The Planet – Monday morning – Alice
When I look up from the Alice in Lesbo Land blog post I’m struggling to finish before nine I notice how surprised I am to see Bette and Tina walking through the doorway of The Planet on their way in for breakfast. This scene, on the one hand so familiar, and before the unpredictability of their Big Wars years, had happened like clockwork every Monday morning – usually on the nose of 8 am – today feels unusual.
It’s sad but true how their break up and ensuing battles decimated my morning coffee routine, and our poker night “set your watch to it” rituals. And that their “divorce” tore into everything I’d mistakenly thought of as “always and forever”. I had guilelessly trusted Bette and Tina with the things that were the most important. The fucking wishes I had had. The ones I didn’t even know lived in my dreams – that we could be in love with each other for our whole lives, wear great shoes, and look fabulous doing it.
Add to that it was happening in LA. My hometown! Where I grew up too nervous, and bad at sports, and until I learned how to bang on a guitar I was THE terribly weird looking nerd-girl with glasses. So, yeah I resent that I’m an untreated co-dependent mess, and that their dynamite blew away so many special things for me. Didn’t they think for a minute what the fuck they were doing? To any of us, and to all of us?
For Shane though it was the holidays that left her the saddest. Without all of us seated around a long table, and the predictability that something would always burn up and catch on fire in Bette’s kitchen during Christmas dinner were especially hard on her.
But remarkably, as if back from Lourdes, or in a more exact geographical match: Santa Fe, yet, here they are, as if DEFCON 2 had never happened, and striding in like Lesbian versions of Lazarus fresh out of relationship triage.
I have to admit it: I’m cautiously optimistic about their chances.
After all two words: New Mexico, and another two: Lez Girls, and throw in that it was a trip I still know zero about, but more to the point: There’s nothing like the ongoing production of a movie written by a nutcase, and veiled in its depiction of your regurgitated love life that a weekend away might lead to something meaty, but poisoned that they could stew over while hiking around some godforsaken canyon.
Yet, here they are, the quasi-starring couple, seemingly unfazed by the movie’s menacing gestalt. Maybe Claire’s strategy, and the part I expertly played in it, really has run Jenny into the ditch for a while. When she crawls back out of it I hope she’ll give us all a fucking break and get her own fucking life.
But lingering are the threats Kit got while Bette was away. Another ramp up in the territorial disputes let loose by those trashy girls from the SheBar.
You know, if I could figure out how to sic Schecter onto Denbo, which would insure me a ringside seat, the ensuing blog posts and traffic on my website would take off! The Steinem/Porter/Kennard clip soared past a hundred thousand hits last week. I know I could get really top notch sponsors with millions of hits. All I need is for Jenny, The Serpent, to coil around Dawn, The Lezzie Mobster’s neck, and Alice in Lesbo Land will chronicle the drama and hilarity of them killing each other.
While lacking merit in the classical sense, I think it has interesting possibilities.
But truthfully, it’s odd how those pre-Bette and Tina nuclear war days feel like their own special era now. A time when things felt more predictable, back when we all knew Iraq was total bullshit, and that with certainly someone high up in Bush’s Cabinet would go off to jail. And yet, we were mistaken.
Back when there were happier times, and we knew that Dana would win all her tennis matches, but in the meantime between tournaments keep us wildly amused with her sexual confusion, and her notoriously impotent GayDar. And on those mornings, too, just like clockwork, we could count on it: Shane coming in close to death until a triple expresso shocked away most of the roughness from her nights before.
Hand to God! I don’t know how we all survived much less remained friends. Their ongoing hostilities, all our disappointments, Dana’s death, Shane and Carmen, everyone’s lies, and the plentiful fuck you’s we vehemently traded with each other – they all seem gone now, forgotten, or miraculously healed.
Maybe we’re all chiseled together in some – as yet to be discovered – magical rock formation that’s mysteriously fated us all cosmically together. Or is it Jenny’s movie, aka Tina’s movie, aka Bette’s nightmare and ulcer that will enshrine us, and make us all legendary?
I’m just like everybody else in Tinseltown. I’m somebody waiting to be famous.
But Lez Girls might be a hit! The story has all the earmarks, signs, and red light signals of an eruption waiting to happen. The movie could go straight up like a rocket or fall into the Bermuda Triangle – never to be seen or heard from again.
