Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Unparalleled Orgies of Perversion Exposed by Intrepid Flash Reporter, May 2, 1950



MAY 2, 1950
FLASH
PAGE FIVE

Unparalleled Orgies of Perversion Exposed by Intrepid Flash Reporter
Toronto Steam Bath Uncovered As Den For Unnatural Vice! 

On a warm spring evening last week a FLASH reporter penetrated into a vice den the like of which is probably not to be found this side of Algiers' Casbah or the brimstone engulfed cities of the Biblical plain — Sodom and Gomorrah!
On the outside, and to the passerby this den of unnatural vice is an ordinary downtown west steambath — but inside, all the unnatural vices and sins that are normally found only in the psychiatrist's case book are practiced — not secretly and furtively — but openly and flauntingly!
This particular steam-bath caters to men only every night of the week after midnight and also for three evenings during the week — the remainder of the time is devoted to the fair sex. However, this account refers only to the men's nights.
There is accommodation for some 150 people in a large room filled with leather-covered couches so close together that they are touching and for 75¢ one may enjoy a steam-bath and relax on these couches afterwards. In actual practice many of the city's homeless who have 75¢ use this establishment as a lodging house — but as for the idea of relaxing on one of the couches after one's bath — it's impossible!
No sooner had the FLASH reporter lay down on one of the couches than a nearby figure arose — and completely nude — walked over to his couch and lay down on the one beside him. All this time not a word was said — then slowly a flabby white hand began an obscene groping. This was only the first of many such encounters that went on all night. In four hours in that basement room FLASH'S representative was approached no less than SEVENTEEN times--and this, mark you, in a lighted room in full view of the people all around.
Not His Type!
These approaches varied from the obscene groping of hands to a furtive touching of the knee — then to a disgusting attempt at a kiss — then to whispered descriptions of what would take place if the reporter agreed. Some of these were comparatively easy to rebuff — the mere act of turning over and ignoring their advances was enough to discourage them while with some it was necessary to tell them where to go. One of these seemed to take the reporter's sulphurous directions quite philosophically. “Not your type eh?” he muttered as he minced off in search of a more willing companion.
Huddled around a table at one end were a group of Polish-speaking men playing some card game incomprehensible to the average person while in a darkened corner a group of "rubby-dubs" were quietly imbibing rubbing alcohol — these two groups were at least draped in the conventional towels and sheets and seemed to take no notice of the surrounding orgy of perversion —but the vast majority of men in that room were naked, and in full view of one another, went their unnatural way — importuning others to join them in orgies of unnatural sex.
Toronto The Good!
On looking around that hideous room the FLASH reporter could see men in the act of sodomy while others were indulging in even more grotesque forms of perversion —and above the aimless rambling of the ruby-dubs and the mysterious jargon of the card players came grunts of perverted ecstasy.
To stand up and look about that room and view the number of acts of abomination going on simultaneously is enough to make even the hardest-stomached observer sick —and enough to make him wonder "is this — COULD this be Toronto the Good?" Or is it an orgy of Imperial Rome — Or Sodom the night before the fire?"
However this room is only half the establishment. On the street level there is a reception desk flanked by a bar at which sandwiches and coffee sent up from a nearby restaurant, may be purchased — or for a slight consideration a bottle of beer may be procured. Around this room are some more leather couches — but possibly because of their proximity to the desk our representative saw no perversions being practiced there.
However, at the back of this room are a number of cubicles, some single and others double — all containing the same leather couches but affording a certain amount of privacy. These cubicles may be rented for an additional $1.75 and when the FLASH man had had as much of the lower room as he could stand he made his way to the desk and paid the extra money for the use of a cubicle.
Male Prostitute!
In keeping with the shameless perversion already described were the next events. No sooner was he at rest in the cubicle than a faint tapping was heard at the door —he opened it and there was another of these unnatural beings — offering in effeminate tones — "a good time" for $10. The reporter decided to talk to this one — a mere boy of seventeen or eighteen, and so offered to buy him a coffee at the bar.
The boy said his name was Rae J----- "R-A-E" — not Ray he was anxious to point out. Tall and slim — he had carefully parted hair — wavy and auburn — quite probably natural as few dyes could stand the moist heat of a steam-bath. His manner was ingratiating and coupled with his pleasant smile one could easily see him handing round cakes at a vicarage tea party — until he spoke — the mincing, simpering accents of the habitual homosexual coupled with the wave of the limp wrist immediately branded him for what he was.
This boy — by his own brazen admission was a male prostitute — "Work" said he in the mincing tones affected by all of his ilk "is for working men and horses — and you don't see me with four legs."
He confided that he regarded this as "a cheap place" — but that he was obliged to ply his trade there as he had had all his clothes stolen by "a dear friend" while he was in jail — for shoplifting.
The reporter asked him what he would do when he got the money for a new outfit of clothes.
"Why" simpered the creature "I'll go and work in a classy place — the Royal York or the Ring Edward. There's lots of Americans who'll really pay for what I've got."
When risked why he had chosen the reporter's door to knock on he claimed that these cubicles were invariably inhabited by those who were willing to pay — and it was an understood thing among those who plied this unnatural trade that there was to be no interference while one of them was "entertaining" a client.
When the reporter told this creature that there was no market for his services as far as he was concerned — there was at first an exhibition of sulks that an accomplished actress might well envy and then — "you look as if you'd be a nice friend for me — if you don't want to go into your cubicle — would you like to come to my room—it's very near here?"
Enter The Husband
At this the reporter told him to "get the h... out of here" where-upon he left. But no sooner had he taken his departure than .another of the same ilk — a little older this time—offered to sympathize.
His eyes well sunken and red-ringed — and with lines etched about his eyes and mouth that made him a grinning caricature of the picture of Oscar Wilde's "Dorian Gray." Again the simpering accentuation of every second word — accentuation underlined by a wave of a limp wrist was evident, and yet by his choice of words — and by a faint underlying accent one sensed that this was not a child of the slums — a young opportunist like Ray — spelt R-A-E. And in a more placid moment, undisturbed by revulsion at the scene all around one would perhaps wonder what had made him like this — a pitiful caricature of a woman in a man's body.
"A horrid little bitch, isn't she?" was the opening gambit — "She's nothing but a low-class whore." Note the free and unthinking use of the feminine that seems to characterize all these perverts. "You did well not to go with her" — continued the effeminate voice — "you know what would have happened to you?" "You'd have gone back to her place and her husband would have knocked your guts out." "Her Husband?" queried the slightly befuddled reporter —"Well, the man she lives with" came the reply.
"Now, I'm not a bit like that — in fact I'll come to your place — and then, as spontaneously as if it had not been rehearsed — "I'm an awfully good cook and valet — do you think you'd like me to look after you?"
At this the reporter beat a hasty and disgusted retreat to his cubicle determined to last out the night —and see what else could possibly happen. Actually nothing did —beyond four more soft rappings on the door he was left in peace until early morning — when, as he awoke and prepared to smoke a cigarette he felt instinctively that someone was watching him. He pulled the door open suddenly just in time to see a figure hastily descending to the room of abomination below. To the sickened, disgusted and shocked reporter the morning air tasted good.
_______
These events give rise to one thought — Why and how can these things be tolerated in our city —is this town to be judged by the same yardstick as Port Said—as Marseilles or Saigon? What are the police doing about it? Do they know that a section of Sodom has been transplanted into Toronto the Good? And if they don't know about it — why not?
But when and if these practitioners of unnatural sex are caught —don't do as an unenlightened judge did many years ago with one of England's brightest literary stars —Oscar Wilde. Don't put them in another Reading Gaol, but send them where they rightly belong —in an institution for the mentally sick. To put them in jail is only to spread the cancer of their perversions among those perhaps not already tainted with the mark of vice. Try — for pity's sake — to cure them and make them realize the joy there is in being a normal human being.
And to those of you who, in disgust, throw down this article — FLASH'S representative — who experienced these horrible advances is the one who asks "have pity — and try to reclaim these lost ones from their Well of Loneliness!"

