film response: Public Service

A documentary about my life among the rent boys of Prague

As a fan and booster of documentary films and filmmakers for many years, it was a pleasure but also an odd experience to be the subject of one. Although it was released in 2010, it depicts events and people in my life from over 4 years ago when I still lived in Prague among the rent boys and the down ‘n’ outs. Existing as I am right now — in a kind of limbo between living and dying, movement and stasis, my day meted out in 12-hours segments defined by when I take my chemo drugs — seeing myself in those situations back when I still felt alive to the world — regardless of how much money I had or where I was sleeping — reminded me of what I’ve left behind and who I’ve lost.

Finnish director Markku Heikkinen became a friend of mine during his several trips to Prague filming his documentary feature, All Boys, about the gay adult video industry in the Czech Republic. As a result, he witnessed several stages of my life in Prague, including two episodes of homelessness and my long-running and rocky affair with a young gypsy boy named Marek. I never really understood why he was spending so much time with me since my connection with the porn industry was peripheral — I mostly dealt with rent boys, some of whom worked in porn but most of whom didn’t. I made a few jack-off videos but they were as much intended to introduce the boys and document the sort of life I had as they were to titillate others. Many of them are still on GayForIt. So, I wasn’t surprised when the footage about me and Marek didn’t make it into the feature. Instead, Markku cut a short film as a bonus for the DVD and called it Public Service.

Because of his intense interest in us, I suspected that Markku was infatuated both with the life he’d read about on my blog but also with the unique relationship I had with Marek. I don’t think it’s an uncommon attitude with documentarians (or with readers of my blog) to be so engaged with their subjects. Coupled with a refreshing lack of judgment (unlike his editor, who thought I was an asshole!), I found Markku easy to be with and serious about his subject. In other words, I trusted him. I think, one drunken night in a gay bar, we even came close to kissing.

Nevertheless, I was worried about what might come out of the footage. Would I look like a predatory asshole? A homeless pimp taking advantage of lost boys? A philanthropist?

None of the above, I think. Although the film couldn’t possibly indulge in detail and nuance — and if you want the full story you should read my blog (offline)– I think it’s a fair if rough portrait of me at a particular time in my life in Prague.

I share the spotlight with Lazlo who runs a non-profit social organization that helps “commercially sexually abused” boys. Although I doubt Lazlo approved of my self-gratifying approach to helping out the rent boys, he and I both share a contempt for the uncharitable nature of the Czechs.

One environmental element that’s left out completely in this documentary is the prevalence of piko, or methamphetamine, in the rent boy scene and in the Czech Republic, in general. Breaking Bad could very easily have been situated in CR.

Piko is one of the big reasons why some boys stay in the game.

Piko is the reason why some boys completely disintegrate while in the game.

Although I’m sure a few boys suffer psychological damage from having sold their bodies to foreign men — that’s certainly the convenient moral angle that the more stupid articles and films take when they address this issue — it’s far more likely that it’s drug addiction that brings them down to the bottom. Just ask anyone who’s been there.

Piko use certainly caused the most problems in my household. Marek stole from me a few times in order to score, and I suspect that’s at least one of the reasons why he got kicked out by his parents. Formerly reliable, loyal and affectionate kids become thieving monsters when they need a fix. All of the Romanians who lived with me avoided it but it was an issue with all of the gypsy boys I took care of. I had a zero tolerance policy for drugs in the flat and kicked out one boy — a very valued jack-off partner, comrade, cook and drinking buddy — when I discovered he was hiding a syringe in the toilet.

I always forgave Marek, however. For some reason, I made a commitment to him that as long as I had a home, he had a home. Until he stole from me, I kept it . But he didn’t always want it.

Piko use was probably a bigger issue than Markku wanted to tackle and would have violated the rather wistful vibe he establishes in Public Service. So, I understand that choice.

A few hours before writing this post, I showed the film to one of my freelancers for Juanele. Carla’s read a bit of my Prague blog and was quite interested to see some visuals to go along with the stories that fascinated her.

One of her first questions was: “Were you in love with Marek?”

“Oh, yes,” I answered, easily.

She also said something that I’ve been thinking about all afternoon and evening.

“Rick, you looked so happy! Radiant and serene, even.”

My old friend and Prague drinking buddy, Gordon, who can also be seen in a cameo at the end of the film, used to say that during my homeless period I looked to be “deliriously happy.”

Here in Argentina, my life is stable. I have a home, a job and I’m in charge of a project I’m very proud of. But, am I happy? No. Even before my colon ripped in two I couldn’t say I was happy. I suspect not being happy is why I waited so long to go the hospital.

There’s no adventure. No Czech beer. No sex with random boys.

No Marek.

You can watch Public Service here.

Marek, a Slovakian boy living in Prague, my lover