Josh Sabarra is not afraid of putting it all out there. In his delicious new memoir, Porn Again, the marketing executive and television producer shows an affinity (not to mention a flair) for dishing. Mostly about himself. But don’t be fooled by the title or its subliminally salacious cover (note the subtle placement of a cock front and center) — this is not a book about porn. “People see the title,” Sabarra says, “and the first thing they think is, Oh, were you a porn star? And I’m like, ‘Have you seen my stomach? They wouldn’t hire me for anything.’ But porn was a big influence.”
So was Hollywood, which provides a major backdrop for the story, detailing Sabarra’s journey from an insecure, bullied kid from South Florida who doesn’t fit in with his peers and instead forges a series of touching (and, in one case, tragic) friendships with adult women to a 40-year-old openly gay man who’s learned to accept and love himself. Oh, and along the way, he lands some really cool jobs that allow him to work and party with celebrities and afford to hire off-duty porn stars for sex. It’s a wonderful life, as they say.
Or at least that’s what everyone thought. Says Sabarra: “I would meet people outside of L.A. who would say, ‘Wow, it’s so amazing what you do for a living,’ or ‘You’ve met Jennifer Lopez?’ It makes you appealing to people. And when you’re somebody who’s grown up being bullied and marginalized and told you’re not good enough — and then all of a sudden people think you are, you’ll take it however you can get it. I was addicted to getting approval from other people.” But as Sabarra discovered, it’s not all glitz and glamour. The ill-at-ease kid who thought hobnobbing with celebrities would make him feel cool eventually realizes that hanging with the rich and famous isn’t a guaranteed pathway to self-love.
Does this sound a bit familiar? Sure. No one has ever accused Hollywood of churning out original plots. But what makes Porn Again such a fun read is the author’s wit, honesty, access to celebrity dirt, and sheer brazenness when it comes to detailing his sexual exploits. Which, by the way, are graphic and in abundance.
“People will say, ‘Why would you want people to know that about you?’ or ‘Why would you be so frank about this?’ And I guess I sort of saw it as this period at the end of a sentence. ‘I’m turning 40 and this is what happened before and now I’m going forward this way.’”
Rebirth is another of the book’s themes, a process he encounters both professionally and personally. And oh, yes, sexually. Despite getting a late start — he remained in the closet and a virgin until opening up to his parents about his orientation at age 31 — Sabarra makes up for lost time, both in the bedroom and in his openness with his family. There are plenty of delightfully cringe worthy anecdotes in which the author calls his mother to detail his previous night’s dalliance with a rent boy (“You can’t keep spending $300 every time you want to have sex,” she cautions) or elicits his father’s opinion when selecting a new porn flick for his collection (“Mom and I are treating,” his father tells him during a trip to his local sex shop, “so pick the movie you want more”), but for Sabarra, this feels perfectly natural. “Before I came out,” he says, “on a scale of one to ten, I was so private that I was a zero. Then once I finally felt free enough to let it all out, I went to ten.”
Besides, he says, “my father’s a urologist, so things that relate to southern body parts were never taboo in our house.”
They’re not taboo in the book either. After enduring an unfulfilling relationship he falls into just after coming out, Sabarra discovers real passion during an encounter with actor Alan Cumming. “He was very friendly and a great guy,” Sabarra says, “but it had much more gravity for me than it did for him because there were feelings for me that were there that obviously weren’t there for Alan, and understandably so.”Sabarra insists that his reason for sharing this story is a personal one rather than an exploitative one — after all, how many people get to have a sexual awakening with their celebrity crush? “That’s a big deal,” he says. “The first fulfilling sexual experience of my life — at 35, 36 years old — and it’s with this person I’d always had a fantasy about.”
