by Maxwell Wellington
In the flurry to gather
clues and catch a news story, the police and press failed to recognize Denim's
address. And so, when he was first found deceased in his Avenue D walkup, they
made several assumptions.
One was that he'd been
killed. The other was that he was poor. And the third was that his was a life of
They were wrong on all three
First of all, Denim (born
Sidney Felch) died of natural causes, if you can call a heart attack at this age
natural. Like both of his parents before him, and at the same age as both of
them, he had a coronary in his sleep. This had always been a fear of his and it
had come true.
The second assumption, that
Denim was a poor slouch, was very far from the truth. A loner, with only several
close and intimate friends, he died a millionaire. His body, found in torn jeans
and a '96 NY Pride tee shirt, was very valuable when it was functioning.
Lastly, Denim was anything
but unhappy. Born to wayward parents who put him up for adoption (he learned of
their existence and deaths years ago), he figured out early on the value of
tending for himself and pulling the wool over society's eyes.
Who ever can figure out the
catalysts that lead people to think the way they think and to do what they do?
Somehow, for Denim, feeble efforts by the state of Connecticut to protect him
from evil and place him in a good home, defined life in terms of doubts, guilt,
and charade. Perhaps it was because he expected the state's efforts to succeed.
Maybe it was because he came to define failure as that which caused him more
The good home they boy grew
up in was middle class and normal - in every sense of the word. His father was a
banker, his mother a housewife. Together they tried to instill in young Sidney a
sense of success, determination, good will to the needy, and gratitude. But as
is the case with so many orphans, these efforts were met head on with the cruel
realities of life. The boy, abandoned at birth by the only two people he could
ever naturally love, resisted the attempts unconsciously. It wasn't that he did
not want to be successful or feel good about himself. It was more that he
couldn't, that an unseen force from his birth, forced that lived in the memories
of incubators, cold hands, and pathetic stares, molded his true insides.
So when Sidney was 12, he
began to realize his tremulous dissatisfaction, began to form names for them.
Names like strange, alone, and bereft. He felt marred and flawed in some way. In
spite of the love (and money) his parents bestowed on him (they were far more
generous and comfortable with the money), Sidney felt somehow cheated. For the
reality was that nothing, not ever, could fill the hole scooped out of him by
By the time he was 15,
Sidney was so convinced of the fact that his was a life completely different
from others that he decided to make it so. But, he ruefully realized as a war
ravaged his society, that it (and he) would have to wait.
As if in slow motion, the
seventies dripped by and morphed into the eighties. Enough to bore the skin off
a cat, the times forced Sidney into a dulled world of booze and drugs. Or so he
believed. The truth was that his choosing to dull his bored brain with
substances was very common for his ilk. And as his youth changed into more of a
middle age, he sat down one day and reviewed his passions.
In a preface to his business
plan, Sidney wrote about that day:
Sitting at a tree in Central Park, the band shell barely visible to me (it
was hidden by a giant rock), I tried to think of the things that excited
me. Immediately the movie "Midnight Cowboy" came to mind. Following that
epiphany, I tried to list the reasons that movie excited me. They were:
It was at this point I knew what to do. Some people's burning bush
experiences propel them into lives of secular provincialism. Mine led me
down the path of pleasure and success.
however, did not begin immediately. Instead of plunging into this endeavor then,
he chose instead to run it by some friends. The combined looks of horror,
amusement, disbelief, and bafflement on their faces irked Sidney, but did not
deter him. In fact, the words of one of his friends continually egged him on
down the road:
"My GOD! You're too old for
anyone to want to pay for you."
Denim's upbringing by a
banker no doubt helped his success. Unlike others in this oldest of professions,
the man created a business plan. In it he outlined his five and ten year goals
(ambitious for a call boy fast approaching middle age), he described his plans
for marketing himself (including photo shoots, the creation of mass mailing
lists, and an advertising campaign), and more. The more, as it eventually turned
out, was a method to achieve astronomical success while at the same time
maintaining an anonymous side life.
Of course, the modeling
career of Lukas paralleled the success of Denim. Nobody ever talked about the
two people at the same time because no one ever wanted to rock the boat. Even
the media knew that Denim might be Lukas, but to admit this in the news would
ruin Denim's career and his cover. And that would mean that New York City would
lose Denim; something nobody, man or woman alike, wanted to do. The rest of the
world could go screw or stare at photos of Lukas, but New Yorkers could devour
his alter ego in the flesh.
The business plan created by
Denim outlined two separate people, two separate lifestyles, and two separate
income streams. It also made abundantly clear that the money was secondary to
the fame and notoriety - and clarified that Denim was well aware of his need for
love and affection.
"Lukas," he wrote in the
plan, "will represent the part of me who is aggressive and determined. I, Denim
Tite, will be the vulnerable one. I will cultivate a style of being that is
doe-eyed and tussle-haired. It will not matter what age I am, because as Denim
ages, Lukas' success will be multiplying proportionally.
"The Forty Something" model
first appeared in GQ Magazine at the turn of the century - just one month later
than the business plan called for. Denim had originally gone to a gay
photographer, as outlined in the plan, to have personal photos done. Incredibly,
the photographer responded to the session as if he were following a script. He
offered to do a series of photos for free and to act as an agent for Denim. In a
practiced, doe-eyed fashion, Denim combined a look of innocence with lines he
had rehearsed the week prior. In a halting and unsure manner, he suggested (and
convinced the photographer to go along with) his stage name (Lukas), his moniker
(The Forty Something Model), and even the genre (GQ). In turn, the photographer
signed Denim on as Lukas and agreed to keep the two personalities separate
The rest is merely the
history of two successful men (or three, if you count the agent/photographer).
Lukas became the most sought after 40+ model in the industry and made it
acceptable, trendy even, to utilize ageism in fashion. 40-Something (and later
50-Something) models took over. And Lukas, who would otherwise be bored by this
professional arrangement and success, lived out his true passion, his Midnight
Cowboy persona, whenever he had spare time.
And New Yorkers ate him up.
It is doubtful that there was anyone who didn't know that the waif of Avenue D
and Lukas were one and the same. And those who knew that Lukas was Denim never
let on. Sure, many clucked their tongues (out of jealousy, no doubt) and
predicted the dreadful demise of a superstar someday. His limp and lifeless body
no doubt would be found one day, slain by a crazed and felonious John in a
deadbeat apartment. But Denim died in his sleep one early morning in October
while watching the David Letterman show.
A suitable and
satisfactory end for a man, half model and half street urchin gone whore, half
angel and half devil, which took New York by the balls of its feet and adorned
them with walking shoes.
Tooie and Jack the Bump