“Damien Lanchester’s boyfriend,” the post from Brad and Chad, read, “is a fucking lunatic. He’s well-known in West Hollywood as being a total loser so God only knows how he got his gold-digging fingers into a movie star, but there you are.”
“I am not a gold digger,” Levi told Damien over the phone as he read the post on the Information Salon website.
“I know you aren’t,” Damien assured him. “Please stop reading this nonsense.”
“I need to know what they wrote about me. This is public. Anyone can find this and read this,” Levi told him. “And I don’t want this shit playing in your head, most of all.”
“I know you,” Damien said. “Lee—this is shit I deal with all the time. Just turn off the computer. It’s gossip. It’s people with nothing better to do being mean. You can’t fight it so you have to ignore it and trust the people who know you—like me—will also ignore it. Because they—in this case, me—know exactly who you are.”
“Those assholes!” Levi cried, reading on. He had never found anything about him on the internet other than the occasional article mentioning his name as among those wounded at Piedmont and some old online professional articles mentioning his role at his Atlanta employer. This made him furious. He knew Damien was a topic of gossip—but Damien was a public figure. This was a low blow from Brad and Chad.
The post continued, “He was thrown out of the best house during the best soiree with the swankiest of WeHo-lebrities because he is so unforgivably rude and classless.”
“Best anything, my ass!” Levi shouted. “Oh, they really believe in their own promotion, don’t they?”
“They are nobodies,” Damien told him. “Ignore this.”
But the next made him swallow his words into a battered silence. This wasn’t funny. This wasn’t gossip. This was humiliating. For all he knew, Judy had seen this. Greg had seen this. His boss had seen this. Someone had told Damien about this and that’s why Damien knew about it in the first place. So Damien’s friends likely had seen this. Everyone he knew might have seen this. Total strangers were seeing this. People now knew the very thing he wanted to be able to decide whether to share or not share.
“He is bipolar,” the post read.
Damien asked, “Are you still reading?”
“That’s such a violation of my privacy,” Levi said coldly. “I’m going to their house and I’ll bust their fucking skulls.”
“Levi—you don’t do anything like that,” Damien said. “I mean it. Let it drop. When people make outrageous claims, you just let it slide. People will forget it.”
“When we knew him,” the post continued, “He was unmedicated and a complete nutcase.”
“I love how they fail to mention what complete assholes they are,” Levi snapped.
“He also had this ridiculous job managing one of those Build-A-Bear Workshop ripoffs.”
“They’re telling people where I work?” Levi shouted. “I will fucking kill them!”
“Not even a real Build-A-Bear but a rip-off. Maybe he’s gotten something better since we had the misfortune of knowing him but that’s unlikely. Also, remember the Atlanta terror attacks?”
For a moment, it felt as if he neither breathed nor his heart beat. They could not really sink this low. Again, something he had never told them. Again, something he alone should be able to determine who was made aware of that facet of his life. Wow. X really had spilled all the beans, and Brad and Chad just loved to make them boil.
“He was shot over and over. Or at least, that’s what he says. Maybe that’s why he’s so fucked in the head but really, we think it’s the opposite: He’s fucked in the head and made up the story about being shot. Or maybe he believes he was. Who knows? The guy is a nut and Damien Lanchester is a fool to be with him.”
Levi had to re-read that paragraph several times as it was actually hard for him to understand it.
“Are they saying I’m lying about having—”
“Really. Stop reading this. I would rather be with you if you have to read this but right now—”
“Damien—is that what you think?” Levi dared to ask quietly. “Do you think I made that up?”
Damien’s voice was thick with offense. “No! I know you went through that! These two are liars—or nutcases themselves. Who writes things like that? Ignore this. I will deal with it.”
“How? How can you deal with this? They;’ve completely destroyed my privacy with a single posting.”
“I will find a way to get this pulled down,” Damien promised him. “I don’t care what people write about me but no, I’m not going to let your information go out there—or lies like that. And these two queens? I promise you, we’re going to fuck them up.”
“You can’t delete these posts,” Levi told him. “I tried to delete my post. Once it’s posted, it’s posted. The entire thread has to come down. Motherfuckers!”
He read on, laughing bitterly. “He made his boyfriend (at the time we knew him) miserable. The poor guy he was with was always in tears about it, said Damien’s current boyfriend was always abusive. Verbally abusive. Emotionally abusive.”
“What?” Levi howled at the untruths. “Me? Abusive? Damien! Really? Have I ever been abusive?”
“No,” Damien soothingly told him. “No. They’re just being vicious queens.”
“X told them that. X had the goddamned nerve to paint me—me?—as abusive? Oh, I swear, if I ever see him—”
“You will point him out to me and I’ll punch the shit out of him. But you stay calm,” Damien told him. “Now, stop—”
“I feel sorry for Damien Lanchester,” the post rambled on. “Doesn’t he have a child?”
“Oh my God,” Levi said. “They’re bringing Track into this.”
“Sssh,” Damien whispered over the line. “I know you. Don’t worry about this.”
