The 40 In 40 Days Project.

9. The Rent Boy (1988)

Main Index

The Au Pairs
The Step-stepfather
The Simulated Wank
The Toy Store
The First Single
The Queeny Put-Down
The First Hissy Fit
The First Gay Club
The Rent Boy
The Heterosexual Phase
The Lifestyle Switch
The Empty Floor
The First Poem
The Amsterdam Weekend
The First Time
The Perfect Moment
The Year In Berlin
The Trade Years
The First Memory
The Anniversary Party
The Incompetencies
The Pricking Of The Bubble
The Club Residencies
The "Tales of the City" House
The Musical Epiphany
The Worst Thing I Ever Did To Anyone
The Royal Procession
The Parental Disclosure
The Concept Albums
The Romantic Obsession
The Failure
The Apotheosis of Queer
The Shove From Above
The Interrogation
The Professional Rut
The Rebirthday
The First Boyfriend
The "Catharsis Of Joy"
The Funeral Address
The Falling In Love

Chronological Index

troubled diva

K had been down to London for a couple of nights, staying as usual with his old friend Nick I, in his smart shared flat in Maida Vale. This time round, there was a new flatmate to meet. His name was D. He was young, bright, fair, full of life, with an open smile and a ready, quick wit. And also a wicked, rebellious, slightly dangerous, devil-may-care streak. K was beguiled, charmed, intrigued. At the end of his stay, K issued an open invitation to D: any time you’re in Nottingham, give us a call.

Fast forward a few weeks. It’s Monday morning. We’re getting ready for work. The phone rings – K picks up. It’s D on the line.

“Hi K – I’m in Nottingham. Thought I’d come and see you.”

“Sure, that would be great. Where are you staying?”

“I’m not staying anywhere yet. I’ve just driven up. I’m at a phone box on Derby Road. Can I come round now?”

“But D – you don’t drive.”

“I know, I know – look, I’ll explain everything when I get to yours. Could you give me directions?”

A few minutes later, D turns up on our doorstep. He is dressed to go out for the night, and is drenched in sweat. There’s quite a nice looking car parked outside. He doesn’t have any luggage.

K makes him a cup of tea and he starts to explain. Last night, he was at Benjys club in the East End. A couple of guys picked him up and he went back to their place. They were both members of an up and coming boy band (who later went on to have a few hits, as it happens). In the middle of the night, D woke up. He looked around. He felt cheap – disgusted with himself – disgusted with his wasteful, excessive lifestyle. He had to get out – now. He had to make a clean break.

So, he quietly got out of bed, picked up a set of car keys from the bedside table, crept out of the flat, got into the car, and drove it up the M1 to Nottingham. Pissed. Having had two driving lessons in his entire life.

And now, here he is. He is desperate. He cannot go back to his old life. In fact, he should be at work right now, but he doesn’t care. He has come to Nottingham to start a new life, away from all the shit. Can we put him up for a few days while he gets himself sorted out? He’s going to start looking for a job immediately, then he can get himself a flat. We’re his only hope – his last hope. Can we help, please?

He’ll need to borrow a bit of cash for a couple of days – oh, and some clothes, if that’s OK – he’s only got what he’s standing up in. We already know he comes from a very wealthy family, so we can’t see any problems with this. In fact, we’re delighted to be of assistance. K goes off to make up the spare room. He also gets D to park the car a few streets away, unlocked, with the keys inside – then to ring the police, telling them where the car can be found. We don’t condone his actions, but we understand.

D is so relieved that we understand – most people would have condemned him outright by now. His whole recent history has been one of constant condemnation, in fact.

Why is that, you might ask? Well, there’s something else we already know about D. Just over a year ago, D was front page news. K has seen the clippings, in fact. His claim to fame? Well – he was the former rent boy whose scandalous allegations in a Sunday tabloid ended the political career of a Conservative MP.

These allegations were mostly to do with spanking, I seemed to recall. Now, this wasn’t the way D had expected the story to go: he had wanted to expose the MP’s connections with the far right, feeling that on these grounds alone, he wasn’t fit to hold office. But, well, he’d been naïve. The story that was printed centred exclusively on the sexual stuff. Tabloids, eh? In fact, you could say that D was as much a victim as the MP (though he did pocket 20 grand for telling the story – but then, he does come from a wealthy family, so that was neither here nor there, and certainly wasn’t his motivation – oh no).

So how wonderful it was that – unlike all those nasty, judgemental, knee-jerk reactionaries – we alone had taken the trouble to truly understand him. He could trust us. We alone could help him.

We were rather pleased with ourselves, and our exemplary non-judgemental liberalism. Plus, D could charm the hind legs off a donkey – and boy, were we charmed. He could light up a room just by entering it. He could have us roaring with laughter, as he presented the various tragedies of his life – the prostitution, the drug addiction, the suicide attempts – as black comedy. He told us about the autobiography he was planning to write: working title, “God I’m Coming”. The sexual addiction and the death wish, encapsulated in three words – brilliant. We laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

True to his word, D started ringing round, and fixing himself up with interviews for temporary work – mainly hotels and catering. We were impressed. On the Wednesday night, we went out for a drink, to show D the local gay scene. At closing time, D cajoled K into taking him to L’Amour, our one ropey, tatty club (I went home instead). After one drink there, K wanted to leave – D most certainly did not. Well, he had the spare keys – best let him get on with it.

Thursday breakfast – still no sign of D. Well, jolly good – he must have met someone for the night. Hey, he needed cheering up anyway. We went to work and thought no more of it. On his way to work, K noticed that the stolen car had finally been removed. Great!

