INTERVIEW — TAPE #20, SIDE #1
Q: Mark Russell Bell
B: Michael Paul Russell (my twin brother in California)
U: James Ulmer (friend)
Y: Andy Gevanthor (friend)
D: Doris G. Moseley (Andy’s neighbor)
( . . . )
Q: I forgot to mention that James will be flying to Egypt tomorrow.
U: Only one week after returning from China and Milan.
Q: He invited me to go but I have too much work to do here to be able to go with him. I would like to go to Egypt someday.
U: But your angels will follow me during my trip.
Q: I wonder if Michael will have anything to add.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: AFTER LEAVING THE RESTAURANT WE STOPPED BY THE APARTMENT OF ANDY’S NEIGHBOR, DORIS, WHO IS EIGHTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD. ANDY SAVED HIS PUMPKIN PIE FOR HER SO SHE NIBBLES AT IT OCCASIONALLY AS SHE SPEAKS.)
D: I don’t know why I went to Cairo.
U: Put the tape recorder on the table. Let me have it.
B: Don’t stick it in her face. God.
U: Mark, this is how you do it.
Y: James, interpret the story in dance for us. (“SHHHHHH”)
U: Alright I want to hear about Cairo.
D: I’ve been to Cairo twice. The first time I went — I don’t know why I went but all of these things from the tomb were still in the Cairo university. It hadn’t been spread around the world. So I wanted to see it and I went. It was absolutely extraordinary. I wanted to touch something that nobody had ever touched before. So I was going around the outer banks (“YES”) and a very nice young man said, “You’re really interested in this, aren’t you?” I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Well, I’m a guide here now but I teach in the university, really.” I said, “Oh.” And he said, “Well, I’m going out to dinner tonight with some people. Would you like to come?” And I said, “Yes.” We went out somewhere beyond Cairo and one person was in the government and she said, “I didn’t really want you to come here because your government stopped us getting the new damn built.” And I said, “Oh.”
U: The Aswan Damn.
D: And she said, “They refused to go along with the loan but, fortunately, the Russians built it for us.” So I said, “Terrific.” And she said, “Well, do you want to see my plantation?” I said, “Yes.” So she called a Fellahin and we went around the plantation. I said, “What are all these men doing with guns?” She said, “Because there are Fellahin coming up the Nile and stealing our stuff.” Which I think was coconuts — whatever it was. It was a plantation. So that was alright. So we went back to Cairo and the young man said, “Well, I have an apartment. I don’t live in it but I do have an apartment. Would you like to come home with me?”
U: How many years ago was this?
U: Oh, you were very active.
U: Oooohhhh child.
D: So, anyway, (“GOOD”) I went home with him to his apartment —
B: I know.
D: — which was up in the city. The elevator was about this big — it was horrible. But it was in the middle of Cairo. Not by the Nile where I was staying. (“YEAH”) And so we went to this apartment and we made love. And he said, “I’ve never ever made love to a woman who wasn’t circumcised before.”
D: And I said, “Ooh.” (“OH”)
B: He liked it, I bet.
D: Whatever. So then — (“YES”)
U: The whatever is the most interesting part.
D: So he said, “Do you want to go out to dinner tomorrow night?” And I said, “Yes.” He said, “Do you mind if I bring a friend?” And I said, “Well, no.” So they called for me at the hotel. And they brought me jasmine wreaths to put around my arm. I mean —
D: — I like jasmine wreaths up to about here. It was lovely. And he said, “Do you want to see the real Cairo?” And I said, “Okay.” And he said, “Well, we’ll go down and we’ll see Egyptian dancing (“HMM”) as it’s really done.” So we went down into the heart of Cairo and we sat on the rooftop. And, across from the rooftop, they were doing the proper dance. But there was a little girl of about five who was doing it and she’d had an accident all down her leg — diarrhea. But she was really about five. (“NO”) So, then, he said, “Well, shall we go back to that apartment?” And I said, “Okay.” We got back to the apartment and they were talking. (“JESUS”) I mean my friend and his friend. And he said, “Well, you know, he’s never had the experience that I have.” And I said, “Well, whatever.” But I’m probably drinking. I don’t know. Anyway —
U: ‘Whatever. I’ll do it.’
