Desperation is mostly inseparable from masculinity. Men strain for fame, for female attention, for sad, trivial triumphs over one another. We are a people perpetually trying to figure it all out—flexing in the mirror, using lines we've heard before, trying to seem bold and dignified. We're not cowboys or poets. If we are, we wear it as a disguise. Mostly, we are vulnerable and self-conscious and probably masturbating for the third time on a Tuesday afternoon, because we're off and that Lea Thompson scene in All the Right Moves just came on. We are not men, but almost. Note: columns may also contain William Holden hero worship and meditations on cured meats.
It is conceivable that, one day, I will meet someone who has walked on another planet. The person will describe for me the cosmic insignificance of our individual lives and how simultaneously splendid and bleak the universe is. I will make a face and wait for the person to finish, and then I will say, “Yes, but have you seen the fifth episode in the fourth season of Gigolos?”
Gigolos (Showtime) concludes its fourth season this evening at 11 PM. It is sort of an Entourage: People Maybe Addicted to Amphetamines Edition, hitting all the familiar notes of day drinking and homophobia and doing whatever it takes to make it. The show focuses on five Las Vegas members of Cowboys 4 Angels, a straight-male escort agency. The escorts are all meticulously waxed and ostentatiously accessorized, their muscles pumped up like inflatable mattresses. Their lives are measured in deadlift reps and UV rays and financing rates on silver Range Rovers. Their whole existence is tribal tattoos, “breaking a sweat six days a week,” pensive stares, loving life, having mottos, jiu-jitsu, getting “totally transformed,” limousines and bottle service, implausible dick bulges, bootcut jeans.
One member, Bradley Lord, says in a voiceover, as footage plays of him spanking a black woman during a web cam show, “I enjoy life. I even have tattoos on me that say that, 'You know, live every day, live to the fullest, be true to yourself.'” They inhabit a world in which the grandest, most emphatic gesture you can make is to write meaningless bromides onto your body.
Dates are arranged by Cowboys 4 Angels founder and walking receding hairline, Garren James. Among the five members are a long-haired spiritualist who thinks you just have to be, like, sensitive to her needs, man (Ash Armand); the US Marines vet with the perfect body (Lord); and the in-on-the-joke, self-described "feminist," Vin Armani. (Armani is also notable for being a real human person named Vin Armani.)
But if you are watching this show it is for the last two members, Nick Hawk and Brace Land.
At various points of the show’s existence, Land has looked anywhere between 31 and 78 years old. His tan alternates between “fried ham,” “Dorito,” and “clementine rind rotting in a compost pile.” His neck looks like a rhinoceros foot. Brace says he does not know what a glory hole is. When someone tells him, he squints and shakes his head and curls his lips, as if he’s thinking, But what’s wrong with jamming yourself into a girl’s mouth the normal way? Then, in Brace’s brain, a miniature Brace high fives an identical miniature Brace, and the two go shopping for juicers and shirts with epaulets.
Brace has a “natural Viagra” supplement called ROAR. It is not an acronym; he means it like the noise carnivores make. He is a self-proclaimed “sexual god when it comes to having sex,” as opposed to a sexual god when it comes to carpentry or civil rights activism. He refers to sexual partners as “kills.” When one client reveals she is a former adult-film star (Adult Video News hall-of-famer Hyapatia Lee), Brace says, “I’m gonna just do what I do and bang her out better than any other porn schmuck that’s ever banged her out.” Brace is not smirking when he says this. He says it like he feels it is truly and undeniably necessary to his survival as a man. He says it like the outcome of a Will Smith movie hangs in the balance.
Nick Hawk calls himself a "rapper," except his rapping sounds like a person with diarrhea frantically reading the back of an Imodium box. He has all the charisma of the computerized female voice giving you directions from your Garmin. He raps unironically about going "sick in the club" and “getting up in it.” In one line, he says “I make a big entrance/I like to be naked.” His sentences are just barely coherent in the way sentences are when you use a free Spanish-to-English translator on the internet.
