Monday, January 15, 2007

The Lone Hero

"When the story first came out," Mike Jones (the man who outed Rev. Ted Haggard and thus kept the Republicans off balance and the press focused on the self-righteous hypocrisy of the Bush administration -- Haggard being a Bush supporter and constant consultant) told me over dinner as he casually and affectionately held my hands in his, "the only thing the press was interested in were the dirty details of sex. And the headlines blazed PROSTITUTE! PROSTITUTE! PROSTITUTE!"

"They weren't interested in what an escort's life really consists of. All they wanted were lurid details."

I understood. I told him how, long ago when I first was in New York, I played piano in a high class hustler bar on the Upper East Side. Because I was the constant in the club, I became great friends with many of the "boys" working the place. Most of them were genuinely lovely persons, and I learned a completely different side of the world's oldest profession from what our Puritanical society wants to believe as society denounces them while hanging onto, and begging for, every last sensuous detail.

What most of their clients are really looking for, especially in a midwest city is intimacy and someone to really be themselves with. Mike told me of a married closeted soldier with a rare form of Leukemia who sat with him one night after learning that one of his fellow sufferers from a Leukemia support board suddenly "disappeared." And how painful it was when that soldier himself suddenly stopped calling.

"I never let myself get emotionally involved with any clients, but still, I knew how much they needed the human contact I could provide."

I saw his sense of compassion in two ways Sunday night. First, there was a tall guy with a beautiful smile sitting alone in the front row. Mike saw him at intermission standing my himself, so he walked up to him asking him who he was, found out he was visiting from Chile, and invited him to dinner with us all. Just like that.

Then, afterwards, we were all walking from the theatre to the restaurant (Joe Allen's) when Mike noticed that one of our party, an older fellow who is all but blind, was falling behind. (I didn't know he was part of our group.) So Mike left everyone else and ran behind to join him and walk with him. It's not that anyone else wouldn't have done that, but he went out of his way to NOTICE and to make sure everyone was taken care of.

As we ate dinner, he made sure everyone got a chance to speak, he was gently affectionate with everyone in our party, and he just made everyone feel special. That takes a lot of effort and it's something that really has to come from within. I could tell he wasn't "working" the room. He just has this genuine caring attitude. It's no wonder a Ted Haggard or a lonely soldier would be drawn to him time after time.

When he outed Rev. Haggard, it was because Ted was one of the leading evangelical ministers in Colorado fighting against gay marriage. It's one thing to be forced or feel forced into a closeted lifestyle, but it's quite another to then turn around, after getting your yaya's off with an escort, to then stab your fellow gay people in the back by fighting to keep THEM from getting married.

Mike, outraged at this double standard, called a reporter and did the whole thing on his own. He had no support. No big gay group supporting him. In fact, him being what he is, there were all kinds of people skeptical of his motivations.

It was a personal decision to out Rev. Ted and it caused a huge disruption in his life, the police were on him, he was in danger of losing his home, his income dropped to zero and he had a target on this back. The gay establishment also was uninterested in helping him. After all, he was a "just" a prostitute, a whore to be shunned. For instance, one day, after it all happened, he was feeling kind of blue and lonely, so he left his apartment and decided to just go to a gay bar for a little companionship, to be among "his own people" and chill...

That's when Joe.My.God., a popular gay blogger went looking for him, wrote him, found out his situation and then created a blogger groundswell of support for his readers (and mine after I posted a link to Joe's entry) to send some financial help to Mike.

"You know, you saved me," he said to me while holding my hands, his eyes beginning to glisten with tears. "I can't tell you what it meant to me."

I protested. "No, darlin', it was Joe. All I did was agree with him," I responded. "You saved us. You are a hero to more people than you think. You are the one who put yourself on the line for us all."

Mike is no longer an escort. He now has to find a way to support himself. He managed to get a book deal with a small publisher so now he's finally on the road to recovery. I told him I was proud that he came to see our show, and even more proud to call him friend.

Some have already asked me why I'd "associate" with a "whore." Well, my sweet reader, the real whores, IMO, are the phony-assed preachers, Exodus "converts" and anti-gay zealots whose entire livelihoods depend upon turning the world against us. Give me a Mike Jones over a self-righteous "Christian" of that ilk any day of the week.

Mike Jones is more than just a friend to me. He's my hero.

EDIT: Joe also writes about his meeting with Mike last night and notes that the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force is honoring him. At last!


Herb said...

