This is a song I wrote for my awesome amazing beautiful breathtaking and altogether extraordinary wife’s 50th birthday. Olive our 12 year old daughter shot and edited the video.
Tag: comedy Page 1 of 2
I was a preofessional white asshole on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Will Smith was awesome. Here’s the clip.
A dad explains how to play it cool in front of your big crush
60. Today I am 60. Six months ago I was freaking the frick out about turning 60. My grandfather had been dead of black lung disease for decades before he could turn 60. Tupac was dead 35 years before he could reach the big Six Oh. It seemed like most of my life was behind me, that I should be planning my funeral and writing my obituary instead of my next book, shopping for adult diapers and boner medicine instead of buying a new pair of skinny jeans.
I’m a softball addict. The first step is admitting you have a problem. In January a bunch of my softball nutjob friends rent out the soccer dome and start practicing for the upcoming season. We play Friday morning 9 AM. Of course at that hour it’s mostly old retired softball codgers, coots and coffin-dodgers. I took my turn hitting, and as is my wont, I whacked the ball around pretty good. When I finished, a bunch of ancient softball zombies stampeded toward me. Well, more tottered than stampeded – you could hear the metallic hips and knees clicking, clanking and clunking as they got closer. They all wanted to know if there was any chance I was turning 60 this year. I confessed that I was. One after the other the softball geezers tried to make a compelling case for why I should play on their team. They warned me that all the other captains of all the other teams were a bunch of one-foot-in-the-grave asswipe dirtbags. Suddenly I realized. I was the hot spring chicken studmuffin being feverishly recruited for Over-60 softball. Instantly my world changed. Instead of thinking about my funeral I was contemplating how I was going to dominate these old bastards, put my foot on their turkey wattle necks, smash their pacemakers and crush the life out of them. When you’re a softball addict, it gets no better than that.
It dawned on me that apart from wonky knee, my body is in great working order. I weigh the same as I did when I entered college a hundred years ago. I achieve wood without taking a pill. I’m no longer a slave to my penis. It’s now who’s a slave to me. Or rather, we work together with mutual respect and affection. I have a brilliant, lovely, talented, sexy wife, who for reasons unbeknownst to anyone, loves and adores me. I have a brilliant, lovely, talented, hysterically funny, slime-loving, fidget-spinning nine-year-old daughter for reasons unbeknownst to anyone, loves and adores me. But more than that, I feel a calmness, a peace, an enjoyment of life that I’ve never had. I don’t feel like I have to rush around everywhere. I can say No to people who invite me to stupid stuff I don’t want to go to. I have work that feeds my mind and soul. There’s always great food to eat. I have a house with a mancave hooked up to a giant TV where I can watch every movie or TV show ever made.
For reasons still unknown to me, when I was a teenager, I decided I’d like to live to be 120. Suddenly that seemed possible. In which case, I’m only halfway through. Imagine what I could do with my newfound peace and alleged wisdom in the next 60 years. One of my life goals is to be the fastest 100-year-old on the planet. Suddenly that too seemed possible. Yes, in our youth-obsessed culture, sometimes I do feel invisible. But I don’t care anymore. For most of my life I constantly compared myself to others. Naturally, being a rabid PTSD survivor, I always ended up with the fuzzy end of the lollipop. There was always someone smarter, more handsome, more sexy, more accomplished, more successful, just plain better. At 60 I find myself comparing myself to me. Am I the best person I can be? Am I making the world a better place? Am I helping out people less fortunate than myself? Am I being a great dad? A great husband? A great American? A great citizen of the world? But perhaps most importantly, a great softball player.
And that’s why I love turning 60.
My dad describes, as only a tightly wound Englishman can, how to have sex.
My daughter is a slacker. She lays around doing nothing while I work my ass off, so she can have cable, pink Uggs & American Girl dolls. I’m sick and tired of it, so I decided to lay down the law and teach her a lesson about hard work, sweat & sacrifice. Everything that makes America great!
Being young is the coolest thing there is. First installment from show about what today’s youth is thinking about.
T’ree Joizy Goils tawk about how dey gotta dumb dawtah, a dead dawg, & no cawfee
A depressed jester has a nervous breakdown
From HBO’s Encyclopedia
A great piece of comedy.
A pregnant woman meets a pregnant man and they lament over the travails of being with child and giving birth.
CUT RATE SHRINK WILL CURE YOUR MENTAL ILLNESS AT LOW LOW PRICES!
Baby Olive was a very funny eater
Cool interview with cool chick Alice Carbone. To read on her website click here.
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.
Anyhow, 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.
D.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.
This is the sitcom that drove me out of my show business
FINALLY, WHAT THE WORLD’S BEEN WAITING FOR, A CHRISTMAS SONG ABOUT HOOKERS, FULL OF LOVE, HOPE, AND REAL LIFE HOOKERS. SORRY, WISH I COULD SING BETTER. I’M WORKING ON IT. MERRY CHRISTMAS. HO, HO HO!
The Fly by Ogden Nash
Goldman Sachs is proud to announce a consumer-enriching expansion from the hallowed halls of Wall Street to the glittering neon of Las Vegas. In addition to continuing our world-class wealth-friendly Private Wealth Management and Personal Banking services; our internationally-recognized client-focused Global Investment Research services; our award-winning, growth-facilitating Debt Financing teams, we are excited to unveil plans for the globally diversified, entertainment-enhanced Goldman Sachs Lounge & Casino, perfect for both the high roller, and the high-net-worth individual, financial institution, corporation and/or government. Located just off Flamingo Ave. between Treasure Island and Circus Circus, GSL&C will continue our tradition of offering the finest in connectivity-based consumer value. From Texas Hold ‘em Hedge Fund tables, to Equity Capital Craps games, to Subprime Mortgage Default Roulette wheels, to Junk Bond Bingo, Goldman Sachs plans to bring the visionary, innovative and family-friendly fun it made famous on Wall Street, and transplant it right into the heart of Las Vegas. We’re also delighted to provide both original and recapitalized entertainment-rich packages, including but not limited to, a Ronald Reagan impersonator, who, backed by the dancing Reaganettes, will star in a multimedia review developed by Sirs Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber, with Wayne Newton, called DEREGULATION! World renowned Cirque du Soleil have developed a special show just for us, entitled, Money CAN Buy You Love, which will feature profitability-saturated costumes that are just that side of revealing, just this side of risqué, and made of real FDIC-backed gold bullion. And for all you Baby Boomers we’ll have a Pink Floyd tribute band that plays an extended jam version of their mega-hit song, Money, with an infrastructure-rocking, liquidity-inducing light show that’ll have you tripping the light fantastic! For the AARP crowd, we got a Henny Youngman look-alike with a comedy-maximizing catchphrase that’s sure to gain valuable traction all over America, “Take my money, PLEASE!” Don’t think we forgot the kids! While you’re having as much fun as an adult can legally have in the state of Nevada, drop them off at the Elephants, Bulls and Bears room. Boys can play Matador, goring and killing our very own papier-mâché headed mascot Bully. Girls can have a teddy bear’s picnic, while they learn how to bag an Elephant, (a large institutional investor), thereby attaining a strategic advantage in manipulating security prices. We’ll also be featuring a Research Room, “manned” by a bevy of bodacious, brainy beauties, who are fully “equipped” to give you insider tips about which games best suit your skills, value and long-term fiduciary goals. And don’t worry if you’re a little cash flow-shy, we’ve got our own credit rating agency, headed by Harvard Business School alumnus and former Miss Las Vegas, Penelope “Penny Stock” Bernstein. Plus we’ll offer a super, synthetic collateralized debt obligation system that lets you get cash fast fast fast. So be sure when you’re packing your little black dress, to throw in your pink slips to all your vehicles, the deed(s) to your house(s), as well as your bathing suit, so you can take a break from all the madcap fun, and swim in our blood diamond encrusted, $-shaped Olympic size pool And don’t forget to visit the Bailout Lottery Lounge, where you can buy a ticket that gives you a better than average* chance of winning a nice hunk of that Obama bailout money you’ve been hearing so much about. You’ll even find a Big Short Blackjack table, where customers can actually bet against themselves, and the dealer. Because at Goldman Sachs Lounge & Casino, everyone’s a winner!*
*Based on current, former, and future unforeseeable variables, and due to fluctuations including, but not limited to, current market values, anticipated added profitability, or unanticipated market downturn, this claim is completely nonbinding in this or any other universe, in perpetuity
At 16 I’m shipped away to Boarding School for my sins. The school is full of bright, gifted, spindled, folded, and mutilated teenagers, almost all of whom have been kicked of at least 1, if not several, other institutions of learning. Believe me, I fit right in at Boarding School.
