Mixtapes for Hookers

Last Year’s Hookies
March 21, 2013, 3:24 pm
Filed under: gay, hookers | Tags: , , , , , ,


[Note: I had originally written this for an actual publication, but my editor got a promotion and his replacement wasn’t so interested in hearing about gay escorting. I tried a couple of other outlets but I’m terrible at story pitching and alas, here it is 364 days later on this graveyard of a blog.]

It’s Friday night and there’s one solitary cop stationed outside the Roseland Ballroom on 59th Street in midtown Manhattan. It’s not an especially unusual sight; the Roseland is the largest ballroom in all of Manhattan, after all, and it’s standard to have law enforcement on hand in case the crowds get rowdy or somebody does something dangerous.

What’s odd, though, is the event he’s patrolling: the sixth annual Hookies, an awards ceremony honoring men who make some (if not all) of their livings by having sex with other men. Which is not actually legal in the state of New York, or anywhere else in the US, for that matter, excepting a few rogue counties of Nevada.

The Hookies are thrown each March by Rentboy.com, a listings website for gay male escorts that’s been around since 1997. Currently they have about 4200 ads posted in 79 countries (mostly the US and China), though those numbers don’t exactly reflect their actual number of advertisers. Escorts can list themselves in multiple cities, and many do; one adventurous Parisian named Kevin, for instance, currently has ads placed in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia and Botswana. (He’s not the one escort that claims to serve North Korea, although if you’re curious there’s one of those, too.)

I used to use Rentboy myself. When I finished college and discovered that my best option was a $7.50 an hour retail gig, I thought escorting might be fun and went with Rentboy because their interface seemed to be the most professional looking.

Being an occasional man-for-hire was fine. I mean, freelancers in any field will tell you that there’s a sizable difference between billable hours and the amount of time actually worked, and hooking part-time in one of America’s poorer cities was never going to make me rich. But it helped with the student loan bills, at least. (For what it’s worth, it was also a lot more rewarding than retail.) Also, when I was escorting it wasn’t actually illegal to sell sex online in Rhode Island, thanks to a carefully-worded law that only prohibited prostitution when it took place on the street or in cars. (Regrettably that law’s changed since then.)

I’m a few years removed from that, though, and so on this night I’m happy just to watch the Hookies unfold.

There are six nominees in each of fifteen categories, ranging from Best Ass to Best Boyfriend Fantasy and Best Escort Website. That last award is being presented by Colby Keller and Karl Marxxx, the handsome, slightly nerdy duo behind the blog Big Shoe Diaries. They arrive early, wearing matching white Tyvek suits. Keller, the tall one with the glasses whom you might recognize from Splittin’ Wood or Other Side of Aspen 6, has a large foam hook around his neck, while Marxxx is wearing an enormous pair of foam keys. Hook. Keys. Get it? They ARE the Hookies, and they’re a little bummed out that nobody else in the room seems to get their joke.

Colby and Karl’s banter when presenting the award is unscripted, although they at least have a plan, one involving even more puns. Karl, the more outgoing of the two, does all of the talking and whenever he says the word Hookies Colby’s job is to say “COOKIES!!” in a Cookie Monster voice. They even brought cookies with them. “We’re presenting the next-to-last award,” Marxxx says beforehand. “Nobody will be paying any attention by that point.”

He’s not incorrect. After Karl very politely snuck me into the VIP area, I watched as everyone went a little overboard with the complimentary gin. And when I say watched, I guess I mean in a very participant-observatory way.

The award eventually goes to Heath Jordan, a scruffy and handsome porn performer from Chicago. His website isn’t especially remarkable, but the voting system for the Hookies doesn’t actually make much sense, anyway.


Do you know how the Tony Awards work?

I don’t, but Rusty McMann is happy to fill me in. Rusty’s tall, nearly fifty, with hair as silvery as it is rust-colored. He’s living in Las Vegas and he’s a three-time Hookie nominee for Best Daddy. He really, really wants to win this year, though he freely admits that he has no chance. He’s up against Arpad Miklos, a brand-name Hungarian porn star who’s been having sex on screen for about a decade now.

