David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: chicken: the self-portrait of a young man for rent

David Henry Sterry

Smart Smut: Litquake: San Francisco October 16, 8PM

Litquake

 

The Make-Out Room 3325 22nd St. San Francisco, CA

Click here to register.

David Henry Serry rides herd over a Litquake Who’s Who of sexual provocateurs, spinning tales of bawdy yet thoughtful perversions in the sexiest city in the world.

Sherilyn Connelly is a San Francisco-based writer and film critic for the Village Voice and SF Weekly. Her work can be found in the anthologies Atheists in America, More Five Minute Erotica, and Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation.

Nina Hartley is a pioneer superstar in the world of adult cinema. She is an actress, writer, director and producer, and author. She appeared in Boogie Nights, and is in the AVN Hall of Fame.

Scott James is best known for his columns about San Francisco for The New York Times. He also has the worst-kept secret identity as novelist Kemble Scott, author of the bestsellers SoMa and The Sower.

Richard Martin has contributed creative writing and journalism to books, magazines, newspapers, and literary journals. He lives in San Francisco and works in Oakland as a grant writer.

Dylan Ryan is the Gary Oldman of porn. She is also a writer, sex and relationship therapist, sexuality educator, performance artist, and yoga teacher who’s saving the world one porn at a time.

David Henry Sterry is the bestselling author of 16 books, including Chicken, which has been translated into 11 languages, and Hos, Hookers, Call Girls & Rent Boys, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

Madison Young is a sexpert, artist, activist, and award-winning feminist pornographer. She is founder of the nonprofit arts organization Femina Potens, author of the newly released memoir Daddy, and a college lecturer with focus on feminist porn studies.

Read my interview: Madison Young on Beautiful Porn, Revealing All, Fearing Nothing & Daddy

Click here to register.

SEX TV INTERVIEWS ME, EX-TEENAGE GIGOLO

CANADIAN BASED SEX TV DOES EXCELLENT IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW WITH ME ABOUT MY MEMOIR CHICKEN AND LIFE AS A TEENAGE HO

 

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, Ten Year Anniversary Edition “Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  Indiebound Amazon chicken 10 year anniversary cover “I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.” This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material. “Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times “This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times “A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC “Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR “Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK “A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town “Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight “Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body “Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine “Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide “Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue “Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester “Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine “Pick of the Week.” -Independent “Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs “Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books “His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine “Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com “Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Leeds Guide on Chicken: “A really good, and enlightening, read.”

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language, and a fine knack with expertly told little escapades… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.”

— Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

chicken 10 year anniversary coverChicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, Ten Year Anniversary Edition

“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  IndieboundAmazon

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Ex-Teenage Gigolo Interviewed on Naked TV

Naked TV interviews me about my life in The Life

The Chicken Clucks Defiant: An Academic Review

The Chicken Clucks Defiant: A book review of Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, by David Henry Sterry (to buy book click here)

Ann Lucas
San José State University
San José, California

As the subtitle of David Henry Sterry’s Chicken suggests, this book is a memoir of the author’s year working as a teenaged prostitute. At the age of 17, having arrived in Los Angeles to start college, Sterry found himself homeless when planned living arrangements fell through. In short order he was lured into a stranger’s home, raped, and robbed of his last twenty-seven dollars. Escaping, Sterry was offered refuge and a job by the manager of a fried chicken restaurant. In what Sterry now recognizes as a great cosmic joke, his boss also happened to be the purveyor of human chickens (i.e., a pimp); leaving fast-food wages behind, Sterry soon was charging $100 per hour for his services. His encounters with the colorful, seedy, bizarre, enterprising, desperate, and pathetic who lived on both sides of respectability in 1970s Southern California provide a framework and narrative thread for Sterry’s recounting of how his year in sex work affected him materially, emotionally and interpersonally. Throughout the book, Sterry’s accounts of assignations with clients and dilemmas in balancing his identities as rent boy and college student are interspersed with his childhood memories of growing up in an English immigrant family which is slowly falling apart. These episodes from his childhood and adolescence help provide a context, if not necessarily a cause, for his outlook on life and his foray into sex work. The book concludes with his decision to leave the sex industry.
The writing style in Chicken is brash and engaging. Reminiscent of “gonzo journalism” and Lewis Carroll, Sterry’s style includes vivid descriptions (“Frannie, perched like an anorexic bird in the plumage of her couch”) (p. 33), trenchant metaphors (Sisyphus and leaky buckets), creative compound words (“nuthugging elephantbells”) (p. 6 and passim), and a taste for alliteration (“black businessmen bustling by briskly”) (p. 6). Yet the book is more than just flashy, over-the-top recounting of colorful anecdotes. Rather, Sterry’s writing style serves his substance well, clearly evoking the milieu of 1970s sexual-revolution-era Hollywood and giving the reader a definite sense of his personal style and character as a lost but resourceful late-adolescent. At the same time, the book is visceral and brutally honest about Sterry’s emotional and physical ordeals during his year as a sex worker. He expresses both sympathy and anger for his clients; in regard to his own behavior, he is subtly introspective, smoothly moving between an account of his feelings at the time and a retrospective evaluation of his actions and motives. While his account does not appear to temper the meanness, sadness or vapidity of many of his customers, he does not shrink from reporting his own failings, either. For example, his recounting of his displaced rage on the basketball court is unflinching and heartbreaking (pp. 181-185).
Sterry’s book reflects the truism that experiences shape perspectives. His views of his year as a “chicken” reflect, among other things, his age at the time, the circumstances in which he began the work (voluntarily, but also with some sense of desperation), his feeling of parental rejection and need for love, his recent sexual assault, his interactions with others, as well as the tenor of the times and his location. Thus, despite the fact that many young people are rejected by their parents, find themselves on the streets, and engage in prostitution, this Chicken is not an “everyman chicken,” but rather an account of a unique person in a unique situation.
That said, Chicken can also be placed in a larger literary and socio-cultural context. Sterry’s memoir is important for many reasons, one of which is that it is the first account of a young male prostitute working primarily with a female clientele. We have several examples of memoirs and lightly fictionalized first-person accounts by female sex workers (see, e.g., Almodovar 1993; French 1988; Quan 2001; Hollander 2002) and by male hustlers serving a male clientele (see, e.g., Whitaker 1999; Lawrence 1999). Sterry expands the genre of work created by these “sex worker literati” (Kuczynski 2001); in offering his unique story, he also enables those familiar with the genre to speculate about commonalities and differences among prostitutes (and among clients) as we compare his story to others. For example, like countless others, Sterry refers to his time in prostitution as “the life,” (Sterry, p. 125) indicating a recognition that prostitution in the U.S. is no simple vocation, but rather has larger implications for its practitioners and a broader significance in society. Indeed, Sterry’s book helps demonstrate why “the life” is often used as a synonym for prostitution: illegal and stigmatized, for most prostitution is no mere way to pay the rent. Instead it may involve false names and cover stories; the threat or actuality of violence; uncertainty due to the risk of arrest, eviction, expulsion, loss of custody, deportation and the like; emotional distance from loved ones; and inner turmoil, just to name a few. Whether a prostitute embraces or regrets his/her work, the fact of stigma and criminality often do lead prostitutes into “the life” of prostitution because of the things they must do to conceal their activities from others and the opportunities they forego because of the risk of disclosure.
In contrast, unlike many other “sex positive” authors of prostitution memoirs, Sterry reports that he had only one client who was not hateful (p. 125). Among myriad possibilities, Sterry’s claim may suggest that women as commercial sex consumers tend not to be appreciative of the services they receive; that the kind of women, particularly in the 1970s, who could conceive of, afford, and follow through on paying for sex are a unique sample of mostly troubled, superficial, nihilistic or misanthropic individuals; that teenaged sex providers are particularly taken for granted; or that something specific to Sterry–his own misgivings about his work, the way in which his manager procured customers, etc.–influenced Sterry’s interactions with and perceptions of his clients. While the reader can do little more than speculate about this matter, this kind of contrast nonetheless demonstrates the usefulness of Sterry’s book in helping those among us who research, observe, theorize about, or participate in the sex industry to (re)consider how specific or generalizable our own findings, conclusions, beliefs and experiences may be.
The complex relation between the specific and the general is implicated in other ways by Sterry’s memoir. For example, some readers may feel that Sterry wrongly sentimentalizes non-commercial consensual intercourse, drawing too stark a dichotomy between the nastiness of paid sex and the delights of unpaid sex. Remembering having sex with his college girlfriend for the first time, Sterry writes: “This is so different from working sex. That’s dank dark distant and mechanical, and I have to pump myself up into a loverstudguy to do it.” (p. 85) As people from all spectra of human experience have pointed out, including this reviewer (Lucas, in press), commercial sex is not always or necessarily impersonal and alienating, nor does non-commercial sex always or necessarily promote sharing, bonding and interpersonal connection. Yet Sterry should not be faulted for his viewpoint here, because, with few exceptions, his book consistently makes clear that this story is his alone; he never claims to speak for all rent-boys, rape victims, or homeless teens. Moreover, many teenagers see the world, including the world of sex, as black and white. Despite Sterry’s greater exposure than most adolescents to the extremes of sexual practice, given his conflicted emotions about his behavior, at this time he probably also viewed paid and unpaid sex strictly as a study in contrasts. Thus, rather than being faulted for portraying this view in his memoir, Sterry merits praise for recreating this duality so accurately.
However, when he ventures beyond his specific story, Sterry is on unstable ground. Sterry reports that “[o]ver ninety percent of sex workers have been sexually abused” (p. 82). This figure is wholly unsubstantiated. Studies reporting such a high rate of abuse have consistently proved invalid due to poor design, questionable administration, vague or over-general definitions of abuse, and inadequate sampling. Where even roughly accurate, such figures describe only specific and extremely limited groups of sex workers. For the population as a whole, it is impossible to know how many sex workers have been abused–even with precise definitions of abuse–because it is impossible to conduct random sampling or to establish that a sample is indeed representative of the larger population. Sex workers in general, and prostitutes especially, do not consistently admit involvement in the sex industry. As such, the size, spread, and basic demographic characteristics of this population are impossible to specify, including its rates of abuse. Moreover, it is probable that sex workers who are abuse survivors are more likely to come to researchers’ attention through contacts with law enforcement, safe sex outreach workers, drug counselors, and others, because their history of abuse may make them less able to conceal their activities, more at risk for problem behaviors, and more open to outreach workers offering help. In other words, researchers often start with a skewed sample. Finally, to the extent any generalizations are possible, they are most reliable for female prostitutes. Male sex workers are an especially poorly understood group, in part because they are rarely studied except in connection with HIV and AIDS. Absent more information about male prostitutes as a group, one cannot assume that findings applicable to women also describe their male counterparts.
However, this is a minor flaw in an otherwise outstanding work. In terms of its larger lessons, Sterry’s memoir reinforces what other sex workers and academics have said in their own ways about the many problems of stigma and the need for society to recognize prostitution as a legitimate and valuable profession when freely chosen. In recounting his yin-yang experiences and emotions regarding sex work, Sterry shows us what a minefield the terrain of prostitution can be for its practitioners. Like other prostitutes, both male and female, Sterry’s self-esteem was both enhanced by (or through) prostitution, and also, sometimes simultaneously, diminished–especially when his clients made clear their lack of regard for him and his ilk. Sterry’s memoir suggests that when prostitution is not fully chosen or continued, and when it is practiced by those who are vulnerable, immature, living in precarious conditions or otherwise at risk, it is a practice that may be highly fraught with tension and uncertainty. That is, a person who is both young and ambivalent about his or her work as a prostitute is likely to be particularly susceptible to societal condemnation, stigma, and self-doubt. These forces, in turn, can make it more difficult for such a person to navigate the terrain of prostitution successfully, find or create a support network, make decisions to promote well-being, negotiate successfully with clients, learn which clients (s)he prefers or how to select them, and the like.
Again, this is not to fault Sterry or to diminish his successes and ingenuity in chickenhood. Nor is it to suggest that we can reach dispositive conclusions based on one set of experiences. Rather, it is to insist that we not discount this set of experiences as simply a compelling coming-of-age story, another example of triumph over adversity, or a Day-Glo® portrait of seamy Hollywood excess. While it may be these things, Chicken is more. It expands our understanding of who does sex work and what it involves; of how family dislocation, dysfunction and desertion affect children and adolescents; and of the complex interplay between social norms, sexual practices, “deviant” behavior, and identity. Academics might use Chicken profitably to help students explore non-fiction and memoir writing, or substantively in courses on gender, sexuality, adolescence, deviance, the sexual revolution, the 1970s, southern California, and related topics. As a floodlit slice of life or an object lesson about attempts to counterbalance (dare I say “straddle”?) propriety and impropriety, Chicken is highly recommended.

