Warning: The following story may contain graphic descriptions of sex between consenting adult males. If you are underage or do not wish to read such material, or if reading this sort of material is illegal in your jurisdiction, then read no further. This multipart story is primarily about romance and relationships between men. Any reference to actual persons, living or dead, is only to enhance the fictional nature of the story and does not suggest a particular sexual orientation.
Special acknowledgement to Brad from Denver for providing diligent proofing and editing of the story.
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EPILOGUE - AS THE WORLD CHURNS; A LOOK INTO THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE
The actual experience of physically arriving at Hollywood's Kodak Theater red carpet on Oscar Night was everything that Brent had imagined, times ten. While Brent had compiled a creditable filmography and was consistently voted 'most popular' by Peoples Choice, none of his movies had garnered a coveted Oscar nomination or award. As this year was no different: Brent was escorting his friend of several years, Karen Divine. She was one of the five nominees for 2006 Best Supporting Actress for her performance in 'Contented Garden'.
The back limousine door opened at the scheduled 3:30 p.m. arrival time and the couple emerged to take part in the pre-show activities of the 79th Annual Oscar Awards ceremony. As usual, rain earlier in the week gave way to a chamber of commerce sunny, warm late afternoon on this Sunday in late February 2007. In less than two hours, hundreds of millions of people around the world would be watching Hollywood's annual narcissistic, love fest telecast.
A flurry of activity escalated as hundreds of TV crews, reporters and photographers jumped into action. Brent and Karen paused, turned and smiled as another man got out of the stretch Mercedes Benz. Doug, resplendent in an Armani ensemble, stood on the carpeting and helped a tall, willowy African American woman get footing. The four lovers, in public pairing, were ready for the gauntlet.
"Well, guys, this really is show time," Brent said to his friends and subtly winked at Doug's 'date' and Karen's lover of nine years. "You look beautiful, Tamara."
"Honey, next to Halley Berry, I'm lunchmeat." Tamara Borden was now a resident doctor at St. John's in Santa Monica.
"We'll a have a chance to make that comparison very soon. Look who just got out of the limo behind us," Doug said as he took her hand. The group casually turned to catch Halley and escort get out of their car. Halley spotted the group and waved. This was a night of instant friendships and air-kisses.
While Brent was happy for Karen's success, he was more excited about Doug's independent film being nominated as the Best Documentary Feature. 'Hands Across the Sands' was a scathing indictment of the Saudi Arabian Royal Family's involvement in support of Bin Laden and manipulation of the oil prices while indulging in an opulent, decadent lifestyle. As producer and director, Doug had masterfully managed to draw in two Bush administrations and Clinton as duped but not so innocent participants.
What was unknown to all except Doug, Brent and Creative Artists Management leader Sam Barron was that their Saudi friends, Abdul and Fahd - Fred and Abe - had secretly financed the film. Six years earlier they had obtained United States permanent residency 'green cards'. When word got back to Saudi Arabia that the two princes were living a 'deviant' lifestyle, both were officially thrown out of the royal household and all of their properties in the Sheikdom were confiscated. However this was after the two had established a formidable nest egg in the States. Fred and Abe were now officially lovers.
'A lot of water over the dam,' Brent thought, 'since Doug and I were dates for those two guys 10 years ago.' It was the weekend that changed Brent and Doug's lives...forever.
Security strictly monitored the stars, nominees and their escorts past the final checkpoint. In Brent and Karen's case, their famous faces were passports enough. However, Doug had to provide an accreditation invitation. The two couples made their way into the staging area where all cleared arrivals stopped for last minute instructions. The traffic on the red carpet was controlled and timed for maximum impact with the worldwide television audience. Only nominees, their escorts and major pre-approved actors would make the strenuous 200-yard walk. CAM had assigned Doug a publicist handler to direct him to the television interviewers. Brent's personal publicist, one of Hollywood's most powerful and respected, also looked after Karen.
"Mr. Di Marco, you and your lady will depart the tent in two minutes. Look great for the cameras and make eye contact when you recognize one of the major logos," said the staff publicist. "In addition to the ABC folks, be on the lookout for 'E', 'Entertainment Tonight', 'Access Hollywood' and the 'Tribune' stations."
"I don't think that we're going to be interviewed," Doug said.
"This is primary to get footage of you so that, if you win, the shows can present you on their wrap-ups. And I'm going to make a point of stopping by the ABC-TV interview position. The word is that the critic commentator really admires your film and wants to give you exposure on national TV."
