Tuesday, August 08, 2006

James Kirkwood

Vicki Van Lieu was my best friend as a teenager. We used to hang out after school and write stories, and it's through Vicki that I discovered a writer who was very influential in my development. Vicki's mother had a sleek black cat named Rajah, and Vicki and Rajah had a love-hate relationship. So when Vicki stumbled on a book called P.S. Your Cat is Dead, she picked it up immediately.

She lent it to me later, and I fell in love with it. It's the story of a struggling actor whose girlfriend has left him, and it's New Year's Eve and he's all alone. Oh, and p.s., his cat is dead.

Then a burglar breaks into his apartment. Could things get any worse? Well, how about if the burglar was gay, and awoke something dormant inside our hero?

I haven't read the book in years, though I probably should again, just to see if it stands up. But it was really meaningful to me back then, when my own sexuality was more than dormant, and I'm not sure it would have the same impact now.

However, it drove me to read everything James Kirkwood had written. And then I discovered he was the co-author of the Broadway smash A Chorus Line, which opened on Broadway in 1975, the year I graduated from high school. He ended up sharing a Pulitzer and a Tony for his work.

I quickly read everything of Kirkwood's that I could get my hands on, and the homoeroticism of his work, which was very understated, spoke to me in a big way. Like A Separate Peace, the John Knowles novel that sparked the desire to write in me, Kirkwood's work came at a time when I needed to read it, and I'll be forever grateful.

4 comments:

Bill Samuels said...

James Kirkwood's books were certainly chockful of homoerotic content but it's a shame he himself wasn't more comfortable with his sexuality and couldn't be openly gay, even in the post-Stonewall period.

Good luck with your book!

boonerl16803 said...

James, are you still in touch with Vicki? I think she might be the same Vicki I was friends with at Penn State. We worked together at a restaurant/bar called "Rego's" and we had alot of good times together. I think about her often and wonder how she is doing. I would love to get back in touch with her as she touch my life in more ways than she could ever know. If you could put me back in touch with her, it would be greatly appreciated. She always said she was going to write a novel with my "character" in it, I wonder if she ever did.

Thomas said...

I too am looking for Vicki Van Lieu. I believe I knew her at Penn State in the 70s. If you see her, tell her Harvey said hello.

Jon Brian Peterson said...

Vickie Van Lieu was my housemate/roommate at 506 West College in the Summer of 1979. Did anyone find her?