Thursday, February 20, 2014


The 2014 Olympics has been going on this week in Sochi, Russia. If you were an Olympic athlete, which winter sport would you choose? I like to ponder this.

Being a speed skater could be rewarding on some levels. I imagine speed skaters get to eat a lot. I like to eat! If people ever questioned the size of my thighs, I could just shrug and say I'm in training.

It has also occurred to me that if I met an attractive 60-something male ice dancer who was straight and happened to be single, I could conceivably make my sport ice dancing. If he were hot enough, I guess I wouldn’t mind having him hold me over his head while I did the splits. Not that I'm shallow and superficial, but heck, if he looked really good, I might even work at stifling my groans as I heaved myself up out of the recliner to go to ice-dance rehearsal. 

Okay, let's be real here. Dreaming about being an ice dancer is pretty fanciful of me. I haven't done the splits in over 25 years, and no man has ever been interested in lifting me, much less lifting me over his head. The nearest I came to that was when my ex-husband attempted to carry me down three carpeted steps at our wedding as his friends cheered him on. To this day, he still complains about the discs in his spine. 

Overall, I think that I am best suited for the luge. The luge is a kind of sled that requires participants to lie down on their backs. Hey, I'll go for lying down on my back any day.

I'm actually very talented when it comes to reclining and not moving for looong stretches of time. Might as well do it on a luge as on a couch, and win the gold.

When we boil it all down, the perfect Olympic venue for me would be the Two-Man Luge. If you are not familiar with this sport, one man lies down on his back on top of another man who is on the luge—a buff, well-muscled man wearing lycra spandex, I might add—and down they go.

There are a few issues with the sport, though. The main one is that it uses two men, rather than a man and a woman. Having it be two guys is, to me, the waste of a perfectly good man. Depending on your leanings, of course.

I don’t see why they couldn’t open this sport up to being a couples event, like ice dancing. If that ever happens, count me in! Even though lying on top might not be my favorite position, that’s the one I’d choose, because it is the guy on the bottom who steers. The top person just lies there and doesn’t do anything…except send signals to the other guy about how to drive! I imagine that I, along with many other women, could do that quite expertly—I mean, sheesh! Telling a man how you want him to drive while you are the passenger? I'm not admitting this to the whole world, you understand, but it's possible that I may have had some life experience doing that.

There is one small qualification. I will participate in Couples Luge only if the guys continue to wear tight lycra spandex. When they begin dressing like the snowboarders, I'm out.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


© 2013 by Laughing Cherub

Laura was very clean. And more than a tad compulsive. How clean was she? She was so clean that when she sat down to a meal, she couldn’t wait to finish eating so that she could scrub the dishes and put them away. Dirty dishes made her anxious.

While a certain kind of crabbiness often accompanies that type of personality, Laura was truly trying her best not to be a negative person. She used to watch a famous TV talk-show host named Oprah, whom she admired. One day she heard Oprah say that we should bless every problem we encounter because something positive can arise from it, no matter how bad it seems. Laura decided that maybe this would be a good philosophy for her to adopt.

Sadly, she’d scarcely had a chance to practice her new philosophy when it all flew out the window. What happened was that Larry, her cat, threw up yet again. Larry threw up a lot. This time he tossed his cookies on her favorite sweater. Worse, he did it when she was in the middle of a meal that, as usual, she’d been hoping to finish quickly so that she could get her dishes done.

You have to give Laura credit here. She tried. She really did. She reluctantly left her dinner (and the dirty dishes that contained it), stood over the regurgitated mess and, with as much sincerity as she could muster, said, “I bless you.” She said that to the cat vomit. Meanwhile, Larry meandered over to a spot of sunshine on the floor and nonchalently began to groom himself. Laura turned to Larry. “I bless you, Larry,” she said.

Then she waited for a couple of minutes to see what would unfold. Nothing happened. The blessings weren’t working one bit, and the neglected dirty dishes on the table kept creeping into her mind. Laura found herself getting grumpier and grumpier. Finally she surrendered to what was turning into a very sour mood indeed. Her brow darkened, and rather than salvage her soiled sweater by cleaning it, she stomped over to the trash and angrily flung it away. After that, she hurried to wash her dishes.

“I don’t care what Oprah or anybody else says. Nothing good could possibly ever come out of Larry’s upchuck,” she grumbled.

Laura couldn’t have been more wrong.

Centuries later on Planet Earth, when far too many species, including cats, had sadly become extinct due to humankind’s foolishness, a robot that was probing through the rubble of an ancient garbage dump stumbled across a remnant of Laura’s sweater. The robot identified a tiny bit of unfamiliar DNA on the piece of sweater and grew excited—well, as excited as a robot is capable of becoming. The DNA was, of course, Larry’s. From the vomit.