"I like your vote of confidence. The idea of winning is very appealing," Doug shot back.
"Buddy, break a leg," Brent said. He walked over to his lover of almost ten years and gave him a good luck hug. "See ya inside." Brent and Karen had insisted that Doug and his date be seated next to them in the coveted front area in the theater. This was a city of pumped-up egos and star stroking; the Academy was happy to grant their minor request.
Although Brent had recently announced his retirement from acting in favor of a career in law, his celebrity was still in the rarified galaxy of mega-stardom. His last film grossed $500 million, domestic and international. In a shrewd deal cut by 'überagent' Sam Barron, Brent took a minimum salary upfront - if you could call $500,000 minimum - against 5% of gross sales, before any expenses. His final film, scheduled for a summer 2007 release, was made with the same deal.
"Are your mom and dad going to be alright in this crowd?" Brent asked.
"Bryan is taking care of them. He'll get them home after the show." Doug and Brent's adopted son, legally Bryan Di Marco for several years, was home from Stanford and his first year in law school.
"We'll have breakfast with him in the morning. You, me, Bryan and 'Oscar'," Brent said with a wink.
"Maybe we should invite Justin and the guys?"
Justin - now Justin Swenson Cole - Dave and Mike's adopted son, attended UCLA's med school and lived in West Hollywood. Justin and Bryan Di Marco's teen love affair had run its course by the time they finished high school but they remained great friends and considered each other unofficial brothers.
"Sounds like a plan. Let's say our place around 9:00 a.m.?" Doug and Brent still lived at the Remington condo on Wilshire Boulevard. However, three years earlier they managed to buy the remaining residences on their floor to create an elegant, secure home of 12,000 square feet. The elevators would only open on the 10th floor by a keycard.
"I'll call home after I speak to Justin," Brent said. Hiring a household manager and chef was a luxury that allowed the guys to juggle their hectic schedules without worrying about the daily details that supported their busy lives. A small apartment was created for their 'man' when the floor had been reconfigured.
"Okay, troops, we're off. See you guys inside." Doug and his 'date' departed the tent for the red carpet stroll with the staff publicist leading the way.
"Karen, you two don't leave for another half-hour. All of the major interviewers want a piece of your hide during the peak prime-time period," their seasoned, personal publicist said with a chuckle.
"Is it alright if Karen and I interact with the fans?" Brent had developed working the crowds into an art form. As long as there was security to come to the aid of interaction with over-enthusiastic crowds, Brent never forgot his gratitude to the public. He also wanted to create a lasting impression on his last public appearance as a member of the Hollywood film community. Starting next month, he would be selling his legal services to these stars, producers and studio heads at outrageous hourly billings.
"Well, I can't officially condone that," the publicist suggested. "But a little spontaneity will probably give the red carpet some animation for the cameras. Be on the lookout for Kevin. He'll do you justice." Kevin Mazur was the premiere celebrity photographer always officially working on red carpet amongst the stars.
"Yeah, good idea. Kevin will make us look great," Brent said. He had developed a long, trusting relationship with the photographer.
"I'll try to track him down. There's always a logjam of stars with the interviewers during crunch time. I'm sure that Kevin would love a little candid action. Meanwhile, why don't you two go over to the lounge and chill?"
"Super," Brent said with a wink. "It'll give me time to make a few calls."
Dave was sitting in the den with the remote in his hand. It was 3:45 p.m. and he was switching back and forth between 'E' and ABC7 for the best interviews. Dave, like many, loved all the hyped silliness.
He had seen Doug walk, almost unbothered, on the red carpet. The highpoint was an enthusiastic interview moment with the film critic commentator. Dave was proud of his friend and his achievements. 'Well, both my friends,' he considered when he thought of Brent.
Dave and Mike were hosting their annual Oscar Night party for their friends. Within the next hour, 40 or so of their closest 'buds' would be arriving for the event.
The thought of moving to L.A. with Mike in 2001 was not without misgivings. Dave, Mike and Justin had made the house in University Heights in San Diego a real, loving home. And it was an important anchor in Dave's life. However, a business offer to Mike became too tempting and Dave went with the flow to support his lover. The timing was ideal for such a transition; Dave was graduating from UCSD and Justin from high school. In the fall, Justin would be enrolled in UCLA and their pre-med program.