We have the worst hockey team in the history of the league. Our first game we get beat like 31-1. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to let in 31 goals in 30 minutes? Any way you do the math, that’s over a goal a minute, ladies and gentlemen. The best player on the team is Joe Skyfeather. We call him Joe Starfucker, and he likes that. He’s our goalie. A great goalie. After every game he’s one huge Iriquois welt. He says if he wasn’t a hopeless Indian drunk already, he’d have to start drinking heavily. The one good thing about losing 31-1 is that when you score that 1 goal, man, you celebrate hard.
Half-way through our season, we’re 0-5. We’ve scored 4 goals, while allowing about, I don’t know, maybe a kazillion. We’re going to play our sixth game, on the road, against Andover, 1 of the hoitiest of the toity prep schools in America. As we’re getting ready to leave, Rat comes in all excited. He’s just scored some acid from his brother who’s out on parole and laying low in Rat’s room. I’ve never taken acid at this point, but the word from Rat’s brother is that this is the trippiest shit he’s ever seen. And apparently he’s seen some pretty trippy shit. And there’s enough for everybody. Rat whips it out. I’m expecting some bubbling liquid in a laboratory beaker, with smoke and prisms and colored lights. But no. It’s just an 8 x 10 sheet of paper. He peels something off, and with an impish grins, places it on his tongue and downs it. He holds it out for us to join him. Everyone sits and stares.
“Come on, you sorry bunch of pansy-asses. We gotta go show those rich bitches what it means to be play this game with a head full of the trippiest shit in the Berkshire Mountains. We gotta show the world that we may be the worst hockey players in history, but we’re the all-time greatest partiers. We gotta let our freak flag fly, man!’
Rat’s speech stirs something within me. In all of us. We’re castoffs, misfits, the throwaways of our generation. And suddenly we’ve got a shot to go down in school history, turn ourselves from laughing stock into folk heroes, talked about around campfires for generations to come.
Still, no one wants to be the first to follow Rat down the road to Infamy. Eyes are averted. Feet shuffled. Harrumphs abound.
It’s times like this that turn boys into men. While us white suburban bourgeois laddies sit with our thumbs up our collective ass, it takes a young brave from the reservation to lead us. A boy warrior whose ancestors have been raped and pillaged, lied to, deceived, mocked, vilified, burned out of the land they loved, hunted down and destroyed like vermin. Joe Starfucker. He rises slowly, a beat-up rented mule of a goalie with long, straggly scraggly raven hair. He walks with the weight of the ages to Rat and sticks out his tongue.
“Yeah baby, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Joe Starfucker, you are the man!”
Joe closes his eyes and crosses himself, while Rat places the tab on his tongue like he’s giving Holy Communion. When Starfucker swallows, everybody whoops and hollers. Rat then dispenses the rest of the acid like he’s High Priest of the Order of Psychedelic Hockey, a cross between the Pope, Timothy Leery and Wayne Gretsky.
Beevo, Nevs, Harry the Hoagy, Fat Phil, Dougy the K, even Lurch, all gobble down their medicine.
When my turn comes, I’m shocked to find out that the tab of acid is actually a thin little transparent Mickey Mouse. I smile as I swallow my electric Disney coolaid, visions of Snow White and her freaky dwarves stoned off their nuts, as Jimi Hendrix wails “Some Day My Prince Will Come” in the background.
It’s quiet on the bus to the game. Scary quiet. Everyone’s bugging eyes at each other, trying to see if anything’s happening, wondering if this really is some trippy shit, and if it is, what it will be like trying to play hockey against the masters of the universe Andover superstars while we’re massively loop-de-looped.
Then suddenly we’re pulling into Andover. You can smell the money. At least I think that’s what the smell is. The dorms are all swanky swank swank. The grounds are manicured to within an inch of their strangulated lives. The boys are wearing their spiffy little blue blazers, and their spastic little tassley shoes with their dorkadelic little preppy haircuts. If you weren’t high on some trippy shit already, looking at all these Young Republican bootlickers-in-training would make you go all wavy gravy in a New York minute.
I’m still not feeling any effects, and frankly I’m beginning to wonder whether Rat’s brother sold us all a bill of goods, as we troop into the Taj Mahal locker room, looking at each other for any tell-tale signs of synaptic scramble.
Not a word is spoken as we don the tools of ignorance necessary for us to get the inevitable ass-whupping we are about to take. Our coach, Mr. Clament, the Clam, a besotted French teacher, senses something is amiss. He clears his drunken throat, and launches into a Win-One-For-the-Gipper speech.
About half-way through the Clam’s speech, his face starts melting, his tongue flicks out like an iguana, and his eyes spring loose from their sockets like those eyeball glasses that hang down and wobble when you move your head. His nose spreads out like Silly Putty smushed as his eyebrows do the Australian crawl across his face. His lips are wax candy and his teeth are changing colors like the Wizard of Oz’s horse: red to green to blue to orange.
I shake my head to try and clear it, but that just makes little fireworks with tails shoot across the inside of my eyeballs in wonderful waving watercolors.
I look around. Everyone’s shaking their head, eyes covered with potter’s glaze, like a flock of sheep who’ve just been converted to Christianity.
The Clam reaches his drunken crescendo, expecting a rousing jolt of competitive manchild testosterone. Nothing. We just sit there, staring like big mouth bass, tripping our little brains out. He’s dumbfounded, and decides his next logical move is go into the bathroom and drink, so he shrugs, turns, and disappears into the bathroom to drink.
“Is this some trippy shit or what?” Rat pops his eyes out of his head and rolls them around, and the laugher lets loose – KABANG! – and we chortle like whacked-out bobbing head dolls.
The Andover superstar uniforms are shiny and new as the masters of the universe prepare to use us as the tools of their athletic glorification. They look like bourgeois marionettes to me, stooge puppets of the paramilitary fascist state. The thought of cutting their strings and watching them crumble cracks me up, and I catch an edge of my skate on the ice, tumbling down, and sliding headfirst into the boards with a loud crash. The game hasn’t even started yet, and I’ve already checked myself. Our whole team stops their pitiful warm-up, stares at me, and gets the giggles, tittering like schoolboys, kids in the stands pointing fingers and laughing at us, Andover superstars glaring with smug, condescending menace.
Then suddenly the game is starting, and the crowd shape-shifts, all beautiful fuzzy colors that only make sense when you look at the whole thing from a distance. When I focus on any one person, the face seems to disintegrate and lose focus. Or maybe it is me who’s disintegrating and losing focus. Hard to say for sure. The referee looks like a big fat zebra. I chuckle thinking about the lion waiting for him at the watering hole after the game.
