If you’ve never heard of David Crabb, you soon will. His memoir of growing up gay in San Antonio during the 1990s is a hoot and a holler as we say in Texas. But it is so much more. Early on, he and his best friend Greg came out to each other. They hit the teen club circuit–Changez, Phazez, and Club FX. His BFF Sylvia proved his guide to the drug-fueled nightlife. His star-crossed crush on Max, a skinhead who is also a SHARK (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) is tenderly told as is his devotion to his loving but confused parents, who relocate to smaller town Seguin–“home to the biggest nut in the world.” These tales are priceless. Crabb masterfully mixes sad stories with comedy, embracing the reader with laughter and then delivering a sucker punch.
It may remind you of your own coming out as gay or straight, Goth or slacker, or even Stonewall-era vet. The more the coming-out story changes, the more it remains a human rite of passage. Crabb doesn’t apologize that his story isn’t going to cover everyone’s list of life-changing events: “All I can know is my own story. And this is it. Sans wigs.”
When I spoke to Crabb a while back for the San Antonio Current‘s Pride issue, his solo show, also titled “Bad Kid,” had just completed a successful run at an Off-Off Broadway theater. “It’s funny how adolescents assimilate. You meet other people who are your peers and you’re fascinated by it, they stick out, and the next thing you know, you’ve taken on that look. And, ironically, you just become one of them. And when you’re 15 or 16, you don’t see the irony in that. You feel so different because you’re wearing a dog collar, but forget to look around at the 10 people who are also wearing them.”
As for the music that populates his memoir, he cited Morrissey as a big influence.
“It is so fascinating that he has a connection with Latinos. People overlook that lyrically the way he communicates is very romantic and it’s very Country & Western. People love a storyteller and they love Morrissey songs because there is a story there. And he’s very garish as well. Like a boy wearing a tutu in the midst of this yearning, flowery prose.”
The photo album that accompanies the memoir include Greg and David in “half-assed” drag. “For me The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a gateway to look and act like a freak and to meet other gays. It played at midnight at a theater out on 281. Going to those shows and sitting in the center of that insane energy was a real gateway for me into that culture. I went to the show for six months nonstop.”
And while the Bad Kid grand finale occurs at the Bonham Exchange (where else?) with PSB’s anthem “Being Boring” playing on the crowded dance floor, it isn’t a far stretch to my own moment of truth, half a century ago, nervously lip-synching Natalie Wood’s Maria at a Catholic high-school talent show: “There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us … We’ll find a new way of living. We’ll find a way of forgiving. Somewhere.”
Bless you, David Crabb!
Crabb will be reading (and hopefully, performing) from his memoir Thursday evening, 7-9pm, June 4, at the Twig. You’re in for a command performance.
Gregg Barrios is an award-winning San Antonio playwright, poet and journalist. His new play Ship of Fools premieres this fall at the Overtime.