Mar 11, 2015

Summer 1985: Marcus's Beneath-the-Belt Mystery

Even in a gay community as big as West Hollywood, the new kid in town always gets noticed.

I arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 3rd, 1985.  Before July 10th, when I started my new job at Muscle and Fitness, I was cruised many times, received six phone numbers, and went out on two dates.

Marcus was Date #2.

We met on Friday, July 5th, in the Human Resources Department at Paramount Studios; I was waiting to be interviewed for an administrative assistant job, and he was dropping something off.  We chatted, and cruised, and exchanged phone numbers.

Marcus was in his 20s, shorter than me, muscular but a little chunky, African-American with very light skin, freckles, and a hairy chest.

Sounds great, right?  Three of the five traits I find attractive.  I just needed to check on his religiousity and his beneath-the-belt gifts!

Our date was on Saturday, July 6th:

An insider tour of Paramount Studios, followed by dinner at the French Quarter and cruising at the Gold Coast.

Marcus grew up in Kalispell, Montana, a hotbed of white supremacism, machismo, and homophobia: a horrible place for a kid who was quiet, shy, artistic, African-American, and gay.  He found solace in  the Episcopal Church, the the old movies they showed in downtown Kalispell, and the drama club at Glacier High School.  Before the ink was dry on his diploma, he headed out to Los Angeles to become an actor.

Sounds great, right?  I could certainly relate to being a shy, quiet, artistic kid in a terrible small town.  And he was religious, #4 on the list of traits that I find attractive. I just needed to check on #5, his beneath-the-belt gifts.

I can't count Marcus as a celebrity friend.  He had some tv guest spots and some live theater on his resume, but mostly he made do with temp jobs.  Currently he was working as a production assistant for Gimme a Break! 

At the end of the evening, we drove up into the Hollywood Hills, to a weird, eclectic house that Marcus shared with a film producer who may or may not have been his ex-lover.  We sat on the couch by a picture window that looked down on the lights of Hollywood.

Sounds great, right?  Exactly what I thought West Hollywood would be like: gay people everywhere, and lots of connection to the film industry, and a room with a view!

That's when things went wrong.

Time for the end-of-the-date activities!  I leaned in for a kiss.

Marcus pushed me away.

"No one knows what causes AIDS," he said solemnly.

Rather an odd nonsequitor! "Sure they do.  It's the HIV virus,  transmitted in semen and blood."

"They're not sure. Could be any body fluid, like saliva. We have to be safe."

"I'm always safe!" I announced, somewhat offended.  "I always use condoms."

"Condoms for anal and oral both?" Marcus asked pointedly.

"  There's really no evidence that HIV is transmitted through oral alone."

"And what about French kissing?  If saliva doesn't do it, a tiny nick or puncture in your mouth will!"

No kissing?  "I've been tested!," I protested. " I'm HIV negative!"

"Those tests are inconclusive."  He touched my shoulder.  "Look -- I used to be out there cruising with the best of them, but when this whole thing stated, I vowed to be celibate until they find a cure."

Celibate?  Suddenly I felt very foolish. Was this supposed to be a just-friends outing?  "Does that dating?"

"Oh, no, we can date," Marcus said.  "There's a lot of fun things to do -- we can play tennis, go bowling, go to movies.  We can even spend the night together.  But no sex or kissing, until they find a cure.  Um...that's ok, isn't it?"

He was talking to the empty space left after I zoomed out of the house, leaving a me-shaped hole in the wall.

I never had a chance to investigate his beneath-the-belt attributes.

But Marcus and I stayed friends, and he introduced me to several celebrities, including an old buddy from his acting class, Michael J. Fox.

See also: Nearly Stabbed by Michael J. Fox's Ex-Lover.