Love's Gay Fool. Autobiography of John Alan Lee.


Chapter 24. 1995-7. Three lovers, countless affairs.


February 10. A lawyer named Francois talked with me for an hour at Woody’s gay bar, after I told him I liked his smile.

February 17. Some facts about Francois: late twenties, dark and thin, with too much hair on his torso, a labile face and strangely twisting mouth, fine manners, talkative, workaholic. He has never had a lover. He’s heavily in debt, given to foolish spending, not highly cultured, has no great love of reading, and no fondness for the outdoors. Unlikely relationship material.

February 19. Night, beloved friend, has had a seizure, a complete loss of balance. And he hardly knows me. I’ve been racked by tears all morning. He was so cute yesterday, sitting on his haunches without being asked, fetching his bowl. A joker with a mind of his own. I sometimes think there is a person inside. O please do not go yet!


Posing at the ruins of the castle of the Marquis de Sade.

March 8. This week’s issue of Xtra (gay newspaper) carries my front-page story, The Mathematics of Dating. There are an estimated 200,000 gay men in Toronto, but this does not mean there are plenty of fish in the dating sea. Finding a single gay man interested in “getting involved,” and having a short list of qualities (nonsmoker, slim, cleanshaven, university-admission intelligence) quickly reduces the pool of dates to a few hundred. Non-smoker alone eliminates half the men. In my case, the guy has to like older men, which truly tilts the odds against me.

March 14. I hope I’m not losing Adam as a friend. He is abrupt or ignores my messages altogether. “I’m hibernating” he broods.

March 15. Peter called with joyful news that he has his PhD. A proud father, I promptly called Jo, Steve in San Fran, and Bob Miller.

April 9. After a second date I decided Francois is a decent guy, and invited him to spend the weekend here. I like him a lot but I’m not in love. He says: “ I’m no sex kitten.”

May 6. Paris. Gowan and I rendezvoused with Lucy and Peter at the Musée Orsay, which is more interesting than the Louvre. To celebrate our reunion I took Peter, Lucy and Gowan to dinner at Procope, a restaurant claiming to be in operation since 1660.

May 7. Provence. Gowan and I have met our Walkabout group. Today’s walk began on an old Roman road, past houses built under a cliff, ancient caves, fields of lavender, and a 12th century church. At Lacoste, village of the Marquis de Sade, we explored the castle ruins. Gowan met a man cruising, all eyes and no shirt. History come alive.

May 10. Today, old Roman ochre quarries, followed by Oppede with its towering castle ruins. Someone asked Gowan what all the famous names on his T-shirt have in common. He replied “Gay.” Good for him.

May 11. Joucas: we began with a Roman bridge which still carries truck traffic, and Rossignol, a singularly panoramic ancient hill village.

May 13. We’re in Avignon, the mediaeval seat of a rival Pope. The palace is not impressive, but the Roman aqueduct is an engineering marvel, sloping only 17 metres in fifty miles.

June 4. The Howland House reunion is here at Kairos. John and Muriel Anderson, Bob Van A, Vince and Kathleen Goring, Harding Vowles, The Heaps, Charlotte, Bill Reed, Nancy Norman, Jean, 45 people from my past.

June 30. Stumbling toward the affair’s end: a long dinner with neither anger nor discourtesy, yet continual dispute. Francois launched into a critique of this house and why he does not want to live here (distance to work, in-the-country ambiance, the issue of control if he lives on my turf, and so on). He concluded with wait-and-see; “I’ve got lots of time.”

“But I don’t,” I countered. “On Pride Day I will march either single or partnered, but not on hold. “We’re at an impasse,” he scoffed.

July 2. My proposal: Francois can have the master bedroom, my office for his law practice, and pay only $200. I love this house too much to sell and “move to High Park” as he proposes.

Pride Day. Francois and I walked in the parade, hand in hand. Francois was blissed out by an experience totally new to him.

July 11. Last night Francois arrived with a load of plants, blankets and even art. I gently reminded him that we must have a signed agreement before he moves in. He stayed the night and at 4 AM I woke with a raging hard-on and managed to slip in without rousing him until I was thrusting hard. At breakfast he grinned widely: “My ass is still smiling.”

