This is the true story of being a White Asshole in black sitcoms. The first time I thought it must be a coincidence. But by the fourth or fifth time, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was I REALLY a White Asshole?
Category: Writing Page 1 of 2
After I had my knee replacement I got addicted to opioids in about ten minutes. This is how I kicked my addiction. I wrote this as a cautionary tale for anyone with pain. Or anybody prone to addiction.
We met Val Emmich when he won our Jersey City Pitchapalooza at Word Bookstore. He was so comfortable presenting, he paused in all the right places, and he put the right emphasis on all the right words. And he had a fantastic story. We found out he’s also a very accomplished actor and musician, which explained his ability to present himself. One of the greatest things about being a book doctor is when one of your patients gets a fab book deal with a fantastic publisher. Val did exactly that. So we thought we’d pick his brain about exactly how he managed to add Author to his impressive resume.
The Book Doctors: What were some of your favorite books as a kid, and why? What are you reading currently?
Val Emmich: I have pretty poor recall of my childhood years, which may be surprising coming from someone who just wrote a whole novel about a child with a near-perfect memory. That said, I do remember ripping through as many Hardy Boys books as I could. I also have a vivid recollection of listening to one of my teachers read aloud to our class Charlotte’s Web. I was riveted by it, probably because it’s about animals and I love animals, more than I love people. Right now, I’m reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, a recommendation from my father, and The Nix by Nathan Hill.
TBD: David was also an actor who became a writer of books. How do you think this helped you as you craft a first novel?
VE: Acting is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Embodying a character that isn’t you. It requires empathy and observational skills. You keep searching for how to get to the heart of the person you’re trying to portray. You’re looking for a detail that speaks to you. How someone walks. How he got that scar on his chin. How he styles his hair. This is all very similar to the character work necessary for writing a novel. Additionally, the process of reading and breaking down scripts was really instructive, both in terms of understanding the motivation and objective of a given scene and also how stories are structured and paced.
TBD: Tell us about The Reminders.
VE: Joan is ten and she’s got this rare condition where she can recall nearly every day of her life in exact detail. Then there’s Gavin, an actor in his thirties, who’s just lost his partner and soulmate, Sydney. Gavin attempts to rid his life of all reminders of Sydney, hoping it’ll soothe some of his overwhelming pain. But then he learns that Joan possesses detailed memories of Sydney, stories about him that Gavin has never heard, and Gavin has no choice but to dive back into the past. Meanwhile, Joan wants something back from Gavin. She’s the girl who can’t forget, but she’d rather be the girl who can’t be forgotten and she believes that Gavin, a semi-celebrity, might be able to help her achieve that dream.
The idea for the novel first came to me when my daughter fell out of a shopping cart in Home Depot and landed on her head on the concrete floor. Around the same time I saw a piece on 60 Minutes that featured people with this real-life memory condition known as highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM) and I had this absurd thought: What if my daughter’s bonk on the head resulted in her somehow acquiring this specialized memory? That ridiculous hypothesis, the playfulness of it, set the tone for the whole novel.
TBD: Please describe your path to publication.
VE: The quick version. I wrote one novel. It sucked. I wrote a second novel. It sucked less. I wrote a third novel. It was decent enough to get me an agent. We tore the novel apart, and I built it back up again essentially from scratch. Then my agent sold the book and my editors tore it up and I put it back together yet again. By the time the novel was published, in May of this year, it had been ten years of dedicated writing, along with tons of reading (other novels, how-to books), attending writers conferences and picking the brains of the few writers I had access to who had written books.
TBD: Was it difficult writing in two voices?
VE: Very. The most difficult parts were making sure the voices were both distinct and compelling. The consensus among my earliest readers seemed to be that Joan was the star of the book. I knew I’d never be able to have Gavin outshine her. That’s not his role. Still, I wanted to make sure his sections didn’t feel like a letdown after hers.
I’d listen to different music when writing in each voice. I found songs that seemed to tap into the energy of each character. After listening to the songs over and over, the music began to trigger an almost Pavlovian response in me where I’d immediately enter the head of that specific character. Also, I focused in a boringly technical way on the language used by my two protagonists. I created a detailed spreadsheet that counted the frequency of each word in each section. It showed me a lot about what I was organically doing with each character, and at that point, it was a matter of removing what made the two voices similar and emphasizing what made them different. Eventually, this overt hypersensitivity to vocabulary became second nature and I was able to write fluidly, making Joan and Gavin their own distinct people on the page.
TBD: We notice that you are doing house concerts to promote your book. What exactly are they, and how did you come up with the idea?
VE: It just made sense. The book is partially about music. I’m a musician, songwriter, and performer. I record and release albums. I have music fans. I hoped my music fans would also be interested in reading my book. On top of all that, I’ve been to enough poorly attended author events at bookstores, and even when they’re well attended, they can be boring when it’s just straight-up reading. I wanted to do a hybrid event, some reading, a bit of discussion, plenty of music. I didn’t feel like a bookstore or traditional music venue was going to offer the intimate, casual vibe I had in mind as well as the guarantee of a crowd. I wanted a place where people could relax and stay a while and where I could really forge a personal connection. I reached out to some of my fans and asked if they’d be interested in hosting shows in their homes and inviting all their friends. They said yes.
TBD: How does being a musician and songwriter affect your prose writing?
VE: Prose writing requires an ear, just like songwriting. You need to have a sense of rhythm. Also, with a song (at least with my songs) there’s usually a refrain or leitmotif that emphasizes an important theme or emotion. I try to do the same thing in my writing, sprinkle in timely repetitions to drive home something that I deem significant. But I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from my life in music has to with my understanding of the audience. Over two decades of performing in front of a crowd and engaging online with listener feedback, I’ve learned a lot about how to make people feel something. The goal is the same when writing prose: to trigger a reaction in the reader.
TBD: What are you working on next?
VE: I’ve started writing a new novel. Before I get too deep into it, I plan to record and release new music. Songwriting is more tactile and physical than prose writing. It also takes far less time. I need a more immediate artistic fix right now.
TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?
VE: Treat it like a real job and remember that even a so-called real job involves plenty of goofing off. Carve out time to write, whatever works for you, thirty minutes, four hours, however long and sit there, even if you’re not actually typing words or producing pages, just sit there. Even when you’re staring at a white page, mind wandering elsewhere, that’s okay. That’s work. Sitting there with that dumb look on your face is part of the job. Do it again the next day. And the next. If you miss a day, no worries. Miss two days? Doesn’t matter. Put yourself in that chair as many times as you can over as long a stretch as you can. If you keep showing up in that chair, over time, enough time, you might have something. Might not, but there’s no other way to do it. If you want it, that’s what’s required: hours. There’s less magic involved than the would-be writer might imagine. At the end of the day, it’s simple math. It’s a whole bunch of hours added up. Start spending them.
Dubbed a “Renaissance Man” by the New York Post, Val Emmich is a writer, singer-songwriter, and actor. He has had recurring roles on Vinyl and Ugly Betty as well as a memorable guest role as Liz Lemon’s coffee-boy fling, Jamie, on 30 Rock. Emmich lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his wife and their two children. The Reminders is his first novel.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
We first met Joan Garry through Susan Weinberg, the publisher of Perseus Books Group. Joan was whip smart, pistol sharp, savvy, funny, altogether awesome, and shockingly humble. We would never have guessed that she is a top dog when it comes to consulting with nonprofits. And her website is of-the-charts excellent. It almost didn’t matter what her book was, we knew she had the goods necessary for success. Now that her book Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership is out, we wanted to pick her brain about books, writing, and nonprofits.
The Book Doctors: There are other books on the subject of nonprofit management. Without an apparent hole in the market, how did you distinguish your book from what was already out there?
Joan Garry: You’re absolutely right – there are plenty of books about nonprofit management, but none that focus on what I call “shared leadership,” which is a challenge and opportunity quite unique to nonprofits.
What I mean is, there are books written for staff executives and resources galore for board leaders. But the reality is neither can be effective without the other. Nobody else has written about them as co-pilots of the same jet. If we don’t treat board chairs like they are in the cockpit, they won’t lead. This book is written for nonprofit leaders – the paid AND the unpaid.
I also found that a number of important topics were conspicuously absent. For example, storytelling plays an absolutely critical role in successful nonprofit leadership. A nonprofit ambassador who can tell a compelling and emotional story can invite folks to know more and do more. Crisis management is another missing topic. Far too few organizations are ready should a crisis strike.
Finally, I tried to bring a real sense of humor to the book. A lot of the book touches on personal experiences I had as a nonprofit Executive Director, a board leader, a donor, and a volunteer. I just had so many great stories to share and these stories are what make the book unique and fun to read – not just practical, though it is that too.
TBD: One thing about your book that’s different from the others out there is your voice. Why is the voice of your book important? For others writing books based on their business, what advice can you offer about bringing your voice into your book?
JG: I’m lucky. I write the way I speak and so folks say reading my work is like hearing me chat with them. My voice is informed by having played every position on the nonprofit field, so I have stood firmly in the shoes of my readers. I have personally experienced many of the same issues and concerns they have – good and bad.
Most nonprofit leadership books tend to be pretty clinical and instructive. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that’s not the book I wanted to write. I wanted to demonstrate the joy that the best leaders bring to their work. And it’s a short ride from joy to humor. And there’s plenty of humor in my book. I just think that makes it a lot more fun to read, which ultimately makes it easier to absorb the material.
TBD: You have an incredible team that works with you. How did this team help you get your proposal, book, and your marketing done? Why is it important to have a team?
JG: Some people have a family business – I call mine a ‘chosen family business’ – a small team of colleagues who are smart and dedicated to the work we do. Each of us is clear that we are advocates for the success of nonprofit leaders and we always keep our eye on what we believe would be most helpful to the folks we serve – staff and board leaders. We each brought something different to the development of the book proposal to chapter editing to marketing the book. The brand, the audience, the strategy to reach that particular audience, the content. Each of us were advocates in each of these areas. There’s no way I could have done all this by myself.
TBD: When we first met you, we were really struck by your website. We’ve continued to be so impressed by all your social media — particularly your newsletters. How did you develop your digital platform? What are some things that have worked, and what are some things that haven’t?
JG: I started to build my digital platform in late 2012. One of the best business decisions I ever made was hiring my digital strategist, Scott Paley at Abstract Edge. When I first reached out to him, based on a recommendation I got from somebody else who had worked with his company, I told him I needed a new website for my consulting business. That’s all I thought I needed. What did I know? In our very first conversation, he gave me a vision for what could be – a much bigger vision that I had imagined.
That conversation ultimately led to my blog, my social media, my podcast, my gig as a panelist on NBC’s Give (the first network TV reality show about nonprofits), my upcoming online education platform, and even the opportunity to have a major publisher interested in publishing my book. Now, whenever I write something online, tens of thousands of people read it! Not surprisingly, my consulting practice completely took off. It’s just amazing.
The biggest thing about this platform is that I just focus on helping people. I recently had Adam Grant on the podcast. He’s the author of a best selling book that’s all about “givers” and “takers”. His philosophy has been a big influence. Everything I do online is about giving. I never worry that I’m giving away too much. I really think that’s been the secret.
Most of what we’ve tried has worked very well. The one exception was a couple years ago we built an area on my website called “The Couch.” It was a place where nonprofit people could anonymously vent about their frustrations and others could sympathize. After a couple of months, we realized that it was too negative and we shut it down. But I don’t view that as a failure at all. It taught us a lot about what “Joan Garry” stands for as a brand and how important it is for all of our media to be on brand.
TBD: What did you find challenging about turning your business into a book?
JG: So much of what I do with my clients is teach. I’m an educator. I think writing the book was easier for me because of that and because of how much I’ve already written on my blog. The blog is a place where I can formulate my ideas and get them down in writing and get feedback from literally thousands of people who understand exactly what I’m writing about. The blog is an amazing crucible for me in that sense and the outcome of all that thinking and all that feedback is this book. Without that, it certainly would have been much more challenging to write.
TBD: Did you find that writing a book helped you with your business?
JG: I’ll let you know in about 6-9 months. J
But I will say that the process of writing the book has helped me to organize some of what I teach my clients in new ways I hadn’t previously considered. So in that sense, absolutely it has helped.
TBD: Your book is officially published on March 6, but you’ve been so successful in garnering pre-orders. Can you tell us a little bit about how you did this?
JG: Largely this was also the work of Scott, my digital strategist, and his team at Abstract Edge. They created a gorgeous website for the book (www.nonprofitsaremessy.com), but more importantly they put together a plan that really leveraged the audience we’ve built up over the last 4 years.
We’re offering valuable book bonuses for pre-orders. We developed a really smart rollout strategy that includes the blog, the podcast, my email list, and social media. We organized a volunteer “launch team” to help spread the word. Created a Thunderclap, which will help spread the word even further on launch day. We’ve given copies of the book to some well-known folks in the nonprofit world who are saying lovely things about it and telling their networks. All of that has led to a much larger volume of pre-sales than the publisher was initially anticipating.
I’ve been absolutely thrilled by the response.
TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?
- Make sure you have something unique to say and can say it in a way that sticks.
- Be absolutely clear about who you are speaking to and be as specific as possible. You have to really understand your readers’ concerns and issues.
- Be passionate about ensuring that the maximum number of those people have the opportunity to buy it. And be ready to invest time, energy and money in reaching them.
Widely known as the “Dear Abby” of nonprofit leadership, Joan Garry works with nonprofit CEOs and boards as a strategic advisor, crisis manager, change agent and strategic planner. Her nonprofit blog at joangarry.com reaches leaders in over 150 countries and she hosts a top nonprofit podcast on iTunes: Nonprofits Are Messy. Joan also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on nonprofit communications and leadership.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
We first met Jackson Michael when he pitched a book to us at the Texas Book Festival in Austin. At that time he was just a guy with a dream and a proposal. Now he is the proud author of The Game Before the Money, a fantastic book about his passion. He has parlayed that success into a radio show and a documentary film. So we picked his brain on how the heck he did it.
The Book Doctors: Please describe your documentary project, and tell us what inspired it.
Jackson Michael: We Were the Oilers: The Luv Ya Blue Era reunites and celebrates the Houston Oilers of the late 1970s. The team came within one game of the Super Bowl two years in a row. Player interviews anchor the show, and viewers hear intimate stories of thrills and sorrow from people like Dan Pastorini, Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea, and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. Earl Campbell tells a great story about Bum Phillips calling him before the NFL Draft.
Ultimately, I wanted to trace the dreams of these once young men and follow their stories through present day. What’s it like to come that close to your life’s dream, knowing you’ll never get another chance later in life?
They say, “Art imitates life,” but sports do likewise. Few teams capture the hope and heartbreak of life like the Luv Ya Blue era Houston Oilers.
TBD: Tell us how you got this monumental project off the ground.
JM: We ended up doing the documentary in four months, which was truly miraculous. My wife, Lisa/11 Productions, needed a video crew for a different project. She found Jeff Power TV Productions, and while Jeff wasn’t right for Lisa’s other project, he was a perfect fit for We Were the Oilers. Things moved quickly and the timing couldn’t have been better.
Jeff reached out to Dan Pastorini, who coincidentally was about to have an event for the Dan Pastorini Charity and Bum Phillips Charities. So, many of the Oilers were going to be in one place at the same time. Our hope was to produce and secure distribution in time for the Super Bowl and the excitement surrounding Houston.
We got a ton of support from Dan, and Debbie Phillips. The Oiler players really liked the idea, and ROOT SPORTS Southwest committed to airing it around the Super Bowl. All of a sudden, we had interviews scheduled and a hard deadline. One of those cases when if something’s meant to happen, it’s meant to happen. We just added our faith, perseverance, and hard work.
TBD: People are so emotional and invested in their teams. Is Houston still with the Oilers?
JM: The relationship between the Oilers and their fans was truly incredible. Fifty thousand fans flooded the Astrodome to greet the team after they lost at Pittsburgh. That’s a special bond between team and city, one that touches the players’ hearts to this day. In one week our Facebook post generated over 1,000 shares alone. The comments from the fans confirmed that deep bond.
Nowadays, there’s an interesting dynamic. Houston has a new team, the Texans, but a substantial number of fans stuck with the Oilers after they moved to Tennessee. You’re almost as likely to see a Titans pennant in your neighbor’s garage as you are to see a J.J. Watt poster. This is especially true in places outside of Houston. Some fans even cheer for both teams.
TBD: We’re curious about your trajectory from being someone who didn’t really know anyone in the professional sports industry to now having a book, radio show, and a documentary about your passion.
JM: People always say, “Follow your passion,” but there isn’t really a roadmap for following it. I met Robert Hurst, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame artist, at a backyard party. Everything started from there, as he introduced me to a few players for The Game Before the Money.
You could say I followed my passion, but really I followed any chance that presented itself. Once the University of Nebraska Press published the book, the radio people looked at me and said, “Hey, this guy wrote a book!” Then, when pitching the documentary, people said, “Hey, this guy wrote a book and hosts a radio show!” Without those foundations, I’m just another guy who rambles about sports history beyond what’s socially acceptable.
In a nutshell, take what you’ve done and parlay that into another project.
TBD: Those Oiler teams were so fun. What do you think made them such crowd pleasers, and why did people fall in love with that team?
JM: A lot of things aligned. The Oilers found success right around the time the “Urban Cowboy” trend gained popularity – and there was Bum Phillips, taking time away from his ranch, standing on the sideline with a cowboy hat and boots. They had Earl Campbell, one of the league’s most exciting rushers since Jim Brown. Dan Pastorini raced cars and briefly dated Farah Fawcett. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson created the NFL’s first touchdown dance, and every kid who scored a schoolyard touchdown imitated it. The Oilers had the type of characters that drove 1970s football.
TBD: What’s it like to interview guys who you grew up watching, in some cases maybe even idolizing?
JM: I always say it’s like having your childhood football cards come to life. And it never gets old. Each and every interview is as special as the first one. It’s an honor and a privilege to do this work.
TBD: How do you think the NFL has changed since those halcyon days?
JM: Well, money is the obvious answer. Free agency increased salaries exponentially. The NFL’s fan base grew enormously since the AFL/NFL merger, and revenues are galaxies beyond what Bud Adams imagined when he founded the Oilers.
Back in the 1970s, even star players lived in middle-class neighborhoods. Almost every player had an off-season job. A friend of mine remembers Oiler Ken Burrough loading furniture into his family’s vehicle. Imagine being an 8-year old kid watching the AFC’s leading receiver loading Dad’s new recliner!
All that aside, football is still football. The game’s cemented into our culture. Although even mediocre players can make millions and franchises are worth over a billion, at the end of the day, we who love football forget that for 3 hours and enjoy the type of drama and excitement that only pro football provides.
TBD: Where is the show going to broadcast, and how can we watch it?
JM: Right now the show is airing on ROOT SPORTS Southwest, and they’ll air it right through Super Bowl 51. It’s great because anybody who’s in Houston for the Super Bowl can likely watch it at the hotel. We’re looking at working with other networks, online streaming, and currently taking pre-orders for the DVDs on The Game Before the Money website.
TBD: How different was it to write a documentary versus writing a book?
JM: Writing a book is a very solitary experience. I worked on the book for a couple of years before a copy editor jumped in.
You have to work with a team in film. That took a little getting used to, because it’s not easy to let go and let somebody else take over creative aspects of your idea. Since we did this on a tight budget, we were resourceful. My background is in music and audio engineering, so I wrote and recorded all the music. That saved us a lot of money right there. We’ve done all of our own promotion and marketing as well. We all wore multiple hats.
The cool part was that Lisa was the executive producer. I think it was Tom Waits who said that working creatively with your wife is like getting to spend the same $20 bill over and over. Lisa created the storyboard, something I’d never encountered in writing a book. I’m like, “You mean we don’t use index cards?”
TBD: We hate to ask, but what advice do you have for people looking to put together a project like this?
JM: Two things: one that I knew beforehand, and one that I learned through the process.
The key to doing any sort of work involving interviews is listening. Allow people to tell you the story. Do your research and have an idea of what the story might be, but also be ready to adjust should you find your storyline was wrong. Your job is to get it right. Be prepared to rewrite your entire script based on what people tell you during interviews, rather than fishing for answers that fit your preconceived notions.
The big lesson learned from doing We Were the Oilers centered around permissions. When writing a book, you can describe logos and photographs all you’d like. You can’t, however, just toss photos and logos into a film by right-clicking on the internet and hitting “Save Image As.”
We were pleasantly surprised at how well received our requests turned out to be. The Titans allowed use of the Oiler logo, and Topps allowed classic football cards to be onscreen. It was a bit intimating making those phone calls as a small-budget production, and we didn’t know if anyone would call us back. People did call back, though, and everyone was friendly and helpful. We made sure that we were “buttoned-up” from a copyright perspective and now we’re on everyone’s radar in a good way.
A true sports geek, Jackson Michael possesses a near encyclopedic knowledge of sports history. The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL is his first book. Michael is the writer/director and music composer for the documentary We Were the Oilers: The Luv Ya Blue! Era, featuring his original song, “Sometimes a Dream (Only Comes True in Your Heart)”. Michael worked for several years with the Austin Daze, as the alternative newspaper’s entertainment writer and music critic. He conducted interviews for Tape Op magazine, the most widely distributed periodical in the field of audio engineering. His music career includes five solo five albums, and he has recorded with Barbara K (Timbuk 3), Kim Deschamps (Cowboy Junkies) and Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey). A skilled audio engineer, Michael has recorded albums for a number of Texas music acts. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and the Maxwell Football Club. Michael lives in New Braunfels, Texas with his wife Lisa and their awesome dog, Indy. Learn more at TheGameBeforeTheMoney.com and JacksonRocks.com.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
When David first met Tyler Knight, he was blown away by the combination of insight, intelligence, articulation, and smoldering black man porn star sexuality. They’ve been friends ever since. And now that his memoir is coming out, we thought we’d pick his brain on what’s harder, getting into porn or publishing.
