David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: prostitution

Johns Marks Tricks & Chickenhawks Beautiful Review from Publishers Weekly

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johns coverThis collection of personal essays by sex workers and their clients vacillates    wildly from hilarious to depressing but never strays from being utterly captivating. Among the more amusing stories are a client with a “sweater fetish”, a woman who paid for her family’s Christmas presents by stepping on a man’s testicles in a pornographic film, and the dominatrix who got fired because she could not remove a client’s tooth. The phone sex operator asked to do cartoon animal voices for a caller is also not to be missed. Candid essays cover everything from the anonymous “captain of industry” with an appreciation for transsexual prostitutes, to the human misery of a pimp who turned out his own girlfriend. Some pieces are more meditative: Fiona Helmsey recalls meeting a kind client at a bachelor party who later died on 9/11, while Dr. Annie Sprinkle discusses her 40 years in the sex industry and her wish for “a more compassionate sex-positive society” in which “prostitutes and johns would be government-subsidized”. Though obviously not for the faint of heart, this book contains some courageous, raw, and intelligent writing that breaks taboos and smashes misconceptions. (Apr.)

http://v2.publishersweekly.com/978-1-59376-507-1

to buy the book: http://amzn.to/Yg0Lp8

book trailer: Who Really Buys & Sells Sex

 

Having Sex with Craigslist Prostitue/Escort/Ho/Industrial Sex Technician: A True Story

This is from a reading I did at Litquake, in Vesuvio’s, the historic North Beach literary watering hole.

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Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys Gets Big Love

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Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys featured on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  Written by Toni Bentley. To buy the book click here.


“An eye-opening, occasionally astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny collection from those who really have lived on the edge in a parallel universe…unpretentious and riveting — but don’t worry, their tales are also graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper…”

“Lele,” a piece by Jodi Sh. Doff, who “grew up in the suburbs as someone else entirely,” recalls Henry Miller’s in-your-face exposition. She tells of a night at Diamond Lil’s on Canal Street, where “Viva’s sitting onstage, legs spread wide.” While her customer is buried and busy, she holds a cigarette in one hand, a drink in the other, and chitchats with a girlfriend about another girlfriend. “Every two minutes or so Viva taps him on the head and he hands her a 20 from a stack of bills he’s holding, never looking up.” We see in this wonderful set piece the whole money/sex connection enacted with raw charm and an immediacy that reaches far beyond this strip club, as the man’s stack of 20s, one by one, becomes hers. Multitasking Viva holds them “folded lengthwise in her cigarette hand.”

“Very brave, very moving.”

“This collection is a wonderful reminder that good writing is not about knowing words, grammar or Faulkner, but having that rare ability to tell the truth, an ability that education and sophistication often serve to conceal. While we are all, I suppose, in the business of surviving, some really are surviving more notably than others. The collective cry for identity found in this unsentimental compilation will resonate deeply — even, I suspect, with those among us who pretend not to pay for sex.” – New York Times


“Sterry — who has written a number of other books, such as “Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent” and “Unzipped: A True Story of Sex, Drugs, Rollerskates and Murder” — spoke with Express about his idea for the collection, America’s most commonly held misconceptions about the sex industry and whether the book should go in the ‘entertainment’ or the ‘educational’ portion of your bookcase.” –Express interview in the Washington Post 


“’Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Money and Sex’ is graphic in nature, but full of raw, unfiltered and enlightening tales regarding a side of life not many want to know about; the sex trade. What’s so fascinating and downright addicting is that many of the entries are from individuals one would wrongfully assume to be illiterate, stupid or unworthy to hear from. While proving the stereotype wrong, each contributor delivers his or her side of a lifestyle with poise, passion, nuance and heart.

Real and undeniably shocking, “Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys…” made its debut to encore readers last winter, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. So, it’s one of the most impacting reads yet to strike my world. It widened my eyes, opened my heart and oddly made me want to listen to Madonna’s “Human Nature”—and that’s a good thing.” -Tiffanie Gabrielse, Top Five Reads: Tiff ranks her fave favorite page-turners Encore Online


“This kaleidoscopic portrait of sex work in America is all the more striking for its breadth.” –SF Weekly


The sprawling project offers insight into seemingly all aspects of the sex trade: high-profile celebrities like Xaviera “Happy Hooker” Hollander and Nina Hartley make notable contributors, but it’s the unknown writers who will stick. The selections from the book’s closing section alone, written by members of a writer’s workshop for sex workers, range from triumphant to harrowing, making up for a lack of style or form with passion. Aside from exposing the complex web of relationships among phone sex operators, dancers, massage parlor workers, prostitutes and their customers, the book is heavy with raw emotions ranging from celebratory to shameful, giving armchair sociologists plenty to ponder. It’s not all dark and heavy: Sterry’s own account of his experience as a birthday present for an 82-year-old grandmother is touching and sentimental; veteran performer Annie Sprinkle is characteristically blunt, funny and honest. This volume houses some real gems.” – Publishers Weekly


“The prose in this volume is fresh and the tales are both heart-rending and hilarious, sometimes simultaneously. What’s most striking about the volume is how relevant these intimate and detailed chronicles are for any reader, whether they’ve sold their bodies or just their souls. It’s not just about sex. Rather than ghettoizing prostitutes, strippers and porn actors, editors David Henry Sterry and R.J. Martin have brought together essays from a broad sampling of sex workers, keeping it balanced. There are gripping accounts of writers who struggle to pay bills and get their lives together, who have families, who are human beings. How this crew differs from the straights is they all opted for sex work rather than a drone job.” – New York Press


“In these dark days of brokedom, who amongst us hasn’t lingered a bit too long in the Etc. section of the Craigslist job postings? I mean, I do have dainty feet with nicely trimmed toenails, and if I could make my rent just by stepping on some random businessman’s face, well who’s to judge?? Granted, I am not brave enough (or hard up enough) to go through with such an evening’s work (just yet), but the selection of writers featured in the anthology, Hos Hookers, Call Girls, And Rent Boys were not only brave enough to do it, and keep doing it, but were equally brave enough to write about it.  The first hand accounts, interviews, and poems featured in this book are so well written and organized, that the fact that they all center around the exchanging of sex for money falls into the background, and what’s left is an intimate offering of on-the-job gossip and late night horror stories that have you wanting to spend more time with the writer than the three or four pages a pop you’re given with each one.” – Kelly McClure, Bust Magazine


