Steven Fales

Steven Fales
Steven Fales -- Actor/Writer/Producer

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mission Call and Mission Release

This is what a mission call looks like, should you choose to accept it!

 
 
This is what a mission release looks like, should you choose to accept it!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Letter to a John" or "Mormon American Hustle"


"Mormon American Hustle"

 
 
 
 

From the book Confessions of a Mormon Boy: Behind the Scenes of the Off-Broadway Hit (Alyson Books, 2006), Lambda Literary Award Finalist

 

This is the actual email I mention in my play that I wrote coming down from my very first crystal meth binge. I hope to never do the drug again. Though much of this letter was the crystal talking (notice the length and thoroughness of some of the explanations and was written and re-written for twelve hours without a break!), it was the first time I realized that I had to stop escorting—for reasons I am only beginning to understand now. I hope the letter gives a bit of insight into the psychology of a sex-worker hoping to transition. It is a letter written while in the depths of hell. If you have a problem with crystal meth or any other addiction…there is help. You don’t have to do this alone.


New York City

Finished and sent Thursday, June 7, 2001, 11:18 am

 
Dear S--,

Thank you for your emails and your call directing me to them. Email is so tricky. It is easily misunderstood and I want things to be clear between us. The last email I sent you was written in haste. I should have taken more time to carefully organize my thoughts and write with more clarity. You and our relationship deserved a much better email than the one I sent. There are many escorts who wouldn’t think twice about losing a client and would not invest the entire night to write to you as I have done. But you very much deserve more than the typical client. I have written this with my heart. Please read it with yours.

Having re-read my recent email, I admit it comes across curt and flippant and does not give full resonance to the weight of what is at stake and the deep emotions at hand. I see it has made you angry. I hope this email will do you and myself justice. Know that this is my best attempt late into the night to explain how I see things and to apologize for any wrongs I have done or hurt I have caused. I’m sorry if it is too long, but I have some important things I need to say. Please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors I make. Especially forgive the parts that seem pedantic. As I am writing this, it is in many ways for me to clarify and organize and make sense of some things for myself. You are an educated, smart man and I don’t mean to insult your intelligence or offend you in any way with my philosophizing, moralizing, or psycho-analyzing. Most of this I’m sure is bullshit. But I’m trying and trust you will glean what is true and what is a bit off, if not completely off-track, you will tolerate.

It is obvious that we both now realize the truth about our relationship. I admire you for coming to this truth clearly and so soon into our relationship. You are nipping it in the bud as you recognize that it won’t work and it will save yourself even more pain, anger, resentment and money in the end. This is not a new realization. You came to it when you took me to dinner a few weeks ago. I think we both tried to brush it aside that night. You wanted this arrangement to work emotionally. I needed this arrangement to work financially. So we gave it another try, but the truth remains that ours could never be a truly committed loving relationship like I knew you wanted it to be because, essentially I was being paid to be in it and no amount would change the facts or my feelings in any lasting, significant way.

The other truth is that you gave and I took more than the relationship was worth. I helped lead you to believe that we could have much more than an arrangement or “paid” relationship. I knew from the beginning, though not as clearly as now, that this was impossible. I now see that I was unknowingly, but still responsible for, trying to keep a charade going. I didn’t realize fully that I was playing it, but I certainly was. I must be accountable for my selfishness in keeping the charade going, which was not a caring or honest thing to do. I wanted to keep receiving your money and the generous gifts which you believed you were giving in return for a lasting, truly authentic loving relationship. One that you wanted, but which I knew could never be. You are no dumbie. You started seeing things for what they were and are while I kept trying to keep the charade going when it was only going to hurt you. The relationship that you hoped for and wanted was never going to be the only one that I knew it could be.

One of the most trite but true statements in the world is that though you may be able to buy sex, you can’t buy love or happiness. Escorts and all the rest of the pimps out there want you to believe you can get love ad happiness if you purchase the sex. You got hot sex, charm, and a smile from me, but then you mistakenly hoped if you paid enough it could grow into something resembling love and true caring and even fidelity. We wanted you to think that so you’d just buy more sex. But we knew the rest of the package would never come in the mail. I knew from the beginning that this was a false hope, but I didn’t say a thing. I aided you in your own deception for my financial needs. You then invested more emotionally and financially than was in your best interests. You didn’t get, and never would get what you wanted me to be. Unfortunately the buyer is not protected in this business. There is no money back guarantee and there are really no legal rights because prostitution is illegal anyway!

I understood why you feel so angry. You have every right to be. Like I said, you were taken advantage of by me (though not as methodically or maliciously as you may think). I did ultimately care more about subtly manipulating more and more money from you, than taking the high road and thinking of your true needs and very real feelings. I am capable of the high road and I sadly admit I chose the low. I feel badly about that because it hurt you. That is why I am not really cut out for this business. I’m not supposed to feel remorse for hurting or deceiving people. But I do.

It is such a simple fact of life really that we have to sift through the false advertising and deceit when making a purchase. Buyer beware. Capitalism to some extent is built on this cut throat selling gimmick. Everyone is trying to sell you something. Often we buy it because we want or need it, but so often there were red flags and fine print we didn’t take the time to read or examine and we get burned. Because we wasted our money on an imitation or wrong thing entirely. Sometimes we willingly forget this fact because we want something we don’t have badly enough. When you told me you were falling in love with me, or getting near that point, I should have stopped everything right then and there. It would have solved most of the anger and pain you are experiencing now. But I didn’t and I kept up appearances to make another sale.

One truth on the other side of the coin is that courtesans have no rights or security that we will get what we want. We can think we have a secure gig in a particular client, and may be told we will be loved and provided for indefinitely by that client, like in this case and many other great gigs I have seen blow away (especially a early client that liked to write me $5,000 checks! That promised me he would never abandon me! I as a fool to believe that lie.) the minute you think you have it in the bag, watch out. Your last incredible date/appointment that you thought would bring you the next (because you thought you kept him believing the illusion more than ever before) may very well be the last time you see him or his money again. Courtesans often have their own delusional thinking that causes them pain and lots of bounced checks! Believe it or not, some of us actually believe it is possible to find a life-long partner to love us in a client! There is no need to go into the faulty logic in that kind of thinking. It does not end in a happy union in the end.

I want to fully take my part in this drama by admitting that I always knew our relationship would ultimately go sour. I am a paid escort or courtesan (a male courtesan in this case). I know there are much harsher names for this, the oldest profession in the world, but please indulge my need to keep some sense of dignity. I have been selling an illusion of love and romance (thrown in with the illegal reality but expectation of esx) in exchange for money. Lots of it. Having admitted that, I, and all courtesans, in our desire to have the security of repeat clients have only one real apology to make to our clients. We deliberately fail to inform or remind (or warn) our clients that the illusion of our love (that they may or may not acquaint with sex) they are paying handsomely for is not real. Call it false advertising, plain lies and deceit or what you will. The courtesan does everything possible to keep the distinguished, wealthy client from believing, remembering, or admitting and sometimes even knowing to begin with that the magic in the magic show is just a trick. Anyone who hires courtesans is in more danger of forgetting the limits of the transaction whenever they start seeing one exclusively. In the end I knew that my feelings for you could never be what you hoped they were. Even up to my last email I was in one way or another, and not even meaning to really, trying to get you to believe the illusion.

As in sales of any kind and throughout history, customers are manipulated into buying so that someone, in this case the courtesan, can make money to live on (or it may seem in many contemporary courtesan cases today, to buy Prada). I think it is important to note that what the shrewd courtesan wants to assume is that the client purchasing the courtesan’s time (and talents) is fully aware what the unstated agreement is. That when the hour paid for is over, so is the relationship. And any feelings the client has upon leaving that makes him feel the relationship means more to the courtesan than money, has been cast under her/his spell (sell) and will end up looking the fool.