The puck takes about six weeks to drop from the fat Zebra’s hoof to the ice. I discover I don’t have to move my legs to skate. I float over the ice like an angel on a wave of feathers. Beevo is winning the face-off now, and the puck shuffles back to me. It takes its sweet time. It realizes time is sweet. I stop it with my stick, which bends and waves in my hands. An Andover superstar rushes headlong at me, snarling like an overbred hound from hell, but moving in slow motion. I sidestep him with the greatest of ease. I have to stop myself from laughing it’s so much fun. My bones are almost-congealed jello, my skin tingles with the fire of Godlove, and my third eye is wide open. I see Harry the Hoagy streaking with trails like a comet up-ice and I can see the line the puck will travel to get to him before I even make the pass. So I flick my stick and the puck goes on that exact line, like a geometry equation only I can see. As if Harry the Hoagy and I are connected by a Higher Power. The puck nestles gently on The Hoagy’s stick. He cuts between the two Andover behemoth superstar defensemen and suddenly he’s 1-on-1 with the master of the universe goalie, face to mask, stoned off of his nut. Harry the Hoagy starts to go right, the goalie bites, Harry changes his mind, slides the puck onto his backhand and eases it into the gaping mouth of the goal like Casanova scoring with the Queen of France.
We stop. The crowd is all stunned silence. The Andover superstars flabbergast. Then it dawns on us. We scored a goal. We’re ahead for the first time the whole year. We free-form to Harry the Hoagy and do a group hug interpretive dance celebration, Fosse meets Bullwinkle. The fat Zebra has to come get us to re-start the game. We’re too busy celebrating. We’ve never celebrated being ahead in a game before, and we have no idea how it’s done, or when it’s supposed to be over.
The whole game is like that. Lurch hits a guy so hard he airlifts him up off the ice and knocks out his whole family. Rat is a whirling dervish, breaking up plays, leading rushes, poke-checking guys who aren’t even there. Fat Phil is a man possessed, moving like one of those graceful hippo ballet dancers in tutus from “Fantasia”. And Joe Starfucker,a well, Joe plays the game of his life. Stick saves, pad saves, glove saves. At one point he makes a save, and his glove flies off. The puck rebounds right back to an Andover superstar, and he fires again. Joe Starfucker reaches out and catches that puck with his bare hand. This time even the Andover superstar crowd has to give him a big ovation. They don’t want to, you can tell. They have to. He holds the puck over his head, he’s showing it the Great Puck Spirit, then bows deeply, as if he’s a Japanese kabuki actor.
Late in the game, the Andover superstars manage to sneak one by Joe Starfucker, after they roughed him up in the crease, which as anyone who’s ever been roughed up in a crease knows, is nasty business, and strictly illegal to boot. The game’s winding down, and the Andover superstars are sharks who’ve smelled blood. But the acid still floods our collective brains with the power and beauty of Mother Earth and Father Sky, and we match the superstars hammer for tong.
There’s a minute left to play. We to get a face-off deep in superstar territory. Beevo takes the face-off, the puck falling like a big black penny from heaven. Beevo flicks it easily back to Lurch at the point. Lurch winds up and takes a Paul Bunyon swing at it. However, he mostly misses, catching the puck on end so it flutters like a drunken butterfly toward the net. The Andover superstars are caught off-guard. They’re expecting a bullet, clenched and moving towards the upper left corner of the goal, where it is happily headed.
I see the puck fluffernutting towards me, getting bigger and bigger as it calls my name:
“Here I come, David – here I commmmmmme…”
I see myself gently flicking the puck, caressing it lightly like a well-loved lover past the Andover superstar goalie. So I reach up with my wavy stick and kiss the crazy gyrating puck with it. The Andover superstar defensemen and goalie are already off-balance because it is loop-de-looping instead of shotgunning, and when I flick it, the puck tumbles down and right, leaving them grasping at air straws.
Gently lovingly it bulges pillowy into the billowing netting of the goal.
The buzzer sounds.
The game is over.
The silence sits on the ice like the gods have pushed the mute button.
David has slain Goliath. Not with a stone and a slingshot, but stoned with a headful of totally trippy shit.
We skate over to Joe Starfucker and jump on top of him, flopping around on the ice like a huge undulating amoebae, until they cart us off. In the locker room our clothes jump off our bodies. We sing in the rain of the shower, then have a wild raucous ride home.
Word of our triumph, and how achieved it, spreads like wildfire through our little community. Of course we never win another game all year. Never even come close. Rat’s brother gets put back in the slammer, and that’s the end of the great Acid Experiment.
But for one glorious winter afternoon, we were one with the universe, Kings of the World, and we did it tripping the light fantastic.
Larry Mantle, Air Talk, National Public Radio, on Chicken:
“Insightful and funny… great stories… captures Hollywood beautifully…”
To listen to interview click here.
To buy Chicken click here.
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).
A large woman tries to pay to snort coke off a live Chippendales penis. Video book excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Roller Skates & Chippendales
1985, smackdab in the cash-happy coke-crazy 80s. That’s when I was hired to be the MC at Chippendales, it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps: movie stars, fashion Titans, movers and shakers shaking their booties and grooving and cruising. And I was right in the center of it, in tuxedo top hats and rollerskates, where every night was ladies night, it was always raining men, and girls just wanted to have fun. When I was hired to be the MC at Chippendales, it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps: movie stars, fashion Titans, movers and shakers shaking their booties and grooving and cruising. And I was right in the center of it, in tuxedo top hats and rollerskates. This book is about a culture of excess and madness spinning out of control, where greed was good, Wall Street was swimming with $, and bankrupt farmers were committing suicide. Where President Reagan’s designer clad Stepford first wife was giving grateful drug addicts everywhere the key to sobriety: Just Say No, even as her husband, flush with the rush of reelection, was funding drug thugs.
It’s about a man, Nick de Noia, who was the visionary genius behind Chippendales, a man who wanted to change the world, to fulfill the promise of Women’s Lib, to make a fun, safe sexy place where women could fondle, ogle and sexualized hot man flesh for the first time in history. And he wanted to get rich doing it. He was a tyrant who ruled with a combination of cruel abuse and buttery flattering charm. He was my boss, and this book is about what it’s like to work for a man who gets assassinated. It’s about performing in front of 600 flesh craving, money waving, booze fueled ladies, with the estrogen bouncing off the walls. It’s about working with beautiful half-nude dudes, and never getting laid. But, in the end, it’s about failing at fame and succeeding at love.
To read excerpts from the book and an interview go to: https://davidhenrysterry.com/category/books/
To read piece in London Times Sunday Magazine go to:
UNZIPPED: A TRUE STORY OF
SEX, DRUGS, ROLLERSKATES
& MURDER (Canongate/Grove Atlantic)
Manhattan, mid-80s: Madonna is wearing her bullet-bra, and Wall Street is cash-happy, while at Chippendales – the world’s most famous male strip club – it’s raining men, and girls just wanna have fun. David Henry Sterry was at the centre of the madness as the roller-skating emcee, fanning the flames of lady lust while Rome burned.
Ultimately, though, all great parties must come to an end, and the gangland-style assassination of his boss, the man responsible for the phenomenal success of the beefcake boys, marked the beginning of the end for the party-all-the-time 80s in New York City.
With unflinching, brutal honesty, Sterry records the seedy glamour, dirty little secrets and hilarious backstage madness of a world spinning out of control. Unzipped is the eye-popping story of the ugliest man at Chippendales, and his search for happiness in a sea of G-strings, desperate housewives behaving badly and 25 of the most beautiful men in the world.
In Manhattan of mid-80s: Madonna debuts her bullet-bra at Danceteria, a 50-foot Brooke Shields jeans ad adorns Times Square, Wall Street is cash-happy, while at Chippendales – the world renowned male strip club – it’s raining men, and girls just wanna have fun in the club that’s infamous for late-night well-fuelled parties that just don’t stop. Acclaimed memoirist David Henry Sterry, author of “Chicken”, was literally at the centre of the madness as the roller-skating emcee of the nightly beefcake parade.