But I’d like it to succeed, and I also wouldn’t mind a walk-on part. But mostly, I need to find a way to sneak onto Tina’s closed sets so I can make damn sure Elise, my character, isn’t bombing as Alice.
Back up front I see that Kit has joined Bette and Tina now, and is making a fuss over missing Angelica for the two days she was away with her parents in Santa Fe. Kit takes her hand and they walk slowly behind the counter back to Kit’s office for a visit. Bette orders her and Tina’s breakfast – the likes of which she knows by heart – and Tina’s attention is taken up by a couple who have approached. Lawyers, I guess by their dark tailored suits.
Bette’s amperage begins, and I feel it as far away as my table. I wonder about my carping away at her for so many years. I did it with so little mercy. Prodded at her bear-like fury knowing soon the veins would pop out of her neck, and get up and dance with the scary blue curvy ones that pound at her temple.
After all, to most everyone Bette Porter is kind of a legion, and they’d love to be her friend, swim in her pool, get drunk on her sex appeal, and laugh at her wit and sophisticated sarcasm.
No, better strike that – in her own field she’s too young to be legendary, but in the OurChart underground universe I can attest to the fact: She’s discussed. Tina, too, of course – they each have devoted fans.
For awhile the fact that they blindly ignored my fascinating new experiment into West Hollywood independent “Current Happenings” journalism used to irritate the crap out of me. It wasn’t until one of their semi-public flame-outs, and I stayed up half the night reading the hundreds of comments about them, that I knew other people had been hurt and confused, too. As once perfect symbols of something other gay women aspired to, I came to realize: Bette and Tina had disappointed far more than just me.
Somehow the details of their latest debacle would always get out, and almost to the word I knew if I were ever challenged I could blame all the leaks and mischief about them on Jenny, my god-gifted scapegoat. It helped me sleep at night anyway.
Jenny has, and no doubt will continue to be, very good for business. Not that Bette’s stopped her incessant ire long enough to think about it, but Jenny’s script turned into Tina’s movie will likely bring her well over a million dollars. That is if it doesn’t sink, but can swim. Or better yet – like the wild motherfucker “we” need it to be – takeoff and fly into the box office. Because if it does that we might all get rich.
I’m just saying.
It’s not my fault they make great copy, or that Tina used to sleep with a beguiling heiress named Helena, after her “to die for” Bette, to quote a frequent poster, had slipped off with the carpenter. That single, and I’m sure in Bette’s mind far from a class-oriented sexual decision, has ignited my blog with years and years of false hopes that Bette might once again lose her mind, and her morals, and slip down to lie again – amongst the lesbian proletariat.
At times I could have sworn I was more upset by their separation than they were, but I wasn’t dating a Peabody heiress, or a renown sculptor, or an Ad Man named Henry, or a carpenter known as Candace, who was sometimes referred to in code between me and Shane simply as Hell’s Beginnings.
I sigh sadly. It’s so true. The sight of them together again makes me miss the good old days. The ones I had no idea were even happening when my morning’s fleeting nostalgia suddenly dissipates, and I feel once more how incredibly pissed off I am at Tasha. Going on for three days now it’s unbelievable to me! Tasha and her over righteous, loftier than mine ethics can go fuck themselves in some faux ethical faux fuck-fucking place.
And just like a fool I’d bought into it! Nodded yes that her “core values” were so much better than mine. Then, it hits me. Tasha’s a Republican. She’s going to “earnestly” fuck me over.
God! I feel my eyes burning and then, they suddenly water and relax because here are Tina and Bette ordering breakfast, and I realize I’m dying to hear all about their mysterious weekend in Santa Fe. My gloomy depression immediately lifts.
“Alice!” Bette starts toward me before Tina catches her attention, again.
“Babe, Lis and Marilyn saw us on stage with Gloria, and have decided to get married, too. They’ve been together twenty years.”
And of course, up comes Tina’s hand so they can all admire her enormous engagement ring, and Bette beams another thousand watt smile at their new friends. It’s then that I realize – she’s either a masterful or very lucky sailor who’s managed to swing their bow back around, and once again, skillfully catch the sails with the wind.
