|DC in '53
Author: justincbenedict PM
This is a story about a gay aide working for Roy Cohn, who was the also gay assistant to Joe McCarthy, head of the House Un-American Activities Committee...and their friendsRated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Romance - Words: 11,371 - Published: 12-28-12 - id: 3086847
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Horace Hawthorne "Suds" Pilsudski sweated. It was the damn seersucker. You'd think it would be appropriate for March, but it just wasn't. This was no big deal. But he just wanted to slap the little bastard's face.
God, it had been so funny when Richie had done the McCarthy shout—"Are you, or ever have you been a member of the Communist…" Not so funny now.
Why the hell was he called in? Suds had been told that the Voice of America radio transmitting station, Baker West, was not efficiently placed, and that it would have been much more effective in California, instead of Seattle. Suds doubted it, but so what? He could move it?
And it was all over Seattle that he'd been called in by the damn Committee. Gertie had sent Suds a telegram just this morning, that someone had painted a hammer and sickle on the door. What the hell?
Looking at the fat-lipped 25 year old across from him, Suds wondered why the "New York Times" had described the youthful Chief Counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations as handsome, but Suds thought Cohn resembled the gangster in the Bugs Bunny cartoon. Not Elmer Fudd, but the one with the lips.
Sitting across the table, Roy Cohn said "Mr. Pilsudski, Mr. Wyatt here tells me that you are a radio engineer for the Voice of America."
Suds responded stiffly "I am the chief radio engineer."
Cohn smiled. "Yes. Of course. Mr. Wyatt's report has some disturbing revelations. Although the Voice of America is entrusted with broadcasting a positive view of American—"
Suds interrupted. "Mr. Cohn, the VOA was started to give war news to American short-wave radios abroad. It's been instrumental in—"
Neatly, Cohn interrupted right back. "Mr. Pilsudski. You don't have to educate me on what the VOA's purpose is. We have concerns that the VOA's message, especially certain programs that would provide a favorable view of the United States, aren't being broadcast adequately to all the countries. Why is that, Mr. Pilsudski?"
Suds sipped water. "Mr. Cohn, the radio towers cannot always transmit effectively, due to sunspots and—"
Technology apparently had little effect on Cohn's sunniness. "But, Mr. Pilsudski I notice that it's only certain towers, and certain programs. Are you sure it's these so called sunspots, or perhaps disloyal programmers? Certain radio engineers. Chief engineers, of course" Cohn added, simpering.
Suds gasped. "That's ludicrous. You intimate that I can control—"
Cohn interrupted yet again. " Mis-ter Pilsudski, a friend of yours has informed the committee that you have attended get togethers given by Communist sympathizers, as well as being seen at May Day events. It's curious that you have such an—"
Pilsudski thundered "What friend? Who?"
Suds stopped in his tracks. Meg Woltz. No, he'd told Meg that he wouldn't leave Gertie, 28 years together, and the boys, God, his sons would never speak to him again. But it had been Meg—and Richie, who had invited Suds to the so-called "get togethers."
Meg was an angry woman.
Cohn settled back in his chair. "As the saying goes, that's for us to know and you to find out. Do you enjoy your job at VOA, Mr. Pilsudski? It doesn't sound like you are very loyal to the Voice of America mission."
Suds felt heated. "Kid, I've been with VOA since you were in knee pants! Who the hell do—"
The dark haired kid next to Cohn, Wyatt was his name, spoke up. "Excuse me, Mr. Pilsudski. You can't shout at Mr. Cohn. There's no need for that. We as aides to the Committee have received word that there are Soviet agents and fellow travelers hindering what-what-"
Roy Cohn ended Wyatt's screed dreamily. "Makes America work."
Iris plunged her tongue into Paul's mouth, and tried to push against him, like Hilda had recommended. It had been so embarrassing.
Iris Ponds, confessing it. All she'd done in the ten years after junior high was fend off the prying hands. Iris, with her honey blonde curls, her fine figure, had been the most sought after female, at the dances, at USO get togethers, the soldiers had gone mad for her.
And she'd married a well mannered boy, gorgeous and sensitive…he'd been a perfect gentleman throughout their engagement…but why now? Iris had experienced a bit of life before Paul Wyatt, she'd felt a boy's thing. It was supposed to be…rigid. She felt like she was in bed with her brother.
He was pulling away, Paul—was pulling away.
"Paul, why are you so, lethargic?" She couldn't bear to just admit he didn't like her. Her husband. And so cute. That curly dark hair falling in his eyes as he lay on the pillow. "Don't you like me, Paul? It's—don't you want to have a baby?" Maybe he didn't know. No, that was impossible. There were health films in modern schools now.
"It's just when we make love, I feel like I'm doing everything, and you're bored."
"I'm just, tired, and worried about Jerry." Paul smiled and stroked her cheek. He was so nice. There was no better companion, not even Hilda, to go antiquing with. Paul wasn't the brightest star in the sky, but he was a lot of fun, and—worried about his brother?
Iris sighed and put the lamp on her side of the bed. Must we go through this again?
"Paul, you can't worry about him. You're doing everything you can. He left a good job, a steady job in New York, to just come here. It's a little silly."
And look at me! Darn it, I'm naked! Chester Pope, who Iris had dated despite Hilda's "big noses, little hoses" remark, had ravished Iris at his synagogue's picnic, insane because he'd almost—ALMOST gotten Iris's brassiere off, and Paul had the whole package here, and he was worried about his blind brother!
Paul leaned forward, but not too close, to his lovely wife "It's not a good job—it wasn't. Stringing mops is not a job for someone like Jerry."
Iris knew she had to be sweet and reasonable, to try to put positive ideas in Paul's head, like Mother said, instead of just telling him what to do.
"Paul, we've been through this before. Daddy was astonished that your parents sent Jerry to law school; I mean even college in his condition, was so unrealistic."
Paul looked at Iris earnestly. His shoulders were so broad. "What condition? He's smarter than I am, Iris. "
Well that's not saying much, my handsome husband, Iris thought resentfully. Like a pretty doll, you are. One Kappa Alpha gets another one a job, and Paul seemed perfect for government.
Tactful, Iris. "Daddy said that Columbia set artificial expectations for Jerry."
Paul gritted his teeth. "What the hell are artificial expectations? Do you mean unrealistic? Because Jerry can't use his eyes, he has to make cleaning supplies?"
Iris leaned over and kissed Paul gently. Such a sweet boy. What a dad you'll make! "Because smart isn't everything, Paul. I'm smart. But Daddy said to me—he said he could pay for college or a good wedding. Not both." Iris trailed a finger on Paul's broad chest. " But, if I went to Katie Gibbs, Daddy said he'd pay for that and a wedding, and we had one hell of a wedding, Paul. And c'mon…before I quit Patton and Boggs, I was making more than you were clerking for Frankfurter!"
Was that mean? 110 words a minute, though.
Paul was speaking in his careful, understanding voice. Icky. "But you don't have ambition, honey. Most women don't. But Jerry does. He hated Perkins, hated being segregated with other blind kids."
Paul lit a Camel, and continued. "Shit, summers, he ran with our gang, even rode a bike, in the street. Jerry studied hard, just so he wouldn't wind up in a damn broom factory, and look what happened. Yeah, Iris, I want to help him."
Oh God. "Daddy says you're a dreamer, and an idealist, and that's sweet. But Jerry is-is handicapped. He has to accept his situation. Do you think you'll get him a job in the Senate? It's ridiculous."