“Unzipped” is the action-packed, compelling true story of a fledgling actor whose first big break results in a two-year stint as the emcee at the world’s most famous and hedonistic strip club. Ultimately, though, all great parties must come to an end, and the gangland style assassination of his boss, the man responsible for the phenomenal success of the beefcake boys, marked the beginning of the end of the party-all-the-time 80s in New York City. Seedy glamour, dirty little secrets, hilarious backstage madness and unflinching, brutal honesty make David Sterry’s “Unzipped” an entertaining and moving memoir.
INTERVIEW! David Henry Sterry sat down for this interview just before the release of his new book, Unzipped: A True Story of Sex, Drugs, Rollerskates & Murder (Canongate, 2007)
Q: What was it like to work at Chippendales male strip club in New York City in the craziness of the mid-80s, when it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps?
A: It was absolutely mad, like being in the middle of a Fellini movie. The mid-80s were insane, big hair, tiny skirts, cash-happy and coke-crazy, back when girls just wanted to have fun and it was raining men. 600 flesh-craving money-waving women packed into this tiny club, going berserk, I swear I was high on estrogen every night. To me, watching the women was more fun than anything at Chippendales. They came from all over the world, in every shape and size, bimbo in limos and booming grannies, supermodels and super virgins, hen parties gone wild and desperate housewives behaving badly. Most of these women were so sweet, honestly, I fell in love every night. But some of these ladies, they were absolutely savage. Night after night I would watch them, drunk out of their minds, digging their nails deep into these men, often drawing blood. I remember so clearly on my first night at Chippendales as I came into the tiny stinky dressing room after the show, there was Prince Charming, (that was the name of the character he played in the show), standing in front of a full-length mirror, an enormous $1,000 mountain of wrinkled and sweaty cash in front of him, and as I scanned my eyes down his huge, nude, oiled up perfect body, I saw these teeth marks in his exquisite ass cheek. They were deep and red and angry. Some lady had really sunk in her choppers into him. Seriously, you could have identified her dead body from those teeth marks. I remember thinking, America, what a country! In some ways it was the best job I’ve ever had: four nights a week, two hours a night, making big bank, celebrities like Brooke Shields and Calvin Klein in the audience, it was so much fun. But it was also one of the most frustrating jobs I’ve ever had. You see, I was the master of ceremonies, the MC, the compere, I wore a tuxedo, top hat, and rollerskates. And being a great MC at Chippendales was kind of like being the greatest downhill skier in the SaharaDesert. You may be amazing, you may be the best, but nobody gives a shit. One of the threads of this book is what it was like to be the ugliest man at Chippendales, starving for sex in the middle of hundreds of women every night, and never getting laid.
Q. Were you working at the club when the world-famous Chippendales murder occurred?
A: Yes, in fact the man who was murdered was my boss, the visionary genius behind Chippendales, Nick de Noia. This book is also about what it’s like to work for a charming tyrant, kind of like The Devil Wears a G-String Nick moved with the muscular grace of Gene Kelly, he had salty, peppery, perfectly-coiffed hair, sparkly eyes, and a 20-gigawatt bright-white mile-wide smile beaming in the middle of it all. Nick de Noia wanted to change the world, liberate women so they could ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh. And, of course, he wanted to get rich doing it. He ruled with a combination of cruel brutish abuse, and charming buttery flattery. He designed a life in which he surrounded himself with ridiculously handsome dudes who liked to make $ taking their clothes off, and needed him to love them. And yet he presented aggressively hetero, had been married and divorced to and from supermodel movie star Jennifer O’Neil, star of the hit movie Summer of 42. Nick saw himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And Chippendales was his legacy to the world. After he was shot, the police came and interrogated everyone at the club. When they asked me if I knew anyone who might want to kill Nick de Noia, I said, “Do you want the short list, or the long list?” I mean, I myself had muttered several times under my breath that I’d like to kill Nick de Noia. But I’ve often thought, what does it take to go from casually contemplating killing someone, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall?
Q: What exactly was your job at Chippendales?
A: It was my job to skate around in the middle of the Pit, as we called it, and recite a 200 page script. As I said, I was the ugliest man at Chippendales, and I was the only one who talked in the show. Coincidence? I think not. I would introduce the men, and I was responsible for cueing all the light and sound change, as well as for the removal of every article of clothing by the Unknown Flasher, the Barbarian, the Construction Guy, the Hot New Guy and Prince Charming. It was my job to yell out “jokes” like, “You’re going to love our next guy, in his spare time he’s a professional bowler, and believe you me ladies, he’s got a pair of 16 pound balls.” And I was responsible for teaching the women most important thing in the Chippendales show. When I would yell, “Whatttayaaaa wann’ ’em to dooooo?” they would yell, “TAKE IT AWWWFF!” And then a stripper would take off an article of clothing. Let me tell you something, on a Saturday night, when the place was packed to the tits, the sound of all those women screaming was, pound for pound, the loudest, most female noise I’ve ever heard in my life.
Q.: What were some of the craziest things you saw while working at Chippendales?
A: Oh my God, where to start?! There was the Dick Pull. The men used to do it before the show, in the dressing room, which was ridiculously small and had mirrors for walls, so everything was right in-your-face. When performing the Date Pull, the penis is taken in the hand and stretched repeatedly, like it’s modeling clay. When it’s all worked up, the penis is laid flat against the thigh, and the black, skintight Velcro pants are snapped over it, then quickly zippered shut, cutting off circulation to the member, thus creating the illusion of a perpetual hammerheaded trouser snake erection. Speaking of craziness, one time I walked into the dressing room bathroom at midnight, a couple of hours after the show was over, and busted in on a pair of twins performing fellatio on the Snowman, the second hottest guy at Chippendales, who had a shockingly sculpted body and an incredible 70s porn star mustache. Then there was the time the Barbarian, in a fit of steroid-fueled rage, hurled a huge metal trashbin across the dressing room, barely missing Pretty Peter’s pretty head. Speaking of steroids, in another bathroom, one time I caught one of the hot guys with his pants around his ankles, being injected with steroids by another of the hot guys, the small metal prick of the needle piercing Hot Guy #1’s exquisite bum. It was one of the most homoerotic things I’ve ever seen. And these were two guys who mercilessly teased other men about being gay, always doing these lisping caricatures of gay men. It was so much fun to catch them in the act. They were best friends, and often dressed alike, as if they were a couple. But of course they acted like tough, heterosexual he-men. I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing and said, “Why don’t you just do each other and get it over with?” Oh, they were so angry, they called me horrible names and chased me with murderous rage in their eyes. But luckily I was on my rollerskates and I got away unscathed. Then there was the time I saw a woman offer Large Mark, one of the huge Terminator-type guys, $500 to snort a line of cocaine off his genitalia. I told him he should have done it, $250 an inch is nothing to sneeze at. And personally, I would have paid good money just to watch her chop it up.
Q.: Is it true that most of the Chippendales guys were gay?
A: I’d say about 60% of the Men of Chippendales seemed like if there was money to be made, or they were horny enough, they’d fuck pretty much anything that moved. In fact, it didn’t even have to move, they’d fuck it. About 25% seemed completely gay. And maybe 15% seemed no-questions-asked breeders. But these figures are based on my own survey, which, frankly, did have some methodological problems.
Q.: Your first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, has been translated into many languages, and is being made into a Hollywood film: what were the repercussions of revealing that you were a teenage gigolo servicing Hollywood women, and was it more difficult to write than Unzipped?
