Friday, July 29, 2016

My Mistake



My mistake was to love you, boy 

Love you, boy 

My mistake was to give my all 

Tell the world

(From the song “My Mistake (Was To Love You),” from the album Diana & Marvin, 1974, composed by P. Sawyer/G. Jones)

n 1976, Timothy Barber set his sights on me. He lived across the street, watching my comings and goings, but I had never noticed him. He simply wasn’t my type. I would never have given him a second look if I had run into him on the street.
There I was, loveless and jobless.  In my basement apartment in the urban jungle of Baltimore, I sat brooding.  The last thing I wanted to do was move back to Portsmouth with my mom, who would have gladly welcomed me.  My father was not an option. I had to pay rent and needed a solution to my financial dilemma. That answer came in the form of a letter slipped under my door one day.  It read:

Dear Dale,
I find you very attractive and would love to get to know you better.  I see you around the neighborhood and I finally got the nerve to tell you how I feel. Tomorrow I think I will go one step further and knock on your door. I hope you will open it.

Your Secret Admirer

I had already decided to open the door as I put the letter on the counter.  It did not matter what he looked like.  I needed a sugar daddy, because I did not want to have to go home in failure to my real dad.
I got a knock on the door around ten o’clock the next evening. Timothy sauntered into my place, surveying my collection of Supremes posters.  Sugar daddy he was NOT.  “Sugar Baby” was more like it. He was short and dark, with a broad forehead and a wide nose.  He had long eyelashes and a protruding stomach, and reminded me of a bald, pregnant woman.  Think Truman Capote, but black.  His voice was nasal, high pitched, and irritating.  He wasn’t at all physically attractive to me.

“Hi, my name is Tim,” he said as he extended his hand.   “But you can call me by my middle name, Andre.  I wondered what this basement apartment looked like on the inside.  I live across the street with my mom.”
He pointed to a row house less than two hundred feet away. “Jesus,” I thought.  “He lives with his mom.  What can he do for me?”
Timothy then launched into a pitch that would have made any car salesman proud, thrilling me with tales of his recklessness.  He told me he was nineteen, (a year older than I was), and was already causing a stir in his family.  His mother was a Jehovah’s Witness, and Tim had joined the church and had been helping her knock on doors and leave pamphlets about salvation.  I laughed at this, thinking about all the times growing up in Portsmouth when we never opened the door for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our mother would make us stop playing and be really quiet, or would turn the television down until they gave up and went away.  Tim told me that he would return to the homes later, after his mother had spread the word of Jehovah, and have sex with whatever man had secretly given him the eye. The scandal had gotten him expelled from the congregation, and his mother wanted him to leave her home.
That delicious bit of information was enough to make me curious, at the least.  He sat down and we told each other our life stories.  He revealed that he could sew, which fascinated me, since I had always wanted to be involved in fashion design. I pulled out my portfolio of watercolor and charcoal sketches that I had saved since junior high school. I had treasured those drawings, hoping to one day create some of my fantasy designs.  Tim looked them over.

“These are really good,” he said with a smile. “I don’t draw at all. I take sewing patterns and change them around. You’re a real artist, you draw originals right out of your head. We could make a great team, I already see you modeling our designs. If you can draw it, I can sew it.”

He told me he used his middle name, Andre, as his designer name, and said that he was looking for a fresh start.  By the time the sun came up the following morning, he had brought over his sewing machine and had made plans to move in by the end of the week. I had no idea that I was being manipulated by a master.
I nicknamed Timothy “Miss Get-Over” because he knew how to get through almost every legal system.  He got me through the process of unemployment, and showed me how to get food stamps and a welfare check.

Timothy nicknamed me “Miss D.”  Every gay man was a “Miss” in those days.  I think it had to do with Bette Midler’s 1972 album, The Divine Miss M.  I was young and scared of being out in the world, so I needed Tim.