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My mom's wedding speech


Adam’s wedding speech  -   July 5, 2014

Hello everyone!  For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Diane, and I am Adam’s mother.  I am very pleased and proud to be speaking at Adam’s wedding today.  I hope he doesn’t regret giving me this opportunity!

Ever since a very cold day in December 1978 when Adam was born,    he has continued to change and improve my life.

I am very much like my father – I enjoy the normal routines of everyday life, and I don’t feel the calling to travel too far from home.  But my 2 boys have changed all that.  My husband Keith and I have recently returned from a trip to Jasper, Alberta to visit our son Arthur who lives there now, and we had such a fabulous time!

(Stand up Arthur, so everyone can see my other handsome son.) 

And Adam, what can I say.  He continues to share his life with me and I am so lucky.  I have to be honest, before Adam ‘came out’ I knew very little, if anything, about the GLBT Community. 

With Adam sharing stories, movies, theatre and books with me;  I have become more informed and continue to pass my knowledge of Acceptance on to my friends, my church, and my community. 

We have been walking and collecting Pledges for the Aids Walk now for over 10 years, and we walk it each year to do what we can to help.  

Adam, I am so proud of the man you have become!

For those of us in Adams’ life, we are truly fortunate.  With every fibre of his being, he brings and shares his honesty, his quick wit, his love of language and books, and his generosity.  His unique sense of humour always has me laughing.  If you ask Adam how you look, don’t be surprised when he gives you an honest answer.

Adam has been a writer of poems and short stories since he was young; he’s very creative.  I know he has a story in him to write, and one day I’ll be the proud mother of a Canadian author – I can’t wait!

In the meantime, this is a list that Adam wrote 4 years ago of things that MAKE HIM HAPPY:

             -  READ THE LIST  -

Now he can add Shin to the list.

I am so glad that Adam has found a partner to love and share his life with.  I knew the right person was out there, who would see the fabulous qualities in Adam that I see.  It seems fitting, with Adam’s love of travel and exploring the world, that his now husband Shin, was born in Japan.  I foresee their lives together filled with trips to exotic lands, with strange food and discoveries.

My husband Keith and I want to wish Adam and Shin a beautiful life together and we want to officially welcome Shin into our family.

If we could all now raise our glasses, and Toast Adam & Shin!

(Go and give each of them a hug!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Flight by Ed Berger

Flight by Ed Berger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good book that I bought and read quickly.
First of all I should say this book was never going to get five stars from me as I hate books where gay men try going straight. It seems to let the side down and I was cringing several times while reading this book. I broke a tooth last night and I think it was caused by reading this book and grinding my teeth.
The book was written by an author local to me and I bought it as I like to read gay works of local authors. Also the story of how this book came to be late in life through a writer's workshop was inspiring. I'd like to write a book too and it's not easy! I also liked that on the author's website for the book there's a comment from his mom, which is totally something my mom would do too.
I have spoken with a few authors and they all mention re-writing their books at different times. Very few authors have the ability to write it out and have the first draft be the good one. I have no way of knowing if this was a first draft or not but it did seem certain sections could be re-written, particularly around the 20% mark. I tried the 20% sample from Smashwords and after I bought it and picked up where I left off at Chapter 8 things seemed to be a little disjointed. Maybe that was from the jarring of changing books, but I think some of this section could use a little more polish regardless.
The story was well written, the character well developed. I really wanted him to move to London and take that new job, I really wanted him to ditch Becky, I had a lot of strong emotions and the book carried me quickly to the end. I was worried it would drift into romance territory but it never did. I want to buy one of Alexander's chickadees at the maple syrup festival and I think its the mark of a good author when you can place yourself in their situations.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

The Home For Wayward Ladies by Jeremy Scott Blaustein

The Home For Wayward Ladies by Jeremy Scott Blaustein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was okay, the start was better than the end for me.
There was something wrong with the formatting where there were 2 lines after every paragraph which kept confusing me and making me think I was at the end of the chapter or the end of a thought and wasn't.
The first half of the book was an amusing story of three young gay men working in the theatre in Manhattan and I enjoyed that very much. At about 40% though they decide to pack it all up into an unreliable car and re-enact the movie To Wong Foo in the middle of nowhere. This part was less good for me. I enjoyed the aging queen but the mobster's wife part was underdone and overall I felt like the book lost touch with reality at this point and anxiously skipped my way to the end.

