A Life in The Bar, 1969-2000


Dancing boys

Botched biz on St Joseph

Colby's logo upside down
The world turned downside up:
Dirty dancers get kicked upstairs at Colby's, easy eroticism below gone to numbing videos.

George Hislop said the owners didn't know their audiences. Nor did they know the bar as a place of connections beyond commerce, a place of community.

January through May

In early January I went to Colby's hoping to find Ricky. I hadn't seen him since before Christmas, not very happy then. He'd been to Montreal the weekend before, trying his luck in that city's strip bars. He made not a cent.

Before that he'd done a modelling session. I'd seen the contact sheets -- liking best the shots where he had clothes on, the focus on his face -- and had given him $80 for a set of prints. He'd had to spend that on train fare to Montreal, but said he'd still try to get me those photos.

They didn't really matter to me, much as I liked the thought of having him in pictures. Nor did the money. I just wanted to see how he was doing. Now, on a Wednesday, one of Ricky's usual days, he wasn't there.

I sat with Norman Hatton. George Hislop joined us and asked, "Do you know what's happened to Ricky?" If George had to ask, always up on the boys, I knew Ricky hadn't been around for some time. I asked another dancer Ricky had seemed friends with if he had any news. "He quit" -- short, sharp, impatient at an approach not about himself. Then he was gone.

As perhaps was Ricky. He had my number but I didn't have his; he was rarely in any one place long enough to have a phone.

Friday, January 15, 1993, 9 pm, to Jane:

Tonight at seven the phone rang and it was Ricky. He was at Colby's, had to talk over the music, had been there three nights running, not working (he may later on weekends) but hoping I'd be there. He's got an apartment out of the neighbourhood with two friends. He giggled a few times and it was only then that he sounded truly himself to me. I guess I'd missed that laugh. Tonight he just wanted to let me know he was okay. I said he should call again sometime soon and we could get together. He liked that.

Well, he may or may not call; I may or may not be here when he tries, may or may not put Colby's back on my usual itinerary. But I like him a lot for calling tonight. I like thinking I had something right about who he might be after all.


Colby's had fallen off my itinerary for reasons having little to do with Ricky. That same day I ran into Norman and George I asked them about a rumour I'd heard from one of the dancers: they were all to be shunted off upstairs, the owners apparently nervous at what some of them had been getting away with in dark corners down on the main floor.

I wrote to Jane a few days later:

George has a handle on how many social scenes a place like Colby's can be, based on the varied use of its geography over time: a casual, friendly, but very sexy scene downstairs just after work, the B team boys wandering among patrons who'd got to know them and each other; then after 9 a disco, a whole different feel, the dancers tucked away upstairs with a much less convivial clientele.

George moaned that those in control didn't know their audiences. Nor did they know their role in providing a place of community. I couldn't have got to know Ricky upstairs late at night even if he had been there. It's not casual enough. The pressures of the trade wouldn't have allowed us all that time to sit and talk.

There wasn't much of an audience at 6 today, not downstairs, now a half hearted video bar, nor upstairs, more dancers than patrons. I had one beer, watched one dancer -- nice body, but stoned -- and came home to Star Trek instead.

So much for Colby's, Ricky or not. For now anyway.


Xtra 260: Mark Leduc
Olympian at Woody's:
Silver medal boxer Mark Leduc; by Oct 1994 Xtra's cover boy.

How easy would it have been years ago for a boy like this to be hanging out so comfortably in a gay bar? A sweet kid; how wonderful that he's possible.

Other bars still had occasional appeal, if not chatty boys wearing almost nothing. One night a few days before, I had sat down at 12:15 am to that same letter to Jane, offering her a scene from that Sunday's evening at Woody's. I'd been there with Carle Falle, chair of ACT's board of directors.

At one point a young man approached Carle. A face seen, Carle had forgotten where -- but the boy remembered and was forward enough to come say so. "And you're...?" Carle said. "Mark" he said, mentioned where they'd met. It was at an ACT fundraiser.

"Oh you're the boxer. You went to the Olympics." True. Small, boxy, square headed and pug nosed: he certainly looked like a boxer. Carle asked about his career. The Games had been the high point, boxing only a small part of his life now. He's applied for a social work course at Ryerson, wants to do AIDS work. A nice kid. After maybe ten minutes and a polite goodbye he wandered off. I noticed the five Olympic rings on the back of his jacket.