References
Almodovar, Norma Jean. 1993. Cop to Call Girl: Why I Left the LAPD to Make an Honest Living as a Beverly Hills Prostitute. New York: Simon & Schuster.

French, Dolores, with Linda Lee. 1988. Working: My Life as a Prostitute. New York: E.P. Dutton.

Hollander, Xaviera, with Robin Moore & Yvonne Dunleavy. 2002 [1972]. The Happy Hooker: My Own Story. New York: Regan Books.

Kuczynski, Alex. 2001, November 4. The Sex-Worker Literati. New York Times, sec. 9, p. 1. Retrieved May 28, 2003 from LexisNexis Academic database.

Lawrence, Aaron. 1999. Suburban Hustler: Stories of a Hi-Tech Callboy. Warren, NJ: Late Night Press.

Lucas, Ann. In press. The Currency of Sex: Prostitution, Law and Commodification. In Martha M. Ertman & Joan C. Williams (Eds.), Commodification Futures: The Role of Markets in Love, Sex, and Other Areas.

Quan, Tracy. 2001. Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl: A Nancy Chan Novel. New York: Crown Publishing.

Whitaker, Rick. 1999. Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.

Chicken Staff Pick @ City Lights: “Hilarious & sad…serious thinking about family & sexuality & addiction.”

“Just published in its 10th anniversary edition, I’ve never read anything quite like this memoir.  David Henry Sterry performs a high-wire act in his vaudevilliain telling of life as a prostitute in 70s Hollywood.  Alternately sad and hilarious, Sterry provokes serious thinking about family, sexuality, and addiction.”
Picked by Stacey chicken 10 year anniversary cover

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, Ten Year Anniversary Edition

“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  Indiebound Amazon

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Chicken: “Prose that sizzles … a jazz beat … with a wail of blues”

New review for Chicken:

“You’re young, hot and desperate—then along comes a sweet-talking guy named Sunny, “all mint julep Old School Charm School charm,” who wants to sweep you into his, uh, employment agency. It’s a story as old as civilization, but rarely before has a straight young man come forth to bare the time he spent cruising the finest boudoirs of Los Angeles. David Henry Sterry, in prose that sizzles with verbal pyrotechnics, answers the call of a Lost Angel Siren and takes us on an anthropological tour that includes “a postmodern June Cleaver,” a Deadhead, a judge and a friendly cast of junkies and cross-dressers. Sterry’s party-til-forever scenes thwump to a jazz beat, but there’s always a wail of blues in the background. It’s a double-life story, at heart a raw tale of the bullying father, the neglectful mother and the broken-up home that led him to the streets when he was a college freshman who looked, on the surface like a middle class kid. At the same time Sterry is candid about the lure of his other life; the addictive appeal of getting paid to inflict pleasure, the cheap euphoria that never fully masks the fear that you’ve become what you’re pretending to be.” – Jan Alexander

 

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, Ten Year Anniversary Edition

“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  Indiebound chicken 10 year anniversary coverAmazon

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Chicken Being Translated into Slovakian

I just found out that my fabulous agent Beth @ Levine Greenberg has sold Chicken to a publisher in the Slovak Republic VYDAVATEĽSTVO MOTÝĽ. Excitement abounds.

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“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  Indiebound Amazonchicken 10 year anniversary cover

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Alice Carbone Interviews David Henry Sterry on Sex, Addiction, & the Healing Powers of Writing & Comedy

Cool interview with cool chick Alice Carbone. To read on her website click here.
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DAVID HENRY STERRY: The Good, The Bad & The Sex

AN INSIGHTFUL AND FUN INTERVIEW ABOUT THE SEX INDUSTRY, SEX ADDICTION AND HEALING THROUGH WRITING AND COMEDY.

Two years ago I received the inspiration for the end of my novel while running by the ocean, in Santa Monica.  Being sick in the head, I desperately needed to run that day yet I hurried back to my car parked Idaho Ave and, like in a trance, I started writing.  It was year 2011 and I owned a very old Blackberry.  I never liked to touch-type on it those words that carried too much of a value, like the future of a woman, whether fictional or not.

I have come to the realization that physical activity has a pleasant creative effect on me.  And this introduction is just the umpteenth example.  After interviewing David Henry Sterry I went on a hike and, all of a sudden I wanted to write.

It’s year 2013.  The Blackberry broke a year ago, or so.  I have an iPhone today.  And I still don’t like the movement of my fingertips typing letters on a synthetic and flat keyboard.  I don’t find joy or excitement in seeing them gathering into important sentences on the yellow page of a virtual notepad.  I avoid the procedure, when I can.  The inspiration, if that is how you rather call the essence of what you are reading, came towards the end of my Hollywood walk nonetheless.  The temperature had reached an unhealthy average of 80 °F for the week before  Christmas; I ignored my body getting sicker by the minute, too.  However, as soon as I walked past the Sunset Ranch, sweaty, grateful for where I lived and for being able to hike at twelve noon, on a weekday, it finally dawned on me: I knew how to start this column and how to end it as well.  The walk became faster until I ran towards the car and wrote what you have just read and will, shortly.  It is a very interesting interview and a raw finale that comes straight from the heart and from the dirty and torn Starbucks napkin that I had not thrown away the night before.

