Decamot of the month

31 Jan 2020-Holly Goes Lightly

Holly rediscovers the joys of going on holiday.


An arm snaked out from beneath the bedclothes to set the alarm clock to snooze. This was the fifth and last time that Holly would repeat this action this morning before finally emerging for the day. The hot Turkey sun was waiting!

The holiday, Holly's first in 25 years, was nearly over. With most of Istanbul seen in just 72 hours, the days had been packed to squeeze it all in. But Holly was used to a hectic schedule and had been for decades.

Classically trained in both music and dance, Holly had been Juilliard's most precocious talent of the Class of '69. With a body of lithe athleticism and deceptive strength and a voice carefully nurtured, trained and looked after. No booze. No uppers, downers or little helpers. No late night outs; just hard work, staying in to study and rehearse amongst the hanging stockings drying and the dirty dishes pending of fellow students in the shared accommodation.

Graduation beckoned and offers flooded in from opera, ballet, and Broadway. Such a surprise then when Holly headed instead for the West Coast. And shock of shocks: San Francisco not Hollywood.

Then 25 years of performing and perfecting before another even bigger change. A move to Europe to add successful business person to the CV, always presented in exquisitely tailored suits and providing a firm handshake.

Now finally out of bed and standing in front of the bathroom mirror, Holly was shocked to see staring back the face of a white bearded old man.

*****

To call Holly Markowich a female impersonator would be to fail to give his act sufficient credit. It would be like calling Joshua Bell a fiddler, or Coco Chanel a seamstress.

Ordinarily, whether Holly was on stage or off, he was immaculately presented; from the way he did his hair to the way his shoes shone. He had once considered facial electrolysis, a procedure that had permanently removed his minimal chest and back hair, but he feared that the resultant effect would render his face too waxy. He preferred instead to shave twice daily to accommodate both his male and female personas.

At Julliard, he had spent as much time studying women as performing with them. The performer that emerged had a unique blend of strength, grace, and suppleness, coupled with a voice of preternatural richness that ranged four octaves.

What made Holly so good? It was more than just the way he looked and dressed, but also the way he moved. Every gesture was feminine. He swayed his hips like a woman, with a natural grace and no hint of mince. That and his song choices: no clichéd camp. No Shirley Bassey numbers. No Raining Men or I will Survives. But well considered numbers that could appear on the songbook of any female jazz singer of quality. Fever, I'd Rather Go Blind, Hallelujah and The First Cut. The grand finale would always be Paloma Faith's Only Love Can Hurt Like This, a song always apt to bring a tear to the eyes of all those present, not just because of the authenticity of Holly's voice, or the brutal reality of the words, but because all would know it signified the end of the set. There would be no encore. Leave 'em wanting more as the old show biz adage has it; Holly always did.

Holly was sexually ambivalent; attractive to and attracted by both men and women, but consummated with neither. He self-deprecatingly referred to his female persona as The Virgin Queen, and to his male persona as The Other Man. But as he pointed out, his performances were not about sex, but about the expression of the human condition. God had chosen to place an extraordinary voice into this improbably slight, androgynous body, and he (Holly) used this as a blank canvas to project emotion. His act of devotion was to harness this gift, but never to master it.

To see Holly in full flow was to see something truly special, as Holly's father had found out when he saw him for the first time. It was Holly's last performance in San Francisco, a tearful farewell before his migration eastwards. Markowich senior managed to squeeze into Holly's dressing room afterwards.

"So what did you think" asked Holly, breathlessly.

"Just one question, my boy: Why?"

"Why open my own nightclub?"

"No no no. I've seen your show: you are clearly uniquely gifted. You hold your fans captivated until your very last note dies away. There's not a sound from any one for several seconds, and then that tumultuous applause. No, my question is: Why Gdansk Bay?"

Holly laughed.

"To regain my heritage. Gramps drove his dog sleigh across the countryside to get to Gdynia. He lived and died there. You were born there. I've visited and liked it. It's been greatly improved since the end of the Second World War and now the Cold War's over, it's really set to take off. Besides:" He concluded by breaking into song: "If I can … make it there, I can make it ... anywhere. Gdynia, Gdansk"

And make it there he did. In the autumn of '91, Holly opened The North Pole, one of the first LGBT Night Clubs on Gdansk Bay. His prediction of Gdynia's continued reinvention proved to be correct. The port of Gdynia became a regular stopover on the itinerary of luxurious passenger ships, providing an influx of tourists looking for alternative quality night time entertainment.

From the outset, Holly was the star attraction at The North Pole. Now 63, Holly only performed on Friday nights: the best slot of the week. One to die for. One that queens would kill for.

But in the boardroom he was equally successful. There he was all business, and no hint of female remained. Always fastidiously dressed, but never flamboyant. Steely grey-blue eyes gave nothing away, and a gritty determination meant that you would underestimate this diminutive businessman at your peril.

*****

Holly gently massaged moisturizer into his sunburnt red nose and then rubbed the back of his hand across the only three day stubble he had ever allowed to grow on his chin.

Holly took out his shaving paraphernalia and lay it along the vanity unit beside the sink: shaving foam, old-fashioned shaving mug and brush, razor, balm and aftershave. To that he added a pot of E45 cream and his foundation, blusher, eyeliner, eyebrow brush, tweezers and cotton wool balls. He then got to work to make his reflection more closely resemble his passport photograph.

After about 20 minutes, he looked more like himself again.


A non-seasonal Decamot inspired by the following Decamot items:
white bearded old man, north pole, present, red nose, turkey, sleigh, hanging stockings, mince, little helper, holly