Bill Wolf







            Camus’ “The Misunderstanding” was, as I said, a long, dark piece which Vivian directed.  Dale and Rhoda played the leads, heavily.  It had a nice poster.




            Following "The Misunderstanding" the theater planned to present a play by Gertrude Stein called “The Mother of Us All,” about Susan B. Anthony, among others, and Dale would direct.  He agreed to let me design the set.  I was ecstatic.  In addition, I was to play the part of Chris the Citizen, a minor role.

            Gertrude Stein was Dale’s lifelong favorite writer and this was my first exposure to her.  Under his command, the words sprang to life.  I loved the play and found myself thinking and talking and writing in little Gertrude Stein phrases.  I wrote a letter to my Grandmother Stallings during that time and she wrote back with a page full of commas and periods.  “My goodness, you certainly need some of these for your letters, as I see you have run out.”  Along with a few rules on punctuation. Oh, well, she had been an English teacher.


            I felt a strong desire to direct in the theater and ask Dale for the chance in “America Hurrah.”  He agreed to let me direct one of the three one-acts which made up the play, a sort of minor piece with eight characters spoofing television.  The whole of “America Hurrah” was a bit minor, if you ask me, but the attending controversy was a big draw and the theater enjoyed the biggest hit it ever had, before or after.

            As my first directing job, it was little more than adequate and largely unmemorable.  Except, that is, for an incident which happened shortly after we had opened.  Somehow we had arranged for us to perform “scenes from America Hurrah” in the big old Orpheum Theater as a filler between two rock bands, a format we would use often in the future.

            On the afternoon of the performance, we were given time for a quick run-through to get accustomed to the place.  The cavernous old vaudeville house was an enormous contrast to our intimate, little theater in Pioneer Square.

            I warned the cast they would have to speak much louder in this big theater and began the run-through.  As they acted their parts, I walked up into the highest balcony to watch.  “Louder!” I called out to them, but still their voices were lost in the big room.  “Louder!  Louder!  You must be much louder!” I shouted.

            There was a moment of silence and a hard glare from the stage into the top of the theater before they began again, now yelling their lungs out.  Dale, who was in the cast, came up to me after and said simply, “Bill, you should never shout at your cast.”  I felt humiliated and shaken.  He was right, I knew   Since that day, I have never again interrupted a rehearsal without quietly stepping on to the stage and calmly speaking to my cast.


            After struggling through the summer with small audiences for the Camus (no wonder, dark, dank play that it is) and then medium houses for the esoteric Gertrude Stein, we finally had a hit in “America Hurrah.”  The young underground crowd showed that it would come into Skid Road when it wanted.  We ran through all of October and into November, and then extended for two additional weeks.  An extension is always risky business for a small theater with limited publicity resources; there is the danger of a hit show extending and then playing to small houses because nobody knows you’re sill running it.  Such was not the lot of “America Hurrah.”  The media had obliged with sufficient notice, and we were again sold out every night.

            We often said later that we should have run that show for ever.  But that was not to be.  As a theater company, with a schedule, and plans, and posters and so forth, we had to close and open the next show.  It could not have been a greater contrast.

            I had somehow talked Dale into letting me direct an old English “mystery” play called “The Second Shepherd’s Play” as a big Christmas spectacle.  It was a big mistake.  The interpretation I brought to the play was not really unusual or anything, and we never found an angle to attract an audience.

            But it had a large cast, it was my first big directing job, and I learned a lot.  It also brought together a lot of people for the first time who would work together many times.  Both Dale and Vivian had parts; the very pregnant Vivian played the role of the Virgin Mary, here represented by the lusty shepherd’s wife.  We thought that was hilarious.  Jeff Grey and Sandy Jacobson were in the cast, a couple of hippie lovers we would know for many years.

            In addition, a girl from England named Brenda had shown up and volunteered to do costumes for us.  She knew all about the “mysteries of ol’ England.”  She was lots of fun, energetic, hefty and very sloppy.  She decided to hand-dye all the costumes for the show in various mottled colors.  Her method amounted to overkill.  For months, the theater, the players, even our personal effects, were infected with blues, greens, purples, and browns.  Our skin turned colors, the theater’s paint supply was unalterably damaged, and the sinks and toilets throughout the theater never completely recovered.  Who cared?  We loved it.