TJ Feldman and a group of investors wanted ownership in a restaurant that they could call 'their place' for entertaining. With Sam Barron and two other studio heads as members of the investment group, chances were very high that this restaurant would be a very popular, successful, 'in' rendezvous. In January 2001, over dinner with Tom Feldman and Dave, TJ asked Mike to be the managing partner of this new venture in Beverly Hills. In addition to this being a fantastic career opportunity, 'sweat equity' ownership - 20% - gave Mike financial security and independence that strengthened his and Dave's partnership.
Tom Feldman encouraged Dave to apply to the Gould Law School at the University of Southern California. Tom had just finished his first year and was really happy with his decision to attend USC's school rather than UCLA. He had wanted to be on the same campus as his lover, Mark Connelly. With the senior Feldmans' clout and Dave's impeccable scholarship record, he was admitted into the fall law school class. It also didn't hurt that Dave maintained a close relationship with Senator Feinstein. Her letter and personal telephone call to the dean of the law school sealed the admission.
Mike immediately resigned from his GM post at El Padre in San Diego with a generous 60-day notice, so that a suitable replacement could be found. During this period, he was able to balance the current job with working on plans for the new restaurant with the architect, contractor and designers.
At the same time, Dave surfed the Internet for potential houses on the Westside and developed a relationship with a realtor that TJ Feldman recommended. By June, Dave and Mike settled on a suitable home in Santa Monica, off San Vicente Boulevard. Due to real estate costs being almost 30% higher in the Los Angeles area, the guys decided to downsize. The older, one-story home offered two large bedrooms, a comfortable living room, dining room, small office and an eat-in kitchen. The one luxury was the swimming pool and patio.
Dave felt his stomach tighten as all of the selected household effects, art and antiques were loaded in the moving van in June. This was definitely a symbolic moment of the two men entering another phase of their life together. He was pleased that an older gay couple who were both lawyers purchased the house and hadn't blinked at the listed price. The pool cottage was left intact for the new owners because the furnishings wouldn't fit in the Santa Monica home.
Their interior designer was given the project and a request to create a lighter, airier feeling. And, as before, a major cost resulted from re-wiring to light the art and installation of a security system. As September approached, the renovation project was completed, Dave was ready to start school and Mike was frantically putting the final touches on the new restaurant. 'TJ's' was scheduled to open the middle of September.
September 11 changed people's lives forever. The shock of the terrorist's attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon reverberated through the United States and around the world. In the microcosm of Dave and Mike's lives, shock turned to grief and then to a plan of action. After one day of silent mourning, Dave returned to classes and Mike conferred with TJ about postponing the glittering opening of the restaurant from September 15 to a subdued 'soft' opening on October 15.
Originally, the restaurant was going to host a gala event on Sunday, September 16, after the 2001 Emmy Awards. Like much of Hollywood, numb from the disaster, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences cancelled the award ceremony. As it turned out, the ceremony was cancelled twice. The final re-scheduled event was held in November in a downsized venue. At one point, the planners had even considered holding the Emmy Awards on a military base. However, calmer heads prevailed and the show was held at the Shubert Theater in Century City.
A smaller party was held at 'TJ's' afterwards. While there wasn't the television coverage that had been promised for the original event, the stars and 'suits' immediately knew that this restaurant was going to be the place to be seen.
'TJ's', under Mike's leadership and management, became an instant hit. It obviously didn't hurt that the investors had clout in the community. In time, the restaurant rivaled Morton's as the 'industry's' watering hole. Mike had become a very successful restaurateur on several levels. By 2003, 'TJ's' made the L.A. Times 'Top Ten Restaurants' list and had been recognized annually each year thereafter.
"Hey, babe, I'm home," Mike called out from the kitchen.
"I'm in the den taking a break." Dave and Mike's first guests were due in 15 minutes.
Mike introduced himself to the two cute, male servers from the catering company before coming into the den. A couple of years after moving in, the two lovers agreed on a large, functional space to be created in a new room built off the kitchen that would serve as an entertainment center, den and informal seating space. Mike loved sports, and they both enjoyed movies and music. It was the same many married couples; this room was the most popular space...aside from the bedroom.
The focal point was a 52" flat panel plasma TV mounted on the wall. Between the large, leather couches, over-stuffed chairs, ottomans and the floor, the room could comfortably handle the 20 or so guests on a normal evening. Tonight, guests would be roaming throughout the house. Drinks, munchies and a buffet would be available from the kitchen during the three-hour broadcast. A smaller, 32" LCD flat panel set was mounted on the wall above the kitchen desk.
"Hi, gorgeous," Mike said as he walked over to Dave. "You personally interview the catering guys?"
