David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: drugs

How to Fix the Economic Meltdown & Stop Terrorism: Legalize Heroin and Whores

“Prohibition will work great injury… for it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”

If you don’t know who said that, I promise I’ll tell you later.

Selling sex for money is a multi-billion-dollar business. Apparently tens of millions of people want sex so bad they pay through the nose for it. And in that shadowy, shady, underworld, there are many different kinds of economic transactions. At one extreme are coercion, victimization, and exploitation. At the other are consent, empowerment and economic independence. I personally know many people from either extreme of this Bell curve. But both these exchanges are called prostitution. To say these exchanges are the same things is like saying that working at Bloomingdale’s and being forced against your will to work 20 hours a day in a sweatshop are the same thing.

Many people claim that if you make sex for money legal, it will be easier for predators who exploit adults and children alike. Of course, just the opposite is true. We know what happens during Prohibition. Gangsters control the means of production. Al Capone, quintessential American criminal/pop icon, was created by Prohibition. Just as the American Pimp has become the new superstar gangsta, and slithered his way into our culture. Pimp my Ride. Pimp my Crib. Pimp my Wife. It is much easier for predators to hide in an illegal industry. And when you make criminals out of industrial sex technicians, which is what I call people who work of their own free will in the sex business, they have no recourse when things go bad. And things go bad alot in this business. So people all over the Bell curve get raped, robbed, and beaten. Not only by clients. By law enforcement. When one of the recent whores serial killers was caught, he said he killed whores because it was easy, and he knew no one would miss them.

If you take all the money spent on the war on whores, on true industrial sex technicians, and focused it on actually tracking down traffickers and predators, you could take the bastards down. You can find these people if you want to. But there are great economic forces at work in America, and throughout the world, that want desperately to keep things the way they are. Because there’s so much money involved.

But the bottom line, economically, is that there is a big beautiful sexy cash cow to be milked here. With a reasonable rate of taxation, people who choose to work in the business could make a very good living wage, get health insurance, and even have a retirement plan, if that’s what they choose. It’s all about choice. Everyone should have the choice to do what they like as long as they pay their bills and don’t hurt anyone. Isn’t that the whole idea behind America? And with some of that money, we could help people who want to leave the sex business get the skills necessary to transition. Apply the rest of this cash flow to paying teachers a decent wage, making sure no one goes hungry or homeless. Arts and sports in the schools. Music classes for every kid in America! What a revolutionary idea.

As for heroin, since you’re a basketball player, I’ll put it in your vernacular. It’s a slam dunk. In <em>USA Today</em> recently, right on the front page, in very small words, it said that the Taliban is making its money from buying and selling heroin. If you make it legal, like tobacco and alcohol, and package it nicely, you take away the Taliban’s cash flow. And again, you get to control this huge beautiful dopey goose that keeps laying big golden eggs. And why stop at heroin? Consider the hundreds of millions generated by the wacky weed industry. The trade in opium has been brisk for centuries. Hashish. Ecstasy. Speed. ‘Shrooms. Cocaine. Acid. Imagine the fun Madison Avenue would have. Orange Sunshine, the LSD with Vitamin C. Willy Weed, the only dope Willie Nelson smokes. Harry Potter’s Magic Mushrooms.

It’s not drugs that are the problem. Humans have used hallucinogens, intoxicants and in inebriates for as long as anyone cares to remember. Even when they’ve imbibed so much they can’t actually remember. It’s people’s behavior that’s the problem. Every time I’ve been in a room with people shooting up, they just lay there with silly grins on their faces, and their heads nod up and down like bobble head dolls. It’s when they run out of the drugs that the problems begin. If heroin was legal, like cigarettes and alcohol, addicts wouldn’t need to rob and pillage. Cigarettes and alcohol kill a lot more people than marijuana and heroin. But we say, go ahead, smoke and drink all you want, booze it up until you’re dead, if that’s your pleasure. We make money from taxing these products. We control the means of production and distribution. Again, isn’t that what America is all about? That we can do what we want as long as we mind your own p’s and q’s?

Take the money we spend on the war on drugs, and actually go after the Taliban, as well as gangsters in South America and Asia (many of whom are financed by the drug trade) after their money source has been cut off. Instead of declaring war under false pretense and trying to set up our own militia government so we can make millions for military contractors and their cronies, while ensuring that we are more hated every day.

