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Down and Coming Out at the Ross Fireproof Hotel [Play] (2004)

Down and Coming Out at the Ross Fireproof Hotel  [Play] (2004)

©2004, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (2011) Down and coming out at the Ross fireproof hotel: A Play in One Act. Unpublished.

When I was a year or so after I graduated from high school I lived in the Ross Fireproof Hotel in downtown Atlanta. The play reflects what really happened.




Down and Coming Out at the Ross Fireproof Hotel

A Play in One Act

by Dallas Denny



Danny, a 17-year-old young man, less than 5’8″ in height and slightly built, with a boyish face. His hair is cut 1960s short in the back and on the sides, but long on top. He is dressed in jeans, t-shirt, and penny loafers.

Danni, Danny crossdressed. Danni has a Marlo Thomas “That Girl” look, with false eyelashes, fall, and mini-dresses. She is a convincing young woman, circa 1968. She looks older than her 17 years because of the makeup.

Danielle, Danni as she might be in 35 years. Danielle is a well-put-together woman in her early 50s. She is dressed casually in slacks and blazer, without too much makeup, a confident, natural woman. She is wearing flat shoes.

Dan, Danny as he might be in 35 years. He is a man in his early 50s, dressed casually and a little sloppily. He wears slacks and a sweater, which conceals small breasts. His hair is rather long, and he is clean-shaven.

Dana, Danny/Danni as s/he might be in 35 years. Dana is flamboyant, effeminate and swishy, a drag queen out of drag, dressed in tights. Dana, who also has small breasts, is in hir early 50s.

Ross’ Desk Clerk, age anywhere from 55-75, the older the better.

Ross’ Manager, age anywhere from 55-75, the older the better.

Elmer Hawkins, a Joe Buck cowboy just off the bus from Oklahoma, come to Nashville to make a star of himself in country music. He is about 25 and lean, dressed in denim, cowboy boots, and straw hat. Elmer, in different clothes, can play the young man who kisses Danni in the movie theater, the young man who dances with Danni in the Electric Circus, and the piano player.

Old Man #1, broken-down man of 70+ years whose primary job is to doze and stare into space in the lobby of the Ross. His clothes should be shabby.

Old Man #2, another broken-down man of 70+ years whose primary job is to whittle and stare into space in the lobby of the Ross. His clothes should be shabby. Old man nos. 1 and 2 can be played by cardboard cutouts, provided talented cardboard is used.

Saleslady, a well-dressed woman in her 20s or 30s.

Notice: There is no reason to assemble a lily-white cast. Any of the characters can be of any race, but for obvious reasons all the characters with names starting with “D” should be of the same race.

Author’s Note: In the first draft of this play, all the permutations of Dana were called Dana and noted as Dana 17a (called Danny in this version), Dana 17a crossdressed (called Danni in this version), Dana 45a (Danielle), Dana 45b (Dan), and Dana 45c (Dana). I have renamed these characters to make the script easier to follow, but actually each of the five characters is named Dana. Whenever the name Dana is spoken by the characters, I have indicated the alternative, non-preferred usage [e.g. Danny].

Scene 1


The year is 1968. If we were outside, we would see, nestled amongst similar buildings, a blocky three-story flat-roofed building faced with dirty red bricks. Along the top of the facade would be a four-foot-wide strip of white paint, with black letters proclaiming “The Ross Fireproof Hotel. Est. 1910.” (Note: The curtains can be painted to show this facade).

But we’re inside the hotel, in the lobby. At stage right, a wooden-faced double glass door opens from the sidewalk into the dingy lobby. To the right of the door is a picture window through which a run-down cityscape can be seen. In an arch along the top of the window, reading backward from inside the hotel, in black block letters, are the words “Ross Hotel. Guaranteed Fireprofe.” (Sic.) Inside the arch are the words “Est. 1910.”

To the left of the door is a battered and worn registration desk. We know it’s the registration desk because there’s a faded sign telling us so. Pigeonholes for keys and messages line the wall behind the desk; these can be constructed of cardboard, painted to look like aged wood. A 1968 calendar is hung on the wall. There is a curtained portal behind the desk, leading, presumably, to the manager’s office. To the left of the registration desk is an open doorway which leads to the rooms. We can see the door of Danny’s room, #106, to the left and just inside of this doorway.

Along the back of the stage, to the left of the open doorway, are “windows” of about 3′ x 3′ dimension, which represent the Ross’ rooms. Translucent butcher paper can be used to cover these windows, which should be lit from behind. The first of these “rooms” is #106, to which Danny has been assigned. The light in this room should initially be off.

