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.

It wasn’t my idea to expose me to a life on the street like that, but back in the 1980s, you had to get out of your house to experience life and love and also to look at prostitutes. Today you can just go to some live-stream dung dungeon and e-jaculate along with the rest of the blundering online nymphos to stuff you’re not even creative enough to imagine, or ask for.

Since then, I’ve visited prostitutes from Nuevo Laredo to Amsterdam, Hamburg to Tokyo, and Las Vegas to Havana, and one thing never changes: People are too quick to make assumptions about what “visiting” means. Where I’m from, “visiting” can mean anything from “talking and catching up with folk” to “setting fire to a miniature pony,” although I haven’t heard it used that way in ages. The point is, I miss the calming effect provided by those idealized streetwalkers of my youth. What? You’re not buying the nostalgic “visiting whores put me to sleep as a child” excuse for writing a hooker book? The lecherous lullaby ride not convincing enough? That was a 100 percent true story, but here’s a more recent and possibly more accurate illustration of why I came to write Whore Stories, documented in an IM exchange last year between me and my agent, Jon Sternfeld. At the time, I was working on some leading-edge inventions, which is something I do when I am lonely and unemployed.

TSS: What’s the worst thing about Europe?

JS: I don’t know. France?

TSS: Making love in small cars.

JS: So?

TSS: Kids keep having sex in those little “Smart” cars—I’ve seen it myself—and I think it spells future spinal trouble.

TSS: You there?

JS: Yes.

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.

And so I did.

If you are offended that the politically correct term “sex-worker” is not used to describe the characters in this book, I apologize. But then you try to write a book called Sex Worker Stories! See, even with the exclamation point, Sex Worker Stories! sounds more like a serialized bodice-ripper involving one nurse tech’s search for true love in a haunted sperm bank. Aside from the common term used in the title, the words slut, harlot, trick, chickenhawk, rent-boy, trollop, prossy, hooker, gigolo, etc. are used liberally within. What can I say? The lexicon of love is a bountiful trove.

Selective word choice aside, the biographical material in WhoreStories is essentially accurate, providing you, dear reader, with an informative, entertaining, and revealing look at the men and women who have blazed the bawdy trail of prostitution since the dawn of time. Some of these people have become legends for turning tricks, like Xaviera “The Happy Hooker” Hollander, La Belle Otero, and the self-proclaimed “Rosa Parks” of male prostitution, Markus Bestin. Others have traded sex for money at some point in their lives, and then became famous for other reasons, like Al Pacino, Malcolm X, Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, and Valerie Solanas (she shot Andy Warhol). Still others have turned into man-eating spiders, like the Japanese whore-deity Jorogumo. And finally there are people who have no real claim to Fame: they are just intriguing individuals who happen to have been hookers.

The aim of this book, then, is a simple one: to look into some of the shadier corners of human history, and to shed a little light on an eternally compelling figure: the prostitute. And if you’re thinking of asking me any more questions about my “field research,” then making the international sign for “doing it,” I’ll tell you the same thing I told my agent: Cut it out, pervert. This is an historical document.

Let’s get reacquainted with some old friends:

MAYA ANGELOU

Maya Angelou once said, “Laugh and dare to try to love somebody, starting with yourself.” Let’s turn that around a bit and dare to try and laugh at somebody we love, namely Maya Angelou herself.

You probably thought Maya Angelou was just that older lady with a grandmotherly grin and an uncanny ability to compose stanzas of haunting poetry that include profound insights into the human condition. Also, you may have taken issue with her manner of speech since she often comes off as a haughty gnome, but, in spite of her grandiloquence, the woman is unquestionably a great American poet. She is more than that. Much, much more.

How can there be anything like a “scheme of things” or “laws of the cosmos” if a madam and a common prostitute can turn into Maya Angelou. “Heresy!” I hear the poetry community and their fans screaming, but go ahead—read for yourself. In her 1974 memoir, Gather Together in My Name, Ms. Angelou reflects:

I sat thinking about the spent day. The faces, bodies and smells of the tricks made an unending paisley pattern in my mind. Except for the Tamiroffish first customer, the others had no individual characteristics. The strong Lysol washing water stung my eyes and a film of vapor coated my adenoids. I had expected the loud screams of total orgasmic release and felt terribly inadequate when the men had finished with grunts and yanked up their pants without thanks.

The poet was born Marguerite Johnson, or “Rita,” in 1928 in St. Louis. Maya Angelou is actually her stage name from her dancing days at The Purple Onion, a famous San Francisco cellar club. Her critically acclaimed, bestselling memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), provides an astonishing account of the first seventeen years of her life. She is raped as a child by her mother’s boyfriend, goes mute for five years, accidentally becomes pregnant and carries the baby to term, finds redemption in great works of literature, and finally receives a scholarship to the California Labor School where she studies dance and drama.