There it is. Economic turbo-boost, predators and traffickers hunted down, Taliban and international gangsters crippled. All with the blessing of Abraham Lincoln. That’s who gave that great shout out about prohibition.

Jodie Sh.Doff x-Times Square Bad Girl on Love Life Sex & Being Bad

Jodi Sh Doff, (aka Scarlet Fever) brilliant and hysterical x-Times Square hooker, scammer, & drug addict, & one of my favorite people, talks about Times Square, weird hair, sex, love, $ and life.

jshdoff2013

Jerry Stahl With the Skinny on Fatty, Republican Sun Gods, and Happy Mutant Babies

To read on Huff Po click here.

interview-jerry-stahlI first met Jerry Stahl at the Los Angeles Book Fair, back when it was held at UCLA in Westwood, the second happiest place on earth.  It was blazing hot, and Jerry was sitting in a booth trying to promote his book, squirming like a bug under a microscope as all the happy peppy people passed by.  He looked like something out of a Kafka novel written by William Burroughs, a writer about to be transformed into a junky cockroach.  Which is basically how I felt, having been in a booth trying to promote my own book next to Hollywood legend Janet Leigh, who was signing her new memoir, and had a line of adoring fans snaking around the block.  While I sat there sweating like an amateur smuggler being interrogated at customs while a hundred bags of junk clogs his colon.  Jerry is one of those rare writers who goes between Hollywood screenplays and novels.  He writes dark subversive stories and he somehow continues to get away with it.  I should, for the sake of full disclosure, admit that he is one of my favorite writers.  Steeped in the grand tradition of Noir which has spawned such writers like Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy and Dennis Lehane, he also brings a wicked black LOL comedy to the table.  Which is a very hard thing to do.  <em>Happy Baby Mutant Pills</em> is his new book, a scathing, rollicking indictment of the pharmaceutical/chemical industry told from the perspective of a dope fiend hack who writes the horrifying disclaimers which come with almost all modern drugs.  So I thought I’d check in with Mr. Stahl and pick his brain about Big Pharma, killing someone with a paperclip in the bathroom of the downtown LA Bus Depot, and the sick sordid business of publishing.

David Henry Sterry: What made you decide to write something about the wretched pharmaceutical industry?  And why did you choose to attack the subject from the POV of the guy who tells us that being bitten by a werewolf may lead to “mild euphoria, feelings of newfound power, sudden appearance of full-body pelt and canine incisors during a full moon.  Some patients report disturbing ‘incidents,’ followed by memory loss and occasional incarceration.  See your doctor if you experience rapid ‘bulking up,’ four-legged gait, urge to urinate outdoors or kill and eat people”?

blog-stahl-080813Jerry Stahl: The question would be “why not?” Sometimes a voice just feels right for the time. During a period of world-class insomnia, I found myself zoning on Morning Joe at four in the morning. But as soon the commercials came on — inevitably remedies for torments of the depleted testosterone, excess fat or frequent urination variety — I found myself riveted. Beneath the blatant comedy fodder of a product supposed to boost your manhood that can actually shrink your testicles, there’s a deeper unspoken and ultimately soul-crushing message: sure we might give you bleeding eyeballs, rectal ooze and suicidal thoughts — but guess what? Apparently your life is so hellish that busloads of people just like you have decided the only way to survive it is to take our pills — no matter how grotesquely unpleasant the side effects. If you want to understand America, follow the pharmaceuticals. Ironically, the reason I had insomnia is that I was on a toxic cocktail of drugs as part of a pharma-company trial to try and cure the Hepatitis C I’d had for decades, from being a junky. The non-FDA-approved medication wiped out my virus in a week. But the pills were so toxic, the doctors told me I couldn’t so much as touch my pregnant wife’s skin after I’d touched one. We either had to separate or have sex in bee-keeper suits. Think about that. One wrong move and the baby could’ve looked like a jellyfish with Tony Robbins teeth. Of course the pharmaceutical industry is appalling, but they also saved my life. It’s a moral dilemma. What if you have appendicitis and Joseph Mengele takes out your appendix? Do you shoot him once you’re up and around? The eternal question.

