Bump & grind
by Jim Piechota
Not Just Another Pretty Face, edited by Louis Flint Ceci; Beautiful Dreamer Press, $16.95
All of the eroticism, mystery, creativity, and smoldering desire embodied by adult male exotic dancers come to life in Not Just Another Pretty Face, a new anthology from editor and short story writer Louis Flint Ceci and photoessayist Dot (Tom Schmidt). What will strike readers first are the sexy black-and-white photographs (colorized in the electronic book version) of men fronting each of these short works, 27 in all, some by well-known authors and others by newer talents. These pictures represent an ethnically diverse scrapbook of hairy, smooth, frolicsome, solemn, black, white, young and older men; all beautiful, and all of varying backgrounds: "moonlighting ballet dancers, graduate students working on their PhDs, sex workers, porn stars, artists trying to scrape together enough cash to make it in an increasingly gentrified city." All of the pieces share the theme of erotic dancing.
The editor's poetic "Frontispiece" ruminates on how "the skin is where we start. It is the hook" setting off a cavalcade of stories, poems, essays, and ruminations on the many manifestations of sex, romance, desire, and body worship.
San Francisco-based writer Lewis DeSimone contributes a piece on how art can shape perception, communication and expression, especially when physical attraction is at play. New York writer Richard Wilde Lopez's short story treats readers to a night out where the narrator is "standing shirtless at this bar off 1st and 2nd Avenue painfully aware of how sticky the floor is."
At another bar, Rob Rosen's characters wrestle with the allure of a performing drag queen and the lipstick that ends up covering two writhing naked bodies. This same theme colors Miles Griffis' lyrical poem about illusion and sex, and Miodrag Kojadinovic's three works of subtle yet potent haiku.
Jim Metzger's contribution is a cute dramatic play featuring two 20-year-old college students and a hallowed pair of boxer shorts. Mike McClelland's San Francisco-set story is about a bar called Limerick and a beautiful go-go boy who finds himself enjoying a day at Baker Beach with a randy and smitten young bar patron.
Multiple Lambda Literary Award winner Jeff Mann's poetry evokes hardcore eroticism and sexual desire as an overnight romp with a paid-for dancer, whom he watched "dance in nothing but a silver chain, a black leather wristband, and a black-and-blue lace-up jockstrap," becomes a study in body rhythms and "imagination's miracles."
BARtab editor and celebrated novelist Jim Provenzano's short work speaks volumes from the older and wiser perspective of an aging partier toward the dancers at a "gay Burner Faerie warehouse" party. The narrator laments his own past as a go-go boy, having "been up there, thirty years and twenty pounds ago, shaking my ass for tips, because it was fun, and back then I, too, was perfect."
There are many more enticing pieces in this collection, which embraces the beauty of the male body, and celebrates the work of dancers and the rewards for those who watch and fantasize.