“In a reading that brought down the house at Busboys and Poets, Sterry’s rendition of “I Was a Birthday Present for an Eighty-Two-Year-Old Grandmother” was both incredibly funny and a fascinating anti-ageist commentary on the things we’re all afraid to ask for (namely, women asking for oral sex).” – Allison McCarthy, Womanist Musings


“Sterry and Martin have managed to bring together a crazy quilt of essays, and work the fabric of the anthology into a rich tapestry… Some of the narratives are polished and savvy, some are as hard and rough as drug addiction that dogs a body and soul. Others reveal a tarnished realism about the painful truths of being in the life. The most compelling are those which give voice to the most vulnerable, in the chapter written by sexually exploited youth. Helping Daddy Pay the Rent is a devastating indictment of societal neglect and despicable acts of parental desperation combust in one abused child that will tear at your heart… The writing is diverse and eclectic, a mirror into the nature of the industry itself. Sex workers with advanced academic degrees, porn stars and anonymous phone operators, exotic dancers in various states of gender and undress, have more in common than sex for money; they are united in their courage to tell their stories. They unabashedly relate their emotions, actions and reactions, in situations from victimization to domination, hunger to satiation; size twelve stiletto wearing cross dressers, full body massage providers, plaster casted exhibitionists all tell their tales in gripping first person I-live(d)-it-so-there’s-no-sugar-coating-it manner. Hearts, heads and other assorted body parts, seedy strip joints, broken down bars and spirits, upscale hotels and high rollers are exposed with unflinching candor and gritty authenticity, bringing to light the world of industrial sex workers.  This book is more than an interesting and affecting read. In its entirety, in its insistence that the gamut of personal histories about sex/money/power/frailty is a reflection of the human condition, it speaks to a broad audience. A bit of paraphrasing may serve to place the content in its most valuable context: Roman philosopher, Terence, said nothing in humanity can be alien to man; and renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung said that light is revealed by uncovering shadow. HHCG&RB presents the universality of ancient archetypal themes playing out in modern day scenes, and in doing so, uncovers shadow for all.”  –Barnes & Noble.com


“Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys is an extremely valuable and necessary book, not because it tells you what your perspective ought to be, but because it provides more perspectives than pretty much any other book on the topic. It covers more ground than I would have imagined possible. What I love is the fact that, for once, so many different voices are represented within the same space…I can’t help but feel that it should be required reading… precisely because it addresses, head-on, so many of the issues and schisms that have kept those conversations stalled for so long.” – Tiger Beatdown


“There’s something unique about being a member of the sex worker club, an instant camaraderie that bonds one to people who would otherwise be strangers, and this chemistry is something of which Sterry can’t get enough. You might be one of those people who doesn’t believe that sex workers are interesting. You may downright resent the cultural fascination with those who take money to titillate and masturbate strangers. Maybe you’re convinced that the only thing these men and women have going for them are passable looks and a wildly miscalibrated moral compass, and that paying attention to their déclassé life of the body glamorizes underachieving and turpitude.
If you belong to this camp, you probably don’t actually know any sex workers—at least none who would come out to you, and why would they? You’ve made up your mind about them already. You say things like: “Stripping is 1) a way to make a lot more cash than other “unskilled” service jobs [and] 2) incredibly degrading,” then add, “I’ve never been a stripper and I don’t know any strippers.” Never, for that matter, will you actually ever know anything about strippers, because they aren’t going to talk to you. Sex workers just don’t feel comfortable around you. But many do feel comfortable with David Henry Sterry, a former gigolo best known for his memoir Chicken, and what they share with him should convince even the grouchiest non-believers that sex workers are an engaging, unusual tribe. In Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys, Sterry and co-editor R.J. Martin have assembled an array of poems, interviews, and essays in a professed attempt to humanize sex workers. The mission is an admirable one, but raises the question of how many individuals who don’t already believe in sex workers’ humanity are going to pick up this hefty anthology. It also masks the true motivating energy behind the collection, which is Sterry’s exuberant love of his fellow pros and his desire to celebrate their histories and personalities. There’s something unique about being a member of the sex worker club, an instant camaraderie that bonds one to people who would otherwise be strangers, and this chemistry is something of which Sterry can’t get enough. He refers frequently to this sense of kinship and stresses the uncommonness of his access to such candid and diverse workers. (This bragging about connections ultimately seems a little silly, given that many of the book’s contributors are well-established go-to writers like Audacia Ray, Annie Sprinkle, and Xaviera Hollander.) Sterry’s enthusiasm also manifests as frequent, ill-advised introductions to pieces written by individuals whom he personally knows. As he details first meetings with contributors such as Surgeon and mochaluv, the focus is directed on himself rather than the person he’s touting, and it creates the impression that the writing itself isn’t good enough to hold one’s attention—that without knowing how beautiful Lorelei Lee or Carla Crandall or April Daisy White are, we won’t care about their essays. We do care, though, because in addition to being porn stars and prostitutes, many of these people are talented writers with strong voices and precise observations. They’re natural born storytellers who manage to encapsulate an aspect of their experiences in wonderfully succinct (Sebastian Horsley: “Brothels make possible encounters of extreme intimacy without the intervention of personality.”) and stark, unsentimental ways (Brenda: “I have been arrested eight times for prostitution. It messed up my life.”) Among the most effective pieces is Melissa Petro’s “Mariposa,” an essay on her time spent in Mexico as a white American stripper, an unforgettable script-flip of the highest order (our girls go there to make money?)  Candye Kane reminisces about her sweet and genuine childhood friendship with an exotic dancer, while Sadie Lune explores the decadent excitement that comes from self-consciously inhabiting the role of an archetypal whore. Sterry himself reflects on his session with an 82-year-old woman, an encounter he initially dreads but eventually delights in: ‘I am making this happen. I have such a sense of joy and satisfaction.’ The standout offering, however, is Juliana Piccillo’s “Vice,” an exploration of her relationship with an invasive and needy client that rendered her alternately gratified and repulsed. Piccillo relentlessly mines the conflicting emotions that come with clients who want to play the white knight, a common but relatively undiscussed topic in most sex worker literature. “His fatherly concern co-existed with his hard-on,” she writes. “He left me to reconcile this.” She also admits to coming unintentionally (and practically unwillingly) while working in a job that generally disgusts her, and not wanting to leave in spite of hating the routine—paradoxes that many prostitutes shy away from acknowledging. Some of these essays barely even explicitly address sex work, particularly those culled from SAGE (Standing Against Global Exploitation) workshops. The focus is instead on struggles with addiction, particularly clear and affecting memories, and current personal relationships. The inclusion of these selections may be the book’s greatest, albeit most subtle triumph. It serves as an invaluable reminder that hos and rent boys aren’t as prone to filtering their complex lives through the sieve of clients’ orgasms as are the civilians who debate about and condemn them.” – The Rumpus