            Although he didn’t consider himself an artist, (or at least that’s what he told me), I thought Tim was a talented designer. I had always wanted to model, and he always had me looking good when I stepped into the clubs. He managed to gather a few of the club kids together as models, and we would do fashion shows in the local discos and local social organizations. It did not pay a lot of money. We mostly got free drinks and many of the models paid for the fabric in exchange for getting to keep the outfits. Everyone just wanted to be seen looking fabulous in the disco. My good friends Gregory and Raymond did not care that much for Timothy, but they too loved wearing new fashions in the nightclubs. We all put up with Timothy for our own selfish reasons.
            I knew I didn’t love Timothy, but I did love the excitement he brought into my life.  But with the excitement came the drama.  One night we were in Washington, D.C., at a nightclub called The Washington Square.  While Timothy was in the bathroom, a really sexy guy asked me to join him on the dance floor. I was extremely attracted and enjoyed flirting with him. As we danced, I could feel the energy getting hotter.  Suddenly, without warning, my admirer turned and ran from the dance floor. When I turned around, Tim was standing there with a crazed look on his face.
            “Miss D,” he whined, in that nasal tone, “What the fuck you doing dancing with some guy when we came to this club together?”
            Flustered and embarrassed that he caught me enjoying myself, I answered, “He asked me to dance -- I didn’t see any harm in it.”
            “Well, you have a lover and that’s me and I ain’t playing that kind of shit up in here. Do you hear me?”
He turned to leave and I followed. I figured I had to, since I did not even know how to drive.  An invisible chained pulled tightly around my neck and I could feel the stares as we left the club.  Do I really need to say that I was his Mahogany and he was my Tony Perkins?  Or do you already get that?  Oh, the sweet taste of freedom from my father was turning pretty bitter by then.

In front of my friends
You broke me down….
My mistake was to love you, boy

I grew to despise Timothy. On top of his possessiveness, he continued to have sex with other men. I discovered a discharge in my underwear one morning and confronted him.
            “Look what you have given me -- a fucking venereal disease!”  I screamed, as I threw the underwear in his face.
            “That motherfucker,” Tim whispered to himself.  He was slightly irritated, but not with me. “Oh, Miss D -- I did it for us. I let this dude fuck me in order to keep that temp job in the real estate office. Chile, all we gotta do is go up to the free clinic on North Avenue and get a couple of shots. You will be fine. I should be a bitch and not tell him, see if his wife figures it out.”
“I am sick of this shit,” I blurted out.  “We need to end this mess of a relationship.”
            That’s when he outright threatened me.  “You ain’t going nowhere, Miss D.”
I hated the name he’d created for me, after years of wanting a nickname.  “Vincent” was the nickname I’d created for myself as a child; my best friend had called me “Big D” and now this queen was calling me “Miss D.”  I’d had enough. I just wanted to be Dale.
            “Oh, yes I am!” I yelled.  “I’m outta here!”
            Before I could finish my last syllable, Tim pulled a kitchen knife on me. We struggled and I scratched him so deep that my fingernail broke off in his chest. I was scared of what I had done, afraid that I really could have killed him at that moment.  Never before had my anger caused me to injure someone. I was such a sissy in school that I had never stood up to the bullies.  But Tim had pushed me to my limits.
Tim used my fear to control me. I stayed with him to attend to his injury and to ease my guilt. A keloid scar grew over the place where I’d stabbed him with my nail. He loved to show people the scar and brag about how he carried a bit of “Miss D” in him all the time.  Nevertheless, I kept waiting for my chance to leave.
My mother and sister came to visit Tim and me once, and they were so impressed with our home. My mother was very accepting of our relationship because she only saw it on the surface.  She was also indebted to Tim because he had sent her some needed money when my then seventeen-year-old sister had faced a pregnancy scare.
In less than a year, Tim and I moved out of my basement apartment near the Pimlico racetracks and into a beautiful one-bedroom apartment that had a balcony overlooking a hillside in Northwest Baltimore.  Yet neither one of us had a real job!  We had credit cards in every major department store, but they were all in my name because his credit was shot.  We bought new furniture on credit, hosted parties, and lived like the rich.
            What I started to realize was that Tim had noticed a young, na├»ve boy recently out of the closet, (me), and thought he could make me into anything he wanted.  Tim lived to control everyone’s life. He was all into his sister’s relationships and he wanted to control who my friends were and what I did.  He was extremely jealous of my buddies Gregory and Raymond, and watched me like a hawk when they were near.  He integrated himself into my relationships with them to exert more control. I became very rebellious and, on the rare occasions when I could get away, Greg, Raymond, and I ventured to Druid Hill Park and went looking for trouble down the “yellow brick road”; this bricked strip of roadway was behind the snake house where cars would drive through slowly and men would pick up men to have sex in the park bathrooms.
To keep me happy, Tim arranged for me to meet some directors who were with the Arena Players.  This theater group, once called The Negro Little Theatre, was formed in 1953 to provide acting opportunities for African-Americans where there were none.  Today it is known as America’s oldest, continuously operating African-American regional theater group.  Upon my introduction to the group’s directors, in 1977 I landed the lead in a one-act play called Shoes.  It was the first play I did outside of high school.  Two other one-act plays ran on the bill with Shoes, and during that run I met two actors who would become significant to my life.  The first was Kay Lawal -- she would pop up again ten years later to help me form the troupe Actors Against Drugs. The second was Vernon Blackstone -- he would become the first man to truly satisfy me sexually and give me the courage to leave Tim.
Vernon was playing the role of a boxer in the second play on the bill. He was muscular with the most beautiful, dark, smooth skin. He was also several years older than I was.  One night, he asked me to rub baby oil on his body so it would shine. He reminded me of melting chocolate ice cream. Soon I was in his dressing room, giving him oral pleasure. We later retreated to his apartment and had mind-blowing sex. I called my friends Raymond and Gregory.
“You guys have got to meet this man I met at the theater. He did things to my body that still have me cumming!”