A: I didn’t even really think about what the consequences of writing Chicken would be. I just knew I had to write it and get it out of my system. I know it sounds melodramatic to say this, but it really saved my life, helped transform me from an angry raging addict into a semi-normal human being. But of course there was much fallout. My people come from Newcastle, they are Geordies, and my father has never forgiven me for writing this book, he hasn’t spoken to me in many years. Lots of people who I thought were my friends said nasty ugly to me. Many people in the press attacked me personally, especially in the UK. I guess I was unprepared for the vitriol that would come my way from the media. At first I took it personally, but the more I thought about it the more I came to believe it’s got a lot more to do with the post-Victorian terror that the English seem to have about sex, that marvelous combination of titillation and repulsion that appears to be at the very core of British life. And I have taken to heart the words of one of my favorite writers, an Englishman, Oscar Wilde, who famously said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” I guess in the end I’m just happy that people paid attention at all. That being said, for every negative thing that’s happened to me as a result of revealing my sordid past, there have been a hundred wonderful, incredible, amazing things. I remember when I was doing my one-man show version of Chicken at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, after I finished a performance one night, a tiny little Scottish granny came up to me grinning like a schoolgirl coquette and asked me in a thick brogue, “Can I have a wee kiss?” I bent down and she gave me a sweet peck on the cheek. Then she giggled and said, “Now I can say I’ve kissed a gigolo.” I’ve gotten e-mails from people all over the world thanking me for writing Chicken, telling me how much they enjoyed the book, and that they don’t feel like such a freak anymore. And whenever I do my show, afterwards there are always a couple of teenage girls hanging about, shuffling their feet and averting their eyes. Shyly they approach me, and reveal their own terrible stories of sexual abuse at the hands of a relative, a friend, even a priest. It’s obvious that many of them have never told anyone their story, and oftentimes it comes flooding out of them like a geyser, the words pouring out in torrents, and when they’re done they look so happy and relieved, like the weight of the world has been lifted from them. I had no idea that there was this epidemic of sexual abuse going on in our society, it’s horrifying actually. I read about a study in which scientists had people write down the worst things that ever happened to them. They found that when people did this, their immune systems were boosted. When I first read it that seemed unbelievable to me, and yet I can attest that for myself this has been true. Since writing Chicken, I haven’t been sick a day in my life, my immune system is like the locks on Fort Knox. I’ve also had the opportunity to lead writing workshops sponsored by the United States Department of Justice in which I helped teenage girls write about how they’d been used as sex slaves by pimps, beaten with coat hangers and burned with cigarettes, raped by the police, absolutely shocking stuff. It was amazing to watch how they went from being reluctant to wildly enthusiastic about writing their stories. At the end of a conference, four or five of these girls got up and read their stories in front of a packed audience full of politicians, social workers and friends. It was one of the greatest moments in my life to watch the joy that came over their faces when they received standing ovations. These girls often see themselves as only having a value in regards to their bodies, their sex. For them to get so much love and affection for their talent, for their bravery, and for their writing was utterly transforming for all of us. Writing Chicken has also opened up a whole new world for me in that I have spoken and presented at colleges, high schools and universities all over the world, from the University of Amsterdam, to the University of New Orleans, to the Gold Coast of Australia. It was very difficult to write Chicken, for several reasons. One, I had to never written a book before. I’ve been a professional screenwriter, but I always wrote movies that had nothing to do with my own experiences. To reveal the worst, most horrendous, horrific things that ever happened to me, to say publicly that I was a prostitute, one of the worst things you can be in our society, was difficult, it was very painful to relive those events, but in the end it was tremendously cathartic. I used to have nightmares in which I would relive when I was raped, and I used to be obsessed with revenge fantasies where I would kill the man who attacked me in disgusting bloody ways. But as soon as I started portraying him on stage in the one-man show of the book, those revenge fantasies stopped, as did the nightmares. But I recall very distinctly as I was writing the book, many times tears would start flowing down my face, my guts would knot, and my chest tighten. Writing Unzipped was not like that. While there were certainly many frustrations during that time in my life, it was also so much fun to live through it. The glitz, glamour, the drugs. And of course I also met the woman who would become my first wife at Chippendales, she was the costume mistress, an extraordinarily beautiful, sexy, smart woman, who chose me over all those studs. To this day I can hardly believe it. In fact one of the most difficult things about writing Unzipped was trying to protect the anonymity of the men who I worked with. Everyone is so terrified of being sued these days, so I had to be very careful. Plus, I didn’t think it was fair to reveal things about them that they would not want revealed to the world. Many of them are married now and have children. They didn’t choose to write a book, I did. So it was a tremendous challenge to present all the facts, and to show the truth of what happened in that crazy, ridiculous world, while still respecting the privacy of these men. But I worked very very hard at doing that. And of course I did change the names and some of the physical characteristics of the men. But I had a wonderful time writing this book, I enjoyed it so much. I feel like I was very lucky to be right in the center of this moment in history, like I was Nero fiddling as Rome burned.
Q.: What are your next project’s?
A: Well, I have just written the twelve draft of the screenplay for Chicken, it’s being made into a movie by the producers who did the Peter Sellers movie with Geoffrey Rush. It’s pretty amazing to have gone from living it; to not talking about it for 20 years; to writing a book about it; to making a one-man show out of it and portraying all the characters: from the man who raped me, to my pimps, to the women who paid me to have sex with them; to now finally writing the screenplay and thinking about who’s going to play me in the movies. It looks like Jamie Bell, of Billy Elliot fame, is a prime candidate to play me as a 17-year-old rent boy. Naturally he’s a lot more handsome than I ever was. Also I have just finished putting together an anthology of writings by people who have worked in the sex industry, from college professors to homeless crack addicts, from goddess diva Annie Sprinkles to a 16-year-old girl who was sold into prostitution at the age of nine by her dad. I’m very proud of this book, I don’t think there’s ever been anything quite like it, and it comes out of my desire to humanize prostitutes, to show the real people behind the image that society glamorizes and reviles, to take away the stigma from people who have sex for money. At the same time I’ve written two books for 12-year-old girls, under a false name naturally. One is about how to throw a great pajama party, and the other a personality quiz book to help girls figure out exactly who they are and who they want to be, to encourage individuality and self expression in girls. And I just found an amazing illustrator for a graphic novel I’ve written. I’m also finishing up the second book in a series of young adult novels, again written under a pen name. And I’m just embarking on the third book in the trilogy I’m making out of my life. It’s about my time in show business and as a sex addict. Besides being the master of ceremonies at Chippendales, I made my living as a standup comedian, acted in a thousand TV and radio commercials, in dozens and dozens of plays, TV shows and movies, including The Fresh Prints of Bel Air, with Will Smith, worked with everyone from Michael Caine to Zippy the Chimp. I also had a three picture deal with Disney, and made a living as a screenplay writer in Hollywood. All the while I was running rampant sexually, having affairs with glamorous actresses and lovely college girls, going on sex binges with prostitutes that would last for weeks at a time. I tried to figure it out one time, I estimate I probably had sex with 1000 women. The amazing thing is that it was a lot less fun than you’d think it would be. But perhaps the most important project in my life is the new baby that’s on the way. It’s my first, it’s due September fifth, and I’m over the moon. I just could not be more excited about being a father. I’ve wanted to be a dad for a long time, but I knew I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t put someone else’s interests in front of my own, I was too twisted up inside. But now, with the help of my lovely and talented wife, I finally feel able to do that. Although I do worry sometimes what I’m going to say to my child when he asks me, “Should I be a gigolo like you when I grow up?” I haven’t quite figured out the answer to that question.
Excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales (Grove Atlantic, Canongate), slightly tweaked.
Master of Ceremonies
1985. Smack dab in the middle of the cash-happy coke-crazy 80’s, a decade dedicated, if not to love, then certainly to sex and madness, when Girls Just Wanted to Have Fun and it was Raining Men, and we all sat around watching Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, and Dallas and Dynasty, hey, greed’s good man, haven’t you heard? Let’s go watch Rambo blow away some gooks at the movies while we drink New Coke, and Michael Jackson’s hair catches on fire. Reagan, flush with the rush of re-election funds drug thugs while his designer-clad Stepford Wife First Lady gives grateful addicts everywhere the key to sobriety: Just Say No! In the midst of this flood of money, in San Diego a guy walks into a McDonald’s and guns down twenty citizens sucking down Happy Meals; while in Iowa a bankrupt farmer kills his wife, his neighbor and his banker. His wife and his neighbor I can understand. But his banker?
