Friday, April 30, 2010

Lost Gay New York: Muscle Queens, Hair Fairies, and Dentures

By Perry Brass

It was 1966. I was 19 years old, and my roommate, Bob Schwiller, 42, introduced me to two of his best friends, a 30-something gay couple named Larry and Pete. Larry was beefy, butch, and loud. He was also a body builder. I had never met a gay body builder before. Ever. At that time, you didn’t see guys with muscles in the bars. You saw a lot of what we used to call “cologne queens” in cashmere sweaters and slacks, or even occasionally “hair fairies,” guys with teased, bleached or dyed hair parading down the street, especially in the Village. Hair fairies were the poster boys of fruitdom: they were blatant, wild, outrageous, and their prodigy, the street queens who’d riot at Stonewall a few years later, were actually a milder version of them. Street queens often could fake it as girls, but hair fairies were not trying to be women; they were outrageously, wildly gay.

I knew some hair fairies in California, the kind who rarely appeared in daylight, and made a living selling drugs or themselves in the dark to horny closet cases. But Larry was one of the first muscle queens I’d ever met; as you can imagine, he fascinated and attracted me. He appeared at Bob’s apartment  off Central Park West (stylishly decorated: walls painted bright Venetian Red; plaster details accentuated in gold paint) in a tight white T-shirt, his glossy dark hair slicked back, James Dean-style. A pack of cigarettes was tucked into his rolled left shirt sleeve, displaying a large smooth bicep.

“May!” he called out. Bob’s pet name was May. “I needa cuppa coffee, Schwiller!”

Bob went to the small kitchen to get him a cup, while Larry looked at me like I was the 90-pound weakling in the old Steve Atlas ads.

“You’re kinda skinny,” he observed.
I was too shy to say anything.

“So ya May’s new roommate? Bring home any nice new numbers for him?”

Again I had no idea what he was talking about. He winked at me, and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.”

Bob came back into the living room with Larry’s cup. They smoked cigarettes and gulped coffee and dished one another to filth like prisoners yakking from nearby cells. Larry and Pete lived a few blocks further uptown, so were frequent guests. Pete came by soon enough. He was younger than Larry, and even more handsome: like a young Warren Beatty-matinee-idol type, with glowing golden skin, blonde-streaked hair and the kind of temptingly-formed lips you’d like to get lost in for an hour. He had a thing for Latino teens which bothered Larry, and they fought over it a lot. I thought about the song, “Why Can’t You Behave?” from Kiss Me Kate. At a certain point, Larry took off his T-shirt so that Bob could rub a liniment over his aching back: he’d injured it lifting weights. I drooled, but tried not to let on. These guys were too tough for me to expose any tenderness toward them.

They left.

“They think they’re in love,” Bob said to me, from the corner of his mouth. “But that Pete sneaks out on Larry anytime he can get. I feel sorry for Larry. I tried to warn him, but you saw Pete. Who wouldn’t go for him? I could go for him myself, but I’m too old and not the right race.”

A few minutes later Bob went to the bathroom and came back without his dentures in. As a constant smoker and coffee drinker, part of my mother’s World War II generation, he’d lost his teeth early. He got tired of wearing them, and it did not bother him not to have them in.

“Some people’d think that not having your teeth would be bad,” he explained to me. “But ya know, a lotta straights dig a good gum job. I couldn’t handle some of these big guys if I had my teeth in too. You only got so much room in your mouth for cock and teeth. So when you don’t have teeth to worry about, it’s a lot easier and more fun for them, too.”

I nodded. So, misfortune, I reckoned, could work in your favor. But I still decided I’d keep my teeth forever, and was never going to smoke.

You can learn more about Perry Brass at his website, . You can order his new book The Manly Art of Seduction from Amazon in regular paper format or on Kindle. You can also learn more about his books at SmashWords, the complete Internet marketplace for all things EBooks and otherwise, and on his Author Page at Amazon.


  1. Perry, you are fearless and delightful!

  2. I look forward to each new post....

  3. " prisoners yakking from nearby cells." Hilarious.

    What a vivid glimpse back in time. My own rear view mirror sees the dawn of AIDS but not much further. There's something achingly quaint (and so long, long gone) about this story... it's a precious gem.

    Mark S. King

  4. Perry, I love this piece particularly. You outdid yourself in bringing out the almost innocent facets of a very raunchy subject. Beautiful writing.

  5. My own window of time also includes denture wearers of various ilks; both young-ish (40) and into dotage (I always liked older men). It is/was my experience that, looking back, the very best blow jobs I ever got were from dentured men. Perry seems to think this is called "humming" but I think that's something else entirely, involving sound. We called it "gumming" then and I don't intend to change it. The only drawback to getting gummed was the visual, both looking down and looking at a pair of choppers on the nightstand. So, my advice, one does neither. Close your eyes and enjoy the sensation...there's nothing like it.


  6. Thank you for the wonderful comments & reactions to this piece. I love the idea of dealing with the "personal archeology" of the gay past, something that gets erased so quickly. I'm looking forward to doing more with this series, and hope we'll get some more great comments.