It was during the Baltimore Gay Pride festival of 1996 that I first saw Eddie Jones from across a crowded room and fell in love. He was short, freckle-faced, , knock-kneed, and balding, with the most beautiful teeth I had ever seen. He also had that thickness around his waist that I found very sexy. I snapped a photo of him because deep down inside I felt that we would meet again; and we did. Two weeks later, I saw him crossing Liberty Heights Avenue, walking his dog. I gave him my number. When he called the following week, I invited him to see the movie Stonewall, because I was in a brief scene or two. He spent the night and we held each other all night long -- without having sex! When he saw my Diana Ross & The Supremes memorabilia collection, his mouth dropped open. He suddenly turned to me and kissed me, as if he had found his “Supreme” soul mate.
When Eddie and I finally had sex, it was the best sex I had ever experienced in my life. We were always trying something new and fascinating...and I was getting freakier. It felt like I was catching up on seven years of a sexual void. Tuesdays were 2-for-1 rentals at the gay adult video store, and we took full advantage. The shop was located off Baltimore Street in Baltimore’s infamous XXX district, commonly called “The Block.” We would smoke a joint and try all the things we saw on film. We played with sex toys, handcuffs, and edible creams. We experimented in three-way sex with guys we met online together. Once, we pretended to be strangers and picked up a guy at Baltimore’s Club Bunns. The guy told us it was his birthday, and I am sure he won’t forget that birthday for a long time! We bought matching cock rings and videotaped ourselves having sex, under the condition that we would erase the video after one viewing. In hindsight, I should have kept the tape, since now the video won’t have a chance to surface on the internet and give me my moment of infamous immortality.
I had bought my first computer and the internet connected Eddie and I to other Supremes enthusiasts. We joined an online Supremes fan club and ordered old performance videos from other collectors. Our typical Saturdays included rummaging through thrift shops and used record stores, looking for old Supremes albums. In 1997, Eddie and I attended the Supremes Fan Club Convention at the Motown Café in New York City. Only two of the eight Motown Supremes showed up, Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence. I wore my Mary Wilson t-shirt and Eddie wore a Diana t-shirt. We took pictures with Scherrie and Lynda, who at that time were billing themselves as the FLOS (Former Ladies the Supremes).
Later that year, we caught Diana Ross performing at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Eddie and I were the ultimate fans, wearing identical Diana Ross t-shirts and talking to all the other “Rossaholics” seated near us.
Eddie and I spent quality time in bed early in the mornings talking about funny or odd dreams we had experienced the night before. I was a morning person and, to my delight, he always seemed to wake up with a smile on his face. I found it pleasurable to kiss him before he brushed his teeth -- I loved the way he tasted. In 1998, ABC aired the television documentary special Motown 40: The Music Is Forever. We threw a Motown party and Eddie designed a cake with the Motown logo. He was the perfect date. Everybody liked him because he was so sociable and non-threatening. I remember Eddie surprised me when a former QVC co-worker invited me to their wedding; when I showed him the invitation; he reached into his closet and pulled out a wrapped present! He would buy gifts and store them until the right occasion, always ready for a party! We took many trips together. Our trips away from Baltimore usually took us to Washington, D.C., Atlantic City, or New York.
We constantly took photographs and made a huge collection of photo books. Our favorite pastime was taking pictures of ourselves in front of places that had our names in them. It felt like a good luck omen whenever we took a trip and ran across a place like the “Madison Hotel” or the “Eddie Jones” store. I had suffered from migraines as an adult and, even though their occurrences had decreased over the years, I could still get a doozie from time to time. When one would hit, Eddie would hold my head in his lap and stroke my forehead until I fell asleep. We connected in so many ways, but familiar problems from my past relationships began to surface. Eddie loved alcohol. Of course, his drinking only became an issue if I was feeling angry or rejected. As long as I was getting what I wanted, I was completely happy to be in denial especially since when I looked back on it, Eddie treated me wonderful when he was drinking. It was to my advantage to keep him intoxicated. It was when he was stone cold sober that his words could be so cutting.
In 1997, Eddie and I attended the Supremes Fan Club Convention at the Motown Café in New York City. Only two of the eight Motown Supremes showed up -- Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence. I wore my Mary Wilson t-shirt and Ernie wore a Diana Ross t-shirt. We took pictures with Scherrie and Lynda, who at that time were billing themselves as the FLOS (Former Ladies of the Supremes.)
