Angelica Page as Lana Turner in The Death of Johnny Stompanato; Dixon Place NYC
My sister and I were talking about men when we walked into Dixon Place last night. Men. Sons.
Angelica Page as Lana Turner stood by the piano while Mark Ettinger played, and they exchanged glances, the good kind, the kind that make you want to listen in, to overhear, to be on the inside. We quieted down. We clinked our glasses with the good fortune of being together in an intimate space. A little piece of framed words hung over the piano:
Pencil on paper. I played the words over through my head wanting to find a word that meant infinite intimacy. Intimity. Infinicy. Infimacy. Angelica took the stage with Rene Ricard’s poem: The Death of Johnny Stompanato. She sipped her drink, ice cold. She bared her teeth with the impact of the martini and I felt that feeling it feels like when it’s the first sip and nothing else will do to clear your head, to settle your nerves, to steal yourself against reality, for a moment. It was ice water in the glass, and I felt too how in a pinch, ice water will do. I hear my mother’s voice cautioning “ice water.”
Rene Ricard was one of those New York poets who you grow up imagining must exist because you believe with the whole of everything you ever believed that there are fairy godfathers to the kids of New York, and then you meet him a million years later, wide-eyed yourself at a gallery opening, and know, truly know, for the first and truest time, that everything you ever thought mattered in art and mattered more than all the other things matter really does matter more than all those other things, because it is love, not cowardice, it is joy, and not despair, it is open and firm and all those things that make me feel integral as a human being.
Lana Turner, of whom I’ve only heard tell, with Angelica’s eyes and movements, before me in the soft light. I saw Angelica play Sylvia Plath uptown once and sat next to a girl who looked great in shorts. Angelica is captivating in performance. She is open and real and ethereal and far away until she is you, telling your words, breathing your own story, in front of everyone. To watch Angelica perform is to be left naked in front of God and everyone, in front of girls who looks good in shorts, who it seems suddenly can see through you because after a performance like that everyone must know what you’ve got to hide and you are splayed like a butchered calf still mewling for its mother.
I’m not hiding anything except everything. I don’t want to feel anything anymore because in feeing one thing I feel all the things, I feel your things, and mine, and hers, and even the men’s things. I feel them. At dinner my friend Michael says Yes Yes to the super hard thing of feeling all the people’s things, and my sister accidentally pours hot sauce on her salad. Only Megan gets a burger and fries and it looks delicious. I steal fries.
Lana Turner and this poem and Angelica with a music stand and a stiff ice water. At first we all laugh. She tells the story about this man, this Johnny Stompanato. You know this guy. He is not self-made, he is woman-made and he holds it against her. He treats her badly and it is domestic brutality of which they are both a part. The way she says it, how she tells it, it is exciting for her, it is drama and she is a movie star. Maybe she likes to get hit maybe she courted it. Maybe it’s part of what gets her off, who am I to judge. Who am I to judge a movie star. We’re all relativists, these days, after all.
I’m so enraptured by the performance I don’t realize what’s happening when it seems to start at the beginning again. Only it’s different. She’s delivering the words, and they are the same words, but everything else about them is different. In repetition she has changed the meaning of the words. Infimacy. Pencil on paper. And I was naked. I looked around. I felt the air. I heard the creak of skin on chair. Naked, too, was everyone else.