The food and festivities at the private party were just as lavish as the wedding, with six different buffet options, each one curated by a different five star L.A. chef, and each one centered around one specific thing. There was the beef buffet, poultry buffet, pork buffet, seafood buffet, vegetarian buffet, and vegan buffet. Each one basically laid out several paths through a seven course meal,
Dessert was being provided by three different vendors, with a variety of cakes baked traditionally, gluten-free, dairy-free, gluten- and dairy-free, vegan, and certified created nowhere near any surfaces to have ever come into contact with any kind of nuts or tree nuts or their byproducts. There were six of them, each one designed to resemble a famous Los Angeles Landmark: the City Hall cake was traditional; the Cinerama Dome cake was gluten-free; the Capitol Records building was gluten- and dairy-free; Griffith Observatory was vegan; and the Hollywood sign and Mount Lee was certified nutless. So to speak.
All of this really amused the hell of Edna, especially the allergy stuff, and she thought to herself as she looked at all the posted menus, “Jesus fucking Christ, half of the kids born after 1990 wouldn’t have lasted a day in 1984.” She blamed it on clean-freak parents of the era, who never let their kids play in the dirt, and soaked everything in anti-bacterial sanitizer.
Science said that she was probably right, but that message had only just started to get through about five years earlier, once superbugs started killed absolutely everyone in hospitals — doctors, staff, patients, and visitors alike.
Toby was just impressed by the smooth logistics of the whole thing. The Cathedral had been packed to the rafters, and a quick search told him that it held 3,000 people. He couldn’t even conceive of what kind of an event staff that would take, and he was very into logistics, so he stopped to ask one of the Captains of the staff about it.
“How many people are working catering on this little party?”
The Captain immediately went into proud bragging mode. It was clear that he’d been waiting for someone to ask exactly this question. “Not counting security, or the creative level — executive chefs, bakers, designers, stylists, and so on, and just counting the serving staff, there are 312 people,” he replied.
“Wow,” Toby said. “Impressive.”
“That breaks down to 24 barbacks; 36 floor captains, like myself; 48 bartenders; 84 cooks and washers, split about two to one; and 120 servers and bussers, split four to one. Oh. In case you can’t do the math in your head, that’s 56 cooks and 28 washers, plus 96 servers and 24 bussers.”
“Are there really three thousand guests?” Toby went on.
“A little over that,” he explained. “But it’s okay. The Plaza above can hold 5,000, and the park can hold 50,000, easily.”
“Can it?” Toby said, incredulous.
“Were you here about ten years ago during the last protests?” he said. “It held way more than that. Then again the thing did spill out all over the city and the country, so it was hard to say. And right after the quake, we had a lot of people who’d been displaced camping out here.”
“I guess it cleaned up quick.”
“That’s kind of what L.A. does,” the Captain explained. “It probably comes from there being so many crewies and performers living here. We see something amiss, we have the natural reflex to come together and fix it before someone important, like the lead or a producer, sees it. It’s self-preservation in action.”
“I suppose it is,” Toby mused before adding, “Thank you. Carry on!” He slipped a five wrapped around to hide three hundreds into the tip jar on the Captain’s counter as he walked away.
“Oh, thank you very much,” the Captain called out.
“Don’t mention it,” Toby called back then stopped and turned back. “Sorry. I’m rude. What’s your name?”
“Nathan,” the Captain replied.
“Toby,” Toby said, stepping back and extending his hand. They shook and smiled at each other.
“Have a great rest of your day,” Toby said.
“You, too,” Nathan answered. “And… thanks!”
Toby walked away reminding himself that he would have to make a conscious effort to do more of this. Not only to get out of his aerie and into the real world, but to interact with the real people — the ones who actually make things happen. And, of course, the ones who helped others like them on that level, despite limited resources.
He found it ironic that he had been moved less by the quake than he had been about his simple inability to do anything to help a fellow human in distress while in line to buy ice cream, and it had been eating him up ever since.
That was why Toby hung back, and asked Adrian to stay with him (to Adrian’s great annoyance) while everyone else who wasn’t part of the über-class (or was that the non-Uber class?) trotted down the hill through Grand Park, to dance dance dance their booties off. Toby had bigger fish to fry, and Adrian was going to be his lure.
“This is my booty, it’s so fine. I love this booty, ‘cause it is mine,” Finley remembered hearing that line somewhere as they got down to the party, but it took him a while to remember where and when. It had been Tycho, dancing and singing in the shower with him one morning together during about their first or second week at the Lexen, and it was Finley’s booty, not Tycho’s, that he’d been singing about, right before Tycho dove down to rim the hell out of him.
That seemed so long ago now.
Everything did, and it was surreal. So much was still in ruins, and yet so much had seemed to have bounced back right way. The aftershocks had really died down, and people’s sense of being constantly on edge had as well, although the sense of community stayed.
The concert and party amazed them all, and Tycho and Finley got to meet and hang out with all of Adam and Tony’s fellow housemates from Alice’s art collective, as well as Alice herself, Edna, Cindy, and Finley’s boss Jackson.
