Check out our episode here! Freak Show by James St. James
The first thing you need to know is that reality is for the poor and uncouth, not Billy Bloom. Seventeen year old Billy is currently probably having a panic attack under the bathroom sink. He's about to start his first day of school in his new town of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he now lives with his father. He used to live in Connecticut with his mom, but she's washed her hands of him or something and now he's with his father and the maid, Flossie. South Florida is not the place for him to be with his mascara and his purple blush, but he will probably dress like a sexy, totally straight pirate on his first day... with only a little bit of makeup. Come on! His school is in a swamp! It's going to be TERRIBLE. I don't think a sexy pirate could make it worse. Actually, his school is full of super-posh blonder-than-blonde people. No diversity anywhere. And inside the building? Boring! He'll have to join all the clubs, especially the Gay-Straight Alliance, and change everything from top to bottom. But first, biology.
Biology is terrible. Billy flounces in, full of confidence and says hello to everyone in the room in varying degrees of spectaularness. He talks to one boy, the ugliest boy in the school as far as he is concerned, and is determined to become friends with him. That... does not work. At the end of his fanciful introduction, Bernie calls Billy a fag and threatens him in all sorts of ways. The rest of the class jumps in with spitballs and catcalls and the teacher, Mr. Reamer, does nothing. The rest of the day doesn't get any better, and to make it even worse, there's not a Gay -Straight Alliance club to join because, as someone in the school's office said, there's never even been a gay student at the school before. Flossie picks him up after school and gives him an I-told-you-so about being so flamboyant. Bless him, he tries so hard. They get back home to the huge manor on the river. A tourist riverboat passes by all the time so everyone's always watching everything Billy ever does. Awkward! He has another inside-the-cupboard moment and then explodes out and decides to put on a gold catsuit, several pairs of fake eyelashes and some glittery horns. Becoming fabulous always helps.
After endless days of torment at school, Billy finally makes a friend, Blah Blah Blah. That can't be her name but he does not understand what it is when she says it, so Blah Blah Blah she is. She tells him all the secrets of everybody at school and there are a lot. He asks about the most popular and GORGEOUS boy, Flip, who got his nickname when he spectacularly scored in a football game by flipping in the air. He's a decent guy it seems and even told Billy one day not to let all of the others get him down. Needless to say, Billy has an immediate crush on Flip. All the bullies continue to be awful, especially in biology, even going so far as to put a dissected anus on his chair one day and pull down his pants to see if he's wearing ladies' underwear. He asks his teacher (who he's pretty sure is the one that needs to be bullied, what with his perm and his lisp) if he can be moved to a different class on account of the bullying, but the teacher seems to have not noticed all the bullying and says, no, Billy can't transfer classes, but he'll keep an eye out for it next time. Do we believe this? No. Billy decides to get kicked out of the class instead and shows up to school the next day in Swamp Hag Drag. Mr. Reamer leaves the room for some unknown reason and, of course, Billy gets the shit beat out of him in that time. Flip stops the beating after way too long, scoops Billy up and carries him out of school.
During his coma, because yes, that's how badly he was beaten, Billy remembers his mother. She was lovely. They had a great life in Connecticut. They wore boas and ate grilled cheese! She was wonderful and glamorous until... she wasn't. She started drinking and then... he can't remember. But now he's in Florida with his barely-there father instead. When he wakes up, Flossie is there and Flip is there and his father is there. So a little more than barely-there right now. Flip tells the story of what happened and how it went way farther than it should have. The plan was for everyone to just beat him up a little bit. Flip was against it, by the way, but everything went horribly wrong when Billy decided to come to school as a big gay monster. The teacher got called away in a fake emergency and then the beating started. Flip was late to school because his car wouldn't start. If he had been there, none of this would have happened! Of course, no one got in trouble. At all. Even a little bit. And now he's in the hospital, coming out of a coma with broken ribs, a broken leg, a broken arm and more.
