8/29/2011 The Comedian
Little did she know it, but in telling me her coming-of-age
coming out story at the Cat and Fiddle,
Wendy was actually talking with someone who could empathize with the torment of
breaking up with an older, more controlling woman. Back in New York when I had encouraged Maureen, another
actress, to read Collette before she had entered into a gay relationship with Christine,
her French teacher, I had inadvertently found myself being used as a decoy so
that the two women wouldn’t be busted by Christine’s ex-husband who might, if
he had known they were in a relationship, have started a child custody battle
for their son, Pierre. So that
tongues (mostly Pierre’s) wouldn’t wag, I would come over to Christine’s
Village apartment as Maureen’s “date”.
Halfway through the evening, when Pierre was asleep, I would leave.
For someone who, at the time, was on a tight budget, it was
a comfort to forgo pricey meals out and enjoy Christine’s French cooking. I was in rehearsals for a play that was
moving from the American Renaissance Theater to an Off-Broadway run at what was
then the Harold Clurman Theater (now the Henry Miller) on Theater Row (43rd
Street). It was late summer and
Maureen’s love affair with Christine had been going on since April. To make sure their relationship was
hidden from her ex, Christine monitored the complicated dating logistics with a
strict regimen that, just before my play went into previews, was beginning to
wear on both their nerves.
One night, after one of my final preview performances, Christine
invited me over for a late night dinner.
Pierre was being picked up by his dad around ten o’clock, and, if I
slipped away from my show early, I could meet up with Maureen and show up at
the apartment before he got there to say hello to Christine’s “theater
friends.” I left my show at
intermission—the booking agent had sold out the house to a group of blind
people who seemed to be having a good time (even laughing while I winced at one
my actresses referring to one of the baseball players she was watching as
“swinging the bat like a bland man chasing butterflies”), so I didn’t feel as
if I had to give any notes to the director afterwards.
When I got to Christine’s place, Maureen was already there,
which was as planned, but so was Christine’s ex-husband, Roger. This wasn’t as planned. For some reason Roger had arrived early,
so when I walked through the door the normally spirited Christine--all
voulez-vous this and permittez-moi that in a high-piping Marriage of Figaro
voice--squeaked a timid, “A-lo,” and then awkwardly tried to introduce me as
“Un ami du Maureen ooze play it opeens...een a vew days, n’est ce pas?”
“Day after tomorrow,” I nodded, as I watched Christine, pale
as a Parisian, begin to turn red.
Roger, a bald, portly man in a grey suit, frowned. Maureen gave me a wide-eyed look that
screamed, “Do something!” For lack
of a better move, I put my arm around her shoulders and said, as apologetically
as I could muster, “Sorry, I couldn’t get away as soon as I thought. Had an audience of blind people.”
This was not the clever cue line that Maureen expected. Speechless, she stared at me as if I
were off my meds. I gave her a
squeeze and then grinned, like some kind of moron, at Roger. He was not amused. In fact, his frown had hardened into lines
Christine, brave soul, tried to cut the tension with a
giggling, “They buy the billets to see a play they could not see?”
“All ears,” I quipped, and we both laughed.
Roger gave her a scornful glance. “I’ll have Pierre back at noon on Sunday.” Then, as he
turned his back to usher his son out the door, he scowled, “Have fun with your
It took us a moment, punctuated by his slamming the door
shut as he left, to realize that it wasn’t Maureen’s presence at Christine’s
apartment that irked him. “Did you
catch that?” Maureen gasped.
“He thinks you’re the decoy,” I said.
“But does he think she’s gay?” Christine asked.
“Does it matter?”
I laughed. “As long as he
thinks you’re not, then any time Maureen is here he’ll be happy.”
“If you stay away,” Christine added.
“I’m going back to New Mexico next week. I think things will work out perfectly.”
And they would have—in a
perfect universe. As it was, my
absence only sped up their splitting up.