I love the era of the 1920’s. Art Deco, F. Scott Fitzgerald, old Jazz, silent films, the wild exploits – they’ve always appealed to me. So I began to wonder what it might be like for a gay couple during that time. What if they headed west to make their fortune in Hollywood, and were seduced by the more lurid aspects of the celluloid kingdom? Would the intense love that bound them together survive?
Many of the heartthrob male actors at that time were gay. Some rumored, some admitted. It was a nine year moment in history – against the ironic backdrop of illegal booze – that was more unrepressed and free than ever before. The word gay as a label for a male homosexual was first coined during the twenties by jazz musicians as a more positive term than the derogatory ones in use. The backlash against the puritan aspects of the Victorian era was massive. Yet – as much as there was acceptance in the big cities, there was still a deep seated conservatism everywhere else. The earliest silent films had every manner of never-before-seen behaviors.
Eventually, there was outrage from the middle America public, and morals clauses were added to star’s contracts. The party wasn’t over, but it had to be more discreet. Being openly gay would only destroy a screen god’s career. Was Rudolph Valentino gay? Roman Novarro most certainly was. Everyone has a different opinion. It was difficult to know for sure, as many people were pushing boundaries, and not just buying into what had always been traditionally accepted. Men’s washrooms contained a dispensary of pink powder in which they could insert a coin, hold a puff underneath, and then pat their cheeks with the cosmetic. To be sure, the song, “Masculine Women, Feminine Men” - sung with an implied wink - is a testament to the feelings about gender identification of the decade.
In book one of my Gin & Jazz series, Hollywood Bound, my main characters – Nick and Jack – dream of certain fortune in Hollywood. Nineteen year-old orphaned Jack has always loved the older, streetwise Nick, but his affections have never been returned. Nick struggles with his feelings, raised to believe that being queer is wrong. In this short scene when they sneak into the theatre at one night to keep from sleeping on the streets, there is a pivotal moment between them:
“Get in quick before anyone sees us!”
Jack ducked under Nick’s arm with which he was holding open the door, and stepped into the utter blackness of the backstage. Nick followed behind him, and practically ran him over in the darkness. Jack pitched forward, but Nick grabbed him by the waist and held him fast. For mere moments Jack leaned a little back into Nick’s embrace, the only sounds he could hear being the pounding of his heart, and Nick’s elevated breathing. Cloaked in secrecy by the lack of light, it suddenly seemed okay to just be close to Nick. No pretense of the cold being the reason, just the desire for one another’s warmth.
Jack turned within Nick’s hold, and put his arms up around Nick’s shoulders. He pressed his cheek to Nick’s chest and breathed him in. Nick tensed a little, but didn’t let go. It seemed as if this one moment would forever change them. Tentatively, testing to see how far he could go, Jack ran his hands down Nick’s muscled back. He stopped when he reached his waist, waiting to see if Nick would push him away. Even though he remained tense, he didn’t grab Jack’s hands to stop them, and he didn’t let go of Jack’s waist.
Jack paused before going any further. The quiet was deafening between them, but he was certain that if he uttered any sound, it would break the magic that was keeping them both in thrall. Moving even more cautiously, Jack let his hands drop lower, past Nick’s waist, and settled them on the ass he had secretly admired for so long.
The silence broke.
“Jacky,” whispered Nick, ”We shouldn’t be touching each other like this.”
Even as he said it, Jack knew in his heart that it was a lie, as Nick hadn’t let him go. And he could feel his closest and only friend’s hard cock pressed against his belly.
Sweet and innocent nineteen year-old Jack has loved the older and more street wise Nick from almost the first time he met him. Nick has taken care of him ever since Jack arrived in New York after he was beaten and thrown out of the boy’s orphanage for messing around with one of the guys there. They share a passion for silent films and have dreams of heading west to make their fortunes building sets for the studios. If only Nick felt a passion for Jack, and wasn’t already engaged to a gal back in Philly.
Nick’s temper sometimes gets the best of him, but that’s only because he worries about Jack – Nick is all the poor kid has to take care of him. But he’s also terrified about the way he’s been feeling towards Jack lately. They’re the kinds of feelings he should only be having for his fiancé, Penelope - and never for a man. His only goal is to get them both to Hollywood, where he’s sure they’ll be rolling in the dough in no time, and where everything will all work out the way it should.
Hollywood isn’t exactly what they’d thought it would be. There are plenty of gin joints, jazz, money, parties and sex – but everything comes with a hefty price. Everyone they meet - from Trixie Fox, the ditzy up and coming starlet, to Bernie, the foreman who gets them their first studio job - seems to have a hidden agenda. Can the newfound love between Jack and Nick survive the tawdry mess that makes up the glitz and glamor of the celluloid kingdom, or will their own secrets tear them apart forever?
Hollywood Bound is available now at a 15% discount at Total-E-Bound available for download at TEB October 4th, and everywhere November 1st.
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