I never wanted Daddy Poo, my Catholic, conservative, Republican father down in Texas, to know about the priest, or the dwarf or the crack addict. But when you write a memoir about your alcoholism and your sexual peccadillos during those louche days, there’s a big chance he may find out.
That’s the beginning of a story that ends the first part of my second solo show I Favor My Daddy, which marks my return to the Capital Fringe Festival a year after my DC critical hit, Dangerous When Wet: Booze, Sex, and My Mother. In that show I skipped and stumbled down the well-trod— but always satisfying—path of mother-gay son relationships. That show was about my drinking and sexuality, and my Texas tornado of a mother Mama Jean, based on my memoir.
I Favor My Daddy is about my father Earl, aka Daddy Poo, and his drinking and his sexuality. He adored bikinis and martinis as much as I. Was he an alcoholic sodomite like me?
The father-gay son road can be harder to navigate because—gay or straight—fathers and sons are both men, so meaty conversations can be harder to crack open than a Brazilian nut. Dangerous When Wet, the book, cracked that nut of communication between us. The story of him reading the manuscript became the foundation for I Favor My Daddy, the last story in the first part of the show. From the day I signed the contract with my publisher, Daddy Poo was as excited about the book as I used to be about my next drink. Well, not that excited. After that, our phone calls went something like this:
“Is this Jamie Poo? How’s that book coming?”
“Oh, it’s coming along.”
“Well, hurry up and finish. I want it to come out before I die!”
I’m not proud of this but I kind of wished he would die before it came out, so he’d never have to read it.
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As excited and proud as he was, I was terrified of how he’d react. Daddy Poo knew I am gay. He knew I’m an alcoholic in recovery who bottomed out on a suicide attempt, but we’d never talked about the lurid details, which involved the aforementioned sexual escapades. I was revealing things in that book I never thought I’d tell him. I imagined him saying, “You can’t publish this book of debauchery and… and appalling promiscuity.” I considered not letting him read it until a month before it came out, after the presses had already rolled. That way, if he had a bad reaction, it would be too late to chicken out. Then I thought, no, put on your big girl panties, get on a plane, and deliver the manuscript in person, which is what I did a year before the book came out, Easter weekend 2014.
When I gave it to him, he disappeared into his study with the manuscript, while I sat in the other room on the edge of my chair like a bug-eyed cat on orange alert. Daddy Poo was an extremely vocal reader. “Oh, God! That’s good. Yeah! Wow. Love it! Let’s read that again.” It sounded like he was having sex in the other room. He moaned. He groaned. He guffawed. He even wept. At one point when he barked a laugh, I couldn’t resist: “Hey, what’s going on in there?”
“Oh nothing. You just went home with a priest!”
When he finished, he shuffled out of his study holding the manuscript between both his hands like it was a sacred bible. “I love it. Absolutely love it, but I could do without Chapter 13.” That was the chapter about the dwarf. “Are you happy with it?”
I looked him in the eye: “Yes.” It wasn’t until that moment that I was completely happy with the book. I didn’t realize just how much I needed his blessing. It unleashed conversations between us over the next few months we’d never had: about both our relationships with Mama Jean, about religion, about drinking, about sobriety, about love, about sex, about sex with priests.
The following New Year’s Eve 2014, four months before the book came out, Daddy Poo died suddenly. Had I chickened out and not gotten on that plane and let him read the manuscript, he wouldn’t have been able to give me one last time, what he’d always given me: his unconditional love. Thank God, I put on my big-girl panties.
Called “a natural raconteur” by the Washington Post after his 2018 Capital Fringe debut, Jamie Brickhouse is an award-winning solo performance artist, voice actor on Beavis and Butthead, four-time Moth Story SLAM champion, has appeared on The Moth Podcast, PBS-TV’s Stories from the Stage, and Kevin Allison’s Risk! (live shows and podcast). He is the New York Times published author of the critically-acclaimed Dangerous When Wet: A Memoir of Booze, Sex, and My Mother which became a multiple-award-wining, critically acclaimed show. I Favor My Daddy premiered to sold-out audiences at FringeNYC 2018, the New York International Fringe Festival where it was awarded “Best Bet” by Theater is Easy. It went on to win the Staff Pick Award at the 2019 FRIGID Festival New York and was dubbed “funny, touching, honest, insightful and most of all a wonderful entertainment,” by actor, playwright and drag legend, Charles Busch. Visit Jamie at www.jamiebrickhouse.com, friend him on Facebook, and follow him on YouTube, and on Twitter and Instagram @jamiebrickhouse.