The walls of the Ross’ lobby are painted a drab two-tone green-and-gray color (gray to about 3′, green above), and the floor, we just know, is covered with scuffed green-and-gray asbestos tiles (it isn’t necessary to actually use these tiles). Along the back wall there is a pay wall phone with an Out of Order sign taped to it. Worn couches and 1960s-era plastic bucket chairs line the walls. An ancient black-and-white portable television set is set haphazardly in a bucket-bottom chair, aluminum foil-covered rabbit ears extended. The television is playing, without sound, shows from the 1950s and 1960s: Suggestions: The Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver, Ed Sullivan, game shows, playing through a hidden VCR or DVD. If the picture proves distracting to the audience, the TV can be turned so only its flicker can be seen.

Two old men (or cardboard cutouts) sit in the chairs. They are not watching television, not talking; they just sit there. One might whittle. One or both might seem to be sleeping from time to time, but should occasionally “wake up.” A checkerboard is set up between the two men, but they aren’t playing. The clothing of the men is dated and worn. They need a shave.

Danny, a young man of seventeen years, appears in the picture window. He looks skeptically through it into the lobby of the Ross, then moves to the double door. He hesitates, then opens it and steps inside. He is carrying a large, cheap suitcase. He shudders, then walks up to the registration desk, where the clerk is reading a newspaper with a headline on the front page which contains the word “Nixon.” Rheumy eyes watch him.

Danny: How much are rooms?

Clerk: (rapidly and without inflection). Eight dollars a week for the first twelve weeks and seven dollars and thirty-two cents every week after that. Sinks in the rooms. One bathroom per floor. Maid service two days a week. No women in the rooms. No radios or television playing after 7 pm or before 8 am. Bathroom is down the hall. No pissing in the sink. Piss in the sink, you’re outta here. No smoking. Smoke in your room, you’re outta here. Woman in the room, you’re outta here. He glares at Danny as if his fly were undone.

Danny: I’d like a room, please. He counts out eight one dollar bills. The clerk takes the money and makes it disappear somewhere under the desk.

Clerk: (Looking at newspaper). We’re the Ross Hotel, we are fireproof as hell, there’s no smoking in the rooms. He reaches behind him, takes a key from a hook, and thrusts it in Danny’s direction, eyes still on the paper. Number 106. Rent’s due next Friday. Room’s to your left.

Danny starts to ask another question, then thinks better of it. He picks up his suitcase and goes through the doorway to the left of the desk and into his room. After a moment a light comes on and we can see Danny in silhouette as he quickly unpacks.

As the play continues, we can see Danny, still in silhouette, as he applies makeup, fall or wig, and jewelry, dressing as a girl in blouse and mini-skirt, in preparation for going out. When we finally see him, he has turned into Danni, a stunning young woman, a Marlo Thomas “That Girl” lookalike.

The double doors bang open and into the actionless lobby strides Danielle. She is carrying a book. Neither the desk clerk nor the old man in the lobby seem to notice her.

Danielle: Ah, yes! This is it, just as I remember it from back in 1968. What did I write about it? Let’s see. Oh, yes. (Begins reading from the book). “The Ross Fireproof Hotel, at the corner of 3th and Union in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Once a proud edifice, it has deteriorated over the years. Now, in this 60s era of psychedelic music and Viet Nam, it has become a hotel for old men on pensions, who come here to sit and deteriorate and die.”

Spotlight dims on Danielle and spotlight up on the two old men in the lobby, who stand and take a bow. Spotlight off on the old men and back up on Danielle. This is the only acknowledgement any of the characters in the lobby will give to Danielle.

Danielle: (Still reading). The Ross is gone now, of course, replaced by a tower of steel and glass. She gestures toward the picture window, where we see briefly projected the top floors of Nashville’s BellSouthTower. The building disappears, to be replaced by the rear view of the Ryman Auditorium. But this is years before Bell South’s infamous Bat Building spoiled or enhanced—according to whom you speak—the Nashville skyline. Today there’s just the Ross. But the location! To the front and across a parking lot, the back door of the Ryman Auditorium, the home of the Grand Ole Opry and the center of tourism in Nashville. On Friday and Saturday nights I would watch country music stars slink through the alley and into the back door of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge for an illicit, out-of-character drink.

