Tom Barbour was more than just my sugar daddy. He saved my life. The character actor may have played important roles in several major motion pictures including ‘Arthur’ and ‘Suspect’, but his multi-million dollar fortune was earned the hard way– through family inheritance.
My cousin Stephen Smith and his lover Jose Ramon lived on the top floor of Tom Barbour’s brownstone at 60 Perry Street for more than fifteen years. It was through my cousin that I met the man who played the part of Arthur’s father. Realizing that Tom’s health was fading, Stephen and Jose decided to make a break and move out of New York City. Over the course of fifteen years, the old millionaire never raised the rent on the one bedroom apartment on the top floor of his home. Stephen and Jose decided to sublet their $500 apartment for $2,000 a month and move to the tiny island of Viequez, off the coast of Puerto Rico, before Tom died. Tom was in his eighties.
“I don’t know what the fuck we’ll do if Tom dies,” my cousin explained. “I hope he’s one of those old men who go on and on forever, never giving up their spirit while on a respirator. There’s just no way in hell Jose and I can survive New York without this apartment. Tom said his sister is an evil cunt and will storm in here with a bulldozer when he dies and kick us all out of here. I don’t know how you survive in New York without rent control. Look– why not take this job with Tom– it’s off the books. Tom always gave me a 1099 at the end of the year, but he never filed the damned things with the IRS. He pays me $25 an hour– I’m sure I can get that for you. Please do this for me,” Stephen pleaded.
Stephen’s job as ‘secretary of the Barbour estate’ was to assist Tom with filing statements from the Bank of New York relating to the thirty million dollar Barbour fortune which apparently had all been tied into the stock market. Tom was a philanthropist who formed his own foundation– the Hornet Foundation– from which he funneled tens of thousands of dollars into various theatric venues and gay and animal causes. It was Stephen’s job as secretary to keep track of all the paperwork. After deciding to move to Viequez, my cousin explained the only way Tom would agree with his plans was to replace himself as secretary with a good-looking male administrative assistant–me, of course.
Stephen scheduled an informal interview between Tom and me. Tom offered to pay me $25 an hour, for a minimum of four hours a week–
“There’s lots of work to do,” the old queen advised– smiling at me from a battered chair, winking his eye in a rather bold move of flirtation. His chair, when facing the opposite direction overlooked a backyard covered with an abundance of yellow daffodils. Various bottles of pills were scattered across a desk that had been built into the very foundation of the brownstone. The oak surface of the desktop extended the entire length of two walls of paneled glass.
“You can make as much as you desire– I hope to one day organize my personal library– a task that your cousin here has promised to undertake for more than a decade, but has yet to make any real effort. I’m still looking for the latest copy of my life’s work– ‘The Smoke Weaver’s Daughter’. It’s a play I wrote in Paris when I was young like you,” Tom explained. “I lost my most recent draft. I’m afraid that the only way to find it is to go through this pile of shit,” Tom pointed to a wall of dusty books, loose paper, pamphlets, and unread junk mail from Harvard University. I have to go through all of this with my secretary. There is valuable documentation buried here. I hope you’re up for it,” Tom explained.
“I’m here to help and am free all day on Saturday.”
“When can you start?”
“I was going to show him around today,” Stephen explained.
“Oh well, let me get out of your way then. I suppose this means I’ll have to pay both of you today– oh dear,” Tom snipped. “Well, I’m going to my bed– Jeopardy is coming on in ten minutes. When you are finished, come in with your checks and I’ll sign them.”
Stephen suggested that I sit in front of Tom’s computer. He brushed aside a bottle of prescription pills that I had noted were Viagra and quickly closed out the open windows on Tom’s computer desktop before I was seated. The naked Fresh Men on the screen shrank to mere icons.
“This is the data base Tom uses for all his accounts,” Stephen explained…