Jacques and the Draft

January 30th, 2017

Jacques and  the Draft

The Taft Hotel (now called The Michialangelo) was on 7th Avenue, just a few blocks north of Times Square.  The Taft Bar, located in that hotel, was what you might have called ‘a men’s bar’ as it was frequented mostly by men — you would rarely see a woman there.  It was dark, wood-panelled and quite quiet, a discreet piano bar providing a relaxed atmosphere.  It was also a place where an older gentleman could pick up a younger man.  It’s where I met Jacques.

Jacques was a composer and singing coach.  No, not a voice coach, but singing, as in Broadway musical singing; most of his students were currently acting/singing on or off Broadway, or else aspiring to be such.

I spent the night at Jacques’ apartment, and the next night, and the night after that, and when he asked me to move in, I jumped at the chance.  I was out of the Y that day.

I was, in the end, quite a shit toward Jacques.  His writing partner, a lyricist names Colby, was younger, better looking, and more wkitty than Jacques.  I think Colby resented me — no, I am sure Colby resented me, my taking up so much of Jacques’ attention (which can be seen as a form of love, in a way). So Colby schemed, ingratiated himself with me, and got me to go alone to his apartment, in a high-rise overlooking the Hudson River.  I proceeded to drink far too much alcohol, foolishly opened my heart to Colby, lamenting my feelings of loneliness and need for affecction.  It did not take long to find myself in bed with Colby.  Colby, as you might expect, wasted no time in telling Jacques all about it, emphasising the most negative I had said about Jacques.

The next day did not go well.

I had been  with Jacques for almost two months.  We broke up just before the draft board bade me appear for a physical.

This was in 1964, and the Viet Nam war was really heating up.  It was common knowledge that a call had gone out for 10,000 young men; that they would be immediately shipped off to Fort Dix in New Jersey for basic training, go from there to South Carolina for infantry training, and from there straight to Viet Nam.

No way I was going to go fight in Viet Nam.  I had been adamantly against that war long before it was called a “war”, since Kennedy was sending the first “advisers” to VietNam: I’d seen then that no good could come of it.  So I was not prepared to contribute to this killing effort in any way.

So when taking the first test at the exam,I put a check mark down before the line that asked if I were homosexual.  I got sent to the psychiatrist.

While waiting for my interview with the psychiatrist, I got chatting with another inductee, who had done the same thing.  We got together later, after getting our 4F deferments (“mentally, physically or morally unfit”).  We spent the night together, then found an apartment together, at #7 West 73rd Street, in a converted brownstone just behind the Dakota apartment building.  (John Lennon was later shot to death in the entryway to the Dakota.)  It was a small one-bedroom, with a pullman kitchen, bath, and a balcony — well, not really, but you could crawl out the bedroom window onto the roof of the apartment below.  The apartment was on the fifth floor — but there was an elevator!

Jim (let’s call him Jim) was a would-be writer, as was I.  What you did then as a would-be writer in New York was to look for a job writing advertising copy.  So we started hitting the streets with the portfolios we had thrown together.  After one disappointment after another, I finally found an ad in the help wanteds in the NY Times.  It was an employment agency; they took a look at my work, then sent me out for an interview with the employer.

Comments are closed.