"You're right." Jerry said angrily. " A man whose bar exam scores were in the top five percent of New York State should make brushes, brooms and mops for the rest of his life! No one will hire him, even if Jerry has a secretary to do all the typing, and some of the reading."
Iris tried not to look triumphant. "No, no one, you're right. It's been six years, Paul. No firm wants Jerry, and your parents wasted good money that they could have used to help us buy a house—putting Jerry in an office, and putting his shingle out, and that was a thousand dollars gone, too."
Iris hoped they weren't getting too loud. Jerry was out there on the couch, and blind people had real good hearing, she understood.
Paul got up decisively. "I'm tired of this. I think I'm going to go for a walk. I just can't talk to you about this."
Iris was angry. "Paul, you go out for a walk almost every night! Sometimes you don't get back till dawn! Stay here and have this discussion with me. And—if we can work it out, we can go back to you know, fun." Iris said this coquettishly, but Paul was storming out the door.
What the devil was on Paul's behind and his legs? It looked like welts and bruises. Iris wondered if Paul had had an accident playing basketball at the University Club, if he'd fallen. That had happened before, he had a sensitive buttock.
"Paul, we need to talk!" But she knew it was hopeless.
From the hall came his voice. "I'm sick of arguing. And I have to be up early tomorrow, so no more fun. I'll be back. "
And Iris said, more to herself, than anyone else, "But if you have to be up early, why are you going out at one in the morning?"
Curtis Kitt looked askance at the local talent in Pilgrim's Progress. Anita O'Day blaring from the juke, cigarette butts all over the floor, and flies…and it wasn't even April yet!
And the crowd…
The same tired old men. In all shapes, sizes and colors, of course. Would that the Americus, Georgia one-room schoolhouse Curtis had fled could integrate as nicely as this little fairy bar. Good men, anything in a pinch, as Roy and Andy often said…
But the wallflowers, they were not pretty –no, no, don't look at me, Mary!
Elwyn was still going on about Curtis's new job. "I just think it's the most delicious job, seeing to men's hygiene, Curtis darling."
Curtis sighed, wondering if his friend, an heir to a chain of oil refineries, really envied him that much. "Elwyn, I'm a towel boy at the Zeus Bathhouse. You make it sound like I'm a scientist of soap, or something. (giggles) It's, I don't know…my tush is getting grabbed by all these fat queens."
Elwyn did a mock shudder. "But you met Gore Vidal, right? He wrote "The City and the Pillar" Nervy bastard. Roy thinks Gore Vidal should be in Leavenworth. I told Roy that that might be more of a treat than a punishment! " They both laughed uproariously.
Curtis snorted. "Elwyn, I don't think all prisoners look like Burt Lancaster. More like the Bowery Boys."
For a moment, Curtis thought of Uncle Franklin, the most beautiful man he'd ever known, cutting cane on a chain gang, so spoiled brats like Elwyn could have extra lumps in his tea…Franklin, who'd sneaked Curtis in to his first opera, and read "Twelfth Night" to him, doing the voices like a damn radio.
But Elwyn was nattering on. "Wasn't 'Brute Force' wonderful? Burt could initiate me any time. I'll rob a bank tomorrow. "
Curtis smiled. "With what? A lipstick in your jacket?"
Elwyn giggled. "Shame Burt and I couldn't rob the bank together. We could just use his big—"
Curtis put a mahogany finger to his friend's lips." Enough! Look there's Andy. Hey girl!"
An obese queen with red hair and freckles, the sort who couldn't get laid on Death Row with a handful of pardons, plopped down at the table.
Addressing Elwyn, Andy said, "Miss Thing, what are you doing here? I thought you'd be in khaki by now. Maybe at Fort Dix.
Curtis had a thought "You know, Frederick William, who was king of Prussia once—"
ANDY "My cousin grew up there."
Curtis went on. "Well, ignoramus, it was a king first. Anyway, Frederick William was really into tall soldiers, and he would do these inspections where he would beat them if they didn't look spiffy—but when his son, who became Frederick the Great, ran off with a male friend, Daddy Fred had that friend executed."
Andy protested. "Why did they call him Frederick the "Great" Never mind. Elwyn what're you doing here, hon? You should be driving a tank"
Elwyn "Or blowing one. They let me go, 4-F. They think I'm a fairy, and a Commie."
Andy rolled his eyes. "Well, be careful. My sister just lost her job at Macy's because she had Russian prints on her wall. The Senator may get bored with Commies and go after catamites." Curtis loved Andy, Roy and Elwyn. They were smart, funny, and fairies…and they didn't treat him like a damn Negro. What more could he want?
Sure, Andy was an embarrassment, farted uncontrollably. Elwyn didn't answer the phone when his mother was in town, and Roy was all over the newspapers, punkin' pinkos. But who else in this damn nasty-ass bar with shitty tunes had read "Auntie Mame" five times?
And the four of them could act out the "Mikado" from memory…and when Curtis had been with that sexy married lieutenant, Roy had lent them a friend's bomb-shelter cellar to have whoopee in, and he'd told Curtis "I won't let Senator Joe nail your upright Soldier Boy, Curtis, 'cause you're doing a swell job of nailing him yourself!"
Elwyn snorted in answer to Andy. "Don't you worry about that. Roy is the biggest fairy in the Western Hemisphere, and he works directly under the Senator."
Curtis voiced quickly, "Andy don't say it! Speaking of Roy, is he coming in tonight, or headed to the Circle? I'm going there in a little bit, see the talent."
Elwyn shook his head. "I can't believe Roy goes to the park. One arrest, and it's over with the Senator…he hates us nelly queens."
For a moment, Curtis thought again of Uncle Franklin, who'd wanted to be a damn ballet dancer. Was Franklin still alive?
Andy responded. "Roy is fearless. If a cop put the arm on him, he'd probably slug the guy."
Curtis laughed. "And which would somehow prove Roy's not a fairy. Nifty."
For a time Curtis stayed with his friends, but, a non-smoking teetotaler got bored with the stinky, repetitive atmosphere of "Pilgrim's Progress" unless he was out to get laid, and Curtis was headed for "P Street Beach" the grassy park under the bridge between Georgetown and the Dupont Circle areas.
As Curtis walked, his dick became hard in his corduroys. Would he meet that young man tonight? Last night, a handsome, HANDSOME boy with curly dark hair—looked like Superman, or maybe Clark without the glasses—had met Curtis, and he'd actually asked Curtis to take him to a secluded spot, away from all the other groping men.
Then Clark-without-the-glasses had handed Curtis his belt and a cut switch, and asked Curtis to "take down my pants and give me discipline." Whipping a white boy. That was a new one.
But when it was over, the weeping white boy had knelt, pants around his ankles, and unzipped Curtis's pants and taken out his thing, sucking in a way that Curtis would never forget…Oh! And then he'd offered Curtis money, and Curtis had politely declined. Would he see this beautiful creature again?
As Curtis walked into the park, almost black at one a.m., he could make out several couples, and thought once again how remarkable it was that no one was worried that a big, bad nigger like him was in a park at midnight.
Truth was, the cops didn't care if the queers were mugged or assaulted, and the men themselves either recognized Curtis from various other venues, or just instinctively knew he was one of them. In a way, being colored and homosexual was easier than just being one or the other.