That afternoon, K took a call from a rather embarrassed doctor at the hospital where he was working, with the same surname as his own.

“Sorry to bother you – but I’ve got Arnold police on the line. They’ve got a friend of yours in custody, and they’d like a word.”

That evening, once he’d been released from the cells, D told us the whole story. He’d met a couple of people at L’Amour. They weren’t sure what to do after the club. D was pissed (poor lamb, he just couldn’t break these patterns of self-destructive behaviour, could he?). D had a brainwave. He had a car – why didn’t they all go for a drive?

He took them back to the stolen car – door unlocked, keys still inside of course. The three of them got in, and off they sped into the night.

Somewhere on the outskirts of town, D’s beginner’s luck finally deserted him. He crashed the car into a brick wall. It was a write-off. They were all unharmed. His companions jumped out and fled into the night. D was left stumbling around the streets in the dark, completely lost.

A car pulled up. A window was wound down. “Where are you going at this time of night?” asked the driver. Mmm, not bad looking. Maybe D’s luck was in after all. He leant over and started to flirt.

Unfortunately, the driver was a plain clothes police officer, who quickly pieced the whole story together. Let’s see now: driving without a license, driving without insurance, driving without due care and attention, taking a vehicle without consent. Miraculously, there was no breathalyser test.

At the police station, D was asked whether he had a solicitor. “Yes,” he replied, grandly. “Sir David Napley.” Pause. “I don’t know why you’re all laughing – he’s awfully good, you know.”

On leaving the cells, D sweeps past the reception desk: “Marvellous party darlings – but next time, change your outside caterers.”

Or at least, so he tells us. And, roaring with laughter, we gladly believe him. Even now, after all that passed between us, I think what he told us was, give or take the odd embellishment, basically true. D wasn’t much given to downright lies. No – nothing so crass. He had other, more subtle weapons at his disposal.

A date is set for D’s trial, in about six weeks’ time. One of his bail conditions is that he stays at our address for the duration.

Time passes. D is attending the occasional interview, and taking the occasional job. He never seems to stay at a job for more than two or three days, though. Most of the time, he sits around at home while we’re out at work. He’s having to borrow a bit more money off us, as well. He’s over £100 in debt to K. Still, no matter, his mother will pay up soon, no doubt. He’s still wearing our “second division” clothes – we went through the wardrobe and allocated him a pile. Only the other day, he did come downstairs wearing my best trousers. I had a little word with him about that. He went a little cold on me. All of a sudden, the warm glow of his personality turned distinctly icy. I felt the chill. There was something menacing about it – some snide sounding comments were made, but nothing you could actually put your finger on.

D is living life at full throttle – long sessions in the pub, late nights, general mayhem. K is starting to do the same. He’s in the middle of writing up his doctorate, but he’s holding down a full time medical research job as well. He’s finding working life immensely stressful, and the reckless boozing feels like a safety valve for him. Only I’m not so sure. Not only is this is all beginning to alienate me, but I don’t feel it’s in K’s best interests either.

I try and voice my concerns, but it doesn’t come out very well. K is beginning to see me as a nag – a prissy, controlling prude who can’t let go and have fun. Part of his problem, not part of his solution. K and D are spending more time together, and the rift is growing between myself and D. What’s more, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that D is creating, manipulating and exploiting the whole situation, with brilliant subtlety.

Divide and rule, you see. Basic survival.

Things deteriorate. K and I are getting increasingly short tempered with each other. A couple of our friends have joined K’s and D’s drinking gang, and their behaviour towards me is also getting chilly. Some of our other friends, appalled that we still have D under our roof, are having nothing to do with us. There is a memorable party where D more or less clears every room he walks into.

As the date of the trial approaches, D is spending more and more time away from the house. He has made a couple of other, newer friends, each of whom will go into tight huddles with him, throwing us suspicious looks. The sort of looks that say: I am the only person who really, truly understands poor, tragic, vulnerable D. Off my patch.

Paranoia, uncertainty, tension, suspicion, enmity all rule the roost. K and I are at a low ebb. We’re not communicating properly at all. There is a lost “binge” weekend. It’s a catalyst, bringing us both to our senses. We take the following Monday afternoon off work, and talk, and hug, and apologise, and begin to repair the damage done.

D is becoming more of a background figure now. Just before the trial, he absconds during the night, leaving a brief note of apology on the dining table, and emptying all the cash from our pockets. He is found by the police lying unconscious in a municipal park on the East coast, with an empty bottle of spirits by his side. He returns to his mother’s house in London. To cheer him up, she buys him a small painting for his room. It’s a Mark Chagall.

On the rescheduled trial date, D comes back to Nottingham. K attends the hearing; I stay away. Some of his other, newer Nottingham friends show up, glaring at each other outside the courtroom with that same suspicious, protective look. Meanwhile, D is in his best suit, smoking a crafty spliff in the corridor.

D’s family may not have hired Sir David Napley, but they’ve still hired a bloody good lawyer. A deeply contrite D looks like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. He gets a fine and a suspended sentence, and returns to London. There’s one brief return visit to Nottingham, where he tries (and fails) to convince K that he’s a reformed character. After that, we never see him again. There’s a thank you letter – addressed to K only. He never repays the money he has borrowed and stolen.

The last we ever hear of him, he is reportedly seeing a well known gay pop singer. A few years later, Stephen Fry publishes his first novel, “The Liar”. There are some extraordinary biographical parallels between its central character and D’s own life (expelled from boarding school for similar reasons, turning to prostitution, various odd details). I wonder – I just wonder…

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