|Joe-Pourri--featured item of the month
Many thanks to Rick Landman for permission to share the following true-life Joe-encounter:
My Childhood Fling with Joe Dallesandro
How many nice Jewish boys can say they had a homo-erotic experience with a famous Andy Warhol sex idol? Well, if you count being nine years old at the time, and the future idol being about thirteen, then I know of one.
In early 1970, when sitting in a college movie theater with some friends, I thought I recognized the star of the Andy Warhol movie “Trash.” Everyone fell in love with his sexy face and chest on the movie’s poster, but I felt that I knew him more than a movie fan. Then it clicked. I turned to my friend and whispered, “That’s the guy who used to try to throw me in the mailbox when I was in the third grade.”
The sexy guy’s name was Joe Dallesandro. It was printed right there on the poster and although I never actually spoke with him, the name Dallesandro rang a bell. I remembered a Dallesandro in my gym class in junior high school. That’s about all I remember from gym. I really wasn’t the athletic type and was appointed to be the gym monitor instead. When other boys had to go to lockerrooms and change, I sat at the front desk and took attendance. Oh, the life of a gym monitor. One fringe benefit of the job was that I learned all the names of the troubled kids in my gym class. If you forgot your gym uniform or were absent, it was my job to take out your “Delaney” card and make a negative mark on it.
I remembered that there was a Bobby Dallesandro in my class who never had his gym shorts. Now, if a Bobby Dallesandro was in my class, why couldn’t Joe Dallesandro be the guy at the mailbox?
But the episode in question happened when I was only in the third grade. I grew up on 255th Street in Queens and walked five blocks to my elementary school every day. Enroute to the elementary school, I passed Junior High School 172 at 257th Street. So when I was in the third grade (and under four feet tall), I made the big journey each day by myself.
One day, on the trip back home, I noticed a bunch a tough looking kids hanging out at the corner of 257th Street and 81st Avenue wearing leather jackets, with slick hair, smoking cigarettes, and leaning up against the mailbox on the other side of the street.
I crossed the street intentionally, but casually, so that I would have to walk past these guys. One of them in a leather jacket looked like the “Leader of the Pack,” which was a favorite song of mine from the Shangri-La’s. He was real sexy and masculine, but not too tall. To a good little Jewish boy like me, he was definitely off limits; enticing, but real forbidden fruit.
These guys would usually hang out at a Whalen’s Drug at Union Turnpike during the day and then walk over to the school at 3:00 just to bother the teachers, have a smoke and pick on some little kids. I must have been the cutest little kid around, and thus a prime target.
As I approached, the hot tough guy grabbed me and started to tickle me. He then lifted me up while his friends opened the mailbox. I knew that there was no way that I would fit into the box, but I squirmed and kicked and wiggled around protesting this terrible act of “child abuse.” I actually was enjoying it too much to get upset. It was definitely erotic in an innocent way, and I loved being the center of his attention.
After a minute or so of squirming, he let me down and I ran away. We never spoke. This happened maybe twice before word got back to my mother. To this day, she remembers the incident and almost went to the school to complain. She would ask why didn’t I just stay on the other side of the street? I couldn’t say that I had a crush on the toughest ringleader.
So I remember watching the clock at school until it was exactly 3:00 and then running home as fast as I could so that I could get to the Junior High School before the hoodlums left. It was not easy planning dates in silence with someone who was trying to put you in a mailbox.
As suddenly as he appeared, he disappeared. I wondered what happened to him for awhile, but there was no way of tracking him down. My walk home from school became uneventful and I never saw that sexy young man again until I saw the movie “Trash” in college.
But was it really a nine year old’s crush on Joe Dallesandro, or someone who resembled him? That was a question that I couldn’t answer until Michael Ferguson wrote the book Little Joe, Superstar about the life of Joe Dallesandro. Recently I attended a book-signing as A Different Light Bookstore in Chelsea to satisfy my curiosity. I bought the book and started to read about the early history of Joe before the author and Joe showed up for the signing. The book stated that he went to school on Long Island, but then it also referred to his being kicked out of school in Queens. It also mentioned that he had a younger brother named Bobby. My confidence rose. This must be my mailbox idol. Early childhood crushes last forever.
So after the presentation by the author, Joe Dallesandro got up and asked the audience for questions. I raised my hand, he nodded, and I stood up and asked, “Do you remember me?”
Of course, he said, “No.”
Then I asked: “Did you ever hang out in Queens near Junior High School 172 on 257th Street and 81st Avenue?”
He answered: “Was that near a drugstore on Union Turnpike?”
“Yup...Whalen’s Drug Store was about two blocks away on the Turnpike. Do you remember lifting up a little kid and trying to push him into the mailbox at the corner?”
He thought for a moment and answered: “Sounds like something that I would have done. I used to skip school and then stop by at 3:00 just to drive the teachers crazy. If a little kid came by, I probably would have done something like that. Yeah, that sounds like me.”
That clinched it for me. And one should remember, my early homoerotic fling with Joe Dallesandro pre-dated Andy Warhol’s discovery by a decade. I guess I always had good taste in men, even when I was nine.
©Rick Landman, 1999