December Books: Dirty White Boys

Soho, located in London’s West End, is one of that city’s most interesting neighborhoods.
At the turn of the 20th century, “So-ho, my wild one” was, as John
Galsworthy wrote in The Forsyte Saga,
“untidy, full of Greeks, Ishmaelites, cats, Italians, tomatoes, restaurants,
organs, colored stuffs, queer names [and] people looking out of upper windows.”

For over 200 years, Soho was the center of London’s
thriving sex industry and is also now London’s
major gay village, centered on Old
Compton Street, where dozens of gay or
gay-friendly business owners set up shop in order to profit from the “pink
pound.”

Clayton Littlewood is one of many gay entrepreneurs who
settled in Soho. However, he’s no ordinary
business owner, and his unique talents have made him an unofficial spokesman
for gay Soho.

As Littlewood wrote in his MySpace
profile
, “For three years my partner Jorge and I had a clothes shop on Old Compton Street,
Soho called Dirty White Boy (just below a
rather popular brothel). And between serving sugar daddies and rent boys, I
wrote a rather rambling Blog about Soho which,
much to my surprise, those lively people at Cleis Press have decided to
publish, thereby ruining their reputation forever.”

Littlewood’s blog diaries have been collected in Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho (The
Cleis Press; 350 pages; $14.95), which does for Soho in the digital age what
Samuel Pepys and Daniel Defoe did for London as a whole in the 17th
Century.

Clayton Littlewood (right)

Author’s photo credit: Jaime Mcleod

Fortunately, Littlewood does not dwell much on his own life,
or on the “life” of Dirty White Boy, which, like many small businesses in these
uncertain times, often hovered on the edge of insolvency. Instead, Littlewood
rightly filled his tales with the interesting and unusual people who visited
his shop. Some of his customers are celebrities in their own right: Janice
Dickinson, Kathy Griffin, Graham Norton, and Holly Woodlawn. But there are others
who, though not so well known, are equally interesting.

As Littlewood wrote in one entry, “QX [a British bar rag] recently ran a feature on the ‘faces of Soho.’ Drag queens, DJ’s, club owners, cabaret acts,
promoters, party hosts. Anyone who’s anyone in ‘gay glitterati’ land. . . .
[However] the real faces of Soho are never
featured. You won’t see them in the documentaries on Soho
that seem to pop up on our televisions with increasing frequency. Yet they are
the lifeblood of the village. They are the underclass, the true eccentrics, the
waifs and strays the party crowd passes by as they make their way to the Shadow
Lounge.”

Dirty White Boy
features “the real faces of Soho” including Chico,
“a very colorful, Afro-Caribbean American, based in London. Decked out in Gucci, D&G, Prada.
You name it, he flaunts it. And he’s become one of our regular customers.”

Chico,
Littlewood continues, “was once a Diana Ross impersonator who married rich, but
his boyfriend died. Thus he was left with a large amount of money, two
properties, and a broken heart. The perfect aphrodisiac for a QX hooker.”

Dirty White Boy
follows Chico
through his ups and (mostly) downs, including getting mixed up with a gang of
parasites that eventually turn against him and falsely accuse him of rape. “The
judge,” wrote Littlewood, sadly, “obviously not well versed in the whole gay
client/hooker scene, saw “’Black Man Rapes White Man‘ and put him away” for six
years.

Another interesting personality featured in Dirty White Boy is the feisty transsexual
Angela Pasquale. A Janice Dickinson look-a-like, the tall – “at least six foot
three” – and stunning Ms. Pasquale has “a beautiful face and big pair of creamy
white breasts that look like they’re about to wrap themselves around my neck. ’You’re
not stealing my lines again, are you?’ said Angela when she caught Clayton
taking notes for his Blog. ‘Well, actually…I am,’ he replied. ‘But only
because you’re part of Soho. . . .’ ‘Girl – I
AM SOHO!’ she retorts, removing her glasses
and shaking out her hair, up and down, backwards and forwards, letting her
luscious locks drape over the glass counter.” 
(I don’t have the book so I can’t confirm how this quote exactly works
and thus how it should be punctuated, but this is my guess.”

Not every character is so outrageous. One of the most
touching individuals to cross Littlewood’s pages is Leslie, “a small, old
gentleman dressed in a beige three-piece suit with a white handkerchief flowing
extravagantly from the top pocket.”

Leslie, who knew Soho “in
the old days,” entertained Clayton and his readers with his reminiscences and
touched us with his star-crossed love affair with Charlie, a writer Leslie
loved and lost. “We were lovers . . . And then one day he broke my heart.”
Their story is one of many that makes Dirty
White Boy
such a wonderful book.

Next page! A memoir by PETA’s gay rabble-rouser.

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