Thursday Morning, Matt’s office in the RET building, Las Vegas
“Good morning Betty,” Matt said in greeting to his secretary, “What’s on the agenda today?”
“You have some financial reports on your desk. There are also some applications for funds from a couple of charities for you to look at, “ she answered, then looked at Matt’s calendar for the day. “In 30 minutes the top three applicants for the ‘Arts’ project will start to come in for a final interview.”
“Jamie Cromwell,” Betty answered. “The personnel folders are on your desk in the order of their appearance.”
“Good! I’ll look at them briefly before they arrive. Would you like some coffee?” Matt asked.
“No thanks Matt, I got a cup while I was filling your carafe.”
“Ok then, I’ll get to work,” Matt stated as he moved to the door of his office, pushed down the handle and entered. Walking to the buffet table, he poured himself a cup of coffee, decorated it with cream and moved to his desk. Placing the cup on a coaster, he took a seat and looked at the two piles of documents on his desk. He picked up a folder from the first pile, verifying from the label that it was the application file for Jamie Cromwell.
He had remembered the initial interview where each applicant was asked identical questions. It was immediately apparent that Jamie was a heavyweight in the musical field. He had an excellent education and had been a member, first chair oboe, in the Cleveland Orchestra. He was also a celebrated solo performer on the concert stage. The most amazing fact was that he was only 25!
The next applicant was a man by the name of Theodore Repallo, a well-known expert on art works, having written several books, one on the old masters, one on American art, and a third on contemporary art. He was older and had extensive experience in the art world, both in New York City and in Europe. His credentials were impeccable.
The final applicant was a specialist in the performing arts. Michael Christopher had a fine background in both Broadway plays and musical theater. He had graduated from the Actor’s studio, directed, produced and acted in several productions. He was 37, and had spent the previous two years in Hollywood as a consultant on a major motion picture.
‘I like all these guys,” Matt thought to himself. ‘I don’t know how I’ll choose between them. Each has his own area of strength. I guess I’ll just have to decide.’
Matt placed the folders back in their original order, then began attacking the financial reports. He has half way through when Betty announced the arrival of Jamie Cromwell.
He asked her to send him in. A moment later, the handsome young man entered the room.
Matt stood and greeted the musical expert. “Welcome, Jamie,” Matt said smiling. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” he asked as he indicated that they move to the small conference table where they would do the interview.
“Sure, that would be nice,” the attractive business suit-clad young man responded with a smile as he shook Matt’s hand, then moved to the table. Matt stepped to the buffet, poured two cups of the hot black liquid, decorated his own, then placed the cups, along with sugar and cream on a small tray that he placed on the conference table. Seating himself he set his cup on a coaster, then moved the tray to his guest.
“I was most impressed with you at our first interview,” Matt admitted. “I know that Ron Turner, my partner, is most interested in the promotion of music. He even talked at one time about building an opera house in Las Vegas.”
“Thanks Mr. Davidson,” Jamie replied. “It would be nice to be in the company of two men with great tastes in music.”
“Ron is certainly the more educated of the two of us in the musical field. I’m learning, but I certainly am no expert.”
“We’re all learning,” the oboist responded. “Could you tell me a bit more about what to expect in the job you have in mind?’
“Sure, I’ll be glad to tell you what we’re contemplating. A little personal background would be helpful though. Our family has been very fortunate in amassing a great deal of wealth. We consist of Ron and myself, Ron’s brother Tyler, and his partner, Dan. We have decided to make a major effort in supporting the arts. None of us feel competent to do so on our own, nor do we have the time to make educated evaluations. That’s why we’re looking for someone who can do that for us.”
“I guess I’m a bit confused,” Jamie admitted. “You say that Ron is your partner, yet all of you are part of a family?”
“Yes,” Ron and I are gay, and we’re committed to each other. The same is true for Tyler and Dan. We’re two pairs of business as well as romantic partners.”