Excerpts

Featured Books by David Henry Sterry

chicken-10-year-anniversary-cover-198x300 Master-ceremonies-cover-199x300 essential hos
johns mort HobbyistFinalPRINTCover5.375x8.25inchesCMYK300dpi confessions

Sex Worker Literati: Matthew Lawrence Comes Face-to-Face w/ a Mighty Mighty Cock

Sex Worker Literati: The Preacher & the Barker

Jesus, Big Dick, the Virgin Mary, & the Garden of Eden David Henry Sterry does a Preacher & a strip club barker battling for your soul & flesh.

 

Jodi Sh. Doff @ Sex Worker Literati on Hustling, Drugs & Death

Zoe Hansen Gets Fucked by a Trick @ Sex Worker Literati

X-madame Zoe Hansen makes love connection w/ trick who fucks her royally

Craig’s List, Whoring & Murder on Daily Beast

Article on Daily Beast about sex work, Craig’s List & murder

New York Times Love, Heartache and Hollywood, & a Wild Thing Dirty Dancing

As 2010 turns into a bent shriveled old man, and 2011 prepares to be contracted out of the universe’s uterus, I’m filled with a profound sense of gratitude and happiness that I am not yet dead. Yes, it’s true, 2010 saw George Bush and Justin Bieber join Paris Hilton in the rank of best-selling authors. But on the upside, South Africa put on a glorious World Cup this summer, and I think it was a great sign that the beautiful delicate artistry of Spain triumphed over the rape-pillage’n’plunderism of the barbaric Vikings. Plus, California didn’t drop off into the ocean, and Olive somehow turned 3. So for me, that’s a good year.

The Essential Guide Pitchapalooza Tour is now halfway done, and while we had some soul sucking lows (the DC bookstore didn’t even know we were coming, and had 0 of our books on hand), we were lucky enough to end on a note of Xtreme triumph. In Huntington, Long Island of all places.

NY TIMES PITCHAPALOOZA ARTICLE: http://bit.ly/gw99nh

Book Revue is a very good bookstore. It has an astounding bookseller/event coordinator named Julianne Wernersbach. She hooked us up with a feature article in Newsday before the event. And a beautiful little mini-doc.

PITCHAPALOOZA MINI-MOVIE -TRY NOT TO CRY http://bit.ly/f8hH2F

WHITE KNUCKLES, CRIME & PUNISHMENT, & TRIUMPH IN LONG ISLAND: http://bit.ly/dVzatz

Which is all very odd because we’ve now done Pitchapaloozas from Dayton to Denver, Pittsburgh to Portland, Manhattan to Miami, Seattle to Tempe, Clinton to Pasadena, and Cleveland to Hollywood.
#1: The Essential Guide Rocks America Tour Kicks Off: http://bit.ly/dbk39k
#2: 1st Stop Washington DC: the Borders Incident: http://bit.ly/cQ11fj
#3: NPR Love in DC: http://bit.ly/9bCUcl
#4: Pat Conroy & Scarlet O’Hara On the Road to Pittsburgh: http://bit.ly/aVBAH5
#5: Death @ the Bookstore – The Murder of Joseph-Beth: http://bit.ly/dpYTnj
#6: Miss Ida, Daryl & Olive Chillin in Steel Town http://bit.ly/aLZS22
#7: The Beauty of Loganberry Books & the Universe’s Lollipop http://bit.ly/abOTPR
#8: Dawn Cracks Early in Cleveland http://bit.ly/axLCDP
#9: Finding Happiness @ Books & Co & the Dayton Airport Blues http://bit.ly/cwd6lo
#10: Stuck in Dayton on the Day That Would Never End http://bit.ly/cfipH1
#11: B & N Manhattan Pitchapalooza on Publishers Perspective. http://bit.ly/bcHFaZ
#12: I Love LA! –Hollywood Disaster & the Jewish Men-Skirt http://bit.ly/9Ci5dB
#13: Vromans Versus Dancing with the Stars, Riding a Dinosaur, & a Minnie Mouse Who Needs $ http://bit.ly/bXYdQ8
#14: Coming Home to Portland, Autumn Leaves, and Packing Them in at Powell’s http://bit.ly/fs326Q
#15: Seattle: Mexican Prisons, Sea-Salted Pate & Losing Your Innocence to Jimmy Carter http://bit.ly/fZKSiG
#16 Phoenix: Irving Berlin, Women Who Run With Wolves and a Random Act of Kindness http://bit.ly/gJRp0R
#17: Miami Book Festival: Versailles, Cheesecake Popsicles, and Sexo PARA Dummies http://bit.ly/dZsInz

We also did our first live Twitter event. Here it is on Huffington Post:

POPPING MY CYBER CHERRY ON TWITTER: http://bit.ly/dUtYck

We feel blessed to have met so many madly passionate writers and bravura booksellers. Already many of the writers who pitched to us are being wooed by agents and editors, which excites us no end. Because we are the Book Doctors, making books that are better one author at the time. We’re starting again on January 5. Here’s our schedule.

