No one's fool!
by David Alexander Nahmod
Billions of Virgins in Ecstasy - The Memoirs of Strange de Jim (Ash-Kar Press)
Strange de Jim has lived in the Castro since the 1970s. He says he adopted his Strange moniker to avoid confusion with movie star Brad Pitt, whom he strongly resembles. Strange calls himself The Town Fool, but many might disagree. No one with his talent for coming up with off-the-cuff zingers could possibly be as foolish as he claims to be.
So who is Strange? He's just a nice guy who's been spreading love, light and laughter around the neighborhood for the better part of three decades. Once upon a time, Strange de Jim held a mid-level management position at Bank of America. He was just another gay dude cruising bars in the Castro. As he tells it, no one was interested. Strange went to massage school and became a B.A.R. massage advertiser. His career change was, by his own admission, a ploy to increase his sexual prospects. But along the way, he had a very strange epiphany. Strange found that by offering free massages to those who were less than buffed, he could spread a message of light and love across the community.
Soon, people were accepting his invitations for a "Strange Experience," free sessions on his table which included massaging their "tingly portions." Men and women of all shapes, sizes and colors were welcome. He found, much to his surprise, that everyone's "tingly portions" were delight-filled fountains of pleasure. He had found his true calling.
Strange shares this journey in Billions of Virgins in Ecstasy, his latest book. In a recent interview at his Castro flat, the surprisingly staid-looking Strange talked about the book, and shared some of his unique views. He freely admits that only parts of the book are true, the rest is strange.
It's easy to pick out what's real and what's not. During the height of the AIDS crisis, by which time Strange had built up a lucrative massage practice, he took to offering freebies to people with AIDS. He had no qualms about touching their "tingly portions." "It was frustrating, because no matter what I did, I couldn't save them," he says. "I felt guilty that I couldn't do more for them." In the book, he tells of massaging a man the day before the man died. Strange takes solace in the knowledge that he was able to offer the man one last bit of pleasure in this lifetime.
Legendary Chronicle columnist Herb Caen was a big part of Strange's life. For years, Caen delighted in printing the hilarious quips sent by his biggest fan. "And I really got off on seeing my name in the paper," says Strange. He's proud to have delivered a eulogy at Caen's funeral. He now enjoys seeing his more recent one-liners popping up in B.A.R.'s Out There column.
Why does he call himself Strange? "I thought I was being accurate!"
Strange has been around long enough to remember the Harvey Milk era. He shared his recent experience of working as an extra on Gus Van Sant's Milk movie, now in production. He was amazed by Sean Penn's resemblance to the late political leader. Years ago, Strange met Harvey. "I'm not surprised he became a legend," he says. "But I didn't see it then. I have no talent for spotting legends, unless they're Acuras!"
Strange hopes that his fans will embrace his new book. I asked him to explain the title. "The virgins are my massage clients," he says.
"And they were all virgins?"
"They were Virgins to the Orgasm of Light that I gave them."
Billions of Virgins in Ecstasy is available at A Different Light Books on Castro Street and Books, Inc. on Market Street. Visit Strange at his website, www.StrangeBillions.com.