David was born in Austin, Texas at the end of one era and the beginning of another. He was a shy little boy, but when he was in Kindergarten, he discovered that he loved making things. Art time became his favorite part of the day; even before nap time! It helped him to come out of his shell a bit, because he was praised for doing something well. Something his father rarely did.
In the first grade, in addition to his love of art, he discovered another joy, learning about other countries, their peoples, and their cultures. The interest was prompted by his teacher’s trip to Australia and her fascinating tales she related of what she saw and experienced there. The duck-billed platypus was his favorite animal for years. The recounting of her trip and the bringing back of a giant Australian penny for each student would later inspire him to go where he might not have thought possible, if not for her.
His father was transferred to DC, so he found himself in a new school for second grade. Hybla Valley Elementary was located south of Alexandria, Virginia. He had trouble, at first, making friends at the new school, but after awhile he would make true friends with several kids. In the trailer park where they lived, two boys in his cul-de-sac would come be his best friends. By the third grade, he, Darrel, Evan, along with his brother Perry, were playing combat, riding bikes, tossing the Frisbee, shooting marbles, building forts in the woods, and snow forts in the snow, together with other boys from the neighborhood. He married his longtime girlfriend, Debbie Reinhart, is a small ceremony on the playground during recess. They exchanged plastic rings and recited vows. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. Her family moved away a few years later and took his curly-haired, freckle-faced wife with them.
His fourth grade teacher was from Hawaii. She taught her students about the Hawaiian culture. She played the ukulele for them and sang Hawaiian songs. She introduced octopus and seaweed to them. David had to admit to her that he was not fond of octopus, though. It was just too chewy! She would turn out to be his favorite teacher in elementary school. The school started an experimental pilot program teaching French in the fourth grade. They also learned square dancing and folk dancing. His fifth grade teacher was a real fox. Her name was Ms. Hart. She had red hair and wore mini-skirts. David had a crush on her that whole year. In the sixth grade he was happy to finally have a really cool male teacher, Mr. Geoffries.
He became a school bus patrol in the sixth grade. It almost didn’t happen, though, because he forgot when the meeting was. When he did finally remember, he told his mom, and they made it just in time. Students were asked to write a poem that would be bound in a book and kept at the school for posterity. His poem was entitled “Love Is…” But what did he know about love at age twelve? His new girlfriend’s name was Alma del Rio and she was a real beauty; long brown hair, dark skin, and chocolate brown eyes. They even went to a Boy Scout social together although his mother thought him too young to date.
He had been taking cello lessons since he was big enough to carry the instrument. He even learned a piece for the school musical that year. He and Perry were to be munchkins in The Wizard of Oz; Perry danced while David played the cello. David also entered an art contest and won! He ran for Vice-President of the student body, but did not win. Frederick was the good friend he made at school and would know for years to come. There were also two boys by the name of Leif and Raymond that let David into their inner circle for one great summer. Leif was the cool kid in class and Raymond was the tough guy. He never forgot that.
He went to Boy Scout Camp one year. It turned out to be a lot of fun. He learned how to make a basket, fell in love with archery, and he and his cabin partner even won the three-legged race. He took his first outdoor shower at camp. It was an interesting experience and he would get comfortable with being naked around other guys from then on, at least until high school that is. His troop went camping a lot, so he got to skinny-dip with the guys in streams, and shower outdoors. He even took to sleeping nude in his sleeping bag while on these scouting trips.
This was also about the time David started going into the woods to strip off all his clothes and run naked. It gave him a sense of freedom he’d never had before. It was also more than a little thrilling, because he never knew if he was going to get caught. He never did get caught, but there was always that possibility, which made it doubly thrilling. Perry did catch him masturbating in their room. It was embarrassing for David, but Perry just laughed.
Another thrill was shoplifting. He started out just stealing small things and he never got caught doing that, but he wouldn’t realize what it might have cost him until he was much older. He was also very involved in church activities, a contradiction to his “life of crime and nudity.” He was in the youth choir and the R.As (Royal Ambassadors) as well. He even played the Archangel Gabriel in the Christmas pageant. He got through reciting his lines by looking over the heads of the congregation and not at any one person; a tip someone had given him.
