Street of Broken Dreams

Street of Broken Dreams
by Ricardo Rios

Oh my god! "Look at those hookers at the bus stop! They are so gross! I would never associate with people like that," exclaimed a friend of mine. I replied to him, "Oh man, just leave 'em alone."

We'd always seen prostitutes out on the streets, and we usually just ignored them. So when I heard my friend's comment, it left me dumfounded.

As we headed for a nightclub on Santa Monica Blvd., I tried to forget my friend's words, but it got me to wonder about the guys and transvestites who hang out by street corners and bus stops. What are they all about? Are they tricking (hustling)? Are they homeless? Are they QV, straight, or bisexual? What are they actually doing? My inquisitiveness and curiosity gave me an idea-why not interview a few hookers?

I dropped my friend along with some of my other friends off at the club, and I went back to talk to these gente. As I drove back down the boulevard, I started having reservations, but my curiosity of getting to know these "street walkers" was too strong to deny. I came to the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Gower where I noticed two young men standing by a bus stop. I made a right on Gower, parked my car, and started walking over towards the two guys. As I approached them, I began to notice that they looked just like any other person I would associate with. The first guy had a nice clean shaven face, and he wore a white button-up shirt with black cords. He had that typical rebel look that I would go for myself. The second guy had a moustache and smooth silky skin. He was wearing blue jeans that were torn on the knees, a backward-turned cap, and a nice shirt that I could just imagine Ricky Ricardo wearing.

When I got up to them, I took a deep breath and said, "What's up?"
"Nothin' much," the first guy said as the second guy looked at me and smiled.
"I hope I don't offend you, but if you wouldn't mind, could I ask the both of you for an interview for a Latino magazine?" I nervously asked.
"Sh*t, are you really from a magazine-or some cop?" the first guy asked.
"No, seriously I am from a Latino magazine!"
"Okay, no problem. So bring it on!"
"Great," I thought to myself. "They trust me." So many questions, so little time.
We shook hands and formally introduced ourselves. The first guy was named David, a 20-year-old Los Angeles resident. He had been on the boulevard on and off. Originally, he started working the boulevard to support his drug habit, but now he said he just liked to kick it with his homies on the streets. The second guy was named Johnathan, an 18-year-old who, also, had been tricking the boulevard on and off. He said he only tricked when he needed the money. I proceeded to ask both David and Jonathan more personal questions.

Okay guys. So when did you start tricking (hustling)?
David: Eight months ago, but actually at the age of 16 on and off.
Jonathan: Six months ago.

What led you to start tricking?
D: Drugs. I didn't know how to support my drug habit, and I didn't want to steal money from my family, so I came to the boulevard.
J: My family was giving me sh*t, and they told me to leave or just deal with it-so I left.

David, so you do it for the drugs? Are most of the hustlers doing it for the drugs?
D: Yeah, most of them are. The ones that are not doing it for the drugs are the lucky ones. They can get out quicker.
J: But there are some that do it because (they were) kicked out of their house. I, personally, don't drink, smoke, or do drugs. I bet some of your readers will be surprised to hear that.

So how did you get into tricking, and how did you feel the first time you did it?
J: My boyfriend (got me started). The first time I felt like, "What the hell am I doing this for?" I was hella scared.

Has tricking affected your sex life and your sexuality?
D: Yeah, for me it definitely has. Now when I meet guys who actually want to date me, I can't help but think that they are just totally in it for the sex. Also, when I am with someone, I am afraid of them because I get anxious. I think they are f**king around like how I used to f**k around. Automatically, if they don't call me at a certain time that they say they are going to call, I start tripping. I'll start calling them 20 million times. As for my sexuality, I have a real low self of esteem of being QV. I've always thought of myself as QV. My mom never understood that I was QV. She would blind herself of me being QV .
J: No, not me because my boyfriend got me into it, and I know that I am undoubtedly QV. By the way, I'm still in my relationship with him. He's pretty much gotten his life straight, so he's stopped tricking.

So how does your boyfriend feel about you still tricking?
J: He understands my situation. I have an apartment and a lease to pay, which he knows I can't break. I wouldn't be doing it (hustling) if I had a regular job.

