Sunday, May 27, 2012

Johnny: Finding His Way - Part 1

John in YMCA newsletter

My former boyfriend John is a film and television sound designer living in Los Angeles. His family had deep roots in Culver City where his grandfather owned a well-established electrical business. After his father bought out his uncle the business failed and the family moved around California as his father sought work. Culver City was one of the early centers of the film industry with the famous MGM lot. John remembers his father telling tales of drunk Munchkins causing trouble at the Culver Hotel during the filming of the Wizard of Oz. Following his passion for cinema John studied film at San Francisco State and eventually worked for the bay area’s leading directors as a sound editor before moving to Los Angeles to pursue more steady work. In this interview John describes his growing up, his first queer involvements and living with his girlfriend.

Interviewer: I'm really interested in stories about queer men coming of age, their experience, and how other people perceived them. Try to set the scene in terms of when you were a little boy and what Culver City was like and then how your life changes radically.

John: The life that changed was more my sister’s life because I had only finished the second grade when we started moving.

Interviewer: What did your father do?

John: My father was an electrician. It was a family business that had been my grandfather's. My father and my uncle did not get along, and there were problems with the business that I don't really understand because I was too young. My father bought my uncle out, and there was animosity about that for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, my father lost the business anyway, which is what started the moving because he basically went out of business. But before that, there were the salad years, which I kind of only vaguely remember. There was a new house that was built for us on Keystone in Culver City, which was 8 or 10 blocks away from where my grandparents lived.

John and his father in the house on Keystone.

My father drove an El Camino. My father loved cars. He also had a Corvette that I remember. My mother drove a convertible Chrysler.

The El Camino

I remember those days feeling kind of grand. My mother had a little fur. There were red panel trucks that we washed every weekend. So, there was that kind of small town success. Even in my adolescence, when I returned there, because we shared the same name people would ask after my father or my grandfather. My grandparents moved there in the early 1900s from Iowa. Culver City was a small town in the first half of the twentieth century. It would have been a very different life had we stayed there, but we didn't. My father moved us.

The Salad Years in Culver City

Interviewer: After the business failed?

John: Yes. But mind you, I didn't know that. My mother didn't want to leave, and my father insisted that we go. We went to visit a friend of his that had already moved to Humboldt County. That was pretty weird for me because my father's friend lived on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. I mean, Humboldt County at that time, this was the early '60s, I want to say '62, '63, maybe, was a very remote place. But this guy lived an hour away from any town. They were isolated on this big ranch. And I went with their kids to a one-room school where one teacher taught everybody. And what I remember about that visit is that while she played the piano she kept having to hike her bra strap up. This is all before we moved. My father said, "Okay, that's where we're going to go." And that’s where we went.

He used to say that he was "getting out of the rat race." It was the beginning of a downward spiral economically, and probably emotionally too, that lasted basically until my parents split up when I was in high school.

Interviewer: So do you remember moving vans?

John: A caravan. In fact, my father and I went up first in this big truck that he'd borrowed to bring his shop, his electrical stuff, because he had a huge storehouse of parts and things that he wanted to move up there. I remember the anxiety of that was that I was supposed to be telling him when he could change lanes and when he could merge, and I had no idea. It was a huge truck that drove really slow, and I was terrified of being wrong and getting us into an accident.

Interviewer: And you are six years old?

John: Yes. I would get yelled at if somebody honked at us 'cause it was too close or something. My father was a very odd combination of things. He was kind of just toughen up and suck it up kind of guy. He also gave me over to other men to kind of toughen me up as well and basically just stood back, which just makes me think that he felt like he was not adequate to do that.

John in Myers Flat, 1963-64.

Interviewer: Do you think that he sensed then even when you're that young that you're kind of effeminate or soft?

John: He must have because it was a recurring theme -- my father was a big tease, but it was mean-spirited and could be humiliating. Often it had to do with being “girl-boy.” Like when the '60s music started, the British invasion, I was just obsessed with it, and I took a lot of shit. If ever I wanted to watch something on television, I had to endure his ridicule if he were in the room.