The client is an audience member, not an actor like the courtesan. And like all audiences, they want to believe the illusion. They all too often mistakenly think they are the leading man in the scene. When this happens, they find they are really just the clown and get no final bow with the leading lady (or male escort in my case). Is it really the courtesan’s right and responsibility to remind the client that he is not the leading man in the upcoming scenes but just the audience? Probably not. But when he is a genuinely good person, like you, I think the courtesan should watch out for him. But remember, to your credit, you caught on quickly and were not duped by the actor/courtesan Steven and prevented him from making you look like a clown.

Again, the relationship at times may seem real, but hiring a courtesan is much like watching a play on stage. The actors, the story, the whole production with scenery, props, lights, music and dance is an illusion for a paying audience of one. The fact, which has now been repeated far too many times, is that it is not real, but ENTERTAINMENT. What so often happens is that an emotional attachment muddies and blurs the lines, leading to heartbreak and a lot of money lost. At the end of every run of a show they strike the stage and nothing remains. The actors are now looking for new work and start rehearsals for an entirely new play. No run lasts forever. And no audience stays for every show. This is the great tradition that goes back for ages.

I failed to adequately remind you of the dead end you were coming to. I could see your jealously of my other clients. You thought some kind of open relationship would work. I knew it wouldn’t. You said things about being honest, but I knew you had a difficult time knowing if I was out with for example, the Ambassador, so I wanted to protect you from the truth. You wanted loyalty and exclusivity so I tried to give you that illusion, and at the same time, you would be seeing people as well. There would always be a double standard. So it was a nice idea, but you have seen very quickly that it was impossible. And even if you could pay me enough to be your exclusive courtesan, I would always be a kept man with all the conflict and turmoil that would ultimately bring, especially if I fell in love with someone I wanted to be with. That ultimately would have happened.

I would never be what you wanted and for you to be what I wanted, a sugar daddy, would cost me a large piece of my truth and much freedom. Imagine how that multiplies when one has many sugar daddies. I lose my freedom. I was to act like I loved you, even if I never said the words, but would never fully mean it I because my actions would betray me. To your credit and because you are very different from the others and much more handsome, I actually considered falling in love with you. But I couldn’t. because, although you were my favorite client, you were still a client. And though I may have been your favorite escort, I was still an escort. That’s just the way it is. And even if I tried to act the part of being your lover, I am not a very good actor in real life. Sooner or later my performances ring hollow. Especially with regards to my double life as an escort. I see already that both lives are blending into one and I’m afraid of what will become of me. Especially in regards to my relationships and the potential of a long-term relationship with another gay man. I’m afraid I will start playing my escort tricks and quoting lines that will affect my performance in the play I want to act well in more than any other.

I was overwhelmed with your generosity the first time we met through (agency). (What a tip! The biggest I had ever received!) How could I not be completely bedazzled at the possibility of getting so much for what seemed so little. But now I see that I have been a clown myself. I thought I could sell my affections and that they didn’t mean that much to me. I now know that they are very dear to me and cost me every time I casually give them to strangers. It diminishes me and depletes me—and ultimately hurts my clients, like it has hurt you. I can’t go on selling myself off. I fear I will be left with nothing, my spirit and my future happiness. I have been lying to myself, to you, and the others.

In addition to financial need, I have had an emotional need which gets met to some extent through escorting. That is a need for external praise that I am special and beautiful and talented and valued. Many of those needs are getting filled, I hope, now that I’m adjusting to life after divorce. But escorting is not the healthiest way to get these needs met. It all gets boiled down to getting paid for sex—and being objectified. I get paid for external beauty and charm but not for the real me. One small example is the way I have to hide behind my hairpieces. I know without it clients wouldn’t say half of what they say nor would I have the success I have. As an escort you are always putting on a show. It’s time to get real. As you see, I have these and many other things to deal with and sort out. I probably do need some therapy.

I started realizing these and other things last night when I saw the movie Moulin Rouge. I know I suggested we see it together, but I am very glad we did not have to sit through it side by side. It would have been torture for me AND for you. It called us on our faulty thinking regarding our relationship and helped me see many things about myself that I was denying. I think it is a beautiful film and we should both see it, but not together.

Moulin Rouge is the story of a Courtesan. I couldn’t believe the irony as I watched the movie. It was painful and jolting to watch so much of my life and problems and our current situation being paralleled on the screen. When you see the movie, this will make much more sense. Just like the courtesan Nicole Kidman plays, I have justified prostituting myself for the dream of becoming a great actor. (How perfect that you just wrote that you wondered about this “escort/actor thing!” It is a thing to be wondering about!)

I left the movie with my thoughts and emotions spinning in my head and my denials vanishing into the bleak truth of what I have become and thinking what I must do to change. The reality that  was starting to dawn on me made for a very slow walk home that lead me to a very dark, depressing, and terrible night and day which I do not care to go into or repeat again. When I finally returned home late this evening (I did not come home last night), your well-timed emails should have come as no surprise. All this lead to this reality: I must stop escorting or it will destroy me and any possibility of the future I truly want for myself, and in some way that I don’t fully understand, for my children. It compromises my true desires and feelings and takes away my freedom to be the man I truly know I am deep inside. The irony again is that I sacrificed so much, my church membership and my marriage, to be what I know to be an authentic part of myself. I cannot continue to discredit this triumph I hold so dear by continuing to be fake in ways that escorting continues to enforce in me. I must stop now before things get out of hand. Which is already starting to happen. I hope it is I not too late. I like to think my stint of escorting was a necessary evil that helped to get me on my feet. Remember, I moved to this impossible, ridiculously expensive, yet necessary-to-be-here city sixty thousand dollars in debt and with sixty dollars in my pocket. I had no one, not even well to do parents, willing to help me get set up and make my career, dreams, and new life happen. Not to mention I had no idea when I would see my dear children again because there was no way I could afford a plane ticket back to see them for what would be months and moths. I barely had a week’s money to eat or ride the subway with, let alone get new headshot’s printed and pay for telephone calls to talk to my kids in Utah. Escorting seemed the best and easiest way out at the time. It hit me as an idea out of the blue. I didn’t know a thing about it or how to do it. All I knew was that it would provide financial freedom so I would have the time, energy, and means to focus on and make my acting career happen AND to help provide for my children and see them on a monthly basis. And  it has seemed to do the trick up until now.

In the last six months, and in no small part because of you, I have exceeded my original expectations regarding the money escorting would make me. In addition to all the money, I have shopped, dined, slept, socialized with incredibly wealthy and powerful men at some of the finest stores, restaurants, hotels, penthouses, theatres and concert halls in the world. I’ve lived like a prince (or a courtesan!) going wherever and doing and buying essentially whatever I needed and wanted! I have been showered with gifts and praise and adoration here in the most amazing city in the world. To my surprise I found that I am a damn good escort, if not exceptional. Far better than most in looks, charm, intelligence, humor, style, and yes sexual technique. I could make quite a very lucrative career of it for years to come, due in no small part to my youthful face and those handy, expensive hairpieces (the escorting paid for!). So though I am thirty-one and my hair is thinning, with my face, fake hair and the help of a personal trainer (which again escorting has paid for with an occasional facial or two to boot), I can easily compete with the many young, handsome escorts desired and routinely hired by that disconcerting number of wealthy gay men in this city for quite a few years to come. Most of these men, like you, have been complete gentlemen. Since I first came to New York in January and immediately started working as an escort (in addition to waiting table mind you), I have seen and experienced some of the most fabulous things in the past six months that would take others from my social class and Mormon background six years, if not a lifetime, if at all, to encounter. In many ways this education in the ways of the world has been a blessing, in others, a curse. I am not quite the bubbly, optimistic young actor I first was when I got here. In some ways it serves me, but at the same time I can tell I am developing an edge that is not always a pretty thing and must monitor before it makes me bitter and jaded like so may here in NYC.

