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For me, there's always been a fine line between acting and acting out. Like this one afternoon me, English, Xerox, and Fucks Funny are riding the 7 train, the elevated subway that runs from Manhattan way the hell out into Queens. I see that the door to the conductor's booth at the front of the car is open, and no one's inside. And I get this sudden idea for my first public performance. Call it guerrilla theater, except at the time I was a clueless youth and thought guerrilla theater was a show they put on in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo.
I was fourteen. That's thirty in ghetto years, so you might say I was a late bloomer, but I'd had other things on my mind before then. Like girls. And dodging my old man's fists. And girls. And dodging my old man's fists. And girls.
English, Xerox, and Fucks Funny were my homies, my half-assed gang. We called ourselves the Sexaholix. We hadn't had any sex yet, except the kind you have by yourself in the bathroom with the door locked, but we already knew we were addicts. Fucks Funny's nickname was a takeoff on Bugs Bunny; we called him that because he had big rabbit ears and a bent dick. Xerox said everything twice, everything twice. He repeated everything everyone else said, too. English was a second language for English, like it was for the rest of us, and he still didn't really have the hang of it yet. Past tense always screwed him up.
"Yo man, I haded a quarter but I losteded it," he'd say.
And Xerox would say, "He losteded it. Losteded it. Word."
So we're heading home on the 7. The 7 train is like an artery pumping little brown, black, and yellow people into the city every morning, where they do all the work the white people don't want to do, and then squirting them back out to the vast urban sprawl of Queens at night, so the white people don't have to eat and sleep with them. Queens is the modern-day Ellis Island, where all the immigrants from all over the world are dumped when they come to this country. There are more ethnicities and nationalities crowded together in Queens than anywhere else on the planet, and there's always some new ethnic group piling on. Like lately they call the 7 the "Mariachi Line," because it's full of Mexicans. Before that it was the "Curry in a Hurry," because of all the Pakistanis and Indians riding back and forth to Jamaica, the New New Delhi. And before that it was the "Whiskey Train," because of all the Irish people from Sunnyside.
I see that empty conductor's booth and get this idea. English, who was kind of an Eeyore, always worrying, sees me heading for the booth and moans, "Yo yo, man, whatchoo doon? You gonna get us busteded."
"Word," Xerox nods. "Busteded."
But I didn't let them stop me. I was born to be on stage, baby. Even if the stage was a rickety subway car and my audience was sleepy janitors and maids.
In the booth I find the conductor's microphone. This is it. My moment to shine. "You'll be great, you'll be swell." All the clichés. I switch on the mic. Showtime.
And because I'm fourteen and don't know shit about theater, I just do all my impressions of cartoon characters from TV.
First, Foghorn Leghorn bursts out of the speakers in all the cars on the train. "Boy I say boy c'mere a minute son I wanna talk to ya."
Then I do Snaggle Puss. "Exit, stage left."
Then Popeye. "Ack ack ack, touch me love muskle."
Oh I've got them now. Those maids and janitors are rolling in the aisles of every car. (Actually, they're just looking confused. Most of them don't speak English.)
"Hey there boo boo. I'm smarter than the av-er-age bear."
Then I leave them with a song, like a little brown version of a Borscht Belt comedian. A Cuchifrito Belt comedian.
"Aaaaaah'm bring-in home a bay-bee bum-ble bee . . ."
And for my finale, a transit cop grabs me by the nape of the neck and drags me out of the booth.
My first bad review.
I only spent a couple of hours behind bars, but that was enough. There were some scary, degenerate guys in there, and I was young, Latin, and friendly. I could see myself losing my virginity in a couple of ways I didn't want to lose it. I was saving myself for marriage.
This one huge, greasy gorilla had his eye on me. I couldn't quite tell which eye, because one of his eyes was higher than the other, like Quasimodo. But I could tell he liked me. You could see he'd spent a lot of time in prison, because he was built like a weightlifter, and he had tattoos all over his body. I mean his fingernails, his earlobes, his lips, and his gums were tattooed. When he grinned and licked those lips at me, I could see he had more gold teeth than Harlem.
"Mmmm, look at that tasty little motherfucker," he cooed. "I want that ass. Yum yum yum."
I knew I had to turn the situation around fast, or I'd be celebrating my fiftieth birthday as Lola the prison bitch. So for my second acting job of the day, I became the baddest, hardest punk alive.
"Who's gonna be my bitch?" I strutted. "I said who's gonna be my bitch? Cuz somebody gonna have to suck my dick. Oh yeah."
Now I got the laughs.
My father came down to the precinct to pick me up. But before he was going to pick me up, he was going to beat me up. Cuz that's the sort of dad he was.
He's swinging at me and I'm ducking behind this big Irish cop.Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends
Excerpted from Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: My Life by John Leguizamo
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