Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A FRIEND IN THE MOVIES

My hillbilly girlfriend and I moved to the East Village in 1978. The twenty-two year-old blonde came from West Virginia and I hailed from New England. Alice was in the theater like Bill, our upstairs neighbor. I was writing poetry. One day Bill announced that he had been cast in a western called HEAVEN'S GATE.

"A small role."

"Better than no role."

I was happy for Bill and wished him luck.

Michael Cimino's epic tale based on the Johnson County War sprawled across the silver screen. I tried to spot Bill. I didn't see his face once and he told me, "My scenes ended up on the floor, but I have another gig."

"As what?"

"As a biker."

"A biker?" I loved motorcycles.

"Yeah, down in Georgia."

"EASY RIDER country."

Billy and Captain America from Dennis Hopper's road movie ended up badly in Dixie.

"Ill be fine, plus EAST RIDER was just a movie."

Bill starred as Vince in THE LOVELESS.

I like it a lot.

Alice and I broke up in 1979.

In 1983 she was cast as a hapless victim opposite David Bowie's vampire in THE HUNGER. Bill was also in the movie. She died in the fist scene and I once more never saw Bill's face.

I saw the movie in Paris, where I worked as a doorman at a nightclub.

New York wasn't my city that decade.

A year later Bill played an evil biker in STREETS OF FIRE.

It remains my older brother's favorite film and Frunk is a lawyer.

Bill had a feel for outlaw roles.

"Dead three times. How did that feel," I asked as he passed through Paris.

"Not so bad, plus I rose from the dead in the Jesus one."

"Only to be crucified again."

"Never felt a thing."

In the 90s I quit the nightlife and worked selling diamonds on Manhattan's West 47th Street.

The Shabbas Goy, but I was really a sheygutz to the Hassidim.

A shifty gentile.

Bill and I didn't see each other too much.

He had a wife, a kid, a career on screen and the stage.

Bill was in twenty-one movies in that decade. VICTORY was shot in Java. I spent six months of the year in the Orient writing novels. I had hoped to run into Bill out there, but our paths didn't cross until we met in Maine.

My family came from outside Portland. Bill had a camp on a lake. We went fishing at night and I realized we had been friends a long time.

In 2000 Bill was nominated for an Oscar a second time. He had nailed the role of Nosferatu in SHADOW OF A VAMPIRE. The stench of the grave wafted through the cinema whenever he was on stage, but he finished out of the running at the Academy Awards ceremony.

I watched the show from Thailand. Porn had won Worst Girlfriend of the Year in Pattaya and I thought Bill and her looked the same even if he was bald.

Later that year I escaped her vampire hold, but only just.

I left the USA after 9/11. Thailand bcame my home. I had a baby with Nu. We lived along the Gulf of Siam and I ran a fake F1 merchandise website, which was # 1 in Google and this was not a good thing.

Bill came out there with his new wife. She was sweet. Bill knew how to make a scary face.

After all he had been a vampire.

I was scary other ways.

Bill never asked how.

Bill made even more films in the 00s. He was called 'the actors' actor'. I didn't see much of his work. Thailand had its own cinema; ghosts, soap operas, and slapstick comedies.

They liked things simple like the laughter scene in SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS.

The Thai cyper-Police arrested me in 2008.

For the crime of copyright infringement.

Ferrari had hoped for me to do time in the monkey house.

The Thai court fined me $100.

In their eyes I was a good farang.

Bill was no criminal.

He spoke with directors, cameramen, soundpeople, and everyone else in that industry and they loved him for being Bill.

My first wife left me. I found someone else. We had a baby too.

I had two families now.

That April I flew back to the States.

Bill invited me to a premiere at Lincoln Center.

I slept through the entire film.

It was a good film for me.

I liked sleep almost as much as motorcycles.

Work was getting scarce after the Crash. Bill was in a bunch of films.

Some of them I liked.

I loved THE HUNTER and said, "It's the first time I've ever seen you in a film."

"Really?"

"Yes."

At least he didn't ask how, but we are old friends.

Never on the screen.

Never on the stage.

Just in real life.

Bill's a grandfather now.

Seems like only twenty years ago that his son was young in Maine.

And my family is ever bigger, because at the end of the day or night family matters.

It's the way of the world, both here and everywhere.

One more small thing.

Bill looks good in a cowboy hat.

But so does everyone else.

Especially when you have friends in the movies.

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