1985. That’s when I get hired to be the Master of Ceremonies at the greatest male stripping empire the world has ever known: Chippendales. You know, the too huge, half-nude dudes, in the tux cuffs’n’collars and skin-thin black Spandex with the bulging crotches, mountain peak pecs, 6-pack man wrack abs, and cheekbones for miles. When I first started working with these guys, every night when I walked into the club, I could actually feel my testicles shrivel.
Nick de Noia. He’s my boss, the visionary genius who transformed a dank dinky little male exotic revue into the Kingdom called Chippendales. He moves with the muscular grace of Gene Kelly, he’s got salty, peppery, perfectly-coiffed hair, eyes sparkling and shining, and a 20-gigawatt bright-white mile-wide smile beaming in the middle of it all. When I meet him, I really want him to like me. That’s the kind of guy he is. But I get the feeling he really hates me. That’s the kind of guy I am. Nick de Noia wants to change the world, liberate women so they can ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh, to display their lust, and be celebrated for it. And, of course, he wants to get rich doing it. He rules through cruel brutish abuse, mixed with charming buttery flattery. He’s designed a life in which he’s surrounded with ridiculously handsome dudes who like to make $ taking their clothes off, and need him to love them. He presents aggressively hetero, has been married and divorced to and from supermodel movie star Jennifer O’Neil. Nick has sees himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And this show is his legacy to the world.
My uniform is a tuxedo, cumberbund, tophat and roller skates. I’m the only one in the show who talks. It’s my job to skate around in circles in the Pit in front of 600 flesh-craving, money-waving, booze-fueled woman, as rampant blasts of estrogen slam off the walls. I have to teach them the most important thing in the show. When I yell, “Whattayaaa-wann’emmmmm-to do?” they yell, “TAKE IT AWFF!!!” “Whattttayaaa-wann’emmmmm-to do?” “TAKE IT AWFF!!!”
On my Opening Night the teeny tiny Dressing Room mirrored walls are cramjampacked with the man-skin of a dozen primping, preening, iron-pumping, oiled-up, slicked-down, tanning-bed-browned, blow-dried, hair-product-stiffened Men of Chippendales. It’s like being inside a thermo-nuclear Man device ready to blow.
In the corner stands a lanky Man with sandy hair wearing nothing but tux-cuffs’n’collar, and black spandex pants, unzipped. He pulls on his unsheathed penis like it’s modeling clay and he’s making it longer, one stroke at a time, until it’s at full extension. Then he meticulously lays his most prized possession on the inside on his thigh and snaps the spandex over it fast, yanking his pants shut, then quickly slithering his zipper over black Velcro-covered hip. Into a mirror he admires his throbbing Johnson knob, nodding his cocky head, like: Wow! I do look hot.
He’s just done the Dick Pull. The principle is simple: if you snap the spandex over your penis fast enough, you can cut off circulation to your member. In a correctly performed Dick Pull, the blood remains trapped in the penis, creating a permanently erect hammerheaded trousersnake.
The Man catches me checking him out. So he cocks his fud and busts a gust of loud foul gas that explodes out of him like a sick goose honking on a foggy morn. Then he scrunches up his face and squawks in a cartoon voice:
“Hey Ma, I fahted!”
Everybody cracks up. Well, not everybody. Only those not lost in the Mirrors of Narcissus.
I hee-haw and guffaw long after everyone else has stopped. I’m slightly embarrassed, but that vanishes when I realize no one is paying the slightest bit of attention to me. It’s a feeling I will become increasingly familiar with.
I hang up my green Cossack jacket and my black drawstring pants in my locker. Now I’m naked but for one red sock and one blue sock. I turn around. Caught in the mirror with all those beautiful nubile nudes is a puffy white MarshmallowMan.
Marshmallow Man chuckles. I’m embarrassed for the guy. If only he could see how grotesque his pallid fatness is next to the Love Gods of Chippendales.
I stop smiling, and shake my head.
He stops smiling, and shakes his head.
Wait a minute-
I AM THE MARSHMALLOW MAN!
Mortified, I grab my tux and hightail my fat ass into the Costume Room, disappearing like a chubby cottontail into the bush.
After I’m dressed and ready, I claw my way through the flesh-packed Dressing Room: duck a dumbbell, dodge a cock, and slither through all that oily hard tanned skin to my locker. As I pull on my roller skates, I’m interrupted by angry voices pounding out of the Upstairs Office, where all the $ lives. Can’t make out the words, but I can sure feel the rancorous anger.
Mister Nick de Noia busts outta the Upstairs Office door like a salt and pepper tsunami, and slams it so hard the wall shakes. He jams down the shitty rickety spiral staircase, and we hold our collective breath like a cranky psychokiller’s got a loaded Uzi in the room. Nick bumrushes pissed-off down the stairs, shoots through the Dressing Room, and yanks open the door. Music floods in. With another slam he’s gone, and the music mutes.
The Edwards Brothers, Nick’s NY $ partners, appear on the landing of the Upstairs Office, in their dark hair and suits. There’s a heaviness that hangs around the Edwards Brothers. The Old Gray Man, their silent partner, joins them on the landing, looking like a vulture that hasn’t eaten in a while. He’s 70 going on dead, with sickly thin translucent skin, a wicked comb-over covering his bald skull, and a big hook nose. A coke-laced Teen Queen in a little bitty miniskirt hangs from his withered arm in an I’m-hot-and-blowing-a-guy-old
I heave a sigh and roll out to start my first show. On Opening Night, when I roll into the Pit, there are bevies of bachelorettes, and blowsy bluebloods, coeds gone wild and booming grannies, models and supermodels, virgins and supervirgins. Shapes and colors swirl in shooting pools and points of light around the club, like a Monet painting of panting women during a lightning storm. The sheer volume of the vulvic volcano eruption that rumbles out of them is staggering. To this day, it’s still the most carnage-charged powderkegged atmosphere I’ve ever been in. A random picture pops out of the crowd: A wrinkled, pearled, high-collared Grandma with blue hair sits with her granddaughter, who’s got a mohawk that’s a remarkably similar shade of blue.
During the Construction Guy number, the mucho macho Construction Guy tenderly, lovingly, longingly lipsynchs the haunting Lionel Ritchie classic, “Hello?” to the red rose he holds. A Big Beautiful Sista wails like she’s just seen Jesus in a G-string. He parades her to the middle of the Pit, gets down on one knee and lipsynchs right into her eyes, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” while she screams and pants and Lawd Almighty’s. Naturally this ignites the moist center of the crowd, which flares and rages again. It’s great theater: a thick beauty getting to be all sexilicious in public, safely and sweetly, with no danger or shame. She really does seem to be releasing centuries of pent-up sexual repression and aggression. She really does seem to be having the time of her life. As do her friends. Looks like they’ll be telling this story for a very long time. And I think, Nick really did it: unleashed centuries of pent-u lust.
During my one break in the show, as I trundle and harrumph across the carpet on skates that won’t roll, a large mule-toothed blonde-bleached babe blocks my path. She has her hooks into Large Mark. He’s uber-pumped and ultra-cut, head neck and chest all swolled up, with a washboard man-rack belly. He’s a huge Terminator-type bodybuilder, complete with mammoth sweptback jacked-up hair. On Large Mark’s vast tanned back lives a constellation of angry little zits, an Orion’s Belt in pimples. Gotta be ‘roids: this dude is juicing big-time. Perhaps this would explain his black manic menstrual-like mood, and the muted but palpable diamond-hard rage beaming out of him. I shudder at the thought of his poor wee testes shriveling like grapes being dried into raisins. Bleach Blonde blocks Large Mark’s way, places her hand provocatively on his arm, glares hard into his eyes, and spouts, loud and proud, so everyone within earshot can hear: “I’ll pay ya 500 bucks to snort a line of coke off your dick.” This is officially my Welcome to Chippendales moment. Large Mark pulls out of her grip, curls a lip, and with a massive blast of snarling testosterone growls: “Hey, get the fuck awffa me!” Large Mark gives Bleach Blonde the big-time brush, and bumrushes away, leaving her standing in a cloud of his foul fumes. Immediately I have two thoughts: 1) Large Mark shoulda let her do it – $250 an inch is nothing to sneeze at; and 2) I’d pay good money just to watch her chop it up.