David, his family, and other families from church, like their neighbors the Pecks drove to Eagle Eyrie for a religious retreat. There they had time to learn and reflect on God and their beliefs. On the last night, while they were singing Just As I Am, David felt the holy spirit descend upon him and he walked up the aisle crying to accept Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Savior. He met several times with his pastor when he got back home and was baptized shortly thereafter.
David’s family used to spend summers at the Peck’s cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains. There were days spent hiking, tubing down the river, and laying in the sun. Their nights were spent catching lighting bugs and bathing in the river; David went along with the frog gigging, but just to hold the burlap sack. He never gigged a frog or ate frog’s legs ever.
One summer, he hurt his knee climbing out of the swiftly flowing Little Pigeon River and it swelled up like a grapefruit. When they got back to Alexandria, his mom took him to see their doctor about it and then to a specialist. He was diagnosed with Osgood Schlatter’s disease and had to wear a splint on his leg from then on. The kids in school used to call him “gimpy,” “Chester,” and “Festus.” It hurt his feelings very much, but it ended up getting him out of gym class a lot, so he put up with it. He had always been called a “sissy” and though that hurt, too, he was just too small and shy to stand up to the bullies in elementary, middle and high school.
Junior High had him at W.C. Bryant in the seventh grade and Walt Whitman (at Hayfield until Mount Vernon High was finished) in the eighth. He fractured his left wrist in a freak snowball fighting incident and had to wear a cast for weeks, but seemed like months. It would never feel right again. Seventh grade was also tough because he got a raging hard on nearly every morning during second period Biology class and had to walk to his next with his textbook in front of his problem area. The family moved out of the trailer park and into a house on Cooper Road the summer between Bryant and Whitman, so he had to make new friends once again. He would choose to run with kids who were a little more edgy. Definitely not mainstream. He wouldn’t regret it even when he got to Mount Vernon High School. He had friends who were jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, potheads, drama queens, fashionistas, and everything in between. He would also develop his first crush… on Mr. G, his gym teacher.
Now that they had a yard, the family decided to get a dog. They found an ad in the paper for a puppy. David and his mom had to drive to Maryland to get him, but he was worth it. His name was King, but David didn’t think that suited him. So he renamed him Scoodles, because he was half Scottie and half Poodle. He was a great dog and would prove to be a little escape artist, too. He was always breaking free and running off for a bit of fun. He even made friends with an Irish Setter from down the road, but he always found his way home.
High school did not start out easy for David. His sister was a senior his freshman year, but she refused to acknowledge his existence in front of her friends. Apparently, it wasn’t “cool” to associate with freshmen. This hurt him very much, because he had always thought they were closer than that. He also decided that if he didn’t like a certain class, then he shouldn’t have to go. So he started skipping and going to the library instead reading all kinds of books and various subjects. He would develop a life-long love of reading due in no small part to the amount of time he spent in the school’s library.
He did enjoy French class, though. He had been taking French since the fourth grade, so when a trip to France was offered and his teacher was going as the guide, he asked his parents if he could go, too. It was just eight months since his girlfriend had died and his mother thought it would be good for him. His father, of course, was not sold on the idea (he was cheap), but when his mother argued that it might help him forget for a little while about losing Carolyn, he gave in.
Even though he should have been nervous about flying over the Atlantic on his very first plane trip ever, he wasn’t. He looked forward to the adventure. The plane stopped in England to refuel and then landed at Le Bourget Airport just outside Paris. Then they took a shuttle to their hotel downtown. Being the only boy, David had a room by himself. Anna and Sandie were together, and Mme. Sandgrove was in a room with her daughter. The first thing David noticed about the room was that it had two toilets! Of course he didn’t know that one of them was a bidet. Mme. Sandgrove had to tell him what it was and what it did. And the shower was down the hall in what was called the water closet.
Their days were filled with visits to the Louvre where he saw the Venus de Milo, La Joconde (the Mona Lisa), and Winged Victory (Nike); Napoleon’s Tomb in Les Invalides; Notre Dame Cathedral; Fontainebleau; Versailles and the Hall of Mirrors. They climbed the Eifel Tower, walked around the Arc de Triumphe, and to the top of Montmartre to visit Sacré Coeur. They saw a French movie, but Madame fell asleep. She was awakened by a strange hand reaching around trying to feel her up! She started yelling at him in French and he ran from the theatre like a bat out of Hell! Exciting! And of course they went shopping for souvenirs for family and friends.
