I am sad to announce the death of my friend Roger Ferrer. A few years ago when I met him, I remember being arrested by his huge laugh which could light up the room. Roger in one word was a character. He always had the scoop on everyone. Back in the day Roger had been a part of the ballroom scene. He had walked with the House of Revlon and won in the Butch Queen category several times over. Roger and his faux hawk even made a cameo in one part of How Do I Look? To me Roger was that friend who always had tales of the fast life. He had been in the midst of that nucleus where the motto was live fast and die young.
One thing I loved about Roger was his honesty. Whenever we would see someone he had beef with he would tell me right out about the beef he had with them. Or when we saw someone he knew from back in the day Roger would tell me what had transpired. I once told Roger about someone I knew who was a pathological liar. Roger laughed and said, “I could never lie like that. I am such a jerkoff I would probably screw it up.”
Roger would always tell me about the Voguing he did back in the day as a member of the ballroom scene. In addition he would also tell me about all the scams those queens used to pull. One in particular was that the ball children as they were called would lift the credit card numbers of people they knew, use them in stores, and then order the stuff they needed for their little balls. Of course the merchandise would be delivered when the rip off victim was at work and the thief and company would pick it up when the trucks came. Yes, drag queens are the reason you need photo ID when you buy things at stores with a credit card.
It wasn’t just the balls for my friend but it was the drugs as well. Roger not only sold crystal meth when it was beginning to rear it’s head in the underground ball scene, but he also used it. I remember Roger would tell me the crazy stories of the places he had been and how at one time he was even a drug connect to Angel Melendez, the victim to Michael Alig. He also told me about the partying at the Limelight before the whole bloodbath happened, and how when that transpired he switched his drug selling spot to Kinkos. Walking through Chelsea with Roger was always a trip. Someone would wave to him and he would tell me what a freak they were back in the day. Or he would tell me the dirt about the gay porn store owners because he knew them personally. Roger also knew a few gay porn stars, and one thing about him was that he was the real deal. Once a guy was running his mouth about how he was some hustler back in the day. When he left Roger turned to me and said, “Hustler huh? Uptown at Paris Duprees huh? I never saw him once and I was there.”
Unfortunately Roger also paid the ultimate price for his drug use and drug selling. After being busted, Roger spent eighteen months in prison and got released on parole. Around the time he left us Roger was about complete with this part of his sentence. He also had contracted HIV and Hep C as a result of sharing needles and the unsafe sex associated with the crystal meth lifestyle. In addition he also had a heart condition which plagued him until he passed away. As a result Roger was always in and out of hospitals. Usually, he would lose his phone again, he was always big on doing that for some reason. However, no matter where he was hospitalized Roger would always, always, always ask for me. I never knew why but he always said to someone, “Please give April my number if you get a chance. Please tell her I am here.”
It was never a problem to visit Roger in the hospital. When I did he would usually have me smuggle him in food because he detested hospital cuisine. That’s when we would gossip and often I would sneak out long after visiting hours were over. Once Roger and I were so busy talking that I stayed well after midnight and the night security guard simply chuckled and let me out. Being Roger’s friend I got to know St. Luke’s quite well. Those hospital visits were always fun in a way. Once we had a mini Vogue off where he completely creamed me. Sure, he may have been sick but once a gay man always a gay man.
Roger was indeed a gay man and always had the best advice too. Once I was seeing a guy who was becoming clingy and annoying. Roger looked at me, put his glasses to his nose and said, “Ditch the bitch and make the switch.” I still quote him to this day and always will.
One person Roger loved more than anything in the world was his little step nephew named Pumpkin. Pumpkin was the son of his brother’s girlfriend. Roger’s brother was basically acting as the child’s father though. At the time that Roger was living with his brother his task was to babysit this little boy. Every night Roger would call me on the phone rattling about how Pumpkin had said some complex word or made an association. Glowing with pride, Roger would tell me about how the child had a bright future and about how little Pumpkin was destined for great things. Roger was one who also suffered from extreme nightmares and would call me in the middle of the night panicked. Mind you he was the only one allowed to do this without me taking my hands through the phone to choke him. I would ask Roger about Pumpkin and immediately he would light up and everything would be alright.