There were occasional bon mots throughout:
"I remain as still as a racoon that's been caught rifling through the trashcans."

And several humorous parts:
"As chief caveman, it is his responsibility to hunt and gather and mine to call Betty Rubble over to the prehistoric fence so we can pass the time while the octopus does the dishes."

I don't think I'd call it a comedy though. It's just gay camp turns of phrase, which I love, but the book needed more to tie them together.

Page 30, location 447: "It's a shame the producers hadn't though up that angle;" should be thought
Page 38, location 582, there's an extra space after the word "sings" before the period.
Page 54, location 826: "I hope y'all call make a go of it." should be can
Page 78, location 1185: "I am too weak to avoid being hoisting by my own petard." should be hoisted
Page 78, location 1186, no period at the end of the sentence "I need your help"
Starting at page 152 there are several paragraph breaks missing, where one person talking leads into the next which continues until 215.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Afterlife: A Novel by Paul Monette

Afterlife: A Novel by Paul Monette
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was so enraptured by Becoming a Man and Borrowed Time, that I moved right into Monette's fiction, starting with his first book, and then ground to a halt. This is his first fiction work I've picked up since then, I'm saving Last Watch of the Night for some unknown time in the future where I can savour it.
Monette's writing got better with AIDS, the books had a focus and that trend continues here, though for much of the first half of the book he struggles to overcome his old writing style, that of a privileged man writing from a pedestal and casting only half an eye at his subjects. Its especially difficult to write a book with all men, all white gay men, and be able to keep the characters separate. One supposes they're all friends due to their similarities but for the first half of the book I had no idea who was who, and I suppose I didn't really care. The second half of the book the action picks up and at the same time the story becomes more focused on just two people, rather than the confusing eight at the beginning, and the book became good. I was surprised, I was all set to give it a negative review but I'm glad I stuck with it.
The book details a life lived in between the falling bombs of the AIDS epidemic. There is desperation, such as when a character "called the Federal Building, demanding release of a drug that people were smuggling in from China." I understand the frustration, but actions like this led to the over-prescribing of AZT and the death of early patients.
As the novel continues Monette loses most of his detachment from the characters and once they become real this novel becomes the heart-felt AIDS crisis snap-shot it should be. It just takes a little too long to get there.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable book, the first Agatha Christie I’d read.
I had been re-watching Murder She Wrote lately and came upon an idea to read this book. Miss Marple does really take a back seat in this story so it’s difficult to really get to know her. The murder however is well thought out, with every line seemingly leading to a dead end and no idea where to begin to solve it.
One of the couple of clues given relates to a cockney kind of slang term I hadn’t heard before so I didn’t really understand it when I read it and just skipped over it, so I couldn’t really have guessed who did it.
Christie writes in a very straight-forward way, I noted the quote:
“We’ve got it, I think. That was the Glenshire Police” (Glenshire was the adjoining county).
I don’t think I’ve ever seen explanation written just in a bracket like that with no attempt to work it into a story. It seemed kind of slapdash. But I guess it all relates to the straight, no-nonsense approach Christie took. With the reverence of her cannon and the time it was written I expected a more literary style, but it was very relatable even today, eighty years later.

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Autopornography: A Memoir of Life in the Lust Lane by Scott O'Hara

Autopornography: A Memoir of Life in the Lust Lane by John P. De Cecco
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book that starts off well, then is padded to a finale.
Scott was a complex character is seems, not really sure of himself and what he wanted. Some lines seem to contradict each other:
“As usual, since I don’t believe in guilt, I felt guilty for feeling guilty.”
“I give relationships a grade of D+. They aren’t actually all bad; they’re just used in unhealthy ways most of the time. They’re used to stunt people’s growth, instead of encouraging it.”
“And my journals, I blush to admit, were 99 percent concerned with agonized discussions of whether I was truly in love with X, and if so, whether X might possibly be in love with me.”
He seems in love with the idea of being in love, but the reality is always something less than that. Another porn star bio from someone who writes well enough but whom I wouldn’t necessarily want to have met.
The book as a memoir is okay but doesn’t get really into the porn scene as much as I would have liked. For example David Ashfield, who Scott worked with, gets a note that he was professional. That’s about it. There’s no behind the scenes revelations in this book. I was hoping for more.
What does make the first half of the book a decent read is Scott’s life, his unorthodox childhood without a TV and sleeping outside on the lawn with his family. These memories really came to life for me, but again Scott seemed as odds with them, alternatively complementing his parents and then saying he would never speak to them again and doing things just to shock them well into his twenties.
The latter half of the book is a lot of filler with sex scenes intertwined with Scott’s opinion on AIDS, which is out there. Scott mentions using alternative therapies and not trusting doctors, which may have actually saved his life when doctors were initially over-prescribing AZT. But people tend to handle their diseases in different ways, and Scott’s attitude of “I must be doing something right, I’ve had it for 15 years and I’m still here” rings false knowing he died shortly after this book was published.
Still Scott lived through the worst of the AIDS epidemic and came out with a few good insights, and I wasn’t there so I can’t really judge:
“There’s something spooky about reading a seven-year-old obituary, and realizing you’ve been remembering a dead person as if he were alive, fantasizing about him. It’s hard to mourn, after so much time.”
Again the last half of the book is filler with re-printed magazine columns and miscellaneous sex fantasies.
At a price of $42 to buy and $13.50 to rent for 30 days, this eBook was ridiculously overpriced.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon

Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book is a M/M retelling of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The similarities are probably too many to mention. A writer of questionable standing gets called by a wealthy man to a remote island to solve a mystery disappearance that happened over 20 years ago and write a book. The family that lives on the island don't want him there and they make this very well known to the author, culminating in threats and physical altercations. This is essentially the first half of both books.
While a re-tread I enjoyed the story enough. The hero Griff was likeable enough. I had been familiar with Mr Lanyon's work previously as an author who writes gay fiction for women. There's a big market out there for this M/M romance and I wasn't that interested in it. Amazon.com recommended this book to me by email, it looked good enough and had good reviews so I bought it. I was curious to know what happened and it kept me going but I wouldn't say I was up all night reading it as others have stated.
Toward the end of the book the romance kind of took over the mystery which I found disappointing. The end was satisfying enough, I was very surprised after I turned the last page to see that the book was published by Harlequin Romance!
While the story and the main romantic leads were well fleshed out, I felt all the supporting characters blended into their rich snob personality traits and I couldn't keep any of them separate. In addition the occasionally clunky writing style could have used an editor: "He wasn't sure now if that maybe wasn't for the best." I still don't know what that sentence means.
Overall the book was good enough but I'm not really looking for romance, so while I won't actively skip Lanyon's books in future, I won't be seeking them out either.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Faggots by Larry Kramer

Faggots by Larry Kramer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much to say on this book! It’s never gone out of print and is one of the most widely read gay books of all time, which to me is remarkable. I know about two gay men who could read and finish this book. I know many more who should but the graphic sex, perhaps the most graphic in any book I’ve ever read, and the drug use would turn a lot off.
From the introduction:
“The purpose of satire… offers us oddly entertaining, generally exaggerated copies of foolish or evil behaviour in order to provoke our ridicule.”
This the book does. It took me about 100 pages to really get where the book was going and to fully understand the satire. In some ways nothing has changed from 1978 when this book was published and the tales of sexual excess still rang very true. It was only when I read of the white man having sex with the black man, the white man calling him the N word and the black man, pumping away, yelling “…you done take our cotton fields away!,” that I got that this was satire.
The book starts off with Kramer’s doppelganger Fred, and a refrain that will ring true then and now:
“All I want is someone who reads books, loves his work, and me, too, of course, and who doesn’t take drugs, and isn’t on unemployment.”
But this desire for a mate is impeded by Fred himself, and many gay men, by, as Kramer says:
“And every faggot couple I know is deep into friendship and deep into fucking with everyone else but each other and any minute any bump appears in their commitment to infinitesimally obstruct their view, out they zip like petulant kids to suck someone else’s lollipop instead of trying to work things out, instead of trying not to hide, and…unh…why do faggots have to fuck so fucking much?!”
In this I think Kramer relates the struggle of all gay men and the eventual growing up, or not, they must do. To me this is ultimately the point of the book, its one man’s struggle to weed out the excesses in his life in an attempt to see the forest for the trees. There are sub-points about gay identity and self-worth, but in the end the book is presented as one man’s struggle, and presented, I think, in the hope that we can find ourselves in that struggle. There was much backlash against this book, and judging by the reviews on here, there still is a lot of negativity directed at Kramer for writing it. The only gay bookstore in Manhattan banned the book upon its release. And something I learned in a course recently applies here, out of the 100% that is your negative reaction, what if 5% applied back to you?
That is I think there’s a lot that applies in this book. The desire for a mate sounds so simple but it’s really unattainable in that you cannot find someone who is not sabotaging themselves, we all do it. Kramer takes these sabotages to the extreme with the hope of asking why in a smart and funny way. The book isn’t easy to read, there are a lot of wayward tangents, lists, and run-on sentences like the following two:
“And so it was while watching one of the members fucking himself by sitting on a stationary twelve-inch rubber dildo while being bound hand and foot, the dildo impaled to a cross, the cross mounted on a stage, and the fellow also sucking the cock of a gentleman clad entirely in chain mail, except of course for his genitals, which were exposed, and enormous, and holding in his hand while mouth-fucking the impaled acolyte, not one but two hissing rattlesnakes, reputed to have been defanged but dripping something from their mouths nevertheless, all of this witnessed by forty-nine other members, each donged with grease, each jerking off either himself or a fellow clubber, in some sort of cockamamie version of the daisy chain, don’t Southern Californians have wonderful imaginations, whatever happened to King of the Mountain?, well, perhaps this was King of the Mountain—it was while watching all of this, and of course participating, he couldn’t be a spoilsport, that Randy had an epiphany. He began to realize to what lengths it would soon be necessary to travel to receive kicks sufficient to cause erection, and while he was finding these ceremonies reasonably exciting (and certainly a nice time-out from his studies), in that he had a good stiff one on while those two snakes were up there hissing away, he knew he had neither the time nor the abundant imagination to play “Can You Top This?” every time he wanted to get his rocks off.”
There’s enough wit to get through but the book could have used an editor with a heavier hand. An example of the wit:
“His skin was that deep white which tans nicely and is associated with health, vigor, keeping regular, drinking milk, chewing Wrigley’s, using Colgate, and walking in Keds.”
Some comments about the gay community can be scathing:
“Sex and love are different and any faggot given half a choice will take the former. And probably fucked with Adolf Hitler if he’d been cute!”
But it’s really no worse than we’ve all heard other gay men say.
The book ends with some home truths but it takes a very circuitous route to get there. The following quote was memorable for me:
“I’ve lived all over the world and I haven’t seen more than half a dozen couples who have what I want.”
Dinky’s voice chirped up in relief: “Then that should tell you something!”
The quote goes on and Fred justifies himself but I think the retort itself is worth noting. What if what we’re looking for doesn’t exist? With so many gay men there was never the option of the white picket fence and 2.2 kids, so what else is there and what does that look like? And is it even there for straight people? I agree, maybe half a dozen couples have a marriage that I would want, but what about our easy access, no responsibility culture is causing that, and what are we doing ourselves to cause that? Is it possible we don’t want what we want?
The book mentions “And a commitment to the notion that our shitty beginnings don’t have to cripple us for life.” I think a lot of gay men still have these terrible beginnings, and maybe that does make it harder to find love and happiness, but as Kramer would say, that doesn’t mean we have to act like faggots and make it more difficult for ourselves. As the book says: “There will always be enemies. Time to stop being your own.”