When you've been tricking, have you ever done it with more than one person?
D: Yeah, I have and it has been with a few famous people. I wasn't actually tricking back then, but I guess it was-because I was dressed real cut as I was walking to my friend's house. I noticed a limo that passed me up three times, and then it finally stopped. I went up to talk to the driver and then I got inside the car, into the front seat. The driver rolled down the back window and as I was looking in the rear view mirror, I saw there were people in the back seat. I said, "Oh my God." It was a famous person and his boyfriend. We then had a foursome.

Did you feel cheap afterwards?
D: Not necessarily because of the drugs. It also f**ked with my ego because I was picked up by someone famous. I thought I was all that.

Jonathan, what makes you keep doing this and if you could go back, would you have started tricking in the first place?
J: Well, I had a job but I lost it a couple of weeks ago so I had to get back into it (hustling). I do have money saved up, so I only do it sometimes to support myself. About tricking, no I would not have done it. I do regret it, but it did get me things. I'm not saying material things are everything, but considering the situation I was in when I started, I needed a place to stay. I had friends that would let me stay with them, but I can't stand staying with people and going from home to home to home because people get tired of you no matter how nice you are and how much you've cleaned their house. I did try the job thing. I applied, applied, and applied but never got a call back. Time was running out, and I needed money somehow. If I had a legitimate job offer then I would stop tricking right now.

Do you see yourself doing this in say 5 or 10 years?
J: Hell no! I see myself out of it within a year.

Then what do you see yourself doing in a year?
J: In a career or in college. I'm not sure what kind of career, but I've always wanted to do photography.

Doing what you do, would you do porn films?
J: I've been approached, but hell no, I wouldn't do it. That's something that would come back to me. I do have a family and a life.

What if a rich guy pulled up and wanted you to live with him. Would you do it?
J: Actually it has happened to me. This Italian guy paid me $200 just to hold my hand and stare at me for an hour. He wanted me to move to Las Vegas with him.
D: That's why they call West Hollywood "Boystown." Rich guys used to put their boys up in apartments and condos in West Hollywood, aside from their wives.

Does that tempt for you not to get a regular job?
J: Money is not everything. If you don't love the person, how can you live with yourself? And live the life of a kept boy? I can't do that. I need to love a person and care for that person.

In that case would you tell people not to get into it?
J: Depends on their situation.

What about if they were underage-say like 16?
J: At that age I would definitely never suggest tricking. Being at that age there is a lot of help out there, especially with agencies that a lot of people don't know about. I would definitely refer them to those agencies.

How do you feel when you see people drive by, make faces, and look down on you?
J: I got the attitude that they don't pay my bills. I mean, I know what I'm doing is not right, but it does pay my bills. They can talk all the sh*t they want, but they don't pay my bills. (Laughs) They don't do sh*t for me. I don't care if they pass by and laugh or whatever. I consider this a part time job .

What about friends that don't know you hustle. What would you say if they asked you?
J: Well my motto is, "If I'm going to do something, then I'm not going to be ashamed of it." I'm not going to tell people what I do, but if they ask, then I will. If they see me on the boulevard, I won't deny it. Nobody's really confronted me, but as I said, I will tell them if they ask.

Any last words you'd like to let our readers know and understand about why you trick?
J: Everyone's situation is different. The general public's perspective may be that, "I would never do that." But I want people to see my perspective. I had to do what I had to do to keep myself from being homeless. I guess you can say I copped out. They shouldn't put down everyone that's doing it or has done it. Everyone has reasons. Time was running out for me. I couldn't find a job, my rent was due, and the whole route of looking for a legitimate job didn't work out for me.
D: This is for people thinking of doing it: stay away from it as much as you can. If it has crossed your mind, give yourself ten good reasons why you should and shouldn't do it. Think logically about it. There are always open doors. If I could take anyone out of this life, I would. Just try to stay away from it. If you know anyone that is doing it, try to support them because once you're in it, it's just like a black hole, and it's hard to get out. If you can help one person, it will make a big difference. The truth is no one really wants to be here.

In closing, while it is true that most of us see prostitutes only from a distance, few are willing to understand their motives; few are willing to see their hearts and minds. Since I got a chance to speak to them, I've realized that if you take away the prostitute career, they are like each and everyone of us. They have future goals. They have a mind. They have a heart. I have total respect for them as individuals and thank them for answering the why's of hustling-a different side that most of us never get to see.

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