was almost impossible. As my father never tired of saying, "They don't call California the land of fruits and nuts for nothing."
After World War II brought the troops home, there had begun a frantic search for a place to belong, an escape from the smothering small-town mentality of the 50s. I don't know how we knew, but over the next two decades, every self-designated misfit who could get there, migrated to California. It became world famous as a place where people didn't look into your bedroom window. It was a place where people allowed other people just to "be".
The minute I arrived in San Francisco, I breathed a sigh. I was home. I could tell. The more I got to know them, the more I realized that those wonderful child-like sweet people were the most pure of heart people I knew, and I loved being with them. I loved their playfulness and the joy they insisted on extracting from lives the rest of the world called abomination.
I worked late into the night, doing eight shows a week, so I rarely went out on my nights off. I didn't and still don't like crowds, but my best friend Rob showed up at my door that All-Hallows Eve, dressed as a tourist, wearing funny plaid pants and a floppy hat with plane tickets sticking out of his shirt pocket. He wanted us to go out and have some fun on Polk Street.
"There's a party at my friend's apartment on Polk so we can just go and sit in the apartment and look out over the street. Carol (Doda) is going to be there."
For those too young to remember, Carol Doda was the first woman to become famous from having her size 34 breasts injected with silicon, making them into "twin 44s" and "the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco." She was also the first famous topless dancer in the United States.
"I don't have a costume. I don't want to go. Pleeeeese don't make me go out." What a whiner I was! But I was never good at sticking to saying no, so Rob and I pawed through my meager closet. I had a floor-length fake mink coat we thought would look "touristy" enough to go with his costume. Then my imagination went into high gear. I pulled on some spray-painted red boots, a long wig and my green polka-dotted bikini bottom. Wearing my mink coat, I draped myself over Rob's arm and out the door we went. Party!
It was an adventure clawing our way through the masses of people to where we were going, but well worth the effort. The party was in full swing when we arrived and Carol was, indeed, in attendance. I'm not good at parties because I always want to talk about things nobody else is interested in, so I usually find a quiet spot to sit and sip and watch the other people have fun. I tried that for a while, but then I saw that there was a fire escape and people from the party were standing out there looking down on the parade of revelers. Now that looked like fun even to me, so I joined them. Eventually it got too cold for most, and it was small fire escape, so I found myself alone. I was thinking about Carol and what she did for a living and then I decided to do something I'd always wanted to do, but never had.
I assumed an elegant stance, took a deep breath, and opened my coat.
At first nobody noticed, but soon somebody looked up and saw me. One person told another, and then another and soon there was yelling and then applause. I began to get better at being a flasher, closing my coat and then slowly opening it. The applause got louder and the crowd got bigger. I got more applause from opening my coat and baring my breasts than I got from singing on the stage at work in Beach Blanket Babylon. What a revelation!
Eventually, I got tired of the scene and "closed up" for the night. Rob and I toddled on home and I thought the whole thing, though fun, was over. Surprise! The next time I showed up for call time at work, the producer of the show told me he'd heard about the flasher from six blocks away and he proudly showed me a picture of myself, standing half-naked on the fire escape on Polk Street, coat open wide. He had cut it out of the Berkley Barb newspaper and wanted me to have it for my scrapbook.
Halloween has never been the same.
Bio: Born Glenda Bell in July of 1945, she spent her early years as a musical prodigy. She made her first record at the age of 13, singing with her parents and siblings (The Bell Family Gospel Singers). Married at 18 to John Glayzer, she moved with him to Europe in 1965. There she began her professional stage career in the Nuremberg and Vienna opera houses, doing American Musicals in the German Language. Returning to the United States in 1974, she was cast as an original member of the longest running musical review in the world, Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco, California. Over the years, she has added many skills to her career bag including sculpting, painting, photography, sound recording, writing and culinary arts certification. For the past decade, she's been designing and building websites while continuing to write articles and fiction for various online sites.
by Gene Fehler
"All I want for my birthday is a pet," Lester said, two weeks before his tenth birthday. "Maybe a dog."
"A pet?" his father grunted.
"That's one thing you can be damn sure you ain't getting." He scooped a second helping of mashed potatoes on his plate and drowned the pile with gravy.
"My God, a dog. You don't even do your chores now without being reminded ten times a day. You couldn't handle a dog. Hell, if you had a goldfish, the miserable son of a bitch would probably drown."
He chuckled at this, but Lester turned away so his father couldn't see the tears.His father never changed his mind, and Lester's mother was no help. She did what her husband said, never questioning. Not out loud, at least.
So nothing much changed in the next fifteen years.
As his twenty-fifth birthday neared, the three of them continued to occupy the same house -- Lester in an upstairs bedroom, his mother and father downstairs. Lester had a job he went to during the day -- stocking groceries at a nearby supermarket -- and a computer and TV he spent most of his evening hours with.
But he had no pet to feed, to cuddle, to talk to in hours of long silence, to share what little he knew of love. The morning of Lester's twenty-fifth birthday, he was awakened by a scratching on his bedroom door. It was, at last, his pet! It had to be. It sounded much like the sound a dog might make trying to get someone to open a closed door.
Of course, it could be a cat -- possibly a long-haired beauty. Maybe a Siamese with slanted eyes. He smiled at the thought of a cat so skinny it might be sucked down the bathtub drain if he tried to bathe it.
He considered other possibilities -- a panda, a lizard, a hamster, a porcupine. A porcupine's needles might be a problem, but he could live with that. Any pet would do; he'd waited a lifetime.
He flung open the door. A fluttering of shadowy wings and a whirling mass of blackness paused in mid-air, then flew from him. The mass flapped into the screened window at the end of the hall. It ripped through the screen and fluttered into the pinkish dawn sky. Lester ran to the end of the hallway and looked outside, but the mass of fluttering wings was nowhere to be seen.
He wondered what the mass of black had been. It had been much too large to be a bat. And because the mass surely wasn't human, Lester wondered at the source of the word which had been whispered in the hallway the second he'd opened the door.
Lester's parents never came upstairs anymore to intrude on Lester's part of the house, so he knew the word that hung in the empty air could not have come from them. Nor could it have come from his clock-radio, which would not come on for another twenty minutes, the same time it automatically came on every morning.
Lester chilled at the thought: there was only one possible source of the word that still echoed in the early morning air.
The word spoke to him of all the love he'd missed out on, of all the love stories he'd seen on TV, the kind of stories he knew he would not ever be the romantic lead in.
He'd heard that sad, lonely word once before, in a story or poem or legend or myth or TV cartoon -- he couldn't remember which. That haunting word – “Nevermore.”
Bio: Gene Fehler enjoys playing 80 or so baseball and softball games a year, writing, collecting and reading books, and walking his and his wife Polly’s two toy poodles in Seneca, SC. For information about Gene and his publications, see www.genefehler.com.