Justin's Life...

~ December 1999 ~
~ December 1st - 16th ~

December 1, 1999 - Wednesday

A couple months ago, Ping (the girl from the graduate level class who didn't know what "cooties" were), loaned me a video called Love And Human Remains. A few weeks later, I finally got around to watching it and in turn wrote:


Well, I finally watched that video last night... and I don't know where to begin. Possible subject lines for this e-mail included:

The Blair Bitch Before "The Blair Witch Project"... (referring to the Kane character).
If I ever write anything that horrible... (please publicly humiliate me about it).
What's a nice girl like you... (doing with a movie like that).
You can't have a gay movie... (without having someone have AIDS).
More tits than a Playboy special...
It's movies like that... (that make people think all gay guys are sex-crazed, sadists, and sick).

Where do I begin... well, first off, if I ever write anything (a script or book or otherwise) that is that shallow in character development, please publicly humiliate me about it. Those characters were all so one-dimensional... and of course, we had the obligatory lesbian sex scenes in huge nipple stereovision detail... like they needed to worry about any straight guy going to go see it... yeah, that was going to happen. And then we had the long haired Kane guy who reminded me of Heather in The Blair Witch Project so much I just wanted to reach in there and cut his hair off. (And, of course, he had the obligatory gay fingernails... a not well documented phenomenon of gay characters onscreen appearing with extra long fingernails... also seen in vampires and any sort of character that prays on other humans). And of course we had the random gay character who'd contracted HIV... don't leave home (or make a gay movie) without it.

It was sooo I-want-to-be-a-filmmaker. Perhaps it's just me, stuck here more in real life, but it was bad. Not worth a second viewing, even for a gay guy wanting to see gay movies...

And tonight, as I was watching Boys Life 2 on a rented DVD, I realized just how starved we are to see any sort of representation of ourselves in the media.

We'll watch shit that no straight person would ever watch, just in hopes of seeing some semblance of ourselves. Boys Life 2 was completely forgettable. I finished it not thirty minutes ago, yet I have to concentrate to remember anything about it. Coming out, AIDS, pretty much the standard in low budget gay fair. Amazingly, there was no nudity. Yet why do nearly all gay films have to be centered around porn and/or stereotypes. Why aren't there more films with gay guys as auxiliary characters or with being gay as a part of the character instead of his focus?

When Ping and I were later discussing Love and Human Remains and I said that I much preferred a "gay" movie like In and Out, she was perplexed... but In and Out is SOOO free of stereotypes. Sure, he listens to Ethel Merman and little things here and there, but 98% of Kevin Kline's and Tom Selleck's characters' personalities are normal/accessible/universal. I would take that any day over Philadelphia, My Own Private Idaho, Cruel Intentions, Jeffrey or even Kiss Me Guido. Those films had the gamut of production values, yet they each represented the worst of gays.

I know it's not politically correct for me to say it like that, but that's how I feel. Those films represent the worst of gays... not of gay men or men who are gay, but gays. The characters in those films, to varying degrees, have no souls, no uniquenesses, no connections. They're simply gays.

And what's amazing is that the quality of films with gay characters is not dependent on the film's budget. In and Out and The Object of My Affection were great, big budget movies about being gay, and independent films about being gay can be worthwhile: Beautiful Thing was indeed a beautiful thing. But so often gay characters are so one dimensional and so stereotypical that thinking about how you and I are usually represented in the media is literally nauseating... yet without fail, I'll watch those movies.

I help to perpetuate the cycle. I help to fund those movies. And don't get me wrong, sometimes those movies can be entertaining. I actually liked parts of Jeffrey and all of To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, but why do we accept it all? Why does the "GAY" stamp make us automatically watch it? That's what's upsetting... that we're starved to such an extreme to see ourselves that we'll watch nearly anything for the chance to see those rare moments when we're actually proud and can relate to the gay characters on screen.

It shouldn't be like that. I shouldn't be so starved for self-affirmation that I'll watch crap on the off chance that I'll see part of me on screen. And damn it, when you finally see that credit at the end of the movie that reads "Assistant To Mr. Clouse", it'll be for a movie you'll be proud of, with characters to whom you can relate.


December 7, 1999 - Tuesday

When I got out of bed early Friday morning to head over to campus to meet my group, I was anything but perky. I didn't want to be on campus at ten in the morning, nor did I want to spend my day driving out to Santa Monica to interview some stuffy lawyer about how she handled disputes. Yet Friday morning was simply, serenely, perfect.

