Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Today is the second anniversary of the hardcover publication of my memoir, ALL I COULD BARE: MY LIFE IN THE STRIP CLUBS OF GAY WASHINGTON, D.C. It's story of how I worked as a stripper when I was in graduate school and how the experience shaped the rest of my life and career. The publication of the book truly transformed my life. As with every other major thing I've done in my career--pick up a camera; write my first book, LUTHER: THE LIFE AND LONGING OF LUTHER VANDROSS; and too many other embarrassing things to mention--my primary motivation was to win the attention of a special guy. But so many cool things have happened to me since the book has been out that I don't even think about that guy anymore, or at least not 24/7.
Here's a list of my favorite ALL I COULD BARE-related moments, experiences, and achievements of the past two years:
* HEARING FROM READERS
My favorite thing is to hear from people who've read the book, especially if they liked it-LOL. I save every email that I get from readers.
There was one that I received last year that really moved me. It read:
Just finished reading your book; couldn't put it down. In NYC I was a regular customer for years at the Gaiety Theater on 46th & Broadway ...Your book helped me to understand why I was a regular customer and helped me understand the boys a lot better. A few of them I even developed a kind of relationship with and as such cherish those memories. Your book made me feel less like a loser or lost soul. Thanks for writing it.
This note meant so much to me--and I even tear up while cutting-and-pasting it--because it reflects another of the main reasons why I wrote the book. I've spent a lot of my adult life in strip clubs--working and watching--and I wanted to tell a story that helped to humanize these places and one that would help me feel like less of a loser or lost soul myself. This email suggested that I had been successful in communicating that message.
* HEARING THAT RANDOM STRIPPERS & PORN STARS HAVE READ THE BOOK
It's always great when I run into a stripper or a porn star who he tells me that he's read my book. I immediately think it's an Ashton Kutcher "Punk'd" moment, but then I'm like, who'd bother to punk me? It's especially awesome when it's a stripper or porn star who I think is cute. (What's up @cameronmarshall? You can follow my crush on Cameron here. )
* HEARING THAT MY BOOK MAKES STRAIGHT WOMEN HORNY
This was unintentional, but I get this a lot . (I think it's all the talk about dick.) My dream is for a straight couple to make a baby because of the book. (I'd be like the literary Luther Vandross.) It'd be extra special if they named "it"--could be a boy or girl, for all I care--Craig.
* ALL THE FACEBOOK & TWITTER FRIENDS I'VE MET BECAUSE OF THE BOOK
Thanks for reaching out to me. I'm so glad you've become a part of my life.
* BEING ON THE COVER OF MAGAZINES
One of my biggest fears about "the death of print" is that I won't be on the covers of any more magazines-LOL. I'll always cherish these:
* BEING MENTIONED IN TIME MAGAZINE
On this particular week in April 2009, I was quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune. But nothing was better than Time quoting me and running a picture of the book. I feel like I'm that much closer to being one of Time's "100 Most Influential People." (Yes, that is on my vision board.)
* BEING IN THE WASHINGTON POST
Having grown up in Washington and written for The Washington Post, I was completely thrilled when they ran a Q&A and a giant-ass picture of me in the Sunday paper. I loved the idea of all these snooty D.C. people eating their poached eggs and sipping their fancy tea while reading about my time as a stripper. You can see a video about my first time seeing the paper here:
* MY COMPLETELY FULL FRONTAL, SCHLONG-SWINGING, BALLS-HANGING, ASS-OUT BOOK READING
O.K. so I've always been a HUGE fan of Daniel Nardicio and his parties. Well, anyway, a couple of months before the book came out, I emailed him to send him a copy of the book. He immediately wrote back that I should read from the book at a party he was throwing in NYC that week. The only catch was that I'd have to be completely naked. Well, who am I to pass up a promotional opportunity? So I did it. This was right before my official book tour and I figured that any other reading would be cake after that.
The only unfair thing is that other authors had their boyfriends fluffing them before they came out. I was there with my ex-boyfriend, Seth, who was there with his new 20-something boy toy--not exactly a dick-girth-inducer. But I soldiered through and I had lots of fun. I think I even won a Fleshjack later in the evening, but I WILL NOT tell you what I did to get it. That's for a later memoir. (Trust me, it's more embarrassing than sexy.)
* MY BOOK TOUR & APPEARANCES
Going to Atlanta and D.C. was mad cool, and what's more, it doesn't look like publishers are forking over the money for tours anymore. You can check out video from some of my adventures here:
WASHINGTON, D.C. #1
WASHINGTON, D.C. #2
* THE PEOPLE WHO BUY MY BOOK IN JAPAN
Maybe it's because I've always wanted to go to Tokyo that I get such a kick out of knowing that people in Japan are buying my book. It's the same thrill I get when foreign language blogs post my photographs. They could be saying "this shit sucks," but I love it.