Was Roy down here yet? Sometimes, after they'd done tricking and trysting with whatever the Beach had to offer, Roy and Curtis, and Elwyn (Andy had to go home to his sick mother around midnight) would get in Roy's convertible and drive around DC, sometimes going out to Hoover Field to watch the planes take off.
Once or twice Roy found a stray pilot, and they'd ALL taken turns giving that flyboy a little kneeling obeisance before, sated, he'd gone home to his wife, where Curtis was sure he'd fallen asleep instantly.
"You just don't know what it's like at work." Roy kept complaining. "Everyone wants something from me, I give it, and then I get shit on, and then there's David."
David Schine was Roy's big crush. Rich, handsome, but not, repeat, not—a fairy. Roy had a case for him, they worked together, ferreting out all the nasty Communist pinkos, but David, nice fellow that he was, and Curtis had met him—liked the dolls, and that wasn't going to change. Shame, he was rich, daddy owned hotels, and pretty…but poor Roy.
There was old Oliver, squinting around hopelessly. The moon, shining on Ollie's pate, the elderly man approached a sailor, who was lounging near the bridge, and the sailor shook his head brusquely.
Never get fat and old, Curtis always reminded himself. But even Ollie would find succor soon enough, lots of horny little things would wander into the park eventually.
Oliver had always been good to Curtis; he'd lent him "Death In Venice" and other good stuff, and the two of them occasionally toured the galleries or caught a free symphony at Lisner. But again, just friends. Poor Oliver.
"Excuse me!" Curtis turned around, and there he was—Superboy. And damn, he'd already cut two willow switches and dampened them in the Rock Creek. And he was taking off his belt. "Would you, um?"
Curtis's wiener felt like it was going to burst out of his pants. He motioned Superboy behind some trees, and took the switches and the belt from the young man. "You've disappointed me, son, and I'm going to have to-to—"
"Discipline me" came the low voice.
"Take down your pants!" Curtis said loudly but without shouting. He didn't want every queen in the park coming to view this , yes, there's that big dick of Superboy's.
Curtis did his work with the switches and the belt, and watched the dark haired man cry, and promise better behavior, and then he went to his knees, and unzipped Curtis's fly, and all was divine for twenty minutes. No no, put your money away, pretty thing.
But tonight, he felt like talking, apparently.
Rubbing his behind ruefully, the young man smiled. "Uh, I'm—Richard. It's a nice night, isn't it? I—I was in an argument with my wife, and I thought I'd take a walk, and-and I sometimes—well, this is kid stuff, fooling around like this, but it eases tension for me. "
Richard looked around nervously. "I mean, not always with the switch and the belt, but sometimes, just fooling around with a fellow, eases the tension."
Curtis wanted Richard's thing in his mouth badly. "Richard, any time you want your tension eased. Can I return the favor? Ease a little more tension from you?"
Richard shook his head. "N-no. I-I was in the um, public toilet over in Dupont Circle earlier. There was a nice fellow—he um—"
Curtis smiled. "Cleaned your pipes."
Richard laughed. "Yeah. But then I got kind of a second wind, and I probably should've returned um, his favor, but he was kind of an old guy." Richard lit a Camel, offering one to Curtis, who declined.
"I know. Richard It's like a nursing home in that tearoom sometimes!"
The young man puffed. "Tea room?"
Curtis chuckled. "Yeah, that's what we call a lavatory where you get a little extra. I got caught in one by a park ranger, and did 30 days, and it kept me out of Korea. A friend of mine was telling me tonight that he has been rejected by the draft board, too.
RICHARD—Well, maybe the Army isn't the place for um, homosexuals."
CURTIS smiled. "Why, Richard? I can shoot straight. You know that!"
They laughed, and Curtis gestured to the disconsolate Oliver.
CURTIS—See the old gent over there? His Pekinese, Leopold is tied to a bench, because he tells his wife that he must take Leopold out for a walk every night, for Leopold's bladder, or something. Ollie's a chicken hawk, and he got taken in one day with a kid over at Meridian Park, the cops said there was a law against being shirtless, and the kid had a mouth on him, pointed out that there were dads with their kids in bathing trunks not being bothered—so the cop got real mad, and now Oliver is no longer with the Post Office…but he still walks Leopold down here at night."
Richard pondered this. "A dog's a good idea. I should get one, I could take it out. Iris is always getting on me for going out late at night, but it's good to walk, clear your head—"
Curtis grinned. "And clear other orifices. Right?"
Richard winced. "Well, Curtis, I—I can't keep doing this kid stuff. I've got a great, beautiful girl at home." He shot off his butt with a flick of the finger and looked around nervously.
Curtis had to keep Richard around. What a nice man. "Why do you call it kid stuff? Cause you used to wrestle with your cousin, and then he found girls?"
Richard's jaw dropped. "You're like a medium, Chris."
Curtis laughed. "Curtis. No, it happens to every pansy, I think. At some point, our buddies start noticing girls, and for me, I just didn't understand what was going on. I knew one guy, seven years older than me, he told me he'd try to think about me when he was with his wife, but she talked too much, so he'd sneak over to see me, but then he kept breaking it off."
Richard gasped "Seven years?"
Curtis shrugged. "My mother was his mom's house girl, and I came by sometimes and Tim and I, we fooled around in the carriage house, back in Georgia. Then he got married, but just couldn't make up his mind. " Curtis scratched his chin. "I left Americus via freight car right around seventh grade, and Momma wrote me later that Tim was still throwing rocks at my window, even the night his damn daughter was born."
Richard was indignant. "Curtis, a man and a woman are supposed to be together. It's unnatural, this sad groping around in parks!"
Curtis gestured to another codger, who'd luckily found a drunken airman. "Look, there's Quincy He teaches music, I think trombone, at some junior high. Quincy told me the best thing about being married 20 years was his wife finally let them have separate bedrooms.
Richard shook his head "Why—earlier you used the word "pansy". I'm not a pansy. Or a fairy. I'm a regular fellow who's going through a phase. I play sports, I was Golden Gloves—"
Curtis snorted "There's the toughest fellow in Washington, DC, he ain't afraid of newspapers, reporters, nothing. And he's here every night."
Richard gaped. "Is that Roy Cohn?" Curtis could see Richard was about to wet his pants.
But Curtis was on a roll. "Yeah, that's Roy. He comes down here to take a so-called leak, and goes to the toilets in the Circle, and at Pilgrim's Progress, and the Pink lady, where the ladyboys hang, and at the Zeus Baths, where I work. Roy's got more bladder issues than Oliver's dog Leopold. And here he comes. I'll introduce you, Richard."
Roy Cohn came up. "Curtis! Good to see you out on this fine evening…you nelly queen. Paul is that you? Paul Wyatt?"
Curtis was amused. "Not Richard, eh?" Damn, Superboy was cute blushing, even here in the damn dark. Roy was laughing good naturedly.
"Don't use fake names here on the Beach, Paul. We're all friends here."
But Paul was mortified. Shit, Curtis thought. Why shouldn't he be a little scared. Here's Roy and the Senator on that Committee putting fairies and pinkos out of work, if I had a job of any repute, I'd run from you Roy…damn.
But that was just like Roy. He loved everybody, and couldn't understand why what he did at work had anything to do with lights out time…
Paul scratched his head. "I-I just came out for a walk, Roy, and started talking to Curtis here. My wife—"
Roy laughed. "Gott in Himmel, I hope I never get one of those." Curtis laughed then, too.
"Shit, Roy, a wife would be fighting for room with your mother."
