You will notice the title, "How the Other Half (And the Other Half (And the Other Half)) Lives" (Have you read Lost in the Funhouse?). The movie gave me the opportunity, having cast me as a rich gay sex tourist, to experience how three "other halves" of Western culture live, all at once--an autoerotic menage-a-trois, if you will (but please don't).
So we met at Airport Plaza Mall, where a gray van with the sign "EXTRAS" on it was assigned to take us on the thirty minute drive to outside of Chiang Mai, to the beautiful Veranda resort, which is high in the clean-aired mountains, posh, sprawling, and lots of other adjectives that don't describe my current lodgings. We got there around 3:00, and were reminded of the scene that the 10 of us (6 men, 4 women) were shooting: rich Westerners in Chiang Mai for the sex, bribing our toys with our money. Joke about method acting, yadda yadda yadda.
We were led to a bathroom where we changed into our bathing suits for the poolside scene. I was the youngest male there by far, and I wondered, looking at my flabby, balding, saggy-toothed Western co-stars what they thought about being negatively depicted, as themselves, in a movie role which they might be said to play every day. But I am far too polite, and far too bad of a journalist, to ask any of them. But clearly some of them at least partly fit this role--the fat bald hairy-backed Frenchman, aged 45, who has been coming to Chiang Mai for six months vacation each year, and who immediately struck up a conversation with a prim, thin fellow extra, aged 20, and who had her phone number within twenty minutes; the silent, devil-goateed Cuban, who stood in a corner for five hours wordless, without a smile, a social recluse that one naturally must assume is here for unsavory reasons; and finally, the broad-shouldered Brit, who had actually come with his Thai wife, who, at the buffet dinner following the shoot, looked down at the table the entire time as though she were embarrassed, also not speaking, except to ask her husband, in a near whisper, what he would like from the buffet.
But enough with the judgment--if I were being non-judgmental, then I would be seeing how a fourth half lives...but I couldn't help it. We were led upstairs, next to the pool, where we waited for principal photography ("Principal photography!" Watch out, Ari Gold!) to finish the scene that leads into ours--namely, this one:
12. HOTEL / RESORT CHIANG MAI – POOL / POOLBAR EXT/E
The sound of a fountain. A handful of small pebbles slowly trickle through Fritz’s hands.
Lena lies next to him in a bikini besides a pool, dozing and holding a book in her hands.
Now she stretches.
Was mached mer no?
(What else are we gonna do today?)
Was ächt... – bade.
(What do you think… Have another dip.)
Lena gets up and goes to the luxurious pool. She wets her body. Fritz takes up Lena’s
book, flips through the pages, and puts it aside listlessly. Then he has a look around and
notices the mixed couples at the tables of the pool bar: European and American men with
young Thai women – or young Thai men.
You see that last part, after the dashes? That's me! That's my role! I'm the homosexual sex tourist! Yours truly, right here, creepy as all hell! Grease me up, child, and call me Mitterand, because this is my calling!
As I said, everyone else was in a heterosexual couple, except for me and my new boyfriend, a short, skinny, feminine 19-year-old Thai student, shy and with big eyelashes. I talked to him a bit, without much success in communication; but perhaps the most outstanding feature of him was his name, which was--get ready for it--Boy.
Boy and I and the rest of the couples were led out to the pool, to our lounge chairs, when the time had come for our big moment. The real couple, the big Brit and his silent girl, shared a lounge, she leaning back into his arms (and in one awkward moment, the director cut the film and asked for another shot with those two, wanting more affection. "I'm not seeing that you love each other," he said. [Loosens collar]. Is it hot in here?). The fat Frenchman and his 20-year-old paramour hopped into the pool and were instructed to splash each other and frolic ("But I was just trying to grab the girl as much as I could!" he told us gleefully at the dinner table later); and then there was Boy and I at the end of the shot, clearly the centerpiece, the big surprise at the end of a long pan.
We sat across a small table from each other, our legs intertwined underneath. He drank a cocktail with a lime-wedge and salt on the top of the glass; I drank a Spartan bottle of beer.
"What can they do?" the props man asked. "Play a game or something."
And so he brought us a bag full of rocks, and we were instructed to think of a game, which one might think would be the job of, I don't know, someone part of the creative team, but man you would be so wrong.
Luckily Boy knew a game which involved him coquettishly tossing a rock in the air, scooping up a rock from the table with his same hand, and then catching the rock before it hit the table. The director liked it, and we were told to go. And since Boy was busy tossing up rocks, all I had to do was stare at him creepily, smiling, laughing, drooling--as well as doing something with the rocks to make it look like I was involved. And so with the ten or so rocks on the table, I made a giant penis pointing toward Boy, and one by one I slid the stones toward him, from the tip of the penis down to the testicles. No one really noticed, but I think it was a triumph of Freudianism in film if there ever was one--the gay sex tourist building a big white penis out of round white stones on the table, pointing at his jolly gay little sex Boy, and shooting off the white tips of those penis one by one so that the Boy could nimbly juggle the stones with his hands until there were none left and I could only applaud and give him a Cheers with my beer bottle.
I know this is symbolic of something, but what that is will be left to the vaunted Swiss-German film criticism circles.
And that was it.
So you can see that my experience as the other half was rather short-lived--Boy and I said goodbye afterwards, he laughing nervously in lieu of actual words, me shaking my head as he walked away from me forever.
My sweet Boy! O Boy! Our stone penis ball-juggling game was too brief--like the Speedo you wore for me at the Veranda Resort all those years ago, my Boy! Where will you go, Boy, when Papa Mitterand isn't here to take care of you? I would have taken you to Tokyo, Goddammit! We could have sipped Mai Tais in St. Bart's! But you chose to go away from me, and only because we couldn't communicate with each other on any level of interpersonal relation past eye-sight, giggles, and the transferral of metaphorical gonads across a table propped up by our intersecting limbs.
So, I couldn't cut it as a rich gay sex tourist, this is clear. I can only hope that, some day in the not-too distant future, I can successfully live my life as at least one of the three.