Pinch me. Tell me this is not a dream!
My Los Angeles girlfriend Klare DaValle and I are sipping Jose Cuervo on the Costa del Sol here in Malaga Spain, as barely clad Spanish men strut by on the beach. These Spaniards are sooo intoxicating. WHEW!
This charming city can be compared to the City of Angels with its weather and geographical surroundings (think Hollywood Hills), but it certainly has a distinctive European Old World flavor, and a refined culture.
Yesterday I spoke at Stop SIDA, a national AIDS organization. The topic was “The Price of PrEP,” which dealt with possible side effects (headache and nausea), long-term effects (don’t know), and the realization that the daily pill does not prevent other STI’s.
Klare accompanied me. She’s been involved with our community since the beginning and
has lost many friends, like all of us. A former flight attendant (twenty years), the epidemic broke out when she began working for TWA. I know, I know, you kids who are under a certain age have no idea what this is. Trans World Airlines was iconic in the industry, opening its doors in 1924, and closing them in 2001.
Klare has also modeled, having several ads published in Vogue. She hails from north of San Francisco where she grew up on her folk’s winery, The Ghilarducci Family Vineyard. Klare’s parents are from Italy’s luscious Tuscany area.
Constantly being compared to Pamela Anderson, or Dolly Parton, or even Victoria Gotti from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Klare and I are now lounging in our suite at Hotel Mariposa, not far from the Mediterranean Sea. Our bathing suits are flung over the bathtub to dry, and we’re clothed in our colorful Culottes, taking in the summer breeze emanating from our two petit balconies, just above Casas de Campos Calle.
I invite my long time galpal, whose favorite film is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, to be a part of this column, as I wanted to get an active woman’s (of a certain age like myself) point of view. Statistics show that more than half of Americans living with HIV/AIDS are fifty and over.
Ruby Comer: As you know, Sugar, this epidemic has touched many different facets of the population. It’s scary that people at our tender age are being infected.
Klare DaValle: Oh Ruby, it’s very disturbing. [Klare chokes up with emotion.]
Tell me how you protect yourself!
I really believe in wearing condoms—plain and simple. And you know this, I prefer to be in a relationship before I have romantic sexual encounters.
I wish I could say that. [We chuckle.] Since you are currently on the dating scene, how do you bring up the sensitive subject of STIs with a potential partner?
I just ask, “When was the last time you were tested?” Again—plain and simple. I also get tested at least once a year. There are so many convenient test sites these days. You can even do it [in the retail store that benefits AIDS Healthcare Foundation] Out of the Closet. They also provide condoms!
When were you first tested?
I started in the eighties when I was having breast implants. They always test before plastic surgery.
Oh I remember that time, yes. Girl, you are one sexy broad! [She smiles.] You’ve volunteered for Project Angel Food [a nonprofit that delivers food to homebound individuals], Out of the Closet, and participated in several AIDS Walks. Why do you do this?
What motivates me is the realization that I might help change someone’s life. [She takes a sip of water that is supplied fresh every day by the hotel in a glass container.] I always want to help any way I can. In so many ways I get so much more out of it, Ruby….
Tell me about one of your volunteering experiences.
Oh my God. As I said, it’s almost selfish since I am having so much fun. Like in the kitchen at Project Angel Food, I wear a bonnet hairnet, gloves, and join the rest of the group in singing. [She scoots to the end of the white-tufted leather sofa to sniff the fresh flowers. Klare gets a surprise. Even though they look so real, they’re not!] I can’t believe it, Ruby! [I grin, knowingly. She returns to subject at hand.] You know, I have met the most incredible people through the years volunteering and many are still my friends today.
You are always so vivacious and upbeat, and I know this comes from your upbringing. Tell me about your Italian roots.
We always had big gatherings at the house, particularly on Sundays after church. My family had an open door policy. Just drop by! There was always lots of food and lots of wine.
Talk about your hairdresser, Frank, who you lost early on to AIDS.
Oh…my. We were extremely close. We’d hang out together even when I wasn’t getting my hair done. He would make me laugh so hard! I remember one time, soon after he was diagnosed, he said, “Oh, I want to take you shopping and I want to take you to lunch.” So we go to Sunset Plaza [a ritzy area located on Sunset Boulevard]. We were both having a cocktail. He then pulls out a cigarette and smokes it. I say to him, “Frank, you really shouldn’t be smoking.” And he replied, “What the hell does it matter? I’m going to die soon anyway.” I told him that he can’t think that way, that there’s always hope.
After that, he was going to work less and less to the point that I had to get a new hairdresser. Frank passed away. He had a partner who was so devastated. I will never forget the sorrow.
God, I recall those days, Klare. Say, share with me a celebrity anecdote from your days of flying.
Okay. Zsa Zsa Gabor was on a trip from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco. She was traveling with her dog, Macho. Of course she was in first class and we were on the new Boeing 767. She asked, “Are you married? You are very beautiful.” I said no. After the movie started, I was eating my canned tuna and baked potato. Zsa Zsa comes up holding her dog and asked where I got that food. I told her that I bring it from home; that I don’t eat airline food. She said that was smart, and proceeded to tell me delightful humorous stories about her career. Toward the end of the flight, she began asking passengers if they were available to date me! [Klare shakes her head as she rolls her eyes.]
How cute! She died last December, just months from reaching the hundred-year mark! [Klare nods.] What…a…lady—and an early AIDS activist. She heeded Elizabeth Taylor’s call when Taylor was rounding up her sho-biz friends to help those in need and to establish amfAR. [I pause.] You were raised Catholic and today you have a firm foundation in faith. What do you do daily to keep spiritually in shape?
Back in 1989, a dear friend of mine, Emanuelle, changed my life by gifting me with a subscription to Unity’s monthly magazine, Daily Word. I read it every day. [She goes over to the nightstand and fetches the publication. She sits on the comfy bed and reads the quote for today]: “I hold a vision of harmony and goodwill for the world.” [Klare calmly looks off then flashes a beaming knowing grin.]
Dare to watch fair Klare, as she shares and bares, when she pairs with Dann and Kelly on a rare episode of In Bed with Dann & Kelly: http://dannandkelly.com/episodes/ep-23-klare-davalle-wine-connoisseur/.
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected]