John, light of my life, fire of my loins, for today’s anniversary I’m giving you a very special memory that involves Dick Cavett, Robert Morley, Howard Johnson’s—and someone I get a mischievous thrill imagining you might actually have met in your wanderings among the glitterati of international show business. In three weeks when your birthday pops up, I’ll give you Benjamin Britten.
In one of my old postings (“On Conductor John Wilson’s Full Dress and The First Porn Movie I Ever Did, 1”) I said something about a certain hot tub party being only the second time a man ever gave me his business card before we had sex… Well, this was the first. It happened one evening in July, 1973. I was 18. I had just gotten that job as night solfeggist at ASCAP only a couple of weeks earlier, which is in itself a very interesting story I’ll have to tell you one of these days. Only now let’s get back to me walking down Broadway from 63rd. I loved walking home to the Village after work on a summer evening, when all of midtown was still buzzy with life and good times. After the night shift, some of my fellow solfeggists would go across the street to O’Neal’s Balloon to drink with the fancy Lincoln Center crowd (here’s my own favorite table showing up in Annie Hall), but I got a bigger kick being below 54th with all the theater people. On this particular evening I was approaching 46th…and right there on the corner of 46th stood a really good-looking guy, tall and blond and nicely dressed, who seemed to be scoping out one by one all the passers-by. For some reason he lit upon me. He got my attention. Then he asked me if I knew where a good jazz club could be found, the way you might ask any passer-by about a mailbox or the way to the Empire State Building… I told him I was new in town. Then he suggested we (“we”!) buy a newspaper and sit down somewhere and check the listings together. Oh, I was game. My first New York adventure! We went across the street to Howard Johnson’s where he bought me a hamburger and told me about himself. He told me he was an agent. He’d just put his client on the plane that day—his client having just been on The Dick Cavett Show promoting his new film, a comedy-horror flick that’s now a classic—and he himself was going back to London in the morning. He told me his client’s name, which I recognized at once, and then he gave me his card, which I kept for years until I gave it to an actor friend who said he was “looking for a UK rep”… Then he asked me about myself, all the nice polite questions a man’ll ask you beforehand… But we also talked about show business, shows, show music. I told him I liked Man of La Mancha. Having found no jazz clubs worth going to that night, we left HoJo’s and walked over to 5th Avenue, where we strolled back to his hotel room at the St Regis. I was ready for anything, expecting nothing. Even when he pulled the line, “Let’s get out of these hot clothes, shall we?” with that gorgeous limey accent of his, I still wasn’t sure we were on the road to making it…until we started making it. At that point we hadn’t even kissed. But oh, how he made up for it! I wasn’t a virgin, but here was the first man I ever slept with who actually knew how to take his time pleasuring a woman. By the time I was under him, gazing down at the back of his incredibly sexy legs, an electric shock went through me, and for the first time in my life, I orgasmed. So that’s the story of my first New York hookup. We parted in the morning, wishing each other well, and I even made it back to the boarding house in time for breakfast. A perfect sexual encounter with a happy ending.
I’m telling you this, John, because what Michael Linnit made me feel that night is nothing compared to how you made me feel when you conducted Elgar’s Bach Fantasia in Sydney three years ago. I’m not kidding. I had just fallen in love with you when I saw you shimmy to a Jule Styne tune in some video… But this time (it was about 2 weeks later) there was only you and the music on the radio. I’m not even crazy about Elgar, I was waiting for your Prokofiev. But I was so keyed up—for the past couple of weeks I had been vibrating with love for you—that when a certain chord was played in the Elgar, a wave rolled through me, it was just so yummy… But that wasn’t all. As I lay there gasping, a little voice in my head went, You fool! Don’t you remember who’s there? And so I came again, this orgasm coming over me like a wave meant to drown…and I reached for you and knocked the lamp off the night table.
If we ever do meet up at the Metropole in Gateshead, my love, I’ll tell you about the other times (Vaughan Williams, Richard Rodgers). But I wanted to let you know now how much you’ve meant to me, how much you still mean, even when you’re not wearing the white tie.
And like I said, for your birthday I’ll do Britten for you. Now I’ve got to go be with Mister Grumble and make dinner. Bosnian Cabbage Stew tonight.
Above 46th and Broadway c 1972, a year before I hit town (note the marquees for Bock+Harnick’s The Rothschilds and the No, No Nanette revival): Elgar’s Bach Fantasia played by the BBCSO under Leonard Slatkin. And here’s the score.
- “The Story So Far, with Conductor John Wilson”
- “The Story So Far; Or, Conductor John Wilson—His Limits
- Kindle ebook of my Hollywood comedy-mystery COLD OPEN here.
- Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.
- Free pdf of my memoir re the Gyllenhaals A POET FROM HOLLYWOOD here.