Eventually a living cat was cloned from this retrieved DNA, and then another, and yet another, and then the clones were tweaked and genetically modified, and within no time at all, the planet was once again crawling with cats. Every single cat in this world of the future shared a common ancestor: Larry.

Had Laura not been so cranky that day, she would have washed the sweater instead of tossing it out, for, as has been pointed out, she was quite good at cleaning things. But if she had done that, Larry’s DNA would never have been found and cats would have remained extinct. Thus, as it turns out, Laura’s incorrect conclusion that the sweater-cat-vomit situation had no positive side possessed an extremely positive side indeed: cats were once again restored to Planet Earth!

There was only one small problem with the new cat population. Despite the genetic tweaks that had been made to them, every single one of the thousands upon thousands of Larry’s descendents possessed a singular and mystifying characteristic. They all threw up. A lot. Which meant, naturally, that Earth could rest assured that there would be numerous repositories of cat DNA for a very long time to come.

The end

The Sweater-Cat-Vomit Situation and its illustration are copyrighted. Please do not copy, record or excerpt, except for a short review. Feel free, however, to link to this blog.

If you enjoyed reading this story, you might like another whimsical tale by Mary Elizabeth Raines, "Transitions, Trees, and Cottage Cheese," on Amazon's Kindle. 
Mary Elizabeth Raines is also the author of a serious novel, "UNA," several one-act plays, and a book of nonfiction called "The Laughing Cherub Guide to Past-life Regression: A Handbook for Real People." Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 14, 2013


So today I went to a fabulous jazz concert. 
Granted, the small audience (no more than 45 people) was mostly over 70. 
Granted, they acted super-white, sitting rigidly upright without the least bit of head bobbing or shoulder swaying, and that even included the two black guys in the audience. 
Despite this setting, the trio put their hearts and souls into the music, and man, were they world-class performers!

Now, it is humanly impossible for me to sit still when there is good music, especially jazz, so I am sitting in the back row, swaying back and forth and bobbing my head like crazy, grooving to the music! (Do people still say “grooving”? Is that allowed?)

The songs this trio played penetrated right to my core. Hey, how can you go wrong when you have three straight guys who obviously love show tunes?! (Because jazz is mostly show tunes, you know.)

The pianist was enormous! Usually smaller pianists make up for it by playing with exceptional skill, but this particular pianist was both huge and skilled. At the other end of the stage was a cutie-pie drummer who kept up a pounding mounting rhythm.

Rounding out the trio was my favorite, the bass player. He seemed nondescript at first…until he hunched over his bass fiddle, embracing it, his eyes closed in the passion of the moment. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to be that bass, and I must say I began to breathe a little more quickly as I watched him move over it with his strong, supple fingers that knew exactly where to go--teasing here, lingering down deep there. He even pulled out his bow for long penetrating strokes in perfect driving rhythm when they played that great jazz standard, Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.

Here’s the catch. This concert was held in a small church. Directly above my scrumptious bass player hung a life-sized Jesus. On the cross. He looked really sad. Still, his crucified arms had the index and middle fingers extended, and if one squinted their eyes just so, it almost looked as though Jesus was snapping his fingers along to the music. I wondered what he would say if he could talk. Probably, “Hey, the music’s cool. Now, would someone please take me down from here?”

They served coffee and chocolates at intermission, which was fine, but I felt a little weird listening to such hot, heavy music on a hard wooden church bench. I thought that it would be nicer and more fitting to have some wine. Wondering how that could come about, I began to fantacize that they would start serving communion. It being a church and all. Yes, the glasses would be very small, but it was an Episcopal church, so at least they might conceivably give us real wine instead of the Welch’s grape juice you’d get in a Methodist church.

We didn’t receive communion, though.

Back to the song, Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most: I was looking at Jesus when they played it, and wondered if that the tune was a little rude to play right under his nose. Considering, you know, that they put him up on the cross in spring. Or…perhaps it was weirdly appropriate. I wonder what Jesus would think?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


National Public Radio recently advertised a three-minute fiction contest judged by Luis Alberto Urrea. We writers were invited to create a 600-word short story that was supposed to begin with this opening sentence: “She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally decided to walk through the door.”

In response, I wrote the below piece, not realizing that the deadline for entries had passed. Oops. Even though it didn’t make the contest, I thought you might enjoy reading the story that resulted. It's SHORT!

by Mary Elizabeth Raines
© Laughing Cherub Publications, May 2012

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally decided to walk through the door. What she’d read was terribly disturbing.

“I’ve got to tell Carol what’s wrong with her,” she murmured as she exited the library. “Carol might not understand, but still, she has a right to know.”

The task weighed heavily on her shoulders. People milling around outside gave her a wide berth, as if they could sense the seriousness of the situation.

