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I’ve always had this thing about beautiful soulful eyes…
My personal favorite portrait we did together. Thanks Marina for Tossing Glitter with me…
When I was a boy I’d spend hours on an idle tractor with a stack of Vogue magazines I’d checked out of the school library. Those glossy pages transported me before traveling outside the midwest even seemed like a possibility. Douglas Kirkland, Avedon, Scavullo, Diana Vreeland and Halston all became familiar. The name I searched for however was Way Bandy. I studied his work on models. Translucent skin paired with dark smokey eyes. The way other boys studied sports figures was how I felt about Way Bandy. My other discovery was this place called New York City. In my young mind it compared to the Emerald City in Oz.
Spending hours in Miss Hardison’s art class perfecting smokey eyes with a charcoal pencil I recall a sweet smile when telling her I needed to have this just perfect for when I did makeup for Vogue magazine. New York City would become the first place I ever traveled to from the midwest on a plane. And for the next twenty plus years visiting whenever I had the chance New York City would still leave me breathless. So ten years ago when Jeff called me and asked “Are you sitting down?” Without even knowing I’d been ‘Tossing Glitter’ into the universe my dream of living in New York City came true.
New York City wouldn’t be for everyone. But nothing is perfect for everyone. The diversity and blend of so many cultures excites me and without even feeling it happen have made me a more accepting open person. Marriage equality came to New York City and I’ve felt the thrill of being able to say this is who I love and am spending the rest of my life with. Yes, being married makes a difference. Makes you feel complete. Who would ever dream after 27 years you could feel like a kid on a new adventure with your life partner.
And at the age of 53 I did makeup for Vogue magazine. It’s been a beautiful decade. Tossing Glitter in New York City.
Over the years, there have been many people who have shown me kindness, compassion, and acceptance. I’ve kept these people and the memories of them close. For each of them, I have a kind of love letter inscribed on my heart.
Hannah was a legend in my town of Winslow. She looked like a cross between a character from Sondheim’s Into the Woods and Granny Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies. There were a lot of tales about Hannah: that she was witch, that she was a Cherokee Indian, and that her hair – which she wore wrapped in a tight bun and covered in an ever-present sun-bonnet – flowed down to the ground when unwrapped. She always wore work boots and long skirts. The skirts hung longer in the front due to her stooped and terribly humped-over back. But despite her bent posture, she would endlessly walk the town, picking up cigarette butts to pull out the tobacco. My brother, sister and I once trekked out into the fields to find her cabin, which people said was haunted. Even from a safe distance, I could see how overgrown and twisted the weeds were around her cabin and walkway. The whole place was dense with growth, like an Indiana jungle. Standing there, I remembered that people claimed she only bathed when the moon was full. All of this seemed in keeping with her image as a witchy, mysterious, and slightly alarming figure in my town.
Once, when I was riding in the truck with my father, he stopped and offered Hannah a ride. Being alone with my father was in itself a daunting task. Sitting erect, silent, staring straight ahead, I would pray I wouldn’t say the wrong thing. Or make the wrong move. Anything that would upset and remind him of the disappointment he had in his eldest son. We came upon Hannah – walking as always – and my father slowly rolled down his window. He leaned out his head, and I heard him speak in a softer tone than I was used to. This was a different side of my father – one I’d never witnessed. The brim of Hannah’s bonnet was now level with my father’s open truck window. And as she said an adamant ‘no’ the bonnet raised and I could see her face, unfiltered in the bright sun. She never made any eye contact—now I realize she probably had cataracts and her milky gaze was medical rather than witchcraft — as she repeated ‘no, no, walking keeps me alive’. My father affectionately reminded her he’d been watching her walk since he’d been a boy. As we pulled away that day, she looked directly at me. Right at me. It frightened and fascinated me. Why was she looking at me like that? Hannah never looked directly at anyone.
I wondered about it and then put it out of my mind. But then, on my birthday, I happened to glance out my bedroom window and coming up the drive was Hannah. Gasping, I blinked hard and then looked again. There she was, hunched but determined, her long skirt dragging up the dusty rock driveway. She walked right up into the back yard and then stopped. I waited a moment, and then worried, I ran to find Mom. “Mom! Hannah is in the back yard!” Even my mother was surprised, and we stepped out together. Warm and friendly, Mom called out “Hello, Hannah!”’ Hannah looked at us for a minute and then stepped forward.
She pulled out an old coin purse – which looked like it was from the Year One – and handed me a dollar. I was so startled and didn’t know what to do, but mom just looked on gently smiling. Hannah leaned in close to me and said in a hushed tone, “Happy Birthday.” I was completely dumbfounded. “Say thank you to Hannah, Eddie” Mom prompted. “Thank you,” I stammered. “Thank you so much.” Leaning in very close again, Hannah looked at me right in the eyes and said, “You’re special.” She nodded with satisfaction and without another word, turned and walked back down the rock driveway leading to Pike Forest road.
No one could figure out how Hannah knew it was my birthday. But from then on, every year, she made that walk up our rock driveway. Waiting in our back yard. An apparition with her coin purse and a dollar. Hannah became a kind of birthday legend for me. That legend became a timeless childhood memory. Mysterious words said by a mysterious woman, but like a fairy tale, those words were as powerful as a magic wand. “Happy Birthday. You’re special.”
Because your never too old…
When it feels authentic you love them forever…
The wind almost whistled. Slowly but terrifyingly, two women both dressed in white, walked through a field of sugarcane in the dark, toward the distant drums of a voodoo ceremony. My vivid and youthful imagination – I remember thinking distinctly- this could just as easily be happening in an Indiana cornfield. The TV screen was so charged with atmosphere it was if any minute Papaw’s trailer would suddenly fill with Shadow and Fog. Weekend sleepovers at my grandfather’s would be the place I discovered the films of James Whale, Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton. Like the majority of scary movies I obsessed over, they contained the eerie use of shadows: deep black and shades of gray and silver. Fog that wrapped its way up and down wet deserted streets. Always a beautiful woman, eyes darting here and there and her heels clicking on the damp pavement. She pauses while a hand reaches out from the shadows. Films that I loved from the 1940’s were layered with these techniques. Beautiful, poetic, these movies made you less scared than simply mesmerized with such striking imagery. Like looking through a breathtaking old photography book you discovered in the attic, these films were old and contained scratches making them imperfectly perfect. “Boy, you are on your own with this crazy Goddamn movie.” This would become Papaw’s standard proclamation every Friday night throughout my childhood. Needless to say, his tastes ran more toward John Wayne. But he would make sure I was all set up for my movie night, even if he wouldn’t stick around to watch it with me. So there I would be on a dark night. Settling in with “The Body Snatcher” a bag of pork rinds, ice cold Mountain Dew and knowing soon a foggy, black- and-white apparition would appear on the screen, and make me smile.
I wanted to be the perfect boy.
A perfect boy would do exactly as asked.
A perfect boy would be loved by everyone around him because he was so perfect. But the journey to being loved had nothing to do with being that perfect boy.