But perhaps the biggest lesson Sabarra leans during the period detailed in the book is about listening to himself over the din of celebrity and fame. Which comes in great part from his role as gay BFF to TV host Ricki Lake. It’s clear from the way he describes her that Ricki was an important figure in his life — they were linked both professionally and socially — but when she carelessly discards him in favor of the new man in her life (it happens more than once, actually) and then clandestinely fires him from her show, he learns the hard way to trust his own instincts when it comes to people. “I’m grateful to Ricki,” he says, “because if she hadn’t come into my life when she did, I don’t know that I would have figured out what my own boundaries are.”
While the backstabbing certainly pained him, Sabarra understands to an extent. “A lot of these people are not capable of being friends the way you and I could be friends,” he says. “Their lives just don’t allow for it. They’re always traveling, they’re catered to, everybody does things the way they want, and a lot of people go along with it — as I did, to some degree.”
Not that Sabarra has soured on celebrities. He knows from experience that it is possible to have a real connection with one. “Nancy Grace and I have been friends for twenty years,” he says. “Our friendship started before she was famous, and she hasn’t changed at all over that period of time. She’s been tried, true, and loyal from the day we met. If I called her tomorrow and said, ‘Nancy, I need five hundred thousand dollars and I need you to not ask any questions,’ she would fly here herself with a suitcase full of cash. She’s an example of somebody who is totally unchanged by the notoriety and who is able to be a real friend, independent of whatever’s going on in her professional life.”
Sabarra contends that nothing he wrote in the book was meant as retaliation. “I was very careful about only telling things that furthered my story. The book is about me. Ricki is not the star of this, Alan Cumming is not the star of this. They’re the accessories.” And if you think that’s simply PR spin, he can handle that. “I have battled so fiercely to overcome the self-esteem issues that I cannot let a stranger eat away at me,” he says. Besides, “I don’t think anyone should ever apologize for telling their truth.”
As for the advice the 40-year-old Sabarra would give his 20-year-old self, “You have to know what kinds of people to pay attention to in your life. But I don’t think you can know that at twenty. I don’t think you can know that certain voices should be stronger, or how to be really discerning about the people you allow to affect the way you think about yourself as a person. You could certainly tell a twenty-year-old that, but they might not recognize that until they’ve been through some battles.”
Porn Again: A Memoir is available now. For more about Josh Sabarra, go here.
“”Sabarra contends that nothing he wrote in the book was meant as retaliation. “I was very careful about only telling things that furthered my story. The book is about me. Ricki is not the star of this, Alan Cumming is not the star of this. They’re the accessories.”””
Ok, if that’s true then why would anybody have any interest in it? Without those “Accessories this is just yet ANOTHER coming out story from somebody who came out late, was insecure, hired a bunch of hookers and now feels better about themselves then they use to. Wow, real page turner without those “Accessories” that he claims he didn’t mean to write about…..or mention in the Publicity for the book. 😉
It’s like when Beyonce “Accidentally” leaks a new song. “Ooooos, didn’t mean to have my publicist send out that CD for 8 different websites and 6 radio stations!”
This guy doesn’t sound like anyone I would want to meet and definitely not someone I’d waste my time reading about.
I read that whole article and I still am not entirely sure what this book is supposed to be about.
@Cam: That’s an incredibly myopic view and bitter as lemons. Of course he’s mentioning those celebrity accessories for book sales, that’s not what he is saying in the article. I haven’t read the book yet, but his coming out story sounds like he’s coming out not just as gay, but also dealing with other life issues, and isn’t that what any story is about? It sounds promising to me so I’ll let you know how it turns out…
So from virgin to whore… real nice life goal. I love how people have to throw the age of a virgin around like it’s a bad thing not to just give it away to anyone with a dick between their legs.
I actually read the book and was surprised by how well-written, thoughtful and funny it was. There’s an amazing life lesson in this story, and people would be wise to take a look. And, if it takes a story about Alan Cumming or Ricki Lake to get some people to pay attention, it’s worth it. As a community, we should be applauding this author rather than sitting behind our computers and condemning a fresh voice.
@alterego1980: said… “@Cam: That’s an incredibly myopic view and bitter as lemons. Of course he’s mentioning those celebrity accessories for book sales, that’s not what he is saying in the article.”