You would think I’d have wanted to keep Vernon all to myself. That was not the case, given my “free style” sexual attitude of the 70’s. I encouraged Raymond and Gregory to have sex with Vernon because I wanted them to experience the same great sex I’d had, just as I would want them to sample the same great meal I’d enjoyed at a good restaurant.  Vernon was so easy going to be with because he did not pressure or try to control me. Our meeting arrangement was convenient because we were working in the same theater. Once the play ended, I dared to meet other men for pleasure.
 When the unemployment checks ran out, Tim got a permanent job as a secretary in a rental office and I found a summer job as a teaching assistant at Langston Hughes Elementary School, down the street from where we lived.  Then Tim found out about a guy I was meeting in the park.  We got into another knock down, drag out fight. As I tried to walk out the door of the apartment, Tim held on to my legs to prevent me from leaving. I'm sure the spectacle of a grown man attached to my leg as I tried to pry him loose looked like a scene from a bad Joan Crawford movie. I was a prisoner in my own home and Tim was the warden.  I don’t know why I let that little beady eyed, ugly man control my life. Greg and Raymond called us "beauty and the beast" behind Tim’s back. Where did Tim’s “beast” strength come from?   Where was mine?
Later that night, after we had make-up sex, I looked at his disgusting body and became more disgusted with myself for even being there. I stood up wondering, "Why am I living this way?"  Leaving with just the clothes on my back would be the first step in taking back my life.  His body stirred. Before his eyes could fully open, I walked out of the apartment barefoot and into the cold, and ran about half a mile to my father’s place. I asked him if I could spend the night.  For once, he didn’t ask any questions. Tim telephoned, but I refused to answer his calls.
The next day, I called Greg and Raymond and they helped me gather a few of my possessions. Then I called Vernon to tell him I was finally free of Tim. He made a call and within days I moved into my own apartment in Vernon’s building.  My new place would take me out of the “urban jungle” of Northwest Baltimore and into beautiful historic downtown Baltimore in the heart of the gay community. I lived within walking distance of all the gay clubs and was close to the theaters and art museums. The place was not much.  That first week, I had to put my lunchmeat on the windowsill to keep it cold, until I got a refrigerator.  However, I had a bed, my clothes, a stereo, a television set, and my Diana Ross and the Supremes albums.
I made many missteps during my first “real world” relationship, and I cannot blame Tim for the choices I made.  I had used him for room and board and was eventually forced to pay up because nothing is free. It’s like selling your soul to the devil -- the price is high to pay to get out of the contract. Yes, I had "sold my heart to the junkman," but now I was free.  Or so I thought.

Many a smile
You put on my face
But I paid dearly
With the tears I taste….
My mistake…

“When you go into a relationship to use someone, the real person who ends up getting used is you.” 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Love Hangover


Don’t call a doctor

Don’t call my momma

Don’t call my preacher

No, I don’t need it
I don’t need it

(From Diana Ross’ hit single “Love Hangover,” 1976, composed by P. Sawyer/M. Mcleod)

There is a movie I used to watch over and over again on late night television called Valley of the Dolls. Three women in 1960's New York meet, become friends, and pursue careers that lead them down paths they could have never predicted. Anne Welles is a prim New Englander, (played by Barbara Parkins), who unexpectedly skyrockets from being a talent agency secretary to being a glamorous TV model.  Neely O’Hara, (played by Patty Duke), is a determined singer who finds that Hollywood success can easily spell self-destruction. And Jennifer North, (played by Sharon Tate), is a beautiful sex symbol torn between the money that her body commands and the shame of feeling exploited.  By the end of the film, only one of the three narrowly escapes a tragic end.

