My Gay Toronto - MGT Hot Topic

Money's on the Dresser:
sex and memoir as a marketing tool

by Drew Rowsome

I confess to being fascinated by the lively genre of porn star memoirs. Prurient? Most definitely, but then all interest in celebrity - and memoirs - is. And porn star memoirs add the bonus of the potential for lots of steamy sex.

Bobby Blake's My Life in Porn has the welcome addition of an analysis of racial politics; Blue Blake's Out of the Blue: Confessions of an Unlikely Porn Star is a humour-laden self-help business manual; Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz is just simply well-written, entertaining and delightfully self-deprecating; Colby Keller's blog posts and musings should definitely be turned into an actual book (preferably a coffee table book filled with photos); and that is excluding the numerous porn biographies and histories that also line my shelves. It fascinates me to hear the actual voice, whether it is celebrating or lamenting, describe the experience that is foreign, except for once that is another story, to me.

Which brings me to Christopher Daniels' Money's on the Dresser: Escorting, Porn and Promiscuity in Las Vegas - probably one of the best titles in recent memory. Unfortunately the book, though Daniels has given lots of entertaining promotional interviews and appears to be witty and engaging beyond his physical appeal and endowments, is just not very good. Even ignoring the sloppy copy-editing job - there are spelling and grammar mistakes galore that regularly interrupt the pleasure of reading and, most damning, while several sentences run on and on and on, one abruptly ends before completing - there is another basic problem with the entire book. 

Reaching the last chapter, one suddenly gets a treatise on why Daniels loves his work and believes it is important. It is a confusing and obtuse manifesto but at least it is an attempt to explicate all that came before. Except that it really doesn't. Daniels - who comes across an exhaustingly self-centred shopaholic (he does admit to being narcissistic - see quote below) - seems to be on a voyage of self-discovery and writing while he goes: more power to him. It just would have been wonderful to have an editor, or outside eye, to organize and tease the themes out of the self-indulgent prose.

The coming out story - which could have been fascinating, Daniels spent time with an ex-gay ministry - is contradictory and he loses sympathy. The clients who he claims to be dedicated to making feel better, are uniformly denigrated. His porn work - though there is slight but fascinating analysis of how the business has changed - is glossed over and undercut by an obsession with potential erectile dysfunction (as is many of the escorting stories but, in Daniels' defence, it must be an occupational hazard). Las Vegas, the inclusion of which in the title certainly added to my intrigue, is mostly slammed and Daniels' life as a revue dancer doesn't, alas, get the Showgirls exposé treatment I craved.

“I am running a business, Christopher Daniels is a brand, and I have a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. I reply to e-mails in a timely manner and try to conduct myself professionally at all times. Escorting is a business, and I am a businessman.

Okay, that's true, but I guess there is more to it. Why else am I doing this? For me, a big part of doing this and porn is for the constant approval. Hearing how beautiful you are on a daily basis becomes addictive. You get used to being desired by others, and the attention is nice. Being in porn and escorting is highly narcissistic, and I am fully aware of my overly inflated ego and pure unadulterated narcissism. Part of that is what sustains me in this industry and keeps me going.”

There are more explanations, which sadly read like justifications rather than statements, but Money's on the Dresser seems to exist for marketing and ego stroking. When I worked for fab magazine during its first golden age, Todd Klinck wrote a very popular column entitled "Trade" that chronicled his adventures, and misadventures, in the sex industry. Klinck is an extraordinary raconteur but very few know how much editing, cajoling and question of "just what is the point of this?" occurred before each column went into print. The end result was stellar (Klinck has hinted at collecting his columns into a book and if he does it will be a must read) and here's hoping that Daniels gets similar support for his next book.

Daniels is a former Canadian and, in our grand literary tradition, he does in many passages achieve magic and a direct hit of truth:

"I remember hearing sermons and reading articles in Focus on the Family magazine on what the gay lifestyle was really about. They painted it out to be a life of drug-induced parties, orgies, and gay pride marches in leather harnesses, waving rainbow flags. I fantasized about a day when I could be part of all the debauchery and sin they warned me about and finally fit in. And so began my seemingly never-ending countdown until the days I would leave home and start life."

Reading Daniels' scattershot memoir may not inspire a reader to purchase his services (it will undoubtedly inspire readers to check out his porn performances - there are no photos included in the book) or be particularly understanding of his psychological state. (That in itself is very porn-esque with a state of voyeuristic removal and narrative drive that would be conceptually brilliant if I suspected it was deliberate.) However it does inspire readers to leave whatever Regina they are trapped in and head for the bright lights of whatever Vegas they desire: while remembering that bright lights aren't everything.

Money's on the Dresser: Escorting, Porn and Promiscuity in Las Vegas is available at Glad Day Bookshop, 598 Yonge St.