They had arrived around 7:30, near the end of the act with Maná, Natalia Jiménez and others. A lot of the group knew who the artists were and a lot didn’t, so they hovered at the bottom edge of Grand Park, some watching the show and others talking — particularly the white boys.
“Do I get to design your wedding?” Finley asked Jackson after he and Cindy had announced their engagement.
“No,” Jackson replied, “But I’d be honored if you were in the wedding party.”
“Alice is going to be my maid of honor,” Cindy said.
“I am so happy for you, dear,” Edna chimed in and Jackson gave her a long look.
“Aren’t you Wanda Cox?” he suddenly asked her.
“Not anymore,” she said. “Not since my husband and co-star died. But thank you for remembering.”
Jackson was amazed. He had grown up a film buff and while he had been too young to see most of her films when they first came out, they did run in the old revival houses as examples of the attempt at a higher class of porn from the era. Then again, the late 60s and 70s were a lot looser with their film standards once the Hays Code was laughed out of the industry, with one X-rated best picture winner, Midnight Cowboy, and in the year The Godfather came out and was the 22nd top-grossing film of 1972, it was beat out by the not-quite-pornographic but still X-rated (and apparently somewhat rapey IRL) Last Tango in Paris at number eight, and the totally hardcore porno Beyond the Green Door at number three. All of those films played in legitimate cinemas, too.
And not every X-rated film was just porn. A Clockwork Orange, If…, Performance, and others, were all legitimate stories that didn’t hold back on the sex and nudity. The trend ran until about the end of the 70s, when the X-rated Caligula opened in first-run theaters, and combined a big name, all-star cast, with an award-winning novelist screenwriter, lavish sets and costumes, the story of a mad Roman emperor, and wall-to-wall fucking and depravity and violence and cumshots galore.
Oddly enough, the same actor, Malcolm McDowell, was the lead in three of those named films, Performance being the only exception, where that honor went to Mick Jagger.
Jackson had seen a lot of the Shakespeare films Wanda Cox had done with her partner, Stony Boon, back in the 60s, before Linda Lovelace became famous for fellatio, and a number more of the films they did together during that brief time when porn because mainstream, often with literary sources: The Adventures of Fuckleberry Finn, The Harlot Letter, The Cunt of Monte Crisco, Bone with the Wind.
He also remembered that each of them also occasionally did gay porn separately, and had seen Wanda’s films Moby Dyke, Who’s Afraid of Vagina Woolf?, and For Whom the Belle Toils. Stony had actually done a lot more gay male films — On the Choad, Brothering Heights (apparently, incest-themed), The Son Also Arouses, The Picture of Dorian Gay, and James Juices’ ‘YouSissies,’ among many others, but the only one Jackson had seen, on a dare, was The Catcher and His Guy, which is where he learned that pitcher and catcher were the terms that referred to the guy sticking it in and the guy getting it stuck in respectively. He was rather surprised, though, to see that Stony was the titular catcher. Since Stony was a married man, Jackson had thought it would be the other way around, but he was young then, only in his mid-20s, and the world outside of the LGBTQ+ community still had so much to learn.
It also made him sad that, by the time he’d caught up with their later movies, Stony had been dead already for at least five years, one of the first victims of the AIDS epidemic that would change everything for so long a time. Jackson had often wondered whether Wanda had suffered the same fate, although he’d mostly forgotten about them by the time the internet could have easily answered that question.
But here she was, alive and a survivor. He surreptitiously checked on his phone after that and was blown away to find out that she was 82. She really didn’t look a day over 55, but she hadn’t had any obvious work done. He envied her secret, but supposed that maybe it had been all of that sex she’d had back in the day, and her clear lack of guilt or shame over it. After all, Linda Lovelace had a famous change of heart, became a born-again Christian, and died at 53.
Adam had heard Jackson’s comment and searched “Wanda Cox” on his phone, only to find out who she had been back in her day, and to read the tragic story of her husband, who was hotter than hell in a strangely nerdy way. He clued Tony in on it, but Tony surprised him by saying, “Oh, yeah John Richfield. I’ve heard of him.”
“You think she could hook us up to get into porn?” Adam asked.
“Dude, she hasn’t done it since… shit, probably when our parents were in kindergarten. “I doubt that she has any connections.” Tony replied.
“Yeah, but we’ve always talked about doing it,” Adam responded, “And she must have advice.”
“There are probably better — ” but Adam was already walking over to Wanda and Tony just muttered. “Shit.”
“Hi,” Adam said to her. “I overheard that name and looked you up, and, well, see, my boyfriend and I are interested in doing porn, and I was wondering if you had any advice…?”
She laughed and smiled at him. “Honey, first of all, don’t use the ‘P’ word. It literally means ‘writing about whores,’ and that ain’t what it’s about. Call it ‘adult entertainment.’ Second, are you interested in doing it because you like money, or you like fucking?”
