Frame of Reference
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by Chris Stone
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: His world-view shaped by retro movies and TV series, small-town boy, Grant Jackson, moves to Hollywood, in pursuit of television stardom. Grant Jackson is a small-town guy, with the world-class, big city dream of becoming a network television star. But how do you make the dream come true when your resources are scant, and your frames of reference are retro motion pictures and the television series? Determined to find out, Grant moves to Hollywood. But can he remain focused on his big dream, or will Grant be swept away in the anything goes world of gay West Hollywood - including its adult film and male prostitution scenes?
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: October 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [437 KB]
Reading time: 250-350 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
Grant Jackson's first memory was of standing up in his playpen, somewhat unsteadily, in the family's living room in Selma, California, watching flickering images on a large box. Spellbound, he watched ever-changing images, but each one, regardless of its content, contained a world of wonder. Sometimes The Box showed pictures of pretty women dancing or singing. Other times, there were pictures of men driving cars, riding horses and running races. Sometimes, there was the sound of laughing, or of hands clapping - the same way his mama's hands clapped for him when he ate all of his breakfast.
Grant's papa, Mark Jackson, didn't care for The Box, calling it, "The devil's work." But Grant's uplifted spirits while watching The Box convinced him that it couldn't be Satanic.
Happily, Mama, Ellie Jackson, agreed with her son. She too loved the large box that she called television. Ellie would bring her ironing or mending into the living room, plunk Grant down on the sofa, and the two of them would spend hours together, happily watching situation comedies, game shows, and movies. If they were watching a really old movie, say, Mildred Pierce, or Imitation of Life, Mama would always tell him, "They don't make them like that, anymore."
Grant's second-remembered memory also involved The Box that Mama called television.
"Mama, who's that?" the three-year-old inquired, watching an elderly, black-and-white image hobble across the family's twenty-seven-inch television screen.
"That's Grand Pappy Amos, head of the family known as The Real McCoys. The actor playing him is Walter Brennan. He was a movie star -- won some major acting awards, I think," Ellie Jackson replied.
"I'd like to be the head of a family," Grant said dreamily.
"When you're grown, you'll meet a nice girl and--"
"I mean, I want to be the head of a television family," the child corrected.
"We'll see." Ellie responded skeptically.
Directly, or indirectly, all things television were catalysts for Grant's most vibrant memories.
One afternoon, as Grant walked home from Eric White Elementary School, he took a slight detour to Starr Pharmacy. Grant had promised Mama that he would stop by the store for Calamine Lotion.
Ellie Jackson had inadvertently brushed up against poison ivy while manicuring shrubbery. Searching her medicine cabinet, she had discovered that the indispensable bottle of Calamine was near empty.
After buying the lotion, Grant crossed to the magazine and newspaper racks. Of course there were copies of the Selma Enterprise, as well as the Fresno Bee, the newspaper for Selma's much larger northern neighbor.
But his focus shifted quickly from the dailies to the more colorful magazines: People, Us, Good Housekeeping, and Family Circle.
And then Grant saw something new - at least, it was new to him.
What's this? He studied the color-rich cover. TV Guide, it read; "SPECIAL ISSUE, FALL PREVIEW." He quickly perused the publication. Wonder of wonders; miracle of miracles. Grant could hardly believe his eyes. This magazine was all about television, television and more television. The issue previewed the new television series to come -- the very same ones he had seen being advertised all summer.
Thumbing through the magazine's glossy pages, a photo of a youngster, about his own age, caught Grant's eye. The caption below the picture read, "Edan Gross is Free Spirit's Gene Harper."
That could be me. Someday, it will be me.
Anxiously, he checked his pockets -- Yes! He still had a little money left over from last week's allowance. He bought the TV Guide.
Back home, Grant read his new treasure cover to cover, all the while imagining himself as the star of this new series, or that network special.
One moment, he fantasized that he was Married With Children's quirky Bud Bundy. In the next moment, Grant believed that he was born to play Angela Bowers young son, Jonathan, on Who's The Boss?
Carefully, he removed the stapled subscription card from the TV Guide.
Shortly after Papa returned home from work, Grant produced the magazine order form, begging him to subscribe. "It could be my Birthday present!" he pleaded.
Mark Jackson was not amused. "If you must read something, then read the Bible. Or you could spend your time acting upon Pastor Wood's sermons," he told Grant sharply. "But you really should be outside, playing sports with the other boys."
The following morning, after indicating the "Bill Me Later" option with a penciled check mark, Grant dropped the subscription order card into the mailbox outside of the school yard. He had decided to pay for TV Guide himself, by raking leaves off the neighbors' yards.
