Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A Hard Man is Good to Find...

A hard man is good to find. ----Mae West

It had come to this.

The squeaky bogus leather cushions of the psychiatrist’s couch. Me, hugging myself—partly in defiance at finding myself here, and partly against the arctic blast from the air conditioner.

Antonio was stoic as always, arms stiff at his sides and no expression on his face. Nothing ever seemed to penetrate his solid emotional veneer; but, then, this was one of the things I loved so about him.

Dr. Craggly sank into the loud cushions of his own fake leather chair and twisted the dented blue cap of his Bic pen between his teeth, biting on it intermittently. He scanned Antonio and me over the rims of his narrow wire-rimmed glasses.

I recognized the doctor’s well-camouflaged mix of puzzlement and humor. Not the type of humor when one finds something delightful, but the brand induced by bizarre things—you know, a naked man stepping onto a subway or a woman parading through Macy’s wearing only a bra and panties.

Finally, yanking the pen from his mouth, Craggly glanced from the chart on his lap to me and Antonio and pointed the Bic in our general direction. His voice, obviously concealing an attempt not to laugh, was strained and quiet. “And who is your friend?” Tossing another quick look at the chart, he shook his head. “I don’t believe you’ve....introduced…him.”

“This is Antonio.”

Craggly cocked a brow and nodded, studying us. The wheels in his brain turned, I could hear them, as though he charted to build a bridge across the Grand Canyon with nothing but a hammer and a ball of twine. He cleared his throat. “It’s nice to…meet you…Antonio.”

Antonio didn’t return the greeting.

The doctor settled his thin frame deeper into the chair, poised the pen over the tablet resting on his crossed legs, and opened the Pandora’s Box so clearly looming in his mind. “And what has brought you and….” After coughing once more, he continued, “Antonio here to see me?”

Drawing a deep, resigned breath, I proceeded to explain.
* * *

First of all, Antonio is NOT to be confused with his cheap competitors who are mere imitations of who...rather what…he actually is. They are ridiculous blow-up dolls. Antonio is body guard doll, popularly known as Safe-T-Man. Big difference. Huge difference. So there.

But I can see you’re still snorting. So let me tell YOU what I told Dr. Craggly. Let me list for YOU the reasons my darling Antonio happens to be a much more suitable companion than a—close your ears, Tony dear—real man.

1) How many men would actually let you NAME them? You love Italians as I do? Fine. Safe-T-Man is now Antonio. Why, tomorrow, if I was in the mood for a Greek fellow, his name could quickly be changed to--let me think--Zorba. Next week he might be Sven.

2) How many men would let you write, uninterrupted, every evening, and still sit placidly while you did so? The freedom for your work and yet the welcome companionship. A seemingly impossible scenario made VERY possible with Antonio.

3) How many men can be deflated and discreetly transported about in the trunk of your car, or simply stored away in your closet in their own personal custom-crafted carrying case? To be at your side when you crave companionship, but easily stashed away when you don't?

4) How many men do YOU know that can double as a life raft? I, for one, am not a good swimmer; and I find this handy feature quite valuable for trips to the beach. Certainly beats the old boring floats, don’t you think? Ah, the exquisite luxury of being able to ride the waves on my faithful Antonio. Oh, and in case you’re concerned—Antonio is equipped with a repair kit. Punctures (no, I would NEVER intentionally puncture Antonio) are never a problem. A quick patch-up and he’s good as new. And that alone is another priceless feature! Real men squawk and whine when they stub their toes. Not Antonio. The boy can take a run-in with a cat or dog without making a noise while he’s being repaired. Oh, talk about your Alpha man!

5) Antonio does not snore. Well, unless you count the occasional leak of air. But, as mentioned above, even those rare occasions are a cinch with his repair kit.

6) Antonio watches chick flicks and soppy historical romances with me, and never, never, never says a word. Never interrupts the film, never makes smart comments while I’m trying to concentrate.

7) Antonio doesn’t cost much in the way of groceries. He does not even eat.

8) On that note, he IS the perfect dinner companion, though. He does not slurp, does not burp or belch and--since he does not eat--does not spill food or drinks on the carpet.

9) Jealousy is never an issue with Antonio. He never looks at other women. When in public, women may give Antonio curious glances, but he does not return the attention. A faithful sort, he is.

10) Antonio, thanks to his handy size and cushiony comfort, can not only be a companion in bed, but he can also BE the bed when needed. Especially when camping.

11) There are never any disagreements over what Antonio will wear. He wears whatever I want him to. In fact, Antonio and I never have any disagreements at all. He never argues with me.

12) Antonio listens to me, always giving me his undivided attention. Actually, he never says much at all. He is the strong, silent type. Another one of his Alpha male features.

13) Antonio has no problems aiming for the toilet. He never leaves the toilet seat up.

14) Some might complain that Antonio makes his companion do all the cooking. Oh, that doesn’t bother me. Sure, I love a man who cooks, but it’s a small sacrifice for such perfect company.

15) I think Antonio’s only disadvantage is that he is highly flammable. No, I don’t mean his temper. He never loses his temper. He IS, however, susceptible to go up in flames if too near a fireplace, heater or bar-b-que pit. One must be careful, but that’s okay.