I am so used to gay life, find it so normal, that it took me a while to realize how remarkable this little scene had been: this was Mark Leduc. I probably saw him on TV this summer, probably thousands saw him, a classic little contender from Kingston. I don't remember if he won a medal. Now here he was at Woody's, casually wandering around with a beer in a gay bar.... My god, he's gay!

No surprise, really: we are all kinds of people, not that one in a thousand watching TV might have guessed that Mark is one of our kind. The surprise was that it came to me as such a revelation, took me so long to connect this normal occurrence -- many faces in the bar turn out on investigation to be remarkable people -- with how abnormal it would have seemed to the rest of the world.

How easy would it have been 10 or 20 years ago for a boy like this to be wandering a bar like this so comfortably? We've worked so hard for such small, special pieces of normal life.

But in the moment it wasn't the struggle I felt. It was simple pleasure. I smiled at him a lot. A sweet kid; how wonderful it is that he's possible.

Mark had won an Olympic medal: silver. John Russell at ACT told me that: he had a poster of Mark in his office, dukes up. He would become something of a poster boy, openly gay boxers rare enough and this one such a cute, engaging little redhead.

The next year he was on the cover of Xtra, his story proving his pugilism strictly professional: he'd once been queerbashed and hadn't used his fists. I'd later see him at 399 Church, working with the Toronto PWA Foundation.


Smile, squeezes, hugs lifting me off the floor; a donut on my desk one morning. I'd leave him baklava: "Lion food!"

Every day, all day, five days a week: there he was, sheer joy.

ACT provided a more continuous attraction. In late 1992 the finance office had hired an assistant on another short term grant, ostensibly for training but as usual just as more cheap labour.

Gary, 23 (or so he said at the time; in fact 21), was lushly compact with bright green eyes behind long dark lashes, a broad nose, and sideburns that cut angles on his cheeks to aim at his mouth, each one shaved to a point.

He looked like a lion cub, a description he relished; he was a Leo, a sun sign and sunny he could be, radiant, sensual, playful as a cub. He liked coming up behind me as I sat at my computer and giving my back a rub.

He did this to others too; rubs, hugs, an arm over a shoulder. I chalked up his physical ease in part to culture: he had grown up in Jamaica. He soon learned some of the women there didn't like it -- at least from him: ACT was big on sappy hugs innocent of erotic intent; Gary's weren't like that. But, you can be sure, no man there objected.

Gary became as Kevin Hunt had been in 1989 the office boy toy, though just as with Kevin there was much more to him than that. His best buddy was Jim Truax -- an odd connection on the face of it, Gary the youngest person on staff, Jim at 57 the oldest. But they clicked. (Yvette thought they were fucking -- a less perceptive take than her usual.)

For all his physical generosity, Gary often held back his feelings. Jim could bring him out, playing raucous no nonsense old fag with snappy lines learned over a long gay career. He'd had a lover for ages, dead some years; they'd run a shop grooming dogs. Now he was executive assistant in AIDSupport and a fellow member of the HIV Caucus.


Gary, Jim and I often went out together, the two older of us, I came to see, as Gary's cover. One night at Woody's he was being heavily cruised by three men at once, his arm over my shoulder and his cheek brushing mine more a message to them than to me. Not that I minded.

On a later night there a piggishly handsome man fixed on Gary like an eagle with a hare in its sights. Gary left Woody's with me that night, his arm over me as usual. But he'd gone back (he told Jim, Jim told me), found that man again, necked fiercely with him in a corner -- and then went home without him.

Home for Gary was his computer, and his boyfriend, a ratty kid messed up on drugs. Gary used the computer to avoid him. He didn't always avoid being abused, sometimes hit.

It would take me some time to know these things and even then I would know not much, Gary's life beyond boy toy not a story he was eager to tell. Ask him how he was and he'd say "fine," even if something in his eyes said otherwise.

Then he would be fine or try to be: a smile, a squeeze, hugs lifting me off the floor, a donut on my desk he brought in for me one day. I'd later leave him baklava, knowing he loved it, with a note: "Lion food!" Every day, all day, five days a week -- there he was, and was for me sheer joy.


I joked with Jane Rule that I'd become Star Trek's Counsellor Deanna Troi.

Bob & I had lunch, seeing much the same problems. Most people did. But Bob talked to few staff, afraid of some. Few knew what he might have to say.

He'd have his say nonetheless. (If, in fact, it was his.)

