|by Brent Mundt
|Eyecons Eye Candy: The Divine Mr. J
At the end of every one of Christopher Peterson's brilliant and dazzling shows at the Swan Ballroom in the Atlantic Sands, Chris introduces his partner and manager James Mill, sitting at the sound board, stage right. And with his trademark and breathless dramatic flair, Chris utters, "James, for 25 years, you have been the wind beneath my sheets."
You can almost hear the Divine Miss M laughing from her perch in Vegas.
Ironically, the introduction is just a few minutes after Chris' spot-on Judy Garland, turning symbolically from Dorothy into Toto to pull the curtain back to reveal the Wizard. To the casual observer, all you see of James is a momentary half stand and a wave. You gotta love a humble homo.
But, trust me, you want to mind the man behind this curtain. His technical expertise is critical to the wild success of the Christopher Peterson Eyecons show, at the Sands now through Labor Day weekend.
For James is not only our local part-time celebrity, he's also married to 16 women at oncesomething like that compound in Texas. There are differences, though. Unlike the Lone Star polygamists, with a sprawling compound, James' cramped little compound is a single room on the third floor of the Sands Hotel. And unlike the LDS dudes in Texas, James' 16 wives-in-one husband hardly dress down.
Following Chris Peterson's phenomenal talent for multiple personalities to its logical conclusion, it stands to reason that, as a dutiful husband, James must play Ricky to Chris' Lucy, Ike to his Tina, and Sonny to his Cher. Yes, folks, James tames the shrews.
When asked which of Bette Davis' husbands James would play, Chris replies without batting a mascara'd eyelash "Which one did she kill with a lamp?"
James enjoys this little fantasy game since in it he gets to play James Brolin to Chris' beautiful Barbra Streisand. It's not a bad comparison. James is quite a Canadian guy-guy, who is luckily as comfy with hockey pucks as he with his homo theatrical career.
And very lucky they are. Our Canadian couple met in Vancouver in 1984. There's no way George Orwell could have predicted that one. James had hitchhiked out from Toronto in 1973 and Chris bitchhiked out 11 years later from Halifax. (Imagine picking up a guy only to realize you've got both BettesDavis and Midlerin the backseat.)
But all 16 galsand their hat boxesarrived safely in Vancouver where James was a bouncer and Chris was bouncing from floor to floor of the biggest gay club in the city.
After a whirlwind romance (try buying chocolates and flowers for 16!) the couple found that Chris' star was rising and he and his sweet stage-daddy toured and toured to the point that Gypsy's Mama Rose would have packed it in. They ultimately ended up half-time in Key West, Florida where Chris is now a homo household name.
James is sanguine about what roads brought him to this point in his life. He's a regular guy who can remember that his leftie Jewish grandfather met and collected taxes for the renowned Marxist Leon Trotsky during the Canadian political upheaval. School was unremarkable and the journey to Vancouver most welcome.
His life with Chris has been a journey to say the least. Given Chris' multiple personalities, their constant 1,000 mile road trip between Key West and Rehoboth is sort of Sybil, Queen of the East Coast. Chris can change outfits 55 times onstage but has never driven 55 mph in his life. Actually, never drivenperiod. In certain moods, Chris will remind James that "once I learn to drive, I'm dropping your sorry ass."
Kidding aside, it's been quite a journey. Here in Rehoboth we owe Chris's presence to then-owners of the Renegade, Glenn and Richard, who saw Peterson's show in 1991 at the legendary La Te Da in Key West. They liked it enough to book the pair (plus all the ladies) for the snowbird commute. When you own a nightclub the size of an average Florida Key, you can do those sorts of things.
Chris was an instant Rehoboth rave! James talks about never being allowed to pay for anything anywhere they went, being treated all around. But as nightclub types, they of course wanted to tip bartenders and wait staff handsomely. But what do you tip on nothing? It was a mathematical impossibility, so they always left at least $20-$40.
And, being the absolutely charming gentlemen they are, James and Chris have made friends up and down their east coast travel route. In Richmond, Virginia they made dear friends with fine upstanding heterosexuals. Allen and Sylvia have become bosom buddies and thus, they often linger in Richmond, at the mid-point in their east coast commute. Sylvia's request to have Chris perform for her "Women's Club" during a stopover brought forth one of James' best faux pas.
Here's Sylvia asking Chris to perform for her straight ladies auxiliary, but because she called it a "women's club," James asked "Do you have lesbians in Richmond?"
After Sylvia clutched her pearls and practically fainted dead away, she explained in her southern gentility that it was a charity group that does good work. (And as of this writing, we still don't know if Richmond actually has a lesbian.)
From Trotsky to trannies, it's a life well lived thus far by James Mill and his traveling stage show.
And here's to James and his lifelong partnerprovided Christopher never learns to drive.
Brent Mundt makes a living in Washington and a life in Rehoboth Beach.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 09 July11, 2008