The Book Doctors: Why in God’s name would you do something as crazy as writing a memoir?
Tyler Knight: I had no choice. There was a story in me and it was bursting to get out whether I wanted it to or not. The irony is when I was a kid with little life experience, I wanted to write but I had nothing to say. Later, as a middle-aged man, I didn’t want to commit to writing a memoir, but the story inside me had other ideas. I read Jerry Stahl’s Permanent Midnight, Dave Eggers’ A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius, and Mary Karr’s Liar’s Club. Those books showed me that to write a memoir that was worth reading required deep introspection… Picking at scabs and old scars, and then write the truth about myself no matter how ugly… And I wasn’t sure I’d the mettle to do that, let alone share it with the world. I knew it’d be a Sisyphean task of writing draft after draft of a manuscript for many years in a vacuum with no promise that the book would ever see the light of day. I expected my manuscript would be rejected by scores of literary agents. Maybe I’d find an agent crazy enough to schlep a literary memoir, from a pornographer no less, from publishing house to house until he found an editor who loved it. And that’s precisely what happened. But I also knew that I’d have no inner peace if I didn’t do it.
TBD: David’s family didn’t speak to him for about five years after his memoir, Chicken, came out. Has there been any fallout, blowback, or madness as a result of you writing about your life in public?
TK: Well, I haven’t spoken with my father or anyone on my father’s side of the family since the ‘90s anyway, so there was no effect there. My mother’s side of the family… I can’t be certain if they know what I do for a living or not. It’s odd and telling when at Thanksgiving, people at the table never ask me how work is going. Sometimes the absence of conversation says more than the words that are said…
TBD: We are big fans of Rare Bird; they put out great books. Tell us about your process of getting this book published.
TK: My agent, Peter McGuigan, who co-heads Foundry Literary, was extremely hands-on with the editing process. I’d send him drafts, and he’d ink them up and send them back. Peter was my de facto MFA professor. Once we got to a point where the work was salable, he stopped shaping it… He knew it was important that whichever editor acquired the manuscript felt that they had room to put their own stamp on it. The feedback from some of the big houses was a lot of, “Right, he is a talented writer, but we need to make it more commercial.” That would have been more than just putting a stamp on the work. Peter showed it to Tyson at Rare Bird. We met in his office for a half hour meeting that stretched into almost three hours. We talked what I was trying to say, and he had ideas on how to clarify my vision. He got me. We came from the same planet. Books can take years to come out, so the relationship between editor and author is like a marriage. Both parties have to decide that they can work together for years to bring the book into the world.
TBD: While you’re at it, tell us about some of the joys and difficulties of writing a book about yourself and your crazy life.
TK: I come from a school of literary minimalism called Dangerous Writing. Its most prominent practitioners would be Chuck Palahniuk and Amy Hempel. It’s called Dangerous Writing because it forces you to explore what scares you… What about yourself would be mortifying if anyone else knew about it… And you go deep into those crevasses and linger until the feelings are exhausted, then move onto the next. It asks nothing less than absolute commitment to honesty from the author. It’s the perfect cypher for a memoir. Exacting my pound of flesh was the most alive I’ve ever felt in my life.
I have no interest whatsoever in foisting upon the public some bullshit celebrity “I’m-just-like-you!” zeitgeist memoir that risks nothing, asks nothing of its readers, and leaves them just as clueless as to who the author is as a human fucking being when they started reading. I declare the airport memoir dead.
TBD: You have such an incredible way with words, you really make us feel like we’re right in the middle of your life, with all the sights, sounds, and yes, smells that accompany this life. How did you manage to do that?
TK: Thanks, David. That’s a technique of Dangerous Writing: Going to the Body. You sprinkle details about sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch all through the story that, by themselves may not seem like much, but the cumulative impact by the end of the story is nothing less than visceral. My Bukkake story was the first time after many attempts where I finally got it right.
TBD: David gets writing from all over the world that revolves around sex. Most of it is really bad. What approach did you take to writing about sex?
TK: Yeah, most sex writing sucks because their authors love their metaphors and adverbs, and fail to grasp the concept of less is more. My approach was to show, don’t tell. Again, that’s both Going to the Body, and another technique called Recording Angel… You show the reader details without judgement (no labeling anything as good, bad, sexy, whatever), and let her unpack the details and reassemble them in her mind as she reads. Trust the reader to come to her own conclusion… To take ownership in the creation of the scene and story as she reads it. Far more powerful that way.
TBD: What made you decide to use a quote from Moby Dick in a book about your life as a porn stud?
TK: Moby Dick is my favorite novel, and the Knights and Squires section spoke to me… The conflict of good and evil wrestling for possession of a working man’s soul… Dignity in whatever your station in life may be… Faith and moral courage…
TBD: Which was harder, breaking into the adult film industry, or the publishing industry?
TK: Publishing, by far, is more difficult. So, you’re a good writer. Who cares? You still must do the work. Even then, your work may be rejected based on your query letter (basically a sales letter to agents about your book which doesn’t contain a single sentence of your actual book) by a 22-year-old intern who screened and deleted it before anyone in the position to say “yes” to you ever reads it. It happened to me. It happens to everyone. At least with porn, if you are not hideous and you can do the job, they’ll find a place for you. Don’t get me wrong, porn is by no means easy to get into, and it’s far from a meritocracy, but you will get judged on your ability to perform from the get go, sink or swim, rather than a being judged on some letter you wrote describing how good you’d be if you just had a chance.
TBD: What, if any, are your plans for writing?
TK: This is it. Burn My Shadow isn’t a vanity project for me. I’ve pushed my chips all-in with writing books… I can’t imagine a life without writing. I have a novel in its third draft which has nothing to do with pornography.
TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?
TK: Lookit, I broke every rule and piece of advice that writers should follow, from not sticking to a disciplined writing schedule, to writing a memoir entirely in first-person, present tense. The world already has every example of how a book should be written. What the world doesn’t have is your take on things. Tell your story however you damn well please. The more specific it is to you and your truths, the broader its appeal to the world. Just write, man.
Tyler Knight, author of Burn My Shadow: A Selective Memory of an X-Rated Life, is an adult film star who has starred in over 500 films. In 2009 he won the Good For Her Feminist Porn Award, as Heartthrob of the Year, and was a Playgirl Spokesmodel. In 2010 he was nominated for the Urban X Award for Performer of the Year. He has also been nominated for eighteen AVN awards and has won three. Tyler lives in Los Angeles.
JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER TO RECEIVE MORE INTERVIEWS AND TIPS ON HOW TO GET PUBLISHED.
We first met Debra Diamond when at Pitchapalooza in Politics and Prose, one of the great book stores in America. She has completed an amazing journey from Wall Street money manager to artist, psychic and published author. We thought we’d check in with her and see what she has to report.
To read this interview on the Huffington Post, click here.
The Book Doctors: Why did you decide to do something as ridiculous as write a book?
Debra Diamond: You have this idea and think, “I’m going to write a book,” and don’t realize until you’re down the road what you’ve gotten yourself into. It’s overwhelming and exhilarating, and challenging and while I wrestled the book to the ground, I often thought, “What the hell am I doing?”
I always wanted to write a book and have been writing my whole life, although some of it was in my former work on Wall Street. Growing up, I was a big reader. I knew I wanted to write a book and first tried my hand at fiction. That was like getting my MFA or being thrown into the deep end and trying to keep my head above water. Writing a book is hard. It’s even harder if you don’t know what you’re doing, which I didn’t. The first manuscript had some good moments but let’s just say this: I’m leaving it in the desk drawer. Life After Near Death is actually my third manuscript. I had the idea of doing research on near-death experience aftereffects, which are not well understood or researched. After I finished the research, the next step was putting the information into a book.
TBD: How did you learn to be a writer?
DD: I started out in a writing group in Taos, New Mexico. The teacher was excellent. Everyone in the group had to learn how to do critique, to understand what worked and what didn’t in our writing, and why. That helped me to understand what writing was about a bit better. From there, I was juried into a writing group at the 92nd Street Y in New York, wrote in a workshop at the Writers Center in Washington, DC, and attended writers conferences, listened to speakers talk about their craft. I read every book I could get my hands on and paid attention to how writers do their jobs. But the best way to learn to be a writer is to write. Practice. Practice. Practice.
TBD: What are some of your favorite books and writers, and why?
DD: I love Mary Karr. The Liars’ Club was dazzling, and what it did for memoir was noteworthy, creating a new template in an existing genre. Michael Lewis because he can take a dry topic (Wall Street) and bring it to life. I especially like Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood because he makes some comments in that book that most of us would never say, much less reveal in a book for the public.
I love thrillers and am in awe of those authors who can juggle conflict, character arc, multiple plot lines, spicy dialogue and compelling settings as if they’re writing a late-for-school notice. I started reading Dennis Lehane back in the early ’90s with A Drink Before the War and Darkness, Take My Hand. I like Joseph Finder and local Baltimore author Laura Lippman because both of them know how to tell a good story.
TBD: How did you go about getting your book deal?
DD: I decided to give traditional publishing a try. It can often take years to find an agent and publisher and then another 18-24 months after that until the book comes out. I wanted this book to be published sooner so I made up my mind that I’d try to find a publisher for a few months, and if that didn’t work, I’d self-publish.
I wrote a query letter that went out to over 200 publishers that I thought would be interested in the topic. The list included college and academic presses, small and intermediate publishers, theological book publishers, publishers in the spirituality and new age categories and the big five New York publishing houses.
The query letter was short but concise, three paragraphs long. The first paragraph described the book (research on a universe of more than 50 people and specific near-death aftereffects including mathematical gifts, enhanced hearing, improved eyesight, electrical sensitivity). The second paragraph explained my marketing approach, and the third paragraph was my bio (former Wall Street money manager and artist who left a high profile life to pursue a life of purpose and spirituality, former regular commentator on CNBC).
Fifteen minutes after the query letters went out, my email inbox was flooded. I had over 35 requests for the book proposal and am still receiving them. The responses ran the gamut from one publisher who said, “With your background, I know you’re going to go with a New York publisher and don’t want to get my hopes up,” to one of the Big Five where four different editors approached me for a proposal to one publisher who emailed me a contract without any preliminaries. I had multiple offers. I didn’t have an agent, so I had to go out and find one. I chose a publisher who fast-tracked the book. It will be released in January 2016, one year after the query letters went out.
DD: I’d like to say that I just close my eyes and everything instantly comes to me. The truth is, I’m just like everyone else. Writing, art or any of the creative endeavors, require hard work and discipline. I have to sit down and do the work just like everyone else. There are no short cuts. I may be open at times because I’m a psychic, but that doesn’t get the book written or do the research or make the work of revising any easier. In truth, lots of creative people are open, and if they’re lucky, find that thread of an idea that wants to emerge. If they’re very lucky, they can access it and nurture it. Being psychic may help the creative process incrementally, but I’m just like everyone else who is searching for the right words, the right phrase, the right image. I still have to do the work.
TBD: How would you react to skeptics who say that clairvoyance is not possible?
DD: I’d say, “Okay.”
The truth is, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I think many people have had experiences for which there is no logical explanation. Sometimes we can look outside ourselves for answers. But for some people, no matter what I tell them, they’ll never be convinced. And that’s okay. It’s not my job to try to convert anyone.
TBD: What advice do you have for artists starting their own businesses?
DD: Being in the arts, as an artist, writer, musician, is tough.
I might suggest that they have a steady full-time job until they can build up enough of a business that they can afford to become a full-time artist (writer, musician) because it takes time and you have to eat in the meantime.
TBD: I hate to ask you this, but what advice you have for writers?
DD: Keep writing. It’s how you get better. Don’t give up. I met a woman at a writers conference who had a book coming out. I asked her how many books she’d written before she got this one published and she said, “Eighteen.” I’m not sure if that’s extreme, but I know that you have to keep going. I look at writing the same way I look at all businesses (and I came out of the business world where I watched businesses develop and grow). It takes time, grit, focus, hard work; plus you have to have something that other people want. If you write a book that no one is interested in reading, it might not help you get to the end destination. A lot of things have to break the right way to skew the odds in your favor. You have control over some, and not others.
Debra Diamond is a former Wall Street money manager and artist who left a high-profile life to pursue one of purpose and spirituality. In 2008, she had a transformational experience that left her with unconventional powers as a clairvoyant and medium. As an investment professional, Debra was a professor at Johns Hopkins University and a regular commentator on CNBC. She was profiled in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Baltimore Sun. She has an MBA from George Washington University and is a graduate of Christie’s Education and the Jung Institute. The mother of three sons, Debra splits her time between Taos, New Mexico, and the East Coast.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
Join our newsletter to receive more interviews and tips on how to get published.
This was published at Animal: a beast of a literary magazine. It is a true story about when I fell in love with an animal.
Me & Sally: A True Interspecies Love Story
by David Henry Sterry
Sally and I are hired to act in a Michelob beer commercial. The theme of the spot is evolution. I am cast as a Neanderthal Man. Typecasting.
Four hours I sit while a crew of highly skilled make-up artists glue thin layers of skin-colored latex over my face, transforming me from end of Second-Millennium American Homo Sapien into a caveman: gigantic forehead with a scary hairy monobrow, wee sunken eyes, a flaring nose cauliflowering across my cheeks, thick rubber caveman lips, and huge wooly mammoth-eating fake teeth. I look for a long time in the mirror but I can’t find myself in there anywhere. I feel the strong desire to grunt and snarl and hump someone from behind.
Finally, I am ready for my introduction to Sally. Her handler comes up to me, very serious. “Don’t make eye contact at first. Let her come to you. Get down on her level and don’t make any quick movements. Be very calm and very still. They sense fear. She can jump six feet straight up in the air, and she’s ten times stronger than a human being. Sally’s jaw is so strong she could snap your arm in two like a twig. It’s really important she doesn’t feel any fear coming off you.”
All I can see is my bloody hand dangling out of her mouth.
Sally comes out of her trailer, hand-in-hand with another trainer. I squat down to her level. Avert my eyes. I can feel Sally’s stare as she inches slowly towards me. I’m so scared I have no spit. There’s a small crowd gathering, all quiet tension, waiting to see what Sally will do to David the Neanderthal. Finally she’s right in my face. Since I’m not making eye contact for fear of having my Adam’s apple ripped out, I smell her before I see her. She smells clean, wild, untamed, of the earth. I feel myself calm when I smell her. Slowly, ever slowly, I turn towards her, raising my head like a simian Southern belle, bringing my eyes up to meet hers.
Wise, curious, clever, keen, deep, sharp, smart, mysterious animal passion beams from Sally into me, jolting my soul and rattling my bones. Her face is a picture of puzzlement, brows knitted, head tilted to one side. As she stares into my half-man, half-monkey face, I find I can read her thoughts: “What are you? You’re not one of them, but there’s no way you’re one of me…Really, what are you?”
Sally sniffs me suspiciously, moving her mouth to my jaw. Her hot breath on my lips, I’m trying desperately not to visualize her biting my nose off. Sally brings her lips to my cheek, puckers, and covers my face and lips with tiny sweet little kisses.
I’m overcome, undone, head-over-heels in love with Sally. She puts her arms around my neck and hops into my arms. The crowd oohs and ahs, witness to the start of a great love story.
For the rest of the shoot, whenever Sally sees me, she runs up to me excited as a bride, jumps up in my arms, and covers me with kisses. We cakewalk around the set, handholding, swooning and spooning. I’ve never known a female who was so openly, unabashedly, good-naturedly affectionate. Work laws for actors like Sally are very strict, due to decades of abuse. So we can only show our affection in 12-hour shifts.
In the commercial I, Neanderthal, will be sitting next to Sally, while an actress, playing a waitress, flirts with me. We block the scene without Sally. The actress walks up to me stiffly, just lobbing her line in my general vicinity, like a lazy newsboy tossing an errant morning paper:
“Hey, Good Looking, come here often?”
It’s bad. Bad, bad, bad. The director stops everything, walks over to her all cocksure and says, “I need you to hot it up, honey, make with the goo-goo eyes, like you did in the callback, babe.” She promises she will, and shoots him an obligatory sex-baby look, which evaporates into disdain as soon as the director walks away.
Lights are tweaked. Camera focused. Hair, make-up and wardrobe are fluffed, patted, and tucked. Finally hundreds of highly paid technicians and advertising geeks are ready to make commercial magic.
Sally is brought in, hops up on her stool next to me at the bar, and kisses me on the cheek as I whisper sweet nothings into her ear.
“Scene 4, take 1. Roll camera!”
“Camera rolling. Speed.”
The actress walks towards us like a nervous hamster at a cat show. Even I can smell her fear. She starts to make very tentative flirty eyes in my direction.
Sally goes bananas, jumps up on the bar, bares her teeth, and hisses, looking like she’s going to rip this poor spooked woman’s heart out, show it to her, then eat it. The actress’ scream curdles blood as she runs wailing and weeping through the set, and out the door.
I thought the advertising geeks should have used that in the commercial, because it said more about evolution than any of the lame shit they came up with. But no, they decide to write the waitress out of the commercial.
Then it’s 6:30 p.m., and we’re way behind schedule. So they send some junior flunky over to Sally’s trainer and he asks if they can get Sally to work overtime, because if they don’t get all her shots, they’re going to have to bring everybody back for another day and go way over budget.
The trainer looks at the mad man like he’s a lunatic and says he seriously doubts Sally will want to work overtime, but he’ll see what he can do.
6:45 PM. The ad geeks huddle, whispering toxically. A much-better dressed executive walks up to the trainer. They’ll pay whatever he wants. Name the price.
The trainer smiles and slowly reminds the executive that Sally’s not particularly financially motivated.
“Well then we’ll give her all the damn bananas she wants,” says the better-dressed executive.
“Well,” explains the trainer patiently, as if he’s talking to a dumb animal, “Sally already gets all the bananas she wants, but I’ll see what I can do.”
6:58 p.m. The best-dressed executive hustles over to the trainer.
“Listen, I don’t care what she wants, we need to get three more shots before she leaves, is that clear?”
You can see the trainer’s about to lose it, wishing to God that he only had to deal with reasonable animals.
But before he could say anything, it’s 7 o’clock, exactly 12 hours after Sally started working. Sally steps up on the bar, and slowly, dramatically, like the consummate performer she is, raises her left arm over her head, and slaps her wrist three times where a watch would be. She jumps down, grabs my hand, and pulls me toward the door. Sally and I proceed through the set and straight out the door, hand-in-hand, a bride and Neanderthal groom heading for our abba dabba honeymoon.
They’re forced to bring everybody back the next day, and Sally is hailed as a hero. When I ask the trainer, he tells me that Sally has an extremely acute sense of time. Because she works so often, she knows exactly when 12 hours are up, and has figured out that by making the sign for time, not only will her day be over, she’ll also make everyone love her and get the Big Laugh. All day, whenever it’s time for a meal, or a break, everyone from actors to Teamsters raise their left hand up over their head, and slap their wrist three times where a watch would be, in silent homage to Sally. Much to the amusement of everyone except the ad geeks, who seem basically jaded and disgusted by pretty much everything except what swanky restaurant they’re going to eat at that night.
As for me, by the end of the shoot I’m madly in love with Sally. But alas, we were from different worlds. As her trailer pulls away a great wave of terrible sadness washes over me and I’m not embarrassed when big silent tears roll down my Neanderthal cheeks. Ours was a love that could never be.
About David Henry Sterry
David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and co-founder of The Book Doctors. His first memoir, Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10-Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 12 languages, and is being made into a movie by the showrunner of Dexter. His book Hos Hookers, Call Girls & Rent Boys appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. He has featured on NPR, the London Times, Washington Post, and the Wall St. Journal. He writes for the Huffington Post, Salon, and Rumpus. He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.
The Book Doctors were lucky enough to get to keynote the New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If you are in any way, shape, or form interested in writing a book for kids, you’re crazy not to hook up with this organization. There’s so many smart, encouraging, inspiring, learned people both teaching workshops and attending them. This year we were fortunate enough to meet one of the founders of SCBWI, Stephen Mooser, himself the author of over 60 books. So we thought we’d pick his brain about the intersection of books, kids and writing. To read on the Huffington Post click here.
The Book Doctors: How did you get started as a writer?
Stephen Mooser: I have a degree in film from UCLA and another from UCLA in Journalism so though I was not a very good filmmaker, I discovered that what I really liked was stories, and had always been writing stories as I grew up. After a three year stint in various jobs, including two of those years looking for treasures in Utah and Panama, also unsuccessfully, I got a job writing a reading program for a major publisher. Over five years I wrote almost 250 books for a program that, after a run in schools, became the basis for Learning Company’s Reader Rabbit — also at that job I met a fellow writer, Lin Oliver, and together we started the SCBWI in 1971.
TBD: What were your favorite books growing up, and why?
SM: I loved adventure — so Treasure Island may have been my all time favorite book, but I also read lots of science fiction, 2 newspapers every day, and lots of nonfiction, especially true stories of weird and strange events and people. Many of these interests eventually found their way into my books for children.
TBD: How did you get started in the book business?
SM: Writing the Reading Program and starting the SCBWI opened the door to publishing for children. Even from the organization’s early days I met generous and talented authors and agents who mentored me. Sid Fleischman became a mentor and lifelong friend and helped me with what became my first published book, 101 Black Cats, for Scholastic with illustrations by Quentin Blake.
TBD: How did you go about starting the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators?
SM: As I mentioned above I met Lin Oliver while we were writers on the Reading Program. We looked around for an organization to join and when we discovered there was nothing out there, we took out an ad in Writers Digest and a week later had our first 5 members. What we had not realized was what a wonderful community we had tapped into. The SCBWI, save for a small paid staff, is entirely made up of volunteers who run our 100 plus chapters around the world because they care about literacy and creating great books for children — without them we never would have grown to more than 22,000 members today.
TBD: Tell me about Class Clown Academy, it’s such a fun book!
