Some humongous Mexican bitch-slaps this fat slob at the craft-services table, and then actor number 72, holding the bouquet of dead flowers, walks over and begins to explain the attack to me. The fight has something to do with model-train sets and the city of Seattle. The Mexican mafia and the Vatican. Rattling on, number 72 tells me, “Sorry.” I tell him not to mention it. “I mean, about your TV series getting canned,” he says. I tell him to never mind. “I mean, about all those gossip magazines,” he says, “trashing you.” I tell him to forget it. And this actor 72 says, “What are you doing, I mean, here?”
Branch Bacardi, number 600, holds a wad of toilet paper to his bleeding nipple, and every time I look in his direction he’s looking back at me. Any minute, he’s going to walk over here, and I don’t have a good opening line ready. The star of Butt Pirates of the Caribbean and Smokey and the Ass Bandit, and he’s cruising me. Wouldn’t you know it? A person can’t simply say, “Hello, Mr. Branch, I absolutely adore your dildo ...” Everyone I know, man or woman, keeps your dick in their bedside table. The battery-powered vibrator, or the manually operated regular dildo. Yours is the Goldilocks of dildos: not a long pencil dick, like the one copied from Ron Jeremy’s erection. And certainly not one of those so massively big around that you feel plungered like a stopped-up toilet. No, with the length and girth of it, the Branch Bacardi is the one-size-fits-all of celebrity-replica sex toys. But, no, compliment or not, that kind of dialogue would just never read . . . Milling all around us, the too-naked men form a sea of tattoos and scars. Rashes and scabs. Stretch marks and sunburns. A catalogue of everything that can go wrong with your skin. Beyond the mosquito bites and pimples, Branch Bacardi stands with Cord Cuervo, the two of their heads leaned together, talking. Bacardi points at me, and Cuervo looks. Cuervo nods his head and whispers into Bacardi’s ear, and they both laugh. I say, let him laugh. The Cord Cuervo Super Deluxe tapers too much; from a circumcised head the size of a pencil eraser, the finger-long shaft spreads to a base big as a beer can. An ergonomic nightmare. One could always ask Bacardi about the mass-production aspects, the assembly lines in China where sweatshop workers wrap and package endless silicone-rubber copies of his erection, still hot from stainless-steel molds. Or they package and ship jiggling armies of pink plastic vaginas cast from the shaved pussy of Cassie Wright. Chinese slave labor, by hand, tweezing in pubic hairs or airbrushing different shades of red or pink or blue. Accurate down to Cassie’s episiotomy scar. Bacardi’s every vein and wart. The way people used to make death masks, casting plaster faces of celebrities in the hours between their demise and their decomposition. Long after Cassie Wright becomes old and demented or dead and rotten, her vagina will still haunt us, tucked under beds, buried in underwear drawers and bathroom cabinets, next to dog-eared skin magazines. Or, showcased in antique stores, Bacardi’s rubber erection, priced the same as the hand-carved scrimshaw dildos of lonely, long-dead Nantucket whaling wives. A kind of immortality. A person can always ask: How does it feel, that the cock of Branch Bacardi and the vagina of Cassie Wright are reduced to kitsch? Camp objets like Duchamp’s urinal or Warhol’s soup can. A person could ask: Thanks to the Branch Bacardi Butt Plug, how’s it feel to know that people around the globe go to work, to school, to church with your dick wedged up their anus? How’s it feel seeing your dick and balls, or your clit and cunt flaps, cloned a zillion times and sitting on the shelf behind some gum-chewing porn-store clerk? Or, worse, your most private bits heaped in some bargain bin, strangers lifting, squeezing, pinching, and rejecting them the way they would avocados at the supermarket? But, again, this dialogue just does not read. One could attempt a funny anecdote, a true story about a dear friend. Carl. A huge fan of the Branch Bacardi Super Deluxe. How one morning Carl looked in the toilet and saw thin pink squiggles in his bowel movement. Worms. Ghastly pinworms. But when he carried in a cardboard sample-box of his shit for testing, the lab results came back negative. The pink threads weren’t parasites. They were rubber. The pink rubber foreskin of his Super Deluxe had begun to degrade and flake apart. When Carl’s proctologist used the word, that’s exactly how Carl felt: Flaky. Degrading. Degraded. One could risk sharing the story about how Carl hooked up with a trick—oh, years ago. And the two men went home together, only to discover they were both big passive bottoms. To satisfy everyone, they shared a two-headed Branch Bacardi special. This happy bumping of sphincters worked fine until—wouldn’t you know it—Carl felt his paramour du jour was