July 31. Three dogs in the house now! Francois has an American cocker. Night has suffered a total loss of hearing and is afraid to use the stairs without my help.

August 11. Last night I proposed sex on the upper deck under the moon. Francois was reluctant. But indoors, he proved eager to be “tied up like an Italian sausage.” He even shouted with pleasure for the first time. It’s possible that inhibited men like to be bound and forced to enjoy sex; otherwise they feel ashamed of their homosexuality.

August 24. My 62nd birthday. Peter and Lucy took me to lunch. Johanna and Nicola came to dinner, prepared by Francois. He served delicious barbecued salmon. We signed a nuptial agreement, with our guests as witnesses. In bed, Francois urged me on: “You deserve it.”

Canoeing with “Francois,” Peter and Lucy, on the Wolf River.

August 30. A sublime and halcyon four-day canoe journey on the Wolf-Pickerel with Lucy, Peter and Francois. Thanks, Hermes! Almost no moskies, as Peter calls them. We really enjoyed each other’s company.

October 24. Francois is in financial crisis. His bank stopped his VISA and emptied his chequing account. At last he must stop spending. I assured: “You can count on food and housing from me, but only that, because you ignored everything I’ve told you from my own experience of money.”

October 28. Tonight I had a delightfully nostalgic dinner with Jean at a little French restaurant. She helped check the accuracy of my journal for the 1950s and 1960s.

November 14. Francois is despondent; he’s been suspended by the Law Society. “I’ll sue” was his clamant reply, full of hubris. I scolded him for not taking my business advice: “Do you realize you never admit it, when you are wrong?” Francois: “When was I ever wrong?”

December 10. For the first time in years, I met and talked with Dane, at the Barn. I nearly passed him (his face is much older). He’s living alone “for the first time in my adult life.” He left Doug after four years, claiming Doug “would not make a real commitment.”

December 11. Adam stopped by on Sunday to leave a gift and chat. Comforting! Night is so unfailingly attentive he is a wonder. Meanwhile my Search goes on - screenings 610 to 616 this week.

December 20. Francois actually conceded he was wrong – for the first time. He admitted the importance of talk, not expecting his partner to mind-read, and ended by giving me a big hug: “I want to start again.”


January 2. Francois met me at a theatrical “dungeon party.” He played a total stranger. We stayed in role as I brought him home for a scenario.

January 11. Tonight I celebrated the birthday of Night and Noire with a special meal. Fourteen years of loyal companionship.

A prominent American sociologist, Victor de Munck, has invited me to do a chapter for a book: Romantic Love and Sexual Behaviour . It will be my last academic production.

February 8. I’m trying to make a crucial decision: Since Dane left I’ve focussed my attention on finding a new partner, and kept a low profile at the college. Recent events tempt me to rock the boat again. Will my old friends remain allies?

February 10. I gave Francois twelve yellow roses for our “anniversary” and took him to dinner. He was quite moved, and revealed a surprise: a Valentine Message to me, in Xtra , the gay paper.

February 14. Dinner with Adam then a Dutch film: Antonia’s Line, story of an old woman who decides “Enough is enough” and it’s time to die. She invites her family and friends, celebrates her life with them, and dies. Her method is left unclear.

March 6. I produced my first “newspaper” as a boy. I’m still at it: I’ve decided to rock the college with a broadsheet called The Old Gadfly.

April 16. Today the chairman observed that I’m widely respected in the university: “For your integrity.” Encouraging feedback.

This is also a landmark day because I’ve received 36 pages of closely typed entries by social workers during my seventeen years as a ward of the CAS. I wept as I read about the little boy who survived , then called Peter to share the good news.

April 29. I worry about Night. How long is it fair to keep him alive just for his company? He seems in no pain and eats well.

May 23. Tomorrow is sacred to Hermes – a fitting day to end Night’s life. He is completely disoriented. He stumbled down the stairs, and in his fear, lost control of his bowels. I found him mired in shit.

“Night” laid out for burial.

May 24. I fed Night meat, milk, and twenty sleeping pills. He gobbled it all down, and rapidly fell asleep. I enclosed his head in a plastic bag firmly bound around his throat, and waited for his breath to cease. His front legs shivered a few times as he relaxed into the ease of death, in my arms. His face was serene. I wrapped him in one of my favourite shirts, took a photo, and buried him in the garden. I wept, wept, wept.

