- I am Pretty. I am Loved
I once dated a brilliant stage manager who sold Quaaludes in midtown. He lived in Manhattan Plaza, subsidized housing for professional actors and such. I’d drive into Manhattan from Jersey in my battered-up VW bug, park in the Plaza garage feeling like somebody, then sneak up the 25 floors to Alan’s apartment so I could avoid running into Michael in the elevator, who also lived there, the guy I was cheating on. I didn’t have the heart to break up with him.
We were in show business at the time, congregating at dawn in the Actors Equity Lounge, awaiting the dreaded auditions. A couple here, a couple there. Several times a day we’d exit stuffy rehearsal rooms with plastic smiles— “How did it go?” “Great, how was yours?” Either that or we were sneaking headshots under agents’ doors. There was no Internet then, Facebook or any of that. We were on our own, trying to prevent people from seeing us willing to do anything to sell ourselves.
I’d met Alan in the lounge one morning and promptly decided he was a lot sexier than Michael, which in those days was my main criteria for choosing a man. I had no interest in what came out of their mouths as long as they took me by the scruff of the neck, into bed, out of bed, it didn’t much matter. Michael had introduced me to a lot of theatre contacts though, wasn’t street smart enough to suspect anything, so I kept them both going for as long as I could. Also, back then, to pay the bills I worked as an exotic dancer in Jersey and the one time the cops arrested me for “lewd behavior,” Michael was useless, unwilling to drive across the river to bail me out.
So I didn’t feel guilty sneaking into Alan’s apartment. I felt safe, even though I was the only woman on those stoned nights when we’d all pile in his car and head to Queens for Greek food or to Mott Street for Chinese. I felt safe even though we were snorting piles of speed and cocaine as big as your fist. Popping Quaaludes like candy.
I felt safe with his friends too; no one dared touch me unless I wanted them to. During those nights, I was Alan’s girl. He would squeeze the back of my neck when we sat together on the couch, and once when I tried to interfere with his business he said, “Why don’t you shut the fuck up?” and then a second later, kissed me hard on the mouth and said, “I’m sorry baby, I’m sorry I said that.”
That felt so good. I’m not sure why. I felt safe because all we ever did was fuck and eat and do drugs with his friends in his cozy apartment in Manhattan Plaza and it was a secure building with 25 floors and his was the penthouse. This made me feel safe. The building. Even though he never met any of my friends or bothered to visit me in Jersey. Even though he gave me herpes and swore he didn’t (“Jesus Alan you’re the only one I know who has to wrap his dick in ice and wet paper towels!”). Even though on one of those nights, he almost got me killed.
Manhattan Plaza! What I would have given to live there. But unlike Michael and Alan, I didn’t earn enough money from acting to qualify for residency. I was a struggling actress stuck in practically the Holland Tunnel in a two-family house with my ancient Italian landlady who lived upstairs and had no qualms about checking up on me periodically. Talk about a social life. My only salvation, when I wasn’t taking my clothes off in some crummy bar in the Jersey flatlands or running to auditions, was to hang out in the city with my girlfriends or go see Alan. I didn’t care if we went anywhere or did anything. I didn’t even care...