…so much might have changed in my life. I might have had a special sash made, and I certainly would have put a photo of me wearing it on my book. The publicity may have seen me pose for similar pictures at various horror conventions and Rue Morgue may have contacted me for a gate-fold spread. What would it have been like to tell Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, that I would happily have tea with her and discuss her playing a role in my next, independent feature? I may never know. Just a few more votes at 2:59 am on February 1st and the world of horror might have groveled like Renfield at my feet.
But alas, it was not to be.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I was crowned Pretty Scary‘s “Scary Stud of the Month” for the month of August. At year’s end, the most excellent Heidi Martinuzzi (the owner of the site) entered me into the Scary Stud of 2009 Contest, along with other notables such as Eli Roth, Corin Nemec, and…to be honest, I didn’t recognize the names of the others. But they were all at least as worthy of their Stud of the Month titles as I was, probably more so. But we’re talking about me here, so let’s try and stay focused.
The concept of the contest was for visitors of the site to vote for their favorite Stud. You were only allowed a single vote per person, and each contestant could do whatever they wanted to drive people to the site to vote for them. Thinking it would be fun to win, I sent an email out to about 20 of my friends and colleagues and asked them to vote. I also posted the contest on my Facebook site and decided to let matters settle themselves. I never expected to be in with a shout, and the customary notion of being “honored to be nominated” was more than enough for my ego.
And then, things changed. Most notably, I jumped out in front. Where was this influx of support coming from?, I wondered. Soon, it was clear the contest was to be a two-horse race between myself and a fella by the name of Billy Garberina. I have to admit I’d never heard of Billy nor have I seen any of his movies, but he was clearly interested in winning. In fact, he’d made his Facebook page public and even opened another one just for the contest. He was obviously connected, and being in Los Angeles, had a late-night advantage of three hours on me. Each time I would pull ahead, he would pip me just enough to piss me off. I would have to do something pretty drastic to overtake his fierce determination. So I did. I hired this man…
It’s more fair to say he volunteered as I could never afford him, but his name is Carl Norton and he’s my very successful uncle who lives in Houston, Texas. Once a celebrated attorney, he now runs several printing companies and is an expert coin trader. He’s also a very competitive person, as you might have guessed. Kind and caring to those he loves, if you happen to wind up his enemy, you may come to wish you’d never met him. Needless to say but I’m going to say it anyway, I felt my campaign was in very good hands.
And I was right. Were it not for his connections across the country and world, I would have floundered helplessly at the bottom of the tank with the other also-rans, feeding off Billy’s carp-scented droppings and tussling over bits of green celebrity algae. But my uncle’s efforts were, to say the last, tireless. When I arrived at work early in the morning, he was already sending me emails with updates on who had voted for me and what they were planning to do to help me get more votes. Keep in mind that Texas is one hour behind New Jersey, but there was nothing “behind” about his methods. Before I knew it, I was reading well-wishes from people whose names I couldn’t hope to pronounce, many of them from China. I was blown away, and the feeling that I needed to now work harder came over me like a tidal wave.
So, I began to visit the various blog forums I frequent asking for help. I sought the support of sports fans and writers alike, even promising editing assistance for one group––a promise I’m still fulfilling and will be for some time. Yet, no matter how large a lead I enjoyed before turning in for the night, by morning we were again neck and neck, with me playing “catch up”. Since the contest lasted the entire month of January, it was more of a marathon than a sprint, and as my uncle and I sought more votes in every nook and cranny we could find, I knew our legs were beginning to tire. Still, we refused to give up, and our busy lives––as demanding as they were and still are––would have to share our strength. Every time it felt too much to fight, the feeling of what it would be like to lose at this point was a far grimmer prospect.
And here’s where I need to pause. There’s a much larger story here, and it needs to be told. You see, my uncle just recently got married to one of the most beautiful people on this planet or any other, and it just so happens she’s been battling ovarian cancer for the last few years. Our entire family really love Shouling (our American spelling of Xaioling), and she returns the favor with every opportunity. It’s unthinkable how such a horrible disease could threaten to take her away from us, and yet, to see her––sorry, “see” isn’t the right word; one can only “behold” Shouling––one wouldn’t be criticized to think that cancer was more a blessing than a curse. She always looks terrific, and her spirit in our company is palpably positive. Shouling is one of those people who seems to be always shining light on those around her. To see her with my uncle is a joy, and their laughter together rarely ceases. It is, in every way, the stuff of great literature. For now, this simple photo will have to do…
It is hardly important that I didn’t win the little contest that became something bigger before I knew it. What is important––to me, at least––is how selflessly hard my uncle and Shouling worked so that I might have a shot (okay, I’m sure my uncle had some personal pride invested, but that’s one of the greatest things about him). In between half-day long visits to MD Anderson for Shouling’s check-ups and treatments, and reports ranging from hopeful to disappointing to heart-wrenching, and at times, despair, they kept the love alive not just for each other, but for me. To say I was inspired would barely cover it. In truth––with how it touched my family and all those emails of support from people I most likely will never, ever meet––I was changed.
So, had I won scary stud of the year, I would have been able to reward the efforts of some very special folks with perhaps a page on a blog and maybe even more news of industry interest (I was contacted by a literary manager during the contest who had read my interview on the Pretty-Scary site and to whom I have since sent some of my work). But the lasting affects of having participated would still have outweighed any direct spoils. As I write this, I’m filled with gratitude for all of those who voted for me, in particular my Uncle Carl and Shouling, and all of their friends so far, far away. Thank you, from the bottom of my not-so-scary, and somewhat studly, heart.
One last thing before you go. Please visit the website for The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and help me return the favor. Any amount will do to help fight this truly scary disease. Finally, today’s inspiration comes from this blind Chinese boy’s rendition of a beautiful Mongolian song. I can’t find out who he is, so if anyone knows his name, I’d love to learn it.