Today is Tony Perkins' birthday. If he is remembered at all, as Anthony Perkins more likely, it is for PSYCHO, which I find really unfortunate, as what he was really was clever, musical, and, off-screen at least, quite ingeniously funny. I was of course very young, fat, and incredibly naive, with no real idea what gay was, and even being enlightened, or more aptly, endarkened, refused to accept that truth about Tony, whom I loved loved loved. I was just past twenty, he was smart as a whip(why do they make that analogy? What's smart about a whip?) ingenious, original, and, I will have to confess, most touchingly, seemed really to appreciate me. I wrote him poems, songs, sent him funny telegrams in French, and, eventually, books and plays. My first novel, NAKED IN BABYLON, an ill-chosen title, -- I had yet to understand that this burg had no grasp of satire--was hung on our not-really-romance. And I wrote the book to get him to tell me the truth, as the phone rang almost nightly with venomous voices whispering "He's at the beach with Tab," before I slammed it back down into what might have been described when there were still real telephones as the receiver.
Few of us at the time understood homosexuality, and the town and the industry kept it a shameful secret-- a mistake, clearly, but one that now seems almost preferable to its having become practically a billboard, "Hi, I'm David Hyde Pierce, and I'm gay." I think a person's sexuality is pretty much like their underwear: something you need show only to intimates once you know they're that interested in you.
Oh, but I did love him so-- he was SO smart, and SO funny, and had such a brilliant sense of what was brilliant. And because I loved him so terribly-- he was truly handsome before his consciousness went creepy and he decided his shoulders, enormous, were too big for his head and so tried to diet them off-- I couldn't do enough to please him, little understanding that nothing short of my turning into a boy would do the trick. I even wrote a song for Tab, a teen sensation as a movie star, so he made records too. Wanting to be taken seriously were All of Young Hollywood, as they were known then, the rowdiest of them being Dennis Hopper, who, hard as it is to believe now, seeing how seriously he was to take himself, was actually comic, and borderline endearing, he was such an inept would-be hero. Venetia Stevenson, the willowy blonde daughter of the impressively serious actress Anna Lee, was Tab's companion, so no one would know, though everyone did. Except me, because I didn't want to.
Tony and I flew kites on the hill behind my apartment on Fountain Avenue, and put Sidney Skolsky, the gossip columnist who had dared to insinuate in his column that our romance was less than genuine, into the kites, verbally anyway, before we crashed them to earth. I followed Tony to New York when he starred, on Broadway no less, like a real actor, in Look Homeward Angel. He was only okay, but better than he'd been having to pretend he was a match for Sophia Loren onscreen. When he opened in Angel, I gave him a key ring with a gold card that was inscribed with the ten of diamonds, a card that we'd once seen face down on the street, and Tony had said, "What will that card be when we turn it up? If you can tell me, you'll be my date for the opening of Angel." And because I loved him SO, and needed SO badly to impress him and to be his date for the opening, I martialed all my forces and actually saw through it. He'd gone very white, and said "You're a witch." When he opened in Angel, and I'd given him the keyring, my card to him read: "If I was right about this, I must be right about you."
I was sure he would become the biggest actor in motion pictures. I do know to this day that he was probably the smartest.
We became close in a different way once he married Berry, and had to compromise his great intelligence and do stupid and weirder and weirder movies to support his family. I went to her memorial in New York after she died in one of the terrorist plane crashes, something that felt past irony, and met their younger son, who looked strangely like Brad Pitt.
I am sad for him still that he will be remembered, if he is remembered at all, for that weird portrayal in Psycho, still, I think the most frightening movie ever. Marty Balsam, another friend of mine from when I was in love with the Actor's Studio, was the detective in that. Many of my Studio friends, including Janice Mars, had been in love with Marty. But I guess he was a touch too manly for me.
Don, my handsome and gallant husband, tolerant of my love for movie stars, and sweetly forbearing about Tony, met him a couple of times after everybody had come out, when Tony had a diamond in his ear. "You look really great," Tony said to me, after I'd lost all the weight, had my hair done, and a new dress, fitted to my new body, at the opening of a Carol Burnett musical on Broadway. Then he turned to Don. "What a shame you didn't meet her ten years ago."
When I rewrote the scene in my head several times after that, I said: "It wouldn't have made any difference. I was in love with a fag." But I am glad I wasn't that quick or nasty. I still love him, and am glad for any happiness or acceptance he had in his life. And if he'd actually had romances with all the high-end gays it says online he did, including Sondheim and Nuryev, I hope he got more from them than sexual satisfaction. I certainly got plenty from him: it just wasn't exactly what I thought I wanted at the time. And now, of course, what it is and was was History.