"Hi, yourself. Not bad eye candy for the guests, ya think?" Dave rose and greeted his guy with a warm embrace. Their lips locked in a kiss that was somewhere in between a 'missed you' smack and a 'let's fuck' full-court press.
"Sorry I'm running late. The final décor for the party really got more involved as it was being installed and the designer queens really started getting bitchy," Mike said after reluctantly pulling away.
'TJ's' was that year's site for Elton John's party and AIDS fundraiser after the Academy Awards. Mike would have to return to the restaurant before seven to supervise the private event and 500 guests. Mike was guaranteed major international TV coverage.
"Everything else ready at the restaurant?"
"The chef is going crazy but we'll pull it off," Mike replied.
"Oh, you missed Russ and Trev. They called from Chicago a little while ago. They've got their own Oscar's party starting soon. I can't imagine all the doctors and management consultants having a rousing time in one room. I mean one guy discussing someone's ailment while the other is analyzing the profitability of an acquisition. They send their regards and are rooting for Doug."
"I miss those guys. But we'll see them at the lake with the West Coast crew this summer," Mike said.
"Definitely. We talked about that, too. Russ is chopping at the bit to go water-skiing already."
"Looks like you got everything shipshape here?"
"With the help of those two guys in the kitchen, all I had to do was give them the rundown of our ideas." Dave smiled and swatted Mike on his hard butt. "Go up and change. I'll run interference here until you return." The phone rang and Dave shrugged his shoulders.
"Okay, give me ten minutes." Mike lightly kissed Dave on the cheek and ran out the hallway to the stairs.
~~~ "Dave, you ready for the party?"
"Hey, Justin, I thought you'd be here by now." Although Dave and Mike had assumed financial support for his schooling, they now thought of each other as brothers and great friends. Justin relied heavily on both older brothers for advice and counsel.
~~~ "On my way. But I'm coming solo. My buddy got roped into OT at the hospital."
"That's cool. We'll all see each other for dinner next weekend." Dave and Mike tried to set aside dinner plans for Justin and his current boyfriend couple of times a month.
~~~ "I also wanted to pass on an invite from Brent. I just talked to him and he wants you, Mike and me to join Doug, Bryan and him for breakfast tomorrow around nine. He said it's just us guys and 'Oscar'," Justin said with a chuckle.
"Works for me. I hadn't planned on coming into the office until the afternoon." Although considered a junior lawyer along with Tom Feldman in the law firm, Dave had gained major traction with the senior partners when he was instrumental in convincing Brent to join them. "They seem awfully confident that they'll win."
~~~ "Just a gut reaction, I think. But, hey, it'll be a good breakfast."
"I agree, stud. You don't have classes?"
~~~ "Not 'til noon. I just turned onto San Vicente. I'll see you in a few."
"Come through the kitchen. That's where the food will be. Bye."
Over the next half-hour, Dave and Mike's support group of old, close friends arrived. This crowd blended in well with the pals that the two had met together at school and at the restaurant.
Tom Feldman and Mark Connelly's relationship had only gotten stronger. Mark was now a sales manager at his dad's L.A. ConSoft office. Mr. Connelly was grooming his son for bigger things, which was fine with Mark as long as he and Tom could be together in L.A. Tom - now grown into a full-fledged legal mogul -gave Dave the 'hi, buddy' traditional kiss when he and Mark walked through the front door.
Billy Forrest and Jim Weiss arrived soon after. Billy's career continued to move forward. After the WB canceled 'Heaven', Billy was cast in the original CSI show on CBS. In addition, he was able to ease into feature films as a young character or second lead. Jim Weiss, at the encouragement of Billy and Brent, accepted a position as a junior agent at Creative Artists Management after graduating from college. Under the watchful eye of Sam Barron, his career was flourishing and he seemed happy.
By 4:30 p.m. the den and kitchen were filled with an assortment of upwardly mobile gay men representing several professions and age groups. Over the next half-hour, the guys exchanged thoughts about the films and actors nominated, hooted and laughed at the fashion disasters of a few, 'Oooh'd' at the hot, young male stars and mocked the red carpet interviewers. The room cheered when Brent appeared on the screen.
"You'd think our friend was running for office," Tom said when Brent broke away with Karen and shook hands with fans on the first row of the gallery. The camera pulled out and focused on Brent and the hundreds of fans cheering in frenzy.
"Or impressing on the 'industry' that he's the man to go to for legal advice," Dave added.
"I think it's safe to say that the newest junior partner at our firm will be a successful rainmaker and walking profit center," Tom Feldman said as he laughed and nodded with a thumbs up.