SM: I have published more than 60 books for children, picture books, nonfiction, middle grade series and some novels, but when I began writing Class Clown Academya few years ago I found myself truly enjoying myself. Perhaps it was because I’d been a class clown myself, but primarily because I thought the short chapters that make up the book were really funny–my agent had described the manuscript as Wayside School meets Animal House–which I think is an apt description. I was disappointed then that my traditional publishers were not interested in the subject–because, as one said, teachers don’t like class clowns, and teachers buy books. Despite my protests that my Class Clowns just keep school on a light note and are not the disruptive troublemakers some confuse with a funny student. In any event I decided I wanted the book to find an audience and so put together a team of editors and designers, and an artist, and brought it onto the market.
TBD: What made you decide to develop an App for this book?
SM: Once I had the book I knew I needed to build a virtual school and so put together a team of animators and programmers and built and you can find the App in the Apple Store. The school has a very funny film in the CCA Theater called “Farts and You,” has a wacky science lab, a music room where you can play, and record, a concert on whoopee cushions and a student store where you can buy Class Clown Products — and, outside the Principal’s Office in the Diploma Mill you can print your own degree bestowing on you advanced class clown privileges. Over time I hope to organize an association of former class clowns and hold a convention. That should be quite an event, unruly, unpredictable and uproarious.
TBD: What do you think about the way the publishing business has changed since you first got into it?
SM: In some ways the changes have been profound–the consolidation of publishing houses into 4 or 5 giant corporations, and their desire to find and publish a blockbuster franchise such as Harry Potter and Hunger Games has been the most visible–but underneath it all the publishing houses are still populated by smart, dedicated editors who look for and publish wonderful books by some incredibly talented writers and artists. Writers and artists who in the past would have turned up their noses at the thought of writing a “kiddy book” have now discovered what a unique art form in particular a picture book can be. And the result is that we are in a Golden Age of children’s books.
TBD: What things do you see successful authors doing? Conversely, what are some of the mistakes you see writers make?
SM: To be a successful author today you have to also be an active advocate for your book. Publishers don’t have the staff or funds to properly promote any but the biggest books. Of course, you have to start by writing a good story.
I suppose one mistake writers make is writing for the current trend–if you even see there is a trend you are already too late. Write what makes you enjoy the process then, whether that sells or not, you have (1) had a good time and (2) learned a few things along the way that can only make you better at your craft.
TBD: What do you think is the value of a writer joining SCBWI?
SM: First, joining shows you are committed to better yourself as a professional, and you will immediately have access to scores of publications on every subject from lists of publishers and agents, to marketing tips, to ideas on craft and options regarding independent publishing. And of equal importance, you will find yourself part of a worldwide community of supportive writers and artists who can connect with in person at our many events or online.
TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have writers?
SM: My advice is for the new writer just entering the field. The competition is stiff–publishers get tens of thousands of manuscripts every year so you have to give them something that they have never seen before. I go to the movies once a week and I enjoy many of them, but most of them are just a variation on a theme–but every once in a while I see something that knocks me out–Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, Moonrise Kingdom were for me those films. If you come up with something fresh, whether a story idea or a character or an art style, you will sell that book even if you don’t have a track record or an agent. So, think hard, study hard and work hard and you will succeed–I promise you–in my forty plus years of children’s books I’ve seen that hundreds of times.
Stephen Mooser is the author of more than 60 books for children from picture book titles such as The Ghost with the Halloween Hiccups, to nonfiction, Lights! Camera! Scream!, series and chapter books, The All-Star Meatballs, The Treasure Hounds,The Creepy Creature Club, Goofball Malone, and novels such as The Hitchhiking Vampire and It’s A Weird, Weird School. His most recent title is Class Clown Academy which accompanies his interactive online virtual school. A former filmmaker and treasure hunter, many of his adventures have found their way into his books. Among his awards is The Christopher Medal for The New York Kids Book and a 2010 Eric Carle Honor Award as a Mentor. He is co-founder, with Lin Oliver, of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and currently serves as the organization’s President.
Raped, survived, self-medicated, hyponotherapized, wrote, redeemed
I was alone in Hollywood & a very charismatic man wearing a shirt that said SEXY asked me to his place for a steak dinner. Most expensive meal of my life. Steak was drugged, he raped me, & destroyed who I was. I became a drug & sex addict, then went into hypnotherapy, and eventually wrote a memoir called Chicken about the whole thing. Now I have a beautiful family & I write books & such.
To find out more click here.
I was 17, studying existentialism at Immaculate Heart College, when I got sucked into the sex business in Hollywood. I didn’t mean to. It’s not like I thought, “I have no money, I have no family, I have no resources, I think I’d like to have sex for money.” I was just in the right place at the right time. That’s how it is with lots of the sex workers I know.
Sporting my nut hugging elephant bells, I arrived in Laurel Canyon, an enchanted eucalyptus oasis in the middle of this Hollywood smogfarm metropolis. As I entered the log cabin house set behind a wildflower jasmine jungle, a solid block of patchouli incense musk nearly knocked me over. With driftwood tie-dye batik beanbags windchimes macrame´ hanging plants and Mexican day-of-the-dead skeleton art everywhere, it looked like Woodstock exploded in Rainbow’s house, as this boomed out:
“Driving that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones, you better watch your speed”
Rainbow had long straight grey hair, feather earrings and a floor length tie-dye dress with a dopey hippie happy face on it. No make-up. No shoes.
“Namaste. Enter. Would you like some ginseng tea?” wafted out of Rainbow.
The customer’s always right. When in Rome, drink ginseng tea. While she fetched me tea I survey lots of pots of pot plants. Rainbow returned with my tea in a psychedelic homemade mug with a drawing of some dopey hippie happy face on it. The tea smelled too earthy and dank for drinking, but I brought the Mother Earth medicine scent up to my lips and siped.
It was good. And good for me.
“Do you dig the dead?”
Rainbow looked at me like she expected something. I was confused. Was this some weird necrophilia deal Mr. Hartley, my employment counselor/father confessor/fairy godmother/pimp, forgot to tell me about? I made a mental note: Find out what’s the going rate for having sex with dead people. But perhaps more importantly, do I feel comfortable shopping a dead person?
“I believe Jerry Garcia is the physical embodiment of the Godhead, don’t you?”
Jerry Garcia! The Grateful Dead. That’s who belonged to that dopey hippie happy face. Jerry Garcia! I saw me digging a grave and putting a gratefully dead Jerry Garcia in it.
“Oh yeah, Jerry Garcia is a total Godhead. Yeah, I definitely dig the Dead…”
I trotted out my best hippieboy smile. Actually, I couldn’t’ve cared less about the Dead. Or the dead. Rule #5: the customer is always right. I was there to get paid. I looked around for my envelope. No envelope. I didn’t like that. I was looking for a low-maintenance score, get in, get out, badda bing badda boom. Relax, cowboy, you’re gonna get paid, go with the flow, flowing, in the flow. Hey, someone wants to pay me to say Jerry Garcia is the physical embodiment of the Godhead, that’s Easy Money.
“Give me your hand,” Rainbow said.
I gave her the hand. She took it.
“You have big hands,” she said.
In my line of work that was a compliment.
“Thank you,” I said.
She looked at me funny, like it wasn’t a compliment at all, just a statement of fact. But she didn’t really seem to care, she looked into my palm like it held the key to the sweet mysteries of life.
GET THE MONEY UP FRONT
GET THE MONEY UP FRONT
GET THE MONEY UP FRONT
Only the newest greenhorn in Greenhornville doesn’t get the money up front. This is what separates the rank amateur from the hard working professional. You’re not here to have a good time, Charley, you’re here to get paid.
But Rainbow had produced nothing, and I could tell she’d be just the sort who’d get all bent if a guy mentioned something as crass as cash.
So I sat and stewed as Rainbow gazed into the crystal ball of my palm.
After she stared at my palm for what seemed like a month, Rainbow was starting to seem demented. I was convinced she was a Charlie Manson groupie with a garotte she was going to use to sacrifice me and the goat I was sure was in the backyard.
I was starting to have serious doubts about Rainbow. About this whole line of work. I had enough money. I could excuse myself like I’m going to the bathroom and walk out and just drive. But again the question: Where would I go? Who would I go to? I had nowhere. I had no one.
“You’re a very old soul…” Rainbow concluded.
You said a mouthful there, sister.
“…and you‘ve lived many lives…you were an explorer and sailed all over the world… and you were a sultan with many women. You were a mighty warrior in battle, and you were a slave on a plantation…”
Rainbow looked into me like she had periscopes that went through my eyes.
That was when I noticed her for the first time. In all the confusion I hadn’t really seen her. She had deep eyes, steel-colored with flecks of cobalt. A big Scandihoovian Bergman madly-suffering but eternally hopeful face. I half expected Death to walk out of her bedroom and challenge me to a game of chess for my soul.
“You’re here to learn a lesson, and I’m here to teach you…” Said Rainbow.
Okay, it’s a hot-for-hippy-teacher thing. I breathed easy.
“Do you know what tantric sex is?” Rainbow asked.
I could dish some semicoherent gobbledygook about ancient mystic Asian sex, but she wanted me to be the blissfully ignorant manmoonchild, so naturally I turned myself into whatever she wanted me to be. That was my job.
“No, I don’t…”
Rainbow handed me a smile, and led me through a translucent tie-dye cloth door into a bed with a room around it. It was the biggest bed I’d ever seen. Overhead, high in the tall pointed ceiling was a skylight, where incense curled up thick from fat Buddha bellies; candles tossed soft little drops of light everywhere; elephantheaded Indian gods with massive genitalia copulated with lionheaded goddesses; statue women stared with dozens of breasts; a halfman halfbull was inside a godhead with a doghead; Japanese paintings of Jade-looking beautybabies intercoursed in every position imaginable, one leg up over an ear, the other wrapped around a head; Old French postcards of cherubinesque honeys were Frenched and doggied; a guy went down (or would that be up?) on himself; and a shrine of rosebudvaginas and phalluspeni smiled. Pillows and cushions plump velvety; blankets, fur, and fat cloth made me feel like a cat, and I wanted to roll around getting my belly stroked while nubile handmaidens fed me catnip.
A sculpture of a vagina started talking to me: “Hi, David, welcome to the party, come on in.”
And in the center of it all a big picture of a dark man with long black curly hair and brown magnets for eyes that kept staring at me no matter where I went in the room, it was freaky. He was hard and soft at the same time. I’d never seen the guy, but he looked familiar, like he was the kind of guy who could set you straight if you were floundering around. And I was so very full of flounder at the moment. I made a mental note to find a wise, kind, benevolent guru teacher as soon as I left Rainbow’s. I’m still looking.
“That’s Baba Ram Wammmalammadingdong,” said Rainbow.
I was sure she didn’t really say that, but that’s what it sounded like to my 17 year-old man child idiot ears, all Dr. Seussy.
“He’s the master of sensual enlightenment.”
That’s what I wanna be when I grow up: master of sensual enlightenment.
“Sexual transcendance can only happen when you are connected to the life force that flows through all living things,” breathed Rainbow. “You have to open, I mean really open, all of your… shock absorbers.”
Years later I would realize it was my chakras and not my shock absorbers that needed opening, but at the time I couldn’t care less. I’d open my shock absorbers, my athletic supporters, my cookie jar, whatever she wanted. I just needed to get paid, and I needed to get paid IMMEDIATELY. I was seeking enlightenment through cold hard cash.
“Why don’t we start by meditating?”
Rainbow settled into a big comfy-womfy cushy cushion crosslegged, and motioned for me to do the same.
I balked. I’m naturally curious by nature, I was very interested in the whole third-eye transcendent sex thing, and picking up some exotic kinky eastern sex tips would’ve been grand, but I had to get my money UP FRONT.
I sighed quiet. I knew for a fact it will not help us achieve harmony with the life force that flows through all living things if I told Rainbow she needed to pay me IMMEDIATELY.
I was dreadfully dithered.
But just when things were looking their most dodgy, the gods smiled upon me, and Rainbow, God love her, new what I needed and could not ask for.
“Oh, shit, you need some bread, don’t you?” she said.
I could’ve cried. I saw this as a clearcut sign that I was being taken care of by something bigger than myself.
Rainbow got out of crosslegged, rummaged through an old macrame´ bag, and returned with four skanky twenties, a nasty ten, a funky five, four filthy ones and a bunch of loose change, then handed me the whole kitandkaboodle.
I was starting to dig this crazy chick. I could see her scrimping and saving to give herself a treat. Me. I was the treat for my trick. I vowed then and there to be a pot of gold for this Rainbow.
“Opening the gate that leads to the garden of earthly delights can only be achieved through a woman’s pleasure.”
Rainbow paused to make sure I got it.
“Opening the gate that leads to the garden of earthly delights can only be achieved through a woman’s pleasure.”
She looked at me intensely, so I understood how important this was.
So I thought about it hard. It was comforting to have someone telling me what to think about. I didn’t have to make any decisions, and that moment, decisions were just disasters waiting to happen.
Garden of earthly delights. A woman’s pleasure. A woman’s orgasm. Tumblers click in my head, a lock snapped open, and I saw the light. A woman’s pleasure was the key to sexual ecstasy. Now that I had my money, I was keenly interested in this whole thing.
“A man can have multiple orgasms… most people don’t know that, but it’s true. And I can show you how to do it.” Rainbow said with absolute conviction.
Multiple orgasms? Hell, I had one and it nearly kills me. But I was crazy curious to see if I could incorporate some clitoris into my penis.
“There’s a line where your orgasm is, it’s kinda like a waterfall. See, it’s like you’re in a beautiful warm river, and the current is pulling you along, and you’re headed towards the waterfall, you’re getting closer and closer… until you’re hanging right there on the edge of the waterfall, but you’re not letting yourself go over. You just get inside your own orgasm, and you can stay there as long as you want, as long as you don’t release. Do you know what release means?”
Yeah, I think I got the idea.
“No, what do you mean?” I asked.
“Your release is your ejaculation. So you can orgasm without ejaculating,” Rainbow said carefully.
And the weird thing was, I knew exactly what she meant. River, waterfalls, release, the whole shebang.
“I know it sounds totally… far out… but if you can wrap your cosmic mind around this, you’ll always have lots of groovy lovemaking in your life. You probably won’t get it tonight, but it’s something you can always practice. By yourself, with a partner, doesn’t matter. In the words of Baba Ram Wammalammadingdong, ‘Practice makes perfect.’”
I was starting to really like this Wammalammadingdong guy.
“Wow, that sounds… far out.” I’d never said far out before or since, but Rainbow ate it up like wavy gravy with a tie-dye spoon.
She took off her robe. She was the only industrial sex customer I ever had who took off her clothes while I still had mine on. And for an old broad (again with the proviso that anyone over the age of twenty-five years was Old) she had a riproaring body. Supple muscles firm lithe and graceful, breasts slung low, with big brown chocolate kiss nipples in the middle. Mental note to self: as far as books go, don’t judge them by their covers.
Rainbow seemed to be one of those rare people who was actually comfortable with her own naked body.
“You have a beautiful body…” I would’ve said it whether it was true or not, but in this case it was true, which did makes it easier.
She liked it. She wasn’t desperate like lots of my other clients, but she liked it.
“Do whatever makes you happy,” said Rainbow.
“Do you want me to take my clothes off?” Just trying to keep the customer satisfied.
Wow. Whatever made me happy. Reminded me of my mom. No one said that to me in real life, never mind when I was chickening.
Seemed like if you were gonna learn to orgasm without ejaculating, you should be naked. So I took off my clothes. Rainbow set opposite me crosslegged on that continent of a bed. I tried, but I just couldn’t get the crosslegged thing going. My pedophile grandfather’s coalminer soccerplaying legs were just too unyielding. I was tugging and pulling, cuz I was trying to suck it up and play through the pain, but damn, that shit hurt.
“Don’t do it if it hurts. Don’t do anything that hurts…” Rainbow flows. You gotta hand it to the hippies, when it comes to peace and love and all that business, they really know their shit.
Rainbow showed me how to deepbreathe, and we deepbreathe until we felt the life force flowing through us. I didn’t actually feel the life force flowing through me as such, but she did, and that was good enough for me. The crumpled bills in my pocket were filling me with the life force.
Rainbow and I Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmed for about a fortnight. Eventually I did feel a little lightheaded, like when I first smoked a cigarette. But hey, if she wanted to pay me to breathe and say om, that was rolling off a log for a chicken.
Finally when Rainbow was om’d out, she took my hand, placed it on her breast, looked me in the eyes, and with a hypnotic smile showed me how to roll that mammoth mammarian poolcue tip between my thumb and forefinger, and it got bigger and tighter, until it felt like it was ready to pop, while she made airsuck sounds of pleasure.
I could smell her now, Rainbowing as she made my hand the axis between her legs around which she gyrated, nestling my head into her neck and whispering, “Kiss me soft…”
I ate her neck like a fruitcake while she revved in growly moans, everything moved in rhythm like a well-oiled sex machine, the fur blanket softly soft as she guided me like an air traffic controller. Then Rainbow replaced my hand with my mouth and she huffed and she puffed like she was gonna blow the house down, jimjamming and earthquakeshaking.
I smiled inside. I was getting a crash course in the fine art of a woman’s orgasm, and I was getting paid for it. America–what a country!
“Now I’m right there,” she pants, “…if I let myself, I’d go right over the waterfall… but… I’m… not… I’m gonna stay… right here and let the… waves roll through me… there’s one… slow down… Stop!” Rainbow squeezed, fists clenching and unclenching like a baby breastfeeding, “…now slow… there’s another one… ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… God…”
Rainbow let rip with a top-of-the-lungs scream. A gigantic little death. When she collapsed at the tip of my tongue, I understood for the first time what they were talking about, as time warped, Einstein smiling somewhere, eternity in a second, infinity in a grain of sand.
I thought of busting my ass in the grease of Hollywood Fried Chicken. I thought of my father slaving away at the explosives plant. I thought about my grandfather shovelling coal down the mine. I sure as hell wouldn’t be getting black lung disease from this.
A rainbow slowly descended from Orgasm Mountain, while I stood next to her, nakedly rolling my big huge rock up my big huge hill.
After a brief intermission, Act II began. She pulled me into the river, took me right to the edge of the waterfalls, and then stopped. The most important thing, she said, was to turn off your mind, and move into your body. You can’t think and swim at the same time.
Once a man plunges over the waterfalls in his barrel, of course, it’s all over for him. For a while at least. So you have to be very careful and really pay attention. I practiced getting right on the edge and just sticking there. And it was good. When she did something particularly compelling, I felt the spray in my face and the pull of the fall, and by God, quivers did quiver me, then I quickly pulled myself back.
Rainbow was my Seeingeye sexdog.
“Wow, that was groovy…” I said, when it was clear we were done.
Groovy? I couldn’t believe that came out of my mouth, but as usual I’d ceased to exist in my need to please.
I didn’t know what to do next. Should I hang out? Were we friends? I thought for a minute. I still didn’t feel that creeping mudslide of depression I usually got after I worked as a chicken. I was just a little confused, that’s all. But looking around I could see myself moving right in here and being the sextoy for all of Rainbow’s old greatbodied freakyhippie chicks. Sounded like fun, I think, as I grabbed at another salvation flotation device.
“I have something for you…” Rainbow was sweet as you please, slipping into an old soft tie-dye robe. I followed at her heels like a naked chickenpuppy. She reached in a drawer and I was expecting a nice fat juicy tip. Twenty, maybe fifty. Instead Rainbow pulled the out a feather.
“It’s an earring,” said Rainbow.
I had to work hard not to show how totally disgusted I was as I took out the rhinestone in my ear and replaced it with the feather. I looked in the mirror. To my amazement, I actually liked the way it looked. Kind of tribal. Even though I silently scoffed when she presented it to me, that feather became a war souvenir, and I wore it on and off for many years.
And whenever I did, I thought of Rainbow.
She kissed me on both cheeks. She thanked me. I thanked her. She didn’t say we should get together again soon, or that we should stay in touch. I loved that. I did what I came to do, we both got what we wanted, and that, as they say, was that.
Rainbow was the only trick I ever had who gave me more than I gave her.
Motorcycling away from Rainbow, floating on my feather earring in the sweetness of the cool Laurel Canyon night, I was high on Rainbow’s free love.
That she paid for.
If having sex for money were always this good, I’d still be an industrial sex technician.
David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor. His new book Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition has been translated into 10 languages. He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp. He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com. https://davidhenrysterry.com/
Weaving and gunning, he whipped it down Fell, timing it just right, so he hit the synchronized lights just as they changed, right on the edge of out-of-control. Divisidaro, Fillmore, Steiner flashed by: boom, boom, boom, George cruising Lili through each light as it turned green, one after another, like magic.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw it coming, some big American junker-mobile running the light. That bastard’s gonna hit me, George thought, he’s gonna run that light, and he’s gonna hit me.
Imagine the smallest split of a second you can. Now split that an infinite number of times. That’s how long it took for George to think all that.
George’s eyes were wide as CD’s, utterly concentrated, totally focused. If he had not been, he would have died. If he’d had to, at this moment, he could have lifted a refrigerator off a loved one.
The driver of the American junker was drunk. His name was Ozwaldo Grzylwrsklnzwzykoski, aka Oz Grizzly. He had been drinking beer, then vodka, then beer, then vodka. He had somehow driven from Las Vegas, where he had been drinking with a relative who offered him a job breaking a man’s knees in Lodi, California. Oz was going to check into the Royal Viking Hotel, where he planned to dry out and have sex with several transgender sex workers. He actually should have been making a right turn, in which case this incident would have never happened. But he was so stoopid drunk, he ran the red, right at George, so blurred he couldn’t even focus on the steering wheel right in front of his eyes.
George lifted Lili’s front tire off the pavement. That, combined with the heavy screeching back-tire breaking, caused her to skid away from the Oz mobile.
