It was 2010 and I was feeling sort of down. Valentine’s Day was around the corner and I was dateless. To make matters worse I had a falling out with a friend. On top of that I was broke. At the time a friend of mine from the neighborhood had been murdered so I was sleep deprived. In every sense of the word I felt unpretty.
In 2008 I had ended a relationship, and in 2009 I had a quasi-boyfriend. Both were disasters. The relationship from 2008, well I found out that ex was dating a girl on the edge of my circle of friends to spite me. I don’t know what’s worse, finding out your ex intentionally is dating in your circle of friends or to find out the news so close to Valentine’s Day. The quasi-boyfriend, who wanted a serious commitment right out of the gate, was popping up again. Then on top of that a guy I had been into totally rejected me in a bad way. I felt like going home and crying.
Ugly Duckling 101.
Then the weekend of Valentine’s Day everything changed in a way I would have never imagined.
I was invited to a dance by my friend Bill, one of my oldest friends here in NYC. We hadn’t seen each other in years since he had moved to San Francisco to be with a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the job ended and the boyfriend dumped him. Bill too was down on his Valentine’s Day luck. So he invited me to a Valentine’s Day gay dance party called The Love Boat.
I got there and I looked for Bill. No homo in sight. Looking around me, I saw fat, out of shape, gay men dancing to Donna Summer and the likes. Now I understood not only why disco died, but I knew who killed it by giving it a slow and torturous end. One gay man, oblivious to the fact that he was not getting lucky this century, proceeded to get turned down by everyone on the dance floor. This obvious long, lost brother of Richard Simmons needed a pep talk, “Pal, you are not Ricky Martin. Don’t act like it.”
I saw some guys I knew from my various connections in the gay world. There was six degrees of Derek Graves. Then there were those who knew my friend CB from the leather circle. While they were glad to see me and wanted me to dance, they were at this party to get lucky. I had a vagina, they had not gotten lucky this way since they were closed suburban young men probably living a phony existence as an extra masculine high school jock. Even then it wasn’t all that lucky. Everyone knows gay men like sausage, not fish.
I looked around to find Bill. No such luck. I called him, it went straight to voicemail. I texted, nada, zippo. Then I saw someone who did like fish. Approaching me was a big, black, toothless butch woman. She asked me if I wanted to dance. I said sure, after all, I was just simply standing there. As we danced the woman asked, “Are you gay?”
I shook my head no. Then she asked, “Would you like a girlfriend?”
I knew this was going to end in disaster. This big, black, stud of a woman seemingly would have fit in well on a prison yard. While she would have killed a man for me, something she had probably done once in her life, I had a feeling this could only end in disaster. Plus if I want a woman I want Miss America, or at least someone with their two front teeth.
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw him. His name was Jellybean. The reason I gave him this name was that because he would often crash my get togethers with Bill and the Boys. He always wore a plethora of colors, and always had his dog with him that would bark on cue. Multi-ethnic, he looked a mix between black and Spanish but I wasn’t sure. With him, he always had a bag of jellybeans and would ask us, “Want one?”
To me, he was a character. I didn’t like him, didn’t dislike him. While he crashed brunch, the boys seemed to welcome Jellybean for some reason. Perhaps it is because he brought some levity to some of the prissy gossip so stereotypical of gay men. Plus it was a chance for everyone to clear their head from the latest drama concerning someone in the group.
Jellybean always held center stage. Once a woman, clearly cracked out, walked by on the street. Jellybean yelled, “Hello beautiful! I want to do your hair.”
To which the woman slurred something back in crackhead, a language I cannot say I am fluent in. When she turned Jellybean did a movement of his hand and said, “Oh my God, she is cat shit crazy.” And then we all laughed. Still, this mysterious character was one who came and went as he pleased. Now here he was, a welcome face and perhaps the one to rescue me from this hungry butch, probably named Dimples or something.
“Excuse me, I have to say hi to a friend.” I said making my exit. I tapped Jellybean on the shoulders who was lost in bean land.
“Hi, I’m Bill’s friend April.” I told him. “I don’t know if you remember me from the Galaxy but I was there with Lady Goda and Tommy-“
“Yes, I remember you. This party is called the love boat. Is it just me or is it more like the Titanic?” Jellybean quiered. Immediately I laughed. This was so true.
“A toothless lesbian just hit on me.” I told him.
Jellybean gave me a look of indignation as he pushed his sunglasses onto his nose. “Big Bertha over there? Child, we need to get you out of here. Come on, let’s split before the ship sinks and the band begins to play.”
We left the party and Jellybean invited me to his house. As we walked along the street Jellybean was Jellybean. Two girls walked by in short skirts and stiletto heals. Jellybean said, “Hello hookers.” Both the girls looked at him, rolled their eyes back, and kept walking.
“Let’s not get us killed.” I suggested.
Jellybean laughed and within a minute we turned down eighth avenue into Chelsea. We saw two guys go into a porn store. Jellybean shouted, “Hey homos!”