After the show, in the tiny mirror-walled Dressing Room, the Perfect Man stands totally nude in front of his huge Money Mountain, and it’s not just 1s and 5, there’s 50s and hundreds in there, on a good night the Perfect Man can make $1000 cash money, for thirty minutes work. My eyes wander down to his perfect ass, and I notice a sexy scar is crawling across one perfect cheek, and I’m thinking that is one sexy scar, damn! But on the other perfect cheek there are teeth marks: uppers and lowers, deep red and angry. Man, some chick really locks her jaws into his perfect ass. You could identify her dead body with those teeth marks. The scar. The bite mark. The mound of $. The risk and reward of LUST. America, wot a country!
On April 7, 1987 a man disguised as a messenger walks into my boss Nick de Noia’s office on 364 W. 40th Street and shoots him in the head, killing him dead. The cops interrogated all of us. When they asked me if I knew anybody who might wanted to have killed him, I said, “Do you want the short list or the long list?” I mean hell, I myself muttered that I’d like to kill Nick. But what does it take for someone to go from casually contemplating the murder of another human, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall?
I used to wonder what made Nick de Noia so cruel and abusive. Until one time I dog-sat for Nick while he was in Japan, or Alaska, or Guam, expanding his male stripper kingdom. As far as I’m concerned, one of the great pleasures of apartment-sitting is getting to rummage through all the skeletons lurking and skulking in the dark corners of people’s closets. So me and Johnny, the Costume Mistress, and now my best friend, we’re are on a scavenger hunt to discover the dirt behind the man that is Nick de Noia. Sure enough, at the back of a closet, buried under a pile of innocuous tax returns, is a stack of magazines and videos. Get a load of the titles: Big Black Boys Uncut, Dark Meat & Dark Chocolate, Mandongo, Top Cock, and Big Black Boner III (I and II, sadly missing). I find myself wondering: Could you follow the story of Big Black Boner III if we haven’t seen the first two?
I recently went back to 61st and 1st, on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan, where the club used to be, to get a look at the old place. Turns out Chippendales has been replaced by a Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales (Grove Atlantic, Canongate), slightly tweaked.
The Case of the Missing G-String
Slick Rick is wet from his champagne shower, naked but for one small shiny green g-string, dripping and radiating, his sleek muscle-pumped body engorged and pulsing, standing on a platform above the Pit, looking down at 600 flesh-craving money waving Ladies.
Ho hum. Another night at Chippendales, at the greatest male stripping empire the world has ever known. It’s 1985, and I am the Master of Ceremonies at the hottest show in NY, NY. Frankly, I’m fading. My happy I-love-everyone coke high I had an hour ago has long gone bye-bye, replaced by a chemical lockjaw poisoned discomfort sinking ill-defined lowness that has my face frowning for no apparent reason. I just have to get through Slick Rick’s Kiss & Tip, get the Perfect Man on and off, whip through the Grand Finale, and then I’m done for the night.
Because I’m a bit preoccupied waiting for Slick Rick to begin his Kiss & Tip, I don’t see exactly what happens next. But here are the facts as I’ve been able to reconstruct them.
When Slick Rick pulls on his g-string and threatens to take it all off, silently asking the Ladies with his face and body if they’d like to see his penis, like he does every night, the thin elastic that attaches the triangle of bright green fabric breaks, and the fabric droops forward.
Have you ever heard 600 women gasp as one? I hope you have the pleasure of that experience, because all that Lady lungpower drawing all that startled breath in at the same time is breathtaking.
Why the gasp? Because Slick Rick’s dick pops out. By the time I see it, the penis is already exposed, swinging, big and fleshy, about half-hard. I believe there is an illusion of erection, created by the Tie-Off, which, as I understand it, was first pioneered in male stripperdom in the wilds of Canada, where men are allowed Full Monty nudity. But it has certainly been used in various contexts for centuries. It’s a simple but dangerous technique. A thin leather or elastic strip is strapped around the base of the testicle/penal unit, when the unit is engorged with blood. When you tie-off, the blood is trapped in the unit. This creates the impression of erection, even when there is no sexual excitation. The danger comes when you tie-off too tight for too long. The penis begins to turn a frighteningly deep purple. Perhaps this is the origin of the expression blue balls. There’s a male stripper urban legend that one dim Canadian stripper woke up the morning after an alcoholic blackout to find his blackened cock popped off and laying like an andouille sausage on the floor.
I happen to know that Slick Rick was familiar with, and used, the Canadian Tie-off. I cannot say for sure that he Tied-Off that night, but from the look of his engorgement swinging around in front of all those shocked Ladies, I’d almost bet my left nut on it.
Slick Rick’s penis seems overjoyed to be released from its incarceration in that tiny g-string prison, looks like it’s ready to be adored and loved by the fawning female fans.
Holy shit, Nick’s gonna pitch a fit! That’s my first thought. Nick de Noia is our boss, the visionary genius who transformed a dank dinky shitty little male exotic revue into the Kingdom called Chippendales. Nick de Noia wants to change the world, liberate women so they can ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh, to display their lust, and be celebrated for it. And, of course, he wants to get rich doing it. Nick sees himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And this show is his legacy to the world. He rules through cruel brutish abuse, mixed with charming buttery flattery, and loves nothing more than to publicly humiliate ridiculously handsome men. I imagine he’s going to rip Slick Rick several new assholes. Hope I get to watch.
It’s been drummed into us that any public display of one silly millimeter of penis could result in Chippendales losing its cabaret license. Which would mean closing the show, killing the cash cow, slaying the golden-egg laying goose, and the unemployment of us all.
Bug-eyed jaw-dropped silence is followed by a piercing eruption of gleeful female screams. I still believe that pound-for-pound this is the loudest sound I’ve ever heard.
Slick Rick looks down at his unsheathed penis. Then back up in shocked surprise. But the whole thing feels planned, canned and reeks of pre-meditation. I have no evidence of this, it’s just the feeling I get: like Slick Rick rehearsed the moment. And he’s always so obsessively meticulous in his preparation. Plus he doesn’t cover up right away. He milks the hell out of his cock-flop: Wow, I can’t believe my penis popped out!
Finally, after what seems like about a month of Slick Rick’s naked flailing phallus flapping in the breeze, he hops off the platform, and disappears for a coupla seconds, then re-emerges wearing a new bright green g-string, and dives into his very lucrative Kiss & Tip.
Wait a minute. If Slick Rick didn’t plan this whole fiasco beforehand, why was there a stashed g-string all ready for him to slither into?
“It’s Hide the Salami night here at Chippendales!” I scream my ad lib into the absurdly expensive mic, and that gets a nice rise outta those who are paying attention.
And the show goes on.
Slick Rick makes a bloody fortune during his Kiss & Tip. Hundreds of green shoots sprout up and wave in the wind. Slick Rick harvests the cash crop with kisses. A beautiful bride-to-be shoves bills into his G-string like it’s a bank and she’s making direct deposits. Then he buzzes like a sweet bee straight to Big Alice’s honey. She’s the regular’s regular, big and thick and in the Pit more nights than not. She buries her face in his new G-string, nose-deep in dick. With a huge Comedia d’elle Arte-sized surprise-face Slick Rick plays the whole room as the roar deafens.
Classic de Noia: the bawdy, lip-to-lip with the silly, it ends up being naughty instead of graphic, teasing instead of sleazy. Nick in a nutshell.
