This is the story of an American Eagle.
A golden boy grows up handsome and charmed in the leafy and privileged kingdom of 1970’s Westchester, New York. His father, an ex-Marine, is a captain on Wall Street, his mother is a slim, tennis-playing beauty who gives birth to six children in seven years, yet still holds her figure. They live in Cheever country, in the time when all dreams have become attainable, when the Masters of the Universe ride the commuter trains home to a won world of swimming pools and tennis courts and evening martinis. It’s the garden of the golden apples.
This is a dazzling boy. He’s the American Dream in boy form, handsome, athletic, charming, and gifted. His destiny seems assured even before he’s become the All County Fullback, before he’s cast as the lead in the High School Musical. He’s rising from the day he was born.
And then he has that voice. It’s a singing voice that fills an auditorium. A voice so sweet that even the jocks he plays with get goosebumps when he stands on the stage and releases it. He’ll finish singing, and in the immediate aftermath of the wonder of it, he’ll quickly pull a face or make a joke. As if to say: who was that guy?
But he can’t deny it. He has the voice. After football practice, he takes singing lessons with Robert Roundsville who has sung the role of Padre in ‘The Man of La Mancha’ on Broadway as well as ‘Mister Snow’ in the film version of Carousel. With no formal musical education he goes into New York City to audition for a place in the most prestigious music academy in the country. He sings ‘The Impossible Dream,’ and three days later he’s offered a place in Julliard.
He falls in love with a stunning red-haired girl. He’s a voice student in Julliard. It’s hard. The teachers are rigorous. ‘You’re brilliant? So is everyone here.’ But not everyone there looks like a movie star. Not everyone there is carrying the burden of the American dream. Not everyone there is an eagle.
He finds an agent, and before the summer is over he gets cast in Shenandoah at the Muni Opera in St Louis. He comes alive on the stage. He’s a performer. When he’s out there under the lights he can feel a little take-off. It’s as if here’s a world that matches the exuberance, the riot and range of feeling inside him, the largeness of his spirit. Here’s a world where you can become the dream, where you can be, and you don’t have to feel fear.
He gets cast in a review for the Tisch School for the Arts at NYU University where he’s discovered by Auther Laurents who invited him to audition for the National Tour of hit Broadway musical, ‘La Cage aux Folles.’ It’s 1985. He gets the part. He goes to California. He’s in the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, in the eye of agents and scouts, and though the role is not quite right for him, not large or leading enough, he’s quickly spotted. At the end of the run he’s offered a part in the CBS Daytime TV series, ‘Guiding Light.’ The name alone seems prophetic. He has been guided, there has been a light. He feels that whatever is guiding him is bringing him here, so he says yes.
He has a rare blood type. So he goes regularly to give blood. It’s in his nature to do the right thing.
He’s on a break on the set of ‘Guiding Light’ when he gets word from the Doctor’s office that they need him to come in.
At five o clock that afternoon the Doctor leans forward, lowers his voice, to say: ‘You’ve tested positive for HTLV-III.’ He doesn’t blink. ‘Who have you been sleeping with?’
This is the story of a man who falls from the sky. It’s the story of what happens when you’re told your life is over, when your marriage breaks up, when you’re fired from your job and no one else will employ you, when your health is eroding and your money runs out, when you’re an award-winning actor who’s on the streets of New York City, with no money, nowhere to run, and everything you own in a battered knapsack.
It’s the story of what happens when you come to the end of your story. When there’s nothing left, when you’re filled with nothing but shame and loss, when you realize the dream is over, and the easiest way out is to kill yourself.
It’s also the story of coming back, the story of one man’s inspiring journey back from that wounded place. It’s about deciding, against the odds, against the headlines, against the predictions of the doctors and a T-Cell count in single digits, that despite everything you are going to live. You’re going to FLY again.
WOUNDED EAGLE FLYING tells this story. But it does not tell it from the outside. This is that story, told from the inside. Told with remarkable candour, humour, and searing honesty, this is the story of what’s it’s like to be that man.
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I'll see you in the Sky!
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For those who have gone before ...