Oz churned oblivious through the light, completely unaware he was perilously close to manslaughtering U vehicularly.
Lili seemed to be defying gravity itself as she flew sideways on Fell towards Market St.
And just as it looked inevitable that Lili was going to slam head first into the back panel of the passenger side of the Oz mobile, God seemed to intervene. Or maybe it was just George being all he could be.
Either way, George managed to get Lili to just clip the back of the Oz mobile’s passenger side bumper.
This stopped Lili’s forward momentum just enough so that with George flying forward at the same speed he had been, he flew over the handlebars down Fell St, head first.
Joseph Plantune, aka Joey, a homeless man who believed that aliens were coming for him imminently, looked up from the trash can he was mining, and saw a George flying through the air. He didn’t notice Lili or the Oz mobile. All he saw was the flying George. Head first. This caused Joey to sprint down Geary away from Fell, screaming, “You’ll never take me aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!”
Holy shit, George thought, I’m flying through the air. With the greatest of ease. Hey, I’m even making a joke as I fly through the air. He seemed to fly forever, flying, floating parallel to the ground, headfirst. If only I had a cape, I could be Superman.
Then George realized he was gong to come down and hit the pavement. He did something smart now. Instead of thinking, he let his body take over. George was lucky that way. His body just naturally took over when it had to. When all around him were losing their heads he was inhabiting his body.
And his body, like most all bodies, knew exactly what to do.
And his body did it.
As it came down, George’s body naturally tucked, his shoulder rolling down towards the road, his helmeted head shielded by his right arm coming up, and as gravity took over, plummeting him towards blacktop, he landed on the flat of his forearm, rolling forward in a moving ball of humanity like a tumbler in thick black leather.
George’s body was all loosey-goosey, easy-jointed as it made contact.
And somehow he managed keep his roll going, as if he had been coached from an early age by a brilliant but cruel Rumanian gymnastic coach.
And when the roll was over, he popped up on his feet and stood there facing away from Geary St.
Stood on his two feet in his two boots.
Wait a minute, he thought, how did that happen? Did that happen? Did I just fly through the air, and do some crazy stunt man shit? How the hell did I do that? It wasn’t you, stoopid. That was God. God just saved me. Sent you a message. Do your job. Look after the boy. Thank you God, and I will not ever forget that you saved my life here. From now on, I do the right thing. Sex is highly over-rated. George made a note to himself: have that tattooed on your penis, young man.
Then he had a thought that moved him to action.
Please God, just one more thing, I swear this is the last thing I’ll ever ask for: let Lili be okay.
George turned and ran back towards Geary.
There she was.
Lying on her side.
Battered and bruised.
That beautiful old lady, scraped and scuffed.
He reached her, got down on his knees.
Put his hand on her, feeling for a pulse.
Oh please, be okay.
What a night.
This is the worse night of my life.
I did this.
This is my fault.
If I had just minded my business and not been chasing my tail, he wouldn’t have gone skag hunting and Lili would be sitting under her cover where she belongs, having sweet Indian dreams.
Somebody beat me to it.
George stroked her violated tank, gouged deep in the belly.
George ran his hands over her twisted front fender.
George let his fingers linger on her twisted handlebars.
George couldn’t bring himself to touch her scratched to hell forks, shock absorbed in shock.
Sadly he got himself to his feet.
With forlorn care, he lifted her to her wheels.
He slipped down her kick-stand and gingerly leaned her that way.
Lili groaned as her bent gnarled mass her rested on her stand.
She’s upright anyway, George thought.
He straddled her, without resting any way on her seat.
Looking at her handlebars was like seeing an injury victim with a badly broken leg, where the shinbone is pointing one way, and the foot is pointing the other.
Carefully, lovingly, George put his hands on her handlebars, and with the touch of an expert chiropractor, he pulled them back towards their natural resting place, like twisted a neck to bring it into alignment.
To George’s surprise, the handlebars moves easily back into place. In fact, they slid too far, so they were out of kilter the other way. Very easy he slid them back so they were centered.
Okay, George smiled, maybe it’s not so dire. Maybe she’s okay. Maybe we can coax her back to life. Maybe she’s just got a sprained hip and some minor contusions. Maybe there’s just a lot of blood from some superficial wounds.
George now dismounted and went to the front of Lili. He could now see that her front fender was bent badly, but if he was very tender with her, he could twist it back enough to be able to drive her, then take her to the shop and get her all shiny and new, like a virgin Indian touched for the very first time.
George took her into his hands and softly manipulated Lili, bending the metal so that it moved away from the tire. It did. It worked. It was an ugly raw wound, but at least it looked more normal now, and would not interfere with her smooth rolling.
George went back around and straddled Lili once more.
Barely breathing, he touched the key still hanging in its hole. He turned it into the Off position. He stopped and heaved a deep sigh.
I mean it Lord, if you give me this one thing, make this one thing okay, and I will never let you down again. Let her come one. Let their be light.
George switched the key back into the On position.
Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, she turned on, the front headlight shooting out a beam of white into the black night.
Okay, said George, that’s it, you win. From now on, no shit, it’s the straight and narrow for me, no bullshit.
George then calmly, moved the lever out for better access, and my his foot primed her a couple of times, while giving her a little taste of gas with the hand accelerator.
He snorted three quick blasts of breath, and kicked down on the lever.
Lili sputtered and spurted, like a heavy smoker trying to wake up in the morning.
But George nursed her into consciousness by opening the choke on the left of the engine, pulling out the knobby pin so the engine gasped air and gas and the pistons sprung to life, pumping like porn stars as Lili finally righted herself and purred.
Oh Lord, thank you, now I know everything’s gonna be alright, George thought.
And he really believed it.
It’s raining acid cats and three headed dogs
Long live the rat with the monkey on its back
Rock candy and salt water taffy and daffy
And goofy and dopey and dopey and dopey
Feel the heat fell the heat can you fell it can you fell it
Amerika amerika god shed her tears on me
Shining shoes singing blues
From sea to stinking
See dick run see dick jump see dick bust his hump
In the slick black snotrag sea the oilcan tinman catch me
If you can man she sells seashells and rusty needles
Bythe eyeshore seashore while the dirty old whore takes it in
The backdoor of the hardcore store
Feel the heat fell the heat can you fell it can you fell it
Gotta rambo mojo hunnerd dollar haircut
But hey baby I feel good I‘m a specimine jar
I’m a movie star I’m a nuclear freeze a nuclear sneeze
Do what I please
I throw money away almost every day O say can you see
The hole in my arm I’m a five alarm fire a live wire
Tell me why only the bad die old how come it’s so cold
In the kinder gentler slasher mad world yo girl
And the cock fights the missile sights
The pagan rites
I’m laughing my ass off
While Rome burns
Feel the heat fell the heat can you fell it can you fell it
Is it just me or is it hot in here?
Dolores Has Lost her Clitoris
words: d h sterry
pictures: peter seward
Discovered she’d lost her clitoris.
“Oh no! Oh my! Oh how can this be?”
“How could I lose my clitoris? Seriously?”
Her breath got short and her eyes grew wide
She panicked wobbly and shaky inside
She looked in her pockets and behind the door
She looked in each and every drawer
She looked in her sofa and under her chair
She even looked under her underwear
She looked in her pots and she looked in her pans
She looked in the cabinet where she keeps all her cans
She looked in her closet and under her shoes
She looked in the wet bar with her booze
She looked under her bed and under her pillow
She looked in the nightstand next to her dildo
She turned the house upside down
But her clitoris was nowhere to be found
She clenched her fists and fell to her knees
“Help me!” she yelled, “help me please.”
She dashed out to see her boyfriend
Sure he’d help make her misery end
“Oh please won’t you help me Boris,”
“I’m afraid I’ve lost my clitoris!”
A blank vacant look came over his face
As he stared off into outer space
“Hhm…” said Boris, “to be honest Dolores”,
“I didn’t even know you had a clitoris.”
Dolores shook her head and rolled her eyes
She gritted her teeth and let out a sigh
“Boris,’ she said, “I’ve had it with you
Once and for all, we’re through!”
“I’m afraid,” said Boris, “I’m a little perplexed.”
“Does that mean you don’t want to have sex?”
“Of course not,” she cried, “I don’t wanna sex.”
“I just broke up with you, you’re my now ex.”
“And besides, why would I?” yelled Dolores.
“I just told you I lost my clitoris!”
She got so mad she stomped on the floor
And on her way out she slammed the door
Then she went to her parents and rushed inside
“Mother I’ve something I must confide
“I’m going absolutely nuts,” cried Dolores,
“Mom dear, I’ve lost my clitoris.”
Her mom looked away and her face got red
She looked like she would rather be dead
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,”
“And I just remembered I have to go out.”
Her mom grabbed her coat and ran out the door
Got in her car and went to the store
Dolores dashed off to speak to her father
Who was polishing his balls in the billiard parlor
“Dear Father,” cried a distraught Dolores
“Please help me, I’ve lost my clitoris.”
“Clitoris,” he muttered looking up from his balls
“That word’s not familiar, not familiar at all.”
“Please tell me, my darling Dolores,”
“What does it mean, this word ‘clitoris’?”
“Aargh!” cried Dolores, “you don’t have a clue!”
Then out of the room like a flash she flew.
She sped back home and jumped in her bed
And into her pillow she buried her head
Then Dolores cried and cried and cried
Till it felt like there was nothing left inside
Dolores fell into a long black sleep
That was terribly terribly terribly deep
And when she awoke she was no longer vexed
Confused upset peeved or perplexed
Dolores stretched and gave a yawn
As the birds sang in the beautiful dawn
When she ran her hands down to her thighs
Dolores got a tremendously surprise
Right there in her very own lap
Her clitoris was waking from a long long nap
“Come play with me,” cried her clitoris
“Come play with me dear Dolores.”
“Oh, I’ve missed you so terribly.”
“I vow,” cried Dolores, “that every day”
“You and I will find time to play.”
“I’ll never take you for granted again
“From now on you’ll be my very best friend!”
“Oh joy!” cried her clitoris, full of glee
“Now come play with me immediately.”
It was a beautiful reunion for Dolores
And her sweet devoted clitoris
Together they found heavenly rapture
And together they lived happily ever after
Chlorine told me over breakfast that she was leaving me. She said she could never love someone with a face as average as mine. My worst fears confirmed, I wept and moaned inconsolably. Desperate, devastated, I wandered the streets until I found an astonishingly handsome man, and cut his face off with a very sharp knife. Quickly I sewed his face over my own.
When I got home Chlorine was overjoyed by how attractive I had become, and kissed me with unprecedented sweetness. “I can’t believe how astonishingly handsome your new face is,” she sighed.
The next day we were married.
Deep gray clouds shroud
England in mist over
Craggy moors flexing
Their rugged muscles
If you listen hard
Enough you can
Hear Heathcliff crying
White sheep graze glazed
Chomp chomp chomping
On all that green green grass
A ewe sits on a stone wall
Staring into the infinite
Like a fleecy buddah
One black sheep stands
In the corner of the green field
Wearing black shades
Smoking an unfiltered cigarette
Muttering under his breath
That would be me
If I were a sheep I think
As it starts to rain
2. In Jennifer. The picture in her mind made her melt into wet.
William and Jennifer had discussed it. Many times. But neither thought the other could really go through with it.
The sun felt good. Blood hot. Bones melting into wet. Smell of coconut oil baking on warm skin. Seasalty air floats on the breeze thick with exotica, flowers purple red and yellow and all that green the greenest green they’d ever seen, sky so robin egg, kissing aqua velvet blue of ocean. The lush. The overgrown tropical paradise intoxication. Growing wild. Running amuck.
It was William’s idea to come here for their honeymoon. Kauaii. The Garden Island. And now here they were. Jennifer and William. Laying totally naked. Honeymooning. On Kauaii.
One day exploring, William and Jennifer drove to the end of a dirt rode, hiked a path through jungle and coconut trees, bright painted birds serenading them on the ukulele, a fat frog praying next to a flat black rock. A clearing opened like legs to reveal a small cove nestled away from the shoreline in balmy calm. Jennifer and William breathed in soft air, breathed out a sweet kiss into each other.
Two hundred yards up tender white belly of beach two wild white horses grazed in grass, nuzzling, gazing lazily at them. William and Jennifer felt the magic the blessing the gods gathering and smiling on their moon made of honey.
They came every day, until it was their beach. And their was never anyone else on their beach. Except those wild white horses.
William was washed with waves. He looked at Jennifer and smiled all over. Like he’d pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes. I, William James Osborne, am going to get to have this beautiful woman for the rest of his life. Yes, people may be starving, wars may be gone to hell, and the whole world may be all fucked up, but at least this one thing had worked out. As far as William was concerned this was a miracle on the order of loaves and fishes: he was gonna get to have Jennifer for the rest of his life.
Jennifer quarter-dozed and half-floated, the way she loved to do, not a care anywhere, sea-gulls scatting and waves tiding like the earth’s metronome. In. Out. In. Out. Years later when she would have trouble sleeping, a psychiatrist would ask her to visualize a peaceful place that made her feel completely relaxed. She pictured this beach. Their beach. Naked. Horses neighing and playing. Honey moon hanging heavy in the fragrant air. Honeymoon. She loved that word. It was every romantic fantasy she ever had, all rolled into one. Honey. Moon. And here she was.
Jennifer loved how his eyes were so wild and kind. How his hand moved over her body perfectly and pulled her into the crux of him. How his hair was different every day. It shocked her that he could get up in the morning and not look at himself in the mirror. Just go out into the world. No comb. No shave. No one-last-check-to-see-if-I’m-decent. She could old see herself growing old with him.
William loved the way her laugh tasted. Big goofy laugh blasting out of this so serious woman. How flat her belly was, and the way the bones of her hips jutted up and the curve of her thigh that smell that made his stomach jump. The way her face looked when he made her cum. He cold see himself kissing her big pregnant belly.
Eyes shut, he put his hand on her. Smile. Before she even knew it. His big finger in her mouth. Jennifer sucking on big finger. Sigh. Wet and tasty close at hand.
Jennifer felt her socket plugged in, juice jolting bolting through her, savage urgent rumbling. Jennifer sprang into action and the wet heat flooded her gates, William’s thick thicker, saluting him.
Jennifer had never had an orgasm before William. Never. But now, on their honey moony beach, his mouth sucking her finger in his throat, her orgasm peeked cheekily through a crack in her wall and wave wicked and willing.
William sucked slow deep. My goodness, Jennifer thought to herself, this is awfully fellatio-like, the way he’s sucking on my finger. But she didn’t say anything. Didn’t want to disturb the spinning around them, creeping up into her belly making her move to the rhythm of the beat.
William pulled her up on top. Grabbed around the small of her, wrapping his arm, nestling his hard brown with his thick between her legs. Then her thumped her into him. Once. Thump. Quite took her breath away. She teased him about how he liked to thump her into him like that. But she loved was the one who loved it. That’s the truth.
Jennifer was always in control before William. Her whole life she waited for someone else to take control. Someone who knew what to do. Someone she could trust her nasty to.
She growled grindhumping into his. William lived to hear her growl. When he first met her of course she’s beautiful, any idiot can see that William was thinking but he never in a million years imagined that she was so growly. And now she was. Growling a honeymoon growl.
William took Jennifer’s in his hands, squeezed, right where the edge of her met her, just the right amount of pressure on her everything, just the way she likes it. Sweating all sticky salty wet coconut oil she slid up and down on his hard brown chest her breasts slippery slithery sliding gliding, wired into her buzzer.
Jennifer wondered what it would be like. William wondered what it would be like.
And he pulled her up all easy as you please, one knee either side of his head, looking down into his eyes wild and kind, sticking the tip of tongue through thick lips. She was inches from his breath and she smelled like perfect love. Everything good in life.
Then Jennifer lowered herself ever so slightly so that his tip grazed her tip licking her slow the love-flavored ice cream cone.
Jennifer felt the ripples lap her shore. In, out. In, out.
She watched William had his thick, so familiar, yet always a revelation, in his hand slapslapslapping the flesh. A tiny droplet glistened in the sun, a deep sea diving sigh.
Jennifer slid along him and down so he rap her tongue and lips around. William sucking swollen hard, gently slow suck sweet suck just the way she likes it.
Jennifer grabbed his tongue, squeezed, wrapping herself around him, delight shuddering as the slapslapslap of his jacking hand and William felt his cum swim around his lap pool and he swam with it, then let it drift away.
“Can I?” Jennifer had never talked to anyone like that before William. She had been waiting her whole life to talk to somebody. Hearing Jennifer’s mouth made William.
She slipped down his flesh slide and grabbed him and she flexed back all, wide-open wanting. At the tip of her he stopped. Stopped there at the tip.
“No baby, put it in. I need you all the way inside me now.” Jennifer tried to, but he held her tight. Held her. Tight. And wouldn’t let her move. “Are you sure you do?” he asked. “Oh yes, sweetie, please,” never more sure of anything. You see, Jennifer had never begged for anything before William. Imagined she would beg. But never begging. Until William. Loving the aching craving for something that was right there that she couldn’t quite have. The more he made her beg, the more she wanted it.
“I don’t think you really want it,” William goaded. “Yes baby, please. I’m serious,” she said. “What do you need?” he asked, keeping the tip of his very thick William in the tip of her very wet Jennifer. “I need you, baby. Come on, please.” “No, I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” he said, pulling back a little. “No, baby,” Jennifer said with urgent in her voice, “I’m serious, stop playing.”
“Okay baby,” said William.
And he put a thick inch into her. “How’s that, sweetie? Is that enough?” he asked as she tried to suck more into her, take all of him. But he held her strong. Held her. Tight. Like she liked it. Like he liked it.
“No, baby, come on, I want all of it. Really baby, I’m not kidding any more. Please.” She meant it. He wanted to give. But he loved hearing her. For him. Almost as much as she loved to say it.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” asked William. “Yes baby, come on” she was almost screaming now, out of her mind from the needing and the teasing, so close, but held right there, so she couldn’t have any more, no matter how hard she pushed down.
“This all for you, baby,” he grabbed her hips and she arched herself wide open, so William could all the way inside Jennifer, that’s where she wanted him, where she had never wanted anyone, in the center, the core, the heart of her matter, into her as she went onto him he so thick, tight and deep they were.
Jennifer felt like she was gonna black from all that bullseye and William in the middle of paradise at the center of them.
Suddenly, magically, there he was. Blocking their sun. Big deep round face. Long hair, wavy black, pushed back from his forehead, hanging down past his shoulders. Big deep brown eyes with smiles. Lean. Muscles smooth a glistening of sun and ocean. Naked. Standing over them.
Jennifer and William looked at each other. And then they looked back at him. He was still there. Smiling a deep sweet smile. Infectious. They caught it. Before they even knew it, they were smiling back at him.
He dropped to his knees right by her head. And he took himself largely in hand and put himself next to Jennifer’s lips. Just put it there. Right there. Next to her lips. It’s yours if you want it.
And then before she even knew what was happening, she took the tip of him, sucking softly little kisses, her hip muscles undulating on William, sucking him as she sucked a little more in her mouth.
Jennifer had never felt so full of life in her life.
The man was now fully thickened, blazing glazing ecstasy throwing head back and arms open sun bathing face and heart, an, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” went out into the universe.
Jennifer took him now into mouth adjusting herself on William for maximum thickness
Her cum right now right there in extreme close-up, rocking on William, sucking on the man, throat opening on him tremor trembling her. But she just danced with her orgasm then sent it away.
William grabbed Jennifer’s, pressed down, extra pressure on her in just the right spot, pulling up flowing down, and now she had to fight off her cum, “No, no, not yet,” she sighed as the man laughed.
Jennifer pulled the man out of her mouth, and kissed William while she held the thick of it in her hand. He tasted her lips and they tasted of him. It surprised him. He was suddenly aware it was hard and big six inches from their lips.
Then Jennifer did something completely unexpected. Something she never thought she could do. Something no one expected. Something she would never have done if she had stopped to think about it. Something she could have never done before William. Something he could never believe she did whenever they talked about it for the rest of their lives, until they were old.
But she didn’t think about it. She was past thought, into her animal.
Jennifer took the man in hand and put the tip of him on William’s lips where they were kissing her lips. She licked, little nibbles, kissing lips and man at the same time.
Then William did something that he never thought he would do. He opened his lips and sucked on the tip of that man, all hot and hard and big and on her beautiful husband’s lips.
She rocked and shook at the sight of all this, and her cum finally won, overpowering her in a huge, “Oh-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h my-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y Go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-d!” followed by a series of short hard, “Oh Jesus”’s as she bucked and shot shaking screaming beaming flying from the Garden Island to the heart of the world. .
When Jennifer parachuted back down she disengaged, and the man stood up and the man seemed to know exactly what she wanted. He lay down in the white bed of sand.
Without ever taking her eyes off William’s eyes Jennifer got on top of the brown eyed man and suddenly, he was just the tip inside her. Still. He was still. Perfectly hard. Perfectly patient and peaceful. It’s yours if you want it.
William looked at Jennifer. At first he wasn’t sure what to think. Then he was. He knew what his beautiful wife wanted. And she knew what he wanted. They had discussed it many times. And she looked into William and with her eyes she said oh yes.
William walked behind her and ran his hand across Jennifer’s beautiful back, salty sweaty slick with sun and desire. And he spread her apart a little and he watched that largeness, so hard and so still as she sucked him in and out. And he put himself on the tip of behind her all wet and hot and Jennifer growled again pushing back into him, the craving raising Cain in her, wailing to be full.
Jennifer looked back into William and said with her eyes, “Baby, I need you, too.” William took himself hard lathered-up with coconut oil poured it down her sliding melty. While he teased her the tip of her drenched she pulled up and down on the man inside her and groaned each time she did, another cum appearing and moving forward at a steady pace.
William pressed his thick against her tip of her, and it was so good there.
