He will be remembered for his wit, creativity, sense of humor, kindness and love of animals.
My friend, Bill died on August 9, 2014. All of the above from his obituary in a local newspaper is true. I will remember all those things about him and more. Here is a tiny fraction of my memories.
I love this song… let’s dance!
During my first year of college, one of my roommates introduced me to fraternity parties. We lived around the block from fraternity row at UCLA and when they had parties that were open, we could walk over and drink, dance and listen to DJs or live bands (which some frats occasionally hosted), mostly undisturbed as we weren’t sorority girl material. At one of these parties, my roommate ran up to me breathlessly, dragging a handsome, tall blonde guy behind her. “You two have to meet! You like the same weird music!” He flashed a smile, we started talking bands we loved and, before the night was out, we were best friends forever.
You can be my little sister!
Bill had pledged the fraternity because he was sleeping with one of the members. Once that was over, Bill declined to join and I never got to experience that little taste of pseudo sorority life.
I was no stranger to good looking men befriending me and pouring their hearts out, confessing their troubles or watching out for me like an older brother. The pattern was the same: I would fall in love with their kindness and openness, develop a crush, let them know I wanted to be more than friends and then they would come out as gay.
Like many a nerdy teenage girl, this was a role I was born to play. It was no different with Bill. The difference with Bill was, through his final confirmation fling with a curvaceous, dark-eyed woman and gentle letting down of me and declaring his certainty in his sexuality, we remained the closest of friends. Frankly, I was relieved when he ended things with Sylvia and began to pursue men in earnest because the contours of our relationship became clear.
I found a place that’s hiring!
One of my first college jobs was working in a fancy Beverly Hills boutique. A co-worker introduced me to her gay best friend and their favorite club on Hollywood Boulevard. Bill and I started to meet them there regularly. I also got deeper into the punk rock scene and did hair modeling at the Vidal Sassoon Academy where I got my hair cut for free so students could learn advanced techniques they could take back to their salons. This included wild dye jobs for which I eagerly signed up.
I arrived at the Beverly Hills boutique one day with jet black hair and fire engine red highlights. The head of human resources told me I had a day to get my hair back to a color that grows out of someone’s head naturally or I would be fired. I complied.
Shortly thereafter, unbeknownst to me, Bill called all the record stores in town and asked if they were hiring. One was. Bill called me excitedly and told me to get over there right away. I did and, long story short, I got the job at Licorice Pizza on Wilshire Boulevard which would turn out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life and the source of many of my dearest friendships that last to this day. All because Bill loved me that much and hated to see me miserable with my spirit crushed and creative fire extinguished.
To Edie Sedgwick!
Bill and I eventually became roommates and at our second place we lived with his boyfriend, Jim. Jim was a quiet Ivy League athlete turned brilliant computer scientist working on a PhD with a cocaine habit (that eventually morphed into a heroin addiction), and the love of Bill’s life. There are so many stories from those apartments and those days.
Like how we talked about starting a band. Bill named us Coup Des Grâce and even went so far as to post flyers around campus looking for additional members. Like his obsessions with musicians such as Janet Jackson and that one time when he called up Teena Marie’s hotel room, pretended to be her assistant and actually got her on the phone for a few seconds, just long enough to profess his love. Or like how Bill would direct and choreograph groups of friends as we lip synced to music videos.
One of my favorite memories was of the Siamese kitten he adopted and named Edie Sedgwick before finding out that she was a boy cat; a boy cat that needed to be neutered. The thought of Edie losing her balls made Bill and Jim sad so they threw a “Goodbye to Edie’s Balls” party, took pictures to remember them by and drank to Edie who was unimpressed by all the morose hoopla.
She looks like an angel.
I can’t remember where we were but it was someone else’s home. I was napping and, as I moved into that twilight just before you wake, I heard Bill and Jim whispering to each other as they stood nearby watching me sleep. And in that moment I felt how much I loved them both. I think that was the last time I saw Jim. The next memory I have of him is Bill telling me he had died. He was at a party, did too much cocaine and had a heart attack. The All American swimmer drowned in a hot tub.
Bill was never the same. Decades later I noticed that he listed his relationship status on Facebook as “widower.” Bill was also no stranger to drugs and he spiraled downwards. He completed rehab more times than I can remember because it never really stuck.
Several of those rehab stints happened at a center in Arizona. At one point he appeared to be so successful at kicking his habit that the rehab center hired him as a counselor.
During that time he called me while I was still living in Los Angeles after college and said he wanted to come for a visit. He flew out; I picked him up at the airport and drove him back to my apartment. As soon as we got there, he called a friend to come pick him up and when the friend arrived, Bill left as quickly as he had arrived.
I didn’t see Bill for the rest of the weekend. On Sunday night he called me to ask if I would give him the money he needed to buy a plane ticket back to Arizona. He had cashed in his return ticket and spent all the money on heroin.
That was my breaking point. I felt used and I was furious. I told him, “no” and that I would put his untouched, unpacked bags outside my door for him to pick up. I wished him luck and told him that I would no longer speak to him as long as he remained a user even though that meant it was likely our last conversation.
As it turns out I was almost right.
So, is this the famously infamous Maria X of BEYOND HELP! notoriety? Si, para seguro, Senorita....
Yes indeed my love - how the hell are you? Still making music?... I keep losing you and it bums me out because you are always in my mind and heart….
Thanks for yer message, Maria! Really buoyed my spirits, you always were the sweetest.
A few years ago Bill found me and reached out to me on Facebook. In the intervening years since we had last talked, he had moved to San Francisco, changed his name to Billy Valentine, started a band, become a local rock celebrity, worked with Linda Perry and Christa Hillhouse from 4 Non Blondes until it fell apart and he moved upstate near where his parents had settled in retirement.
I was grateful he was alive and finally had the experience of being in a band and performing on stage. So few of us realize our dreams that way and I was proud of him for what he accomplished. That he found a community who adored him for his gifts was no surprise to me.
Eventually, as was Bill’s habit, he stopped communicating and disappeared. About a month ago I reconnected with a mutual friend of ours from our UCLA days whom I hadn’t spoken with in years. She asked about Bill and so I pulled up his Facebook page to see if it showed any signs of him being active on it recently thinking, if so, I would try and track him down again through it, holding her out as a lure to get him to respond.
Instead, I was shocked, devastated and confused by what I saw there: a series of RIP postings on his wall. I could not wrap my mind around the idea that he could be dead even though all his friends knew that the day was likely going to come much sooner than it had any right to and many of us were surprised that it hadn’t arrived yet. Nevertheless, Bill was a death-defying fighter for too long for it to be real.
I reached out to anyone I could find connected to him. I posted a comment on one of the RIP messages asking his friend in a picture with him, posted along with a profession of eternal love for her friend, to check her messages. I asked; she answered with the truth. That was when I finally allowed my heart to shatter.
Despite our times of trouble, Bill’s light eclipsed it all. My life is so much more because I knew, loved and was loved by, Bill Frisbie. Rest peacefully, my friend.