Later that year, we caught Diana Ross performing at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Ernie and I were the ultimate fans, wearing identical Diana Ross t-shirts and talking to all the other “Rossaholics” seated near us. The previous October in 1996, Ernie and I, along with my two friends Sam and Isaac, drove through a blinding rainstorm just to see Mary Wilson in concert at the University of Delaware. The show’s “oldies” lineup featured Mary with her smokin’ band and her fabulous back-up singers, Iris and Parnell. On our way back to Baltimore, we stopped at a liquor store and bought a pint of Bacardi 151. Then Ernie and I passed the bottle in the back seat of Sam’s little Toyota Tercel, smooching and giggling as the car skidded home in the pounding rain.
Although the sex was great, it bothered me that Ernie never said the words “I love you.” In fact, he told me that he was not in love with me, but I couldn’t accept it. He always behaved like the most devoted lover, so I figured his actions reflected his true feelings, despite what his words said. But on the off chance that his words were closer to the truth, I was determined to make him love me, whatever it took.
In 1998, ABC aired the television documentary special Motown 40: The Music Is Forever. We threw a Motown party and Ernie designed a cake with the Motown logo. He was the perfect date. Everybody liked him because he was so sociable and non-threatening. When a former co-worker invited me to their wedding, I remember Ernie surprised me; I showed him the invitation and he reached into his closet and pulled out a wrapped present! He would buy gifts and store them until the right occasion, always ready for a party!
We spent birthdays together and he slept over every week. He met my family and I met his. Ernie did not drive, but he would stay awake and keep me company whenever we made long road trips. I really appreciated that. Our trips away from Baltimore usually took us to Washington, D.C., Atlantic City, or New York. We constantly took photographs and made a huge collection of photo books.
I had suffered from migraines as an adult and, even though their occurrences had decreased over the years, I could still get a doozie from time to time. When one would hit, Eddie would hold my head in his lap and stroke my forehead until I fell asleep. We connected in so many ways, but familiar problems from my past relationships began to surface. Eddie loved alcohol. Of course, his drinking only became an issue if I was feeling angry or rejected. As long as I was getting what I wanted, I was completely happy to be in denial. I gladly threw out my pre-established drinking rules that might have driven him away. Eddie also loved to smoke weed. I had not smoked pot since 1977, when I ended up in the Sheppard Pratt psych ward after overdosing on some weird shit. Here I was smoking pot again, twenty years later, just to be with someone I was crazy about. Besides -- I felt safe and enjoyed getting high with Eddie. Was I rationalizing and idealizing a relationship that would set me up for another crash landing? I never got high without him. However, when it came to drinking, Eddie would lock me out so that he could drink alone. He loved to isolate himself, which left me cold.
When I think back on our first Christmas together, I realize I should have seen the signs. That year, I felt the holidays should have been a special occasion. We had been having such a wonderful time since meeting in June. However, when I asked Eddie about his plans for the holidays, he dropped a bomb on me by saying that his holiday ritual consisted of soaking in his tub and getting drunk, alone. His words stung like a sharp slap. I was flabbergasted and crushed. How could he not want to spend the holidays with me? What had I done -- had I missed something? How could I fix things?
On Christmas Day, I called Eddie and got no answer. So, I drove to his apartment and rang the doorbell. Still nothing. So I plotted. I went to his mom’s house and gave her one of my handmade African dolls, then waited for her only child to arrive. I knew he’d show up because Ernie was a mama’s boy. He was her only child and she doted on him. When he saw me there, he was furious, but remained calm in his mother’s house. However, as I was driving him home, we detoured through Druid Hill Park for the inevitable showdown.
“Dale, why did you push your way into my life after I told you that I prefer to spend the holidays alone?” He demanded to know.
“I just can not believe you actually want to be alone for CHRISTMAS!” I said.
“I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted to get drunk and sit in my tub. I heard you knocking at the door!”
“Eddie, only an alcoholic would want to drink alone and shut himself off from the world,” I said.
“I am not an alcoholic! I am a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings!”
“You are going to drink yourself to death before you turn forty!” I shouted.
“It’s my life, I pay for my own liquor. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to stick around!”
His last words ended that conversation. I didn’t like it, but I chose to stay. I was in such a state of denial. We never again mentioned that incident, but I immediately saw a pattern. Like past lovers, he hated to talk about feelings. Moreover, I had learned the hard way that alcoholism is a disease of feelings. Since honest talk irritated him, I dared not risk pushing him away with it, so we kept our conversations “Miller Lite,” (great taste, less filing.) We would endlessly talk about the Supremes, about music, food, art, movies, television shows, and gossip. But if I tried to go deeper, our conversations were cut short.
