A Frame of Reference Christmas

an excerpt

23 December 2004, 10:11p.m.

Anxiously awaiting Cam's return, Grant Jackson tapped his feet and scratched at the back of his neck.

Eleven days ago, he had been fired from his hit NBC-TV sitcom, Our House, amid the most shocking revelations. Since the firing, the media had "outed" him to the world in general, and to his conservative Central California family in particular, all of this while the scandal and shame-fueled media continued to mock and savage him daily. Grant knew there was no possibility of resuming his television acting career--not ever--and a whole lot of damage control with his family lay ahead. Christmas was still two days away, but it was already shaping up as easily the worst holiday season of his twenty-four years.

He glanced at the wall clock. 10:11 p.m. Gratefully, Cam would soon return from work. Partnering with Fox Tucker, Grant's live-in lover, Cameron Cody, a former gay adult film superstar and a call boy, was exiting the skin trade and launching a new career as co-owner and host of Cameron Cody's We/Holistic Restaurant-Deli. In addition to being one of Cam's former johns, Fox was also a highly successful Beverly Hills restaurateur. The We/Holistic's grand opening was only eight days away, New Year's Eve. This invitation only gala was the hottest ticket in town.

Empty and listless, Grant wondered, when will normal feelings return? Will they ever return? His boggled brain was capable of framing the questions, but incapable of answering them.

Once more, he found himself rehashing the disasters that had caused his rising star to crash and burn. Being fired from Our House after American Confidential exposed his past as a gay adult film actor and a prostitute. The tabloid had even revealed his most private secret, that he shared a "West Hollywood Love Nest" with his lover, Cameron Cody, the most famous gay porn star of his generation.

And as if it weren't bad enough that the story ended his broadcast network television career, further disclosures, and the relentless media blitz that followed them, laid bare every aspect of his personal life as well.

Right now it seemed impossible that it had only been last June when his hometown celebrated his network television success with a cover story in its newspaper, The Selma Enterprise. Home for the wedding of his childhood best friend, Greg Rockvam, Grant had also been guest of honor at a party hosted for him by his beloved Aunt Honey.

Even though Cam had tried to keep it from him, Grant had listened to, read, and watched the virtual avalanche of publicity attendant the scandal. But numbness had eventually immunized him against further hurt. What more had he to lose? His reputation, his career, and his self-esteem had vanished. Every last one of his darkest, deepest secrets had been exposed for the world to know. Grant's life--including the TV stardom about which he had dreamed since boyhood--had vanished, as if by magic, black magic.

Poof! It had disappeared during the very season that Andy Williams foolishly promoted in song as "the most wonderful time of the year."

But there was an upside something that neither magic nor media could take away. Cam.

Cameron Cody. Cam, oh, Cam. The very thought of his beautiful devoted lover made Grant's eyes mist. Thank God the scandal had only strengthened their relationship, giving their virtual marriage a steely "you and me against the world" dimension.

Grant found himself actually smiling, and even feeling a little better.

Cam. If he had nothing else, Grant wanted to live forever simply to share every day with Cam.

They had first met on the set of a gay adult film, Jailhouse Cock. Cam was the undisputed king of the gay adult film world, and Grant was a newbie. Like all of gay America, Grant had immediately fallen hard for the platinum-haired, lavender-eyed, tall, thinly muscular sex god. In fact, it had been the proverbial lightning bolt of love at first sight.

Initially Grant was unable to believe Cam could be interested in his novice co-star. But he was wrong. Cam shared Grant's romantic feelings in spades. It had taken Cam a while to convince the youngster of the intensity and sincerity of his emotions, but they went on to date, and then, somewhat later, they had moved into this lovely Beverly Hills adjacent home on Dorrington Avenue. Dubbed so cruelly by the tabloid as "the love nest."

With the sound of Cam entering the family room from the garage, Grant snapped back to the present.