Y: (small laugh)
D: So I went to bed and it was alright.
U: Everything else is so immaculately described. You get to bed and you’re just so — ‘Ooh, It’s alright.’
D: Well, it’s so difficult.
B: But some things aren’t meant to be shared.
D: Oh, he loved it. You know. Whatever.
B: You don’t want the gory details.
D: You don’t want to go into details.
U: Well, I certainly don’t see why not.
B: Read D. H. Lawrence.
D: So then they took me back to my hotel and the next morning the first man — (“AHHHHHH”)
D: — called me and said, (“AHHH”) “My friend’s father is sick in Luxor —”
U: He wants to come over too.
D: “— and (“HUH”) so I’m going straight to the train station. Do you want to come?” And I said, “Yes.” (“YES”) So we went to the train station and saw the first man off to Luxor to see his dying father. (“HI ARF”) He never came back to Cairo. Well, that was alright. I mean at the same apartment.
B: Was he an Egyptian?
Y: Do you have his number to give to James?
D: No. And —
B: So wait — were you pen pals after that? (“OH HE”)
D: But he gave me —
Y: Ay yi yi yi yi.
B: Some relationships are not meant to be long.
Y: Ay yi —
D: — the name of this man in Luxor who met me when my plane landed. The hotel was called the white something or other. I forgot what it was called.
B: Nile? No.
D: Anyway, this chap met me and said, (“WOOL”) “Do you want dinner?” And we went in and there was nobody in the restaurant at all — just waiters standing around in their lovely robes. I said to the manager, “Well, who’s here?” And he said, “Nobody. You’re the only guest.” I said, “What happened?” And he said, “Well, the Egyptian government forbade the sailing from Cairo to Luxor because the king”—whoever was the head of Egypt—”had been thrown out and the vessel wasn’t coming so it was going to park on the Nile in Luxor and that would be it.” This chap and I went down to the thing and all the —
U: (small laugh) “Thing.”
D: — not toads — travelers were coming off the yacht because it was going to be parked there forever. (“UH-HUH”) Because the Egyptian government had said, “No more tourists on this Egyptian whatever-it-was.” (“MMMM”) There was a time when there was a queen and a king of Egypt and he was bad. Do you remember how long ago that was?
U: It was before Nasser. No.
U: After Nasser.
D: Well, it wasn’t all that long ago. It was during my middle lifetime.
Y: Wasn’t Nefertiti —
U: I was going to say — you were sexually active right up — well, all through your life. You were fifty-nine when you had that nookie.
Y: James, ask her about seventy — her trip to China when she was seventy-five.
U: I want to hear about that. (“GOOD”)
Y: She was wild then.
U: (honking laugh)
D: And he said, “Well, there aren’t going to be any services here. What do you want to do?” And I said, “I don’t really know.” And he said, “Well, look. I’ve got this tourist vessel and we’ve thrown off all the French people and I’ve got food for about a year. Do you want to come on board and stay here until the crisis is past?” And I said, “I might as well.”
U: (laughs) “I might as well.”
D: So I went on board and it was for three or four days, I suppose. We ate all the supplies because there was plenty of food. And then — I mean it’s odd because I can’t remember what happened but somebody came and they would take me to the new damn or whatever it was but they never did. They took me halfway to it and, anyway, I left the tourist boat. I left the hotel. I left everything. Except my clothes. But that was that. That kept me in Cairo.
U: Did you ever (“HAVE”) make love in a pyramid or have sex in a pyramid?
D: In the pyramid? No. (“NOOOOOO”)
U: Or near it? (“NO”)
D: No. I did have sex on the old damn.
U: On the old damn?
Y: Did you ever do it on a camel?