enjoying more than his allotted half. What had started as a casual, anonymous encounter turned into a savage butt-sex tug-of-war, only with no knot in the rope, no flag to keep one partner from gobbling down all the shared real estate. A greed guard. No Berlin Wall of silicone rubber to keep everyone honest. Yes, a person might risk such a story, but the last fact a celebrity cocksman like Branch Bacardi wants to hear is that his product is defective. And God forbid Bacardi think I’m Carl. That I’ve invented a friend to hide behind. Under my arm, I’m pitted out so badly that sweat’s soaked into Mr. Toto’s canvas skin, bleaching out Bette Midler’s message—"Let’s Always Stay Best Friends! Love, Bette"—leaving the words just a blotched blue smudge. Whether it’s from the blue pills or feeling nervous, I’ve sweated out Carol Channing and Barbra Streisand. “Our Weekend in Paris Was Heaven. Yours Always, Barbra.” This actor 72, shifting his bouquet from one arm to the other, he looks at Mr. Toto and says, “What’s Goldie Hawn like?” One can’t truly cry, because the Bette Midler was a fake. So was the Carol Channing. And the Jane Fonda. Okay, the truth is, they’re all fake. I wrote them all myself, in different handwritings and different colors of ink. One just cannot approach a star like Cassie Wright with an empty autograph hound. I wanted her to sign her own name among a galaxy of stars. As if we were all close friends. The truth is, I haven’t met any of these women. After Miss Wright signs, I plan to copy her handwriting and add, “Thanks for the Fuck of a Lifetime!” One just can’t ask a big star like Cassie Wright for that kind of personal inscription. Especially if it’s a lie. And you can’t tell an actor like Branch Bacardi that, thanks to his Super Deluxe, you have a callus on your prostate. Even if it’s the truth. His nipple must’ve scabbed over, because Bacardi’s stopped blotting it with the toilet paper. Instead, he’s fingering a necklace. A pendant. Some small gold something hanging from a chain around his neck. Using both hands, he holds the pendant with only his fingertips. Picking with a fingernail, he pops the pendant open and looks inside. It’s a locket or a box. No doubt, hidden inside is a little portrait or a lock of hair. Another form of immortality. The next time he looks over, if Mr. 600 does approach, perhaps I could tell him about the Vatican, how, if you ask politely, the curators will pull out drawer after drawer to show you the relics within. According to Carl, nested inside some drawers are carved marble dicks. Penises. In alabaster, onyx, obsidian. Row after row, drawer after drawer of ancient pricks, each one numbered, keyed to some masterpiece left castrated. This collection of hundreds of numbered dicks, they were all chiseled off Greek and Roman statues, Egyptian and Byzantine, and replaced with pasted-on plaster fig leaves. Bronze Minoan pricks, hacked off, small as bullets. Etruscan terra-cotta pricks, crumbling to dust. These priceless wieners, they’re nothing the righteous want you to see, but they’re still too important to discard. The same as, inside all those nightstands and glove compartments, all those Branch Bacardi dildos and Cassie Wright vaginas. I could tell Bacardi that the electric vibrator was first marketed in the 1890s. The first household appliances to be electrified were the sewing machine, the fan, and the vibrator. Americans enjoyed electric vibrators ten years before electric vacuum cleaners and irons. Twenty years before electric frying pans were brought to the market. To hell with housework, our top priority has always been between our legs. The talent wrangler walks past me, carrying a potato-chip bag stuffed full of bloody paper napkins from the actor with the split lip. Red blood and orange barbecue flavoring smeared into the white paper. At Branch Bacardi, the young lady stops a moment and he drops his toilet paper spotted with nipple blood into her bag. Watching the young lady, the boy with his flowers, actor 72, says, “I hate her,” his grip crackling, crushing, crumpling the clear plastic funnel holding his roses. His fists squeeze, tighter and tighter, until the thorns poke through. Watching the talent wrangler, actor 72 says, “How much you want to bet that bitch trashes every letter anybody sends to Cassie Wright, no matter how important what’s inside or how much a guy really just wants to tell Cassie how much she means to him?” If he comes over, that’s what I’ll tell Bacardi about: those Vatican curators with their dusty drawers full of priceless, faceless, numbered dicks. Inside his necklace is something no one else can see, but Branch Bacardi looks at it for a long time. Measured by the movies playing overhead, he looks at his secret for a three-way . . . two blow jobs . . . and one clitoral orgasm. Wouldn’t you know it, then Bacardi looks up, at me. And he snaps his locket shut.