Authors: Armistead Maupin
Tags: #General, #Gay, #Fiction, #Social Science, #Gay Studies
For Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy
and in loving memory of
for Steve Beery
When you feel your song is orchestrated wrong,
Why should you prolong
When the wind and the weather blow your dreams sky-high,
Sail away—sail away—sail away!
HE WAS FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS OLD WHEN SHE SAW SAN
Francisco for the first time. As her limousine pulled away from the concrete labyrinth of the airport, she peered out the window at the driving rain and issued a small sigh over the general beastliness of the weather.
“I know,” said Philip, reading her mind, “but they expect it to clear today.”
She returned his faint smile, then searched in her handbag for a tissue. Since leaving the Reagans’ ranch she’d felt a mild case of the sniffles coming on, and she was dashed if she’d let it get the best of her.
The motorcade veered onto a larger highway—a “freeway,” she supposed—and soon they were plunging headlong into the rain past lurid motels and posters of nightmare proportions. To her left loomed a treeless hillside, so unnaturally green that it might have been Irish. There were words on it, rendered in white stones:
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO—THE INDUSTRIAL CITY.
Philip saw the face she made and leaned forward to study the curious hieroglyphic.
“Odd,” he murmured.
“Mmm,” she replied.
She could only hope that they had not yet arrived in the city proper. This tatty commercial district could well be the equivalent of Ruislip or Wapping or one of those horrid little suburbs in the vicinity of Gatwick Airport. She mustn’t imagine the worst just yet.
Her original plan had been to arrive in San Francisco on board the
—an operation that would have entailed the pleasant prospect of sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge. The sea had become quite treacherous, however, by the time she reached Los Angeles, and the same storms that had brought six California rivers to flood level would almost certainly have played havoc with her undependable tummy.
So she had settled on this somewhat less than majestic entrance via aeroplane and automobile. She would spend the night in a local hotel, then reinstate herself on the
when it arrived in the harbor the following day. Since she was almost sixteen hours ahead of schedule, this evening’s time was completely unclaimed, and the very thought of such gratuitous leisure sent surprising little shivers of anticipation down her spine.
Where would she dine tonight? The hotel, perhaps? Or someone’s home? The question of
home was a sticky one at best, since she had already received feverish invitations from several local hostesses, including—and here she shuddered a bit—that dreadful petrol woman with all the hair.
She dismissed the issue of dinner for the moment and once more turned her attention to the passing scene. The rain seemed to have slacked a tiny bit, and here and there in the slate-gray skies a few dainty patches of blue had begun to make themselves known. Then the city materialized out of nowhere—a jumble of upended biscuit boxes that reminded her vaguely of Sydney.
“Look!” crowed Philip.
He was pointing to a dazzling rainbow that hovered like a crown above the city.
“How perfectly splendid,” she murmured.
“Indeed. Their protocol people are more thorough than I thought.”
Feeling giddier by the minute, she giggled at his little joke. It seemed appropriate to commemorate the moment by a cheery wave to the citizenry, but public assembly was quite impossible along this major artery, so she ignored the impulse and set about the task of repairing her lipstick.
The rain had diminished to a drizzle by the time the motorcade descended from the highway into a region of low-lying warehouses and scruffy cafés. At the first intersection, the limousine slowed dramatically and Philip signaled her with a nod of his head.
“Over there, darling. Your first well-wishers.”
She turned her head slightly and waved at several dozen people assembled on the street corner. They waved back vigorously, holding aloft a black leather banner on which the words
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
had been imprinted in silver rivets. It was not until she heard them cheer that she realized they were all men.
Philip smirked sleepily.
“What?” she asked.
“Poofs,” he said.
darling. With the banner.”
She glanced back at them and saw that they were standing outside a building called the Arena. “Don’t be silly,” she replied. “They’re sportsmen of some sort.”
O COMMEMORATE THE COMING OF ELIZABETH II, THE
Marina Safeway had run specials all week on English muffins, Imperial margarine and Royal Crown Cola. The Flag Store on Polk Street had reported a rush on Union Jacks, while no less than three bars in the Castro had set about the task of organizing “Betty Windsor” look-alike contests.
All this and more had been painstakingly documented by Mary Ann Singleton—and a thousand reporters like her—in the grueling days that preceded the royal visit. Mary Ann’s own quest for queenly minutiae had led her from tearooms on Maiden Lane to Irish bars in North Beach to storefront bakeries in the Avenues where rosy-cheeked Chicanas made steak-and-kidney pies for “Olde English” restaurants.
It was little wonder that Her Majesty’s actual arrival had come as both a profound relief and a disappointing anticlimax. Tormented by the incessant rain, Mary Ann and her cameraman had waited for almost an hour outside the St. Francis, only to discover (after the fact) that the royal limousine had ducked discreetly into the hotel’s underground parking garage.
Mary Ann salvaged the story as best she could, telecasting a live report from the entrance to the garage, then dragged herself home to 28 Barbary Lane, where she kicked off her shoes, lit a joint and phoned her husband at work.
They made a date to see
later that night.
She was warming up a leftover pot roast when the phone rang.
“ ’Lo,” she muttered, through a mouthful of cold roast.
“Mary Ann?” It was the crisp, patrician voice of DeDe Halcyon Day.
“Hi,” said Mary Ann. “Don’t mind me. I’m eating myself into oblivion.”
DeDe laughed. “I saw your newscast on
“Great,” said Mary Ann ruefully. “Pretty insightful, huh? I figure it’s all over but the Emmy.”
“Now, now. You did just fine.”
“And we all loved your hat. It was
prettier than the mayor’s. Even Mother said so.”
Mary Ann made a face for no one’s benefit but her own. That goddamn hat was the first hat she had worn in years, and she had bought it specifically for the royal visit. “I’m glad you enjoyed it,” she said blandly. “I thought it might have been a bit much for a parking garage.”
“Look,” said DeDe, “why aren’t you down here? I thought for sure you would be.”
“Down where? Hillsborough?”
DeDe uttered an exasperated little sigh. “Trader Vic’s, of course.”
Most rich people are annoying, Mary Ann decided, not because they are different but because they pretend not to notice the difference. “DeDe,” she said as calmly as possible, “Trader Vic’s is not exactly a hangout of mine.”
“Well, O.K., but … don’t you want to see her?”
“The Queen, you ninny.”