With I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya was finally able to “relieve the agony, the anguish, the Sturm und Drang.” Now, when a person has to use German to tell how bad it was, you know the story is about to get really weird. And five years later, with the release of Gather Together in My Name, which chronicles Maya’s life from ages 17–19, the story does, indeed, get bizarre. Angelou pulls no punches describing her “first great slide down into the slimy world,” and her grueling schedule working as a madam for two lesbian prostitutes. When the authorities discover what she is up to, they threaten to take her son away, and she hightails it to Arkansas. When the heat dies down, she moves back to San Francisco and offers herself to a married man for a small honorarium. Angelou rationalizes the decision to prostitute herself in the following way:

There are married women who are more whorish than a street prostitute because they have sold their bodies for marriage licenses, and there are some women who sleep with men for money who have great integrity because they are doing it for a purpose.

Somewhere along the line, Angelou seems to have picked up a little Karl Marx and a touch of Adam Smith, and then put them together to pull off a strange philosophical trick.

From prostitute to poet, activist to actress and playwright to professor, there seems to be nothing that Ms. Angelou can’t do. In 2011, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she is mentioned every year as a front-runner for the Nobel Prize, but make no mistake about it, Angelou is still capable of generating a juicy scandal. With the release of her controversial Great Food, All Day Long, Angelou outraged the health care community. Her allegedly “healthy” cookbook features recipes for such heart-stopping dishes as “Creamy Pork Hash,” and even Angelou admits her recipe for pork tacos is so heavy it takes “three hours” before she’s “almost ready for a second.” Well, I guess we all know why the caged bird has high cholesterol.

 

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Prostitution, methamphetamines and evangelical Christianity make a pretty potent combo, and sometimes the ensuing explosion results in almost providential lunacy. Let’s meet a prostitute who brought one particularly vigorous lunatic to his knees, so to speak.

 

MIKE JONES 

On Ted Haggard’s website the disgraced minister invokes the words of Genesis 50:20 where Joseph speaks to his brothers after they sell him into slavery saying, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” The passage, claims Haggard, has “become a source of life to us,” “us” being Haggard and his long-suffering wife. Welcome to the world of people who are plum out of their goddamned minds!

Lucky for us, through all the meth, masturbation, and mendacity, one person emerges from the Ted Haggard sex scandal as a voice of quasi sanity: Mike Jones, masseur, muckraker, and drug-dealing prostitute.

In 2006, Mike went on a Denver radio show and “outed” reverend Haggard, a vocal opponent of homosexuality who vigorously supported Colorado Amendment 43, which bans same-sex marriage in the state. And Ted Haggard wasn’t just anybody: He had a standing meeting with George W. Bush on Monday mornings to talk about the evangelical movement and what to do about evil gay devils.

Haggard’s church, the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, was thriving, and Ted held sway over legions as president of the 30 million–strong National Association of Evangelicals. Well, if you’re determined to spread hate, bigotry, and intolerance under the guise of, well, anything, I think we can all agree you’ve got a little media scrutiny coming to you.

Jones outed Haggard at a time of great political importance. “I took the vibrator and greased it up while he put some lube inside his rectum,” reveals Jones in his tell-all, I Had to Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard’s Fall. How is that grotesque image of Haggard even remotely related to political importance, you ask? Well, while Haggard was dispatching Astroglide into his party portal, Colorado was primed to vote on Amendment 43, with Haggard serving as one the most influential and fervent supporters of the same-sex marriage ban.

Jones saw though the lube and he felt it was his civic duty to expose Haggard, whose annoying habit of leaving globs of meth under his own nose while roaring, “Jack me off, now!” had become intolerable. Jones elaborates on why he chose to reveal the unctuous underbelly of one of America’s most influential men:

People forget why I exposed him. . . . Not because he was ranting about gays, but because he was a hypocrite . . . and still enjoy[s] the benefits of marriage. What a lucky man. Should gays be so lucky to marry the one they love and be totally devoted.

When the scandal broke, columnist and sex-advice sage, Dan Savage hailed Mike Jones as a “Gay American Hero” and Mike was instantly revered throughout the community. No, not just the “gay” community, but also the community of people who are not stark raving mad, right-wing “fundamentalist charismatics.” The ultimate irony, and perhaps the best argument there is that God really doesn’t exist, is that Haggard has established another wildly successful church and made tons of money appearing on Celebrity Wife Swap, while our hero Mike Jones has been reduced to putting on eBay the massage table he used to pleasure Haggard.

Also, Amendment 43 passed with 53 percent of the vote. Now there’s something truly scandalous.

