Connect with us

Spilled Milk: Tea and Coco



This post is the seventh in a series of Spilled Milk columns by Emmy Award-winning writer and producer William Lucas Walker that chronicle his journey through parenthood. Spilled Milk, which originates in The Huffington Post, appears on these pages every Saturday.

Every young girl should have a fairy godmother. Mine does. Her name is Miss Coco Peru.

Just how does one go about locating a fairy godmother? It’s best if they appear at your daughter’s crib when she’s quite young, wag a finger and say, “I wanna be her fairy godmother.” That’s how it happened for us.

It all started at a Club Med, as so many things do. Years before I became a dad. I was nursing a pretty devastating heartbreak and needed to get away, so I’d booked myself a solo pity party at Club Med Playa Blanca on the Mexican coastline.

I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t those Club Meds kind of… cheesy? And it’s true, there are lots of cheese platters, most of them repurposed from earlier cheese platters. But I wasn’t there for the cheese. I was there for the all-inclusive, up-front prepayment. Club Med is one of the few vacation spots where you pay one lump sum for everything before you arrive, including tips. Which means that for the rest of your trip… no thinking. Thinking just aggravates depression, especially thinking about money. Thinking is the last thing you need when you’re trying to focus on what’s important: overeating, over-tanning and moping. Which you can never overdo. The only thing Club Med could have done to improve my stay would be to have someone stick a needle in my arm and feed me intravenously by the pool.

But they said “No,” so I was forced to take my meals in the dining room. They don’t like people eating alone at Club Med. It’s practically an actionable offense, so I was presenting a problem for the GOs. Club Med originated in France; staff members are referred to as GOs, which stands for gentils organisateurs. Roughly translated this means “pains in the ass.” The main task of these overzealous smilers is to encourage guests to mingle, socialize, connect. My mission was to disconnect. So whenever my GO would approach, trying to coax me into joining a group table, I’d put up my hand, signaling my GO to STOP.

I might as well have been flipping him the bird. My GO became more and more discombobulated, his smile finally collapsing under the weight of all that sweat now pooling on his lip. That’s when I noticed him nervously glancing over his shoulder at his gentil supervisor, who was standing behind a palm glaring at us both. And that’s when he whispered, “Please, señor, I am on probación.” Finally it dawned on me: Great, I’m about to get somebody fired, which would mean feeling guilty, which would mean thinking, which was unacceptable. So I moved to a group table.

It was there that I met a gentle, soft-spoken man with huge blue eyes and a huger mouth. He introduced himself as Clinton Leupp. All I knew about Clinton was that he was (a) from the Bronx; (b) wickedly smart; (c) delightfully funny and (d) like me, being harassed for dining alone. We immediately became pariahs-in-arms and took most of our meals together after that. We’d ogle the bronzed Adonises crowding the group tables around us — they tend to travel in packs with a single suitcase for all their Speedos. Clinton and I couldn’t help fantasizing what it might be like to poke one of their balloon pecs with a fondue spear to see if it would actually explode.

It was probably our second or third lunch before I got around to asking Clinton how he’d come to be at Playa Blanca by himself. Sipping his tea he casually remarked, “Oh. I’m doing a show here Saturday night.” Alarm bells went off inside my head. There’d been an excruciating show the night before. You have no idea how much can go wrong when a hypnotist stutters.

“What kind of show?” I asked Clinton, casually. He dismissed my curiosity with a wave of his hand. “You’ll see.”

So I was concerned, to put it mildly, as I took my seat in the outdoor theatre on Saturday. I don’t remember exactly how the show began. I do remember that the lights dimmed as the announcer introduced a woman with an unusual name. As she stepped into the spotlight I took her in from the bottom up: sensational legs, iridescent blue minidress, killer rack and lovely… Adam’s apple. Smiling at the crowd were the same huge blue eyes and huger mouth I’d been lunching with all week, framed by a deep orange wig with a perfectThat Girl flip.