The Ryman fades, to be replaced by a projection of a neon-lit nightclub. Psychedelic music comes up, faintly. To the rear, world-famous Printer’s alley, with show bars and the Nashville franchise of the psychedelic night spot, The Electric Circus. The music and image of the Circus fade, to be replaced by a projection of a busy downtown street with department stores visible. One block up the hill is Church Street, with downtown shopping at Nashville’s big three department stores: Cain-Sloan, Castner Knott, and Harvey’s. The image fades, to be replaced by a shot of lower Broadway, which should feature Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. A song by George Jones plays. One block downhill is Lower Broad, with its pawn shops and sleazy redneck bars. The image fades, and the Ryman slowly comes back up. Location, location, location! What a sweet spot for a 17-year-old male-to-female transsexual!

By this time, Danny’s silhouette in the “window” of the room has changed from that of a boy to that of a girl. The silhouette does a curtsy, then proceeds with making up.

While Danielle has been talking, Dan has entered quietly and stands unnoticed to her rear.

Dan: That’s not been established yet.

Danielle: (Startled. She lowers the book from which she has been reading and says dryly.). Oh, it’s you. I should have expected to see you here.

Dan: Why not? It’s my story, too. It’s not yet been established that young Dana [Danny] (gesturing toward the window with a head nod) there is transsexual.

Danielle: Yes, I suppose you are one of the possibilities. at that.

Dan: Thank you so much for acknowledging me. I’m real enough. I’m the most likely outcome. If Dana [Danny] just lets things happen naturally, I’ll be along soon enough.

Danielle: (Snorts.) Naturally?! You mean if Dana [Danny] doesn’t find the courage to be herself!

Dan: I mean you don’t mess with Mother Nature, I’m what you get.

Danielle: And that’s supposed to be goalworthy?

Dan: I didn’t say that. I acknowledge your worthiness. You’re not exactly a bad outcome. But neither am I. I like to think I’m the perfect synthesis, a blend of the masculine and feminine—

Danielle: Face it, you’re a man. Just what are you supposed to be blending?

Dan: (Blushing). The yin and the yang.

Danielle: Get real! You’re no blend of the yin and the yang. You’re a guy, and you look like one!

Dan: Just now I do. But sometimes— (this wistfully)

The light of Danny’s room goes out and Danni appears, peering through the doorway leading to the rooms, watching in awe. Danielle and Dan don’t acknowledge her.

Danielle: (Peering closely at Dan). I thought your eyebrows were plucked!

Dan: (Right hand jumps to brow and rubs it.) Not so anyone but a pro like you would notice. But it helps to present a credible image.

Danielle: So you’re saying that when you feel an overwhelming urge to show your feminine side you can do that with the help of a bit of cosmetics and cloth?

Dan: Well, yes. And a mild plucking of the brows.

Danielle: And the rest of the time?

Dan: The rest of the time I let my feminine side inform my masculine side. Being a better woman makes me a better man.

Danielle: Oh-kay… And I suppose being a better man makes you a better woman.

Dan: Absolutely.

Danielle: But you’re not a woman. You’re a man.

Dan: I’m both. I’m neither. I’m something else entirely.

Danielle: I suppose that’s one way of dealing with it. But you’re not dealing with it, are you? (Walks over and pulls out the top of Dan’s sweater and looks down it). And what are those?

Dan: (Crosses his arms over his breasts in a typically feminine gesture). Those are my, my—

Danielle: Your breasts.

Dan: My breasts.

Danielle: Flash from Mt. Olympus. Men don’t have breasts.

Dan: (Defiantly). This man does.

Danielle: Don’t deny it, you’ve been sneaking hormones. You’re going down the same path as me.

Dan: But only a little way! Only a little way!

Danielle: So you’re just a man with breasts.

Dan: Yes!

Danielle: Seems to me you’re not dealing with it well.

Dan: Not dealing with it well? Do you remember the other one of us, the one who always denied it? He went macho. Totally. The Marine Corp, tattoos, biker dude type. Stayed shit-faced, beat his wife and kids. Got into fights. Lost his temper and lost jobs. Real happy type. If he were around, he’d beat both our faggot asses. His words, not mine. He’s the one who never dealt with it!

Danielle: I don’t think we’ll have to worry about him showing.

Dan: No, I suppose not. Perhaps that’s for the best. But listen—my way is unarguably better than his.

Danielle: I’ll grant you that.

Dan: And I believe my way is better than yours.

Danielle: Sez you.

Dan: When was the last time you saw Mom and Dad?

Danielle: (Sadly). You know when. More than ten years ago.

Dan: That was one price you had to pay. Seen Jenny lately?

Danielle: Stop it! (Hesitates briefly). You know I haven’t. She couldn’t deal with me.

Dan: We’re married.

Danielle: And is it good?

Dan: Truthfully? No. Jenny has always dealt badly with, um, our situation, our predilection. The relationship wasn’t made perfect automatically because of the decisions I made. She knows the issue will never go away. Our life together is hell. But we’re together.

