Using and Losing on Times Square: Hustling the Deuce
April 15, 1986
I’m Joe Monday. I’ve worked in the sex business for the last few years. I’ve been a cashier at hetero and homo adult theaters, porno actor, live sex show performer. This article is about my friends (and enemies) who hustle guys on the Deuce. A former $100-a-night call boy and porno actor who’s probably as close as you can come in reality to those “$1000-a-week hustlers” quoted in all the AIDS articles — the ones who claim that scenes now involve fantasies and uniforms instead of actual sexual contact — had his own thoughts on the subject. “Towards the end, I wouldn’t fuck. I used to meet people who wanted to get abused, cursed at, fist-fucked. I stopped fist-fucking people because the person could die — you’d be responsible. Except for women, escorting is dead in New York. The diseases — nobody wants to do anything. With all these people getting sick, those people who hustle in Times Square are crazy.”
All names of people (and a few identifying details) in this article have been changed, as have those of bars and movie theaters still in operation and my own — Joe Monday is neither my real name nor the pseudonym I use as a porno performer. Quotations have been culled from casual conversations, not formal interviews, but the people are real, not composites. Here are their stories.
Joey looks like an archetypal white junkie. Scraggly blond hair under a baseball cap; a gaunt, mustached face; long sleeves in any weather; dirty, baggy dungarees dropping off his nonexistent ass. His hands and feet are all puffy — the veins in them have been used up long ago.
“I grew up in Manhattan. Uptown. I’ve been hanging out on 42nd Street since I was 17, hustling since I was 20, 21. Fifty-third and Third, too. There was more money around years ago. My father was a transit cop. I never really knew my mother — she left when I was very young. My dad’s retired now. He’s got a dick like John Holmes, a dick that any homosexual would love to suck. I always used to say to him, ‘Dad, did you find me on a park bench or somethin’?’ because I’m not, like, particularly well hung. I think he knew I hustled. I’d like to settle down — I’m 32 now — before he dies, give him peace of mind. I love him very much.
“I’ve been gettin’ high for the last 15 years. Drugs were much better then. Cheaper, too. I was clean for four months earlier this year. I was in jail for boosting. I do one, two bags a day even though I could handle about five. I can cop anywhere — East Harlem; Ninth Avenue, Harlem Harlem, Lower East Side, South Bronx. I mostly go to East Harlem. It’s still $10 uptown for a bag of dope. I can’t see spending $15 on Ninth. I like doing coke, but when I do it, I can’t control myself. People like Manny — they chase after that coke all day. That turns me off.”
Joey is the sort of guy who will walk 20 blocks to cop the best dope he can find and then walk another 10 blocks to look for a gallery. He has no qualms about using other people’s works. AIDS? “You get it, you’re dead. That’s it. But I don’t think I’ll get it.
“I used to hustle a lot at Blackjack. Blackjack changed. There’s other peep places I can work out of, where I know the people, even though they have those signs up. There’s not too much money for me at Eddie’s, even though I have a few regulars. I got one guy, he makes me jerk off in the back of his car. This other one, he pays me $10 for each Spanish boy I bring him. I’d like to pawn this jacket so I can get a bag of dope, but I gotta see the john that bought it for me.”
Joey is generally around the Deuce, although he doesn’t make as much money hustling as he used to. Sometimes he’s walking with an old queen, sometimes he’s giving that “cocaine cocaine” rap. “What you do, you put a bit of real coke on top of stuff you get at a head shop. The person tastes it and thinks it’s real. Just beat out-of-towners, Jersey or Long Island people, people who are here just for the weekend. I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder all night.”
He’s what some people would call a criminal type, and what appeal he has as a hustler is probably that of low-risk rough trade. Boosting, possession, attempted male prostitution, hopping the train (the street term for fare-beating) Joey has been arrested over 50 times. “But I’ve never been in a fight all the time I’ve been on the Deuce. Niggers would try to start with me and I’d just yell louder than them — ‘YOU THINK I’M A PUNK? HUH?’ Guys on the Deuce, they’re all mouth, all mouth. I got straight yesterday by boosting address books from Lamston’s. They were worth $3 each and I sold ’em for a dollar apiece. One of them fell out of my jacket as I was leaving and I almost got caught. I sell Tylenol I steal from Red Apple to that drugstore over there.