Miss Coco Peru had landed.

When film critic Pauline Kael famously wrote of Barbra Streisand,”Talent is beauty,” she could have been describing Clinton as Coco Peru. Anyone can do drag; it’s Clinton’s writing that dazzles.


Actually, “landed” is exactly the wrong term. Seeing Coco Peru in person for the first time is like watching a spaceship blast off, fiery and dazzling, shooting straight into space and taking you along for the ride.

Over the course of the next ninety minutes, striding the stage on a pair of tasteful yet practical high heels, this spectacular creature — well over six feet tall — defied not only the laws of gravity, but any expectation I might have had. Not because she was a man in a dress. Men have been putting on dresses since the dawn of taffeta. Because she was this man in a dress. Though I’d never heard of Miss Coco Peru, I realized immediately I was in the presence of a true original, somehow wildly improbable yet inevitable at the same time.

When film critic Pauline Kael famously wrote of Barbra Streisand,”Talent is beauty,” she could have been describing Clinton as Coco Peru. Anyone can do drag; it’s Clinton’s writing that dazzles. Expertly combining monologue, song and hilarious storytelling, you soon realize, as odd as it seems, it’s the humanity spilling out from under that vermillion wig that makes it impossible not to be mesmerized.

Miss Coco achieves this by weaving a complex tapestry of tales from a singular life. Growing up in the Bronx as an effeminate boy, chased home by bullies and mortified one day to discover that his mother had painted their house. Pink. A life-changing fall through a glass shower door as a teenager, from which he nearly bled to death. The day he discovered the thrilling voice of soprano Eva Marton, whose name he hilariously mispronounced, along with “Wagner” and Tristan und Isolde, to a withering New York record-store clerk. All this combined with songs, stories of his unflappable, devoted mom Helen, exotic tales of world travel, his childhood ambition to form a tribute band to Josie and the Pussycats, meeting his husband on a nude beach in Spain, cocktail party disasters and tribal vision quests in — where else? — Peru. Every word of it delivered in a thick Bronx accent.

But most amazingly, by the end of his show, this man in the minidress and ridiculous wig had somehow pulled off the impossible: He made you feel Miss Coco was you. Whoever you were. Over the years, I’ve brought many people to see Coco — straight neighbors, work friends, my mother-in-law, our children’s egg donor and her husband. They all come away with some version of the same reaction. That was me up there. It’s sort of transcendent, while at the same time being — did I mention? — pee-your-pants, gasping-for-breath funny. That is the sublime gift of Coco Peru. Somehow she connects us.

Clinton and I have remained friends since that first day as dining room pariahs at Club Med. On one of my first dates with my husband, I took him to see Miss Coco’s Glorious Wounds… She’s Damaged. I knew it would make him love me more, and it did. As a bonus, I had the pleasure of introducing two of my favorite people.

Soon after our daughter was born, Clinton visited us all with his mom Helen (lovely, and exactly as described). He brought Elizabeth one of her first baby gifts, the book On the Day You Were Born, which celebrates the uniqueness of each individual who arrives on this planet, signed, inevitably, “Love, Aunt Coco, a.k.a. Clinton Leupp.” We still read it. As we laid our baby girl down for a nap in her crib, Clinton declared then and there that Miss Coco Peru would forever be Elizabeth’s fairy godmother.

And so she has been. On Elizabeth’s first birthday, she received a lovely, very small gift box from Aunt Coco. Inside? A perfect, tiny, white feather boa, with the inscription, “For Elizabeth, because you deserve it.” It came in very handy for dress-up princess teas. There have been birthday presents and cards ever since, and whenever Kelly and I attend one of Coco’s shows, she always sends us home with a gift for her fairy goddaughter, usually a purse with lots of sparklies.

Though she’d heard of Miss Coco Peru all her life, seen a photo or two and received gifts bearing her name, Elizabeth recently began to wonder whether her fairy godmother really existed. Once you’re past the age of 5 or 6, unless you’re Cinderella, the scuttlebutt is that they don’t.

