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Lacey McDowell

The Connor Hotel Roof was always a favorite place for servicemen from Crowder. It had a view; it was quite spacious; it served inexpensive drinks; and it offered entertainment nightly, piano or small combo. The Keystone Lounge, on the first floor of that hotel, was also spacious and very very dark and even romantic, or at least sexually stimulating.

One night in late l942 I was waiting for my father to finish a meeting in one of the meeting rooms at the Keystone, and I wandered into that very dark Keystone Lounge. When I heard someone call me "Bud," I knew it had to be a voice from the Cassville past, a place where "Bud" was used far more frequently than "Russ."

The voice was that of my old friend, Lacey McDowell, who was sitting with a soldier having a drink. Lacey was a couple of years older than I was, but still well under the age of drinking consent. He beckoned me to join him and his soldier friend, and nearly thirteen year old Russel sat in the bar at the Keystone next to nearly fifteen year old former chum, Lacey, wondering what either one of us was doing there.

Lacey was an incredibly beautiful, handsome young man, perhaps the most beautiful person I have ever known. Nobody could resist that beauty and sexual attractiveness. His five foot nine, slender body was perfect. He had very dark hair, dark complexion, and penetrating deep brown eyes with long eye lashes. His face was early Brad Pitt, Christian Slater and Keanau Reeves.

We had not met in nearly two years, not since one weekend in Cassville in l94l when I was staying with my grandparents, and we had brief and highly emotional sexual encounters. I sat at the table and he introduced me to his soldier friend.

Lacey had left school that year to come to Joplin and work as a bellhop at the Connor Hotel, easily getting the job even though only fifteen, because places of business were desperate for employees and the minimum age requirement had been abandoned during the war. When Lacey's friend excused himself for a few minutes, Lacey began talking to me about his new interest, hustling.

He had quickly learned in Joplin as a bellhop that a lot of guests, especially soldier guests, were very interested in same-sex sex and very willing to pay for it. The first time Lacey had been propositioned by a soldier, the soldier had offered him two dollars to have sex with him. Lacey, who said he wanted to have sex with the guy even if he weren't paid, agreed to the fee, and thus began his career as a hustler.

His going rate, he said, was four dollars, not two, and there was never a day that he did not have at least one "john" as he called the sex partner who paid him. (He called himself "the trick.") He was making a lot of money, he said, and really going to bed with guys he wanted to go to bed with anyway, money or no money.

"And what do you do in bed?" I asked. "Anything and everything," came the reply, "Whatever the "john" wants I do. It's great. I could not even have dreamed of doing this when I lived in Cassville, and now I have my choice of gorgeous guys who want to give me money for what I love to do anyway."

Soon Lacey's "john" for the night, a nineteen year old who didn't look much older than Lacey, returned and the two of them excused themselves to take the elevator to a room upstairs in the hotel. Lacey and I exchanged phone numbers, and the two of us saw each other regularly for another six years, in Joplin until l947, and in Springfield during my early years in college there.

From l946 on, Lacey lived with a fascinating man older man, Milton Bunker, a graphologist. During the years from l942 to l946 Lacey continued both bellhopping and hustling, first at the Connor and then the Keystone. Hustling, of course, paid him much more than bellhopping until Camp Crowder finally closed its gates. But Lacey always insisted that bellhopping was "essential" in procuring the clients he needed.

I spent a lot of nights with him during those years, taking the thirty minute bus trip. In turn he often took the bus to Neosho and spent nights with me, too. From Lacey, I learned almost far more than I could absorb about hustling and sex a la mode of the beautiful, irresistible, successful and prosperous "Trick."

I was introduced by Lacey to many of his "johns" and "tricks" and "lovers," both in Joplin and in Neosho, because he had "business interests" in Neosho as well. With rare exception, though, his "clients" kept their distance from someone so young as I was. Many of his sex partners were well worth meeting and knowing because Lacey always attracted the very best and brightest. I recall a glorious moment from the spring of l943.

In May of that year Lacey called and asked me to come up on a Saturday night, meet some friends of his, and stay all night. At least one of his friends, he said, was "more than anxious" to meet me, and he was "from Hollywood." I was on an early evening bus that Saturday to Joplin. And from the bus station I walked to the Connor Hotel and took the elevator to the sixth floor.

