"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison



A week later, way after midnight, I have taken Vitally to Startzmann’s giant apartment on Warwick Boulevard. There is a blues band playing the living room. Startzmann’s place is the main floor of an aging mansion now divided into apartments. Thankfully his neighbors are all among the guests. Not likely the cops’ll be called. Viitaly loves the music. He’s heard nothing like this in Kansas City before. I feel I have scored high with Vitaly tonight. 

Ever so low key Startzmann, the guru of Warwick Boulevard, entertains to a packed house. The robust Johnny Lucky is stripped to the waist humping an Asian girl in what we are all to presume is some sort of dancing to the music. I’ve had the major hots for Lucky since I met him. Handsome, hairy, a total Satyr. He’s straight, but Startzmann’s done him. Startzmann converts a great many straight guys at least for a night or two. 

Startzmann mingles with his own crowd like Hef at the Playboy mansion. This man, in his late thirties, has Ivy League degrees, is a world scholar on Spinoza and banquet waiter who tucks his ponytail under a wig that gives him shorter hair in order to pass as employable at a posh Plaza hotel. 

Startzmann also supplements his income by writing gay porn novels at $600 bucks a pop outright and the sale of marijuana which I believe accounts mostly for his many conversions of straight boys who if they accept what Lucky has called “the most cosmically attentive” of blow jobs, they will get their nickel bags deeply discounted. 

This a mixed crowd. In the Sixties gay and straight only partied together among theater people. Which no matter how you look at it is not truly a mixed crowd. This crowd is mostly restaurant people, about half the guys are straight half are gay. Nearly all of the women are straight cocktail waitresses. We usually gather at a bar after our shifts before landing at Startzmann’s. Tonight because of the band, we flocked directly to his place. 

It’s better than a bar. It’s where things get sorted out. Music, drugs, alcohol, love, and loss. Not from the bars, but from Startzmann’s this crowd stumbles to bed with one another. Those who stay the latest either stumble into Startzmann’s bed and the women become his “closest confidant.” At least fifteen women believe themselves to be his “closest confidant.” 

All of the men continue to love him, and none has ever fallen in love with him. And, everyone knows everything about everyone else. In this crowd shenanigans are not real unless they are talked about. Shortly after Lucky’s first time with Startzmann, (I understand there have been several.) Lucky announced to a crowd of us in a smoky club, Startzmann but steps away at the bar, Lucky rhapsodized a blow job Startzmann gave him. 

“He played my dick like a virtuoso. He brought me close then held me at bay like Karajan conducting Tristan und Isolde. I nearly lost my mind. The guy should give women lessons on cocksucking.” 

I had never heard him speak of the sexual prowess of any of his other and many erotic sport mates. 

Real numbers possibly notwithstanding, gay is the predominant force or maybe it is Startzmann who is gay that is the predominant velvet glove that nudges this crowd to entertain him and mostly do his will. 

My showing up here with Viitaly has caused something of a stir. I get a wink from Lucky looking up from his near coitus on the dance floor. Startzmann and a dozen others, some known and some unknown, are subtly telegraphing me their utmost approval or their unreserved envy. 

They assume that Viitaly is my catch of the day. It has been many days since my last catch. Viitaly is not a likely candidate, but I can hardly work the crowd for a prospect this evening with a towering Cossack in tow. I am flattered to think that they think he is mine. I bask in the feeling as if he were, in fact, mine knowing somewhere in myself that I want more than anything for him to be mine. 

Viitaly remains oblivious to the queer undercurrent. He seems gifted with the ability to block out all phenomena in which he has no interest. I think back to the week before at Tommy’s. Viitaly came to me and sat down. He readily accepted my invitation tonight, and because of work, I couldn’t even pick him up till nearly midnight. He must see something in me he likes.

Mark Spano is engaged in the limited theatrical release of his feature documentary entitled Sicily: Land of Love and Strife. This film recently premiered in Spano's hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, April 2018. The film will also be screened in Cary, North Carolina, Hamilton, Ontario, Buffalo, NY in late June, and in NYC in September. This story is part of a longer work of fiction.

Cover photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

The Ugly Cat

The Ugly Cat