A few minutes after arriving at the front of Lora's apartment building, I saw Justin coming up the sidewalk and he asked if we should go on inside. Not particularly caring one way or the other, I said ok and followed him through the gate to what was presumably Lora's apartment. Justin knocked on the door but there was no answer. We talked for a couple of minutes then Justin knocked again at which time Lora hung her wet-from-the-shower head out the door to say that her apartment was a mess and for us to wait a minute right where we were.

A few minutes later, she appeared once more and said that Kyla was downstairs in her car, so the three of us headed back to the front of the apartment building and got into Kyla's SUV. Kyla and Lora in the front seats and Justin and I in the back.

And there, with no precursor, warning, or even realization that it was happening, I had one of those moments that you think you'll never experience. One of those that most others take for granted, but you'd give your eye teeth to have. I was riding around town as part of the gang.

By the time we were driving back from the interview, we'd bonded enough to talk "not-so-nicely" about other people in the class... to say stuff that we wouldn't want to get out... and it was so perfect that not until after it ended did I realize just how great it had been.

For what it's worth, I've literally spent over an hour trying to re-capture the essence of that experience on Friday, but this entry is a hopeless failure. It meant so much more than I'm able to write here now... yet at the time, I didn't even realize it was anything special at all.


December 9, 1999 - Thursday

The graduate class is completely over. The conflict class is over except for the final, and tonight will be the last film class with a lecture. (It, too, has a final next week.) In the three and half years at USC that it's taken to get here, I thought this time would never come... the time where I finally do not have to go back to USC. Yet if inertia takes its course, I'll never see Professor Noll, Justin, Kyla, or Lora again. Happenstance could bring us back together, but it seems unlikely. Indeed, unless I make some active measure to the contrary, it's over.

Now as for Professor Noll, I'm not that worried about him. He'll be at USC and now that I'm no longer his student, I can invite him over to see Larry's company. The audiophile that he is, he'll appreciate all the gadgetry that goes into making any of the thousands of CD's in his collection.

But as for Justin, Lora, and Kyla, if I don't actually seek to keep that connection, it will almost certainly flicker away. The simple fact of the matter is that I need them more than they need me. Sure, it's nice to have friends, but someone with relatively few friends treasures those friends more than someone with a multitude of companions. Indeed, I do believe that most of us are secretly lonely, but with exception so comes exceptional loneliness. Any sort of extreme increases our loneliness... rich kids are lonely, smart kids are lonely, and anyone who's at the top is lonely. "It's lonely at the top" has so much more meaning than anyone can imagine. I'd dare say that my intellect and income, even at USC, are in the top 1 percent of the 20,000 students there. I say that not to toot my own horn, but to illustrate the rich kids are lonely/smart kids are lonely paradigm. I've always had more brains and money than friends, yet I've always wanted the friends and found that the brains and money simply came. I got a 99% on the semester test in the graduate level class. It was the highest grade, higher than all the graduate students, with two other A's, one B, and three C's following... but I'd gladly swap that for friends.

In fact, in some regard, I did. Last semester, in the small group and team communication class, I asserted myself and took over the group so that we'd get a decent grade. This semester, I simply let the group go its own way and I was just one of the players. It ended up that I got an A on the individual paper while the others in the group got C's and D's, and in turn, the group made me responsible for getting our paper up to the best possible level for turning in... but I did not worry about the grade. In fact, we probably got a C on the group paper nevertheless as I simply worked with what they gave me instead of doing it all myself, but the experience was so much better. And perhaps in my old age, I've come to realize that the experience is what it's all about.

Indeed, Larry and I recently caught the end of the film Wilde, the title of which refers to Oscar Wilde, whom I knew only as a gay writer of note. In order to expand my own knowledge of writers in hopes that it might help in getting my own work published, I ordered the Lord Arthur Savile's Crime audiobook. As I was listening to it, I imagined my own words being read after my death and how it will almost certainly happen... but does it matter?

Will it make my life any more enjoyable now? Of course not. It might give me some peace to know that my being will go on beyond my consciousness here on earth, but will such change my life now?

And so, in preparation for my last class with Justin, Kyla, and Lora, I've thought about the various ways I can extend our relationship beyond next week. A Christmas party, a birthday party time-shifted into January, perhaps a simple get together. What can I do to make them want to hang out again? I would gladly give them my money if it were not my money they were after. I've thought of buying Christmas presents of chocolates and sweatshirts to take on Wednesday... of any way to extend the friendship beyond its impending death. I know money cannot buy happiness, but can money extend it?

I do not know. I simply know that I must at least attempt a prolonging. How ironic that is considering how I so wanted to get here.


