The other day after I wrote my love letter to Paul, I got a sweet, albeit plaintive email from one of my best friends in the world, not one of those air kissy who loves ya babe friendships, truly, truly one of my best friends. It was from Bruce Roberts and he said.


Mar 22, 2010by tracey Comments

Bruce Roberts
Bruce Roberts

The other day after I wrote my love letter to Paul, I got a sweet, albeit plaintive email from one of my best friends in the world, not one of those air kissy who loves ya babe friendships, but truly, truly one of my best friends. It was from Bruce Roberts and he said, “Loved the Paul piece. I wrote a song for Lucky Ducks too. What am I, chopped liver?”

Brucie, Bruicie, Brucie. First off, let’s start with the song: Paul did write an entire new song from scratch for the film. And while you did give us a fabulous piece of music for the opening, When The Money’s Gone, it was a remix of a song you wrote originally for Cher. Now that does not diminish it in any way. And perhaps if I get plastic surgery every year for the next decade I too will warrant an original song from you! Bruce and I are so close I can actually say that and he will laugh.

But original comes first, remix comes second. You’re in the biz; you know that to be true.

And you must remember I wrote an entire play about you. Jackie O’s Glasses. I am staring at the poster for it as I write this.

Above the title it says “Husbands Come and Go But Best Friends are Forever.” And that was about YOU. If you remember it was a play I wrote during the demise of my first marriage about how I loved you more than my husband. It wasn’t my fault Harvey (the maniac) Fierstein wrecked it the week before we opened (Harvey briefly played Bruce, then quit – forget it, it’s way too long to explain. It’s not even a blog, it’s a novella.) And it was totally prophetic as I wrote it four years before I actually moved out and you and I are still the closest of the close and well, what’s his face and I don’t speak.

So in terms of acknowledging my ever abiding love for you, you being the center of the only play I have ever had done is not a bad place to start or end for that matter.

See, the thing about Bruce and I is that we are so close we don’t just finish each other’s sentences, we finish each other’s syllables. We do. It’s creepy and fabulous.

Our in jokes are so in, they are not jokes, they are literally two words. I can say “His hair” and I don’t have to say any more and Bruce and I will break into fits of laughter. He just did, reading this – so did I. He can say “He may” and that will have the same affect. Now following both those two word intros are complete sentences and sometimes two or three, but we have diluted them down to two words and that is all we need. We speak in letters.

Before Will and Grace we were Will and Grace.

And when my first marriage did that thing that doomed marriages tend to do, it crumbled piece by painful piece around me over a five year period he was there for me in ways I can never even begin to describe. Starting with fact that no matter what was going on, he and I could laugh about it. He pretty much lived with us and had almost every meal at our house. He could be downtown in a recording studio and smell it when I put a meatloaf in the oven. During those years of my first marriage I spent far more time with Bruce than I ever did with my ex. And when my ex was around Bruce was there too.

We were together so much Taylor’s school thought we were married.

Taylor used to insist he was her big brother. Despite the fact Bruce is actually a bit older than I am, she would go to school and insist Brucie was her brother. He was around so much we just told her that, as it felt like he was. And when kids questioned her, which they did, she would become irate.

The school actually brought me in and said they were worried about Tay as she kept insisting this older gentlemen was her brother and did I in fact have a forty-year old son? I was in my mid-thirties at the time.

I told them to leave her alone, she thought he was her brother and that was just fine, at least he was real and not some imaginary alien brother.

I had known of Bruce Roberts for many years, as LA for a certain group is a small town and we had many friends in common. Our paths had crossed but not in any meaningful way.

In 1990 my first husband and I bought a house in the Hollywood Hills. It had many quirky things about it, our union probably being the biggest. But its address was the exact same address as the house across the street. The only thing that differentiated them was Place and Way. You can only imagine the PO system being what it is this resulted in the two residences always getting each other’s mail.

In fact it was sort of a neighborhood issue. The house in back of us was always being rented by movie stars in town for a few months to shoot a film. One day I came home to find Ralph Fiennes mail in my box. This was around the time he was beyond hot in every conceivable way. I took that mail so fast, after I touched up my make-up and put on some perfume and casually (right) rang his doorbell; he answered, I was so hoping he would ask me in for coffee. He so didn’t. And then until he moved out every day I would pray that one little piece of misplaced Ralph Fiennes mail would end up in my box, so I could go back and try again. I even thought of swiping some, just to return it. Which when you think about it is not swiping as the intent was to give it back.

But I have to get off Ralph here, I’m digressing from Bruce.

