In the autumn, sometimes I like to put a little cinnamon in my coffee when I’m brewing it. That always makes me think of Larry Baker who was the stage manager of a play I was in several years ago, David Dillon’s Party. Volumes could be written about my Party days, I did the play in three different cities, over the course of a year and a half, and it brought many talented, funny, dramatic people into my life, many of whom I’m still in touch with. Anyway, about the coffee: before every show, Larry would make a pot of coffee and sprinkle cinnamon on the grounds before he brewed it. It made the coffee taste delicious and made the dressing room area smell cozy and warm.
The play was kind of a big deal, we were on the cover of magazines, we were on a billboard, we each had our own dressing room. It was an Equity show in a large theatre and it was the most money I’d ever made as an actor. My parents decided to come to LA for Christmas and they planned on coming to see the show. Oh, and before I get much further, let me tell you, Party was a play about a group of gay men who get together for a party, play a truth or dare type game and ultimately, every one gets naked. In fact, my character’s big (pardon the pun) moment comes when he appears naked from the kitchen, bag of M&M’s in one hand, can of whipped cream in the other, and orders one of the other guys to take off his shirt so he can lick the whipped cream and M&M’s off his chest. (Did I mention it was the ’90s?) A friend from Bible college had seen the play and told my parents about it, so they had a little idea of what to expect. I told them they didn’t have to go, but they said they wanted to.
The day that they came to the play, they came early to see my dressing room and meet the cast members. My parents were impressed with the elegant stage and my Mom took a picture of my starred name on my dressing room. But they were nervous. My friend Vince offered my parents a cup of coffee and while my Dad politely declined, my Mom said, “Yes, thank you, I’d like a cup.” And I’ll never forget the image of my shy Mom from Kansas sitting in the lobby area of our dressing rooms, sipping her coffee out of a cup and saucer, Vince in the background playing the gracious host, his own southern roots shining through. “This coffee is very good,” my Mother said. And Vince told her about how Larry put cinnamon in it. “Oh, I wondered if that might be what I noticed.” Fellow cast members came in and out of the lobby, introducing themselves, asking my parents how they liked LA so far. My Dad good-naturedly complained about how hard it was to find a Dr. Pepper out here.
I was touched by all that was happening in front of me. My fellow cast members all knew my story, that I’d gone to Bible college in hopes of not being gay, that I’d been a youth minister, that I’d only come out to my parents in the last two years and that the news had been very difficult for them. And that at every step of the way, as heartbreaking as my news was to them, they’d always, only showered me with their love. And I think that sitting in that room, it was the first time my Mother realized that my gay friends were a form of family to me as well.
The song used it the curtain call every night was the Joan Jett cover of The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song, “Love is All Around.” From the very first time I heard it, as we were taking our bows during the first tech dress rehearsal, it summed up what doing the show was for me. Here was this song from my youth, and Joan Jett had turned it into a rock anthem. I felt that I was all grown up at 26, starting a new exciting life and that love was all around, no need to waste it. I could have a town, why don’t I take it? My life was at once, everything I’d hoped and yet, nothing I could have predicted when I was a 6 year old watching the Mary Tyler Moore show on a Saturday night with my parents, but I was gonna make it after all.