I am pleased to report that most of the money I have made escorting has been used for the purpose for which it was originally intended: paying off debts, launching my acting/writing career, traveling monthly to Utah to see my children, paying child support, and getting set up in one of the most expensive and toughest cities in the world. I found I occasionally had the money to help family members and friends in need and would give generously. And yet I must also confess, some of the money I’ve spent selfishly on clothes, parties, and frivolous items I bought to nurture myself and help me feel like I actually am with a few nice things. Perhaps I did this to counteract the internalized shame and self-criticism I often feel (and have felt from many in my family and the Mormon sub-culture that didn’t appreciate and support me as a gay man) in failing in my efforts to be straight and my recent divorce and excommunication. Time will tell if this escorting holiday I have taken from reality was worth the potential costs. I don’t know the answer. I just pray, in the name of Moulin Rouge and all that is holy, I don’t have some undetected, incurable illness waiting to take me from my full potential and my children before I get to find out.

It is uncomfortably clear that when I stop escorting, life will be harder financially, but I know I am capable of making money legitimately. Escorting has spoiled me to some degree and threatened my work ethic, but I have worked hard in the past and can do it again. I believe life will be happier and more authentic and free when I do things the old-fashioned way and not take short cuts. And who knows, maybe my acting career will take me to the financial and artistic heights, that before I became sidetracked, I ‘d been working so hard for years to achieve. If not, there’s bound to be something that with my master’s degree and charisma (and let’s not forget humility) can do.

This letter is now far too long. I started it Wednesday night and it is now 11:00 am Thursday morning. I have not slept now in 48 hours so I admit this attempt to be clear is now muddied in confusion.

I would like to think I am wrong, but I believe in the future I will end up paying harsh, previously unexamined consequences for choosing to escort. An obvious dilemma is if anyone finds out about it. As of yet, not a single family member, friend, or industry professional knows that I have essentially been a prostitute. I don’t believe anyone can judge me for what I have done, but if it does ever get out, I will have to deal with the shame it could bring to my children and my family, and the possible effects the stigma would have on my acting career. What is at the bottom of this lengthy letter, which I fear has become vague and masturbatory, is that I admit that I have hurt you, and that I am sorry. I can see that I will pay a price for this. I will lose a dear, wonderful, generous, loving, supportive man’s friendship and confidence. It has already happened. You are right in what you wrote tonight. It is not possible for us to just be friends now. There is too much pain and loss. But as any objective, outside party can see, we have at least both honorably fulfilled our ends of the bargain. I have performed, at least for a time, a role for you. You have paid the actor’s fee. The show, though beautifully presented (or not so beautifully presented—if not acted downright appallingly), is over.

You have already admitted your share of the blame for this charade. I hope I have now fairly acknowledged mine so the scales are balanced and that you don’t feel angry at me. It is my wish that we part in peace. I want you to know and believe, because it is the truth, that I do care about you. You have done so many wonderful things for me and my children. I will never forget your kindness. You HAVE been a godsend and have helped me so much on this challenging, confusing, and terrifying journey I am on. You have given so much of your time, talent, love, not to mention money. Thank you for rooting for me. I think you know deep down I have genuinely given something of my best self to you. At least a bit more caring, I hope, than your average boy from (agency). Because I do care about you, S--. Though the rules of the courtesan say this was a business transaction and that we escorts should lock our hearts and forsake emotions when it comes to getting involved with a client. Though it is in both of our best interests to now part ways and move on with our lives without regular contact, if any, I know in my heart that we both gave a little bit if not a lot more than was required. I hope you agree and that you won’t regret the investment you made in this relationship and that you will remember the good times we’ve shared. Our paths collided here in New York for a reason. (Even if it was to help me see that I need to get out of escorting and that you better not hire one ever again!) There are no accidents. Thanks for teaching me many important things. I am so glad I got to know you, S--.

I want you to know that if I can someday be of any help to you in anyway, it would be my pleasure to do something to pay you back for your kindness. Or just to do something for a wonderful person and a dear old fried. So don’t hesitate to let me know. You have my numbers and if I’m ever famous, just call my agent! One important decision I have made for both of us, if you haven’t already come to it yourself: I will not be accepting anymore money or gifts of any kind from you. It is not right for me to expect anything more, nor would it be appropriate for you to give it. It would be taking advantage of you for me to ask. And the reality is that I am and will be fine. Spend your money on those who will be able to freely return your love and affection. Whoever they are now or will be in the future, they are very lucky.

Please dissolve the trust fund you set up for my children.

The one loose end is the mobile phone. I don’t know what kind of long-term contract they had you sign so I don’t know if it is possible to discontinue the service on it without a penalty, but paying the penalty might be the easiest way to go. I would like to keep the phone, if that is okay, and at a later date, when I am ready, I will purchase my own plan and get a new number. It is not essential that I have a mobile phone right now. I’ve got my service number which is all I need for now.

So in closing…I don’t think it is a good idea for us to see each other now for quite a while. Oh, I’m sure we’re bound to run into each other sooner than later, but for now, we need a major time out. Just throw that terrible, stupid toothbrush away and keep the pictures you took of me in some envelope in your desk if you decide not to burn them which you better not! We are both now free. I don’t think we need to talk this through. Just let me know in an email what we should do about the phone and I will trust that you are well and happy and vice versa.

I wish you the best and hope you have taken this letter in the spirit it was written in. Again, I apologize for any condescending tone or poor wording in this or the previous emails that may have offended you or made you angry.

With admiration and appreciation,

Steven Fales

P.S. It IS, however, okay for ME to give YOU one last gift. It is small. Just a token. I have received much from you. You don’t have anything really from me. I would like to give you something and will send it in the mail. (It was the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge.)

This client told me he spent over $80,000 on me. He eventually lost his job and Upper East Side apartment after a long relapse on alcohol. We talk about once a year. As of this writing, he is doing well in recovery and lives in Florida. He became a friend and helped me transition financially out of the business, for which I will always be grateful. He financed the stand-up comedy workshop that helped me find my comic voice to tell my story. I hope he realizes that he made a good investment. I have helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for LGBT charities since. I hope that appeases the IRS as well. Wink!

Excommunication Letter

Here is what an excommunication letter looks like. I received it a week after my Church Court where the official crime against me was "homosexuality". This is published in my book Confessions of a Mormon Boy: Behind the Scenes of the Off-Broadway Hit. A Lambda Literary Award Finalist, it is available on Amazon.com. If you didn't receive a letter like this, you weren't excommunicated. Accept no substitutes. Anything less is merely apostate. Trust the way of the heretic.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Got Sugar Daddy Syndrome?


At 30 at the height of my sex work experiment as I worked for the "A-list Escort Agency" in Manhattan. Flawless, loaded with cash, and quickly losing my light, I stopped smiling.


Adapted from a recent book proposal and still a work in progress.

          "My new pimp was nice--much more normal than I expected. He didn't try to have sex with me or beat me up. No drugs. The apartment was warm and comfortable--Tiffany lamps. We talked about show biz and then his biz. And how many respected professionals and hustled to finance their educations, careers, dreams. He's been an escort-slash-porn star in his early years and went on and on about his glory days, how much money he'd made, the apartment he'd bought:
          "Everyone's a prostitute at one time or another. Do you think everyone likes their job? Even housewives put out for security. They're just paying you for your time, remember. And furthermore, temple hookers were often considered sacred and holy in ancient times." --Confessions of a Mormon Boy


          What I think readers (and publishers) will find extremely fresh (and, ahem, marketable) is my perspective on my experiences as an escort in the penthouses of Manhattan. I did it intensely for nine solid months. The world’s oldest profession brings all addictions into focus. I've come to believe that as plausibly sympathetic as my story might at times seem (and actually be under the stressful circumstances), my voluntary sex work in New York was the ultimate in self-absorption and wallowing in self-pity. (I have learned to forgive myself. There's lots of compassion to be considered here.) But the queen of rackets, sex work, was not about being broke (which I was), it was about fear, anger, and resentment and a tremendous lack of self-esteem. I rationalized selling my body to pay child support, but I was really financing a ferocious adolescence that almost destroyed me.

