Storm Large is calling from the Four Seasons in New York, where she is having lunch. "I'm looking at Martha Stewart, Tom Brokaw, Vernon Jordan," she says. "I'm in a den of 1 percenters. I feel like a turd in a punch bowl."
How to explain Storm Large to those who have never seen or heard this Amazon queen? To simply call her a crotch-grabbing, bawdy temptress with great pipes would be insufficient. As she demonstrated in her one-woman show a few years back, Large can also be heartbreaking, hilarious and affecting.
Large had a busy 2011, and spent much of it away from Portland. She toured worldwide with Pink Martini, filling in for vocalist China Forbes. She is refining the script of her play to take to New York later this year. And now she is a published author.
Crazy Enough is a starkly honest memoir, a tale of sexual triggering, drug dabbling, and trying to fit in and rebel at the same time. Ultimately, it is about reconciling the tension that bubbles just below the surface of this seemingly confident woman—the result of having a mother who is, in a word, crazy.
We're delighted to excerpt, for the first time anywhere, selected portions of Crazy Enough:
Did anyone see that?
I knew that what I had discovered was huge, but I also knew, instinctively, that it was not for public consumption. More urgently, pressing into my little brains was that once the prickling, throbbing exclamation point between my legs cooled and calmed, I would totally have to do that again.
Like a gateway drug, it started with Mr. Pool Jet, then went on to harder stuff: bathtub faucets and, later, showerhead massagers. Thank you, Waterpik!
I always knew something was wrong with me, and here was the proof. I was a five-year-old secret slut for any stream of water I could get alone. After a couple years of that, I got a real live boy to play with. I was seven and he was five, so, by the third grade, I was not only a water nymphomaniac, I was also a cougar.
We'll call him "ChapStick" as in, "'Zat a ChapStick in your pocket, or...?" We both lived in the same little neighborhood, so he would come over to play. Around adults we would play the usual toddler games: shave Barbie's head, give her a black eye with a magic marker, and feed her to the giant squid that came with my brother's GI Joe undersea adventure series, or we would just space out and watch cartoons. When we could sneak away someplace alone, however, we would play a game called "I Am So Tired!" I would lie on my back in bed or on the floor, cover my head and arms with a blanket or a towel and pretend to fall asleep with my legs open. That was the cue for ChapStick to climb on top of me and ravage my sleeping torso with his fevered humping.
We would be fully clothed during the exchange but still I would tilt my hips toward the onslaught and bite the inside of whatever was covering my face as waves of intense and desperate tickling pleasure would build up in the friction. My face and my breath would get hot and I would pant a little bit, but quietly. Sometimes I felt like my throat was bulging outwards like a water balloon, from hitching and holding my breath, and my belly would suck all the way in pulling the tickles in deeper, up higher, then more then yes, and yes, and YES! Then a chickeny flutter and burn and drop, twitch and melt, the weight on my back spread over my bones like hot honey.
He would then get up and go somewhere else in the room and leave me floaty and pink under my covers. A minute or two later, I would get up, stretch and make a big deal about how tired I was and how nothing could've woken me, and how was your nap, ChapStick?
Usually we were both very satisfied with this game. Once in a while, though, he would be done before me and I would yell from under my covers, "Ummm, I'm still tired!" We had no idea what we were doing, yet we somehow knew not to talk about it. Even to each other. We ignored our little trysts as though they were funny slivers of some wacky kid dream that nobody would understand.
I loved my mom more than anything. She was a cross between Grace Kelly and Sandy Duncan, but with two good eyes. When I was little I knew she was the most beautiful woman in the whole world. To me she looked like a Disney princess, a magical lady that birds and baby deer would follow around, eating out of her hand. Not an elegant ladytown, more a pretty, pixielike girlie girl. I had no idea that a lot of people in our sleepy little town thought she was...odd.