DHS: I was trained as a writer in the Disney system, where everything is plotted out beforehand to the point of strangulation.  Which explains, in part, why Disney movies suck so hard, and why the nickname for the company inside those hallowed halls is Moushwitz.  Do you spend a lot of time outlining and working on plot before you start writing?

JS: Wow. I’d heard Walt Disney was anti-semitic, but I didn’t know he ran a camp. Anyway, outlines give me hives. Somewhere Mailer said writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see about 20 feet up the road with your headlights, and once you cover that twenty feet, you can see the next twenty. You don’t know what you’re going to do next until you find out what you just did. For me voice is more important than plot. If I fall in love with a voice, I’ll follow it anywhere. In Nicholson Baker’s new novel, the narrator is riveting on the subject of lawn sprinklers. Burroughs can spend ten pages talking about his big toe, and I’m in. Mary Gaitskill, Raymond Chandler, Flannery O’Connor, Rick Moody — I’m not sure I could tell you the plots of any of their work, but I could probably recite entire sentences, because the voices got in my head. Screenplay-wise, outlines are a necessary contrivance. The people giving you money want to know how you’re going to get from A to whatever comes after A. In real life, plot is something you don’t see until its over and you look back, trying to figure out what the fuck happened.

DHS: You write with such gruesome, grotesque Grand Guignol style, are you ever tempted to try to tame the beast and write something that won’t offend, upset and turn off a huge chunk of the fly-by states?  And do you ever get pressure from your publishers to do so?

JS: One man’s Grand Guignol is another mans’ weekend with the family. My favorite DeLillo line, from <em>White Noise</em>, is “the special grotesquerie of sane men leading normal lives.” Who gets to be arbiter of offensive vs. non-offensive? The inventory manager at Walmart? It’s a lame construct. (Not to mention, the Walton family keeps hundreds of thousands of employees in gnawing poverty, while they themselves live like Republican Sun Gods.) Fuck that. You want upsetting: how about, everybody you ever know and love is going to die, many in less-than-felicitous fashion, and there’s not a fucking thing you can do about it? It’s right there in the Bible. Beyond that, while they may not be reading me, I would guess there’s just as much gruesome in so-called flyover states as there is anywhere else. Don’t the Cheneys live in Wyoming? For the record, don’t think I never write about sunshine buttercups. For a while I’ve had a column in The Rumpus, OG DAD, about being a late-life second-time-around father. I’m a font of adorable tot anecdotes. Plus which, trust me, you haven’t gone near Grand Guignol until you’ve been front and center when your baby’s tearing out of the birth canal and your wife is screaming obscenities that would make Linda Blair blush and there’s enough gore on the sheets to make In Cold Blood look like Ellen. When my first child was born I was on heroin, and when my second was born, I remembered why I needed the shit. It looked like an axe murder. The most beautiful moments in life are not the most genteel, except in romance novels. To me, the scariest artist on the planet was Thomas Kinkade. As for my publishers, I’m lucky. They realize by now that I’m not Mitch Albom.

DHS: You’ve written a real memoir, Permanent Midnight, and a fake memoir, I, Fatty.  Is there a difference as you approach this material, as you were writing these similar, but clearly different kinds of books?

JS: It’s funny, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who at one point was going to play Arbuckle, told me when we met that he read I, Fatty as another memoir — except in this one I’m disguised as a fat silent movie star. Which rang so true it made me squirm. Sometimes the author is the last to know. At readings, there are always people who tell me they found Permanent Midnight brutal and I, Fatty almost, you know, sweet. To me it’s the other way around. I recently had to re-read <em>Permanent</em> — out loud, for the book-on-tape. What surprised me is how, reading it now, PM has a kind of naiveté that I couldn’t see when I wrote it… But then I look at Fatty’s story, which — on the surface — couldn’t be more different than mine. Here’s an abused and abandoned fat boy who grows up to be a wildly successful and visionary baby-man movie star. The first actor to make a million dollars. Loved by the world until the world decides he’s a virgin-raping pig and publicly shames him into prison and penury. Hands down, I Fatty strikes me as a much more brutal book. Maybe Hoffman was right. Because I was emotionally naked behind the fat-suit — like Anton Scalia under his robes on Casual Court Fridays — I was able to show all the pain, without all the fireworks, in a way I didn’t have the chops, or the heart, to do in Permanent Midnight. Picasso said “Art is the lie that reveals the truth.” To me it’s the other way around.

