Who I am is unimportant. I am not currently undergoing psychotherapy or counseling, nor am I enrolled in any 12-step organization or rehab program. There is no one out there who can help me. I am writing this both as a form of catharsis and as a cautionary example to those who may be thinking to follow in my footsteps. What follows is my dim, hazy recollection of a night involving myself, Doug Stanhope, booze, a girl - and a man called Fester.
First, the setting: Wednesday, January 24th of '01, Doug begins a week at a club near me. We were casual online-friends who'd met a few times before, and since I have plenty of free time and a taste for quality comedy on the darker end of the scale, I dropped by to see him. He'd comped me for the night - one thing you learn quickly about Doug is that it's nearly impossible to buy a drink or otherwise spend money in his presence, regardless of your financial situation or how well he knows you. Anyway, the show was all right for a Wednesday, and there were some hardcore fans of his in the audience. Some of them followed us - myself, Doug, the feature and the opener - to a nearby karaoke bar after the show. (Doug's line describing the establishment is: "They say you can't get AIDS from a toilet seat - I think that place is where they did most of the testing!"; my only addition would be that, as we walked in, someone was wrapping up a drunken rendition of "King of the Road" to a fair round of applause - not a promising sign...) So there were the four of us, plus four locals: all youngish, husky guys with shaved heads and unshaven faces, all apparently from the same Red Lobster kitchen staff, and all clearly devoted members of the Cult of Stanhope. Under other circumstances their presence might have been kinda creepy, but something about the atmosphere of the night made it all right.
We spent a few hours there. Over the course of the evening some drinks were downed, some yarns spun, and inevitably, the subject of self-exposure came up... Doug quickly obliged (though I don't specifically recall anyone actually asking him), and it was at this point that one of the group of fans entered my sphere of attention. They called him 'Fester', after the Addams Family guy. I later learned his given name was Jason. His eagerness to match Doug's gesture could not be denied, and indeed he actually insisted Doug not only observe but actually TOUCH him... To Doug's obvious amazement, Fester actually had less to exhibit than he did! He wasn't even able to extend any part of his genitalia beyond the zipper of his pants - indeed, he seemed oddly proud of the fact. Doug was enjoying this novel experience immensely, and had clearly developed a keen interest in this fellow. Dicks became the only possible topic of conversation for the rest of the evening. But finally it was time for me to go home, and after playing designated driver for the comics, I did so - with a promise to return on Friday.
The fateful day came, and I arrived early enough to catch both performances. Fester and his crew unexpectedly returned for the late show, and found us at that karaoke bar again later that night. There had been far more drinking - a guy in the audience had bought Doug several un-asked-for shots during his 2nd set, and I myself had no plans to drive anywhere that night, but before long the bar was closing. Doug had been amusing himself by having Fester show his schmeckle to various patrons, to their evident delight and amusement - one especially attractive woman even complimented him on it (of course, she was clearly there with one of the club bouncers, so there was no misinterpretation possible...) Now, about here my memory begins to get a little indistinct - but after closing time, we found ourselves outside in the cold with everyone leaving for wherever. Soon an SUV pulled up out of the darkness, and Doug and I hopped in. Turned out it was driven by one of the waitresses from the club, and after picking up Fester she drove us back to the condo. The other two comics were already there, but the opener quickly disappeared into her bedroom and the feature left with some relatives of his who lived nearby, leaving the four of us for the night. It's at least 2:30am at this point.
As a prelude to what follows, let me say that Doug is possibly the most persuasive person I've ever met. He never really orders anyone around; he just asks people to do the most outrageous stuff, then with a jovial "C'mon!" and a jerk of his head, they obey as if dragged by wires... it is simply incredible to watch, and it makes me very glad he's on our side. But I will go to my grave without any clear idea of the sequence of events which lead to what happened next. Doug had been questioning Fester about his personal life - his divorce, whether he was dating anyone, and so on. Not a lot of action in Fester's life recently, as I recall. Almost before I knew it, he had Fester blindfolded and had talked the waitress into giving him a free hand job! Doug had found makeshift lubricants in the condo kitchen - dish soap and a half-empty tub of goat cheese from the fridge, I believe - and was dribbling them over the action, while I did my drafted duty as photographer. Incidentally, I have never developed that roll of film. Eventually he and I decided that the more sensitive and mature course of action would be to adjourn to the next room, so that she and Fester could get the job done in private. And in fact we did briefly leave them alone, mostly to release the uncontrollable schoolgirl-like giggles of amazement at what was happening. But minutes later we quietly sneaked back out into the hallway to watch and listen from around the corner. And let me tell you, she was goooood... she had the moves and the patter of a real pro! I mean no slur on her character or community standing, but we were both impressed at her level of commitment to the job once she'd taken it on. And clearly, it was taking far longer than she expected, for whatever reason... I honestly don't recall if Fester eventually managed to come despite the fact that he probably could hear our stifled guffaws from four feet away, or if she finally just gave up and called it a night... in fact, the whole rest of that evening is a blur for me. The waitress was gone the next morning but I don't remember when she left, or even her name; although I strongly suspect that Doug got a picture of me in a compromising position at some point, thanks in part to her... there go my hopes for a seat in Congress! Fester crashed on the sofa, I took the feature's room, and Doug collapsed on his bed (fully clothed, with the light left on, arm dangling off the side, mouth open - looking like he'd been shot and left there for dead, really).
Fade to dawn
The next morning was oddly subdued... I woke up early, and spent the time corrupting Doug's laptop in ways he will discover over the coming months, as is my custom. Once the others awoke, we left for breakfast. Since nobody's car was nearby, it was about a mile's walk along streets purified by a blanket of newfallen snow. The clean, white hush of the landscape served as an ironic counterpoint to the sinful debauchery of the previous night, and somehow nobody seemed to have anything much to say. We arrived at a pancake place in time for lunch, and the rest of the day passed as distinctively as any time with Stanhope does - for example, he decided he wanted to play some baseball in the treacherously icy parking lot of a discount store at one point, then bought a plastic bat and ball and did just that. Later, back at the condo, Doug spent hours eerily engrossed by a documentary about Hitler on TV; then after seeing a commercial which somehow annoyed him, he abruptly called the number it listed with his cellphone and proceeded to deliver his most evil sentiments on whatever poor schlub was unfortunate enough to answer... But ultimately, we all knew that nothing could follow the previous night, and I finally left for home as Doug was driving Fester to his evening shift at the seafood restaurant.
I wonder what he told his buddies about that night. I wonder what he thinks are going to happen with the pictures. And I wonder what Doug remembers of what happened. But I now have a new standard of measurement for all the wild times I've had before and all the ones yet to come - the Stanhope Scale.