Former escort reveals anguish over outing a client an influential hypocrite
“I Had to Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard’s Fall,” by Mike Jones with Sam Gallegos. (Seven Stories Press, June, 2007) 256 pp., $23.95.
In November 2006, Denver-based masseur/escort Mike Jones revealed that for three years, one of his regular clients was Ted Haggard, head of the New Life Church. The resulting scandal made international headlines, cost Haggard his leadership position and made Jones an instant celebrity. Some hailed him for exposing Haggard as a hypocrite publicly denouncing homosexuality while privately indulging in it. Others criticized Jones for breaking the unspoken “call boy code of conduct” by revealing a client’s identity.
In “I Had to Say Something,” Jones (with the assistance of co-writer Sam Gallegos) reveals the turmoil and anguish he went through in making his fateful decision. Although he says he wanted out of the business by the time of the incident, he’d made his living as an escort for 26 years and stood to lose a lot: a steady income, the trust of his other clients, possible public humiliation because of his profession, and strained relations with his family.
“I do not hate Ted Haggard,” Jones writes in his preface. “I have not rejoiced in what has happened to him. I did not throw a party or dance in the street when he resigned. I was truly sad.”
Initially, though, Jones was furious to discover that steady client “Art from Kansas City” was in fact a reverend who used his power and influence to rail against homosexuals and gay rights. The world, Jones reckoned, needed to know the depths of Haggard’s hypocrisy.
Yes, there are occasional graphic accounts of the goings-on between Jones and Haggard in this book. Oddly enough, they aren’t quite as memorable as the journey that “Art” undergoes during his three years as Jones’ client. The man who started out furtive and shamefaced, grew uninhibited under the influence of meth, amassing a collection of gay porn and sex toys that he’d proudly show off to Jones. Ironically, at one of their first sessions, “Art” told Jones, “I hope to be one of your memorable clients.”
Also memorable are Jones’ revelations about himself and how as a scrawny, awkward teen, he excelled at weightlifting and bodybuilding. At age 18, he went into his first gay bar and, to his astonishment, discovered that men “would actually pay me to do what I wanted to do anyway.”
He likens being an escort to being a combat nurse: providing a needed comfort and service to men “showing the emotional battle scars of trying to live a life other than the one they want to live.” Jones emphasizes that escorting can be just as much about intimacy as it is about sex.
“Intimacy among men is so rare that when they find a place where they can get it, many men will do or pay anything ” Jones writes. “A good escort not only has sex but also provides joy to people who may not have much otherwise.”
These people, he reveals, have included a double amputee with diabetes, a blind man (whose guide dog obediently laid down in the corner during their sessions), Roman Catholic priests, a soldier returning to Iraq for another tour of duty, and a 50-year-old with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
Throughout “I Had to Say Something,” Jones comes across as moral and upstanding in his own way; a gentle soul who bonded with his mother almost becoming the daughter she never had and fearing his older brother’s unprovoked pummellings.
His anguish over Haggard comes across as genuine, as does his frustration at the various media outlets he approached. Editors and reporters alike were interested, but they wanted more concrete proof before they’d run his story.
Jones’ account may be a light read, easily devoured in a few sittings, but it’s far from lightweight. Rather than a salacious tell-all, it’s a thought-provoking account of the life of a sex worker, the unique dilemma that he faced, and the consequences of his heroic decision to expose an influential reverend’s hypocrisy.
As he observes tartly, “I suppose what really concerns me is how one of the world’s oldest and largest religions feels free to call me a whore while its followers have no problem taking advantage of my services.”
SEPARATED AT BIRTH?
If “American Pie” dynamo Seann William Scott, right, ever wants to break out of comedy, he’d make a good doppelganger for Rev. Ted Haggard.
Scott certainly has the mouth for the job.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 6, 2007.