Slick Rick rubs up against Big Alice like a housebroken 3-balled cat, and the place goes ballistic. It’s like I’m in the cockpit of a rocket fueled by pure Lady love.
When Big Alice shake’n’bake shimmies, a dollar peeking out of her cleavage takes on a life of its own. She plants Slick Rick’s face like a flag in the continent of her décolletage. When he moves his head away from Big Alice’s heavy cleavage he has the Magic Dollar clamped in his teeth. It’s actually attached to another dollar with tape you can’t see. And that dollar’s attached to another dollar. Which is attached to another dollar. As he pulls on the line of dollar bills they snake magically out of Big Alice’s cleavage. It’s the old endless-handkerchief gag, only with money and breasts, instead of kerchief and pocket. Looks like a moving Escher painting.
The Ladies give Slick Rick much love as he takes Big Alice back to her seat on the Pit bench, kisses her hand like an old-fashioned chivalrous gentleman in a G-string.
This is the philosophy of Nick de Noia. Don’t bring the thin beautiful babe out into the Pit. Bring on the large Lady live wire, the Big Alice. Celebrate the sexiness of the fat and the homely and the old and the lonely.
As Slick Rick bows and trots off, his two beautiful ass cheeks disappears into the Dressing Room. He makes over $1,000 in cash that night for twenty minutes work.
By the time I finish slogging through the rest of the show I’m irritated, annoyed, exhausted, disillusioned, dehydrated, and I’ve fallen out of love with life. But I’m very curious about the fallout from Slick Rick’s missing G-string incident.
When I enter the Dressing Room Sloppy Sam, the stage manager, and the man ultimately responsible for the bolts and nuts of the show, is already grilling Slick Rick. Much to the amusement of the uber-huge Large Mark and longleanlanky Larry Glitter, who seem hungry for the blood of Slick Rick, the man they love to hate.
Slick Rick defends himself vehemently. A bit too vehemently: methinks the Lady doth protest too much.
“No, I swear to God, the thing just came apart. I guess it was loose. I don’t know, man, but I just did what I do every night, and all of a sudden, the thing just came apart.”
Sloppy Sam shakes his disgusted head:
“Look, all it takes is one chick to complain. Or one cop to be here under cover, or whatever, and they yank the fucking cabaret license, and they shut us down, and-”
“I know, man, but it’s not my fault, the thing just came apart, it just came apart-”
The way Slick Rick keeps repeating the phrase ‘the thing just came apart’ seems highly suspicious to me. But again that is strictly subjective speculation.
“I don’t give a fuck.” Sloppy Sam is seriously hot under the tux collar. “It was your dick that popped the fuck out, and if it happens again, you’re gonna get suspended for sure, and fired, if I have anything to say about it. You understand?”
“That’s not fair, man. It wasn’t my fault,” Slick Rick’s all palms-up-shrugging, bunny-eyed innocence.
“I don’t give a fuck. Don’t let it happen again. You understand?” Sloppy Sam demands.
“The thing just came apart, man-” Slick insists.
“Do. You. Understand?” Sloppy Sam looks like he’s ready to rearrange Slick Rick’s pretty face.
“Yeah, sorry, sure-” Slick Rick starts to say something else, then thinks better of it. The effort brings a twitch to his lip, then his eye, as he cracks several knuckles.
Sloppy Sam storms off into the Costume Room to confront Johnny, the Costume Mistress. She’s a 20ish wildchild Latina Marilyn Monroe, and my best friend at Chippendales. I exchange a glance with Arnolpho d’Alencar Araripe Pimenta de Mello, a Brazilian back-up dancer, and my second best friend at Chippendales. Arnolpho does a little Brazilian headshake eyeroll, silently indicating that he’s not buying a word of Slick Rick’s story.
Large Mark, all pumped up like a ‘roiding blowfish, strides right into Slick Rick’s face, invading his personal space.
Slick Rick tries to hold his ground, but a twitch in his right eye betrays him.
“If I find out you did dis shit on poipose, I’m gonna kick yer ass awll de way up Foist Avenue, you unnuhstand?”
“Hey man, I didn’t-” Slick Rick gets shut down quick.
“Shut de fuck up!” Large Mark growls.
Slick Rick shuts the fuck up.
“If dis shit evvuvh happens again, dat’s it!”
Large Mark makes a massive fist and swings it at Slick Rick’s jaw. Slick flinches back into the locker behind him with a bang. Large stops the fist an inch before it smashes into Slick Rick’s face.
“Hey, what the hell!” Slick Rick protests.
But Large Mark is already gone. Larry Glitter follows smugly shooting a sneer at Slick Rick as he trails like the tail of a comet.
Danger momentarily averted, the Men go back to the task at hand: sorting and counting their mountains of $, while I retreat to the Costume Room, to see if Johnny needs the Cavalry.
“No fucking way, man!” Johnny’s utterly adamant, shaking her krazy kurls. “I checked that g-string tonight, I swear to God. And before he went on, I saw Slick Rick fucking with the seam. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but now it totally makes sense.” She doesn’t look like she’s fibbing. But maybe Johnny’s just an excellent fibber. Still, she doesn’t have that shakiness that guilty people so often display. That Slick Rick just displayed. She has more of the I’m-being-framed-and-I’m-not
Sloppy Sam purses his lips, shakes his deeply troubled head, then says:
“Where’s the g-string?”
“He says it’s gone,” Johnny nods her head slow, like she’s not buying a word of it, that in fact Slick Rick losing the g-string is more proof of her innocence and his guilt.
“What do you mean it’s gone?” Sloppy Sam’s making sure he has all the facts straight for the Nick De Noia Inquisition he knows is on its way.
“As soon as I heard what happened, I tried to get my hands on that g-string, to see if he really did fuck with it, like I saw him fucking with it. And all of a sudden, it’s gone. He can’t find it. Yeah, right,” Johnny’s face can barely contain her disgust.
Sloppy Sam mulls, gives a little tsk, then exclaims:
Johnny shakes her disgusted curls, picks up some funky fur leggings and angrily dumps them in the fur legging box, then stops and proclaims::
“Unfuckin’believable… un… fuckin’… believable…”
Suddenly Arnolpho flits dramatically into the room:
“Ohhhhhh, you should hhhave seen Miss Thing!”
He launches into a spot-on Slick Rick impression:
“It wasn’t my fault! I don’t know what happened, really I don’t. The thing just came apart, and next thing I know, my cock just popped right out!”
Arnolpho becomes Slick Rick standing there with his dick accidentally-on-purpose out, making a big-eyed face while miming an exposed penis so well you can almost see it.
O, how we laugh, Johnny and I, really let loose.
“Ohhhhhhh bay-bee,” Arnolpho touches Johnny on her chest while placing his other hand over his own heart. “You shoulda seen hhher, what a performance! Miss Slick better hope she never has to testify on hhher own behalf cuz hhhoney, it’s gonna be, ‘Guilty! Guilty! Guilty’!”
“Oh my God!!” Johnny gasps through her laughs.
Luckily for him, Slick Rick was never put on trial for exposing himself, and as far as I know, he completely got away with it.
Nick de Noia, on the other hand, was not so lucky.
On April 7, 1987 a man disguised as a messenger walks into my boss Nick de Noia’s office on 364 W. 40th Street and shoots him in the head, killing him dead. The cops interrogated all of us. When they asked me if I knew anybody who might wanted to have killed him, I said, “Do you want the short list or the long list?” I mean hell, I myself muttered that I’d like to kill Nick. But what does it take for someone to go from casually contemplating the murder of another human, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall? Turns out: money. Seems Nick’s money partner, Steven Banarghee, was so convinced that Nick fucked him over, that he had Nick assassinated. Banerghee went to prison, where he hung himself.
The Case of the Missing G-string, on the other hand, remains unsolved.
From HBO/CTW Encyclopedia
I was honored to play George Washington, father of our country, on HBO’s award winning show Encyclopedia.