Most others would have used a computer to find out what a particular set of symptoms indicated. Mary, however, had a mistrust of technology. Computers especially made her feel vulnerable. Some computers, she’d heard, had cameras that could be remotely controlled. In a weird way, Mary sympathized with the crazy guys on street corners who made hats of tinfoil and discarded TV antennas to protect themselves from space rays. She didn't like computers.

Fortunately, everything she needed to find out was contained in books…even the surprising and painful knowledge of what was wrong with her sister.

Carol’s place was not far from the library. Mary could walk there to deliver the news.

As she entered her sister’s neighborhood, she thought of how good it was that Al had taken out life insurance. The funds from the policy had allowed her sister to rent an apartment and gave her the means to survive.

Al had been her friend long before he met Carol. In their younger days she and Al used to go out drinking together. He'd never known when to quit, though, until he fell in love with her sister. Then Al joined AA and sobered up, determined to become a good husband.

“I lost my buddy,” Mary used to say, “but I gained the coolest brother-in-law on the planet!”

One night, sadly, he fell off the wagon, drunkenly crashed his car, and died. The tragic news hit Carol hard. She was never the same after that.

The sisters briefly tried living together, but the situation became impossible. Carol acted increasingly disturbed and irate. From what she’d just learned in the library, Mary now understood that her sister was very sick. Her problems stemmed from much more than Al's death.

Near Carol’s place, she saw a brown scarf hanging on an iron fence. Her sister lived in an upscale neighborhood. The muffler was pretty and well woven. She touched it, and it felt soft, like silk.

Mary decided to rescue it. Today she needed every boost she could get. She wrapped the muffler around her neck. It felt warm and looked classy, and it added a little spring to her step, emboldening her for the difficult quest that lay ahead.

Mary shuffled uncomfortably as she rang the bell to Carol’s apartment, worried about this new blow she was going to have to deliver. She wondered whether or not her sister would actually be able to comprehend the information she was about to share.

“It doesn’t matter,” she mumbled. “She has a right to know.”

When Carol opened the door and saw her sister standing there, her face reddened. “Mary, it’s you!” Carol cried. “Where have you been?”

Mary got right to the point. “I know what’s wrong with you, Carol,” she stated. “I looked it up. You have contracted Mad Cow disease. It’s hopeless. There is no cure.”

“Why in God’s name are you wearing a muffler when it’s 85 degrees out?” pleaded Carol.

Mary didn’t reply. Her mission complete, she went back to the street where her shopping cart was waiting. A little pee streamed down her leg as she lumbered away.


Saturday, December 24, 2011



On Christmas Eve, 1998, my father spoke to me the best words that anyone could say.

Let's back up for a moment. Daddy had been a stern man. He was a minister. Even though he took his faith seriously, he did not really know how to express love and tenderness. I perceived him as a harsh, rigid, distant and critical parent. It took me many years to get over my resentments about that, but I did.

Rev. David A. Leach, 1921-1999
Back to Christmas Eve. Daddy and I were on the phone, making plans for the next day, Christmas, when I was going to make a trip to the senior community where he and my mother lived. They had been divorced for many years, but curiously, in their old age, they’d both moved across the country to live in the same retirement community. Each had a separate apartment. I doubt if they were romantic, but they did enjoy one another’s companionship.

“What time would you like me to come?” I asked my father.

And here is where he spoke the Best Words that anyone could say to another human being.

“I want you to come early and stay late,” he said.

I was blown away. Think about how incredible those words are! A person has to like you a lot to say that. With my father, I'd never been sure about being liked.

Christmas Day was wonderful. Mother, usually a very dominant and chatty person, faded into the background, and allowed it to be a time of sharing between my father and me. We talked and talked. 

"Unless you're the lead dog on the sled team, the view is pretty much the same," he remarked wryly at one point in our day. For all his sternness, you see, Daddy possessed a wonderful dry humor.

In his apartment was a fabulous and expensive crèche made of paper mache.

Among the elegant figures, however, he had planted a silly-looking, out-of-place plastic lamb. It was supremely ugly.

I picked it up. “What’s this?”

“That?" he grinned with a twinkle in his eye. "Oh, that’s the black sheep.”

Later that Christmas afternoon, we took a walk. My father had always been a cynic; for him, the glass was not just half empty, but would doubtless soon be dropped and broken. Thus, on our walk I asked, “Daddy, what’s it been like to be a pessimist all these years?”

“Wonderful,” he replied with a glowing smile. “Everything has always turned out to be much better than I ever expected!”

As night fell during our visit that Christmas, an ambulance pulled up to the health care center next door to his apartment. My father's energy faded visibly at the sound. I thought it might be because of a recent experience of his. He'd needed to go to the emergency room for a bowel obstruction, which turned out to be the after-effect of a minor surgery he’d had a number weeks ago.

