“Don’t mention this on the blog!”
That wasn’t the first thing Williams Higgins, gay-porn empresario and noumenon of Prague gay expatrimony, said to me, but it was the most emphatic.
Well, he was also adamant that Windows computers were better than Macs, the opposite of which I sometimes self-righteously argued on my Prague-based blog, which was mostly about my life with and love for the Mother of Cities’ rent boys.
“I tried to outfit a new Mac Pro to match the PCs I’ve used in the past, to get everything I wanted, to do everything I needed, but I couldn’t. And they’re so damned expensive!”
I was going to argue with him, and even opened my mouth to do so, but instead I just shrugged and sipped my coffee. At that point in the conversation, I hadn’t yet found out what our arranged meeting was about, although I had my hopes, and I didn’t want to annoy him.
Earlier that morning, I had been awakened in my sleeping bag in Stromovka Park with a phone call from an unknown number. This wasn’t unusual, as random men often called me asking me to hook them up with a boy later in the day or to put a boy on a train to Berlin or to see if so-and-so could meet him at Villa Mansland on Sunday. Or whatever.
“This is Mirek, Bill Higgins’ personal assistant. He want to know if you are available to see him for coffee in some hours,” said a thready, male, Czech voice in English. I don’t remember what the assistant’s name was, but Mirek seems like a good bet. The “Bill” threw me for a second.
What the fuck? I thought. Is this a joke? Or a trap?
I had certainly made enemies in Prague and some local punter or another was always threatening me with jail time or a beatdown for something I had written on the blog. But, I hadn’t taken any of the threats seriously and none of the sexpats cared.
But, still, I was suspicious. My number was on the blog, and some of my friends in the scene knew Higgins, so getting my number would have been easy.
So, I hung up without replying, without thinking, just reacting.
Immediately, my dirty, blue-grey Nokia 3310 buzzed again.
I answered, “Ano?” and got the same spiel from the same young dude, although this time he queried doubtfully, “This is GB?”
I answered yes and agreed to meet.
Three hours or so later, after visiting the Station to find someone to tell the news to and failing, I was sitting in an outdoor cafe on the castle-side of the Vltava River, waiting for one of the preeminent, bootstrapped gay porn producers in the history of the industry.
As usual, I was broke, and hadn’t had a chance to work the station yet. So I ordered a coffee on faith.
Eventually, a big, pear-shaped man with sparse white hair like spackle on his pinkish pate, wearing a light-blue plaid long-sleeved shirt and khakis slowly crossed the street — I didn’t see where he had come from, but the cafe was around the corner from Drake’s, one of Prague’s four gay rent-boy bars at the time and the one that Higgins had a stake in — and approached my table.
I stood up, he extended his hand, and we shook.
“Hi, GB, I’m Bill Higgins. I’ve read a lot about you,” he said, and gave me a small smile and a nod.
I wish I could say that we hit it off, or created a rapport in a short time, but, although he was kind and attentive, he had a habit of saying a few sentences while looking off into the distance, or into his coffee, and then, just before the period, settling his gaze on me.
I felt I was being gauged or… challenged. For what end, I had no idea, but in any case, I didn’t go for the bait. My time in Prague had taught me that few acts of charity from locals, even a coffee or a beer, came without expectations, usually as encouragement to leave the donor out of whatever I was writing at the time. (This iteration of the blog corrects that somewhat.)
Although it was clear he had been reading me, based on certain of his sly asides, we didn’t talk about it directly nor mention my homelessness at the time. (There was probably more than one reason why we were meeting outside.) I was grateful for that. Despite the detail I went into describing my destitution, in person I was embarrassed about it.
He did at one point imperiously brag that he could get a straight Czech guy to do anything for money, based on his experience during casting-couch interviews. He’s not the first of my contacts in Prague to say something similar. My old friend Camp Chris was better at it, I think, or least more creative and courageous, since he just chose random guys he saw at the Station to see how far they would go, and Higgins relied on self-selected porn prospects who were already geared to take their clothes off.
Other than those brief topics, Bill Higgins didn’t say that much, and we were together less than an hour. Once I saw him wipe his mouth and fold his napkin, I knew our meeting was at an end. As he gathered his things, he reached into a small shoulder pouch and pulled out an envelope. After giving it to me, he eased up out of his chair and shook my hand again.
“Take care of yourself, GB, and I hope you enjoy yourself in Karlovy Vary,” he said with a tight smile of those thin, purple lips, and ambled off.
I waited until I was on the tram back to the station to open the envelope, which contained $5000 CZK, or about $250 USD at the time. $5000 would buy you a “premium” boy at Escape. It would get you ten boys at the station. But I hadn’t been planning on buying boys.
Instead, I’d been fundraising on the blog, trying to get enough money to enjoy myself at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. I’d been nearly every year of my time in Prague. This year, down ‘n’ out as I was, coming up with the cash to get me there was proving to be difficult.
With Higgins’s donation, I bought a tent, a train ticket, and many, many pivos. Without that tent, I would have been miserable since the festival takes place during CR’s rainy season. I might not have even gone.
I never heard from Bill again, but it felt good to receive something without strings and that one of the old-timers read me regularly.
You should, too, shouldn’t you?
Pro tip: Yearly supporters get bonuses.
Williams Higgins died in 2019 of a heart attack. I regret not questioning him more about the old days in Prague. The stories of the Prague gay underground have yet to be written, but my writing is a substantial contribution.
Written with StackEdit.