Steven Fales

Steven Fales
Steven Fales -- Actor/Writer/Producer

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!

1 comment:



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