Mar 26, 2014

Fall 1990: Sneaking Chazz into his Boyfriend's Bedroom

In the fall of 1990, I was working at Camp Routh, a probation camp for juvenile delinquents, and sneaking a Gay 101 unit into their sex education class, under the nose of the old-school homophobe director, Denman.  A boy named Chazz turned out to be gay, and asked if I could get him a day pass for his boyfriend's birthday:

"Ramon and me been, you know, like dating for awhile.  This will be our second birthday, and so that's why I don't want to miss it."

It wouldn't be an easy task.  Asking Denman for a day pass to see a "boyfriend" would only result in yelling, Bible thumping, and probably a visit from the staff psychiatrist.

We couldn't even demote Ramon to a "friend."  In juvenile delinquency theory of the 1990s, friends were always trouble, steering kids away from the safe haven of home into late night bacchanals of sex, drugs, and vandalism.

But I had another idea.

Any of the staff members could ask to take a juvenile out as a special reward for good behavior or good grades -- a movie, a basketball game, or a pizza, as long as the expedition didn't take more than four hours, and the juvenile was back by 6:00 pm.  I told Denman that Chazz had submitted an excellent practice "employment application" in my life skills class, and as a reward I wanted to take him to see Home Alone.  He agreed.

Sort of Denman
It was still risky: if anyone found out what we were really up to, I would be fired, and Chazz would spend the rest of his term confined to his cabin.

We left the camp at 1:30, right after lunch, and drove down into the San Fernando Valley.  On the way I quizzed Chazz on every aspect of Home Alone in case someone asked later.

He waited until we were past Pacoima to reveal another problem: Ramon's father was ok with him being gay, but disapproved of his relationship with a "thug," so the visit would have to be clandestine.

"Don't worry, though -- his father works nights, so he'll be asleep when we get there."

Wait -- I was imagining a birthday party, with twenty people wearing funny hats, noisemakers, blowing out the candles on a cake.  I didn't sign on for a secret meeting with Dad snoring in the next room.

 But that's exactly what I got. At about 2:00, we pulled up to a tiny house on Vanowen Street in Reseda, with a spiked fence outside.  Chazz led me around back and rapped lightly on a bedroom window.  It was opened by a Hispanic kid, black haired, dark eyed, thin, even younger-looking than Chazz.

Ramon's House

"I'll wait in the car," I whispered.

"No -- what if somebody sees you and wonders what you're doing there?  You have to come in with us."

So I pulled myself up over the stucco into a small, dimly lit bedroom.  The bed was unmade.  The floor was littered with clothes, comic books, toys -- how old was this Ramon, anyway? (Turns out he was 17.)

Chazz and Ramon hugged, then moved to sit on the bed.  I froze with embarrassment and fear. Was I about to see a teenage sexual encounter?  It was legal in California for two 17-year olds to have sex, but not for an adult to watch!

"You can kiss and hug, but no sex!" I said.  "I'll be in the living room."  I grabbed a comic book from Ramon's desk and eased my way out before they could protest.


 An hour passed.  I read my comic book, read TV Guide, turned the tv on very softly, listened to rhythmic snoring from Dad.

At 3:00 sharp I figured they were finished -- or should be -- and returned to Ramon's bedroom.  I couldn't knock without waking Dad, so I opened the door and peered into the darkness.  They were lying on the bed in each other's arms, apparently asleep.  Fortunately, fully clothed.

"It's time to go," I whispered.  "Chazz, let's move!"

They didn't hear me.  I walked over and nudged Chazz to wake him.

I didn't notice that the snoring had stopped.

Or that Ramon's father was standing in the doorway, tall, hirsute, muscular, wearing only underwear, staring in disbelief at the 30-year old man bending over his son's bed.  

What happened next is a blur.  I remember yelling in Spanish, grabbing Chazz, and shoving him out the front door.  I remember Chazz giggling all the way up the mountain.  I remember blushing when Denman asked if Chazz had a good time.

Remarkably, weweren't discovered, and Ramon was simply grounded. But I had the nagging feeling that I had been played by a teenage con artist.