I find myself in awe as Tina’s ring flashes, and I witness their complete transformation from a month ago. I am mystified. How does anyone make any relationship work? I was certain they were done for.
Finally, Tina makes her way over to me as the “order ready” bell dings, and Bette goes back to the counter to pick up their breakfast. “Alice! You look great this morning.” Tina smiles and looks incredibly relaxed.
“Thanks! And you’re good after your weekend in Santa Fe? I love Santa Fe. I mean I really love Santa Fe. Maybe next time when you …” I drift when I realize I’m being too needy.
“Oh! They’ll definitely be a next time. We’re having a wedding party in a barn at the place we stayed. Bette took pictures.”
“A barn?!” I start off cross. “But Helena and I are planning your party!”
“Different party, Alice. At this one, you don’t have to do a thing. Just come and have a good time. Bette’s getting everyone Winnebagos to stay in – something like the movie trailers.”
“Winnebagos? Seriously? And here I imagined you all weekend in a great posada. Getting spa treatments or whatever.”
Tina calls over her shoulder, “Bette, come tell Alice about the barn and show her the pictures you took.”
“Hey, Bette.” I smile at her, take her iPhone, and begin to flip through pictures of a decrepit barn.
Tina leans into my shoulder and points, “Along the wall that you can’t see are nailed up rattlesnake skins – that I don’t even want to think about – and we’re definitely throwing a big piece of drapery over that whole area.”
“Okay, I’ve seen enough. This won’t work.”
“No, it will, Alice,” Bette takes her phone back, “as long as it’s not raining. There are a few pretty big holes in the roof of my mother’s barn, but in the desert they get maybe a thimble full of rainfall a year, if that.”
“We’re having a party in a barn.” Tina agrees.
“Thimbles of rain, huh? Sounds like a bad song title, but that’s not the only problem.” Resolute I look over my coffee cup and try to stare them down. Then, I frown. “Wait. Who’s barn did you say that was? And what were you two doing in Santa Fe, anyway?”
“Alice, something unexpected has happened.” Bette manages between wolfing big bites of her spinach omelet. I honestly don’t know how she does it and stays so slim.
“Like what?” I ask skeptically, unsure if I can take any more big surprises.
“We had to check it out first, Alice. Before we told anyone.” Bette cautions.
“Oh God! No! You’re moving away to Santa Fe, aren’t you?” I cry back at them, “Tasha dumped me – I know you called it – the third wheel thingy with Jamie. Fuck it, fuck it!”
“Jesus Christ! Alice! Calm down, I’m sorry about you and Tasha. I liked her.” Bette looks at Tina for her read, “We liked her, didn’t we?”
“Yes, the until recently reconvened “We” did.” Tina assures her. “Alice, I’m sorry. When did this happen?”
“Friday night that bled into a very fucked up Saturday.” I feel Bette studying me while she eats, and I look away from them for a moment. I know they wanted to institutionalize me the last time I had a nasty break-up. I realize I was saved from being tied to a bed and shot up with blue-colored drugs because with a new baby they simply didn’t have the time to commit me.
But they have time now. Unless, of course, they’re moving to Santa Fe. Dammit, I would really hate that, but I really don’t want to go into the psych hospital either.
“Well, I take back all my liking of Tasha. She’s persona non grata to me now.” Bette slices her hand to show me: Tasha’s toast.
“Babe, Alice is probably still in love with her.” Tina shakes her head at Bette, and then with a probing look to me. “But Alice, are you, okay? You look fine, but are you?”
“I’ll be fine. I’m fine today. Actually, when you came in I became fine. How long can you stay? God, I hate it that you’re moving to New Mexico.”
“Moving?” Bette looks quizzically at me before finishing off her bagel. “I’m lost.”
“Alice, are you mixing anxiety and depression-type pills again?” Tina looks down inside my purse, but doesn’t reach for it.
“I took a sleeping pill last night. I’m not the problem! Who came up with the idea of this barn Hoedown, anyway?”
“Alice, don’t be negative. And I can’t talk to you about this if you’re on the verge of going crazy.” Bette looks away from me and locks eyes with Tina, “Too risky.”
“Don’t shut me out! Wait! What?” I object as Bette gets up from the table.
