Sunday, January 31, 2016


I should probably camouflage his identity. Call him “Luke.”

I thought of him as “walking wounded.” One of life’s people who could never catch a break.

He was gay, and had grown up in Texas, which must have been a tough combination back before we knew him in L.A. I can pinpoint the time because it was right around when President Kennedy was assassinated, 1963.

He had a strong resemblance to the young Abraham Lincoln; tall and rangy, hollow-cheeked. Or maybe it was to Raymond Massey’s portrayal of Lincoln.     The resemblance ended there, of course.

He succeeded in writing some articles about the Old West for some Old West magazines, but he wasn’t “a writer.” He wasn’t anything consistently but picked up work as he could. He’d wash dishes in a friend’s restaurant when business was good and the friend could afford it. Somewhere along the line he had made contact with a fading movie star, and had become her gopher. She exploited him shamelessly but, star-struck, he didn’t see it that way.

We had introduced him to another gay friend (who was spoken for), and Luke affected a transparent and annoying pretense of “forgetting” Richard’s name if the subject came up -- his way of telling us he wasn’t interested. Not at all.

His own sex life, as far as we understood  it, seemed to be a series of encounters from which he usually emerged scathed. Meeting “Gabe” was probably the best thing that had happened to him in a long time, and we were happy to see it develop into a stable relationship. They were an unlikely couple for background and appearance, but it worked. Gabe had a steady job and things settled down.

It really looked like it would go on that way, but Luke had a heart attack. He wasn’t very old, but I imagine the stresses of his life had something to do with it. When we heard about it we visited him in the hospital, and he seemed reasonably alright. But he had no insurance, and I tried to think of some way to bring him in under mine to keep him there. Of course  there was no way, so immediately he was “stabilized” the private hospital shipped him out to County General.  

I don’t mean to make that sound like a death sentence; I’m sure the medical people there try hard to treat people right. But I’m just as sure they must be overwhelmed, because it’s a huge hospital and you have to figure they’re getting the bad cases and a lot of them. Anyway, Luke died there before we ever saw him again. I think we spoke to Gabe once or twice afterward, but that was the end of it.

Fifty-odd years later I still try to think of what we shoulda/coulda/mighta done, but I haven’t come up with anything. Like I said, he was one of life’s losers, and he just wasn’t destined to get any breaks.