U: Oh my God.
Y: On a camel?
D: No. We don’t do that. It’s dangerous.
U: On the damn? Ohh. I’ve never done that.
D: A shepherd said, “I’ll show you.”
U: So it must have been (“SO”) — sending out vibes to other people all over the place.
Q: In terms of your life you’ve always lived a free-spirited life? (“UMH” “NO YOU DON’T”) So in the wages of sin you don’t feel like —
U: No, it’s not that.
Q: — it’s been sinful. You just feel —
W: — it’s been a very loving life.
D: Yes, it has.
U: Exactly. (“LET US FUCK”)
Q: Not to put any value judgement on it or anything.
D: No, not at all.
Q: Sex is quite —
D: Yes, I love men.
Q: — it’s just another (“RIGHT”) aspect of sex (“OOH”) —
D: I love them. I don’t love —
Q: — I mean life. Love.
D: — women. I like them. I love men. I’ve always had men in my life. I’ve always had a woman friend in the background that I could turn to if I was broken-hearted about something but women have never really interested me. Men. I think I should have been born a man. I’d been a —
U: Well, you could have been born a gay man then. If you were interested in men and want to be born a man.
D: I don’t know but this chap — he and his wife brought over the flowers this morning. They’re going out to dinner tonight with a couple. One is forty-four and one is fifty. And they’ve been friends since they were twenty. They’re men. They’re going out to their house for dinner tonight. Tomorrow they’re going to dinner with somebody called Plage. There’s a museum.
U: Oh. Oh. Yeah. Oh. That’s George — that’s the Page Museum.
D: That’s right. (“UM-UH”)
U: That’s the one that’s at the La Brea Tar Pits.
U: The George Page Museum.
D: Well, they’re going to dinner with him tomorrow night.
D: And George Page (“SON”) sent me that orchid. And it’s dead now.
U: Oh my God. He’s one of the wealthiest men.
U: This orchid right here?
D: Well, I didn’t know who George Page was until they told me this morning. They said, “How did you all —”
Q: Why did he send it to you?
U: Yes, why?
D: Because they’re friends of mine across the hall.
Y: They’re going on another cruise in January.
Y: They go around the world —
D: For four months.
Y: — twice a year. (“HUH”)
Y: What are you going to do?
D: Leaving in January.
Y: Well, he only drinks Kool-Aid.
D: And she only drinks champagne.
U: Now there’s a good title for you.
Y: They travel QE2 first class and he only drinks Kool-Aid.
D: He’s eighty-two and she’s seventy-two.
Y: He made all his money in the soup business. Out in military bases. (“YEAH”)
D: And they go out all the time.
Y: His name is Happy.
D: And her name is Francis. But they’ve taken a fancy to me. That’s all.
Y: They’re very nice people.
D: Yeah. Very rich.
U: Living across the hall?
Y: They’ve been living there for four years.
D: Their two-bedroom apartment is across from mine.
Q: By the way, did you ever hear anything about the fire? Remember, the last time I was here there was a fire in the apartment below Andy’s.
D: The woman died.
Q: Did someone die?
D: Oh yeah. She was burned to death.
U: When was this?
D: About two or three years ago.
Y: A year and a half ago, I think. (“UM-HUH”)
Q: The rumor at the time had been that this was the apartment rented by the son of famous Universal Studios executive Sidney Sheinberg. (“UH-HUH”) Is that right?
D: I don’t know. Sheinberg’s son is here but I’m not sure that was his apartment.
Q: Because that was what people were saying at the time.
U: I know him.
D: Well, he was horrible. The man. The father. Well, the son was rotten too. But the father was awful.
Q: Who are you talking about now?
U: Sheinberg. Yeah. Sid Sheinberg. I know.
D: When he came in to get the apartment for his son he was (gestures) shuuuwaa — and his son was — (like a growl). But they gave him the apartment anyway. (“NO”) Very unpleasant people. Both of them.