While recording “Tippin and Sippin,” a “poppier” song that was going to “take me to the next level,” Nick decided that the missing, essential element to his creative output was female sex noises as backing vocals. He gets three ordinary-looking women to moan unconvincingly in a studio until he realizes, ugh, there’s just no substitute for the real thing, and then has aggressive sex with the last girl while she makes noises into a microphone.
His website features at least 16 different fonts, celebrating that uniquely adolescent idea of IMPRESSIVE: loud noises you can’t turn off and bright sidebars molesting your senses unrepentantly; whiz-bang features that do nothing but provide access to more of his edgy ruminations on hashtags and Gary Busey. In the Survey section, next to “What Sound Or Noise Do You Hate” he puts “Any humility / Crying / Car not starting.” On his BUCKET LIST he includes “Hang glide in Brazil or with eagles,” “Go on tour with music,” and “Cabo—Spring Break.” It is the most generically American Male idea of escapism and luxury that one could possibly fathom. Presumably, future amendments to his bucket list will include “Buy a dope recliner,” “Learn golf,” and “own a Cheesecake Factory.”
Nick has a “penis pendant necklace,” which is literally a miniature silver penis hanging from a chain. If you know nothing about Nick Hawk besides this, understand that this is not a self-aware celebration of himself or a symbol of his occupation, but something very explicit about his ethos. Basically, I have a necklace of a penis because I also have a real penis because man fuck girl in cave.
In his talking head interviews, Nick speaks in a bouncy, sing-song cadence, the way REBORN customers speak in infomercials: BEFORE I FOUND NUTRISYSTEM I WAS A MESS. AND THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED. Each sentence contains a narrative and a triumph and a new identity. Everything he does is some alpha male power play. Nick is almost electrically invigorated by ambition. Not so much by any ambitions in particular, but that as human beings we get to have them. That we get to WIN at THINGS and CONQUEOR our FEARS. To him, sometimes he is conquering genitals and other times he is conquering recording studios. He doesn’t actually do any of this, but he seems completely unaware. There is a sense that Nick Hawk’s brain sees only the rocket, never the pile of rubble. He is a man who owns a wolf. Like, an actual wolf. A Canis lupus.
In one scene in the fifth episode of season four, Nick meets a client who is a female bodybuilder. She is pretty but excessively muscled. The two stare at each other from opposite ends of a couch. She jokes that she probably has bigger arms than Nick does. Nick says if she does it’s “going to be a problem” and immediately stands up and takes off his jacket. He tells her he’s sure he has bigger triceps than she does. They hold their arms against each other’s and determine that his are, in fact, bigger, and Hawk System aborts Rage Sequence. Moments later, while the two are having sex, Nick begins to raise and lower himself into her by performing several one-armed push-ups.
There is no punctuation yet created with which to adequately conclude that previous sentence. Seventeen periods? Do I put the rest of this on a separate website? Do I mail the sentence to you on a scrap of paper so that you can periodically reflect on it? Nick Hawk found a way to combine weightlifting with intercourse. He is a Freudian sonnet. To witness him in this moment is to comprehend the true expanse of human vanity. He has a tattoo on his penis of a comic book character.
Gigolos is unabashedly pornographic. Many of the scenarios are prearranged. The clients are themselves actors compensated by someone affiliated with the show. Whether actual penetration is even occurring on screen is inconclusive. It is an entirely disposable piece of television. But what really is the purpose of discerning what’s fake and what’s authentic in a show about professionals who are inauthentic for a living? Escorts are dedicated to something artificial—fake tans, dyed hair, exhaustingly maintained bodies and personas, disguising their true emotions, making the women feel loved when no one else can love them or when the women don’t have the time to be loved at all. It is a mirage; every bit of it. Of course, “Gigolos: We’re not real, but we’re not supposed to be” probably wouldn’t make for much of a tattoo.
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John Saward likes O.V. Wright and eating guacamole with no pants on. He lives in Connecticut. Follow him on Twitter @RBUAS.