Sometimes it’s easy for people to tell that you are truly in love — you find a way, whether intentional or not, to work your lover’s name into every conversation or practically every sentence. In Alan Shayne’s poignant and immensely readable memoir, The Rain May Pass (Rand-Smith LLC), once he meets Roger, the lover’s name — or a situation relating to him — seems to turn up on every page. Passionate love can come with different degrees of intrigue and/or baggage. In this case, teenager Alan connects on Cape Cod with a man twice his age in the summer of 1941, hardly a time of sexual freedom and acceptance.
That summer, Alan is “sentenced” to three months helping his grandmother run a gift shop in a tourist town on the Cape. He has spent nearly every summer of his life there. Still, he’s sulking but determined. He’ll get through, and he’ll find some answers to some nagging questions: Why doesn’t he fit in? Why can’t he measure up? Why did it matter to his friend Dudley that the girls he introduced him to were Jewish? Why did that man’s “nephew” give him such a look as he was leaving?
“Something was funny,” Alan thinks to himself. “I had a feeling there was some mystery they wouldn’t talk to me about. They treated me like I wasn’t old enough to know. What was it? It made me a little depressed, but I was fascinated, too.”
Insecure, confused, and lonely, Alan struggles to make friends. He dusts and re-arranges the cheap souvenirs and curios in the shop while dreaming about his future. He wants to be an actor.
It’s 1941, but the war across the pond was only headlines for Alan that summer. What was tripping him up and setting off personal fireworks was the handsome and unsettlingly sensual Roger.
It was a summer of personal discovery. Some may call it a loss of innocence, but it was also an introduction to pure, unquestioned, hopelessly passionate love. Alan’s first.
Yet he can’t talk about his feelings — it’s not allowed — and he’s suffocating in it, so wanting to touch Roger in public, to make plans for their future; but even Roger warns him off. “Don’t,” he says. “It isn’t right.”
Alan knows their relationship has to be secret, but he doesn’t really know why, and it would be decades before a sexual revolution would set men like Alan and Roger free to be themselves. “Please, just tell me it will be all right,” Alan begs Roger.
THE LAUNCH OF A CAREER IN ENTERTAINMENT
The story doesn’t end in September when the gift shop closes up, the tourists go home, the war tragically slogs on and on, and Alan is reunited with his family back in Brookline, MA. Alan’s dreams are consumed with memories of Roger and a fierce determination to take up acting. He goes back to school. Like all boys growing up, he argues with his parents, he makes life-altering decisions, and he moves ahead. He auditions for — and gets — a role in summer stock.
Young Alan is unaware of how good he is on stage or how much influence he wields, which makes him genuinely likable. He’s as surprised as he is excited when he sees his name in lights, even with its changed spelling (from Schein to Shayne — so people will know how to pronounce it).
Remarkably, he manages, when it becomes necessary, to mitigate disappointment with gratitude.
Knowing that this directionless teenager does indeed grow up to be a well-regarded actor on the Broadway stage, then a casting director, and for ten years the president of Warner Brothers Television makes The Rain May Pass a sweetly charming read, a peek into the private fears and dreams of a powerfully successful man.
The Rain May Pass isn’t billed as a prequel, but readers may want to seek out Shayne’s previously published book Double Life: Portrait of a Gay Marriage from Broadway to Hollywood, written with Norman Sunshine, his partner of 52 years. After reading The Rain May Pass, readers may want to know how a self-conscious, self-doubting teenager, once clumsy and onstage in an ill-fitting tuxedo, worked his way up to one of the most powerful positions in Hollywood.
Many years later, the world had changed so that 15-year-old Alan’s plea — “Please, just tell me it will be all right.” — has been answered. Finally, it is all right.