ACT had barely settled from its move when it became unsettled again, and much more seriously. Like any organization of a certain age its arteries were hardening, its internal mechanics a greater preoccupation than the goals they were meant to achieve.

Counselling was too often shaped less by coherent standards than personal whim. Support groups dragged on, treating the same few people like patients needing long term psychotherapy, not a few months of guidance to help them get on with their lives. Some in groups got overdependent; many more outside could depend on such support not at all, the sessions closed, and endless.

Yvette Perreault was making herself unpopular in AIDSupport, up against too many loose cannons there as she tried to bring some coherence to their work. Ed Jackson's nit picking could drive his education staff crazy: nothing was ever quite good enough to be declared done and got out into the community.

I had seen Eddie go from strength to strength at The Body Politic, where firm deadlines checked his perfectionism and he could work with peers, not people he had to oversee. When his staff were miffed with him they would talk to me, not to Eddie. I did try to discuss this with him, but it was easy to get his back up -- and then I'd back off.

He and I did talk about this once over dinner at Paul and David's. "Now Ricky," he said, "I'm not that defensive." But as time went on at ACT we two talked less and less and I missed it.


Staff were so disaffected they were meeting outside to talk unionization. I got invited to those meetings -- and at the same time onto the Management Team. I was a manager in effect but not name, supervising no staff; I half suspected an attempt at token representation of People With HIV.

But everyone knew I would not play token, knew that almost everyone had my ear even as various camps crystallized, stopped talking to each other. I was in the middle again; I joked with Jane Rule that I had become Star Trek's Counsellor Deanna Troi.

Bob and I had lunch, seeing many of the same problems -- as most people did. But Bob didn't talk to many staff, was actually afraid of some. Few knew if he had anything useful to say.

He would have his say nonetheless. If it truly was his.


At 5 pm, Wednesday, February 17, Bob came into my office and told me he'd fired Ed Jackson -- effective immediately. "What! How did he react?" Bob said: "He was shocked."

I was shocked. I knew enough about performance assessment -- going back to that management study at the library in 1974 and with lots more study since -- to know that if someone fired were surprised to be, then things had gone off the rails long before and had not been got back on.

It was true: I'd learn that Bob had cancelled three assessment meetings with Ed, had never talked with him about problems in his work. Instead Bob, Carle Falle, and a "termination counsellor" had walked into Eddie's office, got him to turn over his keys and walked him to the door.

Six years there and he was out, just like that.

Eddie (and I) were not the only ones shocked. In a meeting the next day, even people who'd chaffed under Eddie's management rose to his defence. Bob countered that it had been a "termination without cause" -- the usual corporate excuse for summary execution, whatever the motive.


Bob's ostensible motive: "restructuring." He planned to reshape ACT entirely. Ed's position was now "redundant." The board had got his plan just the night before; staff would see it the next day -- for "input."

Ah, "input" -- favoured term of those who pretend to participatory decision making but intend to do exactly as they please. And, in this case, had already announced: a press release headed "ACT restructures" had gone out that very day.

Still, he said, the plan was "tentative." Staff shot back: How could you make such a radical move based on a plan that's tentative? Do you really want "input"? Bob alternated windy platitudes and vague threats. I had never seen anyone try to issue edicts with such fear on his face.

We did get to see the "plan." It was a mess. We'd learn Yvette's job was "redundant" too: she'd have been axed with Eddie if she'd not been pregnant, her second attempt. She would lose the baby, go off sick but come back and lead the charge against Bob -- until he canned her too.

On her departure neither her job nor Eddie's proved to be truly redundant. John Russell, reluctantly, was to fill Ed's role. No one in AIDSupport was willing to take Yvette's place.

There had been no "restructuring." There had been a coup d'état cooked up in secret by the board of directors, their ears cocked to complaints from out on the streets.

Those complaints were legitimate; the board's response to them was not. Bob was merely their pawn. The activist, community rooted, highly politicized staff were to be told to sit down, shut up and provide "service" on orders from people who knew far less about AIDS than they did.

Bob was to make this happen or, as one board member told him, "we'll kneecap you."


Regina Fong
Last of the Romanoffs:
Regina Fong; her trademark theme at The Black Cap "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" -- & wildly waved paper plates.

Kev & I would end our jaunts with a pint at a pub, often on Old Compton St. The Black Cap in Camden was more lively, Regina Fong's routine so age old that everyone knew all the moves -- & that was exactly the point.

