When you meet truly bad people in this world, you might have a hard time remembering their faces.
I don’t remember the face of the child molester. He was a little taller than me, and I was a 5’11” buck at the time, recently out of high school, working at a pizza place to make ends meet and living in my car. The year: 1988. Age: 18. He was white, maybe in his early 30s, maybe some facial hair. He had the face of a spy, someone so nondescript you could watch him rob a bank and twenty minutes later not remember anything more than a generic description.
I never actually saw the guy molest anyone. What I know for sure about him is he was involved in making pornography, child pornography too, and tried to recruit me into the business of adult porn. And I accepted his offer. He lived in the same apartment complex as several friends of mine, and heard about me and my circumstances from neighborhood kids who saw me sleep in my car. That’s how he knew I was vulnerable.
One night I came to work after a couple of days off and was told a man dropped in the night before looking for me. My coworkers didn’t remember much about him, didn’t see his car, could hardly describe him, but they sure remembered what he held: a banana clip: a high-capacity, curved magazine for assault rifles. At the time, assault rifles were exotic weapons for civilians to own. I think he carried it as a psychological trick to obscure what people remembered about him. What you remember about the robber is the gun, not the face. Hold something dangerous or exotic (he could have carried a snake and had the same effect) and that’s what people remember.
We had a fairly busy night at the pizza place. Most of my other coworkers were finished and enjoying an after-work drink when the man walked in looking for me. I was the closing server, which meant I finished up the work and was last to leave. The man asked me to come outside and talk with him. I agreed.
Around back of the restaurant he had parked his van. To understand why I climbed into the passenger seat and listened to his offer, and to understand why I accepted it, you would have to know my circumstances at the time.
Living in my car began as a grand adventure. I lived in a suburb and stayed in daily contact with friends from high school, one of whom sometimes lived in my car too. We had places to go, people to see, beer to drink. I had left home late in my senior year of high school and moved in with a family I’d known since middle school. They gave me until graduation day to figure out another living situation. When that day came I packed my belongings into my old Toyota Tercel and just started driving around town.
The man told me he had seen me around and wanted to use me as a porno actor. If I accepted his offer I would be in Chicago by the next morning, set up in an apartment and immediately making money. I told him I was straight and would only have sex with females, and he replied that I didn’t have to have sex with males.
Like I said, I was vulnerable. Living in my car got old after while. It was a struggle. When you live in a car you see no path to a better life. You think about necessities like safety and warmth and gas in the tank. You can’t invite a girl over for a dinner of fast food in a cramped little car that had been wrecked and resurrected twice. You don’t believe goals like going to college or having a girlfriend are within your reach.
So I accepted the offer, even though I knew nothing about the man and got a creepy feeling from him. I just wasn’t processing the information the way I should have. Necessity overrode everything else. The man came along and offered me a way out of my predicament.
I told him to wait as I went inside the pizza place to tell my coworkers I was going to be in movies and had to leave right away. They were sitting at a booth with a pitcher of beer. Usually, I would finish my work and join them, but instead asked Dennis – coworker, high school buddy, and best friend at the time – to close the service area. I offered him all the tips I’d made that night, around $30-$40, to do it for me. When he asked why, I told him.
Thirty seconds later Dennis locked me in the walk-in cooler with him and refused to let me leave until I promised I would not take off to Chicago. He said we would get an apartment together and figure a way out of my predicament. Dennis was a good friend at the time. He saved my life that night. A month later we were living together with his brother in a cool three-bedroom place, fully furnished. The situation didn’t last, but it bridged a huge gap for me.
I walked back to the van and told the man who made me the offer of a lifetime that I couldn’t do it. I remember him trying to coax me back. He grew angry and sped off.
Dennis told me later that he knew the man was involved in pornography, and suspected he had been recruiting local kids. Yes, kids. I was 18 but looked 16, with blond hair, blue eyes and athletic build. Looking back now, I suspect his offer was a lie to lure me out of town away from any support I had and turn me into something he wanted me to be. I’ve learned a lot about how molesters and sex traffickers work. They never keep their promises.
No, I suspect that soon after arriving in some seedy south-Chicago housing project I would have been fed hard drugs, my identity documents taken, and locked in an apartment with a bunch of other kids – runaways and drug addicts. That’s what usually happens. I would then be sexually exploited, and when I was desperate enough, they would have me on film doing anything they wanted. When my expiration date came – the day I started looking haggard or fighting back – I would be killed or cast off, depending on how much I knew about the operation and how far my mind was gone.
Around a month later, I was driving around town drinking beers with Dennis and another friend along a main drag through our big suburb, Kettering, Ohio. We passed the man who made me the offer. He was driving the other direction in a white, convertible Chrysler LeBaron with the top down. In his hand: a flute of Champagne held delicately by the stem, while the other hand held the steering wheel. In the back of the car: two girls, maybe 13-14 years old, maybe younger, made up to look like they starred in a Whitesnake video, completely vamped out with teased hair, gobs of makeup and skimpy outfits. They looked confused, sad, pretty. He looked like he thought he was King of the World.
I saw all that in a flash. Then the man turned the car around and followed us. I sped up to 60 mph in a 35 zone. He stayed right on my bumper. Eventually I pulled into a parking lot and watched him drive passed, Champagne glass held in the air, glare on his face, never to be seen again.
Thank you, Dennis, for caring. You gave me the opportunity to do something good with my life, rather than sell myself into sexual slavery.
That’s the story of how I met a child molester and almost worked in porn.