I could go on and on about Antonio. His benefits are countless. Oh, sure, there are the obvious things that Antonio cannot do, and I forgive him for those, as he makes up for them in so many other ways.

But can’t you see? I’m not crazy at all! Antonio and his type really CAN be quite a sensible solution to companionship while addressing concerns such as space and convenience. And taking into account the fact that Antonio has a life-time warranty, he is actually quite a bargain.

And, of course, you can see why Antonio, aka Safe-T-Man, is not to be confused with his inferior competitors, the overrated blow-up doll.

I’ve not convinced Dr. Craggly that Antonio is not an outward sign that I’m a few wings short of an airplane. But I think Antonio is beginning to grow on him.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Happy Birthday, Valentino!

Ah. I knew some excuse would come along for me to write about one of my most beloved fantasy men. My favorite actor. One of the handsomest men in my world’s menagerie of gorgeous hunks.

Rudolph Valentino. The original gorgeous hunk. The original heart throb. The man who put the word Latin in Latin Lover. The sleek, brooding panther who invented “bedroom eyes”. The young film idol who rode onto the screen in 1921 and put the word “sheik” into the world’s vocabulary, making the word an icon that symbolized exotic passion and smoldering eyes. The first Great Lover of the Silver Screen.

Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi was born on this day, in 1895, in Castellaneta, Italy. Today is his 116th birthday. So—Happy Birthday, Valentino!

I’m not going to go into a lengthy biography. I only want to dedicate a birthday card to the man who came to the United States in 1913, as a kid of 18. The kid who, by the age of 26 became the biggest male sex symbol in history by shocking the world with his exotic, erotic tango scene in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The story behind this legendary role was the stuff dreams were made of—a proverbial but true “rags to riches” story.

A powerful screen writer, June Mathis, by chance spotted him in a miniscule role in a film and knew she’d found “her” man for the role of Juan Gallardo in the much-anticipated production of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—the role that every big-name movie star vied for, including Douglas Fairbanks. She used her weight to get the unknown, dark-skinned kid in the lead role for the film; her hunch paid off. Rudolph went to bed the night of the premier as a nobody immigrant kid from Italy—a bit part player, usually cast as a “heavy” because of his dark coloring—and woke up a sensation with the face that would launch women’s hearts to romantic depths until this very day.

The primo celebrità of all time was born.

When he played the role of Ahmed Ben Hassan in The Sheik, bringing to life the sweltering sexuality of Edith Hull’s novel of the same name, he only cemented his standing as the greatest screen lover of all time. A position which, in my mind, has never been usurped.

Rudolph Valentino. You might have never seen one of his films. But very few can hear the name and not immediately summon a vision of romance. Even if you can’t place his face, you know when you hear the name Valentino that it means romance, it means sensuality, seduction. You just know it. Your mind is immediately swept to black lace and tangos, blacker than black hair, hypnotic eyes, kisses on the palms of hands, romance under the desert stars, lips speaking silent words of passion, tuxedoes, swank grace, feline masculinity.

Behind the bigger than life veneer, though, stood a man who actually was very simple and very much in awe of his sex symbol status. A man who loved good books and owned an extensive library. A man who loved poetry (even had a book of beautiful poems published, titled Daydreams, which you can buy here), good music, art, and who knew several languages. An extremely educated man. He loved animals. He loved to work on cars. He fenced, rode horseback with the skill of a seasoned equestrian (did most of his own riding in his films, even the dangerous scenes). He loved to cook, especially for friends in his own home. He was a man whose real life was a far cry from the sizzling persona on the screen—a sweet, decent, loving man. A man who wanted desperately to shake his “sheik” image and find serious roles—he was, in fact, a very good actor.

He separated from his wife, Natacha Rambova, in 1925. Their parting at the train station was a highly publicized event—a photo journalist feeding frenzy. Photos still remain of their parting kiss as she stood on the train steps. They were to never meet again in life.

On August 15, 1926, during a stop in New York City for a promotional tour for his final film (tragically, no one could know it was indeed to be his last film), The Son of the Sheik, Valentino was stricken with an attack caused by a perforated ulcer. He was hospitalized in New York and lingered until August 23, then succumbed to complications of this condition.

His passing affected the public in a way unlike anything the world had ever seen. Public pandemonium ensued. At only 31 years old, The Great Lover was dead. Over 100,000 mourners packed the streets in New York where his body lay in state. His body was returned to California to be interred, where it still remains, in Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

I’m not sure why I’m doing this tribute to him. I have nothing to add that isn’t already common knowledge. I suppose I do so, wishing that those who only think they know who Rudolph Valentino is would stop for a moment to know him. Watch a silent film. You’d be surprised how beautiful his films are—how really interesting silent films are in general. A world of art that should be explored, where treasures of the senses wait, ready to delight.

So, happy birthday, Rudolph Valentino. You would have been 116 years old today. My, my. But, as tragic as your too-early death was, it served to forever stamp the picture of your youth, at the height of your beautiful life, forever in my mind.