Talking to David Henry Sterry has a very special meaning to me.  He is the very first guest who publicly asked to be here, in conversation with me.  It happened on Twitter, on December 4 at 5:09 PM, Pacific Time.  “I am doing something good.  They start to like this.” – I thought.

“You looked like an interesting person and I just had an instinct about you.”  David tells me, when we chat on Skype and I ask him why he wanted to be on the blog.  We use a webcam because David lives in New Jersey and I have told him that my conversations require the exchange and the look in the eyes.  They are more than a Q&A to me.

David is the author of sixteen books.  He is a teacher, an activist and a brilliant performer, although best known for his bestselling memoir, Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man For Rent.  I didn’t know him very well before he had approached me.  A thorough research always helps yet nothing more than a vis-à-vis contact makes you understand what lies beneath a person.  He laughs and I can sense his humor, the comedy background.  However, I can also feel he has been to hell and has not forgotten about it.  I am in the comfort of my bedroom wearing my pajama yet with red lipstick.  The sun shines and it feels like summer in Southern California.  David sits by the kitchen window that is frosty and white with beautiful snow.  For it is winter, after all.  Our worlds merge for one hour.  He has a story to tell, and it is my pleasure to share it with you; wherever you are reading it from.

A.C. Where are you from?  I know you have British origins.

D.H.S. I was born in New Jersey and moved back here six years ago, from San Francisco.  But I lived all over America.  Alabama, Texas, Upstate New York…

A.C.  Where was home, when you were a kid?

D.H.S.  Anywhere my family was.  But I feel like San Francisco is my home.  I lived there twice, and that’s where I kind of left my heart.  But I have a beautiful house here, with great neighbors.  And it is really a gorgeous place to live.

A.C. Let’s go back to your childhood.  What kind of kid were you?

D.H.S. I was a very helpful child.  Actually a little bit too much, to the extent that teachers would write these reports saying that I didn’t have to be ‘so helpful in class.’  And I am the oldest of four, with a father gone all the time and a mother overworked with us; that is why I helped all the time with my brothers and sisters.

A.C.  Why did your family travel so much?  What did your parents do?

D.H.S. They were immigrants, from Newcastle, in the North of England.  My father grew up where there were only half-houses.  He did not even have a toilet in his house; it was an old world.  He came to America in the late 1950s when there was very little opportunity in England, for a college graduate like him.  In the United Stated he got a job for a company that manufactured explosives, and they kept promoting him by sending him somewhere new.  He almost became a victim of his own success, although I don’t really think the term victim is appropriate.  But it was hard to constantly move around.  On the other hand, he was the American dream; he kept rising up the ladder of this company, and he literally went from being a dishwasher to being a partner in the space of twenty years.

David does not hide a bittersweet laugh, when he ends the story with what he calls the ‘new American dream.’  Because his father is now broke and in therapy after a nervous breakdown and after his wife has run away with a woman; the one she would eventually marry. She has become a lesbian. 

D.H.S. He started having sex with crazy women.  I was sixteen and I was living with him at that time.  He had lost everything.

A.C.  How difficult was it, for you, to write about them, in Chicken?  Because, as writers, we have the duty of being both careful and respectful to the lives of the people we involve.  My novel, for example, is not a memoir but it is very autobiographical.  Many episodes are based on my life and I did not know how to talk about my parents or other people involved, at first.  I felt angry, guilty and hurt, too.  Just because we decide to purge and get clean, it doesn’t mean they decide to have their stories publicly disclosed as well.

D.H.S.  And my parents are English.  Talking about them publicly was so mortifying to them!

A.C.  How did they react?

D.H.S.  So, I got this book deal to publish the memoir.  The publisher was Judith Regan.  I got it only based on a proposal; I had not even written the book yet.  And, of course I had not told my parents.  For I wanted to tell them once I was 100% sure the book was going to be published.  The first thing Regan told me was: “I don’t want one of those fucking books where the writer blames their parents; do you understand me?”  And for as hard as it seemed, it was a great advice for me, because I did blame them.

A.C.  But what I am starting to learn is that we all have shit happening to us, David.  And it’s not what happened to us, but what we have made of it, and what we keep making of it.

D.H.S.  Exactly.  It’s absolutely right.  And, based on what she had said to me I decided to call my parents by name, in the first couple of drafts of the book.  Harper Collins didn’t really help me in the editing process; all they were worried about was not getting sued.  So my agent became my editor and she secretly said: “This is so bad we are gonna have to give the money back!”  Instead, what she did tell me was: “David, they are your parents.  You can’t call them John and Maurine; they are mom and dad.”  That is how removed I was from actually revealing my true self.  For I was raised to never reveal anything.  And part of what got me into so much trouble while I was growing up was not being able to ask for help.  I literally had to learn how to talk to people like an adult, besides recovering from my addictions.  Actually hypnotherapy helped a lot.

A.C.  How old were you when you started writing Chicken?

D.H.S. I was in my late thirties and I was writing dumb screenplays in Hollywood at that time.  I hated my job, although I was making a lot of money.

David is working for Disney in those days.  And those are also the days of his escalating sex and cocaine addiction.

A.C. You mentioned making money in Hollywood.  In your interviews you talk a lot about the feeling of self-worth that you experienced the first time you got paid to have sex, professionally.  I don’t know about being paid to have sex because I was never a sex worker. However, I am very familiar with the feeling of cheap worth before a man, and when only performing the act of sex.  For sex can become a performance that makes you feel worth and powerful, even when you know that you are everything but.  Quoting Hank Williams, you said: “But there was a hole in my bucket.”  Let’s talk about sex, about the self-gratification of your past as a sex technician – as you rather call your former job.  Is that what you felt, at first?  Did you feel powerful, at seventeen years old?  Because we try to fill that hole with anything within sight, until we hit bottom…

D.H.S.  Yes, and soon as there is a hole it doesn’t matter what or how much your try to fill it with, whether it is sex, drugs, money, etc. For it all comes out the bottom.  That’s why the metaphor was so powerful for me.  You know, so many young people that get into the sex business do it for money.  I was completely alone.  Los Angeles is a cold and hard place, despite the fact that there are palm trees and that is 82 degrees, the week before Christmas.  It’s the way we live in LA, the isolation from other humans, the time spent in our car to go from one place to another.  While in New York, for example, you have to interact with people, whether you want it or not, even if just to go on the subway.  And that’s how it is, in most places.

I was seventeen and I felt alone.  I was robbed.  I got assaulted and raped.  I had nothing and nobody.

A.C.  That’s when you met the guy that pimped you.

D.H.S.  Yes, his specialty was finding kids that were alone, cute and vulnerable.  And that was I. This guy ran a fried chicken restaurant, as a front, and he would hire you for a week, to actually fry chicken.  Now, I don’t know if you have ever fried chicken in your life professionally, but it’s fucking horrible.  You get burns on your arms and you smell like chicken.  It’s a miserable fucking job.  Just wearing that little hat is nasty!

A.C.  That’s when he shows you the trick, after the week of frying chicken…

D.H.S.  Correct.  At the end of the week he gives you your paycheck.  And it is so small that you can’t possibly live on it.  It’s all very psychological.  He is one of the most generous, warm, kind and smart persons I have ever met in my whole life.  So, when you look at the check you are horrified; because after all the hard work you did, you cannot even survive.  It’s right then, when you are feeling worthless, with no money and nobody who likes you or cares for you, at the lowest point, that he says to you: “Do you want to start making some real money?” Of course, you say: “Yes.”  And he tells you about these rich friends of his whom you could party with.  I was so naïve that I saw myself at cocktail parties discussing the latest issue of The New Yorker, just because I was cute.  I had this idea in my head of being this young Oscar Wilde…

We both laugh when he is recalling the very beginning of his career in the world of prostitution.  Because he does laugh about it, and because he is very candid in admitting that it was his choice.  David does not have regrets for his past, today.  He closes his eyes and hides a residual of teenage embarrassment nonetheless; his body and his white hair wave, mocking a hypothetical Wilde with a cocktail in his hands.  But there is nothing to be embarrassed about. At seventeen we all believed in everything they told us.  Sometimes we still do, in order not to listen or see the inevitable truth.

D.H.S.  But, of course, he meant servicing adults, sexually.  My first job was kind of a trial and I was very nervous.  As I always say, one of the differences between a female and male sex worker is that there are many things in life that you can fake; an erection is not one of them.

A.C.  True.  But isn’t somewhat safer to be a male sex worker compared to a woman?

D.H.S.  Mostly, it is.  The dynamic of power between men and women is something that a lot of men still don’t understand.  The other day I was talking to this woman in a parking lot, late at night.  She had recently been assaulted she freaked out as soon as a guy walked past her.  I could sense that feeling that screams: “I’m not powerful enough to stand up to this guy who can just pick me up as a rag doll.”  Having been abused by someone much more powerful than I, I can truly relate to that feeling.  However, what happened was that I found a real affinity for the job, because once again I was looking after people.  In a way, that’s what you do when you are a sex worker.

A.C.  Providing a service?  It just came out of my mouth, but I am smiling while saying this.  I must admit it.

D.H.S.  Exactly!  That’s exactly what you do.  You look at the person you have in front of you and you try to understand what they want and need.  That’s what you do when you are a real sex worker and not a thief.  They must tell you: “Wow, that itch I had is now scratched.”  And I found out that I was really good at that.

A.C.  Do you think that your sex work triggered your sex addiction?

D.H.S.  Oh, of course it did.  But as you know, it’s very complicated, understanding why a person becomes addicted to something.  However, on that first job, when I walked into that room, I felt powerful, while in real life I felt powerless, a meaningless piece of shit.  That woman wanted something from me that I could provide her, a very specific set of tasks, with difficulties, that I could nonetheless perform.  And, when it was over I put the money in my pocket and felt big, large.

I know the power he is talking about.  Because I recall feeling it, too, many years ago, the first time I had sex when I was high.  That night, in another life, I thought I had understood how to be a woman that was not Alice.  I hated Alice.  And I never felt more in control, not realizing I would eventually lose it all and despise myself even more.

D.H.S.  In real life I felt small and meaningless.  It was 1974 and that $100 bill was my sense of self-worth.  Then, of course, when you have sex your brain sets off these endorphins and you get a chemical high from it.  So, for me it was both a physical and an emotional empowerment.

A.C. You have been asked before if you have felt exploited.  You were seventeen years old in those days so, of course, there was a part of you that felt exploited.  But I would like to talk to you more in depth about what your definition of exploitation is, in the sex world.  Prudes and bigots think that porn is exploitation, which is a huge mistake.  And they don’t know what they are missing, from time to time.  Actually, my take on sex is that there’s almost nothing wrong about it, as long as it is at your own terms.

D.H.S.  Absolutely, I completely agree with that.

A.C. Now, I do acknowledge the urgency in resolving the terrible issue of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.  But it’s not what we are talking about, today.  In your opinion, where is the thin line between personal choice and exploitation in the sex world you are familiar with?

D.H.S.  I did this interview on NPR a while ago and I was introduced as someone ‘forced into prostitution.’  And that’s the idea that a lot of people have.  I had to tell the host: “Look, no one put a gun to my head and tried to shoot me.”  I could have walked away at any moment.  It was my choice.  I felt enormously exploited frying chicken, to be honest with you.  Because I was forced to work under brutal circumstances and I was paid a piss.  That was exploitation.  The whole Fast Food industry is built on exploitation.

A.C. Well, Walmart is built on exploitation.

D.H.S. Walmart! Oh my God!  Any giant corporation that uses labor like this is in the exploitation business.  If you are at the lowest level of the food chain you are just going to ask yourself: “How am I going to be exploited?  What’s the exploitation that best suits my personality?”  When you are seventeen and in that state, your choices are very limited, with no education, resources or networking.

It’s true that the guy did not explain the business very well, at first.  He didn’t tell me that some of the things that were about to happen to me would remain in my nightmares for the rest of my life.  He didn’t tell me that this would potentially cause me some horrible personality disorders. But, in that job I also had beautiful experiences where I wasn’t exploited at all, and where I was treated with great respect and honored for my skills.

A.C.  Those were the best jobs, what about the worst?

D.H.S.  In the worst I was treated like a piece of shit and asked to do things that no teenager should ever been asked to do.  Ever.

A.C.  Are you saying that no matter where you work, exploitation is everywhere and affects the weak in the same way?

D.H.S.  Yes.  I believe it very strongly.  And the more I live, the more I am convinced of it.  The strong feeds on the weak.  That’s how society has been working forever.  Media like to make it about sex and prostitution, and although there are prostitutes that are forced to do it against their will, there are also many people who are forced to clean toilets or kids that are sold and have to become soldiers and shoot people in the head.

A.C.  Now that we mention prostitution, you wrote the anthology Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks: Professionals & Their Clients Writing About Each Other.  How did you get the clients to write their stories?  It must have been difficult.  Sex workers seem to me more comfortable with what they do than their clients, who would rarely admit paying for sex.

D.H.S.  That was one of the most shocking things about the project.  And you are absolutely right, it’s easier for somebody to say: “Yes, I sell my body for sex,” than for somebody to admit the purchase of sex.  It sounds so ridiculous to me, especially because in history, being a prostitute has always been considered the worst possible profession.  The insult ‘whore’ always the lowest one.  Just think about the Scarlet Letter.

A.C.  Is something shifting in the sociological perception of prostitution and the sex worker profession in general?

D.H.S.  Something is indeed shifting.  I expected it to be a very easy process, here in America, to have people writing about their experiences in buying sex.  But it was very hard.  All my friends I asked to either laughed at me or were scornful, reminding me with pride that they didn’t have to pay for sex.  And I told them that they should try, at least once!  Like hiring a masseuse, who wouldn’t want to have a massage?  But that’s just my opinion, of course.  I believe that it is exactly the same transaction.

david bunnyAnyhow, I had so many contacts in the sex business that through Facebook and Twitter I was able to find both professionals and clients who agreed on talking.  What opened the gates a lot was the choice of letting them submit their stories with a pen name.

A.C.  Did you notice any difference in the male/female or straight/gay world?

D.H.S.  Interesting question.  I think that in the gay male world they are less ashamed.  They all did it once in a while; it’s part of the culture and they are much more accepting of sex for money.  Sex is such a fluid thing.  And especially older gay men; they had to hide for so long that being gay was a shameful enough thing.  There is nothing they are ashamed of.  What’s interesting on the lesbian community side is that many women who have sex with men for money are, in fact, lesbians.  At first it didn’t make sense to me, it was like a vegetarian working as a butcher.  But then I talked to a dear friend of mine and she explained to me that that it’s how they completely separate personal life with a woman at home, and work with a man client. And there is never the risk of falling in love this way.

A.C.  Have you ever fallen in love with a client?

D.H.S.  Yes.  But I was young and confused.  I even fantasized about moving in with her.  I was seventeen and she was probably forty-five.  I lived in a fantasy world so much back then, you have no idea…

A.C.  Of course I do.  We hate our life and any fantasy is better than reality.

Let’s move away from sex now, because your career has been so diverse.  You were a screenwriter for Disney (and plunging into your darkest days of addiction during those days, too.)  But you are also an actor, author and a comedian, too.  You started by opening for Robin Williams in the 1980s in San Francisco.  I am falling in love with American comedy and the more I study, the more I realize what a powerful weapon humor can be. Who were the comedians you aspired to, when you started?

D.H. S.  My favorite comic is Lenny Bruce who, of course, was a heroin addict.  Very dark sensibility and railing against the hypocrisy of society. Of course, he was arrested and harassed and tormented, ending up dead with a needle in his arm.  That’s my hero.

A.C.  I love Lenny Bruce, too.  He was one of the very first comedians I discovered when I moved here.

D.H.S.  And then I always loved Richard Pryor.  He famously burned himself up trying to smock rock and when he came back performing he did this joke of him on fire, on stage.  He took the darkest parts of his life, turned them into comedy and made people laugh.  In doing so, he illuminated the darkest sides of the human condition.  Pryor grew up in a world made of hate and violence.  And part of his mission was to expose this, through comedy.  There is no higher form of communication to me.  If I laugh, and then I have that moment when I have to think about what fucked up thing I have just laughed at, I know the artist has reached his purpose.  In your head you are debating about the philosophical ideas behind what made you crack, after you just did, hysterically.  Those moments are rare and hard to create.  Jerry Stahl is the same way, especially in his latest novel.

David tells me about his performing tour with Sex Worker Literati and he is astonished at the type of audience it attracts.  “There are a lot of young couple on first dates.  We have some dirty old men, too.  God bless them.  But the audience is very diverse and it’s a lot fun doing it. I notice quite some middle-aged feminist, as well, because we are sending a message of empowerment, after all.  Some gay audience is present, as I always put a couple of gay performers.  They have great stories!”  We briefly discuss the literary business and the side project he has started with his wife, The Book Doctors.  Time runs out nonetheless.  Sometimes I forget I am carrying out an interview and not just having coffee.  I have more questions and I need closure.

A.C.  Is there a moment in your career that you are particularly proud of?  You are primarily an author today, correct?

D.H.S.  Yes, I am.  But something beautiful happened during the show that I performed from Chicken.

Chicken became a very successful one-man show, after the book was published in 2002.

My mom had not read the book, as she didn’t want to.  My whole family reacted very badly when the memoir got published and they completely shut me out.  When I was touring with the show I performed in a college, in Portland, which is where my mother lives.  It was her wife, the same woman she had run off with when I was a kid that told her to go and see the show.  So my mom did.  The night happened to be a big success.  Every time that I am in a college I do a Q&A after the show and that night, I introduced my mom to everyone for the first time.  I can still see her standing up in the audience, proud and bowing.

David has tears in his eyes when recalling the night in Portland.

D.H.S.  She came backstage after the interview and, for the first time she told me that she was sorry for what had happened to me.  Had I only told her, back then, she would have tried to help me.  That night was a moment of truth and reconciliation, a beautiful metaphor for what writing can do.