Danielle: I miss her still. Terribly.

Dan: But you’ve been able to move forward. Jenny and I are still at an impasse. She’s afraid to emotionally commit to me, afraid I might fly off the handle one day and go gender crazy. And I might. I might.

Danielle: There are other things, though, things I’m not happy with—and not just the loss of relationships. It’s more than having to leave the place I’d lived all my life and move to a new city and find a new job. The issue is like the elephant in the living room. Who do I tell, and when, and how much do I tell them? Who has figured it out? Who hasn’t?

Dan: And yet, you’ve made quite a name for yourself, haven’t you?

Danielle: I suppose. I’ve written about it (weakly waves the book she is carrying), and I’ve spoken publicly about it, and people know who I am. But I don’t have the anonymity I thought I would have.

Dan: I do have anonymity. Of course, I could lose it at any time if the wrong person saw me out in public crossdressed. I’m always wondering also: who knows? Who has figured it out? I’m always wondering when the cat is going to get out of the bag. When will someone be looking in the wrong direction at just the wrong instant? Sometimes I just want to go up on the rooftop and shout it out, you know? Get it over with.

Danielle: (Glumly). I know.

The two turn to look at Danni, who meets their gaze briefly, then ducks through the passageway.

Danielle and Dan: (Simultaneously!) The back door! They grin at one another. Lights dim. For several seconds we hear car horns honking and several male voices. Hay, bey-bee! Who-whee, I think I done died and gone to heaven, ’cause I jus’ seen an angel! Doll, woncha climb in my car with me? I can take ya round the world!

Lights go all the way down.


Scene 2

The lights come up, center stage. The Ross setting is not illuminated, but there’s a dim spot on Danielle and Dan, who stand about 15 feet to the right. Danni is sitting outside on a bench. A bus stop sign lets us know she is waiting for a bus.

From stage left strolls Elmer, the prototypical Joe Buck cowboy, come to Nashville on the Greyhound to make it big in country music. He carries a cardboard box containing his clothes under one arm, and a guitar case in his hand.

Elmer: Howdy, purty lady!

Danni: Starts to smile at cowboy, then, thinking better of it, turns her head and ignores him.

Elmer: Muh name is Elmer. Elmer Hawkins. He extends a hand.

Danni looks at Elmer’s hand, unsure what to do. He continues to wave his hand in her face. After a moment, she extends her hand gingerly. Elmer pumps it up and down enthusiastically.

Elmer: D’ya mind if I sit down?Danni says nothing, but moves to the extreme side of the bench. Elmer sits, not too close. He places his box between them, which seems to reassure Danni. I’m just here by Greyhound, from Fort Supply, Oklahoma. It’s a bitsy place. (Pauses.) Do you mind if I say you’re a right purty thing? I don’t know no girls here in Nashville. Hell, I don’t know no one here in Nashville. D’ya think I could buy you a pop?

Danni looks at him, startled.

Lights down for scene change, then back up.

Danni is sitting on a stool at a wig counter in a large department store. A saleslady is removing Danni’s fall. Danni, in a high state of anxiety at taking her hair off, is sweating and shivering.

Saleslady: (Shaking her head as she picks up a wig). You young girls are wearing your hair so short these days! She teases the wig with the end of a rat-tailed brush. Why, dear, do you feel all right? What’s the matter?

Lights out on Danni and the saleslady and brighten on Danielle and Dan.

Dan: Remember the panic attack?

Danielle: How could I forget? Or course, that was before they were called panic attacks. I didn’t know what was happening.

Dan: (Laughs). Nor I. I just knew I was afraid the saleslady would take one look at my boy’s haircut and figure it out instantly. The poor woman thought we were about to pass out.

Danielle: I think she thought we were on drugs. But she didn’t clock us.

Dan: (Proudly). Not for a minute!

Danielle: (Wistfully). Remember the Okie?

Dan: He was dumb as a sack of bricks, but he was a nice guy.

Danielle: I wish I could have become his girlfriend. Instead we—you and me—had to go back to the Ross and turn back into a boy so you could go to work.

Dan: That job paid what, $1.25 an hour?

Danielle: Something like that. It kept us fed and paid the eight dollars a week for the room. But it was your job, not mine. Thank you for making the sacrifice.

Dan: It was a pleasure. Well, it wasn’t exactly a pleasure. It was the need for that darn eight dollars.

Danielle: Right. We were eight dollars a week away from going full time as a woman.

Dan: Well, it was a little more complicated than that. There were no women allowed at the Ross. We would have been on the street.