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Some notes on the text:

“He winced at second… And be winced at third.” – Should be he, Pg 132, Location 2041

“1 was doing in Savannah.” – Should be I, pg 173, location 2631

“be went to his scrapbook of clippings.” – Should be he, pg 183, location 2792

“Laveme, and Dinky with Laverne,” – Should be Laverne, pg 191. Location 2907

‘That’s very important today. – Opening quote should be “ instead of ‘, pg 217. Location 3283

“And it’s that self I say l want” – Should be I want, not L want, pg 319, location 4795

“hell wake you up and slip you your hose and I’ll wrap myself up in my poncho, just like overnights at Kamp Kedgeree, and hell”- First and last word should be he’ll, not hell. Pg 326, location 4894 & 4895

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Gay Haunt by Victor J. Banis

The Gay Haunt by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A cute fun read along the lines of a gay I Dream of Jeanie.
There is such a small window when this book would have been published that it's very much of it's time. It feels like the late 1960's romp that it is. The market didn't begin openly publishing gay books until 1967 and after 1971 or so the market split into gay literature and gay pulp porn, so this hybrid between the two wouldn't really have had a place. There's not enough sex to make it porn and not enough literature to make it a literary work.
This kind of fun light read though does have a place, and the void was filled briefly by Robert Rodi in the mid-1990's, although he left out the sex to conform to more literary standards of the time. I always thought there should be more sex in Rodi's books and the answer comes here with this re-issue of The Gay Haunt.
A humorous sexy tale of a man trying to go straight being haunted by the ghost of his ex-lover. A fun read I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Making It Big: Sex Stars, Porn Films and Me by Chi Chi Larue, EPub download

Making It Big: Sex Stars, Porn Films and Me by Chi Chi Larue
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Download the eBook here.

A poorly executed book with little content or redeeming value.
Having finished Thousand and One Night Stands: The Life of Jon Vincent, which was told in a straight-forward, direct way, I moved right into this book hoping for more insight into the late 1990’s world of gay porn stars from someone who was there. I was disappointed. As LaRue says:
“I have had sex with some of the stars of this industry, but I’m not going to name names here. Sorry if this disappoints you, but I’ve never liked kiss-and-tell books, and I’m not going to write one. That’s unfair to the other people involved. If they want you to know, let them tell you.”
I wasn’t so much looking for a kiss-and-tell book as just a tell. The best story in the book is about Ryan Idol threatening her with a baseball bat and that’s told in about one sentence. The whole book is short vignettes with a few paragraphs and then a page break, and rather than tell a linear story the book is grouped into categories like how to direct a porno or popular drag queens of 1996. The woman’s met Prince, Madonna, Cher, Jeff Stryker, Ryan Idol and tons more and each gets about a paragraph.
LaRue’s humour very occasionally comes out:
“Bradley’s also gotten me addicted to fans, the little handheld spreading kind that classy women throughout history have fluttered when swooning with the vapors or watching their plantations burn down.”
But the humour is too infrequent and I don’t know how well it translates to the page. The book was written with a ghost writer and I have no idea what he did, he certainly didn’t help flush out the narrative.
There’s a reason people usually write these books at the end of their career. LaRue seems so concerned with stepping on people’s toes that nothing gets said.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Thousand and One Night Stands: The Life of Jon Vincent by H.A. Carson

Thousand and One Night Stands: The Life of Jon Vincent by H.A. Carson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. Very hard to put down and told in a straight-forward focused and concise way. The book details the life and death of Jon Vincent, how he got into the business, his experience.
I wouldn't necessarily have liked to have known Vincent. He seemed a real mess, often in the book blaming others for his problems. He blames the porn industry for a lot of his addictions and issues, but doesn't do a very good job explaining why they are at fault. They gave him money and fame and tried to dissuade him from working when it was clear he was out of control on drugs and alcohol. I don't know what more he was expecting. Similar to any modeling job, there will come a time when you are no longer marketable, and Vincent hastened that time with his own actions. Others worthy of blame include his family, being molested, and pussy.
I'm not sure what the role was of Hope Carson, the stated author. Vincent's life story never mentions her and it seems he was recording the book into a tape recorder so I'm not sure why he isn't listed as the author, or at least a co-author. It's clear there was a lot of time and effort spent trying to get him to stay focused and on-track but it seems the words in the book are his.
Vincent never learned to take responsibility for his life. When bad things happened he blames others and when good things happened like not dying during one of his 18 heroin overdoses (!) he credits God. He occasionally in the book claims to want to do the work of God and find the Lord, I suppose he was using this as part of his recovery from addiction but it clearly didn't work.
A couple of notes on the style. You know going into this that Vincent died, so I would have preferred an explanation on that right up front. Then the last line of the book about how he thinks he's going to get better would resonate more. Also I would prefer pseudonyms instead of initials for people he doesn't want to or can't mention. Sentences along the lines of "I went with C. to meet Y. and P. came with us" don't really add to the storytelling. Finally many times Vincent mentions famous people or fellow actors and says he can't reveal their names. Well he's dead, so what is he waiting for? If it was for legal reasons I would say some hints wouldn't be out of order.
Overall though I thought the book was remarkably well done, told in a likeable style from an unlikeable man with an interesting life and story to tell.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Disappearance Boy by Neil Bartlett

The Disappearance Boy by Neil Bartlett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A charming, engaging book that shares a vibrant story of theatre life in 1953 England. The hero 23 year-old Reggie works as a stage-hand with a magician and wanders through life looking for his place and purpose as a gay man in 1953.

