One gay man finds pride among the ruins

By Justin Boswell

When Mark King left Los Angeles in 1993 after ten years of being on television, being addicted to drugs, running a phone sex company, bedding the locals (including a certain iconic movie star), and suffering through the early, gruesome years of AIDS, he thought he had put his past behind him. Instead, he’s written a book about it. 

Lucky for us he did, because his journey through those years may be the most compelling read you’ve had in a while.  And his book, “A Place Like This,” has as much to say about the gay community as it does about one gay man trying to find pride among the ruins.

“I just wanted to tell the truth about those years,” King says, who will appear at a book signing event at OutLoud! Books & Gifts on Saturday, May 31. “And yes, some of it was damn scary.  But there was such beautiful humanity being displayed then. Talk about pride. Our pride was tested, in ourselves and by how we treated those we cared about.

But before AIDS rears its terrifying head in his story, King establishes such an entertaining rhythm as a storyteller – self effacing humor and a pitch-black sense of comedy – that the reader is swept along for the ride. Can drug addiction and assisted suicide be that funny?

“Well, yes,” says King. “Because I only had my humor to sustain me during a time that seemed so unreal, so completely different than life as a young gay man was supposed to be like.”

The coming of age story begins with King moving to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career, and for a short while he succeeds, landing gigs as an all-American boy in television commercials and a movie. But his need for money (in part to support a growing drug habit) forces him to begin doing phone sex calls and eventually he opens a company of his own.  Acting gigs dry up as his drug addiction proves stronger than his ambition.

Along the way, King reveals an aching need to be accepted –  to “be somebody” when he doesn’t know who –  and his story often pauses for nostalgic and often very funny remembrances of life growing up and of his family. A scene in which he describes kite flying with his father is beautiful and delicate, and literally haunts the book in later pages. King also includes a hilarious account of winning a car on The Price is Right while his proud lover screams in the audience on camera, even wearing a matching outfit.

And then there’s the certain movie star.

“Yeah, that was humbling to say the least,” he says. “I guess I thought that having a fling with Rock Hudson would make me special. But instead, when the news was plastered with his dying face a few years later, my promiscuous past seemed like a horror movie.”

King doesn’t shy away from his more unflattering character traits, either when writing about them or speaking about his life now. “I don’t think the way to have pride in myself, or to honor the memories of friends who died, is to stick needles in my arm.  And for years that’s exactly what I did.  I’ve had to learn the meaning of pride all over again.”

Today King is an award-winning columnist and hopes his first book will bring a time back to life that many younger gay men know little about. “I’m amazed at the number of gay guys in their twenties or thirties who write to say they had no idea what the 1980’s were really like, and that it helped them understand. That’s the most rewarding thing I believe. It makes me feel, and this is a new one for me, very proud.”

King will be reading and signing “A Place Like This” on Saturday, May 31, at 8 p.m. at Outloud! Books & Gifts, and will appear at their booth on Pride Sunday.  An excerpt from the book and video from The Price is Right is available on King’s Website,

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