Handmade bio a favorite gift

I have a birthday coming up next weekend, April 12. It’s a birthday I share with the likes of David Letterman, David Cassidy, Vince Gill, Claire Danes and Tiny Tim.

Since I’ve been reading a lot lately, the thought struck me one of my favorite presents of all time was a book my wonderful friend Jacques Lorenzo made about my life. Jacques sadly passed away nearly 20 years ago now, but we were very close at one time and he knew me well.

Jacques surprised me with a beautiful hardbound book of blank pages, like a fancy journal, which he filled with illustrations and a narrative about my life up to that time. He wrote about me with truth and humor, using several running gags about my being boy-crazy, loving the beach and so on.

I miss him so much; even looking through this book brings me close to tears. He knew that I was both boy-crazy, and the boys liked me too.

At age 28 he came with me to New York City to try to become famous as an actor. For months we would practice our acceptance speeches for the Oscars. His day job (until we were rich and famous) was at a shoe store called “To Boot” in the lower West Village. My day job, which was really mostly at night, was as a waitress and bartender at a restaurant called Formerly Joe’s on West 4th and West 10th streets, just steps from where we lived at 72 Barrow St.

We had known each other since drama classes for the youth theater at Wiley Junior High School in University Heights, Ohio, not far from where I grew up. We were doing kids’ plays there. It was run by a guy named Mr. Leonard.

Jacques came all the way from Solon for the weekend classes. I was never actually in a production there, but Jacques was and we formed a bond for many years. He was my first experience with a gay boy and told me “all I needed to know” about that at the time.

“You know how you like boys?” he said. “Well I do too, and that’s all you need to know about being gay.”

Because of the way he presented it, I never thought being gay was a big deal, and I still don’t.

Jacques knew me so well, probably better than I knew myself at the time. He knew I would drop everything for a boy, even if it was foolish to do so. He knew that I could find peace at the beach, and that’s how I am now to this day. I’m just a lot more calm when it comes to boys, since Herman and I have been together 18 years now.

I enclose illustrations from the book, including my “happy place” at the beach, as well as a photo of me. I now live on a lake with a private beach, so I’m always in my happy place.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website, www.kathrynskorner.com.