“When I’ve been really sick I’ve picked a few pockets, taken johns off. I’ve seen hustlers who say they don’t suck cock suck somebody off. Maybe the guy was sick — I wouldn’t say anything about it. I wouldn’t do it. Never sucked anybody off, never got fucked in the ass. But if somebody said, ‘Here’s $500, lemme fuck you up the ass,’ I’d say, ‘Here it is.’ ”
That’s what they all say. Hustlers always claim to play the top role, but this isn’t true for a few dollars more. Joey needs money so badly that he’ll do anything for $10.
“I’m on welfare. I get a rent check. I get $50 worth of food stamps and cash ’em in for $35.” He had a room in East Harlem but shot up the rent money. Now he stays anywhere — the Port Authority, an abandoned building, subway benches, all-night theaters if a cashier he knows lets him in free. He constantly bums cigarettes or change for food.
“I like to fuck girls. TVs, transsexuals, too. They chase after me like crazy. Even though they have dicks, I’ll fuck ’em. Every time I get my welfare check, I spend 50 cents and check out a loop at that peep place. Saw one where some girl fucks a pig — wild. In another, this girl is supposed to eat shit but the shit looked fake. I dig big tits. I was in a couple of loops, magazines. I was the submissive. It wasn’t much money — $50 a day — but it was $50 that I could get high with.
“I’ve worked as a cook, gas station attendant, auto mechanic. The best time I ever had was working as a dietary aide in a nursing home — bringing the old folks their food. Made eight dollars and change an hour. I had my girlfriend working the streets out here for me. She pulled $1000 a week. A john was writing checks for me like crazy. I had an apartment, a stereo, a color TV. But then I lost my job due to excessive absences — I was getting high so much I wouldn’t leave the house for days. My girlfriend got too greedy with the dope and left me. I collected unemployment for six months … and now, this.”
It’s gotten so tough for Joey to earn his daily get-straight cash that he went on Methadone. “I can’t take it anymore. The program I’m on is only $7 a week. They started me at 40 milligrams, raised me to 50 even though I would have been comfortable at 30. The idea is to keep you on it. It’ll take years for my hands to heal. No more sticking needles in myself. Every Saturday I get a take-home. I can sell it and buy a few racks.” Soon Joey is spending every cent he makes each day on cracks. They have replaced dope as his get-high.
Times Square has always been a freebasing haven. Area folks who “can’t deal with tracks, better off piping it” include porn movie performers, live sex show couples, and strippers. The catch to freebasing is that you’re never satisfied. People will spend their last dollar attempting to recapture that first rush, running their expenditures into the thousands.
In order to freebase, you’d have to start with a 50 ($50 worth, approximately half a gram) of coke, know how to cook it up into a rock with baking soda, get a large glass pipe (at least $7), and, frequently, buy a torch. Therefore, less well-off Times Square denizens would have to chip in with others. Cracks, just invented a few months ago, are designed for them.
Cracks are sold in dime rocks, enough for four small pulls. A large pipe and torch is unnecessary — all you need is a small glass tube sold in head shops and a lighter. You can do them anywhere — in a movie theater, a bathroom, on the street. Far from the pure cocaine Jane Gross described in the Times a few weeks ago, they are the freebasing analogue to the nickel cokes intravenous drug users buy on the Lower East Side or in East Harlem. At their best, nickel cokes provide a strong rush and taste of cocaine, but there is always something else in them — pseudocaine and/or cheap speed. Likewise for cracks. They give a strong blast to the head, but the high doesn’t last as long as real freebase. Again, there’s that “something else.” The uninitiated will experience stomach cramps. And cracks vary enormously in quality. People who purchase pre-cooked base from the Cubans on 145th Street and Amsterdam Avenue consider Times Square cracks untrustworthy at best. They leave no one satisfied. The user either repeatedly heats the carbon left in his glass tube, vainly hoping to get one last hit, or starts to get another $10 together. Not to mention that any sort of prolonged coke usage wreaks havoc on the mind.
Cracks are sold all over 42nd Street and in Bryant Park. The park salesmen are a more hyper version of the black kids who just sell sense (homegrown sinsemilla): “Crack it up, crack it up.” For such a new phenomenon, crack is ominously popular. Its terminal results are already visible on many users.
At the Narcissus Theater, the talent scout tries to avoid hiring dancers who are “cokies. The minute a dancer looks stoned, like he’s going to fall off the stage or something, we let them go.” Jorge is typical of Narcissus dancers — guys who strip before working the audience for tricks. He’s a young Latino guy with more than a slight touch of effeminacy — a “cha-cha queen.” Jorge’s get-high habits have never been detected by the Narcissus management because, like a lot of drug users, he doesn’t give a fuck about coke. “With coke, I get paranoid. Me and my lover, we got into freebasing for a while — it really runs into a lot of money.
