by David Henry Sterry
Well, today was kind of frustrating. I just couldn't get a hold of Frank McCourt in any way shape or form. I want him to be in my event at the Strand on September 22. He doesn't have a website. He has all these handlers. I'm going to try to go after his publicist at his publishing company. I left a message today. But I suspect that I will have to get pigs to fly out of my ass before they will return that phone call. So now for the Strand event on September 22 I'm going after Chang Lee, the incredible memoirist who teaches at Princeton. And tomorrow I'm going after Elizabeth Gilbert. Fat chance, eh? And I also talked to the guy who runs events at the 92nd St Y.. I'm trying to hook up an event there with Philip Lopate and Kathryn Harrison. Oh, I'm doing an event at the Hustler store on Sunset Boulevard, hopefully in January with Georgina Spelvin, who's written a fantastic memoir about being an accidental porn star. She's extremely creamy in every sense. I finished up writing the pitch to Howard Stern. I really would love to cross swords with him. And I finished up the pitch to NPR. Both of those will be going out in the next couple of days. I also did a follow-up with my publicist, the amazing Nicki Clendening, about getting on fresh air with Terry Gross. I met the producer, Amy Salit, in San Francisco last year. I'm so excited about doing the doing the LA events at Vromans, book soup, and Barnes & Noble Santa Monica with Chelsea handler, I think she's such a revolutionary a very modern person, and funny as shit to boot. I sent a couple of e-mails to Lily Burana about doing the KGB event, but I have not heard from her yet. I'm such an impatient person. I just want everything to be done now. I don't think it's an attractive quality. My editor from Canongate sent me a very promising e-mail about promoting the seven short movies I made. But they can't make posters in color. In fact they're not really posters at all. They are just slightly large flyers. In black-and-white. On orange paper. Oy. I started watching freaks and geeks today. The beginning of the Judd apatow empire. I watched the first two episodes. The pilot in particular I thought was really really good. Funny and touching. It's interesting to watch all those actors when they were babies. You wouldn't necessarily guess that Seth Rogan would be the one who would break out big time. You would however guess that James Franco would break out big time. He is so handsome and charismatic. Such a bad boy. I would definitely cast him in my movie. I guess in the right circumstances I would have sex with him also. I am not expecting my book to sell a million copies, to get on every best book list, to win all kinds of awards, to get on every best-seller list, selling to every language, to be read by adoring fans all over the world. But it would be nice. And I am enjoying the process. I feel like I've inherited the genes of my coal mining grandfather, and I get a great sense of joy when, for example, Philip Lopate agrees to do an event with me, or Katherine Harris, or Chelsea handler. Or I get an e-mail from someone who's read my book. A friend or a stranger. I'm really looking forward to this to work, I want to change the way I live in the world. I feel like I've been among cloistered away. A moth in my cocoon. And I want to soar like a butterfly. That reminds me, I have to call the woman who runs the Moth, storytelling event in New York. She's really great. And the Moth is so cool, it's one of my favorite places to perform. A writer's work is never done.
So I thought I would include my pitch to Oprah and my pitch to Howard Stern, in case it's of any interest to anyone. Well, that's my two cents worth, and with inflation I owe you one.
WRITE YOUR LIFE STORIES
"Everybody wants to make their mark. Nowadays, that means everybody is writing a memoir." -- CNN, April 18, 2008
Most people don't know it, but they're constantly writing the narrative of their life. And a great way to figure out what you want your life to be, is to figure out what your life has been. Writing down the stories of your life helps you make sense of where you came from, and figure out where you want to go. Scientists did a study in which they asked people to write down their worst traumas. They found that when people did, their immune systems were boosted. Not drinking fresh squeezed orange juice, or taking vitamin C. From writing down the stories of their life. Storytelling is how human beings communicate. It's how we learn. How we are entertained. How we are touched. In days of yore tribes sat around campfires and told stories. People would take the stuff of life and tell stories that made people laugh, made them cry, passed on the wisdom of the ages. Sadly, with the dissipation of tribes and clans and extended families, the tradition of making the stories from our life has all but disappeared. I am just about to launch my Art of the Memoir tour all over America, where a panel of acclaimed memoirists will discuss the hows and the whys, the joys and illuminations, the catharsis and the self-knowledge of writing the stories of your life. Writing down the stories of your life helps you understand who you are, and who you want to be. And who knows, you might even have a bestseller in you. I did.
