Thursday, June 16, 2005

These days I expect to be able to find information on anything on the web.

Which animals can see in color?
Google's top result has a decent answer at this page.

Who will historians say is the worst U.S President of all time?
Once again, Google's top result has an answer. (Clearly they've misunderestimated him)

Which blog is seemingly the best place to go for information on the URL www.suckme.com ?
Who knew?

Other things can't be found on the web. Sometimes I google for people of importance in my life and I'm aghast at how little information I can find. I had that experience today while searching for the name of one of my best friends in high school, Steve Genard. Steve died in 1992 and I think of him often. Here's my tiny contribution to making his presence on the web a wee bit larger.

My high school was a fairly conservative place with traditional cliques and the usual reasons why some jock might beat the crap out of you. Like most high schools, it wasn't a very good place to be different from the crowd.

Steve was different though. He was, I believe, the only gay boy in that school who made no attempt to hide it. Even though we lived in a suburb of San Francisco, being openly gay in high school in the mid 80's was tough business. Steve, however, was talented, brilliant, and outgoing enough to engender respect or at least grudging tolerance from his classmates.

My favorite memory of Steve was when he auditioned to be on Wheel of Fortune. This game show, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Vanna White, is basically a souped-up version of Hang-man. Contestants take turns trying to figure out a mystery phrase by guessing which letters appear in it. It's not rocket science, unless your rockets are made out of playdoh.

Steve, being a word aficionado, took an analytical approach to his audition. He decided to become the most-skilled Wheel of Fortune contestant of all time, and he had the intensity and drive to pull it off. Steve spent weeks amassing huge lists of possible answers to Wheel of Fortune puzzles. For example, many of the answers are phrases, so he gathered lists of common phrases from phrase books and other sources. He then organized his lists of phrases into groups based on the number of words in each phrase. Next, he'd memorize them, noting the number of letters in each word.

It got to the point where you'd quiz him and say something like "3 words. 4 letters, 5 letters, 4 letters" and he'd respond with "Home sweet home!" It was remarkable.

Sadly, he came down with a terrible cold on the day of his audition and despite doing very well at the mock-game, was not able display his usual exuberance. He did not appear on the show. Some have theorized that he was too dominating at the game during the audition, while others believe that he just seemed too sniffly. We'll never know for sure.

Steve's main interest was singing. He was an accomplished vocalist who had appeared in a number of community musicals. Anytime I went somewhere in his car, he was blasting music by either Karen Carpenter (whose voice he thought was pretty much perfect) or the Manhattan Transfer or something similar. This sounds like hell on earth, but it was pretty entertaining. He'd constantly be listening, rewinding, imitating, rewinding, practicing, etc. He paid far more attention to the stereo than driving the car. For him the steering wheel was mostly a percussion instrument.

I sometimes wondered why Steve liked to hang out with me. He seemed so vibrant and unique and I felt so very ordinary next to him. There were plenty of zanier people than me in his life, and certainly some gayer ones, but somehow I got blessed to be his friend. Man, I hate that word "blessed", but there it is. Can't find the backspace key.

Steven A. Genard died of AIDS at the age of 25. I hated Hated HATED seeing him in the hospital in the months before he died, but those images haven't replaced the plethora of vivid memories I have of him. I'm thrilled to report that his memorial service is the only one I've ever had to attend. Somehow, amazingly, in my nearly 40 years of life, he's the only person who died on me. None of my other close friends and family members have put me through that. (Thank you!)

After Steve's death, his mother, Marsha, helped create The Genard AIDS Foundation which provides hospice care for people with AIDS. Nowhere on their website, however, will you find Steve's Boggle secrets. I'll take those to my grave.

11 comments:

Siôn said...

This is a fine example of why I love to read your blog. Somedays you can be hilariously funny (and I mean coffee over the keyboard stuff here - even though I don't drink coffee) and then others days you can come up with a beautiful post like today's.
Just thought, I'd share that with you.