Grant's self-image differed substantially from other people's perceptions of him. The adults in Grant's world called him handsome. Often, he would hear one of his parents' friends say something like, "With that blond hair and blue eyes, that boy's going to be a heart-breaker." This pleased his parents, most especially Mama, but Grant paid scant attention. To him, his wheat blond hair, glacial blue eyes, dimples, and peaches and cream complexion were nothing special. Personally, he admired the olive complexion, the dark eyes and dark hair of his swarthy Armenian, Greek, Hispanic and Italian-American schoolmates.
Even Grant's sexual orientation was revealed to him through television. The wave of tingly excitement he felt watching a towel clad John Stamos on Full House, or a naked as the network would allow, Jim Carrey, as In Living Color's buff, beautiful Vera de Milo, told him that the only hearts he wanted to break belonged to men.
This discovery was pivotal. It set Grant apart from others - it made him special. And the last thing that Grant wanted to be, was ordinary. He certainly had no interest in being like the small-minded people that populated his hometown.
Being gay was a blessing; something that he did not choose, but would not want to change. Because of hate crime reports that he watched on television, it did occur to Grant that some people might be seriously prejudiced against him, or even wish him harm, but he refused to dwell upon such negativity. Except for Jesus, nobody loves everyone. If I were Jewish, or a woman, or even African American, I'd be in a similar boat.
As for Pastor Wood's anti-gay sermons: he dismissed them. Quite simply, Grant couldn't believe that God was concerned about what people did in the bedroom.
To Grant, these church condemnations simply reflected the small mindedness of his small town. No such judgments would be made in Hollywood, where he would someday make his home.
That didn't mean Grant was going to shout his homosexuality from the rooftops. For the time being, he was content to keep his sexual orientation to himself. It was a special secret - one that made him feel extraordinary -- not unlike a celebrity contestant on I've Got a Secret.
Reaching adolescence, Grant's favorite guilty pleasure was still the reading material displayed in the magazine racks at Starr Pharmacy. But these days, Grant's interests went beyond the stories about his favorite television series and motion pictures. Captivated by the pleasurable stirrings he felt seeing partially nude males, he now also scoured the pages of Tiger Beat and 16, as well as Health and Fitness and Gentlemen's Quarterly, looking for photos of men in various stages of undress. And there were many such photos to be found.
Presuming that the pharmacist was too busy serving hypochondriacs to notice him, Grant eyeballed the beefcake bonanza that was in the current issue of Tiger Beat. An interview with Kirk Cameron was nothing special, but the layout featured a photo of the young-star wearing nothing but skimpy, tight-fitting running shorts and athletic shoes. The thin fabric of the young star's shorts left little to the imagination. A few pages later, swarthy Richard Grieco, who was really Grant's type, was pictured in a wet, almost transparent, white Speedo. It revealed pretty much everything, including the actor's religion. Grant savored the stirrings in his loins, and in his heart, that such images evoked. There could be nothing bad about something that made him feel so good.
Yes, ogling the magazine images made Grant feel good -- very good. One day, alone in his bedroom with a copy of Men's Health, he felt good enough to place his right hand between his legs, and this led to his accidental discovery of the addictive and dizzying joy of masturbation.
At seventeen, Grant watched Bye, Bye Birdie on American Movie Classics with Mama. Start to finish, he was totally mesmerized by the old fashioned musical. Just like the teens in the movie, he had a lot of living to do.
The following week, alone in the house, Grant stood in front of the large wall mirror above the living room couch. His shirt, partially unbuttoned, revealed tanned, smooth skin. His faded old blue jeans, now a size too small, called attention to his slim hips, his ample crotch and firm, round buttocks. The frayed strap of his swap-meet guitar was around his neck. His stance was provocative: pelvis thrust forward, feet wide apart. He strummed the instrument.
Grant felt sexy and desirable. So what if it was the mayor's son that he wanted to swoon at his feet, and not the mayor's wife, as in the movie? "You've got to be sin-cere," he crooned seductively, stretching out the last word; this was his best imitation of Bye, Bye Birdie's Jesse Pearson as Conrad Birdie. "You've got to be sin-cere."
Suddenly, the front door swung opened, a torch-like blast of San Joaquin Valley heat swept through the room. Papa, home earlier than expected from his errands, stood, gaping at him. "What on Earth are you doing, son?"
"I'm pretending to be Conrad Birdie with girls swooning at my feet..."
Mark Jackson sighed heavily, disapprovingly. "You're too old for pretending, son. If you want girls swooning, forget the guitar, and lift weights."