DHS: <em>Happy Baby Mutant Pills</em> is written in the first-person, and it feels, in form anyway, like a memoir.  What advice do you have for writers who want to take material from their own life and turn it into fiction?

JS: I’m a sucker for an unreliable narrator. And there’s an immediacy to first person that I love. Advice-wise, I would only say that, in my life, there are moments that have felt more like fiction than reality. Or maybe it’s just that I had to dissociate to survive. (I think it was Robert Stone who said writing a novel is like sanctioned schizophrenia — or maybe it was Cher.) In any event, those are the moments that inspire. On some level, the real subject of any first-person fiction is how the narrator sees the world. Whatever happens after “Call me Ishmael,” Melville lets Ishmael hold the camera.

DHS: What was your inspiration for the paperclip in this temple murder scene, which is somehow a hysterically funny and disturbingly graphic attack on all the senses, particularly the olfactory?

JS: I should probably say that, as I was writing the novel, I found myself idly performing a lobotomy with my Number 4 pencil. (I actually typed “slobotomy,” which is a better word.) But why lie?  I can’t remember where that came from. I just remember why it came. My theory has always been, when you don’t know what to write, write something you’ve never read before. As for the olfactory issue, let’s just say, death doesn’t smell good. If you’ve been there, I don’t have to explain. If you haven’t, God bless, are you in for a big surprise.

DHS: They say you should write what you know.  Clearly you know a lot about ingesting, injecting, being addicted to and getting clean from heroin.  But did you do a lot of research into the pharmaceutical industry?  Because it seems like you have a keen insider’s insight into that giant soul sucking industry.

DHS: I love to research. I always over do it, until I’m crushed under stacks of shit I absolutely have to get in the book — but which, if I included even half of, would choke the thing to death in five minute. What gets in is half random, half obsessive. For example, with a baby on the way I was obsessed with breast milk, which it turns out now includes everything from toilet cleaner to lithium. And that’s the healthy alternative. I have no insider’s insight, just an outsider’s obsession. Every time I see the olestra ad, with the famous “anal leakage” side effect, I think, some guy had to get up in the morning, drag his ass to the subway, get to the office and sit down with his Dilbert mug and his shitty MacDonalds apple turnover and actually write that. To some extent, this novel is my way of saying “Hats off!”

DHS: Who are some of your favorite writers, and why?

JS: It’s a changing roster. The last ten books I read and loved were Sam Lipsyte’s The Fun Parts; Michelle Tea’s Valencia; Lit by Mary Karr, Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches; Gun Machine by Warren Ellis, The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus; Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, by Joe Sacco & Chris Hedges; I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan and — a couple of yearly re-reads — The Demon by Hubert Selby Junior and Denis Johnson’s Jesus Son. You couldn’t think of more disparate writers. But what unites them — for me — is that they all say things no one else is saying, in ways no one else is saying them. That’s what I crave in writing — and any other genre: artists who say the unsayable, or try to.

DHS: You move back and forth between writing for the screen and writing books.  How is your approach different in these two mediums?

JS: For me, scripts are harder because they require more social skills. You can hide out in your pad and bang out a 800-page novel and never have to speak to a soul you don’t want to speak to. With movies — and I say this with love — when you’re not writing you’re talking to people all the fucking time. Sometimes they’re talking while you’re writing. That’s the nature of the beast. You can’t have a character blow his nose in his tie without justifying it. Which isn’t necessarily bad, just a different process. The best thing about movies & television- when it’s not the worst thing — is collaborating.  I’ve been on a good run — I worked a couple years with Philip Kaufman on Hemingway & Gellhorn, which was like being paid to go to film school. Larry Charles and I have been writing together, working, among other things, on turning Pain Killers into a cable series, Manny & Mengele. LC’s got so many great show biz stories, I keep bugging him to do his memoir, because I’d kill to read the fucking thing. A couple weeks ago I did an episode of Maron, which meant hanging in a room with Marc Maron and a bunch of comedians. Fucking heaven.

