The Secret Garden

1.18.2012

By William Van Meter

Visionary director James Bidgood found his soulmate in a grindhouse.

The 1971 cult film Pink Narcissus is a color-drenched gay erotic fantasia, contrasting a hustler’s sexual reveries with the sordid reality of the underworld. The writer and director, James Bidgood, had labored on the film for close to 10 years before a production company came in with last-minute funding. They ended up taking the film away before he could edit it. Thus began a four-year fugue of depression that wasn’t pierced until he met his partner, Alan Blair.

SLIDESHOW: SNAPSHOTS OF JAMES & ALAN

“I met him in 1975 at an old movie theater called the Metropolitan on East 14th Street in New York. It showed straight films, but it was a gay suck-off palace. There should be a plaque on the sidewalk because it was incredible. Hundreds of fairies would have sex in the balconies -- the first floor was mostly old winos passed out. But the rest of the place was solid fruit, and they were all a-suckin’ and a-carrying on. I was blowing somebody in the first row and also taking drugs. I had my little metal box out and was selecting which acid and what pills to take and smoking a joint. And this silhouette went by to the door to the alley.

There was something about that silhouette. I put my tin box away and went to the alley, which was pitch dark unless someone lit a joint. In the darkness I reached out and touched him, and the electricity was incredible.

In the theater, we did it in the toilet and behind the movie screen. Several people would join in and we had mini orgies all over and some very nasty things took place. He insisted on not getting a cab. He said, “If you don’t come with me on the bus, it means you don’t want me.” I was tripping on 18 kinds of acid with my eyes rolling in my head. You know the fluorescents on the bus? Rays were coming off of me. I was stinking and my God, my eyes. In those days, no one turned his head. It was after the hippies. We took it for granted. You could walk down the street naked with a roaring hard-on. Going on the bus was traumatic for me because I wasn’t used to it, but no one noticed.

 

SLIDESHOW: 26 LOVE STORIES

Alan had an act that usually caused people to run. He had rings in the ceiling and a trapeze and would hang by his balls. He said, “Do you mind if I go into the other room? I’d like to change into something you might enjoy.” And he left the room. The lighting changed so there was only light coming through the incense and pot smoke. And Donna Summer started singing. Suddenly, this leather fishman stepped in. Anyone else would have been terrified. And he pumped, so he had enormous private parts coming out of this brown leather costume. It was thousands of grommets and lace. And he had a staff with two big balls on it. I whispered, “I’m King Farouk. I’m the sultan.” I couldn’t have been closer to heaven. I was blown away -- this god in leather, this sexual fantasy, stepped out of my head.

It turned out he had a brain! And that we loved the same things. He turned out to be the nicest guy and we both had cats. I had seven; he had two. We built a garden on the roof. It was better than the botanical garden in Brooklyn. The entire roof of two buildings was covered in potted plants. I had 80 dahlias, 120 rose bushes. We had willow trees. We were on the fifth floor, so it was one flight up to the roof. And there was a garden bench and a cherub on one wall with foxgloves growing around it. Couples were married in that garden. People would pick flowers for their kitchen.

Alan was an actor in Jesus Christ Superstar. We toured together. The straight guys had wives with them. I was his wife. Then we became bed stylists. When you see a catalog shot, there are beds in it, and they never look how beds actually look. It’s like when they photograph soup, they put marbles in the bottom to push the thick stuff to the top. We made those beds look like they had the thickest comforters. He pressed and prepped everything, and I did the styling. We had one hell of a life when it was good. And the sex. We had marathon sex for days. It was all sex costumes, sex clubs, and going to the theater. This was the days of the Mineshaft and those nasty clubs in the Village. And now it’s all gone, including Alan.

 

SLIDESHOW: SNAPSHOTS OF JAMES & ALAN

Alan had a terrible headache on Christmas day. The next morning, he was in a coma, and I couldn’t wake him. They were going to cut a hole in his head to let the blood out, but they said the stroke was so severe it was useless. He died of a brain hemorrhage in 1985. It was New Year’s Eve.

I was inconsolable for years. I loved that man so much. People would call years later and find out he was gone, and they would say such wonderful things because he was a special human being. Everyone who ever met him knew that. This was to the bone. We fit together. We were one unit. It’s something you don’t experience with just anybody. I had the 10 best years of my life with that man.”

Bidgood lives in the same building and has been single since Alan died. The roof garden was torn down in the ’80s for code violations.

 

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