“That’s why I do dope. It’s a mellow high that lasts a long time, like eight hours. It’s cheaper — you can do it once and stay high — you don’t have to keep doing it like coke. With this sort of high, I can stay sociable. Unless you’re into it, too, you wouldn’t know I was high.
“I go down here — Ninth Avenue. Never been to 118th Street or to the Lower East Side. I live right around the corner. The brands of dope that really affect me are Blue Moon and Paradise. There’s two people I know who sell Blue Moon. I’ve never used anyone else’s works in my life. I always get a new set if I can because I don’t want to get tracks. I do it two, maybe three times a week — I don’t want to get stuck with a habit.”
Ninth Avenue from the mid-40s to the low 50s has always been a dope spot. $21 Heart or the $22 Mercedes. Now, small groups of dealers purchase bundles (10 bags of dope) on the Lower East Side or in East Harlem and sell a dime bag for $15. The $5 extra is supposedly the cab-fare you would’ve spent on a trip out of the neighborhood. Sometimes you can cop short — say, four bags for $57.
Transactions on Ninth Avenue take place largely between buyers and sellers who know each other and proceed to take a little stroll. The amount of legitimate business traffic makes it even harder for Officer O’Leary to detect what’s going on. If you don’t see a dealer you know, one of the regular runners will lead you to someone who’s selling for a tip or a taste. The corner of 48th Street and Ninth Avenue remains a magnet for all manner of flotsam and beat artists. There are a few shooting galleries left.
Diabetic works are sold on Ninth Avenue for $2 to $3 each. These have a short, undetachable point, unlike the blue-tip works sold elsewhere. Since they are often sold unsealed, with just a removable plastic cap, some people will try to get rid of “half new” works — ones which have been used once or twice (moisture inside the barrel or blood marks near the point are a tipoff). Also available are 20s of coke, which are more like $15 worth on the Lower East Side. Everything’s more expensive midtown. Ninth Avenue and 51st Street remains a big spot for cocaine and Dilaudid (a synthetic opiate), but is under closer police scrutiny as of late.
Ninth Avenue is known for weird cuts in the drugs. Some buyers felt Heart was all sleeping powder, crushed downers that dissolve in water. Others feel that dealers tap the bags, replacing the dope they’ve stolen with a little sleeping powder “for that heavy nod effect.” There was also the recently defunct Smiling Faces $7 bags of “cocaine.” Joey claims, “It was all speed. People would say they were buying coke, but when they ran there every day because their bones hurt and their noses were running, they were going to get a speed fix. When they closed, a lotta people got sick.”
Runners and dealers in midtown are an odd bunch of Latinos who shoot and snort their own products. After a few trips there, you see the same faces over and over: the Brothers, the Cuban and his Wife, the Midget Lady, the Dirty One, the Old Man.
The Old Man has been an area fixture for the past 15 years. Arms covered with tattoos and tracks, he walks with a pronounced limp. “I got this way from a car accident. I’m a crazy driver.” Always has new, usually sealed works and is the area’s most trustworthy runner. About his clientele, he feels that “a lot of the guys that come here to buy — they get the money because they trick with the faggots.” When asked if he had ever turned tricks when he was a young man, there was a long silence, followed by a hesitant “no.”
How to describe a typical Times Square homosexual john? Baldhead, notorious director of “chicken classics” gay hard-core movies, puts it best. “Gay and straight johns are the closest looking people in both sexual tendencies. That coat, that business suit, their whole attitude is not queeny — you never see a queen paying for boys, they’re too pretty to do that. It takes having a realistic view of yourself. He knows what he is, he likes to suck a big dick and is willing to pay $30 for it. The sort of guy that could pass in a supermarket for a cashier, usually. Dressed straight to the point you can tell they’ve worn those clothes for 20, 30 years. It’s not something they put on yesterday. The hair may be slicked back a little, nicely barbered with kind of a cheap smell from the cologne. That Death in Venice look with the hair painted on. A lot of them are professionals. Some Eighth Avenue johns — ones that wear suits. but don’t have jobs, just little scams — are as bad as the hustlers. Johns that get high with the hustlers — both of them are losers, basically, trying to find out how to communicate. When the dick is in the mouth, they want to have something just a little extra in common. You can find a john that is smart enough to leech off the hustler. Former hustlers, something like that. Some of the johns, when they think they are dressed up, they think they are elegant, wear a red blazer that’s a little short, a golden emblem on its breast, and a matching handkerchief. The hustlers that go with all these types of johns all suck dick — it’s like a vacuum cleaner, that mechanical.”
