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Op-ed: Porn God, Good Samaritan and Incredible Loss

By Hobart Fowlkes

I am Hobart, and I am an alcoholic. I am also a homosexual who is currently coming to terms with a particularly juicy slice of the insane life I led when I first arrived in New York City in the early 1990s. Years later, in 2006, I would crash, burn, hit rock bottom and eventually find my way humbly into the rooms of AA.

There is a tiny piece of my story that I have never brought up while sharing my story in AA meetings, specifically because aspects of it are still slightly humiliating to me. I have therefore omitted them out of a sense of shame, though I do believe that part of the process of recovery is to truly own up to all of your shortcomings. By accepting them and sharing them with other addicts and alcoholics, we cleanse ourselves of the shame. I thought I had officially become a person without secrets, though a week ago it took the obituary of a well known gay porn actor to smack me abruptly in the face with a key part of my story that I had omitted.

After 12 years in a toxic relationship, I made the moves to extricate myself from the situation. I broke up with my partner (who was also my boss), I moved into my own place, armed with an arsenal of good intentions. However, what I found was that I was truly unable to kick the booze and benzodiazepine diet I had prescribed for myself in an effort to make those years more tolerable.

In the early days of that relationship I was a nervous closet case, and gay sex made me especially squirmy. My boyfriend had to loosen me up with some cocktails and pop in a porno video cassette in order to get me “in the mood.”  We had one by a director named Kristen Bjorn and it was called “Hungary for Men.”  That was when I fell in love with Arpad Miklos. He was young, handsome, had the sweetest face and the kindest eyes, not to mention the sexiest slim and toned body. A few Vodka Tonics and a heavy dose of Arpad, and I was ready to go. My obsession with Arpad took on a life of its own. I watched his scenes in that movie over and over again for years, and fantasized about Arpad both while I was pleasuring myself alone, or else while making love to my partner. It was always Arpad’s face and his body that I imagined.

Only last week, I contemplated including Arpad in the memoir I am currently working on. I thought it was time to come clean about the true turning point when I decided to choose sobriety over the squalid life I had begun to lead.

Years later, in early May of 2006, I was living alone in my new apartment and I was free from the ball and chain of a controlling partner, so I could finally discover my inner slut. I explored every gay dating and hook-up website that existed and met a lot of guys, both very nice and super creepy. It was on one night in particular while I was probably on my second bottle of wine, that I started to cruise the ads on rentboy.com. It was there that I discovered that every model you had ever seen in any gay porno movie could be had in the flesh for a fee. I was flabbergasted. On the very first page that I opened I saw him—it was Arpad! He had bulked up some since his early days in “Hungary for Men,” but he was still my same sweet sexy Arpad who had indelibly inhabited my fantasies for more than a decade. I mean that to me this guy was like a movie star. For me it was no different than if I had discovered that I could just call a number and George Clooney would come over and do anything I wanted for an hour if I could just cough up $300. I made the call. He was free the next day.

I was nervous as heck, so about 30 minutes before he arrived, I poured myself a glass of wine. If the amount of time was truly 30 minutes, then I imagine I must have downed three glasses of wine before he arrived.

Thirty minutes later he stepped off of my elevator and I invited him in. I thought I would explode. I hung up his coat and put his bag in the closet and showed him to the living room. I offered him wine but he refused, settling for only a glass of tap water. He sensed my nervousness and so he put me at ease. I told him how I had watched "Hungary for Men" thousands of times, and he reminisced to me about those days. How young he was, how skinny he was because he rode his bike everywhere. He told me his name wasn’t really Arpad, but Peter. He said that when he came to New York City, everyone kept telling him he had to bulk up, so he became a regular gym-goer.

After 10 minutes of small talk we finally got to the real reason for his visit. It was exactly as I had always fantasized, and the thought that this movie star (to me) was actually showering in my shower after making love to me for an hour made me quiver. He had left the bathroom door ajar and I could see him washing his muscled back as I walked from the bedroom to the living room. I needed to rub my eyes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

Three-hundred dollars is a lot of money, but maybe two weeks later, I thought of calling Arpad again. Before him, I had never before paid for sex, but since he was my fantasy man, it was worth it to me. I made the call and the appointment.

