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David Vass
David Vass, author
In the 50s, gays took on stereotypical roles David Vass did not embrace. “I wasn’t a top, bottom, butch or fem - I scared the shit out of all the homos I met!” Entertaining, humorous, and shocking, he reveals secrets of the record labels (how he became a mafia money runner), juicy, never-before-told anecdotes about legendary celebrities - Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Golden Globe and Tony award winners that he technical directed. Over 100 World Class difficult personalities were kept in line by Vass. Many shared their secrets with him. “At seven, I stopped talking for two years because of a speech impediment and started writing. Diaries were the first of my addictions. I wrote down everything that happened to me for seven decades. These outrageous experiences are the bones of my book; I hope none of the mobsters I knew will leave a horse’s head in my bed!” David’s story is still relevant, given today’s political backpedaling of our civil liberties. His life is raunchy, hilarious, twisted, and brutally honest. A laugh-out-loud page-turner: gay little boy of the 50s, stumbles into the dangerous world of strip clubs in the 60s where he learned his talent as a technical director. Working the hottest clubs and iconic theatres, record labels lined up to contract him for his ‘celebrity-whisperer’ talents and his connections to the mob in the 70s. The fun he had in prison; “best sex of my life”, thrills with pills, robbing his mother in drag thinking she wouldn’t recognize him. She did. His salacious adventures in a pre-AIDs world. A homo-hobo, Vass’s mash-up is brutally honest and a cautionary tale laced with inspiration.

Semi Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.75 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Vass has crafted a deliciously salacious chronicle of his life story, from his impoverished and challenging childhood (he knew he was gay and also struggled with a severe speech impediment) through to his time as a road manager, technical director, Hollywood lighting/sound designer, performer, and activist. Vass recounts his story with panache and honest self-reflection, making this work hard, if not impossible, to put down.

Prose: Vass has a clear, concise, and buoyant prose style that is filled with both wry humor and surprising tenderness. The work has a steady, even pace, and the author shows a knack for keeping readers invested on every page.

Originality: In addition to chronicling his encounters and friendships with actors, jazz musicians (Nina Simone, Anita O'Day), and other celebrities, Vass offers readers a fascinating, literal 'behind-the-scenes' glimpse into the nuts and bolts of music and theater productions. 

Character/Execution: Vass writes candidly and openly about both his personal and professional endeavors, struggles with addiction, sexual relationships (even those that lasted a night), and his lifelong refusal to become confined to a label. Though the racy bits are engaging and often hilarious, most impactful are the touching anecdotes he shares about his close friends, seemingly larger-than-life individuals who, nevertheless, face their own demons and quiet tragedies.

Date Submitted: January 19, 2024