“This boyfriend of his shouldn’t be around anyone’s child. He’s sick and crazy. If Lanchester cares about his child, he’ll dump that lunatic he’s dating. He is bad news with a capital ‘B’ and a capital ‘N’,” the post concluded, signed ever so bitchingly “Brad & Chad”.
And the posts that followed were somehow more hurtful, proving that the posters on this website were quick to believe the worst of anything any stranger posted. “Wow, this guy sounds like a total freak. Why would Lanchester be with him?” “Damien Lachester can get any gay in Hollywood and he chooses this psycho?”. “Yes, if what the posters upthread say is true, he shouldn’t be around Lanchester’s kid. Bipolar people are scary as fuck. I work with one. I know.” “What a loon! He fakes being part of the Atlanta attacks? That’s just gross!”
Levi reached the end of the thread and stared at the screen. He felt beaten. Impotent.
How do you fight back without ending up in jail? He wanted to get in his car and drive straight tio their house and barge through their front door and grab each one by the throat and push them right into a wall as he strangled them.
“You can’t do that,” Damien told him.
“I know,” Levi said. And then an idea came to him. “I need to call you back in about five minutes,” he told Damien. “I need to pull some information off my phone.”
“What are you—”
“Five minutes, Damien. They’ll never know.”
“Brad & Chad? You must be the two who film those videos on YouTube about your perfect life, right? The two guys who live in a West Hollywood palace? Who act like a bunch of flamboyant queens just to be obnoxious? Are you sure we should take your word for this? Can we call you at your home?”
Levi typed in their home telephone number.
“Maybe we can just pop by your house and chat about this?”
He typed in their street address.
“Or, since you’re both usually at The Abbey on Friday nights, holding court in a cabana, maybe we can visit you there? Either way, thanks so much for sharing some good dirt with us at Information Salon. Looking forward to visiting you at all hours of the night and maybe checking out your house when you aren’t home during the day. Oh—and do you still both work for—”
Levi entered their employer’s name and phone number.
“Because we’ll call you all day and maybe pop in at the office. Once again, thank you for sharing so many personal details. Much love,” he wrote, signing off with the name of the woman who taught him this trick, “Joan Rivers”
Less than an hour later, the thread about Damien Lanchester suddenly disappeared from the Information Salon. Damien howled at Levi’s ingenious understanding that the owner of the site would have to pull the entire thread down—and that Brad and Chad were likely being called by total strangers dialing their phone numbers out of curiosity or because they were just crazy enough to.
“Joan Rivers did that to Victoria Principal once,” Levi explained. “It just came to me that if I did that, the owners of the site would have to yank it down.”
“There will be another thread,” Damien told him, “But that was a genius move on your part. And no blood has been shed!”
“But Brad and Chad likely won’t try it again,” Levi told him. “And, if they do. . .”
“We’ll be popping by their house. And I—not you, but I—will take care of them,” Damien said. “I got you into this when I asked you on a date. This is my shit to clean up.”
“I don’t know how you deal with this type of stuff, Damien,” Levi told him. “By the way, who told you?”
Levi’s possessive antenna went up. “Danny Richards? Out, gay, handsome talk show host Danny Richards? I didn’t know you knew him.”
“I love how you only ‘didn’t know I knew him’ when it’s a gay guy,” Damien teased. “Are you jealous?”
“No need. He’s a slut and I don’t do sluts.”
“I have friends who are sluts.”
“And he loves that website. So, when he read that about you, he called me. He wanted me to know that I might want to talk to you, you not being in the business and not being used to that stuff. It just happens you saw it before I could get off the set today.”
“So I have obnoxious party boy Danny Richards to thank?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say ‘thank’ but he was looking out for you. See? Angels watch over us even when we don’t believe in angels.”
“Does he have a crush on you?”
“No,” Damien laughed. “We’re just friends. Hell, I won’t even go on his silly show. Put your possessiveness down. Although, I am flattered you’re so clingy all of a sudden. Makes me think I need to get more gay friends.”
“Please don’t,” Levi said. “I’m a very jealous and possessive person. Not crazy possessive. But. . .”
“You’re fine,” Damien laughed. “And I love you.”
The next morning, while stuffing a teddy bear for a young girl while her parents filmed her delight, Levi felt his phone vibrate in his pants pocket. After the family dressed the bear and paid for the bear, were presented the bear in its custom carrier, and left the store, he pulled his phone out and flipped open the lockscreen. He didn’t recognize the phone number that had texted him and considered not reading the message. What if it was Brad. Or Chad?
With trepidation, he expanded the message and read it:
“Honey, this is Danny Richards. I was talking to Damien today (please tell him to come on my show) and he mentioned this Information Salon shit. Hon, that site is a set of vipers. Ignore them. Watch what happens to them in the long run. Even if ithe bile they write sounds accurate, it isn’t and no one takes anything they read there seriously. I‘ve had the worst things written about me there and only two percent of it was accurate. (I’m no angel.) Hoping this makes you feel better and that you don’t mind my texting you (Damien said it might cheer you up). Please tell him to do my show! And ignore those Information Salon assholes. Oh—and Damien is madly in love with you so stop worrying about me. (He told me to write that.) I look forward to meeting you one day. You two must make the most amazing couple–Danny”