Based on Jacqueline Susann's best-selling novel about the dangerous side of Hollywood, this high camp, 1967 melodrama was once thought of as shocking. The story has everything a gay man loves: sex, money, fame and drugs. (The word “dolls refers to the pills abused by the film’s characters.)  Now, drag queens do impersonations of the screen characters on stage, and gay men repeat the dialogue word for word while taking shots of liquor and bursting into uproarious laughter. As an eighteen-year-old living on my own in 1976, Valley of the Dolls was a mirror of my own life.
             I had two new best friends in 1976, Gregory Nicholson and Raymond McConneghey.  They were my extended family during that first year of living on my own.  Together, we formed a trio reminiscent of the three women in Valley of the Dolls.  We would watch the movie over and over again and recite all of its most popular lines:

Helen Lawson: Look. They drummed you right outta Hollywood! So ya come crawlin’ back to Broadway. Well, Broadway doesn’t go for booze and dope. Now you get outta my way, I got a man waitin’ for me.

Jennifer North: You told me Gramp’s been sick, mother, and I know about the oil burner. Okay, I’ll pawn the mink. He’ll give me a couple hundred for it. Mother, I know I don’t have any talent, and I know all I have is a body, and I am doing my bust exercises. Goodbye, mother. I’ll wire you the money first thing in the morning. Goodbye. [Hangs up the phone and starts performing calisthenics.]  Oh, to hell with them! Let ‘em droop!

Anne Welles: You’ve got to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls.

We saw ourselves in each of the main characters. Gregory was Anne Welles, the prim and proper secretary who would later be discovered as a model. Gregory looked like he came from New England, wearing round spectacles, polo shirts and penny loafers.  He took the preppy boy look seriously.  He always had a notepad with him, and wrote poems at the drop of a hat.  When I moved out of my father’s place and into my tiny apartment, Gregory and his family lived a few doors down the block. We both attended Northwestern High and we both auditioned for the Sidney Poitier role in the senior class production of To Sir, with Love.  He was cast as the famous teacher while I got the character role of the principal.  At first I resented him for this, but I later came to love and respect him.

Raymond lived down the block a little further and always reminded me of the Jennifer North character.  He felt people never took him seriously, so he would make jokes about himself just to beat people to the punch. Tall, light-skinned and sexy, Raymond had a hairy chest, broad shoulders, long legs, and a huge ass.  Despite his self-deprecating demeanor, he was beautiful.  When he was nervous he would talk very fast, and sometimes you could not understand what he was saying.  This was because he spoke with an accent and in a language called “Gullah,” a blend of English and African languages known as the dialect of  the “Geechie.”  People of the Geechie culture were descendants of Africans from Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Senegal, and lived in coastal South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.  Raymond’s family was South Carolinian Geechie.
             I could never figure out the source of Raymond’s self-esteem issues; I just knew he used his sexuality to compensate for his lack of confidence. He felt he had no talent to offer the world, other than his beautiful body, so he slept with lots of men in order to feel loved, although he seemed to hate the sex afterwards.  He forever wanted to find perfect romantic love and settle down with the man of his dreams. He could quickly turn moody and, just like the Jennifer North character, feel as if all men had used him up and tossed him out like a rag doll.
I myself resembled the character of Neely because I wanted to become a success in entertainment. Greg and Raymond used to chant at me, “Sparkle, Neely, Sparkle!” (a line from the movie.)  When I did my first community theater production of Shoes at the Arena Playhouse in Baltimore, Greg and Raymond were shouting this from the front row, cheering for me.  They were always encouraging me to never give up on my dream.
To make things perfect, Gregory and Raymond also loved the music of the Supremes. We would go to the clubs and dance the night away to Diana’s “Love Hangover.”

