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Naked Ink
“Everyone has read about the journey of famous actors. But what about the thousands of actors who struggle to survive the dog-eat-dog actor’s life in New York City and never reach fame and fortune? \t Welcome to the nitty-gritty life of an actor cum art model in all its naked glory; the story of an illegal alien’s journey to America, a sex-addicted bisexual, hell-bent on making something happen for himself in NYC, circa 1980.”
In this intimate epic of a diary/memoir, Maxwell (Thomas: A Novel, among other fiction, poetry, memoirs, and more) offers an immersive tour of his adventures in New York City at the end of the 1970s, after moving from Toronto. Presenting vintage diary entries of notable frankness (“I can honestly say it’s the vilest thing I’ve ever woken up to yet!”), as well as some contemporary commentary for context and insight, Maxwell details his efforts to make it as an actor in a city of lofts and sleazy talent agents and endless possibility, while also looking for love, studying Hebrew, working as an art model, engaging in some sex he relished and some he regretted, and navigating the bureaucratic tangle of immigration laws.

Occasionally, life on stage matches up with his life off it: “I’m playing a bisexual Frenchman afraid of losing his student visa, trying to woo this girl while having this male lover around. And ... in real life, I’m a bisexual of French descent, having an affair with a woman for legit reasons, but slowly falling in love with the guy who just happens to be my lover in the play, all while being petrified of anyone in the production finding out my illegal status.” That passage exemplifies Naked Ink’s ethos of pluck in the face of challenges, the storytelling steeped in an irresistible milieu, offering both rich personal and cultural histories.

Maxwell offers delicious offhand memories like “fooling around with this Orthodox Jew” in the bathroom of the Bleecker Street subway station—“payess and all”—between fascinating asides about heartache, auditioning, and long-gone restaurants, plays, theaters, and people. The material’s often dense, and only occasionally dramatic, but lovers of New York cultural history and epigrammatic journals (“I was offered the part of Jean-Pierre in Quadrille for Equity Library Theatre’s Informal Series. It’s so informal we hardly get paid”) will find much to savor.

Takeaway: This journal from late ‘70s New York City dives deeply into theater, sex, life, and priceless cultural history.

Great for fans of: Tim Dlugos’s New York Diary, Allan Tannenbaum’s New York in the 70s: SoHo Blues, A Personal Photographic Diary.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A