In March I renewed my passport. My last had expired on April 15, 1992. I remember looking at that date in some wonder: I'd thought I might expire before that.

Having not, and not wanting to any time soon, I took a break from ACT's inanity and flew off to England again, to Kevin Orr this time as well as Gillian Rodgerson and Lesley Jones -- and to Sam, now just past his first birthday. He and I had great times.

Kevin and I did too. We went to Richmond, far west along the Thames, to find Virginia and Leonard Woolf's Hogarth House: Tube out; for a change of scene a bus back, via the station at Ealing Broadway. But it was closed: a bomb scare, not our first. We ended up walking to North Acton through acres of fake Tudor suburbs.

We had another long walk with our old Aussie buddy Jim Freston one night after leaving the London Apprentice, a very hot gay club in Islington. We trekked nearly five kilometres through deserted streets all the way to Trafalgar Square.

At our bus stop outside Canada House, 3 am by then, there were just a few stragglers. Rather magic, I thought, Trafalgar Square in the dark, Nelson high on his column lit by a pin spot beam from the Admiralty and almost no one there to see him.

Tulips were blooming in Soho Square near a gay café we all saw, Sam included, called The Edge. I was there again for a date with Andrew Alty. He was doing work at the Royal Court Theatre, putting English and refugee kids together in productions and loving it.

I saw Neil Bartlett as well, for dinner at the Café Pelican in St Martin's Lane; he said I'd like it because the waiters were French and competent. He was right. I joked with him about having toured the Tudor burbs of Ealing and he said: But I'm sure that's where I'll end up, with James and a garden and borrowing sugar from the nice lady next door.

In June I'd get a card from him saying that he and his lover James Gardiner, also a writer, had found a nice little place in Brighton.

Kev and I usually ended our jaunts with a pint at a pub, often on Old Compton Street in Soho. It was full of gay drinking spots but, unlike Toronto's Church Street, not the hub of a gay residential area. There wasn't one such place in London but pockets of gay people all over the city, local watering holes scattered far afield. We'd even found one in Richmond.

One night we went to The Black Cap in Camden, a place I'd been often, Gay Times and Gillian nearby. We were there for Regina Fong -- renowned drag artist, self styled last of the Romanoffs and a star of Neil Bartlett's A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep. Her routine was so age old that the whole audience knew all the words, all the moves. And that was exactly the point.

I joined in waving a paper plate over my head to Reg's repeated fanfare: a few raunchy trumpet & sax bars of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."


A vision of life
(Revealed in ink)


Kevin Bryson
in Diseased Pariah News.
"That's right kiddies, we don't care how you got HIV as long as you're not a whining & hateful virgin about it."

"Regrets? No. I still like getting fucked. Live fast,
die hard."

Kevin Bryson
"Buttfucking Saved My Life!"

I also saw another favourite man in London, if not in person. Sitting with Andrew Alty at The Edge I spied a man reading a copy of Diseased Pariah News.

It was, as its masthead read, "a mostly quarterly publication by and for people with HIV disease, a forum to share their thoughts, feelings, art, writing and brownie recipes in an atmosphere free of teddy bears, magic rocks, and seronegative guilt."

I knew the issue that man was reading, its centrefold my dancing vision Kevin Bryson, and in it an article by him: "Buttfucking Saved My Life!" He'd ended it:

Regrets? Well, I wish the term "demon seed" had remained film fiction along with Linda Blair's head spinning and projectile vomiting [in The Exorcist], rather than becoming a real life horror movie that's fucked up all of our lives. But regrets? No. I still like getting fucked. Live fast, die hard.

As another issue of DPN had said: "That's right kiddies, we don't care how you got HIV as long as you're not a whining and hateful virgin about it." I liked this little rag a lot. At The Edge I asked that man if I could borrow his copy to show Andrew.

Kevin Bryson had lived in London for a while; he and Andrew had had an affair. I'd been told, I think by Craig Patterson, also often in London, that it hadn't worked out. But Andrew did seem pleased to see Kevin again.


I came home to the usual obsessions of ACT -- and a growing one of my own. Gary and I were seeing more of each other and not just at the office.

He took me out for dinner one night, came to my place on another to watch a video (Parting Glances, the best movie ever made about AIDS because it was about life, not AIDS). And he invited me to his. "You like spaghetti?" he asked. I did. "Cooked by an expert?" Of course. "Then we'll have to go out!"

