Holy Mother of Jefferson Davis

October 11, 2017

”My Oldest Friend” (in years known) died on Saturday…..


James Arthur Reitzel was a Great Part of my Life….(he was the last lover of my dear Uncle Sumner)…..


I met Jim in 1967…50 years ago….when I came out from college  for Easter to spend it with my “bachelor” uncle at his house on the bluff overlooking the ocean above  Malibu…..this was a year  before I Knew I was Gay….(yes us early baby boomers ..most of us did not know anything about Gay Life…..  you grew up and fell in love with a girl…and got married….there was NO talk about anything else…)


I remember that in the late 50’s (I was born in 46 when the war had just ended)….I subscribed to a Charles Atlas Magazine….which came to the house in a brown paper cover)….as I soo admired the men’s bodies…and had just seen a movie called “Wee Geordie”…made in 1955…(gosh I was only 9)


I Did move out to West Hollywood in 1969…as by then I was OUT…and will never forget the party Sumner and Jim gave me at the Malibu house…


It was the height of the Hippie era….when I entered that Wonderful house on the bluff overlooking the ocean…both properties on either side were just fields as back then the Coastal Amendment was in act and you could NOT build on an vacant lot….


But as I entered…Sumner’s player piano (the one you had to pump but put in rolls for each song)…was playing…there were like 50 people out sprawled all over the lawn…drinking..smoking weed…Russ…the lover of Jerry Toadvine’s (gosh I loved him)…the owner of Por Favor who always wore a caftan at the restaurant with an ankle bracelet that rang as he walked   (in Weho on SM)  ..which was the IT place in the 60’s and 70’s…straights came just to experience us….and call each other to say they had Experienced Us…..


But Russ was sitting on the lawn with Jerry… his curly hair was rolled up with poppers (amyl nitrate)….in it…he was short…younger than Jerry but Very nice….


I’ll Never Forget that Paul and I gave a party one night (this is the 70’s) in West Hollywood…on Keith Avenue….and gosh there were a lot of Great people there….I had bought these Silver Dollar Eucalyptus trees in pots ..to put ALL over the Living room …to give it that magic feel….(there are two of them still growing outside 8957(?) Keith Avenue)


Chris Isherwood was there with his lover the great artist Don Bachardy…the wonderful Old 90 year old  English actress Estelle Winwood….whom I just ADORED…


back then  an actress  wore “frownies” (tapes that attached to the face and pulled the face back toward  the hairline) to bed…to make sure the eyes did not bag during sleep..


one day Estelle who was a tenant of Paul’s (my lover)…woke up with a bolt..as she realized her old Caddie was on the wrong side of the street and to prevent getting a ticket threw over her nude body  her floor length mink and raced out with her first cig dangling from her lips to move it….


But at this party Peetsy Hayward…(the ex wife of Louis Hayward (an old old B/W swash-buckingly  film star)….was sitting next to Jim…and my Uncle who was standing …said ”Peetsy….I want you to know my lover…(well he did not use  that exact term as still back then you still did not)…..  


Peetsy knew that my uncle had Nicky Nichols as his lover…(who was at the party (also)….(Nicky had been drop dead gorgeous when young…akin to Tyrone Power…Paul Newman etc)


She turned to look at Jim…her cigarette holder..dangling from her lips… moving with each word she spoke….and turned to Sumner and said:


“Why would you give up a diamond for a Zircon”….and then turned back to whomever she was chatting with..


Well the Room went DEAD…no one talked…they just could not believe it …nor I


…it was a Quietness I have never encountered at a cocktail party…


Jim …like all of us…Never forgot that moment…


I travelled with Jim often…well now and then…we went to England in the early 2000’s and saw the original “Billy Elliot”…


we sailed with Michael and Ralph to Greece etc Jim and I bunked together as Michael and Ralph did….


Jim and I  both due to the advice of dear Miss Love…invested…(way back then) in the “DOT.com”…made a few bucks and used it to sail from Cancun to Belize etc….we were on a  VERY small exclusive ship..individual butlers etc with mainly straight people aboard…


one jockish man in his mid 40’s  came up during cocktail hour  and told Jim he would sell “Gay.com” to him for a million dollars….Jim smiled and said ..well I will have to talk with my financial adviser (which he never had as he use to sit on his bed ALWAYS and as drunk as he was he would count VERY slowly all of his money….twice before folding it and putting it back into his pants)…(sigh!!!)


.our last trip was the Alaskan cruise…from Vancouver….quite wonderful..except I got Norovirus as soon as I boarded the ship..as I had touched too many door handles trying to get the Gimp Jim on board….


I was sick as a dog who had just miscarried and had the flu….and could not do anything but moan in bed…as Jim chipperly went out to imbibe at the nearest bar…..


Well it was hours later…the door opened and he came in speaking to someone with a VERY deep voice…I thought How Inconsiderate to bring a trick back….they talked on and on…I put the pillow over my head…and fell back to sleep as they did their business…


The next day I said to him…”jim I really think that was SOOOO inconsiderate You bringing back a trick as I lay on my death bed”


His mouth opened like in shock…saying I don’t know what you are talking about…..


I said well I heard you with that guy with the deep voice last night as I was suffering and trying to sleep….


He said Rob…that was Me…I tend to talk to myself….




From then on I called his “trick” his middle name “Arthur”…..


JIm Loved being non PC…


used all the expressions that no one was allowed to say…(among his friends to shock us)…his favorite song to sing was “Zip-a-Dee -Doo Dah”.(..and ONLY in our company as he knew it would get a rise out of us more liberal ones)


Today while I was at the Libe…I listened to a recording that he did not know I took…of us at dinner in Westwood..an Italian restaurant…before we saw Blythe Danner in “Country Girl” at the Geffen July 2014….


Listening to his voice was soo soothing…his wit was WAY beyond belief…I was always so jealous of someone who had a come-back within a nano-second…..


If I had told him that evening in July of 2014 that he would die on October 7th 2017…he would have said:


“Holy Mother of Jefferson Davis”


(his favorite expression when he was flummoxed)

2 Responses to “Holy Mother of Jefferson Davis”

  1. David Abernethy said

    It was great to read about your memories of our dear friend James Arthur Reitzel – Rita to those who knew him well. HIs humor was a light in our lives that will never be extinguished.
    Rest in peace Jimmy!

  2. Janet Nelson-Alvarez said

    Rob, condolences on the loss of your friend. But….what glorious times he (and you) had. It makes the pain somehow sharper and less-so, all at once, I think….Thank you for sharing him with us.

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