Lights dim on Danielle and Dan. Lights up on Danni. She is sitting in a movie theater, watching the screen (“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”)—or was, rather, before she found herself making out with a young man. His arm is around her shoulder. As he kisses her, she fights to keep his hands away from her not-yet existent breasts and from going too far up her purple mini-dress.

Lights dim on Danni and the young man and brighten on Danielle and Dan.

Danielle: Remember our first orgasm?

Dan: Well, not our first. Our first when awake. Why had we never masturbated?

Danielle: I’m not sure. We certainly got excited from time to time. Like that day.

Dan: Like that day. You know what’s about to happen?

Danielle: (Puts hand over face). I can’t watch.

Dan. (Turning away). Me neither.

Lights dim on Danielle and Dan, lights brighter on Danni. Danni, still being kissed, tenses for several seconds, then visibly slumps in her seat. She pulls away.

Danni: (In a small voice). I need to go to the ladies room.

Young Man: (Reluctantly pulls his arm away.) O.K. But you’re gonna come right back, right? Danni nods, and edges away, self-consciously holding her purse in front of her crotch to conceal a big wet spot. She disappears, stage left.

Lights down on young man, up on Danielle and Dan.

Danielle: I had no idea what had happened. I just knew—

Dan: There was this wet, sticky—

Danielle: It went right through the panties and pantyhose and girdle and slip and dress—

Dan: It made this huge blotch.

Danielle: I tried to clean it up in the ladies room, but it just kept getting stickier and stickier.

Dan: Do you wish you had gone back and resumed necking?

Danielle: I would have gone back if I could have cleaned myself up. If I had understood what had just happened. Down there.

Dan: We were so naive!

Lights dim on Danielle and Dan; lights up on Danni. She is sitting down at a tiny table in lounge. Spot on piano player at backstage left.

Piano Player: It’s a goddess! I think I’m in love! Oh, darlin’, oh, my Venus, oh, Aphrodite, come over here and sit on my lap!

Waitress arrives to take Danni’s drink order. Lights brighten on Danielle and Dan and dim on Danni.

Danielle: That was our first mixed drink.

Dan: Our first drink, period. A screwdriver.

Danielle: Because that was the only drink we knew.

Dan: Right.

Danielle: Well, beer, but I didn’t want to order a beer. Goddesses don’t drink beer. They didn’t back then, anyway.

Dan: We were a goddess, weren’t we?

Danielle: That lounge singer sure thought so!

Lights out on Danielle and Dan as they laugh together. Lights out on Danni. The stage is in darkness for several seconds. Then we hear Dana.

Dana: It’s meeee! It’s meeee! Don’t you forget me, you bitches!

Lights up on Danielle and Dan. They look at each other, aghast.

Danielle: Well, at least it isn’t him!

Dan: You’re kidding, right? She’s harder to take than Mr. Macho ever was!

Lights up on Dana. The spotlight tracks her as s/he twitches up to Danielle and Dan.

Dana: (Bitchily). Well, the whole family’s here now, ain’t it? Except for dickhead.

Danielle: He couldn’t make it.

Dana: We’re better off without him. Well, aren’t you happy to see me? Darlings! Gives Danielle and Dan air kisses. It ain’t a party unless Mama’s here.

Danielle: (Unexcitedly). Hello, Dana.

Dan: What are we calling ourselves now? It was Angela, wasn’t it?

Dana: Angela Seduction, in fact, in my heyday. Then Carrie Onalot. Amanda Reckonwith. Dianna Boredam. Natalie Drest. But nobody wants a 45-year-old drag queen. Now I’m plain old Dana, just like you. Well, not just like you. More fabulous. Definitely more fabulous.

Danielle: You’re looking well.

Dana: Don’t look like I have the virus, you mean? I don’t. Goddess knows why. And you know what? Even if I were positive, I wouldn’t regret one butt-fucking, dick-sucking minute of my life. Not one. Except—

Dan: Except?

Dana: Sighs. Except now I’m old. I so loved it when I was young and beautiful. I could have any man I wanted. And did. I had a face that could have launched a thousand ships—especially after I put all that silicone in it—but it didn’t last. Now I’m just a sad old drag queen. I can’t do glam anymore, just comedy drag, and what’s the fun in that? And so I’m out of drag more than I’m in, which definitely wasn’t the case in my glory days. So sometimes I think I should have gone the tranny route, ya know?

Danielle: Like me?

Dana: Looks askance at Danielle. Well, not just like you, but yeah, more or less.

Dan: What would you do different from her?

Dana: Well, let me just say I would never be caught dead wearing flat shoes. (To Danielle). Sister, you went the whole route and now you want to dress down?