The Tony Awards, Rusty says, are chosen by about 700 people who know everything about Broadway and who are required to see every show in any given category that they vote for. If you’ve only seen four of the five nominees, too bad; if you don’t you’re your ticket stubs you’re not qualified to choose the winner.

Not so with the Hookies, where one would have to be an exceedingly wealthy jetsetter to compare the relative merits of all six nominees any given category, let alone all of them. Roughly 45,000 total votes were cast this year, though, between the initial nominations and the final round of voting. So these aren’t the Tonys of the escorting world; they’re more like the People’s Choice Awards, voted on by fans who’ve heard about the competition largely through the escorts’ blogs and Twitter feeds.

I’m with Rusty in Chelsea, at Nasty Pig, where it’s like Christmas Eve. As a retailer of sporty fetish apparel, this is their big weekend. The Hookies serve as the opening event of the Black Party Expo, a huge weekend-long party culminating at Roseland on Saturday with an all-night, anything-goes (as-long-as-you’re-willing-to-pay-$125-per-ticket) orgy. The Black Party is a circuit party, one of those events where hundreds of men congregate to have sex and do mind-altering drugs and listen to the sorts of clubby electronic music that I really can’t handle for five minutes, let alone twelve hours. It starts at 9 pm and goes well into the next morning. (And to think, until now I only recognized the Roseland name because that’s where Portishead recorded their live album.)

But I’m not going to the Black Party, and Rusty doesn’t plan to, either; we’re only there to buy socks. Nasty Pig makes a pair that are the exact same blue as a silk tie that Rusty bought on his last trip to Milan, and he needs it to round out his Hookies outfit, which also includes a steel gray kilt and vest. (Despite the tie, Rusty’s on the fence about whether or not a shirt would be appropriate.)

Dress for the Hookies is “Oscar-inspired,” according to the e-mail everyone got beforehand, although at the ceremony I only count a handful of people there that might blend in on a Hollywood red carpet. Arpad Miklos, the favorite for Best Daddy, is wearing an orange t-shirt, one which emphasizes the already obvious fact that each of his biceps is roughly the size of my head. I consider introducing myself–as a journalist, you know–but he’s pretty the only person in the room that I’m too starstruck to approach. [If you don’t follow gay news, you may not be aware that Arpad committed suicide in February. I missed my chance.

I do talk to several nominees that night, though, including a few winners. Tommy Defendi (Best Top), Kennedy Carter (Best Tattoos), and Jake Havoc (Best Cock) are all disarmingly friendly, and it strikes me that this is one of the least ego-driven events I have ever been to. Carter’s excited because in two days he’ll be directing porn for the first time, and Havoc is more than happy to pull out his award-winning body part for everyone to see. (It is a really phenomenal appendage, for what it’s worth, and large enough that at one point I think I see three separate hands gripping it.)

The point of the Hookies is to get a lot of good-looking men in one room, and an awards ceremony is a sure-fire way for Rentboy to accomplish that. But the Hookies also serves as PR for the gay male escorting industry as a whole. Not every sex worker out there is a top-of-the-line escort, of course, but events like this promote the notion that sex workers can function more or less independently, selecting their own clients and their own schedules.

“This doesn’t really exist for female-identified escorts,” says Sarah Jenny, community organizer and co-founder of SWOP-NYC, an advocacy group for sex workers. “While pro dommes have Dom Con and the porn industry has the AVNs, you really don’t see anything else quite like this. These boys work hard for their money and deserve recognition.”

Sarah Jenny is one of only a handful of females at the Hookies, and it’s her job to announce the winner of the Best Daddy Award. (To no one’s surprise, it goes to Miklos.) Chosen by the event organizers “to make sure the sex worker rights activist element was present,” Sarah Jenny tells me that she’s quite pleased with the Hookies.

“I think the event provided an opportunity to form new friendships and hopefully foster community. How often do you see a bunch of sex workers gathered in one place, being so visible in celebration?”

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