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This site has been created so I can share my most intimate thoughts, experiences and my queer take on the world as I see it. I hope you enjoy what you see, and if you do - feel free to share it!

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Edward Albee – My First Affair

One night in the fall of 1969 I was brought to a gay bar  in Chicago by David Trent, a man I’d recently met who was introducing me to gay life. As we walked in – this was my second or third gay bar visit – David looked across to the bar and said, “Oh, that’s Chuck and Richard and Edward Albee.”  ALBEE.  Good God. Required Reading in College. Famous Genius. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Theater of the Absurd Master.

Quick introductions were made. The tall man in the center of the three had a mature imposing authority about him, just as I imagined Edward Albee would have. As David was engaged in lively conversation with Chuck Woodward and Richard Barr, Edward’s producers, I turned my attention to the preppy young man who stood shyly aside. He had amazing long eye lashes and a soft gaze with a paradox power to bore into your head. He seduced by listening. He seemed guarded in our conversation and his discretion led me to think that he might be the “boy” of one of the other men – most likely Edward. He quietly suggested we go to another bar where we could be alone. What illicit meeting lie ahead?

David and I said our good nights and left. Outside, David asked, “So – what did you think of Edward Albee? I said that I’d been so impressed to meet him, wished I’d talked to him more but wasn’t really much a part of their conversation. “I was flirting with the young quiet guy . . . “ David stopped me, “And who do you think you were talking to?” I admitted that I had wondered. “I just made a date to meet him at another bar.”

Gushing with apology as I approached Edward in the second bar, I admitted. “I’m so embarrassed. I was rattling on like a school boy . . .  talking about my life at school . . . and now. I can’t believe it. Now I’m talking to you. Edward Albee.” Shortly, we were up in his suite atop the Drake Hotel. 11 West occupied one quarter of the top floor of the hotel overlooking Lake Michigan. He told me that depending on the length of his stay somewhere, he’d bring some of his art to replace the hotel’s. In the morning, I awoke next to Edward who was propped up on his pillow writing a new play in a very tiny red ink script on a yellow pad. Seascape. I was in another world. And so began a schoolboy’s romance with a searingly brilliant artist that would affect my life profoundly. And he did it so effortlessly. He accepted me as someone he could talk to.

Our romance was intense and unsustainable. But over the years, we remained friends. I got to know Jonathan Thomas, his late lover of thirty-five years and was happy he’d found a devoted companion. I’ve told Edward what a monumental gift he gave me in our brief affair. I was a law student from the middle of America with distant dreams, fascinated by people who made magic in our culture. I grew up wanting to be an artist but had no route into that world. Edward was a conduit to the best of the best in all the arts. He took me on a whirl wind tour of culture introducing me to giants in every field. So many stars wanted to know him and he gave me a place at their table.

Edward’s appreciation of art, music, crafts, film – everything – set the bar high. He gave me a master’s class in art, culture and life and showed me how to integrate my passions, first by teaching me the meaning of being an art patron rather than just an art collector. He told me, “When I walk into someone’s home, I can immediately see if they are inquisitive, or merely acquisitive. If the former, I will see many beautiful and interesting things that I do not know. If they are merely acquisitive, I will recognize everything and likely know its price.” I use that observation to evaluate everything in life.

I took this photo of Edward in Central Park in the winter of 1969 with one of his wolfhounds – Harry  – and his little Lhasa Apso –  Pucci. I’ll save the details of our affair – including our own Walpurgisnacht –  for another time. Just now, I’m awash with feelings of enormous gratitude for the good fortune of my time with Edward. So much of who I am, what I know and what I appreciate came from him. He challenged me. Certainly, my life as an artist began with loving him.

XOX Tom

 

Edward Albee by Tom Bianchi

3 Responses to “Edward Albee – My First Affair”

  1. Helen Irwin says:

    What a lovely remembrance of Edward – and I remember driving with you out to the end of Long Island to have lunch with him on a beautiful day. It was such fun – and very special for me. I brag about having lunch with Edward Albee from time to time. I sent you obits from The NYT and the LA Times, just in case you hadn’t seen them.
    XXOO, Helen

    • Thomas Lucia says:

      Hey Tom! A truly beautiful and fascinating account of a most special relationship and the life-lasting gifts he shared. What an enviable experience and treasure to conjure. The friendship and connection is in itself like an extraordinary snippet in a most fascinting memoir. Hope all is well…Thomas Lucia

  2. Gary Barton says:

    Thanks Tom for writing this. I only met Edward once when a beautiful young man (I was about 22 or so and the guy I met in the Luxembourg gardens in Paris was about the same age. He told me he was traveling with Edward and with I believe Richard Barr. The guy asked me if I wanted to meet Edward and have dinner with them that night. I showed up at the Plaza Athenee as instructed. I was a little nervous since not only was I a young actor and Albee an idol of mine, but I could not figure out what this beautiful guy’s relationship was to Albee since he had the looks of a Abercrombie model but also had an enormous cock (having spent the afternoon with him in my very modest 1 or 2 star hotel that afternoon.) Since he was my age at the time and traveling with Edward Albee, I assumed he was an escort or in those days we called what is today called an escort , a hustler. Then that word did not have the same negative connotation it does today.
    Mr Albee was plastered and when he opened the door, he could hardly stand up because he was so drunk. I was disillusioned . After reading your piece I was so happy to be given a view of this great playwright I had not seen. It wiped out the image I had carried around with me of Mr. Albee and for that, I thank you. Thank you.

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