Grant had no comeback. In truth, rather than being embarrassed, he was deeply relieved.
Thank God, Dad didn't come home five minutes earlier. He would have caught me pretending to be Ann Margret singing "How lovely to be a Woman."
Shortly after seeing the 20th Anniversary theatrical re-release of Grease, at the Selma Cinema, Grant auditioned for his high school's production of that musical.
He was watching Family Anxieties when the telephone rang. On the other end of the line was Miss Brooks, his English teacher, and the director of Selma Union's production of Grease. She told Grant that he'd been cast as Kenickie, the second male lead. He was surprised and elated. After all, Joe Chilberto had also tried out for Kenickie, and Joe was generally considered to be the best dancer at Selma Union High School. Because Kenickie was more of a dancing, and not a singing, role, Grant couldn't help but wonder why Joe had not been cast, rather than himself.
Grant loved every aspect of being in the production: a hybrid of the original New York stage show and the motion picture. As for Grant's performance, the director praised him sincerely, as did the reviewer in the Blue and Gold, the high school newspaper, named after his school's colors.
Personally, Grant felt somewhat disappointed with his own performance. Although his singing voice was good enough, he knew that his dancing had left much to be desired.
Joe Chilberto could have danced pirouettes around my Kenickie. Certainly Jeff Conaway, the movie Kenickie, need not feel threatened.
Grant vowed to do better next time. Not that it compelled him to take a dance class, or to even seriously consider such a thing. After all was said and done, sitcom stars needed to look good and read lines credibly. For the most part, singing and dancing weren't required for the kind of success he desired.
During Senior year, Grant's availability, congeniality, his All-American good looks, and the scarcity of willing juveniles in Selma, coalesced to land him the role of Beau in the Selma Community Theatre production of Bus Stop.
While the play was in rehearsals, Grant had his first sexual experience.
Michael Quintana was a twenty-four-year-old insurance salesman for the National Life and Accident Insurance Company--a sleek, Hispanic hottie with shiny black hair, tight muscles, a Scarlet O'Hara-small waist, and a winning smile. He was also in Bus Stop, playing Carl, the bus driver.
Following the second rehearsal, Michael asked Grant out for coffee.
Walking from the theatre to Denny's, Michael asked, "Do you have a girlfriend?"
"No," Grant answered, somewhat limply. "How about you?"
"No," Michael replied. "I guess I'm more interested in other things." After coffee, walking back to the theatre, Michael asked, "Do you even like girls?"
"Not in that way," Grant replied somewhat uneasily. This was the first time that anyone had so directly questioned his sexual orientation.
That's when Michael simply took Grant's hand into his own and, shielded by darkness, they walked hand-in-hand, back to their cars.
After the next rehearsal, Grant accepted Michael's invitation to follow him back to his rented house for a drink, with the implied promise of something more.
Parking his car curbside in front of Michael's house, Grant tingled with excitement and fear. The thin blond hair on his arms rose in anticipation. Behind Michael's closed doors, anything might happen.
Although Grant was excited by the prospect of sex with a partner, he was more fearful and nervous than he was excited. It was one thing to crave hot monkey sex with a desirable man. It was quite another thing to have sex for the first time with a partner that wasn't your own right hand.
They made small talk as Michael opened bottles of ice-cold beer, handing one to Grant. After Grant took a long sip from his own bottle, Michael set both of the bottles on the kitchen table. And then he gently took Grant's chin into his right hand.
Grant stared into the insurance agent's big shoe-button eyes as Michael slowly moved in for a kiss. It was a dream come true, but nonetheless, it was scary. Intuitively, Grant's lips parted, allowing the guy's tongue entry to his mouth. Michael tasted warm, and pepperminty -- like the chocolate-covered peppermint candy that he frequently enjoyed at the movies.
Finally ending their first kiss, Grant again looked into Michael's beautiful brown eyes. He pulled back, stopping his sexy co-star from initiating a second kiss. Fessing up, Grant blurted, "As Ricky Ricardo might put it, Michael, 'I have no 'sperience.'"
"I get it. What have you been doing for sex?"
Somewhat embarrassed, he admitted, "My only sex partners have been my right hand, and the fitted bed sheets I rub my dick on."
"No worry," Michael cooed. "I have 'sperience enough for the both of us. Trust me. I'm just going to use my mouth to do the very same thing that you did with your hand, or by rubbing your dick on the sheets."
Grant decided to trust Michael. Here and now, it would be wrong to further question, or to over-think, what was happening. For a long time, he had longed for this opportunity. Finally, the experience was at hand -- and with a very sexy and experienced partner. He wasn't going to spoil what he had so long desired. Grant allowed Michael to be in charge.