If you know of any group, association or venue with writers who’d like help getting successfully published, send them our way. We’re also offering this holiday special. For you, or as a gift for any writer you know, get a free consultation with the purchase of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Either do it through our website and send us e-mail verification. Or call: 310-463-2068. Operators are standing by.

FREE $100 BOOK DOCTORS CONSULTATION W/ PURCHASE OF BOOK: http://www.thebookdoctors.com/buy-the-book/

SEX WORKER LITERATI: ZOE HANSEN’S HO HO HO HOLIDAY PARTY: http://on.fb.me/fA5lul.

Links for your viewing pleasure:
ROSABELLE SELAVY: WILD THING DIRTY DANCES http://bit.ly/i367iz
AIMEE DELONG: FANTASY BOOTH CHICK & MILITARY DUDE W/ GLOWSTICK UP HIS ASS http://bit.ly/f5HzO8
SCOTT UPPER: THE LONGEST HOUR EVER, TICKLING & THE TRICK’S MOM http://bit.ly/hysLrE
PUMA PERL & BIG MIKE: SCISSORS, CUTTING & WHORING http://bit.ly/eErCPO
DAVID HENRY STERRY: PAINFUL SEX@MY FIRST ORGY http://bit.ly/f7qBCt

Bonus material:
ME TALKING ABOUT SOCCER ON NPR. http://bit.ly/esGJrr

I hope everyone has a Happy Holiday, and a ravishing New Year. May all your dreams come true in 2011. xox D

Painful Sex @ My First Orgy from Chicken @ Sex Worker Literati

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“My Favorite Book: Chicken”

I’m an avid reader, but when trying to figure out something suitable for my favorite book entry, I had to think of something that I can read over and over again. My book shelf is overflowing with books that I love, and some of them I’ve read more than once. But most books, I read once, love, and then never read again. Other books I read, and then re-read some years later. But this book I’ve probably read a dozen times. This is the book I generally re-read when I run out of things to read.

It’s called (long title) Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, by David Henry Sterry. I don’t even remember how I came across this book. I don’t know if I bought it or it was given to me, but I know that I’ve never loaned it to anyone or sold it, because I just can’t part with it. Around the time I came across it, I was probably 19 or 20, and I only wanted to read edgy things, whatever that means.

It’s about a guy that moves to Hollywood to go to college and gets caught up in the world of male escort services. It’s not as bad as it sounds, really. It’s hilarious. The sarcasm written into the pages is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever read. Every single chapter makes me laugh out loud. The characters are unique, and each one of them has their own quirk.

The best part? It’s non-fiction. I highly recommend it for a good laugh, and just a good read.

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

http://www.luuux.com/entertainment/day-4-my-favorite-book

 

Time Out NY: The Perfect Sunday, Nov 28: Whitney, Blue Note & Sex Worker LIterati

Time Out NY

Give a nice shout-out: The Perfect Sunday Nove 28: go to the park, the Whitney, a Broadway show, the Blue Note, & Sex Worker Literati, @ Bowery Poetry Club, 7pm.

Time Out Gives Love to Sex Worker Literati – Sun Nov 28, 7 pm BPC

http://newyork.timeout.com/arts-culture/books/593721/sex-worker-literati

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I said.  Yes.

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

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

Hawk Kincaid, ex-Rent Boy, Spits Fierce @ Sex Worker Literati

Anne Hanavan & the Cop/Pig Who Tried to Do Her (w/ Artporn)

How I Became a Whore @ Sex Worker Literati

Melissa Petro Deserves Your Love

Here’s an interview I did on Fox yesterday about my friend Melissa Petro.  She is a smart, responsible, talented, capable young woman who’s being shamed and vilified for writing about her time as a sex worker.  Let’s stand by her and let the world know that sex workers are not monsters who can’t teach kids, or be anything they want to be.  Listen how much hate is heaped upon her by the “psychologist” and the “mommy”.  Shameful.

http://bit.ly/c93mz4

Robot Heart Anthology Reading Tuesday, June 15

Love, romance, sex and the internet collide in this cool new anthology, co-edited by most excellent chicks Shawna Kenney & Cara Bruce. I will be reading my story about classic Craig’slist bait & switch smackdown on your truly.

Madame X: Tues, June 15, 7:30 pm, 94 W. Houston

http://shawnakenney.com/events-appearances/

Eulogy for Milo

 

May brought the first summer day in 2010, when it’s so hot you sweat just breathing, and the streets shimmer in protest. As we were broiling in the car struggling in the parking lot that was Rt. 3E just outside the Lincoln Tunnel, I was overcome with the hubris of we humans, chanting like ravenous jackals, “Drill, baby, drill!” And I imagined Mother Nature shaking her head in disgust as the latest national unnatural disaster is unleashed. I’m just so angry when I see the pictures and contemplate the massive clusterfuck gushing into the Gulf Coast waters. But then Olive started singing, “American Pie” from the back seat, and I had hope again. Olive is 2 ½. Not 2. 2 ½. May be a most excellent mother. The new book drops on May 4. Doing event at my favorite local bookstore, Watchung Bookstore. And of course another month brings another Sex Worker Literati.

My Interview with Violet Blue, Sex Brain Extraordinaire on Being an Industrial Sex Technician

I was just going through my back pages on my website, I found this very cool link to an interview. I’m not sure if I posted this here yet, but this is by Violet Blue. I shared a bed with her and San Francisco during Lit Quake. As part of a night of erotica at which I was the master of ceremonies. She was extremely saucy and extravagantly smart. Then I was recently in Richmond Virginia doing a gig with the James Valley Writing Group, Slash, and Valley Haggard, I was in my hotel room I turned on the TV, and BOOM! There was Violet Blue on Oprah, being all smart and sexy.

http://www.tinynibbles.com/blogarchives/2009/11/the-industrial-sex-technician-an-interview-with-david-henry-sterry.html

violetblue

NY Times Book Review: Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys

HosHookersHos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys featured on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  Written by Toni Bentley. To buy the book click here.