The next year, we compromised and agreed to spend either Christmas or New Year’s together -- I was not allowed to have him for both holidays. I chose Christmas. I surprised Eddie with a live Christmas tree, and we decorated it and slept under the twinkling lights. We attended holiday parties, took lots of pictures, and exchanged gifts. The day before New Year’s Eve, I said my goodbyes and left my chubby lil’ drunk to get plastered all by himself. I brought in the New Year by watching a Gladys Knight concert on the American Movie Classics channel (AMC), and tried to be content that I had experienced “half” a wonderful holiday.
One evening, after a night of Ernie’s boozing, we lay spooning in each other’s arms in a total dreamlike trance. I was startled out of my sleep when I felt warm urine saturate my sheets. This was not the golden shower of kinky sex. My drunken lover had peed on himself in his sleep.
Ernie jumped up immediately and cleaned up the mess. I was in a state of shock. He apologized with hot sex, which took my mind away from the problem at hand. He knew how to manipulate me that way. Afterwards, I tried to start an argument with him over why he refused to open up to me. He pushed me down on the living room floor and we had rushed, hot sex again. I screamed in ecstasy as we both climaxed.
After our back-to-back encounters, Eddie exited the apartment saying, “You don’t really want me to talk. This [sex] is what you want.”
I laid on the floor in silence. Was he right? Eddie could stay hard for hours and it totally amazed me. With him I had learned how to climax and keep on having sex repeatedly. We would fuck all day on Sundays and never leave the bed, except to eat. Sometimes, we would eat in bed while we had sex.
During the summer of 1998, I worked in Washington, D.C. as a dresser for the national touring company of Ragtime. I commuted from Baltimore or stayed with my brother in D.C., known as “Chocolate City.” Sometimes Eddie would roll over on Amtrak or on a MARC commuter train to come see about me in D.C. About twenty-five dressers worked on Ragtime. I made friends with a lot of them, but became close with only a few. One such dresser was Janet, with whom I formed a close bond during the show’s three-month run. She was in her mid-forties, plain, and a little on the chubby side. She was from Jamaica, and when she got angry the other dressers would say, “You’d better watch out or she’ll put a curse on you!” The other dressers who had worked with her previously said that she practiced voodoo. This fascinated me. She liked me because I didn’t call her names or make fun of her. She often brought me coco (coconut) bread and other Jamaican treats to sample.
I approached Janet with my most daring proposition to date -- I asked her if she could help me get my man, Eddie, to fall in love with me. I needed a love spell. After giving her fifty dollars, she gave me a list of things to purchase for a ritual. I easily found the required $3.99 Florida perfume water and the special red love candles sold at a mystic candle store on Baltimore Street. I also needed a piece of Eddie, like a piece of hair or a fingernail. I then shared with Janet my secret -- I kept his sperm filled condoms in a zip locked bag in the freezer. Why? I wanted to keep a part of him for myself. I was obsessed and possessed! She agreed that the sperm was more powerful than any fingernail or lock of hair.
I arrived at her house late one night, after the last show of the day. It was a full moon. She introduced me to her husband and explained that a male should do the ritual, since I wanted to make a man fall in love with me. Her husband was a tall, chocolate brother, with a breathtaking muscular physique. He was noticeably younger than his wife was. Had she worked a spell on him? I was curious, nervous, and excited as the couple led me into the basement of their brownstone. As I heard the noise of children running around upstairs, I descended the stairs, not knowing what to expect in the darkness.
Besides the typical kids’ toys and boxes of stuff stored away, the basement looked no different than most. It held a makeshift area that included a shelf and altar, complete with candles. A metal basin was placed in the center of the floor and I was instructed to remove my clothes. Janet then told me to stand in the shallow metal tub, then left me alone with her handsome husband and returned upstairs to their children. Any other time, undressing for a handsome man would have been an erotic experience for me, but on that night, my mission was Eddie.
Candles flickered and sage burned as he poured the Florida water over my body. He took the sperm I had so carefully guarded and placed it and a picture of Eddie and me together on the altar in front of me. He mixed some kind of powder in a bowl, which I lit with a candle before pouring the sperm into the concoction. Although it was a hot summer night, I was shivering in the nude as he drenched me with the cool liquid and chanted some strange words I could not pronounce. He told me not to wash for twenty-four hours. When I got home, I was to light a special red candle for love. “Burn the patchouli-scented candle before you go to sleep,” were his parting instructions.
