Buzz Barnes

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Buzz Barnes

Hello Ryan.

 Some days are just hard. Actually, they are all hard, some maybe harder than others. I am in Myrtle Beach. I just got back from dinner, if you can call it that. I had an order of wings and a couple of beers. The hotel I am staying at does not carry the Versus channel, so I thought I would jot down a few things circling inside my head. Tonight may be the first night in nine years I did not get a chance to watch the Tour D France. I truly am disappointed. Your mother would attest, July 4th through July 25th each year I am glued to the television from 7:30 pm until 11:00pm. I make a point of not watching the news each day so I do not know the outcome beforehand. This has been a cherished ritual I look forward to each year. Yes, I am disappointed.

 Driving down yesterday, I left at about 8:30 am. It is a six-hour drive to our house in Supply and another hour to Myrtle Beach. I wanted to leave early so I would have the opportunity to go for a run before the sun goes down. It was a difficult drive for a number of reasons. I wanted to stop by your accident site and also check on the house. I sure wish that house would sell. Neither your mother nor I have any interest in keeping it. It is just too painful to visit. Mom has no desire to go back at all. I certainly cannot blame her.  I was restless during the drive and kept scanning the radio to find something to occupy my mind. In between Starbuck stops, I would jump from channel to channel looking for peace, any kind of peace. The scary part is your song, “Come on get higher” must have played three or four times. That did not help. Then a song came on that did me in. Do you remember, “I want to Bop with you Baby”? You and Taylor absolutely loved that song. Both of you would dance around and sing at the top of your lungs, “I want to Bop with you Baby all night long, I want to bebop with you Baby until the break of dawn” The artist was Dan Seals. I can so visualize Mom, You and Taylor singing away. For some reason this brought back many memories. I guess my mind was searching, searching for anything to stay occupied. It brought me back to a time before You and Taylor. The year, I believe was 1982, give a take a year or two. Your Mom and I were not yet married. Out of nowhere, Buzz Barnes popped into my head.    

 Buzz Barnes. I have not thought about Buzz since perhaps the day he died. I worked with Buzz, as did your Mom. We both worked at a hotel called the Carolina Inn in Columbia South Carolina. I was the purchasing agent and relief restaurant/bar Manager. Your Mom worked in the accounting department. That is how Mom and I met. Buzz was a waiter and dining room supervisor. He truly was a nice person, way ahead of his time. I say that because back in the early eighties, the attitude towards Gay individuals was quite a bit different than today. Typically, a gay individual, kept this life style to himself or herself. It was not generally a practice or lifestyle readily accepted or even tolerated. Buzz had the trust of me and Mom and we all did become friends. Buzz was well educated and had impeccable taste and charisma. If Buzz would have lived past his early twenties, I have no doubt he would have been a very successful individual.

 The Carolina Inn was the only first class hotel in Columbia at the time. It was located on the USC campus just a few blocks from the coliseum. Situated, directly across from the capital, the hotel had positioned itself well to meet the needs of all the many politicians and visiting artists. Beau’s was the name of the hotel lounge and restaurant. The interior was constructed of fine wood, tiled floors and carpets. In the lounge, a DJ played from 4:00pm until 2:00 am or until the politician had their fill of food, liquor and very expensive women. Beau’s had a few sometimes challenging policies. Jeans and hats were not permitted. This was a continual battle for the unlucky person manning the door on any particular day. It also had a magnificent free happy hour buffet more kin to a Sunday Brunch than a few wings and chips. Richard Arsenault was the General Manger and for reasons not really understood or contemplated, I have stayed in touch with Richard. I will actually be seeing him tomorrow. He is now a bit older but The General Manager of The Landmark Resort in Myrtle Beach. I happened across Richard a few years ago when I transferred to the Beach with IFH. I have always respected Richard and when ever, I had doubts in my career, I always managed to locate him for advice. He has always been there for me.

 One particular evening, a Friday night I believe, Buzz and I were closing up the kitchen. I suppose it was 11:00 pm or later. The front desk contacted one of us, I really do not remember exactly and said, Diana Ross had just checked in and really wanted something to eat. Buzz and I may have been supervisors in Beau’s but as cooks we were not yet skilled. However, after meeting with her bodyguard and with his eyes fixed on every move we made in the kitchen, Buzz and I fired up the ovens, fired up the grill, cleaned fresh vegetable to create a feast for this iconic women. We made Veal Oscar, fresh asparagus, a nice garden salad and anything else our limited, perhaps less limited than we thought, minds could think of. Then we delivered it to her room on the fanciest linen lined room service cart we could find. When we finished we laughed. It was fun. After dinner, Dianna’s bodyguard came back to the kitchen. He presented us with three front row seats to her concert the next night. Monique, Buzz and I cancelled what ever plans we may have had and the next night the three of us went out to eat somewhere and went to Dianna’s concert. It truly ended up being a special memorable evening.

 A short time after this, we were informed that Buzz had a new disease, pretty much undefined at that time, but today we know it as Aids, Autoimmune deficiency syndrome. In the eighties, because of its newness and perhaps a little indifference to this lifestyle, it was an immediate death sentence.

 So, Ryan, should you run across Buzz up there in heaven, please tell him Monique and I have a special place in our hearts for we shared a very special evening together as true friends.

 I love you Ryan


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