A.C.  Absolutely.  If it wasn’t for both my novel and this blog, I wouldn’t be alive, and sober, to be honest with you.  It gave me a purpose and it helped me surviving the pain, the shame and the burden of life.  I did not want to live.  Through writing I have found my voice for the very first time.

david white hairD.H.S.  It’s because writing can expose parts of ourselves that we couldn’t expose.  After that night my mother and I became best friends, and it all came about through this book I wrote, speaking my truth, something I was so ashamed of.

A.C.  I am reading Advertisement For Myself and Mailer admits how, after The Naked and the Dead, he was not able to write another novel in such a quick and spontaneous way, for a long time.  An old mentor told me that some books you write, other write you.  This is exactly what we are talking about, some truths just have to come out and, eventually they do.

D.H.S.  That’s what happened for me, with Chicken.

A.C.  Have you learned to ask for help?

D.H.S.  I did learn, although it’s still a difficult thing to do.  But I am much better at it than I have ever been.  And learning how to do this has helped me how to focus on the things that I do well; while those things that I don’t do well I can understand and acknowledge with those who are good at them.  I was having a terrible problem with this book that I am writing, for example.  And, normally, I would have just kept it to myself. Instead, I have asked for advice and gathered many smart ideas from many smart people.

A.C.  Earlier this morning I read something that made me laugh; the downside of isolation is that we are the only ones to give ourselves advice.  Which is quite often a bad idea.

We both laugh.  For we both know what’s the kind of advice we are inclined to give ourselves. On my side, I know that I need the inside job, every day.

D.H.S.  That’s really funny.  I really like that.  So now I am not the only one who is giving myself advice.  Yes!

A.C.  Last one and you are free.  Are you okay with your nature and your past, today?

D.H.S.  I ask this question to myself all the time.  Would I whisper something into my ear at seventeen?  “Don’t go into that door?  Call your mom?”  I wonder if I would be a better person. I would have gone through a lot less agony and pain, but I wouldn’t be the man that I am, I would not have written my memoir and had a beautiful kid.

A.C.  How old is she?

D.H.S.  She is six and she is such a joy!  I wouldn’t be here talking to you, too.  It’s a very difficult thing to answer.  But I feel that everything I went through, lived and survived, I have also learned from it; and I have changed into a different human being.  It would have been easy to just remain a drug addict, a pleasure seeker and a miserable man.  That’s easier and you see that all the time, people crawling into a bottle and dying there.  But I didn’t want that to be my life, because I was on the road of self-destruction.  Had I not changed, I would be dead.  In the change I have become a person that I am proud of, although I still fuck up and make mistakes; we all do.  But now I can ask for help to do better next time.

In the end, I am grateful for all the fantastic things that happened to me and for all the fucked up ones, too.  Look, I deal with a bunch of people that have MFAs from writing programs and they write sentences so beautiful to make your heart break.  But they have no stories to tell. They haven’t had nobody beat the shit out of them, and they haven’t been dragged to bottom of the barrel.  But probably I just gravitate towards survivors, and people who have been through horrible misery and come out the other side better human beings.  If you have looked death in the face you are part of a club.

A.C.  Survivors have a message.  Thank you for sharing yours with me, and my readers.  It was beautiful to have you here.

Just a few hours prior connecting with David I had posted a photo, both on Twitter and Facebook, of my Interview Composition Pad.  I had simply shared that, with this interview I had come to the very last page of it.  The $0.99 notebook had started in August, with George Christie.

What was only supposed to be a tentative weekly publication that precious and humble first guests like Phil Hendrie, Clint Mansell and George Christie helped me start, putting some brave trust in me, has become today a very serious deal.  The interviews are hopefully reflecting the transformation, too.  And 2014 will be full of surprises, because more amazing guests are already lined up.  Fascinating stories and authenticity is what I offer; I hope you have noticed by now, because there is no better way of learning for me.

Thank you for helping me reach a result I never believed possible.  YOU, 15 thousand folks a month, are my gift of 2013.  Thank you for supporting me and for spreading the word.  Every time you share my work you share the effort I put into bringing you the best I can.  Don’t stop.  I won’t either.

I don’t know if you believe in Christmas, if you do, MERRY CHRISTMAS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTERVIEW WITH ME, MALE PROSTITUTE ON SALLY JESSE RAFAEL

First interview I did for my book Chicken. I was so nervous and scared and ashamed and embarrassed.  But she was very nice to me.  See more and buy book here.

"Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie" Premiere - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the Blind Eye — Who Are Child Predators and What Must Be Done to Stop Them

“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.”

127NFRonaldKlinemugshotThis is from the diary of 61-year-old Judge, Ronald C. Kline.

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

 

FREE! Beautiful Hand Signed Book Plate for Chicken

Send proof of purchase of purchase of NEW copy of Chicken & I will send you a personalized signed book plate. Sterry bookplate

In a cool envelope with stuff crazy stickers. Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore: Indiebound or on Amazon.

chicken 10 year anniversary cover“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly”

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Chicken Gets Big Love from Publisher’s Weekly

“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

chicken 10 year anniversary coverFind Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  Indiebound Amazon

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

From Chicken: When I Was a Birthday Present for an 82-year-old Grandmother

Excerpt from: Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent.  To buy the book click here.

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

“David, I’ve got a fantastic job for you, Friday night, this is a two hundred dollar job!” Mr. Hartley’s straight shooter baritone reaches down my throat all the way to my seventeen year old balls and squeezes hard.

“Wow,” I say in what I hope is a loverstudguy voice, but which I suspect smacks of eunuch, “that’s great, excellent, thanks, I uh-”

“David,” Mr. Hartley sounds like a benevolent dictator in a three-piece suit, the ultimate Master Alpha, “this is a very important client. And if you do this job well I can absolutely guarantee there will be lots of exciting opportunities on the horizon for you. You understand me David? Do we understand each other?”

I have no idea what he’s talking about so I say:

“Sure, absolutely, I got it-”

“This is a very unique opportunity for you David. I want you to be completely prepared. It’s rather unusual job. But I think it really matches your skill set.”

My brain races like a train on bad speed. Will there be barnyard animals involved? Ritual sacrifice?  Death masks and scat sandwiches?  What will you do for money? Where do you draw your line? How much of your life are you willing to sell for $200?

“David, this client, who I must emphasize is extremely important, has decided she wants to treat her friend to very special birthday gift. And that birthday gift is you. So get ready to put on your birthday suit.” Mr. Hartley laughs like a machine gun: rat-a-tat-tat. “I kid of course. Seriously though, David, it’s our policy at the Hollywood Employment Agency to give our clients all the information they need to succeed. We believe that preparation is essential to success. And for this job, it’s very important that you understand you are being given by one of our most important clients to her best friend, as a present for her eighty-second birthday.”

GULP!

“It’s very important to us that our clients are comfortable performing.  Are you comfortable, under the circumstances, uh… performing… David?”

No. No. No.  I don’t honestly think I can fuck an eighty-two-year-old. That’s what I say in my 17-year-old manchild idiot head. Out loud I say:

“Sure, absolutely, I’m all over it.”

“You’re all over it,” Mr. Hartley’s Ouzi of a laugh rattles my skull. “That is droll David, very droll. That’s exactly why I thought of you when this job came in. I have every confidence that you won’t let me… down.” Bam Bam Bam Mr. Hartley laughs fast and staccato. “I kid of course. David I want you to call me as soon as this job is done. Do you understand? Do we understand each other?”

“Absolutely, for sure, yeah.”

Mr. Hartley gives me the 411 and then I disconnect.

Immediately my shattered brain sees an ancient naked wrinkled saggy droopy granny spread-eagled in front of me and my poor placid flaccid penis is a lifeless piece of useless meat, I have to give the money back I see myself spiraling down humiliated, a brutal failure rejected by Mr. Hartley and Sunny, drummed out of the business shunned by all my chicken peers the only family I know at this point who accepts me for what I am, my paycheck my refuge my people, all gone.

Anonymously knocking on the door in the ultra fancy ass swank swish hotel that smell like Olde Money, my mind attacks itself with vicious visions  of wrinkled, ravaged, sagging grandmother flesh that shrinkwrap my rapidly shriveling penis.  Breath short.  Tight.  Heart racehorsing pounding against my breastplate.  A sticky clammy sweaty nervy jumpy freaky tweaky moisture oozes out of most of my pores.

The door slowly opens.  She’s trim and pretty in pink and a styly Channel-type suit.  She definitely has one of those helmet hairdo, but it’s well done if you like that kind of thing. A huge honking diamond ring holds court on a well tended finger.  Shoes the same color pink as her outfit.  She’s got wrinkles but they’re not gruesome. She’s wearing makeup but it’s definitely not Whatever-Happened-to-Baby-Janey.  But the best thing about her is her smile.  She has a smile that welcomes you in.  After a heavy sigh full of deep relief the first thought that pops into my seventeen-year-old manchild head is: Shit man, I hope I’m doing this good when I’m eighty-two years old.