So let us just dissect what you said. You called me myopic and bitter for the viewpoint that he was mentioning the celebrities for book sales. Then in the VERY next sentence you state the exact same thing. You may want to clarify your thinking on the topic before you attack somebody for saying something that you yourself believe.
The fact of the matter is, this is another typical coming out story, and the guy somehow has gotten the PR machine to publicize the book. How? Because coming out stories about insecure guys are so rare? No, because he drops names as often and as sloppily as a lactose intolerant Ice-Cream taster runs to the bathroom.
The book may be great, I”m saying that the guy may have spent too much time in Hollywood and forgotten how to sound sincere.
I doubt anyone cares about his sex life, but he’d be well off sharing his anti-aging secrets.
@Silas Wegg: I googled him for other pictures just to see if he doctored any of the pics. He actually does look like that. He’s 40 something that can easily pass as a young twenty something. He admits to being a plastic surgery addict. I think he’s pulled it off well and not over done.
“The only thing worse than being a “fag” was being a “fat fag,” or so I was told repeatedly, and I took drastic action to improve my appearance. An addiction to plastic surgery led to a nose job, multiple liposuction procedures and injectables that were certain to generate attention — and they did. I elected to cut into my body to get positive feedback from friends, acquaintances and co-workers”.
I advice him to write a book about exactly that.
@Silas Wegg: Here’s where I got that from. I think anyone can stay young if you don’t do drugs or drink too much and stay out of the sun.
Too bad I missed that advice and look all of my age:*(
I'm Black, and HIV-Positive.
I’d pass him up, and still make fun of his dumb lookin’ ass!
@I’m Black, and HIV-Positive.: “I’d pass him up, and still make fun of his dumb lookin’ ass!”
Why? Did he do something to you?
So his formula for self acceptance is celebrity friends who aren’t really friends, sex with prostitutes and massive amounts of cosmetic surgery.
@I’m Black, and HIV-Positive.: Bet he doesn’t look nearly as dumb as a white man in blackface tho eh.
If the cover of the book is an inclination to his sense of humor, i’m not eager to read the book, but i think i should, I have a friend who’s my age, 29. Not out and still a virgin. If this book can help him in any way, I’ll get it for him, but i have to make sure it’s actually good.
@stache99, thanks for the link. he looks good but he also looks like he had plastic surgery. Still though, for 40, quite cute.
@TrueWords: Most of the reviews on amazon are fake. Bad reviews are about the only one’s you can count on as being real.
the reviews on Amazon are so FAKE…I mean SO damn FAKE…if he had money and wasted it on hookers and sex then guess what I do not need to read a memoir about that because guess what…”he had money and wasted it on hookers and sex”…end of book…also STAR FUCKERS and tell all books are so 1985…we all know who is doing what in Hollywood and we do not give a damn
@Stache99: I tend to agree….but his REEKS of made up names and adulation…
@TrueWords: Yup. I went and took a look myself.
One time reviewers are about 90% of his reviews and those are always 100% BULLSHIT> The few that have more then one review don’t review anything less 5 stars. Real people have dislikes here and there. Because that’s real life.
Like I said. I would read the less then 5 star reviews to get the reality of his book.
Like I said though. He should author a book on staying young. Clearly he knows a thing or two there.
Honestly I saw the link that Stache99 put up and he looks VERY plastic Surgery-ish.
so I take it he’s a professional queer? I find him to be unsavory. he is not all that and a bag of chips.
@zoomlens: really screams I’m a winner don’t it.
Who and why?
Ok, I’ll admit. Maybe I’m completely missing the point here. Here’s a guy who was a 31-year-old virgin but, apparently has become interesting enough of a heroic gay because he hired porn stars for sex, aka prostitution not “hooking up” as the article title misleads? Why again am I supposed to be interested in him, or admire him, or take any type of example from him?
Trash. And not good trash, just boring sad trash.
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