|A Review By Charles L. Green|
|A Place Like This by Mark S. King
Mark S. King crammed a lot of living into the 1980s as evidenced in his new memoir A Place Like This. A slim 180 pages, King's, dizzying, rollercoaster tell-all takes us on his daze and dark nights in Hollywood's drugs, sex (sans rock and roll) gay culture.
The real bon mots in his memoir are not the passages about drugs, sex, celebrity boinking, or the AIDS crisis. Most of us old enough to read have been there either vicariously or personally. Rather, the gems lie in King's ability to take us to places we've probably never been and to evoke heartfelt childhood memories.
He opens with his hilarious 1980 appearance on The Price is Right, where his feathered and hairsprayed red hair snaps "like an orange sheet over a bed" as he jumps up and down in excitement. His phone sex service business, a unique phenomenon of the 80s before internet and 900 numbers killed it, is fascinating as he fulfills a man's (and occasionally a woman's) fantasy of the perfect lover over the phone. King takes you through the calls pretending to be what the customer wants in a man to get off. King never shares his customer's carnal pleasure; he's too busy satisfying an itch inside his broken leg cast with a ruler or playing cards with buddies with the help of the phone's mute button: "Talk dirty. Push. Ask for another drink. Release. Ask what they are wearing." He becomes a successful entrepreneur, buying a condo with his earnings and calling it "The House That Jack-Off Built."
Halfway through his memoir, King reminisces about his dad teaching him to build a box kite when he was a kid. It is a quiet moment, very reminiscent of the kite-flying ending in Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. He also nails his experience as a 10-year-old sissy of an Air Force Colonel lip-synching to Gwen Verdon's "Who's Got the Pain When They Do the Mambo?" at one of his mother's coffee klatches. These memories are so delicately detailed and emotionally rich, I wish King had done the same with his Hollywood experiences.
King's AIDS passages have a familiarity to them, yet his cockeyed perspective keeps them interesting as he describes two friends dying simultaneously as "a ghoulish race...to the finish line" or compares the sound of a friend's death rattle to a percolating Mr. Coffee.
Did Hollywood corrupt Mark King? While King never says he was a victim of Hollywood, he never says he wasn't either. His Web site www.marksking. com answers the question somewhat; though he left Los Angeles in 1993, drugs and relationships have continued to challenge him.
King certainly has talent; his graceful and powerful gift of describing his growing up years is proof enough for me that maybe pre-Hollywood is where his literary heart lies. I hope one day he will take us there.
Charles L. Green is an Atlanta-basedwriter and award-winning public relations professional.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 01 Februay 08, 2008