          "My Japanese Lizard called me back the next three nights in a row! The agency said he'd never done that before. It was clear that I was a natural. Definitely A-list material. Other calls immediately followed. And they weren't all trolls like the Lizard. Some johns were downright husband material--hot, young, professional, rich, mysteriously unattainable. Gramercy Park. Sutton Place. Park Avenue. Fifth Avenue. The Four Seasons. The Carlyle. As the penthouses got higher, so did the pile of cash and gifts on my dresser at home. The adoration and money made me high. I could fetch $500 an hour. $2,000 overnight. Tax-free. And if I arranged it all myself, I could keep it all. I traded in my Payless shoes for Prada" --Confessions of a Mormon Boy

          Looking for my conservative father’s love, approval and acceptance behind every doorbell, the adoration and money did make me high! The sex trade nearly annihilated my work ethic that had once earned me two degrees and bought a house for my ex-wife and kids back home—laziness, sloth, entitlement, and a victim mentality took over. Broken and without boundaries, I slept with so many rich men they all blend into one dollar sign. Living large was living small. I stopped having choices. I felt deep down inside that any future I had really wanted and all the positive, authentic reasons for which I had come out of the closet where swallowed up in my new whore identity. I had left "Mormonism" for this?! I wasn't going to be committing suicide after all I'd endured. Ha! I went to the other extreme--a slower, steadier suicide.

          "As the calls came in, I couldn't say no. After all, I'd been trained my whole life to be nice and say, "Yes." I could do several calls in a day with the help of a little Viagra. And I got further and further away from auditioning. What was the point? I stopped seeing any real friends. Friends from graduate school or shows I'd done. My hours were screwy even by showbiz standards. And I couldn't tell anyone my secret--especially my family. Not to mention the new guy I started dating--each week. What would he think if he found out about my double life?
          And about this time, I stopped smiling. Just selling my time, right? But I can't tell you what it cost me to sell my smile.
         I needed to win their approval. I wanted to be like me. I wanted to be like them. To be noticed. I was invisible! No matter what I did or how well I did it I felt I was never accepted or appreciated for who I was! I felt I knew what it must be like to be a--"
         They didn't even know my name. I was more isolated now than I'd ever been in Zion. So I had a choice to make. No. I was out of choices. I'd made too many."--Confessions of a Mormon Boy

          After my big “a-ha!” after doing a cult-like, three-day transformational workshop in New York right after 9/11 (don’t laugh, it was the Landmark Forum!), I left sex work behind for good. I never went back. Choices returned.

          "Could I give up being 'right' about my stories about the Church, therapists, the gay scene, Emily, her parents, my mother and especially my dad? Could I stop being a victim? Something deep inside me said, "Yes!" And in that moment, I was free. Free to choose. I had millions of choices! I was free to stop looking for my father's love and money in the penthouses of New York, free to stop self-destructing, and free to start cleaning up my messes . . . "--Confessions of a Mormon Boy

          There were new unexpected opportunities for growth that followed. One hit during my escorting . . .

          "My legit theatrical agent started sending me out. I was offered an Off-Broadway contract--Naked Boys Singing. I turned the offer down--twice. I told my agent, "I didn't get an M.F.A. in acting to be naked eight shows a week." But the truth was I was a private dancer. I made more money in a call or two than an off-Broadway contract paid in a week. More in a week than a Broadway contract paid in a month. Who needs Cameron MacIntosh?"--Confessions of a Mormon Boy

         
          One later showbiz lesson hit hard when Broadway producers canned my show Confessions when I wouldn’t get full frontal onstage. Daddy wasn't a hooker anymore. It wasn't about the underwear coming off, the show was about getting naked in more profound ways, right? So I legitimately raised all the money (over $300,000.00) and produced it myself! The lead producer was a new form of john I learned to turn down. He once told me, "You know, you could raise all the money for your show just by laying on your back." I should have left the collaboration right then.
          I’ve deflected many “couch commitments” and “professional favors” that would have been trouble. “No, I don’t need a massage. Thanks!” Then there were offers to become a “trophy wife” or as the underwear mogul Andrew Christian would brand it, a "Trophy Boy". Somehow I had the integrity and courage to decline these seductive, camouflaged transactions. Let's just say I've missed a free trip to Lake Como many times. I could have all my student loans paid off by now. I could have my own restaurant right now on South Beach. But I would be drunk and high, too.
          I was taught and primed well by members of my Mormon family, in particular my youngest Mormon aunt (four years older than me and an “exotic dancer” she first planted the seed that I would make a good sex worker). Others in my family just hire! Indeed, to some extent sex work was the unofficial family business. I had come-of-age to the family secrets. This stuff doesn't just come from out of nowhere!
          Learning to stand on my own and be free to love (and create!) as I choose was a difficult, painful process. It takes time to detox from all the shades of sugar, but I’m doing it! Incidentally, many movements and institutions can trace their fiscal solvency directly to the sex industry. The Advocate would cease without its publisher’s sister porn empire. (Did I say that? I digress. Will I ever make it on the cover of the Advocate if I say that?)
          Sex work lowers the bar on human relationships. And we deserve more as a gay community now that marriage equality is winning the battle. Sex work is a temporary fix that leaves both parties cold. It destroys character and demolishes checking accounts and trust funds. The truth is, that most who pay can't really afford it!
          I try not to disparage the world’s oldest profession—it’s never going away and it did teach me a lot! I learned more in six months than most people learn about high society in six years. Nor do I denigrate johns in my work. Some were gentlemen—all were human. My fellow sex working brothers and sisters are also profoundly human--many still stuck but all with big dreams. Sex workers have guts and are some of the sweetest, most intelligent people I know. I've met quite a few off the clock. We break each other's hearts in the underworld.
          I had to learn to stop accepting unsolicited gifts and to stop giving off sparks that unintentionally, romantically intrigued, hooking men desperate to be loved--and used. It hurts both parties. And I have a keen sense now for when I meet someone who is still working and they play their tricks on me. "Don't hustle an ex-hustler!" It is cruel to make grown men cry—not with whips and chains, but with “innocent” Mormon charm that leads them on. It hurts me the most when I've been guilty of it. When you know better you do better. And I've met so many gay Mormons out there sex working--we missed this lesson in Sunday School.
          Learning to earn my way as an artist (on my own without shortcuts) and go without my former
affluent lifestyle (at times a car, cell phone, contact lenses, and at some points food!) was one of the best lessons I was ever forced to learn. You cannot buy true love or true art. Sex work stunts me as an artist. It makes for bad, shoddy, soul-less product. (Unless your art belongs in a “Sex Museum” which some of my old publicity photos might!) You can't spend filthy lucre fast enough, either. It's a black hole of shame. And the cost reveals itself long after the act--that is my fact.
          Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge mirrored to me that I wanted to be “a real actress” not a courtesan. I wanted the “bohemian” values of truth, beauty, freedom, and love. So far so good! They are returning to my life after over thirteen years of leaving sex work. The quest still continues to be fully Sugar Daddy Free. I insist that that is the real American Dream.
          As in "Confessions of a Mormon Boy" that goes into the psyche of a male sex worker, I want this book to more clearly show men and women that it is possible to recover from Sugar Daddy Syndrome. It was so hard during the Recession to lose “sponsors” from family members who just wanted to get to my legitimate investors by throwing me a bone or to stage door johnnies who wanted to “help” and thought they had a chance to win my heart or get down my pants if they “donated.” I find today that even having a lunch date with anyone I am not authentically engaged with is the most tedious hour I can spend. I'm getting real. And like Pinnochio after his wild ride on Pleasure Island, I so want to become a real boy, not just a Mormon boy.
          Fundraising for projects is not what it was before the crash. There have been “slips” when a romance turned into networking or he paid for dinner (nothing Eva Peron wouldn’t accept, right?). In financially desperate moments and being susceptible to “sugar”, I was tempted to pick up the phone and return to the dark side—but it was sure to take me out to a spiritually bankrupt sea, a tsunami of deep dark porn that I know I will regret in the morning.
          Sex work is a progressive illness—a sloppy, slippery slope. The sex work umbrella is wider than most people think. I won't list all the possibilities here, but I think, dear readers, you've bumped into it if you've ever picked up a gay rag. That Go-Go boy you're slipping a dollar to is just the tip of the iceberg.
          I’m just glad I got out when I did. The disease of addiction always whispers, “You can still go back. We don’t care how old you get! You deserve to be spoiled! YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO WORK AND EAT PASTA AND RED SAUCE LIKE ALL THE OTHER STRUGGLING ARTISTS” With human growth hormone and steroids and a little botox and filler today that is always a possibility. Ask the sex worker who is now the pimp or porn czar. There is a market for anyone willing to sell what they've got.
          Part of the hook of what I do onstage is to still look like I could escort but then at the end (spoiler), the hair piece comes off! Though I could use a little botox at this writing, I’ve still got “the goods.” (Wink!) I just don’t want to tempt fate and literally go back to hell—caught up in my own human sex-trafficking ring. I barely escaped the last time. I know myself now. To go back, for me, would be suicide. It's the one bottom line I cling to. Drug use would be certain to start up and skyrocket. After just one little transaction, cameras would roll again and again and again to my grave. I’d give in and give up. I’m either taking one step closer to Broadway and my dreams or one step closer to Van Nuys or Palm Springs. I don’t need “Porn Star” on my dressing room door when my future grandchildren visit. The legacy they will already inherit is confusing and embarrassing enough. Ouch. I am trying to turn it all toward good. I hope my kids will be proud of me someday.
          My solo play Confessions of a Mormon Boy goes into great detail and fills in the white space of this diatribe, but I will go further in the memoir. My point of view is clearly not to glamorize the business, but to encourage others to get out. I intend to confront, comfort and give pause. Mormon Boy is a cautionary wakeup call to prevent others from getting sucked in. “Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be escorts!”
          Memoirs by other men who were sex workers include Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star by Bob Jones University graduate Rich Merritt; Assuming the Position by Rick Whitaker (Four Walls Eight Windows 1999); British porn star Aiden Shaw’s My Undoing: Love in the Thick of Sex, Drugs, Pornography, and Prostitution (Running Press, 2006); notorious former escort/model/actor Rupert Everett’s Red Carpet & Other Banana Skins; and Young Man from the Provinces (University of Minnesota Press 2003) by Alan Helms who illuminates the high price of being a sex object in the midst of the elite in the pre-Stonewall era of “Leonard Bernstein’s” underground Manhattan; and let’s not leave out HBOs Hung and all the modern American Gigolo/Midnight Cowboy properties shamelessly glorifying the call-girl life on Showtime, etc. Porn sites provide the most vivid and popular expose of all.  Check out the in/out specials on Rentboy.com and tell me there isn't a story behind each and every review. There are many solo shows out there about the sex industry. Few take any real responsibility for entering the trade. Most have a bravado that prevents them from feeling any buyers remorse. When I sense that, I get the feeling they are not telling their entire story--titillation is what they are still selling. They aren't getting poetically naked. Enough young porn star obituaries are out there to take a second, closer look at what we have done to ourselves.
          Let me end this section by saying I am absolutely pro sex. We should celebrate our sexuality. Go ahead and film it all you want and send the link to your buddies on Skype. Heck, you can even send it to me. Just don't charge. Let it be for fun and for free. What I am most is pro relationship. I didn't find myself capable of love and vulnerability while escorting. I simply wasn't available.
          And let me add that I believe sex work should be absolutely, age-appropriately legal--if it is truly someone's "choice". But the libertarian in me insists that it not be taxed. You cannot legislate a body. And it's no one's business what's going on under that streetlamp, in that alley, or in that mansion in the Hamptons. And I'm gonna digress if I start to question how civilized the laws of Amsterdam really are. I'm getting way off track and I don't know all the answers here.
          But let sex be for free, otherwise, we are all guilty of enabling the horrors of the girls and boys who are being sold in the backrooms of Bangkok. No one wants that for their son or daughter. I don't want it for mine.

