My brain slips right into lockdown mode when it comes to parsing out, so to speak, the story of the Beast. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, to borrow a line from Dickens.
Each time I attempt to tell this story, an emotional malaise overtakes me. The feelings I had throughout the years of knowing him were of the highest and lowest levels of my life. The passion to love him and the passion to hate him.
Though I write of him in the past tense, he is very much alive, sort of. Today, he is a mostly bald, quite paunchy 73-year-old, untreated diabetic narcissist living illegally in a warehouse in Long Beach, California. What little hair he has is pulled back into a greasy rat tail that extends halfway down his back, which he is exorbitantly proud of. Most unbecoming. Ugly in fact. There is very little of the Beast to recognize here. His only remaining companions are emotional stinginess, intolerance, egotism, and his alcoholic friend Jim in the warehouse next door.
Beast never had a discernible life plan. He was most comfortable living in a world with no rules, with responsibility for no one but himself. Not believing in having a long-term job, he lived a rather jerry-rigged, hand-to-mouth existence.
Beast was an off-brand, esoteric, long-legged, blond California surfer. Periodically, he would quietly suffer acute depression and ne’er-do-well-ism. Depression would often be followed by spikes of creative genius and exotic changes, such as moving to Paris penniless where he lived with a French woman for six years. Eventually, Paris wore thin for him. He spoke very little French, and that badly, and had no friends except said French woman, who eventually pressed for children.
Time to run for the hills, except those hills were made of sand. He was hired to design and build a crystal chapel in the palace of a wealthy Omani prince. (I’m not 100 percent certain “prince” is the correct title, but he was of regal status in Oman, whatever that was at the time.) Beast spent nine months there, the chapel was breathtaking. He showed me a film he made of the entire process.
Throughout the France and Oman years, he wrote long letters to me. Thinly veiled descriptions of his life, finally exposing his real purpose, which was to tell me that I was the only woman in his life he was sorry he lost. Life is a deluded fairy tale at times.
What drew me to him with such immediacy all those years ago was his incredible beauty. I have always been a sucker for a gorgeous man. As well as his genius for living authentically. He was by far and away the most brilliant artist I have ever known.
He was an enigmatic religion unto himself, who had me twisted in knots for a number of decades. But for that we must go back to the time when it all began. The story will continue, but for now the malaise has overtaken me once again.