“Oh… I see.”
“If it makes you uncomfortable working around four gay men, then I’d suggest that the job is probably not for you.”
“No, that’s not it,” Jamie replied quickly then slowly continued. “It’s just…. I guess I never considered working for gay men, especially men who were not reluctant to admit being gay. The only one’s I recognize as ‘out’ are pretty flamboyant, I guess I’m just surprised, that’s all.”
“We are what we are,” Matt declared. “Not one of us is a flaming queen, though we have no problem with those who are. We have many gay and straight friends who accept us for who we are, rather than what we are. If you can’t do that, then I guess our conversation is over.”
“No! Please hear me out,” Jamie pleaded. “I guess it’s just because… well because … I’m gay too. I’ve just hidden the fact all my life.”
“You’re not ‘out’ to anyone?” Matt asked.
“No I’m not. I’ve had a few casual ‘encounters’, but I’ve never been attached to anyone romantically. I’ve been too afraid of being exposed.”
“You won’t have that problem around here,” Matt laughed. “We wear our sexuality as a badge of honor: at the same time we don’t flash it, but neither do we hide it.”
“What are your goals in your support program for the arts?” Jamie asked again.
“We’re interested in all the arts,” Matt responded. “If we concentrate in any area it will probably be because of the leanings and expertise of our Director.”
“I have to admit that I’d like the job,” Jamie offered, “but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I’m not strong in the visual arts, such as the legitimate theater, or paintings, sculpture and the like.”
“I appreciate your being honest,” Matt complemented his guest. “I like you and I think you’d be a real asset in our efforts. I must admit that I’m torn between the top three candidates. Each of you has expertise in your own area of the arts. I’m just undecided about how to progress. I guess I’ll have to discuss it with the family.”
“Have you considered hiring all three of us?” Jamie asked.
“Honestly no,” admitted Matt. “That has possibilities, but I’m not sure that Ron and Tyler are willing do dilute our financial efforts that much by going in three directions at once.”
“I for one would consider taking a bit smaller compensation if that helps,” Jamie offered. “I was hoping to ask for $200,000 a year, but would settle for $150,000 if I wouldn’t have the burden of trying to get up to speed in areas outside my present qualifications.”
“Thanks for that suggestion and offer,” Matt replied. “I’ll be in touch with Ron and Tyler who are on the east coast this week. I’ll let you know what we decide.”
Jamie recognized that the interview was over, so just said. “Thank you Mr. Davidson. I really appreciate the opportunity and your consideration.”
“It’s just Matt, Jamie, and speaking for our family, we’re most appreciative of your interest. I’ll be in touch by tomorrow.”
“I’ll stay in town then,” Jamie replied. “I’m at the Mirage.”
“Thanks again,” Matt said as he offered his hand.
Both men arose and Matt escorted the musical expert to his office door.
As he departed, Matt stood in the office doorway watching him leave after the applicant thanked Betty. Matt wondered if the man’s physical attractiveness had clouded his thinking.
“Oh Matt,” Betty interrupted his musings. “Margaret would like you to call her when you have a minute.
“When is Theodore Repallo due to arrive?” Matt asked.
“In 10 minutes,” she answered.
“Place the call for me to Margaret now, if you don’t mind,” requested Matt, “I’ll take it at my desk.”
“Yes sir,” Betty replied as Matt stepped back inside his office and returned to his desk.
A moment later his phone rang.
“Matt?” Margaret said as me answered the call.
“Hi Margaret. What’s up?”
“We just got an offer on the Baker property that I think Ron might be interested in.”
“Yes it’s the 900 acres northwest of town that Ron’s father bought 12 or so years ago.”
“What did he pay for it?” Matt asked.
“$15,000 an acre. That’s $13, 500,000. The offer is for $200,000 an acre, or $180 million, cash!
“Damn!” Matt replied. “That’s a bunch. I’ll call Ron.”