"Honey, I'm a homo!" Cam exclaimed as he lifted Grant off his feet and swung him around in a circle. This was their ritual - 0what they did whenever one of them returned home.

"Happy to have you, homo." Grant responded automatically, giving Cam a big, sloppy kiss. With this, Cam returned his lover's feet to the floor. "So how's my Sugar Babe?" Grant asked.

"Wondering how on earth we'll be ready for the grand opening. A million things still need to be done. Fox said not to worry. He's been through this before, and he says that somehow it always works out."

There was a pause, and then, "How are you?" Cam asked earnestly.

"All right," Grant lied. "I'm packed for tomorrow, and I brought your suitcase in from the garage."

Cam frowned. "I'm a little nervous," he confessed. "Meeting your family and all. I mean, things didn't exactly go well when I went home for Christmas last year."

That's when Cam had come out as gay to his parents in Enterprise, Alabama. His Bible-thumping father had not spoken to him since.

Grant smiled wanly. "Then your willingness to do this for me makes me love you all the more."

"When the subject is you," Cam replied, "I live dangerously."

Grant scratched nervously at his neck. "You know I wouldn't have insisted if it wasn't a command performance."

"That makes an even two of us. But a command performance, it is."

Following the tabloid story that led to his firing, Grant had not heard one word from his ultra-conservative papa, Mark Jackson. He always thought I was queer. Grant had reckoned mournfully. Now that his suspicions have been confirmed by virtually every news source in America, he wants nothing more to do with me.

On the other hand, Grant's mama, Ellie Jackson had been phoning daily, lovingly telling him that the crisis would pass, and he would rise like a phoenix from the ashes of scandal. But never once did she mention Grant's father.

That's why Grant had been stunned when, out of the blue, papa had called this past Sunday afternoon while Cam was at work.

Mark Jackson had said nothing about the scandal, or about Grant's firing. He got right to the point: "Son, I want you home for your Aunt Honey's Christmas Eve party, and for Christmas Day with your mama and I."

Grant had been shocked into silence by the invitation. But he was even more astonished with papa's next words: "And I want you to bring that Cameron Cody person with you."

Grant had fumbled the phone receiver, almost dropping it to the floor. After finally recovering it, and his ability to speak, he did not ask questions. He simply said, "As you wish."

"Hear the news?" Cam asked, returning Grant to the here and now.


"KNX reports that Adam Scott has been signed to replace you as Artie on the series."

Grant was delighted with the flash of anger and disappointment that shot through him; it delivered the answer to a question he had asked himself repeatedly. Yes, he would have normal feelings again; he was having them now.

Rather than replacing him in the role of Artie Miller, Grant had hoped the powers that be would simply "off" Artie, the way they had killed off his co-star Kathie King's character after she had died from an accidental drug overdose between seasons.

"How very Darren One and Darren Two of them," Grant said in a brittle voice.

Cam looked clueless. "What?"

Grant sighed out his frustration. How can Cam not know this? "Sugar Babe, you really must watch more TV Land! It's from Bewitched. You know, with Elizabeth Montgomery as a witch, and Dick York as Darren Stevens, her mortal husband. The whole premise was loosely borrowed from the 1958, Kim Novak, Jimmy Stewart movie, Bell, Book, and Candle.

"When York left the show because of a bad back, they simply replaced him with another husband, Dick Sargent, playing Darren Stevens. No explanation of the replacement was ever given. York was out and Sargent in."

Cam nodded. He did not share Grant's special affinity for the movies and TV series of the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson eras. He thought retro TV was trite and unrealistic. And as for the movies of the fifties and sixties, in his opinion they were way too slow paced. But of course he kept these opinions from Grant.

"I'm bushed," Cam said stretching. "Ready for a good night's sleep."

Cam's show of being "bushed" was his way of telling Grant that it was all right for them to drift off to sweet dreamy dreamland without having sex. In addition to normal feelings, Grant's erections had been in short supply since his firing.