Sunday, November 23, 2008

Van Robert Ault 1956-1996

Photo of Van from Our Faerie Ancestors, used with tremendous gratitude!


One thing I loved about the TV show SIX FEET UNDER, was Nate's continuous apparitions of his father.

When you know someone very well, you know what they would say. You just know. Other times, you are dying to know.

I remember wishing Van a happy belated birthday, the same week as the People's Temple disaster. (He had attended the church a couple of times, pronouncing it "odd.") "Oh honey, those poor people! I can't bear it!" And those words echo, as I watch the TV shows chronicling the horrific events of 30 years ago. And I miss him, the one who couldn't bear it.

Missing my friend, one of the touchstones of my life, is almost impossible to write about. I have tried several times. What can you say about the sort of individual who is simply LARGER than life? An amazing, dynamic, theatrical personality who was a fountain of love, ferocious wit and unending generosity? I can say: he took me in when I had nowhere to go, fresh off a Greyhound bus from the midwest. He shared his home with me. He gave me the beginner's course in San Francisco 101, what to watch out for, who to trust, who not to trust. I couldn't have functioned there without him; my guide, my mentor for the city.

He was my best friend.

But I find I can't describe him accurately. He was just too big for words. His eyes were bright green, like a cat's. (If you dared ask him if they were contacts, he would mimic slapping you; they weren't.) He was 6'4" and struggled with keeping weight on his whole life. I met him when we were both 15 and he was already full-grown but weighed only 135 lbs. People gaped at him; the word gaunt barely covers it. He took me to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo restaurant in Tennessee and Glide Memorial Church and the I-Beam in San Francisco. He took me to gay bars and introduced me to the first drag queens I had ever seen in person. We danced late, late into the night at discos. He showed me porn and than ran it backward: "Watch how THIS looks!" and then hooted and squealed.

He was either the president or vice president of the official Supremes fan club. He would be mad at me for not remembering which. I have a photo of him with Mary Wilson, and on the back, his trademark scribble: "Don't I look like I'm coming?!" Yes, he did.

In short, I adored him. And I can barely write this. One of the major losses of my life, this beautiful person.


"What are THESE?" said the naive girl from the midwest, leafing through Van's wallet. There were several colorful, plastic membership cards to the popular San Francisco bath houses. "Do you take baths there?" asks naive, unaware Daisy.

"Well I suppose you could!" he winked at me. "But I don't know anyone who does!" I asked about the sexual protocol of the bath houses, and he told me everything.


Left: Van wrote several new-age books in the 80s, and was on the staff of MAGICAL BLEND magazine. (I'm not sure if it is still publishing or not, but can't locate a decent web page.)

By the 90s, I had moved to the south, the same place he had escaped from. He tried to talk me out of it. "It's changed, Van, really," I said on the phone.

"Not nearly enough," he sniffed at me. He called it "Baptistland" and would sing made-up lyrics to the tune of Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland"--down in BAP-TIST-LAAAAAND! Always, always, making me laugh.

I attempted to tactfully approach the subject of the bath houses, the MATH, the sheer MATH. Mathematical probabilities. I got sick when I thought of it, got a headache.

I couldn't tell him that, so I just asked: "Are you worried? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," he said. And then he sent me a sparkly pagan greeting card assuring me that he was okay, while also informing me that he was HIV positive. "Constant changes," he added, signing his name.

Constant changes?

I wept, but composed myself before calling. "You calling to see if I'm still here?" he asked, acidly.

I shot back, "Maybe I am, what's wrong with that?"

"Don't lose that sass, sister-woman!" he ordered, laughing.

I've tried not to.