“An eye-opening, occasionally astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny collection from those who really have lived on the edge in a parallel universe…unpretentious and riveting — but don’t worry, their tales are also graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper…”

“Lele,” a piece by Jodi Sh. Doff, who “grew up in the suburbs as someone else entirely,” recalls Henry Miller’s in-your-face exposition. She tells of a night at Diamond Lil’s on Canal Street, where “Viva’s sitting onstage, legs spread wide.” While her customer is buried and busy, she holds a cigarette in one hand, a drink in the other, and chitchats with a girlfriend about another girlfriend. “Every two minutes or so Viva taps him on the head and he hands her a 20 from a stack of bills he’s holding, never looking up.” We see in this wonderful set piece the whole money/sex connection enacted with raw charm and an immediacy that reaches far beyond this strip club, as the man’s stack of 20s, one by one, becomes hers. Multitasking Viva holds them “folded lengthwise in her cigarette hand.”

“Very brave, very moving.”

“This collection is a wonderful reminder that good writing is not about knowing words, grammar or Faulkner, but having that rare ability to tell the truth, an ability that education and sophistication often serve to conceal. While we are all, I suppose, in the business of surviving, some really are surviving more notably than others. The collective cry for identity found in this unsentimental compilation will resonate deeply — even, I suspect, with those among us who pretend not to pay for sex.”

 

 

 

NY Times raves on Hos, Hookers

hos cover JPEGNew York Times review has hit the streets for Hos, Hookers, Call Girls & Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money & Sex, I am ecstatic about this truly min boggling turn of events and want to thank the amazing contributors and everyone who helped w/ special shout out to my boy RJ Martin who partnered w/ me on this labor of life which has given birth to such a flourishing child. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/books/review/Bentley-t.html?em

“An eye-opening, astonishing, honest and funny collection from those who really have lived on the edge in a parallel universe… Unpretentious and riveting, their tales are also graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper.” Toni Brantley, NY Times

Ho’s Hookers, Call Girls & Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money & Sex

HO’S, HOOKERS, CALL GIRLS & RENT BOYS:
PROFESSIONALS WRITING ON LIFE, LOVE, MONEY & SEX
AVAILABLE ONLINE & AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE

The miracle is manifest.  The anthology has hit the streets.  Half a decade in the making, this love’s labor, the product of so much blood, sweat, tears and other assorted body fluids, has finally traveled down the birth canal, and has been delivered by an able-bodied team of midwives, editors, dulas, copy editors, birth coaches, art directors and sweaty worried nerve-wracked family and relatives.  Below please find information about the website and events.  Many thanks to all involved.  We are very proud of this book.

HosHookersSmash Review on cover of Sunday New York Time Book Review.

“An eye-opening, astonishing, honest and funny collection from those who really have lived on the edge in a parallel universe… Unpretentious and riveting, their tales are also graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper.” Toni Brantley, NY Times

REVIEW FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“The sprawling project, grouped loosely by topic (Life, Love, Money, Sex, etc.), offers insight into seemingly all aspects of the sex trade: high-profile celebrities like Xaviera “Happy Hooker” Hollander and Nina Hartley make notable contributors, but it’s the unknown writers who will stick. The selections from the book’s closing section alone, written by members of Sterry’s San Francisco writer’s workshop for sex workers, range from triumphant to harrowing… Aside from exposing the complex web of relationships among phone sex operators, dancers, massage parlor workers, prostitutes and their customers, the book is heavy with raw emotions ranging from celebratory to shameful, giving sociologists plenty to ponder. It’s not all dark and heavy: Sterry’s own account of his experience as a birthday present for an 82-year-old grandmother is touching and sentimental; veteran performer Annie Sprinkle is characteristically blunt, funny and honest… This volume houses some real gems.”

Hos, Hookers, Callgirls, and Rentboys is a collection of short memoirs, whore war stories, confessions, nightmares, journalism and poetry.  It contains new writing from sex worker literati: art-porn priestess Dr. Annie Sprinkle; the infamous Happy Hooker, Xaviera Hollander; author and LGBT activist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore; star of The Devil in Miss Jones, Georgina Spelvin; best-selling memoirist David Henry Sterry and sex educator/movie star Nina Hartley. But it also includes crack hos, male hustlers, pimps and the teenagers they exploit.  Funny, terrifying, tragic and inspiring, this collection of oral history, short memoirs, war stories, confessions, nightmares, social criticism and poetry is unprecedented because it includes people from all walks of the sex for money world.

From back-alley Tenderloin massage parlors, to glittering Beverly Hills hotels, to Times Square porn palaces, to the meanest streets in Harlem, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys is a collage of sex and money, shining light on this hidden underbelly of America, from sea to shining sea.

NY Press – 8/11/09

“The prose in this volume is fresh and the tales are both heart-rending and hilarious, sometimes simultaneously… What’s most striking about the volume is how relevant these intimate and detailed chronicles are for any reader, whether they’ve sold their bodies or just their souls. It’s not just about sex.”

Tiger Beatdown 8/26/09

“Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys is an extremely valuable and necessary book, not because it tells you what your perspective ought to be, but because it provides more perspectives than pretty much any other book on the topic… hilarious… Sexy and sunny pieces (the sunniest, actually, often come from Sterry himself) coexist with downright harrowing narratives; sex workers who choose the work freely and love doing it are represented, as are sex workers who were forced to do the work and suffered immensely. The book is free of any agenda but a commitment to giving voice to sex workers.”

The Rumpus 8/26/09

“In addition to being porn stars and prostitutes, many of these people are talented writers with strong voices and precise observations. They’re natural born storytellers who manage to encapsulate an aspect of their experiences in wonderfully succinct (Sebastian Horsley: “Brothels make possible encounters of extreme intimacy without the intervention of personality.”) and stark, unsentimental ways (Brenda: “I have been arrested eight times for prostitution. It messed up my life.”)

Daily Beast – 9/12/09

“The book never feels like a naïve glamorization of the industry. ‘Ultimately, the stories in Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys are all about money, says Sterry. ‘In our culture, happiness means money, a big house, and an expensive car. So when I, as a 17 year old, could make $100 by pleasing an 82-year old woman, that to me was a great American success.’

Style – 9/15/09 

“Taboo, clever, wrenching and compulsively readable, you’ll be stripped of your stereotypes between the covers of this book.”