Like a Hostess greeting an international dignitary, she asks me if I would like some champagne?  Chocolate covered strawberries?  Pate and cheese? It’s all spread out on this fancy silvery tray. Curtains are closed.  Lights are low. Candlelight makes everything soft.  She gives me a long thin beautiful flute of champagne.  With a sweet smile ripe with kindness.  Like I’m all growed up.

I know what to do.  I’ve been trained well by my mum.

“I want to wish you a very, very happy birthday, and if there’s anything I can do to make your dreams come true, I’m here for your pleasure.”

I have rehearsed the speech.  I am pleased with the delivery.  I hold up the long thin beautiful flute of sparkly bubbly.  She smiles kinda shy.  Demure.  Which is shockingly endearing in a lady who’s turning out to be the totally awesome grandma I never had.  That I’m just about to have sex with.

She holds out her fluke for a clink.  Weak clink.  We drink.  The champagne shoots little giddy meteors tickling my lips and teasing my nose.  I love the way it feels inside my mouth like the most sophisticated pop rocks ever. Smooth smooth, smooth, it goes down tingly and frothy, liquid laughter.

She tells me her name is Dorothy.  But her friends called her Dot.  I think that’s a cool name. Dot.  She’s talking about the champagne.  Apparently she knows a lot about champagne. This is from some famous champagne place in France.  Soon as I’m done with the first sip I can’t wait for another so I just let it guzzle down my muzzle all twinkly and sparkly.  One more big gulp and the whole beautiful flute is empty, the contents now inside me.  It comes on quick and suddenly my head floats on my neck and my face is happy, bones melting, blood rushing like carefree debutantes jitterbuging at their coming-out ball.  It feels a lot greater to be alive than it did five minutes ago.

Dot insists I have a chocolate-covered strawberry.  Doesn’t take much arm-twisting.  Apparently it’s some world-famous chocolate from Belgium.  It’s got a hard crunch when you bite it, but then it gets all melty in your mouth, as the fruity juice of the rapturously ripe strawberry sings with the chocolate in mind-boggling two-part harmony.  When I finish I see Dot watching me with a big grin on her face.  Makes me like her.   Even more.

Dot tells me she likes to watch people enjoy themselves. I tell her how much I’m enjoying myself.  And the crazy thing is I completely mean it.  She asks me if I want another one.  I say no, even though I really actually do want another one.  She asks me if I really want another one but I’m just saying no to be polite.  Like she can see right inside my head.  I confess I do and did.  She insists with an impy grin that I have another chocolate covered strawberry.  So I do.  I have two more after that.  I could eat every single one.  But I am there to do a job.  I figure after three chocolate-covered strawberries, it might impair my ability to perform.

Dot tells me all about her madcap romantic husband, how they met, how he proposed to her.  Took her to Europe, South America, Broadway shows.  She hauls out a picture of him.  It’s black-and-white.  He’s in a sharp suit with two-tone shoes, hair all slick and a debonair devilmaycare smile.  I must admit, he was one dapper motherfucker.

He’s been dead for ten years.  It’s sad and happy at the same time.  Makes me like her so much that she has all this love for this guy she was married to for like fifty years or whatever.  Being now the son of a dyke from a home broken beyond repair and having sex for money with grandmothers, I just can’t fathom being married to somebody for fifty years.  But Dot says her old man was a pistol and a mensch and a big old bundle of fun.  Dot tells me about how they used to have these wild and crazy parties with all their brilliant zany friends, where they’d get all dressed up, drinking, dancing and yakking all night about art and politics and life and death and war and taxes.

It’s a mad blast listening to her wax about her one wild and precious life.  Makes me hope that at some point I can have one.  A life.  A most excellent wife, some brilliant crazy zany friends, a house with a pool and lots of rooms where people can party.  Sounds nice.

This is such a great job so far.  But of course there’s that nagging tug in the back and pit of my head and belly: how in the name of Pan the horny goat boy am I going to get It up and off?  I am bombarded by the image of my meat torpedo morphing into wet spaghetti.  I am forced to focus extra hard to avoid hyperventilation.

Dot stops talking.  She hems and she haws and she tuts.  Clearly she wants to tell me what’s on the menu for her birthday dinner, but she’s having a terrible time spitting it out.

I’m scared breathless.  I desperately want to give Dot want she wants.  I need to please her.  She’s been so nice to me.  And I want to succeed at this job.  Be an American.  Be a man.  But will I be able to achieve liftoff with a naked octogenarian laying on top of me?  I believe I can.  I know I can’t.  What if she wants to do some weird old person sex thing I don’t know about?

My testes cower in a corner.  My head is like a balloon being inflated by a homicidal clown with ADHD.  My guts rumble thunderously, roiling like a boiler about to blow.

Again I find myself seriously questioning my career choice.

Dot forces out a strangulated sentence like a tongue-tied eighty-two-year-old schoolgirl.

“I’ve always wanted someone to kiss me…” she motions with her head down towards her nether regions, “down there.”

That’s it? Thank you Lord, for delivering me from the wilderness.  A little head?  A wee dram of cunnilingus?  Hell, I can do that with my eyes closed.  In fact many times I have. And then I think, Can you imagine wanting to have someone go down on you for fifty years?  Having a husband you love and not being able to ask him to do that?  I’ve gone down I can and in all this is what he is on every girlfriend I’ve ever had. It seems like one of the most basic sexual things you can do. My mind is officially boggled.

But the weight of the world, so heavy on my head moments ago, has been mercifully lifted.  I assure Dot that I would be more than happy to make her dream come true.

She gets under the covers.  She doesn’t take her clothes off.  This is just getting better and better.

Here are the best jobs in order.

1)      Just talking.

2)      Just talking while I’m naked.

3)      Just talking while I’m naked and playing with myself. And by playing with myself of course I mean masturbating.

4)      Cunnilingussing.

5)      Doggy styling.

6)      Missionary positioning.

7)      Cowgirling with direct eye contact.

So this is the fourth best job there is.

Dot wiggles and wriggles under the covers.  I assume she’s taking her granny panties off.  She doesn’t tell me to take my clothes off so I don’t. I crawl under the covers. I suspect there will be wrinkly grandmother flesh. But what do I care? Cunnilingus is cunnilingus. Luckily I was trained in this art by the first girl friend I ever had, who was much older than me and rigorously demanding, albeit in a very sweet educational way.

So it takes a while for me to burrow myself in, but eventually there I am.  Right between Dot’s 82-year-old legs. It’s very dark in there. Like a cave. I like it. And when I arrive, to my surprise it smells good. Fresh. Manicured. Everything is quite smooth leading up to the area. Which is a very pleasant surprise.

Dot is very ironing board like.  But cunnilingually I’ve been trained well.  I take my time.  I go slow.  I kiss all around the area soft and gentle.  Some lips.  A little tongue.  Very light.  The more I do it the more she softens.  Then suddenly she’s moving herself towards my mouth.  Now there are little moans and sighs and groans and gasps coming from outside the covers.  How cool is this?  I’m thinking, she’s totally into it.

At this moment I feel so useful.

Her hands are on my head and she’s pulling its into her area. And to tell you the truth, her area is much like any other area I’ve been in. Especially in the depth of this black cave.

Dot is now gently manipulating my head, moving it exactly where she wants it and I’m just applying the appropriate pressure.  It’s like we’re dancing and she’s leading while I follow. And she’s exhibiting all the symptoms of excitation. It’s all happening and I could not be happier.

Dot now seems to be climbing the ladder of the stairway to Heaven.  I don’t know how long we been going at this now, but it doesn’t seem that long.  And she’s already manifesting all the physical manifestations of pre-orgasm.

Sure enough, here it comes.  Here she comes.

Here comes Dot.  Diving off the cliff into the sea of sexual ecstasy.

I am overpowered by a sense of joyful satisfaction.  Mr. Hartley  will be so proud of me.

It’s clear we are, you know, done. So I burrow out from undercover and head into the bathroom, to give her a chance to put herself back together.  As I eyeball myself in the mirror, I shake my seventeen year-old man child idiot head.  Can you imagine?  Eighty-two-year-old grandmother pussy tasted great.

Sure enough, when I come back out, she’s totally put together, like nothing happened.  Except for the bloom in her cheeks and the sweet smile of satisfaction on her lips.

Dot thanks me profusely.  She asks me if I would like to take a chocolate covered strawberry with me.  I confess that I would.  I grab a chocolate covered strawberry and head for the door full to overflowing with a sense of well-being. Even though my parents don’t care to speak to me, even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future and I’m wracked by nightmares and lusting for revenge on the man who attacked and broke me into tattered pieces, at least I’m good at this.

As I’m leaving with my chocolate covered strawberry Dot surreptitiously slips a crisp green bill into my hand while she plants of very nice kiss on my cheek. When I pull back, she playfully wipes the lipstick off my cheek.  It’s a tiny little gesture, but it feels so intimate and connected in a world where connection is virtually impossible for me.

I thank her profusely—wish her a happy birthday.

She thanks me right back.

Then I’m gone.