Critics that I'm a Puritan. Don't call my bluntness two-dimensionally judgmental. I don't want to sound like a self-righteous Mormon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Client Endorsement


 
"A vanity photo of me in 2001. At your service!" 

This was cut from my book "Confessions of a Mormon Boy: Behind the Scenes of the Off-Broadway Hit". It's on the narcissistic side, but I think it helps give my story and message credibility. It's hard to leave a business that gives you glowing reviews. I had to learn to earn them the hard way. And I have made a good start. And for the record, I used a different name when I worked as you will read.
 
 
I quit escorting before I got a chance to go into porn. (Dang!) But that is exactly where that road was leading. If I’d done that…or stayed in sex-work longer, I would have joined various Web sites or started my own. (My dark side still wants me to become a porn star in Palm Springs—no matter how old I get!) Instead of going that far, I will simply post this one endorsement from a former-client who is an Ambassador for the United Nations. (These are the reviews I was starting to collect!)  I did not write this myself. So for the record, since I will most likely never be in an XXX adult video, indulge me:

“Jason is VERY VERY VERY cute. Way cuter than Donny Osmond. Clean cut preppy look. About ‘6’ tall, a marvelous face, a flashing smile, sparkling eyes, a SPECTACULAR body (and I do mean spectacular), smooth and beautifully muscled. I am not at all into body builders (they actually turn me off right away). Jason is just perfectly worked out, with gorgeous chest and arms. Baby-soft skin. Nice long dick, too. He is one of the most wonderful kissers I’ve ever met (I am particularly demanding in that department, BTW, because kissing is one of my favorite activities). He gives great head, too. As for “versatile top”, I think he is a total top. I am more of a bottom myself, although I don’t necessarily go anal every time. With Jason, I’ve spent hours kissing and sucking, so I guess you will like him . . .

I am seeing him tomorrow afternoon for the fourth or fifth time since we first met in March, that’s how much I enjoy his company. Besides all his outstanding physical attributes, he is a smart boy, and carries great conversation. He is sweet.”

 
What you don’t get in this endorsement is his charming foreign accent.

This man was always a gentleman to me. He once took me on a private tour of the U.N. We didn’t actually have sex in the Security Council chamber, but I have been inside.

This Ambassador came and saw my show in New York. He bought a ticket and sat wide-eyed on the front row of the SoHo Playhouse. We spoke briefly after the show. He was only in New York visiting for a brief time (since he is now stationed in Europe) and had wanted to congratulate me on my success. I hope he and his boyfriend will be very, very happy for a very, very long time. I’m sorry that I did not feel like going for dinner after the show. I hope he understands.
 
Another client who always got the newbies right away had me over. He would write me $5,000 checks. I think he was roping me in to start making illegal deliveries for him. I was only with him a few times, but he once cursed me sweetly by saying, "You're tall, matinee idol looks, big dick, smart. You are going to have a very lonely, hard time in this city." It believe it is true. No one knows the loneliness of being a sex object like those who know.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fathers in Crisis



Steven Fales with "Buddy" and "Gee-Gee" six-months before the custody battle in "Prodigal Dad".


“I never wanted to write this book. However, to live inside the divorce matrix, to be engaged in that battle, ultimately means to be poised to tell your story, to make your point, to argue your side at a moment’s notice. It’s a fire that is constantly burning.”
--Alec Baldwin, A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce


This blog entry is adapted from a recent book proposal and is still a work in progress.

Now more than ever, fathers have become an endangered species. This book is dedicated to all prodigal parents—and all estranged or alienated children. It seems that in the midst of the well-documented and publicized masculinity crisis "Iron Johns" are still needed as dads but we are increasingly up against all odds. Some of our problems are of our own making and some are most definitely from society--and a feminist movement run riot. It’s an uphill climb for dads. Some just give up. I did not. I still have not. That is why I wrote the Mormon Boy Trilogy. That is why I am writing my new memoir, Oxy-Mormon Memoirs.
Part Three in Mormon Boy Trilogy is my solo play Prodigal Dad. The Richmond-Times Dispatch recently reviewed, "His legal battle to retain his rights as a father is a human rights issue, not a gay issue, and struck a chord with many in the audience.”     

Of all the things I’ve been called and all the things I am, what I treasure the most is being a father. Like her or not, in the words of Dr. Laura, "I am my kids' dad." The challenges, sorrows and growth opportunities for me are unparalleled; the blessings and moments of joy are unequaled. I cherish my Fisher Price plastic memories—heaven on earth. My kids’ teenage talent, angst, energy, wonder and rebellion rejuvenates (and exasperates) my soul. 