She tucks a five-dollar bill under her plate. “Alice, I’ll check in on you later. I’m headed to work.” She leans into kiss Tina. “T, I’m going back to Kit’s office. Time to pry her away from our daughter, who I know I’m taking her to daycare, but are you picking her up, or am I?”
“You’re picking her up because I’ve got a long shoot day. We could wrap by six, but then again.”
“No problem. I don’t even want to think about it.” She walks away then turns back to Tina, “But I know you’ll do a great job, and I want you to enjoy making your movie. I really do.”
They share a look before Tina focuses back to me. “Alice, we’re not moving anywhere. You jumped the gun on that, as well as the barn. With some festive attention it’s going to be a cool place for a party. And a word of advice?”
“Go ahead.” I drop my chin and stare into my lap.
“On the topics of Santa Fe and Winnebagoes, Hoedowns and Barbecues, remain positive or expect trouble.” Tina jerks her head toward Bette turning the corner that leads back to Kit’s office.
“Okay. I got it.” I nod as Tina’s frown softens.
I lean in closer to her. “Forget all that though – what’s the story with Bette’s boots?”
Exterior – The Planet – Bette
As Angelica and I amble to my car I hear a woman’s voice calling my name. It sounds far enough away that if I’m quick about buckling Angelica into her carseat I can probably speed away before another morning entanglement begins. My need to get to work – to a place where the thoughts of my unusual weekend with my mother will run quieter in the background of my mind – is beginning to enter the Red Zone.
It was an incredible weekend. One that I’m beginning to pick apart for more and more hidden meanings and this can only mean one thing. I’m heading into obsession. Never a good place for me.
“Bette!” The woman’s voice is now much closer. I turn around to see Phyllis’ daughter, Molly Kroll, nearly on top of me. God, she’s nearly as tall as I am.
“Molly!” I fake my enthusiasm. “What finds you in this part of town, or even in town? Why aren’t you in school?”
“Something my Dad asked me to go to with him is later tonight. Normally, Mother would go.” Molly says dismissively. “I was hoping to ask you a question. Your sister owns the place across the street, right?”
“Kit does, yes.” Relieved mine was such an easy answer. “Glad I could clear that up. Now, I’m on my way to work.”
“Mind if I ride with you?”
“With me? To the university?”
“Yes, I mean if you don’t mind. I should probably see my mother while I’m in town.”
“Hop in.” I say as steady as I can. “I drop Angelica off near campus.”
The Planet – Tina
Shane slides into an empty seat at the table with me and Alice, and opens her paper. “How was Santa Fe? You and Bette have a good time?”
“Did you think we were moving to Santa Fe?” I ask.
“No, why? Are you moving to Santa Fe? That’s kind of sudden, isn’t it?”
“Not moving to Santa Fe. Alice said something. I’m just taking a poll.”
“Poll away, I guess. Any other questions?” Shane drifts back to her paper.
“Why would Phyllis’ daughter be getting into Bette’s car?”
“Molly?” Shane looks up. “Is outside?”
“Was. Now they’re gone. What’s she doing way over here in West Hollywood at eight-thirty in the morning? Did you sleep with her last night?”
“Ha! Now, that’s funny.” Shane dips her paper down to peer at me.
“Maybe not sleeping with, but spying on Shane is my guess,” Alice suggests. “And you really should not encourage her, Shane, or you’ll get a very mean phone call from Bette like I did when I “dated” Phyllis.
“Or from Phyllis – no make that both of them,” I add my warning.
“Or both them and Joyce,” Alice emphasizes with a scary tone.
“Honestly, guys I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve barely talked to the girl. She’s a college student, right?”
“A straight Graduate student to be exact.” I nod at Alice, and we look expectantly over at Shane.
She shrugs nonchalantly. “Look, I’ve just seen her around the set with you guys. No biggie.”
La Cienega Boulevard – Bette
“Angie, are you alright back there?”
“Momma B, go fast again to school!”
“Ah,” I stammer and look over at Molly. “We don’t ever go over the speed limit.”
She smiles. “Mother’s completely not expecting me. I’m in no rush.”
“And we’re in no rush.” I stress as I look back at Angelica who’s innocently gazing out the window now.