DHS: Why did you choose to reveal to the American public that you were a heroin addict?  What with the repercussions?

JS: The repercussions? I can’t say I thought about them. I was so desperate, I didn’t think about the pros and cons of ‘revealing’ anything. I was trying to survive. What can I say? I got a book deal and I didn’t look back. Once the check cleared, I got the money to stop living in the electricity-free, no plumbing basement of a crackhouse and actually get my own apartment. I got to stop going to the bathroom in restaurants. I bought a bed. The little things. People think just cause you give up dope, your life works out. In fact, once you give up dope, it just means you have to deal with all the shit in it without any buffer. On the natch. Which is harder, in some ways, than being on dope. The negatives? Inadvertently hurting some people I cared about by how I handled them in the book. I could have done a better job. And wish I had. But I’ve tried to make amends — and pay back all the money I borrowed or stole. That book, and every thing that happened after, was a miracle, but the bigger miracle was getting off dope in the first place. Getting clean doesn’t mean you’re Mr. Happy Guy the rest of your life. It just means you stop being Mr. Junky Asshole. As for the public, I don’t think we spend a lot of time thinking about each other.

DHS: Cocaine was my drug of choice, and I swear whenever I see someone snorting up a big fat juicy line, my nostrils start twitching and all I want is to perform the sacramental ritual: the chopping, the smoothing into lines, the rolling up of the $20 bill, and the Great Suck.  I’m just curious, when you see someone on TV or in the movie shooting up, do you get a knee-jerk nostalgia for banging dope?

JS: Occasionally I see some skeek nodding and drooling at a bus stop, and I get a little jealous. You know that fucker isn’t sweating the mortgage. He’s living the dream. Usually when somebody shoots up on TV, they’re doing it wrong — jabbing the rig in and slamming the plunger down without getting a register, which takes me right out of the scene. One of my first jobs in the movie business was needle wrangler on Permanent Midnight. Not to brag. I had to show Ben Stiller how to draw blood back in the syringe. It’s been downhill from there.

DHS: Who would you rather party with, Fatty Arbuckle or Ernest Hemingway?  Why?

JS: Budd Schulberg told me that whenever he met Hemingway, Hemingway wanted to box. But if you were a better fighter than him — which Schulberg  was — Hemingway would get pissed off and sulk. So I’m gonna go with Roscoe. I don’t know about party, but I would have loved to hang with Arbuckle after Hollywood chewed him up and spit him out. After he’d been smeared by Hearst and jailed and — despite being found innocent three times — universally shunned. He couldn’t buy a gig, and just being seen with him made you socially suspect. But he made a comeback — not because he needed redemption — but because he wanted to make movies. Imagine the kind of heart that takes.

I don’t trust anybody who hasn’t been to hell. And Arbuckle survived an inferno, public and private, I can’t even begin to contemplate. I don’t necessarily want to meet those who achieve “greatness.” But I am in awe of people who survive the unsurvivable.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?

JS: Don’t do it if you don’t have to. But if you have to, have no expectations. And don’t listen to any advice anybody has about writing. Just get your ass in the chair. The best thing anyone ever said to me on the subject was Bruce Jay Friedman, who wrote two of the funniest books in the English language, Stern and A Mother’s Kisses. He said, “When you write a sentence that makes you squirm, keep going.” I’ve been pretty much squirming ever since.

Jerry Stahl’s memoir, Permanent Midnight, was made into a movie starring Ben Stiller and Maria Bello, and his novels include Pain Killers, Perv — A Love Story, Bad Sex On Speed, Plainclothes Naked,  I, Fatty (optioned by by Johnny Depp)  and his latest, Happy Mutant Baby Pills (optioned by Ben Stiller.)  Among other places, his much-translated fiction and journalism have appeared in Esquire, Playboy, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Believer and Details, where he was Culture Columnist for three years — and his blog, “OG Dad,” appears irregularly on The Rumpus. He has written extensively in film and television, including, most recently, the HBO film, “Hemingway & Gellhorn” & the odd episode of the IFC series, “Maron.” (He also appears in this tiny movie directed by Larry Charles, with whom he is collaborating on a cable series, Manny & Mengele.)   Anthony Bourdain said, “Jerry Stahl should either get the Pulitzer Prize or be shot down in the street like a dog.”