As William thought – There is no way all this is gonna fit in my beautiful wife – Jennifer looked back and through bared teeth hissed, “Baby, I want you to bad.”
“Yes baby,” said William. And he held himself right at the tip of her wet, spreading her just a little feeling the man throbbing in Jennifer’s sweet and she pushed back so slow the coconut oil so slippery, and just the head of his thick slid into her.
The suddenness of it almost too much, a flutter of pain a sweet little ache jolting in her shivering through the big heat beating inside her.
Jennifer deep breathed let everything smooth out and squeezed down and clenched her tingling there the skin so thin between her husband’s thickness and the throb of the knob of the man. So tight the pressure swollen full. She had never in her sweet short life felt so full of so much. With all the skin so thin, so almost touching.
Jennifer pushed back now on her oh so sweet thick of husband and then he was all the way in. Almost too full. Almost. She breathed squeezed both of them now the pressure right on her, and she shook and she felt it coming round the mountain riding six white horses.
William could feel hard pulsating in Jennifer, and buried himself in her.
“O God,” growled out of Jennifer as she had both of them back now, her rhythm section dancing the rhumba.
“O God,” growled out of William as he groaned and grabbed her in synch feeling all that through thin skin climbing with her, all the wet accumulating in the thundercloud, ready to bust his bolt of lightning.
Jennifer clenched her self as they all went full into her, squeezing and needing, all the way inside.
Then William was gushing buckets of rainbows, colors everywhere, and the man spasmed hot and shot tropical. And all that rain made Jennifer flower, as she was swept away again, and they all leapt off together, beyond her and him, swandiving Icarus soaring, ballistic, boom booming, sirens singing, and the walls cum a-tumblin’ down.
The man looked drugged with the love of Jennifer and William, and he threw his head back and arms open sun bathed in his face and heart, a large, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” went out into the universe.
The ocean roared in applause and the trees swayed and waved danced and sang for them with the birds and frogs and the sun smiled shiny bright.
Jennifer rolled off the brown eyed man and collapsed. William absorbed her in the circle of him and they melted butter into each other, into the warm white sand slipping into a tropical sleep of deep paradise.
When they woke up it was near dark, sun pink winking goodbye. He was gone. They were alone again.
Except for the wild white horses cavorting in the thick.
Jennifer and William saw them and smiled into each other’s eyes, lighted by the honey dripping off the moon.
With Mary. With God. With the Devil. With blood fever. Lately Mary came to him every night. Bathed in golden light. Sweet Mary, dripping love, dropping down with the wings of an angel as he lay on his small hard bed, Jesus on the cross behind him bleeding for his sinning. And he would pray to God. That she would go away. That she would come to stay. Flowing crow black hair. Raving raven eyes. Skin white clouds. Breasts secreting the milky blood of Christ.
As she floated down, a sister of mercy, sweet Mary, all over him. And he would pray to God to deliver him from evil, to help him resist temptation. But his God would be gone, and he could not resist. And she would whisper, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,” as she spread herself with her fingers and hovered over James, rigid as the rock of ages, the blossom of Mary so opening and he would be enveloped by the sheer drunken sin of it all.
And she would put her breast in his mouth, and he would drink the milky blood of Christ as she slid down, down, down his vein of sin a pounding pillar, the shaft of his Satan. And he would whisper, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.” And he would think to himself, O Jesus, save me, O Jesus, kill me. And she was like a cherub, the holy music of her filling him as he was filling her. Mary blanketed him like in holy snow.
And his hot love of God would shoot into her valley of death, the Devil lurking, smirking in the corner. And James would scream, “O Lord, why have you forsaken me?”And then woke up, soaking from the wetness of his nightmaredream sweaty and sticky salty unholy water boiling on his belly. And God was watching him, James could feel the shame aimed at his heart, and he would pray for forgiveness. And afterwards, to calm himself, he would say, It’s only a dream.
And now, here she was. Mary. In her flesh. In his booth. Inches away. So close James could smell her flower blooming, perfuming through him, strangleholding his soul. James had to punch himself hard in the thigh. You are nothing, you are a servant, you are a vessel of the Lord our God. A vessel of God. You are nothing but your sacred duty, James told himself. You are hear to minister. Hear confession and recommend penance.
“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,” drifted from the darkness like a chariot of lightness, singing sweet and low, swinging him around her little finger. “What is your sin?” That is always the question, isn’t it? James thought. You are my sin. He’d never been anything but certain his whole life. He was the Whiz Kid Priest. That’s what all the papers said. Memorized the Bible by the age of ten. Already groomed to be a bishop, a cardinal maybe even. Audience with the Pope on his eighteenth birthday. Quoting verse and scripture, a greatest hits of the Good Book with the square jawed easy charm of Jack Kennedy back in the Camelot days, a poster boy for everything good about the church, a throwback to a happier time when priests weren’t predatory pedophiles and it didn’t matter if you had sex with Marilyn Monroe in the White House, as long as you didn’t do it on the Front Lawn. A face for everything good in the church
He loved the ritual of it, the pageantry of it, the hidden symbols and the rock hard unthinking certainty, the blind obedience of it all, from before he could even remember, making everyone around him so happy, his father, on his deathbed, pleading with him, James, the only son, the last hope, to be a priest, his mother so proud, beaming, telling everyone about her boy the Whiz Kid Priest. The pride of the neighborhood.
And it had been so easy. Until Mary. In his booth. Now. Smelling like sin itself. “Father, I have impure thoughts,” confessed Mary with a breathtaking piety. Impure thoughts. Just the words raced his pulse, her skin ivory, hair ink black, a black Mass, parting to let him in. James had to punch himself hard in the thigh. He wanted to run, hide. And he prayed to God, his God, to give him the strength to resist, to pass this test, this plague of locust, He was inflicting on pious Father James, the Whiz Kid Priest. And no one was there.
“What are your impure thoughts?” James asked, straining to keep the quiver out of his voice, not really wanting to know the answer, desperately wanting to know the answer. “Well, Father… I’m too embarrassed to talk about it…” Mary said shyly. “I’m your priest, Mary, I’m hear to listen and forgive, as a vessel of Christ out Lord and savior. We all have impure thoughts.” James said. If you only knew, he thought.
“Do you ever have impure thoughts Father?” asked Mary, and it shivered him cold and lit a fire in his hell, sending a white-hot shot of juice jumping through him jumping under the hardening under his robe. O God please make it stop now. I have given You my life, please do this one thing for me. “Well, yes I do, of course I do. I’m not just a priest, I’m a…” But the word “man” stuck hard in his throat like a wafer with no wine chaser. “…that is to say, I confess my thoughts and sins and I pray to God to forgive me, and He does.” James said in his best Father James voice.
He had never confessed his sins of Mary. As if by not confessing them they weren’t really real. Maybe that’s why God is punishing me, that’s why God is testing me, for my mendacity, for believing I can hide anything from his omnipotence. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. “Father, I have wicked, sinful thoughts, and… I touch myself Father, I can’t help it… I… give myself pleasure… I can’t stop, Father, and I don’t know what to do…” James was trying to control everything, slow it all down, cool it all off. No more visions. No more breasts of Mary. No more holy bloody milk. No more Cardinal red lips. Save me for I am lost. Find me, miserable wretch that I am. Lord I am blind. Please, let me see. Help me cast out Satan. Make me roar, “Jezebelle, be gone!”
James thought about the way she looked at him when she passed in line after Sunday service. The way she always managed to corner him somewhere, when she knew no one was around, and stand a little too close, until she was almost brushing up against him, so close that he couldn’t even follow the thread of the meaningless conversation they were having. So close that he had no choice but to breathe in the ripe juice of Mary. “I want to do things, Father. O God, I want to do terrible things…” Deliver me from evil. Is this evil? It must be. It is. Sin. The sins of the flesh. Her flesh. The flesh of Mary. “Sometimes,” whispered the sweet breath of Mary, “I want it so bad, I don’t care if I burn in a flame hotter than any human fire for ever and ever.”
Maybe I shouldn’t be a priest. Maybe I’m too weak. Maybe I’m just doing it so everyone will like me. So I won’t let my dead dad down. So I’ll be the Whiz Kid Priest. “Sometime I think God would understand. God understands love, doesn’t he Father?” Does He? Do You? I don’t know, James thought. I thought I knew. God is love. Isn’t He? Aren’t You? I thought I knew. I was so sure I did. Everything seemed so clear and simple. A sin of the flesh is a sin of the flesh is a sin of the flesh. Father James is not a sinner. Father James is a vessel of God. Devout. A son of the son of God, pure in His celestial mansion on earth.
I want Mary. More than I want God. Could that be true? Or is this Lucifer worming his way my Holy Soul? Making me want Mary’s sweetness. To eat her flesh. To drink her milky blood. James had to punch himself hard in the thigh. Her smell was everywhere. His dream flashed in front of him, the wings of the wet archangel Mary, the parting of her red sea, so rigid and dizzy under his robe.
“I’m touching myself right now, Father,” confessed Mary, “I’m touching myself, and I’m very… it feels very… Father, tell me, what should I do? Am I going to hell? I can’t help myself… Help me, please help me Father.” God was everywhere. God was nowhere. James felt God pumping hot blood under his robe. No, it’s Satan, this infernal damp dark underworld where black meets red. James wanted to die and go to Heaven, never having been tested. Please God, I’m ready. Take me now. Before Mary takes me. But God did not take James.
And he was aware she had left her side of the booth, could faintly hear her walking to him. Mary was coming. Or was it a flesh demon sent to suck out his soul. Run James, run, that little piece of rational brain that was left screamed. But he couldn’t run. Didn’t want to run. Wouldn’t run. The door slowly opened as the worm turned. And then there she was Mary. Floating in on the wings of a prayer. Deliver me now from evil, deliver me through the desert like Moses to the promised land. But where was the promised land? It was here in his confessional booth. It was her, so pure sweet and Mary. Please, God show me. Tell me, for I am nothing. I am your vessel. Help me now or forever hold your peace. God did not come. God did not help. God did not tell James what to do. Betrayed thrice, thought Father James. By the Father, by the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
He was alone with her. With this speaking in tongues, this massive tower of Babel so huge and confused under the shroud of his black robe. And James was filled with her crimsoning bouquet. Her ivory so flesh, bright burn of the eyes so Mary, the pleading of her thighs, her breasts so full of God’s blood and milk. Take, eat, this is my body and is meant for you. “If you want me to go, tell me right now, Father, I’ll go and I’ll never come back.” Mary blazed into him with God’s light. Yes, go! Be gone, whore of Babylon, temptress, she-devil, be gone. James heard the words in his head. But they would not come out of his mouth.
And Mary did lean down to him, bathed in a golden halo of honeydew perfume. James heard a heavenly choir soaring and a devil’s organ grinding. And she did lean down to him, her breasts so full of God, closer, her lips florid, touching him, the first time a woman’s lips had ever touched him. I’m the Holy Virgin, James thought. And she is Mary. I’m the Unholy Virgin, James thought. And she is sweet Mary. Her breath is so deep so red so wet. And her tongue is so full of life and fruit so forbidden touching his lips so light and his holiness jumped under his robe and he was so full and taut and fierce. O God, I’m burning up. I’m already burning in hell, James thought, and I will burn in a flame hotter than any human fire for all eternity. For ever and ever world without end, Amen. And I don’t care.
And Mary slipped her tongue, the hot tight serpent tongue of Eve, deeper into him. And a hurricane crucified his brain. And a twister spun through the third eye of the snake under his robe. O God, it’s so hard, James thought. And Mary took his face in her hands and her tongue slowly slid into his mouth and he moaned from his soul. And his hands reached out as if they weren’t his hands at all and grabbed her hips and she gasped under his grasp, sucked on his lips and those hips of Mary were liquid in his hands, undulating, swelling, swiveling into him. And James could smell her now. So fertile and earthly and heaven sent. And it made him want to give her everything he had. The keys to the kingdom of heaven.
And Mary pulled her breasts out of her blouse and she fed them to him and he dove in, baptizing himself in the milk of the flesh of Mary, so bursting in his hungry mouth, the rhythm raw and rocksteady. And there was no God and there was no Devil. There was only Mary. And Mary threw her head back in ecstatic rapture her tongue peeked out of her mouth, her eyes half shut in Biblical delight, the delicious quivering in her belly twitching all the way inside her, beating the drums fanning the fire. “Forgive me Father for I have sinned,” she whispered. And she took him in her hand scalding her flesh so hard and she disappeared into the black cauldron under his robe. And she kissed the tip of his stiff cross and he jumped and panted – “O God O God O God” – springing from his lips as she ran her tongue and cupped him in her hand gently massaging his world and swallowing him whole, slowly inch by inch into her Mary mouth and she moaned soulful and vibrated and he quaked, intoxicated by the dark depths of Mary.
Mary emerged, her lips swollen and turkey cock red, cheeks blazing cherries, eyes black fire, and she moved in and kissed him, let him sip his own saltiness sex on her lips. And then he was sitting on the floor and she was hovering over him, floating in the confessional like an angel of life, a devil of death. And she spread herself with her fingers. And she grabbed his gaze and would not let go. And James had never wanted anything so much as he wanted her. Mary. And she lowered herself, opening slowly, all over him. And she sucked on the very tip of the soul of him with her Mary, relishing the anticipation, feeling the frenzy until he could no longer stand it, and thrust uncontrollable and unconscious into this Mary. As if this was his sacred mission in life. As if this was his true calling. To be inside Mary.
And Mary pushed herself down onto Father James and slid her velvet tremor down, jamming, swallowing him whole, body and soul all the way with everything she had, squeezing him to the root, to the core, to the bone, to the moan, her foundation shaking, rocking his steeple, shattering her madness, rattling his stained glass windows, banging on the pearly gates, knock knock knocking on heaven’s door. And Mary grasped him, so tight and swelling and wet and delirious with him. And James found himself levitating, lovecrazy, heartcrazy, poemcrazy. This was bigger than him. More powerful. This wanting. This Mary.
Eye to eye, two windows into two souls. And there was a new incense filling the booth. The sweet scent of James and Mary. And she nailed him to her cross, took his crown of thorns, as she pounded down him, beads of holy water pooling into drops and raining down his face and chest and back, soaking his robe. And she rocked, insane, out of body, out of mind, in her body, his heart exploding as they climbed the stairway to heaven. And the animal in her eyes sprang at him, leapt into him, and he was possessed by the passion of her possession.
And he grabbed her hips hard now and pressed up against her as she slid sliding wet gripping grabbing and slamming, filling the confessional with their fury frenzy yes, “O God!” she cried in whisper, and “O sweet Jesus!” he whispered with a cry, and “O Mary!” he cried, and “O Father!” and “O Christ!” transported, transcendental, the ethereal house of the Father and the blessed Mary, the throne of God’s bliss, angels and devils dancing on the head of a pin prick, on the tip of their sin, skin drenched as Mary soaked him with her wet divinity, the holy of holies, until he could hold back no more, and his manna was shooting into her, from the balls of his feet through the thicket of his heart and into the river of his brain, and let their be light and together they entered the tender garden of the kingdom of paradise.
And then she wept. And he wept. Drenching each other in joy and sin. Crying in great gulps of love and shame. And James held her tight in his arms. And Mary held him tight in her arms. And they held onto each other in that confessional like they were the last people on Earth. The last people in heaven. The last people in hell. Then James thanked God. His God. For giving him Mary.
Given Half a Chance, the Modern American Male Will
a) remain unconscious
b) swim to the surface
c) discuss black holes
You know how you can feel someone staring at you? That’s what Gwen was feeling. It was the first day of soccer practice, and there’s someone staring at me, Gwen thought. Then she turned around and caught him. And he didn’t look away. Neither did she. Deep blue. I’ve never seen eyes that deep and blue, Gwen thought. She dove into them and swam around. He was almost smiling. Not quite. And the way he looked at her. Like he wanted something from her. Something important. And when Gwen closed her eyes to go to sleep that night she saw that look. Hungry. Blue.
He was the New Coach. He was about her brother’s age. 22-ish. He was a serious soccer guy. Legs thick. Brown. Even when he was standing still, the muscles in his thighs looked alive and pumping. Gwen found herself staring at them. His legs. Gwen found herself. He wore paper thin t-shirts from Brazil, Ireland, Germany, Mozambique, and Mazatlan. Where he’d been. Playing soccer. Kissing beautiful exotic women. At least that’s what Gwen found herself imagining as she stared at his lips. Pink. Always just about to smile. Gwen had only had one boyfriend, and when he kissed her, he jammed his mouth onto hers hard, and it hurt. So she broke up with him. But she found herself staring at New Coach’s lips and imagining putting her lips on them sweet and soft. Hungry. He had curly brown hair and a crooked nose from when he broken it. A scar over one of his blue eyes. Where did that scar come from? Gwen wondered.
Gwen stared at her naked body in the mirror in her girly room surrounded by all her girly things, and she couldn’t quite figure it out. Six months ago she was skinny. Her dad called her beanpole. It was like someone had pushed a button and her beanpole had sprouted into a woman’s body. She couldn’t quite believe her breasts looked. Two woman’s breasts. Brown buttons and a round, crazy, curvy, handful. Gwen kept looking at those breasts, trying to figure them out. Whose breasts are those? They looked beautiful to her, like a painting in a museum. But they didn’t seem like hers. Someone would be by to claim them any minute. That strange new fullness between her legs. What was that all about, Gwen found herself wondering. Everything felt so full. And so empty. Gwen just couldn’t put it all together. It puzzled her, and it scared her, and it made her very curious. She felt like she had a new Christmas present, but someone had forgotten to put the batteries in. She kept staring at it all, head slightly tilted, confused, wandering aimlessly in her eyes.
He looked at her like he knew exactly what to do. The first time, before she even knew he was the New Coach. A couple of times every practice. That almost smile. Those hungry blue eyes. He knew.
And now he was coming over. He would be there any minute. Gwen still couldn’t believe she’d gotten up the nerve to ask him. She hadn’t told any of her friends. Which was very odd, because Gwen told her friends everything. She didn’t even tell Tara. And that made Gwen very nervous. She had decided to wear her new jeans and her favorite Clyde Frazier t-shirt to show him how much she didn’t care that he was coming over when her parents were gone for the weekend. Oh, yes, gone for the weekend. Gone, gone, gone.
Gwen had waited and waited for the right moment to ask him, and finally after practice on Thursday, he had run some extra sprints, and she had run with him, straining to keep up with those thick brown legs, her muscles burning, shirt soaking, panting, burning, blood boiling in her head, wet, legs on fire, his almost translusent thin t-shirt from Italy sticking to the ripples of his skin. When they were finally done she collapsed and he stood over her, looking down at her, almost smiling, breathing deep and blue, and she could not get her breath back. Couldn’t catch it. Her breath. And those strange new breasts were heaving. My God, thought Gwen, I have breasts, and they’re heaving. “How ya doin’, Gwen?” he asked, and the way he said it was like he knew. Did he know? How could he know? How could he not know? And her whole inviting him over speech that she had rehearsed so meticulously had just flown out of her head like mallards flying south for the winter, and she lost the power of speach. “Uh… well,” she sputtered like a backfiring engine, “I’m… you know… uh… good… and I was wondering…” Gwen was picking up steam now, getting her land legs under her, “Yeah, I was wondering if you’d like to come over Saturday and watch this soccer video I got for my birthday. It’s really cool. It’s the hundred greatest goals of ’98.” And he had looked at her for the longest time. Just looked at her. My God he’s looking at me, Gwen thought. He’s gonna tell my parents. Or no, even worse, he’s just gonna laugh at me, I mean why the hell would the New Coach wanna come over to my dorky house. Oh Jesus, what a moron I am, Gwen found herself thinking. And then he said, “Sure, how about fivish?” And then she said, “Yes”. And her mind was screaming, “Yes, yes, yes, my God, yeeeeeeeeeeees!”
Now he was coming. She slipped on her favorite Clyde Frazier t-shirt without a bra over her brand new breasts with the nipples that she had no idea what to do with. And just the thought that he was on his way and she was wearing her favorite Clyde Frazier t-shirt with no bra made them come to attention. And for some reason, she now reached not for her new jeans, but for the plaid skirt. Not her jeans. The plaid skirt. And she put it on. And she looked at herself in it. Looked at her legs. Tanned. Freshly shaved. And she slipped on her thin white underpants. And then, as if it were perfectly choreographed, just as the white cotton nestled into place, the doorbell rang.
The New Coach was here.
Gwen opened the front door, and sure enough, there he was. The New Coach. Almost smiling. At her. Hungry. Blue. Just like she remembered him. In a paper-thin faded t-shirt from Monte Carlo with red shorts over his large brown legs. And then she was inviting him in, and getting him orange juice, and they were talking, and they were sitting on the couch. Gwen was sure they were talking, because she could hear the words, and she recognized her voice. Talking. And then he asked, “So, where are your parents?” and Gwen heard herself saying, “Oh, they’re away for the weekend,” with an air of casual off-handedness that didn’t fool anyone. The information sat there for a long time, and Gwen thought New Coach was finally going to give her that smile he had been almost smiling since the first time she caught him looking at her. “Really…” he said, and he stared at her. And he didn’t smile. Almost smiled. But didn’t. But my God those eyes are blue, Gwen found herself thinking. Gwen found herself. Thinking about how blue and hungry those eyes were.
“So, where do you wanna watch the video?” Gwen asked. “Anywhere,” said the New Coach. “How about up in my room?” slipped out of her mouth, and once it was out there was no taking it back. Gwen was doing everything she could not to hyperventilate and grab him and say, “Don’t you know what’s going on here? Don’t you know I invited you over here? Why are you just sitting there?!” But she didn’t. “Sure,” he almost smiled, “let’s go up to your room and watch the video.” And something inside Gwen clenched. She didn’t know what it was, but it stole her breath, and it brought the blood to her big new nipples under her favorite Clyde Frazier t-shirt, and they felt like a pair of electric buzzers ringing the doorbell in her furnace.
