In the early 1980s when I was living in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, I heard about a strip club a couple of blocks away. Cleveland had a traditional burlesque theatre, the New Era, but I heard this was different. So I was curious. I was expecting aging semi-pros, as Dan Jenkins would say in Semi-Tough, but au contraire, mon frère. These women were young, semi-naked, and very pretty. One of the very first ones I saw was as pretty as any woman I’ve seen before or since. I went home and immediately sent her flowers (perfectly normal, perfectly natural as comedian Adam Corolla, of Loveline fame with Dr. Dru Pinsky, would say). It’s been entirely too long since I’ve sent anyone flowers, alas.
Over the next 20 years or so, I was a devoted patron of the arts, let’s say, stripclub-wise (but never a lap dance I’m sort of proud to say). I’m not married and what’s not to like about pretty scantily-clad women? So what was I looking for at the clubs? Probably the same thing men are looking for everywhere—and I am still looking for—love. I may have a little bit of Henry Higgins, or Richard Gere/Pretty Woman, in me.
As I was getting these crushes on women in the business, I asked myself how I’d feel about marrying one of them if we fell in love, my being politically ambitious by then and all. I decided I’d take the love and let the political chips fall where they may. “This woman is the best thing that ever happened to me and if some of you don’t want to vote for me because of what my wife used to do, then that’s your loss as well as mine because I think I’m one of the best public servants to stand before you and ask for your vote,” I would say. And I hope I would win in a landslide because most people would agree that my heart’s right where it ought to be, and everyone loves a good love story. Then I thought this might make a good story if I decided to write it (that quoted line will be in my second novel, Forever).
And to be honest, I never saw a hypocrisy between saying that in politics I was a vessel doing God’s work, and my liking to watch pretty scantily-clad women dance. (In 1992 I wrote my declaration speech for my first [of four] campaigns for St. Louis Mayor at P.T.’s Dance Club in Sauget, Illinois, on Thanksgiving Day [yes, I know, how sad is that?] and called the TV stations to cover it to make that point. The assignment editor of Channel 5 said to me, “Bill, we’re going to do you a favor—we’re not going to cover it.”)
But I digress yet again. Then the law firm I was with during that time got a fledgling movie producer as a client to raise investment money for him. I told the movie producer my idea, and he encouraged me to carry notecards so I wouldn’t forget my ideas, and I did. So for the next 10 years or so I walked around with the stories of three novels in my head and on notecards: that story I mentioned above about a politician falling in love with a porn star, Forever; the story of this novel before you, originally just called Pink Collar; and Superstar, about how success in any high profile profession makes men who weren’t successful enough with women when they were young, try to make up for lost time by dating lots of women once they’re successful (I heard Michael J. Fox once say that before Family Ties he was just another short guy from Canada).
When I lost my corporate law job in St. Louis in 1991 when the company I was with went into bankruptcy, I had some time on my hands. So in the evening my dogs, Puppy, the beagle mix, and Homer, the cocker spaniel, and I would go to the Grind coffee shop on Maryland Plaza and work on my novels on yellow pads. And there they stood, partially finished, until the early 2000s when the first St. Louis Film Festival screenplay competition came along. I morphed Pink Collar into screenplay form and submitted it; then a year or so later submitted it again to Matt Damon/Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight (recently back on HBO). Both for no apparent reason. And that’s where it stood until this year, when I’ve had time to morph it back to novel form.
If there are lessons here, they would be to do things you love, follow your dreams, or at least your ambitions, and as Winston Churchill famously said, “Never, never, never give up.” (That and other quotes that mean something to me—some of them even accurately attributed—can be found on my political website, www.votehaas.com). As a character said in Pretty Woman, “What are your dreams?” And see the line by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (the poet, and the father of the Supreme Court Justice) on my website, too: “Most men die with their songs still inside them.” Well, not I if I can help it. And not you if I can do anything to prevent it on my watch in politics if I’m elected to represent you.
Now after 10 years in my head, and 25 years in the writing, I present it to you, the reader. I always said that if it never got published, writing it was a worthy endeavor which I enjoyed and would never regret; but now it’s been published and that’s very gratifying. I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
B.H., October 2015