Mike said...

Hi Siôn, that's very nice of you to say, although I'm perplexed about your keyboard. I'd read your blog if it weren't in that crazy vowelless language of yours.

Geoffrey said...

Thank you, Mike. Steve's last few weeks in that hospice cocoon were bearable only due to his brilliance and (relative) clarity -- and the tear-streaked stories shared by his friends. He was the only person I've ever known, of whom strangers would ask me, "Is Jac really God?"

Mike said...

Hi Geoffrey. Boy, that "Jac" name isn't ringing a bell, but I'd bet it was a Steve pseudonym. I'm glad you stopped by.

Anonymous said...

I was thrilled to see your post on Steve Genard. I performed with Steve in Pippin at the (then) Willows Youth Theatre. I still think of him often.

We both attended UCLA and lived a block away from each other. We had some nice hang outs. He came to my wedding and we still have these two black serving dishes (which we use frequently).

Thanks for taking the time to immortalize him on your site. Cheers, Paul Babb (paul@paulbabb.com)

Anonymous said...

I was thrilled to see your post on Steve Genard. I performed with Steve in Pippin at the (then) Willows Youth Theatre. I still think of him often.

We both attended UCLA and lived a block away from each other. We had some nice hang outs. He came to my wedding and we still have these two black serving dishes (which we use frequently).

Thanks for taking the time to immortalize him on your site. Cheers, Paul Babb (paul@paulbabb.com)

Mike said...

Paul, it's gratifying to hear that I'm not the only person who still thinks about Steve. Thanks for leaving a note here.

Anonymous said...

I realize that I'm many, many years late with this, but I still thought I'd share some memories... I was recently visiting LA some 20+ years since I lived there and knew Steve. He was always such a colorful character that I decided to look him up on Facebook. Unfortunately, I found out of his passing by finding his AIDS foundation.

I clearly remember Steve's singing as well as his many quirky traits. Indeed he did love Karen Carpenter. He showed me the program to her memorial service--which he was invited to attend when her family found out what a huge fan of hers he was. And yes, Manhattan Transfer--winding and rewinding a Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.

I also remember him trying out for Wheel, and his huge disappointment when he didn't get invited on the show. He did make it on another wordy game show, but I never saw it.

Since you went to high school with him, you must have known some guy named Afsheen?? He often talked about him and imitated his accent... "I swear to God Steve, one of these days I'm gonna kill you!"

I also remember going with him to West Hollywood to check out the scene. Memories also include his apartment on Gayley, his love of Nabokov and Bewitched, and grocery shopping with him was always an entertaining, over-the-top, belly laughing experience.

I remember him wanting to get his English degree and then go on to get his law degree from UCLA. The last I heard, he chose to drop out and working as a waiter.

That's when I lost touch. He was a crazy, nutty, lovable man, and I was honored to be his friend.

Mike said...

I remember Steve being a waiter for a while at Chevy's (back when Chevy's was new) in Concord. He was, of course, a delightful server.

Geoffrey said...

When Steve left UCLA, he moved to Seattle, where I lived at the time. I persuaded myself that he had chosen me, above all others, to share this new city-home. Alas, I was mistaken - one week later he asked me to leave Seattle. Apparently he planned to re-create himself on a grand scale (as Jac Darci) and could not allow anyone who knew his Steve identity to tell old tales to his new followers.
(Quick aside: His charisma knew no bounds - within 24 hours of his arrival he'd made three new friends. The five of us went to a local eatery and, when Steve excused himself to use the lavatory, three sets of eyes converged earnestly on mine. "So," began the boldest of the three, "can you tell us - is Jac really God?" What could I say but "Yes!")
Jac Darci became a gay activist, even making the newspaper a few times. Amazing the sheer number of legacies one man can have in such a short lifespan....

Mike said...

Funny that I never knew of Jac before these comments.