'Liar, Alleged' - author David Vass tells all

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Saturday April 20, 2024
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Author David Vass (photo: courtesy David Vass)
Author David Vass (photo: courtesy David Vass)

David Vass has lived a colorful life. Now in his 70s, he has seen and done it all. In his new memoir, "Liar, Alleged: A Tell-all: Celebrities, Sex, and all the Rest," Vass recalls his life behind the scenes in show business, growing up gay during the 1950s and '60s, and much more.

Vass, born in 1950, grew up in what he refers to as a "white trash" neighborhood in Baltimore. He was an unwanted child, and was for the most part left alone to do as he pleased. For two years during his childhood, he refused to speak due to a speech impediment that was eventually corrected through surgery and speech therapy.

From a very early age, Vass knew he was gay and had no shame about it. He had no compunction about telling grownups that he thought he was a homosexual because he fantasized about men. He developed quite a reputation in school for staring at other boys' crotches and he didn't care what his classmates thought of this. When he was assigned to be the towel monitor in gym class showers, he was delighted because he got to see all of his male classmates naked.

Vass' language is quite graphic as he recalls these experiences. He gets even more graphic when he writes about his sexual exploits during the late '60s and '70s. The book opens with a warning:

"This book contains explicit sexual content, adult themes, and is suitable only for mature audiences eighteen and older," reads the warning. "This work may be considered profane, vulgar, unsettling, inappropriate, and/or offensive. It may be too graphic or explicit for some readers."

While "Liar, Alleged" is definitely not for kids, were it made into a film it would no doubt be rated NC17, it's highly unlikely that the average gay adult reader would find it all that shocking.

David Vass on Fire Island in the late 1970s (photo: courtesy David Vass)  

Show biz tales
Actually, "Liar, Alleged" is a great deal of fun, filled with anecdotes that might give readers pause and think, "You can't make this stuff up." While still a minor, Vass got a job working lights and sound in seedy Baltimore strip clubs. He writes about those years with raunchy good humor, recalling his friendships with the ladies, one of whom was his bisexual sister. In one particularly funny memory finds Vass walking in on his sister doing "the deed" with a boy that Vass himself had been putting the make on.

His time in strip clubs served him well. Years later he did tech work in nightclubs and cabarets, working with some of the biggest names in show business like Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, and Julie Andrews, who, unlike her squeaky clean image, had quite a dirty mouth.

He writes about all of his celebrity friends with an honesty that is sometimes jarring. He holds nothing back. Some of the stories are hilarious, while some are sad. At one point he did tech for Little Edie Beale of "Grey Gardens" fame, a woman with obvious mental health issues who couldn't remember song lyrics and had no idea how to conduct herself on stage. But the audience loved Edie because of her "Grey Gardens" fame.

Vass devotes an entire chapter to his friendship with jazz legend Anita O'Day, who, like Vass, abused drugs, stole when she needed to, and served time in jail. O'Day was a woman who took no prisoners, and her mother/son relationship with Vass is quite moving.

Vass' time in jail came about when he refused to sign up for the draft during the Vietnam war. He had a grand time in the slammer, where he had lots of sex.

"Liar, Alleged" is relatively short at 261 pages. It's an easy read, a book that recalls what it was like to be gay both pre- and post-Stonewall. The words flowed easily from Vass. It's raunchy, yes, but it's well worth checking out for those who love reading about show biz and for those who have an open mind about sexuality; highly recommended.

'Liar, Alleged: A Tell-All Celebrities, Sex, and all the Rest' by David Vass, AR Press, 261 pages, Hardcover $16.99, Paperback $11.99, Kindle $0.99, Audiobook $19.95. www.davidvass.com

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