The book was well done, a little simplistic, but a much more worthy addition to Bartlett's literary canon than his first two books. Not as amazing as Skin Lane but worth a look for a very pleasant distraction.

The errors in the ebook copy I bought from Amazon on Aug 19, 2014:
location 558, 16%, "Reggie always hold his breath."
location 1282, 37%, "to find what he was looking before before he was due back"
location 2501, 73%, "After all, every seaside pleasure has it mechanics, its point of friction and purchase"

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party by Alexander McCall Smith

Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it. The book is about Fatty O'Leary from Fattyville, sorry Fayetteville, and his misadventures trying to reclaim his Irish heritage.
A few of the points stretched credulity but McCall-Smith writes so well, it's like sitting down for a cup of tea with an old friend and the time just flies by.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Dancer From The Dance by Andrew Holleran, EPub download

Dancer From The Dance by Andrew Holleran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Download book here.

A well written book, hauntingly melodic at times, yet ultimately short on plot.
The book is timeless is a way, describing the feeling all gay men have when they first come to the city:
“…especially the young ones, come into the canyon for the first time, quiet as deer, some of them, coming to your hand for salt: their dark eyes wide and gleaming with the wonder and the fear we had all felt at seeing for the first time life as our dreams had always imagined it… at seeing so many people with whom they could fall in love. The old enchantment composed of lights, music, people was transfixing them for the first time, and it made their faces even more touching.”
I remember well the days and nights spent dancing and looking for love:
“Any memory of those days is nothing but a strong of songs.”
Holleran writes very well and this is the first book of his I have read not dealing with AIDS. While there are many occasions in the book for beautiful prose:
“Love was the key: The popular songs he heard on the radio, Malone realized now, were in the end perfectly accurate. Each time he ran his lips across the concave depression of Frankie’s stomach, he banished further the nights of loneliness, the widow’s cold cream, the sterile years of his wasted youth, and he burrowed deeper at the thought of it into Frankie’s flesh.”
And touches of humour:
“I’ll go live in the woods,” said Malone.
“You’ll be lonely,” said Sutherland. “Even Thoreau went to town in the afternoon to gossip.”
Ultimately not much happens. You come to the city, you dance, you love, you die. Which now that I think of it could be the plot of a lot of people’s lives. I ultimately found the characters under-developed and wanted a beautiful story to go with the amazing prose.
“…what happens to most of these people anyway? They have their fling and then they vanish. They have to take jobs eventually as telephone operators, bartenders, partners in a lamp shop in some little town in the San Fernando mountains… and others take their places… but mostly they just vanish, and you forget about them unless you hear, one day, a certain song.”

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Recipe: Aunt Alma's Trifle

I know a lot of additions have been made to trifle over the years, and Americans added Jell-O (???) but this was the first one I ever had. My step-grandmother Alma Welborn made it and before she passed away she told me the recipe.
I usually make this in a glass bowl but I wanted to make a bit more so I used this 9x13 for the example. The recipe is for the bowl.

Ingredients
  • 1.5 packages lady fingers
  • 1 cup Sherry
  • 2/3 jar of jam (prefer raspberry)
  • 4.5 tablespoons custard powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2.5 cups milk
  • small container whipping cream

Place the lady fingers on a baking sheet and pour over 1 cup Sherry.  Let sit until moisture is absorbed.
Place the lady fingers in the bottom of the bowl using a fork until the bottom is covered, use about half. Spoon 1-2 to 2/3 jar of jam overtop of lady fingers, then cover with remaining lady fingers.
Make custard according to package directions, using 1.5 times more custard powder than required. For mine I used 4.5 tbsp. custard powder, 3 tbsp. sugar and 2.5 cups milk.  Place in microwave and heat on high for 8 minutes or until starting to set, beating every two minutes. So I put it in for 2 minutes, beat, then put it back for another 2 until it's starting to set. You can make it on the stove but it's very tricky and you will get lumps.
Pour over lady fingers while hot. Cover with cling film, ensuring the cling film is sticking to the top of the custard, not the top of the dish. Otherwise you'll get a film on the custard.
Place in fridge until fully cooled.  Whip small 250 ml container of cream and spread on top of custard.
The more you can let this sit the better it will taste, so try and leave overnight.  I am usually unsuccessful.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Grim by Rupert Smith