Daddy described what that visit had been like, and it wasn't pleasant. 

“They shoved a tube down my throat to look at my stomach,” he said. I noticed that he began clenching his fist so hard that the knuckles lost their color.

He continued.“It was the single most painful thing I have ever felt in my life. I would rather die than have that done to me again,” he said. Vehemently.

These words came from a man who was so stoic that he once ate a whole chicken dinner when he had the stomach flu just to set an example for his children; his belief was that no matter what, you don’t cave in to illness. A nurse later confirmed that the particular procedure he described was possibly the most painful thing that could be done in an emergency room without anesthetic in those days. Certainly that was the case for my father.

I am a hypnotherapist, and know that not only can we alleviate pain easily; in some cases we can even create complete anesthesia.

“Daddy,” I said, “if that situation should ever happen to you again, call me right away before they stick the tube in you. Either I’ll drive out, or I’ll get the best hypnotist in the area to the hospital, and you won't have to undergo that kind of pain…”

But he did not listen to what I said. Even though I have an international reputation as a hypnosis teacher and writer, to him I was just a child who didn’t understand.

He repeated his words: “I would rather die than have that done to me again.” The statement turned out to be prophetic.

That night, when I said goodbye, I spontaneously hugged and kissed my father. While it might not sound like a big deal to most people, it was to me. My relationship with him had always had a cool distance to it, and our family simply did not touch. The hug and the kiss sprang from my heart, though, and not from my mind. 

And as I hugged him, tears began spilling from his eyes. It was a sweet, quiet, and yet monumental moment of love and healing. We both felt it. Daddy's tears melted away the remnants of any of the difficulties we’d ever had.

“I love you,” he said, his voice choking softly.

I left, and still remember how he stood at the top of the stairs and watched until I was out of the door.

And that is the last time I ever saw my father conscious. Less than a week later, I received a phone call. He had been taken by ambulance to a large city hospital where he had been put on machines to keep him alive.

It turned out that once again my father had experienced the symptoms of a bowel obstruction. Rather than go to the emergency room and have that tube shoved down his throat again, however, he told no one. For four days he stayed alone in his apartment, vomiting, as his bowels began to perforate and his organs started to shut down. The medical staff couldn’t understand why he didn't call for help, but I knew. When they finally got him to the emergency room, he was the sickest man in the entire hospital.

And what was the first thing they did? Shove a tube down his throat.

His words echoed in my mind: “I would rather die than have that done to me again.” 

And so he did. 

For four days I stayed at his side as he lay there in an induced coma. Finally, it was time to pull the plug on the machines keeping him alive, and it was up to me to make the decision.

I still remember the nightmarish sensation of walking down the hall of that hospital, knowing that I had been handed the power to choose the day and hour when my own father would die. It was the most anguishing experience of my life, no matter how necessary or right. I was pronouncing a death sentence on my own father.

After they turned the machines off, the monitor that beeped in conjunction with his heartbeat gradually began to slow down. Finally, there was silence. His heart had stopped. I fell across his chest and cried, “Oh, Daddy!” As I did that, to my astonishment his heart actually began to beat again: thump thump thump. What a testimony to the power of love! And what a wrenching moment! It couldn't keep on, however; his heart soon stopped beating for good.

Some of those who have had near-death experiences claim that after the body dies, we go through a life review where our soul sees and feels each reverberation and consequence of everything we have ever done to anyone in our life, good or bad. My prayer was that my father not see or know that anything he'd said or done had ever harmed me in the least way. Forgiveness is a grace, and that grace healed all the negativity that had ever occurred between us.

I still keep the ugly little plastic lamb from the Nativity scene at my desk. 

And I will always remember the Best Words in the World: 
“I want you to come early, and stay late.”

(c) M. E. Raines, all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole in any form. Feel free to share links to this true story.
Go to Amazon to read about UNA, a novel by Mary Elizabeth Raines

Tuesday, September 6, 2011



For a while, I lived in Hollywood. During my time there, my dating life was almost non-existent. 

Here’s why:
  1. I was not thin.
  2. I was not blonde.
  3. I was not a member of the Academy.
  4. I was not rich.
  5. I had never had botox or lip plumper, and I possessed my original breasts.
  6. I was not bi-curious.
  7. My idea of doing drugs was to take an aspirin if I had a headache.

That said, I did become the focus of heightened sexual attention one night. It was, as they say, waaaay cool! I was at a party and my becoming an object of lust was completely accidental. It happened like this:

Sometimes by chance, everyone in a room stops talking at the same time and there is a space of awkward silence. We’ve all been there. At the party I was attending, just such a gap occurred—a surprise lull in the flow of chatter. All conversation suddenly dropped away.