He is sitting next to me on her girly bed in her girly room, on this Saturday afternoon, with her parents gone, gone, gone. Here we are, Gwen thought. In my room. On my bed. The video is on. Goal after goal crashing into the net. Hugging. Screaming. Kissing. Crowd going crazy. And his thick brown leg was so close to hers she could feel the heat coming off it. And then Gwen suddenly became aware of his hands. My God, she thought, they’re huge. His hands are huge. He has huge hands. His huge hands are so close to me, Gwen found was thinking. And the longer Gwen sat there not watching goal after goal being rammed home, with him not touching her with those huge hands of his, the more confused Gwen became. Why is he just sitting there? Staring. Like he was staring the first time she caught him staring. Before she even knew he was the New Coach.
And the longer Gwen sat there, the more she realized that she was the one who wanted something from him. She was the one who wanted something. Really important. It wasn’t him, it was me, she thought. I’m the one that’s hungry. Maybe he’s hungry, too. Is he hungry? He’s not watching the goals anymore.
“GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!” came erupting every thirty seconds on the soundtrack. He’s almost smiling, Gwen thought. He’s not going to do anything. He can’t. It would be creepy if he did. It’s my move, Gwen, thought. Oh my God, it’s my move.
“Uh, I’ve… well, the thing is, I’ve been having some, uh… problems with my lower back, and I was wondering…” The sentence just seemed to perish there. It just seemed so cheesy and stupid. “What were you wondering?” he almost smiled. And now she was sure he knew. He had to know. He knew. But if he knew, why was he making her go through all this. Asking him. Oh, God, I am just so bad at this, Gwen thought. And the longer he sat there not doing anything with those huge hands and those thick brown legs and those pink lips and those blue eyes, the tighter she got. Wanting. Goal after goal. The crowd going wild. “Well, uh… I was wondering if you could… stretch me?” she asked.
“Sure,” he almost smiled.
She was on her back. On her puffy rug in her girly room. And he was standing over her. He’s standing over me, Gwen thought. He bent down and his legs were so close. Huge hands were touching her legs, freshly shaved, and he was staring into her so blue, his voice soft and hypnotic and hungry.
“Breathe,” he said. And she breathed. “Deep,” he said. And she breathed deep. “Let it go, Gwen. Let it go.” She didn’t know exactly what he meant by that. What was she supposed to let go? How am I supposed to let it go, Gwen thought, when I don’t even know what it is.
On her back he pulled her right knee up into her chest, then turned her so her right knee went across her body, stretching her torso, pushing her right knee down on the rug by her left hip, his huge hand spreading strong across the outside of her thigh, the other above her right chest.
“Breathe…” he said, “Deep… let it go, Gwen. Let it go.” And she breathed. Deep. Gwen found herself letting it go. She found herself. I’m breathing, Gwen thought, and I’m letting it go. He stretched her, deep into the big muscles in her back all the way into the inside of her, whoosh, a deep spinal relief. Then he stretched her left leg the other way, and the tight unloosening with every breath. He grabbed under her calves with those huge hands, and he pushed her knees into her chest, so she rocked on her spine. Totally exposed. Gently he pushed while she breathed, his weight pushing into her, one huge hard on her lower back just above her white underpants. Hard. Pressing.
“Breathe Gwen,” he said. “Deep.” And she breathed deep and he pushed against her a little harder. Pushed. Against her. She could feel it really letting go. Gwen felt warm. A wet. She wanted to give him something important. She wanted to give it to him. And she wanted to take it.
I’m breathing. Deep. The breath eased out. He lifted her lower back up ever so slightly. She flexed, opening. Gwen looked and she saw it outlined against his thin red shorts. Hard. She breathed and the breath eased out of her. He moved his enormous thumb so that is was pressing firm gentle and hungry against her white cotton panties, fitting perfectly against her, the tip of his thumb on the tip of her and Gwen felt herself stick to her white underpants, hotly and wetly, she couldn’t help herself, didn’t want to help herself, she pressed into his thumb, and she sighed hard and she shivered and she shook, and her muscles contracted around his thumb, like she was trying to suck on it.
She smelled him. Smelled sex. It was filling up the room. The smell of wanting.
And now she spread her legs apart. Reached for his skin and felt it through his thin t-shirt. Moved him a little so now instead of his thumb pressing against her she felt something pressing against her, sliding along her wet with the rhythm of their breath.
“Breathe Gwen,” he said, only this time it was a whisper in her ear, as he leaned onto her, laid his chest on her chest, bodies melting into each other. Where does he end and where do I begin? Gwen found herself wondering. And she breathed. Deep.
His tongue landed on her lips. It surprised her. Took her breath. Sucked on her lip like a hungry calf his breath warm sweet. She pushed into him. Wrapping around him. Hard. Sliding up and down.
Gwen shivered a shudder she shook. Deep inside her belly somewhere. His huge hands slipped under her, pulling her into him, slowly and slowly. Then she felt his hungry. How hard and deep it was. She put her hands on his back, rippling with heated muscles, sweet to the touch. And she wanted something in her mouth, so Gwen reached out with her mouth and felt his neck on her lips, slightly moist and so hot. She sucked. His skin. In her mouth. He moaned a shudder he shook. She pushed against him. Pushed.
Gwen wanted to be full. Of him. Her new body wanted. She was hungry. For his hunger. That thing she saw in his blue eyes the first time she caught him staring at her. Before she even knew he was the New Coach. She couldn’t help herself. Didn’t want to help herself. She pushed into him with all her strength.
Suddenly her shirt was off and his shirt was off. And now it was skin on skin. She thought they might might burst into flames. Wet now. With sweat sweet warm. His breath on her strange new breasts, only they don’t seem quite so strange now, they’re hot wires, wired with heat, right into her wet, in her belly somewhere, deep as he sucked on her, licked her moan to the bone. That was me, Gwen found herself thinking. I was moaning. That was me. She pushed the outside of her wet against him again, sliding up his hardness, and then slowly back down. And he pushed against her, squeezing with his hands under her, pulling her slowly up and slowly back down, muscular, undulating with hunger. Gwen was swept away into that blue. She wanted to be filled with his blue.
“Are you sure?” he whispered. Gwen was never more sure of anything in her life. She pushed against him harder, trying to will him inside. She grabbed his, hard the soft hot rock flesh, pulling him in with a strength she didn’t know she had. Thinking yes. He slid off her underpants. She lifted herself up to help him and clenched and she could feel the wet coming on, and the feel of his hands on her skin sliding down her, over her calf off the end of her big toe. And then suddenly he didn’t have any clothes on. She didn’t know exactly how he did that, but suddenly he was so incredibly naked.
As she pushed up and sucked down, grabbing at him with her wet, she felt herself climbing waves washing over her, through her, a rope ladder that went from her wet through her belly, shooting through her heart, growling through her throat, springing from her mouth, out her eyes, his blue right at her tip, his hard, hot so big so he looked at Gwen, he’s looking at me, Gwen thought, all that blue hunger.
“Are you sure?” his pink lips asked. Gwen felt the wet welling and breathing, she let it go, the hard of him, his huge hands, her new breasts pressed to his chest, his mouth, his blue she knew the first time she caught him before she knew how much he wanted she wanted, breathing. Mouth to mouth Gwen pushed with all her might into him with all her might, Gwen pushed into him deep as the deep blue sea and the clear blue skies, swallowed him and grabbed him and pulled him into her and squeezed him as his hard so large and hot filling her she holds him there inside her wet she squeezes shivers shakes, lava flowing through her core to the root to the stem, a melt, giving it to him, taking it from him, letting it go. She made a sound she never heard before as she pressed him into her, a growlhowlgroanmoan to the pagan a tremble a rock steady, a rolls a thrust. He’s trying to hold back but he can’t, she doesn’t want him to, I don’t want you to hold back, Gwen thought, I want all of you, and she’s deep, deeper, deepest, riding, and he’s trembling trying to hold back but he can’t, he can’t, he can’t, and she’s sucking him into her, squeezing and riding a love goddess letting it go bathing in his blue swimming in his blue. He tries to pull back but she grabs him and wraps her legs around his hard his thick brown legs grabbing his skin with him deep deep inside into his blue inside her hungry from the very first time when she first caught him staring before she even knew he was the New Coach wanting something very important from her, the huge of his hands the pink of his lips, the soft of his blue as he explodes shouting screaming into her letting it go, shiver shake shudder into each other into into into each other’s breath. She understood her new body, her wet hunger.
Gwen smiled into his blue.
Finally he smiled.
Goldman Sachs is proud to announce a consumer-enriching expansion from the hallowed halls of Wall Street to the glittering neon of Las Vegas. In addition to continuing our world-class wealth-friendly Private Wealth Management and Personal Banking services; our internationally-recognized client-focused Global Investment Research services; our award-winning, growth-facilitating Debt Financing teams, we are excited to unveil plans for the globally diversified, entertainment-enhanced Goldman Sachs Lounge & Casino, perfect for both the high roller, and the high-net-worth individual, financial institution, corporation and/or government. Located just off Flamingo Ave. between Treasure Island and Circus Circus, GSL&C will continue our tradition of offering the finest in connectivity-based consumer value. From Texas Hold ‘em Hedge Fund tables, to Equity Capital Craps games, to Subprime Mortgage Default Roulette wheels, to Junk Bond Bingo, Goldman Sachs plans to bring the visionary, innovative and family-friendly fun it made famous on Wall Street, and transplant it right into the heart of Las Vegas. We’re also delighted to provide both original and recapitalized entertainment-rich packages, including but not limited to, a Ronald Reagan impersonator, who, backed by the dancing Reaganettes, will star in a multimedia review developed by Sirs Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber, with Wayne Newton, called DEREGULATION! World renowned Cirque du Soleil have developed a special show just for us, entitled, Money CAN Buy You Love, which will feature profitability-saturated costumes that are just that side of revealing, just this side of risqué, and made of real FDIC-backed gold bullion. And for all you Baby Boomers we’ll have a Pink Floyd tribute band that plays an extended jam version of their mega-hit song, Money, with an infrastructure-rocking, liquidity-inducing light show that’ll have you tripping the light fantastic! For the AARP crowd, we got a Henny Youngman look-alike with a comedy-maximizing catchphrase that’s sure to gain valuable traction all over America, “Take my money, PLEASE!” Don’t think we forgot the kids! While you’re having as much fun as an adult can legally have in the state of Nevada, drop them off at the Elephants, Bulls and Bears room. Boys can play Matador, goring and killing our very own papier-mâché headed mascot Bully. Girls can have a teddy bear’s picnic, while they learn how to bag an Elephant, (a large institutional investor), thereby attaining a strategic advantage in manipulating security prices. We’ll also be featuring a Research Room, “manned” by a bevy of bodacious, brainy beauties, who are fully “equipped” to give you insider tips about which games best suit your skills, value and long-term fiduciary goals. And don’t worry if you’re a little cash flow-shy, we’ve got our own credit rating agency, headed by Harvard Business School alumnus and former Miss Las Vegas, Penelope “Penny Stock” Bernstein. Plus we’ll offer a super, synthetic collateralized debt obligation system that lets you get cash fast fast fast. So be sure when you’re packing your little black dress, to throw in your pink slips to all your vehicles, the deed(s) to your house(s), as well as your bathing suit, so you can take a break from all the madcap fun, and swim in our blood diamond encrusted, $-shaped Olympic size pool And don’t forget to visit the Bailout Lottery Lounge, where you can buy a ticket that gives you a better than average* chance of winning a nice hunk of that Obama bailout money you’ve been hearing so much about. You’ll even find a Big Short Blackjack table, where customers can actually bet against themselves, and the dealer. Because at Goldman Sachs Lounge & Casino, everyone’s a winner!*
*Based on current, former, and future unforeseeable variables, and due to fluctuations including, but not limited to, current market values, anticipated added profitability, or unanticipated market downturn, this claim is completely nonbinding in this or any other universe, in perpetuity
“There is a great looking chicken new to me on the swim team … he looks to be 14. Tall but built pretty well in his chest, and blonde and great smile. I fantasized about his asking me to help him get used to the jacuzzi naked.”
Do you find this shocking and unbelievable?
I do not. At the age of 17, I became an under-age prostitute: a chicken. One of my clients was a judge. The Judge paid me $500 (and this was 1974 money) to verbally and physically abuse him. As soon as I laid eyes on him I felt mean, hateful, loathing. I imagined him up on the bench looking down at me righteously. At the same time I felt sorry for him, and I wondered: Who pumped their poison into this guy? At that moment I vowed I’d never work again. Afterwards I went and bought a day-old birthday cake and ate until I passed out.
Judge Kline has been charged with six counts of possessing child pornography, (including over 100 images of child pornography and a commercial videotape in his home) and child molestation.
Internet pedophilia is rampant. Children are bought and sold, imported and exported like slaves all over the world.
From the cover of Newsweek, to the front pages of the New York Times, to 48 Hours TV news magazine, there have been countless stories detailing how priests have been abusing children for decades all over America.
I am not shocked. I am not in disbelief. Sadly I’ve seen it too many times. And not in the bad part of town. In the nice neighborhoods where I grew up. We must accept the fact that child sexual exploitation is not something that just happens in the ghetto, or in Mexico, or Bangkok. It’s happening on your block. In your nice neighborhood. On your block.
America has turned a blind eye to the problem of adults in positions of power and privilege sexually victimizing children for too long.
So what is to be done?
Stop treating prostituted kids as criminals. When a youth is arrested for prostitution, the question inevitably asked is, “Did the child agree to the act?” This is the equivalent of asking an assaulted child if they agreed to being beaten. Almost all of these kids have been subjected to terrible trauma, and must be given the psychological, emotional, and physical help they need, as well as the skills required to move on.
Stop passing kids from agency to agency to hospital to foster home, and allow kids to have a say in what happens to them when they’re rescued from sexual exploitation. And make sure they have a safe place to go.
Make more safe houses available for kids that are actually SAFE, where survivors can get medical, psychological to help them re-integrate into society.
Prosecute pimps and johns who abuse kids with vigorous laws and enforcement, and multiple charging (statutory rape, child endangerment, and RICO statute) abusers. 4) Create a Child Protection Czar, who would coordinate and facilitate organizations on a local and national level.
Spread public information for kids, parents and educators on how to talk about this subject: not as sex education, but as violence prevention.
Establish an 800 number that kids can call day or night that will refer them to a local agency where they can get the help they need.
Form a group of survivors who can help set policy, and talk all over the country in schools and churches and community centers.
The laws have to be stiffer, and their enforcement much more vigorous.
Parents must calmly and rationally tell their children that there are a few adults who are sick on the inside, and not on the outside. And this grown-up might not be a stranger. It might be someone you know. And the sickness makes them want to hurt boys and girls. No matter what any adult says, boys and girls don’t have to do anything they’re not comfortable with, and if anyone tries to make them, they need to tell their mom and their dad and their teacher.
We want our heroes and villains in clean discreet categories. We want our heroes to be pillars of society. We want our sexual villains to be fringe freaks, grotesque and easily recognizable. But the fact is that predators are hungry for our children in all walks of life. Sexual predators aren’t all pockmarked men in stained raincoats. Sometimes they’re gardeners, priests, uncles, and yes, even judges.
I hid the fact that I had been a prostitute for many years, and holding all those secrets and all that trauma nearly killed me. I went from the penthouse to the outhouse on a slow painful ride down the razor’s edge. Part of the reason I couldn’t tell anyone was that I grew up in a British household where one’s upper lip was always stiff, and I could not ask for the help I needed. But part of it is a terrible prejudice that exists in our culture against kids who’ve been prostituted. I felt my identity had been spoiled, that I was worthless and undeserving of love and help. I wrote a book about my life as a young chicken, and when my book came out, I “came out” as an ex-prostitute. I immediately felt the effects of having my identity spoiled. Many of my immediate family no longer speak to me. I am no longer invited to family gatherings. One of my best friends told me point blank it was my fault that I was raped. Hate the crime, not the victim.
If I could talk to Ronald C. Kline, this is what I’d like to say: “I was hired as a 17 year old to abuse a judge, and it left deep scars in me which took years and years to heal. Please, I beg you to get some help. Find someone who can assist you to express your desires appropriately. Innocence is the most precious thing in the world. Once it’s gone, you can never get it back.”
David Henry Sterry is the author of Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent 10 Year Anniversary published by Soft Skull
My opening night at Chippendales: Construction guy lipsynchs Is It Me You’re Looking for? he makes BBW sister swoon. Video book excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Roller Skates & Chippendales
1985, smackdab in the cash-happy coke-crazy 80s. That’s when I was hired to be the MC at Chippendales, it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps: movie stars, fashion Titans, movers and shakers shaking their booties and grooving and cruising. And I was right in the center of it, in tuxedo top hats and rollerskates, where every night was ladies night, it was always raining men, and girls just wanted to have fun. When I was hired to be the MC at Chippendales, it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps: movie stars, fashion Titans, movers and shakers shaking their booties and grooving and cruising. And I was right in the center of it, in tuxedo top hats and rollerskates. This book is about a culture of excess and madness spinning out of control, where greed was good, Wall Street was swimming with $, and bankrupt farmers were committing suicide. Where President Reagan’s designer clad Stepford first wife was giving grateful drug addicts everywhere the key to sobriety: Just Say No, even as her husband, flush with the rush of reelection, was funding drug thugs.
It’s about a man, Nick de Noia, who was the visionary genius behind Chippendales, a man who wanted to change the world, to fulfill the promise of Women’s Lib, to make a fun, safe sexy place where women could fondle, ogle and sexualized hot man flesh for the first time in history. And he wanted to get rich doing it. He was a tyrant who ruled with a combination of cruel abuse and buttery flattering charm. He was my boss, and this book is about what it’s like to work for a man who gets assassinated. It’s about performing in front of 600 flesh craving, money waving, booze fueled ladies, with the estrogen bouncing off the walls. It’s about working with beautiful half-nude dudes, and never getting laid. But, in the end, it’s about failing at fame and succeeding at love.
To read excerpts from the book and an interview go to: https://davidhenrysterry.com/category/books/
To read piece in London Times Sunday Magazine go to:
UNZIPPED: A TRUE STORY OF
SEX, DRUGS, ROLLERSKATES
& MURDER (Canongate/Grove Atlantic)
Manhattan, mid-80s: Madonna is wearing her bullet-bra, and Wall Street is cash-happy, while at Chippendales – the world’s most famous male strip club – it’s raining men, and girls just wanna have fun. David Henry Sterry was at the centre of the madness as the roller-skating emcee, fanning the flames of lady lust while Rome burned.
Ultimately, though, all great parties must come to an end, and the gangland-style assassination of his boss, the man responsible for the phenomenal success of the beefcake boys, marked the beginning of the end for the party-all-the-time 80s in New York City.
With unflinching, brutal honesty, Sterry records the seedy glamour, dirty little secrets and hilarious backstage madness of a world spinning out of control. Unzipped is the eye-popping story of the ugliest man at Chippendales, and his search for happiness in a sea of G-strings, desperate housewives behaving badly and 25 of the most beautiful men in the world.
In Manhattan of mid-80s: Madonna debuts her bullet-bra at Danceteria, a 50-foot Brooke Shields jeans ad adorns Times Square, Wall Street is cash-happy, while at Chippendales – the world renowned male strip club – it’s raining men, and girls just wanna have fun in the club that’s infamous for late-night well-fuelled parties that just don’t stop. Acclaimed memoirist David Henry Sterry, author of “Chicken”, was literally at the centre of the madness as the roller-skating emcee of the nightly beefcake parade.
“Unzipped” is the action-packed, compelling true story of a fledgling actor whose first big break results in a two-year stint as the emcee at the world’s most famous and hedonistic strip club. Ultimately, though, all great parties must come to an end, and the gangland style assassination of his boss, the man responsible for the phenomenal success of the beefcake boys, marked the beginning of the end of the party-all-the-time 80s in New York City. Seedy glamour, dirty little secrets, hilarious backstage madness and unflinching, brutal honesty make David Sterry’s “Unzipped” an entertaining and moving memoir.
INTERVIEW! David Henry Sterry sat down for this interview just before the release of his new book, Unzipped: A True Story of Sex, Drugs, Rollerskates & Murder (Canongate, 2007)
Q: What was it like to work at Chippendales male strip club in New York City in the craziness of the mid-80s, when it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps?
A: It was absolutely mad, like being in the middle of a Fellini movie. The mid-80s were insane, big hair, tiny skirts, cash-happy and coke-crazy, back when girls just wanted to have fun and it was raining men. 600 flesh-craving money-waving women packed into this tiny club, going berserk, I swear I was high on estrogen every night. To me, watching the women was more fun than anything at Chippendales. They came from all over the world, in every shape and size, bimbo in limos and booming grannies, supermodels and super virgins, hen parties gone wild and desperate housewives behaving badly. Most of these women were so sweet, honestly, I fell in love every night. But some of these ladies, they were absolutely savage. Night after night I would watch them, drunk out of their minds, digging their nails deep into these men, often drawing blood. I remember so clearly on my first night at Chippendales as I came into the tiny stinky dressing room after the show, there was Prince Charming, (that was the name of the character he played in the show), standing in front of a full-length mirror, an enormous $1,000 mountain of wrinkled and sweaty cash in front of him, and as I scanned my eyes down his huge, nude, oiled up perfect body, I saw these teeth marks in his exquisite ass cheek. They were deep and red and angry. Some lady had really sunk in her choppers into him. Seriously, you could have identified her dead body from those teeth marks. I remember thinking, America, what a country! In some ways it was the best job I’ve ever had: four nights a week, two hours a night, making big bank, celebrities like Brooke Shields and Calvin Klein in the audience, it was so much fun. But it was also one of the most frustrating jobs I’ve ever had. You see, I was the master of ceremonies, the MC, the compere, I wore a tuxedo, top hat, and rollerskates. And being a great MC at Chippendales was kind of like being the greatest downhill skier in the SaharaDesert. You may be amazing, you may be the best, but nobody gives a shit. One of the threads of this book is what it was like to be the ugliest man at Chippendales, starving for sex in the middle of hundreds of women every night, and never getting laid.