I later learned that I had only completed the first phase of the spell. Next, I would have to sacrifice a calf or a lamb. At that point, I knew I could not go through with the rest of the ritual. Why kill an innocent creature? I just couldn’t do it. Besides, where was I going to find a live lamb or cow in midtown Baltimore? Janet explained that I could take a train to a farm in Northern Virginia and get the animal the following month on a full moon. But I was getting in way above my head.
When I look back and see how much effort I put into that night, I ask myself, ”Why? How could I make someone love me when he didn’t love himself?” I convinced myself that we were perfect for each other. We looked so good together. People told us so. We were laying in the sand at a beach in New York once and a perfect stranger walked up to us and said what a great couple we made. Eddie thought I had paid the guy to say it! We tasted good together. We smelled good together. We even communicated in our own special language, our own private code. Eddie used to say that my life was like a television movie, and we would spend countless hours laughing over the casting of famous singers and actors as our family and friends. We’d then reference people, (including ourselves), by using the celebrity names we had chosen. In the movie of my life, Blair Underwood would play me, and Freddie Jackson would co-star as Eddie.
One Sunday after our weekly sexual ritual, Eddie lay naked across the bed and calmly told me he thought, “Whatever we had” had run its course. He explained to me that I needed to prepare myself for the ending. “I have always told you I was not in love. I’ve always considered you a special friend. I have always enjoyed spending time with you, until you made it feel like an obligation.”
“Why can’t we try again?”
“Dale, you have always tried to make this deeper than what it is. I don’t want to be in a relationship and that is what you have tried to make this thing we have.”
“No matter how you look at this, Eddie, this THING we have shared has been a relationship for two and a half years!”
“And I tried it your way. Now you need to accept what I want and let me go.”
Every effort to hold on to him only pushed him further away. I was like a heroin addict going through withdrawal. Meanwhile, whenever we would talk or whenever I saw Eddie on the street, I would beg for another chance. I was losing my self-esteem and Eddie’s respect.
Before we separated, I had noticed that his ankles were swelling, and I worried about his drinking and his health. After our break up, he started on medication for a diagnosis of high blood pressure. I kept thinking that I could save him and protect him from himself. I told his mother that I was concerned about Eddie mixing his alcohol with his prescription drugs. When Eddie learned about my little talk with his mother, he was infuriated. Whatever level of friendship I had maintained with him, I destroyed.
Gay church and Iyanla Vanzant tapes got me through those rough first few months. I finally decided I needed to find a way to heal from the breakup. I decided to do something really different. I decided to have my nipples pierced. After all, how else does a gay man really get over the love-lust of his life? I thought that the pain / pleasure of sterling steel through nipples should do it. I promised myself that the pain of losing Eddie would leave once the pain in my nipples stopped. However, in that moment, I gave myself permission to cry and wallow in my own hurt and depression.
One night, I ran into Eddie in a crowded bar on Park Avenue and forced my tongue down his throat. I longed to taste him again. He immediately took me outside and told me once again that it was over. He then left me out there on the curb as I cried to myself. Now that I think about it, I would break down anywhere and cry for days. I was Amtraking back and forth between Baltimore and New York City while hosting a shopping show. One day, while I was in the middle of a sell on live television, tears started running down my face and dripping onto the jewelry I was handling. My producer cut to a commercial and did his best to console me. How the crew got me through that four-hour live broadcast is a miracle.
Around that time, my brother introduced me to Unity Church. The organization, founded by former Motown singer Carl Bean, embraces gays and lesbians. I attended a service, and it was the first time I felt I belonged in a church. When Pastor Rainey Cheeks led the ritual of pouring homage to the elders, I could feel the presence of former loved ones who had gone on, like my grandmother and Gregory Nicholson, surrounding me with protection. A friend going through a similar breakup gave me tapes of the fabulous inspirational and motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant. Her tapes got me through the long train rides between Baltimore and New York.
I needed to find a way to heal from the breakup. As you can tell by now, I usually look to music or movies for my answers. I’ve also gone shopping for a new pair of shoes or a new wardrobe. I could have taken a long cruise or I could have written a poem, a song, or a play. But I decided to do something really different: I decided to have my nipples pierced. After all, how else does a gay man really get over the love / lust of his life? I thought that the pain / pleasure of sterling steel through nipples should do it. Funny enough, I felt no pain when the guy pierced too far into my right nipple and got the circular ring stuck. He rushed out to get an assistant to help me, and I lay there bleeding with no fears or concerns. But my numbness wore off several hours later, so I took a shot of E&J and smoked a joint. The piercer told me that healing would take a few months. I promised myself that the pain of losing Eddie would leave once the pain in my nipples stopped. However, in that moment, I gave myself permission to cry and wallow in my own hurt and depression.