Hustlers primarily work out of two bars: Eddie’s and La Tropicana. At Eddie’s you find some ethnics and a lot of white, tough, no longer kids. Baldhead describes Eddie’s hustlers as “extremes — very loud, criminally oriented. The worst white trash I’ve ever seen.” The place is big and flashy, on a street frequented by strippers, theater-goers, and junkies on their, way to cop. La Tropicana is small, and darkly lit, with mostly black and Puerto Rican hustlers. A lot of minority drag queens hang out here. Girlfriends of Eddie’s hustlers tend to fall in that not-quite-hooker, not-quite-fag-hag realm. For various reasons, they’re not into guys from regular heterosexual society. It turns them on to know a guy sells his body. Some mention must be made of the now defunct Haymarket on 47th Street and Eighth Avenue. Drugs, minors, drag queens, runaways — all behind an Xmas-lights front with pseudo-saloon doors.
Male “strippers” work theaters like the Crown Jewel, Narcissus, and now defunct Follies and Gaiety. Since dancers at these places earn ridiculously low wages, often $5 a dance, the idea is to get tricks in the audience, quickies in the theater or planned rendezvous for later if on-premises hustling is forbidden. Tourists frequent these places.
Possibly because they’re married, many johns are paranoid about diseases and will participate in “safe sex” with the hustler. This fear preceded the AIDS panic. Mutual masturbation, often non-orgasmic, occurs in theater stairwells or hotel rooms. This is such an easy trick, and so many guys are willing to turn it, it’s only worth $10 or $20. Some johns don’t care and get involved in anal and oral sex: Only occasionally will you hear a hustler claim he uses condoms for anal sex.
Then there are the big scores that hustlers hope for amid the $10 tricks. Times Square has always had its freaks and fetishists, people who can only get off sexually in a tenderloin district. Like the weirdo who came into the Ecco Theater drunk at 4 a.m., sweating, sniffing poppers. “Tell me I’m garbage, tell me I’m shit.” Besides being talked dirty to, this guy liked to have his cock and nipples pinched. He gave out $100 bills.
“Sometimes weirdos would come to the Narcissus,” says Gary, who used to dance there. “There was this one guy, he had all four of us dancers piss on him and gave us $100 each. And Lardass. Must weigh 350 pounds. Always wears these green stretch pants: Pays you $40 to lick your ass.”
Footsie. Everybody on Eighth Avenue knows Footsie. A pepper-haired, worried-looking man, dressed unflatteringly in a running jacket, but always so he can be spotted. Makes the rounds of most of the Eighth Avenue theaters, straight and gay. A shrimp queen. Pays the grungiest minority guys $20 to $80 to suck their toes. Spends $100 to $200 a day doing this. There has been much speculation as to how Footsie makes his money — an area hotel owner and New York Times bigwig are but two of the rumors. The guys he goes with are always hanging around the theaters, waiting for him, asking for him.
A typical example of a john who gets high with hustlers is JoJo. Says Joey: “I used to hustle with JoJo on 53rd and Third years ago. You could tell he liked what he was doing. He was skinny then.” Now he’s a fat slug after any Puerto Rican boy with a big dick. Buys them a bag of dope, gets off with them, sucks their cock. “I’ve been hanging out on 42nd Street since I was 16,” he says. He looks it.
“I’m a complete professional. I handle all sorts of scenes. I am a moneymaking muthafucka.” Manny has been a fixture on the Deuce for the past four years. You can see him in front of the peep places any time of the day or night making his money — “I never take less than $20.” A tall Puerto Rican, about 28, with a big Afro and a thin, biblical face, arms heavily tattooed, always clad in dirty blue running outfits. From his build, one would think he’s hung like John Holmes, but his average-sized cock looks small on that body. Understandably, this is a sensitive matter with him.
Manny’s a speedball junkie. He gets off three or four times a day, spending $100 to $150 by evening. “I buy the $15 bags of dope down here, from the guy with the hairnet — he usually has Checkmate — or through the Old Man. By the time you go uptown, take a cab, spend $3 for a gallery, it comes out to the same thing.”