Q. Were you working at the club when the world-famous Chippendales murder occurred?
A: Yes, in fact the man who was murdered was my boss, the visionary genius behind Chippendales, Nick de Noia. This book is also about what it’s like to work for a charming tyrant, kind of like The Devil Wears a G-String Nick moved with the muscular grace of Gene Kelly, he had salty, peppery, perfectly-coiffed hair, sparkly eyes, and a 20-gigawatt bright-white mile-wide smile beaming in the middle of it all. Nick de Noia wanted to change the world, liberate women so they could ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh. And, of course, he wanted to get rich doing it. He ruled with a combination of cruel brutish abuse, and charming buttery flattery. He designed a life in which he surrounded himself with ridiculously handsome dudes who liked to make $ taking their clothes off, and needed him to love them. And yet he presented aggressively hetero, had been married and divorced to and from supermodel movie star Jennifer O’Neil, star of the hit movie Summer of 42. Nick saw himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And Chippendales was his legacy to the world. After he was shot, the police came and interrogated everyone at the club. When they asked me if I knew anyone who might want to kill Nick de Noia, I said, “Do you want the short list, or the long list?” I mean, I myself had muttered several times under my breath that I’d like to kill Nick de Noia. But I’ve often thought, what does it take to go from casually contemplating killing someone, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall?
Q: What exactly was your job at Chippendales?
A: It was my job to skate around in the middle of the Pit, as we called it, and recite a 200 page script. As I said, I was the ugliest man at Chippendales, and I was the only one who talked in the show. Coincidence? I think not. I would introduce the men, and I was responsible for cueing all the light and sound change, as well as for the removal of every article of clothing by the Unknown Flasher, the Barbarian, the Construction Guy, the Hot New Guy and Prince Charming. It was my job to yell out “jokes” like, “You’re going to love our next guy, in his spare time he’s a professional bowler, and believe you me ladies, he’s got a pair of 16 pound balls.” And I was responsible for teaching the women most important thing in the Chippendales show. When I would yell, “Whatttayaaaa wann’ ’em to dooooo?” they would yell, “TAKE IT AWWWFF!” And then a stripper would take off an article of clothing. Let me tell you something, on a Saturday night, when the place was packed to the tits, the sound of all those women screaming was, pound for pound, the loudest, most female noise I’ve ever heard in my life.
Q.: What were some of the craziest things you saw while working at Chippendales?
A: Oh my God, where to start?! There was the Dick Pull. The men used to do it before the show, in the dressing room, which was ridiculously small and had mirrors for walls, so everything was right in-your-face. When performing the Date Pull, the penis is taken in the hand and stretched repeatedly, like it’s modeling clay. When it’s all worked up, the penis is laid flat against the thigh, and the black, skintight Velcro pants are snapped over it, then quickly zippered shut, cutting off circulation to the member, thus creating the illusion of a perpetual hammerheaded trouser snake erection. Speaking of craziness, one time I walked into the dressing room bathroom at midnight, a couple of hours after the show was over, and busted in on a pair of twins performing fellatio on the Snowman, the second hottest guy at Chippendales, who had a shockingly sculpted body and an incredible 70s porn star mustache. Then there was the time the Barbarian, in a fit of steroid-fueled rage, hurled a huge metal trashbin across the dressing room, barely missing Pretty Peter’s pretty head. Speaking of steroids, in another bathroom, one time I caught one of the hot guys with his pants around his ankles, being injected with steroids by another of the hot guys, the small metal prick of the needle piercing Hot Guy #1’s exquisite bum. It was one of the most homoerotic things I’ve ever seen. And these were two guys who mercilessly teased other men about being gay, always doing these lisping caricatures of gay men. It was so much fun to catch them in the act. They were best friends, and often dressed alike, as if they were a couple. But of course they acted like tough, heterosexual he-men. I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing and said, “Why don’t you just do each other and get it over with?” Oh, they were so angry, they called me horrible names and chased me with murderous rage in their eyes. But luckily I was on my rollerskates and I got away unscathed. Then there was the time I saw a woman offer Large Mark, one of the huge Terminator-type guys, $500 to snort a line of cocaine off his genitalia. I told him he should have done it, $250 an inch is nothing to sneeze at. And personally, I would have paid good money just to watch her chop it up.
Q.: Is it true that most of the Chippendales guys were gay?
A: I’d say about 60% of the Men of Chippendales seemed like if there was money to be made, or they were horny enough, they’d fuck pretty much anything that moved. In fact, it didn’t even have to move, they’d fuck it. About 25% seemed completely gay. And maybe 15% seemed no-questions-asked breeders. But these figures are based on my own survey, which, frankly, did have some methodological problems.
Q.: Your first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, has been translated into many languages, and is being made into a Hollywood film: what were the repercussions of revealing that you were a teenage gigolo servicing Hollywood women, and was it more difficult to write than Unzipped?
A: I didn’t even really think about what the consequences of writing Chicken would be. I just knew I had to write it and get it out of my system. I know it sounds melodramatic to say this, but it really saved my life, helped transform me from an angry raging addict into a semi-normal human being. But of course there was much fallout. My people come from Newcastle, they are Geordies, and my father has never forgiven me for writing this book, he hasn’t spoken to me in many years. Lots of people who I thought were my friends said nasty ugly to me. Many people in the press attacked me personally, especially in the UK. I guess I was unprepared for the vitriol that would come my way from the media. At first I took it personally, but the more I thought about it the more I came to believe it’s got a lot more to do with the post-Victorian terror that the English seem to have about sex, that marvelous combination of titillation and repulsion that appears to be at the very core of British life. And I have taken to heart the words of one of my favorite writers, an Englishman, Oscar Wilde, who famously said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” I guess in the end I’m just happy that people paid attention at all. That being said, for every negative thing that’s happened to me as a result of revealing my sordid past, there have been a hundred wonderful, incredible, amazing things. I remember when I was doing my one-man show version of Chicken at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, after I finished a performance one night, a tiny little Scottish granny came up to me grinning like a schoolgirl coquette and asked me in a thick brogue, “Can I have a wee kiss?” I bent down and she gave me a sweet peck on the cheek. Then she giggled and said, “Now I can say I’ve kissed a gigolo.” I’ve gotten e-mails from people all over the world thanking me for writing Chicken, telling me how much they enjoyed the book, and that they don’t feel like such a freak anymore. And whenever I do my show, afterwards there are always a couple of teenage girls hanging about, shuffling their feet and averting their eyes. Shyly they approach me, and reveal their own terrible stories of sexual abuse at the hands of a relative, a friend, even a priest. It’s obvious that many of them have never told anyone their story, and oftentimes it comes flooding out of them like a geyser, the words pouring out in torrents, and when they’re done they look so happy and relieved, like the weight of the world has been lifted from them. I had no idea that there was this epidemic of sexual abuse going on in our society, it’s horrifying actually. I read about a study in which scientists had people write down the worst things that ever happened to them. They found that when people did this, their immune systems were boosted. When I first read it that seemed unbelievable to me, and yet I can attest that for myself this has been true. Since writing Chicken, I haven’t been sick a day in my life, my immune system is like the locks on Fort Knox. I’ve also had the opportunity to lead writing workshops sponsored by the United States Department of Justice in which I helped teenage girls write about how they’d been used as sex slaves by pimps, beaten with coat hangers and burned with cigarettes, raped by the police, absolutely shocking stuff. It was amazing to watch how they went from being reluctant to wildly enthusiastic about writing their stories. At the end of a conference, four or five of these girls got up and read their stories in front of a packed audience full of politicians, social workers and friends. It was one of the greatest moments in my life to watch the joy that came over their faces when they received standing ovations. These girls often see themselves as only having a value in regards to their bodies, their sex. For them to get so much love and affection for their talent, for their bravery, and for their writing was utterly transforming for all of us. Writing Chicken has also opened up a whole new world for me in that I have spoken and presented at colleges, high schools and universities all over the world, from the University of Amsterdam, to the University of New Orleans, to the Gold Coast of Australia. It was very difficult to write Chicken, for several reasons. One, I had to never written a book before. I’ve been a professional screenwriter, but I always wrote movies that had nothing to do with my own experiences. To reveal the worst, most horrendous, horrific things that ever happened to me, to say publicly that I was a prostitute, one of the worst things you can be in our society, was difficult, it was very painful to relive those events, but in the end it was tremendously cathartic. I used to have nightmares in which I would relive when I was raped, and I used to be obsessed with revenge fantasies where I would kill the man who attacked me in disgusting bloody ways. But as soon as I started portraying him on stage in the one-man show of the book, those revenge fantasies stopped, as did the nightmares. But I recall very distinctly as I was writing the book, many times tears would start flowing down my face, my guts would knot, and my chest tighten. Writing Unzipped was not like that. While there were certainly many frustrations during that time in my life, it was also so much fun to live through it. The glitz, glamour, the drugs. And of course I also met the woman who would become my first wife at Chippendales, she was the costume mistress, an extraordinarily beautiful, sexy, smart woman, who chose me over all those studs. To this day I can hardly believe it. In fact one of the most difficult things about writing Unzipped was trying to protect the anonymity of the men who I worked with. Everyone is so terrified of being sued these days, so I had to be very careful. Plus, I didn’t think it was fair to reveal things about them that they would not want revealed to the world. Many of them are married now and have children. They didn’t choose to write a book, I did. So it was a tremendous challenge to present all the facts, and to show the truth of what happened in that crazy, ridiculous world, while still respecting the privacy of these men. But I worked very very hard at doing that. And of course I did change the names and some of the physical characteristics of the men. But I had a wonderful time writing this book, I enjoyed it so much. I feel like I was very lucky to be right in the center of this moment in history, like I was Nero fiddling as Rome burned.
Q.: What are your next project’s?
A: Well, I have just written the twelve draft of the screenplay for Chicken, it’s being made into a movie by the producers who did the Peter Sellers movie with Geoffrey Rush. It’s pretty amazing to have gone from living it; to not talking about it for 20 years; to writing a book about it; to making a one-man show out of it and portraying all the characters: from the man who raped me, to my pimps, to the women who paid me to have sex with them; to now finally writing the screenplay and thinking about who’s going to play me in the movies. It looks like Jamie Bell, of Billy Elliot fame, is a prime candidate to play me as a 17-year-old rent boy. Naturally he’s a lot more handsome than I ever was. Also I have just finished putting together an anthology of writings by people who have worked in the sex industry, from college professors to homeless crack addicts, from goddess diva Annie Sprinkles to a 16-year-old girl who was sold into prostitution at the age of nine by her dad. I’m very proud of this book, I don’t think there’s ever been anything quite like it, and it comes out of my desire to humanize prostitutes, to show the real people behind the image that society glamorizes and reviles, to take away the stigma from people who have sex for money. At the same time I’ve written two books for 12-year-old girls, under a false name naturally. One is about how to throw a great pajama party, and the other a personality quiz book to help girls figure out exactly who they are and who they want to be, to encourage individuality and self expression in girls. And I just found an amazing illustrator for a graphic novel I’ve written. I’m also finishing up the second book in a series of young adult novels, again written under a pen name. And I’m just embarking on the third book in the trilogy I’m making out of my life. It’s about my time in show business and as a sex addict. Besides being the master of ceremonies at Chippendales, I made my living as a standup comedian, acted in a thousand TV and radio commercials, in dozens and dozens of plays, TV shows and movies, including The Fresh Prints of Bel Air, with Will Smith, worked with everyone from Michael Caine to Zippy the Chimp. I also had a three picture deal with Disney, and made a living as a screenplay writer in Hollywood. All the while I was running rampant sexually, having affairs with glamorous actresses and lovely college girls, going on sex binges with prostitutes that would last for weeks at a time. I tried to figure it out one time, I estimate I probably had sex with 1000 women. The amazing thing is that it was a lot less fun than you’d think it would be. But perhaps the most important project in my life is the new baby that’s on the way. It’s my first, it’s due September fifth, and I’m over the moon. I just could not be more excited about being a father. I’ve wanted to be a dad for a long time, but I knew I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t put someone else’s interests in front of my own, I was too twisted up inside. But now, with the help of my lovely and talented wife, I finally feel able to do that. Although I do worry sometimes what I’m going to say to my child when he asks me, “Should I be a gigolo like you when I grow up?” I haven’t quite figured out the answer to that question.
Excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales (Grove Atlantic, Canongate), slightly tweaked.
Master of Ceremonies
1985. Smack dab in the middle of the cash-happy coke-crazy 80’s, a decade dedicated, if not to love, then certainly to sex and madness, when Girls Just Wanted to Have Fun and it was Raining Men, and we all sat around watching Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, and Dallas and Dynasty, hey, greed’s good man, haven’t you heard? Let’s go watch Rambo blow away some gooks at the movies while we drink New Coke, and Michael Jackson’s hair catches on fire. Reagan, flush with the rush of re-election funds drug thugs while his designer-clad Stepford Wife First Lady gives grateful addicts everywhere the key to sobriety: Just Say No! In the midst of this flood of money, in San Diego a guy walks into a McDonald’s and guns down twenty citizens sucking down Happy Meals; while in Iowa a bankrupt farmer kills his wife, his neighbor and his banker. His wife and his neighbor I can understand. But his banker?
1985. That’s when I get hired to be the Master of Ceremonies at the greatest male stripping empire the world has ever known: Chippendales. You know, the too huge, half-nude dudes, in the tux cuffs’n’collars and skin-thin black Spandex with the bulging crotches, mountain peak pecs, 6-pack man wrack abs, and cheekbones for miles. When I first started working with these guys, every night when I walked into the club, I could actually feel my testicles shrivel.
Nick de Noia. He’s my boss, the visionary genius who transformed a dank dinky little male exotic revue into the Kingdom called Chippendales. He moves with the muscular grace of Gene Kelly, he’s got salty, peppery, perfectly-coiffed hair, eyes sparkling and shining, and a 20-gigawatt bright-white mile-wide smile beaming in the middle of it all. When I meet him, I really want him to like me. That’s the kind of guy he is. But I get the feeling he really hates me. That’s the kind of guy I am. Nick de Noia wants to change the world, liberate women so they can ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh, to display their lust, and be celebrated for it. And, of course, he wants to get rich doing it. He rules through cruel brutish abuse, mixed with charming buttery flattery. He’s designed a life in which he’s surrounded with ridiculously handsome dudes who like to make $ taking their clothes off, and need him to love them. He presents aggressively hetero, has been married and divorced to and from supermodel movie star Jennifer O’Neil. Nick has sees himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And this show is his legacy to the world.
My uniform is a tuxedo, cumberbund, tophat and roller skates. I’m the only one in the show who talks. It’s my job to skate around in circles in the Pit in front of 600 flesh-craving, money-waving, booze-fueled woman, as rampant blasts of estrogen slam off the walls. I have to teach them the most important thing in the show. When I yell, “Whattayaaa-wann’emmmmm-to do?” they yell, “TAKE IT AWFF!!!” “Whattttayaaa-wann’emmmmm-to do?” “TAKE IT AWFF!!!”
On my Opening Night the teeny tiny Dressing Room mirrored walls are cramjampacked with the man-skin of a dozen primping, preening, iron-pumping, oiled-up, slicked-down, tanning-bed-browned, blow-dried, hair-product-stiffened Men of Chippendales. It’s like being inside a thermo-nuclear Man device ready to blow.
In the corner stands a lanky Man with sandy hair wearing nothing but tux-cuffs’n’collar, and black spandex pants, unzipped. He pulls on his unsheathed penis like it’s modeling clay and he’s making it longer, one stroke at a time, until it’s at full extension. Then he meticulously lays his most prized possession on the inside on his thigh and snaps the spandex over it fast, yanking his pants shut, then quickly slithering his zipper over black Velcro-covered hip. Into a mirror he admires his throbbing Johnson knob, nodding his cocky head, like: Wow! I do look hot.
He’s just done the Dick Pull. The principle is simple: if you snap the spandex over your penis fast enough, you can cut off circulation to your member. In a correctly performed Dick Pull, the blood remains trapped in the penis, creating a permanently erect hammerheaded trousersnake.
The Man catches me checking him out. So he cocks his fud and busts a gust of loud foul gas that explodes out of him like a sick goose honking on a foggy morn. Then he scrunches up his face and squawks in a cartoon voice:
“Hey Ma, I fahted!”
Everybody cracks up. Well, not everybody. Only those not lost in the Mirrors of Narcissus.
I hee-haw and guffaw long after everyone else has stopped. I’m slightly embarrassed, but that vanishes when I realize no one is paying the slightest bit of attention to me. It’s a feeling I will become increasingly familiar with.
I hang up my green Cossack jacket and my black drawstring pants in my locker. Now I’m naked but for one red sock and one blue sock. I turn around. Caught in the mirror with all those beautiful nubile nudes is a puffy white MarshmallowMan.
Marshmallow Man chuckles. I’m embarrassed for the guy. If only he could see how grotesque his pallid fatness is next to the Love Gods of Chippendales.
I stop smiling, and shake my head.
He stops smiling, and shakes his head.
Wait a minute-
I AM THE MARSHMALLOW MAN!
Mortified, I grab my tux and hightail my fat ass into the Costume Room, disappearing like a chubby cottontail into the bush.
After I’m dressed and ready, I claw my way through the flesh-packed Dressing Room: duck a dumbbell, dodge a cock, and slither through all that oily hard tanned skin to my locker. As I pull on my roller skates, I’m interrupted by angry voices pounding out of the Upstairs Office, where all the $ lives. Can’t make out the words, but I can sure feel the rancorous anger.
Mister Nick de Noia busts outta the Upstairs Office door like a salt and pepper tsunami, and slams it so hard the wall shakes. He jams down the shitty rickety spiral staircase, and we hold our collective breath like a cranky psychokiller’s got a loaded Uzi in the room. Nick bumrushes pissed-off down the stairs, shoots through the Dressing Room, and yanks open the door. Music floods in. With another slam he’s gone, and the music mutes.
The Edwards Brothers, Nick’s NY $ partners, appear on the landing of the Upstairs Office, in their dark hair and suits. There’s a heaviness that hangs around the Edwards Brothers. The Old Gray Man, their silent partner, joins them on the landing, looking like a vulture that hasn’t eaten in a while. He’s 70 going on dead, with sickly thin translucent skin, a wicked comb-over covering his bald skull, and a big hook nose. A coke-laced Teen Queen in a little bitty miniskirt hangs from his withered arm in an I’m-hot-and-blowing-a-guy-old
I heave a sigh and roll out to start my first show. On Opening Night, when I roll into the Pit, there are bevies of bachelorettes, and blowsy bluebloods, coeds gone wild and booming grannies, models and supermodels, virgins and supervirgins. Shapes and colors swirl in shooting pools and points of light around the club, like a Monet painting of panting women during a lightning storm. The sheer volume of the vulvic volcano eruption that rumbles out of them is staggering. To this day, it’s still the most carnage-charged powderkegged atmosphere I’ve ever been in. A random picture pops out of the crowd: A wrinkled, pearled, high-collared Grandma with blue hair sits with her granddaughter, who’s got a mohawk that’s a remarkably similar shade of blue.
During the Construction Guy number, the mucho macho Construction Guy tenderly, lovingly, longingly lipsynchs the haunting Lionel Ritchie classic, “Hello?” to the red rose he holds. A Big Beautiful Sista wails like she’s just seen Jesus in a G-string. He parades her to the middle of the Pit, gets down on one knee and lipsynchs right into her eyes, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” while she screams and pants and Lawd Almighty’s. Naturally this ignites the moist center of the crowd, which flares and rages again. It’s great theater: a thick beauty getting to be all sexilicious in public, safely and sweetly, with no danger or shame. She really does seem to be releasing centuries of pent-up sexual repression and aggression. She really does seem to be having the time of her life. As do her friends. Looks like they’ll be telling this story for a very long time. And I think, Nick really did it: unleashed centuries of pent-u lust.
During my one break in the show, as I trundle and harrumph across the carpet on skates that won’t roll, a large mule-toothed blonde-bleached babe blocks my path. She has her hooks into Large Mark. He’s uber-pumped and ultra-cut, head neck and chest all swolled up, with a washboard man-rack belly. He’s a huge Terminator-type bodybuilder, complete with mammoth sweptback jacked-up hair. On Large Mark’s vast tanned back lives a constellation of angry little zits, an Orion’s Belt in pimples. Gotta be ‘roids: this dude is juicing big-time. Perhaps this would explain his black manic menstrual-like mood, and the muted but palpable diamond-hard rage beaming out of him. I shudder at the thought of his poor wee testes shriveling like grapes being dried into raisins. Bleach Blonde blocks Large Mark’s way, places her hand provocatively on his arm, glares hard into his eyes, and spouts, loud and proud, so everyone within earshot can hear: “I’ll pay ya 500 bucks to snort a line of coke off your dick.” This is officially my Welcome to Chippendales moment. Large Mark pulls out of her grip, curls a lip, and with a massive blast of snarling testosterone growls: “Hey, get the fuck awffa me!” Large Mark gives Bleach Blonde the big-time brush, and bumrushes away, leaving her standing in a cloud of his foul fumes. Immediately I have two thoughts: 1) Large Mark shoulda let her do it – $250 an inch is nothing to sneeze at; and 2) I’d pay good money just to watch her chop it up.
After the show, in the tiny mirror-walled Dressing Room, the Perfect Man stands totally nude in front of his huge Money Mountain, and it’s not just 1s and 5, there’s 50s and hundreds in there, on a good night the Perfect Man can make $1000 cash money, for thirty minutes work. My eyes wander down to his perfect ass, and I notice a sexy scar is crawling across one perfect cheek, and I’m thinking that is one sexy scar, damn! But on the other perfect cheek there are teeth marks: uppers and lowers, deep red and angry. Man, some chick really locks her jaws into his perfect ass. You could identify her dead body with those teeth marks. The scar. The bite mark. The mound of $. The risk and reward of LUST. America, wot a country!
