|Thanks Alex Espinoza for the screen shot!|
Last weekend, I attended the annual conference for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). I sat on a panel called "Intersections: Race, Sexuality and other Collisions in Los Angeles." It was a terrific time organized by Alex Espinoza with Fred Smith, Felicia Luna Lemus and Myriam Gurba.
Early in the panel Fred Smith said that Los Angeles wasn't like Beverly HIlls, 90210. I said that before I was a writer I was an actor and I actually did an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210. Back in 1990, I was grateful for the role--and still am. The character was a guy named Chang, an Asian busboy, who helped Brandon Walsh (played by Jason Priestley) realize that his life as an upper middle class white boy in Beverly Hills wasn't so bad. Hey, he could be me (or my character), which was third world kitchen help who didn't even make minimum wage.
Doing those kinds of roles is one of the reasons I became a writer. An actor's life is hard. My creativity was dependent on getting hired at best, staying in acting class at the least. When I wrote, I could be creative everyday. Yes, I took classes, but it was the act of writing, of creating that drew me in. At first, I wrote for roles I could play on stage. Then I decided to attempt the novel, which was one of the hardest things I'd ever tried to do in my life.
In the 1990s, AIDS was destroying my gay and Asian community. I worked for the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team where I worked to help men stay HIV negative or HIV positive men stay as healthy as possible. One of the ways we did this was convincing ourselves that we were worthy individuals who deserved health, wealth and well-being. And I couldn't properly convey that by playing guys like Chang.
Sometimes, I wonder what happened to that busboy. In that world of Beverly Hills, 90210, how did Chang turn out?
Hmmmmm. A short story might be in the works.