Embodying the colloquial cliché of disappointment justly affiliated with trying to make it as an actor in the barren sprawl of metropolitan Los Angeles had become a true exercise in masochism for twenty-eight year old Stefan Rogers — pronounced Stefón Rogé — among countless other children of the ’80s, to be sure.
The harsh truth that he was anything but alone in leading this touch-and-go existence didn’t help to lift his spirits — Stefan was not a believer of solidarity in numbers — indeed just the opposite. Knowing he could claim no more than enlistment as just another soldier in the infinite army of infinitesimal work ants toiling away on the dreadful, sunbathed colony that is service industry in LA only served to dampen them, his spirits, to the extent that he revisited thoughts of gruesome, theatrical suicide with unsettling regularity.
Dreams of West Hollywood fame give treacherous way to nightmares of East Hollywood anonymity in the ruthless cycle of auditioning, waiting and cold-hearted rejection which defines the world of show business.
Which, of course, was not uncommon for an aspiring actor of stage and film in the modern age, especially one whose secondary and tertiary forms of income were tending bar at a gay strip club five days a week, and dealing drugs any time the opportunity arose. These barely afforded Stefan rent and utilities for his East LA apartment — short of commodious — which was on the top floor of a four story walkup housing a motley collection of misfits identifiable as either a) junkies suffering from various addictive maladies; or b) couples suffering from audibly abusive relationships.
Provided the meager revenue stream his acting career had afforded thus far ($3,025 over the course of six years, earned by playing an extra or one-liner in a string of hellaciously cheesy box-office flops or similarly affected low-budget indie films, respectively), Stefan resorted to less dignified methods of securing money for groceries, car payments — a white man can scarcely survive without a car in LA — insurance and the like.
Left to his own rather limited devices, Stefan made use of below-the-belt endowment and delicate good looks to support the prohibitively extortionate habits of freelance acting and freebase coke. Being above averagely attractive in LA, however, is something like being the tallest dwarf in Singapore, or the thinnest patient at a Dallas liposuction clinic.
There is simply no standing out in a city that’s multi-billion dollar industry so heavily relies on the outrageous, nigh incredible vapidity of its wealthier inhabitants. He was alright for a totally anonymous actor, claiming a A- in facial symmetry, solid B in upper body definition, but straight C+’s across the rest of his physical report card.
When it came to performance, he received top marks. As did his clean bill of urological health, having miraculously avoided the rampaging scourge of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and countless other undesirable STD’s which has presided over Los Angeles since the early ’50s.
Unrepentant, limitless disdain for the term “gigolo” did nothing to change the reality and nature of his moonlit occupation. Nor, it must be said, did that hatred impede his talent for it. Stefan’s artificial passion, authentic stamina, and astronomical threshold for depravity and degradation made him something of a sought after commodity among LA’s moderately jet set/recently divorced (female, transgender, or otherwise).
The fact of the matter was that prostitution — literal streetwalking, at that — as a means of gainful employment, while fairly lucrative, yielded some unfortunate consequences for Stefan, whose legal name, Stephen Andrew Rogers (christened to him by loving, devoutly Baptist parents) was legally forsaken upon moving out west, after graduating from close-to-home Texas Christian University with a Bachelor’s in Film Studies and minor in Photography.
This was only one of the many vain and unsuccessful efforts he made to appear more enticing on his acting CV, including but not exclusive to: expensive haircuts, eyebrow threading, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and many more pseudo-beautification procedures he could not even remotely afford.
In true prima donna fashion, he snorted and/or mainlined more cocaine than he sold, as is common for inexperienced drug dealers/struggling actors. Too, the sustained act of whoring his body in ways most demeaning to genitalia and self-esteem alike had taken a serious toll on his sexual identity and personal integrity — which could, in fairness and retrospect, have qualified as being foreseeable.
Anatomically diverse forms of sodomy had become an unseemly reality of day-to-day life for this unsuspecting gigolo, the sordid acts of which had torn his physical and emotional being asunder. And, though inescapably oppressed by feelings of despair and self-pity, he remained conscious of how many misfortunate souls were faced with this very same predicament in the proverbial City of Angels.
His was a middling tale of aspiration and desperation, try as he might to convince himself of its Odyssean heroism; and the despondency of that tale left him feeling resigned to the inexorable fate of hooking, bar tending, and endless intake of cocaine steadily dwindling in both quantity and quality.
Like many in his generation, Stefan’s favorite film was Fight Club — and favorite antihero, Tyler Durden — which he reviewed on a bimonthly basis in study and a fervent effort to keep the ember of hope burning that he may yet one day achieve the transcendent, demi-God status of Hollywood golden boy, Mr. Brad Pitt.
Regrettably, the only discernible aspect of the film to which Stefan could actually claim relation was the now overworked but resiliently memorable line from its gloriously unhinged protagonista, Marla Singer, who immortally proclaimed condoms as being “the glass slipper of our generation”.
Prophylactics, as most of us in the world of sexual proclivity should imagine, are not thought of with affection by perverts and pimps the world over. Stefan could charge 150% more for unprotected sex, and every time rent day was nearing, he found himself more worryingly open to the notion following weeks of gratuitous spending on manscaping and nose candy.
Such was the man’s harrowing state of affairs, which translated into his contraction of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus in September of 2009 (just over ten years after the box-office release of his beloved cult classic). The carnal culprit was a charming, handsomely bronzed young graphic designer of Filipino descent who went by Danny (given name Danilo Reyes); he was a top to Stefan’s power bottom, and socially/aesthetically masculine in ways which made it easier for said bottom to enjoy the visceral nature of the experience.
The agreed upon sum was $400 for three hours of intense, unbridled pleasure, more than either had ever made or spent on a John previously. The real cost of the encounter for both, though somewhat grotesque to denote, was the incurable disease borne of it. The benefit revealed itself to be a poetic and sincere romance which flourished defiantly in the face of its clinical deadline.
Danilo had gone without screening or blood work for upwards of eighteen months prior to the night of their heated, passionate union; he had not been showing symptoms, and so was not privy to his contagion. Their grief and remorse were mutual and profound after learning — months later, in late November — that they were going to die. Stefan’s immune system, having already sustained considerable damage from prolonged intravenous drug use, was hindered to less effective resistance than that of his partner.
Against very considerable odds, the two quickly became close friends and ardent lovers, once having worked through initial denial and fury regarding their shared condition. Stefan proceeded to move into Danny’s commodious North Hollywood condo, thereby fulfilling his lifelong dream in part; and further, relying solely on his unlikely newfound paramour for moral and financial support through the next eleven months of life, which — though painful and sweet — would be his last.
Back in sleepy Fort Worth, TX, the ultimately failed actor’s friends and family were devastated to learn of his death in October of 2010. Consumed by rage and grief, the Rogers blindly laid blame to Danilo, indulging in senseless vilification of the only living soul who had intimately known the dearly departed for the latter portion of his life, and acted courageously enough to inform them of the circumstances leading up to Stephen’s death.
Potentially anomalous, determinately transient, their love had been real, if Shakespearean in its agonizing brevity. Danilo elected not to pursue treatment for his illness, instead following Stefan two years after their first night together; he passed on his own terms, in their apartment, gazing with peaceful bliss and wonderment at the gently caressing warmth of a sublime and cloudless autumn day in sunny Los Angeles.