But we didn't. The pasta was fine and after it we settled on his sofa, snuggled, and he fell asleep with his head on my chest.

Before I'd left for England we'd gone to Bar 501 after work once, just the two of us. In a quiet moment over his beer Gary had given me a look, one characteristic of him: gentle, giving, yet somehow probing. "I'm going to say this once," he purred, "but I'm not going to say it again. I'm very attracted to you. You better watch out after August 31st." That's when his contract was due to end. He was wary of mixing affairs with work.

We were already having an affair, of course, if not sex. I never knew if he wanted sex, though once knew his body did. We were beside each other on his sofa watching TV, Gary slouched back, his legs sprawled open. He got an erection, unmistakably, his cock swelling full down the right leg of his jeans.

We both knew, we said nothing -- and just as I had with hunky Steve at The Book Cellar in 1970, I did nothing. And for the same reason: I wanted his cock but wasn't sure he wanted me to have it.


41 Dundonald and 33 Isabella
Room with a (too tempting) view:
41 Dundonald, seen from Church & Wellesley -- & seeing 33 Isabella, right.

Gary could want what he said he didn't want. In time he would have it: an affair with someone at work, or nearly. They met in a bar, but the man was with the PWA Foundation, one floor below Gary's office at ACT.

Gary said little about it. He didn't have to: the charge between that brutally handsome man and his newly captive cub was obvious. Once passing in the hall, Gary (as I told Jane, who heard too much about him) gave "the kind of butch melodious 'Hi...' that men in bars give each other when they may have fucked once and test trying it again."

They would try it again and I would know when -- or at least imagine I knew. Gary had left his boyfriend and moved to a new apartment, 33 Isabella Street, 24th floor, south side. From my place on Dundonald, 11th floor, north side, I could see his.

I knew when the lights were on or not, when the sliding balcony door was slid from exactly where it had been last time I looked. Evidence, all of it -- though of what I could only speculate.

I speculated endlessly, made up scenes, my obsession fed by what I could, or could not, see.


At work Gary was still fine with me if a bit distracted, hugs coming less often. I missed the affection, wanted it as relief from the growing tension there.

The place was running on fear -- mostly Bob's. Xtra had done a story on Ed Jackson's firing and run a string of letters protesting it. In early April they ran two big pieces on ACT, planned to mark its 10th anniversary but now zeroing in on what looked like "a brutal corporate putsch."

They were by my long ago boyfriend Brent Ledger, with not a little help from me. I'd given him a copy of the putative plan. He wrote that it "suggests a rather traditional model -- one which even some businesses are fast abandoning -- top down, hierarchical and, at least on paper, rigid."

By early May all but four of ACT's staff had signed union cards. I didn't like casting ourselves in opposition to a place accountable to our own community -- and didn't want to encourage those eager to see ACT become a hive of worker bees, top queens alone making decisions. But I signed up, unionization an obvious swat at Bob.

Then he got another: "This is to inform you that the HIV Caucus has unanimously decided that we no longer have confidence in your ability as Executive Director to manage the AIDS Committee of Toronto."

I hadn't written it (incapable, everyone knew, of a memo just 31 words long); hadn't been at the meeting where it was drafted. But I got called at home to see if it was truly unanimous. It was.


ACT's great mess would soon go public, a vital organization shredding its credibility in front of its own community.

Ruthann and I were feeling out management, or what was left of it. We shared an office (she'd made its sign: "Ruthann Tucker, Office Manager; Rick Bébout, Unofficial Leader").

At the moment we also shared ample time outside: Bob had sent us off for policy training out in the burbs. Our long rides together were perfect for plotting: who would suss out whom; when we could make a move.

On May 10, at 11 am, conspirators marshalled, we did, giving Bob a four page statement addressed to ACT's entire staff and board (I did write that one). It ended: "Bob has told the Board that he feels isolated and without staff support. We can confirm that: He is."

It was signed (in blood it felt) by the entire Management Team. We said we were ready to discuss it in our usual meeting at 1 pm. Bob showed up -- with Carle. He was subdued, admitting that the entire "restructuring" had been a failure. It seemed obvious he had to go. He knew it and Carle seemed to concur. We agreed to talk again next Monday.

But the board propped Bob up, pushing him on. He cornered John Russell and said: if you think I'm going, you're wrong. He meant to pick us off one at a time; one manager did get cold feet.