This time, however, I started on the Pinot Grigio about an hour or so before his arrival. By the time my doorman buzzed him up, I had probably drunk about a bottle and a half. I met him at the door and once again took his coat and bag. He took his place on my sofa only this time he had a strange look on his face that was a mixture of sadness, concern and maybe a little bit of disgust. His first words to me were: “You’ve been drinking.”  I told him that I had only had a few to loosen up before his arrival. He went on to say that he could tell I had been drinking the previous time and that the smell of alcohol was a super turn off to him. The previous time it wasn’t so bad, but he told me that this time not only did I wreak of booze, but I was behaving differently. I tried to assure him that I was fine and that I would brush my teeth and gargle, but he looked me in the eye and said to me, “You are not like my usual clients. You seem like a very nice and innocent type of guy. I like you, but the way you smell and the way you’re acting now is too much of a turn off to me, I think we might want to reschedule for another day.”  I was speechless.

He got up to leave. He helped himself to my closet, took his coat and his bag and then turned around to me and said: “You know, you might have a problem. It's not a big deal. I know a lot of guys in my industry who have had similar problems, a lot of them much worse than you. But this city is full of help for people like you. You might want to check out an AA meeting. Just a suggestion.” 

I could not muster the energy to be indignant at his presumption that I was an alcoholic. He was also a sort of idol for me, so there was no way in Hell I wanted to contradict him. That is when he turned and opened my door to leave. I extended the wad of twenties that equaled $300 to him, but he just looked at it. I put it in the pocket of his flannel shirt. He immediately took it back out and placed the wad of cash back into my own shirt pocket.

“You know what you can do for me?”  he asked.

“What?” I replied.

“Take care of yourself. You are a really nice guy. You need to see that and get yourself better.” 

By then the elevator had arrived, he got on, the doors closed and I never saw him again (in the flesh). I burst into tears. I was so embarrassed. I was so ashamed and humiliated. I cried and cried, since that was sort of the solution to my problems du jour during that époque.

Exactly one week later, I had a particularly embarrassing drunken episode up in Connecticut that involved a big group of dear friends and the Connecticut State Troopers. I awoke that Sunday morning completely mortified, and I kept hearing Arpad’s words to me over and over again. Later that day I spoke to one of my friend’s from the night before. She said to me plainly and simply:  “AA. You need AA. I don’t want to talk to you or see you until you get your act together, stop drinking and start going to meetings.”  I put up no fight at all. I merely told her she was right.

The following Wednesday was May 24, 2006, and I attended my very first AA meeting at the Rutgers Church on West 73rd Street.  I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since and will be celebrating seven years in just a few months.

Somehow I had forgotten the experience with Arpad. Honestly, I hadn’t forgotten it, it was just complicated and I was too shy to share it “in the rooms.”  So last week, I decided instead to break the silence and confess all.

Yesterday while I was sitting having lunch in a hotel in Bombay, and making notes about how I wanted to include Arpad in my story, my current partner (of the past six years) emailed me an obituary. Arpad’s obituary. He had committed suicide. My throat closed up and my eyes welled with tears. That guy must have had so many self-esteem issues, and I am sure there was a lot going on in his life that would have led him to take his own life, but if he had only known what a profound impact he had on this one human being and how he had in essence saved my life, maybe things would have been different. Maybe my book would sell, and I would become famous and Arpad would read it and see the part about him. In my inner fantasyworld, he was then going to seek me out and we were going to become friends. Platonic friends. BFF’s. That is how the daydream was playing in my brain when I was suddenly slapped across the face with his tragic obituary.

I didn’t know the man at all. I only met him those two times, but his words saved me, and for almost seven years I have been ashamed to give him credit. Why?  Is it because he is a porn star? Or that I paid for sex?  It's probably for both of those reasons, however I can say for sure that humanity lost a beautiful soul last weekend, his life taken away by his own hand. However, after the tragedy of his death, I want people to know that although I am a person he most definitely would never have remembered, I owe my life to a man who despite having chosen an unorthodox path in his life, very probably touched a lot of souls along the way exactly as he touched mine.

 

HOBART FOWLKES quit his decades-long job at a Wall Street Hedge Fund two years ago, and has since been contributing articles and original photography to Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine and other publications. His personal relationship of the last six years has kept him moving pretty constantly and residing in N.Y., London, and Chandigarh, India. No matter where he keeps his toothbrush, Fowlkes considers New York to be home.

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