Brandon D. Christopher, Author
Within the first 10 pages ofBrandon Christopher's Dirty Little Altar Boy, a black-rubber dildo makes an appearance, a church's Eucharist wafers get stolen, and young Brandon reveals that he has to wear two pairs of underwear to deal with the anxieties of sixth grade. That's when you start to realize that you're not reading the standard collection of childhood reflections, but are perusing the memories of a great storyteller, one with the ability to inject the pacing of a high-octane thriller to boyhood shenanigans. And that's just in his 13th year of life! Imagine what happens when Christopher applies that same talent to tales of the forty-plus jobs he's worked, robbings he's survived, or his four-year stint as a professional writer of erotica.
When did you first begin your career as a writer?
I realized on an acid trip at the age of 17 that I wanted to be a writer. I was at the Copper Penny, which used to be a 24-hour diner near Warner Brothers, when the realization hit me. I wrote mostly poems and short stories back then, but didn’t ever send anything out till about eight years later. I was in that early literary phase that all male writers go through—the Bukowski phase. Everything you write has “I was so drunk” and “leave me alone” all throughout. I got better in my late-20s and switched to screenplays. Then my first short story was actually purchased at the age of 30, and everything started falling into place. I started getting published more, started getting paying writing work, and then began my illustrious 4-year career in erotica before publishing my first novel.
One of my favorite lines in Dirty Little Altar Boy is when you described one of the two bullies in your grade as having "A smile that made you shit yourself". What sort of smile is that, exactly?
“The smile that made you shit yourself” was very similar to an Eric Estrada smile. Imagine dark Hispanic skin surrounding a deathly white smile; the eyes squint to two razors under black eyebrows, and those thin pink lips pull back tight against the face. His crooked teeth were like weathered stones on a beach, each with their own story of “kicking some geek ass.” The smile was indeed dangerous—as dangerous as they came in junior high. You just knew there was something lurking behind the teeth.
At another point, the bullies asked you if you'd rather have, "Splinters in your mouth or a wooden pecker?" Is this one of those verbal tricks little kids like to play on one another?
Yes, the “splinters in your mouth” question was one of those things kids in the 1980s used to ask each other to dictate which crowd you ran with: the cool kids or the chumps. I think it was the equivalent of having a yellow star on your shirt in 1940s Berlin. To be honest, I didn’t even figure out what it meant till going to public high school a few years after. It’s pretty clever—at least a lot cleverer than asking a kid to measure his hand against his face, then slamming his own hand into his face when he does. The “splinters” question had moxie. It even touched on existentialism, if you ask me.
What ever became of the bullies, as well as your friends Javier and Marshal?
You know, I have no idea what happened to those bullies. I can imagine them either in state prison or with four or five kids apiece. As for Javier, I like to think that he raised a little family somewhere, and maybe works on his "friggin' bitchin'" Chevy in the driveway on weekends. Marshall, well, I know Marshall is wealthy by now. I don't really know that, but sometimes you just get that feeling, even when you're 13. He had a wealthy smile, even as a kid.
One of the most intense stories in the collection was, "Count to Ten, Alter Boy," where your brother has his shirt ripped by a bully and comes to you for advice. As the bully approaches your brother, seemingly to provide another pummeling, you tell him to drop the N-Bomb as his defense. What inspired this decision?
I have no idea what made me tell my defenseless little brother to call that kid the "N" word. Actually, that particular story was sort of my apology to him...20 years late. Most older brothers would defend their little brother with their fists; some would quickly illustrate to the younger sibling how to throw a punch. My particular theory was to insult the bully into submission with a racial epithet. My little brother got his ass kicked hard, and I got a good short story out of it. And in a strange turn of events, my advice actually worked. That little bastard never bothered my little brother again--at least, not that I heard of. Maybe my brother just never came to me for advice or protection again.
Religion played a big part in your childhood. What sort of role does it play now?
Not a big one. The Catholic Church is a corporation, and once you realize that it becomes hard to have faith in it. The last time I went to church was for a wedding, and before that...I think my last time on holy ground was when I was 16. As an ex-altar boy, I am still very interested in the lore and conspiracies behind Christianity, but it's purely now for literary reasons.