Roy grinned back. "Dora asked for you the other day, Curtis. She said your chitlins taste like a ground up thumb, but she wants to know how to make blueberry muffins."
Paul wiped his brow. "You're not going to fire me for being here?"
And Roy laughed. "You kidding? Everybody thinks I met Senator McCarthy through my toasting Julius and Ethel, no no buddy. I met Joe here. Right after he was came from Wisconsin. Remember the news story? Joe said Truman should draft the striking miners and then order them to mine coal? That night, buddy, he was over by that bush with a Wharf worker, on his knees. Hey, I heard something about your brother? He's a lawyer, smart, but he's blind, and looking for work, right?"
As Curtis wandered off, meeting the eyes of another handsome, leaning blond creature, he heard Roy telling Paul that he'd like to talk about Paul's brother's prospects while they sat in Roy's convertible, with the top up.
Damn…Roy had stolen Superboy. Curtis wondered if Roy would hit Paul with the belt.
An hour later, Curtis was escorting th Oliver home, to keep off the muggers. "Well, Curtis, I did meet a nice young man, but he finished so quickly, and got angry that I didn't swallow fast enough" Oliver was saying querulously. "No one appreciates me any more. In '29, a fellow in the Library of Congress tea room said I had a mouth like velvet. Oh, look, there's Roy Cohn's MG, and the windows are foggy. Wonder what's going on in there, eh?"
"It's a job interview, Oliver."
Lots of rustling, lots of skirts. Jerry could smell perfume throughout the Senate hallway. Lots of perfume.
Tacker once said, "Blinks can't afford to pass up broads. When I get a whiff of Tabu, 'specially if the wearer bought one of my pencils, I tell her 'Hey, I got a bigger pencil for you to sharpen' I been slapped five times and screwed twice. Not bad odds, Gerald, not at all."
At Perkins there had been a roundheels known as Molly Eyeballs. Molly kept her glass eyes in a little cup of water at night, and if you told her you'd hidden the cup, she'd bitch and moan, and threaten to wake up the whole Big Girls' Dorm, but then she'd blow you to get it back…
And, as Tacker pointed out, Molly E. could've complained, gotten them both expelled…but instead, in Algebra she'd go "Hey, no one's hidin' my pupils no more, what gives, you boys sick or something'?"
Donna had broken their engagement, she said, because Jerry couldn't keep it in his pants. So you date a blind man because you think he'll be faithful? Bullshit. Jerry knew why she'd really given him back his ring. The shallow, sighted. But Tacker would say Jerry was feeling sorry for himself again.
Paul had Jerry's arm in a vice grip. He was a good kid brother. He was a fruit, and sometimes a dim bulb, but a nice young guy. That wife of his was quite another story. Jerry had heard her telling someone how broad minded she was, she'd dated Jewish men and Italians.
Not to marry, just for "adventure". And to think, Wyatt had descended from Rebbe Itzak Witowska—and with all the distancing Papa had done from his origins, he and his Portuguese American wife had produced to a blink and a fairy… and now a bitchy daughter-in-law in the Junior League.
Jerry hoped that he could tutor Paul a bit so Paul could go to law school someday like his aspiring wife wanted, it's a shame to flack for McCarthy, but hey, now Jerry might be a flack himself. Better than mops and pencils, he supposed.
Once a month, back in Brooklyn, Jerry, Tacker, Newsstand Willie and a couple of other graduates had a poker game—not much of one lately, as the Braille nubs were worn off most of the aces and kings and no one would send off for another deck. Jerry had told them of Paul's invitation to come to D.C. and look for work, and how Jerry…didn't want help.
Tacker had lit into him. "So fuckin' proud. And you always were. What, you like the workshop? You have a tin ear, Gerald…you can't play music or tune pianos, you have the coordination of a drunken penguin. And no one is going to hire you for a lawyer without a try-out. People don't trust us. We give them the willies—"
"Hey!" Newsstand Willie had protested, and they'd all laughed.
"Okay, the creeps then. But if Paul, who's always saying he owes you for helping him through school, and for keeping your mouth shut when he had uh, the fellas in your room, wants to get you in at a DC type of place, you should grab on to it."
"He's not going to listen to you, Tacker" Sid had said, banging the table so hard that Willie's guide dog emitted a "Woof" from the corner. "When they offered Jerry a job teaching at the M.S. school he turned it down."
"I hate high school kids, I hate Missouri and I hate blinks!" Jerry had responded angrily.
"Yeah, we hate you too, but it doesn't mean you're not stupid, Wyatt. Go to DC already!"
And here he was. And now Paul was saying something, probably not important, but Jerry needed to listen, if nothing else but for the kid's self esteem.
"Jerry, you should wear your sunglasses."
"Why, do you think further uh, darkness will improve my useless pupils?"
Paul came up with one of his brilliant rationalizations. "Well it lets people know you're blind, you know."
"Yeah buddy, the annoying stick is message enough, also that I'm a thirty-three year old brush boy. Like Iris says, such a good career for me."
Suddenly Paul stopped, and, hanging onto his arm, Jerry almost fell. "Jerry, I didn't mean for you to hear that…we thought you were asleep."
"See, if Papa had had any sense, he would've just put me to work after Perkins and lent you money for a big house, then I would've been down the hall. as it is, the living room is right next to the lone bedroom. Your fault, buddy."
Suddenly there was Chanel No.5, and that skirt-stocking rustle
"Good morning, Mr. Wyatt." What a voice. Like one of Jerry's readers at Columbia, Meredith.
"Quick, Paul, what do we have there? Blonde? Sounded friendly"
His younger brother laughed. " Jesus, you have no idea what blonde hair looks like! But yes, Estelle has curly blonde hair, and a mathematically good figure. She is dating Justice Frankfurter's nephew, though. Say, another subject. Have you thought of teaching? They do hire blind teachers."
The teaching again. "Ever heard W.C. Field's observations about children? I agree with him."
"And to think, Iris wanted you to be our nanny."
"Oh no, is she expecting? You'd think—"
"No, not yet, though she's always in the mood. I need sleep, and she either wants to screw or talk."
"The problems of my spoiled little brother. I should have such problems."
H. DeForrest "Frosty" Hopkins, Jr. ambled warily through the Zeus Turkish Baths. Jesus, look at all the guys with the towels. Are they all married like me? No, not all—Frosty's thought was probably provoked by the howling, obese 20 year old with lipstick, dancing into the room with the big pool.
That son of a bitch isn't married. Good God. It's funny—every year Frosty brought Sheila to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association convention here in D.C. And she was back at the Mayflower, probably writing a postcard to Cindy or one of the other grandkids. Frosty loved Sheila, her company, everything. She was his best friend. She knew the convention wasn't starting till five, and just smiled when he went out for a walk.
And—Oh, he's a fine young buck! Frosty was a bit annoyed that he couldn't carry a little dinero with him with the towel. A sawbuck makes up for the gut sometimes. Good looking chap, probably a soldier on leave. You'd think, though, that a young guy like that would have a nice girl back home. And not in these nasty baths.
'Course in France, in '16 there had been that farm hand. But no one's perfect. And Frosty knew he was coming home to Sheila, what a great gal she was. Frosty also knew that Sheila's initial puzzlement over her big, handsome husband's lack of passion in the bed chambers had caused little bitterness, she'd been cheerful.