            I also wanted some kids in the cast and Dale suggested asking some of the children of the members of the board of the theater.  He supplied three boys about 6, 8, and 10 who were well behaved and went about their parts a little wooden but dependable.  Their mother would show up near the end of the rehearsals to take them home and always enquire how the boys were doing in their parts.  She was a funny, friendly, short lady who, I could immediately tell, enjoyed the affection of Dale, Vivian and all who knew her.  She took a keen interest in everything about the play and those involved.  I assured her the boys were doing fine and thanked her for her help.  Her name was Eunice Porte and she was the wife of a doctor in town and we would became great friends for many years.

            I had adopted a dog by then, a scraggly street sort of affair I named Bud.  Well, the script called for a lamb to be stolen and then rediscovered, disguised as the Baby Jesus, a bit of ribald Medieval humor, I suppose.  We decided it would be great fun to use Bud in the part of the lamb and stick cotton all over him.  Now, Bud was naturally undisciplined and into everything at the wrong time.  We thought with some dog tranquilizers he might be fine, and so got some from a vet and tried him out in one of the dress rehearsals.  Poor Bud.

            With the natural confusion of the dress rehearsal, the noise and attention, the effects of the tranquilizer, and it was all he could do to sit and shiver, quaking and looking out at me with helpless eyes, until some of the cast members who had to deal with him became concerned for his health and Bud was gently laid in the back room on his bed for the night.  We substituted a stuffed lamb the next day.

            Winter was setting in.  It seemed that it was raining all the time and the sunny, easy days in Pioneer Square had somehow passed.  I was also feeling a bit dirty from six months of sponging off in the men’s room in the back of the theater without a real bath.  So when Brenda suggested that a few of us go in together on renting a big, old two-story house on Capital Hill which she had heard about, it sounded like a good idea.

            Capital Hill stands a few blocks to the north of downtown Seattle and was the home to many of the Ensemble’s members.  Dale and Vivian had a big, Edwardian flat in the Hamilton Arms on the hill’s main street, Broadway.  Jeff and Sandy lived nearby, as did Rhoda and her husband.  Then too, Eunice Porte and her family had a house a few blocks down on the other side of the hill.  And the house Brenda had found was right in the middle of them all.  It was a big place with a big yard that we immediately let go to weeds.  This was truly a hippie crash pad.  We had no furniture and wanted none.  Sometimes there would be ten or more of us sleeping in the place, and sometimes as few as three, me, Brenda, and a kid named Tom who was a real vacuum-head, if cute.


            On the day I moved my few things from Pioneer Square, I had arranged for a friend with a station wagon to come get me, my few boxes of junk, and of course Bud.  I had to get a few things from around the neighborhood and say goodbye to Billy and Charlie Black and some others, and Bud, as usual, was romping around the area.

            I remember that lately those days, the Indians standing in the doorway of the bar down the street had been yelling crazy things, as usual, and about Bud.  About him getting fat and about him getting almost fat enough and somebody once yelled he looked “good enough to eat.”  I never paid them much attention.

            My friend came with the car and we loaded it up for the short drive up the hill to my new home.  When we were ready to go, I called for Bud.  I called and called.  Down the alley and out the front of the theater.  He did not come.  My friend and I walked around several blocks calling for him but finally there was nothing to do but go on without him.  I assured myself he would be fine on the streets until tomorrow when I would be back at the theater and we turned to walk back to the car.  As we passed the bar with the Indians, they called out, laughing, drunk as usual, and I looked into their jeering, bloodshot eyes.

            I couldn’t wait for the morning, and returned that same night to walk the streets and hang out in the theater with all the doors open wide, waiting for him.  The next morning I was there again early, and the next.  I never saw him again and I don’t know what happened to him but I always felt bad about those dog tranquilizers and using him in the play and I never quite got those damn Indians out of my mind.


* * *


            In the old house on Capital Hill, we lived the life of the hippie commune. We gathered around the radio and listened to the first nation-wide broadcast of the Beatles’ “White Album” and later to the astronauts’ Christmas message from the moon!  It was a big messy place and we slept on the floor.  Brenda or somebody would usually cook something but we were on acid or mescaline or such, a lot, and so nobody felt much like eating, you know.

