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All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C. Paperback – August 4, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
If an account of one's tour of duty as a stripper and sometimes prostitute in seedy downtown Washington, D.C. gay clubs could ever be called "breezy," Seymour's achieved it. Sure to please the hedonistic gay man in (almost) all of us, Seymour is frank and entirely explicit as he chronicles his journey from diligent Masters' candidate (developing a thesis on gay strip clubs) to onstage talent working every night to make a living. Unafraid to bare it all, in person and in prose, Seymour details his brief foray into prostitution as well as the (very) personal stories of his fellow dancers. Seymour can dissemble, first pinning his stripping career on low self-esteem, but later admitting to some early success with more traditional dancing and acting; it becomes clear that the author is a bit of a narcissist, but a charming one. The last fifty pages, accounting for his subsequent work as a celebrity interviewer, are pure filler; when he sticks to the clubs, though, readers will feel they're in the hands of an expert.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Part sexy parable, part witty reminiscence, part informative history lesson, All I Could Bare is a captivating introspective into a world we all have pondered. Unflinchingly honest, Seymour shows that there's far more to being naked than taking off one's clothes." -- Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of the New York Times bestseller I Am Not Myself These Days and Candy Everybody Wants
"A clever and candid look into the world of gay male stripping that is infectious, irreverent, and ultimately inspiring." -- Stewart Lewis, author of Rockstarlet
"Witty, humorous, and filled with the guilty indulgence of an unadulterated insider's view...a cunning memoir of what most gay men search for -- to be desired, and hot boys." -- Terrance Dean, author of Hiding in Hip Hop
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But "All I Could Bare" is actually a time-honored search for self, identity, a sense of place and community, the quest to make sense of it all. In contrast to the work of the controversial "gay" author John Rechy, there are no kernels of nihilism here: Seymour inevitably manages to wean himself from the nightclubs (though never quite entirely), gradually morphing into a skillful entertainment journalist and, later still, forging a successful career in academia (Rechy also parlayed his vast experience--and his existential angst--as a gay hustler into a profitable academic sideline). All told, Seymour's journey is a bona fide--albeit improbable-- success story told with a great sense of humor and insight.
For all its merits, however, the memoir is not faultless. Despite his frankness, Seymour is pathologically selfish, as when he describes the painful break-up of a long-term relationship and scarcely pauses to acknowledge the shattering effect that his obsession with stripping had on his partner. I also wish Seymour had been more forthcoming about the minefield of race relations within the gay community. As a Black man light enough to pass as Latino or "other" than Black, Seymour himself appears to have been exclusively attracted to Whites. For all his self-examination, he offers little to explain his obvious compulsion to seek White (beauty-standard) validation--something that no amount of nurturing from his attentive Black family could assuage. Moreover, his tendency to skim over the persistent problem of gay racism begs the question of whether he would have had such a rewarding run as a stripper if he had not often been assumed to be any other nationality. Indeed, a less amiable writer might have challenged or at least pondered this unsavory aspect of the culture more deeply. These foibles matter, especially in a book that literally and figuratively proclaims full-frontal disclosure. And yet in all other aspects, "All I Could Bare" feels authentic and true. The book is so engrossing that I could not put it down, and it took only a few hours to read. For better or worse, this is one memoir that offers a relatively sunny tour of a very peculiar fun-house that is never less than fascinating.
It's a fun, light read. It's certainly not raunchy or a "tell all", at least in the sense that it didn't expose anything (IMO) one couldn't assume or figure out already. It is interesting to journey with the author as he takes a fascination and bit of a fixation on stripping and quite literally runs with it, until (and after) he becomes one of them.
I found the psychoanalysis half-baked, and even the author seemed to include it only because it is surely expected. I would have preferred just more of the stories and observations to stand alone. It also felt vaguely defensive - almost like it had to prove that strippers aren't ever the stereotypical drugged-out prostitutes one might expect.
These are minor beefs, though, in what amounted to something that was worthwhile, but I would only recommend to someone who first thought "I want to read that!", and not to anyone who is ambivalent about it.