Not Quite Ready for My Closeup

My day as a soft-porn centerfold

For the young queer man, eager to make a quick buck from that thing nearest and dearest to him—his body—Southern California is perhaps the ideal locale, offering a variety of avenues along which to pursue the quest to turn flesh into cash. In the three years since I moved here, I've worked as a nude house cleaner, an odd trade where the quality of the cleaning is definitely secondary to the charms of the cleaner and that hot-pink feather duster is purely ornamental. I've done three-hour stints on the Internet, displaying my corporeal wares (and dirty-talking typing skills!) in a mock bedroom setup, pandering to the various desires and fantasies of a cyberworld of anonymous admirers. I made a solo jerk-off video under the pseudonym Calhoun Ross, where I was interviewed and then promptly stripped down, danced and splooged, propped up against an Addams Family pinball machine.

Despite the exotic and unusual nature of these gigs, all their sexy bump has definitely been tinged with the grind I've come to associate with any service occupation. But the fast money I made off my skin sure beat making no money at my regular job—that is, churning out one alienated latte after another for bohemians of the pseudo and crypto variety. Plus, I'm a firm believer in the anarchist concept that all work is prostitution of one kind or another (whether it's of the body, the soul, the psyche, your creative energy or all of the above), so I've never had any moral or spiritual qualms about getting my booty out there.

My latest adventure, prompted by mounting school payments, was posing nude for one of this country's most prestigious soft-porn magazines, a publication specializing in stylish solo shoots of twentysomething naked men.

But let me back up just a little, to a time before the shoot. A centerfold's gotta do what a centerfold's gotta do. And I did it. I did my morning sit-ups, lifted my free weights, laid off the Ben & Jerry's (being raised Catholic on the system of penance before absolution comes in handy at these times), and checked myself out in the mirror on an hourly basis, developing a deep empathy for the evil queen in Snow White. I shaved myself (or rather, my boyfriend did) in all the appropriate places. I chewed my fingernails down to the bone. I suffered—oh, how I suffered!—even up to the point of having a recurring dream. In the dream, I was being photographed—I looked the part, perfectly muscled and flawlessly smooth—and it was all going great until the Nikon camera grew fangs like a piranha's and went straight for my dick. Ouch.

But the day of the shoot eventually came, and I had done mywork. On a crisp winter's day, under a clear blue sky, I drove to the location in Pacific Palisades with the magazine's art editor, who also happens to be a happening dyke of the butch variety. This may sound like an anomaly to many of those gay men who like to gaze over airbrushed boy-flesh. But open your minds, my friends. A quiet revolution is occurring in a corner of the world of queer porn, and it's being led by this woman. She's giving tired, gay-male erotic art a much-needed injection of life and style, dusting off the clichťs, rediscovering what was good about old porn that had been lost or discarded, and drawing on the looks of mainstream fashion shoots, probing the fine line between fashion and porn. Face it, in every fashion and entertainment magazine you open these days, it's usually a matter of seconds before you come across a naked male body. The naked male form in all its splendor is up on a pedestal and very much on display at the beginning of the 21st century, perhaps in a way that hasn't been seen since the Renaissance. Chatting with Rosie (not her real name, just as when my photos go to print, my real name won't be used), the deadpan chorus from the old Waitresses' song kept ringing in my head, with a nice little gender twist: "I know what boys like, I know what guys want."

Yes, indeed. By the time we arrived at the location—the beautiful hilly grounds of a beautiful Art Deco house owned by Rosie's beautiful superfemme of a girlfriend—I had been set at ease by her easygoing manner. Seeing the space where the shoot was going to be conducted only added to this: a hammock surrounded by bright green grass and big old eucalyptus trees (continuing the trend of bringing nature back into porn locations—ever notice how porn seemed to move into a generic, badly decorated interior as AIDS took over?).

After meeting Richard, the mellow photographer, who failed to meet any of my "sleazy porno photographer" stereotypes, and numerous changes of clothes and numerous compliments from Rosie on my ass, the outfit in which I would be immortalized was finally decided: white boxers and baby- and navy-blue pajamas sweetly offset by an emerald-green guitar that looked like it had been manufactured in Oz. I was ready for my closeup.

Well, maybe not quite ready. Due to a number of externalfactors, it took me a while to ease into the shoot. Despite what people on the East Coast might suspect, we know it gets cold out here. So between shots—when I looked sensually into the lens of the camera and pouted seductively and lounged suggestively—I shivered. And although a hammock is a nice idea and at first looked incredibly comfy, as soon as I lay down on it, I realized how incredibly hard it is to look all lazily turned-on in a nonchalant manner on one of these things. People sleep on these? It felt like they might as well have asked me to get all sassy on a bed of thistles.
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