            Besides, Brenda was not a great cook, bless her heart.  A particular curry comes to mind.  Now, remember, Brenda was from England, with a thick cockney accent, and long stories of her “mum” and all the delicious Indian food she grew up on.  Her mum would make “japaties,” a sort of gloppy tortilla, and inedible, at least in Brenda’s interpretation.  And curries.  Brenda informed us she made wonderful curry.  And all the stoned hippies said Wow, that sounds great!

            So we threw a big party at the house, and the theater people came, Dale and all, and Brenda was going to make her delicious curry.  A large pot of water was put on to boil that afternoon, and in it went chickens and onions and vegetables, I guess, and then the delicious curry powder Brenda had gotten.  By the time of the party it was smelling very curry-ish!  Well, the first sampling of the delicious curry proved WAY too hot to eat, way too spicy, way too much curry powder, everyone agreed.             “Oh, don’t worry, I can fix that!” she said, “I’ll just dilute it with a little water,” filling the big pot almost to the top.

            We let it boil awhile, smoked some pot and drank a few beers.

            The small amount of water that she had added, however, hardly affected the big, concoction of dark green boiling liquid.  It was still WAY too curry!

            “I’ll just put it into two pots and add a little more water,” Brenda sweetly pronounced.  By now there were a lot of hippies in the kitchen, smoking pot and drinking beer and checking on how the food was coming.  I was doing my imitation of Miss Idaho 1939, and had Dale on the floor.  The “japaties,” which Brenda was somehow making with her own hands, were inedible without something to dip them in, and the curry was a long way from ready.  Before long there was a third pot of curry liquid on the stove and then a forth, and all burners going.  By now the huge amounts of water had completely diluted whatever original “stew” there had been, and we were left with lots and lots of lukewarm sort of thin, curry powder water.  Nobody could eat it and there was lots of Brenda’s curry leftover for the next day, and the next, ‘till I think finally it was tossed.

            But it was a nice party and Dale would mention my Miss Idaho for years.


            Meanwhile, our shower didn’t work and we were looking a little undernourished and so Eunice Porte took pity on us and had us down the hill to her house often for dinner and a wash.  They were wonderful meals, of course, and we'd sit around the Portes' big dinner table and talk into the night, like a big extended family.  Dan and the boys were always so nice to us and Eunice, well, loved us to pieces.

         Once, when we got really broke, I convinced her that she needed some painting done in her house and we were just the painters to do it.  So she hired us all on.  I told her that plain, colored walls were boring and passé and proposed some big colorful murals for the place.  She loved the idea and we set about decorating her house with stripes and flowers and wild colors.  Her husband, Dan, a rather conservative doctor, would come home from work in the afternoon and exclaim, “But, Eunice, people don't paint their houses like this!”  But she loved it all and managed to placate Dan and so we would return to paint another day.


            Pretty much everybody was sleeping with everybody in the house those days.  The guys, that is.  There were plenty of cute gay guys hanging around the theater and the house, as well as a few hunky straights who could sometimes be persuaded.  So when a flock of little scabies, those nasty little burrowing insects, infected the house, as happened a lot in hippie pads those days, we all got them!  The buggers burrow under your skin around the belt line and into the groin area and cause a heck of a lot of trouble.  You could put this smelly oil all over your body for several days and it’s supposed to kill them.  But it only works if everybody does it at the same time and all the bedding and clothes are washed and boiled and all at the same it.  Well, it was a feat we could never accomplish.

            The scabies would seem to be a little less active during periods of extreme cold, se we ran around in our underpants a lot.  Sometimes Dan and Eunice would walk into their house to find a bunch of half naked guys painting wild patterns on their walls and scratching themselves.


            We were a pretty unreliable lot at the house that winter and never paid our bills and so the gas and electricity was soon turned off.  During a particularly cold spell, we started burning anything we could find in the little fireplace to keep warm.  We went through the books and furniture and such real fast and we had just started on the back porch railings when we ran out of money to pay the rent.