Grim by Rupert Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good book by a good writer, just not really what I was looking for. I bought this book and then took about 8 months to read it. There were no reviews on the Amazon US site where I bought it and no in-depth reviews on Goodreads so I couldn’t really figure out what it was about. Mostly I was wondering if there was any gay angle in the book and the answer is basically no. The book itself is a British horror written in the Stephen King mode, with some Rosemary’s Baby and a touch of Maeve Binchy thrown in.
After reading the prolific Mr. Smith’s amazing Man's World, I then read I Must Confess and was less impressed. I feel that Mr. Smith has a little trouble writing likable characters and this book is no exception. While he writes plot and story very well, this is an area I would work on.
The book was a little slow to get going, by 50% I was into it and by 70% I couldn’t put it down and raced to the end. Again Smith writes very well but there were a few points I got stuck at along the way. The American hero speaks and thinks in British slang, which was okay, I enjoyed the Britishness of it all, but I didn’t understand why. There’s one point where he’s talking to someone and thinks to himself Do the British really talk like that? I’m thinking you’ve been talking like that the whole book!
The other thing is the religious aspect, the moral of the story could quite easily be that Catholicism is the one true religion, and I didn’t really sign up for that either.
I don’t want to give anything away but the story was engaging in itself and I enjoy books where you have to burn through the end to find out what happens.
There is again the question of proofreading for the Kindle, or lack thereof. The version I purchased on November 27, 2013 had about a dozen errors. What is the answer for this? Does the author need trusted friends who can proofread? Should those of us who can offer our services? Whatever the answer is the ebook community has yet to find it. Some of the most glaring errors:
At location 175, a paragraph is doubled, starting with ‘There is nothing wrong with this house.
At location 2048, “restore the land and the building to its original usage, id est a place of worship”
At location 4735, “No doctors are nurses were harmed”
At location 5349, “if he looked down between yhe arms”
At location 5835, “It feels like a had a whole bottle of scotch.”
At location 6249, Chapter 17, doubles the word ‘and’ in the first sentence.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Money's On The Dresser - Escorting, Porn and Promiscuity in Las Vegas by Christopher Daniels

Money's On The Dresser - Escorting, Porn and Promiscuity in Las Vegas by Christopher Daniels
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good book on the escorting business, perhaps one of the best.
Daniels writes well, focusing a little but not too much time on his life before porn and escorting. The stories he tells are hot and I admire him for showing his life really as it is, warts and all. I imagine when escorts talk there's a tendency to play up how much you got and play down what you did or who you were with and Daniels avoids that trap, telling honestly what his time in the business has been like.
Most of the people who write books like this have left the business not wanting to put down clients or divulge stories but Daniels does both while coming across as just being honest, never bitchy or snide.
Escorts have to overcome a lot of Puritanical crap about their lives and their work to provide a much needed service and I was glad to read this. When you hear about the 28 year old disabled virgin you realize that these people are providing positive service.
One thing about the copy, I don't understand why so many people put out books without proper proofreading.
On page 119: "Here I was finally shooting such a, but because we were pressed for time..."
On page 126: "This really annoyed me, because if I had saved his number, I would not have known not to see him again."
On page 134: "In the elevator, I had to keep readjusting my dick in my underwear because it was still rock-hard from all the."
All the what??? There's about a dozen such errors and they distract.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Story of a Life: For the Consideration of the Medical Fraternity by Claude Hartland

The Story of a Life: For the Consideration of the Medical Fraternity by Claude Hartland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting enough short book I managed to read in a couple of hours.
I had never heard of this book before and was surprised, the first American account of an avowed homosexual from 1901? I don't know of another account before this one from any place and so was anxious to read it. Now that I have, I understand why it isn't more popular.
While I enjoyed reading of the time period and occasionally placing myself in the situation of the author, it was hard to relate. The author was SO emotional, he cries and weeps on nearly every page. Some of this may be a figure of speech but I don't think so.
Due to the time it was written the author rarely speaks plainly about sex and sometimes the undertones are too subtle for me to tell if anything happened. Much of the book is lamenting his condition, worrying it will spread, effecting others, etc. He refers to masturbating as self-abuse and says he tried to do it not often enough to cause permanent harm, limiting himself to a few times a week and eventually making a pact with God to never do it again. This pact is then broken with much torment and tears and weeping. It's just hard to relate.
The book is presented to the medical establishment in hopes of finding a cure. The book ends with the author at age 30 so hopefully he found some comfort.
A couple things surprised, the number of times grown men shared beds surprised. Why was a teacher invited to stay over at his 16 year old pupil's house and share his bed? Also people seemed to die a lot. They'd look pale, and next thing they'd be dead.
Overall worthwhile as a glimpse at history but not a book to hang the hat on.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Sexual Outlaw: A Documentary by John Rechy

The Sexual Outlaw: A Documentary by John Rechy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rechy seems to me to be unappreciated in our time, perhaps because of his frank use of sex. He has some good ideas in this book but I don’t know that they were all fully explored or that they necessarily stand up over time.
The book is a valuable piece of history, one that I think will stand up for generations, showing the pursuit of sex and interaction with police over a period in the seventies. There’s always been the idea, are gay men so promiscuous because they’re men, because they’re gay, because they’re oppressed, why? This book attempts to answer some of those questions and I think it would be interesting to take these ideas and re-work them against modern concepts. For example I think with liberation a lot of anonymous cruising areas have disappeared. Or have they just moved to the internet?
There are several incidents described which almost defy belief in our time:
A youngman cruising: “The judge threatens to hold you incommunicado for three months—for ‘psychiatric examination,’ insisting that all homosexuals are insane.”
“A man is cruising. Two men drive by and call him a ‘fucking queer.’ Through their window, you swing at one angrily. They turn out to be vice cops, and you’re charged with assaulting an officer.”
The piece on the slave auction in particular stands out.
The last twenty percent of the book delves into S & M, or what Rechy would I think call then the problem of S & M. With the recent release of the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer, you can’t call S & M exclusively for self-hating gays looking to act out the experiences of their tormentors. I will acknowledge that there is some of that, I think all oppressed people take on characteristics of their oppressors. But Rechy is not always reasoned in his arguments:
“I heard, increasingly, intellectualized defenses of Manson, even of Hitler. From there the defense of S & M is easy.”
Comparing things to Hitler is a guaranteed way to bring the conversation to a stop.
On Fisting: “this activity has already resulted in death and permanent crippling.”
Let’s check this with Google. I had never heard this idea before that people who want to be fisted are really looking for ways to die. Silly. Especially when Rechy himself uses this at the end of his book The Coming of the Night, published in 1999, so perhaps his attitude has evolved. I checked Google, I don’t see evidence of fisting making someone crippled, there are a very few cases documented of people dying, but it doesn’t seem to be any different from other large items that could be inserted.
He is more reasoned in his depiction of a specific S & M scene:
“In effect, the ‘S’ says, ‘You are the queer now, not me, and I’ll punish you for it, just as I was punished for it—and I’ll call you the names others would call me, and have called me.”
But I don’t think you can generalize it like that. I think in our society there is still an element of punishment and self-abuse for wanting sex period, not just gay sex. Also I think there’s a larger element of self-hating gays that Rechy touches on with older gay men and transsexuals being excluded from the community that I think goes deeper to the root of the problem that the S & M theory does and could have been explored more.
The main value of the book is the time being described. A time when you would call the police for help after being attacked and:
“A cold voice accuses from the telephone: ‘What were you doing in a queer park at midnight?’”

