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Mike Jones kisses
and tells

Mike Jones kisses
and tells

Mike_jones_bookcvr

In his new book, I Had to Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard's Fall, the gay escort gives up the gory details of his relationship with the head of the National Association of Evangelicals. Beyond the kink is a narrative both personal and observant.

As the sun rose in the early-morning sky on November 1, 2006, Mike Jones sat quietly in his apartment, staring at the telephone. He was at the same time reluctant and eager, knowing that his life was about to change. Picking up the receiver before the second ring, he took a deep breath and was patched through as the guest on a local drive-time FM radio talk show. Jones, a gay escort from Denver, was about to break the cardinal rule of his profession--he was going public with the identity of a client.

The ink is still drying on the pages of the latest offering from Manhattan-based Seven Stories Press. In I Had to Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard's Fall, Jones recounts, with the help of biographer Sam Gallegos, how his decision to speak out just before the midterm elections catapulted him into the public eye, changing his life and, perhaps, the face of national politics.

Within days of Jones's revelation, which dominated the national media cycle, Haggard disappeared from public life. He resigned from his role as the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, came under investigation by his Colorado Springs-based megachurch, and checked in to an Arizona facility for "restoration" to address what he termed his "repulsive and dark" desires.

Most people will skim through this book to find the lurid details of Haggard's secret sex life; a rapid flip-through of the more titillating highlights must include pages 8, 113, and 174. Jones offers, however, much more. His narrative is personal and reads like a friend confiding cherished memories and deep personal introspection over an afternoon cup of coffee. He covers career, family, and hopes for the future. Jones is polite and intuitive, and above all, observant. These skills proved just as important in his work as physique, technique, and sexual versatility did.

The reader comes face-to-face with Haggard as he evolves over three years: from an over-wide grin with nervous eyes darting around the room, avoiding eye contact, faint features in the dark as tears well up during intimate silence, to a crazed, manic enthusiasm for thrill and release. This book exposes Haggard's vulnerability, which found its limited expression in the privacy of Jones's anonymous sanctuary.

Jones certainly delivers detail on the stereotypical prostitute's visit, complete with dirty talk and cleanup washcloths. But it's when he describes Haggard's demeanor, wide-eyed and curious, that the tale engages. Over the course of three years, Jones explains, the closeted leader of 30 million evangelicals progressed from shame-filled orgasm in the near-dark to a voracious pursuit of kink and mind-altering substance.

After a year of monthly appointments, Haggard asked about crystal methamphetamines. Jones takes pains in the book to explain that he does not deal any type of drug. In a detailed passage that reads as if it has been cleared by an attorney, Jones describes the day Haggard showed up eagerly "waving a small packet of what I assumed was meth." Reluctantly, Jones showed him how to crush and then smooth it into a line. He "simulated" how to snort it through a rolled-up dollar bill. Haggard clearly sought out instruction in his regular interactions with Jones.

Once meth became a regular part of Haggard's appointments, he began to build his own collection of sex toys and videos, which he carried with him in a small black canvas bag. He would often begin the session with a dramatic reveal of his latest purchases and ask how to use them. Soon, he was asking Jones to arrange orgies.

Haggard sought a spiritual connection with Jones as well. He peppered him with questions about his clients and his work, repeatedly asking about life as an escort. Jones recounted the time he narrowly escaped from the house of a client who slipped a date rape drug into his drink, and the client who stalked him at his day job. He related stories of clients who just needed the touch of another man, such as the double amputee suffering from diabetes, the blind client whose guide dog sat patiently in the room, and the soldier about to ship out to Iraq. Haggard sat with rapt attention, hearing for the first time the intimate experiences of other men who shared his secret.

Perhaps every memoir seeks to justify the choices of its author. This one takes us back to the early childhood of a scrawny kid who took up weight lifting as a way to escape the bullying of his older brother. When he excelled at bench presses and squats, he was showered with attention from his coaches. Their praise filled an emotional void, the result of distant parents and disinterested peers.

If he was surprised by the adulation he received as a weight-lifting champ, he was most definitely bewildered by what happened when he walked into a gay bar. At 18 years old he was propositioned for sex almost immediately. His first "paid" experience yielded $200, and that quickly became his quote. He was randy, "ready to explore the world," and was shocked that older men would pay him to do what he wanted to do anyway. He recalls bluntly, "My muscles seemed to be my biggest attraction. Until I took off my pants." Jones moved out of his parents' Denver suburb home into an apartment in the city.

His client list included politicians, professional athletes, clergy, and movie stars. Some readers might object to Jones's efforts to normalize his profession. He likens his work to that of an army nurse, providing care and tenderness and then sending the wounded soldiers back into battle.

A confluence of events led Jones to reveal Haggard's identity, including the death of Jones's mother, a local initiative to ban same-sex marriage, and a chance sighting of Haggard in the national press. Jones gave up his privacy for what he felt was a moral imperative to challenge Haggard's hypocrisy.

The prose is light, providing an easy read. Anyone half interested in the politics of the closet or the modern media machine will enjoy this peek into one man's 15 minutes of fame. Some people credit Jones with swaying both local and national elections with his November surprise. He writes that escorting is a thankless job. Based on his retelling of the events of the past year, for Jones, toppling Haggard from his hypocrite perch may well be thanks enough.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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