“Yes, I thought you’d want to,” Margaret replied. “50% of the ownership is in the name of the Turner Charitable Trusts. The balance is in Ron’s name.”
“Thanks for the insight. Can this wait until Ron returns to Las Vegas?”
“Anything can wait,” she replied, “but Ron is not one to let grass grow under his feet.”
“I’m learning that more every day. Thanks Margaret. I’ll call him right now.”
“Thank you Matt. Let me know what he wants to do. I can handle it, once I know his decision. Bye.”
Matt hung up, and then pressed the intercom button, asking Betty to get Ron on the phone.
Three minutes later, the desk phone again rang.
“Ron is on the line,” Betty announced.
pushed the blinking light button.
“Hi Babe,” Matt said happily.
“Hi Lover,” Ron responded. “What’s up?”
“Margaret just called,” Matt answered. He then went on to give Ron the details that Margaret had relayed to him.
“Hmmm,” Ron pondered. “Let’s sell. We’ll put the $90 million in the Charitable Trust, using half of it for our arts project. That should fund the project just over $100 million. The balance after taxes we’ll use for our standard charities, investing it. If our returns keep up at the present level on our investments there, that should produce an extra $20 million a year for our charity work. I may also decide to spend some personal money for artwork which we can own privately, but loan to our museum.”
“What museum?” Matt asked.
“The one we’re going to build,” Ron replied. “Speaking of that, how are the interviews going?”
I’ve only done the interview with one of the finalists. The other two I will be doing later on this morning. The dilemma I face isn’t with the candidates. All three are excellent. The problem is that they are all experts, but specialize in their respective areas and have little experience in the others. One, though young, is a music guru, the second specializes in ‘artwork’ such as paintings, sculpture, etc., and the third has a great background in the performing arts. I don’t know which one to choose. I explained my dilemma to Jamie Cromwell, the music candidate, and he suggested that we hire all three men. I explained that the cost of having three specialists might dilute our purchases and giving. Do you have any suggestions?”
“How much do you think each would cost us on a full time basis?”
“My guess is $200,000 a year each. Jamie said he would take less if he could specialize, but if we hired all three, we’d have to pay all of them the same.”
“I’d suggest that you find out the salary requirements of each of them, then we’ll talk again. I have no problem with hiring all three if that is our best option, but someone would have to manage all three. Initially that would be you Babe. Instead of less work, it might end up being more work. If we have three prima donnas all vying for the funds and fighting with each other it could be a nightmare. On the other hand we could end up with three stars. It’s a huge undertaking, especially if we build buildings at twenty to sixty million dollars a pop.”
“I think we could phase the buildings,” Matt suggested. “There are good facilities for both music and theater at UNLV. We could even rent space for an art museum if we want. Building a museum will be off in the future though, because as yet we have nothing substantial to display. We could however acquire the land and begin work on the designs.”
“I agree,” Ron said. “It might take years to get into the full swing of this all. I would expect that each of the three areas might ultimately cost around a billion dollars apiece in order to do what we want to do here, leave a proper endowment, and to at least make an equal monetary effort for other parts of the country.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Matt. “That’s three times the present size of the Turner Trusts including our charity operations.”
“Well, there’s no point in thinking small if we want to put Las Vegas on the map as a Mecca for the arts. There has to be more to the City than casinos, topless joints, and entertainment. Don’t forget, we want to assist talented artists too, not just acquire works of art and wonderful performances.”
“That sure gives me a lot to think about,” Matt said, feeling quite overwhelmed.
“Here’s another thought. We may choose to hire an administrator over the entire arts program. He wouldn’t have to specialize in the arts, but should be somewhat knowledgeable. He would have to be able to manage the distribution of our resources and manage the three prima donnas.”
“If we have four expensive guys, they alone could cost us around $900,000 or more a year! Then there would be the cost of some staff, plus work facilities too.”
