BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince everyone I meet that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way.
I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City. That is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.
Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City and played the lead role in a staged reading of a play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin].
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!