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"Award-Winning Men" by Ed Karvoski Jr.,
This review is from: Award-Winning Men: Up Close and Personal with Gay Honorees (Paperback)
Award-Winning Men: Jerry Acosta, Steve Albert, Don Alexander, Patrick Arena and Andy Monroe, J.G. Avila, Cain Berlinger, Sal Bruno, Wolfgang Busch, John Carrillo, J.C. Carter, Will Clark, James McCall "Shamey" Cramer, Jade Esteban Estrada, Eric Evans, Pete Fitz, Larry Flick, Steve Frey, Lance Gear, Doug Graff, David Hawks, Gerald B. James, Michael Kearns, Rudy Kikel, Michael Klinkhammer, Aaron Lawrence, Jon Gilbert Leavitt, Fred Little, Michael Marino, Deian McBryde, Rev. Dr. Steven J. McCarthy a.k.a. Madame Dish, Danny McGuire, Mitch Michaels, Davien O., Kevin Omni, Steve Pierce, Joe Romero, Donnie Russo, Lawrence Schimel, Tom Southern, Jason Stuart, Ed Tepporn, Robert Urban, Michael Vaccaro, Shep Wahnon, Danny Williams, Randall L. Wreghitt, Matt Yee
Compiled in a straightforward manner that allows the men to speak for themselves, Ed Karvoski Jr. has come up with a rather novel idea in "Award-Winning Men." He takes leading citizens from the major gay cities (and a few from outside), but not quite the leaders you think. These men are quieter more personal heroes in most senses: statewide or local leather contest winners, dedicated volunteers, writers and so on. These are not politicians or famous actors, and the porn stars are usually included for other work they have done. The book emerges as a warm celebration of the gay community spirit, from the happily pushy section that razzle dazzles the local bar to the grizzled bears with hearts of gold, and nearly everyone in between.
These guys are all over the place in terms of personal history. Take Michael Klinkhammer, a smiling boyish hunk who was Mr. Gay Wisconsin USA 2000. In discussion of his pageant talents, it is noted that "the easiest category has always been the talent portion, in which he has presented a high-energy dance routine set to *NSync's 'Bye, Bye, Bye.'" Steve Frey, with an award-winning set of buns (literally) founded Males Au Naturel, which is a nudist group, while Danny McGuire's awards come from his volunteering efforts, most notably the major New York City gay pride events each June. What Karvoski makes important through what he very carefully does not say is that all are equally important. The flashier of the guys (Reverend Dr. Steven J. McCarthy -- the only ordained minister and drag performer in the tome), come off just as dutiful and angelic to the community as the ones with the more notable titles. This is achieved through a brief description of each guy, most in their own words, with the little flash of puns tossed in by Karvoski. Each man speaks so passionately about his triumphs in this context that everyone seems to be the most forceful yet. It's really a fantastic forum.
Of course, I should take a moment at the beginning to note that the porn stars to have their own entourage here. Many are retired vets with interesting stories, but some of today's still-active faces have quite unique histories. The story of Lance Gear using his title as a platform to discuss gay domestic violence is as heartbreaking as it is titillating when he discusses his codpiece falling off during one ceremony. Naturally, porn star-isms are rife in their descriptions of themselves. Eric Evans admits to being a "diehard gym freak" whose exhibitionism helps him not to feel "like another grain of sand on the beach," and all this while admitting to loving the Weather Channel! Donnie Russo's one-of-a-kind dirty talk is legendary, and his description of it is typically majestic: "It's not like I read a book, 'How to do Verbalization' or 'How to Be Rough,' it just comes natural," he says. "It's like an artist: How did Michelangelo do this or that? You can't always answer that. It comes from within." You know, he has a point there. He's survived a hell of a lot in the porn industry, and with his own unique touch.
However, porn is basically relegated to the background. "Sexy" here is truly a term to describe what is inside these guys. The books final alphabetic entry, musician Matt Yee, asks "I mean, how many big-boned Chinese-American gay men from Hawaii who sing, play piano and do comedy in a tux and muumuu are there?" Right there, he captures the spirit of the whole endeavor. Read on to see his musical credits and his adorable description of sex with his lover. Before you even see his picture (the pictures curiously follow the descriptions rather than beginning them), you are already enchanted, even if you aren't into Asian men perhaps, but his personality has done it. That's the way most of the men in this book come off. Since they are so passionate about their work, and since their descriptions of that work are as passionate, you can't help but give a little of your reading self to each as you pass by them.
I doubt anyone can find a favorite in this pack. I've been through the book many times now and I can't find one. It keeps changing, nearly every few pages. The work done here in the name of HIV, or in the name of gay pride or community spirit is amazing. That's not to say that the men who haven't worked in these fields are any less moving. Some of them have such personal rootings to their careers you wonder where they can draw such devotion. At heart, they all share the mentioned sense of gay America (although with the fun gay twists: Gerald B. James saying that he joined the Boston Gay Men's Chorus to meet men, cheekily), and that is the focus of the book. Explorations through the history of gay America are bountiful, but one this personal brings home each spirit to make it more personal...