Well, almost all. Except for mine. I happened to be making a comment to another party-goer at that very moment. As the other sounds ceased, my remarks were amplified, projected boisterously into the otherwise dead room.

Here’s what I said: “I can get really kinky.”

Everyone heard me.

My declaration was followed by several seconds of stunned silence—reverence, perhaps. (It being Hollywood and all.) Then it was as if someone had turned on the floodlights. In a flash, I became the object of intense and fascinated scrutiny by more than a few turned-on party-goers. I felt sexy! I felt desirable! By golly, it was fun.

They liked me. They REALLY liked me!
But it didn’t last long.

My short sweet burst of popularity came to an abrupt end when the truth about my purported kinkiness emerged. I had only been describing what happens to my hair when it’s humid outside.


Even though my love life was sparse in those years, it wasn’t totally devoid of romance. (For proof, see my previous post, The Movie Star Who Wanted Me.) Occasionally I even dated. Once, for instance, I met a man in a café, and we went out to a nightclub the next evening. He was a well-mannered and good-looking European man who held some promise, even if he was a tad dull…dull, that is, until the end of the evening, when he managed to turn the conversation to a new topic.

My would-be beau began telling me, with animation, about certain women he knew who enjoyed wearing dog collars. That's right. Dog collars. As he spoke, his pupils grew larger—and maybe other parts of him as well. There were some clear hints that he enjoyed being the one who held the leash.

I imagine he was looking for Ruff-Ruff sex.
My response was that I needed to go home (alone!) and do some drugs right away (please note what my propensity for drugs entailed in the introductory paragraph, #7).

Okay, so I was mostly dateless when I lived in Hollywood. I was, however, well entertained, for I lived in a strange little compound populated by movie and TV folk who were themselves somewhat kinky.

In this eccentric show-biz community, for instance, lived Gary, a cameraman from the original Twilight Zone series who wound up committing suicide by hanging himself; we found his body swinging from the rafters. But that’s a story for another day, and yeah, probably not the most shining example I could give of being entertained.

So, okay, another resident of our compound was Santa Claus. Well, actually it was an actor named Harry, but he looked exactly like Santa, with the requisite round tummy, twinkling eyes, snub nose, white beard and jolly laugh.
Harry had started out playing Falstaff in the theater, and had gone on to earn a modest living with bit parts on TV shows like Cheers, Knots Landing, Batman and Night Court. It was when he reached his senior years that Harry found the perfect niche. He became a professional Santa Claus, and enjoyed modest success playing Saint Nick in a number of movies, commercials and TV shows.

Not long after I’d moved into the compound, my landlord, Bob, and I were chatting one afternoon on the street in our favorite spot next to the garbage cans (more about that later), when Harry-aka-Santa came down the steps of his apartment. He walked over to a parked car, where a friend of his emerged.

Lo and behold, Harry’s friend was another Santa look-alike, right down to the cherubic smile and rosy cheeks! The two were the same height, the same heft, had the same white flowing hair and beards, and were even dressed in identical garb. Both wore purple t-shirts. I couldn’t tell one from the other! Confused, I looked at Bob.

“All the professional Santa Clauses in Hollywood know each other,” he said. "They belong to a club."

As I watched, the two Santys hugged. Their hug grew in intensity. They wrapped their chubby arms around each other in an embrace and, belly pressed against belly, gave one another an extremely generous and lengthy kiss. Full on the lips. My jaw dropped and I stood there by the garbage bins, dumbfounded.

Although it may have made my story spicier if I were able to relate having had an affair with Santa Claus, this was not to be. Harry, as it turns out, was quite gay. But at least I can say in all honesty that—hold onto your hats—I saw Santa kissing Santa Claus.

The aforementioned garbage bins from our complex were a favorite gathering place of ours. Whenever cops came into the neighborhood—frequently—or a movie star disembarked from a limo at the studio across the street—also frequently—we would stand by the garbage cans to stare or gossip or exchange greetings.

It was also a fantastic place to hunt for treasures. Most of them were contributed by Lotsa Lotty, a member of our community who had at one time been a famous stripper and porn star.

In her heyday, she’d possessed silicone breasts the size of human heads. Now, decades past her prime and flat-chested after a double mastectomy, she buzzed around the compound in her bathrobe, glasses and curlers, sweeping the sidewalk—for she was a compulsive cleaner—and chattering into her telephone headset.

As a newcomer to the compound, I’d become alarmed one day when I heard groans and screams coming from behind Lotty’s closed door. I ran to Berta, the former Broadway actress who lived across the patio, and breathlessly suggested that we should call 911 because Lotty was making funny noises.

Instead of responding to my panic, Berta sank back onto her divan—Berta spent most of her days reclining on her divan—and murmured, “Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. Lotty really needs the money.” 

