Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spine Intact, Some Creases

Spine Intact, Some Creases

by Victor J. Banis

reviewed by Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk

“Holding hands in the darkness at the movies could be an intensely erotic experience.”

I was maybe 15 or 16 years old and sneaking into various Times Square movie houses. Did it in through the back doors on 41st or 40th Streets, with someone leaving and me sneaking in; occasionally, I’d meet the brute of a man who simply refused to let me in and slammed the door after he left. But such a prim and proper disciplinarian was rare and I’d get in for free, most of times, with some hurrying-away movie viewer fading out of sight. I’d go in and watch a western or a war-entrenched movie and feel good afterwards. This was years before rampant sex tore through the area…And as I’d sit there, watching some battle with Japanese or Germans or some cowboys fleeing from the sheriff, I’d grow alert when someone sat down in a vacant seat next to mine. Mostly an older man, yet occasionally someone just a little older than I was; who was hoping and looking for some company…or so I thought.

These trysts never did go any further than mere holding hands and looking dreamily at each other, but after an hour or so I’d say, “Be right back…” and hurry off, pretending I was going to the bathroom or concession stand when really I was disappearing into the 42nd Street crowds. I think maybe it was four or five times that happened and I’d leave, still erect, and wander my way home where I masturbated for weeks on end with that cowardly memory…Why did I run? Why was I so horny and hot after?

I often thought of those anonymous faces over the years, those tricked, led-on, abandoned and forgotten so despicably and shamefully, when a single line in Victor Banis’ book brought it all back, “holding hands in the darkness at the movies could be an intensely erotic experience…”

How many times did I pass by the theaters in my later years and remember holding hands, feeling myself protected and cared for when all of a sudden that old fear came back to and I so stupidly faded off in to the crowds? Too many, too many…way too many…

Victor J. Banis, whose bibliography at the end of the book is amazing, --and boy, the wealth of material he has produced under various names and guises is truly remarkable--has produced such a book, a book of memories and lost times gone forever with just a flicker of remembrance. And gratefully Victor Banis has done it all and tells us just how he came to do these things while playing a truly rich and rewarding life experience.

Banis explores the “loneliest of all minorities,” --being gay in the straight world-- in the 1950s and 1960s when such tumultuous change loomed on the horizon. Back in the 1920s and 30s he notes, one didn’t give much mind about one’s sex yet in the 40s one paid attention since everyone was horny and hungry for it. But by the 50s it was frowned upon and put down, with yellow journalist Walter Winchell calling “a vote for Adlai Stevenson is a vote for Christine Jorgenson” until it exploded in the 60s coming out all decorated in vibrant drag, so to speak, --in 1968 it erupted in a tirade of protest-full celebration that was to become Stonewall, never to be the same again.

Banis begins his biography by becoming a writer of gay stories that were published in Switzerland and then under various names in America. His fame, or ill-fame, grew until it exploded in a suit brought against him and his publisher by the US Post Office for obscene material, and this at a time when the government was after Henry Miller and Barney Rosset and others. The suit against Banis was gratefully dismissed, after they dragged it as long as they could and Banis, in need of a break from the stupidity that has always been a part of American history, got that break by traveling across Europe, and seeing and experiencing Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Franco’s Spain.

Once back home, he did a book tour that took him across the country, meeting with Hugh Hefner and other stars in Beverly Hills, --Nina Foch, Elizabeth Montgomery, Natalie Wood, Linda Ronstadt amongst others. His neighbor at the time was Sal Mineo, who eventually was slain in a botched homosexual robbery.

But most of all was Banis’ writing; as he did it each and every day for 365 days a year then just started all over the next year and did it all over again…as he’s still doing it. Among the many books he has written (under his name) The Why Not, Longhorns, Angel Land, Lola Dances among others, and under various nom de plumes a wealth of titles, for male and female readers alike.

As a writer he is truly amazing! Plus for other writers who are still undergoing the process of slow learning he recommends “On Becoming a Novelist” and “Art of Fiction” by John Gardner as required reading (I would add William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” also, it helped me.)

But most of all, Banis advises, write to suit yourself, in this way you’ll be able to write what you want and sleep well at night…and the hell with what they have to say against you…

A well-worthy book, instructive and filled with memories of people, from Hollywood stars and starlets, to those who wrote for them like Victor Banis, writer extraordinaire

Read it, ponder it, learn and write…write…write…


Friday, December 26, 2008

Hardup Janet

Hardup Janet

Janet was a pretty girl who had the ungainly name that could get her in trouble in those years:

Have you got a hardon? Not yet.