My dear friend, writer and director Darryl LeMont Wharton-Rigby, approached me about traveling to California to stage a play we had co-produced in Baltimore. It was just the change I needed. I immediately packed my bags, because I was more than ready to close the Baltimore chapter of my life and see what the west coast had to offer. Darryl and I decided to produce a farewell performance in Baltimore at the 14 Karat Café, a performance arts space located on West Saratoga Street. Three months had passed since my breakup with Eddie, but I sent a special invitation to him anyway. He surprised me by actually showing up. However, after the show, he did not stay to congratulate me or wish me well in my travels. I dared to think that he would see me in all my fame and glory and somehow realize that he would miss me and ask me to stay. I figured I would be strong enough to see him at that point, since my nipple piercing was healing pretty well. My final act of liberation and separation was flushing all his frozen condoms down the toilet. I was leaving “Charm City” Baltimore, a city I loved, and I needed to grow up, love myself, heal, and accept a failed relationship not as a mistake, but as a learning process that would make me a better person. Isn’t it ironic? We ignore who adores us and adore who ignores us. We hurt who loves us and we love who hurts us.
“This is for the brothers that ain't here!” As witnessed in the movie Cooley High. Cochise pours a few drops of liquor out the bottle before he drinks from it.
How do you celebrate the life of someone who loved to drink? You get drunk. A week later I am trying to put my sober thoughts down to purge the feelings inside. It started with the call early Saturday morning on the way to a photo shoot.
“Dale, I know you guys had not spoken in over 10 years, but I knew you would want to know, Eddie Jones was shot shortly after leaving the Eagle bar at a bus stop. He died at the hospital.”
It’s true, the last time I spoke or saw Eddie Jones it was 1999. We had spent two intense years in a relationship. One of the major reasons I moved to Los Angeles was to break the unhealthy cycle of being an enabler in a relationship with an alcoholic. He actually broke it off with me, the final straw was attempting to intervene on behalf of his health to his mother. He said I had crossed the final line.
He made us laminated cards that identified us as members of “The Ross Gallery.” We were co-curators for the Ross Gallery, which probably housed one of the most extensive, (and unique), collections of material on the Supremes and Diana Ross to be found anywhere. (The Ross Gallery was really just my living room filled with my Supremes memorabilia.) Nobody could convince me that I did not have real love, except Eddie.
When the opportunity arrived to produce my play in California, it was just the change I needed. I immediately packed my bags, because I was more than ready to close the Baltimore chapter of my life and see what the west coast had to offer. I was leaving “Charm City” Baltimore, a city I loved, and I needed to grow up, love myself, heal, and accept a failed relationship not as a mistake, but as a learning process that would make me a better person. The nipples healed, the pain ended. I did find a man who loved me as much as I loved him. I was a better partner to him because of what i had learned from my mistakes with Eddie.
When the news finally hit me that Eddie was really gone, I opened a bottle of vodka and started drinking toasts to him. I took out all the picture books I had of him and listened to all the Diana Ross & Supremes songs we loved so much. That following Monday I was scheduled to do a performance at a gay theater showcase in Santa Monica. I dedicated it to him. The irony of the lyrics did not even hit me until that night. I was doing a monologue about the church, homophobia, “real” hetro men versus gay men. The lines were written for me 15 years ago:
I was born gay. But what is my real crime? I'm not robbing people on the streets or selling drugs. I'm not a father who misses support payments. I've never killed anyone. I pay my bills on time; rent, taxes, car note. Hell, I'm employed. And you say I am not a man. Because of who I choose to love.
Eddie was shot on the streets of Baltimore by a “real” man, a real robber and a real killer.
BALTIMORE -- Baltimore police have arrested a man in two separate killings from last week. Isaac Truss, 23, faces several charges, including first-degree murder. Truss is accused of shooting a man to death inside a senior assisted living facility on Conway Street on Thursday and for killing another man at a bus stop on Fayette Street on Friday afternoon. "Homicide detectives caught up with him within hours after he committed his second murder in 24 hours. He was arrested. He confessed to those murders. The ballistics matched," said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Police are looking at robbery as a motive in both cases. They said they identified Truss using CitiWatch crime camera footage.
Hey Eddie, like the guys in Cooley High, I'm pouring a lil sumtin for the brothas who ain't here!
“Unrequited love is the most painful kind of love. If you can get over that, you can get over anything.”