Antalffy Tibor honlapja 9/27/09

“Rögtön a hívás után a fejemben megjelent egy szörnyű kép: egy ráncos, löttyedt, aszott nagymama átlátszó hálóingben közvetlenül előttem áll, és az én szegény, picurka péniszem egy élettelen, használhatatlan, húsdarab ott lógott a lábaim között, és a pénzt vissza kellett adnom, miközben szégyenemben el akartam bújni a szőnyeg alá, mert a nemi szervem brutális cserbenhagyása megszégyenítő volt. És ez a kép egészen addig nem múlt el, amíg az előkelő Swank Swish szálloda megadott ajtaján be nem kopogtam.”

Revista Fuscia

“Hace poco me encontré un libro realmente sorprendente, que trata de historias de profesionales del sexo. Se llama Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys, en español sería Putas, prostitutas y muchachos para arrendar. Se podría argumentar que para qué pierde uno el tiempo leyendo libros basura, pero la verdad es que desde el punto de vista de las relaciones humanas, es un texto muy interesante, a veces brutalmente honesto, pero también con sentido de humor.”

Acik Radyo

“Kitabın adı  Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, And Rent Boys, Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money, and Sex. Yani Kevaşeler, Orospular, Telekızlar ve Kiralık Oğlanlar, Profesyoneller Hayat, Aşk, Para ve Seks Üzerine Yazıyor. Yepyeni bir kitap bu, temmuz ayında Amerika’da Soft Skull Press tarafından yayımlanmış. Kitabın elimize geçiş hikâyesi ayrı ilginç. Mahallenin Fahriye Ablası’nın bir kıyağı bize diyelim teferruata girmeden ve hemen kitaba dönelim.”

Bust 10/06/09

“The first hand accounts, interviews, and poems featured in this book are so well written and organized, that the fact that they all center around the exchanging of sex for money falls into the background, and what’s left is an intimate offering of on-the-job gossip and late night horror stories that have you wanting to spend more time with the writer than the three or four pages a pop you’re given with each one.”

SF Weekly – 7/25/09 “This kaleidoscopic portrait of sex work in America is all the more striking for its breadth.”

Book Marks 11/30/09

“Sassy, sexy and certainly informed essays by sex workers. the oral histories by hos and hookers that conclude this collection – funny and tragic, matter-of fact and terrifying – give the book its authentic heft.”

NoPornNorthampton 11/17/09

“This fascinating anthology of personal essays by current and former sex workers gives readers a glimpse into the complex emotions of those who make a living selling intimacy… Fascinating, moving and darkly funny… humor, tenderness, pain, and aggression… unexpectedly sweet… it’s a great read.”

The Skinny 11/23/09

“From the big screen to the street, phone sex to stripping, and incalls to escorting… they’ve experienced sex work as an empowered choice, as a living hell, as a drug-fuelled necessity. They cover migration, burnout, criminalisation, violence, keeping secrets, coming out to family, and interactions with clients and colleagues.  It delves deep and illustrate the complexities of the writers’ experiences. Alternately eye-opening, funny, moving, and devastating, this book should be required reading for those who still think any kind of sex worker is ‘representative’.”

Womanist Musings 11/24/09

“The book unflinchingly represents the voices of survivors of pimping, rape, abuse, thrust upon those who are forced into the sex industry.  Editor David Henry Sterry has successfully etched out a safe space for these survivors’ sharp, sensitive prose… In a reading that brought down the house at Busboys and Poets, Sterry’s rendition of “I Was a Birthday Present for an Eighty-Two-Year-Old Grandmother” was both incredibly funny and a fascinating anti-ageist commentary on the things we’re all afraid to ask for.  I sat in the audience, enraptured by Sterry’s uncanny vocal impressions and gesticulating… Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys is a must-read for anyone who wants to experience first-hand the voices of contemporary sex workers.”

Meet, Pay, Love

hos hookers cover-500

By TONI BENTLEY

Published: August 20, 2009

Money and sex. Sex and money. Sounds dirty already. Is it the money that makes the sex dirty? Or the sex that makes the money dirty? Or, rather, the puritan strain that says they’re both dirty? How sexy! I mean, how inappropriate! And yet here we are again and again . . . and again. It’s former Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York spending $80,000 on escorts, the parents (the parents!) of Senator John Ensign of Nevada distributing $96,000 to their son’s mistress and her family, Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina using taxpayer dollars to visit his South American “soul mate” and the $4 million rock on Kobe Bryant’s wife’s finger after his adulterous mishap. Money to get the sex, and money to make it go away.

If you are thinking this dynamic pairing is only for public figures, just contemplate your own divorce, past, present or future. And yet, still, it is taboo to regard sex and money as inextricably interwoven, to openly speak of them together. Why is sex supposed to be free? It never is. Ask anyone. Like Sebastian Horsley, England’s low-rent Oscar Wilde. “The difference between sex for money and sex for free,” he writes, “is that sex for money always costs a lot less.” Money is the elephant in every bedroom, making your parents’ constant presence look positively bourgeois.

But the connection is seeping into the mainstream. Witness Steven Soderbergh’s recent film, “The Girlfriend Experience,” which is about an expensive call girl and stars the real-life porn star Sasha Grey, and the new HBO series “Hung,” about a nice middle-aged dad who becomes a gigolo. The show, however, plays it safe, making him a financially strapped, reluctant gigolo and not, God forbid, a lusty one. Here, ironically, sex for money is more decent than sex for pleasure.

But if you want to know the real price of pleasure, ask the strippers, streetwalkers, Craigslist prostitutes, phone-sex operators, madams, pimps, drug addicts, porn stars and “performance artists” who offer themselves up in “Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys,” a collection of essays, vignettes, rants and poems, edited by David Henry Sterry (who wrote the very good 2002 memoir “Chicken,” about his life as a young hustler) and R. J. Martin Jr., the director of development for the SAGE Project (Standing Against Global Exploitation) in San Francisco, which offers support of all kinds for sex workers. While good girls require dinner, trips, “commitment” or even an engagement ring for sex, here is a book by those who simply get the cash upfront.