And so he was.
Putting his right arm behind Grant's back, Michael pulled Grant's chest tight against his own. For the second time, he parted Grant's lips with his tongue. This time, the kiss seemed to last forever, and, emboldened, by his partner's submission, Michael's tongue probed Grant's mouth with a new fervor.
When forever came, and the kiss finally ended, he smoothly unbuttoned Grant's short-sleeved, white dress shirt, revealing the smooth, tanned skin underneath. Bending into Grant, Michael gently licked then nibbled Grant's right nipple, then his left. As he did so, Michael inhaled an intoxicating whiff of his young lover's Lagerfeld Classic Cologne.
As for Grant, he was blissfully swept away by wave after wave of first-time joys. He shivered pleasurably as Michael's warm, talented tongue traced a path from his nipples down to his innie belly button. It felt warm, wet and wonderful. When the pointy tip of Michael's tongue pressed in against his navel, Grant felt his wall of stomach muscles pushing back out against his lover's tongue. It stimulated him and gave him a quick jolt of confidence. Grant loved having rock hard abs to offer this magic man.
There was no happy trail of hair for Michael's tongue to follow down to Grant's pubis--only smooth, muscled flesh. By the time the insurance agent's mouth reached his soft bush of platinum pubic hair, Grant was rock hard, moaning softly, swaying involuntarily. This was far better, more intensely pleasurable, than Grant had imagined in his wildest dreams.
When Michael took Grant's tumescence into his mouth, Grant's pleasure was so dizzying that he feared losing consciousness. No way could the touch of Grant's right hand compare to the unprecedented feeling of Michael's warm, hungry mouth on his organ; nor could frottage on the bedclothes equal the feel of this lover's hands gently caressing his nuts.
Grant's soft moans became ecstatic groans and pleasurable yelps as Michael worked his mouth up and down of Grant's meat.
The things Michael did with his warm, pointy tongue, on and inside his anus, gave Grant one magnificent sexual surge after another. Instead of fearing that he might faint with pleasure, Grant was now almost certain that he would.
Then, returning to Grant's steely pole, Michael's head lunged suddenly forward and Grant felt the entirety of his dick ram down Michael's throat. Grant felt as if his entire being would explode. He held it there for a long moment before pulling back and then diving onto it once again. Michael did this several times more.
It was more than Grant could sustain. There was no holding back: he blew, firing thick jets of hot spunk against the back of Michael's throat. Dizzy and reeling with pleasure, Grant planted his hands on Michael's shoulders in order to steady himself. After swallowing every last drop of Grant's load, Michael licked Grant's cock clean then stuffed it back into his pants.
Eager to reciprocate, and curious to see what was between Michael's legs, Grant reached for the button on his fly. Gently, Michael removed Grant's hand from his pants. "Not now, Blondie," he said softly. I've already come. I literally creamed in my jeans doing you."
By the time they got back to the beers, they weren't so icy-cold anymore.
Driving home, Grant mentally relived his first blow job. Doing so, he was reminded of the Bye, Bye Birdie song, "One Boy," and its lyrics, 'One day, you'll find out, this is what life is all about.'
Yes, this is what life is all about: being with a hot guy who makes passionate love to you, and then eats your hot spunk.
Grant returned to Michael's rental house after almost every subsequent rehearsal. Each time, Michael taught Grant something new about the joys of gay sex.
Beyond that: Michael had a fake ID made for Grant and together, they enjoyed the gay bar at Fresno's Frank's Pine Lake Lodge, off of Old Highway 99.
As for Grant, there was no such thing as too much of the good thing that was Michael Quintana. One night, mistaking infatuation and lust for more than they were, Grant told Michael, "I love you."
Caught up in the moment, Michael replied, "I love you, too." It was Grant's Love Finds Andy Hardy moment.
It mattered not to Grant that Michael dreamed of buying and settling down on his own little ranch in the valley. As the affair, and the rehearsals, progressed, Grant imagined their future together -- a very different future from the one that Michael had in mind. In Grant's version, he and Michael re-located to Hollywood, where Michael managed a Southern California branch office of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company, while Grant achieved television stardom. Grant never gave a thought to the fact that his and Michael's dreams were incompatible--going in opposite directions.
By the time tech rehearsals began, Michael was becoming unreliable--canceling dates, or arriving late for them. Grant was heartsick. Has he tired of me, already? he wondered. It was like the song Streisand sang in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever; "What did I have, I don't have now?".
Following the opening night performance, Michael invited Grant to join him for a bite at Denny's.