            Just as well, I thought.  I had found myself in a somewhat domestic situation again, in a house on a hill, eating dinners and the like, and I longed for the freedom and romance I had known in Pioneer Square.  I started looking around the theater again, now for a place to rent, and I visited my friend Billy King who had always found himself a “studio” in which to do his art, sometimes little storefronts or storage rooms, sometimes even under the street in unused basement spaces.  They were always his “working studios” and looked it, even though he usually also lived there, sleeping in a roll-up cot in the back room or such.  I wanted one too.

            Billy introduced me to a landlord in the area.  He was a sleazy looking type but he owned a lot of buildings downtown that were unused and he showed me a couple.  He had an old storefront on First Avenue which had been the S and W Café years ago and was now boarded up.  It was a decrepit, dark affair with two big rooms full of junk.  The front room had a counter, booths, and grill still in place and the back room was just storage full to the ceiling with years of grime.  I rented it for fifty dollars a month.  It was my first real studio and it felt great to get the key and stand in the middle of it all.

            So, I moved down to the place and began cleaning it out.  I took everything I didn’t want from the front room and crammed it into the back, thinking I would get around to that later.  Billy King was around a lot and gave me a hand.  He was then living in one of a succession of weird studio places around Pioneer Square.  The theater was real active all this time and my studio became a sort of annex playhouse around the corner and a lot of after-show parties took place there.  Billy got into trouble with the cops at one point for brandishing a toy rifle from the prop department, out the front of my door on First Avenue.

            He was then doing “assemblages” out of bits and pieces of the indigenous junk that filled the alleys and old buildings of the area.  Baby doll heads spiked with nails and so on.  Where ever he was setting up his studio, those days, he always managed to have another big “art opening” of his latest stuff, and had lots of friends coming around.  He had left school only the year before, in Spokane, Washington, but already he was always referring to himself as the “artist,” there being never any doubt in his mind what he was.

            He worked hard at his art everyday and loved it.  He led the kind of life I wanted, the deep commitment to his work, the freedom to make his life exactly what he wanted.  He was boisterous, and sexy, and had many friends.  He was always ready to party or join in a project.  He became, and has remained, my idol and I have studied the many ways he lives his life and have endeavored to copy them.  To this day I ask myself what Billy King would do if this or that.

            He would say to me later, “I got this art thing figured out; it’s not the fame or the money, it’s the life!”


            Dale followed the Christmas production of “Shepherd’s Play” with Samuel Becket’s “Happy Days” in January, with Rhoda in the lead.  The title is ironic; it is a grim play.  A single character sits buried in a garbage heap reminiscing about her life.  I did the set and Dale directed a superb production but the audiences stayed away in droves.

            It is not a pretty sight, a long, heavy play, night after night, playing to dwindling houses in the cold rain of Seattle’s winter.  The play took only Dale and me to run and with only two in the cast, suddenly gone were the hoards of actors stage-hands and dressers and parents and dogs and hangers-on from the previous show.  There was nothing to do, hour after hour, but sit backstage and listen to Winnie’s sad story and wait for the play to end.  “Get through the day, Winnie, get through the day,” called Rhoda plaintively as Dale and I whispered together in the dressing room.

            It was then he first mentioned closing the theater.  He was bearing the weight of the organization and its financing.  I was a carefree worker with none of those problems and I felt I couldn’t contradict him.  He wanted and needed my support, I thought, and I did not withhold it.  Thought I loved our little theater and my life here, I would stand with him whatever he wanted.

            But I couldn’t help thinking that, after the successes of the fall, this winter slump was an aberration and if we could just hang on a little longer, things would turn around and we could pull through.  It was not to be.           


*  *  *


            It was Billy King who first proposed a “weekend art fair” for the big, empty parking lot on Occidental near the theater.  He would, he said, display his latest art assemblages, the Ensemble would present some theater and other artists would join in too!  Well, Dale was not inclined to get involved but encouraged me to do a piece for the Ensemble’s part.  I spread the word in the company and got a lot of enthusiastic response.


           I was looking at a book then, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti called “Routines” of a bunch of short concept writings and chose four or five I thought could be acted out.



           They were abstract little pieces a couple minutes long, like two men in business suits, bound at the heads with a single, long bandage wrapped around them, slowly rotating and saying “...winding and unwinding, winding and unwinding...” and things like that.  We thought them perfect for the bums and winos of Pioneer Square.