To Elizabeth, Coco might as well have been a unicorn.

So she began asking to meet her. I told her that Miss Coco only appeared on stage, at night, and that she was too young to see the shows. The best I could offer was to see if we could arrange for Elizabeth to meet the man who played Miss Coco Peru. Of course Elizabeth was disappointed, but I explained that it takes hours for Clinton to transform into Miss Coco. Besides, asking a drag queen to get dolled up, in daylight, for no money, is like asking a drag queen to get dolled up, in daylight, for no money. But they are the same person, I assured her. “Coco may be the wrapper, but Clinton is the candy.”

Clinton was delighted at the invitation, and since both Elizabeth and Clinton love tea, we decided to meet at the Tea Rose Garden on a Tuesday afternoon in Pasadena. In my email to Clinton confirming our date, Elizabeth asked if she could type him a personal note. She wondered if he might – please? — consider bringing along Coco’s red wig. I think she wanted proof. We got a nice note back from Clinton stating that though he was very much looking forward to tea, “The wig stays at home!”

The next day I picked Elizabeth up from school. In the back of the car she brushed her hair and changed into her most elegant red dress and low heels. We arrived at the Tea Rose Garden running a few minutes late. After jamming some coins in the parking meter, we rushed up the sidewalk and opened the glass door, already mouthing apologies for our tardiness to Clinton. But Clinton wasn’t there.

Sitting at a table about twenty feet away, smiling at us, was Miss Coco Peru.

Gravity could not contain my daughter. She leapt up and down in the air, clapping her hands, and went flying into the arms of her fairy godmother. Clinton smiled at me through Coco’s makeup, his eyes saying, “Come on, Bill, how could I not?”

For the next hour and a half, Elizabeth might as well have been having tea with a unicorn. It was that magical. And that rare. Coco Peru doesn’t appear in the daytime. Ever. Spotting her at three in the afternoon — in Pasadena? — you’re more likely to see a herd of unicorns galloping through Target.

Elizabeth was in heaven. Over scones and finger sandwiches, she launched into a flurry of questions, the sort any child might ask: “When did you start wearing a dress?” Why did you start wearing a dress?” “Can I touch your wig?” “Do you go grocery shopping like this?”

“Well, Elizabeth,” smiled Coco. “First of all, here’s how I explained it to one of my nephews. I said to him, ‘Do you like getting dressed up for Halloween?’ He said, ‘Of course! I love getting dressed up for Halloween!’ So I told him, ‘Well, so do I. So think of this as me getting dressed up for Halloween. Only… Idon’t have to wait for Halloween.'”

“Elizabeth,” Coco said, “that’s all I had to say. He got it completely.” So did my daughter.

Coco went on to tell Elizabeth that as a child she’d never enjoyed doing “boy things” like sports, and had always gravitated to “girl things, like-”

“Like my dad!” said Elizabeth.

“Exactly, only…” Coco glanced at her press-on French-tip fingernails, “I’m guessing a lot more.”

Coco related how she’d been bullied by her peers from an early age as a child for being different. “I was a really nice kid, but all they could see were the things that weren’t like them. Like my funny voice and my funny walk, which I didn’t think were funny at all.”

“I love your voice!” exclaimed Elizabeth.

“Well, thank you,” said Coco. “And I’ve loved yours since all you could do was gurgle. Tell me, have you ever been bullied?” I’d mentioned to Clinton that Elizabeth was going through some painful mean-girl exclusion at school. Elizabeth quietly nodded. “Sort of.”

“It feels pretty terrible, doesn’t it? And you have no idea what you’re doing wrong, right? Because you’re notdoing anything wrong. You’re just being you. And they treat you horribly. It’s very hard to understand as a kid. I know. But those kids are wrong.”

Elizabeth was riveted.