May 25. What is impressive about death is its irreversibility. We can undo many things –push the undo key on the keyboard and the previous action is reversed. Much in our lives can be repaired but Death is final. One day I hope to have the courage to end my own life.

May 26. Noire is doubly precious to me now. I did not let her witness Night’s death. After years of competition, she has me all to herself.

June 28. Important words for any relationship: “Can we talk?” “I’m sorry.” “I was wrong” “Show me how.” “Thank you, I enjoyed that.” All of these can be more significant than “I love you.”

Canada Day. After a good start on our canoe trip, Francois returned to his customary power struggle. He quarrelled about how to carry a backpack, how to portage, how to unload the canoe in the rain. Then he got really absurd, lighting a fire while I was erecting a shelter over the fire pit. I gave him the bad news: “You’ve just convinced me that there is no way we’ll ever be compatible.”

July 28. Francois has gathered up his things from our shared rooms, and returned my office to me: “I never liked it anyway!” But he has been so temperate that I’ve relented: “You can stay as a housemate as long as you can handle me bringing other guys home.”

August 9. The pollution in Toronto is appalling. I’m chocking and coughing and my voice is raspy. I try to talk less. That upsets others, who consider me a normally voluble (and opinionated!) person.

August 24. Happy Lonely Birthday Johnny. At Woody’s I enjoyed a playful encounter with Michael, prettiest man in the bar. He was touchy-feely and snapped my suspenders goodbye on his way out.

August 31. I went to Woody’s where I quickly connected with a bored and tipsy Michael. “When’s the last time you rode in a convertible?” I soon had him in the car for a drive.

“Why are you being nice to me?”

“Your beauty” I candidly explained.

September 1. Johanna is perplexed that her mother hangs on, so near death. I suggested Mary might have some unfinished business – perhaps wanting to reveal to Johanna what she has admitted privately to me: that she admires her daughter’s accomplishments. “Find a way to give Mary permission to admire you” I advised.

September 3. To my surprise Michael called at noon. We canoed to the islands for a picnic. Later I took him to dinner. He is surpassingly pleasant to look at. Unfortunately he’s very aware of the physique of other men, and is not attracted to me.

September 6. Johanna reports that she succeeded in giving Mary an opening to fully express her feelings. “She may die soon, ” I warned.

September 8. Johanna’s mother died today. I went over to be with her.

September 9. The new chairman, David Cook, invited me to lunch. I’m flattered that I’m the only professor in the Division whose brains he wanted to pick. He’s also smart enough to want me on his side.

September 11. Peter and Lucy are here and we joined Jean for dinner. I’m impressed with the maturity of Peter, so sensible and articulate. He and Lucy make a model couple. Jean has moved into the gay village – “A safe place at night for single women,” she claims.


November 2. I’ve got a new date with a “head-turner” face (everyone turns to look when he walks into the bar). He’s more of a trophy than a partner. He has AIDS, and no job. He won’t admit it, but I’ve been told he hustles (sells sex) as his only source of income. He’s bright, beautiful and fun, so why should I care?

December 2. My new date, Andy, arrived with flowers. I broke into tears. Andy says he likes me despite my age. Francois is not handling the situation well – he won’t be in the same room as Andy.

With “Andy” at Brookgreen Gardens.

December 14. Charleston, South Carolina. Andy and I drove seventeen hours to get here, mostly on fast mountain roads through empty countryside. We’ve toured historic houses, and visited Brookgreen Gardens, steeped in memories of Clarence.

December 21. One event on the highway illustrates Andy’s truculent character. It’s impossible to change direction except at paid exit gates. He twice made a mistake while driving, forcing us to drive an extra half hour before getting off. Yet he absolutely refuses to admit mistakes, and announced: “I am in the habit of being right.”

December 22. Tonight, a delightful cocktail party with Quentin Crisp, an astounding survivor. Witty, acerbic, pessimistic. He thinks homosexuals don’t know how to be happy. “They stand on the river-bank of life and watch others swimming. A Jewish boy has Jewish parents, a black boy, Black parents. A gay boy is an orphan.”

