Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent (Tenth Anniversary)

by David Henry Sterry

List Price: $15.95
Paperback | 6 x 8.9, 256 pages | ISBN 9781593765279

I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs.

It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.

Here is a story like no other: The unforgettable chronicle of a season spent walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within his first week looking for off-campus housing on Sunset Boulevard he was lured into a much darker world — servicing the lonely women of Hollywood by night.

Chicken–the word is slang for a young male prostitute–revisits this year of living dangerously, in a narrative of dazzling inventiveness and searing candor. Shifting back and forth from tales of Sterry’s youth–spent in the awkward bosom of a disintegrating dysfunctional family–to his fascinating account of the Neverland of post–sixties sexual excess, Chicken teems with Felliniesque characters and set pieces worthy of Dionysus. And when the life finally overwhelms Sterry, his retreat from the profession will leave an indelible mark on readers’ minds and hearts.

A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.

—Bert Lee, English songwriter

Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.

—Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.

—Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

Jawdropping... A carefully crafted piece of work...

—Book News

Insightful and funny... captures Hollywood beautifully

—Larry Mantle, NPR’s

Sterry writes with comic brio ... [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.

—Janet Maslin, New York Times

This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles...  A very easy, exciting book to read — as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S. Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for?

—Irish Times

A beautiful book... a real work of literature.


Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy. Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach. He never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time — a desire that Sterry fulfills.

—Publishers Weekly

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