Interviewer: You mean The Beatles?

John: They were girl-boys, and he bet that they shaved their armpits, and that they wore frilly underwear. He was constantly feminizing almost anything that I was interested in.

Interviewer: So you were kind of an exotic in your own family?

John: Oh, yes, sensitive, smart, intuitive. One of the lessons I learned from the trouble I had seen my older sister get into and from a variety of family experiences was to keep to myself, to keep it under wraps.

Interviewer: Don't expose yourself?

John: Just don't let them know what you're doing, who you are really. I had a lot of independence. My parents were very self-involved and just didn’t pay attention. By the time I was an adolescent, their marriage was on the rocks, and they were both drinking a lot, so that meant as long as the police didn't come and I got good grades in school, I could pretty much do whatever I wanted, which was perfect for me.

Interviewer: I want to go back to when you move up to Humboldt County and your father is pawning you off on his friend.

John: Warren Linville. Well, my father had a series of friends. Warren is the best example, but he was not the first one -- people that he kind of submitted to and modeled himself after. Warren was the superintendent of the little school district in southern Humboldt County. And my mother ultimately worked for him; she was his secretary. He had been a Marine officer of some kind, and he had two daughters. He was a hunter; he was constantly killing things. He had guns in his truck. It was what you would imagine -- guns in a rack behind him, and he'd see a deer and pull over and shoot the fucking deer on the spot.

Interviewer: Did he put it in the back of the truck?

John: Yeah. This was the part of the toughening up period in Humboldt County. I was in the third and the fourth grade, so that's still a pretty little boy. They used to slaughter animals, and I was expected to participate, or at the very least witness. And it was things like slaughtering a steer, slaughtering lambs. There was one day where they were neutering the young male lambs, and there were a lot of them so they cut the balls off of 50 sheep like all in a row, it seemed like a thousand, and I'm just standing there and watching this. One time they decided that they would butcher a whole bunch of chickens at once. They were chopping the heads off of chickens and then handing them to me. So I had a chicken’s foot between each finger. I had two fists full, eight chickens all with their heads cut off, flapping their wings like mad. And if you dropped one, it ran away.

Interviewer: Headless?

John: Right. I was horrified by this, but that did not seem okay. To be horrified was not a reaction that was acceptable, so I just kind of had to find a way to get through it.

Interviewer: In those kinds of gruesome situations, did you hide that you were horrified?

John: I tried my best. I can't imagine that they didn't know, which is why I loved Ed. Ed was a very old Russian man who didn't speak English who lived on Warren's ranch. I guess he came with the place.

Interviewer: He was a caretaker?

John: He was just there, and you had to let Ed live there. He would just show up in these situations when no one was around and show me how to do stuff that frightened me, like how you could move the chickens with a stick so you didn't have to touch them.

Interviewer: Helpful hints on how to get through this nightmare?

John: Ed was my hero. He would just appear like Boo Radley. "Oh, there's Ed." I don't even know if Ed was his name. That's just what we called him. It probably wasn't his name.

Interviewer: After Culver City, Humboldt County couldn’t have been more different. Can you talk more about how that influenced you?

John: Well, Humboldt County was the first of many situations where I would go to school for the first time in this town that was wildly different from anything I'd ever experienced before, so I was certainly other. Now whether or not that other was identified as feminine or not, I'm not sure. In this case though I was a city boy for sure.

But the experience of holding back and observing becomes a big piece of my personality. Seeing the lay of the land, what do people do here? What do people respond to? How do I place myself in this environment? I would take a bus for half an hour or 40 minutes to go to school, as everybody did. When I was young, I would get fixated on the other boys. Now I understand that I had a kind of sexual attraction to them. But at the time, I would just become obsessed with some boy. There was a boy whose father must have been a logger because he lived way up in the hills. And if it rained, he didn't come to school because the road would wash out. Often these boys were nothing like me, but I would fixate on the clothes they wore. He wore rubber boots, and I wanted rubber boots. "Why do you want rubber boots?" "I have to have rubber boots." And I was indulged with that kind of thing too, which I guess is feminine. I always had very strong ideas about what I was supposed to wear. But it was usually associated with some boy that I was fascinated with or something I saw on TV. I would try to emulate what was attractive to me without really understanding why.