As I got older, I started to notice eyes rolling her way. My mom was bright and chatty—a chime-in-loudly-on-any-conversation type person—but it turned out that was a social no-no for the prep-school set. Plus, she was a mere twenty-two when she and my dad took up residence at St. Mark's School.
My dad always comments on his lucky break in landing a job at St. Mark's. When he was done with his tour of duty in the Marine Corps in 1965, he went to his alma mater, Princeton University, to meet with the woman in charge of placing graduates into their ideal employment situations. She asked him where he wanted to live, what did he want to teach, and would he also like to coach football? Then, she handed him a piece of paper with a name, phone number and an address. In July of that same year, Dad, Mom and three-year-old John moved from my grandparents' farm in Pennsylvania to St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts, where Dad would teach, coach and mentor, nonstop, for forty-five years.
Friends referred to them as "the golden couple." My dad, an Ivy League, ex-Marine lieutenant, was manly handsome. He stood a healthy six foot one, one blue eye, one green eye, with jet-black Superman hair. My mom looked like a giggling tow-headed fairy that could pirouette across a field of buttercups and not bruise a single one.
I think some of the older, dumpier ladies around school took my mom's youthful sparkle as the antics of someone who thought a bit too much of herself. Most of the faculty wives at St. Mark's were bookish and preppy, embracing a more matronly aesthetic. Think lots of brown wool skirts with pale ankles dumping into squeaky duck boots. My mom stood out. Stood out like a slice of summer sun beaming into a punishing cold January. She twinkled in complete contrast to those dour prep-school hens, and they did not care for it at all. Within the stiff, Tudor walls of St. Mark's, if you stood out, or thought you were special in any way, you were on your own...a lesson I learned for myself years later.
I remember witnessing affectionate moments between my parents, even though things would soon get to the point when it became hard to imagine them even in the same room together without getting a stomachache. But they loved each other long enough to get pregnant three more times after John.
Mom always had trouble with her girl parts, she'd say. Her pregnancies and her periods were rough going, but her miscarriage nearly did us both in. She was four months or so along when she lost the baby, and it knocked her out for awhile. Mom was twenty-six, John was five, Henry was two, and the doctors recommended a hysterectomy. They told my parents that Mom's endometriosis wasn't going to get any better, and since they already had two healthy boys.... But Mom wouldn't hear of it. She wanted a baby girl. She promised to have the surgery as soon as she had a girl.
Mom loved telling me, and anyone in earshot, how I nearly killed her, but June 25, 1969, twenty-four hours of labor and one blood transfusion later, she got her little girl and all the terrible tales of woe that would come with me. Yay! You're welcome, Ma! When I was around six months old, the doctors finally got to melon ball her reproductive system. And, supposedly, that was just the ticket, until she started trying to kill herself.
Before Mom had any official diagnosis that I knew of, it was just, "Mom's tired." It would go like this: We all came flying in from school in a blur of noise and book bags. My brothers were usually caked with mud from sports or brawling, while I would be covered in paint with some huge piece of construction paper with leaves or some other crap glued all over it. We would barrel into the house and stop short at the sight of Dad by himself or one of our rotation of babysitters. "Where's Mom?" one of us would ask.
"She's resting." "Resting where?" "At the hospital." And that would be the end of the conversation.
I fucking hated sports and the rapey testosteroids who loved them. But the new me, the me who was trying to be all right and fit in, grit my teeth and went for it. And in very little time, I found myself growing in athletic reputation. First, I was asked, nay somewhat begged, to be the varsity goalie for the girls' soccer team. The coach so wanted my big blocky, rageaholic self in the net, he pretty much let me do whatever I wanted there.
I relished my position. I didn't have to run with the other ponies at practice. I could just hang around in my sweats and be a menace. Another girl from the team and I would go to my house right around practice, get stoned, then go to the field. It was my first feeling of being a spoiled rock star. Very little was asked of me, but I was awesome at my job. It was the perfect outlet for my frustration to vent on other people. The coach and my teammates encouraged me to be as brutal and scary as I wanted. At games I would smoosh mud all over my face, and straight up tackle chicks. It was great.