It turned out that Lotty, no longer in demand as a porn star, earned her living by doing phone sex. I grew accustomed to seeing her standing at her kitchen sink, ferociously scrubbing a frying pan and waving cheerfully at me through the open window, while crooning words into her headset like, “Oh yes, yes, whatever you want, baby…oooh, ahhh, it’s huge…

Back to the garbage bins. Even in retirement, Lotty often received gifts from her still-avid fans, for she had become a kind of cult figure. Her philosophy was easy-come/easy-go, and she despised clutter. Thus, whenever she grew tired of something, or if a gift wasn’t quite to her taste, she discarded it immediately, regardless of its worth. Lotty would even throw out expensive clothing when she got tired of it, despite the fact that she could have made a tidy amount of cash taking her used garb to a shop that specialized in reselling the clothing of former stars.

A person could find anything from designer pocketbooks to jewelry to appliances lying on top of our garbage cans, waiting for some enterprising scrounger—or me!—to give the unwanted stuff a new home.  

One day I noticed a hair dryer sitting on the garbage cans. It was a big hair dryer. I needed a hair dryer, and this one looked as good as new. Snatching it up, I took it home and tested it. It worked wonderfully and immediately joined my bathroom appliances.

It wasn’t until some weeks later that I had the opportunity to ask Lotty why she had thrown out a perfectly good hair dryer.

“Oh, it’s because of one of my phone-sex clients,” she said. “He likes to call me up and ask me to ‘do it’ with my hair dryer while he talks to me. One day he sent me a new hair dryer to use, so I threw out the old one…”

By association, my hair may be even kinkier than one would ever want to know.

(c) 2011, M. E. Raines
Copying or reproducing in any form prohibited. Please feel free to link to this article.

See Mary Elizabeth Raines' newly released novel, UNA, on Amazon

Thursday, June 16, 2011



Wow! A movie star wanted me. Me!
And yes, I mean “wanted” exactly in the sense that you’re thinking.

I had never thought anything like that could happen to me, although I’d certainly dreamt about it. All of us—at least those with normal hormones and reasonable imaginations—have entertained the fantasy of having a romantic encounter with a movie star. Even movie stars themselves sometimes get crushes on other movie stars.
     Robert Redford (you’ve heard of him, right?) tells of a time when he was a starving young artist in Rome, before becoming an actor. He spotted Ava Gardner and her entourage in a restaurant, and went a bit gaga over seeing the famous temptress. Gardner noticed, called the smitten young man to her side, and gave him a little kiss. 
     In the films he's made since that time, Redford has kissed many of the world’s most desirable actresses, and in his private life he is happily married—yet, what does he talk about with a moony smile and a far-away look? Having a crush decades ago on a movie star who acknowledged him and actually gave him a smooch! We can all fall prey to fantasies about those we see on the silver screen, you see.
     And now it was my turn.

I had become the object of desire of my very own bona-fide movie star, whom I shall call Chad. Chad was a genuine star, too, not just some minor actor who’d spoken a few lines in a B film.

     Maybe you’re thinking Chad was ugly, and thus easy to get. (I’m not superficial in the least, but hey, let’s get real: being attractive increases a person’s odds. Ava Gardner would probably not have summoned an unknown Karl Malden and given him a kiss.)(For those who don't know, Karl Malden was a first-rate actor, now deceased, who possessed a bulbous nose and an unfortunate face.) Not every lead actor is good-looking, especially if he’s straight.
     My movie star, however, was both beautiful and completely heterosexual. In fact, he was so handsome that there were stories of women who’d keeled over and fainted when they saw him take off his shirt on the giant screen. Maybe a few guys, too. (I presume that they fainted from lust, although, to be fair, the theater might have been overheated.)
     All females know Chad’s type. You usually see him on the covers of romance novels: that kind of chiseled, masculine man who makes any woman passing by want to drop both her grocery bags and her pants, fling herself down on the sidewalk, open her legs and cry, “Take me now!”

     When he fell for me (hah!), Chad was definitely not a kid any more, but still gorgeous enough to cause massive major-league drooling. His thick hair was perfect, tousled to just the right aw-shucks degree, yet fitting for the finest black-tie affair. His clothing revealed just a bit of bare chest here, just a ripple of an arm muscle there. His lips seemed designed to curl around the rim of a champagne glass, and his charming grin revealed luminous white teeth befitting a toothpaste commercial. If he chanced to glance at a woman, his bedroom eyes twinkled as if he knew all her secret fantasies—and liked them.
     In Chad’s most famous film, he’d had numerous love scenes with a well-known and very beautiful actress, whom I shall call Linda.
     “Chad,” I once asked him, “what was it like kissing Linda in all those romantic scenes you had together?”
     Well, I’ll tell you,” he replied slowly, a great big likeable grin spreading over his face, “The very first time we were in a clinch, it was a scene where we were sitting in a car. The cameras started to roll, so I kissed her. After the director yelled ‘Cut,’ Linda turned to the cameraman and hollered, ‘Retake!’”