Danielle: It was never about the clothes.

Dan: Wasn’t it?

Dana: Wasn’t it?

Danielle: Well, OK, maybe it was a little bit about the clothes, at first, but for me the clothes were a means to an end. They were required for me to go out as a girl. When my body changed—

Dan: (Aside, to audience). Better living through chemistry.

Dana: Let’s not forget the— (makes cutting motion with fingers, as with scissors). Take-a-dick-from-me procedure (this rapidly so it sounds like one word).

Danielle: I became who I was and I no longer needed the clothes—

Dana: To maintain the illusion.

Danielle: There was no illusion. Not after my body changed, I mean. I’m just who I am. Clothes are just things that cover my body.

Dan: But don’t you like to look nice?

Danielle: Certainly, I do. But I don’t have to—excuse me—(looking at Dana) wear stiletto heels at all times.

Dana: Three-and-a-half inches. Minimum. Min-i-mum.

Dan: Few women-born-women wear heels.

Danielle: Exactly.

Dana: I do. Even to the beach. To me it was always the glamour. Always the glamour. Ever since—

Danielle: Ever since?

Dan: You remember. You must. Ever since we walked through the doors of the Saloon.

Danielle: Yeah. I remember. The Watch Your Hat and Coat Saloon.

Lights dim on Danielle, Dan, and Dana. Lights up on Danni. She sticks her head through a door at stage left.

Voice 1: Well, come on in, honeychile. Don’t let the air conditioning out.

Danni moves tentatively through the door.

Voice 2: Fish on the floor! Fish on the floor!

Voice 3: Sweetie, you in the wrong bar.

Danni: No I’m not.

Voice 3: Yes, you are, unless you want to get et up by some big ole lesbians.

Danni: Is this a gay bar?

Voice 3: No. We sad, honey. We so sad. (Raucous laughter). Course it’s a gay bar. You here to get your carpet munched?

Voice 1: Don’t be such a bitch to her. Can’t you see she’s scared? Honey, you want me walk you out to your car?

Lights dim on Danni. Lights brighten on Danielle, Dan, Dana.

Dana: (With wonderment). They thought we were genetic.

Danielle: They knew were weren’t like them.

Dana: But I was like them.

Danielle: I wasn’t.

Dan: Neither was I.

Dana: That’s what I don’t understand about you two. Were you or were you not in a movie theater in a lip lock with a man when you had your first, shall we say, memorable sexual experience?

Danielle: I was.

Dan: I was.

Dana: But you’re not gay.

Danielle: (Defensively). It’s not that easy.

Dana: Hell it’s not. Dicks or pussy. Gay or straight. What could be easier?

Danielle: I’ve found men to be an acquired taste.

Dana: But you do taste ’em, right?

Danielle just looks at Dana.

Dan: I don’t. Not any more. Although—

Dana: But you did. You have a history of it. You’re gay.

Dan: I did because I was in the female role. It just seemed natural. Heterosexual.

Danielle: Exactly. Not that gay isn’t natural. It’s fine. It’s just not us.

Dana: I do seem to remember once upon a time being attracted to girls and not particularly to boys. But when the men chase you around and buy you drinks and take you home with them not caring what pretties you have under your dress—

Danielle: Yes, it’s easy just to go with it. I dare say I’m as attracted to men as to women these days.

Dan: I would never have sex with a man as a man—but when I’m dressed—

Danielle: Still?

Dan: (Blushes). I think about it.

Dana: You two! (Shakes hir head.)

Danielle: Whatever the reason, that night at the Saloon I let that big old drag queen continue to think I was born female. I let her walk me to my car and never told her the truth.

Dan: Me, too.

Dana: But I let out a shriek and said in my deepest voice, “Some people just can’t tell the boys from the girls!”

Danielle: And went on inside.

Dana: And went on inside. And it became my home. And it still is. The gay community, I mean. And it’s been wonderful. Of course, I had to suck a lot of dicks to keep myself fed, and some of them were attached to cops—but who’s complaining? At least I was beautiful. But now I’m just a dried-up old queen nobody wants.

Dan: It’s no great joy being a middle-aged guy, either. Hair in your ears. Hair in your nose. Hair on your back. Less hair on your head.

Dana: Tell me about it.

Danielle: It’s not just bad for guys. We all know what a difficult time older women have in our society.

Dana: Yeah, but there’s no hair in your ears. Or is there? (Approaches to look).

Danielle: (Moving away quickly). No, of course not!

Dan: We envy you that.

Danielle: (To Dana). Do you have a partner these days?