I just would watch this boy. He didn't like me. He wasn't my friend. Later I got to be friends with some of these boys, but in those days, I just watched them. I just watched what they did, listened to how they talked, watched how they moved. It was also very important to me the way they moved in their bodies, which makes me think it was sexual in nature.

Interviewer: You lived in different places in Humboldt County?

John: We lived in Phillipsville, a very small town, something like 250 people. We lived there for two years. I was in the third and the fourth grade there. And we were there when that big flood happened in 1964 too, the same year as the Alaskan earthquake.

That was fantastic. I loved that because our house wasn't flooded, but our town was isolated. It was flooded on either side, and the Red Cross would fly in with helicopters and bring supplies. I just loved it. And my sister…one time they came to bring supplies and literally we were all standing there, and the helicopter blades are turning and the wind's going everywhere, and the soldier says, "We have room to take someone out. Does anyone need to leave?" And my sister Sheila says, "I do. I need to go back to school." And she got in the helicopter and flew away. And I just thought, oh my god, I want to do that.

I just thought everything about that episode was fantastic. We mucked out the houses. One of the teachers organized the kids, and we went down -- there was a hotel that was owned by this old woman and her brother who was blind who also made wooden shop things, like planters. And he had cut off his arm 'cause he was blind and working with power tools.

Interviewer: Of course.

John: So he had this wooden prosthetic, which he sometimes cut off, you know?

Interviewer: Just make another one.

John: We went down to help muck out their place because they weren't able to do it themselves, so we were down there digging. And the mud was all the way up to the roofline. It was like digging to get down to even get in. I just loved it.

The flood of 1964.

Interviewer: After Phillipsville where did you move?

John: My father had his first heart attack in Humboldt County, '63 or '64. My father had this plan that he was going to be an electrician in Humboldt County. Well people there just didn't hire people to do their electrical work, they just did it themselves. There was some work, but not nearly enough. And then after his heart attack, he had to do something less physically taxing. He started driving a school bus.

So we lived there for two years, and then we moved to Eureka, which is still in Humboldt County, it's a small city. We moved there because they were building a community college, The College of the Redwoods. He was hired as a construction foreman. I'm not sure precisely what, but he was involved with the building of the school. But we only lived there one year and then we moved to Barstow.

John with fish in Humboldt County.

Interviewer: Barstow?

John: Warren Linville moved to Barstow first. He was the superintendent of schools there and he offered my father a job. That was the first time my father worked for a school district as a maintenance foreman. And that was a job that he did basically for the rest of his life. We went from foggy, cold, northern California to the Mojave Desert. These were the kinds of moves that we made.

Interviewer: You are in the sixth grade in Barstow?

John: Yes. We lived there for some time, two and a half years. I was in the sixth, seventh and first half of the eighth grade in Barstow. I didn't mind Barstow when I was young. When I got into junior high it was bad, and it would have been worse in high school. There were gangs there. The SA’s and the surfers they called themselves. The surfers were the white kids, and the SA’s were the Hispanics. And they fought. And they attacked in the hallways and slam you against a locker and ask, "Are you a surfer or an SA?" Well obviously I'm not an SA. I don't know. What's the right answer?

Interviewer: Did you have any friends?

John: In Barstow there's a lot of military because of Fort Irwin. So there was a culture of people who didn't stay anywhere very long. There was a kid named Bill I particularly liked. I had friends there, not a lot of friends, but, as you know, I only need a few.

Interviewer: Did you start to become aware of your sexuality at that point? Typically, that’s when there is some sort of awareness.

John: There was some of the kind of boy humpy stuff that we did. And I also kissed my first girl then. That was funny. I had a crush on a guy, but it was his sister who I kissed.

Interviewer: Do you think anybody there was gay?