The two good looking muscle boys turned annoyed. I flashed a big, apologetic grin letting them know Jellybean was acting alone. Just then, I realized I was wearing running shoes and the snow, fallen and deep in January, was making my feet wet. Jellybean looked down at my feet and said, “You aren’t dressed properly for this weather now are you? I see we are not the toothbrush with the most bristles.”
Before I could even say anything Jellybean picked me up, threw me over his shoulder, and carried me so my feet would not get wet in the foreboding slush. I yelped at the surprise of being picked up. “Don’t drop me!” I begged, a part terrified, a part pleasantly surprised. It had been a wonderful thing, because no guy had done that to me in such a dreadfully long time.
Finally, Jellybean put me down. “Come to my casba.” He commanded. We walked up the stairs to his apartment. I was surprised he lived in Chelsea, let alone had a house at all. Up to this point I had thought Jellybean was homeless. As I came into his house his dog and cat were both in a comfy cage. He let them out so they could run around.
“Hello children,” He greeted. “No sniffing April’s crotch.”
I took off my shoes, making myself comfortable. Suddenly Jellybean crinkled up his nose. “Your feet stink.” He informed me. Without missing a beat he went, got his air freshener, and proceeded to spray my feet. I sat there stunned. This guy was amazing. First he turned up on perhaps one of the worst nights of my life to rescue me. Then this man who I assumed was homeless had a house. Finally, to add the cherry on top of the cake he was spraying my feet.
“Sorry.” I said not knowing what else to say.
We started to talk. Jellybean told be about some guy he was seeing. And then he summoned me to the back of his house. I walked down the hallway to the room next to his kitchen. It looked to be a hair studio. Okay, the boy could dream. I had met plenty of so called hairdressers in my life. Jellybean snapped his fingers, pointed to the chair and commanded me to sit. “What are you doing?” I asked part curious, part afraid.
With that Jellybean answered, “Girl, you are in need of an extreme makeover.”
I sat there scared out of my mind. Up to this point, I thought this eccentric creature in God’s forest of life was homeless. Now he was doing my hair. This couldn’t end well. “Please don’t turn my hair orange.” I begged. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. Orange hair would be the perfect end to a ruinous day.
Jellybean then stepped back, and gave me a look of indignation that I will never forget. “You are lucky to be sitting in my chair at this time of morning let alone at all for free.” He snapped. Then he took a scrapbook and tossed it in front of me.
I opened it.
Page after page was Jellybean with celebrity after celebrity. Each autographed a thank you note to the eccentric elf. Mariah Carey wrote, “Thank you for making me laugh and look beautiful. You are the best hairdresser I have ever had.” Then of course there was a page with him, Whitney Houston and Chakah Khan. My mouth dropped open.
“You did this?” I asked.
Jellybean then smiled and shook his head. He then told me about an adventure in the early 90s where he was partying with Whitney Houston and they were smoking crack. Apparently, Whit Whit kept hogging the pipe which made Jellybean angry. He said, “I will never smoke crack with her again,” and snapped his fingers.
That’s when we began to talk out my life. Jellybean proceeded to ream me out about the bad decisions I had been making as of late when he caught me at brunch. Jellybean was up on my misadventures with the ex cons and the like. He told me to stop focusing on these negative men and to start focusing on my goals, to put my energy in a better place. Then he said something I will also never forget, “You talk about all these losers you date, all your man problem and get the chuckles from the gay boys at brunch. But at the end of the day where does that leave you?” He asked.
Jellybean had a point. And then he told me I not only need a physical makeover but a mental makeover too. During this time in my life I had a bad attitude. I was eating junk, talking like a trash mouth, and dating guys fresh out of jail. And I think several of my boyfriends had been married too. Jellybean proceeded to give me the smack down about that as well. There is something about getting your ass kicked by a gay man that makes it hurt all the more. They don’t just hit you, but they backhand you with drag queen nails and a stiletto heal with their version of the truth.
When he was done with my hair I thanked him. That’s when he said, “Oh honey, I have not even started on those eyebrows.”
Jellybean proceeded to do my eyebrows, my makeup and my nails. What I thought was the worst night ever was now the best night ever. Finally, at about 5 am I was released onto the streets a pretty picture. As I walked home I felt the moon light my path to happy destiny. The ex who had moved on and the quasi boyfriend were a part of my past. I was much too glamorous for them.
The next morning I got an apologetic phone call from my friend Bill. He told me that he had met up with an old flame, there had been some liquor involved, and during their outing at the bar someone stole his cellphone and wallet. So his whole evening was spent with the police and there was no way he could get in touch with me. Turned out, the thief, who had been more drunk than he had, accidentally left the covertly obtained materials in the bar bathroom. Bill apologized again and again and offered to cook me dinner.
That’s when I stopped him and told him about what happened with Jellybean. I just kept going on and said that I didn’t know that he was as talented as he was. That’s when Bill said, “April, why else do you think we let the Bean crash brunch? Everyone thinks he is homeless but he is so famous, duh.”
We both laughed. I guess it is safe to say that I had a New York Adventure. It’s not everyday a famous stylist accosts you and then makes you over against your own will.
As Mama always said, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.”