Robert Patrick

Interview by
Shane Allison
Photography by
Robert Patrick


I took an interest in Robert Patrick’s work after reading his tawdry and epic poems in one of the yearly editions of Best of Gay Erotica. I have never known someone with the ability to weave rhyme in erotic poetry so sensationally without it sounding corny or just plain bad. After some research (and a subsequent friendship between us on facebook) I found out that he is quite the artist who has acted in and written plays in New York and L.A., written and published multitudes of gay poetry and porn reviews and whose sketches are both beautiful and poignant. The hot pic of his 72-year-old butt above is a work of art in itself.

Shane: What are you working on these days?
Robert: Currently I write gay male adult movie reviews and little poems — and a lot of facebook posts.
Sounds very cool.
I gave up play writing in 1990 because the physical work of producing my own plays Off-Off Broadway for twenty-five years non-stop was killing me. Like Gelsey Kirkland in her autobiography, Dancing on My Grave, who said, ‘Two things were clear: I was dancing better than ever, and I must stop before it killed me.’ As for the movie reviews, I love movies, I love writing, and I love sex. So it’s an ideal profession for me. I just wish it paid better.
That’s the life of a writer. So, what got you into theatre?
Two things: Bob Fosse’s dancing in Kiss Me, Kate. I knew I was no dancer, but he made me want to do something connected with the stage. Second, my first half hour in New York, I followed a boy named Johnny Dodd into a little place called the Caffe Cino, the first Off-Off Broadway theatre. So you might say Johnny’s ass got me into the theater, literally. I stayed at the Cino from September 14, 1961 until it closed in Match, 1968. I did everything. I was a ‘Temple Slave.’ Three years in, I happened to write a play.
Who are some of the people that you worked with in the industry?
Famous people, you probably mean. Marlo Thomas, Marge Champion, Shirley Knight.
Any hot sex happened behind stage?
Not with Marlo, Marge, or Shirley, no. I’ve had sex backstage at La Mama waiting to go on in Johnny Dodd’s play, City of Light and in Chicago’s first gay theater At the Drama Shelter in the light booth while watching my Play-By-Play.
Anyone break your heart?
I was in love with two actors named Joe Pichette and Ned Van Zandt. They fell in love with each other in a show of mine in London while I was doing one in Cape Town. It almost killed me. They wrecked each other’s lives, too, by the way, not just mine.I wrote this poem about me and Joe and Ned:

I loved you both. You both loved me.
It followed geometrically
You loved each other. What a scary
Syllogistic corollary.
We each of us saw disappear
A friend, a lover, a career.
It’s left me with a strange forbearance
For marriages arranged by parents.

So how did you move from writing plays to writing these great poems?
I’ve written poetry from the age of seventeen. Here’s my first poem:

The sun always rises. The soft rain will fall,
As if your heart never had broken at all,
And rainbows will shimmer soon after the rain,
And someday your heart will be broken again.
Tall mountains will crumble. Straight rivers will part,
But never will nature take note of your heart.

That was written in the empty bleachers of the football stadium at Eastern New Mexico University, September, 1955. Writing poetry and reading it was all that really mattered to me for my pathetic 2 1/2 years of college there. I was unmanageable. My folks moved constantly looking for work — I never went to one school for a whole year until my senior year of high school — I was totally un-socialized. It wasn’t until the Caffe Cino that I became a social creature. After leaving school, I had myself put into the New Mexico state mental hospital. I figured everybody else couldn’t be crazy; there must be something wrong with me. They kept me for the legally required two weeks, then kicked me out, saying, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you. You just need to move to a big city.’

And you chose L.A.?
No, I moved to New York — I arrived there September 14, 1961 and except for many trips elsewhere, stayed there until October 1990. I then went to live with relatives in a tiny town called Atwater California for two hideous years. Then I got a job in L.A. and moved here in 1993. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived alone. Seventeen years of bliss now.
What did you get into in New York?
I followed Johnny into the Cino in my first half hour there. The Cino was New York to me — and the Museum of Modern Art — and the Everard Baths. I’m a great painting buff, and I adored anonymous and group sex at the baths.
What were the baths like then?
The baths were heaven — I wrote about them in my novel Temple Slave, and in a long poem called Mass Ass. It was a sexual smorgasbord. My lovers always left me because theatre occupied all my attention. I kept one for six months and one for a year, with lots of others in between.
How did your first novel come about?
A friend, the painter Patrick Angus, asked me what it was like at the Cino. The novel was written to tell him about it. 24 publishers turned it down — then four publishers accepted it, but wanted me to ‘politically correct it.’ Finally, Richard Kasak Press accepted it because of the title. They thought Temple Slave meant it was an S&M story. They printed it as it was written because they didn’t really give a damn — they just churned out sex novels every month. The book was a big flop, but now sells for up to 200 dollars a copy.
What do you love about the written word?
That the words magically drop into the reader’s mind and make ripples, making them see and feel much more than what is actually in the writing. They can create imaginary worlds, re-create vanished worlds.
What makes Robert Patrick happy?
Oh, lord. Sunrises, sex, movies, books, food. I guess writing a good poem is just about the best. It used to be seeing a play of mine well performed, but that’s all over for me.
What pisses Robert Patrick off?
People who involve you in something without telling you the situation. People who try to drag me into their misery. I wrote a poem about such people:

Confess always
Domestic Masadas,
Erotic Pompeiis,
Career Krakatoas,
Religious Red Seas.
I really don’t know as
I need to hear these.

You have a nice butt by the way. Who took that hot pic?
It is a screen-capture from a tape I made. I wanted to show my friend Andrew Adam Caldwell how I looked in a T-shirt he designed. The butt shot was a joke. I sent it to you as a joke. I think you are sick and demented to want to publish it.
I’m demented, yeah. LOL
Strange to think of all the joy that my butt has given me. Especially since I was always indifferent to being fucked — mostly I would let guys fuck me so I could fuck them, which I loved to do. There were two exceptions: at the baths, I discovered that I loved being fucked if people watched…
We both have that in common for sure.
…and really huge cocks also made my hole hot like a hollow cock. I loved taking cocks other guys couldn’t take. At an orgy, there was a foot-long guy no one could take all the way. I insisted on trying, but I came when he got only eight inches in. I felt like such a failure.
Can you still take a big cock?
I haven’t been called onto for a decade, but I’m sure I could.
Are you a size queen?
No, I just like availability. I’m more into asses than dicks. A guy’s cock to me is what tits are to a straight man — a big turn-on, but it’s the ass I want. I wrote a poem about it:

All other mysteries of time and space
Compared to this one are as clear as glass:
Why is it when I see a pretty face
I want to stick my penis up its ass?

You are a real weaver of words.
As Vladimir Nabokov says in Lolita: ‘I have only words to play with.’ So is that all?
Hellz yeah! LOL. This was fun. Thank you.

BUTT readers can admire Robert Patrick’s Wikipedia credentials here. It might also be of interest to read some more of Robert Patrick’s poetry here.

Published on 18 March 2010