Category Archives: GLBT memoir and/or biography

“Scores: How I Opened the Hottest Strip Club in New York City, Was Extorted out of Millions by the Gambino Family, and Became One of the Most Successful Mafia Informants in FBI History” by Michael Blutrich— New York, the 1990s

Blutrich, Michael D. “Scores: How I Opened the Hottest Strip Club in New York City, Was Extorted out of Millions by the Gambino Family, and Became One of the Most Successful Mafia Informants in FBI History”, BenBella, 2017.

New York, the 1990s

Amos Lassen

Michael Blutrich is a gay man who created New York’s most notorious den of heterosexuality. He is also an a lawyer who became one of the most successful undercover mob informants in history. His story is fascinating and takes us inside New York of the 1990s, mafia sit-downs, and the witness protection program.

Michael Blutrich was a resourceful lawyer at one of the city’s most respected firms who fell into the skin trade almost by accident, but it was his legal savvy that made Scores the first club in Manhattan to feature lap dances and enabled him to neatly sidestep a law requiring dancers to wear pasties by covering their nipples with latex paint instead. Soon Scores became a home away from home for everyone from sports superstars and Oscar-winning actors to pop singers and politicians.

The club was located in John Gotti’s territory, and the mafia wanted a piece of the action. We have seen that The Gambino family doesn’t take no for an answer but neither does the FBI. In his memoir, Blutrich shares in detail how his beloved club became a hub for the mafia, and how he found himself caught up in an FBI investigation and struggling to juggle roles of business owner and undercover spy.

As he lost control of his life, Blutrich faced the loss of almost everything dear to him aside from his sense of humor. In “Scores”, Blutrich tells all—from triumph to betrayal in his own very funny and self-deprecating voice.

Blutrich gives us a compelling true crime book that takes readers on a wild ride. This book has something for everyone— mobsters, strippers, extortion, G-men, and an unlikely FBI informant. We get a look into the secret world of FBI undercover cooperation. As unbelievable as it all may seem, this is a true story. Blutrich saw all kinds of people at his strip club but then he learned that he had business partners that he was not aware of— John Gotti and his family of crime. It became very real when two of his employees were whacked leading him to become an undercover agent for the FBI and he wore a wire against Gotham’s biggest gangsters. He has been

credited with almost 40 convictions of mafia defendants and then he \ was unexpectedly sentenced, over government opposition, to more than 13 years of imprisonment in the Federal Witness Security Program. Today he lives and works under a new identity in a secret location.

After graduating from the Georgetown University Law Center law, Blutrich had a distinguished legal career as a Park Avenue attorney and even formed a partnership with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. As an entrepreneur, he was the original owner of Scores as well as several other popular nightclubs. He owned an HBO boxing promotion enterprise, and for seven years hosted Psychic Eye, an acclaimed radio talk show on both WOR-AM and WEVD-AM in New York City. Read his story and laugh and cringe at the same time.

“The PrEP Diaries: A Safe(r) Sex Memoir”— Coming of Age and Thinking About Sexual Safety

Peterson, Evan J. “The PrEP Diaries: A Safe(r) Sex Memoir”, Lethe, 2017.

Coming of Age and Thinking About Sexual Safety

Amos Lassen

For those of you who are not yet aware, the term PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) has become part of our lives and dialogues with not only personal physicians but also with friends and lovers. Truvada is the first daily pill prescribed to HIV-negative people that prevents transmission of the virus. Author Evan J. Peterson wrote about PrEP back in 2014 and since then he has been following his own life and his experiences with the drug. He does so cleverly and a bit sarcastically in this his diary which includes stories about sex, intimacy and gay life in general.
He shares not only personal thoughts but also how he goes about sexually these days as he faces

homophobia, internalized shame, and fear of infection that all of us who grew up in the years of the AIDS epidemic an afterwards. Evan J. Peterson is fine writer and has great wit. While on a basic level, this is a book about PrEP, it is more than that. I see it as a challenge to confront our fears and societal taboos and live healthy sexual lives.

