CHICKEN by David Henry Sterry


Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent
Email this review


A walk through one young man's accidental year of teen prostitution in 1970s Los Angeles.

For young David Sterry, moving to the City of Angels was particularly rough. Enrolled as a freshman in Immaculate Heart College and expecting to live with his mother, he discovered in short order that his mother would not, in fact, be living in L.A., and that Immaculate Heart had nowhere for him to stay. Broke and suddenly homeless, the naïve kid was then raped and ripped off by a man offering him a steak. Sterry paints his desperation so clearly that it’s a relief when he finds a way to make a buck by working as a “chicken,” a young male prostitute hustling the women of Hollywood. After his pimp Sunny walks him through his initiation “like a black ’Enry ’Iggins,” Sterry's career is launched, and we're off on a crazy ride through a world where “GET THE MONEY UP FRONT” is the ruling philosophy. With a puzzling mixture of pride and shame, and a hole in his soul that grows bigger with every trick, Sterry wanders through a world populated by clients who range from run-of-the-mill lonely ladies to a hippy who introduces him to tantric sex and from the lesbian couple who pays him to shine silverware in the buff to the judge who hands over $500 to be spanked with a ruler. Vignettes from a not-so-bad childhood are interwoven as the author explores family relationships, his parents' crumbled marriage, and his inability to look for help from home, all related in a tumble of prose that is sometimes magical, sometimes distractingly messy. Although rarely played for thrills, the depictions of sex with men, women, and animals are nonetheless quite detailed.

Not for the faint of heart.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-039418-8
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2001