I recently had a chat with Cat Melodia, author of DING DONG THE DIVAS DEAD (which is a terrific backstage opera murder mystery). After I lost my job at Intiman Theatre last April, my publisher hired me to do some publicity for the book. Cat and I got together to talk about our books since we both have a background in the arts. I am putting the finishing touches on my second book ALWAYS A BRIDE DOLL, NEVER A BRIDE: A GAY MUSING ON DATING, MARRIAGE, AND HAVING CHILDREN.
DISHING WITH CAT AND DENNIS——————–
June 21, 2011
(Two Seattle authors, both with backgrounds in performing arts meet on the patio on a beautiful sunny morning to dish life, art, publishing and the performing arts)
DENNIS- So, my bride doll book, it starts off with my mother’s wedding dress and wanting to see it. My father came home on leave from the Korean war for a week. He proposed to my mother. My mother and grandmother only had a week to prepare an entire church wedding. So she didn’t have time to get a white wedding dress.
CAT- How long had they known each other?
DENNIS- They had been dating since she was 14. My mother never dated anyone else.
DENNIS- …so that was the dress she came up with (referring to the wedding picture of Dennis’ parents). It wasn’t a white, traditional wedding dress because she didn’t have time to get one. I remember asking my mother, “where’s your wedding dress?” She said she didn’t know. And I remember being just horrified.
I always had this thing growing up about wanting to get married. Yet I wanted to be the BRIDE, not the groom. That is a little bit of the “Stefeny Calvert” thing (Stefeny was Dennis’ imaginary female personality as a child). Stefeny got to do all the stuff I couldn’t being a little boy: a wedding and the husband.
CAT-Which is all so much better in theory than actuality.
DENNIS- That is where I end up in the book through my last relationship with Oscar (Dennis’ last boyfriend). I don’t need the wedding and the certificate. I am fine being independent. I learned that through Oscar …because he is SO independent. I learned that when we are together, we are together because we want to be. And when we are not, we are not. We don’t need the ceremony. We don’t need it legally validated by the whole world.
CAT- enforced 24 hour closeness…
DENNIS- Yes. But I still want gay marriage to become legal for everyone else who want that. Maybe someday with a different partner I would want that, too.
CAT- It gets harder as you get older.
DENNIS- Yes. I realized that it gets harder when you get older and I don’t need what I thought I needed when I was in my twenties and thirties.
But when I was a child I did all these wacho things, because I had a wacho childhood. I used to set a pair of my dad’s shoes at the end of the hallway. That was where the groom was standing. And I would walk down the hallway and marry my dad’s shoes as Stefeny Calvert.
Then I got into the whole doll thing. I was making wedding dresses for my Barbies. I didn’t detail the bride and wedding thing in my first book, SHORN: TOYS TO MEN because it was a distraction from the hair thing.
So a lot of the Stefeny Calvert thing was wanting the American Dream. I wanted to get married and have a family and the whole package, but I was gay and never thought I could do any of that stuff, but Stefeny could in my playtime.
CAT- yeah… and it is also that very elaborate fantasy life that I know a lot of creative people have.
DENNIS- I had a HUGE fantasy life. I went to a lot of trouble. I married Grant Goodeve from EIGHT IS ENOUGH. I had an elaborate wedding to Brent McMann, who was in SHORN: TOYS TO MEN. I remember the wedding to Grant Goodeve was in the living room while my mom was mowing the lawn. I knew as long I could still hear the lawn mower it was safe to continue with the wedding in the living room. But as soon as I heard the lawn mower stop, I knew I had to pack up the wedding and hide it back it my bedroom so I wouldn’t get caught.
CAT- You know I still have my Barbie dolls.
CAT- I loved my Barbie dolls!
DENNIS- I loved mine, too!
CAT- They are in such bad shape, though (she laughs).
DENNIS- But that is a sign that they were loved and they were used!
CAT- Boy, were they used!
DENNIS- I talk A LOT about my marriage in this new book. (I got married to a woman named Jessica for three years when I was 19) I dug in and really dissected that time of my life. I had forgotten a lot about that period.
CAT- because it wasn’t a joyous time?
DENNIS- Well, yes and no. I don’t regret anything or getting married and I don’t think my ex-wife would either. Yet it is touchy. My ex-wife and I do not correspond anymore, and certainly not after my books.
CAT- I read SHORN. I don’t think she would be upset by it if she read it. You handle that period of your life and her integrity with great care in your book.
DENNIS- I don’t think she would either, but I don’t think she will ever read them.
She was a very large woman …obese. And you know, my weight had always gone up and down according to my self-esteem. And I just remember having great compassion for her because of her weight. And when it came time for her wedding dress, that was a pivotal moment. She had to have a wedding dress that she felt like a million bucks in. And she was a size 24.
CAT- mmmm….. And white just doesn’t look great on larger women.
DENNIS- ….yes, but she found one. I mean, it was a big dress and very 80’s, but she felt like a princess in this dress.
CAT- That is wonderful.
DENNIS- But things got very complicated. I hadn’t been around gay people and then we moved for me to finish my degree and there were actually real gay people I met for the first time.
Then I got assigned to design costumes for this play called MAID OF HONOR. About a lesbian who is getting married to man and she asks her former lover to be her Maid of Honor at the wedding. So I had to design a wedding dress for this play. I was still married to Jessica at that time. Here I am: I am gay and I am married to a woman and designing a play about the same thing. The whole theater department was focused on me, the gay man, designing this play. That was such a pivotal moment. I realized that I had to get out of that situation. I wanted to get married as myself to a man that I loved. Not a pretend wedding. I wanted to be a father someday, too.
DING DONG THE DIVA’S DEAD by Cat Melodia is available now from Camel Press.
My first book, SHORN: TOYS TO MEN, is available from Coffeetown Press.
I am shooting for getting ALWAYS A BRIDE DOLL, NEVER A BRIDE released in early 2012 …an election year. Hopefully the book can shine a light on gay marriage.