 

“Desire: A Memoir” by Jonathan Dollimore— Autobiography and Meditation

Dollimore, Jonathan. “Desire: A Memoir”, (Beyond Criticism), Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

Autobiography and Meditation

Amos Lassen

Jonathan Dollimore has held professorships at the universities of Sussex and York and lectured and taught throughout the world. He was co-founder (with Alan Sinfield) of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence at the University of Sussex. For more than thirty years Jonathan Dollimore has been one of contemporary culture’s most influential critics of politics, literature, and sexuality. In “Desire”, Dollimore shares the existential sources of his inspiration and explores the challenge of passion, of gay sex and suicidal depression. It is brutally honest and raw giving the reader a great deal to think about. He reflects on his own “compulsive experience of gay culture” with both candor and refinement. He gives us “a meditation about the desire for sex and oblivion and its complex relation to loss, depression, and suicide” in which he tests ideas against experience, and shows that disasters can be liberating. Jonathan Dollimore is here charming, astute and quite funny. His story is sensitive, haunting and at times heartbreaking. His story is also the story of the times in which he has lived and he shares what the nature of desire is to him. His life has been one of “a brilliant teacher, writer, radical intellectual adventurer, who for many was a role model on how to think and do our work differently”. The prose is powerful and filled with beauty in this book that can and will be read again and again.

“A Distant Rainbow: The Story About a Boy” by Dario Sinzoic— Growing Up

Sinzoic, Dario. “A Distant Rainbow: The Story About a Boy”, Independently Published, 2017.

Growing Up

Amos Lassen

Set in a conservative Eastern European country in the 1980s and 90s, “A Distant Rainbow” is the autobiography of a boy growing up and learning about his being gay and staying in the closet. His childhood was spent without love from his parents and bullying at school. He shares the first time that he fell in love and his strong desire for love and attention. Eventually the story and his life take a turn for the better and we see that his first real love affair was very intense even if it only lasted for a short period. He refers to himself as “sexually disoriented“ and his life has been “full of ups and downs”. We have read stories like this for years but what makes this unique is the setting. We know very little about being gay in Eastern Europe.

 

 

“Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace” by Daniel Mattson— He Says He is No Longer Gay

Mattson, Daniel. “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace”, Ignatius Press, 2017.

He Says He is No Longer Gay

Amos Lassen

Daniel Mattson once believed he was gay, but no longer. He was raised in a Christian family, and aware of attractions to other boys at age six. He says that his life was marked by constant turmoil between his faith in God and his sexual attractions to other males. Finding the conflict too great, he turned his back on God in anger and decided to live life the way the world said he should. He allowed himself to guided by his desires for men and he accepted that he was gay and found a man to share a life with. However, he discovered the happiness and freedom that the gay rights movement promised was empty. In this candid memoir, Mattson shares his journey from living a life as a gay man, to finding freedom in living out the call of chastity that was rooted in humbling accepting the reality of his true sexual nature. He says that his sexuality was given to him by God and he is simply a man, like any other man on earth. Unfortunately that last sentence is not true as one of man’s properties is his sexual urge.

Mattson claims that this book is part memoir, part philosophy about reality, and part a practical guide for living chastely. (I think he had better relearn the definition of reality). Using his own fight for chastity, he claims to share the wisdom from his own failures and successes. He goes to the saints for wisdom, and then gives us practical steps to chastity and these are “rooted above all else in humble reliance on Jesus as man’s holiness” (Give me a break!!). He shares his own struggles in discovering the meaning of true friendship and reflects on the nature of friendship, and the temptations which can often enter the realm of friendship for a man like him (I wonder how many there are). He explains the Catechism’s difficult phrases about homosexuality, and finds within them liberating truth (and Catholic foolishness and hocus-pocus). He says that his journey comes full circle when his lifelong search for “happiness and peace is found in the realization that, above all else, what is true about him is that he is a beloved child of God” (which, of course, he cannot be as gay).

In his honest (?) look at his own shortcomings and his battle with God, Mattson has written a book for everyone (who needs a psychiatrist) who has ever wondered who they are, why they are here, and where God can be found when we suffer. This is not as Mattson says, a “welcome voice of sanity among the muddled thinking of modern society who believes that sexual identity is rooted in the realm of feelings and desires”. “Mattson urges the Church to unabashedly proclaim the Good News that Christ said while he walked among us: -Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female?” (and fool?). I am amazed that someone would publish this piece of crap and I hope that it lays on the shelf unread forever. This man’s Jesus must be crying.

One question—- Do chaste men commit the sin of Onan?

“San Francisco Daddy: One Gay Man’s Chronicle of His Adventures in Life and Love” by Charles St. Anthony— A Mini-Memoir

St. Anthony, Charles. “San Francisco Daddy: One Gay Man’s Chronicle of His Adventures in Life and Love”, illustrated by Terry Blass, Impossibly Glamorous Studios, 2017.

