How old they were really didn’t matter. It was how old their paperwork said they were that mattered. So long as the boys who showed up at Larry Cohen’s office could produce a government-issued document, a driver’s license or a passport, something official that proved they were 18, Larry could offer them work.
It didn’t matter if they looked younger than 18. That was actually good. An 18 year-old who looked like he was 15 was a goldmine, a genuine star, someone who would create a sensation all over the Internet for at least a year, before the usual entertainment industry crap aged him prematurely. A lot of the Asian boys, the Filipinos and Vietnamese especially, looked like they hadn’t yet shaved. Their chests were as smooth as their ass cheeks, bald and supple, as though they were immune to the effects of puberty. Some of them had soft little tufts of black, black hair (if they hadn’t already waxed it off) where you would expect it, but it didn’t grow up their belly or over their thighs, like the Armenian or Brazilian kids. Even the ones that really were 18 (and 20, and 25), looked too young to be legal, which was a wonderful quirk when you had to cast an episode of “Daddy’s Little Boy” every week of the year except the High Holy Days.
Attracting prospective talent to Main Man Productions was easier than most of Larry’s friends from Hillcrest and Brentwood imagined. A single two-inch square advertisement in the LA WEEKLY – “Casting: Wild Boys for Wild Movies” – was all it took to get dozens of hopeful thespians to show up at Larry’s Van Nuys office, across from the House of Pies. Many of the prospective performers, it was true, were too unattractive, too old, or too unwilling to be stars. But if you ran enough applicants through the mill, you could always identify enough talent to keep the videographers and editors busy. And, occasionally, if you were resourceful and lucky, you would stumble upon the next Joey Jackson or Jon-Jon Molina.
“Jon-Jon, he sat in that chair, that very chair, right where you’re sitting,” Larry said, nodding, his slightly hushed, slightly quivering tone communicating the import of the moment. He paused, smiled, looked the applicant in his eyes, which you had to be blind not to notice were the most stunning shade of blue. So All-American. “Right there! He was like you. Ambitious, gorgeous. Oh, those lips! Anyway. Yeah. Just like you and many others. Talent waiting to be discovered. Unlocked.”
Chad Evans nodded. “Wow,” he said. He didn’t want to admit that he didn’t know who Jon-Jon was, or that he, Chad, had never done anything on film before, or that he had only done one thing (or two, depending on how you counted it) off-screen before deciding to come to Larry Cohen’s office to change his life, for the better, he hoped.
Cohen leaned back in his chair, crossing his hands beneath his chest. “My point being, darling, that there’s a very fine line between being a nobody and a somebody.”
“Right,” Chad said, giggling nervously.
“So. OK. Business. Marcy tells me your paperwork is in order.”
“You gave her your driver’s license, and the HIV?”
“Just efwigh. You’ve got to have a new one, a new test, every time you work. Costs thirty bucks. You get the results in twenty minutes.”
“OK,” Chad said.
“So. OK. Next we should discuss what you will and will not do. And let me stress, the fewer restrictions, the more work we can offer you. Right? Like, you know, I only do solo jack-off – OK, fine, that’s great, but you’re limiting yourself. Right?”
Chad nodded. “Yeah. Right.”
“Yeah. You understand.”
“OK, so, what’s your…” Larry reached for a pen on his desk and pulled a sheet of paper off a screenplay-thick stack.
“Well,” Chad said, nodding slowly, as if agreeing with what he had yet to say. “I guess, um, everything?” He laughed.
“Oh. OK. Good.” Larry looked across the desk. God, this boy was delicious. So young. So scared. “We do all bareback. But, like I said, testing, of course.”
“Yeah, that’s cool. That’s fine.”
“I’m guessing, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m guessing bottom? Mostly?”
Chad nodded. “But I can, um, you know, do whatever.”
“Yeah. Good. OK. So, let’s see…” Larry checked off several boxes on his form. “Any special talents we should know about?”
“Well, I’m told I do a pretty good impression of Cher.”
Both men laughed. Larry said, “You are too cute! Stop it! I’m going to fall in love.” This boy really was way too cute. Irresistible.
“Do you believe in love?” Chad sang, more or less in tune.
“Yes, I do. But that’s another story for another time and another place,” Larry said, smirking.
Chad felt his nervousness subside. He could tell this guy liked him. It was always easy to tell with the older ones.
Larry tucked his chin to his chest and peered down his nose, as though peering over bifocals. “Gang bangs?”
“What about them?” Chad heard himself saying, certain that his bluff would be called.
“Yes? No? Maybe?”
Chad pretended to think for a second. “Maybe.”
“I’ll put you down for maybe. That’s fine.” Larry wrote bangbucket, and underlined it twice. “So. Anything else I should know?” Larry asked, smiling beatifically.
