Naming a cartoon character can be perilous: once you've identified and labeled them, that's it. There are no redos, not without killing them off and starting over.
If you do a Google search for "Doc and Raider", you'll not only find the cartoons but also a series of Western novels, written mostly in the 1980s and published initially by Playboy Press, then picked up by Berkeley Books. The author is "J D Hardin", although that was a pseudonym for what was no doubt an entire team of contract writers. The titular characters are a team of Pinkerton agents who go around the American west of the 1880s. They solve crimes. They get into fights and shoot-outs. And they screw just about any woman who crosses their path.
As such, they seemed perfect (if ironic) names for my little guys.
It's a fascinatingly goofy series as porn goes (which is really what it is), because the emphasis throughout is on the guys, these uber-masculine creations of walking testosterone, who are put in the most outlandish situations, as though the creators of Wild Wild West decided to do a little literary slumming. In one, the bad guys are killed when they are taken up in a gigantic cyclone. In another, the Doctor seduces a young maid by offering to put some special cream on her to "enlarge her bosoms". The cover art, in particular, is a real head-wrencher: for something marketed to straight men, every cover painting shows this guy that looks like he just walked off a Colt Studio photo shoot. To their credit, the books had wit and humor and were, more often than not, a rollickingly good adventure story.
Can you see why I would find the names so irresistible? To take these Reagan-era macho men and turn them into a couple of gay boys was almost too delicious. And that irony permeated the original series: a pair of playful, almost adolescent, leathermen who can appreciate a fine Art Deco vase even as they have to halt a scene because their boot chains have gotten tangled. They were the antithesis of the Tom of Finland icon, much like the real life man who made them happen.
All creative work is autobiographical, as any artist or writer or musician will tell you. No matter how much we might try to do otherwise, it's impossible not to put something of our own lives into everything we create. The cartoon was no exception. We would not be sitting here talking, you and I, were it not for a remarkable man named Steven.
We met in the latter-70s, in New York, a city both of us found less than enchanting. We'd been dating for a few months, and things were looking pretty serious. One night, over dinner, he announced he was moving to California. "Wanna come along?" he added with a wink, knowing I would say yes. And of course I did.
Whatever he saw in me remains a mystery to the ages, but we spent the next six years in wild abandon in San Francisco during its heady glory days of the early 80s. Christmas dinners were more like Fellini films, with the combination of SOM leather people, Castro clones, more than a few drag queens, and a smattering of the Pike Street sweater crowd. He taught me proper gym technique; I, in turn, taught him how to speak French. He played a clarinet; I, an accordion. He was saving his money to start on his MSW to work with gay street kids, while I was slowly finding my career as a visual artist. We were more than lovers; we were best friends and sexual equals. I was madly in love, and I like to think he was as well.
And then he started getting sick, from something the doctors were calling GRID.
The day he got the diagnosis, he called me at work and said, "We're going shopping." That afternoon, we dropped close to twenty five thousand dollars, all the money he'd saved for his future education, on all the things we'd denied ourselves because money was always so tight. The biggest purchases (this is important) were a huge widescreen television set and a complete set of Waterford crystal. We settled into whatever treatments we could find, even as we had no idea what was going on. All we knew for certain was that nothing was working.
Then there was his mother.
She lived in Sacramento. A born again fundamentalist who was convinced her son was going straight to hell and I was driving the bus to get him there. As such, she wanted nothing to do with him. So you can imagine my surprise when, during his final hospital stay, she showed up. Once the formalities were out of the way, she said (and I quote), "You know, my little black and white TV isn't doing so well. I hope you're remembering me in your will." If that wasn't enough, dear Reader, she made a similar play for the Waterford, then left. She was there all of five minutes. I was livid, but Steven convinced me to go take a breather: he had a phone call to make to our lawyer.
"You're not giving her that stuff, are you?" I asked, incredulous.
"Sean, she's my mother," was all he said.
A few days later, to ensure she got the loot, she returned to the hospital and had me thrown out of the room. I didn't even know he'd died until getting a call from our lawyer, telling me that I was executor of his will and that I had to see him right then, right now. I didn't want to deal with it, but Jim was emphatic.
The will was short, maybe four pages. Even after the shopping spree, we didn't own a lot of stuff. But on the last page, there was a note that the TV and the crystal were indeed to go to his mother...
... but only after a sledgehammer was taken to them first.
Still uncertain whether or not this was even legal, I went home, got righteously stoned, put the TV and the crystal back in their boxes, and then spent the most cathartic half hour possible. Then, with a friend's assistance, we drove to Sacramento, left them on the porch, and returned to San Francisco.
Miss ya, Doc.
Even after all these years, I still miss you. A lot.
I'll shut up now. Cartoons return on Monday.