December 23. Andy came for dinner and was surprisingly affectionate. He insisted that I come with him to his parents’ home for Xmas. We watched Seuss’s The Grinch who stole Xmas on TV and he actually cried.

Xmas Eve. Andy just phoned from a call box, so drunk he’s not sure of the location. He wanted me to pick him up, but I told him to get a taxi.

Later on Xmas Eve: Andy showed up, still staggering. “Give me five minutes to get my stuff and I’ll be out of your face forever.” He’s going home to his parents without me.

December 31. Andy called: “Happy New Year, Johnny, and goodbye.”

“Thanks, Andy; you are the Grinch who stole Christmas.”


January 11. I’ve just finished a biography of Thomas Mann, a closeted gay who, at 70, was still bedevilled by the beauty of young men. He said of a cute young waiter “I’d give up my fame for love with that man.”

January 27. Today I reached 666 men screened in 66 months. I’ve dated at least 150, and I’m still single. “Give up your needs,” an aging Joan Foley (former principal) advised me over lunch. But if I stop my Search, I’ll stop my need to live.

February 7. My latest date came for dinner. He claimed great psychic ability. I challenged: “What am I thinking right now? I’ll write it down so you’ll know I’m not cheating.” He could not divine my simple thought. I’d written: “I want you to kiss me.”

February 22. New York. Tonight I took Quentin Crisp to dinner at a posh restaurant. He talked about his early life – his pushy sister, distant father. Even as a child Quentin was “able to do nothing for hours.” He came alone to New York at seventy “when most people are going into an old folks home.”

February 28. Fine lines from a play by Lorca: “We did not fall from Paradise. We are still in it. What we have lost is our sense of place. If only we could realize it, there are many moments of life when we are in Paradise.”

March 3. Jean, here for dinner: “I distrust all men now. They are toys to play with, but never let yourself become dependent on them.”

My son Peter and myself

March 25. Peter called. He has offered to buy Kairos when I retire so that I’ll have enough income without moving. What a loyal son!

May 2. Last night Noire took a turn for the worse. My vet agreed to let me keep her body despite the law. After a needle, she quickly died in my arms. Jo drove us home –I was afraid to drive. We buried Noire in the garden. As if to punish myself, I toppled into the hole, smashed my glasses and injured my nose.

May 4. Noire’s palpable absence is dispiriting. The dogs bridged an era in my life stretching from Dane to my present utter loneliness. I’m alone in the house; Francois has moved in with a friend.


Ron answered my latest ad by a letter riddled with misspelled words, but after a phone screening we met. He’s Sagittarius/ Sagittarius (my worst match) but after losing Noire I am hopelessly vulnerable. Besides, I liked his looks immediately – a handsome 35, tall, slim, fair-haired, with a classic English face from generations of Newfoundland stock.


May 11. Ron spent the weekend with me, dancing, cuddling, canoeing, dining out, and finally, let me have my first fuck in ages. His too, he claims. He used his hands to spread his ass to welcome me. Exquisite!

Victoria Day. Fireworks, champagne, good sex. I’ve scored Ron on my 40-item compatibility chart. He’s a C minus. He has few friends and keeps no answering machine “because there are never any messages.” I’m not kidding myself: I’m dating him for a brief respite from the Search.

June 2. I took Ron to the Great Gatsby dinner theatre. When the jazz singer jokingly caressed Ron during a song, I reached across the table to take his hand, and proclaimed: “He’s mine.” Ripples of laughter.

June 8. Tonight I shared a jovial dinner with David Cook and the discipline chairs at the college. I came home to an empty house and was overcome with a sense of looming Death. Am I spending my precious concluding days as I should?

June 19. While driving back to Ron’s place after a play, he asked me to park and talk. I expected the kiss-off, but instead he revealed a terrible secret: he’s been HIV positive for ten years. I said “It doesn’t matter” and drove him home. He gushed: “I love you,” and I responded: “I love you too” because I know he expected it.

July 6. Today Ron asked “When do you want me to move in?” His conditions include “straightening up the house” to remove my obvious gay art, and playing “straight room mates” with his relatives. I countered: “There’s a lot more to find out about each other first.”