On April 7, 1987 a man disguised as a messenger walks into my boss Nick de Noia’s office on 364 W. 40th Street and shoots him in the head, killing him dead. The cops interrogated all of us. When they asked me if I knew anybody who might wanted to have killed him, I said, “Do you want the short list or the long list?” I mean hell, I myself muttered that I’d like to kill Nick. But what does it take for someone to go from casually contemplating the murder of another human, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall?
I used to wonder what made Nick de Noia so cruel and abusive. Until one time I dog-sat for Nick while he was in Japan, or Alaska, or Guam, expanding his male stripper kingdom. As far as I’m concerned, one of the great pleasures of apartment-sitting is getting to rummage through all the skeletons lurking and skulking in the dark corners of people’s closets. So me and Johnny, the Costume Mistress, and now my best friend, we’re are on a scavenger hunt to discover the dirt behind the man that is Nick de Noia. Sure enough, at the back of a closet, buried under a pile of innocuous tax returns, is a stack of magazines and videos. Get a load of the titles: Big Black Boys Uncut, Dark Meat & Dark Chocolate, Mandongo, Top Cock, and Big Black Boner III (I and II, sadly missing). I find myself wondering: Could you follow the story of Big Black Boner III if we haven’t seen the first two?
I recently went back to 61st and 1st, on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan, where the club used to be, to get a look at the old place. Turns out Chippendales has been replaced by a Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales (Grove Atlantic, Canongate), slightly tweaked.
The Case of the Missing G-String
Slick Rick is wet from his champagne shower, naked but for one small shiny green g-string, dripping and radiating, his sleek muscle-pumped body engorged and pulsing, standing on a platform above the Pit, looking down at 600 flesh-craving money waving Ladies.
Ho hum. Another night at Chippendales, at the greatest male stripping empire the world has ever known. It’s 1985, and I am the Master of Ceremonies at the hottest show in NY, NY. Frankly, I’m fading. My happy I-love-everyone coke high I had an hour ago has long gone bye-bye, replaced by a chemical lockjaw poisoned discomfort sinking ill-defined lowness that has my face frowning for no apparent reason. I just have to get through Slick Rick’s Kiss & Tip, get the Perfect Man on and off, whip through the Grand Finale, and then I’m done for the night.
Because I’m a bit preoccupied waiting for Slick Rick to begin his Kiss & Tip, I don’t see exactly what happens next. But here are the facts as I’ve been able to reconstruct them.
When Slick Rick pulls on his g-string and threatens to take it all off, silently asking the Ladies with his face and body if they’d like to see his penis, like he does every night, the thin elastic that attaches the triangle of bright green fabric breaks, and the fabric droops forward.
Have you ever heard 600 women gasp as one? I hope you have the pleasure of that experience, because all that Lady lungpower drawing all that startled breath in at the same time is breathtaking.
Why the gasp? Because Slick Rick’s dick pops out. By the time I see it, the penis is already exposed, swinging, big and fleshy, about half-hard. I believe there is an illusion of erection, created by the Tie-Off, which, as I understand it, was first pioneered in male stripperdom in the wilds of Canada, where men are allowed Full Monty nudity. But it has certainly been used in various contexts for centuries. It’s a simple but dangerous technique. A thin leather or elastic strip is strapped around the base of the testicle/penal unit, when the unit is engorged with blood. When you tie-off, the blood is trapped in the unit. This creates the impression of erection, even when there is no sexual excitation. The danger comes when you tie-off too tight for too long. The penis begins to turn a frighteningly deep purple. Perhaps this is the origin of the expression blue balls. There’s a male stripper urban legend that one dim Canadian stripper woke up the morning after an alcoholic blackout to find his blackened cock popped off and laying like an andouille sausage on the floor.
I happen to know that Slick Rick was familiar with, and used, the Canadian Tie-off. I cannot say for sure that he Tied-Off that night, but from the look of his engorgement swinging around in front of all those shocked Ladies, I’d almost bet my left nut on it.
Slick Rick’s penis seems overjoyed to be released from its incarceration in that tiny g-string prison, looks like it’s ready to be adored and loved by the fawning female fans.
Holy shit, Nick’s gonna pitch a fit! That’s my first thought. Nick de Noia is our boss, the visionary genius who transformed a dank dinky shitty little male exotic revue into the Kingdom called Chippendales. Nick de Noia wants to change the world, liberate women so they can ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh, to display their lust, and be celebrated for it. And, of course, he wants to get rich doing it. Nick sees himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And this show is his legacy to the world. He rules through cruel brutish abuse, mixed with charming buttery flattery, and loves nothing more than to publicly humiliate ridiculously handsome men. I imagine he’s going to rip Slick Rick several new assholes. Hope I get to watch.
It’s been drummed into us that any public display of one silly millimeter of penis could result in Chippendales losing its cabaret license. Which would mean closing the show, killing the cash cow, slaying the golden-egg laying goose, and the unemployment of us all.
Bug-eyed jaw-dropped silence is followed by a piercing eruption of gleeful female screams. I still believe that pound-for-pound this is the loudest sound I’ve ever heard.
Slick Rick looks down at his unsheathed penis. Then back up in shocked surprise. But the whole thing feels planned, canned and reeks of pre-meditation. I have no evidence of this, it’s just the feeling I get: like Slick Rick rehearsed the moment. And he’s always so obsessively meticulous in his preparation. Plus he doesn’t cover up right away. He milks the hell out of his cock-flop: Wow, I can’t believe my penis popped out!
Finally, after what seems like about a month of Slick Rick’s naked flailing phallus flapping in the breeze, he hops off the platform, and disappears for a coupla seconds, then re-emerges wearing a new bright green g-string, and dives into his very lucrative Kiss & Tip.
Wait a minute. If Slick Rick didn’t plan this whole fiasco beforehand, why was there a stashed g-string all ready for him to slither into?
“It’s Hide the Salami night here at Chippendales!” I scream my ad lib into the absurdly expensive mic, and that gets a nice rise outta those who are paying attention.
And the show goes on.
Slick Rick makes a bloody fortune during his Kiss & Tip. Hundreds of green shoots sprout up and wave in the wind. Slick Rick harvests the cash crop with kisses. A beautiful bride-to-be shoves bills into his G-string like it’s a bank and she’s making direct deposits. Then he buzzes like a sweet bee straight to Big Alice’s honey. She’s the regular’s regular, big and thick and in the Pit more nights than not. She buries her face in his new G-string, nose-deep in dick. With a huge Comedia d’elle Arte-sized surprise-face Slick Rick plays the whole room as the roar deafens.
Classic de Noia: the bawdy, lip-to-lip with the silly, it ends up being naughty instead of graphic, teasing instead of sleazy. Nick in a nutshell.
Slick Rick rubs up against Big Alice like a housebroken 3-balled cat, and the place goes ballistic. It’s like I’m in the cockpit of a rocket fueled by pure Lady love.
When Big Alice shake’n’bake shimmies, a dollar peeking out of her cleavage takes on a life of its own. She plants Slick Rick’s face like a flag in the continent of her décolletage. When he moves his head away from Big Alice’s heavy cleavage he has the Magic Dollar clamped in his teeth. It’s actually attached to another dollar with tape you can’t see. And that dollar’s attached to another dollar. Which is attached to another dollar. As he pulls on the line of dollar bills they snake magically out of Big Alice’s cleavage. It’s the old endless-handkerchief gag, only with money and breasts, instead of kerchief and pocket. Looks like a moving Escher painting.
The Ladies give Slick Rick much love as he takes Big Alice back to her seat on the Pit bench, kisses her hand like an old-fashioned chivalrous gentleman in a G-string.
This is the philosophy of Nick de Noia. Don’t bring the thin beautiful babe out into the Pit. Bring on the large Lady live wire, the Big Alice. Celebrate the sexiness of the fat and the homely and the old and the lonely.
As Slick Rick bows and trots off, his two beautiful ass cheeks disappears into the Dressing Room. He makes over $1,000 in cash that night for twenty minutes work.
By the time I finish slogging through the rest of the show I’m irritated, annoyed, exhausted, disillusioned, dehydrated, and I’ve fallen out of love with life. But I’m very curious about the fallout from Slick Rick’s missing G-string incident.
When I enter the Dressing Room Sloppy Sam, the stage manager, and the man ultimately responsible for the bolts and nuts of the show, is already grilling Slick Rick. Much to the amusement of the uber-huge Large Mark and longleanlanky Larry Glitter, who seem hungry for the blood of Slick Rick, the man they love to hate.
Slick Rick defends himself vehemently. A bit too vehemently: methinks the Lady doth protest too much.
“No, I swear to God, the thing just came apart. I guess it was loose. I don’t know, man, but I just did what I do every night, and all of a sudden, the thing just came apart.”
Sloppy Sam shakes his disgusted head:
“Look, all it takes is one chick to complain. Or one cop to be here under cover, or whatever, and they yank the fucking cabaret license, and they shut us down, and-”
“I know, man, but it’s not my fault, the thing just came apart, it just came apart-”
The way Slick Rick keeps repeating the phrase ‘the thing just came apart’ seems highly suspicious to me. But again that is strictly subjective speculation.
“I don’t give a fuck.” Sloppy Sam is seriously hot under the tux collar. “It was your dick that popped the fuck out, and if it happens again, you’re gonna get suspended for sure, and fired, if I have anything to say about it. You understand?”
“That’s not fair, man. It wasn’t my fault,” Slick Rick’s all palms-up-shrugging, bunny-eyed innocence.
“I don’t give a fuck. Don’t let it happen again. You understand?” Sloppy Sam demands.
“The thing just came apart, man-” Slick insists.
“Do. You. Understand?” Sloppy Sam looks like he’s ready to rearrange Slick Rick’s pretty face.
“Yeah, sorry, sure-” Slick Rick starts to say something else, then thinks better of it. The effort brings a twitch to his lip, then his eye, as he cracks several knuckles.
Sloppy Sam storms off into the Costume Room to confront Johnny, the Costume Mistress. She’s a 20ish wildchild Latina Marilyn Monroe, and my best friend at Chippendales. I exchange a glance with Arnolpho d’Alencar Araripe Pimenta de Mello, a Brazilian back-up dancer, and my second best friend at Chippendales. Arnolpho does a little Brazilian headshake eyeroll, silently indicating that he’s not buying a word of Slick Rick’s story.
Large Mark, all pumped up like a ‘roiding blowfish, strides right into Slick Rick’s face, invading his personal space.
Slick Rick tries to hold his ground, but a twitch in his right eye betrays him.
“If I find out you did dis shit on poipose, I’m gonna kick yer ass awll de way up Foist Avenue, you unnuhstand?”
“Hey man, I didn’t-” Slick Rick gets shut down quick.
“Shut de fuck up!” Large Mark growls.
Slick Rick shuts the fuck up.
“If dis shit evvuvh happens again, dat’s it!”
Large Mark makes a massive fist and swings it at Slick Rick’s jaw. Slick flinches back into the locker behind him with a bang. Large stops the fist an inch before it smashes into Slick Rick’s face.
“Hey, what the hell!” Slick Rick protests.
But Large Mark is already gone. Larry Glitter follows smugly shooting a sneer at Slick Rick as he trails like the tail of a comet.
Danger momentarily averted, the Men go back to the task at hand: sorting and counting their mountains of $, while I retreat to the Costume Room, to see if Johnny needs the Cavalry.
“No fucking way, man!” Johnny’s utterly adamant, shaking her krazy kurls. “I checked that g-string tonight, I swear to God. And before he went on, I saw Slick Rick fucking with the seam. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but now it totally makes sense.” She doesn’t look like she’s fibbing. But maybe Johnny’s just an excellent fibber. Still, she doesn’t have that shakiness that guilty people so often display. That Slick Rick just displayed. She has more of the I’m-being-framed-and-I’m-not
Sloppy Sam purses his lips, shakes his deeply troubled head, then says:
“Where’s the g-string?”
“He says it’s gone,” Johnny nods her head slow, like she’s not buying a word of it, that in fact Slick Rick losing the g-string is more proof of her innocence and his guilt.
“What do you mean it’s gone?” Sloppy Sam’s making sure he has all the facts straight for the Nick De Noia Inquisition he knows is on its way.
“As soon as I heard what happened, I tried to get my hands on that g-string, to see if he really did fuck with it, like I saw him fucking with it. And all of a sudden, it’s gone. He can’t find it. Yeah, right,” Johnny’s face can barely contain her disgust.
Sloppy Sam mulls, gives a little tsk, then exclaims:
Johnny shakes her disgusted curls, picks up some funky fur leggings and angrily dumps them in the fur legging box, then stops and proclaims::
“Unfuckin’believable… un… fuckin’… believable…”
Suddenly Arnolpho flits dramatically into the room:
“Ohhhhhh, you should hhhave seen Miss Thing!”
He launches into a spot-on Slick Rick impression:
“It wasn’t my fault! I don’t know what happened, really I don’t. The thing just came apart, and next thing I know, my cock just popped right out!”
Arnolpho becomes Slick Rick standing there with his dick accidentally-on-purpose out, making a big-eyed face while miming an exposed penis so well you can almost see it.
O, how we laugh, Johnny and I, really let loose.
“Ohhhhhhh bay-bee,” Arnolpho touches Johnny on her chest while placing his other hand over his own heart. “You shoulda seen hhher, what a performance! Miss Slick better hope she never has to testify on hhher own behalf cuz hhhoney, it’s gonna be, ‘Guilty! Guilty! Guilty’!”
“Oh my God!!” Johnny gasps through her laughs.
Luckily for him, Slick Rick was never put on trial for exposing himself, and as far as I know, he completely got away with it.
Nick de Noia, on the other hand, was not so lucky.
On April 7, 1987 a man disguised as a messenger walks into my boss Nick de Noia’s office on 364 W. 40th Street and shoots him in the head, killing him dead. The cops interrogated all of us. When they asked me if I knew anybody who might wanted to have killed him, I said, “Do you want the short list or the long list?” I mean hell, I myself muttered that I’d like to kill Nick. But what does it take for someone to go from casually contemplating the murder of another human, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall? Turns out: money. Seems Nick’s money partner, Steven Banarghee, was so convinced that Nick fucked him over, that he had Nick assassinated. Banerghee went to prison, where he hung himself.
The Case of the Missing G-string, on the other hand, remains unsolved.
“I’m starving,” Olive announced one day last week is. She’s my daughter. She’s six.
“You’re not starving,” I said, “you’re hungry.”
Epiphany. Laugh-of-luxury child has no idea what it means to starve. To not eat. To be poor.
Yes, she understands there are Poor People. But it’s an intellectual construct. Like knowing there are Emus or Mexican Jumping Beans.
I don’t want Olive to be one of those pampered, entitled suburban white kids who thinks of Poor People as the Other, to be denigrated, looked down upon, ignored, pitied from afar, used for cheap labor and/or cannon fodder. I was raised in lap-of-luxury suburbia, but I was taught that Poor People are just like you and me. Only they don’t have money. Or opportunity. Or a bubble of affluence surrounding them. I was raised to believe that it’s our obligation to give back. To help. To take care of those less fortunate than ourselves. I want my daughter to understand that the corporate-fueled greed which has corrupted this country is EVIL. I want her to understand that people are more important than profit. I want her to understand that it’s important to help people who are less fortunate than ourselves.
I know what it’s like to be poor. When I was 17 I was cast out, and lived in poverty for a decade. Food stamps. Dank basement apartments that cost $25 a month. Trying to choose between buying three slices of pizza or a used paperback. Figuring out how to become an expert shoplifter. Turns out I liked stealing more than I liked being hungry. But I was lucky, I’m white, I was educated, and I was loved and taken care of as a kid, told I could be whoever I wanted to be whatever if I worked hard and did the right thing. And I did. So by the time I was 30, I had returned to a lap-of-luxury life. And I want Olive to have an idea that is like to be poor, without her actually having to be poor herself. I know that’s not entirely possible, but I want to do all I can to help her understand.
So we decided on this Thanksgiving to volunteer to feed hungry people. We took Olive to Roosevelt Elementary School in Union City, New Jersey. We prepared her by telling her there might be some homeless people there, and they might dress and possibly smell different than us. But they were just like us. Only they didn’t have money. Or much chance of getting money. Or a fancy house or a fancy car or a fancy TV or fancy food. Olive has dreams of someday becoming a waitress. (Or an artist. Or an Olympic gymnast. Or an architect. Or a ballet dancer. Or a writer.) So the idea of getting to be a waitress for poor people on Thanksgiving was exciting to her in a way that only a six-year-old can get excited.
The volunteers at Roosevelt Elementary School were a rainbow coalition of all ages, races and sizes. There was festive bunting with “Happy Thanksgiving” festooned across it. Kids had made Thanksgiving art placemats that were totally cool. There was tons of food.
The vibe was festive, happy, thankful and giving.
Then the Mayor walked in. I was not expecting to meet the mayor of Union City on Thanksgiving. But there he was. In the flesh. He looked like one of the volunteers. His name is Brian P. Stack. He was born and raised in Union City. This was his brainchild. He started doing this on Thanksgiving when he was 14 years old. He handed out chickens back then, because he couldn’t afford turkeys. During the week of Thanksgiving he handed out 18,000 turkeys. Well, not personally. But his people. I asked him why he did this.
“I just know there’s so much need here, and I want to help.”
Politician has become a dirty word. They’re rich people who make dirty deals behind closed doors. They espouse goodness, while they lurk around public bathrooms looking for illicit hookups; they smoke crack like it’s going out of business; they cheat on their wives, their kids, and the people who voted them into office while they line their pockets with filthy lucre that’s meant to help those less fortunate than themselves. I didn’t expect on this Thanksgiving to meet a politician who gave me faith that America is not totally corrupt. There are still public servants who are, you know … public servants. Who serve the public. Instead of the other way around. Brian P. Stack seems to be in the business of making the word Politician mean something good again.
Then people started showing up to eat. Young, old, and in between. I was in charge of salad. Olive was in charge of rolls and cranberry sauce. She really got her waitress on, welcoming people, asking with a chipper smile, “Would you like a roll? Would you like some cranberry sauce?” She was the youngest one serving food by 25 years. She made people smile.
And they kept coming. At least 300 hungry mouths were fed by the time we finished. And lots of them took containers of food to go. They ate, they talked, they hung out, they ate. Some by themselves, some with their boy/girlfriend. Some with their family and kids.
After about an hour we took a break and Olive had a roll, some cranberry sauce and a giant helping of salad. There we were, eating with all the Poor People. After she finished eating, Olive looked around and said to me, “Dad, the poor people look the same as us.”
I asked Olive if she was having fun serving rolls and cranberry sauce.
“Yeah,” she said, “it’s super fun.”
She was right. It was super fun. It was pure joy. With no hangover.
I looked up and all of a sudden we were almost done. Apparently time moves quickly when you’re helping people.
As we were leaving, Olive looked at me with a big six-year-old smile and said, “I want to do this again next year!”
And so we shall. So we shall.
Light as a feather, yet valuable in hand-to-hand combat, this angelish devil of a cake is so gorgeous you’ll want to blow up a picture of it and stick it on your wall. The key to making this work is to whip, stir and blend as much air as possible into this baby. In the words of the great Devo, Whip it, whip it good.
1 Box gingersnap cookies
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon finely chopped up candied ginger
¾ stick butter melted
Crush up the cookies until they are crumbs. Use a food processor, or if you want to go old-school, but your cookies a bag and smash them into submission with a hammer. Stir in all the dry ingredients. Pour them into the pan and spread them out evenly. Pour in the melted butter and work it in the gingersnap crumbs until it’s evenly distributed. Carefully, painstakingly, build the crust along the bottom of the pan and then up the sides about 1 ½ inches. Careful not to make the crust too thick where the bottom meets the side of the pan.
6 egg yokes
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
10 very thin slices lemon peel
¼ cup tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups sugar (to taste)
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese (really helps if it’s at room temperature)
6 egg whites whip em good real good til they’re whipped but still soft
1 cup heavy cream whipped—to just before stiff
Blend together the eggs, lemon, vanilla and sugar. Then add small chunks of cream cheese until it’s all in. Once it’s a liquid, slip in the flour. Then I like to use a heavy-duty Mixmaster and crank that puppy up to 11. I stop every once in a while to give the machine a rest, and to crush up any big cream cheese chunks. No matter how much you mix this, there will be small chunks of cream cheese. Don’t worry, they’ll melt when you cook her. Seriously, ratchet up the Mixmaster for 15 minutes, maybe even more depending upon your mood. Then blend in the egg whites and the whipped cream, but use a plastic spatula. Not metal. I don’t know if that’s an urban legend, but that’s what I heard on, and I figure, Why risk it? Pour the batter into the pan. Put her on a cookie sheet just in case. Then shove her in the oven as you say a prayer to the goddess of cheesecakes.
Bake at 350 between 50 minutes and 1 hour. Stick a toothpick in her center to determine if she’s done. You want her to be a little bit wet, because you’re going to cook her for another five minutes at a very high temperature when you put the sour cream topping on her. And you definitely do not want to cook her too long. This is very very important. Because if you cook her too long she will be dry. And the pinup should never be dry. Moist. Light. Airy. Luscious.
Sour Cream Topping
2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 pinches of salt
1 ½ tablespoon sugar (to taste)
Stir all ingredients thoroughly. Wait until the cheesecake is practically down to room temperature. Apply topping evenly. Bake at 425 for 5 minutes. Let her cool off. Many places will tell you she needs to refrigerate for 12 hours. To me that seems extremist. Realistically four or five hours should work. Serve in thin slices. The Pin-Up is so rich you’ll wish she was a publicly traded company and you were the majority owner.