With a matter-of-factness devoid of self-pity, Coco went on to spell out how things had gotten worse once she became a teenager, long before the advent of “It Gets Better” videos. She learned to hide the “girl” part of herself, partly for her own survival, partly in a misguided attempt to please her parents and partly to protect them from learning what her days at school were really like.

“Then, when I was about 20,” said Coco, “something major happened. I began to read about these Native American tribes, and how in these tribes there were these people called ‘two-spirits.’ They were called this because their bodies were thought to manifest both masculine and feminine spirits. And I thought, ‘That sounds familiar.’ But unlike where I came from — the Bronx — instead of being bullied and tortured and mocked, these two-spirit people were celebrated by their tribes. Celebrated for being exactly who they were. They were considered by the tribe to be spiritually advanced, special. Well, Elizabeth, it rang a bell. It dawned on me that I was a two-spirit. Which could only mean one thing. Far from having anything wrong with me, I was special. Just as you are special and your dad is special and that lady serving us tea is special. I decided to embrace who I was. And that was the moment, Elizabeth, that Coco Peru was born.”

Now Elizabeth had been studying Native American culture in school, but somehow they’d never gotten around to the chapter on two-spirits. I had a feeling she was going to bring it up the next day.

Coco went on: “I soon realized that as Coco, I could celebrate the very things I’d been taught to hate about myself. And I began to turn that celebration into entertainment — because I am a performer — so that future generations of kids like me wouldn’t have to go through what I went through. You see, my goal is that by the time I finish a show, my audiences don’t see a man in a dress, they see the person underneath. And in that person, they see themselves.”

It took a moment before Elizabeth finally spoke: “So, are you going to finish that scone?” They both burst out laughing.

I told you it was magical.

Of course Miss Coco had brought gifts: a bottle of pale green fingernail polish and Elizabeth’s first set of false eyelashes. Which I will encourage her to put to good use in a science project about caterpillars. She’s 11.

As we were leaving, in true, selfless, superstar fashion, Coco handed Elizabeth an 8×10 of herself, autographed in Sharpie. How could she not? She is an entertainer.

That night, I got a call from Clinton. In his delicious Bronx accent, he began, “Bill, I had to call and tell ya what a lovely afternoon I had with you and your daughter today. But I gotta be honest, I almost didn’t do the drag. It takes hours, you know, the makeup, the wig, and besides, I knew I didn’t have to. I knew you weren’t expecting it. But then I thought to myself, ‘Coco… how often do you get invited to tea by an 11-year-old girl?’

Then he went on, and his voice became less steady. “But Bill, when she walked through that door… when she saw me, your beautiful daughter… and her eyes lit up and she…” His voice began to falter. “… And she jumped in the air like that and she came running at me with her arms wide open to give me that big, beautiful hug, I just…” He began to cry. “It was worth it.”

“It was just so worth it.”

It was then I realized how unexpectedly powerful the afternoon had turned out to be for Clinton. In giving so kindly of himself, he’d received the one thing that had eluded him as a child: the complete and total acceptance of another 11-year-old.

Two spirits.

An inscribed 8×10 glossy now sits framed on my young daughter’s desk. It reads: “Dearest Elizabeth, Keep making the world beautiful. Love, Aunt Coco Peru.”

I’m sure there are many people who’d rush to call me a bad parent for taking my daughter to tea with a drag queen. I’d say they’re wrong. I think every kid in America could benefit from an afternoon with Miss Coco Peru.

It might just change the world.

* * * * *


* * * * *

William Lucas Walker is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer whose television credits include Frasier, Will & Grace and Roseanne. He co-created the critically-acclaimed Showtime comedy The Chris Isaak Show. Bill and his husband Kelly are the parents of Elizabeth and James, born in 2001 and 2005. The children were gratified by the legal marriage of their parents in 2008, an event that rescued them from a life of ruinous bastardry.

Spilled Milk chronicles Bill’s misadventures in Daddyland. The first recurring humor column by a gay parent to appear in a mainstream American publication, Spilled Milk has regularly landed on the front page of The Huffington Post.