David Henry Sterry is the author of 15 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, and activist. His new book, Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. The follow-up, Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks</a>, just came out. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Penthouse, Michael Caine, the London Times, Playboy and Zippy the Chimp. His new illustrated novel is Mort Morte.  He is also co-founder of The Book Doctors, who have helped dozens and dozens of amateur writers become professionally published authors. They edit books and develop manuscripts, help writers develop a platform, and connect them with agents and publishers. Their book is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.

Tripping the Light Fantastic, or How I Learned to Play Hockey on Acid

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.

darrow lacrosseWe 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.

hanson_brothersRat grins like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

“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.

lsdNot 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.

slide_294923_2397851_freeThen 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.

largeLate 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.

BUZZZZZZZ!

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.

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David Henry Sterry @ RISK! on Being a Sex Maniac & a Crackhouse Smackdown

Storytelling event RISK! I tell a story about getting clusterfucked in a crackdown smackdown.  True story!

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Library Journal Review of Master of Ceremonies: “Dizzying, tender, hilarious”

“Master of Ceremonies” is the dizzying, tender, and true story of a
fledgling actor whose first break results in a two-year stint as the
emcee at Chippendales, in this work that is resplendent with seedy
glamour, hilarious backstage madness, and unflinching honesty. Sterry
chronicles his adventures as a struggling comic after he is hired as
the host of the popular all-male strip show Chippendales in the early
Eighties. He more than delivers on the promise of his title, and
readers looking for sex, drugs, and New York-style debauchery will
find it in spades. There is a tabloid-level sleaziness inherent in the
material, which Sterry utilizes for maximum entertainment value. He
avoids providing direct sociological commentary on the sexual power
dynamics at play in Chippendales, preferring to let events speak for
themselves. There are two underlying love stories, one between Sterry
and a coworker, and one between Sterry and his craft; both enrich the
narrative with genuine heart. Sterry possesses an engaging writing
style, and fans of his earlier memoir, Chicken: Self-Portrait of a
Young Man for Rent, will not be disappointed. Recommended for large
public library collections and cultural and media studies
collections.-Katherine Litwin, Chicago Library Journal (07/15/2008)

to buy click here

Master ceremonies cover

 

Drugs, Litquake & the Edinburgh Castle

I just got home from the Litquake Writers on Drugs show, the place was packed, jacked and wacked, 200 litquakin’ loons crammed into the Edinburgh Castle, where the ghost of Irvine Welch pukes in the bathroom, and oh man the joint jumped, rumbled, rattled and rolled, 9.8 on the Richter Scale.  Alan Black the masterful master of ceremonies, was the very model of Scottish hospitality, all nettles and good cheer and the blackest of humor, invoking the dead who’d perished in the Castle from overindulgence and intemperence.  What a wag that Alan is, if you’ve never met him, do yourself a favor, introduce yourself at the Caslte and have a blather, he is a true Olde School wit.  BTW, Litquke was actually conceived at the Castle, in the front room, i’m not sure what bodily fluids were exchanged but the fetus was made and life began there.  From such humble beginnings, Litquake has become such a huge amazing phenomenon.   I was very happy to be at the Castle for Drug Night.
 