John: Yeah, there was a little bit of that kind of laying on each other and kind of pushing with the crotch stuff. I did that with several different boys at that time. Oh, but I did have one of my boy crushes there. He was the older brother of one of my friends. He had a strange haircut, which thankfully I didn't emulate. It was really short on the top and slicked back on the sides. It probably had a name. And he drank too because his father kept a keg. Alcohol is part of my story but I wasn’t drinking yet, just noticing.

His father kept a keg in a refrigerator in the garage. It wasn't locked or anything. And so the thing that I emulated with this guy was motorcycles. He had a motorcycle. None of us had licenses, we were too young, but you could ride in the desert. It was a lifesaver because there was nothing to do in Barstow, but that was really fun. My father went along with that. My mom didn't like it, but she was overruled. So yeah, I'd follow this guy anywhere, we'd go on the bikes off into the desert.

Interviewer: Did you have your own motorcycle?

John: Yeah, it wasn’t large.

Interviewer: Is this sexually charged, this riding, or is it just because there was nothing else to do?

John: At thirteen it was really fun to be off on on our own in the middle of Mojave Desert riding motorcyles. There was no adult anywhere. As I mentioned before what I did with these guys was fixate and emulate them. I saw them as knowing what to do and I didn't. I wanted to not just emulate them, but inhabit them if it were possible.

Next stop: Barstow.

Interviewer: Where do you go after Barstow?

John: From Barstow we moved back to Culver City.

My grandfather died, and my father thought that we needed to go back to Culver City so that he could help my grandmother run her affairs. And I think my father must have imagined that there was more of an estate than there was. There wasn’t much to manage.

And then he started working as an electrical engineer, but none of those jobs lasted very long. He would get a job and then get laid off. I think this was more because of the economy of the time than anything my father did.

This is another interesting, emotional period in my family life. Both of my sisters are long gone. They were gone by the time we moved to Eureka. They missed all this crazy moving.

But my father was very depressed after we moved back. He couldn't really hold a job, and that's the period of time when he was the most abusive towards me. It was horrible. He would taunt me and bait me, and then pull the, "You can't talk to your father like that" when I got mad.

One of the things about returning to Culver City was it was the first time that I really felt like I found some people; I made a life for myself. That’s where I met Greg, which was just kind of love at first sight for me. But this time I was determined that I would get to know this boy and make him my friend.

The conflict with my father came about because he was trying to step on my life that I finally liked, and I was willing to fight to protect it. And that was our showdown basically.

Interviewer: So you're 15 or so and you're in conflict with him. But are you more aware about gay feelings or is it all kind of rolled together, you're just sexual because you're a teenager?

John: Well, at 15 I had sex for the first time. And within a couple of months of sleeping with a girl, I slept with a boy. So they kind of happened concurrently. One of my friends from back when we lived in Culver City the first time before I got to know Greg and Mitch and other people I got close to later. This friend and I started having sex. Neither of us knew much but it went on for a few years.

Ultimately he was straight so he was doing that thing that young, straight boys do, and I was ultimately gay so he was just my first experience with a man. The first girl I slept with was a slutty girl who said, "I'm sleeping with boys and I think it's fun, so you want to," and I said yes because I thought that's what you did, and it was horrible. I remember that she had an aquarium and I just was looking at the fish hoping it would be over soon.

But then I had a girlfriend who was a hippie, on the pill and who was enamored of me, so it was kind of perfect. That was probably the most sexually-active period of my life, when I was 15 to 18. This was also when my young, hippie friends and I were smoking a lot of pot, and I was taking hallucinogenic drugs. I wasn't drinking too much then because I was underage and it was hard to buy.

Interviewer: Whereas pot and mushrooms and LSD and all were relatively easy to get.

John: Yes. I went up to see friends at UC Santa Cruz, met Michael, and it was a jaw-dropping attraction. In fact, Michael and I dropped acid together for the first time about two hours after we met. So that relationship was very much about LSD.

Unfortunately we never had sex. I don't know why we didn't. I think I was terrified. He was even bisexual. It was an intense relationship, and it definitely was romantic, but it was not physical, which is a regret of mine. That was kind of the first time I actually had feelings for a man that were reciprocated in some way.

