Steven Fales is an actor/writer/producer best known for his solo play "Confessions of a Mormon Boy" which is now Part One in "Mormon Boy Trilogy." Steven is also a public speaker and creativity coach. www.facebook.com/fales.steven or firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Fales -- Actor/Writer/Producer
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Chapter One - "Happy Anniversary" from OXY-MORMON MEMOIRS: A Love Story with Footnotes
I'm diligently working on Oxy-Mormon
Memoirs: A Love Story with Footnotes*. Here's a sneak peek at Chapter One. I hope it grabs your attention. I have many drafts of the book I'm working from. I hope to finally get this book finished and on its way . . .
*Signed depiction releases have been purchased to mention Emily, the kids and her mother.
"Steven and Emily just before getting engaged." Utah, Summer 1993
OXY-MORMON MEMOIRS: A Love Story with Footnotes
by Steven Fales
Chapter One -- “Happy Anniversary"
I was working from the fourth floor
of the new city library in downtown Salt Lake frantically finishing up the
final draft of a new solo play I was writing (for someone else) so I could
submit it to this highly competitive theatre workshop at Sundance—a tiny blue
pinprick in the reddest state in the Union. Utah makes Texas seem liberal. Getting
accepted would be a much needed break in a career that seemed to have peaked
and was now going downhill fast. There was just an hour left to put the
finishing touches on this edgy new script about the founder of Mormonism’s
enigmatic bitter polygamist first wife and then electronically submit it (with
the $50 application fee I really couldn’t afford ) by the deadline that day.
The library closes early on Saturday and like everything else in Utah it’s
closed on Sunday so I was in a hurry to get it done when a call came in from
my favorite drama queen Emily—the Kim Kardashian of Mormondom. Only tall,
blonde and talented.And the mother of
my children. Our children. The
I was working from my unofficial
corner office because I needed the library’s free WiFi for my ailing Toshiba
laptop. It was dying. I think from a virus I got trying to download porn one
night. Porn’s not really my thing (why watch it when you’ve lived it?) but it
never leaves your laptop. Or your mind. At the dawning of the Great Recession I
decided to get another forbearance on my student loans and discontinue my
internet service in my studio apartment completely and just make do. Actually it had been shut off. At least my cell phone was still on. Thank you, Aunt
It was December 15th.
Just another cold, hungry day in the wholesome Mountain West—Zion. Mormon
missionaries and the homeless love this new library. So do the tweakers. It
could get really cruisy. But I had long outgrown that kind of old-school closeted
behavior. I was in recovery. And on deadline.
What did Emily want? I was the one
who was always calling her. No, I
couldn’t risk getting derailed. I could easily derail myself. I needed to get
this script submitted. Then I could call her back. “There’s no Mormons like show Mormons like no Mormons I know.”
Emily and I were both show Mormons. But this new show must go on!
Earlier that fall I decided I would swear
off my jealous mistress, arts and entertainment, and just hunker down and be a
full-time dad no matter how excommunicated I was in Utah. Or how much it was
their mother’s turf. Whether my kids knew it or not, they needed me. More than
that I needed them. Home is where your kids are. In the words of Dr. Laura, “I
am my kids’ dad.” It’s a documented fact that children who grow up without a
father are ten times more likely to run into trouble from anxiety to underachieving
to acting out in all kinds of destructive ways.
Ours was not your typical broken
home from the Mormon ghetto. My kids were lucky to have a dad. I was lucky to
be a dad and still have a dad myself as challenging as my relationship
continued to be with perfect Dr. Fales, M.D. Emily’s dad died when she was only
sixteen—of AIDS. Em grew up in a fatherless house. But her mother documented
everything in a national bestseller. And there were sequels. Lots of them.
Emily’s mother was the most celebrated writer of Mormon Arts and Letters—a
literary reality star. Memoir was the family business. My exotic mother—a trophy
wife whose second marriage had just ended—was why this former Mormon missionary
could handle his own Mormon American Princess so well. Sometimes.
Just not right now. Don’t you dare
pick up that phone, Steven.
We were both
sixth-generation—products of a dynamic blend of Mormon royal accomplishments
and Mormon white trash secrets—on both sides. Oxy-Mormons. Nevertheless and
notwithstanding we had really good kids. We got compliments on them all the
time. We have a son and a daughter. Our son is the older. Their nicknames are
Buddy and Gee-Gee. They get along with each other so well. Like Donny and
Marie. They have my watery brown eyes—just not as intense. Emily has the most
soulful, penetrating blue eyes to ever come out of Utah. Their eyes were a twinkling softened
blend of us both.
When they were little on those rare
occasions we ever had to discipline them we’d warn them first, “One. Two.
Three. Okay. Time out!” Then they’d politely march right over and plop
themselves down in the corner of the room and recite Shakespeare, “Tomorrow and
tomorrow and tomorrow.” Or sing the full score to Annie Get Your Gun, “Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can!” Or just
patiently wait five minutes until their lesson was learned and we were all back
to laughing and jumping on the trampoline.
“How do you get your kids to just go
to time out like that and like it?”
“Ancient Pioneer Secret.”
The best years of my life were when
we were a little family singing and dancing our way together through the apple
orchards and blueberry patches and Connecticut Repertory Theatre (while daddy
was still in graduate school at the University of Connecticut) picking out
pumpkins or chopping down our own New England Christmas trees in the land of
Martha Stewart. Just us. No parents. No in-laws. Being a busy, young dad
provided the happiest moments of my life. I could never dismiss Mormonism for
providing this bubble. Nor could I ever dismiss Emily.