Q: Well, at least it could be worse. He could work for Paramount.
U: Was he trying to bamboozle them to get the apartment?
D: Well, anybody could do it with David —
Y: The owner.
D: — who’s crazy about movies.
U: Oh right. Of course.
D: So anyone who has any —
U: And that’s why he brought his father — to impress the owner.
D: Right. Yes. And now so when are you leaving for Cairo?
U: Saturday. I don’t think I’ll have sex there like you did. I did last year.
Y: James wants to have sex in the bathroom in the airplane.
U: I never said that at all.
Y: With an EgyptAir steward.
U: That’s old. Everybody’s done that.
D: Well, I see your point.
U: No, he just made that up out of — just as soon as he said it.
D: But it’s alright. It’s innocent.
U: No, but I had it already. I want to go into (“ME TOO”) the pyramid and have it. That’s not what I said. (“WELL”)
Y: James, don’t be embarrassed with your feelings. (“YOU LOVE HIM” “YEAH”) You’re among friends, James.
U: It’s not feelings. It’s not true.
U: I don’t want to do it in the bathroom.
D: Well, it’s not bad in the bathroom.
U: I want to do it in the pyramid.
D: Actually, the bathrooms years ago —
U: In the old planes, you’re right. That would have been fun. They were large. They were spacious. Now they’ve chopped them so much off that you can’t —
Q: James, what was the most memorable event that happened to you the last time you went to Egypt?
U: Oh my goodness. There were so many memorable experiences. I suppose walking down the Nile and seeing — well, there were so many. I’d have to look at my notes. One of them was a man painting a bizarre mosaic of women in tunics with moustaches onto the side of his store on the Nile. Beautiful colors. I have a photo of it. It was almost transvestite. It was very interesting.
Q: Did you lose any cameras?
U: I always lose something. I lost a lens cap.
D: Now that you mentioned that, when I went to Cairo I met this chap. An English-American. We were supposed to go out to dinner and he came down from the hotel, which was the brand new one that burned down.
U: Oh yes. I remember that one (“WHO”) and I forget the name of it —
U: — but I’ll have it in my notes. It’s very famous.
D: But they built a new one —
U: Yes, they built a brand new one.
D: — and this chap coming down to go out to dinner fell into the Nile. (“HE’S”) He took a wrong step and fell off the end.
Y: Did he die? Did he drown?
D: No, God, we got him out.
Y: He just got clean. That’s all.
D: But another thing that happened in Luxor — now come to think of it. I met this chap and — oh, he’s the one that — (“I DON’T UNDERSTAND”) I mean that one. Anyway, he said, “I know where there’s a temple on an island. (“YEAH”) We’ll have to get a felucca (little boat) to take us.”
U: Yes. Fphilae.
D: And it was pretty late at night.
U: It was beautiful. I want to go see it again. Those boats are wonderful.
D: He said we could wake somebody up and we can go up to the island and see this temple. And I said, “But you know. It seems a bit late.” And he said, “Well, you know, it’s really exciting.” So he went down to the edge of the Nile because we were on the Nile. And he bashed and bashed and bashed and some poor little chap popped up. And he said, “We want to go out to whatever it was — the island. So we got onto the felucca and went out to the island and we landed. And I said, “Well, where’s the temple?” And he said, “Actually there isn’t one.”
U: Yeah. They took it away.
D: So I started to run because I thought you know, “Well, we’ll get — whatever. I don’t have to pay you, I’m sure. I don’t owe you anything.” And I started to run. And he ran after me. And at last I got back to where the felucca was parked. In the Nile. And I said, “Get me. Get me.” And he got off and walked out through the water and put me on his shoulders and we went back to the boat and went back to the hotel and left the man on the island.
U: Good for you.
Q: And what did you remember (“EH”) just a moment ago?