By this point, you are probably frantic to know all the finer details of the affair I had with Chad.
The movie star.

Except that I didn’t have one.

You see, by the time I knew him, Chad was nearly 90 years old. Granted, he was the hottest nearly-90-year-old man I’d ever met, but the age difference was still daunting. He could have been my grandfather.
     He had reached the pinnacle of his stardom during the 1940s. This explains why women in the cinemas fainted when they saw him shirtless. Women tended to do that more in the 1940s than they do now. (Today a shirtless man would have to be playing a guitar and screaming into a microphone to get that kind of attention.)

     Chad’s Hollywood career had been cut short because he was a member of the communist party; he had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era, and no one would hire him to star in any more films, or so he claimed.
     In addition to being a communist, Chad tended be a little quirky. He was, for example, the only self-proclaimed nudist I have ever met. I personally never saw him strip down, but in his younger years, he apparently frequented nudist camps. (Which makes me wonder if communists have nudist camps…hmm.)
     Another quirk was that Chad had once been what they called a Muscle Man. He worked out and lifted barbells long before it became popular to do so, and it certainly served him well in his senior years. His excellent physique was one of the reasons the producers wanted him to take off his shirt in the movies; he was just about the very first actor who ever did that.

I’d met Chad through our mutual friend, Bob, who happened to be my landlord in a funky little compound in Hollywood. A group of unusual film people lived in this compound, including a world-famous porn star, a professional Santa Claus, cameramen, actors, script supervisors—and me. We were all friends. There was a shared central patio where we would have picnics and parties. Chad, being Bob’s best friend, was welcome to any event we held.
     Even from inside my house, I could always tell when Chad had arrived, because I could smell the pot. Among his quirks, you see, my would-be boyfriend was what they call a stoner. An inveterate pot-smoker, he proudly grew his own marijuana and he would always light up a joint the moment he entered our patio. I personally hate illegal drugs, and am not even all that crazy about the legal ones. Everybody else in our compound pretty much stuck to booze to get their jollies.
     Except for Chad.
     Who was almost 90, remember?

He continued to smoke pot until one eventful Labor Day, when he showed up late for one of our festive outdoor potlucks. Squeezing into a seat next to me on the bench of the picnic table, he silenced everyone and then he made a dramatic announcement to the group:
     “Guess what, guys?” said Chad.
     “What?” I shouted. (Chad didn’t hear too well.)
     “I’ve stopped smoking pot!”
     “You’re kidding me!” I said.
     “Why would I be hitting you?”  he replied, confused.
     I raised my voice, shouting directly into his ear, “You really quit?”
     “Yeah, I did. I found out smoking pot is bad for my health.”
     We applauded boisterously, and everybody fawned over him for awhile. Meanwhile, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a big white handkerchief that contained a strange kind of loaf wrapped in tinfoil. Was it some kind of weird hors d’oeuvre for the potluck? 
     While I was still wondering what this foil-wrapped goody was, Chad stuck it in his mouth and took a huge bite.
     “Yup, I stopped smoking pot,” he continued, looking very self-satisfied and chewing voraciously. “Now I eat it instead.”
     As the 13-year-olds say: Eeew.
     Perhaps Chad had misinterpreted the term POT-luck.

Chad and my landlord, Bob, were about the same age. Like Chad, Bob was a vehement communist. The two had been friends for decades and both were deeply entrenched in the film business. Bob wasn’t a star, though. He had only done a little acting; his main job was as a script supervisor. He had been trained to do this by John Ford, and had worked with a long list of the giants of film, including John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Joan Crawford and Jimmy Stewart. And Chad, of course.
     Years ago, someone had given Bob a huge paper-mache head of the actress Bette Davis. The piece was worth a great deal of money, but Bob, being a good communist, made a deliberate point of not paying attention to the material value of things.
     We had a metal stake in our patio garden and Bob worried that someone might trip and fall on it, so one day he brought out the huge Bette Davis head and placed it on top of the stake, kind of like a protective knob.
     “Bob,” I cried, “it looks like you’ve impaled Bette Davis’ head on a pike in the garden!”
     Bob had known the actress well. A strange smile crossed his face.
     “Good,” he said, and walked away.

Chad and Bob were quite serious about their communism. They used to get together with a couple of other Hollywood geezers—a famous photographer and a well-known set designer—and the four old men would have meetings that involved a lot of lengthy and intense conversation, head-shaking, wine (pot for Chad), despair, and occasional yelling.
     These aging cronies, all of whom had been blacklisted to some degree or another by Hollywood, embraced communism with the idealism of fresh-faced freckled Cub Scouts. I always suspected that if there were ever to be a communist takeover, Chad and Bob would be among the first to be lined up against the wall and shot. Having a communist for a landlord was very handy, however, so I didn’t complain. Communists—at least the naïve ones—feel guilty if they charge too much for rent, and they readily share things like appliances and household tools. I wasn’t about to rock the boat.
     Besides, it was communism that saved me.

