Years ago, Zoo Magazine’s Rebecca Voight suggested that I read Bruce Benderson’s “Toward the New Degeneracy,” Benderson’s potent longform essay that, to oversimplifiy, responded specifically to the gradual blandization of New York’s Times Square and more broadly, to the increasing conservative climate in America, especially in urban centers. Benderson reveals his daliance-cum-devotion to the “seamy” side of life, a world populated by male hustlers, drug addicts and tranny hookers as an antidote to his white, middle class boredom. I wrote down the title on a piece of paper and promptly lost the paper.
Cut to years later, during a visit to the old Korea-town apartment of Vaginal Davis, where he and I started talking about books. Bruce’s name came up and Vag gave me his copy of “Toward the New Degeneracy.” (Vag and Bruce are old friends and contributors to both Zoo and Dutch, the magazine Rebecca edited prior to Zoo). After the first reading, I was hooked, mostly as the essay’s point of view was so familiar to my own experience. However, I made the fatal mistake of lending the book to someone in Palm Springs and never got it back. I emailed a plea to Bruce, asking where to find the book, as it had been out of print for some time. Upon his return to New York from Paris, Bruce generously mailed me a replacement copy, with the inscription: “Dino – with hopes for a fertile, degenerative year.”
As Diane reported earlier, Bruce’s latest work “The Romanian : Story of an Obsession” was just released in the U.S. Bruce wrote me, telling me of his West Coast tour to promote the book and suggested that we meet up in LA. Instead, I invited myself to tag along with him from LA to Seattle, feeling the urge for a good road trip and wanting to spend some time with him. He told me he needed a “handler,” especially during his time in LA, and I agreed to the position. (And boy, is he a handful.)
Upon first meeting Bruce, I felt like we had already been friends for a long time. Conversation with him is incredibly easy and we appear to see eye-to-eye on many things. He’s very funny, super sharp and a total gadget freak. And it’s clear that he has a love for life…including his love for smoking. Over time, I’m going to try to get him to stop wearing Prada. And fortunately, our tastes in men are vastly different, so there’s little friction there so far. (The objects of his desire tend to be pale and skinny… and they charge money.) We eat and drink lots and I singlehandedly blame him for my increase in weight.
Here’s Bruce just before his appearance on the cable show, “Connie Martinson Talks Books.” I heard that he and Connie got on famously. I don’t know what happened behind the closed studio doors, but he was glowing after the interview.
The horrible A Different Light “bookstore” (more like crummy gay crapstore) in West Hollywood, where the store employee rudely blathered on to a customer during Bruce’s reading. Bruce swiftly asked him to shut the hell up and pressed on, unwavered. A woman from Romania who had read – and loved – the book sat front and center.
And I’ll have a more accurate count of the number of people who have already asked Bruce if he and I are sleeping together.
Lost Somewhere between the Earth and My Home