Interviewer: But at this point, your parents are beginning to kind of let go of you?

John: Like I said earlier, they just didn’t pay much attention. They would believe whatever I told them. My bedroom in Culver City was a guest room that was off the garage, not attached to the main house, so I could come and go easily.

Interviewer: Did your father finally get work?

John: No. My mother slept in the bedroom, and he slept on this horrible, uncomfortable, hide-a-bed in the den, which I could see from my bedroom. I could see him because that was in the back of the house. He eventually gave up even looking for work and was just watching T.V. and sitting around the house being morose. So when Warren Linville offered him another job in Danville, we were packing up.

John as a teenager.

Interviewer: All of you?

John: Yeah, mother and my father and me.

Interviewer: I didn't remember that your mother went to Danville.

John: Well, the interesting part of that story is that Greg decided that he wanted to come with us. And this was big -- I loved Greg. Greg was my best friend. But he not only wanted to come with us, but when his father said no, he cried. I had no idea that his attachment to me was so strong. And he could not have picked a worse time to want to enter into our household. So, Greg moved with us.

Interviewer: His father relents? And he’s straight?

John: Yes and yes.

Interviewer: What do your parents think of your best friend moving with you?

John: They both liked Greg, I don’t know what they thought about us. I was a little flamboyant in the Danville days. Why the hell did Greg want to move with us? I'll never know -- you'll have to interview him.

I was really angry. And I didn't care who knew it. I was kind of mad at the world. And I would do things to be kind of contrary and spiteful. I had very long hair then. Greg and I spent a lot of time at the Renaissance Fair in Southern California. One of the affectations I picked up there was wearing a feather in my hair. It kind of had a leather thong and you tied it in your hair.

John takes a picture of his friends
on the way to the Renaissance Faire.

And I wore a jumpsuit because I fancied myself kind of hippie radical. It was a military green jumpsuit. And I had a big purse that I carried, and I just didn't give a fuck. Well, everyone thought that Greg and I were lovers. And I was perfectly happy for them to think that because I worshipped Greg, and I was proud to have them think that I was his lover. I don't know why Greg didn't mind. He didn't seem to care.

Greg had been studying dance in Culver City, and I hated P.E. We befriended the girls' P.E. teacher. In fact, she had a big crush on Greg. So we arranged to get ourselves admitted into girls' P.E. so that we could take dance classes with her. And so now we're thought of as the two queers from Los Angeles who were in girls' P.E. and dancing instead of playing football. We’d put on our dance clothes in the boy’s locker room and then walk to the girl’s gym. Oh, so this was my great moment with Warren Linville because he tells me that this is all getting around the school district.

Interviewer: In Danville?

John: Yes, and it's quite an embarrassment for my father He’s basically asking me to tone it down. And I said I couldn't care less if my father is embarrassed.

Interviewer: So people think you and Greg are lovers in Danville among the adults as well as the other kids, and Greg doesn't seem to care?

John: Doesn't care at all. God bless him. I adore Greg for that. He's the only one really that stood by me during that time, the only one really.

Best friend Greg moves in.
Interviewer: What happens in Danville?

John: Well, this is when my parents’ relationship is really disintegrating. There's a lot of drinking going on. And I am stoned a lot. So the household is kind of tipsy most of the time. And I hate it there, and I want to go back to Culver City. I think Greg would have stayed.

My father was receptive to me leaving and going back to Culver City, and I think it helped facilitate my parents splitting up because if I was gone like what was the point? So the upshot was Greg and I stayed in Danville for one semester.

Interviewer: What grade is this?

John: We are in the 11th grade. We return to Culver City and lived with Greg's father. After one semester Greg’s father suggests I make other arrangements. My plan was to move in with my grandmother, which would basically be back in that same house I'd lived in before with my parents. But my mother leaves my father and also goes back to Culver City, so I lived with her.

Interviewer: In an apartment?

John: In an apartment, across the street from my grandmother, who was my father's mother, not my mother's.