Chad licked his lips looked up, as though he was reading a script inscribed on his eyebrows. “Well, um, I think I would do a good job? I think I could do well in the business?”
“Yeah?” Larry Cohen said.
“Yes,” Chad said, looking down, shyly.
“Would you like to prove it to me?” Larry said lightly, leaving room in his tone to excuse his come-on as a joke.
Chad shrugged. “Am I supposed to?”
“Yes, you are.” Larry felt himself getting hard.
Chad giggled. “OK. How?”
“Well, why don’t you come over here and I’ll show you.” It wasn’t a question.
Chad rose from his chair and inhaled deeply. The room, he noticed, smelled like orange juice. And the light seemed edged with green. He could hear a Whitney Houston song on the other side of the wall, where Larry Cohen’s secretary, a Filipino boy named Ramon, sat and unhappily flipped through fashion magazines between phone calls and visitors.
When Chad first read the ad, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be in dirty movies. When he called Larry Cohen’s office and arranged an appointment, he thought he might not mind having sex on film. At least he’d get paid for it! Even on the bus from his friend Roland’s apartment – Chad had been in Los Angeles less than a week and didn’t yet have his own car, let alone his own bedroom – he wasn’t altogether convinced that he would be able to do it, on film, with strangers, repeatedly.
But now, noticing the familiar hunger in Larry Cohen’s eyes, the same watery glint he’d seen in Father Mike and hordes of other men who found him beautiful for reasons that weren’t altogether clear to him, Chad Evans suddenly knew he would do anything Larry Cohen asked, and it would be easy, comically easy, like putting on shoes or taking a shower.
And they would pay him. They would pay him millions. He would be famous. Initially, just among perverts. But then more people would know about him, and his hair and his eyes, which everyone commented on, would be the subject of breathless profiles in People and Us, and he would have a beautiful boyfriend, someone on TV, or it could even be a girlfriend, but she would have to be cool and also on TV, and not a lame show but something cool, with a sense of style. When people saw him, they would try to take photos, with their cellphones. Or they would giggle shyly and ask him if he really was Chad Jeremy Evans, and he would give them a modest smile – that was his great charm, his trick, that he could be so brazen in front of the cameras, but when off-screen he was so modest. Designers probably would want him to wear their clothes. He was definitely thin enough. And a lot of them, he knew, were gay, and they would probably be attracted to him, too. If they were really famous, maybe they could be his boyfriend, too. It was nice, Chad thought, that everything I can have, and will have, is because men can’t keep their hands off me, and because I like that.
Chad stood before Larry Cohen’s desk, smiling crookedly, careful to avoid Larry’s gaze.
“Come over here, on this side,” Larry ordered.
Larry looked at the boy. He was, Cohen thought, a work of art, some kind of minor masterpiece. Not perfect. But, ahhh, so delicious. Such a boy. Larry knew that Chad’s paperwork was doctored, that he couldn’t possibly be 18 years-old, not with that body, that skin, that innocent face. He was probably closer to 15, maybe 16 tops. And that made him even more delectable. Larry rubbed himself, gently, through his pants. Then he said, “I want you to get on your knees.”
Chad wasn’t sure if he should move toward Larry and kneel in front of his chair. “Right there,” Larry said, firmly. “Just get on your knees.”
Chad knelt. It was like being back at St. Eugene’s. Funny, he thought.
Larry stood. Chad could see his bulge, the tent that had formed below Larry’s waist. He had only done it a few times. He didn’t have enough experience to know yet if he was good or not, and he was worried that he wouldn’t do it well enough to be picked for Larry’s films. But he could only try his best, right? That’s all you could do. Do your best.
Larry sighed. The boy’s skin…He wanted to bite him, to eat him. Or at least lick him, salty and creamy and pliant.
Larry coughed. “I’m going to tell you a story. Do you like stories?”
Chad nodded. “Yes.”
Larry pulled a pamphlet off his desk-top. Chad mistook it for an airline ticket, the glossy kind that rich people had in the priority boarding line. For a mad second he thought Larry was going to send him off to some tropical location, the Bahamas or something, to make his first movie.
Larry coughed again. “Do you know what a parable is?” he asked, his voice quivering, the anticipation in his balls bleeding into his breath.
Chad couldn’t think of a good lie. “Um. Not really.”
“It’s a kind of story. Which you told me you like.”
“Well, I’ve been reading some stories lately. Six of them, actually. You know how certain things help you understand other things? Like” – Larry searched for an example that a teenaged queer would understand — “like such as when you go to a Website to learn about your favorite bands or movies. Like that. You know?”
“Right. So, I’ve been reading these stories and they help make sense of life in general. Pretty cool, huh? Yes?”