Yes, and Trey had the ice blue eyes and lantern jaw of Mickey, a onetime lifeguard at the Flossmoor Country Club, and his little kitten Carla had olive skin that was curious as the product of Norwegian-Irish parents…God knows who the father was, but Frosty was her Daddy! Good kids, both and if Sheila was enjoying a handsome bellhop in the room now, it probably wasn't the one who'd drained his dragon in Frosty's jaw the night before, when Sheila had attended vespers at nearby St. Matthew's Church on Rhode Island Avenue.
Frosty ambled up to what appeared to be a snack bar run by a young Negro, and wondered if, along with coffee and soft drinks, there might be some chewing gum for sale, his teeth still felt a bit mossy from last night.
There's another old goat, not much older than me…hope he doesn't take too long, Frosty thought, and leaned against the wall.
"I wasn't sure what to do with these, young fella. I don't come to places like this too often." The other gent waved a wallet at the Negro.
The kid responded "You can charge all your purchases, juice, et cetera here. And leave your wallet in your locker, Milton at the desk should have given you a key with a cord you can put around your wrist.
"I know, but all my money is in here, and my wallet—my driver's license. I'm from out of town. If this place was raided, I'm—my wife is a saint."
The Negro boy was a wit. " Shame Michelangelo didn't paint her, sir. No, this place is owned by the Giancana family. I assure you…someone might go crazy and stab you here, that's happened—but not recently. But we won't be raided."
Frosty had been coming to the Zeus for a decade, every convention, and of course the Everard in the Big Apple. Of course there was no chance of a raid. What nonsense.
Once Frosty had been almost taken in at a park—the cops were ordering men without shirts on to leave just the fairies, of course, and the kid he'd picked up from the Homewood-Flossmoor high school had a mouth on him, wanted to know why the married guys with families, and no shirts on got to stay…and the two of them had almost been thrown in a paddy wagon, had Frosty not handed the cop a twenty…that was his only close scrape though…
And now the geezer was spouting off at the poor colored clerk. "That's terrible. The mob—paying off the police. Corruption. And in our nation's capital. Have you read "God and Man at Yale?" This country is filled with moral confusion."
The black responded, "Yes, but one thing you shouldn't be confused about is whether or not you want the place raided. Just put the stuff in your locker, sir. It'll really be fine."
Frosty shook his head. Would the man ever move on? Frosty wanted a damn piece of gum, and he was afraid this old windbag would think he was interested if he prodded him away from the snack bar.
"Is this, a- you seem like such a handsome, upstanding young fella. And well spoken for a colored. But is this a-a clean place?"
"Well sir, it is a bathhouse." And the old man stalked off.
But suddenly, the young buck that Frosty had eyed earlier walked around Frosty's waiting form (didn't even notice me, like I'm a damn hedge) and leaned over the counter to talk to the black.
"Hey Curtis, you pretty African you."
Curtis responded. "Joshua! Shouldn't you be opening the bar around now?"
" Oh, it ain't four-thirty yet, Miss Prim. Who was the fossil?"
Curtis laughed as well "Oh, a confused moral reformer. He thinks it's a shame he's not going to jail tonight for sodomy."
Josh chuckled. "Remember when the United Council of Churches was in town? My butt kept being pinched, and then they'd tell me," Josh imitated a gravelly deep voice "I have a son your age you should find another path' " Josh returned to his regular tone " It was like Vacation Bible School all over again, but with groping. But I have another reason for being here. Miss Cohn dropped by and left her silver snuff box at the bar last night."
Curtis took the silver box "That's a cigarette case. Roy doesn't take snuff."
Joshua smiled. "Well you know Roy better than I do. Can you give it to him?"
Curtis smiled. "I don't like to bother his mom, and and I don't think I should go by the Senate office, it might create problems.
Joshua laughed merrily. "Curtis you are not a flamer. Now if I went there, Josephine McCarthy would shoot me herself!"
Frosty was overcome with a desire to talk with Joshua, who he found compelling despite Joshua's voice sounding like Mary Poppins. He tried a segue. "Pardon me, young man—Curtis, is it?"
Curtis grinned. "Yes sir, that' s my name."
"I heard you tell the other fellow that he can charge drinks and other sundries to his account, and my wallet is in the locker as well. What if I wanted to give a new friend a gift, of money perhaps?"
And then Frosty touched Joshua's bicep, and the tall blond boy grinned, responding "Yes sir, and I am an accomplished masseur, you know."
"And you leave happy endings, right?" Curtis smiled back. "Just write a notation on this pad, and I'm sure we can work this all out."
Frosty grinned at the two upstanding young fellows. Conventions in Washington, DC always seemed to work out, really they did!
Roy loved his private office. It was too bad Jerry Wyatt couldn't see the damn thing, but of course he could probably tell he was sitting in a very plushy chair. Roy had had such fun in here. For a while Mario had come to visit Roy here, in a guise as a messenger, and Roy would blow Mario as the kid sat in the very chair that poor blind Jerry Wyatt was sitting in now.
Mario seemed like such a good kid when Roy had met him at Pilgrim's Progress. He'd been a change collector for a jukebox company, or was it pinball machines? And his boss had accused Mario of skimming off the top for a heroin habit. And Roy had taken pure pity on the sexy young dago…he couldn't move Mario in with him and Dora, Mommy wouldn't have liked it, but Roy had borrowed an apartment to visit Mario at during the day…until the apartment's owner, a Congressional aide who Roy had more than a few things on, had complained that stuff was missing from the apartment.
Roy would've told the guy to go to hell, but then of course Roy discovered that Mario had been going through the old wallet while he was asleep…and he'd had to break off with Mario, and unfortunately, had had to also give Mario a little money to go away back to New York with his family…
Then he'd taken Mario back, or really chased after him up there…but it hadn't lasted long, the fling, Roy had found Mario keeled over in the toilet of their room at the Hotel Empire, with a needle in his arm… R.I.P., better me than you, (and fortunately that had happened in New York, where Roy's dad, a judge, had had lots of friends in New York's Finest).
And Roy had not found someone who really floated his boat except of course for David, who wasn't a fairy, sadly. Not that Roy was either. He was a man who fucked men. That was the way it was, and eventually Roy would marry, maybe one of the debs that David had introduced him to at Bachelors and Spinsters get-togethers. David Schine was a popular guy…too bad he didn't want his dick licked.
But then last night he'd found out that Paul Wyatt, the gorgeous, muscular if a little dim staffer that Roy had hired basically for his looks…was one of us! And although Paul wasn't so hot to get into Roy's car…he gave in, Paul did, with promises for future rendezvous (ses) after Roy had offered to hire his blind brother Jerry, who really did have an impressive resume, academically. (And what a pole Paul had!)
Roy finally looked at Jerry Wyatt." Well, Mr. Wyatt, you do have an impressive transcript. I went to Columbia also, college and law school. Graduated when I was twenty, and the bastards made me wait a year before I passed the bar." Roy smirked, remembering.
Jerry Wyatt spoke. "I did Brooklyn College for my undergraduate. But Columbia was quite an honor for law school. They were very helpful."
"Yeah, I mean, it must've been—with your sight and all"
The blind man smiled. "Or lack thereof."
Roy scratched his chin. "Yeah. Did you have Kimball for Basic Tax?
Wyatt responded. "I didn't take tax law."
ROY—Oh, its verr-ry practical. [But you know what we do? It's interesting work. Especially right now." Everyone had a hard-on for this work, in this office. He hoped Wyatt knew how lucky he was. Wyatt wasn't bad looking either. Paul wondered if he was a fag, too. Sometimes it ran in families.