U: It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience. When I was taken to Luxor and I had to wait in my tour guide’s office for a few minutes before they organized my tour. They had a little thing of opium that everybody sucks in that’s actually marijuana and opium mixed together. And you take a little bit of that and I looked up and I thought I was hearing things because this man who was this old peasant man had agreed to take me out on a felucca the next thing. And I had just taken this opium so I thought I was hearing things because this — I thought he was an old peasant man. He just looked gnarled and wizened. And as soon as I got out of the felucca with him he started reciting the most amazing renditions of Shakespeare in perfect American English. And it was just a constant kind of contest on Shakespeare that we had all across the Nile. Just who could recite more sonnets and stuff. The other time was a sexual episode.
Q: And what about that word in your Shakespeare Society meetings?
U: Honorificabilitudinitatibus. It’s the longest word in Shakespeare and it’s in the fifth act of “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Either the third or the fifth. It’s Holofernes, an old farty Latin teacher, who says it but it’s called honorificabilitudinitatibus. And there was a Ph.D. thesis in Widener Library at Harvard — his entire thesis was to rearrange that word — those letters — put them in Latin words and it spelled in Latin: ‘F. Bacon wrote this play,’ which is part of his thesis of the authorship of Shakespeare.
D: What was your thesis on?
U: I think it’s Edward De Vere without question. And I’ve got a lot of interesting people to back it up. I mean Joyce and Nabokov.
Q: What if it says, ‘Michael wrote this play’ — do it another way and it says ‘Michael wrote this play.’
U: It could be any number of people. The spirit of the world wrote Shakespeare.
D: You were attending Harvard, weren’t you?
U: What? Yes.
D: What it was — Summa Cum Laude at Princeton.
U: Who — you were?
D: My son.
U: Oh, your son was Summa Cum Laude at Princeton? I was only Magna Cum Laude. He beat me.
D: He was Summa.
U: In what? What was his study?
D: I don’t really know, to tell you the truth, because he couldn’t take chemistry. He couldn’t take whatever because he was too advanced for that.
U: Well, I had a fascinating experience at Harvard.
D: Phi Beta Kappa?
U: Phi Beta Kappa? (“PEW”)
Q: Wait, Andy has to have an experience — you don’t have an experience to add, Andy?
Y: Not to — (“MARK”) I’m listening. (“HE IS WHO”)
U: Where is he now? Your son?
D: Well, he went to Harvard Medical (“OH”) and became (“YOUR OPEN”) an open heart surgeon.
U: Good Lord, your son?
U: Well, where is he now?
D: He’s in Princeton, New Jersey. (“HE WOULD BE”) He owns a hospital. (“WHO’S HE” [JAMES ULMER] “GOOD LORD”)
U: What does he think of all your sexual exploits?
Y: Look at the photo up there. He’s sitting right there with his wife. The picture with the metal frame. Look at his wife’s breasts.
D: I think he really likes me as I am. I think he’s always admired me. I brought him up, after all.
Y: There’s a photo of him right there.
U: No. No. Let her finish.
Y: I am. Don’t be so judgmental. I’m helping you. (“GREAT”)
D: His father was killed in North Africa when he was five or six.
Y: His picture’s in this holder.
D: And I fought for him and my daughter, Diana, and sent them both to the best schools in England.
U: Like Eton?
D: No. Christ’s Hospital, (“HMM”) which was Roger’s school. Where they wore the Tudor dress. (“UM-HUH”) Did you know that?
U: No, I didn’t know that. (“OH”)
D: Well, let me tell you. Henry the Eighth’s son, Edward, died when he was around thirteen.
U: Right. (“OH”)
D: But when he was driving through the city of London, which is only a mile square, he saw all these children who had been thrown out by his father Henry the Eighth because Henry goes to all the monasteries.