Before the show I was hanging out all alone, rehearsing, in the upstairs back room where they normally have readings, when I met another of the evening”s performers, Ed Rosenthal, one of America’s most famous marijuana advocates and a writer and publsiher.  He asked me if this was the place to smoke weed.  I said I thought this was as good a place as any.  He kindly asked me if I would like to join him.  I thanked him, and explained that I can’t perform as well when I’m stoned, it throws me off my game.  Funny to be performing a drug story in a night full of drug stories, and not be able to be on drugs because it would make my performance suffer.  At one time in my life I would have said yes, got stoned, and agonized about it, got all FREAKED OUT, and been all tight and weird and destroy my own self, then fall deep into a funk and go engage in some Behavior, as my AA friends call it, that stuff you do to destroy yourself.  I was happy to have evolved enough to recognize what was in my own best instance, and to act accordingly. That made me happy. But when Ed pulled out his pipe and happily lit up, getting quite lit up in the process, I was suddenyl sad.  Imagine how great Ed Rosenthal’s weed must be.  Later when he went out to perform he confessed in a tiedied stoner voice that he didn’t really remember anything of his life up to about a week ago.  He got a big laugh.  I was struck by how he had evolved enough to make comedy out of his life. And I thought, ahhhh, yes, that’s why I moved to San Francisco.  Ed did a mad rant about how insane it is that the government is sinking all this time and money into  fighting the war on drugs when so much else is mucked up in the world, and thanked San Franciscans for helping him make legal history in fighting the evil bastards of the Dark Side. Jayson Galloway, Professor of English author of Viagra Fiend, deconstructed his six favorite drugs, from acid (worst) to ecstacy (favorite), elborating on the pluses and minuses of each.  Favorite line: Cocaine is a dillatante drug.  Quite right.  Fascinating that meth (#4 on his list I believe) got booed.  Meth apparently is no longer sexy.  Unless you’re on it.  Before you crash and just want MORE METH.  R.U. Serius, looking deliciously Hobbitty and puckish, read a hysterical story about growing up and doing drugs.  Favorite scene: He’s listening to some local dude talk about eating some girl out, and he has no idea what that means, so he assumes it’s about cannibalism and wonders why there were no arrests afterwards. Favorite line: Something he learned that has stayed with him the entire rest of his life: When you’re in a group experimenting with drugs, NEVER GO FIRST.

Then came the break, and I was disturbingly nervous as I did my warm-ups and stretches.  They’re going to hate me.  I could see it so clearly.  Kept flashing on this time I was performing in a nightclub in Edinburgh and they turned on me, I was so bad, I sucked so hard, I bombed, I died, I crashed and burned.  It kept recurring, that flashback of the sick cold failure clamming all over me, wrapping its icy fingers around my neck with an ever-tightening chokehold.  I fought the image as best I could, using Jedi mind control techniques: I countered the failure flashbacks with memories of when I had fun, when I flowed sweet and easy.  At the Assembly Room at the Fringe Festival.  Last year at Litquake when Furlinghetti opened (yeah right!)for me.  Doing a sketch for HBO where I was a leach lover. Emceeing at Chippendales one Saturday night when I was whipping the Ladies into a frenzied froth.  Every time I did, the failure flashback faded.  Still, it was exhausting.

So after the break, the music finally gets turned off, and Alan makes the crowd shut up.  He’s like a great dominatrix, he just demands respect.  So naturally he gets it.  They shut up.  He’s giving me a great intro, and I take a moment to look out at the crowd, all baited with anticipation, so much human energy waiting to have fun, and I have a profound sense of well being, like where in the world would I rather be? 200 humans just waiting be to entertainment, desperatley wanting to be entertained, and I didn’t have to lift a finger to get them there. I had a deep feeling of gratitude to the universe, so lucky to be there in the now of that moment, and I felt a sense of accomplishment, like I worked so hard to get there, the years of stand-up and the years of writing and writing of writing, and the hours and hours I spent working on this story I was about to read,the revising, the re-writing, the tinkering, the buffing the polishing, it all lead me there.  As I looked at the crowd, all those faces, eyes shining, souls hungy for something to wrap themselves around, to transport them, make them laugh and feel and be alive with all these other humans, I felt like part of a long line of history, of people gathering to share their stories, to rejoice in the beauty and terror of being alive on the planet with all the other humans.

I was gonna do some sort of introductory remarks, some witty chitchatty small talk, but feeling the crowd, I sensed that I should just dive right into the telling of the story.  It felt like they wanted to be told a story, so I gave it to them.  Right from the very beginning I could feel the room come with me.  It’s hard to describe how you know that, you can’t quantify or measure it, but my God you can feel it.  When a crowd is bored or resistant, or turned off, it’s like when a date goes bad.  You can just feel it, and if you’re not careful you panic and work harder to make it better, only that just makes it worse.  But when you feel them with you, that crowd, it’s electric, and you feel you can do no wrong.  So, at the beginning I was getting laughs from lines that I never got laughs on before in that story, which is always a great sign, but not abnormal, when you have a large jacked up crowd crammed into a small intimate space.  But then when I came to the part in the story where a character makes an impassioned plea for everyone to all take acid together before the big hockey game against the hoity toits at Andover, I really let loose, and shouted out the lines with all my mojo flowing, amd the crowd roared eruptingly, man what a krazee rush that was.  The best drug of all, I thought, this is the best drug of all, being up here and getting all that laugh love and riotous crowd happiness, riding through my veins finer than the finest China White.  I’m getting goose bumpies just stting here typing this, it was so overwhelmingly purely joyful.  Addictive? Perhaps.  Hangover? Never.