You considered the cleanliness of your uniform an indication of whether you'd get into heaven or not. What other indicators did you have?
That was about the only thing I recall as being a prerequisite for eternal salvation. That, and how many prayers you could knock out in a day. But I think nowadays, the Catholic Church is going to try and say that you can't get into heaven if you have credit card or mortgage debt. Give it about three years, and I guarantee there will be TV televangelists proposing that theory. Maybe we'll even get the Vatican Visa card, where your faith will be distinguished by your low APR.
Your height proved to be not quiet as advantageous as you first thought it to be. What were some negatives of being that tall at a young age and when did it start to turn around for you?
Looking back now, being tall is one of the best blessings I could have ever had. But back then...damn! It doesn't seem so bad now, but when you're 12 or 13, it was a major drag. No matter where you were, you always locked eyes with everyone; and when you're very shy, that's not cool. Always being the last in line, never being able to slow-dance correctly with girls (because their face was in your sternum), and being the middle child, I always got the hand-me-downs from my older brother...who was a foot shorter than me. So my pants were always 14 inches above my shoes, showcasing those white socks we all wore back then. And the Halloweens started to really suck by the time I was 12 because everybody thought I was an adult taking my two sons, Javier and Marshall, out trick-or-treating. I had to literally argue with people to give me candy. I think it all started to turn around when I became 16, and could walk into a liquor store and buy beer and cigarettes. Yeah, that made it all better. That made high school a hell of a lot easier than junior high.
Your author bio mentions 41 jobs and 17 career beginnings. What are they?
I think I've just about done it all, and didn't like any of it. Here goes: I was a mortuary driver who picked up dead bodies from homes, a professional mover (for 4 hours), a florist...twice, an advertising copywriter, a journalist, and a TV documentary writer. I cleaned up trash in North Hollywood Park, but that was actually part of my probation at the time. I worked in Special FX for a while but was fired; I wrote erotica for websites, was an Associate Editor for a gay XXX magazine, and was a script writer on Adam & Eve's short-lived reality porn show (imagine 'American Idol' but for porn stars). I was a negative film cutter for the studios, a clerical worker for Veterans Affairs, a caterer at Bush's fundraising gala, a terrible waiter, a coffee barista, a shipping manager for a health-food business, a thrift store clerk, the Information Desk guy at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, a limo driver, a sales clerk at Robinson's May Co., and a telemarketer. I sold ties and fancy pens door-to-door, as well as water purifiers - but I stole two purifiers during training and never went back. I was a film courier, and I single-handedly destroyed the TV show "Wings" because I didn't drop off the next episode to the studios, and hid the film reel in my trunk to avoid the traffic of Hollywood at 6:00 PM. I was a security guard, a "Character Escort" at Universal Studios, which entailed protecting the guys in the Chilly Willy and Woody Woodpecker costumes from kids' anxious punches and knees to the groins. I worked the "Wacky Wax" cart at CityWalk, which involved dipping people's hands into wax and making candles. I was a hot dog vendor briefly, sold pot and ecstasy in my 20s, and then worked at a liquor store until getting robbed at gunpoint. I was a proofreader for a few magazines, wrote the text on several gambling websites, and nearly became the "private booth cleaner" at a peepshow place, but I came in to some money and never started my first day there. There's plenty more, but these are the tops. I'll leave it up to you, readers, to figure out which ones were considered "career beginnings."
To what lengths would you go to protect a character when you were a character escort?
Well, I was fired from that position, so I suppose I didn't go far enough in my protection duties. Some kid pulled the tail off of Chilly Willy right in front of me, and I pretended not to notice it. The guy in the costume told our manager later, and that was the last day I was welcomed at Universal Studios.
What did you learn from your days as a telemarketer/door-to-door salesman and did those skills come in handy when marketing your book?
