Today has been a strange day indeed. After a moody yesterday, I awoke this morning, and for some inexplicable reason, decided I needed to take care of some unfinished business. So I proceeded to make it so. I contacted The NAMES Project in Halifax, Nova Scotia and asked them for something I had thought I’d never see again. And, being the kind of people Easterners are, they not only replied in good time, but delivered the goods.
Several years ago I lost the very best friend I’d ever had. He was probably the single greatest inspiration in my life. Before George, I was a feckless young man with absolutely no self-worth. By the time he died, I was finally learning just how powerful belief in yourself can be.
It was a very strange coincidence that as I requested and then received this marvelous gift from The NAMES Project manager in Halifax, it just happened to fall on George’s 51st birthday.
I hadn’t thought about this quilt, or remembered his birthday in a great many years. And I didn’t know it was his birthday today until some time after I received this photograph.
George did one thing well. He laughed.
This man had the most raucous laughter you’ve ever heard. And if he got into one of his fits, you couldn’t help but laugh right along with him. It was purely infectious.
He was the pied piper of laughter.
And there are a great many adventures George and I embarked upon. The one story I remember with the most fondness is the time George wanted to do an AIDS benefit over at a place called “Le Pub” in Hull, Quebec. He had it in his head that he was the great “Femme Fatale”, and no one could convince him otherwise. So, he sought my sewing skills, and we both, along with a very good friend of his, got into some really killer pot, followed with an opium chaser (I’d never smoked it before or since). This got us into a total laughing fit.
Well, he wanted to do a song called “Swinging” with a friend of his (RIP) named Seamus. It was an AWFUL country song. Man, I mean B.A.D!!! George had wanted to play the part of “Charlotte” (his drag name) whom was the apple of the singers eye.
So, what does one wear to the Grand Ol’ Orgy. Gingham came to mind. Elly May was my focus.
So, I looked around his place for suitable fabric (tablecloths). There were none. Then, I spied the cross hatched sheets on his bed.
In moments, they were on the floor, being manipulated into something ghastly.
The pattern was more tartan than gingham, but that didn’t dissuade me in the least. I had no pattern, so I took the seat of his papisan chair, threw it on top of the sheet, traced a BIG circle and cut. With some curtains I tore off his window (none of this is fiction folks), you know, those gawdforsaken polyester semi sheers from the seventies that had these awful oval holes cut out in them throughout? Those made the frills, the bow and the garnish around the sweetheart neckline.
They also made the gruesome petticoats that puffed out that horrendous skirt I made, stoned and laughing so hard that I could barely keep my sides from splitting. My head ached, but fuck it, I was creating!
Once I finished this “couture”, we proceeded to take this hideous black polyester wig and braid it up so it would look a little “mo country” for the occasion. Throw on a pair of Jesus Boots for accessories, and voilà. Instavamp!
Well, not really, but the drugs said otherwise.
George didn’t think his character would be too educated in the ways of proper etiquette, so in his wise ol’ ways, he suggested she might have fallen into the outhouse…just a wee bit.
So, out came some brown magic marker and then George proceeded to decorate the butt of this lovely darling must-have one of a kind skirt. It was special.
So, with this, and a couple of other things I threw quickly together for his other numbers in tow, and my music for my songs I was to actually sing live, we head off to do our benefit.
Seamus comes out with overalls, blacked out teeth and his straw hat, lip synching that ear-splitting song, and on cue, out comes Charlotte.
I never laughed so hard in my life. He was born to play this part. God, I didn’t need drugs to laugh. The audience roared. The dress alone was so damned awful it was funny. What he did inside of it…priceless.
I’ve long since lost that video. But I can still see him in my mind’s eye, all six feet four of him (in heels) mugging and mincing most ungracefully, lumbering around the stage like a drunken moose with lovin’ on his mind, very A La Baby Jane Hudson.
It’s a snapshot I’ll remember with fondness in my old age.
I’ve never forgotten how rich my life was with him in it. And I’ll never forget how blessed I am today for knowing this rare soul.
It was a privilege.
Every life he touched, he left a huge and very positive mark. Every hour he worked during his life to ensure things would be better for those that followed him is now his legacy to the citizens of Ottawa.
He will never be forgotten. Long after I am dust, his name will live on, thanks to the efforts he, and others like him have made to ensure a better today for all of us.
I know he’d be proud, insufferably proud of how we as gay men live today because of his efforts.
George, into eternity, I love you, my adopted brother.
I know deep down you gave me today as remembrance as I approach the next chapter of my life.
Keep the goosin’ goin’ up there in Angelville. I know Brenda and all the others I’ve had to say goodbye to are having one hell of a party now, with you, (hash)pipe in hand, luring them towards that precipice of mirth and laughter.
And…thank you, for the gift of belief. I know now, finally, all these years later, what you were trying to say.