Published Jul 01, 2000If I told you that I had sex last night with a hustler who was a convicted child molester with scoliosis, would you believe me? Well you’d be right if you called me a liar, because it wasn’t last night, it was several weeks ago. I won’t tell you what city it was in to protect the innocent, but I will say that the hustler bar at which I met him is one of the most premier establishments of its kind in all of North America. Before you get your underwear in a bow, let me tell you that he was not much more than a lad himself when the “inappropriate touching” occurred (in a church basement, of course), that he was molested himself at roughly the same age as that of his victim, and that he seems to be, after juvenile incarceration and much therapy, completely rehabilitated. He was an intense, hawk-like character whose childhood disease caused him to walk with a rollicking gait, as if he were permanently foisted on the deck of a ship on a stormy sea. He was like a bird with a broken wing. It was so Flannery O’Connor I could hardly stand it.
I seem to be running into the most tragic characters lately. Clearly not a case of opposites attracting; more like misery loves company I suppose. Justus, my all-too-appropriately monikered model scout, recently furnished me with a young waif to shoot for Honcho, the glossy American porno magazine I work for to pay the bills. As poetic Justus also works at a second hand clothing store, he also provided me with a vintage ‘70s McDonald’s uniform for him to wear, a brown number with orange trim and bell-bottomed pants, replete with a visor and large “Big Mac Attack’ button. (Justus, incidentally, also posed in a recent issue himself, styled as both a punk wearing vintage Vivienne Westwood and Union Jack underwear, and as a Vietnam vet.) The new model, who shall remain nameless to protect me, was celebrating his 19th birthday on the day of the shoot, although I still haven’t seen his ID yet, which he mysteriously lost on the subway the following day. Presuming that he’s telling the truth about his age (we have several mutual acquaintances who have testified to its veracity), it struck me how relative the whole area of paedophilia really can be, the shades of grey between adulthood and youth, between a healthy, happy relationship and prison. If I had shot this young man a year and a day earlier, the consequences could have been dire. As it is, he could easily pass for 15.
The shoot goes swimmingly, conducted at the studio of a photog friend who has a guard dog named after a female superhero. It’s a demeaning task for both photographer and model, shooting for such magazines, if you want to look at it that way. The most obvious problem for most subjects is, of course, getting it up: for the majority of men, the mere presence of the camera acts as an erectile inhibitor, to the degree that sometimes I feel like I’m shooting Erectile Dysfunction Monthly. Although after having shot 20 or so spreads now, I do feel I’ve learned most of the tricks of the trade, so to speak. Patience is the key. Then there’s the matter of the asshole shot, which really does nothing for me, but which is one of the required standard postures. Imagine me behind the camera with a clothespin on my nose.
My model, a cute raver-boy, had been living up until today in a small Ontario town before he was ceremoniously booted out of his house on his birthday. Apparently his father is a bully with loose fists who had sketchy photos hanging all over the house of himself and his buddies posing with AK 47s, back from his IRA salad days. Whenever his kids asked him about their origin, they were liable to be answered with a belt in the mouth. The boy poses gamely for the camera, stripping off his McD’s uniform with aplomb. Later, we go to a real McDonald’s with the model still in his uniform and I ask the manager if I can take a few snapshots of him pretending to work behind the counter. Improbably, she agrees. I finish up by shooting him standing in front of a McChicken sign. In an ideal world, this would be the name of the spread, but alas it is doubtful that I will even be allowed to publish the photos owing to copyright restrictions. Oh well. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll end up in the Smithsonian Institute.
A week later I decide to fly down to New York to meet with the famous shoe designer Ernesto Esposito, who used to be the assistant designer at Vuitton. It’s not that I have a desperate shoe crisis; it’s just that he’s the emissary of some art gallery in Milan that wants to present some of my photographs, possibly a joint show with Terry Richardson. As I have finally, at my advanced age, had a credit card dropped in my lap, I book a flight I can’t afford and head south. It’s just the excuse I need, because the last time I was in New York I met, through a mutual friend, an adorable amputee who said he would pose for me for Honcho. I have a strange history with amputees, to whom I am both attracted and repelled. As a kid growing up on a farm there were always three-legged cats and dogs running around who had received the worst of some encounter with a piece of farm machinery, and the same fate was met by several of my friends and neighbours, many of whom were missing various digits or limbs. One of my best friends in early public school lost his index and middle fingers on one hand to a hay auger, and he used to grind the stumps between my eyes on the school bus to freak me out.
Greg, my model, a successful make-up artist in the fashion industry, lost his right arm and most of a shoulder to cancer at the age of eight or nine; as he lost the limb so early, and because of the extent of the amputation, he’s never worn a prosthetic, and functions quite well without one thank you. He’s in his early 30s, boyish face, shaved head, very sweet. I shoot him back at good old reliable Chris Buck’s place, using once again his lovely Japanese assistant Kyoko, whom he is now dating. Greg shows up at the appointed hour in jeans and a T-shirt, and after I select a royal blue backdrop and dismiss Kyoko from the room (he’s cutely shy of disrobing in her presence), we get down to business. I pop the porn movie that I suggested he bring into the VCR he’s chosen Large Latinos, which he purchased of the sidewalk somewhere and he pulls down his pants. Imagine my surprise when I discover that he is already completely camera-ready! This is a first for me. After two years of coaxing and cajoling and occasionally soliciting hard-ons from models, I’ve found one for whom, he confesses, the camera acts as an instant aphrodisiac. I take pictures of him from every conceivable angle, and several inconceivable ones, which, considering his physiognomy, results in some pretty spectacular effects. But one arm or two, my most frequent direction remains unalterably the same: lift your chin.
After making appearances at a few functions early in the week, including a rather pose-y preview party for the new Rufus Wainwright CD at the Cock, which I appropriately attend with Parker Posey, my body rebels and I succumb to a mild stomach flu that has me chained to the bowl for several dire days. I’m staying at the East Village apartment of my usual director of photography, James Carman, or Jesus Christ as I like to refer to him, who is a complete health nut and yoga devotee. His girlfriend is a psychic healer, a lovely, witchy woman with wild white flowing hair and piercing blue eyes. James has a million pills stockpiled in his apartment vitamins, minerals, dietary supplements but not one that will do me a damn bit of good. He makes me bathe in the bathtub with a crystal I’m tempted to use it as a scrub brush and plies me with various lotions and potions, fungi and root, eye of newt. Tannis anyone? His girlfriend tells me that when she walked in the apartment she saw that my aura was yellow a sure sign of influenza and that the word “Flu” was written on my chest. Who knew that auras could spell? After all their ministrations they also massage my aura and do a little acupressure and laying on of hands I do feel better, if only for all the attention.
Jesus Christ worries about my karma, considering my pornographic dalliances, but of course he is equally complicit, having shot my porno movie. If the real Jesus were alive today, he’d probably be working in the porn industry too. That’s where he’d be the most needed.