Though Roger was gay, no question about it, he still had the macho manly streak in him. When I was with him typical of the Latino male he would walk on the outside of the street. Not to mention Roger almost always paid when we went out. He would always tell me with him women never paid. Roger would be quick to inform me unlike a lot of gay men he had dated women and also had sisters therefore it wouldn’t make him feel like a man to have me pick up the tab ever. Not to mention Roger always had an opinion about who I dated as well. Usually when Roger didn’t like the sound of them there was a reason for it. The truth of the matter was, Roger was the real deal and he could spot a fake a mile away and made no bones about it. Sometimes I wish I would have listened more. The crazy thing was at the end of the night he always got all big brother on me walking me to my door or telling me, “There are a lot of bad people out there sweetie. Get home safely.”
For as crazy as Roger could be he also was insightful and had more clarity than anyone I ever encountered when it came to speaking about what he was going through. Not to mention while even at the end Roger could not avoid the bad boys and men who were wrong for him, same as yours truly, Roger didn’t want me to share the same fate. Once I was talking shit and Roger stopped me. Gripping my hand he looked me dead in the eye and said, “See how sick I am. You don’t want this sweetie.”
Towards the end of his life Roger was a regular brunch buddy of mine in between hospital visits. We would sit outside and check out the boys rating them on a scale of one to ten. We would giggle and gossip like, or as Roger put it, “a fag and his hag.” For as ill as Roger was he dreamed of doing better things with his life. He talked about going to Aveda to become a colorist, something I thought he would have been excellent at had he lived. He also wanted to go to Paris to live for a while. When I would talk to Roger I always spoke to someone with a good head on his shoulders and a mind like a steel trap. He was someone who was much smarter than he knew he was.
One of my last encounters with Roger I had met him and we were hanging out. He had just gotten out of the hospital and was having chest pains. Being in between houses he was currently homeless and was scared to go back because he thought they would discharge him because he was faking it. The way he was clutching his chest let me knew he wasn’t. After having sushi I insisted that he go to the hospital. So I threw him in a cab, paid for it (he insisted but I told him he had bought me sushi, this one was on me) and then dropped him in the emergency room. A few hours later I got a text from him, “I had a minor heart attack. You saved my life. Thank you.”
Roger was supposed to begin cardiac rehab but he didn’t want to because instead he wanted to go to Puerto Rico. Of course he also wanted to see Niagara Falls before he died as well. We were supposed to go to the Hamptons one weekend and that didn’t quite happen. When I chastised him for being such a bad patient, and Roger had his moments trust me, he said something so profound. He said, “I am always in and out of hospitals and am sick of it. The doctors will always be there. The sunset over Niagara Falls might not be there tomorrow.” At the time I remember being angry with him for not taking care of himself, but looking back I think he knew he was going to leave us soon and wanted to make the most of his last days. The guy was right. Doctors will always be there same as the hospitals. Go Roger.
I heard my dear friend had a massive heart attack last week and something told me to check on him. When I don’t hear from him it is never usually good. Anyway, I was busy with the career and all so it slipped my mind. But when I heard the news it hit me like a ton of bricks. For as cliché as it sounds I felt like a piece of me had gone. Being Roger’s friend made me more careful with how I handled men because when you see a friend sick with HIV and other complications you wake up quickly and become very careful. Roger also made me want to stay clean, sober, and continue to fight the good fight. His body gave out long before his spirit did. I know he was proud of me for turning my life around and he basked in the glow of the fact that I was starting to make something of myself.
Once during one of my visits to the hospital I told him I had been a part of Fashion Week with Betsy Johnson. As I was telling the story he stopped me and said, “You always dress like you are broke. Stop dressing like you are broke when you see me.” Before I could even protest he waved his hand like he always did. As a result I started experimenting with new looks and followed his advice and the only reception I have gotten has been positive. People ask me what happened to me as if I grew a horn or a third head. Instead it was none of those things. A kick in the ass from a gay angel made me self aware and now not only do I look better but feel better.
Today as I dawn my makeup and dress in an effort to look like I am not broke I think of my dear friend Roger Ferrer. I think of a man who was always sharp, on point, the real deal, and never hesitated to call it like it was. I also think of someone who made me look within myself and not only made me dress better, but made me a better person. As I continue my climb up the ladder called life I will always remember my friend. Just because he is dead doesn’t mean that his story should not live on.
Roger sweetheart, I know you are in heaven. I know God took you because He needs angels. While we are on the subject don’t get into too much trouble with them because like me, you always want the ones that you can’t have. On the other hand, my only request is you save me one as well as a seat in the back. That way we can gossip about people like the old days. Just do me one favor, don’t get into a fight with a drag queen. This being Earth and you being in the sky I don’t know if Verizon is ever going to cover that one.
Rest in Peace Dear Heart.