July 28. It is a miracle to be wanted, at my age, for my body. Ron actually suggested a few kinky activities. I’m doing my best to live “as if” I love him, in the possibility that it might come true. He asked me tonight not to use a condom: “So we can enjoy it more.” I took the risk.

August 26. Westport, Newfoundland. Ron and I are visiting his relatives. En route we toured Louisburg, where I was flooded with nostalgia about Dane. Here, I must pretend to be “straight.” It’s sad to see how Newfie outports have turned their backs on the sea that once sustained them. Now they dump their sewage in it. There are No Swimming signs along the shore!

August 30. Montreal. I loaded the trunk and Ron bought coffee. As I was about to start the car he grabbed the keys: “We’re not going anywhere until you apologize.”

“I have nothing to apologize for,” I snarled, and tried to seize the keys. His coffee spilled on his lap, and he yelled: “You're cracking up!”

“And you’re making me uncomfortable. Go home by train. I’ll pay.”

“No way.” He handed me the keys. I drove us on the expressway for ten minutes as he continued to lambaste me . I warned: “If you don’t stop it, I’ll get the cops.”

“Go ahead. I’ll charge you with assaulting me with hot coffee.”

In the distance I glimpsed a highway cop pulled up on the shoulder, ticketing a speeder. I pulled in behind the two cars, removed my keys from the ignition, and spoke to the cop (in French).

“We’re both homosexuals but we do not live together. The car is mine (I handed him the licence). I don’t feel safe driving with him. I want to put him on the train to Toronto. I will pay his fare.”

The cop grinned – this was a little different than his usual work: “Follow my car. There’s a VIA station just a minute down the road.” Incredible luck and timing! Hermes was still with me. At the station the cop left. I opened the trunk to allow Ron to get his baggage, but he grabbed my $600 camera, and acidly commanded: “I want your money belt.”

“Here we go again,” I shrugged. I entered the depot and asked the station master to call the police. “It’s a domestic dispute.” A man and woman arrived in ten minutes. They were polite and helpful, and escorted Ron to the ticket counter. For the next six hours on the road, I thanked the gods that I insisted on this trip before letting Ron move in.

September 3. Rethinking Ron: I allowed my loneliness to obsess me with a pretty and sexy man. Still, the affair kept me occupied for the summer. Today two new dogs enter my life. Angus and Chloe, English cockers one year old. They’ve been shown by their breeder and have prize ribbons. They’re spitting images of Night and Noire.

September 7. I’m home from a restorative canoe trip with my son. We talked a lot. Peter soothed: “Each of us is entitled to his delusions, but if you want my advice, don’t give Ron another chance. Next time you might suffer a lot more damage.” It was the dogs’ first canoe trip, and they learned quickly, and loved it.

September 12. It’s true that Ron and I both “cracked up” under 4000 kilometres driving together, but everyone cracks under pressure. The vital question is “How did you behave after you cracked up?”

September 13. Ron has left an acrimonious message on my answering machine: “I despise you, Oh god how I despise you.” He demands return of all the photos I’ve taken of him. “They are my photos, not yours,” I cavilled, “but I’ll chop them up and return the pieces.” I took Andrew along as my witness, in case of trouble.

September 18. I came home to three machine messages of increasing bellicosity. He made a dare: “Let’s match wits!” I’ve kept the tape.

Another gay first - a flyer distributed by an ex, warning off potential new lovers.

September 19. Nicola called to report that Ron is handing out a scurrilous flyer in the gay village. It’s a warning to others not to respond to my new ad. This is surely another first in gay life – having slanderous warnings passed out on the street by an ex-lover!

September 22. “It’s not a laughing matter,” Johanna warns: I’ve seen what men like this can do. You should go to the police.” I’ve provided them with a copy of the flier, and a transcription of Ron’s phone messages.

October 1. A “sympathy card” arrived. Ron uses the classic movie method of cutting letters from newspapers and pasting them to create a warning that my house is in danger. I promptly took a copy to the police.

October 8. Home from a superb trip with Allan to the Barron Canyon. The dogs were deliriously happy. Allan is in dire straits these days. “I won’t see you homeless” I assured him. “You can always live with me.”

October 23. It’s six weeks since I had a date, but tonight I meet a Danish guy named “Janus.”


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