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Tom Gregory

Tom Gregory

Posted March 11, 2009 | 06:09 PM (EST)

Sean Penn's Suit Against the Mormons



Just a few days ago I bought a suit Sean Penn wore during his Academy Award winning performance in MILK. For the highest bid to two charities (Variety, The Children's Charity of Southern California and New York's Hetrick-Martin Institute, home of Harvey Milk High School), I won the coveted clothing Penn's Harvey Milk wore the night he defeated Prop 6 in November of 1978.

Prop 6 - and all initiatives that treat homosexuals as a lower class of people are counter-evolutionary. In today's globally green-aware world, any pairing that does not produce children is important in the biological mix. Over population, not sex is the critical issue today. This danger of a population out of control darkly looms over countless scientific models; but scientific sense never prevails against fundamentalism, the Pope, or rapture.

Three years ago I bid and won the two shirts worn in Brokeback Mountain which were poetically seen throughout the film's emotional end. I'm happy to be their steward. If inanimate things have power, these shirts glow. Focus Features had donated these important artifacts to Variety of Southern California for their charity auction. When I gave the check to Variety, Eric Carr from Focus delivered the iconic western shirts. That was three years ago. Last year Focus produced MILK.

Just days ago I was once more exchanging emails with Eric about when we could meet at my Beverly Hills home for the latest handover - last Friday was the day. Before he even walked into the house he handed me the see-through valet bag that held the suit. I crooned, oooooo-ed, ahhh-ed, and wooowwww-ed at the symbol I held in my hand.

Eric and I talked about Sean Penn's effort to secure a "Harvey Milk Day," and the irony of the ridiculous fiasco that is today's Prop 8. "Funded by the Mormons mostly", Eric said as he smiled the kind of smile only a frustrated warrior understands. "Yep" I said. "Well my partner and I gave more money to defeat Prop 8 than another person in the campaign," I boasted as I rolled my eyes. Eric offered his consoling, "Thanks.... and sorry for all of us." Then I ended with my usual left-field line, "I have no need for any religion. I know where I'm going after I die. I'm going to my eternal plot near Marilyn Monroe." "You're serious? "That's creepy but cool." Eric said, then he hummed a "wow" as his brain sparked a flash of his own mortality. We chatted about cremation vs. burial, squeamish things, Marilyn Monroe, and the rest of the infamous neighbors I'll have at my fashionable, final, verdant reward. "Yep, that's better than any old street paved with gold," we agreed. We shared a heavy sigh. "Thanks Tom. I'll see you next time Focus sells a gay costume." "Ha! Funny Eric. You know, we will win this fight...eventually the courts will see it our way, I'm telling you, the church is all silliness and fear," I said. "Bye" "See ya." I closed the front door behind him.

I walked back into the living room where I assembled the suit back into its protective bag. I threw it over my shoulder and took my first steps towards the suit's temporary home in my upstairs closet. As I passed my front door I heard the distinctive Knock-knock, of someone who had just realized he had left his hat, cell phone, or car keys behind. I opened it, saying "Eric" what'd you for...get....tttt."

Standing before me like a vision from Déjà vu hell were two young men clad in dark suits, white shirts and boring ties. "Hello" they said. "Yes?", I said as I bucked up for the smack of irony that about to was about to knock the wind out of me. "We're missionaries from the church of Mormon, we'd like some of your time to talk with you about eternal peace." My mouth dropped in a thud of silence. I felt like Bette Davis in JEZEBEL when her lover (Henry Fonda) returns not with a bouquet of flowers but his new wife. "You're kidding me, right? Who put you up to this? You're Funnin' !" I exclaimed. "No we're from the church of Mormon" they said as they handed me a brochure with happy glassy-eyed white people plastered all over the front.

Except for Prop 8, my whole life I've managed to avoid this front door encounter. I'd heard they did this door-to-door canvassing, but wow. Now Mormons stood proselytizing at the threshold of gay activism, begging me for my time and my soul. I wanted them gone--away, as far away as they could go for the rest of my life. "Ummm well you see this suit here is, well it's my ...errr...boss' suit, and see, I um, I don't live here, and in fact I gotta take this suit to him now, cause well. He needs it, for an event." "Where do YOU live?", they characteristically forcefully inquired. I was into my knee-jerk lie too deep. I thought it was time to hit them with some man-to-man common sense. "Well, um, truth is, I'm very happy, I'm atheist -- in fact I get hate mail from the religious right all the time." "I can't believe you two guys actually believe this line of silliness your church sells. Why don't you have some fun for a change?" I asked. "Doing our church's work is more than fun, it's joyous. It's not silliness, it's the route to salvation and eternal life." "Eternal life? What an awful burden," I retorted. Then I stated my dogma that there is no heaven or hell therefore they'd be best to leave me alone. "But what about Bernie Madoff?" they asked. "What?" I asked. "Yes we're in this neighborhood because Bernie Madoff must have impacted you in some way. Do you know anyone in the neighborhood who might be interested in talking with us?" They were as wide-eyed and as diabolical as any Mormon can be. "Well," I said, "Madonna lives up the street and Michael Jackson lives around the corner. Madoff or no Madoff, this is a rough neighborhood for your kind of malarkey." Then I slammed the door and marched upstairs, emboldened by Sean Penn's suit and Harvey Milk's spirit which I knew was still very much alive.