They took a bus to Nice, had to stop overnight in Lyon, had dinner, and ordered pommes frites (French fries). The next day they were back on the road toward the French Riviera. They stopped in Avignon, saw the famous bridge (form the song he learned as a kid) and the castle. He noticed that even in April the castle was cold. It had windows, but no glass in them, so tapestries were placed over them. The group arrived at the hotel late, so they checked into their rooms and got a good night’s sleep. The next day they took a day trip by bus to Monaco and San Remo; the latter of which was just over the border in Italy.
They shopped in San Remo where David picked up a small reproduction of Michelangelo’s Pietà for his mother. They also had lunch at a little bistro. When they saw the very rotund waitress they were sure she was Italian, but she was English! David ordered ravioli and was amazed at how little sauce you got; nothing like the Chef Boyardee he was used to.
That night they all decided it would be fun to try and get into a discothèque. It turned out to be much easier than it would have been back home. They didn’t dare order real drinks, but they could dance! A familiar song came over the sound system and the whole American party started to sing, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” by Labelle. The only problem, the French boys didn’t know the American girls were underage! So David had his work cut out for him chaperoning several couples at a time, but still managed to have fun himself.
The next day they had some down time, so they decided to get some sun on the beach. The beach didn’t have sand, though. It had smooth stones, so they couldn’t lay on it. Anna, Sandie, and David stripped down as far as they could and lay down on the ramparts, even though it was a little chilly. While they were sunbathing, they overheard an elderly English couple commenting on the crazy French people. They had a laugh and decided to talk a little louder than they were, in order for the couple to hear that they weren’t French, but actually American. The woman looked sufficiently abashed.
He was excited about the train trip back to Paris, because he had never been on a train and certainly never bunked with two girls (Anna and Sandie) before! When they arrived back in Paris, they checked back into their original hotel and that evening took in a show at the Moulin Rouge. The small group of underage Americans even got to drink champagne. It was quite a racy show; the showgirls were topless. Some sat on swings and floated out over the crowd. There was even a big water tank where a dolphin took the showgirl’s top of for her!
When David got back to the hotel that night, he was a little drunk. He was looking out his window over the courtyard and saw a man in a window across the way. The man didn’t move away from the window. Instead he started to undress. David was fascinated by the act; he’d never been a voyeur before. When the man got down to his underwear, he motioned for David to do the same, so he did. Now they were both staring at each other in their underwear. The man across the way pulled down his briefs and stepped out of them. He was now naked in front of David and motioned again for David to do the same. So he pulled his briefs down and stepped out of them as well. They were both standing there with hard-ons. David mirrored everything the stranger did and he seemed to have as intense an orgasm as David did. It was certainly the most thrilling thing he’d ever done!
The next morning, David had a little time before the plane was to depart, so he decided to get a haircut. The lady was nice and asked him what he would like. He pointed to the picture in the window. She pulled it out and placed it in front of her station. She did a great job and he was happy with the results. When got back to school he was the only one with a European haircut while all the other boys still had long hair!
David had always had a weakness for hurt animals. If he saw one, he’d do whatever he could to help it. He found a bird that was hurt and tried to help it by giving it a warm place to recover, but it died over night. He named it, painted its name on a rock, and buried it in the backyard. He found a rabbit that had been hit by a car. He gave it a warm place to sleep, but its injuries were too severe. He named it, painted its name on a rock, and buried it in the backyard. After awhile his dad noticed that at least a dozen graves were in the backyard, so he said, “Well, you have quite a pet cemetery going back there.” David just smiled, but when that one filled up, he just started a new one by the fence.
His parents separated his junior year leaving him with a choice. Stay with his brother, sister, and the man whom he was convinced hated him or leave with his mom and have a tough time of it, but be happy to be out from under the hand of the tyrant. He chose the latter… and happiness.