Chad nodded, looking at the grey carpet. “Yes.” He sort of hoped Larry would stop talking and just do it. Chad didn’t understand this kind of foreplay. He was accustomed to being directed, and unfamiliar with ambiguity.
Cohen cleared his throat. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Yes,” Chad whispered.
“Yes. Yes, sir, Mr. Larry.”
“Do you think I could do anything right now? Do you think that would be allowed?”
Larry’s nipples tingled. “Oh, that’s nice. That’s so nice.” He looked at the boy’s lips. “Just…so nice.”
Chad thought he could smell Larry. The muskiness. When Chad looked up from the floor, Larry was inches from him, his bulge so close to his face that Chad thought he could sense its heat. Chad reached for Larry’s zipper.
Larry brushed his hands away. “Uh, uh, uh. Not yet, young man. First you get your story.”
“Oh, sorry,” Chad said, giggling nervously. This guy was weird. Most of them, like Father Mike, seemed to want to get it over with fast as possible, to get it done and go back to normal, like nothing ever happened.
Larry put the pamphlet in front of his face, like a mask. He was nearsighted. “Now, the story that I’ve been enjoying lately, the one that makes me think – it’s a simple story. That’s what parables are. Simple stories that help you understand life a little better.” Larry looked at his pamphlet. Chad scratched his left forearm and rocked back on his heels. His knees were getting sore. Larry’s lips moved as he studied the page. Then he put the booklet on his desk. “Are you ready for your story?”
“Yes!” Chad said emphatically. He really was.
“Good. And if you’re a good boy, you’ll get a treat.”
“I’m always a good boy.”
“Well, sometimes it’s OK to be bad. A little bad.” Larry sniffed.
“Your story today is called ‘The Dreamer.’ It’s a short story, so listen carefully.” Larry shifted his weight and inhaled through his nose. He thought he could smell the boy beneath him, a faint aroma of sawdust and soap. Very clean. Larry could imagine what his belly would smell like, and below it, too.
Ramon poked his head into the office. “Lunch,” he said, arching his eyebrows. “Back in an hour.” He closed the door, and suddenly Chad could hear his own blood coursing through his arteries and veins, and he could smell everything clearly, too clearly.
Larry ignored the interruption. “The story called ‘The Dreamer’ is basically about someone who dies, as we all must die, eventually. Don’t worry, you’ve got many, many years ahead of you before that happens. Me? Not as many, so I think about this final moment, perhaps more than I should.”
Chad nodded. His throat felt dry, and he was frightened that he wouldn’t be able to do what Larry would ask of him.
“Anyway,” Larry said, resisting the urge to grab a handful of Chad’s hair. “This story involves a death. Pretty much – and I’m paraphrasing here – this guy is terminally ill, and he’s lying in his hospital bed, hooked up to tubes and so forth, and he’s drifting in and out of sleep, and every time he falls asleep he thinks he’s actually dying or finally dead, and he feels totally peaceful. And then the TV or a nurse wakes him up, and he’s like, ‘I’m not dead,’ but instead of being overjoyed he’s disappointed that he still has to wait for eternal peace, since being alive is painful and the conclusion is already pre-ordained. Which means, in other words, that he already knows what’s going to happen.”
Larry looked down at the bridge of Chad’s nose. Chad blinked and looked up. “Do you understand so far?” Larry asked.
“Good. So…so the man is in his hospital bed, watching game shows or something, and, boom, all of sudden, this massive weight is on his chest and everything starts to go black. He’s finally dying. Really. He can’t breath.”
Larry rubbed himself through his pants. His balls felt pleasantly swollen and responsive to caressing. He felt himself perspiring, his insides straining to get out.
Larry allowed himself a brief, backhanded brush of Chad’s cheek, ineffably soft and unspoiled. “So, young man, the hero of our story finally dies. The last thing he hears is Pat Sajak on the TV, and then he’s gone. Off to heaven. Or hell, if he worked in this business! Hah! So – and this is where things get interesting, which sounds funny when you’re talking about life supposedly coming to an end. Right? Well, the interesting thing is that when the hospital man dies, he can’t enjoy eternal rest, or whatever, because suddenly he wakes up in his other life on some other planet we don’t know about. He’s a Martian, or something, and he realizes, holy shit, the ‘life’ that all of us have here, the one that we worry about and stress about and take pretty damn seriously most of the time – well, our life is actually a dream. Whenever you’re ‘awake’ here on Earth, you’re actually sleeping somewhere else, dreaming about everything that is supposedly happening to you here.” Larry paused, his breathing audible and quick.
Chad looked up, knowing instinctively that this was his cue to perform. He reached for Larry’s zipper, and this time Larry didn’t stop him.
“So, that’s today’s lesson,” Larry said, his voice quivering. “You can feel relieved, because this was all a dream.”