It’s a $100 bill.  Add that to the $200 that was in the envelope on the fancy food platter.  So that’s $300 to drink fancy French champagne, eat world famous Belgian chocolate-covered strawberries and make one pretty great grandma’s dream come true.

As I leave the ultra swank Beverly Hills Hotel, I find myself thinking:

America, what a country!

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Nomad on Chicken: “An X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland”

chicken 10 year 10-10-13“David Henry Sterry recounts his shocking, sad and sordid experiences as a 17-year old “chicken” (teenage prostitute) servicing the lonely matrons of 1970’s Hollywood with a standup comic’s sensibility, tone and timing. The overall effect is jarringly surreal, like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes, ranging from the mildly titillating to the profoundly disturbing, expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, unable to put it down, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist. Could all of this have really happened to him? If so, he deserves praise just for surviving to tell his story.”

— Eliza Thomas, Places, the magazine for the Modern Nomad

Art of the Memoir: Marion Roach Smith on NPR, Hating Redheads, & Something Larger than Herself

MRS, croppedTo commemorate the publication of the 10 year anniversary edition of my memoir Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, I have decided to do a series of interviews with memoirists I admire. Marion Roach Smith not only talks the talk, she walks the walks.  She is a memoirist, journalist, and has now written a book which every memoirist should own and scour. Here’s what she had to say about the Art of the Memoir

David Henry Sterry: Why in god’s name did you decide to write a memoir?

Marion Roach Smith: Ha ha ha. I’ve written and published several, as well as countless radio essays, op-eds and the like from my point of view. My recent book, The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life, contains lots of personal essays.  I write memoir to understand things. My first book was an expansion of a New York Times Magazine piece I wrote about my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. She was 49 when she got sick, and there had never been a piece in the popular press about the disease. Hard to imagine now, I know. Mine was the first, and went on to become one of the most reprinted pieces in the magazine’ history. The first book followed. My reason for writing the piece was to do some advocacy journalism. Same for the book. Change the world. Get funding. Make people care. It worked.

DHS: What were the worst things about writing your memoir?

MRS: There are no worst things. There are consequences, good and bad. On the good side, I’m quite sure that much like in life, success in writing is all about which aspects of your experience you choose to emphasize. In those terms, the worst thing, as you say, can be learning something you were unprepared to learn.

DHS:  What were the best things about writing your memoir?

MRS: The best thing is learning things you were unprepared to learn. Hey, it beats the hell out of watching reruns on TV or surfing the web. Some of my middle-aged friends tell me they would like to feel something again. Write about your life. I promise, you’ll feel something.

DHS:  Did writing your memoir help you make some order out of the chaos we call life?

MRS:  Order. Absolutely.

DHS: How did you make a narrative out of the seemingly random events that happened to you?

MRS: Random? Really? Says who?

DHS: How was the process of selling your memoir?

MRS: I have found that all my different pieces of memoir have done fine. The first sold off of a magazine piece, as I said. The second book-length memoir I wrote was tucked inside a book called The Roots of Desire, which is on the history of red hair. I’m a redhead. No one had ever written that rich history, so it was a first, and easy to pitch, tracing the mutation of a gene back to its eruption in the genome and looking at all the art and story, drama, iconography worship and hatred of redheads. It was a first. The individual radio essays I pitch to NPR, one at a time.

It goes fine.

DHS: How did you go about promoting and marketing your memoir?

MRS: I learned a great lesson years ago, which is to not go for reviews, but to go for features. So for book-length pieces, I contact newspaper feature editors, beauty and science editors (for the book on red hair, for instance), seeking feature pieces on the topic. It works well. I blog, I promote other writers, and they promote me; I use social media wisely.

DHS: Did you have difficulty speaking in public about the intimate aspects of your memoir?

MRS:  Not a bit. Successful memoir is not about me. It’s about something larger, and I am the illustration. That is, if you want anyone to read it. The intimacy with the audience becomes about the larger, universal topic. It’s a great experience.

DHS: How did your family, friends and loved ones react to your memoir?

MRS: Family is a pizza, and everyone gets a slice. That being the case, no two family members see or remember a single event the same way, so you are going to get blowback. “That never happened, “ is what you’ll hear. And she’s right, the sister who says that to you. “That’s not the way it happened,” I say to that. “To you. That’s the way it happened to me.”

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but you have any advice for people who want to write a memoir?

MRS: Memoir is about territory, and you have to stake yours out, walk its perimeter. When you do, you’ll find that each good story is bordered by your areas of expertise. I’m a woman, a sister, a wife, a mother, a member of my college board of trustees; I live with a fine dog, I sail, garden, play lots of sports. These are individual areas of expertise. Write from one of those at a time and you’ll never be tempted to write one of those turgid tomes that begins with the birth of your great-great grandfather, and ends with what you had for lunch yesterday.

memoir-project-front-cover_custom-s6-c30

Marion Roach Smith believes that everyone has a story to tell. The author of four books, all of which contain a large degree of memoir, her most recent book is The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing–And Life, (Grand Central, 2011) an irreverent, quirky, provocative product of the countless memoir classes she has taught for more than a decade. Under the name Marion Roach, she is the author of The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair, (Bloomsbury, 2005), a wild blend of memoir and history; the co-author with famed forensic pathologist Michael Baden, M.D., of Dead Reckoning (Simon & Schuster, 2001), a hands-on, behind-the-scenes journey into the world of forensic science; and of Another Name for Madness, (Houghton Mifflin, 1985), the first, first-person account of a family’s dramatic struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. That book was an expansion of a record-breaking reprint of a piece she published in 1983 in The New York Times Magazine. A former staff member of The New York Times, she has written for The New York Times Magazine, Prevention, The Daily News, Vogue, Newsday, Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart Living, Discover and The Los Angeles Times. A commentator on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, from 2005-2011 she was the author and voice of The Naturalist’s Datebook, heard daily on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius/XM 110.

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/

 

 

How Hos, Hookers, Call Girls & Rent Boys Ended Up in Bed with TV’s Friends Co-Creator

This story starts when I was 17, alone in Hollywood with $27 in the pocket of my nuthugging elephantbells.  I had just arrived to begin my collegiate career at Immaculate Heart College, where I planned to study existential under a bunch of radical nuns.  That night, while admiring Marilyn Monroe’s handprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, I was approached by a very charming man wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word: SEXY.  He invited me back to his place for steak.  Turned out to be the most expensive steak of my life.  The steak was drugged .  SEXY raped me.  I escaped with my life.  But the happy-go-lucky lad who breezed into that apartment died in that room.  SEXY killed him.  I sprinted out of there broken and bleeding.  Within the week I was in the sex business.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.  The part of my brain responsible for emotion was engorged, and the part responsible for communication shriveled.  I was a living breathing fully-loaded semi-automatic weapon just looking for an excuse to go off.  So given my economic situation, (making minimum-wage frying chicken), my alienation from my parents, and my newly acquired mental illness, it seemed absolutely like my best option.  I was in the sex business for nine months.  One human gestation period.  But it changed me forever, and in ways I wasn’t even aware of for years to come.  Certainly I had great times in that world, and made gigantic money for a person my age and with my work experience.  But I also downloaded the sexual trauma I encountered in that world, and it infected me like a virus.

I became a sex addict and a cocaine addict.  Which is not nearly as much fun as it sounds.  In my mid 30s I realized that if I didn’t change I was going to die, or my penis was going to fall off.  I’m not sure which scared me more.  I knew I had to find a panic mechanic.  Fast.  Since I was living back in Los Angeles, naturally I found a hypnotherapist.  She gave me some tools to stop my sick twisted behavior, and helped me unraveled the huge gnarly knots inside myself.  I was a professional screenwriter at the time, so she suggested I write about my experiences.  Thus was born my memoir Chicken.  Writing down the most miserable things that ever happened to me helped me understand why I became a man child rent boy.  It helped me embrace my inner ho.  See myself as the survivor not the victim.  Accept responsibility and not blame everyone else.  Appreciate the good and not obsess about the bad.  Do things that made me happy and healthy instead of miserable than sick.

When that book came out it changed my life and I was so grateful I was overwhelmed by a fierce desire to help somebody.  Be of service.  So I decided to start a writing program for people who’d been arrested for prostitution.  For two years every Tuesday me and my ex-literary agent/current wife would go down into a basement of a nonprofit organization and run a writing group.  The hos, hookers, call girls and rent boys we worked with wrote shocking, funny, smart, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping stories.  And they always left the workshop in a better mood than they arrived.  As did we.  Part of my mission became to put a human face on these people who are glorified and stigmatized, worshiped and reviled, spat upon and paid outrageous sums of money.  Thus was born the anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Boys.