The rest of us met outside the office the next Sunday. If we got stonewalled at the meeting due the next day we'd have to have our parachutes strapped on. Mine, as I'd told Jane in a letter on May 15, was meant to drop me beyond the field of battle.

For the first time in this I've started saying to people: I don't know how much more I can take. I've been visibly ill [with bronchitis; my doctor Philip Berger worried], having to leave meetings to deal with sudden coughing fits, on an antibiotic and an inhaler now.

I've been willing to pare back my time but still plug on -- if there is the prospect that we can make something good come out of this soon. If not, there's no point fighting the internal battles any more.

I'd told my fellow renegades I might have to go on sick leave. They said: it's about time. I'd been for dinner with Paul and David the night before. Paul had left the board in October 1992, fed up with Bob, and was now itching to write a letter to Xtra. I said he should wait for the right moment. He said he'd call Carle Falle.

He did. On Sunday at 6 he called me: the board was indeed going to stonewall and back Bob. Paul said they seemed paranoid about this mess going any more public: his threat of a letter had been met with the counter threat of a libel suit. It was that kind of time.


Things would get much more public. On May 25 a bright yellow flyer hit the streets: "ACT IS IN CRISIS!" -- done by an ad hoc group of volunteers, among the many leaving ACT in droves, urging people to come out to the annual meeting in June.

CBC News got in on the act, TV as usual ignoring any real issues, reducing the "crisis" to mere bickering. Paul was interviewed for the anti Bob camp; gay city councillor Kyle Rae took Bob's side, saying it was time someone at ACT got rid of the "dinosaurs." Kyle could certainly hold a grudge: he'd had run ins with dino Ed Jackson at The Body Politic many years before.

In all it was a great mess, too long in the telling I admit but longer to live through, watching a vital organization flay itself, shredding its credibility in the eyes of its own community.

But for much of it now I was just a spectator. At that meeting on Monday, May 17, I said I was going off on short term disability leave. Bob met that with smarmy concern, but must have been relieved that one thorn, at least, was out of his side.

I went home, to bed. For a while.


Christmas -- in May:
Suddenly, there he was -- Ricky!

After months of technically chaste affection, after months of not seeing him at all, we went to bed.

"I knew it would be special when we finally did it," he said. It was. "I love holding you," I told him -- "but I am going to suck your cock." He grinned: "For the first time."

June 8, 1993, to Jane:

Two weeks ago Tuesday I was at Colby's, I thought -- foolishly -- to pick up a dancer who had seemed interested in what, as you know, they call a private show. I'd asked him the night before, his body all over my hands, if he did take out. He liked that enough to say yes.

But I didn't take him out then, came back the next night, waited for him. At 1:00 he said, "Are you staying for a while?" I said, "No, I want to take you home" (remember?). "Tonight's not good." I walked down the stairs surprisingly undepressed at not having been able even to buy it.

And just before I got out the door there was -- he spotted me and I him -- Ricky, my skinny little splay toothed pup of last year.

I hadn't seen Ricky since January and then only once, at my place. It hadn't been a private show. He had one booked that night, not with me, but wanted some easier company first. We had talked for two hours, he on about Ouija boards and girlfriend number five, his last boyfriend on hold. Then with a hug and a kiss he was off to his "date." After that we'd lost touch.

Now here he was again, full of chatter. Two girls rushed up. They were all headed off to Bar 1, latest incarnation of 1 Isabella Street, Komrad's gone since the summer of 1991. Ricky asked, "Will you call me?" So at last he had a phone.

The next Sunday night I went to Colby's again, heading upstairs but not making it: downstairs, there was Ricky. "You haven't called me!" "Well, I was going to try you later in the week and see when you might be free." "I'm free now."

So, much to my surprise and without even a beer first, I took him home. He needed money for a date the next day with another girl. I had the money and very much wanted him.

After months of technically chaste affection, after months of not seeing him at all, we went to bed.


"I knew it would be special when we finally did it," Ricky said. It was. He was happy, eager, affectionate. "I love holding you," I said, "but I am going to suck your cock." He grinned: "For the first time."

He had a pretty cock, nicely shaped, smooth as the rest of him; I licked it, kissed it, came up to kiss his face again and then went back down on him, fiercely. "I'm coming," a soft gasp, then louder. "I'm coming!" and I stayed on him, wanting him, gulping him down.