            The day dawned cold that spring Saturday in Seattle and we went early out to the parking lot.  Billy had gathered a bunch of old brooms from somewhere and, as he had shown in his alley painting project, all you had to do was start some activity or other and soon you would be joined by the hoards of old guys from the neighborhood, wanting to help.  Soon a dozen or so old bums and Indians were sweeping away at Billy’s command.  The parking lot had never been so clean.

            So, we wheeled out his crazy-looking assemblages and set up a sound system of sorts.  Soon, the Rolling Stones filled the air and the ever-happy locals started dancing around in delight as the sun struggled to break through the days thick clouds.  So starved for diversion was the neighborhood that soon we had a big crowd of low-lifes and curious.  Billy declared the whole thing a success before it even began.

            He officiated at some sort of ribbon-cutting event and some speeches were made and then came the time for the unfurling of the American Flag!

            Billy had acquired a big, old specimen from somewhere and had climbed up the fire escape to attach it to the back of one of the big, red brick building above the festival.  No sooner had he let it fall into position, the thunderous applause and cheering from our big happy audience, than the Fire Department comes screaming around the corner with sirens blaring and asked to see the person in charge!  It seems there is a right way and a wrong way to hang the flag and we had unknowingly hung our giant American Flag in the form of a “distress signal.”  Well, Billy came up and tried to explain that, well, with the audience we had, no one would know the difference between a distress signal and a non-distress signal, which was, of course, echoed loudly by our hoards of bums, and that we meant no disrespect and we were just doing a little neighborhood art festival and so on.  It was to no avail.  The Fire Marshals would not be satisfied until we had climbed back up and reversed the flag.

            Of course, all this took a while and delayed our schedule of entertainment, but also served to increase our audience!  The sirens, the lights, the noise and serious discussions and the final ascent and turning of the flag were just the kind of show these guys loved and they started coming from all around.  We turned up the music and soon we were hundreds, at least!

            A bunch of people from the theater’s crowd came and lots of Billy’s friends and  the first of the apple wine began to make its way through the convivial crowd enjoying our art festival.

            At last it was time for the Ensemble’s big presentation.  We had all been hanging around, nervous, that day; this was truly an audience outside the mainstream of theater, in fact, it would be hard to imagine an audience more so!  Some of the theater-type onlookers were slowly shaking their heads.

            We began with a silly sort of “parade” out the back door of the theater, down the alley and into the parking lot.  We had a couple of kazoos and some toy drums and such left over from “Viet Rock,” I guess.  The characters came right out of Ferlinghetti’s routines, two businessmen joined at the head, the beautiful Rene wearing nothing but sixteen bras, Rhoda’s two little kids wrapped in an American flag, and others.  We started out.

            There had been a lot of build-up about the Ensemble Theater all morning and a long wait while nothing was happening, but when the first faint notes of the kazoos could be heard from far away, a giant cheer rose from the crowd.  It grew and grew as we marched closer and then into their midst and scarcely abated as we began our show.  Everything we did, every gesture, every line of the ridiculous, abstract beat-poet’s non-sequitur script, seemed to strike just the right note with this crowd.  They found everything hilarious, hooting and hollering, and when the beautiful Rene began to throw her sixteen bras, one by one, into the crowd, the place went wild!

            Those of us from the theater, including Dale, of course, and a number of others, were deeply moved by the experience.  After months, years really, of trying to “break down the barriers” and to make a new kind of theater, we realized we had never come close to the kind of audience excitement we saw that day.

            The play ended with a sort of silly piece with Billy King dressed as a military general and running around chasing Rhoda’s two little kids, threatening them with a giant hypodermic needle and the giant crowd erupted in cheers and applause.  We found ourselves back at the theater exhausted and exhilarated.


            They were glorious days, those, in the theater and in my studio in Pioneer Square.  The theater ran a show of Megan Terry one-acts in February and started rehearsals for Alfred Jarry’s dadaist “Ubu Roi.”  After the shows, the party would move to my studio and continue into the night.  And after the parties, I would light out on my own, private, to the adventures in the streets and alleys and peepshows of downtown Seattle.

