Wednesday, June 6, 2007

New Idea, Old Story.

A story for a musical film has been tumbling around in my head the last week or so. I think it could be a very small film, something I could make myself with the help of friends. It makes me smile every time I think about it, so I'm assuming it's a good idea.

There was a guy in my hometown with a peculiar notoriety. He was sort of a hanger-on, I'm not sure what he did for a living, he was just always around. And he was, to put it bluntly, the town queer. In fact, for a while when I was in junior high school, his first name was used as a synonym for queer.

So, in some sense, everybody knew. But just what did they know? Did they know that there was practically a line of teenage boys in and out of his efficiency apartment on weekend nights? Did they know that he was showing them man/boy Super 8 stag films on his living room wall, having sex with them, and sending them home with porn magazines and a list of all the other gay kids in town?

This went on for many years. He was probably in his 30s when I knew him, in the late 70s. He was not what I would call an attractive man. But the knowledge he had, the access to a world of pleasure, was obviously a magnet for homosexual kids with no other role models. Call him a sexual predator, but he provided a service no one else was providing.

Some years after I grew up and left Indiana, I heard that he ran for mayor and lost, and then that he was arrested and put in jail. I don't know what he was charged with; the story I heard was that it had to do with his sex life, but I can't verify that. I can't find anything in the web archives of the local paper.

The fact that he ran for mayor is what most intrigues and inspires me -- and makes me laugh -- about the story, and it's also what makes me think: musical! If I can get an audience past its revulsion toward a character who takes advantage of sexually inexperienced, confused, and affection-starved teenagers, there's a lot of humor and small-town charm in the story. Shades of The Music Man.

I also really want to write without judgment (I should say, without disproportionate judgment) about sexual relationships between adults and teenagers. The hysteria about the Mark Foley congressional page scandal rubbed me way the wrong way. I won't say there's not a lot of room for exploitation, harassment, and abuse when there's a big age difference, but it irks me when people make no distinction between sex with a 15-year-old and sex with an 8-year-old. This guy was not dragging boys to his apartment. They were going there because he had something they wanted, and they knew they possessed something he wanted in return. It was a simple transaction, a fair deal.

Here's the issue I need to resolve before I get too far along with this story. The guy's name, his real-life name, is so perfect I'm having a hard time contemplating changing it. I just can't come up with anything near as good. But of course it should be changed, not just because the guy is probably still around somewhere (not that I plan for this story to be unflattering) but also because there was a well-known baseball player with the same name. I want to have a name in my head as I work on the story, because it helps me imagine it, and it'll come in handy as I'm thinking of lyrics.


extrastorchy said...

RE: "If I can get an audience past its revulsion toward a character who takes advantage of sexually inexperienced, confused, and affection-starved teenagers . . ."

It's certainly not impossible. I'm reading *Lolita* right now and I keep catching myself liking Humbert Humbert, who is a truly reprehensible character. To me, the way you've just described your fella sounds more interesting than threatening or repulsive. And it's not as if you'll be doing a Bible Belt tour of old folks' homes with the film. Best of all, there's music. What's not to like?

Tom Meltzer said...

The guy's name was Heinie Manush?

Steven said...

Tom - No, but now it is!