I am pleased and astonished at the plethora of films today dealing with fathers being reunited with their children. Stories of flawed but good underdog dads who go to any lengths to be in their children’s lives are told in the recent Oscar-nominated Flight, Inception, Biutiful—even Finding Nemo! I was recently blown away that in the bustle of American Hustle, it was a father that refuses to abandon his adopted son--no matter what deals or romances come his way--that anchor the story. It the end, a father and son has triumphed. There are also recent father/son films At Any Price and Starbuck. The award-winning novel Diamond Dogs by Alan Watt is a stunning example of a complex father/son relationship. The Prodigal Father (Mark Bryan) is a great guide for all outcast dads. There are sons, too, who search for their fathers like President Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father (Three Rivers Press/Random House, 2004). Aren’t we all yearning for our own Mufasa in The Lion King or cheering on our temporarily side-lined dads until they re-claim their super hero capes as in The Incredibles? After decades of Return of the Mother (Andrew Harvey), we are at a new renaissance of fathers. We are Saving Mr. Banks. Look closely at Mary Poppins, and it is the story of a father’s transformation. Life of Pi kicks in when a father teaches a difficult, powerful lesson about a carnivorous tiger’s true nature to his son. This was a lesson his vegetarian mother wasn't capable of teaching. As kids today are in pain and fathers’ hearts are broken, aching families need these stories. Dads are neither disposable or expendable or replaceable.

My work own work challenges and condemns the archaic “seminal” guidebooks on rigid gender roles in Man of Steel and Velvet and Fascinating Womanhood by 1960s husband/wife team Aubrey and Helen Andelin. (I still have these books my still sexist, chauvinistic father gave me to read as a teenager in his best attempt to mold me.) We can never go back to that world of inequality. At the same time I wistfully long for a return to the best of that simplicity. Parents were there. Today parents are not always there full-time. However, we cannot, in the twenty-first century think in Victorian terms--that it is always in the best interest of the children to entrust custody exclusively to mothers. Mommies cannot trump daddies at the expense of our children. Mothers may often be lauded as heroic "single moms", but they never will be only parents even if they try to spin their stories to their advantage.
Crossing gender and culture lines I also relate to the frustrations and failures in Amy Chua’s modern-day parenting lament Batttle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Outdated traditional Chinese family mores mirror my own and my sub-culture’s dilemmas and generation gaps. The Mormon-world view has flaws, like any antiquated mind-set.

When I was formally excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I lost my patriarchal balls in that sub-culture. All “worthy” males are expected to hold the priesthood in Mormonism. This priesthood is given to you, not by a non-related bishop, but by your layman father who received it from his father. Your father baptizes and confirms you. Your father gives you blessings to heal you when you are sick. In some cases, a father can even officiate marrying his own son and daughter-in-law in the temple, as if to engrain in you that if you get divorced you are divorcing your dad. The priesthood is synonymous with fatherhood in Mormondom. Your dad is your Mormon priest! “Where God is a straight male, the straight male is God.”
I wasn’t supposedly straight enough. To top it off, after graduate school, I stopped believing in and denounced “golden plates.” I failed the macho Mormon test—twice. I became an enemy to the unofficial church of the state of Utah. I became a bastard on the Right in the reddest state in the Union.

When I was stripped of my priesthoods, I ceased to be a viable father even in my own family’s eyes. This priesthood vacuum is palpable with huge cultural, familial and personal ramifications. Once favored and popular (the hope of Generation X) I became padre non grata. The oldest of six, my rightful place as the firstborn son was literally given to my younger brother—the new executor of my father’s estate. Suddenly struck "sodomite" I became (in a psychological twist of nachtr√§glichkeit, apr√®s coup or “afterwardsness”) a pedophile. Uninvited (barred) from weddings and reunions, my adoring nieces and nephews seemed to vanish from my presence, too., as I was banished. I started to buy into the mind games and started to distrust and doubt everything about myself. Was I now as untouchably wicked as they thought? Was I now unfit and incapable of fathering? Was I no longer even a man? Not considered a proper stallion, but worse than a mare--a guelding? (Women are second-class citizens in Mormondom. Gays come in at a distant third.) Cornered and outnumbered, I begrudgingly surrendered my very Mormon-at-the-time ex-wife, Emily, sole custody during our quickie divorce—the greatest mistake of my life. I didn't think I had a chance to stand up for myself and I had no funds as I just handed the house, the cars, and kids. I go into great detail about this in my solo plays. A self-loathing death wish set in and the self-destruction started.

Here’s an example of how invisible I would always be. When you die in Mormondom you are buried in elaborate temple robes that only temple-worthy Mormons know about. When my father dies I will literally not be allowed to help dress and bury my father. It is forbidden. I cannot even bury my dead. As my mom's bishop brother, one of my hero uncles, told her, "Steven's being gay is worse than a death." Over and over again, if Emily and I were in the same room with my family after the divorce, they seemed to only look and talk to her. As the non-custodial parent, I was invisible. When you are not legal on paper, you are extinct in reality. I had been exterminated as a dad.

The dark side of Mormonism is that the Church is like a virus that attaches itself to the nucleus of the family. When a member strays the family (now controlled by the Church) kicks in and warns the once cherished son but now dangerous foreign object, “If you don’t stop being gay (and effeminate!) and repent and come back to Mormonism in full-fellowship and blind belief, we will help God make your life more unbearable than you can possibly imagine!” The Church needs willing families to survive. “God may forgive, but the Church’s forgiveness is harder to attain!” Excommunication is supposedly a sacred act of kindness toward the sinner—a “Court of Love” as they call it. Its beauty is designed to help one return to the fold. I wasn’t feeling it. A spiritual experience during my "Court of Love" assured me that this was hogwash. However, being excommunicated for "the crime of homosexuality" left me with despair and anger that I turned inward.
Every kind of emotional and financial embargo was placed on me. My artistic ambitions were also sanctioned to thwart me from writing. It’s not what I would write. It’s that I would write anything. My story was all I had. I knew I would tell it someday. That time has come.
Pitifully desperate and miserably grateful for any crumbs from that once warm proverbial loaf of family bread that fell from their patriarchal table I was spiritually and emotionally starving. Psychologically fragmented it’s no wonder to me now (especially given my genes) that I eventually cracked on a crack pipe full of crystal meth. With no place to call home I was lost as I just tried to survive--and began my gay adolescence funded by escorting. I rationalized selling my body because I would not be a dead-beat dad like Emily's dad. I would pay child support and lavish my kids with gifts and vacations. This I did living a double life that was killing me. Confessions of a Mormon Boy details my nine-month sex-work experiment and how I got out!  Now over thirteen years clean from the sex-industry, I am still considered a hooker by my ex-wife and family. Fathers often hand the ammunition our critics need on a silver platter no matter what our story of transformation has helped others change.
My family all sided with Emily who was super Mormon and sweetly “feminine” at the time of our divorce. Luckily Emily did not listen to my family’s suggestion to change the kids’ last name. But she would later make things catastrophic—ironically after she left the Church with a vengeance. There was nothing reasonable or "Christian" about what she would do as she turned her vengeance toward me. This seems to be what ex-wives are empowered and encouraged to do.

I was also attacked from the Left as well. Emily's mother is Mormondom's greatest writer and also, ironically, its greatest living feminist. Carol Lynn Pearson who's feminist solo play Mother Wove the Morning, once joked to me in her home, "Got your penis!" I didn't think it was funny. And I don't think I need to give further examples to illustrate how I married into a family where men are simply not needed. I was sunk as a father the day I married into such an emasculating family. The great synchronicity is that Carol Lynn wrote compassionately about bringing her gay ex-husband home to die of AIDS in her bestselling Good-bye, I Love You (Random House, 1986). No matter how I feel her book promoted her oxy-Mormon feminism and white washed the story of the father of her children, I was the one gay she could not pray away. I had stepped on her brand and she would not let me be more successful than her daughter. As she says in Good-bye, I Love You, her Hecuba-like attitude was always, "And the women stay at home as women always have and watch and wait to pick up the pieces." Her entire book is a damning indictment of men. It is men who are often left to pick up the pieces.