So Bruce lived in the house with the same address. Though for the first few years he was not there as he had rented it out to Paul Stanley of KISS. Now I’m not name dropping, these are all the characters in this story. It was the Hollywood Hills; everyone around was famous, except me. On the other side of Brucie was Carol Channing. You should have seen her garage sale. Bruce practically passed out.

Anyway, Brucie was on the road or living back east or something and Paul Stanley was in his house. Which was fine except Bruce has a full recording studio there and KISS used to use it to practice, at night, after one am, really, really, really loudly.

Many people would have found this to be the thrill of thrills. They would have put on black lipstick, some sequined pants, rolled a few joints and gone over to listen. And I’m sure they would have been welcome. But this is early to bed, organized, Paul Williams, Neil Diamond loving me, so being awakened by KISS at full volume night after night was driving me mad.

I used to yell out the window like an old fishwife. WOULD YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP? I did. I said that to KISS as they were singing outside my window. People pay real money for that.

One night I went over and knocked on the door. I used the, “I have a new baby and would you guys mind keeping it down?” I did, to KISS, and they were nice but “down” to them and “down” to me…well, not in the same universe.

So being sleep deprived by a newborn and living next door to KISS’s endless noise did not leave me in the best of moods. Oh and when they rehearse they rehearse the same song over and over and over again. It’s truly like a stuck record.

Blessedly, one day Brucie moved back. But even then we didn’t see much of each other. It was a “Here’s your FedEx,” “Hold on I have your Barney’s catalogue” kind of thing.

Then one night in 1994 the Northridge earthquake hit.

Now being a California girl as we established last week, I am not afraid of earthquakes. In fact I am rather used to them. We are all well trained at an early age. My ex on the other hand comes from the mid-west; people from the mid-west don’t like earthquakes the same way Californians don’t like tornadoes. And despite the fact he was an All American athlete (he was the second fastest back stroker in the world when he was 17) and not wimp, when that earthquake hit, he dove under the covers and did not want to come out. He was not used to it. He did not like it.

It was four in the morning– to be very blunt I was in the bathroom– and the place started to shake like nothing I had ever felt. And I have been through a lot of earthquakes. You could hear dishes crashing and furniture moving and windows trembling. For some reason I totally kept my cool even though the house felt like it was going to fly away.

I went running for Taylor who in true Tay fashion slept through the whole thing.

I said to my ex “Don’t worry, it’s only a six point eight.” Now how unscientific me suddenly tapped into my inner seismologist I truly have no idea. But I was exactly right. California girl stuff I guess.

So I handed him the baby, told him to stay there and hold onto her and I would go deal with the gas main.

Now, when you live in California, and you are aware that at any second the St. Andreas fault can open up and suck you in you are supposed to know where your gas main is. This is earthquake safety 101. The reason being, for all you non-Californians, once they hit, if the gas main breaks or cracks fire is the next disaster to follow. So the second one occurs you are supposed to go and turn off the gas. Of course, this presumes you actually know where your main is.

Paying attention to the whereabouts of your gas main is much like the way most of us deal with the lecture given before take-off on flights. I know how to do that. I’m not putting down my copy of US to listen for the four thousandth time. But do most of us really know how those floatation devices work? Do you pull the string through the loop or the loop through the string? Where actually is the loop? If the thing drops down…you get the idea.

But I knew enough that I had to go out and at least look for the gas main.

I knew approximately where it was. It was in front of the house, which was entirely covered in ivy. The main was somewhere under the ivy and it was pitch black out.

Just as I was headed out to deal with it the door bell rang, standing there was Bruce looking a little shaken and wondering if I knew where his gas main might be?

Where his gas main might be? I didn’t know where mine was.

We each had flashlights and there we were: a Jewish Queen and a Jewish Princess, who had no idea where their gas mains were but knowing we had to find them and fast. We decided to look for mine first.

We went hunting through the ivy in the hills while the earth still rumbled with after-shocks looking for the stupid gas main that I wasn’t even sure I could identify if I found it. And I was quickly catching on that Bruce was no more capable than I at this.

We instantly started cracking jokes. He asked where my cute husband was. I told him he was from the mid-west; they didn’t do earthquakes there.

Though after half an hour of looking it was apparent I didn’t do them so well either as despite looking everywhere Bruce and I could not find my gas main. He was getting very nervous about his, so we decided since mine was a lost cause maybe we could find his or maybe like our addresses they were identical. Where we came up with that I have no idea. We were desperate. Plus we were afraid as rats live in the ivy and rats aren’t so happy when the earth starts to shudder they tend to run around and they were running around us and it was dark.