The room quieted as the theme music and opening announcements started the Academy Awards. This year's host, Ellen DeGeneres, had the star-packed audience in hilarious tears within moments. 'Such a difference from last year's yawn with Jon Stewart,' Dave thought.
The first hour of the telecast produced a few surprises and disappointments. Karen Divine lost out to Jody Foster as Best Supporting Actress.
"Well, at least they kept it in the family," one wag shouted out. This brought out a few jokes as the show went to commercial.
"Let's hear it for 'girl power'," Dave said, standing up. "Guys, Brent told me that the documentary award is to be announced in about 15 minutes. For those who want, take a pee break, grab some more food and get your drinks refreshed." Brent and Doug had obtained a minute-by-minute schedule of the show last week.
"Contrary to rumor, we haven't run out of tequila," Mike joked. "And no fair hitting on the bartender."
There were several groans from the group. Over the next several minutes, most took Dave's advice. He smiled at the cute guy tending to the constant whir of the blender pumping out margaritas, pouring white wine and popping open beer bottles. The other server, obviously a young, wannabe actor, looked over the buffet and bussed dirty dishes.
At 6:15 p.m., everyone was settled down as brother and sister, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, were introduced to present the Best Feature Documentary. 'Who better that every gay man's wet dream to present the award,' Dave considered, as the couple started their light, scripted banter.
After mentioning all the nominees, Maggie took the envelope and effortlessly found the seam of the sealed flap. She carefully tore the envelope open and handed the card contents to her brother. Jake and Maggie briefly reviewed the information on the card and then looked into the audience with broad grins.
"And the winner is...Doug Di Marco," Jake announced with the trademark Gyllenhaal smile focused into the camera. The guys stood and whooped as the film's theme music started and the TV crews panned the audience before zeroing in on a beaming Doug.
The roving floor camera followed him as he lightly kissed his date and then turned to Brent. Time was frozen as he was grabbed by one of the most popular male sex symbols in cinema and hugged hard. It was actually only a matter of seconds and the commentator explained that Doug and Brad Williams had been close friends since their Navy days. However, to the discerning viewers and industry insiders, it was obvious that this was a relationship way beyond being friends.
Slowly, Doug eased into the aisle. Hands reached out for shakes and friendly backslaps as he passed the famous faces. He grinned and received their impromptu congratulations. At the stairs to the stage he almost tripped and was steadied by two ushers.
He approached the Gyllenhaals and in short order shook Jake's hand, received the Oscar statuette and kissed Maggie on the cheek. The brother and sister backed away to give Doug center stage. The audience hushed and he looked into the crowd of his now-peers. Doug's expression changed from a 'deer in the headlights', to a reluctant recipient of the golden ring, to a confident new member of a very exclusive fraternity.
"Wow, this is an amazing experience. Jake, this isn't a dream? Maggie, this is for real?" The audience laughed approvingly.
"My film was a story that needed to be told. As producer and director, I was responsible for its success or failure. Fortunately, it was the former and I've got many to thank. Don't worry. I'll keep the list short." Doug then went on to mention his crew, Sam Barron and his parents."
Doug saw the red light blinking. He had been informed that the signal meant that he had 15 seconds to wrap up his acceptance speech.
'Finally, I want to acknowledge the most important person in my life on earth. Brent, thanks for being there...always."
Doug slowly backed away from the microphone as the theme music and applause started building to a crescendo. He subtly nodded to Brent and walked away to the wings of the stage, Oscar in hand. Only a few knew that Brent and Brad were the same person.
The party in Santa Monica was momentarily silent as the show went to commercial. From one corner of the room, one of the guys started applauding. Within seconds the entire crowd joined in.
"Guys, that was a helluva speech by a helluva man," Dave said.
"And a helluva friend," Mark Connelly added as he held Tom Feldman tightly. "He's the same guy we knew back in San Diego."
"Will be years from now, too." Tom tenderly placed his arm around Mark's shoulders.
"Guys, I'm just proud to be surrounded by such great friends as we celebrate Uncle Doug's victory." Justin was broadly grinning as he walked towards Dave and Mike.
"Mike grabbed Justin's hand and kissed Dave on the cheek. "This is a very special evening," he smiled. "Now let's party."
This ends my tale of four guys and their adventures. To the readers who have offered support throughout this series; a big thanks! Your notes are the fuel that generates a writer's enthusiasm for the project. When you read a story that interests you, pass on a word of encouragement to the author. We all appreciate it. Jack.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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