It is 3 AM on a rainy night and I’m walking down the deserted, darker stretch of 42nd between 6th and 7th avenues. The wet pavement reflects the neon lights from the two porn stores still open. As I approach one of these, I see a man exiting while clutching to his chest a paper bag filled with photos of female flesh. I immediately detect something odd about his gate. It isn’t the usual overly-casual yet dartingly-furtive walk of men as they enter and exit dirty bookstores and movies. No. This man’s body seems permanently shaped into a posture of “shying away” as if he is flinching before a punch is thrown.
As I get closer to him, I see that he is wearing a plastic medical mask in a pitifully unsuccessful attempt to conceal that he has no face. The mask is the color of Pepto Bismol to suggest flesh tone with features crudely painted on. The lips are much too large and much too red. The eyebrows are even worse. I follow him at a distance and note the practiced, heartbreaking way he avoids the gaze of passing strangers and finds shadows and darkened doorways by which to pick his way down the street and home.
In the late 1960s, the mentally ill of America were caught in a political pincer movement. The tightwad Right wanted to close public insane asylums to save money. The moronic Left decided that the insane were the only sanepeople on the planet and had to be liberated from “captivity.” Yippie fuckwits scaled asylum walls and attempted to “free” the petrified inmates. The result of this Left/Right détente was that many of the mentally ill were pumped full of drugs and dumped onto America’s streets. 42ndStreet being one. Aunt Rosa being one. (Ya ask me, insane people should be locked up and kept warm, safe and fed but as far away from sane people as possible. This “care in the community” and “mainstreaming” crap doesn’t work. All it does is create jobs for parasitic social workers while exposing the sane and insane to attacks from each other.)
My family did what we could to help Aunt Rosa but it was impossible to help her. She was crazy. She wouldn’t take her medicine. If we gave her money she gave it away or flushed it away. If we had taken her into our homes she would have burned them down. She needed asylum. As in “insane asylum.” There was no asylum in Times Square for anyone. It was insane to inflict Times Square on the insane and vice versa. Correction. It was criminally insane. The Left and Right should have been given hot-lead enemas for using helpless lunatics as pawns in their political game.
That’s why in 1974 New York and with hopeful hearts,my acting group dared to move into a rat’s nest flanked by porn shops. The customers of those shops received blowjobs for five bucks in the alley behind our theater. Those blowjobs were administered by Black trannies who resembled New York Giants linebackers dressed in hot pants and halter-tops. Our actresses had it extra-tough getting to and from our new home. They had to maneuver through pickpockets, pill-poppers and pimps while enduring wolf-whistles from Elvis Presley look-a-like diesel-dikes. If the actresses skirted the well-lit but obnoxious 42nd Street, they were easy prey on the dark and un-policed 41st and 43rd Streets.
When we compared travel-tips, we discovered that we had independently stumbled onto the same survival strategy. To avoid being maimed, mugged or murdered, we acted nuts. The primal animal in us instinctively knew that predators didn’t eat sick prey. So, we acted sick. We walked down 42ndstreet talking to ourselves and to Jesus. We laughed hysterically at everything and at nothing. We cried out to the Mayor and the Martians. We limped. We played retarded. Under serious threat, we had cerebral palsy.
Carrie was a year dead by the time we discovered this survival ruse. It might have saved her life.