            Though I had no problem drinking in the bars and taverns around Pioneer Square, I would often get turned away from the various gay bars downtown, as I was under twenty-one.  I sneaked in unnoticed a lot of times but when I couldn’t, the peepshows and cruising along First Avenue would suffice.

            Not far from the theater was the only (well, respectable) gay steam bath in town; it was called the Atlas.  It was in a basement below the street and was clean and had flocked wallpaper and plaster statues of David, and so on.  It had lockers, private rooms, a little steam room, and of course a dark orgy room.  When all else failed, and if I had the money, it was there.

            About this time, March of ‘69, Dale announced to the company that the theater must close.  A lot of people were pretty shocked and dismayed, but I had known since “Happy Days,” of course, and I stood with him.  It was decided that we would not announce it publicly until the last show, and two more had been planned.  We put our best face on it and rehearsed our parts with enthusiasm, wondering what would happen next.

            Dale decided he wanted to go out in a blaze of glory and came up with the idea of doing the “Ubu Roi” with the girls topless!  There was nothing in the script to suggest this, but, I guess, Dale thought these Seattle hicks would respond to tits.  He was right!  The papers gave us lots of articles about only in Africa and the first nudity to hit the Seattle stage and the reservations started pouring in.


            After the excitement and success, in our eyes, of Billy King’s big “Art Festival” in the parking lot and our part in it, the idea began to form of somehow continuing our work together after the theater closed.  Some of the members of the theater had adapted to its closing by making arrangements to act elsewhere and some by quietly going back to their normal lives.  But a good many like me, wished the theater could continue and were eager to join a new project.

            In true Andy Hardy spirit we told ourselves We don’t need a theater” We can perform in the streets! And dubbed ourselves the Ensemble Street Players, thinking to capitalize a little on whatever leftover name recognition there might be.  We soon found ourselves an opportunity to perform the Ferlinghetti “Routines” again.  That’s when we almost caused the race riot.

            It was some sort of Saturday afternoon activity in the auditorium of a nearby black grammar school.  The year was 1969, remember, and relation between the races in America were volatile.  Coming from the cozy, liberal, white world of theater, we presented our “Routines” with wide-eyed naivete.

            It was a large audience of all blacks, many ages, older brothers and such, restless, and very noisy.

            The beautiful Rene did her bit about the lady who slowly removes all her sixteen bras, Kathy lay semi-nude in a bathtub of red blood, and Jeff and I groped around the stage in business suits tied together at the head with big white bandages.  It was all TOO MUCH, and when the military general Billy King began pursuing Rhoda’s two small, blonde children, wrapped in the American flag, around the stage with an over-sized hypodermic needle, things turned ugly.

            Suddenly the audience was on the stage with us and chairs were being raised above their heads.  Jeff and I got untangled as fast as we could and made a grab for Rhoda’s kids.  The actors flew through a back door of the stage and the event organizers quickly herded us upstairs and into the principal’s office and locked the doors, where we remained for several hours.  The police came and tried to clear the area.  The organizers of the event were very apologetic about the whole thing, but as we finally left the building out the back, we couldn’t escape the feeling that we had caused a terrible thing.

            That night, back safe in the theater, our adventures took on heroic proportions and the story was told and retold; our bravery for the cause of Art was extolled.


            One night, during the run of “Ubu,” I ducked out after the show and found myself in the Atlas Steam Baths.  I was horny, as usual, and found myself in the orgy room in the back of the place, entangled in a bunch of bodies (Russell would later say I looked like I was “directing”).  I noticed one guy sort of detatching himself from the group and then standing in the doorway watching.  He looked on for awhile then turned and departed down the hall.

            I stayed on a bit longer, enjoying myself, then got up and walked out for a breath of air.  Who was that guy who was watching and went away?  And where had he gone?  I was intrigued.

            With these thoughts, I walked around and turned a corner and stared into an open door.  The same guy was sitting on the side of his cot smoking a cigarette.  “Can I come in?”  “Sure.”  I went in and closed the door.

            We talked and laughed and made love and when he was ready to leave, I said Let me come along.  “Sure.”

            He had a car and we drove in the dawn to his apartment up on Capital Hill, in the block behind the Hamilton Arms, as it happened, where Dale and Vivian lived.  We had coffee and sat together that morning and went for a ride down to the Seattle Center, the old World’s Fair site, and hung our feet in the fountain and listened to the music and watched the sun come up.

