Truman Capote – a blast from the past

2 Nov. 05: The publicity surrounding that movie about Truman Capote made me remember an incident I hadn’t thought about in some time: the afternoon that man kicked me out of his van into a California desert because I wouldn’t have sex with him. It was summer 1979 and I was hitch-hiking around the United States for no reason except that in those days I loved and seemed to need hitch-hiking more than anything else. That day I was on my way to Oakland from Malibu. I was tired. Somewhere near Coalinga I was third in line in a group of people looking for a ride on the on-ramp, behind a family of three and a scruffy couple my age. A van pulled over. The driver inside waved the other people away and welcomed me in. The man was short and fat, and he was wearing a white sleeveless T-shirt and (I thought) a Speedo that was hidden beneath his enormous belly. The van was filled with wigs, costumes, and make-up. “I work in the movies,” he said, with a wet lisp. Off we went north on Highway 101. I asked his permission to take a catnap where I was sitting. (I always used to ask for permission to sleep, because often drivers picked you up in order to have a conversation: to stay awake, to get something off their chest, or to lie a little.) That would be fine, he said, and I passed out almost instantly, though I didn’t stay that way very long, because Truman Capote started fondling me, or trying to, and I woke up, and I saw that his belly wasn’t covering a Speedo bathing suit or anything else. (His excitement wasn’t pretty.) A few minutes later the famous writer pulled the van over to the side of  this nearly empty highway and ordered me out. “I don’t have any water in my canteen,” I said. “I’d be grateful if you dropped me off at the next exit ramp or at a gas station instead of here, where there’s nothing.” Truman Capote said no way with a sound only that man could make. I told him that to be so rude to me he must have been “born in a barn.”

That was a funny old phrase I’d never used before but which came to my mind instantly, for some reason. I got to Oakland that night, found a friend, and had a beer in his back yard.

3 Comments»

  Robert wrote @

One of your unforgettable stories. I still can’t reconcile the person I know you to be and your blog. One is full of anecdotes.

  Bob Basil wrote @

That was a rare personal blurt on basil.CA! I want people to know what I am looking at, not what I am either thinking or remembering. I made that decision, wow, more than a dozen years ago. I wanted basil.CA to be useful to me professionally, basically – HENCE: few Pink Flamingo, Norwood Street anecdotes. That will be in my book!

  sanjose61 wrote @

Ah, I see.

I’ll continue to glance through your lense as I look forward to your book.


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