     Let me explain. Chad hadn’t asked me out yet. He’d told Bob of his lusty intentions, but I wasn’t supposed to know anything about his longings yet. I dreaded the day when he would reveal his passion to me, because then I would have to reject him. For all his quirkiness and marijuana, he was sweet and I didn’t want to hurt him.
     Chad, it turns out, had been taking prescription pills for high blood pressure. The medicine had an unfortunate side effect. It made him impotent. He confided in Bob that he was planning to discontinue his medication so that he could fulfill his manly duties with me. Unfortunately, doing so would seriously jeopardize his health. What to do? It was a dilemma.
     After Chad shared his secret with Bob, the latter naturally ran straight away to knock on my door of one of my friends in the compound and tell her the whole story. She, in turn, came right over to my house and told me.
     This is how I learned that a movie star wanted my body.

A week passed, and the day I’d been dreading finally came. Chad stopped by and asked if I would come outside and sit with him; he said that he wanted to share something with me. I walked to the patio with a sinking heart. Rejection stinks no matter which side of it you’re on. Bob was also waiting there. I sat between the two of them.
     Chad began to court me in earnest. His way of doing this was unconventional. As soon as I sat down, he grabbed a long, musty yellowing piece of paper and thrust it under my nose.
     “Read this,”  he demanded. Then he sat back with an anxious sigh and waited.
      The paper he handed me must have been well over 50 years old. It had been painstakingly mimeographed, which is the way documents were duplicated in the days before copy machines, and it was crammed with columns of words, words and more words that had been typed in tiny crooked print extending nearly to the edges of the page. There were capital letters and exclamation marks sprinkled excessively throughout the narrow columns. I’d guess that about 2,000 words had been jammed onto that one page.
     While Chad squirmed with anticipation, I politely scanned a few of the sentences. Now, I am a good reader. I will happily read Thackeray or Sir Walter Scott, for example, and enjoy them. I have a volume of Melville on my night table. Trying to make sense of this stuff, however, made my head ache. It was incomprehensible. Typewritten letters formed shrill, ranting sentences that were both illogical and mad. The experience was as unpleasant for my nose as it was for my brain, because the paper beneath my gaze reeked of mildew.
     When I looked up, I saw with dismay that Chad had brought along a huge cardboard box full of similar decaying papers. They had been stored in his garage for years. The poor man had carried all of these tedious, tiresome manifestos to the patio in the hope of sharing his beliefs with me. He imagined that after I read them, I would be inspired to see politics in his pathetic, crazy way, and become a convert to communism.

     He was deluded, of course, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Before I could figure out how to tell Chad diplomatically that it just wasn’t going to happen, Bob reached behind me and nudged him. The two began conversing over my head as though I wasn’t even there.
      “What’s the matter with you? Are you f**king nuts?” yelled Bob, who did not endorse diplomacy in the same way that I did.
      He yelled because of Chad’s hearing loss, although Bob was somewhat prone to yelling regardless.
     “She doesn’t want to read them,” he shouted. “You’re never going to get her that way.”
     “I’m never going to get her in the hay?” replied Chad.
     Close enough.
     “She doesn’t want to read them,” repeated Bob in exasperation.
     “Need them?” asked Chad.
     “READ them. She isn’t going to READ them,” screamed Bob. “Look at her. She doesn’t like them!”
     “No?” Chad seemed surprised.
     “NO!” Bob shrieked.
     “Oh,” said Chad sorrowfully. “That’s too bad.”
     He paused to think for a moment.
     “Well,” he finally said, speaking over my head to Bob as though I weren’t present, “I can’t be with a woman who doesn’t believe in the party.”
     As easily as I had been snagged, without even saying a word, I was off the hook. Like I said, I was saved by communism.

Although it may have been absurd to consider having an affair with Chad, I did enjoy him. He was easy on the eyes, and he told good stories.
     Like this one. When he had been a muscle man, he used to own a gym. His clients had included the movie stars Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in the days before they became famous.
     Chad fondly recalled a time when he was giving Kirk Douglas a rubdown and, as a practical joke, applied kerosene to Douglas’ testicles. Apparently his poor victim had run naked through the gym, screaming at the top of his lungs.
     Chad laughed and laughed as he told that story. It made me wonder what would have happened to me had I been naked and at his mercy.

Fortunately, that never happened, although I confess that my heart always beats a little faster whenever I watch him take off his shirt in his old movies.

© 2011, M. E. Raines
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