            We were together all that day and evening and then I spent the night at his flat.  We spent the next day and night together and then the next day he said he had to go to work.  I walked him down to the office where he was writing resumes for a guy named George Schwarry and I said, “I’ll see you after work.”  I walked around the downtown area staring at the cars and busses and nothing.  It was the first time we had been apart.  I walked in a void and thought of him.

            His name was Russell and he was very handsome, a little older than me, and a writer of poetry, he told me, and prose.  He had gotten a job writing resumes for people who wanted to work overseas.  And he was very handsome.

            I was waiting for him at the door of his office when he got off and he smiled when he saw me.  That night we stayed in my studio on my little cot in the back room of the old B and M, and the next day at his place.  We have been together at my place or his, in fact, everyday and night since then.

            Some people do not believe in love at first sight, but I know different.  My grandfather, the young Charlie Stallings, saw my grandmother, the young Ruth Murray, for the first time one night in church and whispered to his brother, “I’m goin’ to marry that girl over there.”  Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen.  I know it does.


* * *


            Dale had decided that the last production of the theater, and it’s closing show, would be an adaptation, by himself, of a favorite of his, Kenneth Patchen’s “Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer,” with a very large cast.  Well, nobody knew anything about it (including the public), but trusted Dale completely.  He explained it to us and went about casting the parts.  Jeff and Sandy were chosen to play the young leads, she in a wheelchair (?).  Brenda, me, all the regulars had parts and still there were more to fill.

            So, of course, I convinced Russell to be in the play with us, and he agreed and talked to a friend of his, Chris Wurgler, a tall, funny hairdresser he knew, to be in the play, too.  (Dale saw a great opportunity here and had Russell and Chris do the first male-to-male, deep-throat French kissing on the Seattle stage!)

            Dale had us doing a lot of improvising those days, warm-ups for rehearsals and such.  He was very much into Stanislavski and “method” acting.  So we were all working very hard.

            It was a disjointed sort of piece and of not much interest to anybody.  The play opened with the whole cast on stage in the dark running around calling “Moon!  Moon!  Beautiful Moon!  Glorious Moon”  That kind of thing.  Not too many people came.


            We were in our last show at the old Ensemble and partying every night and not much happening except right then the US NASA team was sending the first men up to walk on the moon!  So we decided to have a big party.  We borrowed a little old black and white TV and cleaned out my studio, the old B and M, and set up for an all night Moon Landing Party!

            Brenda said she would bake the Moon Cake.  Now remember, from our old house on Capital Hill, that Brenda was not a very good cook, bless her heart.  The best thing that could be said about the Moon Cake was that it really did look like the surface of the moon.  Well, we all got drunk and stoned and laid around, me with my arms around Russell, and watched the long, boring TV event into the night.  Russell would later say that he always marked our anniversary by the date of the first moon walk, so taken was he, I guess, with the night and the moon.  Of course, I always marked our anniversary by that first glance of him in the orgy room in the back of the Atlas Steam Baths, but I don’t say that too often.


            “Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer” closed, on schedule, and Dale left town.  With his big apartment in the Hamilton Arms now empty, Brenda decided to move in and we set up a rehearsal room in the big, front parlor, to do our Ensemble Street Players stuff.

            I had kept my studio on First Avenue and Russell and I were occasionally staying the night there, sleeping on my little cot, romantic and all, and in Seattle where it’s always raining, there was always a general dripping in the back room, water coming down from the high, dark ceiling.  Then one day Russell decided to take a look upstairs.  Well, it seemed the old plumbing of the flop-house upstairs was all leaky and the toilets were constantly broken and seeping.  “Bill,” he said, “we’re sleeping in old bums’ piss all night long!”

            He insisted I give up the place.  Well, I had never even yet cleaned it out from the years of abandonment from the old B and M Café, and he wanted me to move in with him up on Capital Hill, and besides, we would be closer to the rehearsals just across the street.  So, with a sort of sad look back, I gave up the key to the landlord of my first, but certainly not last, real studio.

            We packed my few things into his car and drove uphill, saying goodbye to my heady, long days with the bums and Indians and artists and honking seagulls of Pioneer Square in old Seattle.



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