Thanks for the additonal insight into Mike Jones. He sounds like a sweet guy. I'm glad he is finally getting the recognition he deserves. And to the jerks in the bar in Denver, "Fuck you" (and this is from someone who rarely curses).

Anonymous said...

I think Mike Jones deserves a gigantic thank-you from our community. I love his honesty about having been an escort (even if he were still escorting it wouldn't change the fact that he did the right thing). I also think that we should be ashamed of our community for the shabby way Mike has been treated. We gay men, as a group, can be just as puritanical, hypocritical, judgmental, and mean toward our fellow homos as the stinking evangelicals... I think it's time to appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Brian in Madison, WI

Steve Schalchlin said...

Herb and Brian, you are so right. I think those queens were just jealous that someone besides them was getting some time in the spotlight. Mike is a very gracious and kind person. These kinds of comments were very hurtful to him and I think he deserves much better.

Anonymous said...

Most of us are endoctrinated to exist within very specific cultural boundaries. In our culture, escorts are outside acceptable limits. In Japan, female escorts are respected as Geishas. The distinctions are subjective.

IMO, the operative issue here is Mike's previous violation of a primary American boundary, Puritanism. As a result, he already had an "outsider" status in our culture; he is a person who already said fuck you to the rules before any of us had ever heard his name.

In most societies, stigma (fear) is used as a primary means to enforce cultural conformity.
When a person crosses the line into outsider status, stigma is shifted into high gear as a means of punishing the violator. The theory is, stigma may force the violator back into conformity and, at the very least, deliver a warning to others who might be thinking of crossing said boundary. Break the rules and you are no longer part of "us". That's all it takes to keep the vast majority of people in line. Sadly, mainstream religions rely on this method to keep their flock ideologically pure.

But in real life, once you label a person an outsider, a funny thing happens. The outsider begins to realize that societal stigma has its limits; it ain't all that bad. You don't have to pretend to believe things you don't believe anymore. Once a person has violated one boundary with relative impunity, it becomes a lot easier to question other cultural boundaries and live a life based on one's own personal sense of integrity, rather than existing within the sometimes arbitrary boundaries imposed by society.

As usual, by trying to turn people like Mike into villains, conformists actually create activists who no longer fear cultural stigma.

Freed from fear, many outsiders begin to speak in non-subjective truths. And those truths are often an embarrassment to conformity. That's why a hundred years later, so many former cultural outsiders are regarded as visionary leaders.

Fear not Mike! You're gonna come out of this just fine!

Another Outsider

Anonymous said...

As any good boy raised in a religious home knows, even Jesus associated with prostitutes, so Steve you are just being "Christ-like". Which unfortunately many good christians say they are but are not. The irony of some of this is mindboggling!

Glad to hear Mike is coming out on top!

tomvancouver said...

In my youth, I spent a year as an escort and it was the toughest job I've ever had. My gay friends knew and I used to be self deprecating and say "It's dirty work but someone's got to do it. And your right, so many escorts are as complicated, nice and normal as everyone else. Your observations on Mike Jones, speak volumes about your own kindness, because you recognize it in others.

Anonymous said...

to Mike:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. How can we ever thank you enough? I just wrote you privately this evening to tell you how deeply grateful I am for your courage, your integrity, your moral decency, for exposing the hypocrisy, for standing up to the fundamentalist dragon that would take away our dignity, our humanity, our presence in the world.

We are all deeply in your debt,
Brian (this one is in MA)

Anonymous said...

If Mike had cared to, upon realizing Ted Haggard's identity, he could almost certainly have managed to extort a fair sum of money from the Rev. Blackmail can be a lot more lucrative than difficult truth-telling, particularly when the truth-telling is going to bring all kinds of trouble and hardship to the teller. If he were just looking out for his own personal interests, Mike Jones would never have done what he did. He sacrificed a great deal and took on a load of difficulty and pain, and I also say, "Thank you, Mr. Jones."

Anonymous said...

Oh--and Steve, the title on the video is dated 2006; sadly (or maybe not), that year has passed. "End of the proofreader's moment. Back to your regularly scheduled programming."

Jackie said...

Steve thanks for writing about Mike and sharing what a nice guy he is. He was my guy from the very first day that he came forward, knowing what he'd have to face.
Dr. Martin L. King said,
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Mike stood up for us. We need to stand up for him.

Steve Schalchlin said...

Ack! I did write "2006" on this. And stupid me, I didn't keep my file in the editing bay. I'd have to reconstruct it, which I will at some point. Not a big deal. But thanks for the correction. And I'm glad so many of you are agreeing with me about Mike. He's a doll.