From the unappealing title, you might think this is a truly trashy paperback. Far from it: it’s an eye-opening, occasionally astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny collection from those who really have lived on the edge in a parallel universe. Their writing is, in most cases, unpolished, unpretentious and riveting — but don’t worry, their tales are also graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper.

There are some well-known names here. Xaviera Hollander informs us that “it’s much harder to be a writer than a hooker,” and the ever-sprightly Annie Sprinkle gives “40 reasons why whores are my ­heroes” and then asks, “Do you have what it takes to be a whore?” Probably not. (Easier to be a writer, I think.) But the joyous glibness displayed by Hollander and Sprinkle is nowhere to be found in the best of the entries.

“Lele,” a piece by Jodi Sh. Doff, who “grew up in the suburbs as someone else entirely,” recalls Henry Miller’s in-your-face exposition. She tells of a night at Diamond Lil’s on Canal Street, where “Viva’s sitting onstage, legs spread wide.” While her customer is buried and busy, she holds a cigarette in one hand, a drink in the other, and chitchats with a girlfriend about another girlfriend. “Every two minutes or so Viva taps him on the head and he hands her a 20 from a stack of bills he’s holding, never looking up.” We see in this wonderful set piece the whole money/sex connection enacted with raw charm and an immediacy that reaches far beyond this strip club, as the man’s stack of 20s, one by one, becomes hers. Multitasking Viva holds them “folded lengthwise in her cigarette hand.”

Audacia Ray, who now teaches human sexuality at Rutgers University, certainly earned her degree out in the field, having at one point paired up with a woman named Lily as a massage team offering happy endings. “Money got us hot and bothered,” she writes, and one evening, after Lily cashed a disability check from the federal government for $10,000 (she had no bank account, of course), she poured the money — “mostly $20 bills” — onto the bed. They shut off their phones, bathed together, got “very, very high” and then rolled around “naked in the cash. . . . Even now, when I think of the hottest sex we had, I think about currency stuck to her flesh.” Now there’s an image to promote the beneficence of Uncle Sam.

One online dominatrix, Sadie Lune, pooh-poohs all the knowing talk of the “natural power” of a domme making a “proud man” stoop — you know, the lawyer, doctor or judge who wants to clean toilets on a leash. “What we talk about, often off the Internet and out of leather, is the power of money. . . . More often than not the money tops the scene. . . . Money demands slow heavy bondage when all we feel like is smacking a grateful subject around. . . . The biggest trick is really coming to terms with the fact that money is the boss’s boss.” So which is more powerful, money or sex? I forgot.

There’s plenty of useful information in this book for those of you planning a little adultery or prostitution, or even just some old-fashioned phone sex. Lilycat describes the protocol of “Feed Me the Line”: “We couldn’t use any sexually explicit words or phrases till the caller used them first. . . . And strangely enough, getting a very horny man to talk dirty to you isn’t as easy as it seems.” The women were permitted to use medical names for body parts, but “Baby, I would like to do something pleasurable with your penis” was not — surprise, surprise — what the client wanted to hear (though it’s all you’ll get in this review). If the caller refused to talk dirty first, moaning was the fallback, and Lilycat reports the little-known fact that “if you moan for long enough you can become lightheaded and almost pass out” — “so baby, use your dirty, dirty words” and help the lady out.

The most devastating section of the book — its broken heart, its guts on the page — is found in a few horrifying stories that came out of a writing workshop Sterry gave for severely abused young women. For example, Jessica Bertucci writes about her “weekend visit with my dad”: “I begged my mom not to take me but she did anyways. Oh, by the way, my dad raped me when I was 2 years old.” After being blindfolded in a room with her father’s drinking, crack-smoking buddy, she heard her dad “whispering in my ear, ‘Don’t be scared, you’re helping Daddy pay the rent.’ Oh, by the way, I was 9 years old.”

Sterry, as editor, inserts himself considerably more than necessary, introducing many of the writers in such relentlessly lengthy and glowing terms as to patronize them. On the other hand, the actual bios for the contributors make for provocative reading and can leave one feeling like an unadventurous slacker. Berta Avila, “a Chicana from El Segundo Barrio of El Paso,” is now a translator but has been an “exotic dancer, escort service worker, brothel worker, waitress, medical-legal assistant and instructional assistant for elementary-school children.” Zoe Hansen “achieved stability through methadone maintenance and felt it was time to open her own brothel, Sterling Ladies, which was on Park Avenue and 21st Street. It was the first of five brothels she opened during the next three years.” (I’m starting to get a brothel-opening feeling myself.) Carol Queen “got a Ph.D. in sexology so she could impart more realistic detail to her smut.” (Dr. Queen writes about her “oral clairsentience,” but I can’t explain here.) While many, perhaps most, of these writers use pseudonyms, they are everything but anonymous.

Kirk Read tells the magnificent story of Ray, a rich, hairy, middle-aged Texan, who hired Read to be his witness as he methodically enclosed his entire body in numerous “stretchable layers, one upon another.” With the final touches of “gold gloves that reached up past his biceps” and a black spandex hood, “he turned and faced me, holding his hands up into the air like a victorious Mexican wrestler. Humble. Brave.” Very brave, very moving. The scene, in its inherent perversity, has the feel of a crucible, a kind of spandex crucifixion bestowing grace on one who has the courage to go “to the underworld” and find “erotic freedom by any means necessary.” The two men shook hands, the only time they touched, and parted ways, an encounter with more tenderness and dignity than many a marital one.

This collection is a wonderful reminder that good writing is not about knowing words, grammar or Faulkner, but having that rare ability to tell the truth, an ability that education and sophistication often serve to conceal. While we are all, I suppose, in the business of surviving, some really are surviving more notably than others. The collective cry for identity found in this unsentimental compilation will resonate deeply — even, I suspect, with those among us who pretend not to pay for sex.

Toni Bentley danced with New York City Ballet for 10 years and is the author of five books, including “Winter Season: A Dancer’s Journal” and “Sisters of Salome.” She is working on a book about Balanchine’s ballet “Serenade.”

 

 

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent

Chicken CoverBuy the book.