When false allegations of child abuse are filed by my ex-wife after a routine Christmas vacation alone with my two kids (at the height of the Great Recession and during a good stretch of clean time and sobriety), the story takes off. I spend a year (and tens of thousands of dollars I didn’t have) in the pro-mother, anti-gay Utah court system with a family law attorney and a criminal attorney fighting for my rights to ever see my kids again. With no family support but with donations from across the country from friends who knew I was a good dad and my own fatherly instincts and fierce tenacity I still prevailed! The entire case was dismissed. "Reasonable discipline under the circumstances." I go into great detail about the entire case in Prodigal Dad.
After all kinds of detectives, therapists and DCFS reports there turned out to be no grounds for a case of any kind. And there were no consequences for my ex-wife--only my children who she encouraged in trying to testify against me. Imagine watching your eleven and thirteen year old try to betray their own father's love and devotion. She could have dropped the case at anytime. Instead, she put the children through one of the most traumatic experiences I can imagine having. With divorced parents myself who shared joint legal custody of six kids, I can't imagine what I would have done if I had to take the stand in a courtroom and testify against either one of them.
Carol Lynn sat in the court room next to her daughter taking notes wide eyed with anticipation that I would finally be stopped. She left disappointed and empty handed. Her daughter lost. And yet, Emily would win post-divorce as guardian ad litems washed their hands.

The character assassination and attempt to annihilate me was foiled in a way, and yet the aftershocks still branded me. There would always be lingering scars and my reputation suspect no matter how my record might be expunged. The rumor factory in Utah is efficient. How my once amicable, supposedly gay-friendly ex-wife even came to file such allegations is part of the outrage of the story—and the mystery. She had always let me see the kids for years without question or hesitation. Then one day out of the blue—thinking we had an extraordinary and uncommon divorce—Emily finally did what so many ex-wives do. Having all power, she pounced.

The one person I was sure would back me up did not—my dad. He left me high and dry. He would not stand up for me to Emily even thought he told me he knew what a good dad I was. Dr. Fales, M.D. was the one person in my family who had the credibility. I was left for dead and sold into Egypt. The feelings of betrayal and devastation as I watched the man who had beaten and shamed me as a kid growing up have unlimited access to my children when I did not—was almost unbearable. And yet, I was grateful my father was a good grandpa. It’s just that he usurped my role. I partially created it. I had bent over backwards through the years to find ways for the kids to be around him. Didn’t they need a “straighter” influence than artistic me? Unless I was an extravagant Disneyland Dad with another blow-out vacation, the kids “didn’t want to see me” because they had their only living grandpa to patronize them. I have gone years without seeing my kids while living 15 minutes across the valley in Salt Lake City. Dad's chumming with Emily made it worse. As a doctor, he wrote her prescriptions for her. To him she was still his sparkling daughter-in-law. Dad cannot stand up for me or stand up to women—ever. As sexist as he is, he was also "pussy-whooped". Emily played on my homophobic family's already low opinion of me. These kinds of incidents can lead to resentments. Left untreated, they can cause a person to binge . . . or write!

The inciting action of the story is in the sample chapter where I give my now “die hard, bad ass” ex-wife the “plausible” excuse she needs for her allegations. (See Sample Chapter) Did I hand revenge to her on a silver platter? The true reasons for her vociferous attacks are explored and give context to a psychological saga that I am compelled to tell and dispel for my children’s sake and others. These allegations nearly destroyed me financially and professionally, and they nearly wiped out my relationship with my children.
We have been in extensive therapy to repairing the damage and we have made great progress, but still I’m seen as the crafty criminal who got away. “I’m glad they didn’t throw you in jail for two years, dad. That would have been a really long time.” They still see me as guilty and not that their charming mother might be overly blessed with hyperbole and worked the system and my conservative family to get her way. Emily refuses to join us in family therapy. She will not meet with me. I have been singled out as a narcissist. But when you point your finger, you have three pointed back at yourself. Read her blog, "Dancing with Crazy" and her new memoir by the same name and tell me what you see? Is this the writing of a histrionic hurricane blowing through the lives of everyone? I've had my own bipolar moments, but who is it that needs the medication most?
I need to also say before I'm questioned for liable and slander, early on I purchased signed depiction releases to tell both Carol Lynn and Emily's story "to the End of the Universe." She may have swindled me out of the kids, but I am doing my best to make good art out of all of our stories. And I have over ten years of glowing reviews of my solo plays to back up that my voice is perceptive, nuanced, and "wrenchingly honest and utterly clear-eyed" (Los Angeles Times) and "feels like a sacred gift" (Boston Globe). The San Diego Dispatch has lauded my "deep respect" for Emily. I will not fail to do so in this new memoir. 

Fathers have been the un-sung heroes and whipping boys far too long as we’ve deferred to the self-expression of newly liberated mothers—and still pay child support for children whose mobile phone numbers we are not allowed to have. We’ve been relegated to the parental corner often muzzled by radical feminism that intends to level the playing field by Reviving Ophelia, but knowingly or not undermines males. The Chalice and the Blade has blunted us beyond usefulness or recognition. (I am no stranger to feminist or queer theory. I am a champion--just ask my own once-subjugated mother who I help support.)

Where did the dialogue about partnership between the sexes go? Where did my sweet former Mormon wife go? She had become a militant, celebrity Ex-Mormon now leading the drinking counter culture in Salt Lake as I was getting sober. People change. My sobriety threatened her new world. It is also a world where women and mothers lack accountability. Mormonism actually has a sweet spot for all subjugated women. They are patronized while they’re let off the hook. I was blamed for everything. To them (a poor excuse for a man) I caused her fall. Mormondom is really toughest on the men. Its chauvinism created the feminist backlash that paints men into a corner. Across the room it attacked and almost annihilated me—one of Zion’s more gentle, reasonable citizens (when clean and sober!). I will not be a doormat for either side.

When I read Alec Baldwin’s powerful book, A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce (St. Martin’s Press 2008) and was introduced to the new Fathers' Rights Movement, I didn’t feel alone in fighting what psychologists call Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS. I knew that telling my story could help many other fathers and mothers who have been unfairly treated by courts and churches and ex-spouses, misrepresented and misunderstood. The relentless, enslaving Office of Recovery Services or ORS (the twin of the IRS) cuffs our generous hearts and hands and drives many of us to drink and use or run. Ask any dad, the system’s rigged. When we lash out it only makes things worse. We are swimming in quicksand. Things, however, are dramatically starting to change in the family law realm--state by state--as fathers come together and stand up for themselves--AND THEIR CHILDREN! We are now finding that equal shared custody is the new norm--no questions asked. This was not an option I believed I had back in the year 2000. There was nothing I ever did upon our divorce that should have ever questioned my ability as a good parent and provider. I asked for years to politely share custody. No matter how perfect I tried to be, I ultimately was left with nothing more than legal fees and branded "non-custodial parent".

From Prodigal Dad: "So I get this call on my cell. And since it was Emily vibrating I picked up. You pick up when it’s the mother of your children and you are the non-custodial parent no matter what deadline you’re on. “Non-custodial” means you have basic constitutional visitation rights as a dad (and the right to pay child support), but not a heck-uh-vah lot more. Everyone pays lip service that your presence and opinion matter. But the Church (and the courts) favors mothers no matter how well you change diapers or how well your tuna casseroles turn out or how well you tell bedtime Book of Mormon Stories. You ultimately have no real legal say in anything. You’re a second-class parent. You don’t really exist (though you’re always under the microscope). So you learn to work around it. You give up asking to see report cards or expect to be consulted on anything that matters—video games. You try to ignore the fact that even your immediate family sends their yearly Christmas cards to her. You must always remember the number one rule: you may never, ever discipline your kids. Or make them work. Ever. And I do mean ever. So when the sole legal guardian calls, you answer—and hope for the best because she has all the power. And an even more powerful mother."

