Robert and I eventually wandered back to my apartment, and I had sex for the first time in my life. I had disclosed to Robert that I was a “virgin,” so he was particularly caring and measured. His gentle glances, gestures, and caresses unlocked desires in me that had been an impermeable secret for years, and as he explored my body and I timidly explored his, those secrets ruptured into pyrotechnic bursts of bliss.
After we made love, Robert delicately embraced me. I was slightly surprised that the sheer joy enveloping me wouldn’t be quelled by shame and apprehension. Robert and I dated for approximately three months. When I discovered that he was a priest, my perceptions of him were irrevocably altered, and we gradually drifted apart.
Nevertheless, I continued to patronize Friends on an almost nightly basis. I initially felt socially awkward in the confines of a bar, so I tended to play Pac-Man by myself. But I eventually befriended a couple of guys who were about my age, and they introduced me to Badlands, Cincinnati’s largest gay bar. Badlands was in the warehouse district of Cincinnati, and it was vast. Whereas Friends accommodated maybe 100 patrons a night, Badlands was an undulating sea of 500 men. Over the course of my two years in Cincinnati, I dated ten men whom I met at Badlands.
So I had my first sexual encounter at 20 years of age, and six years later I started running a gay escort service. Some people think that I was might have been making up for lost time. But in actuality, I never set out to run an escort service and the improbable chain of events that led to becoming a “DC Madam” is almost a comedy of errors.
Shortly after my arrival in Cincinnati, I started riding my bicycle around Eden Park. The park has a maze of paved paths that wind around buildings and sculptures dating back to the early 1900s, and I found the sprawling, densely wooded park to be enchanting. I was inexplicably attracted to the park’s large Moorish-style gazebo that was ornately painted in white and indigo and crowned by a spherical finial. A prominent Cincinnati attorney shot and murdered his wife at the gazebo in 1927, and legend has it that her ghost continues to haunt it.
Although I didn’t encounter paranormal activity at the gazebo, I discovered that it was the epicenter of a burgeoning gay scene. But while I was very curious, I was acutely shy and hesitant to entangle myself with anyone. After riding my bike to the gazebo every day for a couple of weeks, a tall, muscular man in his early thirties finally approached me. His name was Robert. He had thinning black hair and distinctive Mediterranean facial features—an aquiline nose, high cheekbones, and a dark complexion. Robert invited me to Friends, a gay bar near the park, and I agreed to accompany him.
When we entered Friends, I heard blaring disco music and a spinning mirrored ball scattered flashes of light throughout the bar. The bar was dark, and plumes of cigarette smoke wafted near the ceiling. As we crossed the black tiled floor and walked to a table near the bar, I was dumbfounded to see men kissing and holding hands. After Robert and I sat down, I ordered a coke, because I had never imbibed alcohol before. While I sipped my coke, and surveyed Friends’ patrons, I quickly came to the visceral realization that I wasn’t the only gay man in the world, and I was momentarily overwhelmed by jubilance. I finally had an existential affirmation of my sexuality.
My childhood in Williamson, West Virginia was drenched in fundamentalist Christianity, and I was repeatedly told that homosexuals had a one-way ticket to hell. And throughout my school years in Williamson, I was repeatedly taunted and harassed for being gay. In fact, my classmates knew I was gay even before I did.
I was fifteen when I belatedly came to this realization about my orientation. I say belatedly, because it was quite evident to everyone else around me. After a two-week emotional tug of war, I decided to divulge my homosexuality to my mother, and it took me an additional two days to summon the courage to broach the subject with her. She was sitting at the dining room table when I approached her. I felt steeped in anxiety as I repeatedly cleared my throat and finally said, “Mom, I need to tell you something about me—” She cut me off with a wave of her hand and replied, “I already know everything there is to know about you.”
My mother’s reaction wasn’t exactly the protracted conversation that I had hoped for between the two of us. So the closet door remained shut and padlocked for the next five years. After I attended Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College for two years, I enrolled at the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.