Flip visits every day, at the hospital and then when Billy is back home. Blah Blah Blah came to visit once and caught Billy up on the school gossip. There was a hate crime speech and now there's a zero tolerance bullying policy. Flip beat up Bernie the day after the incident and is on the outs with the rest of the football team. Flip brings Billy his homework and they work together every day after school. While yes, Billy is still in love with Flip, he realizes that Flip is... not the smartest guy and doesn't have the best home life. He's got anxiety about letting everyone down and losing football games and losing his scholarship and lots of other stuff like that. Billy's dad is around a lot more, but it seems that he has a glory-days crush on Flip. Flip is curious about pretty much everything about Billy and all his makeup and wigs and outfits and he even buys him a tiara. He spends the night one night and they drink and Flip falls asleep on Billy's bed in his underwear. Billy could take advantage of him, but no. He's better than that. Later, Flip asks if Billy is gay or bi or what and he struggles. He's definitely gay but does he say that? Flip knows and then is kind of jokey about it, but then starts playing a game of who-would-you-rather-do and always asks about one specific football player, Bib, or someone really gross. When Billy turns it around and asks between himself and Star Jones with her leftover liposuction fat, Flip gets mad and leaves. They don't talk for a while, but then Billy calls him up, pretending he's dying, but that wasn't necessary. Flip comes right back over.
Billy finally goes back to school and he is untouchable. Flip offers to be his bodyguard and even hold his hand if he needs it. He invites him to sit with the football team in biology and at lunch. He makes Bernie sharpen his pencil. He encourages Billy to be himself and to wear whatever he wants. And it goes just fine. He even performs a book report as a burning Zelda Fitzgerald and it is perfect. Then he goes to gym class. Swimming is the sport of the day and he gets a raging boner following Bib up the diving board ladder. He's excused from class to a chorus of 'eww gross’es but then it's fine again. Until later, at Billy's house. Flip confronts him about liking Bib because, you know, Bib hates you, right? Why are you always looking at him? Billy tells him the truth. It's not Bib, it's you, you fool! And then he kisses him. And starts undressing him. And kissing him some more. And then the tourist riverboat passes by. Flip leaves, flustered. But I'm straight! he says. Womp womp. Billy leaves him a voicemail because of course he stopped answering his phone. He apologizes, says his friendship is all he has. Let's just forget it ever happened, okay? Oh while we're forgetting things... let's remember something. The truth. Remember how Billy said he didn't know why his mom kicked him out and the coma scene kinda flickered out? She kicked him out because she came home one day to find him in one of her dresses and she couldn't handle it. So, she shipped him off to live with his father.
Now that Billy is without Flip, he crashes into a depression. It lasts for a while until he decides to finally call his first best friend at his new school, Blah Blah Blah. Except, that can't really be her name. What is it? How will he find out? Ah yes. A yearbook. Her name is Mary Jane. How did he get Blah Blah Blah from that?! Well, he tells Mary Jane his whole story about Flip and the riverboat and asks her to become his sidekick because he definitely can't go back to school unless he becomes a superhero. Of course she agrees. They even make costumes! Then they begin planning, mostly on how Billy can go back to school without being attacked. Billy suggests a tiara that's also a boomerang. Mary Jane suggests Billy lay low and sing small, which is the motto of the shadow people. Who?! The shadow people are the kids who are on the fringes at the school, who don't stand out too much, but they're always there. They know everything. Oh, a secret club! It's all Billy's ever wanted! So they decide to create a blackmailing plan. Find out all the dirty secrets of the popular kids. Billy doesn't like it though. He's got something more spectacular planned. Then Mary Jane decides to contact the news.
Mary Jane knows one of the local reporters, Clancy Duckett, who also happens to be a lesbian. She meets up with Billy and then they go live on the news just as the school day is starting. Billy, self-proclaimed Super Freak, currently dressed up like prom-queen Carrie, complete with blood, is running for homecoming queen. How does the crowd take it? Lots of the students are freaked out anyway and think he's an attention whore. Some people in town think he deserves a shot, why not? Lots of people don't think he deserves anything. The principal can see no reason why he can't compete, so here goes! He's on the six and eleven o'clock news and all the commercials in between.
