That was 20-plus years ago. Twenty-plus years ago, I was just hitting puberty, outwardly shining, an altar boy, an honors student.
Inwardly I was burning up from the flames of shame, for it was men I craved. Men and only men. Too stricken to act on it (which seemed an
impossibility, anyway, where I grew up), my sole outlet was the only
full-color magazine to feature fully nude men, short of hardcore gay porn
(and where would I have found that in upstate New York?). Playgirl was “Entertainment For
Women.” But for me, and no doubt for an entire nation of miserably closeted small-town gay boys, it was nothing of the kind. It was a lifeline to our sexual existence.
Ostensibly, Playgirl was marketed toward the urban, upper-middle-class, liberated groovy chick. But in the demographics of loins, the target audience was the mirror
image of that which it exploited: men. Gay men in particular, and maybe a few confused straight men. So long as a dick dangles unhampered by the confines of clothing, a queer man will be there.
To this day, all it takes is the sight of those vintage 1970s covers to bring back the thrill. Certain images remain in the brain forever, and
so it was with the glossy images of a stud named Stone. He was Playgirl’s new “Man of the Year” — its cocksure, uncovered cover boy.
By the time Stone made the cover, it was no longer enough for me to sneak peeks at the magazine rack of the local drugstore when no one was looking,
to recall later in my fevered memory bank, alone in bed. Acquisition had become the order of the day. Realizing that attempting to steal the bulky
magazine whole could be dangerous, I discovered that it was unnecessary to lift an
entire magazine that spouted the incidental drivel of the female life — douching, dating and so on. All I needed to lift were the pages held fast by the staples, and I had it down to a science. First, I’d scale the summit of the magazine
rack where all the adult entertainment mags were. The next step was to place my Playgirl behind an innocuous McCall’s on the third shelf, reach in,
find the slick pages of the centerfold with greedy fingers, give one good yank and slide the booty between adolescent chest and T-shirt, all the
while making my way without too obvious a haste toward the exit.
It was through such an audacious tactic of appropriation that the photographs of Stone entered my permanent collection, between mattress and box spring, and his perfect penis into my consciousness, wherein it stayed lodged for
Stone’s was the era of ‘Boogie Nights,” when the nude men in magazines were worth looking at. I’m talking long sideburns; wild, unruly hair; mustache;
coral pendants dangling between their tits; and hair everywhere, ass, legs,
chest, a nest of thick pubic hair and a slightly drug-dazed grin for the camera. Nowadays Playgirl centerfolds are airbrushed, shaved,
hairless everywhere but for the head, where some long faggy blond mane now hangs, coiffed to within an inch of its life. The Playgirl centerfolds of the 1970s may have been gay or straight (very often the former, despite the seductive talk about the ideal woman, or taking their ladies for a midnight
stroll on the beach and a duck into the dunes to “ball”), but at least they all looked like men, and not prettier versions of the women who were
supposed to be ogling them.
So whose escort ad in a free gay weekly should I recently have stumbled across but Stone’s? The picture in the ad was recent, but he still looked
damn good, and it made perfect sense, if the body was still good, to keep it on the payroll. Seeing Stone, looking relatively the same after two
decades, churned up a sentimentality for my lost youth in all its Sturm und Drang, guilt-choked lust — the full force of which I never again felt in
the same way. Who better to marry my teenage lust to than the man who’d been most responsible for my fevered fantasies of sexual abandon? What
better way to forget about the numbing dissatisfactions of my current (non-)marital state than to return to the previous life of the lustful
adolescent mind? And what better way to reclaim my autonomy than to be the boss of my own desires?
Now, of course, being an adult, it would cost me –
200 bucks to be exact. At $200, it was a birthday indulgence, just like the celebratory bottle of Krug non-vintage champagne
I’d bought to mark the occasion. I told myself it was research — both emotional and professional. I drank some Krug, made my call and heard
his voice for the first time: neutral, unmemorable, neither here nor there. I asked him what he “did” — my way of offering him an easy out from
certain activities. He said he did “everything.” I confess that I felt 12, but alas I was mistaken. You can’t go home again.
We made a date; 20 minutes later my cab pulled up to one of the more fleabagged of fleabag hotels. And there he was outside, sitting on the
steps, in jeans, sneakers, T-shirt, a baseball cap, looking agreeably lifelike. We shook hands, went in, Stone paid the “concierge” for the room
and up we went.
The room, even by the fluid New York City definition of a room, wasn’t one, but rather a dingy cubicle containing a tiny color TV on a side chair, a window like a porthole and a change of clothes for Stone — this was his office. Getting down to business, he asked to be
paid and, eager to prove myself respectful of the nature of our business transaction, I threw 10 20s on the bed. Robotically he began to
disrobe, as if in anticipation of a physician’s anal probe, and when I expressed a sensual interest in assisting him, he suggested I just take off
my own. I lingered, clinging to the erotic appeal of being half-clothed while the former Playgirl Man of the Year lay nude in anticipation on the
bed (cot, really). But seeing him naked in the flesh, without benefit of ambience or stylists, in a continual waiting state — waiting for me to get
naked, waiting for me/us to jerk off, waiting for me to leave, waiting for the beeper to go off and the cycle to be repeated — made any attempt at an
erotic atmosphere painfully beside the point.
First I made the mistake of attempting to engage him in conversation. I should have known that the last thing he wanted to be reminded of was his
glory days, so when I asked about Playgirl, he said that wasn’t something he really had anything to say about. OK. When I joked about the heterosexual charade the magazine indulged in with regard to its models, he muttered something about “being straight” at the time he posed, and he spoke with such a separation of words from emotion that I decided to just get on with it and get out. His perfunctory zombie act was having a chillingly reciprocal effect.
Then I made the mistake of taking his previous declaration that he did “everything” at face value. Spanking? He made a face of the mildest
distaste. Of course, I didn’t need to be told that kissing just wasn’t done.
All right, so nothing resembling foreplay — what were we going to do for an
hour? Deciding to assert myself, I declared I wanted a massage and flipped
over onto my stomach. After a few minutes of indifferent back-rubbing, I rolled
over on top of him. He grimaced — it was his back, he explained. I needed to be a little careful.
Now I was irritated, and when I’m irritated (and sometimes when I’m not), nastiness kicks in. I asked if Mom and Dad were still alive. What
could be more cloying to a whore than to ask after the parents? He didn’t talk about personal stuff, he said monotonously — as if I wanted
to hear anyway. At that point, I decided the situation was so perfunctory it wasn’t worth masturbating. I told him to go ahead while I watched. A minute or so later, two pathetic, Susan B. Anthony dollar-sized spunk puddles
stuck sadly to his 50-ish gut — which told me just how many times tonight he’d performed this act on himself. I got dressed, we shook hands and I
left him with Jay Leno. I cabbed it home and met up with friends to celebrate my return to the land of the living. The next day I remember waking up wondering if I’d done anything for my birthday.
Postscript: In a recent classified ad, I noticed Stone had lowered his rate to $150. I myself have since been working to decrease a rather
marked bald spot on the top of my head with some Rogaine-like ingredient. It’s all about cutting your losses where you can.