After they were seated, and their beverages had been delivered, Michael said, slowly and tentatively, "We need to talk, Blondie."
From scores of television shows and motion pictures, Grant knew that when your boyfriend starts a conversation with, "We need to talk," someone's going to end up crying. Intuitively, he knew that Michael was not the one who would weep.
Even so, Grant wasn't prepared for what was to come. Tears were foreign, alien terrain. It was his family's way to corral and otherwise control their emotions, and not to show them -- most especially not in public.
"Wassup?" Grant asked, already intuiting that he didn't want to know.
"The past weeks have been great," Michael continued. "You're a wonderful guy. I can't even imagine anyone hotter."
"And I don't want you to!" Grant interjected.
"But sex, and this play, are the only things we have in common. You dream about Hollywood. My dream is a little ranch, right here in the valley."
The lump had already formed in Grant's throat. "And so?"
"I don't see a life together for us. I need someone who shares my dreams--my values."
Grant's throat lump felt more like a boulder now.
Judging by the sorrowful look on the Latino's face, Grant knew that this conversation was no picnic for Michael, either. "Remember my telling you about Tommy Ames? We dated for a while. We broke up over some nonsense about my work weekends."
Grant nodded weakly that he did remember. He tried unsuccessfully to clear his throat. But a boulder is difficult to dislodge. So he took a sip from the glass of ice water in front of him.
His voice shaky, Michael continued, "Tommy's folks own a ranch in Easton. He stands to inherit the place. We've been talking again."
"And fucking again, too?" Grant challenged.
Michael chuckled, a small joyless chuckle. "Yes, Blondie, and fucking again, too." His voice was high and about to crack. After a long moment, he continued in a lower, steadier tone, dropping the other shoe. "We're getting back together -- giving ourselves a second chance. I'm sorry, Blondie."
Grant literally felt his blood boiling. In a manner befitting Dynasty's Alexis Carrington, he took the glass of ice water and threw it onto Michael's face. "Asshole! How could you?" He rose and fled the coffee shop before anyone could see the hot tears that were already burning his eyes and streaming down his face.
Driving to Fresno -- he couldn't just go home, not now--Grant cried all the way. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was wrong -- dead wrong. It is not better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. In truth, it sucks -- big-time!"
"I will never trust anyone with my heart again!" The decision brought some peace and closure to him. It set a course for the future -- in his eyes, the right course, the appropriate action.
He stopped to wash up in a truck stop restroom before going into the gay bar at Frank's Pine Lake Lodge.
Grant left the bar with the first guy who caught his eye--a young Mediterranean. He fucked the man in his room at the lodge, and then, without even saying, "Goodbye," Grant walked away while the guy was showering.
Grant was watching Kathy Griffin on Suddenly Susan when he finally decided to drop out of Selma City College. It was something he had been considering all semester. Quite simply, he was bored. Grant had taken Theatre History and other courses of interest over his first two semesters, and, for him, the small city college held nothing more of interest -- no advanced courses in dramatic arts, and nothing television-related.
Upon hearing of his son's decision, Mark Jackson's concern was immediate. "You're not much for readin', 'riting, or 'rithmetic," he told Grant. "Lord knows you're no athlete. You lack what it takes to be a man of God. Son, what are you good for?"
"Time will tell," Grant answered, uncertain that it would.
In the meantime, Grant went to work full time, waiting tables at Rosa Linda's Fine Mexican Cuisine. He saved his money and, in his free time, Grant enjoyed neighboring Fresno's gay clubs, such as they were. He had plenty of no-strings-attached sexual hook-ups, but he refused to date anyone, or to form any emotional attachments.
By the time Grant was twenty-one, he had saved enough money to finance his move to Hollywood, as well as several months of expenses afterwards.
He could barely contain his enthusiasm for leaving Selma, and the San Joaquin Valley.
Grant perceived the move as his real-life version of My Sister Eileen, an old movie he had watched with Mama. In that film, Eileen, a young woman, and an aspiring actress, relocates to New York City, from small-town Ohio, dreaming of Broadway success. Hollywood was Grant's version of Eileen's New York, and it was television stardom, and not the stage, to which he aspired.
When it was time for Grant to pack for his move to Hollywood, he started with the underwear in his chest of drawers. But in his mind's eye -- and that was the eye of the camera -- it was not Grant Jackson who was packing. What he saw was The Sound of Music's problematic postulant, Maria, packing her scant convent possessions, in advent of becoming governess of the seven Von Trapp children.
To a large extent, he had come to view his life as if he were a reality show contestant, watching the days of his life unspool through the watchful eyes of cameras, trained on his every move.