I felt inspired to create a character trapped in a few of his comfort zones, loaded down with addictions in a quirky off beat manner. Tony Russo glorifies these addictions— acting as his coping mechanisms. With Tony Russo’s drug and sugar addictions—on that slippery slope is his explosive relationship to sex. Like an insulin dependent diabetic,Tony resorts to sex to self-medicate himself.Tony not only acts out when he is lonely, hurt, or feels abandon, but also when he’s riding high on fun and happiness, looking to continue the adrenaline rush even more. I also wanted to create a character whose comforts have come back to bite him. I wanted Tony to be as humanistic, vulnerable, loving, edgy, and humorous as possible. I was not inspired to develop Tony into a stereotypical pretentious gay man ultimately headed toward doom and failure or total self-indulgence.That would have made him all too much of a cliché. I also needed to exercise a strong level of sensitivity settled into his core, of him having an awareness of his faults so that you the viewer might care about him. It’s this sensitivity that also indicates Tony struggling with his own personal demons. To endure this for the readers, I believe there to be this under current of humor—a comic voice.There is always this humor, sometimes dark, that shields him, also allowing the reader to breathe.Tony’s voice is also one where I hope has achieved this degree of intelligence, knowing right from wrong and consequences, and openly honest in revealing his vulnerability and shortcomings.
Tony Russo is a man of many colors. I wanted to have Tony’s entourage of friends to be very diverse and embracing, so that the reader can appreciate an open minded gay man that has allowed this unique range of different personalities into his world. With Nick, we have a life time friend of over 30 years, a coach potato, whose life is slowly crumbling. This relationship represents comfort, stability, loyalty, and deep trust. With Monica, we have a friend who enjoys life, who Tony clings to, because she reminds him of younger days and fun. With Michael, the drag queen, there is this sweet and protective tender connection, which also allows the both of them to dress up, be decadent, pushing them away from their own personal pain. With Ed, is this only reoccurring sex partner offering the reader and Tony hope that Tony has potential to commit to one person again. With the return of Javier, we see the one true love of Tony’s life. Although a complicated relationship, the reader sees a part of Tony before he got caught up in his day to day circus. I wanted to reveal a time in Tony’s life when he was monogamous and 100 per cent committed to another man. I felt this added depth and a romantic softness to his heart. The times of Tony and Javier represent a time, where there was true monogamous love and happiness, before life, and the scars of the ‘80s AIDS epidemic, began to wear Tony down. And with Josh, is the light at the end of the tunnel, that glimmer of hope, the knight in shining armor who is going to fix everything and give Tony a fairy tale ending. Tony’s one night stands are not just about his sexual urges, but him truly searching for a connection to make him feel less lonely and as he always says, “to feel big again.”
I think for the most part Tony is very much in his child always looking for immediate gratification.To explore that further, we see his fascination with drag and eventually agreeing with Michael to perform as Madonna in the circuit. As he mentions in the book it’s when he’s with Michael and they work together on the shows, that acting out is the furthest thing on his mind. I wanted to explore the decadence of drag, which also gives Tony another interesting layer. Although he says Michael lives for drag, unlike himself, I think he’s afraid to admit it’s just as important for him as well.
I gave Tony three areas which feeds into his comfort zone: being a big winner of the New York State lottery, having a rent stabilized apartment, and the luxury of finding online sex. I wanted those areas to be presented in such a way that contributes to the chaos in his life.
With the sub-plot of the nosy new upstairs neighbors is an indication that our precious uninterrupted space is not meant to last forever. Sometimes it needs to be put us into a chaotic state so we can reevaluate what we have become—forcing us to make changes. Tony is stuck on so many levels of his life.The same with winning the lottery, online sex, and living in a rent stabilized apartment.These are all comforts which have obviously left him to drift and flounder. His space needs to explode, forcing him to think.
I think the same goes with the “yuppie invasion” in Park Slope. Tony’s rants are also indicators of people invading his outdoor space. Tony resists the fact that Park Slope is not the same as his childhood years. His frustrations with all that, is also him resisting the new energy that has clearly taken over. I think Tony’s complaints and mockery of the yuppie invasion can be seen as a selfish side of him—not letting go of the past and acceptance of a changing world. I think there is a part of Tony that just wants to stay stuck in the past—particularly a past before the AIDS epidemic swallowed him up with emotional scars.
Tony is far from perfect. But he’s a caring person. He’s a loving person. He’s highly sensitive, warm, and funny. I believe the predicaments he has put himself can be relatable to many. Whether this be friendships, intimate relationships, loneliness, addictions, the struggle of dealing with low self-esteem or any other personal challenges.
Hopefully, you as the reader can see that this narrative speaks from the heart.The Space swings with colorful characters who help provide an honest, heartwarming perspective on an Italian man struggling with a painful past and an out-of-control present. It’s not just about addictions, comical situations and crazy behaviors. It’s also about friendships and intimate relationships both new and old—the struggle of letting go of some and allowing new ones to come into your life. It’s about loneliness and the need to connect with another human being to feel alive and wanted and the belief that we have a purpose. It’s simply about the power of many goodbyes and having the courage to move forward.
Copyright © 2012 by Vincent Caruso. All rights reserved. For reprint information contact Vincent Caruso.