Follow William Lucas Walker on Twitter: @WmLucasWalker, @SpilledMilkWLW or Facebook: “Spilled Milk” by William Lucas Walker.       

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.


McCarthy Blocks Bipartisan Bill Approved by 77 Senators to Avoid Shutdown as He Moves to Pin the Blame on Democrats



Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy is saying he will not allow the House to take up a compromise bill supported by a large and bipartisan majority of Senators that would allow the federal government to continue operating past the midnight Saturday deadline.

“I don’t see the support in the House,” for the Senate’s proposed continuing resolution, McCarthy said on Wednesday, according to Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman. He also reports that “this is the most explicit he’s been” in saying “he won’t take it up and pass it as is.”

Chad Pergram, the Senior Congressional Correspondent for Fox News reports, “McCarthy says he won’t allow the House to consider the Senate’s stopgap spending bill to avert a gov’t shutdown for 45 days. 77 bipartisan senators supported the package on a test vote last night.”

Earlier Wednesday, inside the House Republican Conference’s meeting, Sherman reported that Speaker McCarthy “said he told” Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “that he cannot take up a bill that funds Ukraine and doesn’t fix the border.”

READ MORE: ‘Fire Sale Prices’: Biographer Predicts Trump ‘May Soon Be Personally Bankrupt’ and Could See His Assets ‘Liquidated’

“In other words,” Sherman adds, “if it wasn’t clear, the CR [continuing resolution] the Senate is taking up is dead on arrival in the House.”

Meanwhile, House Republicans, and especially Speaker McCarthy, are attempting to blame the likely shutdown on Democrats. House Democrats, Senate Democrats and most Senate Republicans have been working to avert a shutdown but Speaker McCarthy’s most extreme members have been pushing to shut down the federal government. Political observers say he could keep the government running by putting together a majority of House Democrats and a handful of moderate Republicans to pass a continuing resolution, but would likely lose his Speakership as a result.

“A shutdown would furlough millions of federal employees, leave the military without pay, disrupt air travel and cut off vital safety net services, and it would be politically punishing to lawmakers whose job it is to fund government,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday. “The Republican McCarthy, pushed by a hard-right flank that rejects the deal he made with Biden and is demanding steep spending cuts, showed no interest in the Senate’s bipartisan effort — or the additional money for Ukraine.”

“’I think their priorities are bad,’ he said about the Senate effort.”

Political pundit and journalist Bill Kristol, a Republican who became a Democrat in 2020, Wednesday afternoon pinned the expected, coming shutdown on Speaker McCarthy.

READ MORE: ‘Poof’: White House Mocks Stunned Fox News Host as GOP’s Impeachment Case Evaporates on Live Air

“One man, Kevin McCarthy, is responsible for the looming government shutdown, because he won’t bring to the House floor a funding bill supported by a majority of senators from both parties, the administration, and a majority of House members. It’s the Speaker’s Shutdown.”

Wednesday morning, The Washington Post reported, “Facing a potential government shutdown in four days triggered by House Republicans’ inability to unite to pass spending bills, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is trying out a new strategy: shifting the blame.”

“McCarthy is starting to point fingers at Democrats in a bid to pin a shutdown on disagreements over border security. It’s an attempt to rewrite the record of the past several weeks, during which House Republicans have been unable to pass a short-term bill to prevent a shutdown — even one that includes the border security policies his conference overwhelmingly supports.”


Image via Shutterstock


Continue Reading


‘Fire Sale Prices’: Biographer Predicts Trump ‘May Soon Be Personally Bankrupt’ and Could See His Assets ‘Liquidated’



Donald Trump, the one-term, twice-impeached ex-president who is running for the White House while facing four criminal indictments that include 91 felony counts across three jurisdictions, “may soon be personally bankrupt,” according to a journalist who has written two books on the man he calls a “self-proclaimed multibillionaire.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, author of “The Making of Donald Trump,” and “The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family,” reported on Tuesday’s decision by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron. The judge ruled Trump had committed fraud for years, by massively inflating the value of his assets. He ordered Trump’s business certificates revoked and his assets dissolved.