A Mini-Memoir

Amos Lassen

Coming back to the United States after living in Japan, Charles St. Anthony fulfilled one of his greatest dreams—- to live in San Francisco, something he has wanted to do his entire life. He shares that with us in this mini-memoir in which he is able to find humor in almost. every situation. He takes us by the hand and leads us through a tour of San Francisco and tells us of his many adventures there. He is brutally honest and candid and we understand almost immediately why San Francisco is also known as the New Age Babylon by the Bay. The wit is caustic, the tour is fun and the telephone for making plane reservations to get there is near at hand. The tales of the city that you read here are unlike any others and we read them filled with keen observation and self-depreciation.

Charles St Anthony lived in Japan until the earthquake in 2011 so he moved to a place where there were no earthquakes. He took a series of dead end jobs, transformed himself into a `bear’, and joined the party by having a series of romantic liaisons as dead end as the dead end jobs. St. Anthony takes on life, love, and work in the San Francisco Bay Area and keeps us laughing.

 

“Doll Parts” by Amanda Lepore with Thomas Flannery— Living Her Life

Lepore, Amanda (with Thomas Flannery). “Doll Parts”, Regan Arts, 2017.

Living Her Life

Amos Lassen

Amanda Lepore is a legend. She is regarded as a working piece of art and for thirty years has been the queen of New York City nightlife. She is one of the most famous transsexuals of all time but we see that the road to where she is today was rocky and filled with bumps alone the way. She tells us that when she was young and transgender, she was used to being hated and all she really wanted to do was to exist. She freely admits that all she ever wanted to do was to be able to control herself and she “focused on not letting other people’s opinions have any effect on me whatsoever, and that’s how I’ve lived my life ever since.” In Hebrew, we say “Kol HaKavod” or all the honor to her and she has certainly succeeded.

Amanda Lepore opened the door for so many others and, in effect, she was one of the main people who is responsible for he trans revolution that we are now experiencing. But we also know it was very difficult and that is what she shares with us here.

I have never seen or met Amanda Lepore and to be honest, I always thought of her as some kind of freak but then I lived in Arkansas where everyone who is not like backwoods Arkansans is a freak. Reading this gives me a totally different look at her and I feel terribly guilty that I prejudged Lepore even after hearing others speak so highly of her.

I love having had the chance to sit down and have an intimate chat with Lepore here (even knowing that others were having the same chat did not bother me). I think that once we get to know someone, it is that much easier to like and respect him or her. We owe Lepore a great deal since she was there when others shied away from the spotlight. She certainly made it easier for others to follow her but she is a true original and I doubt we will see another like her. I am sure it is not easy to be famous for being a transsexual and Lepore tells us what it was like “back in the day”.

I love that Lepore has “a sense of divine certainty, humor, and charm” and her fan base is large and filled with celebrities. She is devoted to glamour and she shows it. Her best quality, it seems to me, is that she is so fascinating. She has managed to

establish herself as the most original and glamorous image in the transgender world; “a self-creation that governs her own splendid reality.” She is fearless flashy and outspoken.

Amanda Lepore has been at the cutting edge and is the cutting edge of culture. She began with the era of Club Kids and she has broken rules and remade her own.

 

 

“At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces” by Mary Collins and Donald Collins— Wrestling with Differences

Collins, Mary and Donald Collins. “At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces”, Beacon Press, 2017.

Wrestling with Differences

Amos Lassen

A mother and son gives us a collaborative memoir as they both dealt with their differences and the son, Donald went through medical-treatment options to better align his body with his gender identity.

As a parent, Mary Collins didn’t agree with her trans son’s decision to physically alter his body, although she supported his right to realize himself as a person. She lets us into her mind and explains her emotional mindset as her daughter was in the process of becoming her son. She felt she had lost a daughter as Donald activated his “authentic self.” Both mother and son fought to get the rights that each felt they deserved and as they do, they have a lot to say. What we must realize is that when one member of a family transitions to another gender, the entire family goes through a transition as well.

What we really get here is a wonderful addition to transgender literature that is totally inaccessible. This is a brave look at both mother and son and of a mother learning to see her child as he seems himself. We get two conflicting points of view that place us in the middle of what is going on with the family and we see that two people who have strong and deep disagreements are able to love and respect each other. We are taken into the stress of discovering where a person best fits and then how that person can get the world to see him as he sees himself. Below are the table of contents:

Table of Contents

Authors’ Notes

 

Introductions

 

Pronouns and Body Parts

SON: Who Wears the Pants?