It was when I moved us all back
to Utah that the marriage blew up and the bubble burst.
But even after the divorce, Emily
and I still did a lot of things together as a non-traditional family. Elaborate
birthdays, family weddings, vacations to Disneyland, Christmas in New York with
the Rockettes! All kinds of religious, educational, and cultural events—like
the annual Greek Food Festival in downtown Salt Lake. We still made a great
team. We had the same daddy-long-leg stride. Back in our East Coast days, we
could throw those kids in the double stroller and rip through the Washington,
DC mall in an entire afternoon—including the Smithsonian! We were exceptional
parents together. She was more pop. I
was more classical. I was New York. She was L.A. We balanced each other out. We
were built for cranking out beautiful babies and making Mormon art. We were
built for apron strings as much as showbiz. And yet our marriage seemed to be
doomed from the start.
I clearly told her I was gay
before we ever got engaged.
When we had the “divorce talk”
with our kids they were just five and three. We thought we’d wait to tell them why
we got divorced until later when it was more age appropriate. We didn’t want
them to find out on the playground. Google’s a real snitch. So are Mormons. So
after two years of our son asking every day to tell us why we primed the pump by letting the kids watch re-runs of “Will
& Grace.” And when they were eight and six we sat them down and on one of
his many visits home from New York daddy took the lead.
“Usually it’s men and women
together. But sometimes it’s men and men together. And women and women
together. And daddy seems to do best when it’s men and men together. Daddy is
what we call . . . gay.”
Buddy ran out of the room and
into the backyard. After a few minutes I went and talked him down out of the
cherry tree. I don’t believe he was upset I was gay or should I technically say
bisexual? It was because this reason blew the chances his parents might get
back together out of the water. This was the same reason his mother’s parents
got divorced. I was so relieved when Buddy said, “I still love you dad.”
When I mentioned to Gee-Gee that
my being gay was also why I was excommunicated she paused and said, “That’s
stupid.” That was my cue to teach them my “Excommunication Polka”! “Excommunication! Latter-day Saints on the
run. Ex-x-x-x-x-com-mu-ni-ca-tion! Everyone else join the fun . . .”
Back in full-time Salt Lake I
would now do my best to see my kids continued to thrive no matter what odds
were stacked against us. Buddy was twelve. Gee-Gee was ten. The perfect time
for a dad to really step up, right? This wasn’t my first time at the Salt Lake
rodeo trying to be a good single gay dad behind the Zion Curtain. But I’d
already lost too much momentum working in New York and being on the road paying
I would make amends for being a
long-distance dad by meeting their needs. Make their dreams come true. Take
them to rehearsals. Go to their basketball and volleyball games. Scouting.
Braces. Ballet. Cello. Maybe start taking them back . . . to church?
I would retire from touring my
old off-Broadway war horse Confessions of
a Mormon Boy forever and go back to teaching middle school or community
college . . . real estate? I would step off the “Mormon Boy” treadmill and rest
by being a busy old dad—at 37. Stop trying to keep up with the sex object on
the poster. Stop smiling so much. I would take my darn hairpieces off for good
and just wear a BYU baseball cap. Let the gray show through and the Botox run
out. Maybe put on a few extra pounds. Wear baggy dad clothes and glasses. Retire. From being fabulous.
After several full-time months
back I was having a “showbiz slip” and taking a day off from being daddy by finishing
up this new historical play at this award-winning, state-of-the-art library
next to these large modern floor to ceiling windows with tiny snowflakes
flurrying over quaint and oppressive Salt Lake City. Where the Mormon voters
are cold-stone sober and the local gay activists get back at them—by drinking.
So I get this call on my cell.
And since it was Emily vibrating, I picked up. You pick up when it’s the mother
of your children and you are the non-custodial parent no matter what deadline
you’re on. “Non-custodial” means you have basic constitutional visitation
rights as a dad and the right to pay child support but not a heck-uh-vah lot
more. Everyone pays lip service that your presence and opinion matter. But the
Church and the courts favor mothers no matter how well you change diapers or
how good your tuna casseroles turn out or how well you tell bedtime Book of Mormon stories.
You ultimately have no real legal
say in anything. You’re a second-class parent. You don’t really exist. So you
learn to work around it. You give up asking to see report cards or expect to be
told about parent teacher conferences. And try to ignore that fact that even
your immediate family sends their yearly Christmas cards to her.
So when the sole legal guardian
calls, you answer—and hope for the best because she has all the power. And an
even more powerful mother. I used my best inside library voice:
“Hi, Former!” We affectionately
called each other “Former”. She had perky down better than me.
“Hey. Do you know what today is?”
I had to think about it, “Uh.
“It’s our anniversary. Today
would’ve been our fifteenth wedding anniversary!”
“Oh! Of course. Sorry. I forgot.”
“Well, I wanted to call you and
wish you a happy anniversary . . .” She paused and in that pause seemed to play the
most tender of movie soundtracks as she began to cry, “And thank you for our
kids. They are so amazing.”
“Yeah, they really are. You’re
welcome. How sweet. Happy anniversary to you, too, Em.”
“Love you, Former!”
“Love you, too. Uh. Bye . . . “
Emily and I had been divorced
over seven years now. I thought it strange that after all this time she would
cross that matrimonial fine line with her surprise call. It was something I
Two weeks later she would call
the police and do everything she could to bar me from ever seeing the children
And that script I submitted to
Sundance was rejected.