Have you read it? If that name alone tells you what book I’m talking about, you get a gold star 🙂 If not, Brad Commands You to go get your copy of Andrew Holleran’s “Dancer From The Dance” *immediately.* So it has been written! So let it be done!
Back story. When I was a teenager, my parents used to take me to San Francisco for the weekend. Now, this was COUGH some time ago COUGH before everyone was terrified of everyone and everything, so they would let me go in the morning to do my thing all day while they did theirs. Yes, it’s true – a teenage gay boy loose in San Francisco. They knew I was perfectly safe, and not even because I was a hopelessly chubby nerd 🙂 They knew all the then-current Anita Bryant “recruiting children” shit was beyond bullshit – in fact, we stayed with my gay uncle and his lover while we were there.
Anyway. Obviously I was a very late bloomer, because what I wanted to do, by myself, in San Francisco, more than anything? Was to go book shopping. I think we had a Waldenbooks in the mall at home by then, but that was it, and they had NOTHING. I can’t remember the name of the bookstore on Powell Street, just that it was between O’Farrell and Geary, or was it O’Farrell and Ellis. Was it TRO Harper? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter.
What mattered in 1979 was that a book had just come out in paperback, a book that I had never heard of, might not have heard of for another ten years if a huge stack of them hadn’t been sitting near the front counter. “Dancer From The Dance” was replete with rave reviews, and there was a guy on the cover, this cover:
You have to blow it up to see his face, but there was just so much…kindness in it. And you know, for the 70s, that was a hot bod. The Nautilus machine had only recently been invented, after all. And that blurb! “A haunting novel of romance and decadence in the fast lanes of gay society!” Who could resist? Especially when “erotic heat percolates through these pages!”
Yeah, it changed my young gay life. It was the first image I had of gay life as something other than a news story, a political football, a scandal. The first image, for better or worse later on, of a world where people devoted their lives to beauty, to love, to lust.
It would be many years later that I’d reread the book, and what astonished me the most was that…you know, there’s not a single sex scene in it. Oh, there’s plenty of talk *about* sex, but no journalistic recountings. And you know, I was shocked! I could have sworn the whole book was dripping with sex…because it was. It was and remains the Sexiest Book Ever Written.
So, if I was going to republish it with a “new” Malone on the cover, well, that guy, up there. If I was going to film this gorgeous, wordy book, almost unfilmable but not quite, I’d seriously look at casting him. (Brad Pitt could have done the role, not so long ago, you know.) He’s Malone. There’s no cruelty in his face, there’s a thoughtfulness and yeah, maybe even a kindness. That was what made Malone the guy everyone fell in love with, after all:
I watched as this individual walked into the room and was immediately greeted by several of the handsomest boys there, the ones so handsome they never looked at anybody, but went to the darkness of back rooms merely to piss on strangers and have their asses licked. They were the first to go over to Malone. He put an arm around their shoulders or shook their hands, with his almost old-fashioned manners. He put his head close to theirs when they spoke to him, as if he didn’t want to miss a word, and when he replied he spoke almost against their ear: a charming gesture ostensibly to defeat the noise of the room, but one that made you feel that you were being winnowed out, selected for some confidential revelation. The courtesy with which he moved on through that crowd of zombies who stepped on one another with the oblivious brusqueness of a crowd in a subway, and stopped to talk to whoever talked to him, was reflected in his smile. He had a face you liked with the certainty that, though you had no idea who he was, he was a good man.
So thank you, Nameless Hot Internet Guy, for bringing back that memory.