Jerry Wyatt smiled. "I understand you met Dashiell Hammett, and Dorothy Parker? "Big Blonde" is a great story of hers."
"No, Dorothy was a little before my time. She's a very sick woman." Roy touched his head with his finger, before he remembered Wyatt couldn't see him. "But yes, I did meet Hammett, and also Yip Harburg, who wrote for the Wizard of Oz, which is a favorite movie of mine!" Roy laughed. "Yip won't be yapping for a while, though."
Jerry Wyatt was silent for a moment. Roy wondered if Wyatt was a fellow traveler. Then Wyatt spoke "It must be fascinating work. Artists, writers. Do they come here to DC or do you go to Hollywood?"
Roy answered, "Often they are compelled to come here, but we've done some interviews in California. It's a grueling process, Mr. Wyatt. I've had to learn how to read people, and make difficult decisions. And some of these decisions have been unpopular, questions have been asked about—it doesn't matter. You heard of Drew Pearson?"
"Yes, I have my mother read Pearson's columns to me."
"The man's unbelievable. Just—I can't even—there is talk that I, who hate the work I'm doing, this necessary work—God, I'd love to be a tax lawyer or something—what a fascinating class that was—But, Mr. Wyatt, there is talk that I am biased, and overzealous in my findings and discoveries about Communists, that I perhaps was warped somehow in my work during the Rosenberg prosecution."
"It was a successful prosecution, wasn't it, Mr. Cohn? I mean, you even convicted Ethel, with small evidence." The blind man reached into his jacket, pulling out a cigarette pack, but then he put it back. Roy liked that, Wyatt was nervous, wanted to make a good impression.
"Wyatt, the evidence was there. But I am trying to show that I am open minded, and have a vigorous staff, unbiased, that will detect people who lie. And that brings me to you, Mr. Wyatt. I used to read stories as a kid about a blind detective—I forgot his name now, but he could tell people were lying by the way their voices quavered, or something."
"Fascinating. I've never been particularly interested in blind people as a study, although of course I am sightless."
"Do you find that your other senses are very heightened, that you can perceive things?"
"When my mother makes French toast, I am up with the songbirds." Both men laughed.
Roy coughed. "Well, it-it doesn't really matter whether it's true, the heightened senses or what I mean to say is, it may be true that your insights could help in our investigations—and it would be a great press thing. I don't know what Pearson would make out, me assisting the handicapped, how that's evil, really. He thinks I'm evil, Pearson does."
Jerry smiled. "I'm sure it would be great public relations, and I'd get to meet Dashiell Hammett.
Roy grinned. "Uh, no, Dashiell's done for. Won't be able to get a job doing—not even a paper route. But there are others. Have you heard of the composer Aaron Copland?"
After the interview was completed, Roy told Wyatt he could start on Monday, and got one of the girls to escort him out, asking to have Paul Wyatt come in, now, to "clear up things" Paul could sit in the chair vacated by his brother, and Roy would have a little dribble time, like Curtis said sometimes!
Fanchon Codrington looked disapprovingly at Estelle Del Vecchio. Blonde, twitching her behind in those ridiculous pencil skirts. And every man in the office falling all over her, except for Mr. Cohn, Mr. Wyatt and the Senator, who were real gentlemen.
And of course, Estelle got whatever she wanted. She hadn't had to bounce from the steno pool to the switchboard, over to the Judiciary Committee, and then here, just to answer phones, like Fanchon did. Fanchon couldn't type fast, but there was so much more to life than those humiliating office skills.
And Fanchon suspected that there was more to promotion, more to making forty dollars a week like Estelle got…it had to be because they knew Fanchon's secret. Sensed something. Mother had warned Fanchon that it was different up north, but Mother was a quadroon, and Fanchon—called Fanny back in 'Bama, was an octoroon, and had been a white baby.
Fanchon's manners were pristine, she was not a slut like Estelle, and didn't flirt around, though it would be nice if some of the men who came in and out of the office expressed some interest. "Freckles are a sign of beauty" "There's more of you to love" Somehow Mother's encouragement wasn't buoying as it once had been. A high yaller Petunia Pig, that's what Fanchon felt like!
Wade, Fanchon's steady, who worked as a guard at the National Gallery, sometimes said things that Fanchon thought might imply he knew that she wasn't a white girl. Wade was a buck toothed hick, but he was white, and Fanchon squirmed when Wade said innocuous things like "You should be nicer to me, Fanchon, they're worse fellas to date."
Did that mean that Fanchon should date black boys? Or that she wasn't good enough for Wade? Certainly, she cut dates with Wade whenever a nice white Senate worker asked her out, but it hadn't happened often, had it?
Oh God, what was this. A nigra, a real black nigra, approaching the reception desk. Was he aware that this was the United States Senate?
"Yes?" Fanchon said haughtily.
"Hello, I'm here to see Mr. Cohn, please." The black boy just looked her right in the eye. Would he do that to Estelle?
Fanchon gave him a freezing glance. " You-you're acquainted with Mr. Cohn. Really. He's a busy man. Did you bring laundry for him?"
"No, ma'am. No, I have Mr. Cohn's cigarette case. I suppose I could leave it here."
Well, that was a little better. Look at the floor boy. There's no show here.
Suddenly Mr. Wyatt, handsome, well mannered Mr. Wyatt came out and smiled at the Negro.
Fanchon looked appealingly at Mr. Wyatt, whose wife was a hussy if Fanchon had ever met one. "Mr. Wyatt. I am so sorry to bother you but—" unable to go on, she pointed at the black boy. And Mr. Wyatt beamed.
"Curtis! How's it going?" Fanchon watched dumbly as they shook hands.
Snidely, she said, "Friend of yours, Mr. Wyatt?"
Before Mr. Wyatt could respond, the Negro responded "I- actually, Mr. Wyatt, I have this cigarette case of um, Mr. Cohn's."
Fanchon leaned forward. "How do you know it's his? Is it monogrammed or something? I'm sure there' s no reward."
Curtis looked confused. "I-uh, do odd jobs sometimes for Mr. Cohn, wash his car, that kind of thing. I saw it near-near his house."
Mr. Wyatt looked at Fanchon grimly. "Don't be rude, Fanchon, it's very kind of Curtis to return this cigarette case. It's probably valuable."
Fanchon was incredulous "Rude? To him?" She looked down at her magazine.
It's almost as if there's no purpose to passing!
Fanchon's daddy, a rich white man who had made sure little Fannie had gotten all of his OTHER daughter's clothes when she'd outgrown them, had once commented that Fannie had good ears…and knew much too much. The good ears did not fail Fanchon now.
"I'm really sorry. Thanks for the cigarette case, and I'm really glad to see you again, Curtis. I enjoyed meeting you. Maybe we can have lunch—or something."
"You know, there's a steam room here in the Senate somewhere, Paul."
"No, I remember David Schine and Roy wanted to use it, and there was this great hullabaloo, only Senators can use it, apparently."
"Well, drop by my workplace, the Zeus Baths. Anytime."
Fanchon wrote "Zeus Baths" in the corner of her Cosmopolitan article about "Husband Hunting at Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings" and shook her suspiciously stiff hair.
Blume grinned as he watched April, his enthusiastic Golden Retriever, rolling in the azaleas in front of the Junior League's ugly building in Foggy Bottom. Roll dog, roll, and why not? You got no troubles.