Lacey's "friends," a.k.a. clients, were indeed soldiers who had been involved in the movies, and they were now temporarily stationed at Camp Crowder. The first one I was introduced to was Lon McCallister, whom I had seen the year before in the movie, Stage Door Canteen, I fell in love instantly.

When I took three weeks of Education courses at Missouri State one summer while attending Drury, I stayed in Springfield at the home of Dr. Milton Bunker and Lacey McDowell. They had moved from Joplin to Springfield a year earlier, and had purchased a beautiful and spacious home at l408 South Pickwick in Springfield, only blocks from the college.

I had seen them often during my second year at Drury and had introduced them to all of my gay friends, including Virgil, Ted, Wells, Elton and Carroll.

Of course, both Virgil and Ted fell in love immediately with Lacey, even though he was, more or less, spoken for by Dr. Bunker. Lacey worked at the good doctor's newer and expanded "Institute of Graphoanalysis" located in the same building as the Draughn's Business School in downtown Springfield. There they trained future graphologists from all over the country. Actually Bunker and his staff trained the students. Lacey kept records and handled the finances. Lacey also amused and entertained the students whenever and wherever he could, particularly during those weeks Dr. Bunker was giving courses on the east or west coast.

Lacey's beauty grew with his years, and in Springfield that August he was a simply gorgeous handsome young man, lovely to look at, charming, personable, articulate, engaging, and, to almost everyone, romantically irresistable. No longer did he have to hustle for a living, of course, since the well-to-do Dr. Bunker saw to it that Lacey had all the money he needed. But financial security allowed him to choose his sexmates, rather than being chosen. And he was still quite sexually active, although certainly not as active as when he boosted the morale of thousands of soldiers at Camp Crowder during the Big One.

Alas, though, Lacey was getting bored with the small world of southwest Missouri and yearned and longed to be a part of bright lights and big cities.

Lacey had met my friend Paul three years earlier while he still lived in Joplin. He thought him very cute, but "not suitable for framing" as Lacy put it, "too young." By August of l949, however, Lacy's feelings about Paul had changed.

Paul spent most of my three weeks on Pickwick with me, and he and Lacey spent a lot of time in bed, particularly while I was in classes, which was six hours each of six days a week. I think that Paul never found any companion who satisfied his great drives quite as completely as did Lacey. On a few occasions at night, the three of us enjoyed our menage a trois together, and Paul was incredibly responsive to Lacey's love-making. Lacey sent him into orbit.

The two nearly fell in love with each other, and I feared that Paul would elope to Chicago, where Lacy wanted to go, rather than returning with me to Granby. Their experiences together were sheer magic, sheer artistic grandeur.

Dean Mace returned to Neosho from Columbia for a vacation during that August, and he spent several days with Lacey and Dr. Bunker and Paul and myself on Pickwick. He and Lacy renewed their romance from the l946-l947 year, and Dean and Paul also had some sexual encounters together.

Dr. Bunker was intrigued with Dean, and the two of them saw each other regularly in New York that following year when Dr. Bunker taught his courses there. On the evenings Dean was guest, he played the piano for us before and after dinner, and Dr. Bunker, no stranger to music himself, was greatly impressed both with Dean's formidable knowledge of music and his expertise at the piano. On the third night they did a duet.

Lacey and Dr. Bunker did indeed separate later that year, and Lacey left for Chicago, where he spent a year studying how to be an interior designer and decorator. He moved to Los Angeles in l950 where he had many affairs with many people involved in the film and radio and television business.

He lived for awhile with his friend from Camp Crowder days, Lon McCallister, and then met a young man who was in the banking business and fell in love. The two of them lived in the Hollywood Hills for several years and then moved to a home in the Topanga Canyon area.

As for the kind and gentle and ever loving Milton Newman Bunker, he remained in Springfield for only one more year and then moved to California himself, somewhere in Beverly Hills, where he found a gorgeous guy from Schwab's Drug Store, who fell in love with him, and they lived happily ever after. Or so we would like to believe.

Dr. Bunker used to play the piano himself and sing, or "croon," as he called it, to his guests after dinner. One of his favorite songs was the old Sophie Tucker tune, "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone." Milton Bunker would play it each night and sing the words to Lacey: "Makes no difference how I carry on. Please don't talk about me when I'm gone."

Fortunately, Dr. Bunker did not swear me to silence. Nor did the beautiful "Madame."

For both Paul and me, August of l949 was a memorable, if exhausting, month. But with those results, as Mary Livingston regularly said, "Who's complaining?"






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