One of the great things about prostitutes is that they are amazing networkers.  They pretty much have to be.  So I put out the word that I was looking for writing by people in the sex business.  Me and my partner Richard Martin were flooded with submissions.  I was already the author of a bunch of books by then so I started shopping the anthology.  I showed it to my agents.  Not interested.  I showed it to other agents.  Even less interested.  I showed it to publishers I knew at HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Random House, and lots of the big boys of publishing.  They laughed at me.  Or ignored me.  On to the small publishers.  Nothing.  University presses seemed like the next logical choice, since this is really a piece of American oral history.  No pun intended..  I actually got the head guy at Duke University on the phone.  He told me in a disdainful, dismissive, condescending, adenoidal and freezing cold tone that this was certainly not the kind of book published by Duke University.  He told me they preferred material that was much less vulgar, rude, crude and illiterate.  Finally I approached places like Joe’s Publishing Co., where you call the number listed on the website and a guy answers, “Hi I’m Joe, can I publish your book?”  Even Joe turned me down.

After a year my partner Richard was ready to give up.  I was furious.  I knew I had something valuable.  Even though “experts” from the top to the bottom of the food chain told me that I was a deluded, moronic ex-ho.  Objectively, in the face of universal rejection, I should’ve quit.  I did not.  Me and Richard worked our asses off to make the proposal better, refining, buffing and polishing.  Then I came up with the title.  I did it with this game that we use to come up with titles.  You get a bunch of your intelligent friends, if you have any, you get a bunch of drugs and alcohol, and you write down every single word you can think of related to your subject.  Then you just start mixing and matching.  That’s how I came up with Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Boys.  And I kept asking every single person I knew, wherever I went.  Finally I got connected to a guy named Richard Nash, who ran Soft Skull Press. A week later we had a book deal.  They gave us such a tiny advance that by the time we ended up paying all the writers, me and Richard lost money on the deal.  But we were ecstatic.

We were even more ecstatic when our Little Ho Book That Could, the redheaded step-child nobody wanted, ended up on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. I happened to be in Hollywood doing my Sex Worker Literati show to promote the book, when I got a call from my agent.  Marta Kauffman, co-creator of Friends, wanted to talk to me about the anthology.  I was excited yet slightly confused.  Why was someone in the center of American culture interested in our book, which was so rooted in America’s dark, dank, filthy underbelly? I tried to imagine a show about a group of perky, attractive, funny, fresh-faced BFF-sex workers trying to deal with life, love and turning tricks.  Sure, I thought, why not?  As I drove up to our meeting, I was expecting much Hollywood slickness.  But Marta was just like people I worked with in the theater for 20 years.  After we had our getting-to-know-you chat she told me how taken she was by Hos, Hookers.  How she had a vision of the characters and stories being brought to life as a modern dance piece, realized by some breathtaking choreographers.  Would I be interested in something like?

My eyes popped while jaw dropped.  I would’ve never imagined this scenario in million years.  But I liked it.  Sex is, after all, the ultimate primal dance.  And when sex is exchanged for money, a window opens into the human soul.  What a great way to let people to take a peek.

Yes, I said.  Yes.

Writing down the worst thing that ever happened to me was the final piece of my odyssey from out-of-control self-destruction, working at Chippendales, acting on Fresh Prince of Bel Air, writing screenplay for Disney, living in a fancy house in the hills; to getting my head cracked open, almost dying from a massive coke overdose, having my house stolen, and going bankrupt; to making Ross, Rachel, Joey and Chandler end up in the same sentence as Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Boys.

David Henry Sterry is the author, with Richard Martin, of the anthology Hos, Hookers, Call Girls & Rent Boys.  He runs the monthly reading series Sex Worker Literati, giving voice to sex workers telling their stories about the exchange of sex for money, at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC. The next show is November 28, 2010. https://davidhenrysterry.com/ http://www.facebook.com/sexworkerliterati

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent

Chicken CoverBuy the book.

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theater: past turistas snapping shots; wanna-be starlets sparkling by in mini-skirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs.

It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I am Alice.”

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent (ReganBooks / HarperCollins, 2002) is the funny, touching story of a sweet, wide-eyed son of Seventies Suburbia who becomes a teenage sex worker servicing rich, lonely women in Beverly Hills. After being abused his first night in Hollywood, David meets Sunny, the manager of Hollywood Fried Chicken, who teaches him all about chicken: how to fry one, and how to be one. But the wild adventures and the mad money are never enough, as he’s sucked into the dark side of Hollywood: the blank-eyed women, the Fall-of-Rome orgies, and the hungry predators. With a mix of breathtaking honesty, sly comedy, genuine tenderness, and an innocent fascination for the bizarre characters and world he enters, Sterry creates a narrative that is fresh, smart, and unexpectedly uplifting. Chicken is a book like no other—a playful, gripping story that explores what it means to suffer through the underbelly of the American Dream. And make it out alive.

Chicken comes with a personal guarantee unprecedented in the history of publishing. If you’re not completely satisfied, I’ll come to your house and wash your car. If you don’t have a car, I’ll vacuum your living room. If you don’t have a living room, I’ll buy you the warm beverage of your choice.*

*Proof of purchase required. Must pass brief quiz.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature… wonderfully written.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… great stories… captures Hollywood beautifully…” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, National Public Radio

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

“Chicken expands our understanding of who does sex work and what it involves; of how family dislocation, dysfunction and desertion affect children and adolescents; and of the complex interplay between social norms, sexual practices, “deviant” behavior, and identity. Academics might use Chicken profitably to help students explore non-fiction and memoir writing, or substantively in courses on gender, sexuality, adolescence, deviance, the sexual revolution, the 1970s, southern California, and related topics. As a floodlit slice of life or an object lesson about attempts to counterbalance (dare I say “straddle”?) propriety and impropriety, Chicken is highly recommended. The writing style in Chicken is brash and engaging. Reminiscent of “gonzo journalism” and Lewis Carroll, Sterry’s style includes vivid descriptions, trenchant metaphors, creative compound words, and a taste for alliteration. Yet the book is more than just flashy, over-the-top recounting of colorful anecdotes. Rather, Sterry’s writing style serves his substance well, clearly evoking the milieu of 1970s sexual-revolution-era Hollywood. At the same time, the book is visceral and brutally honest about Sterry’s emotional and physical ordeals during his year as a sex worker. He expresses both sympathy and anger for his clients; in regard to his own behavior, he is subtly introspective, smoothly moving between an account of his feelings at the time and a retrospective evaluation of his actions and motives. While his account does not appear to temper the meanness, sadness or vapidity of many of his customers, he does not shrink from reporting his own failings, either. For example, his recounting of his displaced rage on the basketball court is unflinching and heartbreaking.” Dr. Ann Lucas –Sexuality & Culture, an Interdisciplinary Quarterly

CHICKEN: THE SHOW

#1 Play in Great Britain. -The Independent

“Poignant…a rare pleasure… moving and original… revealingly honest… Sterry is a sharp comic, using his limber body and versatile voice to create memorably portraits of the hungry, lonely, wealthy women who employ his services…Sterry needs no other prop than a wooden bench to get full mileage out of the ludicrousness of sex… But what gives it depth is the hard, sad reality beneath its Rabelaisian humor… Richly entertaining and thought-provoking… Speaks cleverly and provocatively to anyone who’s ever been or had a child.”
—Robert Hurwitt, Head Theater Critic to The San Francisco Chronicle

“Full of energy… fast, provacative, and highly engaging… Simply unmissable…” – The Hearld

“Irresistible… very enjoyable… radiates honesty… funny, physical, and fast…” -The Scotsman

“What a rare pleasure it is to see a writer perform his own work… dream-like profundity…Sterry’s portrayal of his 17-year-old self is immediately honest and believable… juxtaposed with his masterful control of poetic dialogue balances the show.” — SF Examiner

“Sterry summons up in glorious technicolour an amazing array of characters… Extraordinary… engrossing and touching… a great story… It’s a must!” —Daily Mail

“Graced with insight and empathy—Sterry finds a literary rhythm as fluid and alluring as the strut of his ‘nuthugging elephantbells’… a sense of humor as bright and ridiculous as a ‘blood-engorged wangdangdoodle- hammer’.” —S F Weekly

“Disturbing, heartrending, and so funny it makes you choke… intoxicating energy and magnetic storytelling charisma… the poignancy and honesty hits you hard.” – Brighton Argus

“A tour-de force.”—SF Bay Times
“Sextacular.” – Beth Lisick, SF Gate
“Frank, funny and surreal.” –The Stage
“Pick of the week… Hysterical.” – The Guardian
“Hard-hitting and universal.” -Time Out San Francisco
“Sterry is a man you should know” -Year-End Best Of SF Weekly

“Sterry tells a sad and harrowing story with humor, energy, and a sharp eye for the sort of characters an ‘industrial sex technician’ might meet in the weird aftermath of the ‘60s.” —Michael Scott Moore, The San Francisco Weekly

“Hugely compelling to watch… real skill… The story is told in deft snippets… the language is poetic, and a 1970’s soundtrack gets the audience in the mood… [a] triumphant story… it’s clear that this is a comedy hiding in a tragedy.” -The Independent

 

Chicken in Erotica.com: “A page-turner”

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.”

— Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

To see more & buy book, click here.

Josh Cohen, WZZR on Chicken: “I Couldn’t Put it Down”

“Written so well… eloquent, amazing… I couldn’t put it down!”

— Josh Cohen, WZZR Radio

To buy, click here.

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

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