Sex, Plugs, & Rock ‘n’ Roll
My fashion week game plan is to ignore fashion week, but that’s sort of like not hearing those vuvuzelas at the World Cup. It’s constantly there, and always annoying. I did walk by the Chanel store, which was all decked out for their Fashion Week extravaganza. The black set was magical late at night, with a lone security guard. I suppose grand people gathered there during the day to ooh and ahh. I had been ooh-ing and ahh-ing at Don Hill’s all weekend, as the best joint in many a year was flexing its muscles and showcasing great talent and possibilities. I’ll recap all of that tomorrow. So far this “best club in years” has put on Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Iggy Pop, and Courtney Love. My darling Amanda is primping for Crystal Castles as I write this.
At the John Varvatos store, rock legends played “can you top this?” with covers of rock anthems and original stuff. Each day my BlackBerry burns 3 batteries as I inhale coffee and Red Bull to keep up. I’ve shaken a thousand hands and given out a thousand cards. This town is red-hot. I think I saw artist idol Chuck Close wheeling down the Bowery as I waited for my constant to meet me at the Varvatos shindig. I’m so rarely impressed with celebrity, but Mr. Close gave me a thrill. The event was for the launch of Original Moonshine and John Varvatos’ 10th anniversary. It was co-hosted by Stillhouse, a brand that continues to bring joy to my life. I actually broke tradition and sipped the Moonshine. Two thumbs up plug. The soiree took place at the Bowery store, which was the former home to CBGBs. I think John retained the licensing, and, once in a while, a conversion back to the rock club is easy. Last night was insane.
I came and went, and caught a lot but missed some stuff, as there was so much happening around town. I went over too early to see Hole at Don Hills, and ran back to the event, and just missed ZZ Top and their cover of Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Then, I had to sneak out to Randy Jones and Keith Collins’ birthday bash at the new and improved 137 Essex space, which is currently called Foundation. Village Person, Cowboy, and lifelong friend Randy invited me down, and I only say no to him once in a while. Someone affectionately described Randy as an original “flamueen” (flaming Queen). I love the term. Back at CBGBs—err John Varvatos—I caught Alice Cooper crooning “Schools Out For Summer,” Camp Freddy’s fabulous rendition of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” but the highlight was Perry Ferrell banging “Sympathy for the Devil.” The low point of the event was an act called the Darling Stilettos. The moment they went on I started looking around for Sacha Baron Cohen, as I couldn’t think of any other reasonable explanation for this gruesome quartet. An LA-based rock version of the Pussycat Dolls proved to be simply dogs as they choreographed, crooned and destroyed sacred rock anthems. Like most of my ex’s, they were great to look at but lacked talent. They mutilated the Ramone’s “Blitzkrieg Bop” in the punk band’s favorite haunt. Johnny, Joey, and Dee Dee surely rolled over in their graves. The not-so-Darling Stillettos might just be the worst act ever to play the room, and I am absolutely considering all those mullet coifed mid-Jersey acts that stunk up the joint. Not quite good enough, even for Vegas. I plead that what happens in LA should stay in LA. The Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba teamed with Ian Hunter, and so many others, playing true-to-your-rock-school hits for hours, It was legendary.
Handome Dick’s wife, Zoe Hansen, has invited me to the 1 year anniversary of the Sex Worker Literati event this Wednesday, September 15th. Proving that they are more than just a pretty (fill in the blank according to your preference), these highly motivating individuals will read their words to a packed house at the Bowery Poetry Club. It’s tales from the “sex trenches,” the bedrooms, and streets, and I wouldn’t miss it for an around the world. It will be the words of hos, rentboys, hookers, and call girls, and I won’t even be in a bottle service joint. I caught up with David Henry Stern and asked him to put in his two cents about the event.