“Fucking, but with an audience.”
“All right, that’s the right answer,” she said. “Second, I haven’t been in the biz since it was just discovering video, and I certainly haven’t been connected to anyone else. Remember, my husband and I were our own production company, and that’s long gone. Anyone else in the business at the time still alive would have been our rivals, so… sorry. Bridges burnt. I couldn’t provide you any connections, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“No, no, I wasn’t asking that,” Adam replied. “I just meant… how do my boyfriend — ” Tony appeared and latched onto Adam’s arm. “Hi, honey. Yeah, me and him — ”
“He and I,” Edna corrected.
“Right. How do we get into the business in the first place?”
“You boys are so precious. And really cute together. And I bet that you two could make a fortune. But, how old are you? Eighteen, nineteen?”
“We’re both 23,” Tony chimes in.
“But you can pass for younger, so say you just turned eighteen. You’ll get a bigger audience. And you’re both 23, but don’t know the answer that my 82-year-old ass does? Amazing.”
“That’s why we’re asking?” Adam adds, tentatively.
“We’re almost a third of the way through the 21st century, my dears. Everyone is their own production company and studio. You want to become adult entertainment stars, then you start fucking on camera. If you have a trusted friend who wouldn’t mind, get them to do the filming, maybe even spring for editing. Then you tease it in ways that all the various social media will allow, and set up your own firewalled pay sites that you drive your fans to for the whole, uncensored thing. It also helps to find a gimmick. My husband and I had literary parodies. What do you two do otherwise?”
“We’re both actors and improvisors, and I’m a dancer,” Adam explains.
“Great. And who’s the top and who’s the bottom?”
“Um, actually,” Adam and Tony both mutter, “Neither?”
“Versatile, both of you? Fantastic! Yeah, you two could clean up in this business like I did. I’m thinking maybe some kind of on-demand fan channel, as in they pay a ton to think that they’re ordering you two around.”
“Think?” Tony asks.
“Well, of course,” she explains. “They don’t know that the options that pop up on screen aren’t fan suggestions, and naturally you set the algorithm to always make at least half of them be the most popular fan suggestions. But behind the scenes, the two of you pick the few options you’re willing to do and in the mood for, ta-da — the fan voting turns out to match those results.”
“Isn’t that like, election fraud, or something?” Adam wonders.
“Darling, this is porn, not politics, pardon my use of the ‘P’ words. It doesn’t matter. The fans will be happy no matter what you do, and you’ll hit a combo that makes some of them feel like they got their choice often enough that they’ll keep coming back. And, when it comes to adult entertainment, it’s all about keeping them coming.” She paused. “Back.”
“Wow,” Tony muttered as Adam nodded.
“Thank you so much, Ms. Cox,” Adam said, shaking her hand.
“You’re welcome,” she said, “But Wanda Cox died with my husband. I’m just Edna now.”
“Thank you, Edna,” Tony and Adam chimed in in unison, and then she headed off with Alice and the two of them just looked at each other.
“I guess we know what we’re doing tomorrow,” Tony said, and Adam just smiled, took his hand, and led him off into the crowd. Maná and Natalia had finished by this point, and it was going to be half an hour before the next act.
“We’ve got half an hour until the Divas,” Adam whispered into Tony’s ear. “Know of anywhere around here we can fuck?”
“Any?” Tony replied. “Honey, I know of at least a dozen places.”
“Oh, really,” Adam said in mock shock. “And how would you know that, you slut?”
“Because I was a slut before I met you, and did a lot of my sluttery here.”
“So what are you now?” Adam asked him in a sort of well-rehearsed game.
“A slut for you.”
“Ad hoc,” Tony explained. “You notice how many porta-potties there are?”
“Um… pardon the expression… a shitload?”
“So you want to fuck me in a shitter?” Adam asked, incredulous but, again, just acting.
“No,” Tony replied. “I want to fuck in the shitter.”
“Sold!” Adam gurgled, and then they took hands and raced to the nearest portable toilet. At least they weren’t the open pit chemical disasters that their parents might have faced. Instead, they used high tech to suck down the nasties immediately, remove them to a separate processing tank located discretely behind the row of shit-cans, and immediately start turning all of that organic material into sources of electricity.
Porta-potties of their parents’ era were maybe one step above an outhouse. These were probably two steps above first-class shitters on an airplane. And yes, they even had bidets.
None of which really mattered as Adam and Tony stepped in, locked the door, got nude, and got busy, Adam bent over the sink while Tony plowed away. They both came just as they heard the announcer declare, “Here they are. Give it up for Barbra, Bette, and Cher… or is it Bette, Cher, and Barbra? Or even Cher, and the other two… Or…”
“Shut up, David,” the very familiar voice of Bette Midler blasted out over the speakers.
“We don’t care what order we’re in,” Barbra Streisand intoned.
“We’re just lucky to be alive.” That was clearly Cher.
“Everyone, give a big welcome to… OMG O-G-aycons!”
* * *
To be continued…