Changing The World One Pansy At A Time!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

And We're Back....

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I was 13 years old. I was watching The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. I recall wearing my new velour tan zip-up hoodie and a gold “box style” chain; both of which were all the rage. Johnnie introduced CHARLES NELSON REILLY (who would ultimately set the record for Tonight Show appearances) Charles came out, Johnny asked, “what have you been up to Charles?” And CNR replied, “Well, John, I recently flew to New York…” And he was off! I have no idea what he spoke of. But he confined his tale to a single cross country flight. I writhed on the floor of my parent’s suburban “rec room” I literally had tears of laughter streaming down my face (as did Johnny) It was such a magic moment that Johnny “ran over” The Tonight show was then an hour & a half ending at 1:00 a.m. But that was still not enough time to contain the magical uproarious humor of Charles Nelson Reilly who died last week at 76.

NOBODY was gay in the 70’s! Sure there were rumors about ROCK HUDSON, urban legends about various Rock Stars, even GOMER PYLE , but if you were gay and you watched PAUL LYNDE or CHARLES NELSON REILLY…you KNEW!! THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! And GOD DAMMIT! They are fu***** hysterical!
And he was!

When my late former partner got a sitcom starring BURT REYNOLDs, I was happy. But the real reason for my happiness was I knew, from my tabloid education, that Burt had a “Posse” Made up of DOM DELUISE, JIM NABORS, & tah-dah: Charles Nelson Reilly! I extracted a promise from my partner that he would call me the moment he met Charles! True to his word, on a Friday evening, while I was wrapping things up in New York, the call came. “It happened!” “I met HIM!” I knew without question. “What did he say?” “He’s hysterical!” The first thing he asked was: “Do you have a dentist here?” “You’ll need a Doctor & a Dentist…because clearly, you’re staying!” (in Los Angeles) So I came to Los Angeles & it wasn’t too long before I got to meet Charles myself.

Do you know what it’s like to meet someone you’ve idolized your entire life? And be lucky enough to form a friendship with them? I do! Since his passing I am filled with so many memories:

I think the first words he said to me were (of course) quotes from a play, THE BOYS IN THE BAND.
“I don’t understand any of it, I never did. Turn out the light when you’re through!”

He would frequently just start in the middle of a play & expect you to keep up & you loved him so much for even noticing you, you tried!

The plays & the stories, my God! The stories! You cannot imagine the people he knew! At a California cocktail party (perhaps at HOPE LANGE’s house… his “Ghost & Mrs Muir” co-star was, at one time, a most legendary hostess) he had brought his torturing mother from New York. Academy Award winning actress & Charles’s friend, SHIRLEY BOOTH, came up to him & said: “Charles, your Mother is one of the most dreadful people I’ve ever met!” Without missing a beat, Charles replied:”I know Shirley!” “But what a part for you!”

I never watched MATCH GAME, mostly because I hate game shows. But I wish now I had because in viewing YouTube clips in recent days I realize I missed a lot of Charles’ great lines. When BRETT SOMMERS (mainly famous for being on MATCH GAME & having been married to JACK KLUGMAN) said somewhat defensively to Charles: “Well! I Live in BEVERLY HILLS!” Charles replied: “Yea, but so close to OLYMPIC you could Spit into MAR VISTA!” And brought that bitch down!

When I returned to College after I moved to Los Angeles, I enrolled in a creative writing class ( this blog offering little proof) When I told Charles that I wrote a paper on him & got a B+ He said: “If you’d chosen a more interesting subject you would have gotten an A!”

CNR was more noted for his directing skills, having directed the incomparable JULIE HARRIS in her finest stage triumph: THE BELLE OF AMHERST… as well as many episodic TV shows And I was so glad to see his final triumph: SAVE IT FOR THE STAGE! THE LIFE OF REILLY which he performed as a one man show & which was also shot as a film that is still in theatres! Charles left us on high note.

I celebrated my 28th Birthday on his boat, ARTICHOKE HEARTS.
I spent many holidays with him. I am still in possession of gifts he gave me ( a cool vintage leather jewelry box, a movie card for a film called: HOLLYWOOD STORY, I have 3 glasses left from a set he gave my partner & I at my L.A. Arrival party which he said “was like a Gay Wedding! Dozens of years before that was even a possibility!)

My whole goal of this BLOG & website has been to fashion myself as a CHARLES NELSON REILLY for GENERATION X & I realize again how futile a goal that is! There was only ONE CNR & his like will not come again!

I love you Charles! I am grateful to have known you! I hope we meet again!


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