“Mostly, I chase after that coke. Shooting coke — it’s the ultimate. I like that stuff from the building near the pizza place — it’s the best shit around here. I don’t bother with nickels or dimes — too much cut. I’ve done extremely pure coke where I thought I was gonna black out, but I never do. When I used to lift weights, I would shoot coke right before and people thought I was gonna bust my heart.
“Coke is a hallucinogenic drug. I’m gonna do this 20 in one shot. Then I’m gonna start hallucinatin’.” He stares in the mirror, begins thinking that people are following him, becomes totally paranoid. Sometimes he uses coke to stay awake for three days at a time so he can make money and spend it on more drugs.
“I don’t wanna get no AIDS, so I don’t use anyone else’s needles. I have a friend who takes insulin, so I get free diabetic sets.” But the sets he uses always look well used and never properly cleaned. If he doesn’t have one on him, it’s “Can I use your works?”
Manny has that sort of charm, that glint in his eye that makes him instantly likable. But he does so many awful things that everyone who likes him eventually gets fed up with him. Not content with $40 from Footsie, he hits him up for $60 or $80. Follows the poor old guy on the street and harasses him until he forks over more cash. Goes into a john’s car with another hustler and then splits with both their fees. Takes people’s money to go cop for them and never returns. Rips off johns. “He’s one person I’d love to see get it,” says a Narcissus employee.
Manny used to work a lot out of Blackjack. Once the grungiest 42nd Street peep place, it’s now a sparkling clean adult video store. “It’s not like I’m not allowed in there, it’s that there’s nothing for me in there.” His main hustle is having a “faggot” suck his dick in a peep booth. He had a girlfriend working the streets for him, but that ended when he beat her up. Though he claims to be “straight,” Manny is actually a chickenhawk who preys on other, younger Hispanic hustlers.
He takes periodic breaks from the scene to recover. The last one was to be “moving to this nice house in Jersey” with a black drag queen. It never came through. He gave up speedballs for cracks and now spends all his money on them. “I didn’t get dopesick at all. I was doing mostly coke.” Manny now looks worse than when he was speedballing. His skin is jaundiced, his throat is swollen, his voice is hoarse.
There’s not a man in here,” says Hanky, surveying the crowd at the Ecco Theater. “All queens. No tricks, no trade, nothing.” The Ecco shows old 16mm straight hard-core porn for an audience predominantly made up of black homosexuals and sleepers. Since the place is open from 10 in the morning to six the next morning, it’s the cheapest hotel on Eighth Avenue.
Life is a Mobius strip of sex for cash and cash into drugs for hustlers, but most of them manage to travel beyond a four-block radius. Hanky conducts all business within a stone’s throw of the Ecco, which is, in effect, his residence. Each day is an endless cycle of tricks, cracks, hanging out, and stops at other all-night theaters.
In his twenties, very tall, with light black skin, Hanky is a disconcerting blend of masculine and feminine traits. His Afro is worn somewhat like a woman’s, his lips and eyes are also womanly, but his body is big and muscular. A queen, but never one to put on a dress. Always ready to respond to the insult “faggot” and never one to run from a fight. There’s a lot of man under that woman. “I’m more of a sadist than a masochist. I’m a Taurus.
“I’ve had sex with 15,000 people since I was 14, For $10 or $20 tricks around here, I’ll give a quick blowjob. I like to get fucked. I always come prepared.” A little leather bag he carries contains Vaseline, douche, Listerine, and a small basepipe. “With all these diseases going round, you never can be too clean.” A lot of Hanky’s tricks are straight-looking guys who like acting out a parody of heterosexual sex with an effeminate boy. “That old man over there — you’d never know it, but he’s a trick. Worth $20. Nice guy, too. One of my regulars should come by tonight.”
On screen at the Ecco, a black guy and a white guy are forcing themselves on a 60-year-old woman. The movie is called The Big Man. “The Big Man — huh — the big nellie more like it. I’ve been in every theater around here except the gay ones. I would never go into a gay theater. The Sheik on 42nd Street — it’s open all night. They cleaned it up a little, put video in, but they still didn’t get all them drag queens out. Real ugly ones. They go in the theater dressed as men and go in the bathroom and change. The Pearl shows the new porno movies, but there’s still a lot of drag queens there, too. One girl who works in there — she’s worse than those drag queens. Charges faggot prices and 20 minutes later you still see her suckin’ on that same dick for the same $10. The Roxy shows good movies, like those 12 horror pictures. It’s that video theater on 42nd Street that’s open all night. They don’t allow cruising but it’s clean and they keep the pickpockets out.
