Tuesday, 31 July 2018


When I was around 16 I couldn’t get enough of trashy novels. One of them was THE BOYS IN THE MAIL ROOM by Iris Rainer—who later on married and added Dart to her name. The year was 1981, and I was still in the closet but very aware that temptation beckoned whenever thinking about men. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was still young enough to believe that it was simply a phase, that it would come to pass as I grow older. How naive we are at that age. Anyway, when I read the synopsis of this wonderful book about show business I was completely taken aback by one of the characters who, according to the back cover, was also struggling with his own sexual identity. Suffice to say I plunged right into this story of four colorful guys who each struggle to make it in Hollywood. Of course they do eventually succeed (isn’t it the purpose of these stories, after all?) but the path to stardom is one roller coaster ride of sex and sin and the women—sometimes men—that get in their way. 

I can still recall that character’s first name, Barry—and no, I didn’t look it up in the novel. Like I said it just came to me. I’d love to tell you that I recently re-read THE BOYS IN THE MAIL ROOM to see if it held up but, alas, I have not, but I do remember enjoying it tremendously. It’s no surprise when I say that it’s in the same vein as any Jackie Collins title, so it wouldn’t be that hard for you to dig it as well—that is if you’re into that shit. If you’re still reading this post I guess you most certainly are. 

I had so much fun with this book that I could have easily seen it as a three part miniseries. Sort of like the TV adaptation of CELEBRITY by the late Thomas Thomson that aired on NBC in 1984 (which had a confused gay character as well). But it was not meant to be. We got BEACHES instead, seven years later, starring the Divine Miss M. Yes, Iris Rainer Dart wrote that one as well before it became a hit movie. In fact, she wrote quite a few novels after THE BOYS IN THE MAIL ROOM. Except for BEACHES, I have not had the chance to read anyone of them but when I finally do, you’ll be the first to know. Oh, quickly, before I forget. As much fun I had with this novel I also remember being quite annoyed by the fact that the paperback back cover described Barry’s homosexuality as being in love with the wrong sex. It scarcely helped this budding gay reader in moving toward accepting himself. In fact, I think it made him even more withdrawn in all aspects of life. Funny how a simple word can have major consequences to a 16 year old... But, hey, it was the early ‘80s. We certainly have accomplished a lot since then. Let’s take this time to thank all the pioneers, and that includes Iris Rainer Dart herself, who have made it possible for us to love freely our same sex partners. Without their contributions to the cause where would we be?


You can still catch this title wherever digital books are sold.

Until next post—Martin  
1980 Hardcover


Floradora said...

Memories! I read that book when I was about 16 and had forgotten it. I loved novels about show business. Thank you for your blog.

Authorfan said...

You're more than welcome. Come back any time.

John Nail said...

I remember getting this book when I was 17, and I was drawn to it for pretty much the same reasons you were. Hollywood trash and a gay character? Yes, thank you. Oddly, I don't remember much of Barry's storyline beyond the fact that he was gay and not comfortable with that fact. I could relate at the time, but in hindsight it was the absolute wrong message for me to receive. In fact, the one thing I do remember about the book is that the description of one woman having "banana-shaped breasts." Beaches was the only other Iris Rainer Dart novel I read. Liked it, too, and it was easy to see why Bette saw it as a perfect movie vehicle, the character Cee Cee Bloom reading like it was modeled on the Divine Miss M. And yet when I was done with Beaches I was done with Iris Rainer Dart, leaving her for trashier horizons.

By the way, my reasons for picking up Boys in the Mail Room were the same reasons for picking up Jackie Collins' Sinners (a.k.a. The Hollywood Zoo, the book's title when I read it in the mid-'80s). It also has a gay character. Can't necessarily say Jackie handles the subject sensitively so much as mattter-of-factly — and a bit more explicitly, though not as pornographically as I'd hoped at the time.

Authorfan said...

Great post, John. I totally get where you're coming from regarding leaving for trashier horizons. Though I try and try to consider myself well-read when it comes to trash fiction I always end up going back to those sure bets whenever I'm in need of a major fix. You know, work from Collins, Robbins, Sheldon... Those are my people and will always be.