I had also become a bit of a superstar in varsity crew as well. My giant body and black little heart made me a monster with an oar, and I was ranked in the top rungs of New England and the Eastern seaboard for my age group. The ergometer is a rowing simulator, and a measuring tool for your strength and stamina. And, though I loved my Marlboros, and cocaine was becoming a more frequent treat for me, I constantly made the ergometer my bitch.
Suddenly, my dad thought I was great. He positively glowed when the St. Mark's athletic director announced my name at assembly, telling the crowd how I would be spending the summer, training and kicking ass for St. Mark's at the Junior Nationals in upstate New York. There was finally something about me he understood and could be proud of. At least, for a minute.
He would come to my meets, chat with my coach, and I was suddenly awesome. His little girl, who had saddened and confounded him for so long, had grown into a giant meat triangle of broad back and shoulders, huge, shoebox thighs, and no boobs or booty to speak of. So, not only was I now an athletic asset to the school's rep, I was so fucking unattractive that, in my dad's mind, no boy would ever want a piece of me. I was the perfect daughter.
For those of you who don't know about crew, allow me to inform you that, while it is the preppiest sport this side of croquet, it is one of the least attractive. Brutal, grunting, yanking, there was very little room for hotness. Field hockey girls were plucky and quick, usually superhot with wide, swinging ponytails and delicate limbs plunging out of flippy skirts and grass-stained jerseys. Soccer girls were a tad more boyish, tougher, more contact and aggression. Crew ladies are moose. Big, butch moose.
Crew, by all appearances, attracted young lesbians. Everyone's sexuality is pretty malleable during the agony that is being a teenager. However, I can say with confidence, while I was doing the sport, there were many vagitarians in those sleek and skinny boats. I, too, like girls from time to time; I consider my sexuality as opportunistically omnivorous. If it tastes good, I'll eat it. However, I tend to go for field hockey player types.
I took a job as a maid in a hotel. Five days a week I would work in my little gray uniform with smock pockets, shaking condoms out of bedding, vacuuming, dusting, hospital cornering, and snooping through people's toiletries. Every afternoon I would borrow a fashion magazine from the sundries shop, then hit the hotel gym. Pumping my legs for hours on the stairmaster while staring at tiny, bird-boned models. At home, over my bed and dresser was a collage of similar images. My walls were a homage to the professionally hungry. I would stare at those pictures, willing my body to shrink around my skeleton, too.
It finally did.
In studying to be an anorexic, I noticed some of the models weren't particularly pretty, but they were nearly void of flesh. Angular and feline, I imagined they were probably invited to parties every night and given cocaine to be kept upright. One of the big lessons I got from my schooling, at that point, was, if you were beautiful, someone would love you. It made perfect sense.
Step one: Stop eating. During that first summer out of St. Mark's, I figured out how to stop eating by taking trucker speed and smoking Camel Lights. I could get away with one piece of dry toast and a half of a honeydew melon every day. So what if my hair was falling out? The Portuguese ladies I worked with at the hotel yelled at me over their lunches. "You too skinny, Tormenta, you gon' get sick!" I loved it. I was so thin people were worried? Cool!
Dad was in New Hampshire all summer, again, but when he came home for his weekly check-in, I noticed him acting funny around me. He then came home a little more often. He'd make food and put it in front of me, or bring me greasy beach-vendor food from the water park and stare at me while I barely touched it.
He wants you to stay fat so nobody will want you.
Sometime later, I was doing some day-drinking on a Sunday.
Raff was working and we were going to hit the Limelight later on. But day-drinking can ruin your night, and this day was going that way fast. I had made a quickie friend, one of those drug-fueled friendships that happen over bottles and lines, needles and pills. Chemical camaraderie that feels so real and life-affirming while you're getting completely fucked up, but fade as fast as a cherry high. She was painfully thin, a stick bug in a tank top. She had hair like Chrissie Hynde and a laugh like Danny DeVito, and at one point, I think, I told her I loved her.