MOTHER: Mismatch

 

Endings and Beginnings

MOTHER: Mapping Modern Grief

SON: Birds of Spring

 

Sharing our Story with Others

SON: Donald Has Something He Would Like to Tell the Class

MOTHER: Disclosure

 

Rights

MOTHER: Right(s)

SON: Hidden Fees

 

A Story Exchange

Parent Story Exchange

Transgender Youth and Professionals Story Exchange

 

Donald’s Reading List

 

Acknowledgments

 

Sources

 

A Note from the Series Editor

 

“The Secrets of My Life” by Caitlyn Jenner— Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

Jenner, Caitlyn. “The Secrets of My Life”, Grand Central Publishing, 2017.

Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

Amos Lassen

I cannot think of a book that I would rather not read than Caitlyn Jenner’s memoir. After all, she is considered to be, in a sense, a Kardashian, a family that has become famous without a reason for doing so aside from the fact that the matriarch of the family, Kris Jenner, has pimped them out and we have forced to live with this bunch of “nothings”. As Bruce Jenner, there was an wonderful story of an internationally respected Olympian but as Caitlyn Jenner we get the story of a media whore who gender transition has been in the headlines since it took place. She was once “the personification of The American Male Athlete.”

“The Secrets of My Life” was written during her first years of becoming her authentic self-Caitlyn Jenner and in it she reflects on her past as she looks to her future. Becoming the patriarch of the Kardashian/Jenner gang brought Jenner even more fame (God knows why) and he was living a life of success, money and fame. However, we learned that Jenner had been struggling for most of his life with his gender identity. It wasn’t until the journalist Diane Sawyer interviewed him that the public Bruce Jenner was finally retired. It was through the “Vanity Fair” piece by Buzz Bissinger, that Caitlyn Jenner was introduced to the world and she was allowed to exist on her own terms. Since then, Caitlyn began an arduous emotional and physical odyssey to achieve what she felt had always been missing. It is just coincidence that this happened during the highpoints of Kardashian madness or, I must ask, was it planned that way?

Caitlyn shares the inner conflict she experienced growing up in an era of rigidly defined gender identities along with the cruel irony of being hailed by an entire nation as the ultimate symbol of manhood (I cannot help but wonder if that is really true). She tells of her Olympic triumph, her rise to fame. She also shares how her sense of frustration and shame was constantly growing with the passing years and the lengths to which she had to go to conceal who she felt she really was. We read of the personal struggles had on her three marriages and, her relationships with her children. She also talks candidly about her life in the public eye as a member of the Kardashian clan, what led to her decision to become Caitlyn, and how she, her family, the transgender community, and the rest of the world has since embraced her new life (I am not so sure that the rest of the world has embraced that new life).

Her book, like her life, has been filled with incredibly personal and moving stories of “struggle and victory, of anxiety and fear, and, finally, of surrender and acceptance”. There has been a lot of talk that Jenner underwent gender reassignment surgery but I will share nothing about that giving you a reason to buy the book and send a few more million dollars her way.

“The Black Penguin” by Andrew Evans— Parallel Lives

Evans, Andrew. “The Black Penguin”, (Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies), The University of Wisconsin Press, 2017.

Parallel Journeys

Amos Lassen

Andrew Evans was a devout young boy in rural Ohio, whose life was mapped out for him: baptism, mission, Brigham Young University, temple marriage, and children of his own. However, Evans is gay and those plans do not work with his sexuality. As “an awkward gay kid”, he was bullied and he escaped into the pages of “National Geographic” and the dream of traveling the world. “The Black Penguin” is Evans’s memoir, a travel tale, and love story of his eventual journey to the farthest corners of the world and it is quite touching adventure that took him to some of the most exciting and beautiful landscapes on the world.

As a young man he was thrown out of his church and

shunned by his family and this was the catalyst for him to journey halfway across the world. He rode on public transportation, crossed swamps, deserts, mountains, and jungles as he fulfilled his lifelong toward his ultimate goal of Antarctica. He experienced “laughter, pain, unexpected friendship, true weirdness, unsettling realities, and some hair-raising moments that eventually lead to a singular discovery on a remote beach at the bottom of the world”. This journey was a soulful quest to balance faith, family, and self. He reminds us that ultimately, our lives are defined by the paths we take, the places we visit and the people we love.

Evans’ was on parallel journeys: he was a travel journalist on an epic and sometimes perilous gig for National Geographic; and he was a gay man born into a devout Mormon family. He unites disparate genres and themes and what he has to say is captivating and often hair-raising. This is the story of Andrew, a boy who rode city buses daily at the age of five and a voracious young map reader who came in third in the National Geography Bee for the state of Ohio at age 10. It was then that he was bullied throughout school and conflicted by the values and practices of his family’s faith. He began a heart wrenching inner journey to reconcile who he is. Here is a book that will make you laugh and make you cry as anger and sadness come together to give us a very personal story of a life.