“Donald Trump is no longer in business,” Johnston writes at DC Report. “Worse, the self-proclaimed multibillionaire may soon be personally bankrupt as a result, stripped of just about everything because for years he engaged in calculated bank fraud and insurance fraud by inflating the value of his properties, a judge ruled Tuesday.”

READ MORE: Trump Goes on Wild Rant Targeting Judge and Attorney General After Being Found Liable for Fraud

The ex-president’s “gaudy Trump Tower apartment, his golf courses, his Boeing 757 jet and even Mar-a-Lago could all be disposed of by a court-appointed monitor, leaving Trump with not much more than his pensions as a one term president and a television performer,” Johnston wrote.

Trump will likely appeal any ruling, but Johnston, who has chronicled Trump for years, says it’s “highly unlikely” an appeals court will reverse Justice Engoron’s decision.

“Barring a highly unlikely reversal by an appeals court, Trump’s business assets eventually will be liquidated since he cannot operate them without a business license. Retired Judge Barbara Jones was appointed to monitor the assets, an arrangement not unlike the court-supervised liquidation of a bankrupt company or the assets of a drug lord,” Johnston writes. “The various properties are likely to be sold at fire sale prices and certainly not for top dollar when liquidation begins, probably after all appeals are exhausted.”

READ MORE: House GOP Shutdown Demands Include Gutting Billions From Dept. of Education, Costing Over 200,000 Teachers Their Jobs

Johnston last year said “that the former president ‘knowingly’ committed dozens of tax crimes over the past several years,” according to Newsweek. Johnston’s comments in December came “shortly after Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee held a vote to publicly release Trump’s tax return documents,” and “published a report showing that Trump was not properly audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) while he was president. The IRS has a policy requiring that a sitting president is audited each year while in office.”

Continue Reading


Trump Goes on Wild Rant Targeting Judge and Attorney General After Being Found Liable for Fraud



Donald Trump unleashed a wild rant Wednesday morning, targeting the New York attorney general and the Manhattan Supreme Court judge in the State of New York’s $250 million civil case against him. The judge on Tuesday declared the ex-president had committed fraud for years in building his real estate empire and ordered his business certificates revoked and holdings dissolved.

Trump has been warned to not make public attacks against or attempts to intimidate witnesses or officers of the court, or prejudice jurors in one of the criminal cases he is currently facing. Two weeks ago, after appearing to not heed those warnings, the Special Counsel prosecuting the ex-president for his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election asked the judge presiding over that case to limit his speech.

Wednesday morning, Trump called New York Attorney General Letitia James “Racist.” He called Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron “Deranged,” and “Trump Hating,” alleging he had “made up this crazy ‘KILL TRUMP’ decision, assigning insanely low values to properties.” Trump wrote the judge valued his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence at $18 million, and claimed (in all-caps) “it is worth possibly 100 times that amount.”

READ MORE: ‘Poof’: White House Mocks Stunned Fox News Host as GOP’s Impeachment Case Evaporates on Live Air

The judge, however, according to The Hill, “found Trump consistently overvalued Mar-a-Lago, inflating its value on one financial statement by at least 2,300 percent. The ruling pointed to a Palm Beach County Assessor’s appraisal from 2011-2021, which estimated Mar-a-Lago’s value between $18 million and $27.6 million.”

“In his order,” The New York Times reported Tuesday, “Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. ‘In defendants’ world,’ he wrote, ‘rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.'”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” the judge concluded.

At the end of his diatribe Wednesday, Trump declared: “There is also an IRONCLAD DISCLAIMER CLAUSE!”

READ MORE: ‘Careening’ Toward ‘Risk of Political Violence’: Experts Sound Alarm After Trump Floats Executing His Former General

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.