This made us beyond uncomfortable. But we kept cracking jokes. It was truly love at first sight. The kind that comes around very seldom, even in a long lifetime.

So we took our flashlights and I guess a wrench– I’m not even sure how we were gong to turn them off if we found them. But we couldn’t locate his either. I had a fraction of an idea where mine might be. Bruce was clueless. If the phones were working we could have called Paul Stanley to see if he remembered.

We finally decided to give up and figured as long as nobody lit any candles or turned the gas stoves on we should be OK.

By the then one could see dawn was approaching. We both needed coffee. Bruce said he would make us some.

Now, Bruce had this rather eccentric houseguest staying with him. He has gone on to be one of the big florists in LA but at that moment he was staying with Bruce. He is a Brit and not old enough to have gone through the war so he was not dealing with this much better than my mid-western husband. Except he was wandering around in a pink negligee and eyeshades. I swear. And as we walked in the house the whole place as ablaze with burning Riguad candles. Bruce and I screamed, “What are you dong? We can’t have candles, we didn’t turn off the gas!”

He said “Darlings, we need light.”

“Darling, we don’t need to combust.”

So I ran around blowing out all the candles and he was not a happy camper.

In these big quakes everything tends to shut down: phones, electricity, whatever comforts you might be used to. People were trying like mad to call their friends and loved ones but nobody could get through, except Elton. Yes, along with Kiss, Elton John makes an appearance in this story. Both Bruce and his houseguest are very, very close to Elton. While Bruce and I were checking all the rooms to make sure there were no more lit candles, Bruce’s phone rang, perhaps the only one in the neighborhood, maybe even LA, and I answered it as I was the closest. It was Elton John.

“Hello, this is Elton John, I’m looking for Bruce. Is he alright?”

Why not, right? We’ve got a six point eight quake, we can’t find our gas mains, we have a Brit in a negligee lighting candles, makes sense Elton would call!

“He’s fine, he’s right here blowing out candles.”

“Candles? You’re not supposed to light candles, you’ll start a fire!” Even Elton knew that.

“You might want to tell the houseguest as he insists on lighting them.”

I handed Bruce the phone. “It’s Elton John.”

Now this may not seem that amazing – Elton John calls. As the years of our friendship went on Elton was to call Bruce hundreds of times. But NOBODY was getting calls through. Daniel was clearly traveling on something that night, as he was able to get that call through to LA.

And he kept calling. I think he was worried about the candles.

Once Bruce got through calming Elton down, by the third call, I had convinced the houseguest he could get through the event sans candlelight.

Bruce and I decided we really had to have coffee so we went in his kitchen to make it. I knew Taylor and her Dad were probably asleep so I decided staying at Bruce’s was fine. We only had one problem, his stove was gas, the gas lines were all down. Good news being we didn’t have to look for the mains again. Bad news being – no coffee.

The problem at my house was my coffee machine was electric and the electricity was down as well; except weirdly my electric stove was working. But I didn’t have a Melita drip or anything to make coffee in other than a plug in coffee maker. Bruce, being the happy homemaker that he is, had all that stuff. I don’t want to stereotype but gay men tend to have really well stocked kitchens. Though he only had an electric coffee grinder and whole beans. I however had pre-ground beans. He was horrified – yet grateful. I had milk. He had sugar. Sweet and Low, but sugar sounds better. The ingredients to a perfect relationship, alone we couldn’t make anything, together we could make enough coffee to keep us going for the next five hours.

So we took his stuff to my house. We made pots of coffee, sat on my terrace and watched the sun rise over the badly damaged, shaken city of Los Angeles and we started catching each other up on all the details of our lives that had taken place up until that morning. We became so engrossed, fascinated and entertained by each other we almost forget we were in the middle of a giant natural disaster. Every so often there would be an after-shock to remind us.

And as often happens in life, love and connection are found at strange times in strange places. And out of horrible situations beautiful things are sometimes born. And that morning, during the aftermath of that dreadful earthquake one of the greatest friendships of my life came into being.

So while I may have thanked Paulie first, there is no one to replace you, Brucie. You were there for me every day in every way when I needed someone so badly. You have made me laugh to the point of tears more than anyone I know.

We have been through natural disasters, personal disasters, divorces, death, the works and we’re still standing, finishing each other’s syllables, just as wowed and entertained by each other as we were that morning in 1994 as we drank our coffee, watched the sunrise and fell in our own unique kind of love.

Go try and remix that, Cher!