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DATE: April 23, 2008
BYLINE: Justin Boswell
AUTHOR CONTACT: Mark S. King 404-759-9107 marksking@aol.com
MORE INFO/REVIEWS: www.MarkSKing.com

IMAGES/ARTWORK: Available upon request

Gay author finds pride among the ruins

1980's Los Angeles as tragic black comedy

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. And "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.

Author Mark King "I just wanted to tell the truth about those years," King says. "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.

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. And then there's the certain movie star.

"I guess I thought that having a fling with Rock Hudson would make me special," King says. "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."

(An excerpt from the book, and video from The Price is Right episode, is available on King's web site, www.MarkSKing.com)

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