December 12, 1999 - Sunday

Back in January, I got e-mail from a guy who found the website and was having great difficulty coming to terms with being gay. Through June, Seth and I e-mailed back and forth semi-regularly and he slowly got a little more accepting of himself, but still had a long way to go. His last e-mail read, in part:

Well, I've changed a bit since we last exchanged emails. I've come up with a theory on human sexuality: There is no such thing as gay, straight, or bi. We are all humans. I believe in my God, and I believe God has created a person, or maybe several persons that are just right for us. The person could be male or female, and that is how we classify our sexuality. If we are meant to be with another man, then naturally we will feel attraction towards men....but usually only physical. There are three types of attraction: Physical, emotional, and intellectual.

I wrote back:


Your theory is your theory, but I have to tell you that 98% of gay guys are sexually attracted to men EXCLUSIVELY. They wouldn't give a gal the time of day at a bar. The exclusivity number is a little lower for heterosexual men, as there's a bit of Narcissism in us all. We like ourselves, therefore we like those who look like us. But bisexual is a place rarely held by anyone for more than a while. It tends to be a phase before acknowledging that you're gay.

So, you're theory is nice... but real world experience shows otherwise.


In truth, I'd grown tired of "pulling teeth." While I could help and provide encouragement, Seth needed to make the change himself. Seth disappeared back into the ether from which he came and that was that.

Then, yesterday, I got this e-mail:

Well, even though I never received a reply from my last email to you, I will give you one last update on me so far. I need to do this to show you how far you have helped me come. I'm now in college and my friends know about my sexuality. I'm pretty much accepting the fact i'm gay. I just joined my campus' Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered organization. Actually, my first meeting is tomorrow. Christmas time will be me possibly considering telling my parents. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by loving friends and people as yourself. Two of my friends are from CA, San Francisco, in fact, I'm going to see them for New Year's Eve. Anyway, I realize now that I was attached myself onto you for quite some time, and I hope you can forgive me for that. I used you as my crutch and hopefully I didn't hurt you with my constant self denial. Surprisingly, one of the best catalysts for me is being at my Catholic U. No, the students are white conservative troglodites, but the Jesuits are very liberal and honest. I'm going to talk to a Father in a few days about my sexuality and how I can fulfill my destiny. I believe I met you through fate, I thank God for that everyday, I'm so glad I met you. You were the first person I ever told about me and who I am, you were the first to accept it and that will always hold a special place in my heart. Unless you show some sign of wanting to continue communication, this will be the last email from me. When people attach themselves to me and want them to make decisions for me, I get agitated and I ditch them. I can understand that.

Thank you

I had no idea who it was even from. Seth had changed his e-mail account from his anonymous one to his university e-mail address with his real name. With several months between the e-mails, I can only guess that I read his e-mail in October and had no idea who it was from. (While not common, I do get a few oddball e-mails completely out of left field that make virtually no sense.) Anyway, searching Eudora for e-mails with "Seth" in them, I made the connection and realized just what a change had occurred.

Seth went from the guy who wrote how he'd rather die than be gay to someone comfortable with himself. Just thought you'd like to know.


December 14, 1999 - Tuesday

Tonight, Larry and I are going with Kathleen to see Bette Midler in concert, and with each passing hour, I'm getting more excited about it. We've got fourth row seats and "After Show" passes, whatever the heck they are. I've only been to like four concerts my entire life, and this will indubitably be the closest I've ever sat/stood. FOURTH ROW! It should be amazing... and for $254.50 per person, it should be.

Actually, the tickets are my birthday present from Larry, and I'm sure the concert will be great, and if Bette Midler shows up for the after show "party," I'll probably get goose bumps. (OK, so going to a Bette Midler concert and getting goose bumps at her appearance isn't the most "heterosexual like" thing I've ever done: sue me. ) The only bad thing is that the concert is at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim. Last year, about this same time, David bought Larry and I tickets to go see Reba there with him. Going back there tonight, I'll be reminded of how things once were, which if I dwell on it, will definitely bring me down.

But David's made it clear that that part of his life is over... and damn it, I'm not going to let him rain on my parade. I've got fourth row seats and after show passes to see Bette Midler. It's going to be AWESOME!


December 15, 1999 - Wednesday

Well, the "After Show" passes turned out to be nothing exciting, but the seating was better than I ever imagined. With seats 22, 23, and 24 in the fourth row of section 101, I knew the tickets would be good for either the innermost or outermost (depending on how the seats were numbered) portions of section 101, which was to the left of the stage, according to the online Arrowhead seating map.