 

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And of course, what would prostitution be without pimping? Undoubtedly a much safer, better industry, but there is something more sinister than a run-of-the-mill American Pimp: An eccentric French pimp, especially when that eccentric French pimp is none other than…

 

JAMES LIPTON


If you are not by now familiar with Mr. James Lipton’s ponderous, addictive show, Inside the Actor’s Studio on the Bravo network, you might as well deposit your boorish head in the oven. James Lipton would want it that way, though he would probably explain it to you in Latin, maybe French. The man has become an institution, using Inside the Actor’s Studio to educate legions of film aficionados, celebrity gawkers, and stoned couch-blisters about the finer points of acting and film and sometimes, even cinéma.

Born in 1926 in Michigan, Lipton first found radio voice-over work on The Lone Ranger, originally broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. He soon went on to Hollywood where he toiled as a scriptwriter for numerous soap operas, including Guiding Light and Another World.

But how, one might ask, did a naïve kid from Detroit come to appreciate the melodrama of life as depicted on daytime television? Easy. He goes to Paris, learns French (not the French other people speak, but a more pretentious, Frenchier patois), he becomes enchanted by life in the City of Lights, and he finds the few extra sous he needs to live that life by working as a midlevel pimp. Lipton explains in his memoir, Inside Inside:

This was when I was very, very young, living in Paris, penniless, unable to get any kind of working permit. . . . I had a friend who worked in what is called the Milieu, which is that world and she suggested to me one night, ‘Look, you’ll be my meck. . . . We would translate it perhaps . . . as pimp. We were earning our living together, this young woman and I, we made a rather good living, I must say.

The old blowhard reveals that he would also arrange sex shows and other insipid displays. He writes,

I had to accompany my clientele to the Rue Pigalle, and then I’d take them up to the room and I had to remain there because they were very nervous, they were young Americans for the most part . . . and they didn’t speak French. I offered them a full bill of fare: two women or a man and woman. A man and woman was much more costly than two women: the law of supply and demand—not to mention the law of diminishing returns; the women could perform countless times each day, the men only two or three.

Pompously put insights such as these make it nigh on to impossible to take Monsieur Lipton seriously no matter what he is talking about. Indeed, his comments here raise certain obvious questions: James, were you really just a translator for prostitutes? You can never tell with students of the Stanislavski School. The method to their madness is surely just Method, which makes their madness even more maddening, especially off-screen.

Today, James Lipton is looking down the barrel at his ninetieth birthday, but all indications are that this histrionic Methuselah may continue pursuing the Holy Grail of Cinema long after solar flares have consumed the rest of us. He’s no Snoop Dogg, but James Lipton and his supercilious baritone, along with his feast of insights and inanities, no doubt sent home from Paris countless young Americans with a thriving colony of genital warts after looking for love in all the wrong plazas.

 

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TYLER STODDARD SMITH’s writing has been featured in: UTNE Reader, McSweeney’s, Esquire, The Best American Fantasy, The Science Creative Quarterly and The Morning News, among others. He is also a contributor at The Nervous Breakdown and an associate editor of the online humor site, The Big Jewel. His first book, Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World’s Oldest Profession was published in July 2012 by Adams Media.

 

 

 

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TNB Nonfiction features some of the web's best essays, excerpts of up-and-coming books, self-interviews, profiles, and humor from a wide range of authors. Past and future writers include Emily Rapp, Mira Bartók, Nick Flynn and Melissa Febos, among many others.  Our editorial team includes:  SETH FISCHER is the Nonfiction Editor. His work has appeared in Guernica, Joyland, Best Sex Writing, and elsewhere, and he was the first Sunday editor at The Rumpus. His nonfiction was selected as notable in The Best American Essays, and he has been awarded fellowships by Jentel, the Ucross Foundation, Lambda Literary, and elsewhere. He is also a developmental editor of nonfiction and fiction, and he teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles, UCLA-Extension, and Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

7 responses to “Excerpt from Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World’s Oldest Profession, By Tyler Stoddard Smith”

  1. Proxy M. says:

    I wish I’d known all this before. Now I’m looking at everybody famous and asking myself, “What are they doing to stay so famous?” and/or “How tragic is their back story?” I need to buy this book. A funny cautionary tale called Whore Stories? Brilliant.

    • There are some floppy, fish skin lies in here, but I’m the only whore who tells those. My whores are dead honest, mostly. I think Bob Dylan may have been lying. He said he was a prosty, but he also said “”Now’s not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns,” so who knows?

      Hope you enjoy!

  2. Rachel Pollon says:

    Okay, I’m reading this on my phone while waiting for my dentist to come in and do whatever he’s going to do to me. I’ve only read up through the Maya Angelou part. This is hilarious and great. Is this true?! God bless. (Will read rest later – doc here!)

  3. […] a story for us called “Five Alternatives to Throwing Your Penis at the Police,” has a new book about whores. He interviews himself at The Nervous […]

  4. […] country and so forth? Have you gone cross-eyed, sir? I’m here to talk about issues! And my book, Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World’s Oldest Profession. You haven’t mentioned it […]

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