“Yes, just the administration of the program could cost $ 2 million a year or thereabouts.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Matt asked. “It seems awfully expensive.”
“It is that,” agreed Ron, “but if you want to see expensive try buying a Renoir or a Picasso! Now you’re talking bucks! That’s why it’s important that our people know what they’re doing. We want to support the modern day Renoirs. We just have to have someone good enough to recognize world class, when he or she sees it. I don’t want to specialize in modern art, but some of their work is a bargain, compared to some of the old masters.”
“It’s mind boggling,” Matt said overwhelmed.
“Not so Babe. Just remember, ‘you can eat an elephant, but just not in one bite.”
“If I hire all three, we’ll have three hungry mouths to feed,” Matt resumed. “I sure hope you are good at making money.”
“That’s my job,” Ron reiterated. “I make the money, you spend it on things we want to support and enjoy. Just remember, I value people over objects.”
“I’ve got it,” Matt assured his lover. “At least I know our options.”
“Anything else Babe?” Ron asked.
“Nope. That’s it. We’ll talk tonight. Love ya Babe.”
“Bye Lover. ‘Til tonight.”
“I’ll be waiting for your call,” Matt promised. “Bye.”
No sooner had Matt hung up the phone than Betty announced. “Mr. Rapallo is here for his appointment.”
* * *
6 PM that evening, Long Island, New York.
The long black limo pulled to the curb in front of the modest dwelling that housed Ron’s friends, Alan and Bryan. After tipping the driver generously, and asking him to return at 9:30 for their return trip to the Plaza, Ron and Tyler exited the vehicle and headed up the concrete walk toward the front door as the large car pulled away from the curb. Stepping up onto the porch, Tyler moved to the door and pressed the doorbell button. No sooner had he completed the task than the inner door opened and Rich and Brandt appeared inside the outer screen door.
“Hi Ron. Hi Tyler,” Rich, Alan’s son, greeted their two visitors. “Come in.”
Ron pulled the screen door opened and held it wide for Tyler to advance first.
“Hi guys,” Tyler said, shaking their hands.
Ron, who followed his brother, wrapped his arms around each of the young men, giving them his patented hug. “Good to see you again,” he told each one as they embraced.
“Alan and Bryan are in the kitchen,” Brandt reported. “We’re to offer you drinks, then usher you in there. Name your poison.”
“I’ll have scotch and water,” Ron requested.
“Make that two,” his brother dittoed.
“You know your way to the kitchen. We’ll bring the drinks in there,” Rich directed.
“Thanks guys,” Ron said with gratitude as he strode toward the kitchen, tailed by his brother.
On entering the kitchen, the pleasantries just exchanged were repeated. Afterward, Ron asked, “What smells so good?”
“Bryan sneaked away a bit early today,” Alan reported. “We had started some homemade bread this morning, and he’s got it in the oven. He also made a surprise dessert. The steaks are ready for the grill, and the potatoes are ready to be nuked. I’d say that we’ll eat in about 10 minutes or so.”
10 minutes later
The six men surrounded the table, yet remained standing. Alan spoke.
“Ron would you mind returning thanks?”
“No, I’d be delighted. Would you like the joke before or afterward?”
“Never would be too soon,” Bryan jibed.
“You should get so lucky,” Tyler kidded. “At least you only see this guy every few months. You should live with him!”
“Alright for you guys. I’ll skip the joke if you insist on hurting my feelings.”
“I wanna hear the joke,” Rich chimed into the conversation.
“That’s good enough for me,” Ron quickly agreed.
“Last week we took some friends out to a new restaurant and noticed that the waiter who took our order seemed a little strange,” Ron began. “When the busboy brought our water and utensils, I noticed he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket. Then I looked around and saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets.”
“When the waiter came back to serve our soup I asked. “Why the spoon?”