Suddenly a gorgeous little Shiksa came bursting out the door, blonde curls bouncing, like a hyperventilating Shirley Temple, but with bazooms. Shirley Temple began attempting to swat April, who continued to roll, with a rolled up "Evening Star"
"Shoo! Get off the flowerbeds, dog!" the blonde screamed this, and Blume got annoyed. April so far, had never been hit, and had never bitten anyone, and it was an unspoken contract, right?
"Hey! Don't swat April! The hell's wrong with you, lady?" Blume snapped his fingers, but of course April didn't come, however, the blonde stopped waving the paper around.
"Sir, we went to a lot of trouble to plant these azaleas, and your mutt is—"
Blume bristled. "She's no mutt. She ain't a Daughter of the American Revolution, maybe, but my April is as pure bred as you are. Maybe more."
The blonde laughed, if a bit involuntarily. " This isn't the DAR, this is the Junior League. And April looks sweet, but she can't use our flowerbed as her facilities."
Blume shook his head. "What crap. You should be honored that my April wants to relieve herself here. April's impression on American soil may be well more impressive than the League's honey. C'mere, April, we don't need snobbery!"
The blonde stiffened. "What? I'm not a snob, Mrs. Hoskins just doesn't want dogs messing up the beds." What's she looking at? Probably my nose. Caseworker at the Hebrew Foundling Home said I looked like Jimmy Durante in the cradle.
"You're shilling for the League, and you're not a snob? That's like McCarthy claiming he's not a Fascist. Ish kabibble."
The blonde bridled. " Mister—uh"
"Blume. No Mister. Never use my front name. What're you, Duchess Esmeralda?"
"My name is Mrs. Wyatt. And my husband works for Senator McCarthy. The Senator's work is productive, but often misunderstood." With this she raised her adorable, delicate little chin.
Blume snorted. "Yeah. So was Eichmann's. Missus—listen to you. You look like you're twelve years old, and talk like you're about eighty!"
"I'm twenty six, Mr. Blume, and—
"Blume, please. Missis Wyatt." Make friends with me already, Blondie.
The girl loosened up. "Well, I'm Leigh, I guess. It's nice to know I'm well preserved. Twelve indeed. " She smiled, and bent to rub April's stomach, which the dog accepted ecstatically. " You must understand, Blume, Mrs. Hoskins—I volunteer here, stuffing envelopes."
"Yeah, couldn't pay me to do it either." Blume fumbled for a Lucky strike in his jacket.
Leigh couldn't stop smiling, but she reprimanded. "You are the rudest man! You don't deserve a nice dog like this."
Blume grinned, and stepped closer. "Right. Maybe I'll leave April with you, she can lick envelopes. Probably she's cuter than Mrs. Hoskins."
Leigh giggled. " Blume, before you go, I apologize for fussing at you and April here. But I think you should maintain an open mind about the Senator. Paul really believes in his work."
Blume's jaw dropped. "Who's Paul, McCarthy's Igor? No, that's Cohn, right?"
Leigh's eyes narrowed "Paul's my husband. What's wrong with you?"
"Oy, I'm a reporter.
"A journalist. Well, that explains a lot. "
But she looked at Blume, and her blue eyes danced…and Blume felt a little hypnotized. His engagement to Ruthie Margolies seemed rather distant in his grey matter.
A dilapidated Edsel pulled up, one that clearly had once been a Checker Cab, repainted black… and Ralph barreled out, all 280 pounds of him.
"Blume! Jeez, where you been? Walking the dog in the middle of the day."
Blume didn't need distractions right now. "Oh, Ralphie, calm down. I worked ten hours last night."
"Blume, there's been another suicide. Remember the U.N. guy, who jumped?"
Blume scratched his balding head. "How could I forget?" He turned to Leigh " Like my pop, back in '29, he took the window. Abe Feller—poor bastard was general counsel to the United Nations, but he couldn't stand up to the jackals in your husband's office. Oh—forgive me. Ralph Abbandando, meet Mrs. Wyatt."
Ralph waved his hands in front of Blume's face. "Blume, get your head straight. No time for skirts."
Leigh, the Blonde Ice Queen huffed. "Excuse me?"
"Blume, there's been another suicide."
Blume finally focused. "Who?"
Ralph's voice went up. "A Pilsudski. He's a VOA engineer. Two of McCarthy's goons, Cohn and Paul Wyatt, an aide—No relation I'm sure, Mrs. Wyatt—worked Pilsudski over lessn' a month ago, scared the crap outta him. And he ran in front of a train, and is kaput. One great story. Let's go!"
Blume looked at the dog and looked at Ralph, who shook his head.
"Leigh, Blume. We're friends now."
"Can you hold on to April, I gotta rush off to the office, and Ralph's allergic. Here's my card, I'll call you before the close of business."
And, before Blondie could say another word, Blume jumped into Ralph's Edsel and they were gone.
Paul was having serious problems…all he could think about was Curtis these days. Twice he'd ducked out of work mid day to run over to Curtis's little boardinghouse…or once to the Hay-Adams, just to get a room. And Curtis was great…
"Get in here, boy!" Curtis would order, and he'd remain fully clothed while Paul stripped, and lay on the bed, naked. Curtis sometimes would tie Paul's hands, other times not, but he'd break a couple of willow switches on Paul's butt while Paul bit the pillow to keep from screaming.
Paul was combing the flea markets to find a razor strop like Granddad used, but the switchings were great, and then Curtis would roll Paul over, and feed Paul his manhood, as Paul pretended to struggle, hands behind his back.
And then Paul would masturbate on his knees, or once Curtis had ordered Paul to leave his hands bound and grind his cock against the bed…wow! That had been one hell of a squirt.
Afterwards, Curtis would untie Paul and he'd dress and they'd talk…Curtis was one hell of a reader, almost like Jerry. Paul had always thought Jerry read obsessively because he was blind and had nothing else to do, and the squares in school did it because they couldn't throw a ball, but Paul was realizing he missed a lot, not reading much.
Curtis hadn't even finished high school, and he knew more about the world than most of the guys from the Hill who played rugby with Paul on the Mall Saturdays! It was a shame that Negroes didn't do um, coat and tie jobs much. Curtis would be good at it.
And now Paul wanted to go have a bath with Curtis at the Zeus, but he didn't know quite what to say. He had some interviews to go over. And, of course Roy was always bothering Paul!
Sure, Paul had let Roy fool around with him, four or five times, to get Jerry in the door at the Subcommittee, but cripes, Jerry was doing his work just fine. Estelle read to Jerry, and then Jerry analyzed, and told Estelle what to write down, how hard was it?
Really, if Roy was honest, he owed Paul as Jerry was doing a lot of the stuff that Roy should be doing when he was running around with Schine…the Senator was very pleased, and had actually come in to give Jerry a word of commendation, and of course hiring a blind lawyer was interesting press.
Paul got up, and looked warily at the door. Could he make it out? But Estelle Del Vecchio stopped in front of him, smiling. "Mr. Wyatt, Mr. Cohn is interviewing Tanis Fields, and he needs you to do some final note stuff."
Paul rolled his eyes. "Estelle, I've got a meeting downtown. Is there any way I can get out of this? I mean, my brother—"
Estelle laughed, tossing her blonde curls. "I can't believe there's a man alive who would miss the opportunity to meet Tanis Fields. I think she broke up Bogey's marriage. And Senator McCarthy has escorted your brilliant brother to the Senate floor…Mr. Wyatt the Elder is really making himself indispensable."