She tearfully told me about something bad that had happened to her, and I wept right back at her pretending to understand. She kept buying drinks and I kept drinking them.
The sun was still high in the sky when she clinked her glass against the fourth or fifth shot of Jack she had bought me. I downed it. She had also bought smokes and a slice of pizza. She was my soul mate.
I managed to say, "I gotta stop drinking, I'm going out tonight and I'm already fuckin' wasted!"
"Me, too! I'm going out later, too!" She blew smoke at me. "We should go to my place and take a nap."
"I would totally die for you. Let's go."
Somewhere in our zigzagging, drunken singing, arms slung over each other's shoulders path to her place, I heard her say something about lines.
Fuck, yeah. That'll be great! It'll take the drunk down a peg, and it means she has blow and will all night. My new best friend rules! I'll never do coke again, later.
Though my memory of her apartment is fuzzy at best, it stood out to me right away that the chick must have dough, or she was fucking someone rich. The apartment was pretty decent-sized and had real furniture in it. No milk crates with tapestries draped over them, no futon on the floor or mish-mash, thrown-away dressers. Nicer still was the familiar chop-scrape sound of razor to mirror.
"Help yourself, I gotta pee." She gestured to a powder-smeared rectangular mirror that sat on a low shelf. There was a decent heap of powder scraped out of a magazine-folded envelope, but only a tiny couple of lines set up for me. I took the razor and scraped the two lines to make one bigger and made a matching line next to it.
I put the straw in my nose and quick snorted the first line up one side and went to do the other when a searing pain torched through my face. "OOOOW!" My hands slapped to my face. I was instantly tearing, drooling, and a sick funky flavor soured the back of my mouth. My friend was out of the bathroom. "Wha' the fuck kinna coke izzat? It fuckin' hurts!"
"It's not coke . . . it's dope." Looking down, "Whoa. You did a lot."
Dope??? I was already drunk and now I've horked up a junkie-sized line of smack? I am fucked. Maybe she'll have actual coke to keep my heart beating; maybe she can take me to the hospital, or just hold me while I fucking die?!
She floated to the front door and opened it. "You better go," she said flatly.
The drive to San Francisco took three days, during which I made a mental list of priorities.
Stop eating again. Get laid. Find an agent. One was easy enough, as I had no money or job prospects. Two was also pretty easy, as a new girl in town is almost as hot as one that's moving away. The third one was tricky, though; in my estimation, the only pretty I was, was pretty chubby. So I'd stop eating, get a job, find someone to screw, then find an agent.
I got dropped off on Dolores Street and met my new roommates—a couple of trust-fund fashion brats from New York who would screw all day, hide out in their darkened bedroom, and go, almost daily, to Western Union to pick up scads of cash wired to them from one or both of their parents.
Right around the time I started looking for a new place to live, I had fucked, roughly, twelve guys in a little over a month and took a meeting with the agent in town who had the biggest ad in the yellow pages.
"Well, you're pretty," he said after looking at my headshots and résumé.
On the wall of his small Market Street office were headshots of, supposedly, his clients. One I thought looked like a guy from a Fritos ad. "I mean, you have a very pretty face."
Slumping in my chair, trying to look hungry, I sucked in my gut and bit the insides of my cheeks to fake some bone structure. "See, the thing is, you're kind of big."
"I lose weight really fast, I just had to gain some weight, recently, because my doctor told me, well, I was, you know, anorexic," I said, a little too loud.
"We don't want you unhealthy, Storm." The "we" he was referring to, I assumed, were all the pretty people in the headshots. "And, besides, it's not your weight I'm referring to. You are bigger than most male actors. Do you think Tom Cruise wants to get up on an apple crate to kiss you?â
Excerpted from Crazy Enough, a memoir by Storm Large. Copyright 2012 by Storm Large. Published by Free Press.