That summer their father asked David and his brother Perry to dig a basement at the Cooper Road house. David was going to get paid, so he didn’t even care that they would only have picks, shovels, and a wheelbarrow. He and his brother didn’t always work well together, though. They never really had. Every scar on David’s face could be directly attributed to his brother and vice versa. One day they really got into it and David told Perry to go ahead and hit him if he was “man enough.” He even pointed at his chin! So Perry did. That’s when they had a real knock-down-drag-out fight in the mud. They got into trouble with their father for it, too.
Another thing he could have gotten in trouble for was stealing Playgirl magazines. Even though he had only dated girls, he had always had a strong sexual attraction to men. He had always admired the male physique and this new magazine was the perfect resource for the worship of the male form. They even had TV and movie stars in it! So he now had two things he hid in his room, Playgirls and cigarettes.
In his junior year he went to two proms and a winter formal. He ran for class Senator three years in a row and won, but lost the election senior year for Vice-President. That office was simply not meant to be for him. David entered art shows and enjoyed his architecture classes, but he still refused to attend a class he didn’t like. So when Mr. Leonard, his Vice-Principal, called him into his office and his English teacher was there, David wasn’t surprised when he said,
“David this is your English teacher Ms. Sayers. Ms. Sayers, this is David, the student who’s on your roll, but you’ve never met.”
“As a senior I should have had first pick of classes and yet I was assigned to a class I didn’t choose second, third, or fourth,” David explained to them, “while I know some juniors who got their first pick,”
Ms. Sayers was very sympathetic and asked,
“What can I do to get you to attend classes?” She offered him several options and he ended up choosing to study grammar for the semester.
Gym class was tough too for a couple of reasons. He was terrible at all sports except for archery and track. He was also afraid of the locker room. He was sure he was going to get a hard-on in the showers, especially when the gym teachers were walking around nude. Those men were hot! He got out of it most times with a doctor’s note, so his teacher put him in charge of handing out towels. Luckily, he got to hand them out while sitting down, just in case something got aroused.
David’s father was a Freemason, so it was only natural that he and Perry join the DeMolay, a fraternity of young men under the guidance of the local Masonic lodge. Frederick was a close friend from elementary school that was in David’s DeMolay chapter. They decided to put on a spaghetti dinner and play to earn money. David went to a local furniture store and asked to borrow pieces for the play and in return he designed an ad for the back of the flyer. They performed Neil Simon’s Prisoner of Second Avenue. The guys played all the parts including the women’s. David would put on women’s clothes and do drag that one time. When he accidentally kicked the coffee table with his platform shoe while reciting a line, the audience chuckled. He broke the fourth wall and gave them a comic look over the top of his cat’s eye glasses that said he didn’t think it was funny which of course made them laugh again. He liked acting so much he volunteered to play Guy D’Auvergne one of the characters in the DeMolay Rite of Initiation that was burned at the stake with Jacques DeMolay. His skills as an actor would come in handy later on in life.
He started drinking and smoking around that time. His best friend was into all that and introduced David to the “wild” side of himself. They got high too. He went to clubs and bars with friends even though he was nowhere near the legal age at the time. He drove home drunk on more than one occasion and had no idea how he’d gotten there.
He chose to walk home from school sometimes so he could make up stories or songs. He would work out the story or song on the way to the apartment. Anything could inspire him; the trees, leaves, clouds, even something that happened in school that day. It was both fun and freeing. He was voted “Most Creative” and “Best Dressed” boy in his senior class, and even attended 3 proms! He also modeled in the school fashion show. He got to show off clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue which he thought was pretty cool. The other guys in the show were jocks, so he helped them with their walks and turns and in return they helped him with his pretend tennis serve.
Mr. and Mrs. Stivers invited him to his very first concert, because they were just that nice. They made a night of it and drove all the way to Shady Grove to see Bette Midler. He would see her many times over the coming decades. He would never tire of seeing her perform!
His father got remarried the summer after David finished high school. He was selling the Cooper Road house and moving in with his new wife, so he had to find a new home for Scoodles. He found a family who lived on a farm and wanted the little guy. David and Perry came to say goodbye. It was hard for David and it would be many years before he had a dog again. He was really going to miss his little buddy.
Now all that was left for him after graduation was to move to Pittsburgh, where a full scholarship was waiting for him at the Art Institute, and make a new start. He was looking forward to being on his own and making new friends in the Fashion Illustration department.