Oh God, the door-to-door sales stuff was horrible. I didn't learn a goddamn thing from that job. Who in their right mind would buy two pens for $20 from a guy knocking at their door. I would have had a better chance selling Jehovah to Muslims. The book marketing was 100% trial-and-error, and I learned a great deal about what to do and what not to do...after you've already done it. A good example is: Don't buy ad space in newspapers; it doesn't do a damn thing for sales or promotion. I opened four credit cards and spent about $4,500 buying ads in newspapers across the nation, and I think I got about 10 sales all together. And sending review books out to big newspapers...that's a joke. Your "review books" end up on Amazon.com for sale. Stick with the Internet for promotion. As far as book readings are concerned, I'm terrible at it. I sweat and my hands shake, and I can barely read the words on the page. But those do help.
Did you develop any sympathy for waiters or telemarketers after being one?
What a delicious question. I wouldn't quite call it sympathy, but I now love to let telemarketers say their whole 7-minute sales pitch before pretending to reach for my credit card and hanging up. It gives them a chance to hone their phone skills, and it allows me time to reflect on other issues. They deserve no mercy. As for waiters, they have my utmost respect. That is one brutal job, especially with all the LA folk and their "nonfat soy lattes in a big cup with ice, but very little foam" and "I'll have the Denver omelet, but make the cheese feta and instead of ham, can I have tofu turkey bacon on the side, crispy but not burned. And a salad instead of hash browns, and put the Ranch dressing in a small bowl." Being a waiter is a very thankless job.
Is there any truth to the act of waiters spitting in food?
Nice. Yes, I've witnessed and participated in all sorts of "revenge toppings." I once worked at The Hot Dog in Burbank, and I sliced my hand open while grating cheese. Two cops came in, gave me shit about my long hair at the time, so I proceeded to prepare their chili dogs real "special style" and without the use of a band-aid. I had a friend who worked at Pizza Hut some years back, and he would actually take a crap in the boiling marinara sauce--giving it plenty of time to melt. That's a little out of my league, but I did drop a load of Brandon Jr. on an old boss' chicken nuggets. Normally I'm very laid back but this guy just pissed me off to no end.
How'd you get into writing TV documentaries?
I really just lucked into writing TV documentaries. I answered an ad for clerical work for this little film company in North Hollywood. They were always teetering on bankruptcy, and when they found out that I was a writer, not to mention they realized they could have me write for them for the $8 an hour I was making as their data enterer, they gave me a shot. Those were some great days. Between three writers, we were cranking out about eight documentaries a month. From unauthorized programs about the Rolling Stones to Keanu Reeves to Elvis Presley. And I must admit, I never had a sober day the whole three years I worked there. I must have written 30 scripts while stoned out of my mind, and most of those shows are still available on Amazon. And I always threw biblical references into my scripts, just to creep viewers out. I remember referring to Keanu Reeves' film career as "Lazarus being killed and then buried in sharp, putrid sand until the genesis that was 'The Matrix' resurrected his spirit...and his career." The documentary for "Famous African-Americans in Film" was even worse: I actually got away with titling one of the segments "Chocolate Dreams."
But, like all good things, that job ended. The Stones, the Beatles, the Who, KISS, Time-Warner, Paramount and even the Presley Estate all sued the company for copyright infringement, and they all either won or are currently winning. Then I ventured into my porn-writing days.
When did you develop your flair for erotica?
I think that started back when I was a kid, though I didn't really express it on the written page. I guess I hit my professional erotic-literary phase at about 30. I'm a late bloomer. There aren't that many paying gigs for a writer, but porn-writing jobs always seem to be available. Now, when you're a straight man writing gay erotic stories, that there is a testament to a writer's imagination. And the scary part is, my gay erotica was really good. I learned a good method for translating straight porn into gay porn: Write your story, then just switch every "vagina" and "pussy" reference to "hairy ass" or "brown hole." And for "tits," switch that to "hairy chest." It works every time.
Are surprise and juxtaposition as effective in erotica as they are in humor?
I think both require telling a proper narrative story, but there are a lot more regulations with porn. It is against the law to write about people having sex with animals, corpses, underage kids, or forced sex. I think with erotica, there should be no limitations. If I want to share a story with readers about the time I bent Rover over his doggie bowl and went to town, I think I should be able to.