Y: (in background) I’m not listening. (“ARE YOU SLEEPING”)
D: So all the little children who were taken out by monks were sitting around the city of London. (“WHY”) He said, “I’m going to do something for these children.” (“DID NOT”) So he said, “I’m going to start a hospital which is a place of refuge for these children.” This was about fourteen-something. And he wrote the charter: ‘I will buy them clothes. I will buy them this. I will buy them that.’ Most of them had to wear the same clothes. They wore a thing like a priest’s tunic. (“UMM”) And they had buttons. Silver buttons with Edward’s head on them. And it’s one of the best schools in England. (“UH-UH”) It’s a public school like Eton. I don’t know the name of it.
U: It’s a private school currently.
D: But it takes children who are exceptionally good (“OR”) have a problem like he had. Roger had a problem because his father had been killed in action.
Q: What was his problem?
D: He burned to death in a tank when Roger was about six. And if you’re really bright — if you really need help, the British government will do something for you. So they sent him to this place which is a thousand boys. The pick of England. You have to pass the exams and all that kind of thing. You have to pass the eleven-year-old exam when you’re ten (“NO”) just to get into the school. But of course it costs money, anyway. (“NEAR ACTON”) So Roger wore this long blue coat with blue buttons and yellow stockings and yellow lining because King Edward, that’s Henry’s son, was told that lice do not lay their eggs on yellow. So (“CORRECT”) when he —
U: You’re kidding.
D: — ordered the school costume he said they should be lined yellow to the waist. (“YES”) They should have yellow stockings and trousers. And a white collar. The picture is of Roger in his uniform. (“THAT WAS SCARY”) And they wear it forever. And Exeter here. Exeter and Andover. They send two students over every year to learn about English public schools. But they can’t go from there to here because you have to pass exams in England by years. And if you take a year off you’ve had it. You can’t take a year off in England.
Q: Oh look. The fog (“RIGHT”) has really come in. You can’t even see through it. Has that been happening a lot?
Q: Does it happen every year?
D: Well, it has been happening for about six weeks. (“YEAH”)
Q: Is that unusual?
D: Yes. I think so. But, see, I’ve worked all the time except for the last two years. (“YEAH”) For the last two years it has been like it. But maybe before it wasn’t like that. (“AND”)
Q: And do you really think you’re going to die soon?
D: Yes. At the end of this year.
D: Because I want to. (“SEX”)
U: But you thought (“REALLY”) you were going to die already. I mean —
D: I know.
U: — three months ago you thought you were.
D: I keep thinking I’m going to die but I really think that this time I will.
Q: So when I told you that you do in fact have a soul and some aspect of your personality will survive after death, how does that make you feel?
D: Well, see, Michael — Mark, I can’t believe you. You and I are opposed in our beliefs. I believe when you die, you die. You’re dust or ashes. Nothing.
Q: But you don’t have to believe and you’ll still live.
D: Well, no, I don’t have to believe it but you do. But, see, it just happens that I don’t. I don’t believe in God. I think this is all chance.
U: Too many cows. (“LOVE THE CREEP”)
D: Whatever happened to Andy and I is odd. This is strange because I’ve never really had a good friend. I’ve had lots of women friends and I’ve had lots of lovers. Then I met Andy (“YEAH”) and he changed my life. (“YEAH”) I mean I really love him
U: For you he’s God. If there is one.
D: I don’t mean physically. I feel as if he’s the other half of me that was looking for somebody (“YEAH”) forever. And I’ve found the other half of me. (“YEAH”) Now sometimes he’s angry with me. (“HUH”) He isn’t always pleasant. (“YEAH”) But inside myself I think this is the dark half of me. I’m casual and easygoing and Andy is —
U: I know. I’ve had a fascinating discussion with you about this once and I’m glad the tape recorder is on.
D: Yes. (“SO”)
Q: What about you, James? Have you ever found your soulmate?
D: Well, he’s not a soulmate exactly.
U: I immediately relate to Doris because Doris is a free spirit like I see myself. I’ve always related to people like this. Always.
D: I figure it’s funny I should be eighty-six when I met Andy. I was working downstairs in the office. (“YEAH”) He was new to come in and I didn’t know if he was married or single or working. I didn’t know anything about him and I felt, “I’ve known you forever.”