“’Well,’ he explained, ‘the restaurant’s owners hired Andersen Consulting to revamp our processes. After several months of analysis they concluded that the spoon was the most frequently dropped utensil. It represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour. If our personnel are better prepared, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 15 man-hours per shift.’”
“As luck would have it I dropped my spoon, and he was able to replace it with his spare. ‘I’ll get another spoon the next time I go to the kitchen instead of making an extra trip right now,’ he commented.”
“I was impressed. I also noticed that there was a string hanging out of the waiter’s fly. Looking around, I noticed that all the waiters had the same string hanging from their flies. So before he walked off, I asked the waiter, ‘Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?’”
“ ‘Oh certainly!’ he said then he lowered his voice. ‘Not everyone is so observant. That consulting firm I mentioned also found that we can save time in the restroom. By tying this string to the tip of (you know what), we can pull it out without touching it and eliminate the need to wash our hands, shortening the time spent in the restroom by 76.39%!’”
“ ‘After you get it out, how do you put it back?’ I asked.
“ ‘Well,’ he whispered, ‘I don’t know about the others, but I use the spoon.’”
“EEEEWWWW!” Bryan shrieked as he laughed with the others. “That was awful! I think Tyler should ask the blessing. I’m afraid of what else might come out of your mouth.”
Ron looked at his brother with a questioning look.
“Would you mind Bro?” he asked.
“Of course not,” Tyler answered with a wink.
“Our merciful God,” Tyler began after all had bowed their heads. “We come together as friends and family united to do Thy will for our fellow men. We ask Your blessings on those less fortunate. We also ask for Your empowerment to carry out Your will with those who need our help and whose lives our efforts and resources can renew. Bind our hearts together in a unified front to help those in need and to give love and assistance to Your downtrodden loved ones. Keep us humble, remembering from where our own blessings are derived. We ask that You keep our loved ones safe so that together we can strive to make this world a better place through our efforts and with Your guidance. Now we thank You for this beautiful meal that you have provided. Bless those who have prepared it for our enjoyment and its use to fuel our bodies in order to do Thy work. Amen.”
“Thanks Tyler,” Alan said with gratitude. “That was beautiful.”
“Yeah, thanks Tyler,” Bryan agreed. “It reminds us of the real purpose of our life here on earth.”
“You’re most welcome my friends,” Tyler said humbly. “I’ve had a good teacher, in spite of his jokes.”
“Why do I always feel picked on, even when complimented,” Ron asked.
“’Cause you deserve it,” Bryan retorted.
Changing the subject, Tyler asked, “Alan, I’m sorry I haven’t had time to spend with you at the office. How are the operations going with the Friendship Trust?”
“Remarkably good,” Alan answered. “I’ve been in social work for nearly 15 years and for the first time, I can see a difference. Of course in a city of this size, the problems are enormous. With Ron’s help, we have turned the Friendship Trust’s endowment into a steady and generous source of funding. Our asset base has increased by 30% in the last few months. The money generated is put to good use. We now have 6 major programs, aimed at different age and income groups. Most of the programs are ‘rescue’ programs directed toward nutrition, shelter, clothing and health care. One direction we’re taking, and that we’re particularly proud of, is the job-training program. A smaller effort but one of equally lasting importance, is our scholarship program for bright, but disadvantaged youth. You might say that 60% of our work is aimed at sustaining life through aid and 40% at improving it through education. We hope to change that balance to 50-50 within two years by increased funding. How is Aztec-Turner doing?”
“We’re growing in leaps and bounds. For example, our operation here in New York has quadrupled in size in the last few months,” Tyler replied. “Only now are we expanding our Northeastern operations outside of Metropolitan New York City. It’s very exciting, and very timely.”
“I can see that it could be, considering the reality of 9/11,” Alan agreed. “We could see the smoke rising above the City from our rooftop. I’m sure the world was shocked by the World Trade Center disaster, but New Yorkers lived it. There are few of us here that weren’t effected.”