An actor (as well as writer), he liked to make phone calls 'in character'--invariably pretending to be other people. For my phone calls, it was Baptist preachers. In his best televangelist voice (which was remarkably authentic), he would shout into the phone at me: "I'm calling from Bloody Jesus Baptist Church, and would like to ask you to ATTEND THIS SUNDAY. Are you SAVED?" He changed the name of the church each time, and on at least two occasions, actually faked me out. He would chuckle, then gloriously guffaw, if he had actually fooled you. He did it to everybody. I heard him call a friend on the phone and pretend to be Laurence Olivier.

"He won't call me back, but betcha he calls LARRY!" he said to me, after hanging up.


(deep sigh) I love you, dearest Van. I missed your Scorpio birthday, because it has taken me since November 11th to write this coherently. Last year, could not manage it at all. I promised myself, this year. This year, I will write it.

Van's apparition says to me, "Don't take that stuff too seriously!" then muses, "If I'd had the internet, honey? I'd put it to some excellent uses!"

And the apparition adds, "Try not to waste your time, okay? Just don't waste it."

I won't. I promise, I won't.


When I left the Bay Area, he made me a mix tape. "This will make you think of me, and you can take it everywhere you go and think of---(((here he sang a deep baritone C)))---MEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!"

And I did.

This was the last song on it.

Lena Horne - Believe in yourself (from "The Wiz")

Believe in yourself, as I believe in you.


Amber Rhea said...

Daisy, this was beautiful. Thank you for sharing these memories of your friend. He sounds like an amazing person.

mrsmadrigal said...

What a beautiful, beautiful post. I think you were both lucky to have known each other.

John Powers said...

ah what mrsmadrigal said! You were both lucky. Thanks for this beautiful post. I think you are putting this Internet thing to good use.

mikeb302000 said...

Thanks for sharing, Daisy.

sheila said...

How wonderful it is that you got to meet Van in your lifetime! A person who probably averted all kinds of bad stuff by taking you under his wing. To form such a deep friendship with a soul mate that touches your very core is simply just awesome! I believe you'll be together again~ sometime probably in another lifetime.
What a beautiful post!

Mista Jaycee said...

You've been tagged!

Renee said...

What a beautiful post. He sounds like a wonderful man. I am sorry for you loss.

ArrogantWorm said...

Thank you for sharing =)

Margo Anderson said...

Thank you so much for this! I lived with Van for a while in the mid 80's, and I think I remember him talking about you. He was a wonderful person. I only have one picture of him that's very fuzzy, so it's a joy to see him again.

Anthony La Russo said...

Ah, Mr. Van. So good to see someone commemorate him ever so beautifully. You really captured his spirit. For some reason, he seems to be in the air recently. And his message is definitely the same. Ever so encouraging. Rise up, use your wonderful tools. Do your work, and have fun doing it.

I'm laughing, too. Because I remember his Scorpio tongue. He really knew how to hold his ground. And then laugh in the next second. A true courageous warrior. With the Cosmic Giggle!
~~Light, Love, Blessings--ever so much,
~~Anthony La Russo

Julie said...

Dearest Daisy,

I too was a dear friend of Van's. We never got to spend alot of time together, but he used to come visit me alot when I lived at a place called Isis Oasis in Geyserville. I met him when we were at Samhain in San Fran... Starhawk and her Compost Coven were there and we got all dressed up and had a blast, connecting across the room immediately and strongly. We just loved each other. I gave him massages and he told me that high priestesses should never hoist their legs up in the air, that it was undignified. I have kept this invaluable advice close to my heart.

I heard that he had passed soon after the fact, and felt that I might never stop crying, missing him and his wonderful hugs, also sitting on his couch and peeing in my pants as we would find tremendous stuff to make fun of. He never got to see my daughter but we did do a phone introduction and he blessed her, and to this day she knows about her Uncle Van.

My email is

Please feel free to contact me if you would like. I miss him so, and knowing you new his special beauty as well helps him come back alive a bit. Blessings to you and all. Julie

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful posts on our beloved Van! He was a good friend through the Wicca and Reiki networks, and I treasure my memories of his magickal self!


Anonymous said...