“I love coke. When I’m not here, what I be doing is working for this coke house near where I’m from in Queens. Dope — I gotta be in the mood. I’ve done it but it gives you this awful mask that everybody always knows you’ve done it. When I was 17, my cousin did coke in a needle. He OD’d and died. I was in the house right with him and didn’t know what to do. So I’ll never use a needle — just through the nose and smoke them cracks. I got some stuff on 51st Street and Ninth Avenue that I really liked sniffing. The count wasn’t great but it was really clean. When I base, I can’t be bothered cooking tip coke with baking soda and all that. I’m sure the cracks I get in Bryant Park and on 42nd Street are real — I always go to the same people. I’m not like other people with cracks — I can base and still go to sleep. I’m not addicted to them or anything.” There are dark circles under Hanky’s eyes from long nights smoking crack after crack. An hour later, he’s off to 42nd Street to buy another one.
A group of people who work some of the same turf as hustlers and are involved in another kind of sex-for-money scam are pickpockets. Mostly black men who hang out at all-male theaters, they lift wallets when engaged in sex, cut the pockets of dozing customers, or do quick toilet muggings: Some pickpockets are violent and have been known to stab victims. Others, like Curtis, have their profession down to an art. A mark will cruise him, and in the blink of an eye his wallet’s gone. Curtis says, “The business has picked up at the theaters on weekends since those places like the Mine Shaft and the Anvil have closed. You’ll even see tourists with money going in dumpy ones like the Queen and the Samson. But these diseases — they’re gonna kill everything. In six months, you won’t see these theaters anymore. I don’t want to get AIDS. That’s why when I get high I don’t use needles — I freebase. And not these garbage cracks down here, either.”
Junior is a pest but a charming one. He works at different Times Square establishments, gets fired, charms his way back. He’s a muscular Latino guy, 32, with a hook nose and silly grin. He’s spent the time he was in stir for “sticking up a cab, hoppin’ the train, things like that.” He usually wears worn imitation designer jeans and one of those “New York” sweatshirts. Junior is kind of goofy-looking but is considered by many area folks to be what one guy called “a nice piece of Puerto Rican trade.”
He used to work at the Narcissus and Ecco Theaters. “Projection, lifting prints, painting the theater. They pay me $20, $25 a day. But don’t ever mention me there or that you seen me. After they fire me for stealing, I hang around. It was Christmas Eve. I was broke. I wanted to get my daughters a present. There was this fat South American guy in the box office. I tell him I’m broke. He say, ‘Here, Junior, take the money.’ I tell him to give me the pay envelopes, too.” (Exactly how this occurred has never been clear to anybody, including the police.) “I go to Ninth Avenue and get me a 50 of coke and two bags of dope. Two hours later, I call the box office. The guy sound like a dead man. He say, real slow, ‘Junior, b-b-bring the money back.’ I tell him, ‘Are you crazy? I just spent $100 of it and have $400 left to go.’
“This summer, I work for Mr. Kim. A Korean guy. He have a store where you buy wigs and New York T-shirts. I steal at least $50 a day from him. This guy was blind. But one day I don’t show up. He say, ‘Take a vacation for a year.’ Now, I work projection at the Lounge Theater, the place with the live sex show. Remember when they always used to try to keep me outta there?
“I’m a regular straight guy. I was married, but my wife and me, we fight a lot and I catch her with my best friend. Got two daughters. So when I go with a guy, it’s for money. It’s not, like, I like guys. I don’t give no head, don’t give up no culo.”
Culo — Spanish for asshole — is something Junior is no stranger to. “I tell the faggots I like, ‘I tie my hands behind my back and you can take just the tip up your ass. Just sit on the tip.’ This guy Julio — he pay me a lot, $30, to come to his house in the Bronx and fuck him up the ass. But I gotta call him when his wife’s not there.
“I know a lotta faggots around here. This black guy, he work for the theaters on 42nd Street in their office. He pay $20 to suck my dick. Big Wally, the night manager at the Lounge, he suck me, too. Sometimes I run into faggots I know in the peep places. This fat guy, he go in there, he play with your balls for $10.
“I used to turn tricks at that bathhouse where the fire kill all the people. That’s why I always sign my real name when I go in there, in case something like that happens. Once, I made two customers, one for $20 and the other for $25, in there. I go cop and then shoot up in my room.
“In the Ecco Theater, there was an attic above the projector room where I take tricks.” One of Junior’s regulars was Footsie until he hounded him too often. Junior’s way of asking for Footsie: “You seen my father?” He still hangs around the entrances to the theaters Footsie frequents, hoping for a quick $20.