Interviewer: Were they close or friendly?

John: They were quite friendly. My parents were married for 28 years.

Interviewer: So then for your senior year, you end up…

John: In an apartment with my mother.

Interviewer: But you're almost like roommates by then, right?

John: Pretty much. In fact, we negotiated. She didn't assume that I would live with her. She basically came and asked me if I would live with her and we agreed to terms. I essentially said I'm not interested in being parented. I'll be respectful, and I'd be happy to live with you, but I don't want much interference, and she agreed to it.

Interviewer: At this point, are you having boyfriends and girlfriends?

John: I didn't have any boyfriends in high school other than the one I mentioned. I had some gay friends. And I was involved in theater at Culver High. And the theater teacher, Mr. Bodger, was an older gay man, kind of Tennessee Williams Theater gay. So there were places to sort of try that out. What did we do? What was that theater that they did in the '60s where you kind of were blindfolded and people touched you and it was this whole sensual thing? The Living Theater, we did some version of that, which was just an excuse to be horny and rub on each other.

But it was all couched in theater. My first real boyfriend was in my first year of college.

Interviewer: So do you identify yourself then as bisexual? How do you see yourself in this kind of last year of high school?

John: I was definitely bisexual because I continued to have girlfriends. I liked intimacy with girls more than boys really. And I hadn't had sex with a boy who knew anything because my friend in high school and I hadn't had sex with anybody but each other. I didn't do the “go to the bars and have sex with an older man thing.” I think that's how you learned to have sex then. It wasn't really until I met Jeremiah that I had sex with somebody who knew what to do.

Interviewer: So are you identifying yourself as bisexual to other people?

John: It depends on who they are. I was pretty much in the closet. My girlfriend at the time, who was a bit more worldly than some, she knew I was bisexual and was totally into it. She thought it was very exotic and fun.

I can't remember at what point I told Mitch and Greg; not initially. It depended on who you were. I was not out, no. And oddly enough, in Culver City I didn't necessarily have the same rep that I had in Danville.

Interviewer: Was your hair still long with a feather?

John: Yeah, but it wasn't so unusual there. Maybe it just was a different environment.

John and Greg at high school graduation.

 Interviewer: Are you working at this time?

John: I always had a job because I needed money to be able to go places and do what I wanted to do. I had a job in Danville. That’s a funny story. So my father is the maintenance foreman for the school district and gets me a job as a janitor at the junior high school. Greg had one too. We both did that. I was cleaning urinals and sweeping and cleaning chalkboards. I didn’t really like doing it so I was usually stoned and kind of hostile to the kids.

And then I got fired for nepotism, and I just laughed. Some personnel guy called me down to meet with him and fired me because of nepotism, and I just like, "Oh yeah, my family connections makes it so I can clean urinals."

Interviewer: So when does the interest in film start to happen?

John: Well, that's actually something I shared with my father. My father was into movies and not necessarily mainstream movies. He liked foreign films. He thought they were earthy. He liked it that people pulled off the road and peed and then got back in their car. He liked things that felt human and real to him. So my father and I went to the movies wherever we lived. And when we lived in Humboldt County, there was only one theater, and they showed horrible films. They showed those bad Roger Corman movies and we went and saw them because that's all there was to see.

When I was in high school, I found there was a theater downtown, I can't remember what it was called, that showed foreign films, so I saw Fellini films. I had a lot of significant, emotional experiences that were tied with movies too. I've been moved by films all my life.

Interviewier: Was film a vehicle that allowed you to get outside of yourself?

John: They showed me a world that I could live in that was different than the one that I lived in currently. I hung my hopes on that.

Interviewer: So how do you get to San Francisco from Culver City? Why didn't you go to Cal-State L.A. or Northridge or UCLA?

John: I love it when my friends say "Oh, we're taking our son to go look at schools on the East Coast." I borrowed my mother's car and took a road trip and looked at schools by myself.

I considered Fresno State because they had a big theater department. I considered Hayward. But San Francisco was easy because they actually had a film department. And I hadn't gone there thinking that I would study film. But when I got there and found that it was an option, because I didn't know that it was an option -- I didn't know much.

