I don't remember the first time I met JJ. It just seemed like from the first day I started at my first position he was there. It seems like he has always said he is retired, but at the same time it seems like he always has a piece of every project. JJ is pushing 90 if he isn't there already. He started in the business when he was a kid doing gofer work and his career rise has matched the rise of films through their infancy all the way to the present day. He knows everyone and for those few people he doesn't know, they certainly know him.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
I've always told him he needs to write a book about his life and times and let future generations have an insight into his life and what he has seen. I get the feeling he has, although he hasn't ever confirmed it. Maybe he is waiting to publish it after he dies. I don't know.
With what I do now I don't come into contact with JJ much anymore on a professional basis but I always stay in touch on a personal basis. Every other month or so we get together for brunch and I get entertained for a few hours. I'm not sure what JJ gets out of it except for some company and some free food. Somehow I think I'm getting the better part of the deal.
This past Sunday the conversation turned towards an event he had hinted at previously, but had never really finished the story and I took the opportunity this time to get the answers I wanted.
All I will say about these events are they happened within the past 50 years and only about ten people know the whole story.
Timmy was a gay man at a time when gay men were treated miserably, not only in Hollywood but in the rest of the country as well. Timmy's homosexuality was compounded by the fact that he was very slightly built, had very pale features and a skin condition that prevented much hair growth on his body.
What Timmy had going for him was a personality that wouldn't quit and a way of capturing an audience whether one person, five hundred or through film that was unlike anything most people had seen previously.
Timmy grew up in the Northeast in a small town where he really and truly didn't fit in. At some point he knew he wanted to be an actor and began performing in theatres across the country. He would stick in a city long enough to work in some plays and shows and then move on when he heard of another opportunity in a bigger town or for more money somewhere else. Each of these moves pushed him further and further west to his ultimate destination in Hollywood.
When he first arrived in LA, the studio system was still going strong and most performers were tied to a studio for many years. They would often work on several films simultaneously and often share accommodations with other performers of the same level who also worked at the same studio.
Timmy worked often, but nothing more than a few lines here or there and spent a great deal of time in the "chorus" sections of musicals which were still fairly popular. To supplement his income Timmy began performing in local theatre productions. One night the lead actress was unable to perform and there was no understudy. A sold out audience was going to be sent home unless something was done.
Enter Timmy. With the audience none the wiser, Timmy performed the entire two hour show as the lead actress and received a standing ovation. He was brilliant and there was even a review in the paper which talked about this understudy who was even better than the regular actress.
As good as Timmy was, it was only for one night, and he went back to his regular role the next night. Timmy was excited about the possibilities the night before had held though and the response he received was never far from his mind.
After another year working at the studio without getting much further than bit parts, Timmy decided to do something which would put him in the spotlight. When his studio contract ended he basically reversed his original trek to LA and began performing in small town theatres again, but this time as a woman.
Timmy traveled and did the theatre route for almost two years while building up a resume and a background for his new persona. When he finally felt as if he had it down, Timmy returned to Hollywood. This time as a woman.
From his very first screen test as a woman, Timmy was destined to become a star. Timmy was initially given meaty supporting roles and moved into an apartment with two other women who worked at the studio. One of those women was JJ's wife. There was just no way for Timmy to keep his masculinity a secret in such close quarters and so the two women became Timmy's confidantes and helped him whenever possible.
Over the next two years, Timmy worked steadily as a woman and kept getting better and better roles. He was very rarely the lead, but in memorable role he was cast as the lead opposite a very closeted A list at the time actor who also remained single for his entire life. The two began a relationship which was always kept quiet but lasted for many years.
Shortly after Timmy was cast as the lead, he was cast in another role which is the subject of the blind. Timmy was incredible in this role and whether his acting was as a result of his new found love or as a result of just the right part at the right time, Hollywood took notice and so did the critics. During award season, Timmy began winning regularly for his role. I want to make it perfectly clear that none of these organizations knew Timmy was actually a man when they were honoring him with awards as an actress.
This award season was a blessing because it honored Timmy for his work, but at the same time the increased publicity and probes into his background were causing a great deal of stress and Timmy began getting hives and breaking out as the stress of trying to maintain three different persona's. Timmy himself, Timmy the actress, and Timmy the gay man in a loving relationship with a closeted star.
When it came to the very big award, the one with all the television viewers, Timmy won again. There he was, the woman who was really a gay man was being honored for being the Best Supporting Actress/Best Actress of the year. Its up to you to figure out which of the two he won.
After the award season, Timmy thought the hives and his skin would go back to normal, but if anything they became worse. The severe outbreak he had been dealing with had altered his body to the point where it just wouldn't go back to normal.
At that time there was no CGI, and makeup could only do so much. Timmy the award winning actress was having trouble finding work because of his condition and so he saw his career slowly work its way back down the ladder over the course of three or four years.
Timmy considered trying to resume a film career as a man but the skin condition made that impossible because it would have been one hell of a coincidence that two people who looked remarkably alike had the same condition. What he could do though was return to the theatre, and he did so, as a man and worked as a man until his death from AIDS related complications.
Sunday after brunch I went to Blockbuster and I rented the award winning film, and even knowing what I knew, when I watched it Sunday night it was almost impossible to tell. If you watch it carefully there is one giveaway which is a scar. It's not a big scar, but its evident in photos of the male Timmy which you can still find online in old cast photos and in the female version of Timmy as she acts her way to one of the biggest awards in films.
Timmy as an actor and actress was in over 100 films and theatre productions from Topeka to Broadway, but this is about one role and one award.