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling by Rick Whitaker

Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling by Rick Whitaker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ugh. Pretentious, short, filled with unnecessary quotes from long dead authors in the public domain.
The best line in the book I thought was went he went to a drug counsellor and said he was addicted to meth and doing it twice a day. The drug counsellor says So? How's that working for you?
There's this moment when you realize your problems are not someone else's, that you can't blame your childhood on your current lifestyle forever, that no one cares or will care except yourself. And this is touched on for like 2 paragraphs, and then back to Nietzsche quotes, irrelevant notebook entries from years ago and lines that start with "Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in the diary he kept during the First World War...".
Your eyes will be rolling as you read.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book, it's one of my favorites. I just finished another book I compared to Catcher in my review and thought to myself it had been 20 years since I last read Cather. I thought I should re-read it to see if I still remembered it accurately.

"He was one of those guys that think they're being a pansy if they don't break around forty of your fingers when they shake hands with you. God, I hate that stuff."

The king of hyperbole, I identify so much with Holden.

"But my parents, especially my mother, she has ears like a goddam bloodhound. So I took it very, very easy when I went past their door. I even held my breath, for God's sake. You can hit my father over the head with a chair and he won't wake up, but my mother, all you have to do to my mother is cough somewhere in Siberia and she'll hear you."

I love the wording, the language still feels fresh and new 75 years later. This is the original teen angst book that started the ball rolling for generations of copy cats.

I think this also may have been the first book I read that dealt with homosexuality.

Fuck you.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cabbagetown Diary: A Documentary by Juan Butler

Cabbagetown Diary: A Documentary by Juan Butler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favourite book of the year. I loved it.
This is the best book I’ve ever read about Toronto. The author takes you there, to the Cabbagetown slum of 1968 and describes the landmarks of the time so well it’s like you’re there. Picture Yorkville as the author describes it:
“Yorkville Avenue. Two blocks of discotheques with the music blaring out onto the street; sidewalk coffee houses where you can watch people who watch you as you drink a fifty-cent coffee; art galleries full of modern painting that looks like the stuff we did in grade one; a poster store where my friend George got his posters; and about half a million people and cars moving up and down like a permanently flowing river.”
A lot of books have been compared to Catcher in the Rye and to me this one is the closest. The short vignettes, the sense of humour. This to me is what a first book can be. Too often I feel Canadian authors get too swept up in their own lives when writing their first book. I was young, I was depressed, I took drugs, the end. This book isn’t all about the author. A part of it is but it’s also his life, his humour, his friends, and the city.
Some passages still ring true today:
“But just think of all those joes that work in offices. They live in some stupid suburb ten miles out of the city. They have to get up at six in the morning, drink an instant breakfast, kiss wives whose faces are covered in beauty cream so you can’t even see them, run like hell so they don’t miss the bus, and spend an hour on it with about ten thousand other joes all crammed in like so many sardines in a can, fight their way into a subway car, get their feet stepped on about twenty time, and all that so that they can arrive thirty seconds late for work and have the boss give them a dirty look and write their name on a piece of paper.”
I’ve often thought of these self-obsessed pretentious first novels that it’s like depressing fish in a barrel. When you add in the humour, the work can really shine:
“Mrs. Waddling’s caught a cold and every time she blows her nose she reminds me more than ever of a duck. Honk. Honk. She better not leave the city in duck-hunting season or they’ll get her for sure.”
On the St Charles Tavern:
“I went in there one day with a friend. It’s dimly lit and except for the perfume you’d think you were walking into a straight bar. Then, as your eyes get used to the light you see that there’s nothing but guys in the place. Hundreds of them. They look you up and down as you walk towards the end trying to find a seat, and you realize what a broad in a miniskirt feels like on a windy day.”
An elephant in the Riverdale Zoo:
“He’s covered in shit and dirt and he looks about as happy as a hungry Jew with nothing but pork to eat in the house.”
“We walk past a baboon who’s picking his ass for fleas and throwing them at the spectators. Each time he does it, he smiles, his top lip lifting up a foot, exposing buck teeth that would make Jake jealous. Some little kid throws a stick at him and he picks it up, looks at it, then throws it back at him, hitting the kid’s mother. The kid laughs and the baboon smiles. It’s obvious that they’re in on this together. It’s probably the baboon that thought up the whole idea cause the kid doesn’t look too smart.”
Yes there is some anti-Semitism and racism but it seems casual to me and I wasn’t there in 1968 to gauge the mood of the populace so I don’t know how commonplace it was. I feel I can’t judge.
There’s so many great scenes in the book, the author going for a drink in a rowdy tavern, seeing hippies on the street, walking in Allen Gardens.
Loved this book. For me required reading for those living in the city.

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