Today I was at Trader Joe’s doing my grocery shopping and the entire place sounded like a gay disco in the 1990s. It was all Freestyle dance tracks—one right after the next—pumped super loud like some gay man is getting ready for Labor Day weekend and is like fuck it, the managers aren’t around.
And while I was listening to this music, I had flashbacks about my youth…a sweet and tainted feeling of exquisite beauty and energy of my life growing up in underground music scenes since the age of 15—and then a deep sadness….
I remember hanging out at a teen club that played all this Freestyle music that gay boys loved to dance to, and in that club was a transvestite: a boy that dressed up like Madonna. It turns out that he grew up in the housing projects; in the same ghetto I did, and he often shopped at my mom’s convenience store.
My mom told me stories about this boy. She knew his mom, who shopped at the store and basically had a different man every week, very dysfunctional family and about how Jessie never had a father. I would sometimes see him at my mom’s store and pretend not to recognize him. His name was Jessie, and I think he had a crush on me—because I looked like a tomboy.
Jessie used to go clubbing dressed in a wedding dress and he would dance to Madonna’s LIKE A VIRGIN. He was Hispanic and short but was a natural spitting image of her. When he got older, he started grooming his image to be very close to Madonna’s physique and he began to perform in drag.
My friends and I used to get hungry after clubbing and we’d drive to fast food joints and rumor had it that Jessie worked at GOOD TIMES. I wanted to pull through the drive-thru to get served by him just for kicks, but we didn’t know his hours.
Jessie was definitely a loner. He flirted and followed me around, which I thought was strange, ’cause he acted more like a lesbian than anything else. I was stuck-up and never talked to him. Now I wish I did. I often told my friends that it’s too bad he’s the prettiest girl in the club and if he didn’t have a dick, I’d date him (after all, I didn’t want a girl with a penis).
Many years later, I returned to Denver and one day I asked my mom what happened to Jessie. It’s a very disturbing story, but from what I could tell, he moved to LA and was probably hooking as a tranny. Well, let’s just say, he’s no longer alive.
Throughout my life, I’ve been around quite a few boys like him. Eventually, society evolved to the point where it’s safer for boys to actually have sex changes. I witnessed three in my life: meaning, the whole identity change—from my friends going from Jerry to Joanne and so on.
Jessie was ahead of his times. He was brave. It didn’t matter that the only way he could express himself was by being a slut. He had a passion. He had Madonna to look up to. That was his obsession; his guiding light.
I like watching darkness turn in to light and that’s what I experienced through my youth. I saw how light things become dimmer and how dark things become lighter. That’s why in NUNE and RED AS BLUE, the darker the character is—the greater inner potential they yield. The lighter the person is—the darker they are from sponging the crap they take.
I had early training in understanding light and darkness in life when I saw Jessie dancing in the wedding dress to LIKE A VIRGIN.
I saw this kid dancing toward the light—but she didn’t make it. If you ask me what went wrong or what was at fault—I’d say society is at fault. Society is always at fault. The individual rarely is.
You can say that the individual is like a moth, and society is the false light that emits the illusion of beauty and salvation.
When you look at prison systems, fucked up parents, failed kids, all of this is a social petri dish. What forms on that dish can only be as good as the world that is hosting it because the truth is, everything has potential. Ultimately in the end, the individual holds the reins and accountability once they reach maturity. The problem is, some of them never grow up, and they eventually run society.
In terms of art, any expression that attempts to save the potential of youth is in fact, a desire to change the world—literally. Jessie could have survived if she had the right tools and I am sure, there are many more dreamers out there.