People who worked at the Ecco with Junior found him “sexy.” He’d always come out of watching the sex movies with a hard-on. One of things that makes Junior so attractive is his huge, thick, uncir-cumcised cock, which he’ll whip out at any excuse. But does it work? As one employee puts it, “I blew Junior when he was working here. Maybe he was fucked up or something, but I’ve heard this from other people who had him. He kept going ‘yi yi’ and ‘Aye chihuahua’ but he couldn’t get a full erection or come.
“He’s another one who says he doesn’t get fucked or give head, but if he needed the money, believe me, he’d do it. One time, he was in the theater men’s room with a midget. Junior came upstairs and said something about $5. The midget came up and said, ‘I thought you’d take $2! I thought you said $2!’ Junior’s a nice guy but he got messed up from being on the Deuce so long.”
Junior was born in Puerto Rico. “My parents were real old. When I was five, my father left me and my sister somewhere and this couple take us in. They took us from Puerto Rico to New York. I grew up on the Lower East Side. Avenue A, B, C — I live all around there. That’s where I start getting high. When I was in high school, 15 years ago. They used to sell these $3 bags of chocolate brown dope in the park. I’d put $1.50 up, my friend would put the other $1.50 in. We shoot up in the bathroom at school and be noddin’ for hours offa that half.
“I can shoot up anywhere. Bathrooms, abandoned buildings, even did it on the Roosevelt Island tram. I have this spot right here on my arm. I just hit it, I don’t need to tie up. Sometimes I do it in the dick — get a hard-on and put the point in real slow.” Junior’s cock has tracks.
“I never had a habit. When I worked at the Ecco Theater, I do it, maybe, once a week. Mostly I smoke reefer and drink beer. Now, I do one or two bags a day. I go to Ninth Avenue or 118th Street, but I can cop anywhere. I know places in the Lower East Side, the Bronx, Williamsburg. I can stop anytime I want and not get sick.
“I like to do coke. I wouldn’t know how to sniff it, just do it this way. But I like to continue after I start. Sometimes I do a whole 20 from 51st Street at once. Sometimes I do a little at a time. I like the dimes on 11th Street — they have a big count.”
A big count, but a good deal of it is cut. The general rule is that if it doesn’t dissolve in the spoon you don’t want it. Undeterred, Junior would cook up the cut and inject it, even though this can lead to diseases like endocarditis. His behavior after doing coke ranges from paranoia to hysteria — ripping his clothes off and mimicking ex-girlfriends, looking at skin mags, jumping around naked while flapping his dick.
Junior would use anyone’s set. He finds bottlecaps on the ground he uses for cookers. The fact that a friend of his “was in the hospital with AIDS, used someone else’s set” had little impact on him.
Between stealing from the box office and running dope for the hookers working the Lounge, Junior ran up a nasty jones-five bags of dope and $50 worth of coke a day. The theater closed. He worked briefly at another girlie place, only to be fired after his boss caught him getting off. No job, no nothing. When last seen, he looked pale and withered. “Maybe I should take up hustling full time again. But I’m an old man.”
Of all these guys, Gary is the closest to a contemporary version of Midnight Cowboy‘s Joe Buck. Tall, denim-clad, blond and boyishly handsome, also from Texas, with a big empty smile. His odyssey in New York City is like that of a lot of young men who come here to “make money off faggots.”
Gary originally worked as a dancer at the Narcissus Theater. Dancers do shows at four three-hour intervals over a day. They strip individually, all come out on stage nude for the big finale, and then look for tricks in the audience. In the words of Denny, the guy who hires them: “We generally hire black and Puerto Rican dancers — they’re the ones who need money the most and they’re reliable. The white ones — they make one big score and disappear for the rest of the week’s booking.” But Denny is also prone to hire whoever catches his eye, so Gary got a job.
“Do you know where I can find a room? I tried a few places around here, but they’re outrageous, just outrageous. More than $150 a week for nuthin’. I’m stayin’ with tricks, at the Port Authority, anyplace. Some guy picked me up on the street the other night. A real nut. He tied me up in a hotel room and left me there. I can only work here. The Gaiety won’t take me — I’m too crazy for them.”
Gary’s gig at the Narcissus ended. He started to look bad. He had bags under his eyes and lost a lot of weight. He’d pace up and down in front of the theater, asking for work. The answer was always no. Denny called him “a pain in the ass.”