We must accept that being ignored on Father’s Days and Christmas, being blocked on Facebook, the kids’ phone numbers being unknowingly changed and their sporadic hurtful emails laced with their mothers’ venom are just temporary. I have learned to see the big picture when my “daddy date” invitations are declined—no matter how many good times we’ve had in the past without incident or drama. We must trust that eventually our kids will “come to Papa”—if we don’t self-destruct first! In the meantime, we get to treat ourselves with the compassion and dignity we deserve. “Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle” is what other dads told me when I wanted to give up and run away. I say don’t quit five minutes after the miracle either. The work is ongoing. We must hold our ground but still bend toward our brood.

I am not a gay dad. I am a dad. Dads are not just dollar signs or sperm donors. To metaphorically castrate us is a crime. We are not eunuchs to be dominated. As I shake hands with fathers across the country after my shows I know I am not the only one who has suffered. One dad told me he was excommunicated twice! Another said, “At least you get to see your kids. I haven’t seen mine in sixteen years.” What he didn’t know was at the time I was in the midst of my own custody hell and my visitation had just been pulled indefinitely. Thankfully it was not to be permanent. It’s not the dads who suffer most but the children that are deprived and harmed when they are turned against us—sometimes viciously “protecting” their mother’s point of view. “They know not what they do.” They suffer anxiety, acting out in all kinds of destructive ways, and underachieve--lost.
Using my show Prodigal Dad, I helped raise money to help a dad prevent his Mormon wife from taking his children to Sweden, never to return. One by one we help each other save our children. I speak for fathers and their recovery and rights: gay, bi, straight, or otherwise from Mormons to Muslims, inner cities to gay ghettos. By doing readings of my play Prodigal Dad I hope to help raise more needed funds for other dads in trouble. (Utah Dads’ Legal Fund, National Parents Organization, Father's Rights Movement, etc.)

I hope my new book will raise questions. Who should get custody in a divorce? What happens if you give it up? Should one fight to get it back? Can you ever get it back? What is reasonable discipline today? What is abuse? Where do we draw the line? What are the costs of not disciplining our children? Who should discipline? What do we teach them when we let kids off the hook? Do problems with authority start at home? Do we need two points of view to raise a child, masculine and feminine? What is “masculinity” today? Can gay and bisexual men be as masculine/effective in raising children as straight dads? Should women deliberately raise children without fathers? What is our society coming to? Are we losing or gaining? What are the dangers of permissive parenting? What is an intentional spank versus an impulsive closed-fisted punch? Is it okay to swear at a parent? We bemoan the plight of single moms, but do we not really reward, encourage and condone the phenomenon? Do we run fathers out of town? What is the cost to children? Are we ignorant about addiction? Should anyone’s recovery or sexual orientation be held against them? And what are the appropriate roles of grandparents in children’s lives when parents are temporarily absent—and when they’re not? When do grandparents go too far? Is it disrespectful to call a parent by their first name? Are children more spoiled today than they were a generation ago? Should a parent pay child support and not get to see the kids? Should big decisions ever be up to a minor children? When should they have a say? Are therapists or social workers helpful or a detriment? Does the family law industry and court system prey upon, worsen and perpetuate the deplorable situation?

If Beyonce can look back with Piers Morgan and appreciate a whack from her mother when she was out of line as a teenager, can a father in a moment of crisis when his twelve-year old son is acting out (endangering the car in a blizzard) moderately discipline his son for the first time? Especially a father with no track record of violence of any kind or any criminal record? A nurturing father who has successfully navigated countless vacations and weekends at home alone with his children and who has even dutifully taken his kids to church?

My long-time troubled relationship with my estranged father will possibly astound. The epilogue shows the incredible healing between us. This sets my son and daughter and I free to heal. By the end of the memoir I have once again have a good year clean and sober. A binger, not an everyday drinker or user. At my invitation my newly ordained Mormon bishop father attends the gritty AA ceremony where I pick up my one-year chip. He cries throughout the entire meeting. Other “Christmas” miracles follow. My dad becomes the loving (though still flawed) patriarch I always hoped for. His relative acceptance and eventual quasi-support of my being gay, my artistic career, my recovery, and my role as a father is approbation beyond my wildest dreams. I have to let it be enough. I want to give others this hope. As it says in an old scripture, “the hearts of the fathers will turn to their children, and the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers. Lest the earth be smitten with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6)
And yet I must add, my father still was in the way of my relationship with my children. He had taken over. I had to detach from him in order to reach my children. I could no longer go through him in a triangulation that was strangulating us all. I had to stand up and be the man and father I always was. I was enough. Since that shift, magical things have happened. My children have started to come to me.

My story has been called biblical. Well, it is literally and epically Greek, too. One of the sub-plots in the book has to do with my colorful maternal grandfather and his search for his ostracized dad who was deported back to Greece. The story about how my grandfather lost contact with his dad during World War II is heart-breaking. How his “scoundrel” father, Dennis Barbarigos, searched unsuccessfully for his only “missing-in-action” son will make readers weep. How we were reunited with our covered up “dirty” Greek side two generations later is legendary. It involves a cousin who happens to get sent on a Mormon mission to Greece. (He later shoots himself when he returns. Yes, tormented young men kill themselves in my story. Though this may seem like a non sequitur, I will tell part of my gay cousin Trevor’s tale.)

It turns out I get my indefatigably passionate “non-Mormon” dark brown eyes from an Aegean relative stranger who was buried in a common grave in Athens. Reclaiming my charming, bootlegging, maverick Greek Orthodox great-grandfather (through my grandfather’s story) brings insight, strength and hope to me, a notorious father as well. One who also deeply loves his brown-eyed children. I am Greco-Mormon! Mormon Boy deals with race and legacy and immigration in a culture where blue eyes are preferred over dark and where loving fathers are estranged too often by a thoughtless judge or mother’s whim. “The pack cannot exist without the wolf and the wolf cannot exist without the pack.”

No father on earth is expendable or can truly be replaced. If they say there are exceptions—they’re trying to sell you something. Ask any child who longs for his absent father. Children may learn to cope but the longing is still there. The same longing applies to dads. On his death bed I watched my grandfather deliriously cry out, “Dad! Dad! I want my dad!” He was not calling out for his adored, beloved German mother. He was calling out for his long lost papa.

Praising Alec Baldwin’s book once more, I was struck by his generosity to his movie star ex-wife. I hope to give Emily all the due respect and praise she deserves and more and still hold the Pearson accountable for being literary reality stars--blue-eyed, empire-building Kardashians. Not just because it’s good writing, but because she is the mother of our amazing children. The gods got those kids here and I would got through all the legal battles on earth again if I had to. There were good times when we were a little family and there was love. Lots of it. Dads cannot become fathers without mothers. Emily wasn’t and isn’t just a nanny. Somewhere in there is the woman I’m still glad I married. I will be true to that and honor our love story. We both have our own stories to tell of Electra and Oedipal complexes that got in the way. How could she appreciate me as the dad of her kids when her AIDS-stricken dad passed away—abandoning her when she was sixteen. (Is Emily displacing her rage and sorrow at her own dad on me? Transference.)

As with all of Shakespeare’s villains fallen fathers are redeemable. Sometimes we’ve been temporarily ill, frozen in poisoned, psychological ice like Tolkien’s King Theoden in The Return of the King. But when we thaw and rise to our sober stature with renewed strength, we transform into the beloved leaders and co-parents we were always meant to be. I feel I redeem Emily’s “cad” father in a fantastical chapter all its own later in the memoir. He and I both receive the father’s blessings we crave as gay/bisexual men. We bless each other. Other than a loving maternal embrace, there is no more intimate spiritual exchange or comfort than receiving a patriarchal blessing. Perhaps a father's embrace is more profound today because it is so rare. A Father's blessing is doctrinally the cornerstone of Mormondom and is the great metaphor of this book. Perhaps Alec Baldwin will endorse it. No matter what his latest controversy, he is a hero to me for being a ferociously loyal and protective father.
To me, all fathers are heroes and telling our stories is what fathers are supposed to do.

"Even Superman Needs a Dad" by Liz Lemon Swindle