Molly clears her throat as I pull into traffic. “So, I saw somewhere that you’re getting married, but not to Jodie Lerner I take it.”
“No, definitely not to Jodie, but to Tina. You met her on the movie set a few weeks ago.”
“I did. She seemed nice. How long have you known her? I take it longer than a few weeks.”
“A respectable length of time. Trust me.” I think how much more to tell her. “Angelica is our baby. We were together back … well, Angelica’s almost three, and for years before she was born.”
“So, Jodie was what? An intermission? Mother talked like you two were serious.”
“Oh, Molly. I really can’t talk about that. It’s over. Pick another topic.”
“Okay, here’s one. Tell me about Shane. She’s working on the picture that’s apparently about you, and I’m putting it together now, you and Tina?”
I can’t stop an exasperated sigh before it escapes for Molly’s amusement.
“So, I’m right.”
I feel the sides of my neck growing warmer then hotter. “No! You’re not right!” I vent. “A foolish neighbor of ours wrote it. The script is about a couple. Yes!” I make a checkmark in the air between us. “Who live in West Hollywood – like tens of thousands of others gay women do – and the couple is trying to have a baby. That’s it for similarities.” I dash my hand toward Molly.
Then I guide my tone of voice down off the ledge. “The story is about a young straight woman who gets seduced by an older European woman, and she breaks up with her midwestern boyfriend…”
Molly interrupts, “That I can understand.”
When we stop at a traffic light I continue, “…thinking she’s found her Great Love in the alternate universe of gay West Hollywood. That’s absolutely not my story. I would have never done such a thing.”
“But it’s set in The Planet that your sister owns. You go there all the time, and it’s Shane’s roommate’s script? And they live next door to you.”
“What is this? Lesbian GPS? Look, I told you already. It’s a story about Jenny.” I press my hands earnestly against my chest to emphasize. “That’s what I’m explaining.”
“But Shane’s in it?”
“Molly, listen to me. Shane’s not an actress. Shane’s working on the movie.”
“The movie Tina is producing. Yeah, I got that much. So you and Shane and Tina are not in this movie?”
“Correct. Don’t believe everything you hear, Molly. Especially at CU, but especially CU. It’s is an fetid little place for rumors, and …” I stop myself suddenly.
“Gossip about my mother?”
“Molly, probably. Yes. People are probably talking about your mother – now that she’s come out.”
“Is that typically what lesbians do Bette, when you guys come out? I mean, Mother throws a big party, and her guests respond by taking off their bras in a conga line around our pool. Is that normal? I mean is that coming out?”
“Molly, I was only there a short time.” I flashback to my grateful reunion with Tina, and how we sped away from Phyllis’ fireworks for some long awaited ones of our own.
Molly jars me back to the present. “Well, obfuscate all you want, Bette. I’m certain you’ve seen plenty of women come out.”
I sigh feeling cornered. “It’s painful mostly. But unavoidable if you don’t want to go insane.”
“Full disclosure for this line of questioning – I’m rethinking my mother’s coming out. That’s all. We left it … actually, I left things very raw between us.”
“I’m sure Phyllis will welcome a calmer discussion about it.”
“Hopefully, there will be no more yelling.” Molly raps her knuckles against the window and gazes outside. “Mother has a high flashpoint.”
“That I’ve noticed, too.” We smile in agreement. The mood in the car lifts.
Then, out of the blue Molly says, “Bette, I’m interested in Shane. Tell me about her.”
“What?! Oh, God, you can’t be serious! Your boyfriend’s in law school, like you are, too. Right?”
“A boring boyfriend who’s going into corporate law with his father in Maryland. They just bought a massive golf course. Think about that for a second.”
“I am.” We ride along for a few more minutes. Molly shifts in her seat. I prepare myself for more probing.
“Shane’s a friend of yours, an old friend, right?”
I pull over in front of Angelica’s daycare, “Molly, let me think of how to say this as clearly as I can, because I’ve already read between the lines of what you are insinuating.”
The car jolts as I throw it into park. “Do not pursue this. It’s a very bad idea. Shane is categorically not a beginner’s Starter Kit.”
I open the door to fetch Angelica out of her car seat. “In fact, for a nice girl like you, she’d be a catastrophe.” And then with horror I watch as a sly smile creeps across Molly’s face.
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