Steven Fales

Steven Fales
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 perfect distraction.
            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 Linda!
            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 traveling dues.
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.
“Hi, Em.”
“Hey. Do you know what today is?”
I had to think about it, “Uh. No.”
“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 would do.
Two weeks later she would call the police and do everything she could to bar me from ever seeing the children again.
And that script I submitted to Sundance was rejected.


  1. I enjoy your writing style, very skillful and captivating...

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Love what you've written thus far, Steven!

  4. Wow! This love story is really very heart touching! You are such a great writer who wrote this story so beautifully. Thanks a ton dear. We have also been looking for a spacious location for vows for celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. I hope that I’ll find the venue pretty soon!


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