OUT ON THE BAYOU
APRIL 28, 2000 • HOUSTON VOICE
Out In Print
Memoirs of a philosophizing hustler
by J.S. HALL
Like many a young man before him,
Rick Whitaker left his home in the
Midwest for the bright lights of New York
City. But unlike many of those hypothetical young men, Whitaker's journey took
darker and more twisted directions, as a
series of misfortunes led him to hustling.
ASSUMING THE POSITION chronicles his descent into this netherworld
and eventual emergence to the path of
recovery. In many respects, Whitaker differed from the stereotypical hustler. A
college dropout who had studied philosophy, he wrote book reviews and a
novel, proofread manuscripts and dabbled in classical music.
But then jobs started falling through,
the novel kept getting rejected, and his
boyfriend Tom broke up with him. What
began as a one-time act of getting back at
his ex soon escalated into a full-time job;
Whitaker's drug use increased.
While some might argue that he was
debasing himself, the author contends that
"hustling, at least at the time 1 began doing
it full time, seemed more like an effective
way to earn money than a spiritual or
Indeed, he sees nothing wrong with
'Assuming the Position: A
Memoir of Hustling'
By Rick Whitaker
Four Walls Eight Windows, hardcover,
192 pages, $18
paying money for good sex, any more than
exchanging money for a sumptuous meal
or to see a favorite performer in concert.
True, he could earn in a few hours what
others would earn in a week, but his
expensive drug addiction—which deadened his emotions so he could continue
hustling—ate all the profit and left him
back at the beginning of an increasingly
To some, the idea of hustling holds a
certain sleazy glamour; "Assuming the
Position" pops this bubble with cool, semidetached prose. Whitaker insists he didn't
set out to de-glamorize the "profession,"
but you can't help being simultaneously
repelled yet morbidly fascinated by some
of his less-than-savory encounters.
Most involved older, far-from-attractive men with unpleasant habits—like a
coked-up doctor; a psychologist who
ought to have seen a shrink himself; a successful lawyer with serious self-esteem
issues; and a computer geek with a pen-
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chant for oversized dildos.
But Whitaker makes an important point
that every man somewhere, somehow has
some erotic characteristic about him, and
only by focusing on that element was he
able to complete some of his transactions.
The product of a broken home,
Whitaker partially attributes his hustling
as a way of reaching out to his absent
father, which makes more sense in the
book than it might in this review, and as a
way of both feeling something intense and
losing himself at the some time.
He quotes liberally from Freud,
Nietzsche, Thoreau, Leonard Woolf and
Wittgenstein, using their words to illustrate some of his particular, peculiar situations. The chapters alternate with
entries from his journals of the time,
which reflect his often strung out,
depressed state of mind.
He freely admits that the spiral of his
life "felt good—even the going downward,
especially the going downward. It was
relaxing and easy."
But now that he's sober and no longer
hustling, he still doesn't play what-if
"It was an interesting experience," he
writes, "but not, in itselt, nearly so interesting as life is for me now....
"Prostitution is inelegant, and I have
always wanted to be an example of a certain kind of elegance, ... [the kind] resulting from the undistracted observation of
one's own vigorous thinking.
Thoughtlessness is the crimen—or the sin—
that comes before all others, and hustling
requires it," Whitaker concludes.
Those seeking a sexy account of hustling encounters are advised to look elsewhere. But readers interested in an oddly
exploration of a dark descent and ultimate
escape would do well to pick up
"Assuming the Position."
What your neighbors
are reading . . .
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by Kenneth George, $13.95
2 Get Happy:
The Life of Judy Garland
by Gerald Clarke, $29.95
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by Gerald Clarke, $29.95
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by Balle Wayne, $18.95
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