Paul was gallant. "Oh Estelle, I think you're lots cuter than Tanis Fields. Her movies put me to sleep anyway. But I'll go in the room. She may not be working after Mr. Cohn gets done with her anyway. You'd wonder why an actress like that would be a fellow traveler anyway…"
Estelle giggled, and her breasts bounced merrily in the sweater. "My roommate told me that pinkos give the best parties, and that's how people get in trouble, showing up at that stuff. It's bound to get you in trouble." But she was clearly pleased by Paul's compliment, and wiggled her little behind as she went back to her desk.
Paul scratched his chin. Jesus all the guys in the office were so ga-ga over Estelle. Paul liked girls, and was married to a great one, but there was so much more you could do with a boy. Also, Paul's predelictions to be spanked couldn't be explained to most women—guys don't care.
But there would be no rendezvous this afternoon, and Paul went down the hall to the interview room, knocked once, and slipped in…and there was Roy having an argument with Tanis Fields.
"I guess I can go to a party if I want to!" Miss Fields was shouting. Yup, the parties. Don't regular people give parties? Paul wondered. Not in Hollywood, apparently.
But Roy was smiling, and looking at a piece of paper. "And I understand, Miss Fields, that you, along with a group of actors and actresses in the so-called "Committee for the First Amendment" showed up in '47 to harass at our hearings, is that right?"
Tanis Fields cocked her head. "I think the hearings are open to anyone, Mr. Cohn."
Roy smiled, winking at Paul. "Yeah, and you might have just gone to the hearings to be near Bogart, I read that in Variety. But you also were very rude to Senator Tenney during his hearings and—" Roy looked down at his paper. "You apparently were involved in a Sleepy Swamp, is that right? A Swamp committee?" Roy looked at Tanis Fields in a sort of you-should-be committed fashion.
"The Sleepy Lagoon Committee." Tanis Fields snapped. "It was about the forced internment of the Japanese during the war—" she paused. "A good friend of my dad's, had to sell his grocery store at a tremendous loss when he was interned, Mr. Cohn, and yes, I was concerned about that. And that was what the committee was for."
"Quite, quite the troublemaker, Miss Fields." Roy shook his head sorrowfully. "And now you've come to our office because you can't find movie work, Miss Fields? It would seem that you're so busy with your other activities that you wouldn't have time to do any acting."
As Tanis Fields bridled, Paul got up to go, but was suddenly grabbed by Roy. "Don't wander off, cutie. I want to play with your sausage in the office this afternoon. Your brother's doing quite well, by the way."
Paul sighed, and sat down, in great irritation. He was going to get some action, but not the action he wanted. He couldn't see Curtis tonight, either, he and Leigh were playing bridge with the Dinsmores. On the positive side, Leigh was sitting some reporter's Golden Retriever, and Paul could walk it over to P Street Beach around midnight!
Tanis Fields got out of the Senate Office Building, finally. S.O.B. Great initials. Goddamn that little fucker. Tanis at one time had had studios fighting over her, and now she couldn't get a damn extra part on "Peyton Place". I couldn't get a date with Howdy Doody at this point.
And what could she say to friggin' Roy Cohn? I'm not a Communist. I went to some parties. I made the horrible mistake of caring about my Dad's grocer, Herman Liang, who was born in this goddamn country, and had to sell a deli that had the best egg salad sandwiches…so he could be locked up in a camp. And now he was a movie usher.
Tanis wanted a cigarette. She was out. There were a couple guys on the sidewalk, but then there would be autographs, why-are-you-here, and she just wanted a Luckie. As the commercial ran "Reach for a Luckie Instead of a Sweet" and of course getting fat would be even worse than Communism for her career, right?
But hey, there was a blind guy. Sunglasses, cane. He was smoking. He wouldn't know me from Adam, right? Or Eve, anyway. Tanis walked over to the guy, who was leaning against the S.O.B. "Pardon me, do you have another cigarette?" She smiled, and then realized that the dazzle wouldn't work on this guy.
"Miss Fields!" The guy even turned his head to face her, most blindies didn't do that. "How flattering that you would ask." Without looking down, the guy felt into his jacket and pulled out the pack. Not a bad looking fellow, sandy hair, nice pinstripes.
"How did you know-?" Tanis accepted the cigarette, pressing it against the fellow's butt for a light. "Are you really blind?" She smiled.
"Yes, but I have that heightened hearing, you know. My employer told me he would be interrogating you today, and then a passing appreciative male voice about a foot from here said quite audibly 'Look Cholly, Tanis Fields, wotta dame!' about a moment ago."
Tanis was annoyed all over again. "Your employer wouldn't be Roy Cohn, would he?"
The sandy haired man cocked his head. "What, were you interrogated by several people in there? I thought Roy had first dibs."
Tanis didn't want to scream at a blind man, but it was really, really…ugh. "My interview with Mr. Cohn didn't go as well as I would have liked." She paused. "He wanted me to tell him about my friends, and like Cagney says, don't squeal."
The blind man flicked his cigarette stub at the sidewalk. "Well, if it's any comfort to you, Miss Fields, generally Mr. Cohn gets all the names and still won't clear you to work. It's really too bad." He smiled. "On the other hand, he gave me a job, and I've met a few fellow travelers in my day. Most of them make brooms for a living, so I doubt Roy would care what they do. He likes the big fish. Oh, my name is Jerry Wyatt."
Tanis reached out hesitantly and shook Jerry Wyatt's hand. "I'm surprised you'd work for a guy like Cohn. You don't seem—"Suddenly they were interrupted by a couple of middle aged ladies.
"Miss Fields, could we have your autograph? You were marvelous in ' Deep Trouble for Angie.' Will you be making any more Angie movies?"
Tanis scribbled her name on a proffered napkin. "I may be taking a leave from working just now, but we'll see." Tanis gave her dazzling smile, and the ladies ambled off, thankfully.
"Whoever wrote that script must've been kicked in the head as a child." Jerry Wyatt said, lighting another cigarette. "I go to everything that comes out, and that was one terrible flick. Worse than the Andy Hardy movies, really…Even the Blondie and Dagwood movies are better-"
"Enough!" Tanis shrieked. "Don't worry about it, Mr. Wyatt. The writer of 'Angie's Hero' and 'Deep Trouble for Angie' and a lot of other movies will never work again, thanks to your wonderful Roy Cohn. You can watch Elia Kazan's movies instead, he's covered his ass."
"Well, frankly 'Streetcar' was a helluva lot better than the other crap." Wyatt lit another Luckie. "But you're right about Roy Cohn, and the Senator, who I spent several painful hours with this morning. Fact is, I doubt actors and actresses with or without Communist affiliation would influence anyone, except for the fact that they're in the press because of the blacklist."
"Right—the blacklist that doesn't exist, or so Mr. Cohn says!" Tanis Fields exploded. "He had the temerity to imply that I wasn't getting callbacks because perhaps I wasn't talented enough, or was spending too much time involved in subversive activities. Me! Winchell calls me a bimbo, and Cohn thinks I'm single handedly bringing America down."
"Miss Fields, why don't you come have lunch with me at Reeve's Cafeteria." Paul Wyatt said, smiling. "We can debate the merits of the blacklist, and you can enjoy their mean banana cream pie, if you're willing to be democratic and slum a little."
"Why not?" Tanis Fields said, taking Paul Wyatt's arm forcefully. "I got nothing else going on."
"How flattering" the blind man said as the pinko actress dragged him away.