One night, he was standing in front of Eddie’s. “I’m lookin’ for some easy money. They’ll never take me back at the theater. I love coke. But I’ve been shooting it, banging it. I’ve got tracks all over.” Most people who get off on coke speedball it with dope to take the edge off, or at least take something like Valiums to come down. Shooting coke by itself leaves you with a nervous head for hours after the initial rush is over. “Dope’s not my thing. I tried it twice — once in a speedball — and I got sick and threw up. I’ve got such a mellow personality that I never get crazy. I don’t like to come down. I like to rush.”
An hour later, he shows up at the theater. “Hey man, can I come in? Use the projector room to get off? Can you get somebody off? I can’t hit myself.” His works look well-used, like the barrel of one has been attached to the point of another. “You should see some of the works I use. I get ’em off other guys at Eddie’s. Forget about booting it, just do it in one quick shot.” The pleasurable rush is over. Gary leaves the theater, babbling.
He wasn’t around for about a month. One day, he was on the corner opposite the Narcissus, where the pizza place is. “I went home for a while. Got hepatitis from dirty needles. I can’t use narcotics until I’m better. Hey man, I got these diabetic sets. Nobody’s used them. They’re new. I’ll sell ’em for $3 each — that’s what they sell ’em for on Ninth Avenue, isn’t it?” He has two customers, an Eddie’s hustler and his girlfriend. They turn the corner.
“Hey man, you’re working the night shift at this theater, the Ecco, now. Tried gettin’ Denny to hire me again next door, but forget it. I’m all better. Saw a doctor. No more hepatitis. I got sick of Denny suckin’ my cock, anyway. He tricks with all the dancers and gives you nuthin’.
“I made $40 today. Two tricks. One was at the Sheraton with this guy I met at Eddie’s. The other was in that peep place over on Seventh Avenue. Easy ones. I’m stayin’ with a trick over on 47th Street. One thing I don’t like to do is fuck people up the ass. I mean, I’ve done it for money, but I’m not into it.
“I’m gonna get somethin’ from that building over by the pizza place. I go there every night. They have the best shit around here — 20s in machine-sealed bags.” A dime of coke is usually enough for one good shot. “Yeah, you can do two good shots from it, or do a whole 20 for one excellent shot. It all breaks down — there’s no cut left over. The place was hot as hell for a while. They were closed. Somebody overdosed and died in there.
“I bought works today from the Old Man. You told me about him. One shoe is bigger than the other. He sells ’em for $2. I only use my own works now — don’t wanna get AIDS or anything.” Gary pulls a well-used set out of his sock, one that hasn’t been cleaned out. “I learned how to hit myself.” His arms have long tracks, all with reddish coke burns. “The only thing wrong is this swelling in my legs, it’s like they fill up with water.”
Gary is eating his evening snack of 25-cent lemon creme cookies. “I gotta make some money. Only got $2 on me. Last night, I did a 25 from 50th Street. I wanted to rush but didn’t. It just felt like I did a lot of coke. Very disappointed.” He yells at a girl on the street. She ignores him. He yells at another. Though Gary claims to “have a girlfriend,” he’s never around any women. He says hi to two ancient johns.
“Hey, remember those nickels you told me about on the Lower East Side? I went down with this other guy to Tiger near Houston Street. I felt half a nickel. They look more like dimes.” He walks into Eddie’s. “This is my spot, right here. I never buy a drink here — just stand around and wait for some sucker to buy one for me. Well, this is where I work. See ya.”
BIG TOM BUCK
“Money is like manure — if you don’t spread it around it’s not worth anything, it’s just a pile of shit.”
It seems like you run into him every time you turn a corner in midtown. Wearing that “Jack Wrangler Live” T-shirt, a glazed look on his face as he digs through the garbage for returnable cans. From one garbage can to the next he goes, his eyes glassy from narcotics.
His name is Big Tom Buck. Tom used to be a movie star in Baldhead’s gay movies, movies which still have a big following today. Now he works a $15-a-day shift at the porno theater where he lives, spending all his free time in search of bottle money. It used to be coke, then it was dope. Now people say it’s the cracks. He never has a dime in his pocket. He’s 40 years old.
Tom was a nice guy — still is — but something seems wrong. Now he’s like a blank spot. Nobody wants to trick with Tom ’cause he looks too sickly. So Tom gets the cans and whenever Tom has enough cans he gets high. And that’s all Tom ever does. Money is like manure. If you don’t spread it around it’s not worth anything. Hustling. ■
Joe Monday is a sometime contributor to Sleazoid Express.