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

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

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

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

*Proof of purchase required. Must pass brief quiz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHICKEN: THE SHOW

#1 Play in Great Britain. -The Independent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Prostitution in America

Prostitution must be legalized. No one should do this work if they’re under-age. No one should be forced to do this work. That’s slavery. But if a grown-up feels their best career opportunity is in the sex industry, it should be their right to pursue that line of work.

Many well-educated, well-intentioned people have told me that it’s in a woman’s best interest for prostitution to be illegal, because legalizing it condones and legitimizes it. Few of these people have ever worked in the sex industry. And those who have seem to confuse slavery with real sex work.

The one thing criminalizing prostitution does is insure that women who do sex for money will be punished. Because it makes them into criminals. So many poor, hungry, undereducated, unskilled, ill-equipped women are being punished every day in every city of America. By johns, by pimps, by cops.

Prohibition does not work. We proved that already in our country in the thirties with alcohol. The results were disastrous. Criminalizing sex work puts the business into the paws of both organized and unorganized crime. If sex work was licensed and controlled by a woman-staffed organization that aggressively protected the rights of sex workers, perhaps they wouldn’t be stabbed, shot, raped, harassed, jailed and forced to give freebies to every cop with an attitude. With tax revenue generated from the sex industry, scholarship and trade education programs could be set up for sex workers, in addition to health, drug, and career counseling.

Some sex workers have been sexually abused. By a parent, an uncle, a cousin, or a total stranger. An abuse survivor needs help to break the patterns this abuse produces. Needs help overcoming the damage abuse does to the brain. Many sex workers want help, and there is no one to help them. But some don’t. And that is their right.

But some sex workers have not been abused. They come to the work because they have made a cool, calm, rational decision. And that is their right in America. Many professions are high risk. But if someone wants run into a burning building for a living, that is their right. And of course no one has the right to force anyone to be a fireman.

If your options are to make four dollars an hour flipping burgers, or $500 a day turning tricks, suddenly selling your sex doesn’t seem quite so unreasonable.

In a utopian society everyone would get all the love and sex they want and need. There would be enough love to go around for everyone. People would express their love freely in all kinds of intercourse, not just sexual. There would be interesting and profitable work for everyone. There would be no bigotry, no orphans, no sexually abused children.

But we do not live in a utopia. We live in America. There’s always been a sex industry in America. And business is booming, even as we speak.

Because we live in a society that represses natural sexuality, we make sex working a heinous act. If a person has skill at sex, and they don’t feel guilty or suffer from it, why isn’t their skill as valued as any other essential skill, like building a house, or talking someone down from the ledge?

Instead of burying our heads in the sands of utopianism, or condemning sex workers and customers who want to honestly exchange sex for money, we must protect the valiant men and women of the sex business. Monitor the industry to eliminate violence and decease. Tax it and use the money to help educate, enlighten, and train sex workers.

Prostitution must be legalized.

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

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

— Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

To see more & buy book, click here.

The San Francisco Weekly on Chicken: “Humor, energy, & a sharp eye

sfweekly.jpg“Sterry tells a sad and harrowing story with humor, energy, and a sharp eye for the sort of characters an ‘industrial sex technician’ might meet in the weird aftermath of the ‘60s.”

— Michael Scott Moore, The San Francisco Weekly (Theater section)

 

To buy Chicken, click here.

chicken 10 year anniversary cover

 

The San Francisco Examiner on Chicken: “A Rare Pleasure”

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“Experiencing [Sterry’s] natural ear for rhythm and timing, we are reminded of what a rare pleasure it is to see a writer perform his own work. Much like beat poetry, Sterry’s carefully crafted, simple language infuses mundane situations with dream-like profundity…Sterry’s portrayal of his 17-year-old self is immediately honest and believable. In fact, the character’s insecure teenage naiveté juxtaposed with Sterry’s masterful control of poetic dialogue is what balances the show…Sterry remarkably creates and portrays his characters.”

— Emily Klein, The San Francisco Examiner

To buy Chicken click here.

The San Francisco Chronicle Reviews Chicken, the 1-Ho Show

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“Poignant, humorous…a rare pleasure…funny, moving and original…an exceptional, comically idiosyncratic and revealingly honest look at life in difficult times…Much of the material in the 85-minute one-act is hilarious…Sterry is a sharp comic, using his limber body and versatile voice to create memorably funny portraits of the hungry, lonely, wealthy women who employ his services…Sterry needs no other prop than a wooden bench to get full comic mileage out of the ludicrousness of sex in some wonderfully varied and graphic guises. But what sets “Chicken” apart and gives it depth is the hard, sad reality beneath its Rabelaisian humor…[“Chicken”] is richly entertaining and thought-provoking… [It] speaks cleverly and provocatively to anyone who’s ever been or had a child.”

— Robert Hurwitt, Head Theater Critic to The San Francisco Chronicle

To buy the book on Amazon.  To buy the book on Indiebound.

Chicken Review: “Dark wit and considerable compassion… wickedly funny, baroque”

“Jawdropping… Even as confessional memoirs go, David Sterry’s Chicken stands out from the rest. Alternately farcical, grotesque, brutal and sad… A carefully crafted piece of work… Gives the famous encounter between Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini in “Blue Velvet” a run for its money.”

“Dark wit and considerable compassion… wickedly funny, baroque… sadly, even touchingly human, thanks to Sterry’s matter-of-fact empathy for his disturbed customers… Chicken gets its soul from Sterry’s nuanced portrait of his growing anguish as the work takes him to increasingly scary places, physically and emotionally.”

— Wendy Smith, Amazon

To see more & buy Chicken click here.

chicken 10 year anniversary cover

Spectator Magazine Dr. Carol Queen on Chicken: “Super-readable roller coaster”all

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“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

To buy Chicken click here.

chicken 10 year anniversary cover

The San Francisco Bay Guardian Reviews Chicken

San Francisco Bay Guardian[A] refreshingly affectionate portrayal of a naïve young man’s first taste of Los Angeles in mid 1970s…Sterry expertly and economically brings the parade of pimps, nuns, debutantes, rapists, and sexual deviants who populate his past to life…he attacks his evocative prose like a grizzled beatnik poet hitting a home run.

— The San Francisco Bay Guardian

To buy: Indiebound.  Amazon.

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