Lynette is only person running against Billy and gets her own news crew to come to the school to listen to her talk about how God wants her to be homecoming queen, not this homosexual drag queen. Though it turns out, a lot of people in the school think she's a bitch, and say they'll vote for anyone but her. Two other girls also decide to run, but where are their news crews? Right. They're not winning. A lot of the shadow people join up with Billy and help with his float, local drag queens from around South Florida throw in their support, and people start sending fan letters, though some are creepy and claim to be from someone at his very own school who wants to do... things... to Billy. Uh oh. One of the stars of the football team, Bo-Bo, Lynette's ex, also jumps on the bandwagon. Mary Jane laments if only they had one more star footballer, surely Billy would win. Normally it would be Flip, but... we know why that won't happen. So Billy goes after Bib. Bib used to be in an Orlando boy band but doesn't want anyone to know so Billy threatens him with choosing that as his theme song and outing his shameful past. So now Bib is on board too.
It's getting closer to homecoming and Lynette and Billy get to give speeches at a pep rally. Lynette once again talks about God and the wrongness of transvestites. Billy, in a shocking turn of events suggested by Mary Jane, shows up in a Man's Suit and barely any makeup and gives an impassioned speech about how every student in the school is a freak. He's not the only one! They are all freaks in their own way and there's nothing wrong with that! After the speeches, Billy thinks about Flip. Homecoming is important for him, too. There would be scouts there to see him play at the game. Flip comes to Billy's house to apologize and tell him that he misses spending time with Billy and that he wishes things were different, wishes they could... they could... they could... But Billy stops him. Yes, he wishes that too, but he's in a different space now. He hopes one day Flip will understand who he is and be able to be himself and give up things that don't really matter to him. One day. But now, it's time for Homecoming! The challengers’ floats are lackluster, especially Lynnette's which only says TRADITION, but then Billy comes out in a giant purple platform pump wearing his Super Freak superhero costume! And some of the shadow people are wearing outfits that he made popular at school like Gay pirate, Swamp Hag and Carrie. And it's fabulous! The game? Not so much. Flip gets injured and Bib steals the show! Flip is relieved though as he's being carried away to the ambulance. He threw the game on purpose to release the pressure weighing on his shoulders. His future now belongs to him.
After the game is the Homecoming dance where the Homecoming Queen will be crowned. Billy shows up to the gym in a sparkly pink ball gown. The press is there. A hush comes over the crowd. The winner is... Lynette. Huh? No way. This is a surprise. And it's heartbreaking. The girls of the Homecoming court are ghastly to Billy, kicking him off the stage. Billy sneaks away quietly. Not one member of the press has anything to do with him. He leaves the gym and walks off sadly toward the swamp. But... He's not alone. Someone is following him! Yikes! It's Bernie. Turns out, he was the one sending the creepy, perverse emails. All that hate at the beginning for Billy being gay and here we are. Bernie attacks Billy. Gropes him, says disgusting things to him, rips his dress, puts his tongue in his mouth. Oh no, not today, bitch! Billy uppercuts him and then uses part of his ripped dress to tie him up. He tells him this time, he is pressing charges. Assault, attempted rape, attempted murder. And for now? Billy's leaving Bernie out in the swamp and who knows when he'll tell anyone where he is.
Billy walks home and realizes that Lynette really should be Homecoming Queen. It's to be expected. She's been working on this school crowd since the seventh grade. When he gets to the manor house, he climbs back into the safety of his cupboard. He has a dream he's talking to God and she tells him to stop worrying about what others think. Stop giving them power. Forgive yourself. Stop straining to be something you're not. Just relax and be you, a magnificent experiment, a whole new creation. Fly. See what you're made of... Then Flossie knocks on the cupboard door. Everyone's been looking for him. His father was at the game and out in the dark searching, proud of him and worried sick. Mary Jane has called a million times. Flip is here... now! Wait. What? Flip is here?! The boys talk at the same time, each telling the other they should be in the hospital and they're sorry. Flip tells Billy that he threw the game on purpose for him. Because of what he said about being himself. Then, they kiss! Awwww!!!