At the end of our last episode, I found myself on the phone with a big wig from a television production company’s legal or publicity department, I forget which, who had several concerns about a story I was writing.
Her company had hired me to teach a lesbian workshop to the predominantly long-haired and manicured squad of actors it had cast to play gay ladies in the world’s first lesbian television series.
The big wig informed me that the company really didn’t want me to publish any of the actors’ names, the name of the series, where it was supposed to be set, any of that stuff, as the show hadn’t even aired yet; it had just started shooting that week.
In fact, the assistant to the producer was allegedly in hot water because she had let me slip through the cracks somehow, and hadn’t made me sign a non-disclosure agreement.
I was a boot-wearing, brush-cutted security risk, and the production company was nervous.
It was the second time I had heard the phrase non-disclosure agreement that day.
Just hours before, my editor at the Georgia Straight had asked me if I had signed such a thing. I told him I didn’t really know what a non-disclosure agreement was, but from an epistemological standpoint, chances were I hadn’t signed one because non-disclosure didn’t sound like something I was even capable of.
He told me that as long as I hadn’t signed anything I could write about whatever the fuck I wanted to. I was a journalist, after all, and this was a newspaper and my story was news. I didn’t need anyone’s permission to write about being hired to teach heterosexual actors how to act like lesbians for fun and profit.
I told him I wasn’t a journalist, I was a storyteller, and therefore didn’t make enough money to hire a big enough lawyer to take on Hollywood over a $200 freelance gig for his publication.
“How ’bout I pay you $375 then?” I could hear my editor tapping his yellow pad with his pen on the other end of the phone.
I knew the chances were I wasn’t going to make any more cashola as a lesbian technical consultant to the stars, and I had bills to pay. It was a done deal.
So I told the Hollywood lawyer to relax, and to tell production not to worry: I wouldn’t name the actors, or the show or the brass’ names or their bad movies or where or what I knew of the plot or the characters.
I wrote and published a light yet humorous and critical piece on casting straight people to play gay characters. (Which I am in no way opposed to in theory, for the record. They are, after all, actors, and that is what actors do.) And we left it at that.
I cashed my cheque and paid my cell phone bill, and bought toilet paper and cigarettes.
Then last July, I was in a meeting when I got a call on my cell phone.
One of my close friends was working as a prop guy or a wardrobe girl—or maybe he or she was a day-call actor or was doing background work in a bar scene or something, I can’t recall for legal purposes. Regardless, he or she was on set for the very first episode of the second season of The L-Word and bet me five bucks I couldn’t guess the name of the new character, the butch drag-king mechanic.
My friend was breathless on the other end of the phone.
“I don’t know. Ellen? Laverne? Shirley? I’m in a meeting here.”
“Ivan. The new character’s name is Ivan. Ivan Acock. Get it? I-van-a-cock? They hired Kelly Lynch to play you, dude, and that isn’t the worst part. Sit down, man, because you’re not gonna like this next bit. They gave you kind of a mullet.”
I almost dropped my cigarette right out of my mouth and into my Red Bull.
“You’re fucking joking me! Those fuckers! A mullet? This means war. Do you still know that lawyer, the one with the hot tub? A goddamn mullet? Someone is going to have to pay for this!”
They were about to roll sound, so my friend gave me the producer’s number off of the call sheet and promised to smuggle me out a script for evidence, and hung up.
I called the producer right away, and left a message saying that my name was Ivan Coyote and that I had some questions about their new second season character Ivan, and could she please be so kind as to call me back?
I got a call back minutes later from her assistant, who said she would pass the message on, but was I a member of the media?
I never got a call back, and it is a damn good thing I don’t get HBO and haven’t seen my mullet or any of the second season yet, or this whole thing might bug me a lot more than it already does.
A mullet? They could have at least called and asked me. I mean as a courtesy, since I had done as much for them.
My friend told me to not be such a fucking Leo about it; maybe it was all just a coincidence. Maybe they didn’t remember me or my seminar, and their Ivan had just been named after one of the many other dykes named Ivan out there.
I still couldn’t afford a lawyer; so I was forced to let it all go.
The first season of The L-Word is now on the cheap cable on Showcase, and I saw an ad last week. It’s two long-haired lesbians in nicely tailored power pantsuits and blouses, sitting in their therapist’s office.
“You can’t understand,” one woman clutches the hand of her partner. “Straight men just aren’t capable of understanding what two women do together in bed,” she says, or something to that effect.
I’m paraphrasing here, but the therapist shrugs and taps his pencil on his pad and looks pensive, and that’s when it cuts to a montage of women necking and pounding each other up against walls, and such. Pink text then appears on the screen.
“Maybe not,” it reads, “but we’re willing to learn.”
It all fell into place for me. The L-Word didn’t have any real butch characters in it because it was never really meant for us.
“The L-Word,” the husky woman’s voice comes out of my speakers. “On at nine, right after the Trailer Park Boys.”
Now I get it.
* If you missed part one of The B-Word, you can read it online at www.xtra.ca