I know how this works because writing my life story saved my life. When I was 17 years old I found myself alone in Hollywood, with $27 in my pocket and no place to go. I was standing in front of Grauman's Chinese theater staring at Marilyn Monroe's handprints. A very nice man wearing a T-shirt that said SEXY befriended me. He asked me to come back to his place for a steak dinner. I was very hungry. Happy I made a new friend in a strange, strange place. I was really looking forward to my steak. It turned out to be the most expensive meal of my life. The steak was drugged. He raped me. Luckily I escaped with my life. But the boy who walked into the apartment died there, and the young man who ran out was a broken, battered, wreck. I never told anyone about any of this. For many years the toxic waste festered inside me like a demon beast feeding on me. On the surface I was leading a happy life. I was making my living as an actor and screenwriter. I had a three picture deal at Disney. I was on the Fresh Prints of Bel Air with Will Smith (still one of the nicest human beings I've ever met, not just in show business, anywhere). I had a beautiful house. I had a beautiful wife. I had a red sports car. But I had a secret life where I was addicted. To drugs. To sex. I kept putting myself in situations in where death would be a likely outcome. I don't believe in suicide. It doesn't seem fair to make someone else clean up your mess. Unconsciously I was looking for someone to do the job for me. I realized a certain point that I was going to have to get some help from a trained professional, or I was going to be dead. After a long exhaustive search I found a very talented hypnotherapist. She would do guided visualizations with me, and I found I had a real ability to be hypnotized. The therapy was Jungian, based on archetypes. First she gave me a system for managing my addictions. Then she got me to talk about my life. Tell the stories I could never tell anyone. A certain point she suggested, since I was already making money as a screenwriter, that I should start writing my stories down. Which I did. I wrote a book. I showed this book to everyone who would read it. Finally an old friend said, Do you mind if I show this to my god-daughter, she's a literary agent? Do I mind? I asked breathlessly, Please, by all means, do so as quickly as humanly possible. At this point, I had lost my beautiful house, I have lost my beautiful wife, I had lost my red sports car, I was filing for bankruptcy, and I had just been dumped by a fiancee I didn't even like. I had officially hit the bottom of the rock. I decided that I would no longer hide who I was. That I would tell the true story of my life, reveal myself for who I truly am in a gentle, loving, humorous way, and let the chips fall where they may. It took this literary agent nine months and nine friendly phone calls from me to finally read my manuscript, and when she did she liked it very much. She took me out to lunch. We hit it off. In fact we hit it off so well that we went on a date. The date went so well that we ended up back at her place telling each other our stories. Then I told her the stories I never told anyone before. About the rape. It was staggering how good it felt. What a relief. What a release. That went so well we started making out furiously. That went so well she became my girlfriend and agented my first memoir, Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, which is being made into a TV series by Showtime. I subsequently made a one-man show of my book, and took it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it was named the number one show in the UK. And when I started performing my story, began portraying the man who raped me, to my amazement the horrible, violent, revenge fantasies and nightmares I'd had for decades vanished. At this point my immune system is like the locks on Fort Knox. I have now written nine books in eight years, and my new memoir is just coming out. But more importantly, two years, three months, and 24 days after my first date with that literary agent, we got married high on a hill in Northern California. 11 months ago we had a baby girl named Olive. I now live in a suburb in New Jersey called Montclair. Exactly the kind of place I dreamed of living in when I was a young, raped, teenage prostitute in Hollywood. Exactly the kind of life I dreamed when I started writing down the stories of my life. Thanks, David Henry Sterry
"Bleach Blonde dug her talons into Large Mark's arm and in a loud proud voice said, 'I'll pay you $500 to snort a line of coke off your dick.' This was officially my Welcome to Chippendales moment." - Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Roller Skates and Chippendales.
In 1985 I was the master of ceremonies at Chippendales male strip club when it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps. The mad show business genius who invented Chippendales, a man named Nick de Noia (who was assassinated while I was working for him), wanted to create an environment where, for the first time in history, women could ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh. The question is: was Chippendales the ripe fruit of the tree of the sexual revolution, or just another way for hot guys to make a fast buck? And speaking of making a fast buck, my first memoir, Chicken, about what I was 17 years old at and having sex with rich ladies for money in Hollywood, is being made into a TV series by Showtime. Why do men pay for sex and women not pay for sex? Or do women in fact pay for sex? Would women pay for sex more readily if they could do it safely and anonymously? With a hot young sensitive caring hand picked hunky studmuffin? Perhaps in a high-end spa not run by Heidi Fleiss? What is the difference between women taking their clothes off for money and men taking their clothes off for money? How are men and women different when they pay to watch people take their clothes off? What is it like to be a guy having sex with women for money? It's a lot harder than you'd think. And what was it like to be the ugliest man at Chippendales? To walk in on the Snowman while he was getting head from a pair of wing-haired blonde twins, knowing I was never going to get laid because the competition was too stiff. Literally. Thanks, David Henry Sterry