If there’s a cure for this

I don’t want it

Don’t want it

If there’s a remedy
I’ll run from it
From it
Think about it all the time
Never let it out of my mind

If I was Diana then they were my Supremes, supporting me with a strong background.  But we were also the three young, wide-eyed dreamers of Valley of the Dolls, not really ready for what the world would throw at us.  The night that drew my life tragically parallel to that of Neely O’Hara came on April 5, 1978.
I had taken a trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was hanging out with my cousins from North Philly.  I thought I was so independent -- I had been working for the phone company and it was the first time I’d had a “paid” vacation. I had money in my pockets and was ready to burn it up. 
Always the adventurer, I had tried pot but my cousins convinced me that the next great high was hashish.  We drove slowly through a few seedy areas of the city, and various drug dealers approached us with their offerings. The smell of hash was different than pot.  And the high was amazing.
The rest of my vacation was pretty much a blur. I don’t even know how I got back to Baltimore. When I returned home, I got ready for work.  I turned on the television set, and a movie was on about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., starring Paul Winfield and the fabulous Cicely Tyson.  I remember being deeply moved by the story and by Paul Winfield’s portrayal of Dr. King; it seemed as if Dr. King was speaking right to me, straight out of the television.

The next memory I have is returning to work at the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company (C&P), commonly referred to as “Ma Bell.”  We wore head sets in those days and sat in cubicles of four. From the moment I arrived at the office, the calls seemed to be dropping in my head without the need of a headset or cable cord. I kept saying, “Directory assistance, may I help you?” with no one else on the end of any line. 
All the operators in the room were confused. Some ran over to see what was the matter. Others were forced to continue taking calls, to keep their numbers up. Supervisors came running out of their cubicles. The bleach blonde shift manager, who always rated my calls as too long, approached me with a concerned tone.  “Dale, what’s the matter?” she asked.  “Is there someone we can call for you?”
I started babbling the speech I had heard earlier in the television movie.  “Martin Luther King told me that ‘all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last!’ He told me that. He told me. Martin Luther King told me today.”
The only other male operator who worked on the floor rushed over to catch me as I collapsed.  Since my father was my closet relative in Baltimore, he was contacted to come get me. He rushed me to Greater Baltimore Medical Center where the doctors decided to keep me under observation for the next three days.  This would allow them time to decide whether or not I should be committed to a mental institution.
At first it was decided that I’d had a drug flashback. I had somehow smoked a PCP laced joint or the hash -- I don’t know which. The doctors gave me something to counteract the high I was experiencing, and I went into a coma for seven days.  
When I came out of the coma, I was locked in a little room with cold wet sheets wrapped around my body.  A nurse was there, observing me. This I found hilarious, because in Valley of the Dolls there’s a scene where Neely O’Hara sits restrained in a tub with a sheet stretched over it.  When she uses her big toe to rip it open, she cusses out the nurse who tries to hold her down. 

After coming out of my coma, I learned that I had been admitted to the mental ward at Sheppard Pratt Hospital.  I had been diagnosed as catatonic schizophrenic and my legal rights as an adult had been handed over to my father. 
The next few days were interesting, to say the least. I hallucinated that I was raped by a nurse and had become pregnant.  Screaming that I was going to have a baby, I threw myself in the birthing position and began defecating all over the floor. I later tried to escape the hospital and injured a male nurse in the process.  The hospital and the state deemed me a danger to myself and others.
After I learned to calm down, or after the Thorazine took affect, I was released to the “regular floor” with all the other patients.  There was a beautiful girl named Jodie who stayed in the ward next to mine.  She was thin and frail and wore lots of make-up. When I first saw her I screamed for joy, because I truly believed that Diana Ross herself had come to see me in the hospital.