Dana: (Brightening). Dozens! No, actually I just run my mouth a lot. I have a husband. We’ve been together for nearly 15 years now.

Dan: See there, it’s not all bad for you.

Dana: No, life is actually pretty good. You know how I dramatize everything. But I’m not pretty anymore, dammit! (Pauses). Whatever happened to you guys, anyway? I always wondered about it.

Danielle: I was working on getting a job. As a girl. But I had no paperwork.

Dan: One day we found a driver’s license.

Danielle: Yeah. Out of the blue, right in the Ross’ parking lot.

Dan: Only problem was—

Danielle: It made us 45 years old. We were 17. Forty-five was older than dirt. But it was better than nothing.

Dana: Stop! You didn’t use that thing.

Danielle: (Nodding.) We did. It got us in the Circus.

Lights dim on Danielle, Dan, and Dana. “Lola,” by the Kinks begins playing. Strobe lights flash stage left, and there is a black light, and then, slowly, illumination at stage left. Danni, looking very 1960s sex-kittenish, is strolling around, hands behind her back, just taking things in. A young man appears and grabs her.

Young Man: Dance with me, bird!

Danni and the young man swirl away into the darkness. The music and lights at stage left fade. Lights brighten on Danielle, Dan, and Dana.

Danielle: Sighs. Best night of my life.

Dan: Mine too.

Dana: Well, I envy you that. I was no doubt getting my titties pumped with silicone in a back room at the Saloon. (Pauses.) You’re evading the question. Whatever happened to you two?

Danielle: That should be apparent.

Dana: No, no. I mean, how did you make your, uh, different decisions? How did you get to that oh so special spot in which you find yourself today?

Danielle: We didn’t make that decision, not right away. I was ready to begin a new life as a girl, but no one was going to accept me with paperwork that said I was 45 years old. Without proper ID, I had no hope of getting a job. The only way I could have made it happen would have been to sell my body—(Looks at Dana). I’m so sorry.

Dana: Think nothing of it.

Danielle: I didn’t mean to—

Dana: (Kindly). I know you didn’t. And you’re right. I abused my body with alcohol and drugs, disfigured myself with silicone, and chased the bug, just so I could be myself. I don’t regret it, and yet it used me up, my honeys. It used me up.

Danielle: I was so tempted—

Dan: But you didn’t.

Dana: So again, what happened with you two?

Danielle: Well, after we got thrown out of the Ross—

Dana: (Laughing). Thrown out of the Ross? You bad things! What, did you piss in the sink?

Danielle: No!

Dan: Of course we did. But we always rinsed it out.

Danielle: (Blushing). You got me. I’m busted.

Dana: You weren’t smoking!

Dan: No. Neither of us smoke.

Dana: Well, I certainly do. Another bad habit brought on by a life of dissipation. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Oh, shit. Now I gotta! (Lights a ciggie and, holding it between index and middle finger like Bette Davis, takes a drag and blows out a big breath). Soooo—did you get caught crossdressed? Was that it?

Danielle: Yea and nay.

Dan: I would concur. Yes and no.

Dana: Shaking her hands rapidly back and forth, as in a tantrum. I wanna know! I wanna know! Tell me!

For some minutes now, Danni has been visible in her room, as a silhouette. Now the lights dim on Danielle, Dan, and Dana, and lights go up on the Ross’ lobby. We see the lights go out in Danni’s room. After a moment, we see her peeking through the door of her room. So does the desk clerk, who is snooping around the doorway. Danni ducks back into her room, but the desk clerk pounds on the door. Danni opens it just a crack.

Desk Clerk: You! Woman! What are you doing here?

Danni: I live here.

Desk Clerk: No you don’t. There are no women allowed at the Ross.

Danni: But I do live here. This is my room.

Desk Clerk: No it isn’t. I’m going for the manager. (He walks away rapidly, goes behind the front desk, and disappears through the portal behind the desk).

Danni has closed the door to her room, but we see her in silhouette, moving with great haste. She rips off the fall, takes off the clothes and throws them onto the floor, and scrubs the makeup from her face and pulls on the clothes Danny was wearing at the beginning of the play.

The desk clerk, with manager in tow, strides to the door of Danny’s room and knocks. Danny sticks his head out.

Danny (in his deepest voice): Yes?

Desk Clerk: Where is she?

Danny: Where’s who?

Manager: (Abrasively). We know you had a woman in your room.

Danny: No I didn’t.

Desk Clerk: Yes you did. I saw her, and not two minutes ago.

Manager: You know the rule. No women at the Ross. You’ve gotta leave. You have 15 minutes to clear out of here.

Danny: But I didn’t have a woman in the room. It was me! All along, it was me!

