IMG_5390 FINAL-1Gina Frangello is the author of the novel My Sister’s Continent and the story collection Slut Lullabies. She is one of the most bold, fearless, unhindered writers I’ve ever read. After reading the manuscript of My Sister’s Continent, one editor was quoted as having said, “I couldn’t explain this book to a marketing rep without blushing or breaking down.” Here are six sex questions for the inimitable and amazing Gina Frangello.

Here’s the question everybody seems to want to ask: Why prostitutes? Are you some kind of depraved whoremonger? Your new book, Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World’s Oldest Profession certainly indicates you have more than just a passing interest in prostitutes.

Why can’t I find prostitutes and prostitution fascinating without being a whoremonger? I’ll bet people writing about the Spanish Inquisition don’t get asked if they dress up like Torquemada and toast heretics on the grill. The truth is, I can actually pinpoint the first seed of the idea. Below is a transcript of a Gchat conversation I had about a year and a half ago with my agent at the time, Jon Sternfeld. Here’s an excerpt:

TSS: So I’ve invented a car wash where you rent a limo with your manfriend or ladyfriend and it’s in a big limo—plenty of room. and palliative oils. It’ll be cheap. Good tunes, too.

JS: A car-wash whorehouse?

TSS: A drive-thru love station with rain.

JS: Hey, that’s something—you should write something about whores.

When I was a small child, I was prone to insomnia and fits of the night terrors. To get me to fall asleep, my mother and father would fasten me into our family’s 1971 Toyota Carina, throw in an eight-track cassette of Anne Murray’s Greatest Hits and drive up and down South Main Street in Houston, Texas, to look at the prostitutes. The blinking neon signs of the no-tell motels, the bling of streetwalkers working their finery, and the day-glo hues of their billowing lingerie were too much stimulation even for a toddler; I would finally shut my eyes and stop struggling against the seat belt while “Shadows in the Moonlight” and the South Main ho stroll played on. I nodded off to sleep not only with visions of sugar plum fairies, but also of leather-clad fairies, common harlots, desperate dope fiends, glamorous go-girls, and rowdy rent-boys all gyrating in my little head.

I was a copy writer for about eight hours this week. I was employed by a content farm. I would produce weekly blogs for clients at about $15 a pop. After I established myself as a viable content farmer I would be given larger assignments, at $50 to $75 per piece. You can see where this is going. My first assignment was sort of a test run, to see if I was up to it. I had to produce roughly 300 hundred words on hair extensions. Hair. Extensions. … Here’s how that turned out:

Most famous celebrity haircuts for men

The Bieber – I propose we start calling this one ‘The Skywalker’ because that’s really how it all started. Want yourself a Bieber? Just swear off hair cuts for about six months or so. Every man has had a Bieber, whether intentional or not.

The Clooney – Why is George Clooney famous again? Because of that one hair cut in the 90s, a period in time when we really seemed to care about fictional character’s hairstyles (see also The Aniston). Consider that Clooney hasn’t had a bona fide success since, then behold the power of stylish hair. It can even garner you cultural relevance when none should be afforded.

The Levine (aka The Smug No-Hawk) – Adam Levine is semi famous for being a judge on a talent show called (in my mind) Sing Song Ding Dong, otherwise known as The Voice. He sports a vague Mohawk, or No-hawk, thusly ensuring mass appeal. Whereas a more traditional Mohawk might frighten old ladies, Levine looks like a guy you can take home to your mother. But that doesn’t mean he’s not cool. A quick muss job and suddenly he looks like one of the kids again, albeit unduly smug for someone of his status.

The Pattinson – Robert Pattinson is known for his messy, just rolled out of the coffin hair. Women shriek in terror when he even thinks about lopping off his windswept mane. The bum down the street has the same hairstyle, yet no one seeks his autograph. Odd.

The (oil slicked) Jersey Shore – This one’s been around a lot longer than the show with which it shares its name. It’s achieved by dumping a vat of gel into one’s hair then spending hours rolling it between your fingers into little pin-like spikes. Also used as a defensive strategy, good for head butting in bar room brawls.

Now, up to that point it was pretty rough going. I almost started the blog ‘I remember when hair extensions used to be for skanky women and whores…’ After that I said fuck hair extensions, let’s go balls deep on this concept until it’s begging for mercy. Which I did, and thusly wrote myself out of a job.

To say I’m desperate for money is an understatement. When you start considering the ‘jiggling titty cam’ to make ends meet you know you have a real problem. So when I came across this content farm thing I thought, fuck, why can’t I do that? Before the ink dried I felt like a failure. I heard Bill Hicks in my head. He was saying,

By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising…kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I’m doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalization for what you do, you are Satan’s little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now.

To think that Hicks (PBUH) was looking at me from somewhere in the cosmos, offering a stank eye, that was too much to take. But I fought it off. Hicks didn’t have my money or legal problems. So I forged ahead. I gave the best copy I could muster. I wrote the shit out of that copy.

While everyone agreed what I wrote was funny, it was not marketable, as they say. Clients would balk at my tone, my language, and just about every other variable. It was too edgy. I had to be drier, less of an individual. I’m a writer, surely I could do that? Well, apparently not. Who the fuck wants to read a hair extension blog anyway?