What exactly is Sex Worker Literati? It’s a sex-drenched night full of hos, hookers, call girls, rent boys, and the lunatics who know and love them. We tell stories from the seamy, seedy underbelly of the billion-dollar underground industry, in which people buy and sell sex. Because, in the exchange of sex for money, a window opens into the soul. We invite everyone to come take a peek. How did it come about? Well, I guess it all started back when I myself was a teenage ho/rent boy/gigolo, or “industrial sex technician,” as I like to call it. I was a young man of 17, young and dumb and full of cum. I was attending Immaculate Hard College, I worked for a very colorful, kind-hearted, manipulative scumbag pimp in Hollywood, servicing middle-aged women with too much money, and not enough sense. I wrote a memoir about it called Chicken. Just before the book came out, there was an article in the New York Times called Sex Worker Literati. So I rounded up some of the writers who were featured in the article and started putting on events, using that name. I’ve done the event, literally, all over the country. Everybody, from porn star/cougar/sex educator Nina Hartley, to Goddess/diva Annie Sprinkle, to Georgina Spelvin, the star of Devil in Miss Jones, to that living legend of sex, Vanessa Del Rio, have exposed themselves in front of our grateful and appreciative audience. Why did you choose the Bowery Poetry Club to do your one year anniversary? A year ago, I put out a book called, appropriately, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys, with an amazing publisher called Soft Skull. Miraculously, the book ended up on the front cover of the New York Times Sunday Book Review. So we decided to do the event in New York City, since I now live in a suburb of Manhattan called New Jersey. We were doing it at Happy Ending Lounge, and it was a great success, but I was never entirely satisfied with the physical setup of that place, it was too small, too cramped. When we had an opportunity to go to the Bowery Poetry Club, which is a fantastic New York institution, which represents the finest in literary perversions of all kinds, I jumped at the chance. It’s got a great stage, it’s in a fantastic location, it just has the perfect vibe for us. Plus, now we’ll be able to include burlesque dancers, which I always wanted to do. Our first show we have this amazing woman who goes by the name of Essence Revealed, she’s a totally spectacular dancer. What was it like having sex for money? Not nearly as much fun as it seems like it would be. I did have some amazing experiences in that world. I once got paid to get schooled in the art of tantric sex by an incredible hippie chick named Rainbow. That was the best it ever got for me. And the worst? There’s an embarrassment of riches there. I suppose I would have to say the time I got hired by this very June Cleaver mommy type. She wanted me to get dressed up in the clothes of her dead teenage son and have sex with her. She told me her therapist said she should start dating again. I felt like telling her, “I don’t think this is the kind of date your therapist has in mind.” But I didn’t. She ended up puking. Trust me, you can’t buy memories like those. Do you think prostitution should be illegal? Look, we tried prohibition of alcohol in America. All it does is make heroes out of gangsters. If we decriminalize sex work, and use the income to go after people who actually do traffic in humans and turn people into sex slaves, we’d still have enough money left over to pay teachers a decent wage. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. What was the most surprising thing about coming out to the world as a prostitute? Industrial sex technician. Sorry. Don’t let it happen again. Well, my family didn’t speak to me for about five years after my book came out. It was actually surprising how little I missed speaking to any of those people. But for every piece of snark and playa-hate I got, I received 100 pieces of love. We have this idea that’s been perpetuated by a sex-phobic culture for centuries, that people who work in the sex business are uneducated, drug addicted, illiterate and sluts. I’m not a drug addict. I graduated from a great college, and I know lots of big words. Yes, I may be a slut, but I’m certainly not alone there. But I speak in high schools and colleges a lot about this subject, and I’m continuously amazed by how many “ordinary” average girl/boy next-door types are involved in the sex business. And because I’m now the poster boy for freaks, they know if they tell me they’re in the sex business, I’m not going to judge them, shame them, make them feel like freaks. I guess it made me really want to do something to change the public perception of people who exchange money for sex. It led me to be an activist, which I certainly didn’t expect. In fact the proceeds for this event are going to a little organization I’ve started called Help-A-Ho. I’m trying to reinvent, in my own small way, how donation and charity work in this country. It seems like so many times when you give money to an organization, very little of it actually gets to the people you’re supposed to be helping. The idea of Help-A-Ho is to help just one person who’s been in the sex business. I’ve chosen a woman named Carla Crandall. She’s one of the writers in the anthology I put together, which I mentioned before, the Hos/Hookers book. She’s an amazingly talented writer, and she lives in the seedy groin of San Francisco’s Tenderloin. She desperately needs a computer. So I’ll going to use the proceeds from these Sex Worker Literati events to get her one.
Who else will be joining you for the one year anniversary show? I’m totally stoked about this lineup, it’s completely ho’litious. It starts with my co-host, this will be our first show together. She is the awe-inspiring Zoe Hansen. She is a former high-end madam, quite an extraordinary writer, and she has a world-class ass. Anne Hanavan was at one time an exotic dancer, and by that I mean she took her clothes off and shook her moneymaker for money. She was also a street walker right around the Bowery actually. She has morphed herself into an amazing filmmaker. Hawk Kincaid is a former escort, and by that I mean he had lots of sex with men for money. He then became an activist, and one of the most amazing spoken word artists I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen way too many of them. Alex Kinney, a professor of Pornology, will be reading some of the most literary smut you will ever hear in your life, by WH Auden, no less. And one of my favorite humans on the planet, Rev. Jen, who is an East Village legend, an artist whose stuff is in MOMA, a former sex columnist, and the sexiest elf in the universe. Oh, and we just had a late addition. I’m proud and excited to announce that Toni Bentley, former big-time ballerina, New York Times writer, Guggenheim Fellowship winner, and author of the scandalous and beautifully written Surrender, will be gracing us with her presence. So you have different performers every month? Yes, we have a veritable cornucopia of hos past present and future. One of our goals is to put a face to a population, which is simultaneously worshiped and reviled, glorified and spat upon. And of course we want to have fun doing it. Because of the anthology, and my memoir, Chicken, I have a pretty remarkable network of sex workers who are also amazing writers and performers. And one of the things hos are very good at is networking. Anything else you’d like to tell America? Take a hooker to lunch.