Manager and Desk Clerk: (Simultaneously). No, it wasn’t!

Lights dim on Danny, Desk Clerk, and Manager.

Dana: No!

Danielle: Yes!

Dan: Yes! Absolutely!

Dana: You mean—

Dan: Yes, they thought we were two different people.

Danielle: They sure did. They refused to believe it even when we tried to tell them.

Dan: They saw two different people, one a boy, and one a girl. And no telling what we were doing to one another!

Dana: It’s a wonder you didn’t make yourself pregnant!

Danielle: In a way, I think we were. Two different people, I mean.

Dana: So what happened?

Dan: What could I do? I left.

Dana: Where did you go?

Dan: I called our parents and asked them if I could come home. They said yes.

Danielle: (Sadly). I had no choice. I had to go with him. And so for some years I lived under a loose board in the attic of our parents’ house.

Dan: Until I married.

Danielle: And he took me along for that ride, too.

Dan: I grew a beard so I wouldn’t have to face her. (Nods at Danielle).

Danielle: That kept me at a distance, let me tell you. But eventually, after college, we came to another decision point.

Dana: Like the one at the Hat and Coat Saloon.

Danielle: Pretty much. And he went his way and I went mine.

Lights up on Danny, who is leaving his room, carrying his suitcase. He is dejected. In his hand he holds his fall. He starts to put it in his pocket, then sighs and throws it into a waste basket. The desk clerk glares at him, as if to make sure he isn’t going to steal the ashtrays. Danny goes to the front door and opens it, then turns and for a long moment looks directly at Dan, Danielle, and Dana, as if memorizing them, then goes through the door and disappears from sight.

Dan: Listen.

Danielle: I don’t hear anything.

Dan: Yeah. That’s just it. When you left the Ross crossdressed, we would almost cause traffic pileups. When I went out, nothing.

Danielle: You’re not saying I did it for the—

Dan: (Hastily). No, no, of course not. We just got so much more attention when we were dressed.

Danielle: Yes, we did. But to me, it was more about being treated in a normal way. Women would smile at us. Men would open doors. When I would go out dressed as a boy, women would move away from me, as if were about to rape them or something. When I would go out dressed as a girl, the same women would smile at me and call me honey. There was an entire different set of expectations. And I knew which I preferred

Dan: I liked it too, but not as much, I guess.

Dana: You’ve lost me. I liked being over the top. I dressed so flamboyantly the little old ladies hated me on sight, but I didn’t mind.

Danielle: Well, nobody says we have to understand each other—although I do think I know you both a little better now than I did a while ago.

Dan: Roger that.

Dana: Roger? You’re so butch.

Dan: No. Butch isn’t here, thank goodness. He’s someone I never understood.

Danielle: Me neither. I always felt sorry for him.

Dana: He’s the coward of the bunch, that’s for sure. Why do you suppose he didn’t come?

Dan and Danielle give each other a quick look; it’s clear they share information Dana doesn’t have.

Danielle: (Aghast). You didn’t know? Oh, my!

Dan makes a gun with his finger and slowly raises it to his temple. After a long moment, he lets the hammer (his thumb) fall.

Dana: Oh, no. Oh, no.

Dan: Oh, yes.

Danielle: He was maintaining this macho public image, and eventually he just couldn’t do it any more. He’s been gone a couple of years now.

Dan: He couldn’t maintain the facade any longer. Yet he couldn’t face becoming one of us—not me, not you (nods at Dana), and certainly not you (nods at Danielle). And so he did the only thing there was left to do.

Dana: (Shudders, then pulls a flask from hir coat pocket). How about a drink to him, then? To all of us?

Danielle goes to the water cooler and comes back with four paper cups, which she sets on the registration desk. Dana solemnly pours a brown liquid (presumably, whiskey) into the cups and puts the flask back in hir pocket. S/he hands one cup to Danielle and one to Dan and takes two for hirself.

Dana: Well, here’s to me.

Dan: And to me.

Danielle: And to me.

Dana: And to the one of us who couldn’t make it. (S/he slowly turns the cup over and lets the contents fall on the floor).

Dan: To the four of us.

Dana: To the four of us.

Danielle: God bless us every one.



Dallas Denny

Biographical Information

 This play is semi-autobiographical. I really did live in the Ross Fireproof Hotel in the time period portrayed in the play. I was just out of high school, eighteen years old. I had many adventures, including my first orgasm, as described, while crossdressed in downtown Nashville. I was kicked out of the Ross exactly as described in the script. The desk clerk and manager refused to believe the “woman in my room” was actually me.

Which path do you think I actually walked?