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Jesse Monteagudo's Book Nook

In the Flesh: Undressing for Success

In the Flesh: Undressing for Success by Gavin Geoffrey Dillard; Barricade Books; 249 pages; $23.95

Gavin Geoffrey Dillard's "tell all" memoirs might have actually lived up to this description had Dillard been able to publish his book as he originally wrote it.

inflesh.gif - 9.98 KUnfortunately, a few tightasses, mainly a couple of gay moguls who shall remain nameless (but you all know who they are) threatened to file suit if Dillard published his account of his relationships with them. So Dillard took his manuscript, gave these characters aliases, and sent the book to a new publisher. And nobody was fooled.

Dillard's publishing problem with his former lovers is only one incident in a gay odyssey that dazzles the readers almost as much as it did the man who experienced it. Born in 1956, Dillard was (and is) the epitome of good looks and sexual recklessness in a community that prizes both attributes.

Though hot and sexy enough to hustle for many years and to appear in several porn videos, Dillard is also the talented author of a series of critically-acclaimed poetry books. Dillard used to conduct his poetry readings in the nude, which made those events sell-outs and added to his reputation as "the naked poet".

Though Dillard's poetry will undoubtedly outlive other aspects of his life, In the Fleshjust adds to his reputation as a hot bod and the object of desire for two generations of gay men. While Dillard also writes about his art, his poetry, and his never-ending search for spiritual enlightenment, he seems to concentrate on his many sexual exploits.

This is not a bad idea: after all, Dillard's sexual history is what sells books (and I love to read dirt as much as anyone). Unfortunately, In the Flesh's emphasis on Dillard's sexploits diminishes his other talents.

In the Fleshis divided into short chapters, mostly named after tricks, lovers, gurus, and other people who made an impact in Dillard's life. Most of Dillard's tricks and lovers are dead - of AIDS, of course - so the author is free to write about them as he sees fit.

Among Dillard's celebrated tricks was the late Scott O'Hara, the "Biggest Dick in San Francisco," whose encounter with Dillard (a summit meeting of sex) was regrettably unrecorded. Among the exceptions who are alive today are the aforementioned moguls, who apparently paid for Dillard's favors.

The relationships weren't all sex, since Dillard has a brain as well as a body and can be relied on to behave at social functions. For his part, in addition to money, Dillard got an entry into Hollywood society. One of the celebrities who Dillard mentions by name is Dolly Parton. Dillard met at her manager's home and "became quite chummy."

Those of us who survived the late seventies, albeit in South Florida, know that period as one of sexual and chemical adventure that could never happen again. For Dillard, drop-dead gorgeous and "in the center of West Hollywood, which was, by my psychic calculations, the center of the Center of the Universe (the gay mecca set the trends for all of Hollywood and consequently the world)," the late seventies were a sex and drugs playground like no other.

Dillard, who is himself positive, once "coined a notion that because of the nature of the spread of HIV (then believed to be the sole cause of AIDS), that anybody that was worth 'having' (anybody that knew how to have good, open, active sex) would end up dying, leaving behind a world full of gimpy wimpy white boys who were plainly too milquetoast, inhibited, or inept to have ever contracted the disease in the first place" (He was wrong.).

Dillard, not surprisingly, does not trust the medical establishment, who he suspects created AIDS in the first place, opting instead for alternative therapies (including urine therapy) that are apparently keeping him in good health.

"Would we never know spontaneous, passionate, celebratory and carefree sex again?" Though In the Fleshlooks back nostalgically at the past, it ends in the present and the future. Now forty-two, and still attractive, Dillard "lives in a garden with six cats on the foggy cliffs of Northern California."

"I love being alone, and have realized finally that I am the Center of the Universe. And in this consummation of Self I have not made a million dollars, or been discovered by Gus Van Sant, but I have learned the distinctions between crows and ravens, buzzards and vultures, and can confront a mountain lion in the shadows without question or fear."

In the Flesh put Dillard in Hollywood's hit list, but it also introduced him to a new generation of readers and informed and entertained those of us who still remember the old days. May he have many more productive years.

Also from Barricade Books:
Sing Out!: Gays and Lesbians in the Music World by Boze Hadleigh (328 pages; $21.95). An update of Hadleigh's The Vinyl Closet (1991), Sing Out! is the story of queers who sing, play, dance or write music. Gossipy enough to entertain those who are so inclined, Sing Out! is also informative. A new chapter carries the tale through the "gay nineties".

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