Interviewer: There were no fleet of counselors.

John: There was nobody helping me figure things out. I wasn't really able to go to a university. I didn't have the money for that. When my father died I got some Social Security to go to college, which was really great; it really helped a lot. I got some money from my mother. I had a job, so state college was manageable.

Interviewer: And it was $90.00 a semester.

John: I hadn't really realized that you could study film, and then, "Whoa, sign me up." Plus it was in San Francisco.

Interviewer: Of course.

John: When I moved to San Francisco, it was before The Castro. I actually witnessed The Castro blossoming. I didn't move to San Francisco because it was a center of gay life, but I just wanted to get away. And I lived in the dorm my first semester because I didn't know the city, and I had never had an apartment. The dorms didn’t work for me. I actually got chased by drunken football players one night. I was not in the right dorm. There was a gay dorm there, but I picked the wrong one, who knew?

Interviewer: When did your father die?

John: He died the summer before I started at State. 1973.

Interviewer: On the very eve of your mother getting remarried right?

John: He died the morning of the day that my mother married Jack, yes.

Interviewer: Unbelievable.

John: My sisters and I made the decision not to tell my mother until after the ceremony so that she could have her day. So we spent the day of my mother's wedding with this knowledge that nobody else had, which was very surreal. It feels like so many times in my life when big, emotional things have happened there's been some reason I've had to cope in some way rather than just react. I mean, there's always been some other thing that needed my attention rather than how I felt about it.

Interviewer: What did you do?

John: My sister Sherry and I had had a little gin bender. That's what we did.

John at his mother’s second wedding reception
the day his father died.

Interviewer: When did you meet Jeff?

John: I met Jeff Sevick right away, He was in the dorm that I should have been in. I had a big crush on Jeff. We tried to be boyfriends off and on here and there, but it just was not what we were meant to be. But I adored him, and we were good friends most of the time until he died. But at times we would be not seeing each other so much when he got involved with a boyfriend, and then he'd be off in that for awhile. But he was always coming and going. He had strawberry blonde hair that stood straight up like David Bowie and he wore this old, kind of wool, '40s sports coat. And oh god, he was gorgeous.

Around that same time I met Jeremiah. And I was crazy for him. It was not a relationship without conflict, but I was crazy for him. It was also the first time that I had good sex, and so that kind of opened my eyes to being gay in a different way.

Interviewer: Was Jeremiah a student at State too?

John: Yes. I met him on a bus going to State. Oh god, do you want these kind of details?

Interviewer: Yes, I love these kind of details.

John: It's kind of like out of a movie.

Interviewer: Tell me!

John: He was sitting several rows away from me, and he was staring at me. And when I made eye contact, he mouthed the words, "I think you're perfect."

So obviously I had to go with him.

He was a little bit older than me, but not very much. He was studying Russian. He had Russian charts all over his room. He lived in a house with two or three straight men, so then there was that dynamic because we'd come to breakfast in the morning, and there would be these guys with their girlfriends and me and Jeremiah. It was friendly. I don't know why he lived with them. I don't know what they were to him, but that's where he lived.

Interviewer: Did you ever see Jeremiah again after you broke up?

John: No. And I've actually tried Googling him. I have no idea what became of him. I hope he didn't die.

Interviewer: What happens next?

John: That's what I was trying to figure out. Well, as you know, I didn't have a lot of boyfriends. So in 1978 is the year I bought a house with the woman that I was involved with. We'd already lived together for a year before we bought the house. When we made the decision to move in together that time, we also made the decision that we would be monogamous. And that was really the first time that I'd ever committed to a gender, not only to a person, but that meant I wasn't going to be sleeping with anybody else. Not only was I going to be monogamous, but I wouldn't be sleeping with men.

Those years were really good years. I loved her. I loved the intimacy and we tried hard to make it work. We were two young people making our way in the world on our own, and we helped each other with that. And it is part of our bond to this day.

John with nephew


In Part Two John talks about his beginnings in the film business and living as a queer