I knew I'd hit a touchy subject as soon as he started massaging my right buttock.
I lay face-down on a massage table in a Willamette Week conference room; the man giving me a rubdown was Mike Jones. Jones is the Denver-based masseur and escort who last fall brought down Ted Haggard, the anti-gay Colorado pastor and president of the 3-million-strong National Association of Evangelicals—an organization with ties to Bush and, lo and behold, male prostitutes. Because of his "job," I asked Jones if he'd give me a massage instead of just an interview for his book, I Had to Say Something, which he was in town to promote.
Jones said this was the first massage he'd given since going public. As I took off my pants, Jones asked if he could take off his shirt. His 50-year-old physique hid his age well, except for his eyes, which looked tired as he talked of his past (he first got paid for sex while in his teens) and patrons, including preachers like Haggard who made up 15 percent of his clientele and paid his $200 fee in ones and fives. "It's sad," he said as he worked his hands down my back. "I knew it was from the collection plate."
Far from a hard-shelled hooker, Jones was sensitive to what both he and Haggard have gone through. "Neither of us won in this situation," said Jones. If Pastor Ted's life has been hell since he was outed as a hypocrite, so has Jones' for being a narc. "I've lost everything," said Jones. "People [in Denver] hate I'm getting all this attention, especially gay people. They're jealous."
His touch become faint as he spoke of the isolation he feels from his fellow queers, who, he says, turned on him as soon as the story broke. Far from being a heroic grand marshal of pride parades, Jones says he's the pariah of a group he's tried hard to protect: "Could it have hurt the Human Rights Campaign to call me up and say, 'Mike, are you OK?'" As he spoke of spending holidays alone, I had to remind myself I wasn't talking to Mother Teresa. This was a man who turned tricks for cash, and who had a book to sell. Still....
"I'm a good person," says Jones. "I would do anything for anybody." In his 256-page tell-all, he writes of patrons with AIDS and double amputations. "Those men needed me. I was there for them." Including Haggard. Sharing thoughts of taking his own life, he seemed more concerned about Pastor Ted killing himself. "I wouldn't have survived if he'd committed suicide."
As he pawed at my back, I felt he was trying to pick a scab. "I'm 50 years old and lost. I'd love to get massaged for a change instead of massaging everyone else. But, for the most part, sex bores me." This from a man who continued to touch my ass every time I asked a hard question. "My body's been my calling card, but it's also been a curse because people just use you and throw you away when they're done playing with you. There's more to Mike Jones than just that part."
So, how was the massage? It really sucked. But somehow Jones still got under my skin. And that is what I call a happy ending.