Online Seating Map

As we walked down from the second level into the floor area in front of the stage, I saw the various people sitting right in front of the stage and was a tad envious, but then the hostess lady sat us immediately to the right of the catwalk. IMMEDIATELY to the right!

Actual Stage And Concert Seating

The online concert seating map and the actual seating for the concert were no where near correlated. My seat was the last in row four, not more than four feet from the catwalk. Bette Midler would be standing there singing not four feet away!

And low and behold, there she was, countless times, at the end of the catwalk, singing her well known hits, telling bawdy jokes, and making fun of Orange County. It was great and I'd dare say there weren't better seats in the whole auditorium. Any closer to the stage, they had to turn around when she was on the catwalk and any farther back was, well, farther back.

The only damper to the evening was my brain's insistence on having deep thoughts for the first half hour. I noticed her hands were those of an older lady, I noticed that she was covered in stage make-up, and I couldn't help but be thrown back into the reality that celebrity is created. I do not doubt that she's a great person, but we do not see her flaws in our idolized views and camera lens corrected visions. In my own little microcosm of "celebrity" if I dare to call it that, I realized how even this site, as honest as I can make it, is still a "face" put on for the public. You won't see my flabby gut in pictures here on the site... and the harsh reality of it is, in most cases, I don't know you from Adam. I sat there thinking about how if I did meet her afterwards backstage, I would pass in and out of her life as quick as a flitter and have no impact on it whatsoever. Yet her life had, at least in entertainment, impacted mine. I do my best, but can I ever hope to possibly remember each person who's written me to say that they feel like they know me. Celebrity is a one way medium... and even in it's Internet incarnation, which does allow for two way communication, it's still largely broadcast oriented.

So in the midst of everyone listening to her jokes and hearing her songs, I was thinking about the directionality of the attention. Each of the thousands of eyes were on her, but her eyes could not focus back upon the thousands as less than a collection. For what it's worth, I did meet Bonnie Bruckheimer, producer of Bette's films such as Beaches and Hocus Pocus, and partner in All Girl Productions. I'm sure today if you asked her if she remembers meeting Justin last night, she would tell you that she does not. I hope that if celebrity does come my way, I'll always be able to remember the people I met last night.

Anyway, sorry to bring you down, but that's exactly what happened during the first part of the concert in my head. I couldn't just let myself be entertained. I had to analyze it to death. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

But once I got past that point, and enjoyed the concert for what it was, I was really quite entertained. Media will always be uni-directional and to somehow decide that it has no benefit or place in my life because I cannot have a place or benefit to the life of the person on stage is ludicrous. And at the very least, if you do want me to know you as much as you know me, I'm here... justin (at) justinslife.com.


December 16, 1999 - Thursday

Last Friday, I went to the mall and bought a two pounds of See's chocolates for Kyla and Lora and a sweatshirt from The Gap for Justin. I had no idea whether I'd actually give the presents to them or not, but I figured, worse case scenario, I'd have a new sweatshirt and two boxes of chocolate. (Justin and I are the same size.)

So, anyway, Tuesday afternoon, before leaving for the concert, I partially wrapped the three gifts and left them in my office, still thinking that I might not take the presents to school. (I'd talked to Andrew and he seemed to think it was a weird concept, and I, too, knew that giving them presents wasn't exactly "normal")... but Wednesday morning came, I finished wrapping the presents, put them in a bag, and headed on towards school.

When I got to Annenberg, the building where class was held, I found Kyla on the second floor studying. She asked what I had in the bag and I responded, "Presents for you guys." She didn't believe me, but I pulled out a box with her name on it. She was smiling a huge grin and said that I'd made her day. She wondered whether to open it then or wait until later and decided on the latter.

A few minutes later, we went on to the classroom and Justin arrived shortly thereafter. As he was walking down the aisle to sit in the chair beside me, I said, "I've got a Christmas present for you," and handed him the box. He said, "That's so sweet," and took it. Was I dreaming? Did unquestionably straight Justin say that my giving him a Christmas present was "sweet"?

Five minutes or so later, Lora arrived, I gave her her present, and that was that. Lora, who I figured would make the biggest deal about it, seemed not to blink an eye. Perhaps she was too caught up with the final. I don't know... but none of them acted like there was anything weird about it at all. I was amazed, and perhaps the cards I wrote were cheesy, and perhaps I'll never hear from them again, but I felt really great about giving them the presents.

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© 1999 Justin Clouse
Justin's Life...Justin's