The cost of love: an interview with Money’s on the Dresser author Christopher Daniels
Wed. February 12, 2014 by Gregg Shapiro
Then the escorting stuff started happening and the experiences were a little odd, some of them, and they would really stand out.
GS: (Gregg Shapiro) In the 1970s, a pair of bestselling books The Happy Hooker by Xaviera Hollander and The Happy Hustler by Grant Tracy Saxon (aka Michael Kearns) titillated readers with details about the world of prostitution, a subject generally considered to be taboo at the tame. Did you read either or both of these books before writing Money's On the Dresser?
CD: (Christopher Daniels) I had actually read a couple of Xaviera's books in high school. I was part of a group of kids and one of the girls in the group lived next door to this couple that were swingers. She would steal porn and dirty magazines from them. She ended up stealing a couple of Xaviera's books and I remember we would spend Friday nights reading the books in one of my other friend's rooms [laughs] when I was about 15 years old, I think.
GS: Is that the friend you write about it in the book who showed you your first gay porn videos? He
CD: No, this was another little pervy friend that I had.
GS: You wrote in the introduction about friends encouraging you to write a book. Did you always intend for it to be a memoir, and therefore non-fiction, as opposed to be a fictionalized telling of your experience?
CD: I did. When I first came to write a book, I had no idea what I would write about. I never felt qualified to write anything. Then the escorting stuff started happening and the experiences were a little odd, some of them, and they would really stand out. I thought I would try writing about these experiences because I can't keep going through life and meeting these people and forget about them, because I will. I started writing them down and what I came up with was this memoir, this collection of stories. I showed them to a few friends and they were like, "My God! I can't believe you deal with this on a daily basis." I thought, "Maybe that will be what the book is."
GS: With that in mind, how did you go about deciding which experiences to write about, which ones would make for interesting reading material to potential readers?
CD: Some of the stories just came pouring out. Some of the stories stood out more in my mind. I have a lot more crazy, weird experiences that have happened. I didn't include some of them because I felt like they weren't really going along with the flow of my story, they didn't quite fit. I could have written a lot more but I chose to stick with what I had. The idea of doing fiction did cross my mind, but I thought, "I just want to write about my experiences, I want it to be true and I want to tell my story." I really like to be honest about my experiences and how they affected me.
GS: You also write in the book about your religiously conservative upbringing. Have you shared the book with any family members?
CD: Yes. Getting the book out took a lot longer than writing the book. During that time I went through a lot of stress and I was worried about their reaction. They're in Canada, they're far removed from what I do. I thought they might hear about it so I told one of my brothers shortly after I finished the book and he freaked out, the experience did not go well. I was scarred by that and I thought that maybe I shouldn't tell anyone. A year and a half passed and I told another one of my brothers and he took it really well. He's the pastor of this huge megachurch in Canada. I really wasn't sure how it would go over, but it went well. It caused him to rethink the way he thinks about gay people and sexuality and his religious beliefs. He helped me and he told my sister and my mom. It went well. The funny thing is that it hasn't been discussed. Everyone knows, but no one wants to talk about it.
GS: The infamous elephant in the room.
CD: Right [laughs]!
GS: For some time you lived and worked in Las Vegas. Would you say that, as a gay man, you felt welcome and safe there?
CD: Yes. I recently moved from Vegas. I'm based in L.A. right now, but I go back and forth to Vegas. I still have work there. I've always felt safe there. Vegas doesn't have a huge gay community. It's not incredibly liberal and progressive in terms of sexuality. But nobody seems to care either. I feel like it's a working class town and everybody is just doing their own thing. It's not a gay town at all, but I've never felt threatened or that my safety was in jeopardy.
GS: You write about your experiences with differently-abled clients which made me think about writer Mark O'Brien whose story was the basis for the movie The Sessions starring Helen Hunt and John Hawkes. If there was a movie version of Money's On the Dresser, who would you want to portray you?
CD: Oh, God, I have no idea. Who's the guy who's in everything gay but says he's not gay?
GS: James Franco?
CD: Yeah, I would say him because he's in everything and he seems to want to do every gay role. I have no interest in him playing my role, but it seems like he'd probably be cast.
As a professional dancer, you know that there tends to be a time limit on how long you can work and put your body through such a rigorous routine. Does the same hold true for being a sex worker?
CD: Yes, it does. I have transitioned out of working as a dancer because I was getting to that place where I was having a lot of injuries. Dancers are even more exploited than sex workers. It wasn't going anywhere and I felt like the amount of work I was putting into it and the sacrifices I was making with my body, it just wasn't worth it. So I transitioned into this industry. But being a sex worker is the exact same thing. It does have an expiration date. It depends on when you go into it and how you market yourself. I went into it when I was in my late 20s when I still looked twinkish. I worked that and it went pretty well. Then I put on some weight, grew a beard and transitioned into a daddy look. There's always been a concern in my mind about my body and my health. There's always that issue.
GS: So, have you thought about what you want to do when it comes time for you to retire?
CD: Yes, every day [laughs]. I always have a lot of clients in my life who are very concerned, asking "What are you going to do after this?" The truth is that I've always had a plan and been very sure of that plan, but I really don't at this point. I wrote the book so I could maybe add something different to my career. I'm trying different things to make myself employable. I have no idea how long I'll stay in this industry. I'm still working consistently and I really enjoy what I do. I enjoy the escorting, the dancing, the traveling, the porn; all of it. It's still going well so I'm going to work it as long as I can. At the same time, I'm going to bow out gracefully. I don't want to be the last person at the party. It's a little sad when you're still putting that ad up and lowering your rate and it's time to go. But I hope it doesn't get to that point.
Interviewed by Gregg Shapiro. Gregg Shapiro is both a literary figure and a music and literary critic. As an entertainment journalist, his work appears on ChicagoPride.com and is syndicated nationally.