So then I got to the part where we’re on the bus going to the game, as everybody waits for the acid to kick in, and in the story it gets quiet. Scary quiet.  I hadn’t planned to, but I lowered my voice to a whisper, and then just stopped talking to let it sink in. Pindrop eery silence fell night over the room.  In a club so crowded that kind of silence is stunning, and for me, pure gold, mana from heaven, mother’s milk, possibly better than an orgasm. No, better than an orgasm for sure, cuz you can have an orgasm in your room all alone.  It takes 200 other humans to create this spooky silence, where no one is breathing, and even the machines seem to be holding their breath.  Again I hadn’t planned this, but I just stopped talking.  Let it sit there and sink in.  Early in my career I could never have done that.  You have to have absolute trust and faith to stop talking like that.  To give the moment its full due takes a kind of blind faith.  But I felt it.  And I just let it be.  Trusted myself and my instincts.  Trusted the crowd.  Trusted the story.  It was like a comedy time bomb.  After a few stunned seconds of stunning silence, the reality of the moment in the story, where everyone is waiting to feel the acid come on, sinks in to the audience there in that room.  And they get it.  They are one with me and I with them, and that is when I feel God in that moment of union and communion transcendent and holy in the very best sense of the word. I scanned the room with wide eyes, feeling that feeling from the story fully and truly, of waiting to feel the acid and watching the faces of my teamamtes to see if they were feeling it too.  And the more I looked, the more they laughed.  It’s just the coolest thing to get that huge a laugh from NOT saying anything.  This is when Einstein is revealed to be a genius.  Time for me becomes palpably relative.  This moment just keeps going on and on and on, the laughter washing over my shores all warm and wet and tall and tan and young and lovely.  When I die and my life flashes before my eyes, I hope this is one of the moments I relive.  As the laughter faded, I dove right back, and I felt myself riding that crowd like a dragon I trained and made my own, flying through the air, with the greatest of ease, swooping and diving, spitting fire at will.  It was just so easy.  Effortless ecstacy. The crescendo happened right where it should, we all climaxed together just like it’s supposed to be. To the golden sounds of the crowd giving it up, I floated off the stage and up the stairs, the high on all the love I’m getting.

The rest of the show was a blur to me, but Kate Braverman, transplendent and noirish in black, and Michelle Tea were amazing.  Michelle read from Rent Girl. I was reminded again what a great reader and writer she is, which is rarer than hen’s teeth, (as my poor dead mom used to say) and she’s so styly to boot.

As we were leaving the club Arielle turned to me and said, “Boy you coulda gotta lotta pussy tonight.”  I smiled at her and said, “Honey, I’ve got all the pussy I want right here with me. ” And I gave her a big wet sexy kiss.  I guess we’re just a coupla knuckleheaded romantics.  The one sad note of the evening was that I invited a writer who I’m working with to come and talk and network.  She’s got, irony rearing its fat head, a terrible drug problem.  She showed up wacked out of her skull.  Didn’t even stay to watch my part of the show, never mind let me introduce her around afterwards.  She called my cel phone while I was actually on stage.  In her message she said she had a headache.  Headache, my eye.  The fact that she had to self-medicate herself to the point of stupification made my heart sink like a sad loadstone.  She couldn’t do what was in her own best interest.  And she’s such a talented writer.  I want so much to help her, but then I wonder why should I bother if she can’t show up.  It’s not enough to be talented and to to want it.  You gotta show up.  It’s nearly 4am now and I should be sleepy but I’m still so high and wired from my performance.  I guess I’ll go read Crime and Punishment.  I started it about a week ago, and man, that bastard can really write.  Thanks San Francisco, you made my night.

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