He stayed the night, his head on my chest in the morning. I fed him coffee and Special K, the first breakfast I'd served anyone at my place in well over a year. As he was getting dressed I bit his sweet bottom and gave him a clean pair of socks.

He told me then that he'd lied about his age, for work I think. On that silly birthday in November he had turned not 20, but 19.

On Tuesday night I was at Colby's again -- and there was Ricky, on me with a big hug. "I've got a job!" he yelped. "There's this man who needs someone to take care of him, he's in a wheelchair sometimes. He can pay me $10 an hour."

"He's here. Come meet him." I did: a huge greying gentleman who made me think of what Virginia Woolf said when she'd been latched onto by the ancient British composer Dame Ethel Smyth: "It's like being captured by a giant crab."

I wondered if Ricky had been captured, such an easy mark. He told me the man's name, said he taught at York University. I was so skeptical I later went to a library to look him up in a faculty directory -- and there he was. At Colby's (and, I'd learn, at the St Marc Spa) he was a poet, writing bits of doggerel for favoured boys. His wife knew about his adventures; a few of his rescued waifs had even stayed with them.

Later he gave me his card, PhD, FRSC after his name. So, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Well as I said, you could meet all kinds in the bar.


I told Ricky I had HIV. "It's all right," he said, "I still love you."

Then we talked about safer sex. What he wanted to know about was sex with girls.

Three nights later I was there again, with Ricky and the giant crab. "Thank you for taking care of this boy until now," the good doctor said. I felt I was expected to pass him on to a new protector -- and had.

"Sir," he said to me half in jest, "I must know your intentions regarding my son." I can't recall what I said but it must have been satisfactory. He turned to Ricky and said: "This is your man for the night." I was meant to take him home and keep him as long as I wanted. For the night anyway. If we were done in time, say before 3 am, Ricky was to go find his new keeper at Bar 1. We did as commanded.

In bed I asked: "Is this a professional visit or a friendly one?" "Well," he said, "both." I asked what he needed (as I had the Sunday before; he didn't want to name a price, rather the things he needed). The sex seemed perfunctory, he less into it.

I said to him, "I don't want you to have sex with me unless you want to." He said, "Well, we don't have to finish, I guess." "No, we don't. But I mean it. I need to know you want it." He didn't, other things on his mind -- mostly getting to Bar 1.

When I went to the kitchen for a glass of water I noticed my AZT there waiting for me. I wanted to tell him. Back in bed he rested his head on my chest, put his hand there and said, "You've got something beautiful in here, I want you to take care of it." And that was my opening.

"Do you know I have HIV?" He pulled back a little, looking not scared but solicitous. "Don't be sad," I said, "I just want you to know. I didn't tell you before because it didn't matter. It still doesn't, I just want you to know."

He kissed me, lots of little pecks, our heads not an inch apart on the pillow. "It's all right," he said, "I still love you."

He asked about safe sex after that. Like a fool I thought only of gay sex; what he wanted to know about was sex with girls.


It was love of a sort many might not credit: love simply found, & utterly impractical. Not an arrangement, not a plan.

A gift.

Ricky and I stayed in touch for quite some time after that. He was at my place so often I lost track of the days and nights and what happened on each.

Mostly the same thing happened. My buzzer would ring at some odd hour; there he'd be to loll, eat ice cream, talk and then say, "You want to go lie down and snuggle?" We did nearly every time. Sometimes he'd stay the night.

It wasn't for money. Early on, needing cash for a date with yet another girl, he did ask, "Are you interested in some business?" "Ricky!" I said, "I don't want to just do you." I didn't, but did give him a small loan. On another night when he asked to stay over, I laughed. "All right, how much do you need?"

"Nothing!" -- emphatic, even hurt. "I just want to be with you."

We never did have sex again strictly speaking, but snuggling and kissing he'd often get an erection. Once he woke with his pretty dick poking up past the waistband of his tiny blue briefs. I slid down his stomach and gave it a kiss good morning. He giggled. But I didn't, as I'd joked I might, have him for breakfast.

His departures were prolonged, hugs and kisses at the door; he'd go push the elevator button and then, before it got there, come back and kiss me again.


We loved each other -- if in a way many might not credit. It was not a love one might hope for, seek out, try to build a life around. It was a love simply found. It was utterly impractical.

In a letter to Jane in September I'd say: "I like and respect that this love seems one without aims. Not an arrangement, not a plan, but a gift."

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January 2000 / Last revised: October 8, 2001
Rick Bébout © 2001 /