Are you gonna get one? You bet!

Who you gonna stick in? Janet.

How’s it gonna come out? All wet.

Sung by the whore house…Quartet…

We would laugh at her as Janet would fume and curse and spit out, “Idiot! Idiot!”

I was in the 8th grade and lusting after every girl in school and out of it. Janet was in another school but this was NYC and even in a building where they lived kids went to school in

opposite directions. Sometimes I saw her come out of her building and head up 2nd Avenue -- I always lusted after her, and I had the notion that she was doing the same.

One morning after jerking off, I walked past her building a little earlier, thinking I’d get her because she was ripe for sticking it in, or so the song did say…I kind of was sure she was the one who had inspired the song…

I entered the lobby -- the building was still sleeping, stretching out as if getting ready to go to work. What to do now? I thought. She has to come down the stairs and there I’d be, looking up her dress with my dick out ready for her mouth to gulp it down. God! Was I hard just thinking about that moment…I pulled my dick out.

Then I heard footsteps, high heeled ones I was sure, maybe with just a toe hold on each little shoe. Oh God, I slowly pulled my dick out and held it before me ready for her to descend the stairs….

A guy appeared at the top of the stairs and I heard him say, “What the fuck?!”

I was out of that building, running down the street as I was zippering up and trying to hold my school bag with the other hand. In no time was I on another street and spent the rest of the school day real pissed at my rotten luck….

I saw Janet a few days after that…I mouthed the song and laughed as she glared at me and disappeared down the street…

I still feel like an idiot…even now…


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ukrainian Christmas

Ukrainian Christmas

Ukrainian Christmas fell on January 7th unlike the American December 25th. It was the old tradition our parents respected and adhered to, but more and more we began to follow the American routine.

Oleksandr had a thing for Sosya. He had gotten her a present, but what? We didn’t know, still we were sure that on Ukrainian Christmas he’d be standing with his gift before him. Needless to say, that Christmas Eve, on the last of a school day, she thought he was jerk and tossed his gift the trash from which Oleksandr retrieved it and skulked away.

It happened like this: January 7th fell on a Friday that year and though we had off from school we still had to show up for Holy Mass that day. It was nice having the rest of the day for gift-giving and family visiting. But smirkingly, we all had our eyes peeled for Oleksandr and Sosya.

Sosya was already there, sitting patiently in the girl’s section, when Oleksandr walked in and trod to the boy’s section in church. Their pews were filled with students and mass begun, was celebrated, and came to an end. Everybody was getting up and leaving the church when Oleksandr’s voice rang out, “Xryctoc razdayetsha!” Christ is born!

People stopped in their place and looked at each other, then smiled, greeted each other and went on with what they were doing. But Oleksandr did not wait for Sosya, he disappeared in the crowd of people leaving the church.

Weird, but Oleksandr left Sosya alone after that, not buying her gifts anymore.

Do people change that suddenly? Overnight?

Guess they do…


Friday, December 19, 2008

Fat Sonia

Fat Sonia

Sonia was a fat girl whom everyone made fun off, how she dressed, how she walked, how she ran….

I don’t know how she got me hard but the possibility she could be the one made me gentler in my approach to her. I stopped laughing at her and actually began to be somewhat defensive when the guys started taunting her, which of course turned the laughter onto me.

“Hey Kolya”, they’d taunt, “Your girl friend is looking for you!” as their smirking and hooting began to make me feel embarrassed and mad at them.

“Fuck you!” I’d spit out defensively to get away from their insults, which I’m certain Sonia was seeing too.

One day, after the usual name calling I was getting from my so-called friends, I turned the corner on Avenue A and there was Sonia standing in a doorway of a building and looking at me; I knew it wasn’t her home -- she lived a few more blocks by the river -- and I turned red from seeing her.

“What’s your game, mister?” she said, frowning at me. “Why are you so nice?”

I suppose after all these weeks I answered, “I don’t know, I guess I like you.” And again I blushed and felt very uncomfortable.

Her glaring face lightened and she faintly smiled at me. And for a moment we liked each other and I smiled back…when I saw her eyes look over my head and again she frowned.

“Idiot jerk!” she spat out. “Get away from me! Stop following me!”

I heard laughter and spun around to see a few of my old friends laughing.

“Hey, Kolya, you like fatsos, don’t you?” they’d laugh. “Let’s see if she can lay down next to you? Hell, she can’t even stand up!”

But by then Sonia had stormed off as the laughter echoed after her but I wonder if for a moment before they appeared Sonia wouldn’t take a chance and get friendly with me…aw, hell I’ll never know….