Although it was 1978, Jodie’s look was very mod. Her wig and make-up looked like Diana right off the cover of the Diana Ross & the Supremes Greatest Hits album. She wore a big teased wig with a lock of hair covering one eye and lots of eye make-up.  She always smiled and waved when she saw me. She knew that I was so in awe of her beauty and used that to manipulate me.  Later in my stay, when I was allowed to go outside for short day trips, she convinced me to buy her some laxatives. I bought her a brand called Correctol, thinking it could not do any real harm.  I later learned that Jodie was anorexic.  
The last time I saw Jodie, she no longer looked like my idol. Due to her constant bingeing and purging, she had starved herself to the point where she was too weak to even care for her appearance. She looked like walking death. Her body had shrunken and she barely had the strength to lift up her head, which seemed huge.  I would look into her eyes, no longer adorned with long fluttery eyelashes, and see only dark circles around hollow holes where eyes peeked out.
Although there were dark moments during my stay at Sheppard Pratt, I had my fun while I was “recuperating.”  Many days went by where I felt like I was at an out of town college campus, (even though we were locked in.)  As residents, we attended scheduled classes and group activities; I went to gym, art therapy, group therapy, and assertiveness training.  I had roommates and my own stereo, played ping pong games and watched TV shows.  After a while, I was even made activities coordinator. I hired a band to entertain the patients and also planned a movie night. I wanted to rent Valley of the Dolls, but my doctors thought the movie was inappropriate. There is a scene in the film where Neely O’Hara is getting better and she also runs the patient activities in the hospital she’s been committed to. Greg and Raymond would call and I would tell them about all the things I was doing inside the “crazy house.”  Raymond would say, “You really are Neely!”
I got so comfortable there in my environment that I had affairs off and on site, with other patients as well as “civilians.”  There was this one bus driver I had met before I was in the hospital; he learned where I was, through a Sheppard Pratt nurse who was a member of his church, and he used to volunteer to pick me up and take me out to get my hair cut.  But that’s not all we did.  He’d pick me up on Sundays after church, fuck me, cut my hair and return me like nothing ever happened. He was a well-respected deacon and everyone thought, “Oh, what a nice man, mentoring a kid like Dale.” One time he took me to a music store after one of our “”mentoring sessions,” and played the church organ to show me how talented he was.
Every Monday, I had an individual therapy appointment with the main hospital doctor assigned to me, Dr. Parker. Over the twelve months I was at Sheppard Pratt, he was the doctor I remember the most. He was a pudgy, bald, white man who wore these ugly wooden clogs. I don’t remember our conversations being very good -- he was not warm or friendly at all.  He would simply ask if the medication I was taking was making me feel better. I was indeed becoming more lucid, but I was gaining weight and would drool uncontrollably.  It was all a side effect of the Thorazine.
My father, still in denial about my homosexuality, tried to convince the doctors that my illness was a result of me being molested as a teenager and forced into a life of homosexuality against my will. He told them that my ex-lover should not be allowed to visit me. The odd thing is that, looking back on it now, Dr. Parker was the queerest looking man there. So, although I was no longer seeing my ex-boyfriend, I can assume that request fell on deaf ears.

Ooh, I don’t need no cure

I don’t need no cure

I don’t need no cure

I turned twenty-one at Sheppard Pratt and was released on April 2, 1979 -- almost an exact year later. For a whiIe, I went to “transition” group therapy while returning to work at the phone company.  My father had used my benefits to keep my apartment, so I was able to return to my own place.  He had also used it as a location to rendezvous with his various girlfriends.  In the year since I had been away, the apartment had become dirty and strange.  After waking up with a cockroach crawling up my bed sheets, I moved out within a month of returning.
I had gotten in touch with my emotions while at Sheppard Pratt. I had learned how to cry.  When I returned home, I took a vow and promised myself, “Never will I stay in a job that makes me unhappy.”  Find happiness in what you do, because if you are going to spend that much of your time doing something, you need to enjoy it.  It was time to leave Ma Bell.
Life after Sheppard Pratt picked up like it had never stopped. Raymond and Greg would tease me on occasion about my stay in the nut house, but my family never asked me about it and no mention of it was ever made. I lost contact with Raymond during the eighties, but ran into him at a gay pride festival in 1992 where he was volunteering at an AIDS awareness booth. He had lost weight and his health looked very bad. We exchanged numbers and kept in touch for a while, but his phone number was eventually cut off and I never learned for sure if he passed away.  In Valley of the Dolls, the Anne Welles character comes out of the tale a survivor, while the Neely O’Hara character relapses into drug and alcohol addiction. Eight years later in 1987, Gregory was brutally murdered. Out of our trio, I was the lone survivor, the one narrowly escaping a tragic end.  I had survived coming out of the darkness.

Around 1994, Diana Ross appeared in a movie called Out of Darkness.  It was about a woman who suffers with schizophrenia.  The first time I saw it, a sea of emotions ran through me.  There is a scene at the dinner table where Diana’s character explains to her mother that the medication makes her drool.  A chill ran down my back and the tears flowed. Fifteen years had passed and all the memories of Sheppard Pratt came back to me. All my life I had imitated Diana Ross, and there she was, imitating me.

I got the sweetest hangover
I don’t wanna get over

 “Life can imitate art, so don’t be surprised when art comes back to imitate life.”