Two questions follow me when people ask me about my book.
“How many gay prostitutes have you been with?”
The truth is I do not know for sure; I can only estimate. When reworking the book this year, I had to face the fact the number in the 2000 draft was wrong. I knew it was too low. I increased the number of men up to a more accurate count, but still emotionally stumbled on a dollar amount of what I spent on fetish haircutting. It was hard to face the financial reality. However, the very last thing I changed as my editor was about to send the book to print was the dollar amount I estimated I spent on my paraphilia.
I know I had to have cut the hair of approximately three hundred men and met hundreds more in Seattle and all over the country. The ironic thing is that my fetish almost never included any nudity or touching outside of me cutting their hair. I wasn’t hiring hustlers for an actual sex act.
The other question I get about the book is, “How did you find so many long haired men to give fetish haircuts to?”
Timing is everything.
I remember seeing a picture of the group Soundgarden in a People or US magazine a few months before I moved to the Seattle. I was struck by two things from the spread: the report mentioned the “Seattle sound” at least a dozen times in the article; and I remember the group’s lead man, Chris Cornell, had long, beautiful dark hair. I was very excited to move to Seattle and arrived just as things were heating up in 1991.
Not long after I settled in the city, I actually saw the real Chris Cornell one Sunday afternoon walking up Pine Street in downtown Seattle while I was waiting for a bus. He was completely unnoticed that day because by this point he had been cloned. Long hair on young men had made a huge comeback as the whole country mimicked the “Seattle style” of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Alice in Chains.
Cameron Crowe’s movie Singles made the look even more mainstream. Chris Cornell and many other long haired “fathers of grunge” were featured in the movie (along with Matt Dillon in a long haired wig). It felt like everyone flocked to Seattle overnight to be in a band.
Gus Van Sant also help put Seattle (but mostly Portland) on the map. He combined the grit of gay hustling with Shakespeare in his film My Own Private Idaho. He toyed with the depiction of the rent boys (River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves) who bounced from Seattle to Portland hustling … making it seem like a romantic adventure.
The new, hip genre of music and those two movies told everyone under 30 years old that Seattle was the place to be. The explosion of my paraphilia lined up perfectly with the explosion of grunge. There were lots of guys around who (their hair) could be bought. I had picked the right city at the right time to obsess about cutting men’s hair.
It couldn’t last forever. Many say that grunge died in 1994 with the death of Kurt Cobain. The bands started splitting up. One by one, the fathers of grunge started cutting their hair short. So did their followers. I was the cutter for many cuts. I stayed at the party too long.
I couldn’t have done what I did at any other time and place. All the places I list in my book as hubs of hustling are now dead. Men’s hair is fashionably shorter now. You won’t find much prostitution on the streets anymore. It has all gone to the internet. My tenure on the street seems to have been a once in a lifetime opportunity. There is no nostalgia. It almost cost me everything.
Rather than Van Sant or Crowe, I should have paid more attention to a documentary called Streetwise. The gritty Oscar nominated film follows several street kids and prostitutes in Seattle during the early 1980’s. It was filmed about 10 years before and only a few blocks north of where I found myself picking up most of the men I met. Perhaps it could have been a cautionary premonition of my future when one of the teenage boys featured in the movie tells his friend he planned to “roll a queer” at gunpoint that day for money. I still get chills when I think that I could have easily been a queer that got rolled.