“How about you, Bryan,” Tyler said turning his attention to the younger of the partners. “Tell us what you’re doing now?”
“I finished my degree in social work,” Bryan said proudly. “I was reluctant to jump right in at Friendship Trust, so I’ve worked for a couple of months now as a paralegal in a law firm that specializes in social work. It has been very enlightening. Next month I’ll be leaving them to join Alan full-time at Friendship, but the experience outside of the Trust has given me a broader look at legal issues, beyond that of rendering aid to the indigent.”
“I’m sure your exposure to the legal issues will be of great assistance to the Trust in its operations,” Tyler concluded.
“How ‘bout you guys?” Ron asked the two young men he called the Katzenjammer Kids.
“I’m still in school,” Rich remarked. “I help Dad when I can too.”
“He’s doing very well academically,” Alan said with pride.
“And you Brandt?” Ron said inquiring of Rich’s boy friend.
“Still in the flower business,” he reported. “I got made assistant manager, and got a raise as well.” The pride in his work was reflected in his broad smile.
“I’m pleased. I guess I don’t have to ask you guys if you’re still partners,” he directed at the younger guys.
“Forever,” they both pledged, looking into each other’s eyes.
“We’re going to look for a place together when I get out of school and get a job,” Rich reported.
“What’s the matter?” Ron asked with a wink. “Is Bryan complaining about the headboard banging on the wall at night?”
Both young men blushed before Rich answered.
“Nah, not really. He couldn’t hear it anyway above the noise of his own headboard slamming in their room.”
“You’re going to get yours,” Bryan threatened while the others laughed.
“We’d like to again thank you for the scholarships,” Rich said redirecting attention to Ron.
“You’re most welcome, Rich.”
“Bryan and I would like to thank you too,” Alan added. “Bry’s and Rich’s scholarships kept us from having to check in at the poorhouse. The new job helped immensely too. I never would have believed that we could emerge from the ‘education experience’ and not be buried in debt.”
“Sometimes good things happen,” Ron modestly replied.
“They often happen around you,” Bryan observed.
“Well, I have to have some enjoyment,” declared Ron. “I like giving away money.”
Friday morning, the job trailer at Thornton
Pete was sitting at the desk in the trailer sorting through some paperwork when the mobile office’s door opened and in stepped a man in his mid 20’s with dark, olive colored skin, black hair and brown eyes.
“Uh, I’m looking for a Mr. Peter Siegler.”
“I’m Pete Siegler. What can I do for you?”
My name is David ben Sharif, I was told to report to you for work.”
“Okay,” Pete answered. “Terry, the job superintendent for this job, has been reassigned since this job is nearly finished. I was his assistant during construction.”
“What is this place?” David asked.
“It’s called the Thornton Center. It’s a home for gay boys who have no home.”
Ben Sharif tried to conceal his surprise and disgust by wiping his hand across his face.
"What is left to do?” he asked.
“In this last phase,” Pete explained, “we constructed 6 residences, plus we added a workout room to the recreation building. The equipment for the workout room has arrived so we need to assemble it and install it. There is also a small amount of pick-up work to do. After that’s done, we’ll move all the project files from the trailer to the Turner Construction office, and take out all the computers and office equipment so that the trailer can be moved. After it’s gone, we’ll clear this land, get it landscaped, then have the chain-link construction fence moved. That should complete this project. I suspect we can have it all done in two weeks.”
“I’m ready to start when you are,” ben Sharif said.
“Good,” Pete responded. “The equipment is due to arrive any minute. The supplier will deliver it to outside the new room in the gym. First we’ll install the rubber flooring that he’s bringing, then move the equipment into the room and begin putting it together.”
“Sounds like fun,” ben Sharif said with a disarming smile.
“I don’t know about fun,” Pete countered, “but we get paid for it so what the heck.”
“Yeah. What the heck,” the new man agreed.
* * * * *