Does the rule of three apply to erotica as well?
The beauty of erotica is that, aside from the four things you can't talk about, there are no set guidelines. You can actually write a 10-page story with no beginning, middle or end, and just describe the penetration and fondling of two or more people. But the true key behind writing good erotica, whether gay or straight, is the euphemism. In a 10-page adult story, a writer will probably use the word "dick" 60 times. To make your story more effective and more saleable, you have to come up with 59 other ways to say "dick." Some good examples are: Man Salami, Chubby, Meat Finger, Poo Stick (for gay stuff), and The Veiny Knob. The testicles are fun, too. You got: Skin Plumbs, the Meaty Fruit, and The Cum Factory.
Tell me about fending off a knife-wielding mugger.
The knife-wielding mugger story is also my "I'm Burt Reynolds" story. This happened about four years ago, when I was 31. My friend Scott and I took a couple ladies to this bar here in downtown Los Angeles. I think it was called Hop Loui's or Chop Seweys or something. We closed the bar and walked across the desolate street to our cars, only to be accosted by two big fellas with small knives. They seemed about my height, but each had about 100 pounds on me. They flashed out their knives and demanded our money: Scott was the first to dig into his pockets and reveal about $15. I'm not sure what the gals did, but when the two knives came in my direction I started shouting, "I don't have but a dime for you!" I was on the cusp of "high octane" drunk, but seem to remember this incident pretty clearly. The one guy walked toward me, and I treaded back a few feet.
"Just give me your money, bro!"
"YOUR money, bitch!"
"I ain't given you my money, chunky!"
I remembered something the Fonz did in a Happy Days fight, so I took off my leather jacket and used it like a red cape against an approaching bull. We circled each other like robots for several minutes, neither doing much more than jabbing and saying: "Give me your money!" and "I ain't got no money for ya!" He made a few more knife jabs in my direction, and my balled-up leather jacket served me well in the heat of battle. Then some car traffic drove by, and the muggers left us. I thought I had a lot more money on me than I actually did--I had a little over $4 in my pocket. It was the principle of the matter, I suppose. It was like a Vietnam flashback to that "smile that made you shit yourself" from my junior high days. From that moment on, I became a "wooden pecker" guy and not a "splinter mouth" guy.
How did being robbed at gunpoint compare to being robbed at knifepoint?
Being robbed at gunpoint was very surreal. I was working at Dales Jr. in Studio City, and this big guy came in and pointed a silver pistol right at my stomach. It didn't register as reality at that moment; my heart didn't race, my life didn't pass before my eyes--I just casually asked him to repeat himself (I don't know why) then filled up his paper bag with everything in the register. And there was a line of people behind him, and no one noticed a thing. I wasn't really upset that he robbed the store, but I was very pissed that this stupid son of a bitch could have ended my life because he was broke. I think the knife fight was my 2nd chance to relive that moment and do it over. I was older and wiser, and drunk.
The other thing you mention in your bio was taking a class in private investigation. Did you put your learning to good use?
Well, the only thing I learned from my short-lived Private Investigation career was how to cheat on a lie-detector test--even the new computer ones. And I will share this information with you, readers: To cheat the lie detector, you must clench your asshole when answering. That's all. But you must pinch your shitter at EVERY answer, that way every answer comes out with the same result. And one more thing I learned: the guy who trained me also performed the lie detector examinations for OJ Simpson and Robert Blake during their arrests. He confessed to me that they both failed and were guilty of the crimes, but lie detectors are inadmissible in court, and both are free as birds now. Well, maybe not OJ anymore.
Then there's an incident involving four days spent in jail?
The 4 days in jail was for "Wreckless Trespassing." A friend and I broke into a cemetery with a oija board one night. Judges have no sense of humor when it comes to that.
You seem to have an endless amount of stories in you. What's next?
I'm starting to get back into fiction again, and I'm working on a new novel about six different people in Los Angeles, and how their lives intertwine. It's a little on the weird side, but I just love these characters. I also want to start a collection of short stories about each job that I've had--all 40-something of them. That's in the works, to