Friday, July 31, 2015

Confessions of a Rent Boy

My first two years of college, I got ordinary jobs during the summer. I washed dishes and worked in a tire factory. I was a parking lot attendant. I broke apart huge sheets of buttons bearing inscriptions like Make Love, Not War in anticipation of their big offered for sale in head shops. My drug-dealing was not nearly so prolific as that of others of my acquaintance, having consisted solely of my selling for $20 a large bag of magic mushrooms a wild-eyed young man had given me for no reason on Topanga Beach one afternoon. As my junior year came to a close, I began applying for jobs advertised at that on-campus placement center, only to discover that most prospective employers wanted hair much shorter than mine had become. The closest I got to being hired was by a company called Starving Young Artists, for whom I would have pretended to have created the ghastly works of purported art they were in the business of selling at swap meets. The guy doing the hiring didn’t find me sufficiently outgoing (the sidewalk was probably more outgoing), but I’d been pretty iffy about hoodwinking feckless art-lovers anyway.

 Needing money, having time on my hands, and being young, unlined, and maybe a little bit gorgeous, I decided that I would spend the summer being a male prostitute. I bought myself a black fishnet T-shirt at a boutique of ill repute on Hollywood Blvd. and set about trying to determine the best place to loiter seductively. It turned out that I didn’t need to go very far, only into the center of the commercial district adjacent to the campus on which I would spend one last year.

I tried standing around in front of the Argosy Bookstore in my new T-shirt. Some of the mangy student activist types who patronized it looked at me askance, as they presumably thought I was betraying The Revolution, but I paid them no never-mind. I’d been there only about 20 minutes before an academic (you could tell from the faux leather patches on the elbows of his corduroy sports jacket) in a Volvo with a Free Angela Davis bumpersticker leaned toward his opened passenger window to ask if he could give me a lift somewhere. “By that,” I asked saucily, “do you mean you wish to interact with me erotically?” He gulped self-incriminatingly. I said, “Twenty-five bucks,” and got into the car when he didn’t say no. I told him he had beautiful eyes, though they were brown and pretty ordinary (and, judging from his wire-rim “John Lennon” glasses, weak), and Klute, starring Jane Fonda as a call girl who tells her johns they have beautiful eyes, wasn’t yet even in pre-production.

He drove us over to a quiet stretch of Veteran Avenue, on the edge of the big Veterans Administration cemetery that I’d always enjoyed being driven by as a child on days when the thousands of indentical white headstones were decorated with miniature American flags. He fellated me. I didn’t enjoy it as much as when my girlfriends had done it, even though I think a couple of my girlfriends had been novices, and correspondingly underskilled. One doesn’t want to feel teeth.

Was I embarrassed? Of course I was. Homophobia was virtually unchallenged in those days, and I was a product of my culture. In the Sex in Prison {sociology) class I’d taken two semesters back, the professor had mentioned that so-called pitcher (as opposed to catcher, you see) convicts didn’t perceive themselves as “queer” by virtue of having played traditionally male roles. I took some solace in remembering that, and even more in the $25, which in 2015 would be worth $2763.29.

I actually made more money that summer, adjusting for inflation, than I would again until my late 40s, when I would make a fortune selling arms to various foreign enemies of Our American Way of Life. One of my regular “tricks” (I and the two lapsed sorority sisters whose turf was in front of the Laemmle Theatre quickly learned the colorful patrois of our summer jobs.) had actually been a teaching assistant in Introduction to Astronomy, which, not realizing it was physics in disguise, I’d taken as a freshman to get my science requirement out of the way. He didn’t recognize me, and speculated that he probably would have had I worn to class my black fishnet muscle shirt, not that I'd had any muscles to speak of at the time [the above photo is of my roommate, Vince]. English rock musicians had made emaciation very stylish, and gyms were still the nearly exclusive province of homosexuals hoping to be invited to pose for “muscle culture” magazines.

I had my reputation to think of.

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