* THE REVIEWS OR HOW THE BOOK MADE ME A PROSTITUTE
In the book, I talk about how I grew up admiring the flamboyant prostitutes that I'd see working the streets of D.C. It was my boyhood dream to be a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold. But, alas, when I had the opportunity to do it, my heart--not to mention my mouth, cock, and anus--wasn't really into it. The most I ever did was splunk on some dude's shirt, and I even felt weird about that. Nevertheless, several reviews, including a major one in Publisher's Weekly, referred to me as a "prostitute." I guess this is one way to fulfill a childhood fantasy. My issue wasn't with being called a prostitute, because I feel a solidarity with all sex workers. It just didn't seem accurate. I preferred when the Dallas Voice called me the "dick-dancing scholar" or when another critic said that the book was "not just your standard slut autobiography." But, by far, my favorite thing written about the book was when The Bay Area Reporter called it "a bare-assed, neon-lit tour de force." I just thought that was bad-ass.
* GETTING A WIKIPEDIA PAGE
Awesome! Thanks to whoever started it.
* I WON THE COVER WAR!!!!
As a photographer, it was always my dream for one of my pictures to be on the cover of a book I wrote. But I didn't even think this was possible. Most mainstream writers have little to no input on their book covers. This was the case with ALL I COULD BARE. When my editor showed me their first cover (see below), I nearly threw up. I just couldn't imagine that a book that was so personal to me would come out looking so wack. (I actually found the same downtown D.C. stock photo on the website of an H.M.O.)
I quickly responded that I thought the cover needed to be sexier and fun. I did a mock-up of what I had in mind:
Of course, the publisher hated it. They didn't want any "bare bodies" on the cover. I was like: "It's a stripper memoir. And, btw, shouldn't someone be on the cover?" This was their response:
Now, when I saw this, I was like, "OH, HEEEELLLLL NO!" Seriously, yo? Who the fuck are these shapeless, faceless pod people on the cover of my book? And am I supposed to be the muthafucka who needs a haircut or shawty without the nose? I wasn't feeling it all. I begged them to take these jokers off the cover. I said that I could live with the D.C. stock photo, as long as they toned-down some of the squiggly lights from the initial cover. (That shit made me dizzy.) Thus, they came up with the cover with the hardback:
Diplomatically speaking, I was fine with it, even if I though it looked a little Murder on the Capitol.
I had learned to live with it and thought it was a closed case, until my editor reached out to me and said that they wanted to go a different direction for the paperback. They said they wanted a sexier cover that reflected the scene. I was all excited until I got this:
Once again, I was like WTF? What's with the kindergarten collage look? And why is everything so yellow? There's no mention of water sports in my whole book. So, finally, I told them that I had some better pictures of the clubs that I had taken back in the day. The truth is that I had exactly two, but I sent the photos to them anyway. Much to my surprise they decided to use them, and now every picture on the paperback is mine (see below.) I learned a lesson from this. In the end, I got everything I had always wanted.
* SPEAKING AT McDANIEL COLLEGE
One of my favorite speaking experiences was when I got the chance to talk with Dr. Sara Raley's students at McDaniel College earlier this year. I knew my book would speak to those familiar with the strip club scene, but I had also hoped that the book would touch young people who were in the process of figuring themselves out and understanding their sexuality. The time I spent with Professor Raley's students made me feel that I'd done that. They were so engaged with the book and open about their experiences that I was humbled and overwhelmed. It was one of the most meaningful moments of my life and career, and I'll never forget it.
* HAVING dream hampton TWEET ABOUT MY BOOK
I've had a lot of writers that I admire tell me they liked the book, but there was something especially poignant about the moment I read dream hampton's tweet about the book. For those who don't know, dream is popularly known as "your favorite rapper's favorite writer," having been close friends with the Notorious B.I.G. and a collaborator with folks like Puffy and Jay-Z. (She co-wrote Jay-Z's autobiography The Black Book, which, apparently, was so deep that it will never see the light of day. Years later, Jay-Z is still talking about the book; in the new Rolling Stone, he credits it with reconciling him with his late father. Fortunately for us fans, dream's new book with Jay-Z drops in the fall.) Anyway, dream is one of those writers who I would read while I was still working in the strip clubs, fantasizing about becoming a writer. It is quite possible that I would not have become a writer or that I wouldn't have done it the way I did it had it not been for dream. (And @sethclark can back up everything I say.) dream wrote about hip-hop in such a way that made me feel that the music I listened to and the culture that I was a part of was important. This was one small but vital step on the road to me thinking that my life itself was worth chronicling in words. To have dream appreciate my book is what Oprah would call a "full-circle moment," and with that comes a cathartic, Oprah-worthy "ugly cry." Thank you, dream.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
If you read my red carpet coverage of the gay erotic video awards, the Grabbys, you know that there was a certain unidentified model who I thought was gorgeous. Well, thanks to some ace detective work by my San Diego buddy, Dewayne (you can check out his great NSFW site here), the guy has been identified. It's Parker Allen Brookes. (Incidentally, my real middle name is the same as his porn middle name.) I reached out to him on Facebook and we became FB friends. (He's also on Twitter.) Here are the original photos that I posted of Parker, along with some extras. Enjoy!